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.


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