Saturday, December 30, 2006

little match girl

it was the last night of the year.

it isn't yet, but it's pretty close and tonight i was thinking of deebs, who even as a grownup used to cry if you said that first sentence. fortunately, the older sister wasn't usually present to deliver the torment and for some reason i was too kind although kindness isn't really my thing.

i think i may never be warm again; i started being realy cold somewhere around two o'clock this afternoon and even though i've had a hot shower, i'm not really caught up. maybe tomorrow i'll have a sauna.

i'm home from the party, even though the party will be gong on until monday around noon. i considered staying, but i have church in the morning and plans on monday. besides, i've had some insomniac nights and i need the rest.

i don't know if you've ever suffered chronic insomnia, but when you go enough nights without any restful sleep you become desperate. it is a special kind of hell to lie quietly awake and watch the hours tick by until at last it is late enough that you know painfully well that even if you fell asleep now and stayed that way until morning you still won't have enough rest to get up and go to work.

but you get up and do it anyway.


it's time for bed. wish me luck.

Friday, December 29, 2006

catch and release

for reasons known only to me and maybe rumblestrip, that's the title of today's entry. never you mind why.

anyway, i realize it's been a while since i wrote and you know something? when you keep putting it off the project gets bigger and bigger. i decided this morning that i don't want to have blown off the entire month of december.

it's really nice out and although i am tempted by a new cache that hasn't been logged (online) yet, i am not outside. it is the first real winter day we've had yet; it is about twenty degrees and sunny. the topography here at my house is like this: ___________^

i live about five miles down a dirt road that goes across a long, low wetland and then you turn right downtown

(we actually call it that: downtown, even though all that's left of a once busy town center is an old silo and a four way stop. i may have said it here before, but it used to be that you could stand on the steps of the baptist church and look all the way through the notch.

you can still stand on the steps of the baptist church, but there's nothing else left of the church and the cellar hole is all treed in.)

anyway, you turn right downtown (your only choice except for the dead ends) and follow stage road , which is the boundary between the wetland on one side and bolton mountain on the other. i can't quite describe to you how dramatic this demarcation is. around here these days the sun comes up after nine in the morning because we're right up against the mountain and it takes that long for the sun to clear oxbow ridge.

in the late afternoon it's very pretty, though. from my livingroom couch i have a view of mount mansfield, and here at my desk i look out on the two ridges, one in front of the other. the near one, not as high, isn't frosted over, so that makes the far one that much more dramatic in the afternoon sunlight. brown. white. blue. and blue and blue.

besides the fact that i'm trying to catch up on some things at my desk, there's a big roving geocaching party taking shape for the entire honkin' weekend, but i only have tonight and tomorrow available so i'm also charging up my devices, installing new software, and otherwise getting packed to go.

last time i wrote it was thanksgiving week, which was mostly uneventful except for that somewhere out there i lost two things: my wallet and a coin. you can replace the contents of a wallet, but rumblestrip gave me that coin last winter and ever since it has either been in my pocket or in my hand.

courage, it says on it. rumblestrip wishes me to have courage. sometimes it comes in handy to be reminded.

two things happened to me the week after i got back. 'member that turkey breast that i bought on the wednesday before thanksgiving? well, i drove around with it in the back of my car for a week, and then thought to bring it inside and put it in the refrigerator and in the night i woke up with a hunger headache and pulled off a hunk and stuffed it in my mouth.

i wouldn't have bothered to think of it except that tha following day i went out caching with Tharagleb and i felt plenty queasy in the car, even though i was in the front seat. it took a day or two to settle out, but in the end everything was ok.

but the other thing was that i got busted for speeding on route 128 in westford. 67 in a 50. one hundred and forty-four dollars worth of busted. the ironic thing is that i habitually DO NOT SPEED on route 128. on the interstate it's como un pipistrello d'all' inferno but on 128 i do not generally speed.

so in the morning i'm coming over a hill into westford and i pick up too much speed and i think to myself "jumpin' jiminy! i am going way too fast." and i hit the brakes and that's when i saw the officer and i think he might not have noticed me had it not been for my sudden application of the brakes.

and of course i had neither license nor registration (see wallet, above), so that was fun.

so i called school to say i'd be late, only sally knows my first class is at ten and nobody was overly alarmed, except it's wednesday, when my first class is at eight-thirty, so that's a significant difference and nobody caught the error until the principal walks in and my class is there, but i'm not.

it took a couple of hours to get it all straightened out and everybody was sorry i'd gotten ripped a new one, but i was just so relieved it wasn't my fault that i didn't care.


dave said the greatest thing to me a couple of weeks ago: "we used to think you were mean", he said, "but now we understand you're just trying to teach us."


we've been working on this project about the circle of fifths (the governing principles of key signature) and the idea was to have the kids sound out the scales and then figure out the patterns. this one kid comes up with a set of simple rules completely unlike any other interpretaton i've ever seen and it looks improbable to me, but i get out my pencil and paper and darned if it doesn't work.

best original thinking i've seen in a long time.

but it is a hard project and i flit about the room, prodding, cajoling, and giving hints. some of the children do not have patience and are frustrated. i keep telling them, over and over: "i will not let you fail. i will not let you fail."

and i'm repeating it to myself over and over as i drive along nashville road and my voice fades into bob's voice and i know i'm being Spoken To.

i will not let you fail.


the coin showed up at the way bottom of one of my bags, and when i called rumblestrip to tell her the good news, she assumed at first i was talking about the wallet. "no", i said, "better than that."

it turned out that i was a missing person for a while. if you're going to be a missing person, as far as i can tell, it is much better if you remain blissfully unaware that you are missing.

when i am out caching, my wallet sits in a deep breast pocket. normally it would not fall out.

but i was in stanley park in westfield MA

(the first time i was in stanley park it was summertime and i was in love. stanley park is beautiful and even though it's been over a year and a half since the breakup, being at the park is kind of bittersweet.

someday if i have time i'll tell you about that breakup. the whole thing took about seven minutes. it started with "honey, what time are you leaving for connecticut in the morning?" and ended with "i'll have my stuff out in a month."

the lesson?

when you mean to say "i am angry that you did not jump at the chance to go to my father's retirement party when you found out you unexpectedly had the day free" you should not say "i think we ought to break up".

likewise, when you mean to say "i think we should talk about this but i don't want to talk about it right now just before i go to work", you should not say "i don't think there's anything to talk about".)

uh, anyway. the ground was kind of spongy and slippery, and it was covered with about four inches of fallen leaves, so on the rougher terrain i kept falling in such a fashion as to be head down.

i don't remember being down by the riverwalk in westfield, but it's plausible enough and that's where my wallet was found.

the guy turned it in to the police, who treated me as a missing person until the nice detective found a current post online and discovered that i was alive. due to the general circumstances of my life and my answering machine, i was slow to catch up to the story and did not get my wallet back until Christmas day in the afternoon.

i have a childhood friend who lives near westfield and who was coming up to see her mom.

the wallet still had the cash in it.

sometimes life is amazing.

and thngs would be just about perfect if i was sleeping nights, which i'm not, because i lay there awake with a heart rate of about 120. the topic comes up for conversation with dr. novas, who is kind of concerned because my last set of bloodwork came back with hyper thyroid indicators, which in and of itself wouldn't be terribly worrying except that i'm taking lithium, which will depress thyroid function.

so the general idea is that primarily i need to be getting sleep, becuase failure to sleep is for me much deadlier than an overactive thyroid.

my engine's running too fast, i need a haircut, and i have a bazillion things to do this afternoon before finally i get on the road to Flyingfisher's, from whence we will stage tomorrow's outing.

i got ta go.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

truck lane 500 feet

that's what it says on the sign in front of me; i'm pulled over to the side of VT route 9. i stopped to check my map and fix the zipper on my ski pants and i noticed that my computer had connected to someone's network.

i left Flyingfisher's house later than planned; i slept kinda late and there was breakfast and we kind of sat around talking a little.

even so, i managed to find ten caches (nine?), the last two in the dark.

i've had my very luxuriant dinner; i bought a hot turkey breast. and i had a fruit smoothie, a couple of little corn muffins, some cheese, and a very fine cream cheese brownie.

i also did a little light shopping and bought a roll of paper towels and a pair of sharpies. i don't understand what happened to my sharpies, but i had a surplus of them when i left work monday afternoon and all of a sudden i can't find any.

maybe it has something to do with the way my gear gets packed in the car. because i live in here, i have to be very precise in where things go. everythign has a bag; glove bag, raingear bag, cache stuff bag, cache pack...

anyway, if a thing gets put in the wrong bag or falls onto the floor, chances are pretty good that i won't find it until i get home.


it's about 1900h and i'd better get going, or i won't get all my water heated up and stuff ready for bed.

hope you're all having a good week.

Monday, November 13, 2006

way past odd

hey, it's only a few days later and i'm writing again! i'm almost caught up in my geocaching logs; i might be able to finish them tonight, if i get lucky and/or ambitious.

i've seen dave a couple of times since i last wrote. he's doing really well. it's hard to get him to start his work, but with some gentle prodding and much patience and good humor, he gets to it.

i used to have a kid in class who, when i said to him "you are an odd child.", he answered with "i am way past odd."

i loved this kid. every day he had something new and fresh to say. quirky sense of humor.

he graduated, went off to college, came back home.

he waited on me at the hardware store today. he is tall and handsome, polite and competent. he has a wife and child. he's a fireman. i have never forgotten him. i still love him. i've wondered sometimes where he is, what he's up to.

now i know.

