Sunday, August 13, 2017

Tales From the Laundry Room

Since Astoria, we've ridden some longer days, anywhere from 65-75 miles. A couple of those days involved some lengthy hills. Today, we had a 65-mile day, with some hills, but these were gentle and along the coast. The views were spectacular. I couldn't get enough of the tall cliffs, the waves crashing against the rocks, the sea gulls, the sea lions, and the whales. Whales! Just incredible.

One of the really fun things about doing a ride like this is all the different walks of life I encounter. Today, I met a couple from Las Vegas. I had just finished showering and was walking back to camp when they pulled in to do their laundry. The gentleman asked me how things were going, and I told him getting the road dirt off after a rainy morning felt wonderful. He thought I was riding a motorcycle. When I said no, a bicycle, he got that look of surprise so many give me when they find out what I'm doing.

I returned to the laundry room shortly after to do my nasty clothes, but the couple had used all three washers. They apologized profusely. No worries, I said, assuring them I was very content to just sit and read my book. Only I didn't read. He insisted on talking, and I learned they've been traveling since early June. They travel each summer to get away from Las Vegas. They've been all over the western United States as well as the middle of the country. Not so much in the east or southeast. Both are retired. He from ranching, raising horses, and she from teaching elementary school. Their kids are in the 40's and have children of their own. They've been to Europe and cruised down the Danube. Just a lovely couple.

All of this I learned in a small laundry room at an RV park in Florence, OR.

After they left, another woman came in to do laundry. She had forgotten her detergent, and when I offered her one of my pods, she looked at me with happy surprise. She told me she was doing her son's laundry and set about getting it into the washer. Then she began putting in the quarters but couldn't figure out how to do it. I showed her, and again, she looked at me as if I was the nicest person she'd met in a long time. She left for a bit, and as I was leaving after finishing my clothes, she was walking towards the laundry room. She stopped me and asked me if I was married. Yes, I said, to which she said darn. She'd told her son about me and was hoping I was available. She said she'd told him how she'd met the nicest person at the laundry room and that he should meet me. He's 38, she said. I laughed, telling her even if I was single I was too old for him.

Tomorrow is a shorter day. We roll into Coos Bay. I'm hoping to meet more interesting, funny, delightful people there.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Resting in Astoria, OR

Yesterday we rode into Astoria, OR. Goonies territory. Sea lions barking down at the docks. Painted ladies gracing the hillsides.

The morning started out very foggy, with a misting just enough to make wearing sunglasses annoying, but not wearing the sunglasses was even more annoying.

When we reached the ferry at Cathlamet, the sun started making gains against the fog. The temperature went from the mid 50's to 80 in a blink. My hands could finally warm up.

The final 26 miles to Astoria offered up some hills. Nothing that Sweetness couldn't handle, but I did hear a deep creaking coming from the crank. The front and back derailleurs need adjustment, too. No wonder after four days of 8% - 15% grades. A lot of mashing of the pedals going on. Hopefully, that'll ease up some. Hopefully.

Today's a rest day. I slept in the church proper, in a back corner. Alone. No one else chose the church to settle in for the night or for today. The quiet is bliss.

The days leading up to leaving home, I asked my husband to not call me, not text me, not email me. I need the time for me. He needs time to figure some things out for himself. I knew my mandate would be very difficult for him. But we both need some time to breathe. At least I do. We have talked, though, and texted. Not as much as we did when I did the Northern Tier last summer, so he is trying to abide by my wishes. And to be honest, it is nice talking with him after a day on the bike. But I know I need distance, both physical and emotional. The anger I've been harboring for so long began to diminish when I moved out, and I'm hoping being even further away will help me to continue finding a way past the anger.

Today has been lovely. I walked to the docks this morning, found a coffee shop where I ate quiche and drank chai while watching barges coming and going. I meandered around town, finding the Goonies house where there's a Do Not Walk or Drive Up to See the House! sign. I did get a picture of the sign, and when I walked a ways back down the block, I could see the house well enough to get a decent photo. From there, I went to the bike shop, then walked back to the SafeWay to buy groceries for the trailer and for my lunch/dinner today.

Tomorrow, a few of us are planning to stop along the way to go clamming. I've never been clamming, so this should be an interesting adventure. I am so looking foward to seeing the coast.

My breakfast: Can't complain about that view!

Saw some truly beautiful flower gardens on my walk.

