Sunday, August 31, 2014

Wild blue yonder

At the end, after the stories of Matthew's life, the guy at the podium says ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Then he asks us to recite the Lord's Prayer. I'm sort of numb and floating; the voices inside the church shock me back to a time and place.

The way it starts, our father, can't bring myself to say that. In general we need fewer father figures, and more... well I don't know what we need more of except cars that don't hit cyclists. With relief, I notice that the people to my right and left are quiet.

On the whole, randonneurs tend not to be religious, not in the traditional ways. Which says almost nothing about us. Just that on a fair Sunday morning we'd rather be wandering some back road, metaphorically fly-fishing than in a building reciting the Lord's Prayer.

We have a different structure and set of rituals. The road-tested equipment, the pre-ride meals. Mine is currently oatmeal, Greek yogurt, raspberries, and walnuts. My pockets will be full of Kind and Larabars.

The control schedule with its time windows, the cue sheet with turns, the brevet card with boxes to annotate. A routine at controls to get in and out quickly, everyone has that. We all know the types of food you can find in mini-marts: rice pudding, chocolate milk, protein smoothies, beef jerky, trail mix. All this structure is like the framing of a building, like the long wooden beams holding the roof over our heads; without which everything would come down.

A long ride is a study in patterns; each one is slightly different. Even the same route has many possible variations on any given day. Temperature, wind, the rider's fitness, their mindset, equipment failures. So the routines and thinking we bring with us always need a few adjustments. It is very rare to ride a brevet and just execute a mental program, according to plan.

Knowing when and how to alter routines is a form of art. It is personal, humble, with no right or wrong answer. It is true only in the moment, and only for you. No one can tell you the right thing to do.

Today it's a gift to sit quietly on a bench, among people who follow the script and people who do not, without fear of reprisal.

I look upward at the skylights. A beautiful, unbroken light blue sky. So it's still there. For breathing after the service, for gazing at long, unbroken spaces that transcend all of us.

The common thread is we couldn't save Matthew. Despite the familiar words, we are mute and helpless. We have to reformulate. Take something away from here about who he was, what he believed in and practiced. Carry it with us into the future. He was a big person but he can't do it now. And from here it looks like an enormous task.

It will take all the caring and energy we have. It will take the sky.


  1. OMG, sister, I offer you my empathy and love. You write so beautifully.

  2. A beautiful reflection, Elaine. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, and for keeping us moving forward.

  3. That's beautiful, Elaine. Thank you for that.