I was reminded of the inescapability of life’s cycles from the moment I woke up yesterday to the time I fell asleep. My day began as usual at 5:15 am when my wife’s alarm went off. I typically get out of bed a few minutes after so she can use the shower first. Yesterday, my usual routine changed when Liz came back upstairs to tell me our cat Mojo had died.
Mojo either sleeps on the towels in the bathroom closet because the heating vent goes under the floor there, or on our daughter’s pillow. This morning, Liz noticed Mojo did not get up for her usual saucer of milk, so she checked in Frankie’s room and then the closet, where she found Mojo had passed during the night. Mojo had not been acting ill lately, so I guess dying in her sleep was as pleasant a way to go as one could ask for.
I found her as a tiny black ball of fur and claws while mountain biking in the Southern Kettle Moraine forest. Mojo was about 17, not terribly old for a house cat, but that is a long life for a feral cat. Although she adapted well to life in our home, always happy to purr when you petted her, she really bonded to most closely to our other cat, Buster. Regular readers may remember Mojo’s best friend Buster died last summer. The two were almost inseparable, and our whole family noticed a change in Mojo after Buster left us. She seemed to have lost her lust for life. Perhaps her quiet passing was an attempt to join her pal once again.
My daughter has learned about the cycles of life and death by having to say sad goodbyes to lots of pets. She loves animals and has loved and lost fish, turtles, lizards, various rodents and most recently our two cats. Most are buried under a bleeding heart bush she planted many years ago in our front garden. I draw the line at burying anything too big there though. We cremated Buster and Mojo. We still have two happy dogs and a problematic horse. If I outlive them, I promise my neighbors they will not see me digging huge holes in the front garden.
I didn’t have lots of time to grieve for Mojo yesterday morning, as I needed to write and publish a blog post about the House Transportation Bill by 7:30, which means I was at the computer, coffee nearby, at 6:30 AM sharp. As soon as that was published, I hopped on my bike to ride to the office. Among a bunch of other tasks for the day, I knew I needed to keep an eye on the mark-up session for the bill so I could monitor the Petri/Johnson amendment trying to save federal funding for bicycling. I then had to write a follow-up post to share the bad news that the amendment had failed to get the necessary votes needed to pass.
Besides having to work through the sadness all day, I had a bad feeling about the amendment knowing the political cards were stacked against it, so I decided to take the long way to work. As I pedaled my fixed-out Koga-Miyata “Exerciser” through the real fog outside and mental fog inside, my thoughts seemed to drift in time with my cadence. Back-pedaling hard for stops seemed to push the sad thoughts of Mojo’s death out of my mind. Smooth circles on the flats, I smiled as images of Mojo and Buster cuddled together flashed like a kinescope in my minds eye.
Spinning fast downhill, my focus shifted to what the House transportation bill says about how our social values have shifted over time. A country founded on self-sacrifice, hard work and individual liberty, all core elements of cycling, now rewards those who waste precious resources so they can take the easiest way from point A to B. The House bill proposes to pay for that convenience with the gains that come from violating one of God’s most pristine creations. Politics go in cycles, but will we ever return to the values that I still believe in?
When I got to the lake, I stopped for a few minutes to sit on the rocks along the path through the Lakeshore State Park. As I gazed across the gentle waves washing rhythmically on the rip-rap along the Lake Michigan shoreline, I remembered when the park and trail I just rode through was nothing but a pile of rocks left over from Milwaukee’s deep tunnel project … cycles.
The federal money to build trails and urban escapes may be about to disappear, but perhaps that is just another of life’s inescapable cycles. As an advocate, I tend to live my life by that famous Margaret Meade quote and never doubt our goals, but perhaps any success we have had over the last 20 years has been little more than human arrogance conveniently timed with life’s inescapable cycles.
Some may think me a conceited fool, but we have to do something with our lives, so I write this at 7:30 PM, waiting to make a late night national conference call about next steps in our fight to save federal funding for bicycling. In the morning when you read it, I all be back at work, trying to help people understand why bicycling is such a simple solution to so many of our country’s complicated problems. I guess I prefer to tilt at windmills with the best of intentions and love deeply, however fleeting, rather than float like human flotsam on the cycles of life.