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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Climbing out of the quicksand

As spring slowly evolves, the sun rises over the horizon slightly further to the north of east each morning. This morning, the daily minuscule shifts in the sunrise since December 21 suddenly became obvious. The pink sunrise glowed into our house in a way that shouts "spring!".Despite the spring sunrise, R decided to keep snoozing until some real action, involving food or running, took place.After a colorful sunrise, low clouds painted the world gray during my bike ride. I didn't mind because the cloud cover also kept the snow frozen so that my Fatback could magically float over it. Just after K and I rolled out the door, a Northern Flicker called to us from the dead upper reaches of a pine tree, silhouetted against the monochrome sky.As I rode, my lungs stung with each frosty breath. This respiratory illness is nasty - I'm the last of my extended family to be bitten by it so I know what's in store for me. I spent today's ride obsessed with not breathing deeply or coughing - because both are so painful. Unfortunately, I couldn't suppress the sneezes, which led to coughs, which led to me stopping and feeling sorry for myself. Then, I'd remind myself of how much riding helps my back and how lucky I am to be capable of cycling at all, and I'd restart at a paltry pace.

On the bright side, it lifted my mood to see that K's thyroid-induced attitude improvements reached new heights. She acted like a puppy with energy to burn today. During our ride, K darted up a hillside but no animals were apparent to me. Only after scanning carefully, I realized that she was pursuing a group of four chipmunks, at least 50 yards away, just awakened from many months of slumber. The striped apparitions scrambled across a boulder face, and K sprinted in their direction. Usually, K never chases inconsequential animals like chipmunks. I think that she's stoked with puppy-like energy, and I love seeing it.

After watching her zip around, galloping at least five times as far as I rode, I concluded that K's thyroid levels had been sinking downward for quite a while but I didn't notice until she acted like she'd bottomed out in quicksand. The real K is making a comeback. She moved so fast today that every photo of her is blurred so I can't show her joyful antics.

After dropping off K, my back needed more loosening so I biked very slowly while breathing carefully, feeling like it was my turn to be mired in quicksand. Due to melting and hard-frozen trails, I covered territory that I haven't visited in a few weeks. The large elk herd had marched down into a gulch and straight up a steep hillside. At the top, a wide-open meadow sits bathed in sun. Doubtless, the elk think it's great grazing after spring snowstorms.Since I hadn't visited the gulch in weeks, many new signs of spring met me. I noticed green on shrubs and on the ground. The plants are set in the starting blocks for the race of life during our short summer. I can't identify the shrub in the photos below. Some of its buds remained closed but others had burst open at the seams. I can't wait until these plants have leaves and other clues to help me identify them.

After I exited my last trail with a rare feeling of relief that I was almost home (usually I'm yearning to ride more), a hint of sun and blue sky met me. Even when I feel lousy, I have to stop and appreciate our mountains.Despite the dim skies, I could taste spring in the air today. I found myself unconsciously listening for the burst of sound that accompanies the first male hummingbirds speeding overhead. As I listened, I thought of a drawing that my nephew recently made for me, and it looks like a beautiful hummingbird to me!

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