Monthly Archives: September 2010

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Hands that see

Biking 100 hundred miles on a golden September Sunday in Ohio was a peaceful entry into the world of organized group biking. The weather was warm and sunny, the roads flat and swept, and while we had not done serious training (I had biked a lot more than Kym, but she is 19 and works at a stable all summer) we felt confident. We had followed good advice regarding diet, carbs, water and chamois butter. And decided to get a pre-ride massage, which a friend who had recently completed her first century suggested.

We walked to a massage center a few blocks from the college, but in spite of the open sign it was closed. Saturday, day before the ride, we spotted a spa next door to the bike shop where we were getting pedals changed. They were booked for the rest of the day, but kindly loaned us their telephone book and gave us a comfortable spot to sit.

Findlay is a small city, and it seemed reasonable there would be plenty of massage therapists to choose from. so I would have expected there to be more than the scant eight listings in the yellow pages. We went through them one by one, with the receptionist giving reviews as we said who we were dialing.

Very last listing I read the name aloud, and she looked at one of her co-workers and shrugged. I turned back to see if Kym had dialed it yet, and heard her say, “Great, two and two-thirty, thanks.“ As we left, and the worker came up and whispered in a voice intended to be reassuring, “I’ve heard he’s very good.”

Later, when we walked to our appointment, Kym said, “I think he may be blind, he mentioned his seeing eye dog would bark when we went in.” And the dog did bark briefly before settling down.

This pre-ride massage was something I had thought about for weeks, imagining Seafoam tinted walls, scented candles, plush robes and a fountain somewhere in the distance.

Instead we were greeted by the pungent odor of old cigar, worn and shredded carpet, and the radio tuned to some football game. Richard greeted us. He was a bit stout, in his sixties, wearing a polyester shirt not quite tucked in, and yes, blind. I agreed to go first.

“Any special problems,” he asked, and I mentioned the weird pain in my hips ever since I got off the plane, making every step just a tiny bit uncomfortable. He stroked down my legs, felt my feet, “We can take care of that,” he said, and began the massage. I tried to zone out the ball game.

I have had a fair number of massages, all different, most good. But never anything like this. His fingers just sank into my back and began to dance. They found little things and smoothed them, they loosened surface tension and went deeper. His connection to me was not both visual and tactile, demanding divided focus, but solely through the sense of touch.

All his attention was there in his hands, and it felt wonderful. At the end, he adjusted my hips and when I walked the discomfort was gone.

I rested while Kym had her massage, and heard him saying his fingers had found some tension in her neck, then heard her startled yelp of laughter as he did something to it.

Blissful post-massage we lazily sipped chais and read until dinner. Over risotto and salad asked, “Was the massage so good because he was blind? Or was his skill unrelated? “

We decided there absolutely was a connection – that the energy from his hands seemed different, more seeking than the energy of a sighted person. Unsubstantiated Google fact: in South Korea only the vision-impaired can be licensed as massage therapists.

True or not, our blind masseuse gave us deep and thorough bodywork. We cruised through our ride, and felt no pain or discomfort after although we cannot know it was because of our pre-ride therapy. We do know that it felt really good, and eliminated the pain in my hips, and soreness in Kym’s neck.

Really wish he had turned off the radio, though.

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Bats, bugs and garlic

A solitary evening in the backyard, very rare, no bonfire, no family or friends just stars, crescent moon and breeze. And bats. The air is still pale enough to show them as dark silhouettes as they fly close overhead. I have seen them a few times over the summer, but now every evening they come by. And I wonder, how was their summer?

We had long glorious days, endless evenings of dinners outside, and mild nights sitting around warm fires without bothering to light citronella sticks. Where were the mosquitoes Maine fondly call the state bird? The no-seeums that annoy with their tiny unexpected because unseen stings? Where the blackflies that silently, painlessly drill into the flesh, leaving drips of blood behind the ear or next to the eye that astonish when you brush hair out of your face and look down to see crimson wet on your fingers?

These are the dinner of choice for bats, so what did they do this long, languid, bugless summer? Has the bat population diminished due to lack of food? The bats flying here this evening may not be the same bats of summers past, but the numbers seem the same. It is comforting to know they are patrolling our air, hunting down to eat the very things we wish eliminated. But how did they survive this peaceful insect-free summer? “Insect-free?” I hear the Man of Few Words query in my mind.

