Got out on the bike yesterday for the first time in five months. I left the computer at home, and my intention was to just ride easy with no care for mileage, cadence, or speed. It started out well enough, easy as I'd intended, turning the pedals at a smooth, loping pace. But then it became... not quite hard, but... effortful. I can blame part of it on a slight wind that kicked up periodically (always a cross-wind, never a tail-wind, of course), but the rest? So many of last year's rides were like this, easy one moment, the next a concerted effort to keep the cranks turning smoothly at the same rhythm. I've begun a series of doctor's appointments to check out everything from my asthma to the heart flutters I experienced last summer and fall. There's got to be something at the root of this fatigue, whether it's my heart, my lungs, diet, poor sleep, the beginnings of inherited fybromyalgia, I want to find the deficiency and correct it.
So this morning I woke up feeling sluggish and out of it, not to mention sore in the saddle area. Not getting on the bike today, how about a nice, easy hike instead? Almost thought I was too tired even for that, but I finally forced the car in the direction of one of the many local trails and headed out. By that point I felt absolutely no desire to exert myself, but wanted badly to be out in the woods under the vibrant blue sky. After wandering probably less than a mile, I found a good spot and plopped my fatigued ass down by the creek, where my mind turned to a series of thoughts that've been fermenting in the vat of my brain over the last few weeks.
Between my own gradually increasing physical limitations (fuck it, let's call a spade a spade-- middle-age is slowing me down) and recent synchronistic reminders of Ego (it's a big subject, so it gets a capital 'E'), a bit of Baudelaire struck me that I may as well share...
Remember, my soul, the thing we saw
that lovely summer day?
On a pile of stones where the path turned off,
the hideous carrion --
legs in the air, like a whore -- displayed,
indifferent to the last,
a belly slick with lethal sweat
and swollen with foul gas.
The sun lit up that rottenness
as though to roast it through,
restoring to Nature a hundredfold
what she had here made one.
And heaven watched the splendid corpse
like a flower open wide --
you nearly fainted dead away
at the perfume it gave off.
Flies kept humming over the guts
from which a gleaming clot
of maggots poured to finish off
what scraps of flesh remained.
The tide of trembling vermin sank,
then bubbled up afresh
as if the carcass, drawing breath,
by their lives lived again
and made a curious music there --
like running water, or wind,
or the rattle of chaff the winnower
loosens in his fan.
Shapeless -- nothing was left but a dream
the artist had sketched in,
forgotten, and only later on
finished from memory.
Behind the rocks the anxious bitch
eyed us reproachfully,
waiting for the chance to resume
her interrupted feast.
-- Yet you will come to this offence,
this horrible decay,
you, the light of my life, the sun
and moon and stars of my love!
Yes, you will come to this, my queen,
after the sacraments,
when you rot underground among
the bones already there.
But as their kisses eat you up,
my Beauty, tell the worms
I've kept the sacred essence, saved
the form of my rotted loves!
(as translated by Richard Howard)
Somehow, that's both alarming and comforting to me. Alarming when I think in the short, egoistic term, as it reminds me of the decay within that will only continue to make physical exertion more and more difficult. Comforting, though, when I let go of ego and realize that we all come to this. No matter our beauty, intelligence, physical prowess, or lack of any thereof, the one thing that unites us all, the greatest reminder of our sameness, is the way we end. The thought is humbling and reassuring, albeit a bit morbid in its inspiration.