Saturday, June 21, 2014

with a double heart: collaboration #12

saturday, august 24, 2013 - sun and rain at Butchart Garden, British Columbia

  1. Good-bye, I've said to my oldest daughter.
  2. Good-bye, I've said to her tall and slender husband.
  3. Hugs and hugs again.  
  4. And I've filled my lungs with the air that lives around this woman who once was my first baby.  
  5. We wave good-bye with a window between us now. 
  6. I was sad yesterday at the thought of this morning.
  7. But not today.
  8. Always the opening road makes me glad to go.
  9. Plenty of desolate departures I've sat through.
  10. Being driven away.
  11. Passive passenger.
  12. But there's always some tiny glee when it's my hands hold the wheel.

saturday, august 24, 2013 - setting out from our weekend flat in Brentwood Bay, B.C.

  1. Maybe it's just the distraction of having decisions to make.
  2. The pretense of getting somewhere new by going somewhere else.
  3. The illusion of flight. 
  4. The privilege of small choices.
  5. Which way should I turn?
  6. Which route should I take today south and away?
  7. I plan to take as many Main Streets as I can.
  8. I want to stay off the interstate as long as I'm able.
  9. Torn between leaving Eldest earlier than I have to and regaining YoungSon as soon as I can.
  10. He has been staying with my parents in a valley south of here.
  11. I've missed him.
  12. Enough to pull me forward, not enough to make me hurry.
saturday, august 24, 2013 - whoever sticks with it longest, chooses pie!  Saanich Peninsula Country Market
  1. I glance behind to see that Mijo  has his seat belt fastened.
  2. He has his book.
  3. I've got the open road.
  4. I put a CD in -- Celebrating Wendell Berry in Music.
  5. Because I've loved Berry's books of essays on traditional farming, protecting the land, the right balance, what it means to be human.
  6. So many long summer afternoons I've sat nursing a new baby, rocking and reading about plowing by mule, scything beneath hawk's wings, before going out to weed around my peonies and wild flax.
  7. I am, though I say so myself, extremely well-read on small farms, organic farms, farm policy, forest farming, permaculture, and the evils of agribusiness, aka BigAg.
  8. Though all I've ever really grown are flowers.
  9. All those hours weeding what will never feed me.
  10. And even the lettuce I've begun planting to quiet down my conscience?
  11. I let it spiral into towers crowned with little yellow tufts of flowers.
  12. Loving the look of it better, the way sunlight shines through the veined leaves, better than the salads I could make if I chopped it down and reseeded.
saturday, august 24, 2013 - content to sit out this silly contest, Saanich Peninsula Country Market
  1. I don't know Berry's poetry, but expect it to come intermixed with tunes a little Appalachian-esque, a little Aaron Copeland-ish.
  2. And I am not disappointed.
  3. But first, on the first CD, the first song made of chanting voices, almost Gregorian, naked of accompaniment, riding in and out like tide -- takes me by surprise.
  4. Listening, I wind down through the town where I was born.
  5. Past front gardens full of riotous hodgepodge of flowers, or weedy and sad, or clipped with steely restraint and flowers in serried rank and file.
  6. Past fruit tree standing in the lawn and an empty chair beneath.
  7. Grapevine on rusting chain-link next to the cemetery.
  8. Over the hills, through the town I brought my first babies home to.
  9. I find tears on my face, though I am not sad.
  10. I will play this for my father who always cries at Mozart and bluegrass and old hymns and any music that he loves.
  11. All these years later I'm still trying to find ways to talk with him.
  12. All those years when I was growing up in Midwestern exile and we only mowed grass and planted impatiens.
saturday, august 24, 2013 - Fritz and his Eldest, jazzercise champions! which means it's rhubarb strawberry pie, Saanich Peninsula Country Market

