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I like to ride my bicycle and today I got to ride it along a very long stretch of high desert on a two-lane back water highway in New Mexico. With a siren’s tease, enormous rose and sage striated mountains loomed in the distance inviting me to continue over the next rise and the next. The further I got away from the town of Truth or Consequences though the more it began to dawn on me how stupid I was being. I was in a “No Service” zone, more than once wind gusts had threatened to knock me down…what if did a face plant? Who would be there should I need help? What if one of the rare trucks coming by stopped and kidnapped me? The whole scenario played out… there I’d be sequestered in the back of some truck never to be seen or heard from again. What would my family and friends would say. ‘Nice girl and all but what a stupid thing to have done?’ Then I began to worry about snakes, big ones, rattlesnakes. I have an aversion to snakes I mean, a real aversion. Even as a kid I had trouble turning the page of the encyclopedia (throwback) if it had a photograph of a snake on it. Maybe that had something to do with a toothless and grinning man just outside Calcutta offering me his giant boa constrictor to hold when I was eight years old. Residual trauma? Anyway, I was sure a big snake was going to jump out and bite me. Peddling furiously now, I realized I’d best get ahold of these paranoias if for no other reason than to actually enjoy the beautiful ride. I started to talk myself off of every cliff. The passerby was rare and after all what would they want with this old bag of bones? My partner has my share location and as for snakes, last I heard there were no boa constrictors nor flying snakes in New Mexico. Should a run of the mill vertebrate come along, I was the one on two wheels and he’d only have a long slimy belly to crawl on. At last I was breathing again and pushed on a bit more.
I began again to take in the Georgia O’Keefe landscape and the luminescence of the bright blue dome above. About an hour out, I decided it was time to turn around. Pedaling back over the same territory, be it because of my shift in perspective and/or the change in light, the view was entirely different. The monotone beige sands now had a palate moving through all the mauves imaginable. What seems at first endless has variation in it after all. Sage cactus’ boasted hues of periwinkle and teal. Prickly things can be beautiful too. In a kind of reverie I wondered what you could see were you to enter a time/space warp? A backwards in time one in which you could witness the glaciers etching the mountains. What would the music be? In one stretch riding alongside the Rio Grande, I took in the poplars bordering that fabled river as they rose tall and stick straight piercing the sky. It didn’t take much to imagine their roots sunk deeply into the flow’s moisture pulling the life force in. Hope rising. Surrounded by the grandeur of these timeless wonders, by their majestic continuum I felt realigned, safe and struck with a sense of grateful awe.
About then I saw something flat and glistening on the road ahead. As I passed it I realized it was a huge and very smooshed, snake. He had most definitely not been there on the ride out. Filleted as he was, his demise spoke as metaphor to my vanquished worries. Keep going, quiet irrational thought, move into higher observations and as if by magic the pettier ones will be…well smooshed. At last an image of a sacrificial vertebrate on which I can now turn the page.