If you spend any time looking around your neighborhood or perusing any host of media outlets, it seems our world and cities are overflowing with despair, injustice, and intemperate holiday consumerism.
Police brutality, global climate change, declining biodiversity, rising inequity and injustice are scattered between “lowest prices of the season!” happiness-equals-things advertising. As someone who cares, it can feel like valid and vital issue layers upon valid and vital issue, adding helpings to your plate until the meal before you feels insurmountable and rife with indigestion. As a wee mortal in the shadow of gargantuan global ills, the disempowering sensation of impotence is an understandable response.
And how can we blame anyone for feeling overwhelmed? Or if not overwhelmed, for struggling to find any purposeful outlet for their desire to make a difference?
I’ve fallen into the same pattern, perhaps getting and staying more involved than some, but after looking around and seeing so much that needs addressing, experiencing so much injustice and nonsensical bureaucracy in our social, political, health, educational, and economic systems, I’ve realized that these issues are not a simple stack from which to extricate a particular layer; all of our problems are fundamentally related to one another.
The police officer whose gun is all too at-the-ready in black and poor neighborhoods. The person in a car who lays on the horn behind a cyclist traveling at a speed they deem unacceptable. People walking in a distancing arch around the homeless. The indoctrinated evangelist in front of low-income women’s health centers, screaming of god’s love inbetween slurs and condemnations. The terrorist, the rapist, the animal abuser. They all view the object of their aggression and/or judgment as less-than.
We’ve labeled and identified and therefore ceased to see the life in front of us. Failing to take each experience and thing on their own merit, failing to view “other” as equally valuable and deserving of basic dignity and respect. You can ride your bike past the same stretch of scenery 100 times and every time is a different experience. But after that first ride, are we even looking anymore?
How often do we really SEE each other? See beyond labels and categories we’ve created in an act of abbreviation between recognized characteristics and our limited, individual understanding? How often do we genuinely ENGAGE with one another? So many structures are in place that breed loneliness and isolation and prejudice that basic interaction and physical sensation are anomalies that cause us discomfort. They become things we seek to avoid.
From couch to car to cubicle and back again. Placed into boxes that define us in limiting terms, but which make us significantly easier to target with holiday marketing campaigns. These physical and social barriers, from car-centric transportation to suburban housing to divisions of class and race, lend themselves to a sensation of suffocation, of searching and yearning for something that we cannot define. We live with willful ignorance to avoid uncomfortable personal and societal truths and buy stuff we don’t need to feel connected to something, anything – only to be left alone and unfulfilled when the high of consumption inevitably wanes.
The yearning for connection, belonging, and the sense that we’re genuinely included is a basic human tendency. We all experience it, we all need it to find sustainable happiness, and many roots of our culture place things, gates, and steel-boxes between us and connecting with nature and neighbor. Compassion requires stepping outside of your own circumstances to experience another’s, but when we’re boxed in literally and figuratively, it’s incredibly difficult to see anything beyond our own reflection.
Think about it: what social problems DON’T arise from our lack of empathy? And since this is a uniting feature in the valid and vital issues we face, wouldn’t the cultivation of compassion in ourselves and our policies provide a foundation from which to address everything else?
Our internal structures shape how we treat one another, and our built environment influences interaction. Even something as basic as making eye contact on the street increases our happiness, sense of connection, and sense of value. Moving beyond highways and car-centric transportation can help improve mental health in sound reduction alone while removing walls of asphalt and pollution that segregate and separate communities. Police who regularly patrol a single community on foot might be more likely to see neighbors instead of potential criminals. Eliminating advertising in public spaces provides respite from the demands and detriments of unrelenting mental stimulation.
Cities that cultivate compassion through community-shaped police policy, shared-space focused urban design, prioritized active and public transportation systems, accessible and well-funded education, and other community-centric policy can alleviate the symptoms we see superficially, including crime, police indifference and brutality, and economic decline.
This is the city of the future. This is how we confront the issues that pile upon one another, leaving us feeling inadequate to address them.
