We spend our lives doing battle with gravity. It’s a mysterious force. We understand its properties. We know what it does, but we don’t know how or why. Gravity fastens us to the earth. It causes friction when we try move. It wants to keep us still, to be at rest and confined to a single place, to reach equilibrium. We expend enormous amounts of energy struggling against it, and we do so from the day we are born until the day we die.
They say that walking is nothing more than controlled falling. You don’t propel yourself forward. You thrust your foot out in front of you and gravity causes you to fall onto it, and when you do you’re already swinging your other foot forward to repeat the process. Controlled falling.
Gizmo and I are so very tired. We have put one foot in front of the other for months in what feels like a losing battle with gravity. Our routine has become second nature, but the pain that we both feel has not. I hurt all over and I know that Gizmo does, too. His eyes no longer carry the sparkle they once had, and though I rarely get a chance to look in a mirror, I know that mine are dull and lifeless as well.
It’s so much harder to get up on these cold mornings, and I want more and more to surrender to the pull of gravity and remain in my sleeping bag. I want to remain at rest. I want to reach a permanent equilibrium. Gravity is making even the act of lifting Gizmo’s brush to groom him more difficult. His saddle seems to weigh twice what it used to and each morning I fight to gather the resolve to push through another day, another twenty miles. Gizmo has abandoned his habit of rising before dawn every morning to watch the sun rise in the east. Instead, he lies beside me and, like me, does not want to start the day. He is bone weary. He is Sisyphus and I am his stone.
Every day now is more tedious than the last. People and cement and traffic. Barking dogs and motorcycles. I dread each new day now, even though the country is beautiful. Just want it to be over, especially for Gizmo’s sake.
It is late in the evening and we are camped in a small hollow, away from the road and out of sight. We share some of the apples I have torn from trees as we rode through an orchard earlier in the day. Gizmo eats mechanically and takes no pleasure in trying to snatch them from me now. He waits until I offer one, then nibbles dispassionately, neither relishing the one he is eating nor nickering for another. He is going through the motions now, as am I. He wants the ride to be over. I sit leaned against my saddle and read a torn paperback novel that is missing its last pages. I will never know what happens, but I don’t care. I keep reading because it is something to do, and I know that I keep riding for the same reason.
Gizmo drags himself over next to me to settle in for the night. He folds his legs beneath him and sinks to the grass. He groans and exhales a long, drawn out sigh, then closes his eyes. His head sinks slowly until his nose rests on the ground and he begins to snore. I reach over and pat his neck and it doesn’t wake him. I am devastated by this terrible thing I have done to him, and I crumble beneath the weight of it and start to cry. My tears make small dark spots where they splash against the seat of my saddle.
Gravity has won again.