WHY DO WE WAIT FOR THE RIGHT CONDITIONS?

WHEN THE WRONG ONES WILL DO

WHY DO WE WAIT FOR THE RIGHT CONDITIONS?

GROWING AND MAKING STUFF

MAKES ME HAPPY

GROWING AND MAKING STUFF

AWARENESS...

STAYING AWAKE TO THE REMARKABLE IN THE ROUTINE

AWARENESS...

Hi. I’m Maery, a writer in the Twin Cities. Although I no longer have the body for extreme adventures, I love to bicycle, go horse trail riding and take hikes with my dogs.  

One thing you should know before you join me on my quest -- I don’t have a map. And I’ve been known to wander off course and stop to listen to birds and look for agates. I also have a few issues with fear and anxiety. In other words, I’m not a good role model or adventure guide. But in this time of uncertainty and polarization, I'm not sure anyone has a reliable map. We'll just figure it out as we go.

bike with panniers

bicycling-15-Edit-1

I hesitate to call the trip Steve and I are planning in June a “bike tour.” Most bike tours you read about are people taking weeks or months to bike down the coastline or travel from one side of the country to another. Whereas we are loading up our bikes with a tent, sleeping bags, food and cooking supplies, and heading about fifty miles away from home to a Minnesota camp site. The next day we’ll bike and hike the area around the campground. Then we’ll ride the fifty miles to arrive back home.

Whoop-de-do!

Hey this is the no-shaming bike tour plan!

It’s the first time we’ve done anything like this so we’re starting out very small. And truthfully, I don’t know if I’ll ever be up to the rigors of packing up my things to head cross country. After all, I have dogs and chickens I hate leaving behind. (I’ve been looking at the Cycling Gypsies website and thinking perhaps the dogs can come along someday when the humans know what they are doing.)

bikes at Costco

I do hope to work up to trips over longer weekends or even take a couple weeks to ride. I would like to prove that anyone who has an interest in doing this bike touring and camping thing can do so. It doesn’t have to be a huge deal. We can unite in our quest for shameless bicycling.

On our first practice run to try out our new panniers, Steve and I decided to run errands, including a stop at Costco. How better to test our pannier volume and weight capacity than making a run to the mammoth warehouse with its super-size only packages? We wanted to also find out how our bikes (and the riders) would handle the load, especially pedaling up a hill.

As far as bike handling, everything was fine. The only problem was trying to lift the bike to maneuver out of the bike racks.

bike with panniers
Before going to Costco we stopped at DSW for me to pick up some tights and then stopped at TJ Maxx to look for narrow legged pants (all the better to bike in, my dearie), which I did not find. This gave us lots of practice on locking and unlocking two bikes with panniers on them. Fortunately, one of our cables is REALLY long.

bike with panniers

After loading up at Costco, we also stopped at the local Grassroots Coop for my yogurt, kale, tortillas and other assorted groceries. Note the bracelet on my wrist. I bought it on RoadID.com  after hearing the bracelet recommended at a presentation about bike touring. The Bike Touring 101 presentation I attended last winter was very helpful and you can read more about it on Grease Rag.

The bracelet provides important information about who you are and who to contact in an emergency. It’s a good idea for anyone who does stuff like bicycling, horseback riding, hiking, etc. where you might be off by yourself and could be injured. Actually, I think it’s a good idea period but especially in those cases. There are several different styles at a variety of prices. I went for paying the yearly $9.99 fee for the version with a serial number and pin that first responders can use to call and get more detailed medical information.

So if you’re not interested in bike touring, you probably quit reading several paragraphs ago. The thing is, I HATE running errands. I pretty much can’t stand shopping in general. It feels like such a waste of precious time. But running errands by bike, especially if you can drag along a partner in crime, makes shopping tolerable because it’s combined with taking a bike ride in the great outdoors. Okay you are riding through parking lots and on streets but still. If nothing else, smile wickedly as you pass by cars where people are swearing at each other as they compete for the best parking spaces and you walk up onto the sidewalk next to the door, and nab the best parking place in the whole lot.

wearing bike helmet

 

bicycle and mural

In the not so distant past, my reaction to fear was to have panic attacks that turned my body into the enemy, which was a good distraction from battling ‘the thing’ that was making me afraid in the first place. Such attacks are rare now and when they happen, it’s on a smaller scale.

Face your fears… that’s my current motto. I believe whatever I fear is usually an exaggerated, worst outcome scenario that only exists in my imagination. If I face the situation, I find that I really had nothing to worry about or that what I had to face was something I could handle.

But now I’m wondering if some fears are of a nature that the best thing to do is listen to them. Perhaps saying “No” is another form of bravery, another way of facing the fear and deciding this is one mountain I don’t need to see close up. Perhaps it’s okay to be a chicken sometimes.

chicken

Recently I faced an old memory and did not handle it as well as I thought I would. This has me more curious than upset. How deep does trauma go that it can rear up again in physical and emotional ways – not as intense as the initial event but still surprisingly strong and exhausting. To feel unsafe when your brain keeps reassuring you that everything is okay is strange and disconcerting. That solid groundedness I believed I had mastered seemed less assured. I didn’t expect to still be vulnerable to emotions that I thought were long gone.

I was drawn back to an earlier me, and oh, I grieved for that poor woman. But I also realized I wasn’t her anymore. Well, I am her but there’s been many layers piled on top and braided around her that have strengthened the rope. There have been many good memories since then that she can rest in, see herself in. Still, having those emotions come up made me ask myself how do I know when to face a fear and when to listen to it and decide to play it safe?

dog

I’ve been looking at horse boarding ads, hoping to find that perfectly rare situation: a stable less than a thirty minute drive away, adjoined to a park with horse trails, a smallish barn without the drama and competitiveness that can exist in large barns, and a place within my price range.