  1. Now he and my mother have returned to live on the farm where he lived as a boy.
  2. His garden now shames me, rows and rows of vegetables.
  3. And beyond that an orchard newly planted. 
  4. And meanwhile I've lost State Street again.
  5. State Street, I've always been told, is a road built in pioneer days to bead together all the Main Streets of these little mountain towns.
  6. Instead all the roads now keep trying to drive me onto the freeway.
  7. Too soon I'm zooming too fast with three lanes rumbling right beside me.
  8. It doesn't really matter which way I go.
  9. All roads here go north and south unless I climb up over the mountains.
  10. But what I'm looking for are little brick buildings with fancy false fronts, tiny banks with neo-Greek pillars.
  11. Tidy front yards I want to see, abandoned houses, swing sets, a goat tethered in the weeds, easy flowers billowing over the sidewalk.
  12. Not billboards of the happiness I could try to buy.
saturday, august 24, 2013 - listening to music, having eaten pie with fingers, Saanich Peninsula Country Market
  1. Maybe I will not play this music for my father after all.
  2. Who may not, after all, cry when he hears it.
  3. Besides I remember what he thinks of college professors who make a living writing about life on the farm.
  4. My father who left the farm because there was no living to be made there.
  5. "Who are these small farmers you keep talking about?" he teases.  
  6. "Like leprechauns?  With miniature cattle?"
  7. And besides, before the end of the first CD I've grown weary myself with listening to all this earnestness.
  8. Which I realize with every mile I will never come to live.
  9. Plus the way the composer repeats every line of the poem again and again against his melodic lines.
  10. First with the music going up, then with the music going down, as if he can't quite find the tune that's true.
  11. Better is the second CD by a blues guitarist : more true to the austere line Berry writes.
  12. Though I find afterwards, reading the liner notes, that to achieve that simplicity sometimes the guitarist has to rewrite the words.

saturday, august 24, 2013 - right before it begins to rain, Saanich Peninsula Country Market, B.C.
  1. Either way, I just keep driving. 
  2. I've always said what I love best about our bike rides is taking to the open road.
  3. Which can't be true.
  4. Considering the hours I spend plotting out best routes and counter-routes, spreading maps out on the floor.
  5. I have also said it's the planning beforehand I love the best.
  6. The perfect paper plot with all its interlocking pieces fit together.
  7. They can't both be best.
  8. Though they are.
  9. The delicious tug between knowing and not knowing quite what to expect.
  10. Though so often expectations fail.
  11. Like when we cycled seventy miles to end up at what is, let's face it, a pretty dispiriting farmer's market at the end of a Canadian summer.
  12. But at least they have homemade pies, I said.

saturday, august 24, 2013 - out of the rain into a room full of wings, Victoria Butterfly Garden
  1. And at the same moment my daughter said, But look, they have community aerobics!
  2. And afterwards we sat and listened with real pleasure to the live music played by a quartet of old guys, Out Stealing Mules, retired dentists and school teachers on banjo, bass, mandolin and fiddle.
  3. Our fingers were sticky with homemade strawberry rhubarb because there were no forks.
  4. Because at this point, we'd invested too much in this enterprise to let it fail.
  5. And besides when it began to rain we were going to have to ride away anyway.
  6. And the next stop on our itinerary, a butterfly garden I'd resisted on earlier trips as a tourist trap, turned out to be a piece of paradise.
  7. Though maybe the riding through the wet and chill helped make it so.
  8. And the next stop after that, a garden we'd loved in years past and cherished the memory of for years after, that day was tired and dry and overcrowded.
  9. You never know just what you'll find.
  10. Just as today all I really know is that as long as I am heading south I can't get lost.
  11. I never have really gotten lost, not really, not lost lost.
  12. Maybe because I've read too many maps, or carry too many with me, or follow them too carefully, or am too cautious in my plotting, or only travel in places with such guardian boundaries -- long mountain ranges, mighty rivers, the ocean shore -- that I am always funneled back into my place.

saturday, august 24, 2013 - plumeria memories pulling her away, Victoria Butterfly Garden