Seeing this common thread is especially empowering in our daily lives. Every person you acknowledge, every story of racial indignity you refuse to ignore, every trip you take by bike, every local small business you patronize, is activism. Every seed of connection and love that you plant creates hope for future generations.
So go say hello to someone random, engage friends in discussions about race and injustice, ride your bike or walk for your errands, and keep looking for ways to promote love and compassion.
Someone once said, “we’re all in this together”. That person spoke in clichés, but they also spoke truth.
Ahhh, Ladies! That runny-nosed and rosy-cheeked chilled breeze? That encompassing waft of wooded fireplaces? Those unexpected gusts that wobble wheels and whirl leaves like the shaking of a snow globe? That’s Fall!!
Pedaling in this atmosphere is to experience, through all of our senses, the shifting of our world and rotation of seasons. It’s like the world is reminding us of our own potential to continually grow, shrivel, and reemerge as something more rooted and whole.
It’s also a time when echoes of squeaking chains remind me of needed two-wheeled maintenance and gear upgrades in preparation for hibernating temperatures and intensifying precipitation.
My favorite gear for fall is listed below! Feel free to share yours in the comments :)
1) A RIDICULOUSLY OVERSIZED SCARF
Those chilled breezes can lead to stiff-muscled, frigid riding, hence the need for layers and scarves. Keep your neck wrapped and warm to have a more relaxed, leaves-gazing ride. Great handmade options are available through Etsy, like this one made in Portland, OR. You could also knit your own (I have one my Mom knitted me a while back that I could probably smuggle several children in, and it’s WONDERFUL).
2) A LOVELY LONG COAT
I posted about this one a little while back, but in general, a slightly longer, water-resistant to water-proof, snuggly-warm coat provides a needed layer of elemental protection, and the added length helps keep upper legs dry when you forget your rain pants…
3) A GO-TO WOOL BASE LAYER
Wool is unbeatable for its warmth and drying capabilities. I have a zip-up hoodie from Ice Breaker (note: not certified humane. Make sure you do your research), but any thin zip-up is a great top layer for regulating your temperature and preventing the coat-sauna of winter.
4) 2 PAIRS GLOVES OR MITTENS – WOOL + WATERPROOF
I have both, and you should, too. If you’re enjoying a two-wheeled commute everyday, you’ll need more than one pair. The waterproof ones are… not so lovely, so having a go-to wool pair AND back-up water-and-cold-proof pair can keep you chic and frost bite free.
Tons of options, and Knog has some great, bright, USB-chargeable ones. There are also these, which seem pretty amazing and worth the investment.
6) WARM. ASS. SOCKS.
I hate socks. In fact, I almost never wear them. Until it’s cold. Really cold. So when I do give in to the demands of my frozen toes, I snuggle my feet in these, or these (which are vegan, USA made, and recycled cotton).
Stay warm, chic, and enjoy your ride, Ladies!
Allo, Ladies & Lady-lovers!
Check out my first article published over at Ravishly.com: an awesome website written by awesome Ladies! I’m so grateful to be able to contribute to the site, and look forward to sharing more of my awkwardness of living with everyone :)
So here it is – the embarrassment and joy I discovered while suffering through my first Ultra:
I couldn’t hold it anymore—I abandoned my modesty. The sheer discomfort of running with a sloshing bladder at its limits forced me to shelve my fear of an accidental poop-pee without toilet paper and with the added dicey-ness of wearing tiny, tiny shorts. I pulled to the side of the trail, dropped my now well-wedgied, miniscule shorts, and peed.
And kept peeing.
I cordially nodded to several passing runners whom I had now exposed myself to, and at that point, around 24 miles into my inaugural trail ultramarathon, the sweet relief of a finally empty bladder gave me much needed hope. “Maybe I can actually do this, maybe I’ll finish. That guy said it’s easier from here, so if I just shuffle on, I can do this!”
That guy by the way? He lied. He fucking lied to me.
