Who is Sue and what is Suelandia?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Bikey and costumey madness

Hey people.  Whoopdee-dooo!  It's Halloween!  Not that anything spectacular is happening around here, because it's also Wednesday (big whoop), and I polished off all the candy yesterday.  (No kids ever come anyway.  Our driveway is too foreboding.  Leaving the lights off is probably a factor as well.)  This has always been one holiday I really look forward to, but I'll get back to that in a sec.

This post is part bikey, part costumey, part we'll see what else burbles to the surface.

I told you guys a little while ago I was sort of bummed about not being able to recruit any girls to mountain bike with.  I still am, a little.  I've figured out it is probably partly because I am not good enough to ride with truly fast/expert riders, partly because for girls mountain biking tends to be kind of do or die.  Not many women who aren't very good/fast are interested in doing it, because it is hard work and there is a high likelihood of getting hurt at some point.  Another factor is that my trail is kind of a haul for anyone living in the cities, and rumored to be the most difficult trail.  Another thing I have to cop to I guess, is that I know I have a weird intensity to me, and tendency to be very direct that can be off-putting.  So yeah.  Basically I'm kind of a reject.

Have you noticed a part/party/contributing factors theme yet?  One seems to be developing.  How exciting.  Let's see what happens...  (spoiler alert-- it goes way off the rails by the tail end.)

Anyhow-- I'm not just going to roll-over and quit riding, because I do love it in the way you love bad boyfriends.  It's sure not always nice to me, and it seems I will never entirely figure it out, but the intermittent thrill of success and, well, *thrills*, is enough to keep me coming back for more abuse.  With this in mind, I decided to work harder on my skills.  I built a few little features in my yard to practice on.  Maybe this will help it to feel more fun again, boost my confidence.  Anyway-- it is for sure fun to whiz over this little teensy jump.  I'll gradually increase the size of things as my skill/confidence creeps up.

 Halloween Halloween.  How I have loved you.  Every year I begin thinking of what to be... pretty much before the current year's Halloween has even arrived.  Like, I started thinking about what to be NEXT Halloween, (like, Halloween '13) about a month ago.  I've thought a lot about what it is that appeals to me so much about costumes.  There is for sure an argument to be made for the whole "alter-ego" thing.

Another appeal for me is the creativity angle.  It's a way to be really free to express yourself that way, go wild.  I'm told by friends not into it that this is one of the very reasons they hate it--- lack of creativity/motivation.  There are, oddly, (to me) people who hate the whole deal.

 I think a couple more reasons I love it are that I feel sort of in sync, for once.  When you are in a costume, let's face it, everyone is looking at you, but everyone is looking at everyone else too, yet they have no idea who you really are.  This is how I feel a lot just in normal, walking-around life.  But on Halloween I feel weirdly included.  Also it reminds me of drinking in the way that there is always a possibility some way more fun version of myself may emerge, or some kind of outrageous illicit fun could bust-out that I could participate in.  Usually this doesn't happen, but the possibility itself is thrilling too.

A couple of weeks ago we had the opportunity to go on a tweed ride.  This is where people dress up in kind of old-fashion-y clothes with a British spin on them and pedal around town, usually stopping at various pubs.  Costumes on bikes-- what could be more fun?   

We wound-up kind of wussing-out on the Minneapolis hipster night ride, but went on our own with a couple of friends the next day.  Yeah-- so what?-- our very own tiny tweed ride in Anoka.  My friend said she knew of a trail that went past an insane asylum and and a feral cat community where they all live in little houses people built for them in their own little kitty village.  Sign me up!!

It was fun-- the ride part was-- but Anoka sucks for pubs/good places to eat.  There are however, a bunch of biker bars apparently.  So there we were, amid throngs of leather wearing bad-asses and drunken post-vikings game bar-flies in our fancy-wear outfits on our bicycles.  We ate gross bar food and had a beer (pop for me) and that was about it.  As we rode away I tried to reassure the gawking biker chicks on the corner to not be intimidated by our *gang*.  Me and my friend rang our bike bells at them and made "Vrooming" noises.  They thought it was pretty funny.

