A Day of Light, Your Lucky Day, Friday, May 13th

I posted the Mary Oliver poem as a gift to everyone who has been reading my posts and also because today I will be biking my longest run to date, forty miles, and I needed something inspirational. I love that idea, “Make of yourself a light.” It can be done anytime anywhere. Yesterday, when I was walking my bike across a narrow bridge where construction workers were working on expanding the pathway, I had a friendly chat with the workers. They asked me if it was more or less exercise when I walked my bike and I said I figured it was more because I can’t coast when I’m walking my bike. They laughed. A simple, friendly exchange because really, what I was thinking at the time was, wow, thanks to you guys, this narrow biking bridge will be wider and what do you think as all us hoity toity bikers in our fancy bike clothes and helmets looking like aliens from the planet Bikeshop ride across your bridge on our bikes completely ignoring your sign that we walk our bikes while construction is going on. Who do we think we are that we can’t keep a simple rule like that. Do we even see you half a dozen men with your jackhammers and shovels and machines working while we play?

That’s what I was thinking and wondering about and then we had this friendly exchange and I felt human again and got on my bike and rode the remaining five miles of yesterday’s twenty mile ride feeling connected and happy. If I didn’t have those occasional conversations along the way, with construction workers and coffee shop clerks and the handful of friendly bikers who occasionally nod and smile in return to my smile, what, really, would be the point of pedaling? I ask you, what would be the point of pedaling, if not to “make of yourself a light.”


The Buddha’s Last Instruction, a poem by Mary Oliver

“Make of yourself a light,”
said the Buddha,
before he died.
I think of this every morning
as the east begins
to tear off its many clouds
of darkness, to send up the first
signal—a white fan
streaked with pink and violet,
even green.
An old man, he lay down
between two sala trees,
and he might have said anything,
knowing it was his final hour.
The light burns upward,
it thickens and settles over the fields.
Around him, the villagers gathered
and stretched forward to listen.
Even before the sun itself
hangs, disattached, in the blue air,
I am touched everywhere
by its ocean of yellow waves.
No doubt he thought of everything
that had happened in his difficult life,
And then I feel the sun itself
as it blazes over the hills,
like a million flowers on fire—
clearly I’m not needed,
yet I feel myself turning
into something of inexplicable value.
Slowly, beneath the branches,
he raised his head.
He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.

—Mary Oliver from NEW AND SELECTED POEMS, Volume One

I Fell Down on My Bike This Morning

Just as I was coming off the Three Rivers Park Regional Trail and making the turn onto the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway that circles Lake Calhoun, I fell, on the grass. It was a wonderful and amazing fall, one of those moments when the adrenaline kicks in and everything is in slow motion. I could feel myself relax.

Granted, falling from a bicycle is not really some big deal, nothing like raising kids or joining the church choir. I take that back. It is a lot like joining the church choir. I’ll explain myself later. For now, suffice it to say that even though it shouldn’t be a big deal, it’s not something I relish and/or want to do on a regular basis.

It was, however, the absolutely perfect ending of the first act to an already questionable day, questionable as in should I have even bothered to get out of bed this morning, though I had to take my son to Hopkins Main Street School for the Performing Arts at 6:45 AM so had no real choice (about getting out of bed). I did have a choice about getting on a bicycle and given the gray sky and last night’s weather forecast (showers), I did hesitate before I unstrapped my bike from the car. Add to the not-so-perfect weather the fact that my biking partner for the end of July Ragbrai ride across Iowa informed me yesterday that she would only be riding one piece of the trip and you have the recipe for a boomer’s (as in baby boomer) downer day.

Fall down five miles into the ride, curtain comes down. End of Act 1.

Act two? I’m not altogether sure at this point. I am having a difficult time giving up the idea of riding Ragbrai this my sixtieth year on the planet, especially given that I just that the ride will go through Lidderdale, Iowa, the tiny town, population 100, where I and my six siblings lived out the early years of our family life. So many memories. I could switch gears and go for the Minnesota Ride that same week. It’s a much easier ride plus closer to home plus costs less plus I wouldn’t have so much trouble dealing with transportation and it is a charity event, the Minnesota ride, with a good cause, ending multiple sclerosis.

The Iowa ride doesn’t have a charitable cause to promote. I believe it simply promotes biking, not a bad cause, really. What’s a girl to do?

I could force one of my sons to be my Iowa driver (why does that sound so completely unfunny?) I could beg strangers to bike with me. Maybe my husband won’t go to India this summer. Then he’s available.

You see why I fell. I’m confused. I’m uncertain. (Really, it was all those darn pictures of bicycles with lines slashing them in half. Where, exactly, were bicycles allowed to go? Suddenly, I had to stop and think. I’m not good yet at sudden stops in my new, hook-in-to-the-pedal shoes.) I’d throw my arms up in despair but I’m no longer confident of my ability to ride a bike with no hands. I’d like to tie my new dilemma up into a neat package with a silver bow like the one that my husband used for my mother’s day gift on Sunday, but that wouldn’t be honest.

For now, I’ll just hop back on my bike and pedal the remaining ten miles of this days workout, perhaps get a little wet, and hopefully, not fall again. The tulips are still blooming.

Lakeville Ironman, That’s Me!

I might have to ask them to change the name to Ironwoman. Regardless, I did it, my first ever biking event in wind and snow no less. Thirty miles, bumping me up to the next training level for Ragbrai. My knees are a bit sore but not horrible. I’m mostly looking forward to a good night’s sleep (for a change).

I suspect a lot of people didn’t come who had planned on coming. May Day with snow is pretty disheartening, but more reason to get outdoors and show the world that weather doesn’t control your moods or decisions. I mean, isn’t that what it means to be a Minnesota?

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