Thursday, March 20, 2014
Sunday, February 17, 2013
(Imbolc is a celebration of the new growth beneath the snow)
(This is dedicated to the spirit of my best-friend, ex-husband, and father of my daughter, Peter Marvit, who was senselessly murdered in Baltimore on September 17th, 2012.)
It took us three months
To ride our bicycles from Bedford, Massachusetts to Dayton, Washington State.
Three months from late June’s oppressive heat to
September’s changing leaves.
Three months on the road, with you encouraging us from afar, to go the distance
To push through, despite the obstacles of wind and fatigue,
Despite the doubt and frustration of such an arduous trip.
Your last text message to me said: “Sending you go-for-it vibes.”
It was two days before my birthday
When your life was taken
Two days before September 19th
Which you always reminded me was
“Talk like a pirate day” when you wished me
“Happy Birthday Matie”
But this year that wish did not come.
This year I was left with an emptiness
Like an echo
Or a lake that has iced over.
I want to howl like the wind,
I want to rattle the trees with my grief
I want to know that your death will not go unnoticed; or your life unacknowledged.
I want to make sense of something so incomprehensible.
Yet, there is comfort in the fact
that the wheel turns.
That tenacious green shoots
Push up through the snow covered ground,
Push up to eventually meet the sunlight
To a world that is kind and cruel
In the same moment.
It is Imbolc tonight
Which reminds us that from the darkness of the frozen ground
Growth will emerge
The ice will thaw
And spring will come.
Imbolc is a time for hope.
A time of dedication.
I dedicate to “movement” this year.
To moving through this time
Of exquisite pain.
Moving toward healing
Moving toward living
With full intention.
I dedicate to moving
In rhythm with the seasons
Moving, moving, moving
Yet. . .
Monday, October 15, 2012
We made it home to Massachusetts and the fall colors are out. We have been away for a whole season and then some. We started on June 17th right before summer officially began and now it is well into autumn. A lot has happened in one short season: we made it across the country on our bicycles; Peter (one of my best friends, my ex-husband, and the father of my daughter) was murdered; I turned fifty-one; I met David’s family for the first time in the seven plus years we have been together; I visited the site of the Topaz Internment Camp; and we completed our road trip back to the east coast.
All of it is hard to process and fathom.
|Picture from our last day of touring|
|We made it to Washington State!|
I am proud that we made it across the country. It was the hardest thing we have ever done physically and there were times it challenged us emotionally and spiritually as well. Overall, it was the heat at the beginning of the tour that challenged us and the climbing and smoke from the fires in the middle. Yet it was truly wonderful to experience the country so immediately, and at a pace that allowed for new experiences every day.
We have many, many wonderful memories – especially of the people that made us feel connected and part of a bigger plan even as we were travelers and strangers. We loved the little towns that hosted cyclists in their pavilions and parks; the strangers who became friends who opened their homes to host us; and the out of the ordinary kindness shown by those who helped us along the way. I know the trip has changed me, yet I have not yet had the time to figure out exactly how.
I do think that it has given me more faith in people. Despite our differences and our issues and our political views, people can be compassionate and kind to each other. It happened to us many a time. The bicycle touring slows life down too and really makes living in the present moment a reality, which is another lesson I hope to remember in my day to day busy life.
|Peter's typical response to a camera. RIP|
The sudden ending of the tour was a shock and horror. The murder of my ex is still unfathomable and perplexing. His death on the heels of my father’s death in May made the past season on of extreme loss. What these losses mean to me will unfold in time. At this point, my grief comes in waves as I remember these important men in my life. I can’t count how many times in the last week that something – a funny remark on the radio or an odd tie in the thrift store or traveling through Utah (the site of our first vacation) that I have thought I should call Peter, only to realize that I could not. He is missed by so many people and in so many ways. I am also aware that Thanksgiving is approaching. It will be the first set of holidays without my dad, or Peter for that matter. I have a slight dread about the holidays – about the grief they will bring. I am aware that death is part of the cycle of life, but this only provides a small comfort in what is otherwise overwhelming loss.
