right about 29th street

Beeps and I are about to cross from Hoquiam to Aberdeen when we hear a strange beeping. We slow up on pedaling and coast; moments later a tall, silver-bearded white man slowly crosses a block ahead of us on a segway. Slowwllly he crosses as his siren sententiously announces his passage.

A beat, and then I say to my oldest: “Being on the bike, you are thrown into humanity a bit more,” and halfway through the sentence they are nodding already. We’ve come across a rude cashier, teens cutting eyes at us as they walk home from school, and two young men who pulled over and asked us to buy them beer. And then there’s the distraction of people just doing their thing: mowing lawns or taking out the glass bottles. These few days on the bikes have been incredible for my mood; the sunny days are ecstatic, and the rain and the cold – well, those days I’m glad to get home to the heat and my pantry and my kettle.

I finished two dresses today, and washed and dried a gorgeous two-tone linen for a pair of trousers. My stockpile of fabrics for upcoming projects is, incredibly, slowly dwindling. Another great thing about the bike is it forces me to stop working, and to an extent stop thinking about work. I’ll take what I can get!

what hath night to do with sleep?

It’s cold and I’m cold on the ride home. I’m cold on the bike most the year, especially on my return trips. I think I get chilled on the trip out, then I sit in my own sweat a bit and get clammy indoors, then back on the bike. Barring proper cycling gear that’s just how it is. For now. I was bringing quarts of hot water which helped a little but not much.

Just after eight, before I set back off to Hoquiam, my friend Charlie accosted me about biking. “You got any protection?” he asks all surly. He means like, a firearm. He’s seventy-something, grew up in the Appalachian mountains, and he is hardcore. He still plays with guns. He’s been shot. By friends and enemies both, I think. Anyway now he says he’s worried. “I”m worried someone’s gonna grab ahold of you,” he tells me. Yeah, I’m thinking. “It hasn’t happened yet,” I tell him, hiking my leg over. “No – but it could!” He is stubborn. He’s a little pissed. “Yeah…” I say. “There are a lot of sick people out there. – Goodnight!” and I’m off.

The streets are cold, crystal-clear, a great big moon. Near-deserted. Past Myrtle and there’s a loud altercation. I can hear angry screaming, abuse, for a full mile. I am sobered at the thought of all the suffering in the world.

Across the bridge and I pull up to Simpson and a red light; another person on a bike is waiting as well. He turns in partial profile and I recognize him. I got to know him a while back when he had a spell clean and sober. He’d put on weight and lost the hardened look in his eye and he was becoming that sweetheart he is, the one that lives within.

Now though, he doesn’t look great. He’s attending a huge plastic garbage bag with presumably all his belongings, somehow balanced on the bike’s handlebars. He turns and I smile at him and greet him by name. He’s trying to figure out who I am and I notice with a crystal-clear delight two items in his overstuffed backpack – a pair of miniature dachshunds peeping me with large, liquid eyes. I ask about the dogs. He tells me their names – mother and daughter. He asks me how he knows me and I tell him. I tell him I have an eighty-pound dog and can’t pack him in a backpack.

The light turns. I tell the man to Take Care and I’m off into the night. Amber streetlight. Smell of ozone and deep green grass. Almost home.

I pull up to my house to a crumpled dog hair-infused afghan swaddling a huge pile of leaves on the porch. Fancy, I think. And sure enough when I walk in the door my nine year-old tells me: “Mama did you see the leaves I put on the porch? Because they are fancy.”

I lean the bike against the coffee table and stride into the kitchen and greet my husband. And I stand at the stove and eat like three lentil tacos and take a swig of Mexican Coke.

Home again, home again, jiggity-jig.

A "Fancy" Porch

warts & all

Doubtless some of my readers have wondered why a few days ago I wrote about an excruciating experience in graphic emotional detail, but with little other disclosure. After a few days, and a few more developments, I am ready to share a little. Only a little, at this time.

Friday we found out that something assaultive, or more likely than not, more than one event, happened to one of our children. The discovery came as a complete shock to us and is taking an unpleasantly long time to accept. At this point, institutional and investigative entities have been employed. Because this is an incident that concerns one of our children, you can understand I don’t think the kids deserve me to sell out their privacy. Suffice to say my children and my family can benefit from support, and good, honest, safe-ass people in our lives.

