Methods & Muses Vol. 21
The Military Ridge Trail
Readers and Fellow Artists, I invite you to finish this two-part statement:
My favorite form of exercise is ________________.
I _______________ because ___________, ____________ and ____________.
As I ask you to think about exercise, I am inhaling Lilacs, a flower I love for its scent, color and delicate, gathered blossoms, and I am listening to wind through Birch leaves. Lilacs and Birches are all over Madison, more reminders that I am home.
Benjamin and I feel at home when we’re making art – me scribbling with a pen or typing, he strumming his bass or composing electronically – but obviously, we need to get up from our work, move our bodies, clear our heads.
In the last couple of years, we hiked a lot, grateful for New York’s Rockefeller State Park – its wide trails, Oaks, Maples, Hickories, Starlings, Geese, Buffleheads, Cormorants, Bull Frogs, Deer and Coy-Wolves. Hiking is great exercise, but my true love is biking, so I’d fill in the blanks like this:
My favorite form of exercise is biking.
I bike because I feel 11 years-old again, experience the world slowly, and it’s healthy.
Madison has tons of trails. Because of Spring’s cold, rainy weather, and the fact that our bikes were exposed to the elements as we drove across the country, it took us a while to begin our trail explorations, but I’m thrilled to share we have begun!
As luck would have it, our neighbor, David, is a bike mechanic. He offered to tune-up our bikes for, and I quote, “a really good high five.” Yes, he meant it. When he finished, he squatted low, clapped and rubbed his hands together as I mirrored him, the two of us circling like cats and smiling, before we jumped into our fancy high five. I love generous, fun neighbors.
Speaking of neighbors, we have had the honor of sharing this outdoor space with some beautiful flora and fauna like: Lilacs, Bees, Maples, Locusts, Cedars, Robins, Catbirds, Bobwhites, Crows, Yellow-bellied Cuckoos, Wood Thrushes, American Redstarts, House Wrens, Baltimore Orioles, White-breasted Nuthatches, Cardinals, Woodpeckers, Wild Turkeys, Ducks, Bats, Owls, Raccoons, Opossums, Domestic Canines and Felines, Chipmunks, Squirrels and Bunnies.
It is delightful to watch Bunnies eat dandelions from stem-bottoms up to fuzzy flower-heads, to see them yawn and stretch out, lounging on their sides to nap under the Cedars. It is also lovely to see the Squirrels stretch upside down on the Maples, spreading out their tiny paws, and watch how they eat Maple keys, twirling the wings around a few times before nibbling on the seed.
From our yard, it’s only a 15-minute drive to Riley, one of the stops on The Military Ridge State Trail. This 40-mile rail-trail stretches from Fitchburg to Dodgeville, running through several small towns, along the Sugar River and into both Governor Dodge and Blue Mounds State Parks.
As we rode East from Riley towards Fitchburg, we biked within the Sugar River Basin, where we were accompanied by Tree Swallows, Red-wing Blackbirds, Canadian Geese and Sand Cranes. I teared-up when I saw the Cranes. Part of my pilgrimage home included a need to see them again, like I remembered as a kid, like I read about in Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac.
Winding along the river, the trail also offers views of Weeping Willows, Painted Turtles sunning on rocks and Beaver dams.
In the distance, there are family farms where you can pick your own berries and apples, and new construction, proof that Madison is growing in human population.
Benjamin and I are a part of this expansion. By moving here, we impact this region. We talk a lot about land-love and stewardship, tiny homes, minimalism, artistic responsibility. We acknowledge the privilege of having the leisure time to talk, the resources to act. These conversations occur after a long bike ride. After we’ve moved at our bodies’ paces, traveling with quiet sounds – leaves in the wind, birdsong, gravel crunching under our tires, and after we’ve breathed fresh air and petrichor, this slow action helps us think. With each ride, we get closer to a shared clarity about what how we want to live, and we always return to the mantra: Bike more. Drive less.
Riding West from Riley to Mt. Horeb, there is a slight but challenging incline. Along the way, the gorgeous Driftless landscape offers rolling hills with prairie grasses waving, sandstone bluffs, creeks, marshes, old growth Oaks, Cottonwoods, Maples, Pines and Birches.
Satiated, you can coast all the back, and since Benjamin’s photographs speak better than my words, here is one more pic from the MRT to draw this post to a close. Enjoy! And may you savor your favorite form of exercise too.