I counted the number of islands we covered in our ride on the Long Sault Parkway because the wind, which I didn’t count on pushing against me so vigorously, whispered “Quit. Sit.”
“You shit,” I said. This is my BIG day. My longest ride of the summer – 28 kilometres. So, no. I’m not quitting.”
I hadn’t counted on being so adamant about this ride, about getting out of Ottawa for a day, about seeing and doing something new, about being excited, period. I’ve come to count on a bland existence, the same walks, the same thoughts, the same news. Honest to God, it’s like Groundhog Day out there. I don’t even need to turn on the TV news because I know what they’re going to say. I could write the goddam script. So, I counted on some new stuff as we rode along a portion of a bike trail that follows the St. Lawrence River, just across the border from Upstate New York – like the great blue herons fishing in channels and bays. Six.
There was too much goose poop on the road to count or dodge, but my bicycle tires and butt registered the bumps that looked like cocktail weenies. Likewise, I couldn’t count the constantly changing clouds that joined like white puddles threatening to flood the sky. But there was no flood of grey and white. Blue sky prevailed.
There was the one and only egret in a shallow bay and not too far away another great blue heron kept her company. I can’t recall if this was halfway into the ride, but they kept me going, those heron markers. Be patient, they said. Press on. I hadn’t counted on their wise counsel.
I lost count of the number of times my husband’s head swiveled at passing cyclists to admire their equipment. He called to me “Nice Shimano Dura-ace derailleur.” Or “That’s an old Miyata. Great bike.”
There were countless bulrush fringed bays, innumerable gulls, and a handful of elegant pines among the frowsy, blousy hardwoods. Plus, there was the singular green summer smell of the St. Lawrence River.
Then there were the dozen or more turkeys on Van Koughnet Island. I said, “They sure are ugly” and my husband said, “They sure are tasty.” I changed my mind as we rolled by them and enjoyed the shimmer of their iridescent feathers.
When the wind sucked my wind, I screamed “We must be almost at the end?!” and sure enough as we crossed the last causeway, the gate appeared ahead.
My husband shouted, “You did it!” His enthusiasm and the wind sailed us back to where we started where I didn’t count the calories of the fish tacos and fries at Captain George’s in Cornwall.
At home I didn’t watch or read any news. It will be there tomorrow, same as yesterday. I can count on it. Most importantly, I needed no sheep to lull me to sleep. Zero.