I have come to believe, that in my own best interest, I need at least 45 minutes of dedicated Exercise each day. To persuade myself to do this, I decided to take my bike out, on my way over to the workshop, and ride 4.5 miles up County Hwy S, to the next town, Bloomingdale, and back. I call it my commute. I do it everyday, not "every-other-day" or "3 times a week" or some other euphemism for "maybe I'll just skip it today". What I get from this "exercise" is to see the beauty of the river and the valley, in every light and weather, day by day, and to notice so many amazing details of life along the river, each day that I ride. My body appreciates the workout, and I am energized. All positive, and the cherry on top is that I get to weave when I get back!
It's working pretty well, and the season isn't over yet, though I have needed my down jacket and mittens once already. Once I'm on my way, I'm glad to be riding. I rode my bike so much this summer that I actually broke my pedals off, and had to replace them! Lately, among the blackbirds and robins gathering to migrate, there have been so many other sights and signs of the season change. Woolly bear caterpillars have started to make their annual pilgrimage across the highway. I see them frequently, booking it across the road, some traveling east to west, while other caterpillars are equally determined to make that road trip west to east.
I don't know what makes the woolly bears cross the road. In country lore, the woolly bear caterpillar's rust-to-black fuzzy band width is supposed to foretell the duration and quality (bitter or mild) of the coming winter. I've been interested to measure their bands, and set about to do this on one of my trips to Bloomingdale. I have an interest in measurements that I can record for use when I weave my Tapes Without (numerical) Measure (which are my attempt to measure nothing less than life as it is).
Measuring woolly bears turned out to be a more difficult task than I expected. As soon as I parked my bike, took out pencil and notebook, chased them down, held the paper in front of them, to crawl across, so I could mark the band width, they would curl up, and refuse to uncurl while I stood, waiting. Of course, it was likely, that my uncooperative curled up subject would disappear under the tires of local traffic before I could even make my record. (I'm happy to report, all of my subjects survived).
After a setback of a broken pencil lead, and a trip back home to replace it, I was able to collect 13 measurements, last Sunday. Eleven of my subjects had very similar width bands, black head band, rust mid-sections, and black tail bands shorter than the head end. Two outliers: one caterpillar was all rust, and one all black, so cancelled each other out. It was a small sample, but I was satisfied.
I don't know what to make of the woolly bear measures with regard to the severity of the coming winter, but they all seem to agree. I know I will make a new set of Tapes Without Measure, woolly bears included, and also add them to my Key of other Vital Measures, which now includes my cat Mikey's long tail, my own true waist measure, and 5 minutes of Darrel's dog barking across the river at midnight, in mid-July, when I wove one blue weft thread into my tape each time the dog randomly woofed. In the old cautionary tale of the ant and the grasshopper, I'm a true grasshopper when it comes to preparing for winter. But looking at that little code of blue threads on a future winter day, will bring me right back to that warm and muggy, soft, summer night when I listened to Darrel's dog barking and wove.