25 September 2016

The Beginnings Of Change

Today I took a ride down to the Rockaways, and along the South Shore of Queens and Brooklyn.  

The skies were even clearer than they were at the end of my ride yesterday, and the Atlantic tides seemed benign and powerful at the same time, much like today's sunlight.

Still, I found myself overtaken--at moments, overwhelmed--with melancholy.  The cool breezes and low tides evoked sense-memories of rides I took, alone, along the Jersey Shore between Sandy Hook and Point Pleasant Beach during my teen years, especially during the fall of my senior year in high school.  

By that time, my mother knew I wasn't going to Mass anymore, even though I didn't tell anyone else--including, ironically, my father, who had even less religious belief (though, as it turned out, more belief in a Supreme Being or Higher Power or some such thing) than I have ever had.  Mother knew I was going on bike rides when I told everyone else--or led them to believe--I was going to church.  She wasn't happy about that, but, really, she couldn't say much about it, as she hadn't been to church herself in decades.

I took those rides because I loved riding--but also because I simply couldn't be with anyone else on Sundays, at least before dinner time.  That's when I had to be home; the hour was not stipulated, but I always knew it was some time around three in the afternoon.    

During the fall of my senior year in high school, it seemed that nothing else mattered.  At least, all I cared about on Sundays were riding and my mother's lasagna and salads.  I had no idea of where I'd be a year later:  I'd applied to a few colleges and to West Point and Annapolis--I would receive nominations to each of them--but, honestly, I didn't care which of them would take me, or whether none would.  About all I knew was that everyone I saw every day that year, I would never see again.   And, save for my mother, father, siblings and grandmother, I would probably never hear from anyone again.

Pedaling along the sea, along the curved rainbows the tides left, even if only for an instant, in the sand, was my only solace.  I had two friends during my high school years:  one died, of lukemia, during the early days of my senior year, a couple of weeks before the autumnal equinox. I still miss her.   And the other, as much as I liked him, I knew we wouldn't remain in contact for long afterward:  What we had in common was being the geeks, the outcasts, in that school.

Riding along the sea was my escape--no, it was my life itself--that year.  I don't know how I would have survived without it.  I imagined pedaling across the ocean, to Portugal, to Spain, to Morocco, to France--France!--and Italy and England.  I had never been to any of those places; they were somewhere on the other side of the tides I saw on the horizon.  

If I could have ridden to those places, I would have.  If I could have done nothing but ride that year--and for many years afterward--I would have.  The cycling buddies I would later meet would have understood why I wanted to ride; but, interestingly, my mother--who has not ridden since her childhood--might have been the only person in my life at that time who understood--though, perhaps, she might not have been able to articulate it--why I not only wanted it, but needed--and still need--it.

Somehow, I think she also understands that, in some way, that need is, and was, related to the necessity--the inevitability--of my gender transition.  Riding kept me sane, to whatever degree I was sane--or, at least, intact--and for a time, racing as well as long rides up and down mountains helped to channel the anger and aggression I felt.  So, when I called her today and, during our conversation, I told her about my ride, I could almost hear her recognition of the deja vu.  

After all, I took a ride along the shore on the first Sunday of Fall.


  1. Is there anything which puts you in a more spiritual mood than a solitary bike ride? Nothing compares to a bike ride for the state of mind and clarity of thinking which occurs when the bike is just flowing along. The contact with the elements and what you can observe are far above those experienced with other forms of travel or exercise.

    Long rides alone, Sundays ruined by family meals at 3pm, only a few geeky friends, an interesting form of inner termoil. Did you get this from my biography?

    1. Nay,nay!

      She got it from MY biography. I am beginning to suspect she has been spying on me for decades now. There was the friend who died young from a rare disease, the little group geeks, the Sunday stress headaches, but I rode in rolling farm land. Alas, my mother passed away now two years ago, aged 96. She was the only person who understood some radical decisions i made in my life, that landed me on the other side of the planet.

      But I have regained contact with one of the little band of geeks, by amazing coincidence, down in Australia. We have met in person. The circle completed.


    2. Leo and Coline--We were all living the same lives in parallel universes. Now we have come together in this alternative universe called the Internet. (Do you hear Sprach Zarathrusta (sp?) in the background?)

  2. That was beautiful writing and the way fall moves us as a transitional season also. Lovely photos and lovely post.

    What are those luscious purple flowers?

  3. That was beautiful writing and the way fall moves us as a transitional season also. Lovely photos and lovely post.

    What are those luscious purple flowers?

    1. Dragonfly--Thank you for the compliment. I believe the flowers are phytosegia, also called Obedient plants. I saw them in a church garden.