One of my most admired senior environmental activists, Fred Kirschenmann, was speaking at the public library yesterday afternoon with readings from his newly published book, "Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays From a Farmer Philosopher." Fred is a Distinguished Fellow of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. More importantly, he lives and teaches a connection with the soil and labors for the cause of community resilience. The fancy title aside, he is as down to earth as anyone can be, pardon the pun. I wanted to see Fred and be a part of the scene, which would surely include like-minded people.
It was a balmy spring day with bright blue skies and no blustery winds--just the right sort of day to bicycle down to the meeting. I hadn't been on my bike much this spring, if only because of spending time preparing the garden for planting. I'd built up the depth of my raised garden near the house, and my husband and I were starting a new garden strip along the back fence in an area that had been grass. As a result, my kneeling and bending muscles were likely better off than my cycling muscles.
Allowing half an hour to get to the center of town, I took off. Ten minutes later, a huge black cloud was heading my way, giving out ominous rumbles of thunder. I could see that ahead, rain was falling from this cloud. I had a rain poncho with me, so I wasn't so much worried about getting soaked as I was about getting caught outdoors in a lightening storm.
I decided to invoke the emergency plan and called my husband to come pick me up. He came, but the bicycle wouldn't fit in our vehicle with the child seat for our youngest grandchild fastened in the back. We couldn't fold that seat down. It was now 10 minutes later and the cloud seemed no greater threat than before, so off I cycled again while my husband drove home.
I pedaled as hard as I could and got to the library still dry, just as the presentation was beginning. I was surprised that I regained my wind and my composure rather quickly. Actually, I felt great!
The room was filling with people as Fred read excerpts from his book and talked with his fans, and I got to chat with favorite people. Nearly two hours later I started home with Fred's book and two more library books on sustainability in my bike basket. It still hadn't rained. The sun was shining between the passing clouds that weren't ready to dump rain after all.
I was confident setting out for home, despite the slight uphill grade all the way, and the weight of my new cargo. I pedaled fast, given the clouds, but I had to use a lower gear to ease the stress on my garden-weary old knees. The route home took me down more shady streets lined with modest older homes tended with pride, spring flowers in full bloom. I got home in half an hour, tired and happy. I'd gotten soaked to the skin when within a block of my home before, but not this time. An hour later came the rain.
I strongly suspect I was the only person at that Sunday afternoon meeting who came via bicycle.
I've never ridden outside of town or town to town. I'm not into cycling as a sport and doubt I ever could have done it. But as a way to enjoy an hour outdoors on a glorious day, going somewhere I was going to go anyhow, the bicycle is unsurpassed!