My Wobbly Bicycle, 163

Posted by on Jan 8, 2019 | 15 comments

Yesterday we undressed the tree, old ornament by old ornament. We pulled apart the fake tree, bought five or six years ago from Brookstone. It’s held up well and is as pretty as a not-tree can be. We stuffed its million needles with its million lights into its large box, with its layers of duct tape. We put the box on the hand-truck and I pulled it to the elevator and downstairs to the car, where I balanced it so that it would pivot into the back (with the seats down) without having to do much heavy lifting.

Jerry would love to help, but can’t. I took it to our storage unit (no storage in this historic building)  and reversed the process. Even being careful, my back hurts today. I see this is how it is, you get to be a certain age and things hurt. Just vague aches, so far.

Age is interesting. It’s a foreign land that arrives without your having to travel to it. Little things: these spots on my hands, for example. They breed when I’m not looking. My brain processes more slowly. It doesn’t like fast talk. I could go on and you’ll either be saying, oh yes, I know what you mean, or you’ll be saying oh, really? If you don’t live here yet.

From here, I can see the arc of my life. As if I were in a spaceship, there is the curvature. Not back to the beginning, but the beginning seems closer, as if I’ve curved far enough to encounter it again. Emily Webb, in Wilder’s play Our Town was able to return and find the same scenes being replayed. That’s not what I mean. I mean I feel closer to the long-gone past. It returns like a reverie. I’m not a character in it; I am both me, now, and my early self that still lives in my bones.

Or, you could say I am like a plant that’s reached its full height, bloomed its blooms, and is now beginning to remember its roots, its connection to the earth, not so much reaching for the sun.

I do love the sun. I’m super aware of it, since we moved this far north. And since we moved to this condo with its fourteen windows. I’m aware of it in a primitive way, like the plant. When I was younger, it hung up there in the sky solely for my benefit. It was the tool that would tan me, make my pimples dry up, bleach my hair, and melt my bones if I lay on a towel on the beach long enough.

Now we are in collusion. I see now that the sun and I are part of the same system. We’re different aspects of the same swirl. I am gradually changing, as is the sun. If you were watching when we both burned out, you would hardly see a difference because (one hopes) it would all have been so gradual. Like these spots on my hands.

There’s always a few days of feeling the bareness after the tree and the lights are gone. (Photo is where the tree used to be) Back to the ordinary. But it’s also a relief. One can celebrate only so long. And sometimes even that’s too much. Ordinary life is amazing enough.  I’m intensely aware of being alive. Having had cancer does that to you.  “Oh, earth,” Emily Webb exclaims towards the end of Our Town, “you’re too wonderful for anyone to realize you.”

Speaking of wonderful,  Nicholas Kristof’s column in the New York Times this Sunday was titled, “Why 2018 Was the Best Year in Human History. ”He wrote, Each day on average, about another 295,000 people around the world gained access to electricity for the first time. . . Every day, another 305,000 were able to access clean drinking water for the first time. . . Never before has such a large portion of humanity been literate, enjoyed a middle-class cushion, lived such long lives, had access to family planning or been confident that their children would survive.” And, he writes, “The big news that won’t make a headline and won’t appear on television is that 15,000 children died around the world in the last 24 hours. But in the 1990s, it was 30,000 kids dying each day.”

What’s the point of this post? I think it’s that there is joy and sadness, kids and old people, and the rotation of the earth around the sun. Good enough?









  1. This poem relates:

    by Wiskawa Szymborska—translated from Polish by A. Duszenko


    I don’t know about other places,
    but here on Earth there’s quite a lot of everything.
    Here chairs are made and sadness,
    scissors, violins, tenderness, transistors,
    water dams, jokes, teacups.

    Maybe somewhere else there is more of everything,
    only for some reason there are no paintings there,
    cathode-ray tubes, dumplings, tissues for tears.

    There are plenty of places here with surroundings.
    Some you can particularly get to like,
    name them your own way
    and protect them from evil.

    Maybe somewhere else there are similar places,
    But no one considers them beautiful.

    Maybe like nowhere else, or in few other places,
    here you have your own body trunk,
    and with it the tools needed,
    to add your children to those of others.
    Besides that your hands, legs, and the amazed head.

    Ignorance here is hard at work,
    constantly measuring, comparing, counting,
    drawing conclusions and finding square roots.

    I know, I know what you’re thinking.
    Nothing is permanent here,
    for since ever forever in the power of the elements.
    But notice—the elements get easily tired
    and sometimes they have to take a long rest
    before the next time.

    And I know what else you’re thinking.
    Wars, wars, wars.
    But even between them there happen to be breaks.
    Attention—people are evil.
    At ease—people are good.
    At attention we produce wastelands.
    At ease by the sweat of our brows we build houses
    and quickly live in them.

    Life on earth turns out quite cheap.
    For dreams for instance you don’t pay a penny.
    For illusions—only when they’re lost.
    For owning a body—only with the body.

    And as if this was not enough,
    you spin without a ticket in the carousel of the planets,
    and along with it, dodging the fare, in the blizzard of galaxies,
    through eras so astounding,
    that nothing here on Earth can even twitch on time.

    For take a good look:
    the table stands where it stood,
    on the table the paper, exactly as placed,
    through the window ajar just a waft of the air,
    and in the walls no terrifying cracks,
    through which you could be blown out to nowhere.

    I know our tastes differ, but I thought you might like this one.

    And I know what else you’re thinking.
    Wars, wars, wars.
    But even between them there happen to be breaks.
    Attention—people are evil.
    At ease—people are good.
    At attention we produce wastelands.
    At ease by the sweat of our brows we build houses
    and quickly live in them.

    • Thanks for this wonderful poem, Ruth. I’ve read it but was glad to see it again. It’s perfect.

  2. The last nine lines aren’t repeated. My error. Ruth

  3. This couldn’t have arrived at a better time.
    Thanks for reminding me of the good.

  4. Oh Fleda, thank you for sharing your wobbly bicycle ride with us.

    • Thanks, Ann. I am happy to still be upright. 🙂

  5. More than good enough. Thank you, Fleda.

    • I loved your Christmas letter, Tara. Your amazing family. Thanks and love.

  6. Amen to all that, Fleda.

  7. Fabulous, Fleda. Thanks for writing and sharing. I also loved the poem, Ruth. Both were so nourishing for the soul.

  8. Ordinary life is amazing enough.
    Yes, that. Thank you.

  9. if you can track it down, i recommend the 1992 movie, the long day closes.”
    it shows a childhood remembered, and there’s the sense you describe of being the adult remembering and the child experiencing simultaneously. it is beautiful and actually Proustian..

  10. Hi, Fleda–just looking in because so much about this one really resonated with me. I love Christmas trees and I loved not having one this year. I love the tree in the living room and hate knowing that it died to be there; love the lights and ornaments that go back three generations, hate the work of taking them all down afterwards, and love the relief of moving on to the bareness of New Year’s, cleaning, and (what feel like) fresh beginnings; and really, really do not much care for the hand-spots, which do indeed grow when we’re not looking. It’s a complicated world out there, and in here. Take care! –Catherine

  11. I like your work. It’s so honest that it’s raw edges are comforting. I read ‘A Hundred White Daffodils’ before bedtime.

  12. I want to say to all of you who commented–I’m so sorry it’s taken me so long to approve these. The WordPress site doesn’t immediately pull these up for me to see. I have to go looking for them. And I was gone for awhile. I do so much appreciate your comments, and I’ll get better at looking for the comments.

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