That was fun, but I had 2 more costume rides to saddle-up for.  Remember last year's costume? 

 This year I decided to go with a space woman motif.  I began collecting components back in April-- mostly off Ebay and Craig's List.  I made the jet-pack...

And the helmet... Well...  The HELMET!!!  It became an obsession.  It became a work of art.  I hand placed I don't know how many bazillion 1/4" silver foil squares on the entire surface of it.

I wanted a mirror-ball effect, which it fell short of, but still...  It did come out pretty damned awesome.

 The first ride was another Minneapolis hipster adventure a-la facebook.  A rolling rave ride through the dark city streets, with possibly hundreds of costumed revelers, music, and multiple bar stops.  ~Head explodes at potential fun factor~

Dan was a Native American Indian.  Who was ready to party. 

This horrible but short video is of the mobile sound and light show that accompanied us.  It is nearly impossible to grasp the awesomeness of this without seeing it in person.  It is a bike with huge speakers mounted in the front and back, with a mixing board and computer on the back rack, and towing a trailer with 150 lbs of batteries in it.  When it rolled up Dan's eyes got huge, and he got a big old grin and said, "You never said it would be like THIS!"

The best part of the vid is how much fun a certain Indian is having.

 We are not the party animals we once were, plus I had to help blow leaves and dirt off miles of trail at 8:00 the next morning, so we just went to a couple of the bars.  Rolling through the dark streets as part of a roiling mass of rebellious, loud, barely controlled chaos was the kind of fun I've been craving for a long while.  People bopped along to the jammin' tunes; guys peeled off and busted tricks on curbs and concrete embankments; people on the street cheered as we rode by.  It was a taste of that wildness I crave but seldom get.

The bar scene I could do without.  It was the riding around I loved.

Here is Hula photo-bombing my helmet.

 After we decided to pack it in,  we had to navigate back to where we left out car, and weren't really sure where we were, and we were dressed as a space-woman and an Indian.  I made a wrong turn and we found ourselves back in the hood where we used to live-- North Minneapolis.  I kept stopping to check my phone, but the helmet made my head feel like it was stuck inside a Lazyboy-- I had no peripheral vision, and couldn't hear, and Dan is deaf in one ear so couldn't hear me.

I'd just get the phone out and light it up, and drunks would begin stumbling towards us like zombie moths.  They are harmless in the same was as zombies-- they are slow, uncoordinated, not smart, and generally, unarmed.  At least-- no guns.  So I'd frantically poke at my phone and when they got within about 20 feet we'd take off again.  Eventually we found the car, and even this part was fun in that adventurey way I enjoy.  Dan also had a blast.

The next day was the Halloween mountain bike race at the trail.  I've gone from hanging about surreptitiously spying on the racers to racing, to riding around not racing but just having fun, to helping run the races, so there would be no bike involved for me this year, which was kind of a bummer but oh well.  There was no way I was going to get my spacewoman outfit all filthy, so opted (lamely) for a black cat outfit I made years ago.  It is perhaps the only non-slutty black cat outfit in existence and therefor should probably be placed in a time-capsule or something when I die for the good of woman-kind.

I was in kind of a crappy mood that day, which was really *off* for me.  But this made me laugh my butt off--- Cool Trail Boos Rich as Evil Knievel.  (The cute wolf or whatever in the background is Mrs. Cool Trail Boss Rich.)  (Kristen)

I think I was just a little *funned-out*, and I was pretty fried from working for 4 hours before the event even started too (which I offered to do, and didn't mind, even kind of liked-- but I did get kind of dragged-out and am apparently an old lady now about going without much sleep.  My former party-animal self is spinning in her grave.  She probably is still passed-out and completely oblivious come to think of it.)   

Part of my out-of-syncness was also because it's just been a rough few months.  Nothing is wrong, it's just been harder than normal to drag myself back up out of the crap.  But I am working on it.  And it's getting easier.  But at times when I know damned-well I'm supposed to be having a butt-load of fun and I'm not because... just because-- it makes me extra crabby because it points-out how out of sync I am.  (What a piece of work I am.)  But it's part of my complicated fabric of life I guess.  Work in progress till the day I die probably. 