  1. Or is it just that I don't mind stopping to ask directions?
  2. Is this a failing?
  3. Where am I going?
  4. As a teen, hired as mother's helper to a woman  who ran a booming business from her home, I'd head out with the stroller every afternoon to try to lose my way.
  5. That is, once I'd washed the dishes and cleaned the floors and typed up her correspondence, whiting out typos.
  6. Or rather pinking them out, to match her pale rose stationery with embossed letterhead.
  7. After that and after I'd fed lunch to the baby.
  8. And changed the baby.
  9. And slathered sunscreen on the baby.
  10. And let the fluffy mop dog out into the fenced backyard.
  11. And locked the door behind us.
  12. Then I'd go out on the roads around and try to lose myself. 

riding the merry-go-round, Butchart Garden

  1. But I always found my way back.
  2. Every day I pushed the stroller through that wooded suburb a different direction.
  3. Every day the veins of the roadways etched themselves more deeply into my brain.
  4. Until by the end of the summer I couldn't even pretend that I could lose my way.
  5. I must not have really wanted to be lost.
  6. Reading the road names without meaning to.
  7. Memorizing how each led into another.
  8. In any case we always arrived back every afternoon.  
  9. Right on time to change the baby's diaper and set her down on a blanket on the wooden floor in the air-conditioning.
  10. Right before the mother came home to lift her rested, clean, and smiling child up into her arms.
  11. "You are so good with her," she said.
  12. And paid me well for always finding my way back home
 saturday, august 24, 2013 - off to explore, Butchart Garden
  1. I do always keep finding my way back home.
  2. Though I worry sometimes if I can ever really be found if I'm never really lost?
  3. Even when I think for a little while I might be.
  4. For example, right now I don't know exactly where I'm going.
  5. But I know where I'll end up.
  6. Or I'm pretty sure I know.
  7. And when I pull into my parent's driveway, I'll know for sure.
  8. I dreamed once I had died and gone to heaven.
  9. It looked discouragingly like the chapel I attended weekly.
  10. To meet me at the door was a grinner with big ears.
  11. Welcome, he said,  you made it right on time!
  12. And we have such a special treat planned this evening.
  1. But all it was was a talent show.
  2. All the local offerings, a junk drawer of indifferent talents.
  3. Trumpet blarps and squonks, enthusiastic warbling, knock- kneed dancing.
  4. Everyone seemed so happy.
  5. Happy to perform, to sit in the audience singing along, to throw their arms around each other, to sway big bellied, to laugh with their mouths wide open, to bounce babies on their knees.
  6. They all let their children run around them, little ragmuffins happy as crickets, bumping into chairs, uncombed hair floating around their heads like haloes, unwiped noses, beating their hands together like they were leading their own parades.
  7. This can't be right, I said.
  8. But the grinner turned to me and nodded, tapping his knee in some syncopated rhythm beyond the music.
  9. I demand to see the Higher Up, I said, knowing he'd know Who I mean.
  10. He grinned even more, They're here.  Just wait.  You'll see.
  11. I woke.
  12. And since, I've wondered. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Bike Report || God is not in all my thoughts: collaboration #10

                                                 august 23, 2013 
cycling the san juans - Day 2
Mount Vernon, WA, to Brentwood Bay, BC

We wake in a shady wood, not unlike Dante midway on our life's journey.  But hoping the right road lost is behind us and not before. We are not out of the woods yet.

In any case, our window is propped open with a stubby antler.  Which is interesting.  The walls of the boxy barn of this cabin seen now by daylight are an archaeological richness of reference:  pretty girls in old-fashioned dresses, caricatures of King Corn (founding father of our hosts' family), mountain scenes with inspirational verse, Japanese dolls from someone's mid-century tour of duty, carved ducks, and a giant poster for Reservoir Dogs.  And it all goes so well with the eclectica of furnishings.  Like waking up in a multi-family garage sale.  Or surfing someone else's subconscious symbolism.

The morning air has turned chilly this last week of summer (because here and now in these words it will always be the last week of August -- it will always be the last time we are only what we have always been -- a mother and father biking with their children -- together and happy for it -- or happy enough -- the daughters are dismayed whenever we go out of range and their ongoing commentary with their far off beloveds is interrupted).  But now it's time to stuff everything we'll own for the next week and a half back into plastic ziplocks and then into bright yellow, already-heavy panniers that we lift and lock down onto the rack over our back tires.