One of the most agonizing aspects of this development is we do not have all the answers as to what has happened, and it may take time to get them. Also: unlike other sorrows I have gone through – like my father’s illness and death – this seems to have temporarily but painfully removed my ability to think about much else for very long. Life is suddenly surprisingly difficult – for me, at least. I can’t speak so much for the other three members of the family, who seem to be holding up well. I find myself going for many hours without being able to eat – then, like now, suddenly my appetite is back (ravenously so!). I have had two nights out of four that were just nightmarish, sleep-wise. I wished for Oblivion but I patiently waited that wish out.

I rode the bike about eight miles in a rainstorm again today for an appointment, and thankfully no one criticized me for this (just: don’t). You’d be surprised what I’m willing to do in hopes of restful sleep. (There is a lot I’m *not* willing to do, too!)

I am better off than I was Friday but I put that down to incredibly fervent prayer, and using the many types of support I have available to me.

Then there’s the “little” shit that is hard. It is frustrating that although it seems it would be easy for me to perform the tasks I normally do, I am having a great deal of trouble. Planning meals, doing the simplest of chores, let alone creative work or playtime with the kids, is almost entirely unmanageable at times. Compounding this is the fact that: doing work, within reason, is a good thing and I know it. Lying around watching Netflix and trying to blot out my brain – not so much.

One of the things I am still functional at is volunteer work. I do this – again, within reason, as I have responsibilities to myself and my family. I can’t tell you how meaningful it is to me to do something useful that doesn’t just serve myself and my family. I am daily in a place of gratitude for this opportunity.

I am definitely in that One-Day-At-A-Time space. Soon I will have experience to share, and will be able to share others. But I’m patiently waiting for that to come on its own time.

Thank you for sharing this time with me.

cha-cha-cha like no one’s business

Today on a walk the three kids and I spied a family of otters out in the depths of the Hoquiam river. Fiesty, playful otters – three from what we could tell. As we walked on a quarter mile Phoenix gasped: there they are, on the piling! Sure enough, all three were just a few feet away, gazing up at us with curious, bead-black eyes. A mother and two juveniles. We watched for a while and when I glanced down at my phone, and back up, only a couple modest ripples remained on the river’s surface. We remained for a while longer to see if they’d re-emerge, but they eluded us.

I spent much of today on foot, on my bike, or in a pool, and it felt great. This afternoon I stayed too long at an appointment, and got home in time to furiously pedal-arse to the YMCA for

AQUATIC ZUMBA

which I thankfully made in time.

Some of you probably can figure out what that is, others are like, “What?” Basically: dorky-looking water aerobics (I am still looking for low-impact exercise options because ye olde knees are not healed up). I laughed the entire time, because it was so awesome and silly. I could feel my buttcheeks waving in the water as I furiously twisted my hips to Pearl Jam, nameless techno, MGMT, other pop music. Lots of breast-bobbling as well (involuntary), since mere mortal swimsuits cannot restrain my DDDs. I kept up pretty good though. But only because my body gives me one “freebie” at a new routine. My arms like, “Oh this is nice, boy we sure are staying up in the air a lot, kind of tough. Ho ho.” Next time I try the same exercise they will be screaming in agony: “Go take a long walk off a short pier you twisted-up harridan!”

Back on the bike; home to a warm house and kids, just my own two for a change. Ralph’s three-nights-a-week RHPS practice means a messier home and a wee bit less man-cooking as well. Currently: 11 PM and he’s making me sesame noodles, which is working out well for me. Late night cuddles and probably a really bad b-movie.

It’s kind of a routine. [ casual shrug ]

“I thought of that while riding my bicycle.”

It was difficult saying goodbye to my cargo bike, but as I might have imagined, my new bicycle has already gifted me as it is so much lighter and swifter. I have found myself riding even more than previous. These past few weeks, riding has been a wonderful exercise in patience, persistence, courage, and acceptance.

Bicycling is patience-building. Patience with the weather; rain is experienced as unpleasant, and headwinds reduce my speed by many minutes. Patience with my body, which still groans in pain here and there. My body gets stronger and more used to the bike’s stance, but I still walk up Scammell Hill, for instance. And on this hill, I rest a bit while I walk. I just give myself enough time that I can rest when I need to. Why not?

Persistence is manifested, for me, in the fact I ride the bike even though I have a working car (and sometimes, people asking me for rides in that car!). It is a real practice on my part, to commit to a longer travel time instead of darting around in the (mistaken) belief that I “must not waste time” and should use the car. It is also a real practice for me to say “No” to those who want rides! Over the last few weeks I have noticed that the supposed time-saving benefits of a car are sometimes disingenuous or not real. My bike never needs gassing up, for instance, and is easier to park every time. And if the winds are working with me it can be as swift to bike as to drive, depending on where I go!

