Memorial Ride for Jenna Morrison

When I arrived at Dundas and Sterling at 8 this morning, with S. behind me in the bike trailer, the crowd was already gathering to pay respect to Jenna. We were waiting for the cyclists to arrive from Bloor and Spadina, bringing with them the ghost bike for Jenna.

Watching eagerly for her mom to appear, S. was visibly impressed by the hundreds of cyclist who, slowly, solemnly made their way across the Dundas Street bridge. They carried the white bike to the little shrine that’s been there for a week now, and the cyclists just kept coming.

This is what A. wrote about the ride:

Impressions swirled over me as I rode with the mass. The peaceful intersections: how possible it is, when the tide is strong, to flow towards a destination without mental calculation  – make eye contact, even, with halted drivers (their faces blank, or visibly weighing the beauty of the scene against the inconvenience of waiting). The quiet: how children and parents could maintain easy dialogue while gently rolling along. The interest and respect in the bearing of pedestrians and shopkeepers, standing to attention as the hundreds of us smoothed by.

For just half an hour, Jenna’s fellow cyclists between us created the kind of streets she would have loved. We yanked the noisy, gaseous, violent reality back like a curtain and behind it there was a surprisingly efficient, communal calm. One noticed the yellow leaves – smelled their tea-like aroma. Felt the cosy buildup of warmth from the steady pedaling. Noticed lovely posture here, a cool tattoo there, the shining eyes of a kid who at last can just be a kid. Yes, on the road.

I fought a growing sensation of physical pleasure: it felt out of place. Disrespectful. This was a memorial; a disconsolate time of loss so terribly recent. I knew there was no possibility for even a moment’s consolation, here or anywhere, for Jenna’s poor husband and the people who actually knew her – as I did not. There was time to think, so I wrested that for a few minutes and then realized that the contradiction was probably OK. I was simply reminded of the powerful group experience – also an act of eulogy – of singing a hymn. I felt our wheels, voices and intent thoughts made an aching harmony; sent tribute. That the hundreds of us on our humdrum vehicles – many commuters, taking a respectful detour – acknowledged bitter distress, but in that moment also created sweetness.

I felt very lucky that the sadness and anger could be, for a short while, transmogrified into this hymn; this rolling meditation on death, vulnerability, cities, motherhood, bikerhood, daughterhood, family, citizenship.  As my town rolled by me like those repeated reels of stock cities in the old fashioned cartoons, I had many thoughts about the future.

During the ride my thoughts were sweetened with hope that our tide might bring a better city into being. But during the ride home – alone again, with my family, suddenly not rolling but quavering and bumping along, John and Sheba on the sidewalk (will they be screamed at? will I scream back, hurt sending obscenity into the air as my child listens?) – the hope got pushed roughly back to the kerb.


One response to “Memorial Ride for Jenna Morrison

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