A second reckoning of sorts

On Wednesday I woke up to bright November sunshine and unsettling dread. I don't venture very far into my personal life or politics on this blog for good reason, but I know that many people felt this way — as though we'd suddenly become strangers in our own country, poised on the precipice of a bleak future where the things we love and need will only continue to lose value: Public lands, open space, wildlife, water, friends and family who are sick or struggling, people who don't fit into the majority. And on and on. 

I don't need to rehash what's already all over the Web. Many have posted much better missives than I could write. But I was among those bewildered and distraught after Tuesday's election, much more so than I even expected. So I retreated to one thing that will, I hope, always bring comfort — moving through the outdoors. Bicycles still exist, so there's that.

 I spent much of the first two hours crying. It's true. All of these pessimistic thoughts about the future flooded in, and I did everything I could to shut them out. It's interesting what thoughts and memories took their place. In the young woods outside Nederland, I imagined approaching a stranger and asking them if they wanted to share a hug. Strangely, when I rode through town, I didn't see a soul on the streets. As though everyone just up and left.

 There was the trail where I relived the moment when I found out my grandmother died. I was 16 years old and working a day shift at Wendy's, cleaning tables when my dad came in. I remember so vividly the afternoon shadows across the carpet, so stark against the winter sunlight, and the sour smell of my rag as lukewarm water dripped through my fingers. It felt like acid. That's what I thought then. I still clench my hands when I think about it.

 There was this trail where I finally crashed on an easy surface after churning through a couple miles of chunder — loose rocks on top of loose dirt. Crashing has become such a familiar feeling — the sudden jolt, the throbbing pain, the warm blood trickling down my skin. I swore loudly until I heard a dog barking, which surprised me because I thought I was in a more remote area. I wasn't really swearing about my bloody knee, anyway.

 On the Switzerland Trail I thought about all the luck I've had, and how I reside in a place with so much beauty and opportunity, how I'm surrounded by so many smart and compassionate people. My health has continued to improve. On this day I felt almost "normal," riding easy again without any hint of hard breathing. I felt grateful for this simple ability to move freely, without anxiety and without pain. I try not to take this for granted. Just like every privlege I have in life. I try not to take it for granted, but I still do.

 There was Longs Peak, a 14,000-foot mountain mostly devoid of snow in November. I wondered if people in the future will miss winter.

 There was thick smog over the valley, and I wondered if the people in the city could taste it, if people felt acid in their breaths, like I sometimes do.

Recently I found an old iPod that I must have loaded up with music back in 2012, and relived memories from a year that seemed so wonderful. Hindsight often works that way. I climbed up Flagstaff for the first time since I had an asthma attack here a month ago, and marveled at this relative strength. Metric's "Speed the Collapse" came on, and I repeated the song a few times as I leapfrogged with another mountain biker. 

The wind presents a change of course 
A second reckoning of sorts 
We were wasted waiting for 
A comedown of revolving doors

Comments

  1. "Strangers in our own country...", that is a great way of putting it.

    I stumbled on this among the reactions and outpourings:
    Theodore Parker said, "I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice."

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    1. I realized today that my single largest fear is the future of the environment. I don't always make the best environmental choices, but it was enlightening to realize that this is it. How so many people, especially people with children, can claim to not care — it's baffling.

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  2. I rode my bike during20 years of communism in Czechoslovakia, during eight years of Bill Clinton, eight years of GW Bush, another eight years of exceptionally hopeful years of Obama, and will ride this afternoon and this weekend. As you say, bikes will continue to exist, at least till we all get nuked, which looks like more and more likely possibility now.

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    1. Thanks Jan. This makes me feel better, despite the nuked statement.

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  3. "I swore loudly until....." Somehow, I can't picture you swearing. You mean like "gosh darn it!" Or, like real swearing?

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    1. Ha! I'm not that squeaky clean. Despite Mormon background and general PG nature of this blog. But it's true I rarely swear in the company of others. I reserve such verbal satisfaction for the privacy of my own mistakes.

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  4. Amazing what getting outside can do for the soul, isn't it?

    I wouldn't worry about politics; people make it out to be much worse than it is. I'm a middle-aged libertarian so from my viewpoint, this year was terrible but I'm used to it. Lol. We'll survive, along with the planet.

    FYI, any time Colorado doesn't get a s**t-ton of snow by November everyone gets into a tizzy and freaks out. Trust me, by March you will be begging for summer.

    Glad you're adapting to the new home turf :)

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    1. In just over a week, it will be the one-year anniversary of our first "scouting" trip to Boulder. There was quite a lot of snow then, but I suspect most of it fell during the storm that left me trapped on I-70 for 8 hours.

      Also, I will never beg for summer. Summer and I don't exactly get along, especially here in Colorado. Maybe that will change.

      I respect different points of view, but much of Trump's agenda looks like an economic, environmental, and diplomatic disaster. I'm at a complete loss to understand who benefits from these policies, besides Trump, his cronies, and the corporations invested in his schemes. It's not even smaller government when you're talking about the logistics of things like immigrant roundups, defense spending, and building an expensive and entirely detrimental wall. Anyway. I really will try to refrain from politics on my blog beyond this post. As 98% of major newspapers who did not endorse Trump proved, the liberal media has no influence anyway. ;)

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    2. Oh, I think they had plenty of influence, printing story after story about emails while ignoring other relevant scandals and information, printing five stories per day about emails, breathlessly reporting Comey's letter based on an irresponsible tweet without investigating first, putting clicks and internet hits above the good of our country. The liberal media had pretty much all the influence, here. They are complicit.