Going Beyond The Marathon
When you tell your friends and family that you’re running a marathon, it’s like it’s suddenly your birthday. There’s an outpouring of excitement, support and encouragement coupled with the “wow, I’m winded at 5 miles!” not-so-gentle questioning of the do-ability of what you’re about to undertake. But overall, it’s a party. Finish or not, you’re attempting a MARATHON! And that drive and dedication is something to be applauded and celebrated.
But add a handful of miles to 26.2? Those miles are apparently crazy miles, since they push you past “admirable” and into “questionable judgment.” Even more so when you have residual injuries from being run over by a car.
You see, I was an athlete. I used to train for competition and times. I am now a past-tense athlete. I train for finishing and enjoying the journey.
When you’re grateful for something as simple as working legs, it upends your perspective, making you more aware of the multitude of simple, ubiquitous blessings you’re lucky enough to enjoy every single day. I no longer compete with others or opinions or finish lines—I compete with myself. And I’ve found nothing as awe-awakening as carrying yourself, under your own strength, through every single moment of something you felt you “couldn’t” do.
I have shown myself, at moderate paces I’ve now mostly accepted, that limitations and doubt are stupid. If you take care of yourself, listen to your body and take your time, you’ll surprise yourself with what you can complete and overcome.
So here I was, two emotion-releasing road marathons later, obsessively reading and re-reading the website for Trail Factor—a trail 50K in my hometown. One day on an impulse, I finally pulled the trigger: I paid the entry fee. Being a generally frugal person still digging out of the financial hole of medical bills and lost income, a non-refundable financial commitment was like signing in blood. There was no going back.
I started the training process I’d come to love and added in some wow-this-is-significantly-more-challenging trail jaunts. But as it does, life sometimes got in the way, and I’d only completed a long run of 20 miles prior to race day. That meant I’d have a full 11 miles of uncharted physical territory the day-of, plus a freshly acquired blister on the ball of my right foot.
On top of mileage and blister concerns, I learned that there was a four-hour cut-off at 19 miles—reach that distance by that time or they’d pull you from the course. With my pacing limitations, a time-based cut-off instilled in me a deep sense of doubt and inadequacy that was jittering through my whole body as I walked toward the white tents of the starting line.
I picked up my numbered bib, stocked up on gooey energy aids, taped my right foot, and waited, bouncing foot to foot with excitement and anxiety. There was no more thinking, no more preparing. This was it.
The Starting Line
The first lesson of ultramarathons—it’s not a marathon.
I’m used to seeing people of all ages, abilities and gear quality in the starting corrals. These people were far more homogenous—thin, fit, focused and decked out in the finest sweat-wicking fabrics and split-monitoring wrist computers. When I started up conversations, there was far less “this is my first time” and far more “this is my training run for an upcoming 50 miler.” At first this was intimidating, then it was freeing—there was no keeping up with this crowd, which meant there was no pressure. Somebody has to be last, and if I made the looming 19-mile cut off, I’d happily take that spot!
I started preparing myself. Snacks? Check. Water bottle belt filled with personalized, homemade energy drink? Check. IPod charged and stocked with inspirational tunes? Check. Foot blister taped and ready for a beating? Check.
My traditional mental techniques weren’t going to get me through the strains of 31 miles and 4,000-plus feet of elevation gain. I created a new mantra: “I’m just on my way to the start.” It was a phrase that resonated with me, encouraging a view of every moment and mile as a pressure-free, leisurely beginning. Stay present. Stay mindful.
The atmosphere of the trail would prove solitary and free of bearings. There would be no markers, no encouraging crowds, only a handful of aid stations with varied spacing, and something I hadn’t really thought about—no port-a-potties. Perhaps if I had considered it sooner, I would have had time to get in line to empty my already noticeably-filled bladder prior to the start . . .
As we neared our launch, the race organizers started shouting thanks to various people and groups. Nervous energy was buzzing all around me. Some people were smiling and bouncing excitedly, some staring blankly forward (likely arranging their mental game), others prepping their data recording, face down to their wrist monitors. We’d have to loop down a little further, the announcer said, to space out our starts because there were too many of us for the too-narrow entry point. This would add a tiny bit more distance. I tried not to think about it.
