Record setting warmth and wind have come to define the climate of this year’s February. Apparently that weather oracle rodent saw the coming of an early spring and here at least he’s dead on. Thus we’re out nearly every day at some point or other, however brief, not only for the fair weather but out of a certain trepidation at what unseasonable warmth can bring in the form of spring storms.
Most days are shorter rides, but some days are warmer for longer periods and a two hundred mile trip is no trick at all. Ash Wednesday came as one of those, bright sunny and windy but warm and relaxing. The sun is brighter in winter so that every moment is glare faded like a memory even as they happen. And Ash Wednesday inevitably sends me into spiritual introspection and vivid memory, memories of Mardi Gras past, of New Orleans, of leaving bar shifts at six a.m. in search of breakfast, of discussions of what we’d each give up for Lent over graveyard shift happy hour, of passing by the cathedral attendees in their fineries en route to be alone and ponder while riding the ferry back and forth for a few hours in the morning Delta sunshine.
This morning, a motorcycle ride and rural Oklahoma in lieu of St. Louis’ bells and the rolling Mississippi. Every passing barn and building, rusted scrap and distance hill, mar in the pavement and clever sign became a point of intrigue, of contemplation.
A turn and onto a favorite stretch, rough but enclosed on both sides by overgrowth and pines, sheltered and secluded that way. Once a hub of activity in the state’s territorial days and home to a few towns marked for greatness at the coming of the white population. They never achieved greatness. Their ghosts are hidden down the occasional dirt roads slicing through the pines. Too near the frontier line, they were forgotten in the westward push and unsaved by the later oil.
Unexpected in bright of midday, the largest and darkest coyote I’ve ever seen darted across the road ahead of us, side glancing once but otherwise quick stepping and disappearing into the brush before we got close. He was handsome, for a coyote, and quick, one of those ghosts.
Farther down, in the overgrown yard of a pre-war house with peeling greyed white paint and dirty dark green shutters, something black flashed through the knee deep dead grass filling the outlines of former flowerbeds. Knowing what it was before it emerged, we gunned it loudly and by the time the streak emerged at the ditch, the roar had the black lab slowing its chase into a u-turn toward its safe haven. Isn’t it strange how the dangerous wild thing wants nothing but to remain unseen and guarded while the domesticated animal becomes stupid in complacency, chasing after something its dulled instincts would have otherwise warned it to stray from?