Flying Over the Grass, Part I

The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.
– Stephen Biko


The Sun Never Says

Even after all this time, the Sun never says to the Earth, “You owe me.” Look what happens with a love like that? It lights the whole sky.
-Hafiz

It is forbidden to walk on the grass. It is not forbidden to fly over the grass.
– Augusto Boal

 

I spent the better part of July building a new bike. I love the bike. But we’re not IN love yet…

The bike I’ve been riding for nearly five years, Parvati, has been a faithful companion. Together, we have accomplished many cycling goals, to say nothing of hours (HOURS!) of meditative, communal pedaling through Nature’s wonder, galore! Parvati, named after the Hindu goddess, wife of Lord Shiva, was dubbed so after careful thought and prayerful intention.

 

Divinely named...

Divinely named…

She is red, a color to be reckoned with (and one I’ve never had the confidence to wear). She is made of carbon and came with fancy wheels that are designed to go f-a-s-t. When I first began riding Parvati, I felt out of my league, like a wrangler tasked to train her Hot Rod to, “heel,” and to respect who was the true Alpha in the relationship. Over time, we became friends and team-mates, looking out for one another on each endeavor.

 

Parvati (left) and Friend, Mt Diablo summit

 

Parvati and I, riding up Mt Hamilton

Parvati and I, riding up Mt Hamilton

Earlier this year, after a back injury, it became clear that, despite all our accomplishments, Parvati was a touch too small for me. For the riding I want to do (and hopefully for many years to come), a different bike was necessary. I felt instantly confused and ambivalent. Unlike other negotiations she and I had been forced to work out on the road (mechanical issues, directional challenges, headwinds and long miles when Parvati forged on, nudging her weary traveler), this was something we couldn’t fix. Parvati would need to find a new home.
Parvati stables in a locked shed in my backyard. After any ride, when putting her away, I thank her, often kissing her, but always touching her stem and expressing my gratitude for keeping me safe, for showing me a fun, beautiful ride, and for partnering with me to face new challenges. Now, amidst the immense gratitude I felt for Parvati, I felt guilt.

 
….And then the *new* bike frame arrived (custom measurements, specially-ordered, totally-over-the-top-intimidating). I made a point of leaning Parvati up against the newly-shipped box. I wanted her to get used to the idea.

 

'Gotta admit, It IS a beau-tee!

‘Gotta admit, It IS a beau-tee!

About that time, Valentino came over. Valentino, a fine cyclist, good friend, bike-building mentor and my sweetheart, walked through the door and smiled at the bikes’ configuration, “Great idea! ‘Parvati, tell the new one all your secrets!’”  “OHHHH! Is THAT what’s happening?” I exclaimed. “I was just feeling so sad for Parvati….”

 

Valentino, showing Parvati some love in the transition

Valentino, showing Parvati some love in the transition

“No waaaay,” Valentino corrected. “Right now, she’s passing along her secrets and coaching the new bike, ‘She’s not super confident on technical descents; she’ll want to take those nice and easy. She’s ridiculously strong, but doesn’t tends to forget, so help to remind her…’ etc. etc.”

 

Huh! I hadn’t thought of that. But I wished I had! And I began holding this new reality, empowering Parvati to be the coach she had always been, as the one who would happily bid me Adieu so she could take on her next case. Of course. Why should it be otherwise?

 

And that really IS the question. Why did my mind and heart first go to the place of guilt and sadness? What have I been taught, or where did I subscribe to thinking that moving on equals diminishing what has been? In the musical, Annie, Daddy Warbucks says, “I’ve always believed one thing, you don’t have to be nice to the people you meet on the way up, if you’re not coming back down again.” In Capitalist culture, there is an assumption that when I discard one widget, I am doing so to make room for the next one, bigger and better. As consumers, the marketplace encourages our proud (thankless?) declarations of, “I’m done with this!” Nevermind where it will go, what I’m to do it with it now.

