Manatees make sounds when mating that I have never heard before. To describe these sounds would be difficult, to say the least. They snort and blow out spume and make a kind of bleating sound, not calf-like, but close. It has an odd, almost human quality. They thrash about on the surface, big and slow and they are like little whales. They certainly look as though they are enjoying themselves, here in the deep cut of the Haulover Canal, one of my favorite Florida Places.
A New-Found Clarity
The water, finally shed of its damnable summer algae bloom, is clear and enticing after a strong twenty-five mile bicycle ride into a gentle southeast headwind. Here on the bank of the canal the thin water is clear and as it falls off into the deeper water of the channel it shades through a spectrum of ever-deeper blues until it is purple and cool and a kind of a mystery to a happy cyclist who is here today, in the heart of a place that he loves, a place that makes him smile no matter what direction he looks.
I Am Not AloneA young dolphin breaks clear of the surface just a dozen feet from where I sit, then arcs rapidly back into the water. He is on a school of bait fish, slicing again and again through the little silver cloud that darts erratically about. They don't stand a chance.
ListenIn the sad and lopsided year that was 2012, a sorry and awkward election year, a year of a slaughter of children and of failed promises and maybe a dimming of hope; in a kind of a year of lethargy and of pedaling clogged avenues toward elusive truth and joy and light it seems that I rode my bicycle 500 miles less than I did in the year 2011. This lessening of joy, perhaps, is a result of this not-riding. Is there a chance that a perverse god in some side-show heaven somewhere far, far away has placed the happiness of a planet on the shoulders of a single cyclist? If so, wouldn't He tell me? If I had ridden 500 more miles in 2012 would things have been better? Well...
Perhaps. If perception is reality, then from the point of view of me, that single cyclist, the number of miles I am riding has a dramatic effect on how I view the world.
Sorry about the SlackingSo here in the new year, this year of the future, a time of perhaps renewed hope and promises kept, maybe; this new season of the year 2013, I have determined to fix that problem, and to ride more. If by riding more miles I somehow help the rest of the planet then I want a statue built somewhere in my memory and if that is too much to ask then perhaps a McDonald's Happy Meal in my honor...
OKThings have changed and perhaps (probably) it is up to me. But I don't know what to do. I am without answers but there is a Voice, a source of light, a glimmer of promise and a far off, lonesome note of hope, a hint of what to do about it and that Voice says ride. Home, hearth, dog, family, comfort....already these things are fading as the truth claws its way to the surface of my conciousness and it says ride, boy. It's all ya got.
There Is Work To Do
That teenage dolphin has chased the bait pod further out into the vastness of the Indian River and those manatees are also gone. I hope they were successful in their endeavor. We seem to have a manatee shortage here in Florida. I get up from the sun-warmed sand beside the canal, put my pen and notebook back into my Goodwill messenger bag and dust the sand from my shorts. I turn back to my bicycle and pause for a moment to just look at her. Sitting in dappled sunlight against a baby palm tree, my red and black gloves lying on the saddle, waiting; my bike is waiting here beside the Indian River and far off on the distant horizon I can see the vague image of the Vehicle Assembly Building, the place where the Space Shuttles were put together. It is unavoidable not to ponder for a moment the long strange trip from bicycle to spaceship. But what of that? Today will have pondering enough, of that I am certain, but that is not my task. My self-imposed chore for the day is to ride the lonesome road of the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge some twenty-five miles from the Whispering Pines Trailer Park to the scenic Haulover Canal. Upon arrival, I am to spend an hour poking around the area, seeing what I usually don't see because this is, for me, normally just a waypoint as I pedal further south in search of the elusive Big Miles. It is up to me.
A Good SignI am diligent. I saddle up, slow-ride the dirt road back to the drawbridge, then ride across. At the southern base of the bridge is a dirt trail that runs along the side of the canal. A steel barrier has been installed at the head of the trail: NO MOTOR VEHICLES, it says. HAH! I love that sign! No Motor Vehicles, indeed! I lift my bike over the low railing, climb back into the saddle, hit a couple strokes to get my chain into the biggest rear cog and then: I pedal slowly and alone down the trail.
This is the stuff! This is it! I have put away pen and pad, for now. Now it is riding. Right now it is about no cars and a smooth dirt trail alongside these crystal waters filled with mystery and life; a place of primordial creatures procreating, a place of dancing dolphins and also a place of one old cyclist, pedaling slowly and steadily ever deeper towards home, ever deeper into the heart of this old Florida Place, this place that is his home.
Whispering Pines Trailer Park