Hard to believe it’s been almost a year since I posted my last blog. So much has happened in that time; a life-altering trip to the Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, promotion to full professor, the release of Crave: Sojourn of a Hungry Soul, brain surgery (OMG), sick kiddos, some familial hurting and healing, a devastating loss (Christy Bailey) and some amazing friends found and forever cherished. While many of the difficulties my family and I faced would normally have deemed 2015 a year I’d be rushing to exit, I found myself wanting to sit with those memories, with the lessons, in hopes of using them to usher me in a prosperous, joyful 2016. As always, when I yearn to understand, I return to that which gives me peace, that which allows me to clear my mind–my bike and the Pine Creek Trail.
Ironically, I’ve also been off of the trail for almost a year. After the brain aneurysm diagnosis, I spent much of the summer, supine, on the couch, rising only to take my blood pressure and heart rate, for fear that the slightest bit of exertion might cause the vessel bulging in my brain to burst. Even after surgery, I feared the narrow cylinder in my brain, pressed against titanium coils, might clog or worse slip, sending shards of titanium careening toward my heart and lungs. But something happened just days after the start of winter. I don’t know if it was the unseasonable weather outside of my home or the unseasonable weather inside of me, but I was called to the trail and the call was so pressing, so loud, I could not say “no.”
During the winter months, my bike is normally retired, resting among my husband’s tools and projects, waiting to resurface in the spring, but even that couldn’t stop me. I loaded my bike in the trunk of my SUV, seats down, barely able to fit the handlebars and wheels into what was meant to carry luggage and groceries, but I prevailed. I made my way to the trail, not certain I’d be brave enough to go it alone. But I did that too. I started my ride to what had always been familiar, to what had always felt right under the sun, the crunching road, bordered by flowers, green leaves, and darting wildlife. My new ride grew dark as a fog settled over the road in front of me. The temperature hovered at about thirty-five degrees and my glasses, something else I gained in 2015, kept fogging, so I could barely see, but I didn’t need to see. I could feel that the riding was right. I culd hear the crackling under my tires and I knew I was going in the direction I needed to be traveling.
Once the fog from my glasses cleared and I could really see the trail unfolding in front of me. I realized the space wasn’t more ominous because it was darker. In fact, beyond the haze, beyond the darkness, without the green of the leaves, I could see more houses, more animals, an abandoned trailer, and waterways I had never seen before. I didn’t feel pressed to maintain my speed or hit the landmarks I normally hit in record time. I just took my time, taking in this new landscape, welcoming things I was now discovering on a road I thought I knew so well. The way the water cascaded over the rocks, slower, leaving a layer of ice. The way the green grass was a gorgeous rust-colored collusion of turf that could no longer be called grass. Occupying that space during a time I had never before visited had given me new eyes and the beauty I’d thought had died during the winter months was not dead, but had given way to a different life, a different beauty, one I would not have witnessed if I only ventured there on sunny, warm days.
I believe that same discovery of beauty has occurred in me. Less than three months ago, I was faced with the real and present truth that my life was completely out of my control, that one wrong move by my doctor, that one miscalculation could mean the difference between returning home with my family or never going home again. That reminder of my mortality, I believed, had caused something to die in me. But I’m not afraid anymore, not checking my blood pressure nor counting the beats of my heart and that’s probably because I no longer feel I am solely responsible for keeping this body safe. I am now looking for discoveries that can be found in the months of darkness. I am watching the way things that used to matter don’t even prompt a second thought. While the belief that I could make this body do what I wanted (Trust me, I tried to will that aneurysm away.) has died in me, something else has come alive, an appreciation of the surrender and an appreciation of what has grown in my soul now that I have looked beyond the green grass, the flowers, and the darting wildlife of my every day. Now that the pressure has lessened I just want to live, every moment present, ready to discover the ever-evolving beauty surrounding this life.