Saturday, March 15, 2008

Frost and Moonlight

Note: this essay first appeared on Kent's Bike Blog on February 1st, 2007.

What can I tell you about today? I can tell you that I leave a warm home, a warm bed and step into pre-dawn world that is black and silver. The light from a low full moon shines on a million minute reflections, fog that has frozen into frost. I do not think of myself as a thing separate from my bicycle, my tires crunch with carbide certainty and I roll on dark familiar streets. I know these shadows, I know these street lights. My LEDs, my cat's eyes, cast their own mimicries of moonlight. Bits of gravel crunch up in my fenders, light crystals swirl and eddy in the breezes from each passing car.

Most of my fellow travelers are more confined, comforted in mobile rooms where they squint at a world moving quickly in their headlight beams. Perhaps their radios are telling them the news, their coffee cups urging them toward wakefulness.

I am looking beyond my lights, a trick that has become a habit. A wise man taught me that to see in the dark, you must look in the dark. He learned this in London, in the war, and taught me this on a still and peaceful night, much like this one, many years later and several years ago.

But this night is becoming dawn, the sky holding not only moonlight but the promise of an eastern glow. But for these last moments, it is still the cold light, the silver and the gray. Bits of black resolve in the sky, a murder of crows crossing from the foothills, to the island, to the city. Like me, they are commuters, their daily trek a ritual that is never quite routine.

Sometimes the moon is full and the night is clear and I get to see that each patch of frost is more precious than all the diamonds DeBeers wishes everyone would buy. Sometimes I remember to marvel as I glide with my wheels rolling on concrete that floats on water as I watch a seagull drift without effort six feet to my starboard. I roll on miracles of ingenuity, bridges and tunnels and I come so close to flying with some bits of metal and rubber and air imprisoned in Dunlop's amazing donuts.

The moon that set behind the city, behind the Olympic mountains in the morning rose again this evening. The warmth of the day is leaving as I leave for home and the light again is getting low. The city streets are familiar, the rhythm of red and green and four-way stops, the tide of traffic, the workday workers working their ways away.

I meet my friend Matt at a traffic light and we chat and ride our way up the hill. Convivial conversation and chance meetings are benefits of a life awheel and we quickly bring each other up to speed on schemes for future adventures. At the bridge Matt heads north and I head east.

The day never warmed much above freezing and fog frost still lies in the shadowed places. The moon is vast and white and too photogenic for me to photograph. It is the moon that would make Basho compose poetry, make Lon Chaney into a beast and make sane men wonder if lunatics know something that the rest of us only suspect.

I roll through air that is cold enough to make every sound clear. There is a tick in my right pedal, keys clink in my pocket, my bell rings itself on the rough pavement of the Bellevue Slough. The freeway drones like our entire planet has tinnitus and I wonder if it is good or bad that I can manage to tune all this out almost all the time.

As I climb the edge of Cougar Mountain, a poetic name left over from a wilder time, the moonlight and the frost are all I see. It is a night without darkness, the moonlight is everywhere.

If I were standing I suppose it would be cold, but I am rolling and layered in wool and nylon and I know just how fast to go to be warm enough.

My home lies in a moonlit valley and it is time now to be home, with a cup of hot tea. And maybe a grease gun. There is a tick in my right pedal.


Kent Peterson
Issaquah WA USA


alice b. toeclips said...

Dude, how could you pip me,
I SWEAR I had my blog in before yours.
I saw it ten am..or was I imagining.
Can you imagine my trying to 'win' First Blog Off The Line.
What a craquepot I am....

Kent Peterson said...

It's that throwing your arms in the air that slows you down! Actually it's the pausing to edit that made your post vanish for a bit.

First thought, best thought as Keroauc would say, but of course Capote would quip that that's not writing that's just typing.

But we'll all have our own type of writing here, some scribbled scraps and some well-processed words.

I'm just following in your wheel-tracks.