The Goonies house: I couldn't walk up to it, but I was able to get a decent photo.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Two Days, A Jaw-Dropping Hill, and Yoga

Four days ago I left central Illinois to take on the Pacific Coast. I stayed the night with a friend from last summer's Northern Tier ride, sitting on her back deck, a glass of wine in hand, perfect for catching up and enjoying the evening. Finally, at midnight (two o'clock Illinois time) we said our goodnights. We picked up in the morning where we'd left off the night before, more catching up, walking a beautiful path around a lake, and pie on the way back to her apartment. I couldn't have asked for a more wonderful re-introduction to Seattle.

Saturday, my friend helped me load up my bike and gear then took me to the hotel where all of us riding the PAC coast were staying the night before starting out on the ride Sunday. We met each other, had dinner together, then played trivia. The day flew by. Before I knew it, I was in bed (actually on the floor since three of us were in a two bed room). I'd rather have the floor since I've become so used to having a much firmer mattress than what the hotel offered. I slept enough, but the jitters had set in, causing me to wake up a few times then wake up for good at 5 am. I took the opportunity to slip outside to the dock where I meditated for twenty minutes. I started the meditation with a slight headache, but by the time I was done the headache was gone.

I needed something to put in my tummy, so I went walking and found a coffee shop. Said coffee shop had vegan orange-cranberry scones. Though I have foregone flour/gluten for nearly two years now, like with pie, I make an exception for scones, especially orange-cranberry scones. This scone, hands down, was the best I've ever had. It melted in my mouth. The cranberries weren't the dried kind. No. These were tart, plump cranberries.

I was a little worried about my endurance coming into the ride. The longest training ride I did was 45 miles. I did quite a few shorter, slower rides, so I wondered how I was going to feel after the first day. I definitely got tired as we had a couple of tough hills. They were short but the grade was scary. The first hill was maybe a quarter mile, with a 15% grade. One rider told me her bike computer registered 0 mph as she pedaled up. I didn't look at my watch to see what my speed was. I can't imagine it was more than 1 or 2 mph.

Today was a longer mileage day, but I felt pretty good. I even did an hour yoga class at a local studio after getting to our destination. The teacher, after finding out I'm cycling long distance each day, tailored the class to shoulder openings and hip openings. I sweated more during that class than I did the entire 65 miles of cycling today. And my legs were absolute jelly. It felt so good, though.

Tomorrow is a shorter day. I hope to find another yoga studio to get a class in after the ride. I'd love to do a yoga class every day of the ride. A class in a different city for the next 28 days.

Yoga teacher Sara and my wild hair after taking a shower, riding my bike to the studio, and sweating like a stuck hog during the practice. Oh well. Wild hair, wild life!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Music Memories

I put Neil Diamond on the turn-table this morning to keep me company as I laid out the electronics I'll be taking with me on the ride. With the first few notes of "Everybody's talkin,'" memories from years ago flooded through me. Instead of sorting through the charging cords and other assorted electronics, I sat in the middle of my bedroom to float on the memories.

Summers spent riding ponies and horses through clover fields. Making construction paper ribbons and having our own horse shows with Mom as the judge. She never played favorites.

Hot summer nights playing Kick the Can. On rare occasions, Mom would call for us from the back porch that it was time to come in for the day. Most often, she let us determine our own bedtime.

Mom waking me up one August night to take me out to a blanket she had spread on the lawn. We laid there, watching meteors race across the sky.

Mom loved listening to Neil Diamond. Whenever one of his songs came on the radio she would turn it up.

When "Holly Holy" began, I couldn't sit any longer. I went out to the deck and danced. I wondered if Mom ever danced when no one was watching. Did she close her eyes, lift her face to the sky, and let the music flow through her?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Books in My Life

I recently finished reading The Yamas and Niyamas by Deborah Adele. I can't remember another book I wrote in as much as I wrote in this book. I felt like the ideas were reaching out and grabbing me by the collar, telling me, "Hey, we're talking to you." I now carry the book with me wherever I go. I specifically bought a bag big enough to put the book and a notebook in, so I can pull the book out and read it again, or pull the notebook out and write something that strikes me. This book came along in my yoga journey at the just-right time. It will go with me on my long cycling rides. I will use it to guide me as I move through my days.

A part of my yoga journey has included meditation. I took a meditation class at the studio I attend, and I loved each week we met, learned more about meditation. I'm now reading Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana, and this evening, as I mused over something about myself that I am unhappy about, my thoughts turned to what Gunaratana addresses in this book about ego. I stopped my musing about being unhappy and instead looked at the issue from a more detached perspective. When I did that, I found being unhappy about this particular aspect of myself is silly. In the big scheme of things, this aspect doesn't matter one bit. It doesn't affect my ability to do anything whatsoever. It doesn't interfere with any part of my life in any way. It simply is what it is. 

No one else cares.

Why should I?

I shouldn't. 