And now we walk together, (like a little re-enactment of our life's journey thus far) pushing heavy-loaded bikes through woods (satisfyingly dark and greenly symbolic of any number of lurking truths) along a winding dirt path and over a creek into the main yard, up to the main house for a heavenly breakfast on gold edged china, lace tablecloth and heavy silver.  Though we find when we get there that we are surrounded by once-wild animals eying us glassily.

Poetry is emotion recollected in tranquillity, says Wordsworth -- his name so apt for a poet -- that ideal of  rhetorical thrift.  Might we all at last get our words' worth out of our life sentences!  But what is breakfast recollected?  A list of words, a menu.  But in the real moment,  a kind of happy verse.  As good as poetry after a full day's biking and even better before another: Dutch pancakes sprinkled with clouds of sugar, lemon wedges, sliced peaches and raspberry preserves, hot potatoes and spicy sausage, fruit tart made with all the last fruits of the summer.

Not sublime, but sublime can be tricky and leave you hungrier.  While this is good.  And filling.  As it is good to sit here together satisfied in the moment.

Other guests arrive to share our table beneath the transfixed gaze of cougar, bear and elk:  mother and teenage daughter hiding out from raging relatives who have gathered nearby for an imminent wedding.

An attractive young couple also here for a wedding, but a different one.  He's a drummer -- long hair curling on his starched collar, olive-skinned, courtly -- she's a teller at a bank -- baby blond, quick-laughing and certain as a senator.  They're from Minnesota - the Norwegian cadence held in check but still ready to rise like laughter off stage.  

Oh, dear.
I just realized you may have come here hoping for something more gear-shift and head stem.  Some technical pointers about how to pack for a 10-day trek?

The answer is, Lightly.

Or, Heavily.  In which case you will learn all the better how much a body at rest would like to stay there, how strong entropy's attraction, and the gravity of our situation in general.

If you happen to be the one who complained on Amazon about Into Thick Air: Biking to the Bellybutton of Six Continents (a book I've sworn to read just for that fanastic title) because the author
Talks all about people, places and things, but nothing about the actual bike, or the things related to the day to day struggle of a bike trip. It reads like a travellog, he may of just as well been travelling by car or bus.
I am sorry for you.  I have nothing to tell you but people, places and things. Our actual bikes are the ones we always ride, comfortable as old shoes from so many miles, and just that notice-worthy. And the day to day struggle of the bike ride is mostly just pedal-pedal-pedal.  Interspersed with map-reading.  Which today I will not look beyond.

Yes, we might as well have traveled by car or bus all through our lives together.  Except if we had, we would not have ever spent a night here in Mount Vernon, Washington.  Would have driven through on the interstate yesterday afternoon and been in British Columbia already.  If we had come this way at all.

And we would have missed out on this breakfast.  And the hors d'oeuvres - tiny quiches, wraps, crudites catered by our hostess for yet a third wedding the night before (should I have seen the writing on the wall?  Shades of the Bridegroom Cometh!),  packaged up for us and pressed on us as we wheeled away.  We would have missed those savory bites, gratefully received and greedily consumed at the ferry dock sixteen miles later.  Missed them without knowing what we were missing.  And the hugs our hostess gave us and the waves of the other guests driving past as we walked our well-laden bikes down the steep and gravel drive out into the morning of a new day.

We may have glanced at but would have missed the Skagit River Produce harvester mowing through a corn field with its pleasant-faced young teen and his gray-haired father.  Because to really see a thing it helps to move along it, slowly enough to take it in. Which biking preeminently allows.

At least we didn't miss the way back into town this time, the tricky railway crossing not so very tricky in the morning light, the train station just there.  We wave at the station as we pass, glancing down its side street, looking much more cheerful than it or we had the night before.

Our original plan for today had been to cycle out from our bed & breakfast and head south and west to LaConner, then up through the Swinomish Reservation.  But after our adventures yesterday and not wanting to risk missing the ferry, we decided we'd switch and do next Friday's route now but backwards, shaving some miles by heading straight across to Anacortes. 