Somewhere in all of the pain and confusion of Peter’s death, I had a fifty-first birthday. I have friends who are going to celebrate this event when I get back as it was not the time when I was in Baltimore dealing with Peter’s death. Fifty-one feels uninspired in some ways. I have crossed the fifty threshold but still at the beginning of this decade. I am securely middle-age, “old” according to my eighteen year old daughter. But I still feel that I am learning and growing, which is one definition of living. I am in better shape than at other times in my life. So, fifty-one is not that bad really.
After staying in Baltimore for a week and a half, I flew back to the West coast to meet David and finish our road trip in the car to visit his extensive family. We bought a car in Portland where David had landed after I left him in Dayton, Washington. Joe, an old friend from high school, picked him up from Dayton and brought him to Portland where he lived.
When I rejoined David, we went down the pacific coast first to Folsom to meet Sarah and Kent and ride the bike trails, then to Santa Barbara, where I met David’s sisters Annie and Becky, and Annie’s partner Robert. At Annie’s, Rosie the Bear was an honored guest and was invited to sit at the dinner table. (Even I don’t invite Rosie to dinner, after all she has no tummy, but she was honored.) We then went to David’s mother’s home in El Segundo. While we were there a gathering of his family occurred. I met his brother’s Jon and Paul, and Jon’s partner Diana. Annie and Robert also came down because it was Annie’s and Paul’s birthdays (They are twins.) It was a week of dinners out, family conversations, and late nights. I was glad to finally meet David’s family. I have heard about them but hadn’t met any of them. They made me feel part of their family which was very kind.
After the family whirlwind, we set out in the car to go back across the country to home. We drove to Las Vegas where we had intended to stay. So, we went to a small motel a bit outside the main casinos, thinking it would be quieter. However, as it became evening, it got seedier and seedier. When walked across the street to get a toothbrush at the Walgreen’s, I got motioned to by a Harley rider who thought I was a hooker. (A hooker in a bicycle cap??) Anyway that was a rather strong hint that we were not particularly safe. In fact, all of Las Vegas feels creepy to me – a lot of indulgence with little thought. (I am not particularly moralistic about it; it just feels like a lot of people waste a lot of their money and lives there.) So we left the motel and ride another sixty miles or so to a small town in Nevada at the border of Utah. We slept better there than we would have worrying about the safety of our car and persons.
The next day we traveled through Utah to the site of the Topaz Internment Camp. Riding through Utah brought back memories of that first vacation I took with Peter. We had flown into Las Vegas then drove to Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Kodachrome Valley, and Canyon lands. We camped and hiked. It was a wonderful vacation. There is a great picture of me lying on a red sand dune. Driving though that area reminded me of that time so long ago. However, on this trip we didn’t take the time to visit the national parks, and instead went for a more somber visit to the site of the internment camp.
I wanted to visit because the internment camp had a huge impact on my father. About fifteen years ago, my father and step-mother went to a reunion of his junior high school class at Topaz. It was in San Francisco where I was living at the time. My dad invited me to attend with him. I was the only sansei present and I felt honored to meet these people from my father’s past. I loved hearing the stories about him – about how he was a school leader and led his class on a walkout after a teacher made a racist remark. His peers talked about how smart and good looking he was in junior high as well as at the time of the reunion. My step-mother was told by more than one woman that she “had got the best one.”
However, when my dad got out of the camp there racism in the country was rampant. He and his family moved eastward to Cincinnati, Ohio where he went to high school. He was told by a math teacher that he would never amount to anything. He went on to finish a Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Cincinnati. However, the man I knew as my father was very quiet, reserved, and understated. He was not the activist he was as a youth. I attribute this to the racist atmosphere he had to negotiate when he got out of the camp. This is all to say that the internment camp experience and the years afterward shaped my father. Given this, I felt it was important for me to see the site of the camp. I wanted to experience the place.
So we drove the forty miles out of our way to the site of the camp. It was outside of Delta, Utah. Delta, Utah is in the middle of nowhere and the camp is in the middle of the middle of nowhere. David said there is an evil spirit there. It could be. I felt an energy of pain, grief, and longing – perhaps spirits who hold the history of the place. The site has been reduced to two plaques, an American flag, and the remnants of gravel roads, cement foundations, desert plants and dust. The only sign of life I saw was a huge jackrabbit hopping across the landscape. I was struck by how desolate a place it was and tried to image it filled with people of Japanese descent – filled with my people; my family. I am glad I made that pilgrimage, although it was emotion filled and difficult. We were glad to leave and move on. However, I won’t forget it and what it meant to my father and our nation.
