Archive for March, 2012

Would that I could!

A friend posted this photo on FaceBook today, and I immediately co-opted it for my profile picture. When I filled up my car yesterday evening, I paid $4.26 a gallon. Today I passed a station in Wasilla where regular is $4.32. Believe me, if I could ride my bike to where I need to go these days I would!

I rode outdoors for the first time this season last Monday. In truth, my friend and ofttime bike partner Sharry unknowlingly shamed me into it. She lives in Valdez, the snow capital of the western world, and posted in her own blog that she had ridden that day. She said she was missing me, her partner in misery. In Valdez it was snowing lightly and only about 35 degrees. Farenheit.

So, there was nothing for it but to unhitch the mountain bike from the trainer, pump up her tires, dig out my windproof tights and smart wool turtleneck and slog up the subdivision road in the slush. Once on the main road things were fine, fairly dry and without ice. The potholes were fierce though. It’s pothole season you know; every little blemish in the pavement is full of water, which freezes, expands, breaks away a few more pieces of aggregate each night. Day comes with the traffic, which rolls over those slightly larger, water filled dimples. Water hammer effects force the loose aggregate out of the hole, which refills with water, freezes, expands ad infinitum. Pretty soon you could hide an elephant in it, and four bales of hay to feed it with.

It was glorious to be out there riding, regardless of potholes, wet patches of road, dust and traffic. Here it was about 40 degrees, and at 5:30 was still wonderfully light. I expected to see moose along the way, but was disappointed. Masses of chickadees sang their heads off and the birch twigs glowed red with that special hue they take on at this time of year.

In my route I avoided all but a half mile of the Old Glen Highway, mostly because the bike trail that I normally use is right now impassable, and I knew the highway would be full of impatient commuters anxious to get home for that first beer. I admit to being a bit car shy since being knocked into the gravel while riding in Iowa last October. The mountain bike does not have a mirror, and I could not hear the traffic behind me very well due to the earband I was wearing under my helmet. I almost turned around at the highway junction, just to avoid it. But fuck it! I thought. I am not going to be intimidated, I refuse to let trepidation cripple enjoyment of my favorite activity. The only way to get over being afraid of the horse is to get back on.

And, just as before, people went around me, people slowed down when passing me, people didn’t deliberately run me down, if only because of the hassles with their insurance company. Things were fine, and though I will probably have a few qualms again when I ride on the road, I’ll get over them.

I will.

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Friends are funny things. No two in my life are alike and many don’t even seem to share much in the way of similarities. Some of my friendships have gone along for years with only sporadic contact and yet when I get together with that person it’s as if we shared a sleepover just yesterday. With others I can see them several times a week, then suddenly something comes up and I realize I don’t feel like I know that person at all. Common wisdom says that friendship, to grow and thrive, takes consistent time and nurturing. I am of two minds about that assessment.

I have a friend, Chris, back in my hometown. She and I have been friends since high school, though we first met in grade school, in Miss Kelly’s class at Blessed Sacrament. We didn’t much like each other at first, and for several years. It’s dim in my mind why, but maybe because we were competitors for friendship with the same people. I was the new girl in 4th grade and Chris had been there forever. I don’t quite know.

However, by the time 9th grade rolled around we found common ground. Our circle of grade school friends dispersed into the larger class, all of us strangers in a new school, and Chris and I found that we shared a quirky sense of humor and a flair for the dramatic. Off and on in those four years we were very close. She was a little jealous of the time I spent with a couple of boyfriends, I was envious of her friendship with Joan and Karen. We spent a fair amount of time in each other’s company, usually at my house or at the Country Kitchen, sharing a plate of french fries and our gripes about algebra.

I’m not quite sure how the friendship survived graduation and has endured for the past 43 years. Our lives are very different. I wanted nothing more than to be free, gone and 21. Chris said she was looking for a loving home, a good man and a dozen children. I chose to travel in foreign countries and Chris loves staying home with a good book. I read science fiction, but Chris has shelves filled with biography, poetry, non-fiction. She earned her Master’s and married a psychologist, while I still wonder what I want to be when I grow up, and married blue-collar. We live 3000 miles apart and rarely email, talk or see each other. We share strong underlying values though, among them  friendship, kindness, an irreverent sense of humor, a sharp, quick tongue, and a well-developed sense of social justice.

And really, maybe that’s the thread that is common among my other friends too, those that I said earlier did not share many similarities. While my friends seem wildly dissimilar, that is only the impression at first glance. Looking more intently at those friends I can see that they all share a quirky sense of humor, the quick tongue, the bright intelligence and strong independence of mind that I value so.

Looking at my relationship with Chris, it doesn’t seem to embody the notion that friendships take a lot of time to maintain. But perhaps this one was given such a good start five decades ago that it is able to coast along now, whole, secure and happy. We periodically infuse it with wine, chocolates and intense midnight conversation. The last time I saw her we shared some disturbing things about our childhoods, things we’d never suspected about each other’s lives. Perhaps that periodic intensity is enough to see it through. And perhaps that will see through, too, the friendships with all my friends, far away.

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Friends Far Away #1

Skookemchuck Narrows

I got to spend a little time with my best friend again today. This is a rare treat for us, since we now live 265 miles apart. There’s no popping over to her house on Saturday morning for a cup of coffee, no impromptu bike rides at 34 degrees, no  shared dinners on 20 minutes’ notice. I don’t get to attend her daughter’s birthdays, theater camp performances, Christmas pageants. I can’t argue politics or religion with her husband anymore, something we both relish.

When she comes to this area it’s invariably for work, or sometimes doctor/dentist appointments. She has other family here who needs some of her time, and rarely has the luxury of unscheduled days to just goof off with me. I lived in Valdez for nearly 20 years; believe me, I understand that the list of things to do, people to see is as long as her arm.

We met this morning at Vagabond for coffee while our respective husbands went to the Palmer gun show. We walked around town, talked about what was going on in our lives, visited Non-Essentials and bought some non-essentials and generally caught up. Getting to see my friend only every several months makes me feel the same way I do in the winter when I receive my Adventure Cyclist magazine–cranky with frustration, longing so hard for something different in my life that it’s painful.

Valdez Family

I haven’t been back to visit Valdez since early last summer. I miss all my friends dreadfully. I have family there, sister born and sisters chosen, nieces, nephews, friends, community. I’ll probably drive on down to see these people in late April. With the massive snowfall they’ve had this year I’ll take my skis and snowshoes, but not my heavy coat. Spring skiing is always really warm when it’s sunny, wet when it’s not. I’ll enjoy the visit, but it’s just not the same as living there. I feel disconnected from my friends’ lives, but have not yet found those strong connections here in my new home. I feel cut adrift, not sure of my direction, isolated.

Most of the time I can ignore that in the busy-ness of daily life. Go to the store, to my Thursday night class, to my part-time job, church, library, coffee house. But on days like today, when I re-connect briefly with my friend, I realize just how much I’m missing her. Maintaining a solid friendship requires spending time together, needs shared experiences, conversations and dreams. I don’t want this friend to drift out of my life, or into that category of someone you send birthday and Christmas cards to, share emailed jokes with, think of with nostalgia after a few years apart. I don’t know what the answer is, but I keep thinking about it.

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