One thing I enjoyed watching at the race was this kid (blue fleece) who was hell-bent on creating a jack-o-lantern with a flaming (from the inside) face.  He attracted all the other kids to his project because kids are natural pyros.  It was interesting and hilarious watching them experiment.  "It needs a marshmallow"  "It needs some ashes"  "Do pumpkin guts burn?"   The main kid was like some kind of beautiful mad-scientist.  Probably one of the most beautiful kids I've seen.

 There was the usual pumpkin massacre which was fun, and I still watched and video'd some of it, but I didn't feel it.  It wasn't wild and exciting like other years.  It was just me.  Being out of sync.

This sounds like it was all a bummer or something and it wasn't at all.  There were parts that were really fun, little moments where I had a good laugh or a nice small visit with a friend, and all that counts.  It's just that it all takes place in this kind of fog of blah that is very difficult to rise above.

So what am I doing about it?  I'm trying to find fun.  Riding my bike.  Going running.  Being in the woods and purposely noticing how cool it is to BE IN THE WOODS.  I'm paging through the faces of people I love in my mind and feeling my love for them.  I'm trying to get out of my head and do things for other people.  I'm making art.  I'm making plans with friends.  I'm making myself think about how lucky I am and making myself feel gratitude.  All this is a way back.  It just takes a while, but it always works, eventually.

I already feel tons better than I did about a month ago.  :)  This did not go where I thought it would, but kind of like night rides when you are dressed as a spacewoman, lost and being pursued by drunken zombies-- you just have to roll with it and find your way home.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Big sister

Hey people.  Fall, beautiful fall.  I hope you've been enjoying it because it goes really fast.  Metaphors about transformation abound...

Last weekend my sister came to town for a quick visit.  Look at her.  Isn't she gorgeous?  (Inside and out too, the whole package.)

She's been going through a divorce, which has sucked for her, being stuck down in the shit-hole small town in TX she lives in with very few friends left (since most couple friends have deserted her) and no family.  Sorry anyone who lives there, if you did not realize your town is a shit-hole, but, it is.

She needed to come up here to bask in the love of her tribe for a couple days.  My grandma was so excited to see her.  At 96 she's been dealing with the realization that her days are numbered.  her doctors have finally told her there isn't anything they can do for a 96 year old woman with heart failure, so she should just take her life day by day.  She wanted very badly to see Katie, in case it was her last chance.  She thinks Katie is very brave, and is proud of her.

Of course me and Dan were excited too.  Everyone was.  Up here we get her.

This poor kid.  Her divorce is sucking only slightly more than her 15 year crappy marriage to a narcissist who did nothing but ride her ass and criticize her.  It's a door she has to walk through to get to her new life in an uncertain future, that will at least be all hers.  She needed some family, and some fun.  Check and check.  We took her to Psycho Suzie's.  If you live in the Twin Cities and have not gone here-- go here.  As soon as possible.

Part of what sucks about living in a small shit-hole town is people are constantly letting you know what everyone else in town is saying about you behind your back.  This sounds like some made-up t.v. drama, but her soon to be ex and his family are big fish in this tiny pond.  His lawyer is the mayor, his new girlfriend (What?!  That was quick!  Uh-huh.) is a city councilwoman.  The big turkeys are def trying to get her down and crap all over her.  But she stays her own sweet Katie self.

Guess which one of us has always been the nice one.  Yep-- Katie.  She said this regarding a person who will always be in her life because of her kids; "I just can't help it.  Whenever I see her, I am still happy to see her, even if she is saying bad things about me behind my back."

As for her soon to be ex and his girlfriend; she's happy for them.  She says she is kind of hurt, but really glad to see him so apparently happy.  I don't know many women who could go there.  Here's her and my dad.  So much for the theory about girls picking a guy like their dad.  Not even close.  But it's not over for her yet!  I still think the right one is out there somewhere.

She loves to come back here in an almost visceral way.  She loves the smells, the changing seasons, the possibilities our area offers.  Her small town feels like a pen.   Here's her and my mom, who definitely still has a lot of mama bear in her.  We'll always be her cubs.

