Friday, December 03, 2010

the last ride

These are exciting times. And though the conventional wisdom is that December is stress central, I feel it to be the opposite. When the weather outside is delightful (on a good spring, summer or fall day), I’m compelled to take note. So beautiful! Have to enjoy it. Yes, really – it deserves my full attention!

But on days like today? No pressure! It’s gray and bitter cold. Whatever I do outdoors is bonus points. Like eating yesterday’s brussel sprouts. Makes me feel proud: despite the temptation to be lethargic and eat junk, I moved and ate leftover veggies!

So I biked to work today, even though I didn’t have to. If I had put away the darn cycle for the winter, everyone would have understood. But at the last minute I changed my mind. The semester ends this week and I will finish it off with cycling to and from work. Yeah!

Did I mention that it was gray?


No photoshop color correction on that one. Indeed, by afternoon, the clouds are thick enough to obliterate any tones of gold. We are part of one big gray canvas of sameness.

But exhilarating!

And speaking of excitement, I must mention the early morning car trip to my daughter’s place (she lives on the other side of town) so that I could take her to the airport. When we purchased the holiday tree a few days back, I left it on the roof of my red Ford Escort. I rarely drive the thing and besides, I’m going out of town for nearly two week. As are my daughters. We’ll put up the tree when we reconvene in Madison in the week of Christmas.

But life throws you interesting punches and one such punch is my limping computer, which required a car trip (with tree on top) to the mall last night. And now, here I am this morning, driving my daughter to the garage where she is leaving her car for repairs and then from there, to the airport.

In the middle of the very busy, fast moving Stoughton Road, the twine holding down the tree displays an impish desire to let loose. Or something. Animated in chatter with daughter, I do not notice until I glance at the mirror and see the tree slipping down the hatch in the back.

Oh dear.

I pull over and do some makeshift tugging and tightening. One minute later it starts slipping again. I tug and tighten. We move forward, it slips anyway. We stop, etc. etc.

We limp along this way to the airport and we hold on tight to the twine inside thinking that at least we’ll not let the tree roll  freely on the road.

The ride back from the airport is equally exciting, especially since now I am holding on to the twine and driving and wishing I were the type who prayed in stressful times. It would at the very least take my mind off the image of a tree bouncing off and doing damage. I teach Torts, after all. I know too much about personal injury cases.

You may think I am inept, as I let the tree hang loose in this way. Not so. It's because the cord is too short and on this particular car, there aren’t many trustworthy parts where you can fasten something and rest assured that the cord and car part wont break off and go spinning into space. You have to remember that the entire rear bumper and good part of the front one are held up by tape.

But, I worry too much. After all, I'm holding on to the twine and at worst, the tree will have been knocked about in an Isadora Duncan sort of way.

In the end I make it home with tree trunk pointing wickedly into the air, but with the rest still remaining more or less attached to the car.

Can you see why I prefer biking? (Though do note though that yesterday’s ripples along the shore are today’s ice. Brrr...)


Quick clarification: The last photo suggests we are have snow. Not so. What you’re seeing is the icy stuff that accumulates at the shoreline. Our ground is frozen, but bare.

Tomorrow, though, things may look quite different.

turning points

Should I? Yes, of course I should. It's 16, but it's dry and sunny. I've seen worse.

Yes, but the cold... And it will feel worse later, when I am tired from the long day.

Okay, but if I don't, I miss out on so much!

Fine. I have a half hour. It's a twenty two minute pedal, let's go!

I'm bundled to the max. Cap under helmet, scarf, down jacket. Still, it's biting out there! I pull up the scarf to cover the face.

At the lake, I see the first stages of freezing. Beaver dams rise over sheets of thin ice.


Shoreline branches are frozen. As if they know what's coming and they see no point in avoiding the inevitable.


The birds retreat to the less solid waters. For the most part.


I need to hurry up! I have an early morning class Thursdays! It's the last day of classes, too. Hurry up!

What's this?! Lake shore path is closed? Why? Oh, tree maintenance? Well fine, but how do I proceed now? I have no time to spare! Okay, Observatory -- I'll take Observatory. Uff! That is one uphill climb! I am tired before I even enter the Law School doors.

For my first class, I have invited a guest. He's been an honored speaker in years past and I have come to depend on him to fill certain voids that I cannot tackle. I listen as always, but this time I note that there is something different about his presentation. It's the same talk, the same person, and yet... I ask him afterward -- did I hear you say that you've had some issues? Yes, this summer I almost died. I had a brain bleed. 

And it all comes back to me. It's as if I am listening to myself speak. Because some fifteen years ago, I was in his place -- freshly recovering from a brain hemorrhage. I know too well the feeling of post trauma vulnerability. The shocked relief at being alive. He tells me -- thirty percent die, thirty percent have significant brain damage, thirty percent survive with no lasting damage. I know those statistics well. They haven't changed in the last decades.

We talk for a while and then I have to hurry on. I have two more classes to teach.
 It's good to see you -- I say. It's good to be able to see you -- he tells me.

And now the day is done. Last class ends. I look out at the faces of my fall semester and I think -- wow, this is our last meeting as a group.  They've been my daily fare and now  -- pfft! gone. 

Home. I wish I could merely pedal home. It's cold, yes, that. But I also know that at home I have a laptop that spontaneously shuts down for no good reason. And I am going away next week. And I can't afford spontaneous shutdowns when I am far far from an Apple Service Center.

I spend two hours with the Apple Genius bunch and they try, they really do, but it's no use. My baby needs an overhaul and it is doubtful that needed parts will arrive before my departure next week.

I've seen people fall apart over computer issues and I am determined not to be one of them. I'll make do! I'll figure it out!

I rush home and make spaghetti sauce -- a family favorite. My old daughter comes by for dinner, Ed's there, being Ed.

The night sets in. Deep sigh. I have no complaints.