The Quiet Season

They’re all gone…the summer cyclists decked out in full kit and pedaling as if the peloton is back there about to reel them in.  Their handlebar boom boxes are no longer booming.   Their bikes are hanging from the rafters in the garage again, or wherever they put them, not to be used again until spring.  Where they’ve gone I do not know.

Evening fog rolling in…Raccoon River Valley Trail.

I ran into a couple of pheasant hunters on the trail this past weekend.  They were friendly.  Their dogs were well behaved.   It doesn’t bother me to see shotguns on the trail.  In some ways, I find these guys preferable to the Tour de France crowd.   They’re quiet and humble and focused on the task at hand.  They don’t litter.  They, too, are dressed in bright colors but for completely different reasons.

I’ve found myself struggling a bit this year to adjust to the cold.  I’m not quite ready for it, maybe because I know what lies ahead.  It’s not really going to warm up again in any sustained way until April.  Last year was our first in Iowa and I naively believed that by the first of March or so that Spring would arrive.  Maybe it did, but it was nothing like the Spring they get a little further south.

Since starting a new job, I’ve also been riding in the early morning dark most days.  That will change a little with the switch to standard time this weekend.  I’ll have a little more light, for awhile at least.  It’s been amazing to see just how much daylight I’ve lost since I started doing this three weeks ago.  This won’t change for another 50 days or so.  Then we’ll turn the corner and head back towards the sun.

It’s quiet on the trail these days and I can’t help but juxtapose it against the rest of life.  Those missing boom boxes are no small thing.  Our culture values the busy and the noisy.  We receive powerful, non-stop, external messages (mostly from people who wish to sell us something)  that tell us we must be on 24/7/365  and too many of us mindlessly play along by cramming our lives full of meaningless detritus and then we wonder why we are stressed and anxious.  When we find ourselves alone in the quiet with nothing to do, our natural state,  it’s very uncomfortable.

It isn’t that hard to deconstruct this.  Seek quiet and see how it impacts you.  Yes, I know, it is an act of defiance to consciously choose to opt out and to reject this way of living.   There are social costs that have to be paid, without a doubt, but as with most costs there’s also a return on investment.  Is it worth it?  I think so.

One of the things that cycling has taught me is to value quiet time.  When you learn how to be still, mentally and emotionally, everything changes.  It’s all very clear and makes perfect sense when you ride a bicycle through the wilds of middle America, in November, by yourself.