Katie has always loved Dan and vice versa.  She's known him since she was in high school or jr. high.  She likes her kids to be around him to see another way guys can be.   (Not assholes)

It makes me sick I can't swoop down there and fix everything for her.  It makes me almost cry to hear she feels so alone.  She is all about her kids right now.  Her personal stress level gets shelved.  She just looks at what's right in front of her--- what day she works next, what appointments the kids have, etc etc while the lawyers sort out the details.  She's sleeping on a matress on the floor of her daughter's bedroom.  No, sir Galahad did not offer to move out or to let her have the bed for now.

I'm sorry if this post is TMI for some of you.  I know it's a lot of perhaps over-sharing.  But this is my little sister.  I'm almost 5 years older, but we're both in our 40's now and it feels really crappy to be so helpless to help her.   This is a rare pic of her looking up to me, since she's actually taller now.

I know she'll be okay.  She is such a good person.  One thing I'm really proud of her for is that she isn't letting any of this change her.  She's still the same positive person she's always been-- very candid and down to earth, and funny.  How she manages to find humor in stuff right now is beyond me, but she is.

People better just watch out though.  I'm still the big sister and would totally *take care* of any bullies out there who mess with my little sis.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Changing it up 2: work

Hey people.  More victory from the jaws of defeat today.  All of the pieces I brought to Seasons (gallery) last week were pieces that had given me trouble.  They were ideas I'd had and projects I'd begun that major things had gone wrong with; basically in one way or another they had been ruined.  In some cases it took me a while to see past what hadn't worked.  That is the skill that failure teaches us I think: the ability to move on from what our expectation had been; to clear the slate and move forward.

This is just a small piece that can sit on a shelf or hang on a wall.  It began its life as a water heater.  When i got a hold of it I attempted to make a vessel out of it.  I can't even remember why I didn't like it, but it didn't work out and this half of it languished in my scrap pile for years.  I happened on it digging around for something and suddenly it looked really beautiful to me.  Probably because I'd forgotten what my initial idea was, it no longer looked like a failure to me.  So I made this out of it.

This is from the same water heater.  There is something really cool about the industrial look blended with nature.  Not sure why, but I like it, and it would look awesome on a colored wall.

This one-- I can't even tell you how different it looks now from how it began.  I got it as a clean sheet, and it began to develop this really pretty sheen of rust on it.  To many people that sounds weird, but to my eyes there is a whole rainbow of rust out there.  I wanted more of it; for it to take over more of the surface before I began working with it.  I let it go too long and that particular patina was lost, so I shook that off and began painting it, working in shades of white and taupe.  I wanted a gauzy effect.  the rust kept eating right through, obliterating my idea instead of enhancing it.  I had to completely let go of my vision for it and began just taking it day by day; seeing what the rust did overnight and trying to work with rather than against it.  It came out cool I think.

 This picture doesn't do the piece justice at all.  The lighting is terrible!  But-- it is probably the coolest piece I've done in a long time.  And man oh man, was this thing ever a dog in it's past lives.  It has been painted, lain upside-down on grass for long periods of time to get the grass to rust and bite into the paint, then worked on some more, over-worked and ruined by too much paint and fooling with, turpentined twice...

An unrelated failure even played a part in this one.  A Halloween costume idea I had involved some gluing.  After spending HOURS gluing (still top secret so I can't go into detail), the glue failed.  All the bits I'd been laboriously placing peeled off with the glue.  Arrrggg!!!  But wait-- what can I do with glue that sticks at first but then peels off?  Draw branches, paint over them, then peel to reveal the gorgeous rust below the layers of paint.  Voila.

This technique opens up a whole new world of possibilities I'd never have found if not for some pretty big setbacks.

Look, when plans go to poo there is no denying that sucks.  But try to remember-- dissatifaction can be a valuable driver.  No one ever made any big move out of complacency.  And the ability to jump tracks and ferret out a win is a learned skill.  Of course you don't magically hop from failure straight into success every time, but continuing to move forward will get you way better results than giving up.