 
Has this ideology insidiously informed the way we approach our non-widget interactions, as well? Granted, in the world of bike consumption, Parvati isn’t Parvati. She is a 2008 Cannondale Synapse. In the relational world, though – the world that is SO much bigger (and sooooooo much better) than the limitations of an economic system – Parvati (widget or not) has been a relationship. She has been teacher and guide. And this is true of so many other life practices, as well, that unconsciously might sneakily, oppressively be subsumed in the practices of consuming.

 

But here’s the thing: we’re not ONLY consumers. Indications all over the place show us that humans feel overwhelmed by the weight and pressure of consuming, especially when there is no affirming plan or process for proper down-cycling or burial. Consumers and widgets go together in transactions (and often really poor discard planning), but I don’t want to bring this mentality to infuse the rest of my one, crazy-miraculous experience of life.
And so, until part two…

 

Me and my beloved teacher, right after our final ride

Me and my beloved teacher, just after our final ride

 

Lauren’s CRAN: “Flat. Like a waffle.”

Paul and Parvati

Paul and Parvati

 

The afternoon I arrived in Nebraska, I took Parvati (my bike), to Polkadot Bicycles in Lincoln.  Paul, the owner, had generously agreed to give her a once-over and safety check (Thank you, Paul!!!).  Lubing her pedals and adjusting a cable he calmly stated facts, sliding some hints my way for the week ahead,

“Nebraska is flat, like a waffle.  No pancakes.” 

On this ride, I’m ultimately descending (I will lose nearly 2000 ft in elevation, between Chadron & Lincoln), however, it’s Day Two of my CRAN and at 150 miles in, I’ve climbed (beautiful), undulating waffle ridges, climbing more than 1000 feet both days.

 

Please pass the syrup!!!

Rumbles and Waffles

rumbles and waffles

So far, in addition to the stunning scenery and intimate peeks into the small and tough rural towns lining the Northern edge of the state, my Mom and I have had some chance encounters with residents, some of whom are curious about why I’m riding, and others who seem pretty certain they’re not interested.

Oh, Nebraska!

Oh, Nebraska!

 

You, dear readers, have offered so much support, with your interest!!  THANK YOU for following my blog, for “liking” posts on Facebook, and for donating money to this effort.   If you haven’t donated and still want to, there is time!  Here’s a quick reminder of where your generosity will be shared:

1. 350.org  –  believes that a global grassroots movement can hold our leaders accountable to the realities of science and the principles of justice.

Why I chose them: SO many reasons, but simply put because they’re tell the most important story of our times using people, art and action.

2. Interfaith Power & Light –  is a national organization with over 40 state affiliates and a network of 15,000 congregations advocating for climate awareness and environmental protection as a moral issue.

Why I chose them: Because as of the 2013 census, the estimated population of Nebraska was 1.85 million, and nearly 56% of the population identifies as religious (compared to the national average of 49%).  When communities gather to teach, encourage and celebrate life-affirming values, the ripple effects are powerful, and contagious!  Go, Nebraska Interfaith Power & Light!!!

 

Nearing the end of Day Two and Hwy 20

Nearing the end of Day Two and Hwy 20

3. World Bicycle Relief – puts bikes in communities across Africa.  In myriad ways, they demonstrate that bikes are infact, “engines of cultural and economic development.”

Day Three: Hwy 83, here I come!

Day Three: Hwy 83, here I come!

 

Why I chose them: Because World Bicycle Relief is looking at what I will call WHOLE PICTURE Sustainability (economic, environmental, social and cultural).  Visit their website and watch the videos – so inspiring!

YOU are receiving this message because I want to share this week’s events with you.  I’ve committed to do the pedaling, my friends.  You can help me with your prayers and donations.   You can make a secure online donation NOW by clicking on the ‘Support Me’ button, on my Climate Ride page. You’ll automatically receive an acknowledgment and I will be notified by email of your support. Thank you for your help!

Compass Clues: Finding Home between Dizzy and Distraction

To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.

– Emily Dickinson

The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.

– Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time

 

Doing less bad is not the same as doing more good…You have one life and, like a tree, you can create abundance, a profusion.

– William McDonough

 

Parvati and Friend, Diablo Summit

Parvati and Friend, Diablo Summit

 

Two Saturdays ago, a friend and I were on a bike adventure, making our way from Berkeley to the summit of Mt. Diablo and back.  The day was perfect: blue sky, warm sun, and a cool breeze.  The route journeys through several eco-systems, including Suburbia, where we pulled over to check directions and have a snack.  The bench was positioned beneath a shopping center’s speaker.  Music, similar to what might be playing in a spa, wafted its tranquil tunes into the streets, and behind us the two-story-window display beckoned from a store that makes me cuckoo: The Container Store.  I sheepishly apologized to my friend, then preceded to soap-box anyway about how insane our species has become – continuing to buy things, thus “necessitating” entire stores that specialize in helping us contain ourselves.  Never mind the thrift stores and consignment shops accepting our “rejects” as quickly as we’re off to spend the $25 promotion we received last week on Amazon.com.

 

These realities (as you patient readers know), both pain and humor me.  More recently, observations like these have been my mirror.  In its reflection I see how consumed I am – how distracted I can be, how dizzy I feel by any number of projects, tasks on a To Do list, or some other alluring racket.   So often the result is…paralysis.  Really.  In the face of too many choices, a couple of things happen.  Initially, I consider the possibilities, watching as they become rabbit holes, mysteriously (?) related to the original query at-hand.

 

RabbitholePhoto: awesomeoff.com

RabbitholePhoto: awesomeoff.com

And then, after kicking each ball a little further down the field, or succumbing to overwhelm, I short-circuit, glaze over and resolve that the right decision will be obvious when a) the timing is better, or b) I’ve taken a nap.  This wouldn’t be so frustrating except that I have lived my adult life feeling fairly competent, highly capable, quite adept at multi-tasking.  And so, the paralysis is disconcerting.  Did something change?  (i.e., time is speeding up, Lauren is getting older)  What needs to happen?  Can I do something differently?

 

Photo art: smosh.com

Art: smosh.com

Is it possible that, similar to the World of Stuff, the World of Ideas and Go-Go-Go has become so dense, so replete, that our souls need their own Container Store of sorts?  I laugh…and then I scream.  Softly.

 

 

 

I pray harder in these moments.  I know that another space exists, a parallel universe that promises perspective. That parallel universe that is, in truth, the ONLY universe, our cosmic home.  And in an otherwise lost moment, even the smallest taste of it becomes a compass filled with clues.

 

Quiet rediscovered, dizziness subsiding, I hold the cool compass with my entire being.  In my compass, the clue often directs me toward regenerativity.  William McDonough (above) is right: doing less bad is not the same as doing more Good.  I want my life to be filled with not merely staying out of the way, being sure I’ve placed my recycling in the right bin, but with contributions for the Better, capital “B!”  I want my days, my efforts, my intentions to provide nourishment, restoration and the potential for growth.  And don’t we all?

 

If in even the smallest actions (and no actions) of our lives, we can feel our participation in the fertility, hydration, and healing that creates the Whole, perhaps the plethora of choices would be fewer, or at least offer more good than less bad?  Compass in charge, I asked for a tangible expression, something to shake me from my paralyzed stupor.

 

It didn’t take long.  I fell in love over night.  Last Sunday, my neighbor and I collected our new colony of bees and helped them move in to their new home.  They’re amazing.  Not distracted, totally dizzying (but in that good way).  The thought of doing “less harm” isn’t even part of their eco-system.  They are only about doing more good: good for the flowers, good for the Queen, good for the hive, good for Winnie-the-Pooh, and good for any of us who value the healing properties of, “hunny.”

 

Bees 2013

Bees 2013

What does your compass suggest?  In which direction are you traveling?  More Good?  First star, right straight till morning!!!

 

Compass.  Photo art: herviewfromhome.com

Compass. Photo art: herviewfromhome.com