It takes courage to bike, for me, because cars and car-drivers are not 100% safe, and also people seem to be often telling me how unsafe it is to bike. Due to a little bit of factual danger but probably due a lot more to cultural naysaying, the bike experience can sometimes feel more vulnerable. In a car I have the illusion of safety and control; on the bike, I do not. In a car I am unlikely to get shouted at or sexually harassed; on the bike, I am more likely to get stared at or accosted. Even then, though, things aren’t all that they seem. The more personal/”vulnerable” nature of the bike is mostly a very pleasant thing. I make a lot more eye contact on the bike, smile a lot more, am smiled at in return, can have conversations easily and get to see deer and kitties and puppies and children and people and foliage and our cities’ beauty a lot more. Two days ago I found an enameled ring on the road and gifted it to my son, tying it around his neck by a cord. All in all, the intimacies of the bike are a experienced in a pleasurable way, not a painful one.

When I get home, I submit a prayer of gratitude that I’ve had a safe ride, yet again.

I practice Acceptance when I ride my bike on all the things aforementioned – but most profoundly with my experiences of impermanence and Not-Self. The ride puts me in the moment in a way the convenience of the car leads me to not experience the moment. Bike riding helps me recognize that my ego and my circumstances and my thoughts are finite, limited, impermanent, and in their way, full of suffering. I have a brief bit of time I can meditate and experience the Now and when I do, I touch the infinite, the limitless, the joyful, and I smile at the mystery of my suffering, which is still with me after all these years.

Acceptance and Gratitude permeate my thought-stream while I ride, and even after I get home. I’ve put a couple hundred miles on the bike and due to some pain issues I am ready to take it in and talk about possible adjustments or changes. I find I’ve been thinking about how much I’d greatly enjoy a YMCA membership so I could treat myself to some swimming or yoga or weight lifting to help balance my body from the unique stress of and performance of riding – to un-stiffen my body (and of course, I’d also like a membership so I could take the children swimming!).

But even there, the bike reminds me things don’t have to be perfect for me to be Okay. I can practice acceptance, courage, patience, persistence and gratitude without having the whole thing figured out. I can enjoy my riding even without the perfect geometry, the best biking gear, a pain-free body, or the sometimes-coveted Y membership.

Riding my bike teaches me to smile at The Way Things Are.

Won’t buy bacon, hominy or grits / Rodent ears and possum is all we get!

As of this afternoon the Taylors are installed in the Life is Good Unschooling Conference (pre- and post-conference interviews, coming soon!). We had a small kerfuffle while our designated family tried to check in today – but that was, thankfully, resolved. I am hoping they navigate the considerable and constant activity at their first Conference with aplomb, and have a wonderful time.

Today was quite busy. I had a last-minute mailout of several items, the typical errands and child- and home- and pet-business, plus a dead battery in the car I was borrowing and then the understated drama of getting a replacement driver’s license (mine recently and mysteriously went missing). This evening I biked to and from Aberdeen and had a wonderful time practicing mindfulness, even through the pain of the ride. I am still getting used to my bike, which is quite speedy and lovely, but requires a lot more upper-body work than my previous craft.

I am also recovering from urethritis (I know, right? WTF), a somewhat alarming and not-so-fun experience for which I sought medical attention yesterday. Even though I have never (to my knowledge) had this problem before, my GP thought it was quite far-fetched it could result from the intense pressure of a new (hard and unpleasant) bike saddle and an entirely new bike-stance. But me and my pubic bone think differently, and I now have the giggles thinking of an old childhood tune and replacing the word “fox” with the word “crotch.”*

 
Tomorrow: payday. I’m very grateful to be warm, safe, loved, and more or less intact – and to have my family along with me on my life’s journies.

* tender-bits soreness is bad enough, but of course, it could be a heck of a lot worse!

era

Today I couldn’t face saying goodbye to my xtracycle. If I would have, I would have cried, in front of Terry & Ralph and maybe they would have thought me a fool, and I just couldn’t face it. So I took an extra-hot shower while Ralph wiped the bike down and took it in to trade in at the bike shop. And now it’s gone and I even walked in my garage thinking it was there, already, and felt a pang.

