Monday, May 23, 2011

Poem: This Tired Body


We rode with 3,000 or so people in the Zoo-de-Mack from Boyne Highlands to Mackinaw City Saturday. Mackinaw City is where the Mackinaw Bridge crosses from the Lower Peninsula of Michigan into the Upper Peninsula. It was wonderful to ride and play with our son Peter and his girlfriend for the weekend, one of the last times before they move to Los Angeles in a couple of weeks. (I am trying not to think about that.)

This Tired Body

This tired body settles into stillness
as if it is trillium floating
on the forest floor that I biked past for hours
two days ago. It did not appear to be reaching

for sun, the layered white spread
of it lying in repose under hemlocks like tossed
handkerchiefs waiting to be picked
up and returned to the fainting ladies
who dropped them.

Today the memory of climbing, of coasting, of steadying on,
coalesces with the bed of silence inside,
gently tugging me back to myself, to the rest
only I can grant, the surrender to age,
to the uphill bodily climb
of what remains of my life.

If only the mind, and the heart
were all of what it takes to live
and this tired body
were as light as tissue
petals reaching, finding pockets of light
even in deepest shadow.

I pedaled 51 miles, a triumph,
and now I languish, a weary kind of human
who could coast toward a finish line, but I want instead
to find sun at the leafy edges of my fingernails, wind
in my gnatty eyelashes, to keep finding a heart in
steady, pedaling thumps, pushing on,
pointing toward the light inside this life.

trillium for miles

coasting downhill, ahhhh

 trillium covered the forest floor

Mackinaw Bridge



Friko said...

If only . . . .

Tired bodies let us down but if we don't allow them to tire we will never know how much pleasure they still allow us.

Cycling through this life, using muscles and every ounce of strength to reach the place we aim for, harnessing breath and blood to sweep us there, what could be more satisfying?

We may yet become immobile with only brain cells still flowing, but not before every bit of pleasure has been wrung from the flesh and bonel route we take now.

Mark Kerstetter said...

Love how you paired "petal" with "pedals" reaching for that interior light.

I'm enjoying the photos on your blog - do you take a lot of them yourself?

missing moments said...

I love bicycling and the nature around. The ride looks like it was beautiful and your poem captures lovely sentiment of the physical natures of ourselves.

Maureen said...

I so admire your physical stamina to do a ride like that, and still have energy to write a poem about "This Tired Body".

Lovely poem.

Ruth said...

Friko, yes. I pushed myself so much that once I am recovered I believe I can get into a routine of fitness that will keep my body enjoying this life. I can look back and say that if I did that, I can certainly walk-run a couple of miles or ride 10 every day. It's awfully nice looking back.

Ruth said...

Mark, thanks for noticing that about the petals and pedals. It didn't occur to me until the poem started.

I am glad you like the photos. 99% of them are taken by me. If I post photos by someone else, I say so. A couple of these were while I was riding, and that was probably not a health-conscious move on my part . . .

Ruth said...

Thanks, Reena. Biking is such a great way to explore. We are determined to get around Michigan more, we just need to get a hitch and rack on the car, and then we're off.

Ruth said...

Maureen, I'm rather amazed at myself, and I really felt that yesterday, feeling great and motivated to do more. Then when 24 hours had passed, fatigue set in! I'm starting to feel more energetic now: I just went for a 30-minute walk, and though my hips complained a bit, I feel fine.

erin said...

i see you! i've thrown stones under that bridge. i love that area.

trilliums up everywhere here as well. this exites me, that we might be this close.

your last two lines are brilliant. legs pressing down, using the weight of what we have, to keep moving toward the light of now. gorgeous you. what a ride! and what a special thing to share.


Ruth said...

Erin, I see you too! We are about 4 hours from the bridge, maybe you are too in the other direction. Hey, we could meet at the bridge and throw stones together, no?

Love how you said that, using the weight of what we have. Oh so yes.

Oliag said...

I am so impressed with anyone who can bike 51 miles and still pause and write a poem about it! How long did it take you to do and did you have to bike back again and did you join in at the parties on Macinaw Island?

The breath-taking trillium, the bridge in the mist, and the time spent with family are worth every single ache and pain I am sure:)

Ruth said...

Oliag, starting yesterday at about 4pm I was pure slug for about 20 hours. Nothing in the world seemed right. But then the fatigue began to lift, and I wanted to write, and walk, and stretch. The human body is too extraordinary for understanding.

When Peter & Andrea invited us, we knew we had to do this to be with them before they leave.

We spent about 5 1/2 hours riding. We went to the party Friday night for a while, but we did not cross to the island Saturday after the race. Even P & A didn't, and they're just spry 28-year-olds.

(A little secret: the bridge photo is from 2007 when I drove by myself for a long weekend in October.)

lorely said...

"The surrender to age to the uphill bodily climb"...I love that...My question is how do the downhills fit into life as we age?

steven said...

ruth i enjoyed a parallel ride this weekend - only 42 miles but past woods filled with trilliums (our provincial flower). i was on my own and i inadvertently followed the rules of the mackinaw ride until i got home when i enjoyed one or perhaps two alcoholic beverages!!! the pictures are beautiful - especially the trilliums and the bridge!!! another ride today was really windy and rainy but there's beauty if you open your eyes and ignore the discomfort isn't there!!! steven

Ruth said...

Lorely, my answer: the mind-heart!! There is much more to learn, but I seem to be able to sift through what has value and what doesn't in a sort of coasting way now.

I think I do anyway. No doubt I will find the opposite is true tomorrow . . .

Ruth said...

Cool, Steven! We enjoyed wine after the ride ourselves. The second half of the journey was painful, and facing the wind really slowed us down. It was quite a struggle. I'd say I enjoyed the scenery more in the first 25 miles. :-)

California Girl said...

