Park Bench and Picnic Table Under Cloudy Skies at Middle Branch Park

A blue park bench is in the foreground, set against green grass and a picnic table and tree in the middle of the picture. The sky is cloudy and the water of the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River is steel gray.

Monday was the first day of early voting in Maryland so I wanted to check out the lines at one of the sites. The best way to do that, of course, was on my bike, so I hopped on and headed down the hill toward Camden Yards. When I first heard this was going to be an early voting site I had images of voting from home plate, looking up at my adoring fans in the stands. Alas, you actually vote inside Dempsey’s Brew Pub–decidedly less exciting. I requested an absentee ballot and dropped it off in a ballot box a couple weeks ago. I was, as usual, my own adoring fan.

I took Guilford all the way down, a right on Lombard, and took the bus/bike lane west. I could have rolled straight down Maryland Avenue, but I wanted to check out downtown, see if it still has that pandemic feel. It did, to me, but probably because I just don’t go down there anymore. That hasn’t been my commute since mid-March, and the soonest I’ll be commuting that way is September 2021. It might be me that’s different, not downtown. It is like visiting an old ghost of myself. I pedaled past the Planet Fitness. I remember biking down to go to Planet Fitness. I cannot imagine myself inside that gym–or any gym–anytime soon. There is so much I cannot imagine doing again.

I’m trying to shift my thinking, though, away from what used to be and when I’ll get the used-to-be back. I’m here, in this here and now, and my everyday is just as real as it was eight months ago. I want to be alive right now, not just waiting, waiting, waiting for “it” to be over. I was talking with my sister about this. Cancer treatment took a year from our lives. We don’t know how many it will take from how long our lives could have been. That might sound maudlin, but it’s not. It’s just true. There’s a better chance that cancer won’t return than that it will, but there’s always a chance it will, and that it will kill one or both of us. Getting comfortable with that serves me better than pretending it’s all just over. I don’t want more years taken from me, and this year isn’t taken unless I refuse to recognize that what I’m doing now is also living.

And for me, living has meant riding my bike around and thinking about what I’m seeing, for over a decade. I always feel more like myself when I’m on my bike, and that was true on Monday.

I got off the bike to check out the line at Camden Yards. It was long, but not as long as I expected it to be. It was moving along. People were getting their votes cast. To me the line represented neither heroes of democracy nor voter suppression by wait. It seemed like a line, because it was the first day, and people want to vote. I’m just telling you what I saw, though, so I don’t know. Social media makes all of us experts, but I’m trying not to be one.

I stood around for a bit and then hopped back on my bike and continued through the stadium parking lots and over to Russell Street to pick up the Gwynns Falls Trail to Middle Branch Park to see how the fall colors were doing. It felt so good to just stretch my legs. The air was cool but damp, the humidity back. It was the kind of weather that reminds me of New Orleans in the wintertime, and I had a flash back to that other life I got to live for awhile. I’ve gotten to do so many things and live so many places. I’m such a lucky duck.

I stopped just short of the Hanover Street Bridge to snap this picture of the grass and the water. I’ve ridden to and from this park a zillion times, and I remember when there was no rust on the benches. I will keep riding to and from this park, watching these views change, or not, until I can’t anymore. It was a great day to be alive, and I enjoyed every moment of the ride.

And then I turned and headed back the other way, hoping to avoid traffic, grateful for another day on my bike.

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