After Utah we drove through Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York State, and then came into Massachusetts over the course of a few days. In Iowa we revisited a town in which we stayed on the bicycle tour. We stayed at a small “mom and pop” motel called the Wilton Motel. The owner, Lois, remembered us from our first visit. It was odd to drive the car around town when before all I had to get around was my bike. It was funny; I did basically the same things I did during the first visit – I went the Candy Kitchen and got a chocolate malt, then I did a load of wash at the laundry mat, and got a few groceries. It was a fun flashback which highlighted how far we rode our bikes.
|Pata on the road . . . She'll be back there soon.|
The driving portion of the trip was 4460 miles in the car (starting from Portland driving down the coast (971 miles) and then back across the country (3489 miles)). We rode our bicycles approximately 3760 miles from Bedford, MA to Dayton, WA. As I have said before, as we drive back it makes me realize that traveling across the country is a long trip, anyway you travel.
A lot has happened in one short season, yet we know there is nothing constant but change anyway. The leaves are changing colors and will soon fall and the snow will fly again and then the buds will return. Cycles of nature continue as do the cycles of my life. Tomorrow I will get on my bicycle (a road bike to boot) again and ride in the glorious fall weather and be grateful for this moment and what blesses me each day.
Saturday, October 13, 2012
We are driving back home and stopped in Laramire, WY to stretch our legs and have lunch. We wandered around to the thrift store, two bookstores, a café and a bike shop. Although we are not riding for the next few days, we couldn’t resist peeking into the local bike shop. We even bought some of the lube that we like. The shop seemed cool but much for focused on mountain biking than road cycling. In fact, we talked to a woman who was commuting to the café who said that mountain biking and cyclocross were awesome in the area, but that road cycling was “lame.” So much for riding there!
We did notice that the most of the bikes outside the shop were not locked. And there was a sign there on the rack that said, “We still hang bicycle thieves in Wyoming.” The shop guy gave us a sticker with the same saying. I am not sure it would deter Boston bicycle thieves even if it were true.
It’s been interesting to experience the local bike culture or lack thereof in different places across the United States. Some notable places where the bicycle infrastructure was apparent: Missoula, MT; Portland, OR; Folsom, CA; and a small town Iowa with a bike lane running through it (unfortunately I cannot remember its name). There have been other places along the way that support touring cyclists with accommodations such as city campgrounds and pavilions, but that is different than places with a bicycle infrastructure. Most of the places with bike paths and lanes also have a lot of cyclists – which makes sense.
Actually, bike shops reflect a lot about the bike culture of a place. We have been in many shops during our trip across. Sometimes we were happily surprised, like we were in Herkimer, NY where Leigh who worked in a small local shop fixed my wheel perfectly. Other shops were more disappointing. The shop in Missoula was big and had lots of quality merchandise, but the mechanic was snotty and not very communicative, and the work was subpar. There were stretches of the trip where there were no bike shops as all, or the occasional one would be a saw and bike shop. (Yes, the kind of saws that cut stuff.) Sometimes we were in shops that had only mountain bikes, or mostly commuter bikes. We had David’s wheel trued at a shop that didn’t carry chamois cream. Clearly, they didn’t have many customers who were road riders (and they didn’t do a great job on the wheel either).
Now, I will admit we are quite discerning customers when it comes to bike shops and mechanics. We know a lot about bikes and bike mechanics and don’t take kindly to those who try to put one over on us. We are hard to please in this department, and don’t even have a shop we love at home. We do most of the work on our bikes ourselves which means we save money, but more importantly we do it right. Furthermore, I love working on my bike. It is extremely satisfying to fix and maintain my bicycles. It is an area in which I have learned a lot over the years and there is still more to learn. I feel it is empowering as a woman to do my own mechanics, and I also enjoy teaching other women to take care of their bicycles. My experience is that many bike mechanics treat customers, especially women customers as if they are stupid. My mission is to give knowledge about the bike to the women I teach, after all knowledge is power.
