Friday, August 7, 2009

My Husband Doesn't Sing

"Yes, he does," says Middlest. "He sings along to ABBA. He sings the hymns. He used to sing you are my sunshine, my little sunshine when we were little. He sings."

So - like everything I write - not entirely true.

But it is true that he doesn't sing like he does the things he really does. He doesn't sing for his supper. He doesn't sing me sonnets or sad songs. He doesn't sing out - he pulls the curtain back from offstage for whoever's starring in the show, checks that the spotlights are working. Or he shrugs off all this caterwauling and goes out for a bike ride - though you're usually welcome to come along, too.

And though he's a demon for tracking his miles and his miles-per-hour, he likes to stop and talk to the people we meet along the way - like the day we biked the trail up along the Sevier River and met:

  • a young running mother with glossy brown ponytail, pushing two babies in front of her. We have to work to catch and pass her. "How many miles?" Fritz asks her. "Eight," she nods briskly, barely breaking stride. She's training for the marathon. Two little heads peek up over the edge of their chariot, the morning light making spiky haloes of their hair.

  • the three compadres, pedaling upright and dignified, nodding back to Fritz's "Hey, good morning" - "Yes, a very good morning," "Fine morning," "Lovely morning," as they approach, glide measuredly away, their barely interrupted three-part conversation carrying on unhurriedly as they pedal out of hearing.

I never used to talk to strangers before I married Fritz. But Fritz kept insisting, "There just aren't that many bad guys in the world to be that frightened of strangers."

Now talking to strangers is one of my secret indulgences. I sometimes have to stand back feeling blessed that everywhere in this foreign world are bright sparks of conviviality, just waiting to be struck like flint.

The day of our bike ride, Fritz and I bike above the green water.  Commenting on the fresh smell of the water - or is it the leaves of the trees that grow there? - as the river rushes down the other way.

We call out to the college guys kayaking down below, who grin and wave.

We wave and nod at a photographer stalking something in the sagebrush.

When I stop and scramble down the dry bank to take pictures of desert poppies filling up with light, Fritz waits for me, steering infinity patterns on the trail.

"We do fit well with each other. Don't you think we are actually awfully well-suited?" I ask him. "These morning bike rides - I can see us as a gray-haired couple doing this - wait, we are a gray-haired couple! But years from now - can't you see us? I love this - being able to stop whenever I see anything - how you never get antsy or try to rush things when I take pictures . . . "  I go on, something about how I love how taking pictures helps me stop and see.

"Look at that," says Fritz, pointing up at the elephant-skin texture of rocks above the water.

While I'm scrambling back up onto the trail, the young running mother passes us again.

We have to work again to pass her again which we do at the curve in the trail, as the canyon opens a little wider and takes in the sunlight.

It rained last night and there is still a clean smell of wet sagebrush in the air.

The trail ends at the sulphur yellow mountain, right across from the Big Rock Candy Mountain Cafe - whose omelets are consistently well-made.  Also surprisingly nuanced, satisfying something in us more than appetite. 

Can you call an omelet intelligent? We discuss this.

Though we don't stop there this morning, biking instead along the old two-lane through a sweet and narrow valley.

This is the route my grandpa took winter mornings, morning after morning, when he taught school out this way in Marysvale. Was even principal there, I believe.

The school is still standing, though the sandstone is worn and the building's been taken over as a craft co-op.

Standing in front of the old school, Fritz falls into conversation with a herd of 4-wheelers - they're a family reunion - all kinds of cousins - on a weekend trek. Somebody's uncle hauls all their gear in a sturdy-framed dune buggy and they've all come into town to grab some breakfast at the convenience store which is mobbed at the moment with sunburned girls in braids and pajama-pants coming home from Girls' Camp.

Fritz and I pick up a couple of yogurts, bananas. Eat them outside under the metal awning where we can eavesdrop on the people coming in and out. Then pile back into the saddle, heading home.

On the way back out of town we see a small sign in big letters CHERRIES which leads us to another sign and another until we've circled back to a shady yard enclosed in a tidy chain-link fence.

"My mother, my granddaughter," nods the smiling man in camo tee and baseball cap, by way of introduction.

He grew up here. Knew my Grandpa it turns out. His own dad used to teach at the high school, too.

"And Linn Parker? I remember he use to coach the basketball," our cherry-seller names a sweet-faced and shyly quiet chum of Grandpa's that I remember, too.

"Linn Parker's up north now," I tell him. "I hear he's living with his daughter."

We both nod. That's just the way things go, isn't it?

The granddaughter comes running back out from the house with a bread bag she helps fill with bright red cherries for us. Fritz ties it carefully beneath his bike-seat so the cherries will sway without bouncing against anything metal for the ride home.

The cherry man tells us that the marsh we saw biking into town is a beaver meadow. "They've been gone awhile. Oh, years. But this year, here they are again."

On the way in, I'd crossed the two-lane to take in the deep green. Moist air had breathed up against my face. Then the piping call of blackbirds, as I watched their rise and settle, flutter, glide and settle.

Fritz had glided over beside me, braked, "Whoa, even I can feel a poem coming on here."

"Okay, let's hear it," I'd said


"Your poem," I had grinned.

Fritz had done a backward smile, then all ex tempore - as a pickup truck and two bright colored sedans roared past in a lonely group -

"The world rushes by, fast and furiously.
The reeds and the willows lie below
In their serenity.
Now we bike back the same way. Stop again at the beaver meadow, watch the birds.

"The only problem," I say  - as we turn off the two-lane at Big Rock Candy, take the trail back along the river -  "the only problem is I still didn't get any pictures of that blazing star - they must open up at night and close up when the sun gets on them."

"So we'll just leave earlier tomorrow," says Fritz.

Which we do. Out over Monroe Hill this time.

The hill's a killer, though not for Fritz. But halfway up - blazing star. Still open from its night consorting with the pollinating moth.

I've said before that I married Fritz because he gives me room - I mean he opens up space for me.

In the place of caution, curiosity.

In the place of wariness, why not?

As a girl I used to bike around my Grandma and Grandpa's little town, always trying to get my cousin Molly to bike with me down the road, just see where it would go, just a little ways.  She would never go further than a mile or two. 

And another mile or two more would get too lonely for me and back I would turn, time after time.

Now Fritz and I pass the furthest limit of that earlier venturing on the way back into town. Close in, that outer limit is, no distance at all.

This morning, cycling back into town, we've gone thirty miles and the sun is still climbing the sky.

He is the scent of water in the desert.

Which is my way of singing.

Which is, my dear straightforward Fritz, my way of saying I'm ready to ride with you another nineteen years at least.


shail2chouhan said...

really a niice blog and fantastic images

Lisa B. said...

What a beautiful piece. I love the idea of a partner that gives you room--that opens up space for you. I feel the same way about mine. I love these images, too--all of them. Wonderful.

Linnea said...

I loved the photos and the storyline. I felt I was along for the ride without working up a sweat ... which unfortunately, is just the way I like it!
P.S. We think Fritz is wonderful, too. You are perfectly suited for each other. Here's to the next 19!

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