A little moment of acknowledging impermanence.
– still kicking! –
This morning the weather turned out to be nice and, as usual, we took the bike to go to town. Nothing much to do, just enjoy the ride and have a coffee at the Buzz, maybe see some friends. Fall is in the air, we have to lap up these last days of gorgeous weather.
We raced down Hooker Road just the way we always do – a steep grade that gives us a speed of well above 40 miles per hour (and makes us sweat so much on the way back). We met the light just turning green down at 101 and flew on across.
It’s always fun to watch the drivers in their cars from the corner of our eyes how they look at us in smiling amazement – ‘look, a bicycle for two!‘ We keep up the speed, cars have to slow down for the school zone on Carlsborg Road, and we often pass them on our bike lane. They look at us, bewildered and amused – many know us, there are not many tandems in town. The intersection with Runion is a right angle turn, but when the traffic allows it I veer off on the road and take the turn at full speed.
This time we actually start sliding, with a squeaking noise the bike is skidding sideways. Not much, I can easily catch it. (The tire pressure must be a bit too low today!). We have briefly stopped pedaling because the pedals would hit the ground in such a fast steep turn. We slow down just a bit, I straighten it out. I hear a slight gasp behind me and then a giggle, and while we’re pedaling again like mad we both burst into laughter.
I’m not entirely sure why we are laughing so hard. Is it because we just narrowly escaped a pretty bad crash? I should not laugh and only feel guilty for going too fast. Parvin should curse me for putting us in danger. But we laugh – it comes from deep inside, I don’t really know from where. It comes in waves, we still giggle when we reach the old rail road bridge.
There we have to carry the bike down some stairs. Parvin looks at me and shakes her head. She’s thoroughly out of breath, her hair is wild, and she pretends to be upset, but I can feel her move when we take off and accelerate again.
We race on, we bypass a red light by sneaking through a parking area at top speed. I have to be extremely watchful, nobody ever sees us. I know very well, in traffic we are always at the bottom of the food chain, there is no room for mistakes or mercy.
It’s not wise to drive this way. It’s not smart, not rational. But are we ever rational? Is it unwise to do something that makes you laugh?
Yesterday we went to Port Angeles – by bike of course, we don’t use our car so much anymore. Parvin needed her annual ‘Lebebestätigung‘ – one of those terrific German compound words – it means: “official confirmation of being alive”. Parvin gets a small pension from Germany – (by the way: barely enough to pay for her health insurance here in this country with its healthcare system that has ethically never evolved beyond the Stone Age) – and every year she has to prove to the authorities in Germany that she’s still alive and therefore entitled to receive this pension. At first we found it a pain in the neck. Now, over time, we have grown to see it a bit differently.
Each year we make it a nice little celebration to do our trip to the Court House in Port Angeles (why not do it in style by bicycle?) and get our official proof that she’s still alive. It’s not at all a pain in the neck. It’s a wonderful reminder to not take the very fact of being alive for granted and a reminder that it will indeed not be for ever. The nice lady there in the office knows the deal by now, we all laugh when she joyfully slams down the stamp on the paper: ‘yes, another year, she’s still kicking!‘
* * *
It’s early in the afternoon, and I woke up from my own snoring. Somewhat embarrassed, but no – not really embarrassed at all, actually pleasantly surprised that I’m not embarrassed. I lay down half an hour ago to think a bit and fell asleep.
Sleeping in the afternoon, I could not do that in the past segment of my life. I had many clever explanations why this was so, like: I’m not that type of person, daytime sleep is a waste of precious wakeful lifetime etc. Those explanations should cause embarrassment now, when I find myself not living up to such principles. But, as a matter of fact, today I don’t feel like failing at all, giving in to a weakness, buckling under the lifelong temptation to let primitive desires control my life. It is almost the opposite. There is a sense of profound relief, that what I did until now – resisting daytime sleep, defying comfort – may have been appropriate, skillful, and laudable in a way, however, that it is not necessary any longer, that I’m relieved from a duty. And it is not only the realization that I’m relieved from a task, there is discernment, today, that it may not have been as proficient as I thought all the time.
The older I get I tend to consult with my body more and more. The old familiar songs of my mind (thinking mind) do not turn me on so much any longer. In fact, I’ve grown quite suspicious about the competence of this mind to supervise my life. It does feel good to sleep at odd times, the body knows best when it’s time.
I look over to the other couch where Parvin has stirred too, awakened from her sleep. She can sleep in an instant any time of the day. She smiles, she knows my former reluctance to succumb to sleep and just smiles.
How interesting that I arrived in a situation – externally and internally – where I’m free to sleep when ever I feel like it. How wonderful that I lived long enough and hard enough to change my mind about this issue (and about so many other issues!). Getting old isn’t always so uncomfortable; again and again I find it liberating.
Klaus Sequim, September 21. 2009