This bike was a big, big part of my life, and of the kids’ life, for over five years. I could and did take my children everywhere on this bike (as well as lots of other kids and a few grown-ups!). I was biking the Hogachillun on it up until today. In fact, Phoenix – for the first time – rode with her brother on the back, just the other day. Fond memory: biking around Lake Quinault and SMOKING two city-cyclists with their fancy gear and fancier bikes – while going uphill, and while hauling my child (and that may have been how I ruined my knees! so: comeuppance).

I don’t know if anyone reading understands, but in this moment it is difficult for me to move on after several years of packing the kids around, all marsupial-like.

"Do They Like Riding On The Bike?"

 

PROOF

 

Adventure Necessities

 

We Embark

 

This Bridge Makes Me Sh*t My Pants

 

Kelly + Coffee + X = Heaven!

 

Transporting:

 

This Is How We Do It

 

Docs + Fishnets + Bike

 

Mittens May Hamper Agility

 

Goodbye, X. You were an amazing family vehicle.

***

My new wheels:

New Wheels

 

The upgraydd is a Trek 520, with Ortleib roll-top pannier bags. Today, with the trade-in of my bike, we paid off the layaway. I took the new bike on a couple rides, about ten miles total. Just like my first day with the X, this bike felt new and strange. Very different stance, very different weight, handled differently. I did manage to carry books, my purse, a camera, and a potluck chile relleno. It made me feel like maybe I still had a cargo bike. Kinda.

everyone becomes a poet

The other day in the lightning storm things got dicey, and Phee and I figured we might not make it out of there. So my daughter says, “I have to tell you something,” and tells me a secret about a boy. AND I JUST ABOUT DIED FROM THE ADORABLENESS, that she told me this because she thought we might perish together in the car, meeting our demise in a storm. And no, I haven’t told anyone the secret. Not the one. Not even her father.

So today she came home and showed me a bracelet she’d been gifted, engraved with the word, “LOVE”. And I asked if it was from the boy in question, and she said Yes. When she later asked me to fasten it around her wrist, I asked how that all went down and she said, “He kinda threw it on the ground and said I should have it.”

So, at their age. That sounds about right.

My kids made a cake today while I was busy; it wasn’ t quite finished baking at 1:40 PM when they were due for their dentist appointments. They biked down there and I finished things up and joined them. And seeing their little bikes all parked and them taking care of their dentist shit. It’s pretty awesome.
 

dentist

Being a mother is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. It has pieced back everything good and blessed of my humanity.

We have a busy few days. I’m making a birthday snack for a friend tomorrow; we’re hosting a band for dinner and a friendly tour or two of HQX. The kids are featured in an art show opening this week. And I get to make my other commitments including daily walking the dog a few miles.

It’s all good stuff; I hope to relax and enjoy it as much as possible. I need to slow down and expand my prayer life. Here’s hoping I remember, tomorrow morning.

the “s”s keep me up at night

2 Chocolate Milks

Back to my old routine – out on bikes to conduct business in downtown HQX.

Yesterday I got started sewing in my new place. I figured just what felt right – an old skool vintage grunge flannel, child-sized, in a pretty and soft cotton semi-flannel (Yes, semi-flannel! Such a thing exists). You can see just a wee bit of the fabric on the left, under rulers and interfacing. You can also see my 60+ year old Singer I’ll be sewing on, through the doorway.

Sewing

Tonight I heard a wonderful poem.

I have lived on the lip
of insanity, wanting to know reasons,
knocking on a door. It opens.
I’ve been knocking from the inside.

― Rumi

xtracycle

you wanna fly / don’t want your feet on the ground

xtracycle

I get a rush when I bike long distances and today was no exception (I’m already used to the seat, by the way). I had a full day including picking up a refurbished New Home sewing machine (squee!), then later a wonderful coffee date with my sister, just the two of us. Afterwards she took me next door to the bike shop and bought my new head and tail lights, in addition to a very generous gift certificate for the family. What a wonderful gift for us and a real blessing.

But the highlight of my day sticking to me now was about ten PM when my friend D. who’s tended towards shyness in the past agreed to ride on the back of my bike there in west Aberdeen, and we did a few loops in the summer street while people laughed a bit, circling around a big bonfire while P. played Foreigner’s “Records” out the stereo of his impeccably-shiny Harley.

Or maybe it was an inadvertant poem I heard early in the evening: “Pray to be sane / drank a Hurricane”.

Or later as it was cold out, meeting Ralph and Cole for hot coffee and pizza at the Mia.

Either way, things seemed to work out real well all day long.

the Mia