Mattress and Christmas Tree at Eutaw & Academy Alley

Old mattress and Christmas tree in an alley against a red brick wall.

It’s March, and that means we get a li’l taste of spring, but it’s just a taste, don’t get too attached. It came this week, and it has been glorious–sunny, blue skies, and by the end of the week we even got a break from the wind machines. For me this meant hanging out with friends outside, but comfortably. It has been months since I’ve seen people live and in person other than my partner and not been shivering away. I was positively giddy on Tuesday, waiting to finish up my work day so I could hop on my bike and head down the hill for some quality time with my Work Wife.

In the Before times getting on my bike wouldn’t have been a notable thing. I commute by bicycle, so I ride year round, unless there’s ice on the ground. That’s the only time waiting in the cold for the bus makes any kind of sense to me. But I don’t have anywhere to go anymore. I go to the grocery store, the drug store, and the occasional doctor’s appointment (when you’ve had cancer you don’t put those off until after COVID–everybody’s risk analysis is a little bit different), but I usually walk or drive to those places since my partner is also home, not driving anywhere. I don’t have to bike on cold, windy days, so I just don’t.

At first I felt weird about this. I’ve been gutting through bad biking weather for over a decade. My dad would tell me there’s no such thing as bad weather–just bad clothing–and he was right about that, sort of. I’d rather bike on a sunny spring day than a cold winter one. But if I’m really a cyclist, shouldn’t I bike no matter what? I would, but if I don’t have to, it turns out I’m not going to. I have wrestled with my not-biking this winter and have come down on the side of no, I actually don’t have anything to prove, and yes, it’s fine if I want to spend my time running instead of biking right now. Because I love to run in cold weather. I love it. I’ve run four times a week since December, even when that has meant running down the middle of side streets to avoid the ice.

It turns out that I can do whatever I want with my body, and it’s ok to have seasons. I love the hints of spring, except that also means summer is coming, and my god, I hate running in heat and humidity. What I can just not run in it, then, and make biking my summer activity? What if I can do things that bring me pleasure without judgment? Ok, that might be pushing things a bit too far!

But on this Tuesday I wanted to be on my bike. I pumped up the tires, rolled it up the alley, and hopped on. I was instantly in my body in a familiar way that I hadn’t even known I’d missed. I rolled south, west, south again, west again. I rang my bell at pedestrians about to pop into the bike lane without looking. I scowled at the red SUV in the bike lane with its hazards on just south of North Ave. I pedaled as hard as I could as the light turned red just to get caught at the next one–doing my car impression, I suppose. And then I was where I needed to be, hopping off the bike, rolling through the alleyway to my friend’s place.

I stopped to snap this picture of a Christmas tree tossed in the alley along with an old mattress and a tiny liquor bottle. The tree was still in its stand, and I wondered where it had stood, and how its humans knew now was finally the time to toss it. Who will pick it up and tote it away? There’s so much trash, and it has to be picked up, carted away, hidden somewhere, and a lot of us have the immense privilege of never really having to understand how all that works. Externalities, everywhere.

I rolled my bike into my friend’s apartment building. We headed up to her rooftop to sit outside and yell at each other through the winds. They were not frigid, and for that I was so grateful. I got to stay past 5pm, because days are getting longer, too. There’s a sense we might come out of hibernation soon, and that is both a relief and a source of incredible anxiety. I’m ready, and I’m not ready.

And then I rode home, and even though I haven’t been on my bike, my legs and lungs have been running, so I was still able to get up the hill without too much trouble. I rolled my bike into the basement, booked a tune up appointment, and promised it we’d have more adventures soon. It really is such a gift to be alive, and to have a body with which I can do so many things that I love. I know that is temporary, and this week, I celebrate it.

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