"There are no *bad* experiences," a saying goes, "You either succeed or you learn something."

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Changing it up, maybe.

Hey people.  I'm going to do a couple of posts about snatching, hmm, well... "victory" is too strong a word in this first case, but snatching something useful anyway, from the jaws of defeat.  This one is all about riding and my quest for a tribe.
Failure # 1: Assembling a group of adventuresses to mountain bike with.

I have long been envious of my guy trail buddies.  Not only because they do tons of cool things on bikes like wheelies and jumps that I wish I could, but because they have all these adventures in packs, and there is a whole mythology that springs up around that of crazy things that went down before, during and after said adventures—usually hilarious, and occasionally amazing or grizzly things, that become legends.
Heck—this was how the sport of mountain biking started, back in the early 70’s—a bunch of guys just wanting to have fun messing around on bikes in the woods.

My field research (aka- hanging surreptitiously around the edges while the guys play) has helped me see these packs I am so jealous of and long to be a part of are in some ways pools of forgettingness; where you get to lose your individual self and become one of a number.  You get to be someone else for a little while, someone who is still you, but free of all your in-your-own-headness.  The group feeds off its own unique energy.  This sounds like an intoxicating relief sometimes.

It’s like in Peter Pan—Wendy and the lost boys?  I always wanted to be a lost boy—running around in an animal costume.  Or Peter.  Not Wendy.  Never Wendy; responsible, sensible, helpless Wendy.

But I am not a boy.  I am not awesome enough of a rider to hang with the boys, and no girls (so far) want to ride around in the woods with me at my a little too slow to race, but too fast for most newbs pace.

The change-up:

Trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results is, as we know, crazy.    What I really want is adventure, in a group, on 2 wheels.  I expanded out of the woods and into the city and participated in an alley cat race this summer, and it introduced me to a whole new network of riders who like to do weird things on bikes.  So far I have (potentially) a costumed Halloween rolling rave, a pizza ride, and a tweed ride lined up.  Not sure if I’ll do them all, but I’ve found there are people out there who are up for 2 wheeled weirdness, and I’m welcome among them.

But what about riding in the woods?  Costumey adventures in town fulfill some of my leanings, but I can’t see myself ever abandoning mountain biking.  I’m too hooked. 

I may have to change-up my style if I’m going to find riders to hang with.  There is a woman mtb-er who has contacted me, about learning to ride a different way--- more technical, more gravity. This terrifies me a little, but then I think of my favorite features at the trail, both things that scared me to death when I first started riding, and now are the highlights of my rides.

I am not sure at all I’ll be able to do this.  I have a lot of fear to overcome, but I do know almost every time I have walked through a scary door, I’ve come out the other side better for it.

--> I have a feeling I’ll never have a lost boys type pack, maybe that is really mostly a myth I’ve constructed in my head, and after all; I do have a batch of really cool girlfriends as it is-- they just don't ride.  I’m just going to keep doing things that excite me, and trying to connect with people who energize me, and try not to let fears and insecurity stop me.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

So, how was your summer?

Hey people.  Man, has it really been 3 months since I typed those words?  I just haven't felt like I had anything that interesting to say.  Who am I anyway?  There is nothing that special about me.  I started a blog because I wanted to be a writer, and you are supposed to create an *online presence* if you are serious about that.  Now?  Now i have no idea why I do it.  There doesn't seem to be much point at all.  But hey-- here we go.

Last night I tried racing again, an "alley cat race", which is where you navigate finding your own way to various checkpoints throughout the city as fast as you can.  The reason this interested me was that it was a women only race, and at night.  I love doing rowdy strange things in the dark.  What can I say?  (Here is the tee shirt I got.)

I wasn't going to ride Penny, because with her small fat wheels she'd probably be too slow.  So I decked out Hula in racing silks (my purple skull streamers).

I even rigged up a small speaker under the handlebars, and taped my iPod to the center of the post so I could have rolling tunes.