      FWIW, though, watching Hillary's incredible concession speech made me get a grip and stop my crying. If she can stand there, perfectly composed, while Bill and Tim almost go to pieces behind her, and deliver a strong, beautiful, inspiring speech after enduring decades of attacks and threats and opposition culminating in this one, final, devastatingly painful second place finish, I can wash my face and get dressed and get back out there and fight. I decided when I pushed play on that speech that I WOULD NOT CRY, that if Hillary could deliver that speech flawlessly then I the least I could do was watch it and control my own tears. And I did. I feel stronger now. The world weeps for us, but this isn't over. The majority of the country rejected that goon. The decisive majority. Remember that.

      That said, watching Bill mouth "that's my girl" at the end of the speech just about ruined my plan, but I held on.

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    3. I agree. Hillary's concession speech was perfect. So much class and grace. I've liked Hillary from the beginning, and I'll never understand the level of vitriol driven against her and Obama — even though it can be explained by sadly ordinary sexism and racism.

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    4. Too bad Ambassador Stevens and the others did not get to see her "Class and grace" Stick to bikes and running Jill, thats what we love you for. The media has you in a tailspin, stop listening to them.

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    5. The media does not have me in a tailspin. My eyes are open. I can always ditch this blog and start a new one.

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  5. Some good hard physical exercise is often the best way to purge anger and frustration.

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  6. Anonymous4:29 AM

    I don'the live in the US, but looked on with helpless horror as Trump was elected to be President. 325,000,000 Americans and the world ends up with somebody like Trump? What keeps me somewhat optimistic is the realization that the majority of Americans do not share his views and did not vote for him.
    I have a poster of a mountain biker riding in a forest in the early morning mist. The caption..." How to prevent a compound fracture of the soul"...so I too went for a good long ride in the forest.
    Damian, Canada

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  7. Like you, I think a lot of us had those two hours of shock and tears. But it's refreshing to read how you got out for a bike ride to make some sense of it instead of spewing more hate online.

    The fresh air always helps.

    And I always like it when you include song lyrics. It's great how some songs can immediately take us back to a specific place and time. Plus, your songs always send me down a rabbit hole of discovering new music to enjoy.

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    1. I've also spend too much time online in the past few days, and honestly, the only hate I've seen has come from the winning side. A lot of people are angry, hurt, fearful, and confused, and it's appropriate to express that. I've even sought out content from Trump supporters, in an effort to better understand. I still don't understand. Many of my extended family members belong to the religious right, and that group's justifications are the most confusing of all. They think Trump will end abortion, but don't seem to care that the world is literally burning. Yes, I don't understand. For that, I suppose, there's still fresh air. For now.

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  8. Hi Jill, thank you for this post.
    Many of us Brits have been similarly feeling 'strangers in our own country' since the Brexit vote earlier this year, and I am further saddened if Brexit in any way influenced some of the USA's voters this week (and if we turn out to have created a domino of reactionary voting in the rest of the Europe).
    To quote Zen on Dirt's blogpost (another fantastic blog, which I probably found through yours!), "I will continue to do my best to be an honest, kind, and caring person, and I hope that everyone else out there does the same."
    Jo, Dorset, UK

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  9. I was surprised just how upset I was about the election. We've had results I didn't like before, but I've never wanted to cry about them until this year. My fears echo yours; my hope is that the reality is much better and all the people who voted for him for reasons I disagree with are sorely disappointed by his actions.

    I teach first grade, so there was both levity (as one of my students, very proud that he knew the result of the election, greeted me with "Mrs. Geisen! Donald Duck won!") and sadness/fear as I explained to two of my students that they didn't actually have to move (not immigrant families, or I sadly wouldn't have had that certainty).

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  10. Anonymous6:53 AM

    " Bicycles still exist, so there's that."
    Thanks for the post Jill.

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  11. I think that you and I both reacted similarly. I was absolutely devastated, to the point that I couldn't even talk to a neighbor who I saw on the trails.

    A good hard physical effort out in our beautiful world at least distracts me a little. I don't understand either... I especially don't understand the women who voted for DJT. It makes me feel like we're back in the 50's - when it seems like women accepted that men would treat them badly.

    I haven't seen Hillary's concession speech. I will watch it after seeing the comments on it above.

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  12. Anonymous6:21 AM

    So you neither have the courage to deal with life nor the courage to accept criticism? We are the backbone of out beloved country...you me, all the criers out there. Weeping because the government has let us down....oh....how sad.

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    1. I don't know what criticism you're referring to. I believe we're swiftly descending into dangerous territory. I could be wrong, and I'd love to be wrong. But when something big has been lost, it's appropriate to mourn for a short time, and then do everything you can to change it.

      This week I subscribed to newspapers and sent e-mails to my senators and congressman in Colorado. All I advocate for is keeping eyes wide open. This truly isn't a partisan issue. And it's not just an American issue. This is our life and our world.

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