I Just Want to Be Alive While I’m Here

Today’s entry is not about anger or politics or things I don’t understand. It’s about the things that fall into place, the beauty of life, friends, family, and getting outdoors. With the inability to run as of late, until I get medical results on my ankle and calf swelling, I have been testing myself by walking a half mile here, running across long intersections there. But I don’t want to make matters worse, really. Doc said I could swim and cycle, however, so over the weekend my husband and I dusted off the bikes we haven’t used much at all since we began running everywhere; we pumped them up, checked their suspension, and took off from our house. We rode over to the next town–to the same place I volunteer for Streamkeepers–where we hike into Maple Creek with hipwaders, slashing through invasive plants like it’s a jungle, notching dams, and opening up blockages in the creek so salmon can get through.

Here, the trail starts and the concrete ends, and we rode into the misty woods filled with pine and cedar. The path crosses the river and meanders through a park, near a pub, where we stopped for a snack since we hadn’t had lunch. We have mountain bikes, so things were very smooth. I realized how easy biking is compared to running–though the one thing I need to get used to is the seat. We did not ease into biking, yet did not go long-distance either. We rode for 11K, which is only about 7 miles. But it is kind of amazing how quickly you can get from one place to another on a bike. We took the path near the creek over to the Traboulay Poco Trail, which, for the most part parallels the Coquitlam River. It diverges in places, and we rode out to Hyde Creek Community Center and then back. We like to run over there, and it’s real bear country, so I was on the look-out! This ride happened on the day before Father’s Day, and like many in the world, I could only remember my dad rather than talking with him on that day. It was quite fitting that I rode as I did when younger, back when he was not just alive but healthy. My best friend Amy and I used to ride our bikes from our Chicago suburb over to various forest preserves in the area, and sometimes as far as the Old Graue Mill in Oakbrook, several towns over–the oldest waterwheel gristmill in the Chicago area. I’d always buy a bag of freshly ground very course cornmeal, because my mother just made the best cornbread out of it, and set it in the basket for the ride home. Like a child, this weekend, I pedaled hard and freely, just like back then, so many years ago, as though Dad were still alive.

 

The Coquitlam River
Another shot of the Coquitlam River

I had a three day weekend, so have started some projects at home: minimalizing, turning a room previously used for book-binding and cat toys/storage into a guest bedroom, with only one book-binding area. The goal is to have plenty of places to sleep for family/friends coming to visit in November, for the traditional Thanksgiving get-together, because it may be bigger this year than ever before. As I puttered around the house, I realized over and over, that these goals are freeing. That it’s best to get away from news and politics and weirdly angry people and focus on the joys and personal commitments that being alive allows. I started getting kind of overwhelmed lately because I’ve got so many projects, which I will go more into later (reading another multiple books at a time). Today, puttering around the house, I kept thinking about that bike ride though.

As I rode over the weekend, the Strumbellas’ song “Spirits” came on my playlist when we were in the forest, and as I was quickly descending one of the hills near the river, with wind skating by my face and the river rippling and free, the line, “I just want to be alive while I’m here,” played and it was perfect. It’s exactly how I felt. I want to be alive while I’m here. How better way to put the sanctity, the happiness of life than to want to feel alive while we can. I recognize often that it won’t always be this way, that someday I’ll become older and incapable of such freedom as biking or running. I’ll someday die and become a memory to friends and family. Then I’ll be dust, and then no longer be a memory when enough time goes by that those who might remember me will become dust. Such a weird feeling to think about that stage of life, but it makes being alive and feeling alive, as we are now, so much more real.

So I kept thinking of that today. During my projects, I had a nice 3-hour break talking with one of my nieces, a super pleasant occasion as we haven’t talked for a while–it was one of those catch-up talks that might have gone on forever. Then tonight, a long conversation with my daughter. They are both young women now, on their own, living not too far from each other in southern California. It is these family-oriented days, these days of running or biking in the great and beautiful forests of British Columbia, that I want to remember: these days of doing silly little projects that might be considered mundane work to some but do not at all feel prosaic to me–these days of never knowing how or when it might end–these days of being alive while I’m here.

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