It was pretty out of the box for me to sign up for this.  I didn't know anyone who was doing it.  I don't know my way around Minneapolis.  I don't see so good in broad daylight anymore, much less at night.  But I still yearn for adventure, and love to ride bikes, and wish like mad I had a pack of oddballs like myself to hang out with doing strange things but I just don't, so I pushed myself to do this even though there was a high likelihood I'd feel isolated and insecure.

I don't have any cool shots of me racing, so here is an *artist interpretation*.  You can see some actual pics HERE, I am actually in about 5 of them.

I did feel insecure, but there were a lot of friendly women who helped me not to feel like a total reject at least.  A fast group of 4 gals let me hang on their back wheel and take advantage of their knowledge of the city.  I was riding harder than I ever have in my whole life and felt like I was in an action movie.  We broke a lot of laws, and I don't know how many cars almost hit me.  I was always pulling up the rear, so unless I wanted to be lost in the dark in Mpls, it was keep up or be left for dead.  It was a total rush zooming through side-streets and alleys, skirting along train tracks and around buildings, through (public) gardens (on a path)-- I didn't know where the heck i was about 90% of the time, just registering-- "Oh- crossing the river again" or "hey-- there's the sculpture garden" or recognizing random places as we sped by.

The results aren't up yet, but I'm guessing we finished somewhere in the middle of over 300 entrants.  I could never have done this race on my own.  If you don't know your way around town you would be totally screwed in this race.  Also, my bike was WAY clunkier than the others I saw.  Most people were on very svelte looking bikes with skinny skinny tires.  I also brought my pack for the back of mine stuffed with diet cokes, waters, food, a jacket etc etc that made it ever heavier.  So I was working super hard to keep up.

There was a cool after party at a (bike) frame shop.  They had kegs and a DJ and stuff.  Ridiculously, right up until the end of the race, I pictured myself morphing into a new version of myself in this setting where no one knew me-- a version who would be wild and gregarious and bust moves in the pit and stay out super late.  But alas.  I was the same old introverted me, and left before the party even got into full swing, because I was physically wiped out, and drained from trying to be social for so many hours in a row, and, amid all the tatoo'd, fit, fabulous masses, I felt OLD.  Awesome for having participated, but not comfortable shaking my ass with a bunch of 20- 30 year olds.

When I got home, Dan took pity on me and gave me a big massage.  I slept in the next morning, and he made me a waffle.  It's nice to have a *home team*. 

So... what else have I been up to?  There has been a tiny amount of pal-ing around with Trusty Pam, but not nearly so much as in the past because she has gone over to the dark side and become a full-blown roadie now.  We get together when we can though.

There was a bit of swanning around this summer too.

I've been doing art at a sort of relaxed pace that I'm definitely picking up now.

I am still in love with how rust mixes with paint.

This is a funny picture from the state fair.  It exemplifies what I don't like about *the art world*-- someone apparently had some point to make, and people are all crowding around it to see what the deal is.  Most were just confused.   It just feels really pompous.

This is another shot from the state fair, of the sidewalk.  To me this is beautiful.  

My efforts to recruit a tribe of girl mountain bikers to hang out with failed.  I created an online group, tons of people joined.  Girls in the south metro use it as a forum to hook up for rides, and that's great, but they all live and ride really far away from me.  I've taken a whole bunch of girls out who wanted to learn how to mountain bike.  They all did it once.  I'm not sure if it's me, or if it's just too hard and intimidating or what.  There was one girl who rode with me a few times, but her life with her 4 young kids sucked her back in.  So I'm a unicorn again.  No playmates.

I tried road riding once, but thought it was boring, and I still don't like the idea of riding on streets where half the idiots are on their cell phones.

I have managed to convince Dan to go kayaking a few times.  That is a strange activity for me.  It's almost like when I get on the water a little valve inside me goes "whoosh" and lets a bunch of stress out of me.  I'm not always in the mood for that, because sometimes my mood makes me feel more like burning that away on two wheels, but I've never been on the water and regretted it.  It's always "ahhhh" inducing.

I spent a good part of July slaving at the trail, getting dirtier and sweatier than i ever have in my life (I say that every year, but it always seems true).  I was going to take a series of *after* pics from my trailwork days, but my vanity kicked in.  Also I completed chainsaw training so am officially all lumberjacky now.  I even have *my own saw* ( not really-- it's the park's ) called "the barbie" because it's smaller than typical.  

