I ride my orange bike on the creek path, the world quick glimpses. Five ravens in the middle of the street eating roadkill. A strip of water beside the curb on the other side, sprinkler runoff. They slow hop and waddle between the two, easy together. I grin at this offer of adjacent food and drink, this perfect impromptu dining. When I am past, I see one lone raven sitting in the shade beside the path watching them. And then they are all behind me, and I ride toward the San Jacintos. I think about going back to move the dead animal off the road and onto the sand beside the path to keep the scavengers safe from speeding cars. But I decide the car that hit the squirrel or rabbit has adhered it to the asphalt, so it’s perfect for pecking out morsels, and if I moved it, it would be loose and flap around when they tried to eat and be harder to share. That settles it for me. I don’t have to debate further, consider every angle, wonder if I might cause a fuss moving it, get a raven hit by a car, cause harm trying to help. But sometimes it feels impossible to know, and choosing is agony. Later, on my ride home, one raven stands in the center of the street. The water has dried up, as if it was never there. The other ravens sit quiet and still beside the path in that same spot of shade beneath the two short palms and the desert orchid tree, each strong, curved beak open wide in the late morning heat.
I look up when I open the gate, and the small sliver of our waning moon hangs in the rich autumn-blue sky. At the sight I feel met, reassured, lightened. I ride my bike, my pretty new Carrot Girl, to Marylou and Richard’s. This morning I am playing elf. I leave violets and a Ziploc full of bird seed on the back porch to welcome them home. After, I buy bags of Nyger at True Value, pack them on my bike and ride off. I’m glad I didn’t leave things for later in the day because it’s already hot even though we’ve finally touched the relief of fall. I see someone on the sidewalk ahead of me, so I move to the street. There are no cars, no other people, just the two of us heading north. I hear mockingbirds in the cottonwoods to the right. It’s the first time I’ve heard them in months. “The mockingbirds begin,” I breathe, thrilled. It sounds like they’re tuning up, tapping into snatches of their repertoire, not quite breaking into song. I can see now it’s a man ahead of me, short, brown-skinned, something tied to his back, his stride easy. I pull even, and he looks over, surprised but not startled. When I turn toward him I’m already smiling, content on my bike, on this morning, on this quiet street. He grins, nods, his whole face open. I grin back and ride past, infused with joy, with the warmth of our rare, brief intimacy, so easy and glad. I ride home beside the jacarandas, weaving in and out of their shade, and hope that quick moment of connection made him feel good, too.
If Celery Girl had been a cat or a dog instead of a bike, I would never have gone out one week later to get a new one. I thought about waiting, entertained a mourning period. I thought, too, I should wait to see if she was recovered, but it didn’t “feel” like she was coming back. And it just seemed too hard. It’s still too hot for walking in the middle of the day and too much to be schlepping home bird seed and watermelons on foot. So I just went and did it, bought a new bike one week to the day when she was stolen. When Marylou and Richard found out Celery Girl was gone, they called me right away, tears still fresh in their voices. It makes my own tears try to come, remembering how loved they made me feel. “Maybe you can get Carrot Boy next time,” Marylou says. We all laugh together on the phone. But it turns out she was right. My new bike is a bright, shiny orange. “I think your name is Carrot Girl,” I whisper to her, patting her seat. (She is a girl’s bike, after all.) I tell her about the phone conversation, about Marylou’s precognition. I am growing fond of her already. Colleen called me, too, when she heard about Celery Girl. Their calls make me feel glad, and they make me feel a little funny, too. People love me. They really love me.
My bike is stolen, and life gets dreamlike. I walk outside and see the empty black metal bike rack, the cut lock lying on the grass beside it. The police dispatcher tells me it could take five or six hours before an officer would get there to take a report. I start walking to the police station. Halfway there the universe sends me a bus driver who stops for me, unasked, unheard of, in the middle of the block. When the officer at the front desk is gruff and makes me feel like I’m foolish to even bother filling out the form, I begin to cry. “What would have been nice,” I say, “is if someone had acknowledged this is a loss for me.” The woman behind the glass softens then, becomes kind, explains how the serial number will go into a database. I head back out into the hot afternoon, a bubble of hope in the palm of my hand. I loved that bicycle. I had her six years, my pearl green bike, my Celery Girl. She was pretty and sturdy and loyal and carried me all over town, to Trader Joe’s, to yoga, to Sunday meditations. I rode her beside the creek singing “I Could Have Danced All Night” at the top of my lungs. I miss her already. I walk to Jack in the Box, drink diet Coke and eat tacos, unheard of for me now, my ancient comfort food, refuge, too, from the Palm Springs summer still outside. I give money to a homeless man charging his cell phone beside the door. I walk across town shaking my cup of ice. I think: I am lucky. I have a small savings. I can buy a new bike. I think: how will I ever be able to leave it anywhere again? I think: I am lucky I didn’t have to be afraid. There wasn’t any threat of violence. It didn’t happen at home. I don’t get angry. I feel sad, vulnerable. I stop in the middle of the sidewalk, my cup in my hand, my face wet with tears. I think: I should have had a friend I could’ve called today when this happened. I walk home from the grocery story with a small bag of bird seed slung over each shoulder and a watermelon cradled in my arms, bikeless. The next day it seems like a dream. I forget three times I don’t have a bike anymore. In the late afternoon, I stand in front of the mirror for a long time and cry. “I love you so much,” I say, hands pressed flat against my chest. “So much.” I smile, look in my wet eyes. I laugh and watch my face grinning back at me. I know something is happening, some deep bedrock thing that got opened up in me when I saw that empty space where my Celery Girl was supposed to be, her mangled lock lying in a lonely coil there on the grass.
