Blogging changes one’s perspective. I can dash off a poem at ten in the morning and within twenty minutes it will have been read by maybe hundreds of people, lots of whom are in very far-away places. I’ve got regular readers in India, Indonesia, Germany and Great Britain. A few months ago I began getting “likes” from some reader in the Faroe Islands. I didn’t even know where that was, but it sounded exotic, so I did a little research and learned some fascinating things about that place – how it was settled and what some of the customs are there. In fact, as I sit here on my back porch in middle America in the kind of suburb that you would have seen in a 1950s sitcom on American television, just about all of those places seem exotic to me: Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand.
It occurs to me now, though, that what I experience here on a daily basis might seem quite exotic – or at least attractive – to readers all around the world. I am conscious of a world-wide audience as I write here from day to day, but I have never before thought in terms of how what seems normal and even mundane to me might seem strange and interesting to people who live in great cities or in tropical or arctic climates. So, here is a bit of a regular, mundane day of mine, here in sunny, suburban West Virginia.
To begin this task in October is maybe something of a cheat because October is the best month of the year here. The mornings are cool – it’s somewhere between forty and fifty degrees on my back porch when I first get up – but by mid-day the mist and fog have burned off and we have brilliant sunlight and temperatures in the seventies (all of these temperatures I’m giving you are Fahrenheit, by the way). It is very humid here in the summer months, so outdoor activity can be very draining, but in October the air is clear and dry and you want to spend the whole day outside.
Here is more: In West Virginia- even in the cities – you are always surrounded by forested hills and these are deciduous forests and so the leaves change color in the fall before they drop off. October is the peak of the color change and the hills around are turning from a deep, glossy green to tapestries of red and gold. People come from hundreds of miles away to see the color. Living here all of my life has made me a little jaded, perhaps – Oh, it’s just one more gorgeous Autumn – but these days I am waking up again to this amazing, almost unbelievable beauty that changes day by day.
For a whole combination of reasons, I have had a lot of leisure time lately and since the weather has been so agreeable I have been taking morning rides on my bicycle almost every day. I don’t have to drive anywhere to start my rides. I just take the bike out of the basement and hop on it and coast down the hill and onto Strawberry Road that follows Coal River out of the suburbs and into the country. I time my rides to miss the going-to-work traffic and after nine o’clock the roads I ride are almost empty. Everyone is either at work or in school and the only vehicles I see on my rides are service trucks and utility vans. Maintenance and deliveries.
As I start out I am dressed for the chill – long tights, wicking underwear and a bright-yellow jacket. I wear gloves, too, but on the early downhill runs my fingers are pinched with the cold. My whole course – I don’t ride the whole thing every day – is about twenty-five miles long and is quite varied in altitude and slope. Some of the uphills are steep and a real grind and some are long, gradual climbs. Likewise, the downhills might provide a half mile of pure thrill or a mile-long stretch of easy coasting.
On my route I have view after view of the little, green river along which my town was settled. Here are a couple of photographs I took yesterday at a place called “Lower Falls.”
Along my way I will see houses old and new, some of which are falling into disrepair. Little log cabins hidden here and there and now and then some palatial country estate with white columns and broad, groomed lawns. I pass cattle grazing in pastures and one or two chicken coops where the roosters mark my passing with loud crowing. By mid-day I am sweating and at the mid-point of the ride my partner and I rest across the road from the Forks of Coal Baptist Church and watch the birds play over the graves in the churchyard.