The other day this guy came by when i was working outside at my shop.  As I was admiring it, it began to, well, die... basically.  I picked it up and it revived a bit and clung to my finger.  At one point it seemed it's head wasn't fully attached anymore (which was rather disturbing), but it rallied again and sort of started cleaning itself or something.  But it was obvious it was kind of shorting out.  I moved it over onto some grass.  By this time it wasn't grabbing anything anymore, so i kind of propped it on a few stems of grass.  I thought if it was in its last moments, it would want to go in a nice peaceful setting, rather than in some giant alien's hand, probably freaking out.  

Things like this seem important to me.  It's weird because death doesn't really disturb me much-- and this didn't disturb me either, it just seemed... significant.  My beliefs are too expansive for any religion I know of (my God doesn't hate anyone), but I def believe everything/one is energy-- a ball of life that exists, body or no body, forever.  I think everything/one was created by (no better word for it, sorry) God, even if the process used to do that is a scientific process that is sort of cool for us to discover and pick away at.  Even this little tiny thing; it wasn't an accident.  It was made, on purpose.  I don't know why it was here, why any of us are, but the fact that we spend some time here in these bodies seems like something to respect, like if we don't, we're somehow missing out on something.  I can't really explain this.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Swantastic baby

Hey people.  So this is what started it all.  This picture, on Pinterest.  I just thought there was something very funny about it, so I put it on Facebook with the comment, "How funny would it be to get a bunch of women to ride these down the Mississippi?"  That was all it took.  

 Soon friends from all over were saying, "I'll do it!"  "Me too!"  "Where do we get these?" and it was on.  Of course there was a lot of coordinating and organizing, be eventually we got a bunch of swans and a bunch of women and arranged to all go on a river expedition.

I often lament that it is difficult for me to find willing, ~up for it~ playmates.  This continues to be true to some extent, even though I am lucky to have a variety of fun gal pals that I really can't imagine life without.  I have had to accept the idea that most women will not just enthusiastically jump into a major river on a giant inflatable swan without a fair amount of hand-holding, reassurance, and detailed organizing on my part.  Even at the last second 3 of our 12 swan battalion dropped-out. 

So it was a big relief, and pretty exciting to actually get to the launch site and get everyone unloaded.  This was actually going to happen!!  (See the giant American flag boat in the background?--- Party crashers.  This was explicitly a no dudes event, but one guest took it upon herself to invite her husband and his cousin (2 dudes), despite this fact.  People were pissed, but they were there with their boat.  I def had an attitude towards their whole party at first.  More on them later.)

After a bunch of knot tying and stringing groups of swans to boats, we were off.  And as soon as we got onto the river everyone's faces transformed into giant beaming smiles.  It was awesome!

The swan floaters were giddy-- their swans floated perfectly.  Everyone felt very secure, yet adventurous.  The paddlers, most in my assortment of borrowed kayaks and a canoe, were loving the feeling of navigating the river on their own-- under their own power, paddling where THEY wanted to go.

My swanmate (we were both tied to Trusty Pam's kayak) Jessica had been very worried about this trip.  She wanted to do it pretty badly, but isn't a strong swimmer, and was very afraid of venturing onto a big river like the Mississippi on what amounts to a pool toy.  It wasn't long before I looked over to see her tension had completely melted away though.  She could be a swan model no?

We got to relax while Trusty Pam pulled us.  Eventually she gave up the speed mission and just let the current take us along.  The boats were needed to steer us away from hazards more than to propel us down the river.

At one point we saw an eagle fly to it's nest right along the river's edge, and there was a mom and babies in the nest-- a whole eagle family!

It was supposed to rain all day, and it was raining in the morning while I was doing the last minute preparations, but the skies cleared and it was beautiful and sunny the entire time we were on the river.  When you do outside stuff, you just have to forge ahead as if everything will be fine, even when it looks bleak.  It's a gamble that pays off more often than not.  Kind of a good way to live actually.

