A Catbird in a Snowstorm

Home is eight miles away, it is snowing,
I tell myself to be careful.
Both lights are still working: that’s a relief,
I zip up the jacket, buckle the helmet,
And sense the endorphins coming on.
There is ice on the frame, snow on the seat;
the catbird has been outside for long.
But now, bike and rider are cautiously ready
For the slow, steady ride home.

We test for slippage and seek grippy patches of road
Our senses are on red alert;
Is that salt below, or mud, or is it black ice?
We brake with care, and a hint of prayer
But the bike stays true; like it always has.
It’s not fast, it’s not light, it isn’t pretty,
But it knows me, and I know it.
Briskly we try out speeds, test cadences,
And settle on a comfortable clip for a snowstorm,
Pedalling faster, going slower than normal.

We can’t relax, even on the home stretch;
White sidewalks converge ahead,
Though snow obscures their virtual meeting point.
Below, the frame glistens red catching the taillight;
The catbird’s steady blinking heartbeat.
Snowflakes sparkle, always 3 feet ahead of us
Issuing outward like fireflies from a fantastic tube
We feel quiet, hearing no wind, no horns, no people
Only the sound of labored breath
And pin-pricks of snowflakes on a cold leathery face.

The catbird and I have gone many hundreds of miles
We are both silent and we are both lonely.
But we are not tired. Life burns madly in us;
Sad but fierce.

[Written almost a year ago, soon after biking from Boston Common to my apartment in Cambridge, past midnight in the middle of a snowstorm. "Gray Catbird" is my doughty commuter bike, and we have many stories to tell.]

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4 thoughts on “A Catbird in a Snowstorm

    • smilecalm, thanks for visiting. I have never been to Amsterdam, and would love to go just to see the ocean of Dutch bikes. Many cities have a lot to learn about cycling, and city living, from Amsterdam and Copenhagen.

  1. I used to commute by bike even in winter and I loved it in spite of not being able to relax during ice and snow. But it was exhilarating. I call my bike the ninja :)

    • Stefanie, I can imagine that riding a bike named “The Ninja” must be exhilarating :-) . When I lived in Minneapolis, I loved how people didn’t even blink at the mention of an approaching snowstorm, and just naturally took it in their stride. Later, in California, I found that people grumbled whenever the temperature threatened to go below 50F.

      That being said, this winter has been pretty terrible (temperature-wise) with the polar vortex, so do be careful while biking in the snow.

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