Friday, January 08, 2021

My Very Big Adventure

Here is the day I reached 2,000 miles riding a bicycle.
It took about 18 months, and frequently recommitting to be very, very brave. To get me out there took Geoff being persuasive, a bit insistent, very consistent, and patient, which in the first 9 months I responded to with fear, doubt, firm refusal, petulant participation, reluctant acceptance, and intermittent panic. I remember the first time I wanted to ride... really felt voluntarily eager and willing, and it was at night, last spring. Owls were hooting, bats were flitting, the neighborhood, that had been steadily filling with joggers, and walkers, and newborn athletes stuck in lockdown, was finally quiet, and I really wanted to get out of the house. It was exhilerating, terrifying, bliss. It made me squeal from the cold air rushing against my unmasked face, from feeling like I was riding on the edge of the world, with only my headlight to light a narrow way, and everywhere else darkness, shadows, silhouettes of spindly branches. The familiar homes and turns were turned strange, and the streets were wide and empty. I rode fast and laughed aloud, spiritedly. I am still trying to figure out why, when I am scared to frozen of falling, of being hit, of losing control, of sirens, of having flashbacks, of being struck by a panic attack... why do I love riding at night? It's scarier at night, sort of. I ride faster at night, a bit. I feel freer at night, and in spring, I knew where we would hear the frogs singing, when to look up and see bats. At night there are fewer people, fewer cars. More than once I rode down the middle of the street, and it felt like I was riding down a river, like trailing a silk ribbon in moonlight and above me an owl was leading the way, flying overhead, up the river, between the rows of tree tops. Owls in flight remind me of snow, because they both make a beautiful, audible silence.

It takes two, opposite and essential, processes for me to manage riding... I need to maintain absolute focus on everything, the traffic, the possible traffic, and the hypothetical traffic, and I need to not get scared, anxious, confused, too comfortable, nor uncomfortable. I am holding space for a lot, and a lot of it are conditions or states of being that are seemingly diametrically opposed. The best part of riding is when I forget everything, when I want to pedal harder, and sing aloud, and love the ride, and that is always when I am snapped back into total recall of being struck head-on by a drunk driver, and my brain and fear seize control, remind me of all the perils, all the risks, and consequences of being at ease, happy. I promise, I don't actually dwell on this. I have done many, many things trying to forget, or manage, overcome, heal, move forward. Maybe, if I write it down, if I say it aloud, I can make sense of it, demystify or dismantle it. As it is, it, the panic and other ill-effects, show up uninvited, unexpected, and I don't know how to make it stop. I guess this is why I am kind of, completely, actually, amazed that I have ridden over 2,000 miles, because it hasn't been easy.

It hasn't be easy, but I like it. I like riding my bicycle. I like feeling stronger. I like smelling all the good dinners cooking in the homes we ride by, homes that are lit in the evenings with soft, warm lights, flickering televisions. I like bringing home limes from the neighbor, finding pinecones I can load in my basket, dropping off surprises. I like seeing holiday decorations going up, and watching children play in front of their homes, and waving at neighbors, meeting new friends, noticing the sunset, the newly painted house, the dogs that are out, the cats in windows, or darting across the street. I like going passed our house, back and forth, until the odometer hits 10.0 miles, or 12, or 20, riding down our driveway, and then Geoff and I groan dramatically as we step off our bikes and laugh about our sore butts. I like my bicycle bell, and my bicycle light, and how cold I get, and how nice that feels in summer, being cold. And I really like imagining that I am going somewhere, like a real athlete, a daring adventurer.

It was fun to start sharing my daydream schemes with Geoff... to pretend that I am riding somewhere distant. I enjoyed revealing all the many details I was working out, and looking for him to confirm that it wasn't silly. Maybe it is a little silly. I am more and more an advocate, an activist, for silly, for idealism and make-believe, for imagination, and play. The more I dare, the better it gets. So, what began as imagining riding to the market and carrying home groceries, grew to pretending that a twenty mile ride wasn't just loops around the neighborhood, but that I'd reached a county park, was getting close to the foothills of the mountains, I could soon reach a cabin in the woods. I could bring a picnic, a small tent. I could reserve a cabin, and go further the next day, then the next. And I started tracking my miles, and asking where could I be today? Then I really leveled up, by taking notes, bringing out an atlas, and envisioning an itinerary. I know, I wrote all about this, already. But. Ah, it's so much fun! I am having so much fun... thinking about train schedules, and riding my bicycle through the redwoods, along rivers, into favorite towns, to see friends, and up to my Mom's front door. Sometimes, even in this perfect make-believe scenario I begin to worry, to what-if, then I think, calmly... it's no problem. Rent a car, take a ferry, use the electric assist, visit a spa, find a quieter route. Every problem has a solution, often a very comforting or appealing solution, in a make-believe adventure.