Of course we miss the turning west out of town.  And learn the lesson we keep learning about how the names on Google maps don't reliably match the posted road signs.  Or don't learn it, once again.  And then a bossy girl at the service station just north of town won't let us glance at her map unless we buy it.  But a trucker leans his elbow on the counter and, pointing and sketching over my worthless Google printout, tells us where we want to go back to and where we ought to turn.

And soon there we are, biking across the bridge and out into a  flat country with a long straight shot for Anacortes along a clean, wide bike lane, zipping past fruit stands and ice cream shops, temptations we've decided suddenly we have no time to stop for.

Beside us, the car traffic is steady but well-behaved, thickening but never heavy the closer we come to Anacortes, though we are increasingly glad for the well-made bike lane.  At the tall bridge over the Swinomish channel -- tall enough for sailboats to glide beneath at full-height -- we are twice-glad we changed our route to ride this northern route today instead of coming back this way next week.  Cycling the other direction we would have found the bike lane end suddenly and no way over the tall and narrow bridge except on the side of the road we are traveling today -- towards Anacortes.

Here's some technical for you:  Anacortes wins the Cyclist's Golden Award -- or should -- for beautiful FREE full-color maps available at the roadside in TAKE ONE boxes just the other side of the bridge. With insets to show close-ups of critical turns. 

From the bridge we escape the highway onto a low-traffic road taking us across March's Point onto a repurposed rail line built on a causeway  across Fidalgo Bay.

Biking the causeway is delightful, water on both sides and secret-feeling.  Though a secret well-shared.  No cars, so the only hazard on the Tommy Thompson Trail is avoiding other cyclists and rollerbladers and keeping our tires from rolling over sharp shards of shells everywhere from seagulls dropping shells to get at the meat.

The trail carries us around city -- mostly ferry -- traffic.  No plotting required, just pedal by pedal by pedal.  We have plenty of time now.  The moment swells bigger until it is all there is.  From the causeway we enter on a dedicated bike path that takes us almost all the way to the Guemes Channel and the ferry terminal there.

Without worrying where we're going, we wind past trees, along the water, beside boats in dry dock.  It's when we are stopped along this trail, picking blackberries, that we feel we are at last all together in our homeplace.  More at home than at our house, out along the roadway in a Pacific Northwest blackberry season with helmets on our heads.

My daughters say this out loud.  We all agree.  My heart is here, made ready for this moment by our long day pedaling together.

At the ferry terminal the ticket office is crowded -- all that traffic we saw earlier has lined up now and disgorged travellers waiting for passage.  But all their hurrying has not got them anywhere faster after all.  We buy our tickets and are sent to the front of the line where other bicyclists soon join us.  We sit together in the sun, eating our picnic of wedding hors d'oeuvres, that snack before the coming feast, until the ferry arrives and we can roll our bikes on board and tie them fast near the front. 

Now we're free to go up top, consult our maps, share out our Swedish fish, 

catch up on sleep  . . .

Dreaming of what's still ahead. 

Or not dreaming.  Not even thinking of how dear each moment is. Do I send up even the briefest prayer of gratitude?  My mind more full of mileage computation and ferry schedules.  Which route we'll take from Sidney to Brentwood Bay once we disembark.  What we need to buy for the coming weekend at Sidney's Thriftway:   

Steel cut oats. 
           I'm making a list.   
Maple cookies.  
Salad dressing.  
Soup in boxes.  
Milk in boxes.  
Wine gums.   

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Bike Report || i will be glad and rejoice: collaboration #9

august 22, 2013

cycling the san juans - Day 1
Portland, OR,  to Mount Vernon, WA

Dawn: birds witter and coo.  The garage door rolls up.  Sun reaches in to touch our bikes: oiled and adjusted, tires firm.  Water bottles and camelbacks filled, panniers packed and hefted and repacked. We will carry nothing extra, but will have everything we need.

This is the closest glimpse I ever get of the kind of life I keep trying to balance into. So I like to indulge in this moment and dwell on it -- heading out into the morning air with my life's necessities balanced between two wheels, with my heart's inhabitants riding all around me, all going the same way together.

