Unless there’s a wind, the T-Bone Trail is a flat, easy ride. You can daydream while you ride on the prairie, or study the tall green corn flourishing in the fields and figure out that the drought, the worst in 25 years, has not hit Western Iowa. It has devastated the crops in Indiana and Illinois: eerie empty brown husks crackle in the fields.
You can get plenty of exercise on the T-Bone: 18 miles from Atlantic to Audubon, Iowa. I’ve ridden more challenging trails and roads, and though once or twice I felt I’d turned into a science fiction creature, half woman, half bicycle, on them, I’m not sure I was the better for the experience.
The summer I turned 30, we biked 11 days through Pennsylvania and New York. Lush forests, psychodelic green fields, steep hills and mountains, but nothing to do but pedal up, up, uphill, 70 or 80 miles a day, sometimes on shoulders of narrow highways, and then eat a pack of cookies at the top. What goes up must come down, but it seems we only went up. I’d fall asleep in the tent at 6 p.m.
I am not the kind of person who has a spiritual experience from pain or excessive exercise. At one point I sat down in the road and took off my wedding ring because I was tired of being in motion and had to go on strike to get my husband to take a day off in a pretty little town, Geneseo, New York. I had to go to a bookstore: you know the feeling.
Most of the time we got along–I was really too tired to do anything but pedal–but there are always moments on these rides when people clash. We biked for a day with two men who had been paired by a bicycling magazine, and we wondered if they would keep going all the way to New Hamphshire together, because their styles of riding and philosophies were so different. We finished our trip, and though I never had the pleasure in the journey that most bicyclists say they experience, I am not a quitter: it never occurred to me to put my bike on a bus and go home.
We had to eat so much for fuel that at the end of the trip I had only lost one pound.
2. I have actually reached MY QUOTA OF NEW BOOKS for the month. I try to read one contemporary book a week, and am proud to say that I have already read four, Mark Haddon’s The Red House, Anne Carson’s Antigonick, Laura Moriarty’s The Chaperone, and Pauline A. Chen’s The Red Chamber, so, yes, I can now return to classics, SF, more new books, or whatever strikes my fancy.
One a day, I thought ambitiously.
But there’s so much to do in a day.
I poked among my shelves until I found two of her adult books, A Live Coal from the Sea, a sequel to Camilla (which I wrote about here), and A Severed Wasp, a sequel to The Small Rain. A Severed Wasp unfolds in dialogue ,intense discussions of music and religion, with flashbacks to a past that includes music and marriage as well as incarceration and torture by the Nazis. I love the heroine. Katherine Forrester, a retired musician, whose old friend, Felix, a retired bishop, is persecuted by persons unknown as various mysteries threaten the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York.
It’s not exactly a good novel, but I like it: there’s a kind of wisdom in L’Engle’s work, for lack of a better word.