The swans were so huge I pictured us practically clogging up the whole river, viewable from space perhaps, but the river was so huge, while I'm sure we were a bit of a curiosity for anyone who happened to live along the river and look out as we passed, we were hardly the spectacle I imagined.

The river was, as these pictures attest, calm, even though water levels are still a bit high.  There was one bit of excitement though, and it was exciting to the point that I'm lucky to still have my camera, much less have a chance to whip it out and take pics.

The only good spot to land at our final destination-- Otsego Park in Elk river, was a small sandy spit of land.  Really the only flat spot along the otherwise overgrown steep embankment the river swept  by rather rapidly.  To get to it you had to enter nearly parallel to shore, skimming under a large willow branch.  The first kayak landed no problem, so did the second.  But then along came us.

When Pam turned towards shore our swans snagged in the branch.  Since we were tied to Pam, it stopped her kayak short of shore and swung her immediately downstream.  I saw Jessica's swan break loose as she was dragged through the leaves etc past me.  I shouted, "Are you alright Jessica?" because i knew this would surely freak her out.  She was good at keeping her cool and just stayed centered on her swan and said she was okay, for now.

I grabbed the branch now, because I was all that was keeping all of us from washing downstream past the park.  Pam decided her best bet was to just jump out and drag us to shore.  Had she told me this I'd have warned her off, but before I knew what her plan was, she swung her legs over the side and jumped off.  The water was deep here though, over her head, and she plunged below the surface, rolling her kayak in the process.  She boobed up and was able to grab her paddle that was floating away, and her life jacket that was not on, and somehow scramble to shore.  Now I was the only thing holding me and Jessica, and our 2 swans, and an empty kayak from being swept downstream.   I looked at Jessica and said, in the most serious intense way I could convey, "I ~PROMISE~ I will not let you go Jessica.  I've got us, and I will.  Not.  Let.  Go."  (I'm pretty sure I looked like an older flabbier version of this animated heroine.  Or something.)

Then I looked over my shoulder to see the giant America boat headed right for me.  I go, "Don't hit me!"  The poor guy rowing, who had clearly lost all control said, "I'm not trying to, but..." right before his boat (a giant Amercian flag possibly the last thing I would ever see) (I felt a bit like an oil-rich third world country just then) smashed right into me.  A second later the canoe smashed into them.  We now had a clusterfuck of 3 boats, one without a pilot, and 6 swans hung up on the willow branch, and I was the only one who had a good hold of the branch.  Then across the bow of the America boat I saw a swan slowly up-end and go upside-down.

I yelled, "Someone is in the water!  Who went in the water!  We need to find them RIGHT NOW!"  To my immense relief a head immediately appeared-- my friend Linda, her big floppy sunhat inexplicably somehow still on, and a big smile on her face.  "Me," she chirped cheerfully, waving.  "It was me.  I'm fine."

I yelled for the people on shore and closest to shore, where it was shallow, to start grabbing anything and anyone near them and hauling the mess ashore.  In a couple minutes it was down to just me, Jessica, and the empty kayak still in the river.  The guys from team America, and Pam began heroically reentering the river to get us, but I knew the second their feet went out from under them they'd just wind-up being more dead weight clinging to us, so I just started shouting, "HUMAN CHAIN! HUMAN CHAIN!" like a giant boss, but I wanted to stop anyone else from getting into jeopardy.

They did a chain of people and paddles and got to us and dragged us in and in the end it was all fine.
What's an adventure without at least one good war story?  My trusty swan didn't pop, just got plastered with river guck, and everyone was okay.  Pam was soggy and not too thrilled with my choice of exit spots, but unhurt, and even Jessica, who i expected to need some kind of therapy, seemed fine, and said she had a super good time and was glad she overcame her fears to make the journey.

I'm already planning future swan adventures.  Oh-- and team America?  They redeemed themselves with their river heroics, and with generously bringing a whole big bucket of cut up watermelon to share.   They were all actually very nice kids (I can say kids at my age, even though I'm sure they were in their 20's).  It even made us reconsider our no dudes rule.  Someone needs to paddle after all.  Now practically everyone wants swans.  :)