Time to get Tough and have Fun
The bike race is tomorrow and it is snowing at the summit and expected to snow again overnight with flurries during the day. It will be cold and nasty up there with a strong head wind -- But, as Chip said, "Heath, you are one the toughest riders around, and probably the best woman rider in her late fifties." To which I replied, "And probably the only woman rider in her late fifties pedaling 85 miles from the pass to tidewater tomorrow, so it's not saying much." Two weeks ago we rode in the Tagish Gran Fondo in the Yukon, 173 KM ( about 106 miles) and Chip bragged that I was the second woman. There were only three who did it, and one dropped out. This quiet, pragmatic man is where I get my strength and confidence.
He knows that I do love it when the going gets tough. It energizes and focuses me. My dad, Papa Bob, always says 'when the going gets tough, the tough get going, and you are tough Wonder Woman.' It's nice that at 85 he still treats me like a little T-Ball player in his pep talks.
Our old softball team, The Diehards, always played best in the rain and mud. Now, the windier it gets, the harder I push on the bike, and the more fun I have telling the stories afterwards. Maybe this is why I am writer: I find the joy in trouble, and in conflict. That's where the best stories are, and where, it seems to me, the great tests of courage, faith, and kindness are. When all is well, that's not news.
It's easy, as Jesus said, to be nice to the people you love and who love you back. Even murderers and thieves do that. But to love the people who hurt you is the true test. Like riding a bike through a mountain pass in the snow. I have to trust what I know about this community, as the brand new publisher of the paper said this week, in all it's "scrappy" glory.
The Chilkat Valley News is now owned by a young man named Kyle Clayton. He's a writer too, and was a combat medic in Iraq for four years before attending journalism school. The last few months Kyle has been reporting on the failed lawsuit against the assembly, the four or five public records requests, the recall ugliness-- we sat down a few weeks ago and he asked me about Haines, off the record, if it was as bad as the news he has to cover makes it seem some weeks-- and from my perspective on the receiving end of the brutal, and hurtful, attacks what I thought. Why do I stay? Why would someone want to live here?
I said Haines has always had it's grumps and doubters, people who complain and snipe and don't really contribute to the greater good. We are are own worst enemy in lots of ways. But look around, I said-- and we scanned the coffee shop-- look at this room, full of happy, busy people, most of whom, especially if the sun ever comes back out, feel as if they've died and gone to heaven to be able to live here. My whole, good life, I owe to this town- from my books and our business to my family and my children's education, creativity, fitness ,compassion, and sense of belonging in this world. I, they, we --my grandchildren now-- are products of Haines.
Becky's letter in the paper affirmed everything I believe, and have learned writing obituaries here.
So this morning I swam in the pool and didn't even feel the sting when a petition signer greeted me. I even smiled back and chatted. You bet I've cried, you bet it hurt, and my rose-colored have a few cracks in them, but the cracks, as Leonard Cohen sings, let the light in, and I've had so much love and support from the people I care about since this all came down that I'm keeping them on. It's good to separate the wheat from the chaff in my life.
And tomorrow, I will ride through the wind and snow and dance at the fishermen's barbecue and celebrate the very best of Haines. It's been 25 years since Chip and I rode in the first bike race, and if hindsight is 20/20, I would chose to live in Haines and raise a family here all over again. I love this place.