This morning a customer didn’t bother to tell me his name, just went straight to spelling it.
Yeah, it was one of THOSE names. Not as confounding as some, but definitely not one I would have gotten right without having him spell it out.
“My sister and I grew up with a maiden name we always had to spell,” I told him. “Now she’s a Jones and I’m a Smith!”
On the other end of the phone my customer laughed with me, and then said, “Mine’s Italian. It means ‘eat goat’.”
I couldn’t help myself. “That’s awesome! EAT GOAT.”
Next time someone upsets me, that’s what I’ll say. “Hey! You. Eat goat!”
I have a tenant who has a very long name with very few vowels that ends in -wczyk. It occurs to me that he has never said his name to me either. It’s like a secret password that only the chosen can know…
In my maiden-name days, that’s how I used to screen for telemarketers: if a caller correctly pronounced the name, I didn’t immediately hang up. “Smith” doesn’t lend itself to that kind of screening…
Although there was the one time a phlebotomist labeling my blood sample asked me how to spell it. I was so taken aback I just blurted “Smith!” again, because isn’t that word self-explanatory for a native speaker of English?
This week’s metrics might be miles (on the motorcycle) or meters (SCUBA diving)… Or we might just measure the days in smiles! Whatever the maps and the dive tables have to say about it, we’ve been purely enjoying…
Whenever we get to this part of the country, a requisite stop is Gracie’s Sea Hag for a bread-bowl of their exquisite clam chowder… And since Gracie’s is in Depoe Bay 60 Miles north of our campground, it was the perfect excuse yesterday to climb on the motorcycle and enjoy the delicious curvy coastal highway 101, with its ocean views and salt-tanged air. Sea-spray on my motorcycle visor—that’s definitely one version of heaven.
We spent almost six hours taking in the sights and sounds of that 120-mile round-trip, hopping off the bike to walk beaches, poke through tide pools, climb bridges, and visit my favorite lighthouse (same one that’s tattooed on my arm with my daughter’s name, which means “shining light”). And (being the coffee-aholics that we are) to order a “fog lifter” at Espresso 101 in Waldport.
We ducked into a gift shop in Depoe Bay to buy a pair of tourist sweatshirts (mine says “Highway 101”!) which we promptly put on over the sweatshirts we were already wearing. We’d both unthinkingly brought the bike-jackets we’ve been wearing all summer—and while mesh is a blessing in Boise’s 100-degree heat, it’s maybe a bit TOO breezy for here…
High Tide hit around 5:00, at which point we were back in camp industriously duct-taping dollar-store plastic tablecloths over the truck seats so we could drive from one dive site to the next in our squelching wetsuits… The real picture (which I DON’T have) would be the pair of us squishing our way up the campground shower-trail in full get-up to rinse the saltwater out of our dive gear. But I’m getting ahead of myself—first we went diving.
There’s a converted fish ladder on Florence’s North Jetty with cement steps that make for easy entry and exit in dive gear. Let me just stop here and say that the water here is COLD. But oh so worth it. Pulsating jellies, skittering fish, and CRABS all over. If we’d picked up a shellfish license we could have brought home dinner and then some. Then back to camp for hot showers and a roaring fire, with a clothesline full of wetsuits dancing in the lantern-light…
This morning we took the motorcycle in the other direction on the 101, south as far as Bandon… where we walked around the waterfront boardwalk with helmet in one hand and a coffee in the other, and where we improbably ran into Jon’s boss! We stopped in Coos Bay on the way back and ordered a clam basket and fish’n’chips at the Floating Fish Market, and I ogled the Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain—tall ships under full sail—as we rode out of the harbor.
Right now Jon is splitting firewood and rolling his eyes at me for sitting here by the fire with my phone (his has been in “airplane mode” the whole trip)… But I’m happy that I can blog from my phone (yes, even from the back of the bike if I want to). I’m happy that my tummy is full of clams and my head is full of ocean views. I’m happy that my bike-jacket pocket is full of wave-worn shell fragments. I’m so happy that my face is full of smile, just sitting here. And THAT’s the proper metric for a vacation.
