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Celebrating Imagination and the Wonderful, Wild Ride that is Life

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Double is the theme for today

This is a first. I am updating both of my blogs together on the same day. For those of you who don't know, I keep this blog in the cycling months and I try to keep my other blog which can be found here all year long. On that blog I try to showcase my other pass time: art. Admittedly, my other blog has been left to grow web-based cobwebs (Ha Ha! True cob -webs!). I have been so busy with Tour de Pink and YSC that I have not had the time to create. The time will come when the cycling dies down, though, and I will feel the creative muse again. I know it as surely as I know the sun will rise. It has become a kind of season to my life. One season is biking, the other season is art. But they are both connected by another I love: writing.

I am not a good writer in any technical sense. But I do like to try to find the words to express what I see, feel or think. And I am always on the search for meaning in life. I try to stay tuned in to those moments, precious and few, like perfect beach shells, that I discover along my way.

Unfortunately my words often come out like buckshot, spraying at a target, creating collateral damage. But I always hope that at least one small pellet, a nugget of bright minded clarity will hit its mark. Often I fear my victims suffer from overkill. Please accept my apologies in advance and in perpetuity.

I said the theme of this post would be "double", and it is. We have started out with my double-posting (a remarkable feat if ever there was one!) but I will move on to more important and meaningful things.

My friend Julie called me late yesterday and invited me on a ride. Julie is still new to riding and new to her bike. I asked how far she wanted to go, and she shocked me by responding: 20 miles. As far as I knew she'd only ever gone 15 or 16. I took this as a milestone trip and enthusiastically jumped at the chance. It was after 6:30 when we met in the church parking lot and started riding. Right away she was complaining about the wind, and worried about possible storms. Like I said she is a new rider, and has not fallen in love with it yet the way I have; the kind of relationship where it calls to you and has a power over you, like a drug. I hopped on my bike and said, perfunctorily, "Let's go!" Admittedly, I pushed her for the first half of the ride. There were some hills to climb along the way, and she likes to go slow, taking her time. Of course there's nothing wrong with that, but in order to ride the Tour de Pink, you have to ride and push yourself beyond your comfort zone. I know how badly she wants to do this, but she needs to build her confidence.

So, I am sure I annoyed her with my incessant talking, reminders to shift gears, orders to keep pedaling, even downhill...but she was a trooper, and went faster than I believe she'd ever gone before. I showed her how I like to pedal as hard as possible downhill to help me on the uphills: how reaching 35 mph was no big deal. She let herself go to a degree, and got up to 27 mph. I was very proud of her! About 2/3 of the way to the turnaround point the sky started to look threatening. She started to talk about turning around early. The drill sergeant in me came out. I said "No. You are going to ride 20 miles today! I don't care if you have to ride in circles to get there!" How's that for a friend?

We reached the 10 mile turnaround and I gave her a little course on taking turns and NOT unclipping from the pedals when you do it! Then we headed back. By then it had started to rain a little, and in a short while the drops were larger and somewhat painful when they hit. Julie had slowed down; she was getting tired. But she was hanging in and wanted to make it home! I went a little easier on her, but kept encouraging her and chatting.

The low point came when some jerk came up behind us and laid on his horn because he didn't like that we were riding in the middle of the lane (to avoid the horrendous, life threatening potholes) and didn't want to have to go around us. It took a lot of restraint to merely throw my hands up and make a face at him that said "What the f***?" rather than flip him off. Jerks like that always have the potential to ruin a good ride.

We plugged along, feeling a little grumbly when it became clear that we were in for something special... The sunset was blazing through the storm clouds in multiple areas, turning the clouds a golden pink, and brightening the tops of chosen trees. The mixture of deep shadow and golden light was spectacular to see. There is nothing like being on the bike to make you feel truly alive and grounded with the world. Then we saw it: a rainbow stretching across the golden trees. It arced overhead and was lit up in contrast to the gray storm clouds behind. It absolutely took my breath away. But the full payoff came when a short distance down the road the rainbow had delivered a friend: a twin rainbow that glowed brightly above the valley. It was a spectacularly beautiful scene that is usually only represented in great art. But nothing compares to living it, feeling the spray on your skin, smelling the fresh leaves soaked in summer rain, and using your own eyes to soak it all in.

