Riding High on Hope

Flying Bicycle

Here are eight things that give me hope:

  1. I went in the garage this afternoon and saw my bike in all its clunky silver and pink glory locked to the door of an old refrigerator and it made me feel like I did when I was a kid and took a can of spray paint to my old Schwinn every spring.
  2. Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee and no Republican big shot wants to be seen with him (excepting Chris Christie who is still hoping the bully will give him some candy and Ben Carson who just is the world’s biggest puzzle of a person).
  3. Hillary Clinton is probably going to be the next President of the United States despite a dozen missteps in the past few weeks. Bless her for her flaws, though, and thank goodness for her brains and heart. It’s her time (at last) which also means that it’s our time (at last). Unbelievable for us who came up when Under My Thumb was an actual song sung by the world’s leading rock and roll band.
  4. I am less and less concerned about going places and doing things on my own, this hesitation having grown in the years of my most acute hearing loss and abating with my cochlear implant. I think my solo road trip to Dayton broke a little wee barrier for me so now I think I could drive across the country if I wanted to. Or walk across, I think of that, too. You know, it could be done. Doesn’t mean I want to do it right this minute but I could, you know?
  5. The City of Milwaukee planted our new tree. Last fall, when the forester told us that they were cutting our 70-year old tree down, he said I’d like having a new tree because “it’s like having a puppy.” It has little branches and buds and is the poster child for hope.
  6. I am liberated by reading instructions from Mary Oliver that poetry is about how words sound, how they look on a page. I know there are many other secrets beyond the great economy of words and their beauty arranged on a page and in my head but I’m happy with those two. It gives me the tiniest green light.
  7. This year could be different on the garden front. It might not begin great and end eight weeks later with the usual wild nightmare of gargantuan zucchini plants waving their leaves like plates in the wind and swallowing the pepper plants whole. The hope is fleeting but it’s real.
  8. There are several brave and valiant people I know who are unwittingly showing me how to be brave and valiant when it’s my turn. I hope to remember their example and pass it on.

There’s no world peace on my hope list. I’m more pragmatic than that. Call me the Hillary Clinton of hope. A bike in the sky, no pie.


Written in response to The Daily Post prompt: Hope

The Rusty Chain

Photo: Tyra Baumler
Photo: Tyra Baumler

Not everything about abandonment is sad. Take this beefy blue bike, for instance.

One person might figure Beefy Blue was junked, its chain too rusty for locomotion. Another might see the same old bike as an opportunity to sail down the street with a loaf of bread and a pound of butter tucked into a new white basket snapped on to the pitted handlebars. This bike could say yesterday’s done blues to one person and oh joy! to the next.

I know people who were abandoned. I know people who were orphans at one time. Maybe they’re still orphans even though they’re grown. They would be the best judges of that. Either way, they started life having been left.

They were abandoned as babies for a variety of reasons – their parents’ troubles, their world’s circumstances, their disabilities, their too rusty chains. Sorting out the true reasons for their abandonment has exhausted some of them. How do you create the justification for something done by someone you’ve never met?

It isn’t easy being with someone who started out life having been left somewhere.You might think it’s because orphans are always thinking about their abandonment and wondering why it happened. And that’s a big part of it. There are two kinds of people in the world: those who can’t solve a Rubik’s Cube to save their lives but won’t quit fussing with it and those who solve it in 20 minutes and never want to handle one again. The abandoned people in the first group do often wear other people out.

But another big reason why it’s not easy being with someone who started out being left somewhere is that the person who was never abandoned imagines the trauma of having been left and almost always gets it wrong.

Some people think abandonment is a tragedy beyond repair, an event so traumatic and injurious as to permanently disable the person who had been left. In this view, the abandonment becomes the abandoned person’s signature life event, a permanent, often growing, wound. It can never be ‘overcome.’

Other people see the same abandonment as the gift of a second chance. It’s lucky, they say, to be left somewhere where other people happy to find you will come.What great good fortune that a family without a baby would find a baby without a family! In this way of thinking, the abandonment is just part of the ‘birth’ story. We all complete our families in different ways.

But making abandonment catastrophic or making it a happy accident are both mistakes; it’s not for the never-abandoned to write the narrative for people who started life left somewhere. Even when we think we know what’s true and what’s best.

No, it’s not for us to  create the fiction that makes us happiest. People who were abandoned aren’t old bikes leaning against rusty Coca Cola coolers, waiting for us to decide if they’re worth the investment of a new white basket. Still, we can imagine what it is like to have been abandoned, to have been left somewhere, and we can wonder what it means for a person’s life. Or we could ask.


Written in response to The Daily Post prompt: Abandoned

Have a Seat


Jerome, Arizona, is high up. It’s not as high up as some towns in Arizona but it seems to be everyone’s favorite high up town. It is old and carefully quirky, all the rust is artful and intentional and the mood is specially crafted to make visitors regret many of their life decisions.

Why don’t we live up on this mountain so we could sit in these red chairs?

The red chairs almost immediately filled me with envy although, a while ago, I owned blue  chairs just like these that I could have painted red. But those chairs would have been on my front porch, not on this little terrace with the rusty railing and sunflowers waving in the background. I wouldn’t have been able to see for miles seeing on my repainted red chairs on my front porch, only across the street at the doctor unloading her Target haul and the rabbi changing his flat tire.

I so loved the red chairs in Jerome, I asked my husband to take a picture of me sitting in one. The picture came out shadowy and dark. I looked like a tourist sitting in a red chair instead of my imagined self, relaxing up high at home in Jerome. I considered the photo and deleted it from my phone. I’d wanted a photo that would have made me look like I belonged there but I didn’t so it was an impossible wish. So I took another photo with no one pretending or yearning.

The red chairs were perfect vacant. I can see that now.

This Week in April

I started my week with great sorrow, hearing news of a heartbreaking tragedy grafted on to an earlier heartbreaking tragedy. Both suffered by the same two friends. It is a circumstance of such enormity and difficulty that I would never feel right writing about it. I have no purchase on that sheer cliff, no business being there. I can only watch from afar and pray that the ropes slung over the cliff’s edge will hold them on their long climb to safety.

I have nothing to offer. No rope. Other people have rope.

I have only my far away watching and praying, my hope through binoculars, seeing the tiny specks of people on the cliff wall climbing one hand up, one foot up, one hand up, one foot up. I keep my eyes on them and not the abyss.

And think of this.

Wild Geese

Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.


A Motorcycle, A Sissy Bar, and the Birth of Feminism

It’s in the little things. That’s where you find the effects of gender stereotypes – tiny little reflexes and decisions. Who drives. Who holds on. Motorcycles and going fast – read about it here.

Red's Wrap

The Vespa came up alongside me yesterday at a busy stoplight. A young woman was driving with a guy sitting behind her. She was short and compact and it was obvious that the Vespa was hers and she was giving him a ride. He had his hands clutching the sides of the seat and his long legs jutted out like big handles on an old-fashioned tea cup. He seemed too tall to be a passenger, as if any Vespa should have a passenger, and I wondered as we moved forward in our double left turn lane how she would maneuver the turn with all that weight and height on the back. She motored through very slowly, no risk-taking here, finished the turn and drove on. Now ahead of me, the guy looking back at me every few seconds, seemingly worried that they might be going too slow.

I was impressed…

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