I usually start any travel with a carefully-planned itinerary, complete with reservations and budgeted activities. My journal pages ahead of a trip will be filled with addresses and prices and confirmation numbers… But yesterday we climbed into our truck with just a map and our coffee and our camping and diving gear, hooked up the motorcycle trailer, and headed for the Oregon Coast!
We’d been planning to spend our vacation-week doing some Idaho camping, but Friday morning Jon told me he’d take me to the ocean instead. WOOHOO!! (Don’t get me wrong—I do love our Idaho… But WOOHOO!!)
So here we are on an entirely UNplanned adventure. Entirely OUT of character for me, but I couldn’t be happier. All week my FaceBook page had been popping up “one year ago” pictures of our LAST trip to the coast, and I’ll admit they were making me wistful…
Even without pre-planning, we scored a first-night campsite with a view of the Florence marina and bridge, and this morning we settled into the state park campground where we got a spot for the rest of the week. Couldn’t have done better if I HAD planned it.
We’ve unloaded the bike and taken her for an exploratory spin across the bridge and through Florence. We’ve scouted the North Jetty and identified our dive entrance. We’ve picked up SCUBA gear on our way through Eugene. We’ve had our first seafood dinner at an off-the-beaten-path diner full of locals (always a good sign for an eating establishment—and it was so good we went back for breakfast). We’ve stood on the sand dunes and breathed in the ocean-air. I’ve probably posted two dozen photos to FaceBook—everything from the sailboats and king heron at the marina to the ripening blackberries growing at our campsite, the view crossing the bridge on the motorcycle… And this one. It’s my “happy camper” face.
We ended up holding an impromptu Scuba-demo last night at our campsite… The same gaggle of youngsters who had gathered around our motorcycle a couple days earlier returned, drawn this time by our clothesline full of wetsuits and dive gear.
They were brimming with questions—what things we’ve seen diving, how we breathe underwater… So Jon pulled one of the air tanks back out of the truck, scooped up his regulator set, and hooked it all up to show the kids how it works. As they took wide-eyed turns breathing from the tank, I chatted with their mom, who had just as many questions as her kids.
In the course of conversation, I shared with her the comment from her son that made me grin the other day—that the reason he has to grow up is so he can get a motorcycle. Her answer gave me great pause. With an uplifted smile, she told me that he’s terminally ill, so she’s grateful for every reason he finds to fight.
What I had taken for a humorous kid-ism was in this case a literal truth. This little guy, all of five, is collecting reasons to grow up, because “growing up” isn’t a given. It’s a poignant reminder that really nothing is a given, even though we make assumptions about our futures… It’s a reminder to pay attention to all the reasons to enjoy today.
We climbed my favorite lighthouse today, the one that’s tattooed on my arm with my daughter’s name (which means “shining light”)…
The headland was shrouded with fog, the lighthouse a barely-visible landmark as we pulled up on the motorcycle, and the wind whipping so hard we were grateful for the wind-proof construction of bike jackets!
Halfway down the cliffside steps to the tide pools and “cobble” beach below, a gentleman invited us to look through the two telescopes he had set up—one trained on nesting cormorants with chicks, the other on harbor seals lounging on the rocks. Gazing at the indigo-edged wings of a cormorant, I was wishing I could take a photo… And then started to wonder at my own apparent need to “capture” everything that happens.
Jon already teases me for snapping photos of everything, and for blogging about everything—and here I am sitting by our campfire and doing it some more, reflecting on the page (well, on my phone-screen, if we’re going to get literal about it). I think it’s my way of making the most of the moments I’m having—getting the most out of them, finding their meaning, making them last.
The front of my journal says “Collect moments, not things.” I’m not at all a souvenir person—I’m the shutterbug instead, and the blogger. Photos and words are the best ways I know to make moments last as memories.
So I have pictures today. The bacon cooking next to our coffee-pot on the camp stove in golden morning light. The geometrical black iron steps and whitewashed walls of the staircase spiraling up the lighthouse tower. The silhouettes of two friends we met for dinner against a sunset view of the harbor.