We finished the ride with smiles on our faces. Julie had completed an over 20 mile ride: a significant goal in her cycling experience. I was there to share it, and all the beauty we had seen. Thank heaven for last minute phone calls and for striking out as a team. You never know what rewards lie in store. Sometimes you get twice as much reward for half the effort!

Wow...I need to get my art back...

It is like entering a tomb. My craft room has not been unused for months. It is starting to get piles of purchases and papers, bags and just stuff piled high around the room. There are half finished projects and the detritus of our crop scattered around the room. It looks so sad, wondering if I'll ever come back. I admit I have been wondering the same thing.

My daughter has started to take it over as an exercise room: evidenced by the empty water bottles, fitness ball, and various hand weights scattered across the floor.

I have been working so hard running our Young Survival Coalition Affiliate and planning our fundraising bike ride, the Tour de Pink Duluth (happening in September), AND training and fundraising for the big Tour de Pink (in October from PA to NYC) that I have not done onet iota of crafting or art.

I have been starting to feel guilty even going into Archivers or looking at the scrap stuff in Target. I feel like a traitor! I was at CHA in July helping get donations for our Scrap for Survival (yes, we're planning one for this year!) and I could only allow myself momentary peeks at all the was just too overwhelming and made me sad.

But the urge is really starting to build in me....I can feel it like a Tsunami. It's coming and heaven only knows what will happen when it does! Art is like water, my body craves it and can go only so long without it.

But I'm not giving up...and I'm not going to control it. Soon I will fill that thirst and I'm excited to see the results. Stay tuned!

For anyone wondering what I've been up to, or wanting to read my ramblings on my other blog, you can visit it here. It's full of a lot of biking and introspection, and I suppose it has served as a kind of creative outlet to tide me over. At least writing about my thoughts and the things I see provide me with a creative release :)

Stay tuned!


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Full catastrophe living...

Those of you who are following me on facebook already know that I reached a new low this weekend. I crashed two times in two days on my bike. Needless to say, I'm feeling like a complete idiot. Not to mention that I'm sore, scraped up, bruised, etc., etc..... But it doesn't take much for me to realize that I need to quit whining.

All it takes for me is spending some time on facebook myself and reading about someone else's loss or trauma to put it all into perspective. A quick perusal of the newspaper's front page or just a phone call with a co-worker is really all it takes. I moderate the "Newbie" message board on the Young Survival Coalition website. That is the place where young women who are newly diagnosed, or waiting for their diagnosis go. They are scared, rocked to the core, and they are looking for a lifeline of hope, or a virtual shoulder to cry on, or just simple answers and advice. Some days it's pretty rough. I am always relieved if I or one of the other wonderful survivors who frequent the message boards are able to help with a supportive word, some helpful info, or just a listening ear.

So when I say I am constantly reminded of how lucky I am to be here, I really, REALLY mean it.
Crashing and shaving off a little skin is a joy if I choose to make it one. It means my heart is pumping, my body is working, I am alive.

More excitement and some might say treacherous adventure is going on at our house. My daughter is leaving for college in two weeks. I admit, I am dreading it. I am having an internal pity party. Of course all Moms love their kids and don't want them to leave. But I am keenly aware of how tight our bond is; how unique and special she is; how much I consider her in many ways my closest friend. I think this is because she is so like me. I have been struggling, trying to celebrate that I am alive to see this day come. I am astutely aware that when I was diagnosed I spent hours and days crying and praying that I would be here to watch my kids grow up. And here I am. This is something to celebrate! She is spreading her wings, and I know she will fly high! But the brain and the heart are not always in sync. In my mind I am celebrating and imagining all the adventures ahead. In my heart I am heavy and thinking of all the adventures past.

But it has occured to me just suddenly as a light bulb being flicked on: all of this, the sadness, the self-pity, the excitement, the adoration, the breaking heart, and longing for more time....all of it is life. True life. I am comforted in the knowledge that I am living. Not surviving, not making it another day, not hanging on for dear life, but truly, deliciously, painfully, and without restraint living.

