After enough miles rolling through the countryside, cycling does indeed become cyclical: climbs and descents, curves and straightaways, vistas and potholes all pass us by. Patterns materialize as emergent phenomena, aperiodic and never quite repeating but still giving hints, after many hours in the saddle, of what sort of journey a rider might expect ahead. Cycling, after all, is a particular and specific activity, governed by pedals and legs and minds and human nature.
The coming of Christmas marks the cycling of another year. Martha and Jessie continue at School 23 across the street, now in third and fourth grade, staying regularly involved in Girl Scouts, the Eastman Community Music School children's chorus, Spanish lessons, Dare to Dance, and of course homework. In the summer they spent time at YMCA camps, Camp McDowell, and enjoying long visits with both sets of grandparents. Halloween rose to new heights this year, with Jessie as a dementor and Martha as Annabeth Chase, sprinting from house to house amassing candy. (We still have some.) Minecraft and spend-the-night parties were also big parts of their journeys. Neely continues to build speed and momentum for Mothers Out Front, traveling this year to Boston, Albany, Ithaca, and New York City. In April she helped host James Hansens's Rochester visit and accepted the community leadership award of the Rochester Sierra Club, on behalf of Mothers Out Front New York. In May, off the clock, she was arrested as part of the We Are Seneca Lake blockade campaign against underground gas storage on the shore of Seneca Lake.
After a few seasons in my professorship, I have grown conditioned to the job's downhills and occasional flat tires. My research group changed gears this year; its new members enjoy a great interpersonal dynamic and are churning out high-quality science. Teaching these classes for the second time now, I know the nuances of the material and of students' challenges. My grant proposals are even starting to pay off — woohoo! Work trips took me this year to Portland, OR; Snowbird, UT; the DC area; and Boston (where it was great also to catch up with Matt and Gwyneth). A departmental backpacking trip to the Adirondacks fell somewhere between work and play. Neely and I celebrated our tenth anniversary with four fantastic days in Montreal, cycling 110 miles among parks, attractions, and good eating. She and the kids visited the Ellefsons in the summer; the kids and I visited the Kelleys. We were all back in South Carolina for Thanksgiving and Alabama for Christmas, and we are grateful for hospitality both places (and in Bethesda and Shepherdstown). In Rochester we were delighted to host Will, Melanie, Haynes, Jane, Ann, Laura, Maya, and Vanessa this year.
There were bumps in the road, of course. In the fall we lost Blaze, our second greyhound in two years to suffer bone cancer. Cooper is his affectionate and energetic replacement. In April I was rear-ended while cycling, and very lucky to walk away alive and unbroken, with killer bruises and road rash but nothing worse. My lovely Cannondale was totaled. I was lucky again that the driver's insurance funded its replacement, a gorgeous carbon fiber Trek Domane, but unlucky again when that bike was stolen from our locked garage six months later. Neely's road bike was stolen, too. We’re shopping craigslist for replacements.
And so our ride cycles on, forming patters and also bringing surprises. We do not know which hills award the greatest vistas, whether our legs will tremble and our tires slide, whether the wind will be at our backs. We strive not only toward goals, but for living, to be in situations where we surprise even ourselves. Every moment we are in the place where action is created, the liminal location on both sides of climbing and descending. We are grateful for it, and we hope you and yours find good roads ahead in 2016.