Sunday, July 5, 2009

Introducing "Smells"

I took the camera with me today, hoping to snap a shot of a picturesque schoolhouse-turned-residence just outside of town. When I reached the house, the picture was obviously out of the question. The lovely maple trees which border the property are lush enough to obscure the drama of the house; the inconvenient angle of the sunrise botched the rest of it. Throughout the remainder of my ride I realized that most picture-worthy properties face the west (I suppose most of us are preconditioned to think we have more time, or a greater need, for aesthetics at the end of the day -- sunset -- than we do at its beginning). There are ways to compensate for shooting into the sun, but few of them result in anything especially attractive. And they all require more work than I was prepared to do on a ride.

I mulled over my usual bevy of preoccupations, obsessions and anxieties, including, in no particular order, mortality, the ethical dilemmas facing my children's generation, peak oil, what constitutes a desirable perspective, etc. The body eventually reaches a point where the energy that generates questions is harnessed for locomotion. The mind slips into a pleasantly befuzzled state, and consciousness is alerted only occasionally, either by unusual sights or, in my case, smells.

I've sometimes thought my sense of smell is a shade too acute. We had a rodent problem in our first house, which a little poison quickly took care of. Less than a year later I knew we had to deal with the problem again, because I could smell them (mice pee everywhere).

Age and palate abuse has certainly dulled this sense, but I'm still sensitive. While riding, if a car passes me in either direction I can usually tell whether or not the rider has shampooed. Then there's smoker's fug, which is hardly noteworthy. There's a scene in 84 Charlie MoPic where a new Lieutenant is berated by his seasoned grunts for lighting up in the field. "Charlie can smell cigarette smoke from a mile away," or something to that effect.

Today one of the smells to catch me off-guard was strawberries. The season is ending, so there are berries rotting in their patches -- a sickly smell I was happy to leave downwind.

Distance: 17.7 kms in 54 minutes, concluding with a sore keister. Kinda humbling when I think my friend Scott is doing 100 kms in a windy day like yesterday. I'd like to work up to a century, but since I replaced my stem I've been getting saddle-weary, and haven't yet figured out the right adjustment.

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