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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The Last Days of Fall

At 1 pm, flecks of snow began to drift down from the sky above Mt. Greylock – uncertain and flaky at first, then a steady drizzle. Such leaves as were still present on the trees collected the snow, grew heavy and their branches bent double under the weight. The color of autumn began to fade from the ground; ephemeral fires before the long whiteness.  On the summit, kind caretakers closed down the doors of Bascom lodge for the winter and took the treacherous paved road down the mountain. One pianist and one flautist made their way down the western slope to the town of Lanesborough. At the same time, two novice backpackers took the northern route on the Appalachian trail before bearing west, keeping their eyes peeled for weathered white and blue paint on a few tree trunks that signalled the vanishing trail. Soon, the afternoon grew dim, thunder punctuated the steadily humming snowfall, and tracks of man, woman, bear and coyote disappeared. In an hour or so, no evidence would remain that a half-dozen people took different paths down the slopes of Mt. Greylock on the afternoon of the great Noreaster. Earlier than most years, Winter claimed the Berkshires for its own.

[10/30/2011]