Then the countdown, then the launch, then the huddled bumbling and spreading out of the field, then . . . we were off and running. We were running an ultramarathon!
. . . and we were running really fast . . .
Hills, Broken Dreams, Bloody Footprints And Triumph
My assessment of the group turned out to be correct—most of these people were beasts. Our starting pace was blistering—literally. I felt my foot blister tugging precariously on the tape surrounding it. If the tape comes off, I thought, I’m screwed. I needed to slow down—to save my energy and my foot. I started looking ahead for a wider section of trail where I could slow down without impeding the herd.
I hopped and sidestepped roots and rocks, flowing speedily through the dense muteness of the woods. It was beautiful and it was incredibly fun. “I’m on my way to the start. I’m just on my way to the start.” I turned the corner of a switchback and a wider, mountainous stretch of trail presented itself. The realities of the enormous elevation gain I’d face throughout this morning began to sink in.
I pulled to the side and I climbed. And climbed. And climbed. How long is this first hill? How did I not notice this on the elevation maps of the course? Turns out it was around two miles—one of the longest hills of the day. It proved an appropriate intro to the suffering that was to come.
From the peak of that hill, the following miles blurred in hurried joy. My legs were fresh and my tape was holding. I smiled uncontrollably. I was going to do this! I was going to smoke that cut-off! I turned another corner to head into an incredibly steep descent near mile 10. I was going fast. I was going really fast. I was going too fast.
I landed forcefully with my right foot and . . .
The tape protecting my sizeable blister caught my shoe and tore my foot wide open. The pain was incredible.
I could feel the warmth of pooling blood when I started an in-motion assessment of the situation. This hurt. It was going to hurt with every foot strike. Could I run 20-plus more miles like this? Would it lead to permanent damage? After some testing and gait adjustment, I decided it was safe to try. My music became distraction from the pain, and I soldiered on. With my now significantly slower pace, the thought of missing the time cut-off began to creep back in.
My throbbing, bleeding foot was one thing, but my bladder refused to be ignored. I kept seeing blissfully relieved runners emerge from the trees, but alas, I was not as skilled at finding a spot to call my Honey Bucket. I didn’t want to potentially poop in front of everyone, so I clenched and kept on running.
Who knows how many hobbly, full-bladdered miles later, after building a smoldering hatred for whoever designed this hilly course, I came to the base of yet another hill. A race volunteer was there to make sure I made the turn and we smiled at each other.
What followed was the steepest, longest, dream-crusher of hills. I slowed to a walk and screamed with anger at the race organizers. What the hell is wrong with these people?! Did they enjoy torturing the participants? Why, why, WHY would you send us out here for a special loop just to add this hill?!
Continuing to walk at the top of the hill, now deep in the woods with no sense of how far I had to go, I was very much alone, and I began to ugly-cry. My foot hurt and trailed bloody marks wherever I ran, I had unpleasantly discovered that the mouthpieces of my water bottles were filled with mold, the race organizers were assholes, and I was tired and needed to pee. I was done in every way a person can be done.
The hill had broken me, but it had done so in the middle of nowhere. Thank the Universe this was where I lost hope—it made it impossible to quit. There was no exit for miles, so I had no choice but to continue on. I took a deep breath, watched another suffering runner pass me by, then picked up my feet and shuffled forward. At least if I’m running, I thought, I’ll be able to quit sooner.
But as I ran, I regained my resolve. I was OK. I was going to be OK. With all that had gone wrong, far more had gone right. This isn’t over until I say it is, and I believe in myself too much to just give up.
What felt like a long time later, I returned to the place where the volunteer stood. “Way to go!” he shouted, “You’re doing an awesome job!” His cheering lit a fire in my heart and washed away my residual doubt. I told him the hill had been rough, and he assured me it broke many people that day. “But don’t worry—it gets easier from here.”
I asked him what mile I was at, and he informed me I was past mile 18. I’M GOING TO MAKE THE CUT-OFF! I’m going to finish this!
