Ducks on a Pond in Patterson Park

Picture of a small pond surrounded by leafless trees and dirt. A few ducks are sitting on the icy part of the pond in the center of the picture. The background sky is cloudy with a few spots of blue coming through.

The weather report for the end of the week was all rain, so I grabbed an hour on Wednesday to sneak in a bike ride around town before everything got all wet. I know, I know, there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing, but I hate riding in the rain if I can help it. My brakes don’t work as well, drivers are even more bananas than usual, and once my glasses get wet, I can’t really see. The older I get the more likely I am to choose my mode of transportation or exercise based on pleasure rather than what I think I should be doing. It is a gift of getting older to care less what other people (by which I mostly mean my internal high school principal) think about what I’m doing. And I can’t tell you how happy I was when my stepmom gave me my dad’s bike tour journal, where he clearly chose to stay in hotels sometimes to avoid the rain and charge his cell phone. If you knew my dad, you know he was a purist about many things, so learning he wasn’t always that way was a real treat.

That said, my body was tired from shouting through an N95 respirator at Tuesday’s classes, especially my larger one in my large windowless room. It’s fine and I’ll get used to it, but the combination of the mask and the part where I can’t see my students’s faces so I have to bring all the hype myself means the first couple weeks are really just about getting back in teaching shape. These first weeks of teaching remind me, again, how much work our K-12 teachers do, and if you’re reading this blog, thank you. I get only a taste of how hard this is, and I can’t believe what you are doing under these conditions.

As tired as other people might be, I was also tired, so it took some doing to drag myself out of the house, but once I was out, I was glad to be there. I just never regret a bicycle ride. This one took me down the hill and east, south and east and east again. I waved to other people on bikes, said my how-you-doings to the two street car washes that were doing brisk business, and I looped in and out of the new townhomes in Middle East that they are now calling Eager Park. Middle East has changed so much since I moved to Baltimore ten years ago, and the new homes and fake streets (they seem fake because their signs are so shiny and don’t match the other street signs) are starting to actually have cars parked in front of them.

People in this neighborhood have been organizing to resist the Hopkins juggernaut that keeps spreading and taking over street after street, and I wondered on this ride for whom Eager Park is just Eager Park, when for so many Eager Park is a site of violence. How will this be marked here? Right now, it’s marked by the streets around it where houses are vacant, boarded up, waiting their turn. It’s marked by the increased security, the cameras, the bright lights. Who you are determines what you see when you see these things, and what I see is the violence of displacement.

I zigged and zagged around these streets before heading east to Milton and then south on Milton to Patterson Park. A bike ride down Milton takes you through so many different lives in Baltimore, and the park is filled with people from all walks of those lives. I pedaled up and around and through, paused to take a picture through the trees of these ducks in the background standing or sitting on the parts of the water that have frozen over. The picture doesn’t quite show the ducks, but trust me–with my eyes, they were the main attraction. The other thing the picture doesn’t show is how bad it smelled right here. Not sure why, but I was happy to pedal away, a wave to the ducks and the poor soccer ball trapped in the middle.

And then I zigged and zagged west and north, back to home, dragging my tired self up the hill. It is exhausting to be back in the classroom, no matter how happy I am to be there. The nice thing about bike-tired is that for me it’s all body tired, but it feeds my soul a bit of energy. I got home, took a shower, made a nice dinner, and fell asleep early, up the next morning to do it all again, because I’m really, really lucky.

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