Friday, August 7, 2009


there remains a list of things about which i continue to be squeamish. 
after two children from home births and a garbage strike in toronto, poop is not one of these. however, after a childhood among the rural region of central ontario and countless summer jobs working with, in, or among the trees, nature continues to be a challenge for me.

as much as i love to be ‘home’, among the pine needles and mosquitoes or snow drifts and dripping maple trees, there is always a barrier that i must cross before fully communing, happily, with nature. i don’t like getting my hands dirty, and i look forward to being able to wash them. even while splitting wood and standing ankle-deep in muddy sawdust mixed with granular ice, i habitually wipe off my hands after picking up a piece of wood, and before grasping the handle of the splitting maul. i don’t like dirt between my body and the tool. it’s like a rock in my shoe, or sand on my wet brooks saddle. there is something wrong with it. and yet, time and again, i subject myself to the grit and grime of it all, because the end experience, the epiphany or revelation or simple non-event is always worth more than my dainty preferences about getting dirty.

my friend j was never like that.

j was always a nature child, right out of a woodstock or
spiritual midwifery or morning glory photo album, the blonde beauty never had a problem plopping herself in the grassy, itchy, bug-whirring mess of it all, to further concentrate on an SPD cleat stuck in the pedal, or a conversation about the meaning of it all. j never seemed cold or uncomfortable or shivering and wet. j was the kind of lady who always yearned to participate fully, the kind of lady who would work in the rain, wring out her clothes, and put them back on to go at it again. i doubt j would wipe her hands before picking up the maul.

i thought about j yesterday. i was participating fully in a communion with nature that, although it had nothing to do with really getting dirty, and my tools were perfectly shiny and clean, reminded me of her. i was sweating. on my bike (not even touching the ground through the comfort of shoes!), pointed uphill, and under the watchful eye of a humid but endearing sun, i was sweating through each and every pedal stroke, to the top of the steepest long hill i could find. it was glorious. i enjoyed it, participating in the pain, in the pursuit of getting stronger, and i thought about j. i thought about trying to keep up with her. i thought about how many times she would repeat the hill and if i could even muster the strength to do it half as many. probably not. but j was there. and the ride was wonderful.

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