Planning the imaginary bicycle adventure between my home to my Mom's home in Oregon was easy. I found a lot of enjoyment in mapping familiar routes, then opting for some new directions, like getting to Mendocino. Then, just outside of Salem, I was hesitating. Which way? I'm headed for Portland, but what's the best route, what do I want to not miss? This is when I posted to Instagram, an appeal for guidance, an invitation for anyone to play along with me. And then it got really fun. A sister-in-law of a friend (we haven't met, yet) gave practical advice, and made excellent suggestions. So, on a make-believe bike ride, to real places, I will be hypothetically dropping by her parent's home, "during happy hour, they love company." I can't wait.

So far, my only regret is not starting this in a larger notebook, but I am undaunted! Sometimes, I get on a train, or a ferry. Sometimes, I will probably skip the plan, and head in another direction. The final destination keeps moving, first Portland, then Boston, Michael Colletta added Paris, Rome, Ruth hopes we will ride in Hawaii, and Kristy wants to join the ride from somewhere in Northern California. Maybe there isn't a final destination. I hope more friends will ride along, or suggest good sights, ideal stops. I'd like to drop by, and I won't be any bother. Last week I used all of my accumulated miles and (not counting miles on trains or driving) I can get to Laura and Gary's place, in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. But then, I decided on extending my time on the Empire Builder, between Seattle and St Paul, getting off and on again for Glacier. My notebook is a mess. That's alright. I think, when I start booking hotels, and pitching tents, when I stop at State Parks, or visit with friends, then I will need a bigger, notebook... a journal, with pockets for pamphlets, and postcards, space for pictures. This first round of planning is figurative (it's all figurative) but soon I hope to deepen the vision, the research. In the next, more immersive level, I want to think about places to stop for lunch, what I could for a flat tire, or find pictures from the deck of a ferry going to San Juan Island. I want to read the timetable for catching a ride to Prince Edward Island. I want to pack. Will I try to bring every last imaginable thing I might need, or simply a toothbrush, change of underwear, and my imaginary platinum card? Some of this, if I must be honest, is entirely impractical, and that doesn't matter one bit. On this adventure I can be bold and nothing has to out of the question.

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Wild Precious Life

First, with this accurate and inspired art, found through Joy-Ann Reid I am going to give Thanks. Thank you, Stacey Abrams, and Fair Fight, for vision, persistence, eloquence, and the good trouble you have lead, inspired, stood for. In our home you are admired, supported, and appreciated, and it's your grace with fortitude that comes to mind when I am disheartened, discouraged, and I determine to push through. Thank you for having courage, vision, and resolve to do the hard work that may save our democracy. Our day, yesterday, began as a celebration of what you helped achieve: The election of Reverend Raphael Warnock... United States senator-elect Warnock! And the election of senator-elect Jon Ossoff. This was no small feat. And we cannot lose sight of the significance of this historic moment. We can, and will celebrate!

We also must not lose sight of another significant happening... an act of terror, of treason, and treachery against the United States of America incited by the 45th president and carried out by his supporters. It was carried out in broad daylight, televised, broadcast, Tweeted, boldly displayed, flouted, for all the world to see. Yesterday, spurred by Trump, the mob was met, as usual, with almost passive resistence, allowed entry, there were selfies, it was like a safe space for white people and their hate, vandalism, and crimes, for Trump's people. Today, some people are refuting what we saw, rewriting the narrative, lying about what happened and who is responsible. We cannot, we will not, let the terrorists, the armchair racists, and conspiracy addled citizenery cover this up, whitewash it! It wasn't antifa. It wasn't BLM. It wasn't unfortunate, or a protest, concerned citizens. And it sure as hell was not "very special" people who climbed the walls, broke into the capitol, intimidated security, terrorized lawmakers, looted, and literally professed, "We're storming the capitol, it's a revolution." No take-backs on that statement, and no down playing nor putting spin on the man who has been at the helm of lies, hate, and treason, all along. Impeach this pos potus. And arrest the terrorists that can't get over losing the Civil War, nor the 2020 presidential election. Dan Rather, "To my colleagues in the press. Words matter. Do not use euphemisms to explain away what we all saw yesterday. This was an attempt to undermine American democracy by a defeated president of the United States. This was an insurrection, domestic terrorism, an attempted coup."

