I must have worn out all the hand-me-down bicycles and several new ones riding back and forth to swimming lessons and later swim team practice, parks and ice cream parlors, and of course more mischievous pursuits. I grew up on summer nights where baseball wrapped up days of swimming, or grilling steaks accompanied by as much Iowa corn, homegrown tomatoes, and juicy watermelon my hungry brothers and I could handle. As an undergraduate student I bought another bike, the one I still own, to get from place to small town place using the most fun brand of transport I could imagine.
On the heels of RAGBRAI, August always seems to be the time to get as much riding in as I can before the academic calendar comes trudging back with commitments less tolerable of a sweaty, helmet-toting arrival. It’s also the time when Tallahassee, like so many college towns, is at its quietest. Understandably, people escape the sweltering heat and humidity for summer’s last hurrahs before autumn’s classes and schedules and practices and rehearsals and recitals and games and plays and competitions and that most important of fall Saturday rituals, the college football experience. While the traffic is a bit more friendly, I ride my bike. I get to campus and back. I get on some trails when I can. I go to the library and enjoy something all too rare in a university library: silence. Sweet, glorious silence nourishes productivity like so much mother’s milk. Oh, the quietude. Who says there’s no enjoying the calm before a storm?
Back then we grew accustomed to the routine of getting into basements quickly when sirens became harbingers of darker possibilities. A tornado could arrive, render several neighbors homeless, and leave us wondering why other houses appeared untouched, sometimes all within an hour or two. In that final, electric moment after the sirens fell silent but before funnel clouds appeared on the horizon, eerie green skies never threatened brighter realities we knew to be on the other side of something so unpredictable. Was it naïve to be fascinated by the quiet excitement of some erratic force?
This present stillness also intrigues,
It is space to think and time to breathe,
It is temporary absence of banal cacophonies
That lull us into routine and steal our ease.