And words for the moments and things that don’t fit pictures. Like the telescope views, the harbor’s fog horn, the movement of anemones in a tide pool, the saltwater-spray on my motorcycle visor….
Today I’m picturing the “collected” moments as beacons that can shine forward as memories… maybe focused by words-and-photos like that lighthouse beam through its Fresnell lens.
I guess I’m just a recorder by nature. I like to take notice of my own life.
Our next door neighbor is learning to play guitar. I know this because his open screen door wasn’t far from our open bedroom window at nine o’clock last night. As he worked his way through the opening chords of “Smoke on the Water” (over and over and over and over and over) I consoled myself with the fact that it couldn’t go on indefinitely, because he IS still learning. Meaning he probably doesn’t have the finger calluses yet, and he’d have to quit after a bit.
I can sympathize, because my “motorcycle muscles” are also feeling the effects of unaccustomed use. Well, let me be more accurate. My learning-the-motorcycle-muscles are feeling it. I recognize that on some level I was still trying to “muscle” the bike into staying upright, even though the bike can do just fine on its own, thank you very much. I may behave at some moments as if I’m holding up the bike with my arms, but of course that’s not what’s happening.
The bike will stay upright pretty much on its own when it’s in motion—basic physics takes care of that. And the faster you’re going, the easier that is. (It’s counter-intuitive, I know—but if you think about balancing a bicycle at next-to-nothing speed, you know how much harder that is than staying balanced when you’re pedaling down the street. Same principle.) Given that I haven’t yet graduated out of first gear on the motorcycle, I’m learning to control the bike at its most difficult speed.
My own “newbie” lack-of-confidence was my worst enemy before yesterday. I’ve been rather too aware that there’s a (literal) tipping-point, and if the bike’s center of gravity crosses it, I don’t have the muscle to hold it up. Yet I also know the rest of the physics involved, and the fact that the bike is designed to stay upright when you ride it! Truly, all I need to do is trust the bike (trust the physics) and not indulge in any herky-jerky reactions to my own fears. And therein lies the challenge. Some moments I’d been letting my fear drive—and Fear is not a skilled driver.
Trust is the antithesis of Fear. By the end of yesterday evening’s session I wasn’t tensing for every corner anymore, and that’s huge improvement. I was not just “managing to turn” the bike—I was turning it more tightly, and pretty precisely on the path I set for myself. More improvement.
Strange as it might seem, I actually think that those improvements happened because one of my fears got realized, early in the riding session. (Bless his heart, Jon would go to the grave without telling this to anyone… But I find it useful to stay REAL here, so I’ll tell on myself.) Continue reading “On Physics and Fear”→
I had my first riding lesson today. Well, okay—“riding” would be overstating the case. But I was moving, and I was alone on the bike!
Jon finds it crazy that I’d never even ridden dirt bikes as a kid (he’s been riding since he was seven!)—and that means everything about biking (except for passenger-ing) is new to me.
I’m completely at home on the back of the bike, doesn’t matter how sharply he maneuvers (man’s got skills!) or how far the bike leans—I’m confident in his skills, and in my perch.
Not surprisingly, it’s a whole different ballgame with the grips in my hands. Shifting with your foot? That’s weird to me.
I’m glad that I’m at least well versed in bicycling (balance and hand brakes—though there’s also a foot-brake involved here), and that I’ve driven a stick-shift car before (so the theory of shifting isn’t new, just the application on a motorcycle). But the rest of this is like learning a new language, with my body!
We went to our church’s private parking lot (since I’m still waiting on the license before I can get the permit before I can take the class before I can get the endorsement—a lovely domino-chain, isn’t it?)… And I spent some time getting the feel for balance—being comfy on the back is different from being responsible for keeping the bike up!
And some practice at shifting, getting accustomed to the friction point on the clutch, and easing her forward in first gear… Mostly with my feet walking alongside instead of up on the pegs, just to make sure I was ready to correct if needed.
So those are literally my first baby-steps toward riding…
Last night we took her out on the freeway to stretch her legs!