I hobbled past mile 19 with time to spare and hobbled on past mile 20 and mile 24. I had the glorious relief of (publicly) emptying my bladder, I hit and overcame more walls than I can count, I found a wonderful running partner for the final handful of miles, and I sprinted downhill to the smiles, cheers and satisfaction of the finish line.
The “joy” of enduring became real with the relief of stopping, and my breaking created space for growth and connection beyond the limitations I’d created for myself. Feats like this aren’t remembered in their monstrous entirety; they, like life, are remembered in moments. Moments of happiness, moments of anticipation, moments of suffering and moments of hope. When I was finally finished, bleeding and bruised and smiling and now biblically-known to several participants, I found gratitude and happiness in all of the moments of my suffering, and I found myself.
Sometimes life’s circumstances leave us a solitary speck, waves carrying us on a whim whichever way they’re compelled. Not who-am-I aimless, not what-should-I-do-with-my-life confused & purposeless, not I-give-up helpless, but confined and rendered ineffective by forces beyond our control or understanding.
Continual purposeful paddling in opposition to these seemingly inescapable whirlpools can drain you emotionally and physically, and nothing makes your heart sink faster than looking up from your brow-sweaty efforts to see you’re still exactly where you started. You’ve tried different angles, different rhythms, different patterns, you’re dedicated and refuse to give up – but somehow these efforts have failed to culminate in meaningful progress – be it employment, artistic progression, physical feats, or other things you consider essential to living.
Sometimes life gives you lemons, and sometimes life gives you lemons, shits on them, and sets them ablaze on your doorstep.
Le sigh… what the f&*k is a Lady to do?
Rule #1 – breathe. Seriously, this isn’t an inauthentic om-ism – take a deep breath. In all likelihood you’ve been holding it in effort or huffing so shallowly your body’s been refused the physical release of a belly-filling breath. It’s simple, and it helps you connect with your body and your aliveness. This moment is a blessing many less-lucky would give anything for – never forget that. You are alive – you have the opportunity to weather this storm and come out the other end. Without that breath, we have nothing. That small but significant thing – opportunity/potential – breeds hope. Sometimes that’s all you’ll have, but it is something, and it is profound.
These consuming tides are what living is, and each one we survive breeds resiliency. While that doesn’t help you right now (it occasionally makes this Lady want to slap somebody – I’ll trade that resiliency for a break, please), it gives you context, and it can help you let go of what you have no control over.
And that is the key – this time, this frustrating, depressing time may not be immediately changeable. It’s all a part of the path of your life, the unfolding events that shape who you will become. Sometimes there is no clarity of where it is this route is taking you, but it is taking you somewhere – somewhere you cannot even imagine because it is somewhere you have yet to be. Are you going to exhaust yourself swimming upstream for the rest of your life, or can you let yourself be carried to a shore you’ve never known?
Circumstances cannot be addressed, but inner work and exploration can. Do something you enjoy, work on it every day, and put your work out there. Keep moving, stop fighting things you cannot change, and give yourself a break – you’re doing all you can and that is enough.
To Ladies & Lady-lovers feeling the exhaustion of stalled riding into headwinds: you are not alone and the winds will change eventually. They always do, even if it’s not as quickly as we’d like. Embrace the unfolding of your own path, no matter how slowly, and remember that the path is yours and yours alone – how beautiful it is that no one and nothing can take that entirely unique experience away from you.
I’ll be taking life’s steaming, lemony shit-pile and making it into compost. The seeds planted will bring harvest, and till then bike rides, art, tea, and ugly crying help ease the anxiety of waiting.
Keep riding, metaphor-ing, and trusting life, Ladies!
Happy holiday Monday, Ladies & Lady-lovers!
Here’s your internet interestingness to launch an inquisitive week!
