I have introduced a new commuting pattern to my life. It includes my walking and biking along and near to my local river for some miles several days a week. In the early days of my new routine, walking and biking along this great fecundity of flyway, where trees begin to flower and small cast offs of ancient wilderness occupy their tiny, scattered spaces, I am vaguely aware of a fascinating and wonderful variety of birds. I am no ornithologist and can name only a few of these wild things, but I am sort of aware of them, a bald eagle here, a hawk of some kind, an oriole there, something yellow, something strikingly patterned, something I have never seen before. Each time I would like to take a good look, but mostly, I can't.
I suppose I seem well enough, but winter cooled my physical activity, and a wet early spring filled up with other concerns and pretty well killed it off. I am not in good shape. I am in seriously poor shape. I walk the mile or so to get a bike from the wonderful bike station rental system my city has, and I have to concentrate to go at a decent walking speed. I do not have enough time, commuting like this, to dawdle, yet at every step my body seems eager to mosey. I have to propel it forward with effort. I may see a startling yellow bird, but with more than a passing look my whole walk could collapse into a multiple hour saunter. But this is nothing compared to the issues of the bike.
The first four or five pedal rotations of my bike give me a great sense of power and speed. I am amazed at how fast and easily I can go. This is quickly followed by the amazement I feel at how quickly my thighs burn horribly. I am barely even pedaling. I am on flat ground. I hurt. Before long I am sweating, nauseous, straining, and coasting at every chance. Joggers fly by me. I am dazzled by how out of shape I am. My butt hurts. I pedal heavily in a thick personal haze of agony. Birds fly about, probably Parrots, and Passenger Pigeons, and Pteranodons, and Condors, and Quetzals, and Golden Pheasants, and Hoopoes, and Bali Birds of Paradise, and god knows what else, because I have ceased to care. Pedal as I might I think I am now going backwards. I am about to start coughing up blood, cramps have seized every part of my legs. I cannot catch my breath. Birds may be everywhere but I am hallucinating bats and smoke and flying knives. I am weaving. I come to one final, large hill on a not very hilly ride and dismount. I nearly collapse to the ground. Walking, barely, I half push the heavy bike and half support my upper body on it. There is no speed of walking so slow that it allows me to recover. At the top of my hill, in a large square between a variety of University buildings, I collapse onto a bench, stunned, nauseous, out of breath, and utterly exhausted. I am terribly late, but I understand there will be no way for me to progress for at least ten minutes. So I sit, lost to the world, breathing.
Slowly I recover a little. I feel a bit less like vomiting blood. The cool air of spring feels good. The sky is blue. I close my eyes. I open them. I am going to live. Six of my ten minutes of allotted rest time have gone by and I am willing to move my body slightly to get to a more comfortable position. I turn my head to a tree standing quietly in a small patch of grass to my right. A gigantic turkey, less that ten feet away from me, regards me calmly from underneath it. I stare dumbly at it. What the hell? A turkey. It pecks something in the grass. It looks at me again. I look at it. It looks at me. I look at it.
It is one glorious giant of a turkey. I did not know turkeys came this big. I think it might be a spirit turkey. I think it might be a dreamtime turkey.
Well, I'm so late by now I could wait forever. I have learned my lesson. I will not leave before the turkey leaves.