Solstice Moon

I had planned on riding my bike to the train station to take an early train and get to work quickly in order to get a jump on the project I’ve been procrastinating on, but the moment I started riding I knew this day was different. I can blame it on the almost full moon, middle age or some sort of character flaw… but today I needed to prove something to myself.  I needed to ride the entire 50 miles to work. Sometimes one needs to listen to that inner voice, though I guess I could always blame it on my bike.

According to some the full moon around the solstice (the Solstice Moon) appears to hang near the horizon longer than normal. I researched it a bit to try and find the answer, but somewhere between wave/particle physics and the consequences of the sun being at its highest point in the sky and the moon at its lowest, it all seems to come down to perception: you might as well ask a poet… or perhaps a singlespeeder. Most of them are pretty enlightened.

Pedaling away from my garage, for whatever reason the moon did appear as huge and full as the predawn sky was clear and wide. I never find it difficult to find justification to do something bike related. I’ve been biking partway to work for a few years now. I take my bike on vacations. My wife says I have an unhealthy relationship with my bike – that I’d probably lie, cheat and steal in order to spend more time with it – a midlife crisis on wheels. True, sometimes I’m unsure if my biking supports the bagel addiction or vice versa, but one thing was certain: today was the day to ride the entire distance – work would wait. I would not be taking the train today.

If it were not for Camp Pendleton I probably would have ridden to work long ago – it’s a natural barrier to cyclists. Closed to cycling traffic by the Marines except for strictly controlled hours and weekends, outside of those hours one must ride the shoulder of busy Interstate 5 for about 8 miles. Once past a certain point a bike path completes the remainder of the trip through the camp. I swore to my wife I’d never ride the shoulder of that stretch of road as she always thought it too dangerous to ride a bike on such a busy road – and in retrospect, she’s probably correct. But in my defense, every road is a dangerous road when you’re on a bike.  Maybe the Marines will let me borrow one of their tanks to commute to work with some day, but until then there is no such thing as a safe road ride in southern California.

Anyway, my usual route takes me west via bikepath toward the ocean. Once in view of the Pacific I turn south and head to the train station. Today I turned north onto the interstate shoulder. Blame it on the soft early morning atmosphere of summer. Eighteen wheelers cruised past feet away at 70 mph setting up a perpetual tailwind. Mindful of my oath to my wife I guiltily rode the diesel fumed wave and pedaled furiously to get the hell off the freeway as soon as possible. Soon I reached the exit – I’d like to say I breathed a sigh of relief but it was more a belching of diesel particulates.

Continuing north, the sun rose over the mountains while I chugged through the remainder of Pendleton. An abandoned stretch of Hwy 101 has been converted into bike path and runs arrow straight for a mile or so, paralleling the bluffs near the ocean. The first rays of the sun had barely begun to touch the far side of the pavement, yet the moon was still bright, clear and distinct. The interplay of moon and sun at dawn is fascinating – the moon always running – dependent on the light of the sun to be seen, yet unable to stay too close – pathetic majesty hinged on a far horizon.

Most people reach the point in their life where they question their life choices. Career choices, paths not taken etc: The “what-if” of the years can pile up haphazardly around you and suffocate you if you allow them to. Biking to work allows the time to sort through and contemplate the big mysteries while dodging traffic. Some days it’s a silent conversation with an understanding friend – on others it’s a kick in the ass when needed. Biking to work expands your map of the world and enforces a sense of connectedness with your environment. If you’re really fortunate you can share the ride and the feeling with others you see along the way, or maybe just look at bugs and birds and act for a while like a kid without a care in the world. It makes you understand that, yes, when you stop at the bagel shop near the end of your ride and stand dripping sweat onto the counter it’s regrettable, but what can you do? Food is fuel and we’re all sweaty apes – well some more than others.

Along that abandoned stretch of highway turned bike path, rabbits bounded in all directions as I pedaled my way north. However, at the moment the sun’s rays first hit the pavement four of them neatly arrayed themselves along the edge at roughly equidistant intervals in the sun. Each sat on their haunches along a straight line, peering off toward the rising sun like candy Easter Island idols sensing the coming of the day. The moon danced on the sea haze of the horizon to my left, the bunny line bisected my handlebars, and the warmth of the sun was on my right cheek. My bike and I suspended in the middle, a standing stone in motion. I was beyond alone, just another cog in the machine that created this momentary snapshot in time.

An instant later it was all gone and I returned to just pedaling a bike again. Dawn was morning and the momentary balance, along with the bunnies, scurried into the undergrowth. The moon retreated into sullen reflection and the din of the traffic returned. I still had a few hours to go before I made it into work – and I suddenly craved a chocolate bunny to eat.

Fifty miles later, sitting in my cubicle researching the physics behind the solstice moon illusion referenced earlier, I stumbled upon a quote from an astrology website. I’m not much of a believer, but as a Sagittarian this still rattles around inside my head:

The Moon is in Sagittarius, and brings with it a longing (Moon) for the lightness and adventure of Sagittarius that finds it difficult to reconcile with the Plutonian need to continually re-enter the underworld of the soul to find what is true and deep. This could be a challenging time when we are forced to make a conscious choice: to give up something familiar in order to enter the unknown world of the future. This is a difficult process and requires great trust and awareness, forcing us to rise to the challenge of facing our darkness and transmuting it into light.

I have no idea how the bunnies play into it, but even they can sense something significant on the horizon.  Oh yeah, ride a bike – it makes you think.

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