There is so much more to address, to be mindful of, and concerned about. When I consider the number of people I personally know that espouse Q conspiracy, that rally around Trump, that believe he is a Christian, that foment hate, and confuse skepticism with critical thinking... it's clear enough we are a long way from things settling down and even further from seeing justice prevail.

I am tired, sad, angry. I admit, the racism I have met, all of my life, has been something I can deal with, something we learn to avoid, or deflect, or confront, or manage. But racism is there, for me, for my children, for friends, for my ancestors, and it's wrong, it takes a toll, and it makes me feel more empathy, more anger, and grief, for everyone that cannot walk away, overcome, be "all right." It makes me scared, too, because the hate is escalating, and where will it stop? Rev. Jacqui Lewis's words resonate with me, "So damn tired of living in a country that treats Black grief as a threat, and white rage as a sacrament," as do these words of care, and wisdom from Terence Lester, "If you are a person of color, make sure you protect yourself from racial trauma. Turn off the news. Self care. Hold close those around you." I am frequently second-guessing whether or not to share pictures of flowers, of chickens, of my success, of my proud achievements, or even the things I struggle with... I don't want to appear to be indifferent to hardships, or as if I am unaware of the struggles and injustices going on. But I am beginning to appreciate that living my good life, celebrating our joy, protecting my joy... these are not only a gift, but they should be honored, and I don't owe anyone an explanation, or justification (which, I realize I am doing now... trying to explain and validate why I am about to share pictures of eggs and goats, and justify my eagerness to retreat and recover from news, from anxious fears and anticipating what next?) Here I am... an Idigenous, Latina woman, a blogger, and mentor, an advocate for children with Autism, a daughter of an immigrant, a pocha, a girl too dark to be white, too güera to be de aqui. Here I am, still trying to feel like I belong, still feeling the need to explain who I am, why I might be welcome here, or there... and I want to enjoy my blog, share my happiness, show and tell my own, unique stories, and rest, too. And be angry, then joyful, and be seen, be included, even left alone. Isn't it odd, or ridiculous, that I still don't feel in touch or comfortable, natural about holding my own space? Maybe someone else struggles, too. Maybe we can talk about that, maybe I will grow, heal, and be comfortable in my own skin, and stop apologizing, just hold close those around me, be protected from trauma, and let my joy be a sacrament.

Maybe it's time to make my birthday cake, and imagine beautiful places, travel, and think of good things to do, like bicycling around the world, and twirling in pretty dresses. Maybe I only need reminding that I belong here, where we've built robots and flower beds, and hosted celebrations for the sun, and stars, and been thankful, mindful, inspired by books, and ideas. Otherwise, I am at risk of wasting something good.

The Journey

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice–

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do–

determined to save

the only life you could save.

–Mary Oliver

Poem 133: The Summer Day

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean—

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

—Mary Oliver

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

It Is a New Year

A few days ago I sat beside our Christmas tree, inhaling the fragrance of pine, thinking about people I miss, activities I miss, and I teared up over things, so many things, like missing loved ones, and some of the better aspects of how life was before. I've been feeling sad and anxious, eager to hear good news, to be done with accident issues, to feel like maybe our democracy will not be burned to the ground. I guess it's no wonder I felt like I don't want Christmas to be over, because it's such a simple, and familiar state of mind, of spirit to live in, with music and lights, and the world trying extra much to share in surprises, kindness, comforting gestures and traditions. It's a safe space of amicable activities, sights and sounds, full of hope, and appreciable tasks. It hasn't even felt like a new year, anyway, so why step out of the old year, is what I was thinking.
Anyone that's been around Chickenblog long enough knows my arch nemesis is laundry... in part because laundry is my arch nemesis, and because humor and hyperbole help me cope with my general antipathy about housework. For the record, the very best thing to happen in 2021 is that I have tackled laundry. It's not gone 100%, but is it ever? But! Laundry is washed, dried, hung, folded, and put away, at about a 95% rate of completion. And, so much laundry has been vanquished, I have even moved on with mending! I don't know what happened, what changed, why I found the gumption, and resolve, and I do worry it won't stay... but right now, laundry is not a problem. Amen.
From the Heroes' Feast, another excellent recipe, prepared by Bambi, Elven Marruth. She made the vegan dough from scratch. Don't her little hand pies look darling? I was upstairs mending clothes, and after a while the oven issued forth the absolute best smell of baking dough, and onions, carrots, cabbage, potatoes. Maybe because I was sitting on the balcony, and getting cold, hadn't had breakfast, but Bambi's baking was filling the house with really enticing, irresistable aromas, and I couldn't wait to try some. I felt like a child, hoping to get a sample from the kitchen, without waiting to sit down to a meal. They tasted as good as I hoped, better. What a treat!
Since November, I have been counting days, not til Christmas, but to the run-off election for the Georgia senate seats. Geoff and I supported Stacey Abrams' gubernatorial run, in 2018, and we have supported everything she has set her sights on since. We believe in her, in her resolve and intelligence, in her effectiveness, and we believe in democracy, Black Lives mattering, and justice. She did the work, and pulled the people together to prove, in the presidential election, that Georgia is not a red state, but a state where voting has been suppressed, where BIPOC votes have been suppressed. And with democracy on the line, I have been waiting, holding my breath for January 5th, for the Reverend Raphael Warnock, and Jon Ossoff to be elected to the United States Senate.
Last night felt like a New Year's Eve, like we were closer to something good, something just. We broke bread, and shared our growing optimism. Today, in light of what has been accomplished in Georgia, we are closer to the kind of new year I can celebrate. And... with what racist, alt-right, conspiracists are doing in the Capitol, we may be further from having a democracy in which to enjoy this success.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