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
|Driving in Utah|
|Reminds me of Bryce Canyon|
For me, there is nothing like driving in a car to really give me a sense of how far we traveled on our bicycles. 3800 miles on bicycles is a long, long, way! It amazes me in some ways, and in others it seems rather ordinary in that it was just a series of 30 – 90 mile rides. It was just every day for three months.
|Concrete foundations, dust, and gravel roads is all that there is left of the internment camp.|
Yesterday, we drove to the site of the Topaz Internment Camp in Delta, Utah. It was an odd pilgrimage. It was a god-forsaken place in the middle of nowhere. It was hard to believe that my father was there during WW II with thousands of other Japanese Americans. It was an eerie place. David felt an evil spirit which is not too surprising given what it was. I was glad to have made the visit. It connected me with my family’s history. It made real the stories that my dad told over the years.
Today we are traveling through Utah into Wyoming. Miles and miles we go each day and there are many more until we reach the east coast. We see beautiful mountains and lakes as we drive, but it is at 60 miles an hour through the glass of the windshield. It makes me long for the immediacy of riding the bicycle – the slow going. Yet many of the roads we are driving would not be possible on the bicycle – no water, no services, and many miles between small towns.
All of this driving makes me appreciate how well planned out I had to be when we were traveled on our bicycles. I spent hours on navigation, cue sheets, and figuring out accommodations. On the bicycles an extra ten miles is a lot, especially after a 60 mile day. This is unlike the car where we went an extra 100 miles after dark because we felt unsafe in the place we had landed. It does amaze me that the navigation on our tour went as smoothly as it did. Driving allows me a time to reflect on the differences between cycling and driving.
|Pata and Kent on the first ride.|
|A woman with her dogs along the river|
We rode along the river and saw the salmon swimming upstream to spawn. There is an extensive system of bike trails in Folsom so most of the riding was off the road. It was quite beautiful and nice to be off busy roads.
We had a lovely time with Sarah and Kent. It was good for me to meet some of David’s family for the first time. We hope that we can lure them to the Boston area for a visit sometime where we can show them some of our favorite rides out in Concord, Bolton, and Berlin Massachusetts.
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
|Crossing a Bridge on the bike.|
On September 17th, I got on a plane and went to Baltimore to be with my daughter, her step-mom and my family to mourn the passing of my dear friend and ex-husband Peter Marvit. I stayed for a week and a half. When it was clear that I could not hover over my eighteen year old daughter forever I got back on a plane and rejoined my partner David in Portland, Oregon where he was patiently waiting for me. Part of the plan of riding to the west coast was to visit his family in California. So we bought a car in Portland and drove to Folsom, CA to visit his sister Sarah and her husband Kent.
Now, Sarah and Kent are also cyclists. So yesterday we were treated to a ride on the extensive bike path in Folsom with Kent (unfortunately Sarah had to work.). It was the first time that I have been on the bike since our cross-country tour came to an abrupt halt. It was the first time that I have been on the bike since the tragedy of Peter’s death. After my dad died in May every time I got on the bike I cried. This lasted for a few weeks. And yesterday I cried on this first ride after all that has passed.
|A view from the bike path in Folsom, CA|
I think that the grief I feel comes up when I ride because riding is often a kind of meditation for me. It is a kind of prayer. It is time when my mind stills and the monotony of the motion soothes me and allows me space to feel. The movement releases all the emotional energy held in my body. When I am experiencing grief this can be challenging for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it is hard to explain exactly why I am crying at that moment. But I know that feeling this grief and making connection to my spirituality is critical at this time.
|The dam in Folsom|
Praying on the bike is not always grief driven. When we were touring I had a prayer practice that I did as I rode. It allowed me to connect with spirit and center myself. My “chapel” was the open sky which feels as sacred as any physical structure, if not more so. There were times on tour when I could feel spirit moving through me – like when we were in the Badlands, or riding early as the sun rose. My spirituality is strongly connected to the cycles of nature and being out in the elements on my bike can bring me closer to spirit.
This practice of praying on the bike does require mindfulness and paying attention. It’s a practice that is worth the effort in my life. It helps me be both more grounded and more spiritual. It allows me to feel alive in this moment, which (as I have said before) is all we really have anyway.