This is joy. Pure and simple.  And I will be glad.

For weeks I've been working out an itinerary, figuring daily distances, arranging lodging, securing tickets, procuring rain slicks and victuals.  Now all that paper cocoon is about to burst into colored wings.  I already know we won't do everything we have written down.  There will be wrong turnings and weather, but for now, rolling down the hill, my bike heavy with provisions, only gladness keeps appearing in front of my front tire.

We pedal strong: three road bikes, one folding, and a tandem.  Our youngest Mijo had wanted to pedal solo this time. But he has also spent this past week worrying about being able to keep up.  Though he's been practicing all summer on longer and longer rides, learning to climb hills and build up stamina, we agree at last that the tandem with his Dad is the best safeguard for completing the 285 miles we plan to ride in the next ten days.

Our immediate goal is Union Station in Portland where we'll catch the train.  About two hours of good riding away.

The weather is delightful, a little cool.  We are strong.  Stronger than we've ever been - Eldest and Middlest in their grown and active bodies, YoungSon enjoying his first burst into the growth that will take him to manhood.  Even I have left behind the title I've held so long (The Slow One) -- this summer's spinning classes have paid off!  My legs just move at a faster pace and without thinking about it, I set a brisk pace and we begin to laugh as we click along faster and faster.

We are like a squadron of hawk, a congregation of eagle riding down the slope of the wind.
We surely do not look that way - but that's the way it feels.

Once at the station - where we arrive in good time - there's trouble with the tandem.

I keep falling for the idea of combining train and bike, but so far in my experience, it's not the marriage of true minds but mostly just impediment.  At least they didn't cancel on us last minute this time.  But Amtrak is not the train system a great nation deserves.  Despite all my phone calls to ensure that there would be room for the tandem on the train, that the tandem counted as one bike and not two, once we arrive we hit a wall of NO.

Fritz pushes back as if his irritation and frustration will matter to them.  It doesn't.  I try conciliation, "We'll appreciate anything you can do to help us.  We did proceed in good faith -- " They are unmoved but fetch someone more articulate who offers us a possibility. Maybe if we can break the tandem down -- which it's built to do but a pain -- and fold the folding bike up into its case and count it as luggage since we only have tickets for five bikes.  And there are only five bike hooks not ticketed to someone else on this train.

Fritz is not pleased, still maintaining his right and his cause. 
The tandem balks and refuses to be separated.
I take a walk around the station, praying for a peaceful heart, that inner refuge in time of trouble.
And also, please, that the tandem will be less stubborn than any of that company of men.

When I come back the tandem is in two parts and Fritz's mutters have begun to dwindle down.

 We wait on long polished wood benches beneath the high ornamented ceiling.  The station begins to fill.  I will be glad, I choose, choosing joy again.  And why not?

There are reasons to rejoice just in the light pouring through the high windows.  The pattern in the stone that clads the walls.  It's surely the beauty of these stations that keeps convincing me to give the train another try.  And hope springing as per its usual tendencies.  Meanwhile, Middlest's camelback springs a leak.  The boys, from Fritz on down, bounce up and fetch paper towels and the grand mop-up ensues.

The train arrives.  We walk our bikes out and lift them into their corral and then find our own car and settle into our seats.  We make a lunch of bagel and salami, hummus and veggies.  The girls sit together ahead of us and talk with their heads together like they've done forever, as if they've never been apart.  The boys read magazines while Fritz repairs Middlest's flat tire at the table between us.   Having stayed up late seeing to the last of the packing, I sleep.

I awake to hilarity from the group across the aisle.  And must shake myself before I can choose to be glad at that awaking.  They're from Vancouver, British Columbia: a woman and her husband/partner, her uncle and his wife.  They sound German and are very friendly.  We talk about Portland which they have just seen for the first time.  Voodoo Donuts.  Pioneer Square.  The Waterfront. And Alzheimer's which is Eldest's area of research -- of course they are amazed she's published papers, worked the lab, she has such a baby face. They ask about Middlest's studies and she tells them about peace-building and mediation.  They tell us stories about all their catastrophic bike rides.  More hilarity, now on both sides of the aisle.