What's Poppin

Hello. It's me, and I am full of beans, again, about a new to me food! I went back to to my source, looking for those Cranberry Beans, when I saw Amaranth, the seeds from an ancient plant of Mesoamerica, and! And, they pop! Has anyone else ever popped corn, then looked around the kitchen wondering, "What else pops? Could peas pop? What about sunflower seeds?" I can't be the only one, and I may be late to the game, but I am ok with this. I need late life discoveries, like new things that PoP!
It takes a hot, dry pot... something deep, because a few are going to fly out. Too hot and they scorch, and I know this from experience. But just add one tablespoon at a time into the hot pot and be ready to shake, or swirl, the pot and keep the seeds moving. It happens fast, the popping, and is fun to watch, which reminds me: Do not use a lid, because you'll miss the action, and you need to watch them to know when to stop. It's easy, even though you might scorch the first batch... just toss it into the compost, and try again. Pour your popped seeds into a bowl, and then pop the next tablespoon. I think they taste a bit like heirloom popcorn, and a bit like the earthiness of beets. People add them to baked goods, or top a salad with them. Maria sliced an apple, and we dipped the apple slices in the amaranth, which looked pretty. I should have taken that picture, but we'd already popped them into our mouths!

Monday, January 04, 2021

Open Seating

We couldn't believe our luck when we rode by and saw this "free" table sitting on the curb! This happened about two months ago. It could not be a nicer fit for the new deck... a long and deep, sturdy table with fitted pipe legs, and heavy wood planks. It looks great! Since the deck was built with making events in mind, we want to keep it both open and inviting, with space for gathering and doing projects, but without crowding ourselves. This is why Alex suggested we don't look for chairs to add to the table. It would be too many pieces of furniture to buy, and to deal with. Then I thought of benches... two pieces of furniture that could seat many visitors, and be easily tucked out of the way when not needed. They could be versatile! The idea stuck, and Geoff, William, Alex, and Max got to work on a design, and making!
To compliment the style of the table, Geoff looked for steel pipes to make legs for the bench, and he was happy to find Brooklyn Pipe. Actually, he started at our local hardware store, but the limited selection is what made him do a wider search. Some of the pieces had to be painted, so we could make them look a little more uniform. Technically, it's all a bit mismatched, but that kind of suits our aesthetic anyway! I won't get too detailed in describing all of this. They made measurements, came up with a configuration, and then called me over to decide on a paint color, and I went with Nocturne Blue, by Behr; same as our picnic table (maybe?)
William painted the 2"x8", 8' boards. It's Nocturne Blue. But. Maybe not. Our Nocturne Blue looks nothing like it shows on the website. Nothing. And it doesn't even match the other picnic table we were looking at when we chose to paint the benches blue, too. What the heck? It's not a disaster, but I suspect we will be going over the benches, someday, with a more subdued blue. But please don't mention any of this to Geoff. He likes to get things "right," and they all worked on this for my birthday present, so he really really wants it to be perfect, for me to love it. I love it! I love love love the benches, and maybe I will paint them, again. No biggie! The whole paint color issue has us scratching our heads, but only in a mellow bemused way.
Using pipes like this is something new for us, and we like it. We are thinking of using the extra parts to make shelves, maybe for the blacksmith shop.
Now we have two benches, and seating for ten, or more. They are very stable, and have a nice, deep seat. We will be able to use them at the table, or pull them away for sitting around the perimeter of the deck... versatile, like we hoped for, and that's good for us. When we can get back to hosting making events, this new space and accomodations, are going to be really nice, like an extension of our shop. We look forward to all the making, playing, and sharing we will be able to enjoy.