26 July 2015

Another Path Of My Past

Yesterday I pedaled along a route I rode often when I was a Rutgers student more than three decades ago.  I hadn’t taken that ride since I graduated and left the area.

The ride—along the Delaware and Raritan Canal towpath—was even more familiar than I expected it to be.  It was also, even more surprisingly, easier, in spite of my age and weight—and the fact that the testosterone in my body has been replaced by estrogen.  

When I am truly recalling or reliving something, my senses are engaged.  Sights and sounds—and, particularly, smells and tastes—return to me.  However, on yesterday’s ride, yet another sense filled me and reminded me of why I rode along the path back in the day, and why I was riding it yesterday.

In those days, I cycled even more than I do now.  Needless to say, I was stronger and faster.  Somehow, though, the ride seemed more effortless for me than it used to be. 

Now I believe I know why.  In those days, I was cycling, as well as lifting weights and engaging in other sports, in part as an attempt to free myself from the constraints of my body.  Sometimes I would pedal, run, lift, kick or fight until—and sometimes after—I couldn’t do any more.  When I’d physically exhausted myself, I was no longer appalled at my body because I had, if only momentarily, beaten it into submission:  I was punishing it for keeping me in a prison of maleness.

Yesterday I felt no such constraint, let alone the anger that festered when I was in it.  Without trying, I passed cyclists who were younger and fitter than I am.  The path was not something to be ridden over; it was something to ride, to ride along, to ride with.

On my way back, a dog crossed into my path.  Back in the days, I would have cursed the dog—and the woman who walked her.  But I stopped and stroked the dog, who licked my hand.  The woman apologized.  “It’s OK,” I demurred. 
A man—her husband, I presume--followed with another dog. He echoed her apology;  I repeated my deflection of it.  He stretched out his hand.  “Can I offer these as penance?”

He had just picked the blackberries.  I don’t remember anything that tasted so good.

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