Then the beautiful views outside our windows draw us all to look out across Puget Sound. And I do not have to remind myself to rejoice.

We pass Seattle proper and arrive in Mount Vernon in early evening, already coming on to dark.

It takes a while to reassemble the tandem.  A while we hadn't figured into the time.  But not to worry -- we're only a quick and easy 5 miles from our beds tonight.  Grateful for the headlamps and back lights we'd decided we needed yesterday at REI, we head out of town south for the Deep Woods Cabin at the Whispering Firs Bed & Breakfast -- which sounds just the place to sleep long and deep.

We ride through charming older streets. 
Cross the railroad. 
Miss a turn.
End up on the wrong side of the freeway.

Everything is good: the map I've printed off from Google shows that there's a road just further down  that will take us over the freeway and drop us off exactly where we want to be.  In the dark we ride along the empty access road, slowing to shine our headlamps on the road signs.  We find many roads that take us right up to the freeway.  And all those many roads stop just shy of crossing over.  We pedal past the E version of the W Stackpole we are looking for.

To give the despairing amongst us a little heart, we stop and eat a honey stick, a fruit snack, sesame crackers -- whichever works best for each.  The air is heavy and sweet with the smell of something ripening.  Is it corn? we wonder. The air is so delicious it must have nutritive value.  I know I should be feeling worried that my navigating plus the train's inconveniently late scheduling has stranded us out on the road after dark but though we are tired and running out of vim, it is the most beautiful night.  No traffic at all and the moon is misty and full in a velvet dark sky.  The air is heavenly.  Each time I turn to tell them how lovely, I notice my family's faces lightening despite the dark.  This is not tragedy, perhaps adventure.  Certainly some road will soon take us over to the other side.

And certainly one does.  We come at last to Fir Island Road where we cross over and head back up towards the road that we've been looking for.

It's so dark.  We've come an extra unplanned five miles.  And though we're all lit up like Christmas trees with flashing lights, eager we are not for any more night exploring, so Middlest uses the GPS on her phone to reassure ourselves that we are on the right road.   Which we are.  Which makes us all feel very glad. And we bike forward with light hearts into the dark.

Until we cross over a small bridge and come to the end of the road.

There are no lights to be seen.
There's no more pavement.
There's nothing promising on either side.

But we have phones and a phone number.  We call our hostess and yes, this is the right place -- just to our right, that gravel road winding sharply up the hill?  That's the one! And then a long steep climb in the dark up and up -- very long, very steep, very dark -- so steep and dark that we have to get off our weary bikes and push.  We could groan but instead laugh at ourselves and at this certainly supererogatory*   hill.

Then, so hackneyed but not any less heavenly a vision, we see a light in the trees -- the lantern she said she'd put out -- and   Ah!! cabin!  water bottles! shower! clean sheets!

Bed!!  Our gladness over each of these so much more immense than we could have imagined when we set out this morning.

Already we've begun shredding the paper plan -- an hour and a half later than scheduled and closer to 40 than 30 miles. But here we are.  Rejoicing.  All safe and soon all soundly asleep.

*observed or performed to an extent not enjoined or required (!!!)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas: collaboration #8

june 29, 2014 - rainbow spume of hunchback whale, Sitka, Alaska
This doubling back of time, tripling back -- time turning in on itself every 150 days has begun to dizzy me.  

There's nothing exterior to keep this cycle straight.  It's not a seasonal circling like the grand processional around the sun with its regular returns of birds and familiar flowers, punctuated by the times my children fly home to me, the times they go away.  It's not a weekly breakdown of routine and small dispersals, not the moon's recognizable rolling in and out of phase.  There is no outward pattern of changing length of light, no temperature clues to tell me that  how excellent is thy name in all the earth is coming around again.  Only the austere machinery of an arbitrary order. 