I sat in meditation this morning and constantly found myself having to pull my thoughts back, put them in little balloons and let them go, float up to the sky and disappear. I struggle with what Natalie Goldberg refers to as monkey mind in her book Writing Down the Bones, that voice inside that tries to disrupt, that tries to steer a person away from finding her true self. Sometimes I can corral the voice, but most often the voice finds a way out and begins its little tirade. Gunaratana advises persistence is the only way to move beyond monkey mind. Though I had to constantly pull the monkey mind back today, my time spent meditating carried over to other parts of my day and the rewards made me smile, made me feel quite content. This book, too, will go on my cycling trip with me. 

The last book I have decided to take with me on the trip is the first in the Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly. I've watched all three seasons of Bosch; I usually give up on TV series after the first or second season, but Bosch is a character I truly enjoy. I decided to give the books the series is based on a try, so I found a list of the order of Harry Bosch books and bought the first one. It's all I can do to not start the book now. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Keeping Good My Promise

Just a week remains before I head off to Seattle to begin the sabbatical adventure. The whole project is becoming real, not that it wasn't after being told I was granted sabbatical, but now that the bike is boxed up and shipped off, now that all my gear is boxed up and shipped off, the idea I wrote down in my proposal is beginning to take shape.

Actually, the idea began taking shape at the start of summer, right after the kids and I settled into the house we now call home. A friend suggested he and I ride and write together this summer. So we did. We committed to writing new pieces to share then discuss. Because of him, his support, his encouragement, his knowledge of poetry/writing/creating, I've been able to get a jump-start on my sabbatical project. I currently have 13 poems, and I have several more poem ideas percolating.

Each time I have a draft of a poem in place I'm emotionally exhausted. Immersing myself into the years of Mom's failing health brings out sadness, guilt, longing, pain. So many emotions flowing through me as I write. I hope those emotions are felt by the reader. My friend tells me they are, and I trust his responses to what I've written.

My friend has encouraged me to send a few of the poems off to literary magazines. And to keep my promise to myself that this year I would be persistent in writing and seeking publication, I have been sending my poems off. Each time I hit the submit button a twinge of fear bursts in my heart space. But I have to try. I have to keep good my promise.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

This Summer Sunday

Summer is steadily creeping by. Thankfully, the last three weeks have been quiet after several months of lots going on.

Now that the kids, Ado, and I are settled into the house, we've all found time to relax and just breathe. We have evenings of cooking together, watching movies together, and sitting on the deck to talk about our days. We have days where we each go our own way, but we find time to catch up sooner or later.

I've been cycling with a friend a couple mornings each week, and this same friend and I have been writing then sharing our writing with each other once a week. He's holding me accountable for producing new work, and while it's been a challenge, I'm so happy to have someone push me to create. Most of what I've written has been poetry that will be a part of my sabbatical project, giving me several pieces of the puzzle before I leave for the Pacific Coast ride. I feel like I have a head start, and I actually like what I'm seeing coming out of my own writing.

When I was in college, I took a poetry writing class during one of my last semesters. I needed some elective courses, so I decided to take writing poetry since I love to write. I'd never really tried my hand at poetry, mostly opting for short fiction, so I had no idea how it was going to go. I loved the class, and one of my poems was considered a standout by the professor as well as my classmates. It was just a short, simple poem, but everyone remarked about the imagery and the rhythm. Through the years, I've not written much poetry, just dabbled here and there. Now, though, my entire focus is poetry, which surprises me since I've always said I am a short fiction writer.

One of the more difficult aspects of writing the poetry is the subject matter. Since my sabbatical project will be pieces that somehow address MS, much of my time has been spent thinking back over the years of Mom living with MS. I've had some sad days lately. I didn't really think about how delving into memories might affect me when I wrote up my sabbatical proposal. During the past three or four days especially, as I've been working on the newest poem, I could tell when I needed to take a break and do something happier, like take Ado for a walk or go get a burrito with the boys. One afternoon, as I was getting up from the couch after taking a short break, I thought I need to call Mom. A second later I realized what I had just thought and decided to take the rest of the afternoon off from writing.

Lately, lots of thoughts about family, estrangement, and healing have been swirling in my head. I feel so incredibly fortunate that my kids like each other and enjoy being with one another. At the same time, I feel incredibly sad that my siblings and I are not all that close. We're civil to each other, but we don't go out of our way to stay in touch. My kids have their own group chat and call each other a lot. I have heard them vow to always keep tabs on one another, even as they grow old and gray. I tell myself to call my siblings, or at least email them, but I hesitate then don't do so. I don't know why I hesitate.

So I just keep living my life. Maybe one day I'll find the courage to begin calling my siblings just to say hi. Does there need to be any other reason to call?