This weekend I am "baching-it" at the Stewyurt. Friday I took the time to get a number of smallish projects done and clear my desk of bills, etc. With that out of the way, I planned Saturday more as a weekend warrior day. Morning to Sacramento for some ultimate then a mountain bike ride in the afternoon (and ski boot shopping inbetween). Though I followed through with my plan, the bike ride was cut short by a header I took early in the ride.
Chapter 1: MISSING: Joey's hair follicles, blood, and memory
I arrived for my bike ride a few minutes late (lost track of time while ski boot shopping--I'm really excited about ski season. Hopefully the snow will come!) My friend, Patrick, was there waiting along with his regular crew. I felt a bit bad about my tardiness, but even more foolish when I realized I had forgotten my helmet! I figured everything would be fine though. I haven't fallen off my bike in so long and it was just a mountain ride... [note the foreshadowing]
What I was not expecting is that the ride would start out with pretty tight single track. It was fairly slippery and at the turns there wasn't much room for error. Unfortunately, I made an error at a spot where there was a big branch lying off the side of the trail. I hit the branch. I fell. When I opened my eyes there was a fair bit of blood splashing in front of my face on the branch and I wasn't sure exactly where I was. After a moment, I remembered the situation. I was dizzy and bleeding from the side of my head. The blood flow and dizziness subsided with pressure after a few minutes and my friend and I were able to ride back to the car. Though I had had a concussion, I was feeling pretty clear and remembered everything (except the moment my head hit) and decided to drive home. This was done without incident.
I wrote an email to Patrick about what followed:
"When I got home, I called my nurse connections (including my wife) and Kaiser. The recommendation was that I go to the ER to get evaluated. So I did (first I stopped at Any Mountain and bought the ski boots I was looking at before the ride--I got a nice used pair of Nordica Hot Rod 125's for $58! Great deal). Turned out I had an inch-long laceration that required 5 staples. I also scraped off about a quarter-sized patch of hair which is predicted not to grow back. I definitely had a concussion and was told to take it easy for at least a week. They also suggested a CAT scan, but the doc didn't push it and as my symptoms were only the momentary loss of consciousness and brief dizziness after the fall, I decided to pass."
This week my dog and I both gained an inch-long scar above our hearing orifices with an accompanying loss of hair follicles (though I kept more skin than she did).
Chapter 2: Movie Review and Philosophical Rambling
After the hospital trip, I went to a movie: "The Descendants" (remember, I'm batching it). It is the story of a man in the midst of his career coming to terms with relationships with his wife and kids. Though I've made lots of very different life choices than the protagonist (played by George Clooney), it was fairly topical for me. Being in a similar life-stage, I could relate to the tensions he felt.
Without giving much away, in the movie's resolution, Clooney's character makes some typical yet brave choices that help his family find a place of ease. With the attainment of balance found at the end among tragedy, obligation, work, parenting, growing-up (AKA "life"), I felt a visceral connection to what the characters were experiencing. Through the course of the movie, he made choices that affirmed his family. Though his choices did not always produce the desired result at any given moment, it did end up creating a simple ease and closeness in his family at the end. So often in movies it is about that "ecstatic" moment (in a family movie, for example, perhaps they achieve some unattainable goal together, or in a romance they decide to get married). But the end of this movie was banal. Indeed, though often barely noticeable, ordinary moments do hold great depth. "The Desendants" is the rare Hollywood film that depicts at least one such moment. And its relationships seem to exist within long-term lives, not just one-dimensional moments of passion and glee.
Last year I imagined this year would be somewhat "ecstatic": a year off work, international travel, domestic travel, free time with the kids. While I guess those moments are there, finding depth and ease in relationships and life (whether at the Stewyurt or in "regular" life) is much more subtle than just making one choice (i.e. taking a leave). It requires choices everyday: to be present, to recognize the people around you, to balance work, to find a way to respond to set-backs. Those ordinary moments when that happens are special; I enjoyed seeing it happen in the movie.
Chapter 3: Sunday Chill Day and More Philosophical Ramblings (a Poem, Really)
I'm taking it easy today; letting my brain rest and recover. I had been planning to have a ski day today or tomorrow, but I'll follow my doctor's instructions and take at least a week off. Instead, I'm puttering around and listening to the radio.
While listening to "Prairie Home Companion", I heard a poem that moved me. It is starts out seeming like it will be a kind of a funny poem, but it brought up some significant emotion for me. It addresses mortality and independence and brings up a lot of the issues about making choices (especially for family men) that led me out on the trail yesterday and got me thinking in the movie I saw last night.
I'll let you read it and make the connections. Here it is as it appears on the "Prairie Home Companion" website (http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2008/11/20):
all over the city
are having heart attacks in their driveways,
dropping their nice new shovels
with the ergonomic handles
that finally did them no good.
Gray-headed men who meant no harm,
who abided by the rules and worked hard
for modest rewards, are slipping
softly from their mortgages,
falling out of their marriages.
How gracefully they swoon—
that lovely, old-fashioned word—
from dinner parties, grandkids,
vacations in Florida.
They should have known better
than to shovel snow at their age.
If only they'd heeded
the sensible advice of their wives
and hired a snow-removal service.
But there's more to life
than merely being sensible. Sometimes
a man must take up his shovel
and head out alone into the snow.