This morning too cold for my stiffening heart, I’m on the treadmill in my basement, forced to imagine frost across front lawns, some ice in roadside ditches, my breath held a few moments on the air. Or there could be flurries by now, the last grey leaves shuddering in December wind.
A glance at the odometer tells me that by now I would’ve passed the pond where herons nested earlier this year, and in a few more tenths of a mile reach the little bridge across that unnamed creek. Instead, I press a button to simulate a bracing uphill climb, making a virtue of the virtual.
Hard to feel Wordsworthian down here, hard to channel a line from some great ode, so little I can see of nature that is mine, or anyone’s, as I walk in place, numbers glowing on the console in front of me, hovering half an arm’s-length away no matter how many steps I take, speed and distance and calories burned displayed onscreen, my pulse there a little hopping ball.
Meanwhile my mind keeps playing versions of those old cartoons, scenes in which I’m caught and flattened on this contraption, dragged under before rolling around and around, a mere stain on the turning belt, helpless against such a machine, this tired metaphor for modern life, for the world—let’s face it—too much with us and somehow not enough.