New Year

Holidays at our house are always something of a contact sport. Christmas day bike rides, shoveling snow off a neighbor's barn roof, running, baking, cooking, there's not much sitting around when my sister's family comes to town.

This vacation began with a near miss. My sister went over the bars on her mountain bike going about 30mph down a dirt road. She doesn't remember what happened. She might have contacted Joe's rear wheel with her front. She might have caught her front brake. The net result was she used her head to protect her bike and clothing. The good news is they survived the crash just fine. The better news is my sister's helmet did what it was supposed to do and it probably saved her life. She ended with a concussion, strained shoulder and a cracked scapula. Someone with a pickup truck heard the crash, drove down and gave them a ride home. Joe took her to the hospital from there.

The inside of Mallory's helmet. Note the fracture lines.
Mallory rallied pretty quickly and the rest of the holiday was as fun as it always is with them, but we were all very aware that things could have been so much worse.

Why do we do these things? There are safer ways to stay fit. I look around the table at dinner and I see my wife with a titanium plate in her wrist from a fall on the ice just getting up our driveway. I see my sister in a sling, my niece missing most of a finger from a log splitter accident, my brother-in-law with a wide array of wounds that never seem to heal, and I start to think that maybe we should be playing more Scrabble.

The answer stared back at me in the mirror this morning. My body had been replaced by one that belonged to a middle aged man. I know, I know. Growing old is what happens to all of us. It's just that we don't take stock of what that means very often. We shouldn't. It's too depressing. We're dying. Think about that too much and it sends you right to the Scrabble board.

But it brought me back to the original question. We do these things because we still can. Not doing them would be an insult to the bodies we were given. My sister is lighter and stronger than she's ever been as an adult. Carolyn will be 59 this June and she still gets asked on dates by customers. My niece may be the most beautiful girl I've ever met and missing a finger hasn't diminished that a bit. Joe is crazy strong. Christmas Eve he broke a wine glass in half just sitting there talking. Carolyn calmly told him to finish his wine and hand her the pieces, which may have been the funniest moment of the holiday. I still punish my body with wine but I'm stronger than 99% of the men my age. Every day I'm grateful for all of this, and the price for being this way is getting in harm's way. We have friends being consumed by cancer, to let this go would insult them. Yes, it hurts. It hurts just doing it, let alone when the act ends in catastrophe. the hurt is part of the joy.

Last Thursday the fog and cold was really getting the better of me. Carolyn was at work and my sister's family had headed South so I suited up and pedaled up the ridge across the valley from our house to ride out of the fog. The hills had a couple of inches of snow but it was rideable. After I left the shooters behind and got up the steep section of the fire road, I settled in to a nice pace following some bobcat prints up the snow covered road to the ridgeline. It was so beautiful and it was so close to home. I got to the lookout at the top of the ridge, bathed in beautiful sunshine. I can't describe how good it felt. It was so quiet. It was so peaceful. It was... a trip back in time to my high school self backpacking in the winter in the Catskills. That was the first time I felt like this.

So that's what this is all about. Walk, run, ride, whatever it takes. Honor the body you've been given.

But for Christ's sake, wear a helmet.

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