Monday, October 18, 2010

No world record, but letters...

Today was another one of those October days in Oregon, sunny, crisp, dry-grass smelly. While I broke no world records coming or going to school (my bike held about 20 extra pounds on the way to school because I brought leftovers from Hoda's catering the Friday event. YUM!), I broke through many different subjects: typesetting and letterpresses, novels and storylines, and biking.

Writing is so different if you have to think about setting each letter. Over the weekend 4 intrepid students worked with a most patient instructor, Michael D'Allessandro, and set a line or two of type and printed their very own creations. We worked with tiny presses which print on a 3x5 surface. I can't tell you how amazing it was to use the composing stick, load lead letters into the left hand, write upside down and backwards, lock the words into the chase, load it into the little machine, watch the doghead turn the ink plate, and feed the Rive paper in. It was magic.

As Joanna Rose said today, she was still "letter-y." No kidding.

And besides that this weekend, I spent an hour on the phone with Hannah Tinti, my good friend who has adopted my novel. She has sent me 7 pages, single-spaced, of notes, both line-edits and big ideas. She knows my novel better than I do at this point, and I am in this haze thinking of what to do, or how to do what she thinks I should do. Her comments and suggestions are brilliant. Rarely has anyone had such a friend. So, I'm letter-y and thinking about Kyle and Jack Song and Carla and their stories.

Interrupting this autumn euphoria are some odd people in cars. Today some workers in a big truck whistled as they passed me, not a hubba-hubba whistle, just one meant to freak me out. I was going about 30mph down a very busy 4-lane highway, and this time, it was more comfortable and easy to get my hand in the right position to flip them off.

All of these actions and stories were in the leaves my tires shredded. They were in the headwind, the warming fall of evening.
(for more pictures of the 24-Hour Story Jam, go here.)

Monday, October 11, 2010

More Buddhist

Riding home from work today, I wasn't taking in the sunshine, the heat. A perfect fall day with a hint of ice crystal in the air, a waft of dry grass and tropics. If I were more Buddhist, I could have let go of insignificant things, like making mistakes, like campus politics, like fear. If I were more Buddhist, I would have noticed the new colors in the trees, the pattern of leaves in the bike lane, and the sound of tires over pine needles and twigs. So different. So different.

Instead, I looked ahead, at my handlebars, pushed, shifted gears where I knew I could maximize the slope. Instead of taking in one of the last breath-taking days of the year, I let silly things distract me.

But I have to say... There's nothing like irritation to motivate me in a workout. Today was the fastest I've ever ridden home: 12.7 miles in 51.19 minutes for an average speed of 14.8 mph. I'm going to hit that goal of 15 mph. Maybe not this fall (since I want to be more Buddhist) but soon.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Lions and Teenagers, Oh my!

Last Friday as I biked back from CCC, I had just crossed Rt. 99E and started on River Road. There's generally junk in the bike lane there, and cars coming from the right. A big Suburban pulled up next to me, right next to me, crowding me, and someone in the front passenger window yelled, "Hey!" just to see me jump. I did. It took me awhile to find the right fingers to flip the vehicle off because I'm not used to flipping people off, and so, I chuckled a little. I saw the Suburban up ahead make a left turn, and I wondered if that street, into a little housing development, curved back to River Road. Sure enough, the car came back.

They were going to be behind me again, and I didn't want that to happen. So, I swerved my bike back and pulled in front of them as they waited at the stop. I had no idea what I was going to do or say, but I was plenty mad. There were 5 teenage boys in the car.

"What do you think you're doing?" I said to the driver.
"What do you mean?" he said back.
"Do you like to pick on bicylists?" I was pretty much out of breath.
"What do you mean?" he repeated. The other boys were really uncomfortable. "Lady," he said, "you're weird."
Not able to think too clearly, I said, "No, you're weird for picking on cyclists. It's hard enough to be out here without having to deal with people like you."
"You're really weird." And I thought that if "weird" was the worst thing he could call me, then I was dealing with basically good young guys.
"Just be nice," I said and looked in the eyes of each of the boys.

I rode away, and they waited until I had turned before they kept going. They were going a different direction, luckily.
It took me miles before the adrenaline worked its way through my limbs. I kept thinking, "That was really stupid. You could have gotten hurt!" And I thought, "Is this what happens after you're 50? You think you can tell off younger people for their misbehavior?" Oh no!

That night I mirrored this experience in my dream:
My high school, which included boys, unlike my real high school, went on a field trip somewhere in the country. We played a game of Tag, sort of, but the people who were "it" were on horseback (notice the parallel incongruity of size). I could hear them coming, and so, I hid behind an enormous tree. I just walked on the root system and moved around the trunk so that they wouldn't see me.

When more of them came (notice the incongruity in number), I knew I had to make a break for it, to another tree. But that tree was fairly far away, across a savanna (savanna?). So, I sprinted, and as I ran, I saw that I was passing a male lion with three female lions. I saw that the male lion spotted me (Funny the way I don't blend in...). He came charging after me. I knew that I had to stand my ground, so I stopped and faced his charge. I knew I could not look in his eyes, and so, I kept my eyes down and averted. I could smell his dust, the smell of dry grass and something slightly sweet/sour. He came right up to me, sniffed me, then flopped on his back, just like our big dog, Mia. He spread his legs, and showed me his belly to rub. I didn't know if it was a good idea to rub a lion's belly.

Moral? Boys like to challenge, but truly, many of them are cubs.