Friday, June 13, 2014

Make way

Another dozen cyclists will hit the St. Louis streets tomorrow, most of them between the ages of eight and 13. As they officially graduate from the Earn-A-Bike course and take home their two-wheeled prizes, I'm delighted for them. But I feel some concern, too.

Over the past few Saturdays at BWorks, we've emphasized safety above all else. They bring their helmets every week. They know how important it is to be aware of their surroundings and to use hand signals and make eye contact with other users of the road. They look out for hazards, surprises, car doors. They understand that pedestrians have the right of way and that they should be courteous and predictable as cyclists. They've practiced braking, shifting gears, looking over their shoulder without swerving. And I'm confident they're getting the message that biking is super fun yet also serious.

Photo courtesy the parent of a recent pint-sized grad
What worries me is of course the things beyond their (and my) control, especially drivers. Sometimes it seems like everyone driving is on the phone (or looking at it). And some drivers behave as though they feel personally offended by anyone not traveling inside a private, enclosed bubble of zooming steel. Too many others are in such an apoplectic rush, incapable of demonstrating a glimmer of empathy or patience.

Overall, I think things are improving, actually. More often these days I catch myself waving appreciatively at cautious, kind drivers rather than shaking my fist at the reckless and aggressive among us. If you're a driver here in St. Louis, do keep any eye out for the young and vulnerable around town, please, and for pedestrians and cyclists everywhere. And if you're a cyclist, please wear a helmet(!) and ride respectfully, for the sake of the less experienced among us if nothing else. They're watching and learning from you. We all have a responsibility to them.

"Get a bicycle. You won't regret it. If you live." -Mark Twain

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

How you will stand it

Flora at Devils Tower, June 2014
My sweet dad penned a simple yet slightly ominous lullaby for me as a little girl. At the more difficult points in my admittedly limited human experience and relatively easy life, its wistful melody still keeps me company, soothing my anxieties and frustrations:

"It's a hard life, Evie.
It's a bitter life, Mary Eve.
If you're crying now,
Then I don't know how you will stand it,
When the leaves fall in the autumn of your life.
So take good rest tonight."

I did cry frequently, more than earning that particular line. Possibly it was, and is, mostly weakness, a tendency to melancholy. But it seems I'm tuned to live, to stand it, by letting the tears fall freely.

Some people say we're never given more than we can handle, more than we can bear. But I anticipate more. It will come. The leaves fall. Life or the universe or god "stuns you by degrees," Dickinson says, "prepares your brittle nature for the ethereal blow."

But here we are, and I want to try to be brave, even though it hurts (life, that is). This has not been the easiest year in a lot of ways, but I'm grateful for how it has put things in perspective and reminded me of what matters--humor, integrity, kindness, health. Also coffee. And I'm indebted to Joe and understanding friends and family who have helped me keep my head up, even when I've not been much fun. Also the mad catter (the Dash cat man), who somehow manages to be his cuddliest, most attentive self when you're struggling.

"I will hurt you, hurt you, hurt you, says the world, and then a meadow arches its back and golden pollen sprays forth." -Kathryn Davis