Monday, November 06, 2006

open letter to "dave"

hey, dave?

it wasn't so bad today, was it? i know you melted down last time i saw you, so you weren't sure how to make your re-entry. you insisted that i hate you.

"i think only one of us gets to decide whether or not i hate you", i said.

you sat beside me, making editorial comments, quietly returning to that one point. you took it as evidence that i wasn't calling you up to talk to me earlier in the order. and just as quietly, firmly, patiently i kept explaining to you that i was calling whoever's name was on top of my stack.

you kept up with the comments, but as time went on i felt that you meant it less. you were uncoiling some. the truth is that i love you. you don't feel it and i don't think you'd believe it, but i hope that in time you'll come to know it as surely as you know anything.

and i'm sorry about your meltdown. i know now that it was a case of misplaced anger; it wasn't originally me you were angry at, but then when you tried to tell me about it, i didn't really hear you.

my fault. i realize that i was on my lunch break, trying to eat and get back to class, but ultimately my allegiance has to be to you and not to my own lunch. i failed you in that moment and i'm sorry. we both paid for it later. maybe i'll learn something from this. maybe i'll get some insight about how to talk to you, how to make you feel welcome and loved, safe and enfolded.

so. i'll see you again in a day or two. i'll try really hard to be patient and meet you where you are.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

time flies

all right, so i blew off the entire month of october. i'm sorry. i got caught up in some other stuff.

for a couple of days i was kind of weirded out by the effect you get when people with whom you are not actually that intimate kind of assume that level of friendship from reading your blog. and to a lesser degree, when you are standing there having a conversation with a live person and you KNOW you didn't tell them that one thing, but they pick up the conversation there anyway.

i knew what i was getting into when i started writing all this; it's a brand of performance art. i used to work as a storyteller. for a while i told children's stories, but then i started telling true stories. reaction was mixed. it was harder to get gigs, but the audiences had a stronger bond to the material.

so that probably only put me off for a few days.

and there was this thing about work; it takes a LOT of energy to be back doing the job i love. i have either been working at this job or preparing to work at it since about 1976, so it's kind of important to me.

and a lot has been happening there, a lot worth writing about, but due to the nature of the job, there's very little i can tell you about.

there was one thing, which is pretty much in the realm of public knowledge and old news to boot by this time:

one of our boys died last monday.

he had been in a car wreck sunday night and they kept him alive through about half the morning on monday. harvested a lot of organs, so maybe, just MAYBE some good can come out of this stupid, stupid horrible senseless thing.

one thing that maybe you should know about me is that i'm not anybody's mother, nor am i likely to be. so these children, the ones i work with, are my own precious children. they take that level of importance in my heart. and it just about kills me every time we have to bury one of them.

last fall a boy looked over at me and asked "if i died, would you cry?"

yes, i would.

a lot.

i don't know exactly why he asked; sometimes kids are just trying to put things in perspective, trying to understand.

everybody just wear your freakin' seatbelts, ok?

and besides all that, i'm pretty famous in the geocaching world for my complete failure to be up-to-date on my geocache logs. basically it's a lot like this, except the narration is broken up and spread out over the geocaches i visit. same activity, different venue. and i got over seventy logs behind largely because instead of writing my logs, i was keeping a blog.

so i kind of wanted to get caught up in the logs before i came back here and on top of it all, i've been spending time on the road.

maybe next time i write i'll have something interesting to say.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

who are ya?

ok, so i've been busy. you know, going to work.

and last weekend i went to montreal with the crashcos and rumblestrip. it is the first time we have brought rumblestrip with us, but otherwise a lot of it is kind of like habit. we like our traditions.

of course it is important to go to the loblaw's in delson as usual, and to buy various groceries: picnic foods and cookies and beer. i don't buy the beer, but crashco likes some of the canadian beers and we all like the cookies and chocolate.

you may not know this, but there are rules in canada regarding cocoa content in even regular candies that we get in the states, where the standards are much more lax. when you buy a kitkat in canada, you are getting much better chocolate than when you buy a kitkat in the states. we also find a bar of 99% dark chocolate. you really have to like it dark for that.

and we saw a box of "cerises de terre", which we had no idea what they were, so of course we bought them. they looked a lot like tomatillos, only they seemed to be passing themselves off as something fruity tasting. we decide that they must belong to the nightshade family on the basis of the appearance of the fruit and the seeds. i'll save you the trouble of looking it up and supply you with the link.

we missed galaad this year; we knew last year that she was kind of shepherding us around, but you never really notice how much you're being helped until your guide is no longer there.

we went back to that peruvian restaurant, and even with our weak french and weaker spanish we managed to get dinner just fine. when the food started coming to the table, we had a hard time remembering what we had each ordered, except for mrs. crashco, who had the chicken.

it rained during the night and it was raining in the morning, and by some amazing coincidence (no, probably not coincidence), rumblestrip managed to find a pretty decent place for us to go to church in the morning.

we did not fare so well at tim hortons, where we had some difficulty ordering. more specifically, i had some difficulty ordering my lunch. how hard can it be to order "combo #2"?

well, anyway. we went off to find some caches, and to not find some others. somewhere in the afternoon hours i had a really big mood swing. maybe i could have modulated it better; i felt the upswing and i know that i always have to pay for an upswing later.

so i was very grumpy for a while. i felt very much like getting drunk. i realized something that might be important:

even with the pain and more pain of the ECT, there was a thing i loved about it: that moment when the anesthesia kicked in (even if i was screaming and crying from the extreme pain of it as i passed out). that moment in which i passed out was a moment in which i felt the dissolution of my entire being. it's what i liked about drinking.

so ever since the ECT, i've been thinking about that. it's been a long time since it was even a consideration.

and then because it wasn't quite suppertime and also because it was raining, everyone else thought it would be fun to go to IKEA. didn't sound like fun to me, but sometimes we just bite down and do things for the people we love. so i plotted a course and navigated us there.

i would be lying if i tried to tell you i was sad to see they were closed for the evening.

but there was a geocache nearby! just feet from here! unfortunately, on the other side of that building. and blocked by that fence.

so we drove around for a while (a LONG while), looking for the one tiny little road that would take us to it. the IKEA stands in the middle of a great clustertangle of autoroute exchanges and one-way streets.

mrs. crashco and rumblestrip are in the backseat talking ceaselessly about cats (i will never understand this impulse), and crashco and i are gyro-navigating without much result for a long time. we finally get on the correct road, but then miss the turn into the correct parking lot and get dumped back onto an autoroute ramp. by the time we find the right spot, it is dark. still raining, and dark. neither of us gets out of the car with a light, even though we have plenty of them with us. and something nearby smells very, very dead.

when we find the cache, we decide that we are not letting mrs. crashco and rumblestrip sign the log. mrs. crashco could not care less, but in retrospect i decide that we have been ungenerous to rumblestrip and i feel sad about it.

and we're thinking about where to eat and nobody seems to have any idea, but then i remember a cafe i'd been to a long time ago and i look it up on the laptop and it's still there. cafe santropol is a quirky little place that serves sandwiches and features cream cheese in about a bazillion ways. everything comes with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, which i know will please rumblestrip, so that's where i decide we will go.

coming back over the border we are caught in line for a couple of hours. there's this guy sauntering down between the rows. rumblestrip identifies him as engaged in attention-getting behaviors. i explain to her that he's just going over to talk to people he knows, a theory rumblestrip is prepaered to accept until the guy moons all the traffic. repeatedly. ok, so once again rumblestrip proves that she is not just the good-looking one, but also the smart one.

just say no to crack.

it's a great week at work; everything falls into place. everything is going well. so well that for some parts of it i wonder why it took me twenty years to think of it.

all the while i was unable to return to work i spent a lot of time asking bob the Big Scary Question: what if all this means that i'm not meant to go back to that work? what if i'm meant to do something else?

all right
, i kept saying. i'd rather it were not that, but if it comes to that, it comes to that. i will do what you ask of me.

even with my recent successes, i might still reasonably ask the question, but i think bob and i have arrived at an agreement: if it comes to that, i'll be given clear instructions. i'll be given the chance to leave my job with the appropriate farewells that are due a twenty year veteran. when you leave a community in which you are so enmeshed, you deserve the chance to say goodbye and thanks, to bequeath your equipment, to look around the place and walk out with your head up.

i want them to bury me in my BFA shirt.

so anyway, i'm back at work, and i'm staying around. every day when i come to the end of it, i feel i have done some good in the world. it's probably more than i have a right to ask for.

and then it was friday. i packed my bags and left the house in the morning and after work i went straight down to lebanon, where Flyingfisher lives. last summer i practically lived at the Flyingfishers', but this year i've been at home, not able to travel so much. and i've missed Flyingfisher.

so i get there and even though Flyingfisher isn't hungry, mr. flyingfisher and i have some dinner. and Flyingfisher and i sit up way too late playing with her extensive collection of geocoins.

in the morning, there is the traditional breakfast of oatmeal with blueberries, or more accurately, blueberries with oatmeal, and a couple of eggs.

eventually we all pack into the car and we head for foxboro MA, but on the way there is a geocache on which Flyingfisher has her heart set. we look for a long time and we do not find it. we look right up until the time we have to get going so they can get me to church on time. we drop mr. flyingfisher off near gillette stadium and go off to find the church. we arrive at a nearby side street in just enough time for me to change clothes into something presentable and skedaddle inside.

