"Spin" in aviation training: a "stall" or loss of lift, a subsequent nose-down spin, the specific actions required for recovery, and the feeling, after recovery, that you could tackle absolutely anything!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

ALTERNATE REALITY






A friend of mine mentioned that his daughter-in-law, Kaley, 29 seemed to be a remarkably talented road cyclist but was hesitant to own this fact. Kaley's husband, brother-in-law, and mother-in-law all feel that she has tremendous talent but were stuck trying to figure a way to convince her. If you examine the life manual specifically composed for such a scenario, it calls for the intervention of a grumpy, middle-aged woman. Enter, moi. I explained to my friend that if I could be 29 again and have even ONE person cued in to what my abilities were on the bike at that age, "well, just let me tell you mister! Things would have been, you know, different." My friend offered and I jumped at the chance to meet and cycle with this new phenom.

I'm 54. With that go all of the fun, joyous afflictions laid out on the path of aging like curious toys hidden at a scavenger hunt. Menopause is the big one, and the name can fuck off. Menopause. That's like saying, "I bought a sedan," or "Oh look, blinds on sale."  I think Alternate Reality is a better phrase, because everything that you once knew, depended on, didn't fear, has changed. Everything is a science fiction movie now(What is THAT growing on my chin?). I am, however, fighting the whole aging bullshit. I recently stopped making my bed, I have piles of laundry on my floor, and I can't stop watching Brooklyn 99.  Some days, I don't even floss. I know, rad, right? Dude?

 My consistency through this alternate reality is that I am still as fiercely devoted to the bike, as I ever was. I ride 60k most days, and sometimes I sneer while doing it. I am ready for this. 

I arrive at my friend's house and meet everyone over breakfast before the ride. There is much talk of equipment, previous experience, and, well bacon, because the bacon made for this breakfast was stellar. Alternate Reality-stellar; a clue to everything going smoothly. I notice that Kaley, her husband, and her brother-in-law all have this glow of youngness: freshly scrubbed, pink-cheeked, annoyingly perfect, meanwhile I had to resort to pulling the recoil on the back of my head to shore up my wrinkles and keep my face out of the bacon. I caught myself saying phrases like, "I used to," or, "once, years ago," though I had vowed never to become that person.  Phrases like that are only a short tip into, "Nobody wears dungarees anymore."

Steady yourself Suzanne. You took The Matrix's red pill. Steady.

We head out on the bikes. Kaley's husband comes with and jokes about being the sweeper at the back. I am skeptical about his self-deprecation because he is remarkably nice too. I pair up with Kaley and we chat until we get out onto the highway. I tell her to let-er-rip and not worry. Well, she does, the let-er-rip part. She clearly wasn't worried. Even as I watched her from 100, then 200 metres back, she did not seem the slightest bit worried. Her husband and I shook our heads and quietly revelled in her lack of worry. 

I, on the other hand, was working. This was not a Sunday perambulation for me, as it was for her and I must say, it was difficult. I was frustrated with this ridiculous body that, for some stupid reason, some misguided, downer evolutionary fact, refused to go as fast and as hard as it had in the past (I know, dungarees. Bite me.). I think we should have super powers at this age. What would be so wrong with being able to fly to the store to get groceries? Instead of the threat of breaking a hip, what about the coolness of being able to breathe fire? Or lift, unaided, a multipack of anything you buy at Costco? WHY CAN'T I GO AS FAST AS I USED TO? WAS I PISSING OF THE GOD OF SWIFTNESS? WAS I INTERFERING WITH THE EQUINOX? WERE THE SLOW PEOPLE COMPLAINING? SLOWLY?  Sigh... apparently, I am human, like everyone else, an evolutionary sucker.

The thing is, I'm not ready for this. I am just now, figuring myself out. I'm just now getting the joke! Hardy-har-har-har, and it's hilarious. Good one! Can I speak to you over here for a second? But if there is an upside to todays thrashing, I hope that it is that I have been able to inspire and offer support to a truly gifted athlete. It's quite an honour to be witness to someone at the ground-level of realizing their gifts. I plan to do what I can, in my alternate reality, to continue my position in her cheering squad, and hope that, while I'm out on my rides that I may be, possibly, inspiring someone else. Maybe. But if this alternate reality takes hold... I am TOTALLY going back to my 29 year-old body. THAT would be SOOO SICK, RIGHT? 

RIGHT?





Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Me Now There Then


On a recent sunset ride, I heard the songs of spring frogs, males hollerin' for their honeys. It sent me back to when I was a kid on the farm. I remember hearing my father pulling into the driveway one evening, home from the city. I went out and saw him standing behind the car, the trunk open, his hands were on his hips and he was looking out towards the pond. I remember his shirt and tie, his brown suit pants and leather shoes. He was handsome, but troubled. He had something on his mind. I walked to the back of the car and saw a new bike lying in the grass, pink with white tires and a white banana seat, my size.  He didn't know how to give it to me and I didn't know how to take it, but I eventually pulled it to standing and rode it up and down the driveway for the rest of the evening. I listened to the frogs in the pond singing their hearts out.

It would be nice if the rules of reality were forgiving. It would be nice to be able to slide back in time on the sound of one of those frog songs, step through back into me at that time, knowing what I know now. I would put the bike down, thread my arms into my father's and ask him what was on his mind. I would do the same with my mother and get the two of them to open up and talk to each other. I would sit with them in the kitchen until the barriers got cracked and crumbled. I would help them navigate their awkwardness at vulnerability and we would begin a new, vibrant dynamic, loud and boisterous like those bloody frogs. As a result, my father would still be here. Both of them would still be living at the farm, the house renovated to let in gobs of light. They would be fiercely in demand by grandkids and good friends for nothing other than fun. They would have a goat or two and a passel of dogs that would cause trouble on the evenings when they would host a theatre group in the barn; their own Chautauqua. Mom would have swapped out her apartment upright for a proper grand piano. Dad would write and fish, and my heart wouldn't ache so much.




Friday, 2 June 2017

Carousel



The leaves are out on the big maple tree across the yard from my apartment. It's not a tree with a single, grand trunk, but two good ones, then limbs and branches continuing off of those. Its silhouette makes a compelling puzzle of the night sky; stars and planets winking at me through the breaks. The sky seems to rotate faster than you think. Of course, it's not the sky that's moving but the illusion is part of the show.  Each wink marks time as it threads through the tree, like fairy lights around a fast carousel. It is easy to dread this speed; easy to fret about what needs to be done as if it makes a difference, as if the constellations will change because you're worrying. 

It would be curious to hang on tight and accelerate the spin to see into the future, then back the ride up to the moment with the help of a reliable carni. But the thing I'm realizing is that the glory is in the reveal, the process. It demands getting yourself to a place where you can see and really be in the world as you maneuver through the quotidian tasks of the day. Then, and only then, can you experience the ineluctable discovery of the very thrill of you;

 YOU ARE THE PRIZE!  

Once you grok this, your life turns into the sensual, exhilarating experience it was meant to be. This doesn't mean that there is nothing but cotton candy from here-on-in, but there is less emptiness, less of a compulsion to simply make it through the day, become numb. 

As Bill Hicks said, "It's just a ride."

If you're head is down, mind toiling, seething, you're going to miss the best parts, plus...plus you'll probably drop your fucking ice cream.