Friday, April 20, 2012

The Ride of Spring

I happened upon this photo the other day, in a pile of old papers on the corner of my desk. It was taken last July, on an early morning ride with my pal Penn, at a secret location somewhere south of Edmonton. I remember the ride well; it was one of those startlingly bright summer mornings we get here in central Alberta, and we found ourselves on a nice stretch of new pavement. I did a double-take when I saw this photo. The colors—that intense green and gold and the impossible blue—just about took my breath away. I'd forgotten that such colors were even possible.

At this time of year around these parts the landscape is pretty grim. Technically it is spring, I know, but there are few signs of it to be found. I went out for a ride the other day and everywhere I looked I got an eyeful of ugly. The ditches are littered with Tim Hortons cups, McDonald’s wrappers, and Safeway bags. Everywhere you look, it’s a vast, deadening expanse of brown and grey. The colors of that old photo are hard to fathom now. Even the few lingering patches of snow don’t even have the decency to be white.  Spring is supposed to be a time of renewal, rebirth, hope, etc. But the drab landscape here isn’t giving my optimistic side much to work with.

The actual roads, of course, are a mess, awash in sand and gravel, the sedimental legacy of another Alberta winter. In fact, on some roads enough glacial till has accumulated along the shoulder to form a three-foot wide esker of sandy gravel deep enough to be a genuine hazard for all but the fattest tires  or hardiest of camels. The potholes, too, are impressive—epic craters lurking beneath the sand and litter, ready to give the unsuspecting cyclist a bone-jarring thunk.

I suppose there’s something primal, elemental about the ugliness of spring in Alberta. We suffer through it, and maybe it makes the golden days of summer even richer. My knowledge of science, together with past experience, would dictate that the grass will eventually green up; leaves will someday appear on tree branches. Yet, in the darker recesses of my brain, I find myself wondering if this might finally be the year that summer doesn’t bother to come at all to Alberta. Best hang on to that photograph from last July, I told myself, if only to remind me that there is such a thing as summer in Edmonton.
But then, on the homestretch of my dreary, somewhat depressing ride the other day, a few blocks from home I saw—finally—a sure sign of spring, my first sighting of an exotic creature  whose appearance I always associate with renewal and whose  return to the neighbourhood brings the promise of green days and warm rides ahead.
Forget about a robin red breast. This is a something much more beautiful and inspiring to a cyclist in Edmonton in April.

1 comment:

  1. Oooh, potholes. A pothole once tried to kill me. I remember that bone-jarring thunk of which you speak. It preceded my being thrown upside down into the traffic lane and my helmet breaking into three pieces. Be careful out there.


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