30 October 2010

October sun

I've been slack this summer. After Memorial Day, things got busy, and then it got hot - boy howdy, did it get hot. A record number of days over 90 degrees this summer, and a few in the triple digits. With the humidity from the river, a heat index well over 100 wasn't uncommon.

I rode one Tuesday in June; the morning was balmy, but at 5:30 p.m. on the way over to Gilda's Club, the heat index was 108. Even my veteran cyclist friend Ben thought I'd lost my mind. Brother Bob allowed later as how I was apparently either suicidal or just plain stoopid.

So I've gained five pounds I didn't need, and my asthma is back - the symptoms had completely gone away when I was riding regularly, but I'm wheezing again now that allergy season has hit. I've been hitting the Zyrtec pretty hard just to keep breathing.

Yesterday, after going downstairs to get lunch, I decided to take the stairs back up - five floors. I had to stop on 3 for a minute, but I made it. I'm going to do it at least once a day this winter; by Christmas, I should be able to keep going and pick up some speed.

And this morning dawned chilly and clear, but turned into the most perfect day for riding. 60 degrees out at noon, with little wind and only a few high, wispy clouds - the kind that look like bits of Halloween spider-web fluff. So around 2 p.m., I took a break from cleaning the front closet and hitched up the panniers for a run to the grocery.

Unfortunately, my new gel seat has a loose nut and keeps sliding backward and forward. So instead of being set where I like it, with the gel part holding my weight, I rode uncomfortably with the metal seat frame under my bones... Gotta get that fixed.

And it makes a rhythmic thumping noise that makes me think one of the tires isn't quite right - the kind you'd expect to hear on a road with regularly spaced bumps, except it goes all the time. Need to look into that, too.

Nevertheless, it was a good ride. I went through the neighborhood out to Hounz Lane, then took Tiverton around to Aylesbury and Goose Creek. Had to cross Westport Road at the traffic light, which is no big deal - otherwise, it was smooth sailing on residential streets.

As I rode through the Kroger parking lot, I noticed another bike chained to a light post with a bubblegum pink cable lock. It made me smile.

Inside, I wound through Produce picking up ingredients for beef stew - celery, organic carrots. I knew I had plenty of onions. On the way to the potatoes, I spotted the kalanchoe display at the same time as another woman. She was tall, beautiful in a fresh-scrubbed, old-hippie way, maybe about my age. She was black, and she wore soft layers - a wide, long skirt, a big, loose sweater, a couple of bright scarves. And she was enchanted by the kalanchoe.

"What is it?" she asked. "I've never seen it before. Is it from some foreign country? Maybe China?"

I told her the name of the plant and what little I know about it: that it's easy-care, low maintenance, it's a succulent, and even when it's not blooming, the leaves are lovely. I didn't know where it was from. Central America, maybe. I need to research that.

She couldn't get over the colors. The display was a bank of reds, oranges, golds, yellows - all shades, many of the pots with two or even three small plants in mixed colors. It really was beautiful - it made me smile, too.

As we walked off in opposite directions, she called over her shoulder, conspiratorially, "We love that kind of thing, don't we?" Recognition of a kindred spirit.

"Yes, we do!" I called back.

I got the potatoes, the beef, and I found a new grater. (My old one has flown the coop.) I like grating by hand, using a four-sided stand-up grater, the kind my grandmother had. This one is like Grandmother's, only better; it's from OXO, so it has a comfortable rubber grip handle and a neat little box, about the size of a pack of cards, that fits on the bottom and has a tight lid. You can grate right into the box and then snap the lid on to store what you just grated; even better, when you're not using the set, the box fits top-down inside the bottom of the grater. I found a book of cryptograms - hard to locate these days - in the magazine section.

Then I checked out and went out to load the groceries into my panniers.

As I rolled back across the parking lot, I saw the owner of the bike with the pink lock coasting down the hill in my direction. It was the Kalanchoe Lady.

"Well, hi, there!" I called, and waved.

She responded, "Hello, precious one!"

I was passing through the intersection now, turning right to go back to Goose Creek; she was just coming up to the stop sign. "Enjoy your ride home!" I called back to her. And as I pedaled off, "Be safe!"

The world is full of little miracles - wispy Halloween-spiderweb clouds, bright kalanchoes, and kindred spirits in the most mundane places. And it's good to be back on the bike.

11 October 2010

And now, a word from our sponsor (Daisy Lou)...

I wrote this at about midnight one evening in June. I have no idea why I never posted it. I probably didn't think it was finished. But why would I need to say more?


I have to tell you about this: beautiful Daisy, who is about 8 years old now, has just discovered fireflies.

