My lovely college friend Brit posted a list of her favorite moments of 2013 today on Facebook, something I feel is a lovely prequel to posting my 2014 Practices to Enact (which are, without a doubt, far too vague, very emotion-based, and lightly pretentious). So many of my friends have been posting ‘good riddance’ sorts of things in regards to 2013, and while I too am happy to leave this year behind, I have learned SO VERY MUCH about myself, and truly look forward to this next year. The solstice and my birthday might feel more momentous, but a new calendar year is as much reason for reflection as any.
10. Transitioning into a role as the Transportation and Sustainability Coordinator for two great neighborhoods in St. Paul.
9. Fantastic volunteering with books at the Hosmer library and Boneshaker Books.
8. My first Pride festival!
7. Discovering tarot.
6. San Francisco/Yosemite with Sarah in early February.
5. Three tattoos in one year (thanks Adam at 4 Points for two of them).
4. Finding ample, wonderful queer culture in Minneapolis, and feeling remarkably at home in it.
3. The growing zeitgeist around intentional community in the Twin Cities.
2. My community house becoming The Moon Box (<3 to Haven, Katie, Laura, and Natalia, my lovely housemates).
1. Biking solo down nearly 1,000 miles of the Mississippi River.
2013, you happened. You were incredibly challenging, and contained many tears, but even more love and growth and laughs and hope, all things considered. Stay tuned for 2014 Practices to Enact, friends!
I’ve been feeling a little bit psycho lately. Because here in Minneapolis it’s been below zero even before windchill for the last couple of days. And I love it. Maybe it’s the sun glowing off the styrofoam crunchy perfection snow (this is the only time I will positively refer to styrofoam, mind you). Maybe it’s the dichotomy of cozy warm indoors with tea and Netflix and blankets and housemates with the frozen tundra urban outdoors, cars sliding left and right on the ice that even the harshest salt currently can’t melt. However, I am certain that winter biking is a key aspect of my possibly psychotic love for this weather.
I was honored to be the first winter cyclist highlighted by my friend Brian on his new BIKEFUN Tumblr page, and in a way it feels appropriate, because going into my fourth winter of riding, I’ve finally left behind the nerves and anxiety at the prospect of ice and loose new snow and complex layering of clothing. I can just ride, the clear blue air freezing my nose hairs, pitying the angsty drivers while giggling to myself as I glide around another corner.
In my post-bike tour pre-re-entry into my routine work/volunteer/house/a million responsibilities life I wrote about the NEW LAUREN that was going to live my life into the future. Well in general I think I’ve done pretty well with progress on said focuses, somewhat unintentionally as pertains to feminist culture. Basically, my life is full of ladies.
My community house (now named The Moon Box) is now entirely composed of women.
Today biking into work I was passed by two other bicyclists on my route. Both of them were women. Ladies, we are taking the cycling world by storm! Don’t stop now! Winter isn’t that bad, I promise!
Aaaaaaand…I’m going on a date tonight. Which is exciting and horrible, because I’m always a tiny bit worried it will go like this:
But change! Is! Good! And the worst that can happen will at least make a good story, right?
My last two days in St Louis – including my first day off from biking in two weeks – have been splendid, to say the least. Late September in this lovely city is balmy and filled with luscious flowers in front of nearly every brick home.
My exploration on foot yesterday began with a friendly bookstore cat…
Moved to the marvelous free art museum and zoo in Forest Park, a beautiful urban oasis…
And ended with delicious local brews at HandleBar, a bicycle themed bar in the Grove, an up and coming neighborhood I could easily see myself living in.
Am I ready to pack up and leave Minneapolis for warmer Midwest climes? Not quite yet. But I do hope to visit St Louis again before too long.
I made it. Through week one. Through 13.2 miles of wet gravel, two straight days of unending damp and mist, finding myself the lone tent at a campsite in Palisade, and changing my first flat tire, I biked 50-70 to my destination each night to set up my little home, cook dinner on my dragonfly stove, and read at least a dozen pages of Middlesex before falling asleep to crickets.