My legs hurt after this poem.


rosaria said...

Oh, I feel your pain here. But you earned it well, with all those miles behind you and all those images supporting those miles. You are victorious, and that's all that counts. i love the images, the reflective look back.

ds said...

Oh, we biked for hours and hours as kids, without feeling it of course,the way I would now. It is an exhilaration. But...that pumping pumping pumping that we force our bodies to do has its reward: we get to coast downhill, legs straight out from the pedals shouting "Wheeee!" Tomorrow, perhaps, you will push again but for today you can "rest in the grace of the world and [be] free."

That bridge in the mist is a poem, too.

Arti said...

This is just beautiful, Ruth. I've enjoyed your photos... the trillium covered undergrowth, the long bike ride which must be so so gratifying. The 51 miles must have brought back youth! I admire your stamina, love your poetry describing your tired body driven by a resilient mind and a receptive heart... "finding pockets of light even in deepest shadow." Just lovely.

Barb said...

Congratulations, Ruth! My friend biked around Lake Superior and crossed the Mackinaw Bridge. I love your biking photos and the poem which shouts in determination to live life to the fullest is wonderful. (But, I agree - if only it were easier...)

Ginnie said...

I must have subconsciously remembered, sister, that we were stretching our bodies to the limit on the same day! Astrid and I walked for 4 hours straight, 12k, during a photo hunt with 8 others on Saturday. When we dropped into bed that night, Astrid said we were at least 180 years old. When we woke up the next moning, only 80. Eventually we regained possession of our tired bodies, so I KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN. The only difference is that I didn't write a lovely poem about it! :)

Peter is moving to LA?!? Ohhhhh. I need to catch up, I see....

Ruth said...

California Girl, thank you for your sympathy pain! :-)

Ruth said...

Rosaria, psychologically it felt, and feels, fantastic to have this behind us. I think now we'll bike by ourselves for shorter spells.

Ruth said...

DS, I was out all day on my bike as a kid too, though my home town was quite flat. :-) There were a few downhills on this trip that were almost scary they were so fast. I am not much of a risk taker, and I kept braking. ;)

Thanks, my friend.

Ruth said...

Oh thanks, Arti. Now that I have recovered, I feel a sort of momentum to keep going, and that is good. Biking is so wonderful for exploring town and country alike.

Ruth said...

Barb, wow, that would be something. I said a few times that I was glad I didn't have to get up next day and do it again, which your friend had to do more than once, I'm guessing. We have a ride like that on Labor Day weekend from Lansing to the bridge that crosses over.

Thanks, Barb.

Ruth said...

Wow, Boots! My legs ache thinking about that. We've done those a few times in Paris, no? :-)

I hope that today you feel only about 50.

Yes, Peter (with Andrea) is moving by the first of June. :( I'm awfully happy for him . . .

Jeanie said...

I have to share this poem with Rick. I think you must have captured this ride better than anyone I know could! And your photos are lovely, too. But that almost goes without saying!

Congratulations -- that's a long haul and you have my great admiration!

Brendan said...

Kudos on the pedal coup. You must have been some kinda jock when younger if 51 miles was once a breeze. And what a thrilling embrace of so much outdoors. Maybe the spirit gets more willing as the body weakens; it's the nature of transformation, energies which once rippled on the surface digging down into slower, deeper places, paces. At the least the heart can embrace every distance the body still yearns for--at least in the writing. - Brendan

Amy @ Soul Dipper said...

51 miles! I am impressed! No wonder you had knatty lashes. :) All those miles of trillium carpet. I am thrilled when I find one!

Our incredible planet.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Jeanie, Rick is a real cyclist. He must be in amazing shape, and I admire his fortitude more than I can say, especially as he has had such frightening accidents biking. I wish him a safe and fun season!

Ruth said...

Thanks, Brendan. I was no jock, believe me, quite the opposite. I should have participated in sports, but Church/God was all in my household.

I do love cycling for the openness to the air and nature. I used to think I wanted to do a cross country motorcycle trip, after reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in college. 'Course that isn't so quiet, which is one thing I love about being on a bicycle. I can hear the redwing blackbirds, the bullfrogs, smell the Russian olives, which last evening were downright syrupy.

I'm intrigued by your idea that the spirit gets more willing as the body weakens, and the heart welcoming what the body yearns for and can no longer have/accomplish. I can see it visually, and I like it.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Amy. The gnats were out in force after just hatching. It had been a long cold spring, and there was a big bad batch of them. I had them on my lips, in my nostrils, in my mouth, all over my shirt, leggings. I tried to focus on the trillium. :-)

I am thrilled to find one trillium down here too, so a carpet of them was astonishing to me.

Margaret said...

So much to love about this poem. I loved walking along the wood's edge and admiring the trillium flowers. So, of course, I adored:

lying in repose under hemlocks like tossed
handkerchiefs waiting to be picked
up and returned to the fainting ladies
who dropped them.

Really magical! We plan on renting bikes when we visit this summer but as I will be pulling my youngest son, I doubt I will cover the distance you did. Funny how WE decided to leave Petoskey, but yet my heart still longs for the place. I guess a part of our roots are still there...

Ruth said...

Thanks a bunch, Margaret. I thought of you many times on this ride! And also driving around Petoskey to and from the motels.

I'm glad you like that part of the poem; I did too.

I don't know how you could not miss Petoskey, and all of northwest Michigan.

Susan said...

You inspired me to get my bike out of the barn and take a ride. I barely made it 4 miles (roundtrip) and my legs were Jello when I got off the bike. I don't know how you did it. You are a Super Woman, a super Wonder Woman!

The poem is beautiful, of course, and so is the photo of the trillium, et al.