So I’m jamming down a dirt road on my Specialized, with a vacant field on one side and a wrought-iron fence protecting a concrete river on the other. The tracks are pretty clear, nothing much to worry about except the occasional rocks and patches of soft sand. A smell hits me at one point, the exact same smell from twenty-five years ago in a similar field, with ten-year-old me on a Huffy, and I start to time-travel. Not the best thing to do when you’re hurtling down a dirt track, so I keep the traveling down to melding my thirty-five-year-old mouth into the gleeful smile of a ten-year-old. Both of us have sunburns, and neither of us care. The smells of earth and dry grass and sweat. The sound of tire tread on granular dirt, occasionally scaring some poor basking lizard out of my way….
In the Present, the recently tuned and lubed derailleurs click beautifully like clockworks, gears marking the time of a life. The time of my life. In the Past, I can almost see the number on the plastic plate hanging off the front of the Huffy, but to do so I’d have to slow down. No time for that.
About half a mile ahead, the streets of a future housing development look ghostly, as if a bomb has gone off and the debris cleared away, leaving only the asphalt outlines. Such is the way of Southern California. It was the way of that field twenty-five years ago, now a cookie-cutter neighborhood. This new one will be gone soon, and with it the few orange groves that are left nearby and their 100-year-old houses. Long-gone children used to play in these fields, too, in these groves. I can still smell some of the same things they did century before last: citrus, dirt, fetid water from standing pools, the last whiffs of smudge from cold nights.
It’s the Vernal Equinox — I shouldn’t be feeling a sense of loss today, right? I should be feeling renewed, energized, full of life, vigorous.
Oh wait, I do.
Someday, maybe Southern California will be paved. But until then, there are lizards that need scaring out of their lazy basking, dirt roads and fields that need exploration, and lethargy that needs expulsion.
Besides, life wouldn’t be as precious if we were all immortal, right?