Sunday, March 7, 2021

Sunday Notes: On the Bright Side, Redux

 Today marks the first full week of the Ride for GRUB challenge. I am starting two months late into the year, so that means I will need to ride an average of 50 miles each week to meet my goal of 2021. But you know how it is—some weeks will be better than others. Some weeks I may be tired, or sick, or out of town, or the weather might be crappy, so I am actually hoping to work up to riding 70 miles most weeks to cover the shortfall. But I am just starting out, and I don’t want to overdo it this first month, so I figure to aim for the 50 each week.

All of which is to explain my mood this morning when I set out on my ride. A cold front had moved in during the night, and there was a sharp wind blowing from the south. I layered up in tights, a winter jersey, and full fingered cycling gloves, and though it cut the chill, it would do nothing to reduce the labor of the ride.

I have lived all of my life in windy places. I have also ridden my bike in that same wind. So I knew it was no good feeling sorry for myself—I needed to make my goal of 50 miles, but the only thing self-pity would change about the situation is make me feel more miserable. Even so, after I changed into my riding kit, I sat in the chair for a good hour, making excuses for why I didn’t need to/shouldn’t go: My knee is bothering me a little, my shoulder, my hip; I could take a rest day; 41 miles in the first week was pretty good—good enough—danged good for the first week. 

All the while I stared out the window at the falling live oak leaves flying around like flocks of small, panicked birds.

Finally, I just went. I was wearing my cycling glasses, which I haven’t done in a while because the prescription insert has not been updated since 2007 (I shit you not). After a few cold, windy, tear-inducing rides this spring while wearing my regular prescription sunglasses, I decided to update the insert so I could have the better wind coverage from the cycling glasses. But the insert had to be sent off to Dallas and has yet to return, and so I was riding tearless, but half-blind. I figured that was some kind of metaphor, and somewhere between 19th Street and Glenna Goodacre Drive, while I was trying to figure out “metaphor for what?”, I accepted my fate, geared down, and settled into the task.

I rode. 

I reminded myself that my friend Jill used to say, “Wind is a training tool.”

I reminded myself that I have always said, “This is why God invented gears.”

I reminded myself that physics says as long as I keep pedaling I won’t fall over.

I thought about how lucky it is that the particular earworm that is stuck in my head right now is a country music song, the refrain of which is “Hold the door/say please/say thank you/something something something/‘cause bitterness will keep you from flying/always stay humble and kind.” There are worse earworms to have.

I rode downtown. Specifically, it was my intent to get up the nerve to ride under the Loop 289 overpass on Broadway. I was looking for a safe way to cross over to the Canyon Lakes area, which is a beautiful place to ride. In years past, I have always ridden from my house down Indiana Street, over to the access road from which you can turn into Buddy Holly Park and Lake 1. But dang it, every single time I ride down Indiana, there is this little, yappy yard dog that chases me. And I am sick and tired of it. Sick. And. Tired. So I was looking for a different route.

But the underpass on Broadway has always made me nervous—it slopes down into darkness, and I worry that a car coming over the top might not see me. It was Sunday, though, and traffic should be light, so I thought it would be a good day to check it out.

Downtown itself was deserted and lonely. On the edge of it, where it turns industrial, I passed an abandoned building with a metal sign torn in half and clanging in the wind. All the streets in that part were bricked and bumpy, and my sore shoulder got more so. And when I reached the part of Broadway that drops down under the Loop, I felt as if I was plunging into the empty, gaping maw of a great whale and feared I might never return to the light of day...

Haha! But of course I did! The light of day was just on the other side! And there too was a particular mural I have always wanted to photograph, so that got me pretty excited, maw of the whale notwithstanding:

I propped up the Ruby and took the requisite photo, and decided that I’d had enough excitement for the day, and thus it was time to turn back toward home.

On the return, I decided to ride by the new Buddy Holly Center for the Arts:

And the Civic Center across the street, where so much good is being done these days to fight the Coronavirus. Over two thousand people a day, and ten thousand a week are being vaccinated in this humble city. The parking lot was empty today, but most days of the week, it is packed with cars and hope. It makes me proud of my community that our health department is doing so much to fight this disease. From sign up to jab, they’ve made the process of getting a shot easy, seamless, and efficient. We are going to defeat this virus, and one day, this parking lot will be filled for other reasons. But I hope we never forget what was done here:

And with that, I finally turned home, straight into the wind. My average speed dropped to 7.5 mph.

I thought about a Facebook conversation I saw this morning, in which people were saying they would rather live someplace else. And I get that. I would like to live someplace that had prettier places to ride, and maybe a little less wind, and a little more water. But that reminds me of a sermon I heard many, many years ago, in which a visiting pastor was saying that we were suffering from lack of rainfall because we had sinned. I remember thinking, “Well, actually, we suffer from a lack of rainfall because we are at 33° north latitude, and are situated in the rain shadow of the Rocky Mountains. I’m not sure sin has anything to do with it.”

