Monday, February 26, 2007

Fyr on Ice

Wow, well we definitely got a storm this weekend. Something like 14" in my neck of the woods before it was all said and done. It started much later than they thought - late Saturday afternoon, around 4:30 in the afternoon - before then it was just some sputtering sleet and some meaningless snow now and then. When it finally hit, though, it hit for real.

In my experience, there's something about weather phenomena specifically that tends to bring out the neighbor in people. When I was in college I lived in Grand Forks, ND, when the entire city was evacuated because of a flood. I'd never seen people (before or since) - complete strangers - come together in the desperate days before the city was sunk, trying to save one another's houses. The college even cancelled classes so the students could be added to the force of volunteers doing the sandbagging efforts, and I can tell you that, among the people I know, not a single person looked at that as "time off", but instead just got to work. A snow storm is nothing like a flood, of course, but yesterday when I woke up my neighborhood was already buzzing. Our neighbor-boy (what a strange phrase, "neighbor-boy") Luke, who Amy tutors in reading twice or three times a week and who really is just a kind, gentle 10 year old who kind of gives you hope that all is not lost - was out with his Dad and younger brother already snow plowing our driveway (for which he earns a bit of spending money, and I appreciate both his entreprenurial spirit and that his Dad "oversees" Luke's efforts; a good thing for father and son, I think), and our neighbor across the street had attached a plow to his ATV and was cruising around the neighborhood digging out driveways. As the morning went on others dug out of their homes and with snowblowers or shovels in hand, got to work clearing out not just each others' driveways, but even our street, which was a mess before afternoon when the city plows finally showed up. All day (as I made several trips to Home Depot - I put in a new kitchen sink and faucet, thanks very much) - the city was flashing with plow sirens, back-up beeping noises, and people helping each other with stuck cars (myself and another guy helping two teenagers who plowed their front end into a snowbank having some reckless parking lot fun). It felt...I dunno. Like a community. And it doesn't, always. One thing about Minnesotans - we're sometimes pretty damn proud of ourselves for living in a climate of extremes. All morning on Saturday, before the storm hit, I overheard countless cell phone conversations about "the biggest storm in 10 years" and "coming any time" and "supposed to be really bad - we're at Target buying some water and snacks" blah blah blah. We like to talk about how big and bad things can be living here sometimes. But then, just as much, I guess we enjoy the challenge of putting it back together. We don't tend to wait for somebody to organize the efforts, or the city resources to step in and get it done - we just start doing. Pick up a shovel and give me that guy a hand. It's nice.

Anyway, I digress - I had no real intention of sharing a storm story with you. What I DID want to tell you about was my amazing ride on Saturday, just as the storm was hitting. I went out about 2:30pm, and with the snow and rain we'd had the roads were slushy and messy, but not icy. I avoided idiot winter drivers and headed to some trails at a nature reserve/park about a mile from my house. The whole storm was really windy, but protected by woods as I was, and with temps in the low 30's, it was just about perfect. I had a two hour ride on the agenda, but decided to throw out "fitness" and just ride for the fun of it - and man, it was fun. The snow got increasingly heavy as I was out there, and by the time I finished, around 4:30, I was in the middle of a bonafied snowstorm. But this was one of those rare experiences in life where a person feels a little awestruck. It was so amazing, so beautiful - peaceful and calm, snow gently falling. A creek running by the trail, dotted with ducks who, once in awhile uncomfortable with your proximity, would bound out of the creek, pounding the air with their wings, sudden and magnificent. A train even came by over the bridge I rode under. There was just enough snow to make for some creative riding, but not enough to make it too cumbersome or difficult. Cold enough to make my Gatorade slushy, but not frozen. I just had a blast.

And I was thinking out there - normal people right now are at the grocery store stocking up, or heading home to get off the roads, or sitting comfy in front of their televisions. I, instead, am out here on my bike, in the beginnings of a snowstorm. And were I not, I'd be missing out on this amazing thing. These gentle ducks, this peace and quiet, this meandering stream - all of which is made more by the snow that continues to fall right here, right now. I don't meant to get all gooey here, but it's like how sometimes riding in a thunderstorm, or running in the rain, creates some of the coolest and most memorable experiences. Experiences which transcend triathlon or fitness or training, and become singular. And had a person stayed warm and dry, like most of the world, he would never have had the experience. I wonder sometimes if we, our society, or civilization, are missing some of that nowadays. The reward of engaging with nature on its terms. Seems we're always diverting it, or hiding from it, or escaping it. I know you know what I mean, even if I'm not expressing it well here - you know what it's like to choose to be out in the rain, and you know how exhilarating it can be. That guy in that cubicle over there, he hasn't been out in the rain by choice since he was a kid. And therein lies the difference. "Normal" people certainly aren't worse in any way, they just don't make these kinds of choices. And I think in that they are missing something profound, and even made of magic.

When I finally finished and loaded up my bike, throwing my truck back into 4WD and headed out of the park, it was like entering a totally other world. The roads were a brown and mushy mess, cars sliding around everwhere, wind blowing the snow horizontal. It was kind of a letdown. Like coming back to the real world or something.

So yeah. I felt like a kid. And it was awesome.

I brought my camera, actually, and shot a lot of pics and some video, too. I'm swamped this week at work, but I'll see if I can get that video posted soon so you can share the experience a little more tangibly. It was one worth sharing.


Pharmie said...

Sounds like an amazing ride! You've officially made me feel guilty now about not riding outside!

Triteacher said...

I'm with you; hiding out in a temperature/humidity controlled climate just does not offer the magic of outside. And it is singular.

On neighborliness: we experienced it too - I have a post I'm working on to elucidate our slice of it.

Last - go Fyr!

Anonymous said...

Your descriptions are so good, Chris. I can see the picture you describe. Reminds me of an area outside of Dubuque where I'd go with an ex boyfriend to get away. A stream and little waterfalls. It was best in the spring on the days where you'd think a sweatshirt was enough, but wasn't. -em