The food may be delicious (scrambles and benedicts and biscuits, oh my!), but I’d have to agree with this opinion piece from the NYTimes – the peaking popularity of wake-up-at-noon, binge-until-coma, peter-pan-non-adulthood brunch culture may finally be on its way out. The new fad in noshing? Good ol’ fashioned breakfast at early-enough hours that allow for a full day of adventure and living :)
Three $500,000 (read: VERY CHEAP) road diets in Portland, OR have reduced crashes by 37%, traffic volumes by 6.41%, and speeds by 9.82%. Wow! As has been proven time and time again, reducing road size and improving two-wheeled and two-footed access reduces congestion and makes streets more livable – for everyone. Always nice to see more research bolstering the concepts!
The culmination of a series from The Atlantic Cities, this article reviews the culmination of their research – cities are increasingly implementing multi-modal, active transportation systems. Looks like the end of the “cars for everything” era may finally be upon us, Ladies!
Who knew that a cooler with a broken vial of blood from a nun in the Congo would lead to the discovery of the incredibly virulent disease that the globe is facing today? An Interview with the original scientist behind the discovery is like reading the transcript to a terrifying film – mysterious death, unknown cause, sneaking samples away from government authorities for further testing, inoculating mice who seem initially seem fine, then one by one, start to die… very interesting context provided by this BBC interview.
From the article:
The object we call a book is not the real book, but its potential, like a musical score or seed. It exists fully only in the act of being read; and its real home is inside the head of the reader, where the symphony resounds, the seed germinates. A book is a heart that only beats in the chest of another… Writing is saying to no one and to everyone the things it is not possible to say to someone. Or rather writing is saying to the no one who may eventually be the reader those things one has no someone to whom to say them… writing is speaking to no one, and even when you’re reading to a crowd, you’re still in that conversation with the absent, the faraway, the not-yet-born, the unknown and the long-gone for whom writers write, the crowd of the absent who hover all around the desk.”
Have a beautiful Indigenous People’s Day, and keep on riding and enjoying life, Ladies!
Hello, Ladies & Lady-lovers! Welcome to Fall – brought to you by the flavor of pumpkin!
As leaves turn, dry, and drop and temperatures welcome warmer attire, a quintessential two-wheeled dilemma rears its disheveled head – helmet hair.
It’s a kind of sweaty smushing in the summer, a wild, woebegone wash in the winter, and a half-sweat half-frizz fro for the spring & fall. Regardless of your unique head-nest, helmet hair can impede the chicness of your cycling.
Reader @rebeccadbar inquired on twitter about dealing with the follicular disarray, so I thought I’d pass along some advice!
1) THE SCRUNCH & HAND-TEASE: Since the most common form of hair du helmet is a cemented hair encasement of your skull, this technique seeks to preserve body. Basically, you take the top half of your hair, twist it into a bun or pseudo-bun on the very apex of your head (no hair tie required!). You then place your helmet over the bun and ride, letting your hair down upon arrival. The raised bun keeps your roots upright and stops the squish. When you get there, use your hand – with fingers spread apart like you’re holding a large ball – to jush your mane from the roots, helping your ‘do fall back into place. If your hair is too short for a bun, just lift roots up and back pre helmet – it has the same effect.
2) TRY A HELMET-FRIENDLY TIE-BACK: Low ponytails and buns to the rescue! If your hair is long enough, you can give up the fight and just roll with the realities of wearing a helmet. Here are some options to try, and I’d add the loveliness of a side-swept braid to your arsenal if your hair is long enough.
3) HEADBANDS: These can look professional, stylish, sporty, or hippie-chic – le versatile! They also allow you to prop up the front portion of your hair upon arrival, helping to hide helmet effects. Check out Etsy for all sorts of options.
Keep riding and looking lovely, Ladies!
A glorious smells-like-fall Monday to you, Ladies & Lady-lovers!
Here’s your internet interestingness to start the week with open and fascinated minds :)
Scotland may soon be fully independent – haggis and kilts for everyone! The link above explains what’s going on (note: according the the BBC…) and provides arguments for and against this historic vote.
Got some innovative ideas and designs for wave power generators? Now’s your chance to change history! NASA and the DOE want to move us towards sustainable technology by cracking the code of wave power. One problem: they’re stuck. Much as the Arab Spring harnessed the power of the public via the internets, so, too is the government seeking new perspective by tapping ideas from any and everyone across the USA. They’ve provided open source software to measure the effectiveness of your designs, so if you’ve got a good idea, submit it! Some lovely open-source do-goodery for the environmental and Ladies everywhere.
