I pick out a spot along the bike trail that will give me the best viewing, and set down my backpack. From where I'm sitting, I can look to my left up the trail to be able to see the approaching racers and I can also stand up and look down on the top of them. The spot I've chosen is covered in green loamy moss against a tall oak tree that has the perfect little hollowed out space at the base of the trunk for me to rest my back on. I take out a water bottle, drink from it and settle down to wait for the race to begin.
The patterns of leaves on the trail dance in and out of shadow as the sunshine above plays amongst the clouds. A red tailed hawk silently soars above my head, close enough for me to see the glint of his hungry eye and the mottled speckles on his chest. The forest around me grows hushed as all the smaller birds hunker down in fear of being his lunch. The quiet lasts an eternity, but it's no longer than a minute as the hawk flies away from our corner of the woods and down into the valley below us. At his departure, the trees around me erupt into cheerful chirpings and warbling as the birds give the "all clear" signal.
I find myself absorbed in this life, this moment amongst the wildlife and birds. The noisy quiet envelops me and I realize just how small I really am in this world. It's not a scary realization, but a comforting one to know that I'm welcomed here, that I'm not bothering anyone and that I'm accepted amongst the birds and the trees and the moss.
I look at my phone, checking the time and take another sip of water. I pick up my camera and set my exposure and goof around for a bit, zooming my lens in and out on a tree to the left of me, creating pictures that would make Meghan seasick if she saw them. I set my camera down and look at my bloody knee, skinned up from slipping on the wet trail and falling on a rock as David and I hiked up to the starting area 30 minutes ago. I swab some water on the dried blood and see that the mess isn't as bad as it looks, and poke the knot on my shin, already turning all kinds of colors. That will be pretty cool looking in a day or two.
Somewhere down the trail near the start, I hear a cowbell and whoops and hollers, signaling the start of the first stage of the race. I put the camera to my eye and wait for the first mountain biker to race by me, ready for an afternoon of rowdiness, whips and good cheer all around.
Click goes my shutter and we're underway.