Friday, September 12, 2014

In Which The Fading Light Is Exhilarating, Melancholy

Fading light at Cedar Lake.

It was raining this morning and my wife and I were both headed to an afternoon dinner on campus, so it was not a day for bicycle commuting. But by the evening, as we drove home, the rain seemed to be over, and there was a nice fall chill in the air (perfect for biking).

We had been to Target to pick up a few groceries, and I was whining about us not having enough lights for the bikes we own, so we did our part for America’s and China’s battery-operated light industries. It was around 6 by the time I got home, light fading, but not yet dark.

My wife was planning to watch one of her favorite TV shows, “Big Bang Theory,” while she exercised. So I decided to make a night of it on Francis. My plan was to put some of the new shiny toys on the bike, and take them for a spin.

It was almost the perfect night. Although a breeze was blowing, it was only a breeze—just enough to make it pleasantly cool without giving an old biker the sensation of climbing a wind hill. There something special about riding a bicycle during a cool night in early fall, one of the first really cool nights. It’s not cold enough to frost yet, but the chill in the air is a sign of things to come. As the sun faded behind the clouds, a quiet descended. It was not a winter night, not dead silent—there are still some die-hard crickets lazily chirping—but it’s still more tranquil than a warm summer night.

Unfortunately, the clouds started to roll back in as I neared Cedar Lake. I had vague hopes of maybe seeing northern lights due to a solar flair this week—but even with the sky blocked, the lake itself was quite nice—my photos don’t do it justice. To the human eye, there are way more nuances of light and dark, more shades of pink and green and gold in the sky reflected in the lake then the camera seems to pick up.

Despite the wonderful night for biking, I also felt a little sad as I rode. A dear friend of one of my sisters, who was also a friend of a second sister, died unexpectedly this week. She had been my sister’s close pal since high school—and had even expressed a desire to maybe join us sometime on at least part of a RAGBRAI.

And then, quite suddenly, at way too early an age, death. A natural death, but out of the blue. I didn't know her as well as my sisters, but I felt some faint echo of their grief. I’m sure her family is in severe pain. I’m sure a hole has opened in many hearts that won’t ever fill in completely.

So it goes. I didn’t feel guilty enjoying the perfect fall evening bike ride, but I did feel sad to think a deserving soul won’t be around to see the light play off a lake or to notice geese, ducks and pelicans or to breath the suddenly fresh fall air.

Somewhere above the clouds, perhaps the northern lights were dancing for the one who was lost. I hope so. And it began to rain on me as I made my way home as the light failed. Not a scary, stormy rain like earlier this week, just a light mist. Just a reminder of water and gentle tears.

I had 16 miles on the odometer when I began the ride. I have 32 now. Given that I rode the Fancy Beast once this week, that makes it a 40-mile week, which isn't too bad for a rainy week when I could not ride each day.

I may still get a few more miles in tomorrow, I hope with a grandchild in the toddler seat.

Something about this week stirs the desire in me to be with the ones I love. Life is too short.

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