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Monday, July 13, 2009

Summertime, and the livin' is..... complicated

'twas the most gorgeous day here yesterday. we've had a long, cold spring, and cold windy summer so far. just in the last week we finally started to get the rain local grain farmers have, for many weeks, prayed would come. and it's warmed up to weather that feels like it's really summer. i hope it hasn't come too late for the grain crops and the hay fields.

so last evening, after a lovely, lazy day off, reading a trashy book while the laundry washed and dried, sipping a glass wine as i took my turn cooking the evening meal (butter chicken, with naan bread and salad - ta die fer, if i do say so myself) i took my poor neglected bicycle out for a spin on the walking trails in the city's green space. along the creek valley that bisects the city. initially, it was a business trip. i wanted to know how long it would take me to ride my bike to work. my ReStore is right on the banks of the creek, and my daughter's home, where i'm staying, is also near the creek. fifteen minutes, exactly.

but business very soon melted into pure pleasure. the air was thick with heat and humidity following an early afternoon thunderstorm. sweet and rich with the nectar of rose scent. thousands of wild roses in full bloom, everywhere i went. they're Alberta's provincial flower. they grow everywhere here. many think of them as weeds. gentle honeyed sunlight slanted through the incredibly lush green of overhanging trees... like warm water pouring on my skin. Every person i met, pedestrian or fellow cyclist, smiled a greeting. many commented on what a beautiful evening it was. i think my own smile, as Rudyard Kipling said of the Parsi Man who helped the rhino get his wrinkled skin, wrapped around [my] face. Twice."

so i continued on past my destination, grinning from front to back. i'd begun at the northernmost extremity of the trail, and sailed throught the heart of the city on a warm thermal that stroked its underbelly... to the southernmost extremity. it wasn't enough. i was intoxicated, and wanting more. so, as i turned round to head back, i determined to take the long way home.

which took me through the park @ the city's centre. there's a kind of natural ampitheatre there, where concerts are held. they've built a stage @ the bottom of it. i could hear music from far up the trail. and i thought, "that voice. i know that voice." a dark truffle of a voice, rich and strong and true. i was a moth drawn to the light. and sure enough, there she was, on the stage, belting it out as she strummed her guitar. bongos in the background, a bass guitar and a keyboard weaving soundwaves around her. a highschool girlfriend, moved away years ago, back in town for the reunion her church was holding that weekend. and there were others too! many others! in particular, a very gifted pianist i used to do a lot of gigs with back then, and for years afterward. she now has MS and is in a wheelchair. hasn't been able to play her piano for nearly a decade. as i approached this second friend's wheelchair, pushing my bicycle through the throngs of people dancing, singing, swaying, milling in front of the stage, calling greetings to each other and to me, i felt somehow ashamed that i could ride that bike, and walk alongside it, and push it. my healthy body was an embarassment.

there was a man standing beside my friend's wheelchair.

my hearing, after a lifetime of being in the middle of loud music, is not good. especially with a lot of background sounds, no matter how gorgeous they are. it wasn't till i was right beside them that i could hear what he was waxing so passionately on about, to my friend. it was the same old stuff. she's been hearing it for nearly 30 years now, since she was first diagnosed with MS. the same old fundamentalist Bible-thumper insolence and cruelty.... how she's in charge of her body, and how sickness is only a state of mind, or of spirit, and if she can just get it right, she can be healed. she's a gentle woman, a staunch Christian who rarely says a cross word, but i could see the strain on her face as he poured his poison over her. she was a captive audience. couldn't even walk away. couldn't so much as get a word in edgewise to tell him that she's already heard all that stuff. And poured her heart into believing it, and trying it. to no avail. many times. and beat herself up over it every time, till she was bleeding internally.

i wanted to hit him. if good health was really all about faith, there'd be hardly a healthy person on the planet.

instead, i kissed her cheek and asked her if she'd like to go for a walk. so i pushed her wheelchair off to the edge of the noise, where i could hear her, and we had a long visit. she's still waiting for some understanding of what god's plan in her illness is. still trying to believe in a miracle. and it still breaks my heart to hear, because i stopped beleiving that a long time ago.

some things are beyond our control. and life isn't fair. maybe i'm just old and cynical.