very uncomfortably, the homily sounds like it is aimed at me particularly. and even though i have promised to tell the truth here, you're not getting that much truth. not for love or for money.

aside from that, there are some congregational prayers for the patriots, whose season will open the following night. this is a little strange for me; a little culture shock. later on in the story, i will tell you with the voice of the omniscient narrator from the future, we will be standing in the stadium singing "tomorrow night it's only football", which suits me just fine, because i hate football and i take a perverse joy in insisting that football is what they do in gillette stadium when more important things aren't going on.

so anyway, we rejoin mr. flyingfisher in the parking lot, in the section reserved for the midnight riders. i am very obviously a visitor; i am not wearing appropriate revolution regalia. the grills are fired up. beers are being drunk. cigars are being smoked. there's some early singing. we admire the pinata made in the image of a red bull, the new york team's mascot. it has tony meola's name inscribed just under the tail. everyone thinks this is very funny. there are some amusing "dead bull" t-shirts, a play on the ubiquitous red bull trademark.

everyone, including the new york fans, seems to prefer talking about the team using its previous name, the metrostars. it appears to pain the new york fans somewhat that their new team name is a corporate sellout.

at one point a handful of guys in red shirts and scarves pulls up very close to us and as soon as they emerge from their car, they are subject to ridicule and harassment.

who are ya? who are ya? who are ya? who are ya?, the revs fans chant, advancing in a line, pointing fingers. there's some abusive shouting. the revs fans sing if your team is not a beverage, clap your hands and if you're not a corporate sellout clap your hands, at which time the small group of metrostar fans come on over and accept a couple of beers that have been offered, and some barbecue.

they stand with good natured equanimity while our guys beat the heck out of the pinata, and burn one of their shirts. while they do this, they sing:

(sort of a drunken tuneless "my bonnie lies over the ocean")

if i had the wings of a swallow
if i had the ass of a crow
i'd fly over jersey tomorrow
and shit on those bastards below.

the red guys stand by placidly. i remark to mr. flyingfisher how strange this behavior is, but he shrugs it off. "they do it to us when we play at their stadium."

it's kind of a tribal ritual, i guess. and i'm told that although they support different teams in US play, they all support the US national team together, so they're friends.

ok, so it's a cultural thing.

the stadium security is not as easygoing. they come right over and demand that we extinguish the burning shirt. it takes a while to organize this, because nobody is willing to pour beer on the fire and somebody has to find an open soft drink.

at last it's time to go into the stadium. i'm starting to feel more at home. the first time i went with the Flyingfiishers to a game i was overwhelmed, but i'm starting to get the hang of some of the tribal ritual. and mr. Flyingfisher hands his really big drum over to me for the night, which puts me smack dab in the middle of it. there's a LOT of drumming with the singing; it has a hypnotic quality.

i get caught up in the unison arm-raising and it strikes me that this gesture wouldn't have been out of place at a nuremberg rally. it's a lot more cheerful and a lot more benign, but the large group mentality is certainly there. it is quite a rush.

and somewhere around eight minutes into the game noonan makes the night's only goal and the fort goes wild. we pass up the huge revolution banner, everybody grabbing on to it to pass it up, covering the first several rows of seats. and the people under it keep poking at it from underneath like popcorn, keeping it moving until it is retracted again.

it is a good night to be a revs fan.

and when the game is over, we reconvene at the top of the section and process to the entrance, where we drum and sing while the crowd leaves the stadium. and then we process out into the parking lot, where the red bull guys again stand good-naturedly around while more abuse is flung at them.

and then the singing becomes more esoteric and much more vulgar, which i find amusing. i'd quote it for you, but, cancel that. i wouldn't quote it for you. i just wouldn't . when i was in college i belonged to a secret society whose entire purpose was to roast marshmallows and sing dirty songs, but these particular songs were beyond our reach. interesting, though.

we get home to the Flyingfishers' house, um, late.

in the morning Flyingfisher and i have breakfast and dash out (well, as much as we ever do go dashing out anywhere) to come back up here and then some to be in johnson to celebrate DJ and CAL's 1000th cache find. DJ and CAL are stalwarts of the vermont geocaching community and a large group of people gather at rather shor notice to picnic with them and come along to witness the big moment.

salt of the earth, those folks.

so we're up there at the top of the hill, on the cliff, looking out at that fabulous view in the late afternoon light and i am standing at the ege, solid and strong, arms outstretched. for a moment i look behing me and i know in an instant that rumblestrip kows exactly what i am thinking. after a few moments she comes over to stand beside me. "you told me this day would come", she says.

down in the parking lot, there is more picnic to be had; desserts are coming out.

it's a good day to be alive.

Monday, August 28, 2006

keep your hand on the plow

today was my first day back at work since i left it last december. it is a job that i love and that i'm good at. it's also my first job right out of college. i've been out of college for more than a few years.

people were glad to see me. i can't tell them what i've gone through, of course, so they don't really understand the full import when i say that the worst thing about the winter, spring and summer was that i was unable to be there, in that place, doing that work.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

bob sez

permission? you don't need my permission to quit early.

...but you'll know if you did your best.

most precious treasure and suddenly for a few moments i almost wish i had a little less of it.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

burnt offering

it's been that kind of week.

sunday after church i thought it would be nice to go for a ride; something easy after saturday's hard riding. so i thought i would just get on my bike and ride out from the driveway.

i live in west bolton. for argument's sake let's say i live right downtown. in truth, i live a little ways from downtown, but close enough for government work. the post office considers it to be jericho and the phone company considers it to be richmond, but it is not.

it is west bolton.

bolton is one of those towns whose borders don't really match up with the landscape. most of it falls on the north side of the winooski river and up and down the surrounding hills.

outside of bolton proper there's that little bit hanging on to the south side of the river, which is sometimes referred to as "bolton landing" and there's our little corner of it up over the mountain, by either notch road or stage road. it used to be a real town with mills and stores and churches. used to be you could stand on the steps of the baptist church and look clear through the notch.

you can still stand on the steps of the baptist church, but that's all that's left of it; it's only a cellarhole now. and the trees have grown back, so you can't see past cemetery road, let alone into the notch.

most of the structures and livelihood of the town were swallowed up by the government for the installation of the firing range.

but anyway, if you leave my house you either go up or down. there's going to be a climb. you can defer it a little while by going out nashville road, but once you get out to brown's trace you can downhill or downhill. no matter how you slice it, you're going to climb on the return trip.

so i figured i'd take the gradual rollers of nashville road on my way home. go down stage road, maybe tool around on the river road, come back up by skunk hollow or barber farm. here's a version of the supposed route.

stage road is almost entirely unpaved. and it's steep. and there's a lot of gravel and some washboard and some washout, so you can't afford to go all that fast.

but there's this thing about gravity; suppose for a moment that i am a fairly heavy little woman (not a big stretch of the imagination) riding a bike with narrow tires and fast hubs. at some point there's just no stopping, because the force i have to apply to the brakes exceeds the ability of those two little patches of rubber to hold their position on the road.

so it's slow going. and i have to be careful of how much braking i do, because there's always the possiblity that the brake pads will glaze over, or the tire rims will overheat and a tire will pop.

and if that happens to you on a steep descent, you learn to fly.

and then land.


with much debriding to be done.

incidentally, the reason men in the cycling world often shave their legs is not because it makes you more aero; the benefit is negligible. the real reason is because when (and you will note my use of the word "when" rather than "if") when you fall, it is much, much easier to debride the resultant road rash.

a while ago i was rollerblading on route 100 just south of waitsfield and i was trying to gain speed coming downhill and caught an edge. i got road rash on my left calf, left thigh, and right thigh. deep enough to bleed freely. and i got to keep skating, because i fell near the bridge, but my car was parked at the laundromat.

i got a talking to for coming home late, too, which seems kind of incomprehensible.

the worst part was that after i got all the gravel and dirt out of the wounds, i had to apply a dressing, cover that with make up, pull on nylons and get down to the theater. oddly, while onstage i did not feel the pain.

but it was the first week of july (does july ALWAYS suck?) and that puppy didn't scab over let alone heal until sometime in october. talk about insomnia. and it was a hot summer, too. it's been fifteen years and you can still see the scar.

uh, anyway.

by the time i got down stage road my hands were tired from judicious application of brakes. the plan was still to take an easy, casual ride.

so it's a bit of a mystery to me how i ended up crossing the river and heading up wes white hill. i remember going up it a couple of times on a mountain bike. maybe you know this and maybe you don't, but the gearing on a mountain bike is a lot more hill friendly and i did not remember it being quite that painful.

but i did it. and then since i happened to be in huntington, i took hinesburg hollow road over to -duh- hinesburg and then came back home through richmond. so much for the easy ride.

got back home just as i lost the light.

and then monday i went out to catamount for their monday treasure hunt and ended up on a trail i haven't seen but once or twice. which is odd, 'cos that place is kind of my second home. i know the trails pretty well. and i got a brand-new water bottle for my trouble.

i spent some time practicing some of the technical passages that i've either lost the ability to ride or never had the ability to ride. i fell some. nothing serious.

and tuesday night i took four minutes off my best time on the run. i felt fast out there, too. i started to run and i simply handed each step over to bob. it's been a tough week, and riding or running i just decided to turn it over. every step, every pedal stroke.