But there are people who think that way about landscape. They think that if a landscape does not suit them, it is a kind of punishment. They talk about the wind here that way, and if you ask them, they will tell you that Lubbock is ALWAYS windy. But of course, neither of those things is true. It is windy here, true, but intermittently, and mostly just in the Spring—or as I like to call it, “The Time of Differential Heating and Cooling of the Earth’s Surface which Leads to Air Movement.” But we get it in our minds that the landscape is here to serve us, and when it doesn’t, we get angry at it, or feel put upon. But the truth is, the landscape is just here. And it might be nice to live someplace prettier, sure. But if I am dissatisfied, it is not the landscape’s fault, it is my own for not accepting it on its own terms.

And it is important to do this. It is important to learn to love the ugly places, because once we decide that a landscape is ugly, we stop protecting it. The unappreciated landscape is like the kid sitting alone in the lunchroom. We should all go sit with that person. We might be surprised at what she has to offer, and even if that is not the case, it is still the right thing to do.

These were my thoughts as I rode.

On the way home, I heard sandhill cranes calling high above me on the wind, like a spotty radio transmission from a ship at sea. 

Total number of miles for the week: 50.3.

Peace be with you.

Sunday Notes: On the Bright Side

 Yesterday was a busy day, with a lot of chores. It was also a pretty day—clear skies, not much wind, and temperatures in the 60s. So when I noticed the fan had kicked on in the greenhouse, I stopped on my way to taking out the kitchen trash and opened the door to it. I figured the plants would appreciate some fresh air.

And then I forgot about it. 

This morning I rose around 4:30, as is my habit, and let the dogs out into the backyard (there is a dog door that they can use, but Archie Dos, who has more than his share of anxieties, is afraid to go out into the dark by himself). I noticed then how bright and clear the skies were, with a fingernail moon, and there was a slight, but sharp breeze. I mused on whether it would warm up enough by afternoon to ride without arm warmers.

Later in the morning, after it was light, Archie Dos started nagging me again to go outside. It is our ritual to “check the crops.” And so I went with him to the greenhouse to see how the cotton plants fared the night...and I found the greenhouse door still open. 

Who knows how cold it got in there last night? If the earlier greenhouse freeze disaster was any indication, it will be several days before I find out whether they took a hit. 

Despondent is not the right word—it is too strong for this. They are only plants, after all, and I have the back-up specimens at the TTU greenhouse. Disappointed is not quite right, either. Nor is angry. I am not quite sure what what the word would be, but it would some mixture of resigned, tired, numb, sad, and resolute.

I added resolute because almost immediately my thoughts turned to starting some new seeds in the event that my mistake leads to losing the plants. I was already in the process of soaking some peat pots to replant the G. thurberi seeds (one of yesterday’s chores), so it was not a stretch to pivot quickly to doing the same for the others.

Yesterday on Facebook a friend accused me of always seeing the bright side of things. But that isn’t what I am doing. There is no bright side to being careless and losing all these plants after months of labor. 

Instead, I think my reaction is more along these lines: 

“Ok, this happened. What is the plan?”

To use another well-worn, entirely useful cliche’, clean up the milk and move on. I’m not happy about losing the plants, but there is work to be done.

You become resilient by practicing resilience.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Watch this space

 Some years ago—ten, to be exact—I did a personal bike challenge in which I decided I would ride 2011 miles in 2011, and I asked people to pledge to donate a penny a mile to the South Plains Food Bank’s GRUB Farm. It was a great success, on a lot of levels, firstly because I raised a lot of money for the food bank, but secondly because it got me out on the bike. It was also a success on a more intangible way; 2011 was also a hard year personally, and riding around on my bike, toting up miles, gave me a focus on something that was positive. I’ve wanted to do something similar since then, but it just hasn’t ever worked out—the timing was wrong, or I was injured or ill, or something something something.

I wanted to try it again this year to support the food bank during the covid lockdown, but once again, injury in the form of elbow tendinitis and illness in the form of a mysterious chronic fatigue kept me off the bike for many months. But the elbow is better (though the other one is sort of bothering me now) and the chronic fatigue seems to have finally resolve itself (blood tests revealed mononucleosis antibodies, so maybe that was it. Who knows?). Anyway, I am back on the bike again, and starting to think of doing another bike challenge. A lot has changed in ten years, though—namely that I am ten years older and no longer the athlete I once was, and things seem to break down a lot more easily now. So I don’t know exactly what the challenge should look like yet. It has to be doable and accommodating to an aging body, but, well, still a bit of a challenge. In any case, if I do decide to embark on another hard journey during what has been another hard year, this is the place I will record that journey.

So watch this space.

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