Seraphine said...

it's interesting, isn't it? you start going in one direction but you don't always know where you'll end up.
most of the time it feels like we go where we are supposed to go.
wouldn't it be nice if life could be tied into a neat package (sans unhappiness and pain) with a beautiful, bright bow?
and even if its for one day, one step out of a lifetime, it's a blessing to feel grateful for something.

gfid said...

sera - i've noticed that those beautiful packages are often disappointing, though that doesn't make them less attractive. beauty is beautiful, after all, and we're hard wired to respond to that. ... but, yes, i agree. it's important to recognize all we have to be grateful for, and to BE grateful. and the little stuff is often bigger than we think. but why tell a musically gifted woman who's nearly paralyzed with an incurable disease that it's her own fault that she'll never make music again?! that's not little, and i think, if there is a hell, there's a special room there reserved for people who do that.

linda said...

this dear woman had an angel in her midst and it was you....I am always thankful for people like you who come along and know exactly what to do and are there to do it without a delay filled with excuses and platitudes....your friend has a gem in you and, even tho her faith may be tested by her illness, I am sure this day, you restored her faith in least in yours and hers!

I detest people who use faith as a weapon to kill the spirits of others, often those weaker than themselves one way or another... and I will never understand where they get the idea they are so right....excepting based on churches I've been in over the years and heard the pap that comes from the pulpit...that answers lots of questions about bible thumpers...why don't they ever remember what Jesus actually taught?

so here's to you and your lovely lovely state flower, your warm and luscious summer....I am glad your summers are nothing like your winters!!

gfid said...

Linda - preach it sister!!! a toast to roses, and to friends, dear lady. and to REAL 'brotherly' love.

Cicero Sings said...

"Religious" people are sometimes very discouraging! One reason I discontinued church attendance for a while but I've gone back ... on the periphery for a feel worship is still important.

Glad you had such a glorious day to tootle about in.

gfid said...

cicero - it's another glorious evening. will rush home from work and hop on my bicycle again.'s not the strange interpretations of holy books i worry about, so much as the certainty the interpreters have that everyone is required to believe the same thing they do.

Seraphine said...

it's beyond me why somebody would tell another that they *deserved* to be sick, or that sickness was their own fault. its more than social retardedness; its crazy. and its rude to the nth degree.
luckily few people take such talk to heart.

susan said...

I've heard more that 'religious' people spout this kind of nonsense. Shortly after I'd returned to work after having chicken pox a nurse told me I hadn't been taking proper care of my T-cells. How in heaven's name do you arrange to do that?

Then there was the girl at the 'healing crystal booth' at the mall telling an elderly woman she wouldn't have to take her blood pressure medication anymore if she just bought one of whatever crystals. That I took issue with and found myself explaining to her it was okay to sell them to enhance someone's health but never, never, never try to convince someone who might be gullible enough to take her word over a doctor's.

gfid said...

sera - yes, crazy, rude, and cruel.... and enough people take it to heart to break mine. friend, for instance.

su - i had to google "T-cells".... Healing is bazillion dollar business. i read somewhere that in some ancient cultures,the healer only got paid if the patient improved. i like the idea.

susan said...

Do you suppose that's why modern medicine is called a practice?

gfid said...

su -medical 'practice'... pretty apt, isn't it? also, how trying to kill food in the wild is called 'hunting' .... not 'finding'

susan said...

A certain amount of cynicism is a natural product of maturing, don't you think?

gfid said...

su - some, maybe, but too much cynicism doesn't seem to me healthy either. we're social creatures. i think we need some trust for good mental health.