Repeating days are geared together for no apparent similarity to one another, 150 days around, however they fall out, because there are 150 psalms.  And lately there are gears within gears, gearing down to smaller gears, as I've fallen into a habit of letting days slip by with a quick jot, a snapshot -- just enough to hold it in memory, maybe -- until I can stop living long enough to write about it.  And so I slide a day behind, a week behind, and now, today (the first of July), two weeks behind.

I can never write as fast as I can live it.  I can barely see it as I live it.

august 17, 2014 - juvenile literature mural, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
 When I was a child my mother kept a yellowing paperback of the script for Our Town by Thornton Wilder in her bookshelf.  So I read it lazily, recurrently, through the summers of my growing up.  Swallowed down unquestioningly, parts of it must have become part of me when I wasn't looking.  Now I keep hearing Emily's cry:
Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anyone to realize you. . . .  Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? 
I tell myself I'll let consider thy heavens go this time and catch it again next time around. Next time I'll sound the depths.  Next time breach the surface, breathing out some rainbow spume of praise. 

What is man, that thou art mindful of him?  Man so very unmindful, woman with mind made bare by shopping lists, small circling complaints, recurrent worries?  Even a day is too much for me to hold in mind.  When Emily, newly deceased, plans to return to relive just one day of her earlier life, she's counselled
At least, choose an unimportant day.  Choose the least important day in your life.  It will be important enough.

august 20, 2013 - top deck parking, PDX International Airport, Portland, Oregon
That is probably part of the problem.

This eighth day already dawned with too much importance.

For a long week I've sat on this post . . . waiting to recover candlelit pictures of Young's face over his thirteenth birthday cake, pictures I know I took with someone's camera somewhere of the moment my little boy crossed over into young manhood . . . hoping to discover a picture of Fritz amongst my files that could somehow illustrate the hinge-point of our marriage that this anniversary is, the day where I am as many years now married as ever I lived single.  And that was just the first time around. Now I've gone around with a little lower than the angels three times, picking up accretions of details each time I pass through.

In the order of things that is this cycle through the psalms, this is not the day I saw my first whale (that's still to come).  Nor the day Eldest flies home before our last grand All-Family Bike (that day was already.  I just forgot to mention it).

june 17, 2014 - butterfly collection, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
This is the day of making mint chocolate birthday cake from bars of best chocolate, standing before the Indonesian statue of the flute player, reading Brazilian woodcut pamphlets and watching Brazilian futbol, eating chimichurri sauce on black pepper roast sandwiches at a small table with my youngest boy, laughing over a friend's "gastroenterology, body surfing, disturbance in the force, yeast infection, F150, desert storm, and Constantinople" posted just to throw Facebook's data-miners a curve ball, admiring the collected powdery wings of butterflies whose bodies have been stuck through with a pin, counting tuxedoes with the other mother of the groom who sounds as much at sea as I feel, walking beneath the tree with millions upon millions of tiny flowers so swoony sweet whose name I cannot bring to mind, finding Fritz and Young oiling everyone's bike chains, reading again of the heroic WWII peasants of Le Chambon, running across campus with Miho in a sudden rain, settling into theater seats for How to Train Your Dragon 2, running my eyes over and over again the jade scales of a samurai suit of armor, remembering "the gradual increase of light radiating from the rising sun is like receiving a message from God," walking the pool with a friend who has moved away, our long and easy talk - no urgency - but murmurous and comforting, and finally setting food panniers standing open propped against the freezer for tomorrow morning's ice blocks, hummus, yogurt and cut veggies.

That's the day this is. But that is not this day.  The most important thing about the day has slipped away.
We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars . . . everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being,
says the stage manager in Our Town. 

There's something eternal about every day.  

the day that this is not
So it's fitting 8 looks so much like .  In the Bible stories, as you may know, eight just means many -- eight souls saved from the flood, eight days wandering in the desert -- it was not a counting, but a sweeping characterization.  If seven is the number of completion, eight is the completion of completion, the numberless, the whole.  Seven days of creation . . . and then the eighth day?  That's just the rest of history.

And here's me, so caught up in the infinite shimmering shoals of the created that I'm forever losing sight of the eternally creative excellence that sings and shines beneath, behind, beyond it all.

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