I have said good-bye to Settlement Canyon and my seven-mile mountain bike ride. I knew every rock and root of the Dark Trail, every low tree limb and snagging wild rose. How I loved that trail. I rode that trail with Hannah and my sons Brian, John, Caleb, and Hyrum during the exile years. I have ridden in snow and mud and scorching heat. I have ridden past meadows of sego lily, taper tip onion, and glacier lily. I have ridden with pronking deer and flustered turkey and migrating tarantulas. And there was that day I startled a merlin with its taloned prey still dripping blood. The Dell in Sandy is close to my new home, but its deep sand sucks at my tires and the river cobbles buck me off. Dad used to run in the Dell, a nature area with deep sandy ravines and a small stream. He knew well a family of red fox, which he adored and once fed with rotisserie chickens from Smith’s. He also rode for miles and years on the 50-mile Jordan River Parkway, as have I, catching frequent glimpses of the slow river with its great blue herons and its beavers. But today I gathered my courage to explore, and ventured into Corner Canyon, an area of steep gambel oak gullies in the Wasatch foothills. The Draper Cycle Park proved an excellent place to warm up, with its short training flow trails and pump trails. Then I rode three miles up the Corner Canyon trail. Having thus relished two delightful hours, I flew down a blue-level flow trail named “Limelight,” the last 2.5 miles of the Rush trail—very fast, moguled, banked, and flowing (all the more fun for the names of the song and the band). I felt very happy as I drove home, hosed off and stowed the bike, and greeted Mom and Dad. “Tell me all about it,” Mom enthused, having worried the whole morning that I would crash (again) and hurt myself (again). “I’m done going crazy fast and drifting and jumping,” I reassured her. But it was impossible not to enjoy the speed.
After unfairly losing a big case in court in 2009, I knew that my stress would be the death of me and that I needed to change my lifestyle. So, I signed a gym contract and resumed my strength training and cardio workouts after a several-years hiatus. But with my new two-hour commute and duties at home, going to the gym has become impractical. “Unrealistic” is a better word, since 5:00 a.m. might be practical, but not realistic—it simply is not going to happen. I paid VASA’s unfair exit fees and said good-bye to the gym. Mom and Dad regularly ride their stationary bicycle, and I have resolved to ride it also, and to maintain my core-strengthening regimen: all praise the plank. I also strain at elastic bands to strengthen the shoulder I injured in a mountain biking accident. The floating clavicle of that separated shoulder will not let me do push-ups. But Dad showed me how he kneels on one carpeted stair and pushes off against a higher stair in an angled push-up, and I found I could do the same with small discomfort. I still ride my bike in the local canyons, but have slowed down and never take the jumps—my nearly 60-year-old body no longer bounces without breaking. After one wreck with four broken ribs (2017) and another with a level 3 shoulder separation (2019), I simply cannot take another fall.
Laboring uphill on my mountain bike on Settlement Canyon’s Left-hand Fork trail, I rounded a corner to encounter a mother mule deer suckling her fawn. I quickly stopped, not wanting to frighten them, and gazed and the sight, both wild and tender. She, for her part, stood taut, ready to bound away. I spoke quietly, apologizing for startling them, assuring them of my peaceful intentions, and thanking them for their gift. Mother was sleek and graceful and beautiful. Baby was adorable, white-spotted, and oblivious of me for her mother’s milk. After long moments, the doe turned her head and marched up the steep hill, her fawn following. Enjoy the poem that has come a year later.
A Mother Suckles Her Fawn
In speckled shade on a steep
hillside with a trickle and a trail
below, a mule deer doe, her spotted fawn
her belly, drawing warm draughts,
my sweating and puffing are incongruous:
I have stepped upon holy ground
with soiled sandals, entered
the covenant tabernacle unwashed,
holy garments laid aside, so,
I stop and watch and speak
gentle affirmations of beauty and peace,
the mother stands firm and taut, head
turned attentively toward me,
an intruder, her great ears
erect, black stone eyes watching
in turn, ready…
Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road. The book tells the true life story of an obscure farm road and its power to transform the human spirit. The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon. See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.