the stress of the week takes a toll on me. the length and steepness of the rides stay with me; my muscles are tired. but i run hard on tuesday, ride hard on wednesday. and in yesterday's time trial crashco and i rode at an average of 18.55 MPH. he had to pull me all the way around, but he's in good shape and he has that spiffy new bike. but he's a dear and he not only does all the work, but he recalls last year when i had to pull him.

but i am toast. burnt up. but each night i come to sit in prayer and no matter what each day has brought me, i am thankful in spite of myself.

courage, i ask. give me courage to endure. put your strength in my hands. let me carry your Light.

maybe i'm asking for the wrong things. i'm still asking to be made a good servant rather than for pain abatement. i ask for blessings on (proper name) and (proper name) and some others while i'm at it.

i'm thankful that i've been able to read. i have some rules about reading scripture. here's what i wrote rumblestrip:

according to the rules (which i make up) i am not allowed to read scripture when i am drugged, overtired, distracted, or otherwise too bunched up to give it my full attention. given these rules, it's fairly amazing that between october and january i read the entire KJV. yesterday i finished exodus and read most of leviticus. since i start wtih the NT and then cycle around to the beginning, this represents pretty good progress on the NLT.

but somewhere along the way i had a talk with bob about obedience. and i realized: reluctant obedience counts. faith in the context of suffering has meaning. there aren't any special prizes for it, and you know for certain that Grace is a gift. it is not earned. you cannot buy it, not with any amount of suffering and yet every step, every new breath is a triumph.

i have this ongoing fantasy in which i run a race that is difficult and painful. i don't win it, not by a long shot. but the people present know me and know what it takes for me to cross that finish line, and they stand and cheer, calling my name.

it's called tuesday.

and i know to whom it belongs.

"place me in your heart so that others may see."

Saturday, August 05, 2006

life's tough; get a helmet.

okay. i was going to just go to bed because i'm tired and it's going to be a comparatively early morning. church is at nine in the summer. i really like it better at ten, but i don't get to choose.

i don't necessarily need quiet to sleep, but my neighbors (mere children, they appear to me. ...hear that, mrs. crashco? these kids are twenty-somethings and they seem very, very young to me. we're middle-aged, babycakes. get used to it. and while we're at it, looked in a mirror lately? salt-and-pepper is an attractive look for you, but those are still grey hairs.)

uh, anyway.

my neighbors are having a party and there's at least one guest who's had enough beers and they're very loud. i don't mind steady party hum, music and such, but intermittent shrieking at irregular intervals gets on my nerves at about the same level as the presence of small children.

i am not fond of small children.

if you give me a choice between two happy toddlers and a whole roomful of sullen thirteen-year-olds, i know who i choose. no contest.

so i'm not in bed yet. soon. i'm thinking maybe of pressing the ipod into service. but i have a few minutes more and i'm writing this, which is a pleasant enough way to pass the time. gives me some time to absorb dinner, too. leftover chinese. it's what my mom brought over yesterday. and i was plenty hungry.

i went for a bike ride, which was good in itself, but actually pretty close to a small miracle if you're following along.

'member last week, when everything looked all good and everything? sometimes life throws you a curve ball. on thursday rumblestrip went with me up to the building where i work, just to check out my room and to walk around some. get the feeling of the place. i've been away a long time.

and things look pretty daunting and i cry some, but i still manage to get to my race and i manage to improve over my last time on that course by FOUR MINUTES. it's still four minutes slower than my best time on that course, but that was last year and i was fifty pounds lighter.

but everything felt like it was going to be all right.

and then on friday around noon the phone call came. i don't feel like telling you the whole story, but it cut me off at the ankles and all of a sudden all i can do is cry.

and at one point i call rumblestrip, which turns out to be a mistake, because she is unable to help, but still in a position where she can worry. she has a meeting she has to be in, and then she's going to be on her way to some place in maine.

but then i get a grip i think i'm going to be all right, and i tell her so. i talk to my mom, too. and i go to the post office to pick up the certified letters. 'dja ever notice that good news rarely comes in certified mail?

and they're worse than i'm expecting and i don't think i can hold up under the strain of it and all of a sudden i don't think i can go back to work. come to think of it, i don't think i can continue to draw breath; i wish to be excused. i am toast. i am finished.

there's a lot about this next interval that i simply don't remember. i know that some of the people i would call are too far away, either because they live too far away, or because a they have chosen THIS day to go away to maine or seacoast new hampshire or what-have-you, and finally i reach my mom and spend a lot of the next couple of hours trying to explain to her that i'm done and it's time for me to go.

just imagine for a moment what it must be like to be the mother who loves me so.

...okay, you don't have to think about it anymore, but it's not so easy if you're my mom. she doesn't have the luxury of not thinking about it.

and at one point one or the other of our phones drops the call and all my mom knows is that i'm out there somewhere, and it's not good. and i don't know who-all else she might have called, but a message comes in on my phone.

my mom has called rumblestrip.

'member? i told her i'd be all right. the one thing i know for certain is that i want her to be able to enjoy her weekend and not worry about me. and now she has grounds to really WORRY and she's out of range. for the whole weekend. blast.

i know i got home somehow. and i know i was on the phone with my mom when there was another dropped call. why would a call get dropped?, i think. because they're coming out here. i have to get away from here.

so i grab my bag and a few things and i get out. i call again from someplace but i won't tell where. i am stunningly out of my head, paranoid and out on the road. but somehow i get it into my head that what i would really like to do is go down to the church and sit there, preferably with the pastor, but i do not have her number, nor do i have a key to the church.

i try to call some of the people i think might be able to help, but either cannot get their numbers or they are not at home. i do finally get in touch with the (proper name)s, but as luck would have it, they're on their way to maine.

i'm on my way to hell. could be i got there. it's hard to tell, signage on that particular road being what it is.

but they're tenacious. they have a phone book in their car. they give me some numbers and apparently they make some calls as well. 'coz a couple of calls come in that i'm not expecting. and DJ calls in the middle of it, and he is not expecting to hear any of THIS. he is expecting to talk to the lighthearted flask, the one that goes out and finds geocaches.

at some point in the evening the pastor reaches me. we talk for a while, which helps some. and i have already decided due to an amazing little piece of warped reasooning that i am not going to try to explain that i'll wait until at least monday to check out.

it's really stupid reasoning, but at least it buys us all some time, eh?

and today i discover that i have run out of paid leave (not a surprise, but it sucks when it happens, just the same) and i have $401.09 on which to live for the remainder of the summer.

and i am not in the mood to think about how i will proceed if i am going to recover my life and return fully to the realm of the living. it is very hard to plan for difficult circumstances if you're already of the opinion that none of it matters because you'll be dead anyway.

but eventually i pick up the thread and decide i'll give it a try. so i'm kind of back to where i was last monday, only now i think things are actually going to be easier.

try to follow this: up until things hit crisis proportion yesterday around four, i'd probably have just continued on, barely keeping my head above water. but now we have a plan, and possibly some solutions.

so i go for a bike ride.

i head out of richmond up to the gore road, only i don't go through huntington. i decide that i will get there by way of hinesburg and bristol. bristol, for goodness' sake. go ahead and have a look at the map.

i didn't bother to really look at the map when i left; if i had, i might have noticed that it's forty-three miles. i knew about all the climbing, though. i just figured to take my time and go easy.

there's only so easy you can ride going up route 17, though. any way you slice it you're still going up over the mountain.

i'm out of water by the time i get to the jerusalem corners store. lately i have learned that in a lot of places if you stop to buy a gatorade or whatever, they'll fill your water bottle from the tap, saving you a dollar and a half.

and i have a lovely conversation with a guy on a motorcycle who's on his way home to concord, nh. rubber side down, i tell him. i drink my gatorade, toss the bottle, and resume climbing.

i am tired and pleasantly surprised to find that the descent actually starts way before you hit the gore road, so i was going pretty fast when i started to come down it, but then i had this weird sense of jamais vu and thought i'd taken some other road; nothing looked familiar until i got all the way down to van dine road, and even then things looked foreign, but the street sign and the cemetery were proof positive that i was where i was.

i kind of chalked it up to being kind of tired. kind of a hard day.

as i was going by i noticed (and not for the first time) that texas hill road is only marked if you're coming up from richmond; maybe they assume that if you're coming from huntington proper you know where it is.

and i'd forgotten, but you actually have to climb again a little on the way out to richmond, but then when that last descent comes you FLY. i don't know how fast exactly i was going, but i know what it feels like to be in excess of fifty miles an hour on a bike, and it was a lot like that.

no brakes. not 'till you get down into richmond. and i almost timed it right to get the green light at the bridge. almost. the second i footed down, the light turned. and then i couldn't quite clip in with my right foot, but when that light turns you really have to book if you're on a bike.

so i got home. had dinner. leftover chinese. a fairly large pile of it. and now the neighbors are a little quieter, and i have church in the morning. they'll be looking for me there.

sometimes when things are at their worst, somebody hands you your helmet and tells you to get back out on the course. sometimes it takes a lot of people and some careful stepping, but you get there anyway.

