Today I biked down into town to talk - I mean, swim - with an otherwise overscheduled friend. Then meetings and such until midday.
Packing my bag, I tell Fritz, "I love how biking pares down my life to what's important."
He grunts. Intelligently, of course.
Most days all I need to carry is water and camera. And helmet (which may or may not provide enough protection in case of impact. But in my neck of the woods a helmet signals to the drivers with whom I share the road that I am riding responsibly, with all due diligence, rather than a lawsuit waiting to happen.)
Wallet, if I'm stopping for groceries.
Phone, if I remember.
Tiny paperback gospel that I found this summer cleaning out my grandma's bedroom drawer.
Spoon for lunch.
Pens in two colors.
Eye-protection in case of bright sun or driving rain.
"Do you need three colors of lipstick?" asks Fritz.
"Yes. And two colors of eyeliner." Because eyeliner is talismanic.
And today, the blowdryer, but only because this is my day to help out in a friend's classroom. Boots, sweater, black wool pants. Compact planner for the meeting afterwards. Breakfast oatmeal (apples, raisins, cinnamon) that I'll eat when I have time.
"You wear awfully good clothes to bike in," says one of the women in the dressing room after we swim.
But I'm discovering this fall, that biking with your clothes on (as opposed to sweats and Lycra) is really no more bother.
I bike as fast as I can in, so I'm glad for the sweat-gear then, but on the way home I take my time, stopping to take pictures, stopping to pick up coconut extract - for which I simply walk my bike in, down the aisle, through the checkout and then walk it out, stopping to check in on the old ladies (who checked in on me back in the day when I was in the throes of childrearing - it all cycles around eventually).
Then I bike up the hill home (which is a HILL) without really breaking a sweat. Wha? Maybe, after two months of bike-commuting I'm just that much stronger. Maybe it's just that the weather is so much more cool.
I am discovering, biking with at least a groggily awakening sense of cycle chic, that drivers around my town are even kinder than before. Is this because I don't look like a professional biker? Because I don't look like a lost Lance Armstrong? Because I just look like . . . well, who I am? Ordinary and recognizably human?
In any case, more than ever before, they wave me through intersections, they smile, they swing out wide around me. I'm thinking there's more to clothes than to cover our nekkidness after all.
"I thought you said you were paring down?"
But library books, of course, are a necessity. Particularly when it is your once-a-quarter reading month.
(And that's another thing I've learned this year - my list of best books is just as long or longer for this year when I'm reading wildly only every third month. And I'm writing more - which I cut the reading out to make room for.)
Today I made another discovery. I may also be the town's most stylish eccentric.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm taking a picture of this tree."
"It's the town's biggest tree."
"I know. That's why I'm taking a picture of it."
"I have a question for you."
"What's your question?"
"Are you going all around town taking pictures?"
"Cause one of my friends said he saw you taking pictures of the bike shop. How come?"
After two or three times through, I have got this script down pat.
But I say, eccentricity is a small price to pay to know the biggest tree in town.