Surprisingly enough, in my many encounters with friendly and curious strangers along the way, the word they use to describe me and my trip isn’t ‘crazy’ or ‘adventurous’. It’s brave. Whether it was the Skinners with their little camper in Cass Lake, or Sandy and her family in Crow Wing, or Jane and Joe who invited me to their community pig roast, after a myriad of questions about how long my trip is going to take (just under seven weeks), how much all my bags weigh (I have no idea), and what I’m eating (lots of trail mix, dried bananas for the potassium, and a delicious quinoa/dried fruit concoction for breakfast every morning), all my new friends inevitably elucidate my bravery.
I have never particularly thought of myself as a brave person, even aside from this trip. Open to new experiences, yes. Outgoing, yes. Curious, yes. But bravery is something new, and after hours of contemplation – for what else is there to do during the miles of flat county highways but muse over life – I’m not sure that bravery is a mantle I am ready to take on just yet. Perhaps in future weeks, when my tires have rolled through several states and I can set up my tent in minutes flat. But not yet, not now. There is time.
What I will acknowledge is pride. I am enormously proud that I haven’t quit, of course, but also of my tenacity, my ability to listen to my body, to take care of myself, to begin to trust my intuition more thoroughly. I’m proud of that tire change, despite the fact that I got another slow leak the next day. I’m proud that I can charge my various devices with my generator hub on my front wheel. And I’m proud that I’ve somehow found the grace to accept each day for what it is, be it hills, or rain, or a mostly closed campground or miles and miles of sunny shoulder, pulling me onward to the Gulf.
Here we go! The Parrot (my valiant Bridge stone bicycle) and I are ready. Today we’re at the Mississippi headwaters in Itasca, and sooner than I can fathom we’ll be at the river’s end outside New Orleans.
What would you like to hear of along the way, dear readers and friends?
2013, I do believe, shall perhaps be written about and remembered as my most momentous year yet. In fact, it certainly will be, and not just because of circumstance, chance, and a failed marriage. I have taken it upon myself to make some amount of momentousness self-created, rather than imposed, and as such am taking on one of my Seven Wanders of My World: biking the Mississippi River Trail. Most importantly, I’m doing it solo.
It is my deepest intention to make this a whole person trip, to take note of my therapist’s suggested meditation and notice body, mind, emotion, and core self, without judgement. In preparation I am planning and packing, preserving food (for the trip and for the winter, for I will miss the peak canning season while I’m on the road this autumn), tying up loose ends at my blessedly flexible job, and trying to let go. Releasing expectation is both paramount and persistently difficult.
Despite the demands of a regiment of camping and 60 miles of bicycling a day, the body is easiest to care and prepare for. New lightweight long underwear. Camping cookware, including the indulgence of a solo french press coffee pot. Home dehydrated vegetables. Keens. There will be moments and hours and even days of exhaustion, strained muscles, a sore back. But also skin rich from Vitamin D. More strength and tenacity that I’ve known before. And daily morning yoga to keep me moving.
The mind is trickier, as I have learned that my constant analysis of self and surroundings pervades my other spheres of being. Choosing books to accompany me is critical and impossible. Good Poems for Hard Times is a certainty. Novels and spiritual nonfiction are more difficult to choose from. Knowing I will have to leave finished books behind is tantamount to abandoning a pet, even if I have never read the book before. My tarot cards and book will join me as well, another indulgence of sorts, at least as far as weight is concerned, but what is the weight of a book to the body when its content can spark the mind to discovery?
Attending to emotion is more complex still. There is much excitement of course, but equally as much, if not more, worry. Not so much for myself, or even for the trip itself, because in spite of my mother’s rampant concerns for my safety, I believe that the universe provides, through my intuition and more compassionate strangers than potentially harmful ones. No, my worry is for what I am leaving behind. My still new relationship with Sarah, growing in depth and loveliness yet strained by my attempted internal re-alignment after the divorce. The chickens. The garden. My housemates. My family. In my current life I am so very external, leaving little room for self care, a pattern that I dearly hope this adventure will shake up and recreate. So with mint tea dried from the yard, my journal, a box of crayons, and plans for letters and collages and exchanges with friends found on the road, I make space for my emotional self to grow and expand while I explore the Mississippi.
The last, but of course most essential, layer that is my core self I do not yet know how to best attend to. She is there. She is being rediscovered, reshaped, unearthed as nutrients in tilled soil. But I cannot yet place her, in my being or in the world. In time. Beginning September 5th.