Monday, July 31, 2006

le monstre

okay, so mrs. crashco is irritated with me since i pointed out to her irrefutably that we are now middle aged. well, babycakes, when you can point to events in your adult life as happening twenty years ago, you are middle aged, at least.

i started going to the international fireworks competition at la ronde in, what? 1988? '89? anyway, it was a while ago, back when it was "l'international benson & hedges". now the prime sponsor is lotto-quebec, which only makes me feel marginally better, staring at the sign across the lake.

i have never in my life purchased a lottery ticket. i have been given a couple of scratch-offs, some of them even have been small winners, but i've not redeemed them. it seems to me that lotteries are nothing more than a tax on stupid people and i'm morally opposed. maybe i should be morally opposed to more important things, but i will never forget the day i was standing in the convenience store near exit 16 in winooski and this woman came in with three kids hanging off of her, begging for something to eat and it was the kind of begging where you realize that these children are no strangers to hunger.

so anyway, she says to the clerk that she'll have the usual. the clerk knows without being told that this is a carton of marlboros and fifty dollars in lottery tickets. one of the tickets was a $500 winner and they were all so happy but i couldn't help thinking that if you buy that many lottery tickets and a freakin' CARTON of marlboros every friday five hundred dollars is a pretty poor return.

so anyway. i think i've just gone on a rant that's pretty far off-topic, even for me.

so i used to go to the fireworks twice a week at one point in my misspent youth; i've watched them from inside la ronde with gen-you-wine tickets, but back in the day we sat on the hill outside, where you can't actually see the low elements, or from the opposite bank of the river (you also can't see the low elements, but you smell the gunpowder plenty strong) and my favorite place was out on the pont j-c, almost directly opposite the paid seating. you're much higher up and you see it backward, but it's a pretty good view and you can see everything. if you plan to get a good view from the bridge, you should plan to be there around 1930h, because the bridge fills pretty fast. and bring your walkman, because the fireworks are set to music and they broadcast the music on one of the radio stations and it's pretty fabulous.

i used to go on wednesdays and on saturdays all through the summer and i'd park on the island and walk up the stairs in that great art-deco tower and find my place out on the bridge before the crowd came.

i knew the competition rules and became pretty good at picking the winners. one year i was out on the bridge for the night the US was presenting. there were ten thousand of us up on that bridge and who knows how many more all around the city and the program was entirely set to the music of aaron copland. to the music of appalachian spring we saw shells that exploded with leaf green and sky blue. there's a part in the music where a two-note figure is carried down through the brass section to one long note in the tuba and for this they sent up rockets one to a note, in pairs, progressively lower down and when that tuba note came red fire spread all across the pond and for just one moment on that bridge i could feel ten thousand people all suck in a breath at the same time.

and they ended up with a gold willow shell bursting on beats one and three for the entire end of the piece and the effect was so stunning that what followed was complete and utter silence for longer than one might think possible.

the australians that year managed a second place finish with what in another year might have won them gold. the australians are especially good at novelty shells; ones that explode into spirals or happy faces or stars and such.

but no matter where you watch from, you're going to be caught in the monumental traffic jam that follows. you can get all het up about it or you can relax and have a good time, but you're not getting off the island until well after midnight.

i used to pack quite the little picnic; caviar and cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off. other little treats.

but i can't keep up that kind of schedule anymore. for one thing, i have a standing date on wednesdays. so these days i try to make it once a year. since i'm only going once, i spring for tickets in the silver section, which is where the good seats are. you can pay ten dollars more for stupid perks in the gold section, but you can't see anything from over there anyway and you might as well stand on the bridge. maybe the point of being in the gold section is to be seen, but if you're that special they have better seats for you near the judges anyway. just behind the silver section.

i rest my case.

it turns out that rumblestrip has never been.

"well, we must go.", i declare. turns out between this and that and the other, the only night she has available is the final night, when instead of a competitor's presentation, they announce the results and a team hired by la ronde presents a show. it's never as good as if they're an entrant, but the hired team this year is panzera SAS and i've seen them when they're competing and they're very good.

i have a hunch it will be better than whatever rumblestrip has ever seen anyway.

and i have an opportunity to pack a picnic. i LOVE to pack a picnic. mine is a cooler of wonders. and lately there's a lot i owe to rumblestrip, so the theme of the day kind of becomes "let's spoil rumblestrip a little and have a really good time".

i'm trying to get to bed by ten on friday, but i know it just isn't going to happen because it's ten o'clock and i'm frantically trying to process my PQs, including one run on the route to montreal, which is a feature that uses google earth and is new, so i don't quite know how to work it yet. but it's very cool.

and the phone rings. it is Flyingfisher, who is probably one of only three people in the world i would have been willing to talk to at that moment, but much as i miss her, i'm kind of distracted by the running and processing of the PQs and the fact that morning will come roaring up early.

the idea is to be on the road at seven, because we thought it would be good to spend the day in the city (we both lovemontreal; what's there not to love?), maybe geocaching, maybe doing something else. it doesn't matter. it's all going to be good.

i've been having some problems getting up in the morning, so the plan is that Rumblestrip will come to my house and tear me out of bed and put me in the car, which will already be packed.

but the night is kind of warm, so i don't want to pre-pack the cooler. i actually get up at 0630h to do that, and i also have some breakfast. or at least leftovers from dinner, because if there's one thing i know, it's that anything that's good enough to have for dinner is good enough to have for breakfast.

we think that probably after getting home prettty late, we will not be up to waking for a nine o'clock service (summer schedule) at richmond, where we are both members. it's been my habit when i am on the road to go to church wherever i happen to be. you have maybe heard me say this before, but i am certain that God is not at all fussy about place or denomination; what is important is that you come to be in attendance among the Living Body of Christ. so on weekends when i have sunday bike races, i find a saturday Mass near where i am and that's just fine. i stand out pretty clearly as not catholic, but they take you pretty much how you are and for the most part people are very kind and welcoming.

so our plan is to find a saturday Mass near the city, preferably one in an english-speaking parish. we both have some command of french, but i'm still kind of out of my element at Mass, and i need those audible cues to keep up with the service.

and in an entire morning of geocaching, we realize that we have not seen a church since we passed through the towns on route 133, pretty early in the trip. we start looking for churches, but then rumblestrip (who i think is smarter than i am) gets the brilliant idea to find a phone book and she starts to call around to parishes that have english sounding names and we find one in brossard with a five o'clock Mass. so we cache a little more and then we find our way (hooray for mapping software and GPS) to the church. we're a little early, which gives us time to change. hey, we race mountain bikes, so one thing we have learned (or i have learned and rumblestrip, who is still new to it, is learning) is that the world is our locker room, and that with the aid of a changing skirt, one can wash up and change for almost any occasion if only one has a parking space.

but then it's very close to five and no one else is arriving. blast. on the SUMMER SCHEDULE (which is not posted) there is no five o'clock Mass.

i am at a loss. i can't face trying to get to an early service in richmond.

but rumblestrip is smart. she starts calling other churches, looking for one with a five-thirty Mass and she finds one where a LIVE PERSON confirms this fact by phone, but it's in longueuil, so we'll have to book. we make not one but two wrong turns (one to each of our fault) and THEN i make an error in setting the route in the navigational software and we end up in the wrong place but in sight of the steeple but just too late to make Mass.

but, see, rumblestrip is not only smart, but she has a cool head and can think in a pinch. and she thinks that maybe what we should be doing is calling churches NEAR HOME to find a service that starts later in the morning.

and that's where i get the brilliant idea: let's drive around a little and see if we can't pirate an open network. we find an open network. it's only one bar, but for some reason it connects right up and stays connected. i take a moment to answer my email, in which is a note from cornflakes, who are trying to solve my newly reactivated cache, the shrew, untamed. somebody last summer called me a shrew and this was my preferred vengeance.

let it be a lesson to you. do not cross me; i will only turn it into a puzzle to torment innocent people and then make oblique references to you while i giggle.

so anyway, i got on the web and we searched just about every church in the burlingtoareaan and we found one with a service that starts at 11:15! i am so happy that i grab rumblestrip's head in both my hands and kiss the top of it, pulling her for a moment out of her usual vertical position. lucky for me her head is fastened on pretty firmly.

so we go on out to la ronde. we're debating getting on a rollercoaster; we're both a little nervous about it. i have not been on a rollercoaster since the days just before my gallbladder and i parted company, so i have some memory of a nearly constant nausea being uh, somewhat "tickled" by the added spatial chaos of a coaster, but yet i also remember the first time i rode le monstre.

my friend john had taken us up to la ronde to see the fireworks and the rides are included in your ticket. he loves le monstre and he got me to go on it with him. as soon s the car we were in engaged on the track to climb up to the top, i lit into him:

how DARE YOU, i demanded, allow me to get on this thing?!? what were you THINKING?!?

but then we were at the top and all of a sudden i was screaming. and i realized an amazing thing: when you are engaged in a good, well-supported scream, your innards are not free to bounce around in your body cavity in response to your sudden positional changes. in short, i have found the secret to really enjoying the ride.

can we go again?

so rumblestip and i find ourselves walking out toward le monstre, as if it has some gravitational pull. we have not decided that we will ride it. but then we're there, so we get in line. and while we're in line, rumblestrip is a good sport and listens to the story of my sudden parting with my gallbladder, but more importantly, as i go on and on (it is a long, slow line) about my job, which i love as much as i love anything and to which i have not been since i became ill in december. i have not even returned to the building. and i'm afraid to go back. i want it more than anything else, but yet i'm still afraid.

but as i'm talking, i'm remembering all the things i love about the job, and all the things that made me good at it. and i miss it more and more.

