By the time this is posted, I’ll have been discharged (with honour?) from Team Bird Year, and will likely be somewhere near the Cafe du Monde in New Orleans eating. Speaking of eating, at Malkolm’s urging, I’ll write about “Feeling Alive!” Originally, I used this expression to refer to when one has eaten something with a flavour so intense that all else escapes your mind at that moment. One such moment on our two weeks with Team Bird Year was biting into a Florida-grown kumquat. The sweet-sour zestiness put me right into the moment. However, after riding for 2+ weeks, I’ve come to realize that “Feeling Alive!” can happen independently of food, and could be better described as when your entire consciousness is focused on the razor-sharp edge of the present, with no thought of the future or the past.
The razor analogy fits frighteningly well with a situation where I sometimes found myself “Feeling Alive!” with Team Bird Year: riding along the very thin white line at the edge of the road with heavy traffic on one side, and on the other either an abrupt drop onto what’s left of a washed out shoulder (rural/suburban), or a series of hurricane-ready, skate-park inspired, bike-swallowing storm sewer drains (urban). “Feeling Alive!” also came in less abrasive forms. For a moment while riding up and over bridge (with a wide shoulder), nothing occupied my mind other than that one Brown Pelican gliding low over the wave-tops, pulling up a bit, flapping, and dropping into another glide. On many nights, I really did feel alive when going to look for alligators or Screech Owls, or even just walking to the bath-house, because the chorus of frogs and the warm humid night air were so alien to me yet so comfortable. I suppose even the pun-laden jokes that were past back and forth over dinner or while riding on a quiet stretch served to put me in the moment (so much so that I can’t remember any good examples – or maybe there never were any?).
Everyday riding with Team Bird Year was punctuated with dozens of moments of “Feeling Alive”, and, while I’m jealous of their whole year of wonderful (and lively) experiences, I feel lucky and honoured to have spent two utterly alive weeks on their journey.