Tuesday Trippin’ February 9

These flowers have been sitting on this memorial bench on Big Creek Greenway for days.

I stopped to photograph these flowers, not when they were fresh on the first day that I saw them, but several days later when they still sat there untouched.

The bench has a memorial plaque. It says that the person being memorialized and his grandparents spent many days experiencing joy on the trail. That speaks to me. The first time I got to spend significant time with my grandson, I was picking him up and taking him to the trails, first by the Chattahoochee River, later the Silver Comet and finally Big Creek.

At Big Creek there are mountain bike trails and he saw signs for RAMBO, the Roswell Alpharetta Mountain Biking Organization. In middle school (as soon as he was eligible) he dropped La Crosse, to join NITRO and mountain biking was the sport that stuck. Both are good organizations. He’s taught sportsmanship and to care for his bike, and he does volunteer work with the group too. He’s been on the team ever since. I enjoyed watch him try out all his team sports, but I felt good about taking him to the place where he found his thing. We don’t do the same kind of cycling anymore, but I take him to trails like 5 Points where I can walk while he rides. He just got his license and drives now. I don’t have to take him anywhere, but the connection remains, and I feel good about his thing being cycling.

One of the nice things about cycling is that it can start as soon as you get a sense of balance, and with recumbent trikes, it can last well after you lose it. I know riders in their 80s who are 20+ years older than me, and they ride standard road bikes for long distances. There are all kinds of cycling for all kinds of needs and wants, from motorized to hand powered with 1 to 4 wheels.

Cycling can connect generations like it did for me and my grandson, or the people on the plaque, for clubs or tours. It can help maintain health and increase longevity, even reduce health insurance rates. You can start at just about any age. It gets you outdoors and active.

One of the things I hope our video project will create is connection and inspiration between anyone willing to connect and for any good thing a person aspires to do. I hope that some of the people who see what I’m doing say to themselves that they ought to pursue riding, or something entirely different, especially the ones who never considered it before. And that people who were feeling old or depressed or isolated or powerless decide they can do whatever thing hanging around in the back of their minds that they aspire to do.

The only things that make me special enough to do this project are that I thought it up, I had the conviction to pursue it, and I have the determination to finish it. Anyone can do that.

I’ll be happy to give people some new exercise, health and entertainment options. I’d be honored to shift the perspectives of people who haven’t yet realized what is within their reach into the perspective of those who have.

I hope that your memorial, whether it is on a bench or in the mind of the people you leave behind, will come far into the future. I hope it says exactly what you’d want it to, and more than you ever dreamed it might.

This Schoolhouse Rocks!

When I was in grade school I loved Schoolhouse Rocks’ “I’m Just a Bill up on Capitol Hill”. It had personal meaning for me because my father made it come alive. He was the Chairman of the County Commission in rural, south Alabama, so government seemed reachable from an early age. Being a part of forming government came into my consciousness when a guest came over one evening. I was just young enough to be amused by the fact that his name was Rhodes Johnston and he was also a Rhodes Scholar; and I was just old enough to be impressed, both by the Rhodes Scholar status (mother explained that it was quite an accomplishment) and by his association with National Geographic. Mr. Johnston and my father were writing a bill for the state legislature. I think it had to do with one of the local rivers. I later learned that the bill passed. Of course it did, my Daddy wrote it! Like most children I saw the world of the possible as being at least as large as my parent’s accomplishments and the lesson stuck.

Years later I joked with a political science professor about sitting down on the living room floor to write a bill (yes, they sat on the floor to write it). Her eyes widened a bit and she said that it wasn’t that easy. I never explained why I made the comment, but I did eventually ask her for a recommendation to a study abroad program in Central America. I didn’t expect it to lead anywhere, but I asked the questions anyway. I asked my professors “Would you like to write a recommendation?”. I asked Grandma Ed “Would you like to keep the kids for the summer?”. I asked all my questions and filled out the application. Before long that fat envelope that means “yes” was delivered to my mailbox, my children were visiting Grandma for the summer and I experienced the tropical cloud forest. It was not legislation, but it was a dream. I was awed by the colors, textures and sounds that were the cloud forest. I came to believe that if something so beautiful could exist, there must be something right in the world and I was able to experience it because I kept moving toward something I thought was an impossible, or at least an unlikely goal. The kids came down for a visit after the program and I was able to share all that I had spent the summer studying with them, plus a little more.

This was not the first time I met with unexpected yes. The first time may have been when I was twenty. My brother-in law died in the service of his country and I was moved to write an op-ed piece. His brother, now my ex-husband, gave me the “Aren’t you adorable?” look when I showed him my work. The L. A. Times was better for my ego. They published it.

Years later, I began to design clothing. I called my favorite magazine Creative Needle, and asked if they would like to publish my work. They did. My favorite designer saw that work and used my design on her wedding dress. These are not world changing events, but they are life changing events. When your work, whatever it is, is appreciated by the people you admire it feeds the spirit. It gives you the audacity to hope, to keep seeing opportunity and to follow it even when you are certain that failure is just right around the corner.