Eclipse – Introduction

We rode in the shadows of the earth under a deep dark sky. The boys were ahead as always, pedaling maniacally down the dusty paths of early autumn.

Of course, we rode most every night during university – a group of 3-8 of us. We rode down dirt paths following the curving irrigation ditches, through town on bike paths, off dirt jumps and curbs, down and up and over the landscaped stairs of buildings in downtown. We had all sorts of ‘routes’ scoped out and tore around in dark clothing with no reflectors or lights on our bikes with the stubborn and stupid immortality of youth.

We loved full moon rides – our paths lit up and easy to see, though we could ride them all blindfolded anyway, so familiar were we with every curve, root and bump. But full moon rides were always special, and we would often ride that moon well past midnight.

We rode the solstices and equinoxes, too – riding from dusk til dawn on each one. That’s a long time to ride. We could only do it because we had few responsibilities and energy to burn. Just before the sun would start to rise, we’d pedal up the hill above the football stadium to watch the sun herald in a new season. Some of the guys would smoke pot; some of the guys would drink liquor from flasks (because beer and wine were too hard to carry around all night). And the chick, me, would refrain. And never get to the end of the party because I always had to be at work at 6.15 am.

So, yeah, this night, in September 1996, it was just the three of us – me, my boyfriend and his best friend. As always, I lagged behind. I rode a BMX bike and did not have the range of gears that the boys had. And I wasn’t as strong. But we’d gone out early that night to ride the lunar eclipse. We started in the light of the moon around 7pm, and we’d ridden through the darkness as earth’s shadow blocked the sun’s light reflecting off the moon.

We tore down the trails, riding by feel, glancing up at the advancing and curved shadow as we went. And then, we watched the shadow recede. Somewhere around 9.30 or 10pm, we were cruising down one of the irrigation ditch paths through the first crispy leaves of autumn which cluttered the trail. I looked up to see the guys stop to take in the moon as it finally regained its full brightness. I’ll never forget seeing the guys and their bikes in silhouette up ahead, and the moon reflecting off the last puddles left in the ditch at the end of the irrigation season.

All of life seemed to pause for a moment – the darkness turning light, the action figure guys momentarily in stop-motion, the breeze absent, the cottonwood leaves splayed on the edge of the path. The guys looked back to me. Evan gave me a thumbs-up and then they were off, crunching through the early autumn leaves, the dark outline of their bodies receding into the moonlight, legs furiously pumping. I remember thinking, “I’ll never forget this.”

And I never have.

Fast forward 20-some years. I’m unwell. So fucking unwell. I’m riding the shadows on the dark side of somewhere. So far, it’s been a year of my life and identity stolen away. It’s been a year of feeling utterly shit almost all the time. It’s a year of wondering how a body could fail you so totally when you were so fit and well to start.

I’m getting better though. Glacially. My doctor laughed when I said, “I’m getting better, but at a glacial pace. However, the glaciers are probably receding faster than I am getting better, you know, with climate change and all.”

She still doesn’t know how much recovery I can expect, but she is confident that I should see a lot of improvement within two years. Two years!

So I’m halfway through that now. Only halfway!! Still in dark shadows. Still not able to see the light at the end, but far enough in, I’m amazed at how bad it was 12 months ago and how much progress I’ve made so far.

So I was wondering what I would call this year’s journal. I don’t know how much I’ll be able to ride. I’m still quite limited and I’ve lost all my muscle and cardiovascular fitness. I still need to focus on getting well – and that often means just resting. All I know after a year of “resting” is that I was never born to be a couch potato. Sitting around drives me mad! How do all the Aussies and Americans do it?

So what to call a journal that might be pretty light on adventure for a second year running?

The answer is solved when I remember that the yearly horoscopes should be available. Now, I don’t believe in astrology at all. I think I read my horoscope about once a year for entertainment – when they give you a look at the year ahead. So I check mine out. I get a huge laugh. Part of it says:

“The last two years have had their share of “health adventures”. These ups and downs came courtesy of a two-year eclipse series across your wellness axis that began back in February 2017. Look forward to improved health and energy levels this year…”

Oh, so it was an eclipse series… yep, an eclipse series on my wellness axis that caused all these troubles!

And so there you have it. This year’s journal is called “Eclipse”, because I’ve certainly been in the shadows of a dark, unhealthy place since that damn mosquito got me in July 2017. And because I like to think that I’m riding out of that darkness – my body furiously working on getting well and coming into the light on the other side of the shadows.

Welcome to whatever I manage to do this year. When I read that horoscope above, which still doesn’t convert me to a believer, I thought immediately of that night with the guys so long ago: riding in the darkness and stopping as the light fully returned, my friends in the distance giving me a thumbs up before resuming the ride.

So here we go… I sure hope to see the thumbs-up by December, so I can finally really resume my riding… my life.

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I don’t have any photos of our night rides in college. This was back in the days of film, and I don’t think we would have wasted shots in dark situations that wouldn’t come out. But this photo comes from that time period – chicks on BMX bikes were extremely uncommon in those days, but I could never care less. I lived on the bike back in these days. It was probably the most amazing 3.5 years of my life. I hope I’m the same person as then, just wiser!

2 thoughts on “Eclipse – Introduction

  • Hi Emily,

    That was a great reminiscence. Descriptive and exciting. Melancholy and hopeful. I can tell those times were very special to you. Actually, I already know that ANY time on a bike is special to you (as it is to me.) You’re going to get through this health crisis, I just KNOW you will. Your determination will eclipse the hell out of your illness. (See what I did there?)

    Hey, your bike doesn’t have a seat. You weren’t one of those riders who stands on the pedals all the time were you?

    Your Pal, Greg

    • Hi Greg – Thanks for the encouraging note. Yes, all the times on the bike are special. Those years were the best of my life. I’m still in touch with those guys and all the bike buddies I’ve had in life. Other friendships have come and gone, but not the bike ones. And yes, I rode without a seat for about a year until I swapped components to a different frame and fork. The post had broken flush with the frame and not even machine shops could get it out! It did build good fitness though – maybe a bit like riding a fixie.

      Thanks for the health encouragement. I think time and patience are even more important than determination with this illness, but I am trying to do everything I can to give myself the best chance at the most recovery. The trend is ‘up’, it’s just not a real steep line at the moment 🙂 Hope you are staying warm. It is to be 46C here on Wed. I wish I could send at least half of that to you!

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