Autumn Rides and Reflections

November 1st.
I don’t know about you but when Autumn comes things always begin to unravel for me. The days grow shorter. The leaves, fighting their surrender like children holding their breath, take on magical colors, crimson, apricot, bronze, burgundy, the purple – pink of the maples. And I, too, long to hold onto things but know I have to let them go. It’s so strange that we cling to permanence in everything – relationships, jobs, luck, when nature is constantly telling us to enjoy each moment but not to get attached.
Since coming back from my trip to Destin (see previous posts) I have mainly done short rides – an hour to work and to the free meal program I help out with. I was there last night – talking to folks, reading books to some of the kids, making paper airplanes, pushing kids on swings and then sweeping up.
It’s wonderful to be around happy children, watching them color, play tag (tig), fly their planes, do somersaults, and wrestle with each other. One young boy who was new, maybe eight years old, sat beside me on a bench for a few minutes. He didn’t say anything. He just needed to be in the shadow of the safety grown ups can silently provide until he could see where he could safely join the other children at play. He glanced at me once and a brief, confident smile flashed on his face. Then he ran off to join the others. Reminded me of what Dostoyevsky said: “The soul is healed by being with children.”
There is a great deal of physical and emotional pain in the adults who attend but I’m always amazed at the laughter, the joking, and the personal stories of redemption folks freely share with me. I watch people helping out with the chores, sharing what little they have with others. It’s humbling and who couldn’t do with a weekly dose of humility? I’m certainly not there to judge. Mother Teresa said that if your busy judging you can’t be buy loving. It’s your choice, one or the other. Choose wisely.

I try to ride year round and manage a lot of days every month, as long as it’s not too cold, rainy or snowy. I learned a couple of years ago while crossing the Rockies that Big Red doesn’t enjoy the snow as much as I do. Come to think of it, that day my childlike excitement about snow sort of disappeared too.
Riding to work at dawn yesterday the temperature on the bank sign said 44 degrees. I was bundled up in my leather jacket, scarf, heated gloves and had my rain trousers over my others. I was still cold. The sun was rising and chariots of red and orange rode through the sky. It was magnificent. I stopped at Hardees for breakfast and watched the retired men and women, meeting in their stammtisch (German for the tables of the regulars, an informal gathering), joking with each other, sharing health updates of missing members and talking about upcoming trips and medical appointments. Every day, as those autumn leaves fall, I seem to be edging closer to these groups. And while I admire them and the camaraderie, bonhomie and support they provide, Big Red and I still have a few more miles left in us. I hope. I plan to try and enjoy every day. Nothing’s permanent; Autumn reminds us of that.

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