and then it's our turn. it's scary, but we are on le monstre. it is sunset and as we climb we can see the lights of the city all around us, and all the boats on the river. it is beautiful and perfect and suddenly our train goes over the top and we are screaming, hurtling through the summer evening and we scream and scream and laugh and we are alive and indestructible and i think of this one, critically important thing:

every year for labor day i go caching in montreal. i go with the crashcos and our habits begin to border on ritual. i am very much looking forward to going again this year.

but you may remember that i've been fighting my own monster: i'm struggling to stay alive. or more precisely, i'm agonizing over whether i can go back to the job i love, or whether i should suicide now, while i still have the chance beforehand.

but i have plans to go on that trip. i would not miss it for anything. and i realize: labor day is AFTER work starts up again. so now in this moment i realize that i am going back to work. it's so small, and maybe i should not depend on little things the way i do, but... i'm not sure how i want to finish that, so i'm just not going to.

on the way home we make it out of the city and through the border without incident. we're tired, but we're doing ok. well, actually, we're pretty wrecked. but i know the way home is faster by about a half hour if we get off the interstate and go through fairfax. rumblestrip, bless her heart, for some reason suggests we go by the building where i work. you know, so she can see it.

i'm not fooled, and neither, probably, are you. of course we go.

rumblestrip and i are increasingly of the belief that we are being called to something, but we do not yet know exactly what. rumblestrip is of the conviction that her first task is to do whatever she can to help me return successfully to my job, to help me be well again, which is an astounding task because i was already quite ill when i met her.

it's really late by the time we get back to my house; rumblestrip is too wrecked to continue on, so i install her on the couch and i retire upstairs. she's asleep before i am; even though it is late i still have to have a shower and evening prayer. even ten thirty will come early, so i'm a little worried about sleep.

i don't remember the dream, but i know in the morning i was screaming, and not in the benign way i screamed on the rollercoaster. it is a very bad feeling to wake crying in the morning; already you are overflowed with sorrow and the day has not started, even. but rumblestrip is there; she wakes me from the dream and comforts me.

i'm prepared to have leftover sandwiches for breakfast, but rumblestrip is of the "breakfast food" mentality; she knows i have waffles in the freezer. "how many do i want?", she asks.


"how many do you think you ought to have?"


so. breakfast and out to church. it's the essex alliance church, which is pretty far off of what we're used to, but we are grateful to be at a late service and we both find something sufficiently moving that we are certain that it is no accident that we are there.

rumblestrip goes home and then off to other projects and for most of the day she does not have the opportunity to sit still for more than ten minutes, but i get home and call the craschcos to see if they want to go out and play on this beautiful blue day, but i don't want to go berry picking and we can't quite decide exactly where we want to go bike riding.

i kind of want to go for a LONG ride, but mrs. crashco does not, and crashco is suggesting a compromise ride. he REALLY wants to ride today because he has a really spiffy new bike.

"go have a nap.", he tells me. "we'll call you when we're done berry picking."

so i do. i have very dense dreams which, in a surprise move, i'm not going to tell you about. and i've been lying awake faboutout a half hour, trying to puzzle them out, trying to recount them, so i can retell the story later, when the phone rings.

sleep has put things in better perspective for me, and we decide on an easy rolling loop from jonesville to richmond on route 2 and back on cochran road. then we go for a lovely walk in south burlington and find a couple of geocaches. by now it is the end of the day, so we go have something to eat.

pretty soon after arriving home i sit down with a bottle of very good ginger beer and begin to write you this account and now it is nearly three in the morning and i am hopeful of a sound and gentle sleep.

i hope that you are sleeping already; and i hope that your dreams are sweet and gentle. i hope you wake easily and well-refreshed.

tomorrow is monday; technically it's been monday already for a couple of hours. i won't go to work, but someday soon i will stand in my rightful place and i will claim my life back forcefully, and with authority.

there will probably be difficult days. what has changed is that tonight i expect to come out on the other side still standing, still drawing breath.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

wheel sucker

i'm five-foot-four, about. in october i weighed 135 pounds, which is a pretty good weight for me. it's not my best fighting weight. my best weight is about 125, but i haven't been that thin since about my sophomore year of college, more than twenty years ago. i shouldn't weigh less than that, because i look too thin, but it would be an ideal weight for bike racing.

i only mention this because when i got sick i started to put on weight and i was afraid to look at the worst of it, but at some point when i finally did get on the scale, i weighed in at 185. i won't even tell you the body fat content.

but there's this thing about gettting on a bike and hauling your fat ass up a mountain; you burn a lot of energy. if you go out and keep climbing often enough, the first thing that happens is not that you lose weight. the first thing that happens is that your fat ass is much more solid and jiggles less when you move. sometimes you even get heavier.

but you keep doing it and you do start to get lighter. there's less of you to haul up that mountain.

i weigh about 175 pounds now. it's still pretty heavy for a woman of my height, but every day i'm getting stronger. more solid. my uniforms are starting to fit again.

i'm still slower than i was last year and everybody keeps telling me that i should be more forgiving, that the real vicory is that i'm managing to show up on the start line. it's hard, though. i used to win things. i used to place respectably in time trials. i have been state champion more than once. it's really hard to let go of all of that and return to the state i was in before i was fast.

there's also this other thing: if you ride hard on monday and then race on tuesday, wednesday and thursday every week, your times for each individual event are not as speedy as they would be if you concentrated on one. it does wonders for your overall fitness, though.

maybe i will come back stronger than i ever was. i can hope.

last night i rode my bike from texas hill road in huntington up to the top of the gore road, and then i turned left and rode a ways up mccullough turnpike toward app gap. i stopped about 2k from the top, before the really hard climb, but let there be no mistake: it's still a climb.

coming through huntinton proper i was passed by a pair of riders and i asked if i could hop on and suck his wheel for a while. you can do this; when you're out and people riding together pass you you may ask permission to get on the end of their train. it is not polite to just hop on.

but then she came off the front and we hit a climb and i couldn't pull through. i couldn't keep up with them, nevermind doing any of the work, but for a while it was nice. then they turned off toward hinesburg.

so i kept riding. you find a gear you can turn and you keep turning it. and from where i turned around, it was a really cool descent. a car passed me and boy, i could smell his brakes burning. i was not using brakes.

that's not entirely true; there are some places where you have to use brakes. but i went as fast as i could and there's no feeling like it on this planet. i rode like i was being chased by the hounds of hades until i saw rumblstrip, coming to pick me up. then i rode a little ways, i think to van dine road, where there was a decent place for her to stop and turn and park. the map almost shows the trip; for some reason i couldn't get it to show quite how far up the gap i rode, but it's probably not important.

then i washed up a little and put on reasonably clean clothes as a courtesy to rumblestrip, and we went off ostensibly to do a little geocaching, but we didn't find a thing and we didn't care.

and tonight when we ran, i felt like i was running slower than usual; i didin't feel like i was suffering as much, and crashco caught up with me earlier than he usually does. he and rumblestrip paced me in to the end and i have no idea how this happened, but it was my best time by two minutes. two minues is kind of a big improvement.


anyway, i'm gong to try to get some sleep, even though it's comparatively early. i'm having some difficulty with takeing enough sedatives to get me to sleep. but not enough to make me hungover in the morning.

and lately i'm noticing that i get sluggish when the barometer drops. and if i have too big a hit of sugar. today at my house there was a maple syrup emergency: i'm almost to the end of the jug and i screwed on the lid and turned it upside down but it leaked anyway and there's only one thing to do in such a situation: get a spatula. i tried to scoop it off the counter and onto a waffle with limited success, but in the end it just came to eating it right off the spatula.

then i slept until two-thirty. i almost couldn't get up, even then.

little lessons.


today i put fresh sheets on the bed. ordinarily it wouldn't be worth noting; i adore crisp clean sheets. if you are getting into bed with me (and i realize this is not a problem for most of you) (hah. most, she says. funny.)

anyway, if you expect to get into my bed you must shower first. it's a rule. fine, then. sleep on the couch if you'd rather.

but i've been too worn out for the project; it's all i can do to keep the laundry done so i have clean uniforms to wear. so my sheets haven't been changed sincce the last time my mother changed them, while i was still having ECT.

it'd be really yicky except for the aforementioned shower AND that somhow in the last year i've taken to wearing clothes to bed. i think it's probably because agter i shower i put on some clean clothes before i go to evening prayer and i just go to bed the same way: tights and a technical shirt of whatever thickness seems appropriate for the night.

but today i was all full of energy and actually dusted the bedroom, fluffed the featherbed and turned the mattress. quite a project.

and i didn't really mean to tell you all this, except that it will be good to fold myself in clean sheets. the night is cool and i will be able to sleep the way i like: under a down comforter and two blankets besides.

but this is the important thing: when i lie in bed on a clear night, i can see stars.

"the wheel keeps on turning, the stars reel and spin
they don't miss a step in their ages old dance
they yield up the sky when the day rushes in,
but they'd keep on going if they had the chance.

i will sing to you softly, stand watch while you dream
good night, go to sleep, you are loved."