For the last three nights, our lovely red and white hound has stood outside on the walk or in the grass, transfixed by the little blinky lights dancing in the dark. Last night, she stayed out for over an hour and never made a peep. (Usually, 5 minutes without human company is about her limit.) When I went out to get her, she was just standing and watching, not moving a muscle. Truly fascinated.

The night before, I needed to go to bed, so I tried to call her in; I finally had to put some shoes on and go out in the grass to round her up.

She just now went outside, her last trip for the evening. Tinkerbell and her friends apparently party late in these parts - unless I haul her into the house, I'm pretty sure Daisy Lou will stand on the walk and watch them until 4 in the morning.

08 October 2010


I've been seeing it everywhere, all this short month long. "Hope." Pink wrist bands, pink on shopping bags, pink on teddy bears, pink on all kinds of silly stuff every time I turn around. Last Saturday, cruising the mall after a visit to the Hair Lady, my sister finally asked, "Is there really all of a sudden all this breast cancer stuff all over the place, or is it just me?"

I knew what she meant. On a less goofy level, it's the same thing as, when you finally get pregnant, you start seeing pregnant women everywhere. Like every freakin' one of 'em decided if you were going to do it, they were, too.

I was moderately relieved to be able to say, "Nope. Not you, shug. Just October."

Of course, there's a month for everything. October is Breast Cancer Awareness. Translation: All you retailers, jump on the Intimidation Bandwagon and Cash In!! But who cares? If one woman thinks about getting a mammogram because some damn fool bought her a Belkie Bear in a pink T-shirt, it's worth it.

Me, I got my Belkie Bear. My sister has hers. We haven't named them yet, although I'm scrolling through Lynn Redgrave's most memorable roles for a name for mine. My sister bought the bears (white plush, pink shirts, very huggy). I bought the Chanel No. 5. Cut of the take to S. Komen. Works for me. It's all about hope, right? Hope for a cure, hope for the future, hope for lifetimes that go 'way past when they would have a couple decades ago...

This weekend, I'm headed for a women's retreat at a monastery in Indiana. The focus for the weekend is "hope," and we have a list of things to bring, all of which mean "hope" for us. A scripture, reading, song, whatever. A used greeting card. A story.

As I started packing, I found myself looking for the "hope" in what I packed. It started out as, "What am I going to take? What defines 'hope' in my worldly possessions?" After a while, though, I had to laugh... Here's the list:

1. my "ASsK me" T-shirt - the question being, "Who is Aang San Sui Qi?" - in the hope of universal justice
2. my "peace" tank top from the Norma Kamali collection at WalMart - in the hope it will happen (even at WalMart)
3. my Cubs T-shirt - in hopes of breaking the Curse (hey, Ed has the Redskins and I have my Cubbies - so you family members who want to blow your diet Pepsi through your nose about now, stuff a sock in it! Super Bowl, World Series, whatever... ;-)
4. my jeans, in the hope of someday seeing "skinny" again
5. my western boots, in the hope that my knee isn't so bad I can never hope to shovel out a horse stall or sit in a saddle for hours
6. my guitar - in the hope that someday I'll be able to play and sing at the same time
7. my notebook - a.k.a. my "brain" - in the hope of a flash of brilliance that will translate into notes that will translate into something that will translate into a "WOW" from someone with the authority - and the money - to say, "Publish that, and send that woman a check!"
8. that song...

There's a song by Rich Mullins called "If I Stand." It's been stuck in my head for a month. The chorus goes:

If I stand, let me stand on the promise that You will see me through -
And if I can't, let me fall on the grace that first brought me to You.
If I sing, let me sing for the joy that has borne in me these songs,
And if I weep, let it be as one who is longing for her home.

Okay, I paraphrased a little. I doubt Rich minds. I'm sure the Almighty doesn't. Because that song is about my hope.

I'm clueless. I'm scared. I face tomorrow with trembling hands and knocking knees - every damned tomorrow of my life. Seriously. All I can hope for is what my gut tells me - that there's Something bigger than I am holding me up. There's a survival that has no logic to it, a quiet peace that has no reason but grace. There's a happiness that has no link to good sense - it's just there. And there is - I am sure - a place I've been, a place I started, a place to which I will return, where it will all make sense. So I don't have to think about why, or how. The Something that's bigger (and smarter) knows about all that and has it under control. Maybe not to change anything, maybe not to "make it all better" - but at least to be able to see the big picture. The "if this, then that." The logic, the karma, the all-comes-togetherness.

My hope and my trust are in the existence of the Something that can manage all of the above and then some. So I, in my anxiety-disordered, perfectionist humanity, don't have to.

Thanks be to G-d.