3) E-BIKE CONVERSION KIT THAT PROVIDES ASSIST TUNED TO YOUR HEART-RATE (EXPLAINED TO OVERLY-DRAMATIC MUSIC)
Falco already provides some great and durable kits to convert your bike to a pedal-assisted e-bike, but their new design offers off-road capable, heart-rate controlled assist – new technology that sounds incredibly cool! Their kickstarter video explains the technology with the giggle-inducing bonus of background tunes appropriate for the lead-up to battle in LOTR or GOT. Seriously – who picked the music?
Yep – building safer infrastructure for Ladies & Lady-lovers on two-wheels can actually IMPROVE congested roads, and now there are studies proving it. From the article:
Rather than increase delay for cars, the protected bike lanes on Columbus actually improved travel times in the corridor. According to city figures, the average car took about four-and-a-half minutes to go from 96th to 77th before the bike lanes were installed, and three minutes afterward—a 35 percent decrease in travel time. This was true even as total vehicle volume on the road remained pretty consistent. In simpler terms, everybody wins.
It only took 126 years, but huzzah for closure! The info and process appears to be legitimate – testing of a shawl with both the blood of The Ripper’s victim and semen from the attacker – and has led to a 100% mitochondrial DNA match to a known suspect: Aaron Kosminski. I’ll still hold out on official declarations until I see this news re-printed by a source other than The Daily Mail…
C.S. Lewis’s book The Four Loves examines the different intimate bonds we form with one another, including what he considers the “rarest, least jealous, and most profound relation” – friendship. From the book & post:
In a circle of true Friends each man is simply what he is: stands for nothing but himself. No one cares twopence about anyone else’s family, profession, class, income, race, or previous history. Of course you will get to know about most of these in the end. But casually. They will come out bit by bit, to furnish an illustration or an analogy, to serve as pegs for an anecdote; never for their own sake. That is the kingliness of Friendship. We meet like sovereign princes of independent states, abroad, on neutral ground, freed from our contexts. This love (essentially) ignores not only our physical bodies but that whole embodiment which consists of our family, job, past and connections. At home, besides being Peter or Jane, we also bear a general character; husband or wife, brother or sister, chief, colleague, or subordinate. Not among our Friends. It is an affair of disentangled, or stripped, minds. Eros will have naked bodies; Friendship naked personalities.
Hence (if you will not misunderstand me) the exquisite arbitrariness and irresponsibility of this love. I have no duty to be anyone’s Friend and no man in the world has a duty to be mine. No claims, no shadow of necessity. Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which gave value to survival.
Have a wondrous week, and as always, remember to enjoy the ride, Ladies :)
It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves. -Sir Edmund Hillary
Climbing mountains, whether on two feet or two wheels, is a feat of endurance and strength and pain and mental fortitude nearly incomparable to any other experience. When you take yourself, under your own power, to the top of something that looms over landscape and dominates skylines, it feels surreal. In fact, beyond a kind of intense happy, it doesn’t feel like anything until I’ve returned to earth and processed hours or days of trekking, memories now inextricably amalgamated.
In this quest for adventure in its highest form, many turn their thoughts to the mountain – a target they have overtaken, a landscape they have beaten in some self-imagined conquest.
After hiking the indescribably beautiful Kalalau trail on Kauai’i, I still remember the comment from my AirBnb host the morning after sleeping off the last 11 miles of up-and-overs. After commenting on a planned noodly-legged waterfall hike for the afternoon, he raised his hands and pulled his chin back in a hold-your-horses kind of way. “Well, don’t overdo it. I know how coming back from that trail you feel like superman, ya know, like the big man who conquered the Island.” No, you know, I didn’t know what he meant. If anything, hiking that trail left me in awe of the immensity and rawness of the Island and my comparative smallness in this world and this life. If rain had hit earlier in the day or while I was on exposed landslide areas, if the lightning that night had come ashore, if I had misplaced one step I might not have been standing on this guy’s stoop, sipping from a fresh coconut he had generously drilled open. Nature is a force we can never match – think otherwise and she stands to show you how wrong you are.