To me the hardest thing about living life to its full capacity is allowing your heart to break, allowing yourself to fail, experiencing sorrow and failure, and still being able to mend a broken heart and revel in the sunrise or the way the light filters through the trees, continuing to love again and to allow yourself to be loved. Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD is a scientist, author and teacher who educates us on learning to live in the moment. He is the father of the science of mindfulness-based stress reduction. One of his books is titled "Full Catastrophe Living". Long ago, I fell in love with the title. It embraces the idea that a full life is one that is a catastrophe; a cacophony of joy, sadness, exultation, fear, hope, loss, and gain.

I am proud to say that my life is a catastrophe. No matter how many times I crash and end up bruised and battered, I will still ride. I will never choose the flat, even course. I will take the route with threatening hills that break into life affirming downhill sprints. I will keep going and I will allow myself to experience it all. Because I want to live.

Okay doesn't get stranger than this. After I was done writing, I searched for Dr. Zinn just to make sure I spelled his name right. Please visit his website here and see what he has to say. I am especially fond of his closing quote: "Even in the midst of darkness, there is this other element: of beauty, of symmetry, of the natural world." I have chills.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

It's a sign

I've been wanting to post this for a while now, because it was one of those things that was just so darn cool. I hope you will join me in my appreciation of its awesomeness.

I've learned a lot from riding the bike: about myself, about life, about little things like how to change a tire, when certain wild flowers are at their peak, whose dogs are left to roam free, and the precise moments when I should sit back and enjoy the view. These may seem like small things, but they are lessons for life, really. And nothing compares with knowing that your body has the capacity to carry you a long distance, get you where you need to go and do it with nothing more than the use of a simple instrument built of rubber, fiberglass, and metal.

One of the things I had never known before (and it took my hubby to point it out) was that Harley riders have a sign or hand signal they give to each other when one pack of riders passes another. It doesn't shock me at all that Brad knows this. Not that he is or ever will be a motorcycle rider, but just because I have never met anyone other than him who has stored every piece of information they've ever been exposed to and actually uses it. Seriously, his mind is like a card catalog. You can find anything in there.

So Brad had pointed this out to me when we were on the road a few times. When one group of riders passes another, they give this low arm sweep gesture with there hand making what looks like the love gesture or, what we became familiar with in Hawaii, the "hang loose" sign. Of course I doubt they're telling each other to hang loose. They are much too cool for that. But it's interesting to watch. Their facial expression doesn't change, and it is done with an air of coolness that is impossible for me to recreate. If any Harley riders out there want to let me in on the secret code, I'd be glad to know it. Again, it's one of those little things, but a great deal of fun and a window into a part of life I otherwise would be going too fast to miss.

A couple of weeks ago we went on a 30 mile ride up around our cabin which is in Brimson, MN. It was a new route for us, so we weren't sure what to expect. Part of it had us riding on the shoulder of a road that was pretty hilly and busy with weekend travelers who were in somewhat of a hurry to get to their cabins, the lake, a campground, or wherever else they were planning on spending the day. It wasn't a dangerous route, it was just busy and we were feeling the heat and the hills. It was on one of these uphill climbs that we passed a pack of Harley riders who were zooming by in formation, enjoying the downhill. And then they did it...they gave us the sign. Not just one person, but a number of them. We were treated to something that will never happen again. For a few seconds,the two of us, middle aged dorks dressed in pink jerseys and spandex, were granted a small modicum of coolness. It was a fun gift to receive and one we wish we could have returned. But there was nothing cool we could do back (spitting was all that came to mind)...all we could do was nod and smile to their enigmatic faces. At first we thought they were teasing, but then we realized it was real. They were giving us props. It was awesome.

I have no idea what they saw in us that warranted the gesture. Maybe it was our determination, but instead I think they recognized kindred spirits who were just as appreciative of a great ride. Whoever they were, I'd love for them to know they are now part of my biking lexicon. One more memory that riding has brought me that I can tuck in amongst the others to build my own card catalog.

Here's to noticing the little things and giving props to anyone you see, however you might do it. Sometimes it leaves a major impression!

Evidence of a Life