Biking to the Lagoon

When I lived in Delaware gray and rainy days, like today, were counted inconsequential. They happened all the time. My visits to Florida in wintertime would spark ecstatic reintroductions to sunshine and warm air and soft breezes. I would often wonder how the residents here got any work done; didnt they linger at the windowsill hoping they could be out frolicking in the natural world of semitropical wonder?

Alas, I myself have caught this paradisal ennui. Until gray and rainy days come along, I hardly notice the sunshine. I take for granted that it is January and I am wearing shorts and tank tops. I miss out on connecting to the exterior world of Spanish moss, live oaks, and screeing calls from red tailed hawks.

Biking outside in January in the Northeast is a recipe for disaster. My sister broke her jaw on a New Years day by trying out inline skates one year. Ice and the outdoors are not always complementary. But I can certainly turn gears in Florida, even on gray days, and I took advantage of it today.

For nearly two years now I have been writing about ocean conservation and teaching about the ocean with a very guilty thought nagging me in the spine. I drive everywhere. Part of the problem is the landscape of Florida with its tiny coastal towns full of depressed areas since the bust of the space age. Its not always possible for a naturalist to find work where they live. And even if you do, urban sprawl lends nothing to solve the issue. Titusville in particular is a spiteful case: the WalMart here does the most business of any in the country and people drive across town to peruse it. The local economy is pallid, if not near death. Mass transit is a bit of a gag.

Turning gears along the roads and curbs, I felt free today in a way that running has never afforded me. There is something in metal being bent to your will, something about the interaction of lungs and feet and tires grinding forward in the sandy tracks to take you places. I took the side roads towards the lagoon – of course – and felt grateful for the shocks on the frame. The sidewalks here are not exactly smooth, worn in at many places with the slow creep of grasses and tread-softly.

Biking isnt quite the work that running is either. It gives you time to think, to observe, to slow down and consider the world you inhabit. I’ve sat appalled at the amount of debris scattered across the beaches along the lagoon, but I found more of it along the roads that travel to the waterway today. I had the time to see all the monofilament built up near a bulkhead and a racoon scurry across a side street with a fish carcass in its mouth. I noticed a great blue heron stalking in the shallows and watched him long enough to see the strike at a passing fish.

Turning home was harder, and not only for the slowly advancing incline of the pavement. I took side streets with palm branch piles and rotting front porches and little dogs barking high and haughty behind peeling fences. I sped past the interesting characters. People who inspire momentary shudders of fear, both real and imagined and judged without real evidence. And I had an illuminating thought: these places of poverty and these people who are fighting for their own survival are part of the wider community that I’m trying to reach.

Maybe I fear them without cause for the same reasons they fear wildlife without cause. Its a gut instinct based in adrenaline. Maybe I hate them for throwing pufferfish aside on the pavement to die but perhaps they’re trying to put food on the table.

I’m not excusing them, but I’m also not excusing myself. If the problems in conservation can only be solved by mobilizing the public, then I need to remember that the ‘public’ wears many faces. Perhaps its not enough to try to reach their children, to reach those with the internet, to reach people who visit zoos and aquariums and museums.

How do we do more? How do we inspire stewardship of the planet and interest in the survival of wildlife in people who are fighting for their own survival? How can I fit more slow days and moments into my life to open my eyes to the real issues surrounding us and the lagoon and Florida? How do I learn to bike thirty miles to work?


One Comment to “Biking to the Lagoon”

  1. This Blog reminds me the reason I like bloging so much, the interaction is very important with readers and you guys have it right. Looks great too, will be back for more posts, David the mover.