A young girl shot past me on her bike as I was walking. Her hair blew behind her in a long and glowing trail. Nothing to hold any part of her up or back or in -- not even an elastic band.

 She looked as if she had not a care in the world, and I thought with some satisfaction, "There's summer -- just as it should be."

Then my thoughts turned to ideas of what she might be thinking. I had to stop for a moment in my mind and glance back across my own trail.

I decided she might be wondering whether fifth grade would really be harder than fourth. ... Whether the cute boy would be in her class again and whether he still liked so-and-so. ... And what if that girl started developing over the summer?

Because then she'd never stand a chance. ... Or whether the teacher was really as strict as his reputation. ... Or when people looked at her, did they think she needed to start shaving her legs?

She might have been replaying a soccer point, or craving cupcakes, or wondering if she should go on a diet. Maybe she was dreading a babysitting job while planning how to spend the money.

She might have been wondering when she could have her own room/phone/Facebook account/life. Or if she was going to be in trouble for not wearing a helmet.

Perhaps she was worried about her parents' divorce or her mother's new boyfriend or her older brother smoking pot ... but her face looked too perfectly in-the-summer-moment for those thoughts.

I wouldn't have minded if she was thinking about whether she would like engineering more than architecture, or whether we might actually have a female president by the time she became eligible.

Anyway, I found myself wishing I could catch her flying thoughts, whatever they might be, and save them in a bottle to be handed to her much later, a reminder of how things change, or stay the same.

But mostly of how happy she felt speeding past on her bike, a girl carried along on a wind of her own making.

SUSAN M. HINCKLEY, APPLE VALLEY