Monday, July 24, 2006


yesterday was eastern cup. i went out saturday with the crashcos to inspect the course and preride it. actually, i was supposed to have met with them at 0900 to help set up the race stuff, but i was too hungover from my sleeping meds and didn't wake up until they called me on the phone sometime later.

so i got there in time to ride. course conditions were good, too, but it appears that i only have a finite amount of courage, which is being used for simply living, so a lot of the technical elements of the course are beyond my reach. and not just the ones i always have a hard time with; elements that i have had a good handle on for years are suddenly ouside of my ability.

for instance: after you come out of the old BMX course, you get deposited on bee tree hill. it's fairly straightforward. you keep your balance and you fly down it. it's rough, but completely do-able. the surface is all loose dirt and rocks and roots and old leaves, but there are no turns, no "must-do" moves, and it opens up onto a straight easy uphill. nothing to worry about, right?

except i get there and i'm paralyzed with fear. you see, if you use your brakes here, all that happens is that you skid out, and at a pretty good speed, too. you have to be able to trust your balance and to trust gravity.

but i can't. i'm paralyzed with fear. which represents a dangerous situation, so i have to get off and walk. granted, i cleaned little ridge run, but i usually can clean it. and i cleaned that nasty little uphill singletrack over on the hillside, which i never can do. and i nearly got over the rock wall, but when i was almost over i wasted my concentration by thinking "hey, i'm getting over this!" and i had to foot down.

but then it started to rain. it rained all afternoon and all night and all morning. when it rains, due to some unhappy geology, at catamount what happens is that the top layers of soil, due to their high clay content, become very slick.

and i am frightened.

let me recap my week for you: for the first time in a long time i was feeling good, so i rode like i feel good.

monday i rode my road bike twenty-some-odd miles up the huntington road.
tuesday i ran my 5 k so hard i collapsed at the end.
wednesday i rode two thrirds of the course with no seat.
thursday i rode my time trial hard.
friday i sat at home and didn't do squat.

saturday i rode with the crashcos and then we went unsuccessfully geocachiing in what started out as a light drizzle and ended up being a soaking rain.

sunday i manage to wake up in time to get ready for my race, but i am still hung over from my sleeping meds.

at the beginning of the eastern cup course we always go down and around the elbow; there's a small trench at the bottom of it, and there's loose gravel on both sides. because at eastern cup there are often racers who have traveled from far away, it is my practice to hant to the back of the starting pack and ask if everybody knows about the gravel.

often they don't all know, and it is useful information. i have seen more than one promising season come to an abrupt end at the bottom of the elbow.

anyway, out of the start, i can't even keep up with the back of the pack to ask. by the time i emerge from the elbow, i have lost contact completely with the pack, and about a minute later on the gravel road i am overtaken by the next wave of riders.

at the first hairpin (a technical element i have been riding easily since my first year) i am overtaken by the next wave of riders. i am slow, slow, slow. by the time i get to moosepoop, i am very nearly at the back of the entire field, not just my start. and i am completly out of contact with even the tail end of the pack.

and i'm having to use my granny gears. i feel like i'm dying. i have to walk little ridge run, which i habitually clean. i'm really pushing my limit by the time i get to the oven. now granted, the oven is a long gradual climb and in some conditions it can really take a wide strip out of you. it was very slippery, and a little difficult to maintain control.

and i came out of it, having finished about the first 5k of the 15k course and now i'm facing all the hard climbs and all teh really technical riding. but i am at a major intersection one leg of which leads out of the woods.

i didn't have it in me; i quit the course and turned in my number.

it nearly broke my heart. but you see, it's not just a bike race for me. bike racing has become for me kind of a metaphor for my life: it's difficult and it just hurts and hurts and you have to stay out there and keep going until you get to the end.

and i quit early. made me feel like i could quit early at that other, more important race. i didn't feel like goign out to lunch with the crashcos or caching or doing anything. i wanted to go home. but rumblestip came with me and was very kind and patient and sat with me for a time while i cried and cried.

it was an astounding amount of pain. and finally when she had to leave, i was afraid of what i might do, but somehow i managed to get online and play some cards and then after a while i watched the final tour coverage.

and by some miracle i slept soundly and woke up at eight, feeling pretty good. maybe today i'll go reactivate an old disabled cache i have. maybe i'll go find some things. it won't matter. it's going to be a good week.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

back in the saddle

i get ready to go to my race tonight and all of a sudden i feel like i'm ready to ride well. i decide to wear my eastern cup championship jersey; you know, the one they gave the winners.

i have a full collection of catamount jerseys, right back to the first one and right up to the current one, the second in the post-merger era. this is all of them except this year's; the one in front is my eastern cup championship jersey. its design is based on the red checkerboard jersey, which is my favorite.

and i feel tonight like i can ride as if i deserve to wear that shirt. so i head out of the start como un pipistrello d'all' inferno and things are going good but i hear this kind of knocking noise going over roots and things and i just had my shocks overhauled and i think maybe there's a problem with that, or that maybe while we were messing around getting rumblestrip's bike ready i maybe neglected to seat my own front wheel properly.

there was a bit of a to-do over rumblestrip's bike. she's riding my spare bike, my old blue rocky which is still a very fine bike. it is a precise carving instrument. it is raceworthy. for me the problem is that i'm not getting any younger and my back couldn't take the punishment and i needed something in a full suspension so i have a rugged-looking red rocky.

but we're getting the bikes ready for the night- crashco is replacing some old brake pads on his bike, and i'm re-inflating rumblestrip's tires, because last week when it was so muddy i took a lot of air out of her tires (and mine) because your wheels grip better in slippery conditions if they're soft. tonight the course is hard and dry and the idea was to fill the tires up for speed rather than grippiness.

but her rear tire won't inflate; turns out it's blown out at the valvestem and crashco, bless his heart, takes time from his own pre-race chores to change the tire for me. i might ought be able to do it; i used to do it all the time. but how to change the tire has fallen into the chasm of memory loss. some of it i'm sure i could figure out, but we just don't have all that much time.

so anyway, i'm hearing that noise. a knock. and i'm worried it might be my new headset. i just don't know. i know it is not a good noise, so i'm not going quite as fast as i might.

but here's the thing. at the start line i took a moment to ask bob to help me keep my courage, to help me ride strong. i know i said it in an earlier paragraph, but it think it bears repeating: to ride as if i deserve to wear that shirt.

and about a mile in (the course is 3.1 miles, and i was signed up to go around twice) there was a terrible crack and my saddle came right off of the seatpost. for a little way i managed to hold it by clenching my butt cheeks, but i ended up putting it in my pocket.

one of the bolts that holds the seat on the post had gotten sheared off. the saddle itself is still fine. which is good, because i'm very fond of it and i paid a lot for it.

but i have two miles to go and now i have no seat on my seatpost, which has sharp edges. which means it's a little harder to ride. usually when i stand on the pedals i have the seat to help stabilize me. and you know that it's just a little harder to clip into the pedals if you can't touch the seat.

but i had to think: what would i do if i had committed myself to riding my best ride? quit and walk in the shortest way?

not hardly. strength and courage demanded that i at least finish the one lap.

so. two miles. no sitting down. i got off and walked all the technical bits; there are some injuries i just don't want to have to explain in the ER, but wherever it was straightforward trail i rode. and where it was downhill with few obstacles, i rode. weight on the hands and feet. just hover. carefully.

and coming up to the chute and calling DNF, you get to hold your head high. you ride the two miles to the finish standng up. your legs and arms hurt. but you have ridden the best you can. you have ridden with strength. you have ridden with courage.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

two-fifths done, but half dead.

so a couple of weeks ago when i was standing at the top of belknap mountain i felt as if i was going to be better. i wanted to be all better, i wanted it to be true.

so it's been kind of hard for me that i'm oscillating in and out of depression. and i get in this really dangerous state where i just don't care and i think i'm going to suicide just because. no particular reason, and i simply don't care. it's probably the most dangerous state of all.

but i wanted so much to have been all better. i wanted so much for it to have been true. i could not admit it to anyone and left it half-whispered here, in the hidden corners of my soul.

but i've been going about living as if i'm all better, and sometimes it helps. i feel like i'm taking my life back by force.

i've been out caching a lot; i've had some really good days. days that are joyful and fully in sunshine. days that are easy and good and i am so far from the center of all that pain that sometimes i cry just out of thankfulness to be alive.

so. last week running i set a new PR on the course by nearly a full two minutes, which is quite a significant improvement.

but it's been hot lately and i don't do so well with hot weather. a couple of nights ago the heat and probably some other things combined t give me the kind of nightmares that not only keep me up all night, but are so sickening that i'm caught in swirling nausea that's hard to shake.

sometimes on nights like that i send out a lot of email, not necessarily cogent. i sent notes to rumblestrip at 11:19, 12:42, 3:02, 3:42, 5:14, 5:31, and 6:42. then i fell asleep and stayed that way until noon. then i was up for an hour or two and then staggered back to bed, collapsing on it sideways and remaining inert for another couple of hours.

yesterday afternoon i kind of felt like playing russian roulette. when i'm in a mood, often a hard, punishing ride is just the thing. on a hot day, i don't even notice that it is a hot day, and when i get off the bike, no matter what happens, nothing will feel worse than being on a hard climb.

but i was kind of hoping to get run over, maybe. not in the amusing way that i was run over on route two in richmond all those years ago and got only a pressure blister to show for it (i have a small quarter-sized scar on my left elbow), but the real deal. splattered. and it would look like an accident, too. so i left the house and started to ride.

wasn't sure if i had enough daylight to complete the route. wanted to leave it to chance. when we ride our huntington time trial, we ride up from pretty close to center huntington to where the main road ends at mccullough turnpike. it's pretty steep in places, too.

and i decided to do this ride, except i decided to start down in Jonesville.