Hikes and summits like that, where you’re given moments of intimate exposure to the untouched wildness of this world and your own tenuous existence, they’ve never left me with the arrogance of domination – they’ve left me humbled. I overcome my own mental and physical resistance, I push beyond what I’ve known I could, I MacGyver oh-shit mountaineering and weather scenarios (and improvise upon realizing I’ve yet again forgotten to pack toilet paper), but all of these breakthroughs and accomplishments had more to do with me getting out of my own way – nature was just kind enough to hold off life-ending conditions until I could exit to civilization. It’s those moments where you realize you have absolutely no control… the weather or a downed tree or a dry water source or a bear could easily destroy best laid plans. All you can control are your movements and your focus, one moment at a time, particularly in places and slopes less conducive to survival. You have to live entirely and fully right now or living may no longer be an option.
This kind of mindfulness, as I was once told, is like being a duck in the vastness of the ocean – you cannot truly see anything but the crest of the nearest wave, you cannot feel anything but the rhythm of where you currently are, and who knows the immensity of what’s passing beneath you. Happiness comes from letting go of what you cannot see, paddling in whatever direction you wish, and learning to enjoy the ride. When I’ve crested the top of a mountain, much like most summits in life, all I can do is breathe it in and remind myself I’m only half way.
The quote from Sir Edmund Hillary is succinct and true – getting lost and getting high bring you face to face with the mountainous unexplored-self. Tallying peaks and elevation give you nothing but lists on paper that fade with time, but letting go and cracking yourself open can let in the beauty of this imperfect life in the very imperfect moment.
So what’s your mountain and what do you have to let go of to find the summit?
Keep climbing, climbing, climbing, Ladies :)
Coats. Not just pretty, warm coats, but coats that move well, breathe well, and keep rain off well enough for riding year round. I wore my down puffy beneath a rainshell for years, but the look was… not ideal – Michelin Man-esque and more appropriate for backpacking than political hearings.
I posted a while back about gorgeous rain coats made by a lovely Lady in the UK – The Cambridge Raincoat Company. I still recommend these lovely threads, but I’m adding another option to the list.
Slightly less expensive, designed and founded in Portland, OR, made from recycled and low-impact materials, I’ve found the perfect go-to coat for just about everything! And after extended experience with their product and stellar customer service, I’m officially offering my pick for the top two-wheeled commute-coat maker: Nau!
The designs and details are spot on, clean, and sophisticated, the inner lining is luxuriously soft, and the coat cleans (& stays clean) easily. Style AND practicality – a lovely combination! And huge kudos for an oversized collar that seconds as a face warmer & wind shield – an easy single handed, one-button conversion while riding. I’m currently loving the Shroud of Purrin Trench, with added length to keep my thighs dry but enough stretch to prevent hinderance to leg movement. It isn’t fully waterproof – just resistant – but it holds up to year-round Portland-misting, light rain, and dries pretty quickly after downpours.
I encourage you to buy from and support this awesome, USA based company. Yes, they manufacture outside of the US, but they’re transparent about it and have standards far beyond most apparel producers. I buy USA made, particularly locally made, whenever possible. This is one instance where their ethical and environmental standards coupled with a commitment to headquarters in the USA made the purchase alright with my standards. I still hope for USA manufacturing in their future, and encourage you to send along a give-us-a-USA-made-option request to them, too!
The cost is moderate for a coat that lasts years (my first Nau coat is still in excellent condition after wearing it, sweating in it, and testing its limits nearly daily for almost 3 years), but you can also best your they-still-have-my-size luck and reap major savings from their yearly sale, which usually happens at the beginning of the summer.
For a full-on raincoat, check out Cambridge. For your everything-else coat? Nau’s the way to go.
Keep riding beautifully & comfortably, Ladies!