Tuesday, April 16, 2013

in times of trouble

A few weeks back the Contraption Captain and I are bicycling home and considering the evening ahead. It involves transporting Pele to soccer practice which is not our total favorite job. “Well” I said  of soccer practice, after we worked out the logistics, “it’s cheaper than therapy.” I had never put it that way before but I knew all of a sudden and absolutely that they were true. Pele’s therapy, for much of what ails her, is playing soccer. She loves the discipline.  She loves toying with the ball and faking out her opponent.  When she’s frustrated she likes to boot the ball as hard as she can over and over until she feels better. In some broad general way, practicing soccer and playing in soccer games makes her truly happy and contented. It doesn't solve problems specifically but a good practice puts her world and it's trials and triumphs into a useful perspective.

Fast forward to yesterday. I had a good day at work, I felt very productive. I solved a few problems. I met with someone who intimidates me and the meeting was productive and I’m looking forward to the work we will do together. And in a small corner of my mind, and my screen, I watched the drama unfold at the Boston marathon. I watched but mostly I worked and did not think too much about the city whose streets I had haunted as an unhappy kid.

At the end of the day I put on my helmet and my bright yellow jacket and got my bicycle and headed outside. The weather was cold and bright and sunny and very very windy. Windy enough that I struggled at times to keep my bicycle in the bike lane. Windy enough that I had extra anxiety when I was taking the lane because my bicycle was weaving more than usual and I was afraid some desperate car would pass too close and hit me.

I bicycle along, fighting the wind, and I’m somewhat under-dressed because it’s cold and all of this occupies most of my cpu cycles. But there are always a few left over. These few cycles slowly start to spin up and in this somehow safe and quiet place of bicycling home I think about being a runner, I think about bombs and Syria and mailboxes. I think about races I’ve run and the time Pele and Rapunzel were waiting for me at the finish line, how good it was to see them smiling and proud of me.

I meet up with my husband and we pedal on together and finally I see what has been there all day. I am deeply saddened by the events in Boston. If you had asked me earlier what I thought I would have said “so sad” or “so terrible” but it is only after I’ve ridden for awhile that I feel the sorrow in a real way. I guess this is because while Pele’s therapy is soccer, mine happens to be bicycling.

So to people in different states and different countries, runners or pedestrians or bicyclists. I hope you find something that brings you peace when you find yourself in times of trouble.


  1. Chafe,

    Thanks for this. I had no idea I'd be in your old home town this week. But, being a newspaper reporter, my life sometimes takes completely unexpected turns, so I headed up here late on Monday and I've spent the day doing my best to report on what's going on here.

    I've reported on a lot of sad things by now - the Bosnia war, violence in Northern Ireland, the Kosovo War, the 2005 London bombings (which I described here: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2012/02/what-have-romans-ever-done-for-us-well.html). But there's still something deeply troubling about the idea that someone would fill a pressure cooker with explosives, ball bearings and nails and put it where it would kill an eight-year-old boy, a graduate student and a 29-year-old woman.

    If it's any comfort, your city seems to be showing the resilience of which human beings seem so remarkably capable in these circumstances.

    All the best,


    1. I can't call it my city. I lived there thirty years and made few lasting friendships. There were big social parties that I wasn't invited to. I'm bad tempered, but also Massachusetts kept to it's own. Californians think I was born here. Vegetarian who loves animals and bicycling, must be a local right? So I think of myself as Californian. People tell me that Californians are superficial, but I'll take a "hi there" from someone who doesn't mean it all that much over no hi there at all.

      Anyways. Bombs I do not like. Sudden death I do not like.

      Read your post. This was my favorite part:

      It made me warmer towards London, I think, to cycle round that day and take in the dazed looks on my fellow Londoners’ faces amid the echoing sirens and the beat of the helicopters overhead. London’s tolerance of diversity may be expressed in a cool, arm’s length fashion rather than a fuzzy embrace. But, as more cyclists joined me on the roads in the coming weeks, scared of the underground or facing disruption from line closures, I valued the city’s live-and-let-live tradition all the more for knowing how others hated it.