Monday, May 03, 2004

SPRING TRAINING IN NEWMARKET

It's spring.

The aspens are bright and silver.

The month just passed seems to have been an ice age, whose remnants still linger, there under the hemlocks, the pines, the tamaracks along the Holland River where I bike.

I am biking with group led by a man called Fish. He is eighty and can pass for sixty, younger even, for though his face is parchment, his fine legs are ageless as he easily rounds the corner of the bikepath and turns his helmeted head to urge the rest of us on.

We are an eclectic crew.

The effort of biking has freed us from pedalling against another load, a pushcart full of pain that many of us had been pedalling against, often back-pedalling against the awful weight of it all. Everybody in the group is pushing or carrying something.

Baggage from another marriage, the great sprawling novel that would not come to life, the smoky air of Seventies barrooms, the first adrenalin rush of a heroin injection.

There is the real hope of a steamer on the horizon--that we shall be rescued from this Raft of the Medusa by a jovial, somehow Germanic sea captain.
Yet one must be chary of such a notion.

Recovery is miraculous and dramatic. It may come this spring or it may not. The local Indians will tell you it is all on the whim of the Creator.
In the meantime the Indians will tell you to stay away from waterfalls, great confluences of water. And large lakes, like Simcoe, for there is an ogepoge in each one, each with its own monster.

We ride side by side, some of us. Then uncouple to ride alongside somebody else. We talk of family, hopes, achievements, cycling achievements, hopes.
What has brought us to this bikepath, along this river, along these aspens, along these tamaracks that seem to the greenhorn like so many reddened, discarded Christmas trees--but they are not, for these conifers will regain their needles and will again be bright green and bushy. Hopefully like us.
I am talking to a woman already in capri pants and white adidas.

Like me this spring, she is a little whimsical and vulnerable and kind of shy. But she is in there pedalling for all she's worth, like and out-of-luck teenager pushing a baby carriage, which, back home, is probably the case. She is trusting to God and good people.

The people are still good, but this is a dark age and the liberal sentiment says one thing and does another. They have stolen a large portion of the welfare money. Stolen. Yes. Mafia Miltie. Don't kid yourself. Fiddling with welfare funds is the first sign of Tony Soprano getting a cut. Meanwhile, our cyclist, whose name might by Rosie Quackenbush, puts on a brave and pretty face, gulps air and pedals on.

I move on to another party.

An entire family. Father a little bulgy with the Speedo. Helmetted mother in ski pants and a yellow top. Little ginger-haired daughter in shorts and sandals doughtily holding up the rear.

We are all pedalling, moving, past the tree, past the bird, past the little piles of discarded green potter's clay and other small bits of rubbish along the Holland, where they have just refurbished some condos. Yet the river may yet regain the flats!

The nearness of water and bright greenery here and there have given us hope for another, better season.

Ahead of us there is the ringing of Fish's bell. He has seen something on the path, which turns out to be a snapping turtle the size of a Humvee wheel. It moves slowly, methodically out of the way, its fast, avian beginnings completely evolutioned-out over the billions of years, leaving just a mechanical crawl and a beak, which, like a construction backhoe, seems to droop a little before snapping up something. It takes the turtle a long time to get off the asphalt path.

Fish rings the bell again. We can go on.

Then a really loud ring as we pick up speed. Forward.

He rings now, I suppose for spring.

For being born again at his age.

For a season itself ringing with promise.

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