The creeks and rivers overflow, leaving mounds of sediment when they recede. The paths have signs that say they’re closed. But they’re not, and the multiple bike tire tracks bear witness to the many who have come before me and made the only decision that works mid-mud, and that’s to pedal on. And so I do.
I come upon a girl, maybe about eleven years old, and we keep pace with each other, with me behind her a comfortable distance but close enough that you may have thought we were together if you saw us.
I finally say, “Passing on your left” and make the move to accelerate. She glances at me sideways as I start to pass her. Her face explodes in a smile, and I can feel the pulsing energy of her inner lion-on-a-chase as she bears down hard on her pedals. Oh, my gosh, I think to myself as I realize what is happening, serendipitously, out here in the woods. Are we now racing?
Yes, we apparently are.
I meet her pace for a bit, mud flying out behind both of us, and I laugh out loud. I am eleven years old again too, and she is one of any of my friends from way back when, before the overflowing rivers of adult reality took us elsewhere.
I eventually decide to back off, and I let her win.
There will be a day soon when no one lets her win. When life and love come hard at her and sometimes leave her in the mud. When the way ahead perhaps even seems impassable.
But not today.
Note: If you enjoyed this little story, I think you’ll really like the story about the girl in the pink jacket (pictured below) in chapter two of my book, Traveling at the Speed of Bike. There’s also a poem in the book titled Dear Girl about a different girl (and maybe even about you). Here — I’ll give it to you for free.