I ride my bike along the creek path, sitting tall in the seat. I lean to the left, stretching my right side. I’ve just come from yoga, and I can feel the tight muscle in my back. It’s loosened but begging to become longer. It’s the one that makes me injure my hip when it’s too tight. I suspect it has shortened over the decades since I fell in the Russian River and landed hard, a rock beneath my right sitz bone. But I have faith my yoga will grow the muscle again, let it lengthen and become supple. I’ve been easing back into yoga this month. I could feel the difference when I began going twice a week. I decided to spend part of my tax return to try out the “unlimited” yoga for June, July and August. I want to go four times a week, am trying it this week for the first time. Already I’m aware of my body more often. I straighten my spine again as I pedal my bike. I lean to the right, then to the left. There is more room inside me. I’m riding along in that lovely rush of air, looking at the mountains, feeling the sun on my arms. That little kid pleasure rushes in. I am riding my bike on a summer day. A voice comes, too. “Maybe doing yoga is enough right now,” it says. I’ve been a bit rudderless, eating too much, not taking good care of myself. I hear this voice, and I touch that vulnerable me, sense the rightness in this. Maybe I can just do yoga and let the healing come, let the stronger me emerge when she is ready. Even as I write this, other voices whisper. “What about all the prep you need to do for the fall semester?” And, “What about your novel?” But I nudge them away, trust instead that sweeter voice. The work and the writing will be there, too, but doing yoga will live at the heart of things for now. Maybe doing yoga is enough right now. Maybe yoga’s all I need to do to be okay.
For the way our palo verde flung herself at a diagonal when she blew over in the last fierce wind so she didn’t hurt my neighbor’s carport or our wooden fence, and she didn’t block my front door. The mango and palm trees in pots beneath her felled form came through unscathed. The vet didn’t find an ear infection. Two people have responded to the writer’s guild post about doing spontaneous writing. I’m spending Thanksgiving tomorrow with Mami and Auntie Gardi and her family for the first time ever. I get to choose a new tree to plant, maybe that one I’ve had my eye on with the big pink flowers in the fall. For the bare branches it will have in the winter so I can see the mountains. For the mountains themselves. For my new yoga teacher and the new meditation center I can ride my bike to, sidewalk all the way. For the good headlight on my bike so I feel comfortable riding in the dark. For my zafu. That I finished grading all the summaries and essays late last night, so the next four days sit clear. That cleaning up the shambles of our courtyard after they cut our tree in pieces and took her away had me paring everything back to pure clean beginnings. For time this weekend to put the Christmas solar lights up, lay down a few small pavers, put the sweet finishing touches back in new places, life breathed into it all. For this afternoon when I hauled Boo back to bed with me, and he stayed on my belly and let me pet him for a long time, tears rolling down my face. For the promise of belonging to the sangha, the promise of Sable becoming well again, the promise of a wet winter. For the house finch and the goldfinch at their feeders today in our naked courtyard, flitting, chattering bits of sweetness in the warm, clear day. For the big full moon rising out my shower window in the cold night, water hot against my skin. For you, for me, for words and meaning, for long lives lived well.
In the early morning I am in and out of sleep, my restless, uncomfortable cat up and down and in my face, yowling, wanting me to fix him. I wake up angry with my helplessness, but I don’t realize it yet. Later in the day I will sit on the living room floor and cry, chin propped on my knees, until it all seeps out of me. But in the morning I am grouchy and don’t know why. I ride my bike to the farmer’s market. The air is not yet hot, the mountains clear and present. I think how idyllic it is, but it doesn’t touch me. I hear a clicking sound, something stuck in my front wheel. I stop, pick a thorn out of the tire. It hasn’t punctured it. I stand there straddling my bike, and a mockingbird begins to sing in a nearby fan palm. It is the first one I have heard in months. I take in my favorite pointy mountain to the south, the clean air, clouds to the west. I feel grateful to the universe for stopping me like this, for breaking me out of my grumpy out of sorts-ness, for letting me stand there on the bike path listening to this first mockingbird’s song and becoming a part of the day.