I did not find this perfect scenario. What I found was a stable 30 minute drive away with a short trail on the property, a mix of ages and disciplines, a good sized pasture for Luke with a large run in, and a good sized indoor and outdoor arena. And it’s within my price range.

I didn’t go to this barn and have an immediate “this is perfect for me” feeling that I had when I visited the place Luke is at now. But then the reason, the person who made the barn a home for me, is no longer there. She moved on to a new phase of her life while I remained behind, hoping that the barn would still work for Luke and I.

Luke-8-2-4

It hasn’t been a question of horse care — the new owners have taken good care of Luke. But I’ve missed the friendship and the camaraderie with other boarders. I’ve missed trail rides and seminars. Even though I don’t like busy barns, I miss the companionship of being around other horse people. I began to suspect that I was hiding away, remaining in a state of mourning for how things had changed. How could it ever possibly be the same or as good as it had been?

Of course, it couldn’t be the same. It would be different, but maybe different would be good too. Still, sometimes what we miss most in our lives is what we also fear going after.

I used the excuse that Luke was doing well where he was and I didn’t want to risk his heaves taking a turn for the worse or having him get picked on by another horse. But as I found myself going to the barn less and less and dreading it every time I went, I knew something had to change.  I’m not sure I’m making the right move, but I am making a move. If the choice I’ve made doesn’t work out, then I will try something else.

That’s something else I’ve learned — choices are not sentences that you have to live with forever. You can change your mind and pick another option. You handle whatever comes — including the grief that always seems to come with change, even if the change is something you want.

Reflections on where I was five years ago and everything that has happened since then makes me shake my head in disbelief. I would have never imagined my life was going to be what it is now. All my planning and worrying and trying to control the outcome is not what brought me happiness. It’s been people who came into my life and all that they have meant to me.

So I’m still not sure I’ve worked out how to recognize the fear that I need to walk towards and the fear I need to walk away from. Perhaps it’s a matter of whether walking away makes me feel better or worse. And perhaps it’s walking towards the fear that opens the door of possibilities.

horse

horse

horse

A Dream Within a Dream (excerpt)
by Edgar Allan Poe

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow —
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream…

Last Saturday night, I dreamed that I had a baby — a beautiful baby boy, much like the one I had in real life nearly thirty years ago. But there were these people, there must have been five or six faceless beings, shadowed in dark hoods. They snatched my baby out of my arms and threw me out the door. No matter how I pleaded, they wouldn’t let me back in. I stood outside the building and could hear my baby crying. If they were going to keep me away from him, they could at least pick him up and comfort him, I thought. I pounded on the door but no one answered. I circled around the building, looking for a window I could push open, a door left unlocked. I spent days there, trying to find a way in. And still my baby cried. When I finally found a way inside the building on a day when the hooded guards left and forgot to lock the door, I ran up the stairs to my baby’s crib and lifted him up into my arms. I was so happy, but I soon realized from the confused look on his face that he had forgotten who I was.

Since dreams are more symbolic than literal, I wondered whether the baby could be my book or even my writing in general. Who knows? It could have even been me, lost to myself for too long. Forgetting…

If only the dream had given me an answer. Perhaps it did. Through persistence, I did eventually find my way to the baby.

horse

I read an interview with artist Rebecca Rebouché this week in an online magazine called The Great Discontent. One of the questions Tina Essmaker asked during the interview was “What advice would you give to a young person who is starting out?” I loved Rebecca’s two part answer:

“First, bold delusion… You have to believe in yourself in an almost crazy way… to think that your ideas are valuable, which is, of course, not delusional at all.”

“Second: You have to build the ship to sail on. In other words, you can’t tell people about the ship you are thinking about building and expect them to buy tickets for the first ride. Instead you must first put in the work.”

Even though I’m not a young person just starting out and I already knew the truth of this in my head, the way Rebecca put this wisdom into words turned a key in the lock that all my “knowing” had merely managed to fumble with. Thoughts and beliefs in the head have to be recognized by the heart before they click.

dog

Busyness-wise, I feel stretched to the point that you could bounce a quarter off of me. I don’t know how I can manage to put in more time on writing than I’m already doing. Maybe eat frozen dinners rather than cooking from scratch. Quit cleaning house. Eat on paper plates or from the plastic containers that frozen meals come in to cut down on dish washing. Not go bike riding so much. Quit taking so many photos. Take my laundry in to have someone else wash it.

I mean, there are things that take time that I could cut out. Except…

I don’t like frozen, convenience food. I especially don’t like all the packaging that ends up in the garbage. Cooking, biking, hanging laundry outside — they are all grounding activities for me. They help me transition from whoever I had to be at work that day and whatever happened ——- to home.

Not yet finding a daily extra hour of writing time doesn’t mean that I won’t find that elusive hour. I believe I will.

I’m boldly delusional that way.

dog

Balancing a life can be even harder than doing jumps and cartwheels down a balance beam. I envy the people who manage this well. There are such people, aren’t there?

In the meantime, life goes on. The weather has taken a cold and windy turn, but there’s still been beautiful outdoor moments. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to miss them!

bicycle next to cannon

So if like me,  you could use a bit of soothing balm for your soul, I suggest you listen to John O’Donohue read his poem “Beannacht” (Gaellic for blessing). It is a beautiful poem and even more lovely read by his lilting voice, which unfortunately only exists on this earth in recordings now.

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