This how it goes. I get out of bed, then I pull back the curtains and look out of the window. Either the weather beckons me or it shuns me. When the weather beckons me and I succumb, I have eggs for breakfast and a cup of tea. I climb the stairs, brush my teeth and open the drawer where I keep my cycling kit. The decision about which lycra top to wear sways like an inebriated tramp in front of me. I go downstairs and look for my cycling shoes. They are not on the shoe rack in the porch where I always put them after I get back from a ride. I look elsewhere. I go back to the shoe rack ad find them. I go outside to the garage. It is locked, as usual. I go back inside and take my keys out of the drawer where I keep them. I return to the garage and unlock the door. I wheel my bicycle outside. I return to the kitchen and fill a water bottle, or perhaps make a flask of tea. I take it outside and put it in the pannier. By now the weather behind my forehead is full of lightning, sunshine and thunder. What else, what else! I stand in the kitchen, bemused. What am I looking for? A map. I take one out of the drawer where I keep my cycling maps, books of routes, local and distant. I go outside again and stand by my bicycle. What else, what else! I go back inside and take the water bottle ( or the flask) back outside and put it in the pannier. My wallet! I go back to the drawer where I keep it and slip it into one of the pockets of my cycling jersey. The map! Where is it? Where is it! It is lying on the table where someone must have left it. Who? I stuff it in the other pocket of my jersey. I know every route on the map, every lane, every junction, every pot hole, every climb, descent, pub stop, hedge, field of sheep, of horses. I return to my bicycle, shut the garage door, push my bike to the road and gingerly, ever so gingerly I put my foot on the pedal and move away, turn down the hill – the opposite direction from where I want to go – and come to an agonising stop after 100 metres. I turn round, change gears and heave myself back up the hill, back up to where I live. I lean my bicycle on the back of the car, open the garage door and cast around for a puncture repair kit. Sometimes I find one, sometimes I don’t. Either way I lock the garage, mount my bike and cycle up the hill, fuming.
And so the resentment hollows out a place in my chest, or legs, or hands. I have to do this. I have to do this. I. Have. To. Do. This. Once again the loyal views, once again, the rolling hills, once again, the bend in the road. All this to make me feel …. just what exactly? To make me feel better. It makes it so much easier on everyone else. Just to edge away from meaninglessness for a while. Not too far mind, that would mean too much rush and tumble. Too much swirl and endless sky. Too much of this. Of that. And so much to say. All at once, whole entire paragraphs of wit and wisdom, of essential nonsense.
And all the while hanging upside down, clinging to a branch, clinging to somebody else’s life.
In moving-slow he has no Peer.
You ask him something in his Ear,
He thinks about it for a Year;
And, then, before he says a Word
There, upside down (unlike a Bird),
He will assume that you have Heard-
A most Ex-as-per-at-ing Lug.
But should you call his manner Smug,
He’ll sigh and give his Branch a Hug;
Then off again to Sleep he goes,
Still swaying gently by his Toes,
And you just know he knows, he knows.
Theodore Roethke (1908 – 1963)