Knowing my own irrationality about it is slim advantage, hardly more than arming me with a few additional ambush moves for the internal dialogue. Pause and hem and feign and regroup. Runar, a model of equanimity, which is why I like him so much, already has his shoes off and Mikkel is charging ahead, he’ll just live with it, but I hate having my feet wet and squish slop for hours. Rain is pellets and flecks through a mist, we have our hard shell gear on and will for most of the day. Defeated. Sit and peel back rain pants and tights to get to the gore tex sock, those would suffice for five inches higher than my ankle but no higher, then the merino sock, pull the insoles out, lace the shoes back on. River crossing over knee high, bike buoyant, it leans over drifting downstream and I just plane it along. Mostly shallower crossings will be often enough so that we’ll stop thinking so hard to assess, instead just metronome drop into a pattern of determining depth and mode.
See the days as if from above, hissing exhale pushes me out and up, saturated into the always visible light sky. Our nonlinear path along the contours and splashing through the wiggles on a waved surface, it would be a mistake to think that the experience of these hours is of specificity and distinct clarity. The settling serenity is that it’s lost the instant after it comes. What’s left is analog, elemental substance: brown bog grasses, hillocks, snowpatches, refracting droplets, stone. A body of aches, thirst, hunger on equal footing to contentment, ostensibly my own. Pedaling steady circles to spend whole days in the same tiniest gear I have, breadloaf sized rocks on the trail where there is one, so a meandering muscling style, the low pressure has the tires conform with a feeling of watching us float along.
Still upward, now swaths of snow in northslope shadows or following some more arcane melting logic. Coasting down balancing against the fall line, posthole where the sun has softened it up enough. And again the goal is stasis in motion, where the zipper closing and the buff pulled around your neck and shell mittens or not makes for a still climate at an unchanging pace, where steady heart rate, where you’re seeing with the motion of your shoulders, not so much balancing as held upright by tactile feedback from the grips. The reality breaks are when sometimes boards roll out into the fields before us, meters and minutes of them, we’re snapped awake to concentration, the more traditional boundaries of our solidity. Speed and nonchalance are the key even if the laden bikes want to wobble off of turns, even against Runar’s improbable inputs from the hoods on the Woodchipper bars.
I drop back to the texture, heft of the silence there. Low sun setting wet earth gold. The river we’re following now will end in an immense reservoir, rock and sand shoreline that we’ll trace all of tomorrow and some of the next day, tracks in sandy mud and drumtap rocks moving under the wheels.
“Yeah, but even more than all that, there’s the thing that Scandinavia, especially Norway, is best known for.”
They look at me expectantly.
“Certainly the export that looms largest in the imaginations of Americans, at least the ones with knowledge of global cultural trends…”
Their blinks speeding through the possibilities.
“I’d call it the greatest gift you’ve given to art and expression, maybe not the complete invention of it, but groundbreaking refinement and as a result fixing the essential aesthetic contours while at the same time showing that the form has no boundaries.”
Wind blowing, dry wood crackling in the fire.
They look at me with smirking disgust.