but the thing happened that often happens when i am out on a punishing ride: it restored my will to live. so instead of turning right on rout 17 and coming back through hinesburg, i turned around and came back down the gore road.

it's a fabulous ride, especially now that there's fresh new pavement. big gear. pedal where i can. stay out on the bars. stay aero. and go fast.

i didn't have my computer on, but i know from the feel of it that i was egregiously in violation of the speed limit for a lot of that descent. it's the one place where being fat is an advantage. if you can haul your fat butt to the top of it you can hurtle down. no hesitation. no brakes. and i'm particularly lucky in that all of my bikes have fast hubs.

but i got just above center huntington and i'd lost the light. i don't have so much as a reflector on my bike. sure, i have all kinds of lights, none of which i have brought with me. and i no longer feel like taking my chances.

so i call up rumblestrip and ask if she will meet me in huntington and cart me safely down to jonesville. i'm pretty close to texas hill road, so that's where she picked me up. i only mention it because it's marked on the map, in case you're the sort of person who wants to see exactly how far i went.

and i owe rumblestrip a huge apology because i have deliberately put myself in a dangerous situation and then asked her to bail me out. i think she is too happy that i WANT to be bailed out to care, really.

i got home and made myself a nice piece of fish under some bearnaise sauce and some sweet corn and some of rumblestrip's pickled beets. very fine, those.

at the end of the day i had some terse words with bob. sometimes i am not a quiet, gracious child. sometimes i rage and rail.

and i did.

what is the point, i demanded, to all this suffering? huh? every day i come and ask you to be made your good servant, to do your work, to hold your strength in my hands, to do good in this world. and what i get in return is pain. a LOT of pain. am i maybe asking the wrong questions? should i be asking for pain abatement? and what about (proper name), who is always in pain? what did she do to deserve THAT? can you back off on that, please? can you send her some comfort? what can i do to help? and while we're on the topic, what about (proper name) who does not seem to be able to recognize that she is loved? well, she gets it intellectually, but not down deep. and she always assumes fault. can you work a little on that for me, please?

all right. i'm going to trust that there is some meaning to this.

and i said my usual parting words and went to bed.

so today i went out to run a few errands and do a little light caching with crashco. some light shopping, i needed some bloodwork, he had an appointment with an insurance adjuster. and then we had to pick up mrs. crashco (it surprises some people to learn that i am not mrs. crashco and maybe someday later i'll tell you a story about some funny rumors that were being spread by a small little person with too much time on her hands), and go out to the race venue.

let me tell you, i could still feel yesterday's ride up in my glutes and it was still pretty warm and i was not looking forward to running a 5k out in the field, on the hillside. but then we got out there and even though we ran in the woods last week they had us in the woods again, and that made me glad.

a few years ago on july 3d or 4th they had us out in the field at a temperature in excess of 100 degrees and that was a pretty painful race.


rumblestrip showed up just as the race started and she paced me for probably most of the first kilometer. i told her to come back and get me at the end, when i'd have nothing left. and then for a while i was on my own.

well, not really alone. if i'm paying attention i'm never really alone. once rumblestrip leaves me i have a chance to have a few words with bob.

every step i will turn over to you. i will trust you to watch over me. all of this suffering i will offer up to you. please bless (proper name) and (proper name); help them and ease their pain.

i had a few other things to say, but i also had to keep running. it was a hard run. i was two kilometers in and i felt half dead. but i kept running. maybe it's too goofy, but i offered each stride up to God. and when you do that, you're obliged to make it your best run. there is no slacking off. crashco came out to meet me and then rumblestrip came too and they ran with me up to the chute and then sent me in. i hadn't saved anything for a sprint, but somehow i sprinted anyway.

twenty seconds faster than last week. a new PR.

it sucked everything out of me and i staggered over to the car and sat down and cried and cried.

after a while rumblestrip came and sat beside me. "you're going to be all right", she said. "it's going to be fine." i did not believe her, but she kept telling me and the warmth of it crept into my soul and maybe she's right. i don't know; i hope she is.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

if a tree falls...

well, it was a branch, actually. probably not any closer than twenty or thirty feet, but i was running toward it and i was alone on the trail when it fell. scared the willies outta me. and when crashco came out to meet me, it started to pour again. and then rumblestrip came as well and we ran in together and i ran so hard that when it was over i just staggered a ways and then fell headfirst into a puddle. i meant to sit down, but i was having some trouble with the muscle sequence.

crascho took some very funny pictures of it, including one of rumblestrip with her foot on me as if she'd just bagged me and now had to take me to a reporting station for tagging.

i feel i ought to catch up on my geocaching logs, in which i am a full threescore behind. christine, geocaching is a worldwide game. many of us play it as a sport, and many of us play it as a casual pastime. my mom is a casual player. my dad is an obsessive player. i insist that it is not about the numbers but yet i play it obsessively and i will deny under oath that i said this, but i am secretly very pleased that i would have a very respectable worldwide ranking IF i allowed the people who keep these records to include me in the rankings.

what is certainly true about the way i play is that for me it is very much about the story of the trip; it is an amazing thing to spend an afternoon immersed in maps, looking for an unpublished trailhead and then snowshoeing up a mountain an hour and a half from home and sitting on a granite cliff looking out into white snow and cobalt blue sky, being totally alone and holding in my hand a logbook and a cache container.

it is a singular day; i am alone in it. and yet dozens of other people have sat on that exact spot with that very box and that logbook. we have all signed it. it's as if we all trace an invisible web on the surface of the planet and you can follow the patterns, the passages of people and things from place to place.

so i love to tell the story more than anything else. i am tickeled to death when somene i meet knows me from my logs; i like to be famous in this way, but not for the number of caches i've found (a lot; i don't know how many) or for the number of caches i have been first finder on (also a lot; it used to be i first found everything, along with crashco. at one point we started to feel the sport had gone out of it) i used to be able to solve the harder puzzles, and i liked being known for being smart, but now i can't solve the puzzles anymore.

today i was standing on top of belknap mountain, which was kind of a surprise to me in the first place; i had been going to visit belknap overlook, but for some reason i wasn't really paying attention and i went right where i shoulda gone left and had gone almost a quarter of a mile up the wrong trail and then thought: what the heck? i might as well go to the top and then over to the other cache.


so that puts me still over in the lakes region at about a quarter to three in the afternoon and i KNOW i have a 6:15 start at catamount and i would sooner DIE (ok, maybe a bad choice of words, considering the level of suicidality recently) ok, i would sooner eat (nevermind; there's not much i won't eat. ever eaten a grasshopper? they're nice and crunchy, and they have a nice nutty flavor.)

uh, anyway, i am not willing to miss a start at catamount. i'm just not. crashco and i have a pact wherein if one of us DIES on race day the other will drag him/her around the course in the "half lap dead guy division".

tuesdays i run number twelve; wednesdays i run 97. i have run this number now for nine consecutive years. i like it because it reminds me of the wreck of the old 97, and i feel like that some days.

i don't have a regular thursday number, even though i regularly race on thursdays.

so anyway, i was standing on the top of belknap mountain and all of a sudden i felt better. not "better", as in "i had a bellyache but then after a while i felt better", but BETTER, as in "i feel equal to the task of returning to work and maybe i'm all done with this".

hope is perhaps the scariest thing of all.

it was raining buckets and there was lightning when i left home on saturday morning. the forcast all weekend in the lakes region was for scattered thunderstorms, but i never saw one. until i got to exit 11 tonight and the sky opened up and of course it poured on the course, making everything all wet and real slick.

but i was running pretty good (for me) and having a talk with bob about the dangerousness of hope and suddenly around kilometer three i was thinking about haimar zubeldia, who rides for euskaltel-eusakadi. for no particular reason, i love euskaltel-euskadi. they're kind of the unofficial basque team in a world where teams are corporate rather than national. i love to watch when the tour goes through the basque region and the crowd goes nuts.

and there actually is a lot of team tactics in cycling. there's usually a main guy on the team and the others work for him. they wear out the guys on the other teams. if they can, a team will ride as a pack and draft off of each other. you'll see that in any breakaway, but when the guys sharing the work of pulling (that's the guy at the front of the paceline) are from different teams, they play a lot of psychological games, trying to pull out alone at the front at just the right time.

a paceline is a thing of beauty. you don't have to be a professional cyclist to enjoy one, but you do have to have some skills. all the riders line up very close, like with just a few inches from the back wheel of the front guy to the front wheel of the next guy.

there's this beautiful quiet spot real close in where you can hear the absence of wind resistance. that's what you want. it saves you something like 30% of your energy.

so you pull at the front for a while and then you kind of flick your elbow, which signals the guy sucking your wheel that you're coming off. then you drift back to the end of the line. if your line is long enough, by the time you reach the back, the next guy is already coming off, so there's a constant rotation. nobody pulls very long. you all go wicked fast.

you have to be real alert, though. if you screw up, it has the potential for a really BIG crash.

when crashco and i ride team time trial (our club only allows two to a team) i insist he wear a clean shirt. this is important.

watch the teams for guys who could be winning stages, but instead are working for the team leader. there's a name for this: domestique. there was actually a flap a couple of years ago where lance armstrong was seen on tv passing water bottles. the traditionalists were appallled. he was wearing the yellow jersey. domestiques pass water bottles. the tour leader does not domestique.

yet it is a badge of honor to be a good domestique: i love the story of king rené.


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