I dug up this little piece of creative nonfiction I wrote last April when we had no idea just how long the year would feel (so naive!). It doesn’t have much to do with travel or hiking, but it does have to do with “place.”
April 12, 2020
On the last Sunday in March we went on a bike ride. It was the first time we left the house in a few days except to stock up on cans of tomatoes and jugs of white vinegar. We dusted cobwebs from our helmets and pumped air into flaccid tires before setting off down the river trail. It was warming up, but the grass was damp with recent melt and persistent piles of snow crouched in the shade of the bigger houses. The wind reddened our cheeks as we pedaled faster, but we could start to feel the sun touch the back of our neck like a grandparent might. My muscles were unused to moving like this, up and down and back and up again. I knew they would ache in the morning. I pedaled steady, working to control my breath, which no longer flowed out in a puff of steam but blended in with the warm air. My husband pedaled ahead, curving along the river to “Get his heartrate up,” as if a heart is a thing to wake.
After a while we followed the river back toward home. Ahead, the trail was flooded. Overnight the river had crept up beyond its shore and flowed over the concrete. There were two options: crawl through the brambles on the bank or wade through the edge of the river. He started climbing, and I braced myself for the cold. My shoes filled immediately with icy water. A layer of oil shimmered on the lazy current, and I imagined it coating my shins.
On the other side there was an old woman looking up toward the stairs to the street. I stood back a few feet and followed her gaze.
“A little to the left, Frank,” she said.
Frank clung the railing and leveled a can of brown spray paint at the wooden steps. He shifted the stream to the left and finished covering graffiti that someone scrawled over the winter.
My husband joined me on the sidewalk and we biked on, leaving a trail of river water behind.
Later, we walked back to that staircase that led down to the river. The water was higher now. I leaned over the edge and could not tell where the wood ended and Frank’s paint began. But it might have been underwater.