Monday, July 28, 2008


I spent Sunday with my husband and a chainsaw. We thinned some trees that needed to be thinned for fire mitigation, we de-limbed others for the same reason. We moved a bunch of dirt and rocks and used some of those cut trees to build jumps and bridges and lots of other things that are fun to ride your bike on.

Krista Tippet of Speaking of Faith was on NPR that afternoon. Her subject was the Spirituality of Play, and how important play is and how, as adults, we somehow stop doing the one thing that made us happier than anything when we were kids.

I am often scraped and bruised and dirty, but I never think I'm too old to be falling down as much as I do. I fall down hard at least once every week. I'm always happy that I usually jump right up continue the ride. Mostly, though, I'm happy that I'm still doing things that occasionally make me hurt myself. I think an interesting survey would be to ask people in their 30's and 40's "When was the last time you fell down while playing?"

Tennis with your wii doesn't count.

I used to work for a recreation department. We had a ropes course, and corporations were always bringing their employees out for "team building". I don't know if these courses ever built effective teams, but I do know that the participants always started out with their arms crossed and their eyes rolling and thinking that the whole day was a waste of time. By the time they were on the zip line, or the climbing wall, or playing dodge ball with their bosses, it was like they were different people. They were all drunk on adrenaline and endorphins and holding their stomachs they were laughing so hard. At least one of them would say to me, "Wow. You get to do this every day? How lucky."

I would tell that person, "You can do this everyday, too. Do you know there's an Ultimate Frisbee league in town. Have you ever ridden your bike down the tow path?"

Our recreation department offered all kinds of courses. From climbing to caving to mountain biking. Without a doubt, the majority of our clients were school groups and corporations. In other words, people who were forced to be there.

How lucky, indeed. How lucky to know that I'm probably going to have a new bruise by the end of the week, and how lucky to have a long skinny bridge and a brand new jump in my own backyard.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Into the Galaxy

Last September, Tom and I sold our behemoth place--a place with land, and lots of square footage, and a big barn and (good lord) a tennis court. We bought a little tiny house and the end of a little tiny road. We also have a little tiny mortgage. I look out the kitchen door, and there is a trail right into the woods just two steps away. Our house got smaller and our world became huge. Travel opportunities abound, there's more time to explore and ride, and contribute. This house seems almost like the coziest of luxury campsites. A shelter in the midst of this glorious neighborhood.

As I work on a new way of earning a living, I get to spend a lot of time finding my way around in this new landscape. We both try not to drive very often. The bus stops less than a mile from here, and groceries, beer, and friends are a bike ride away. And though I've lived in this town for almost 15 years, I swear, I find something new every day.

Merrin took me up Chest Heave Gulch the other day. It's just just up the road, right here in my new backyard. I've ridden down parts of it, but never up the whole thing. Up is the key word. And ridden is said with air quotations. I pushed my bike. A lot.

Almost two hours to get to the place where, as Merrin said, "we have officially left the planet and are in the Shooting Stars." The meadow was ablaze with them, and I was agog. Shooting Stars look like little pink orchid flowers and I've never ridden though so many of them before. There was also Paintbrush, and Ninebark, Columbine galore, and Golden Banner. Golden Banner makes me sing that Golden Grahams song and it played through my head all the way down The Very Much a Secret Trail That Sadly, Isn't Much of a Secret Trail Any Longer that leads back to home.

I usually prefer to ride alone. I like to follow what I think might be a trail or what looks like it used to be a trail, or where I think that maybe I see faint tracks and hope that I find some glorious single track that for that day, is mine and mine alone. Tom said that if I die before him, he's going to carve "I wonder where this goes" on my headstone.

I followed one of these hey-that-kind-of-looks-like-a-trail trails a few months ago in the half forest service half mining claims land across the road. It led to a whole bunch of gravity pits that someone had forged in a linked trail of old mining test holes. I don't skateboard, but when I'm zooming up and down and around these old test pits, I think that must be what it feels like.

I didn't "discover" it, but I found it on my own and I only showed Tom, and we've never seen anyone else on it, so I feel very Sacajawea about it.

Yesterday, on the Galaxy Ride, which is what I now call the best loop ever and the one that Merrin and I did when we swooped through the stars, I was grateful for the company. We started out late in the afternoon and we hit the view just as the light changed to what I like to call Porch Light-- the kind of light that happens on summer evenings when you're out on your porch. That view needed sharing. It was the best ride I've had yet this summer. Thank you, Merrin.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Girl Walks into a Graveyard Carrying a Shovel

Nederland has a beautiful old cemetery--wooden headstones, rocks laid out in ovals to mark where bodies lie, families buried side by side, and sadly, lots of little graves. The majority of these graves are from the early part of the 1900's. My friend Jack Snyder was buried there in 2004.

Jack lived all his life in Nederland. He was 83 when he died. Born two days before Christmas and died on Halloween. He drove himself to the hospital.

Jack owned Snyder's Garage which was next door to the coffeehouse Tom and I used to own. The garage was a functioning service station in the 40's,50's and 60's, but when I knew him, the building was empty except for most of his mom and dad's stuff, several old cars, all in mint condition, and a bunch of junk my dad would have killed for. What I always think about when I think of that building was his collection of Amaryllis plants and his mom's geraniums which must have been at least 50 years old.

Jack visited that garage every day. I think it was like going to his job. He puttered around, fixed things that may or may not have needed fixing, watered his plants. He kept the place looking neat and spotless. And on every holiday, he hung out an American flag. I remember one fourth of July, someone stole his flag. Jack, though, refused to believe it had been stolen. "I think some kids just borrowed it so they could march in the parade with it," he told me. A lesson in spin that I use quite often when the ugly parts of humanity get the best of me.

The garage had smooth metal roof, and every year he'd paint some kind of silver coating on it. He'd never ask for help, and I used to send Tom over as soon as I saw the ladder go up on the side of the garage. One day we got there a little too late, and Jack was already up on the roof, wearing a brand new pair of red Converse All-Stars. He said he got them for the grip they gave him when he was up there. The image of him on his roof in those red shoes will, I hope, be forever in my brain.

Jack took care of things. He had two white Ford Taurus wagons, absolutely identical. He drove one one week, and the other the next. On weekends he drove a late model convertible. It too was white. I saw him in Boulder one day, crossing the pearl street mall on 13th street, top down and Tony Bennet blaring of the stereo.

He was always well dressed. I never saw him in jeans. He had some old pants he'd wear when he worked on cars or on that once a year occasion when he put on the red Chucks. He could tell you the exact date that everything of significance (and many things that had no significance at all) happened in town. He brought me cookie recipes, and an old photo of him that was taken when he was 10 years old. He was on a donkey (named Pineapple) and the photo was taken outside of the house that was our coffeehouse. That photo is sitting to the right of me as I type this. He had a gin and tonic every night. Sometimes he had another one, too. He always asked about my parents, even though he never met them, he threw the Frisbee for my Frisbee-addicted border collie, but mostly, he took the time to visit. He'd come in the backdoor of the coffeehouse, in through the kitchen, and stand at my sink and just talk for a few minutes.

So, last week at the cemetery, I was saddened to see that his grave was covered in weeds, and the remains of cheap plastic flowers and glass candles filled with wax that had turned liquid in this 90 degree heat we've been having.

I weeded, and dug out a bunch of old rocks and put in some new dirt and planted some columbines and poppies. I've cleared a place near his feet for a lilac, a flower he loved and one he'd bring me, wrapped in a paper towel, every spring.