He recalls a different summer, swatting bugs and scratching bites. I smile complacently, “No, really hardly any mosquitoes this year.” I barely got bitten even when we went fishing in the stream by the Deep Hole in Otter Creek, normally swarming with them, buzzing in ears, and finding any inch of exposed flesh.

But then I realize that there were indeed mosquitoes and no-seeums and black flies. Yes, I did see them in the air, and hovering around my companions’ heads. But they stayed away from me. And now I remember Dennis’ grandchildren saying “Please, may we light the lemongrass sticks?” I thought they just liked the sweet smell and curling smoke drifting lazily among us, but maybe they really were being bothered by stinging insects. I wasn’t.

Garlic! In June I started eating a sliver of raw garlic every morning. It took some getting used to, but I tucked it into a bundle of raisins, and came to enjoy the sharp and sweet little mouthful. Why? Just a general “let’s try this” health thing. Garlic is reputed to have many benefits, it can lower blood pressure, improve vision, clear skin, and so on. I also go on occasional apple cider vinegar regimes and Auyervedic cleanses. I enjoy them, they make me feel connected and in control of my health. But an insect repellent for people?

I googled. Yes, garlic is reputed to have insect repelling oils. I asked, “Do I smell like garlic?” and was reassured. But apparently it was enough to send those nasty biters to seek the sweeter skin of my friends and family. I have phased the garlic out, simple laziness, but have every intention of dosing up again next summer.

A bat circles overhead. Guess his summer was every bit as fine as mine.

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Bud Cans and BBs

The Range

The Range

After months without writing, the words and ideas flood my mind, each yammering for attention. “Me! Me“ they shout, and ricochet in my head like BB’s in a Bud can.

“Why a Bud can?” we have been asked, when we have 10-20 empty Budweiser cans lined up on the old 4 x 4 , some in a row and others stacked up to create tall precarious pyramids. This is the target range, and the targets are always Bud cans. No other can will do. Someone did once sneak in a Pabst Blue Ribbon, and while the colors, red, white and blue, blended with the Annheuser-Busch palette, there was something not quite right about it, a cuckoo amidst the warblers, and as soon as it showed signs of age on the range it was cycled out.

Tenacious Man gave me a Daisy Red Ryder for Christmas, oh, maybe eight years ago now. I’d had cap guns as a little girl, and had gone pinging tin cans with my dad up on the hill at grandpas, but I cannot recall that I ever had my own BB gun. Cowhide vest, suede skirt, cowgirl hat and boots, yes. But never a BB gun. Christmas afternoon we put up the little paper target that came with it, but the silent hits and shredded bits of paper did not satisfy. Cans, it had to be cans.

But we do not drink beer or soft drinks. We could of course buy drinks and dump them, but of course not, how silly and wasteful. We could buy them back from a recycle center, but the first one I asked wasn’t sure they were allowed to do that. We could leave nickels in exchange for cans down the road where there is a collection bin for the local high school field trip, but somehow it felt like stealing. And they were pretty beat-up, too. And so our source is the side of the road.

Whether that first can was a Bud can I no longer recall, but the hunt for Buds has now become as much fun (almost) as shooting them. We Bud hunt as we drive, and I will remember locations of roadside deposits as I bike around the island. Like stalking any prey, we have learned its habits and behaviors. A roadside can, if unable to be retrieved at once, can be safely left for a few days before it gets flattened, and therefore useless. I recently discovered a Bud route. At least once a week some regular traveler tosses his or her can out the window near the hill past Seal Harbor, on the right side heading to Northeast. Yes, I am curious about this regular deposit of Bud cans, but mostly am delighted to have a constant supply of virgins. That is what we call a can before the first pellet punctures it. New cans are always given a premiere performance, set up alone, or with a few fellow virgins, as we take aim and fire.

The backyard target range has been used by parents, kids, friends, grandkids. My daughter and her friends took aim before heading out on prom night. Grand nephew Ethan and family friend Jasmine took to the range before ( and after) s’mores. T.M. likes to demonstrate his one-handed over the shoulder shot, and safety buttons, proper handling and “this is not a toy” practices are followed by all.

The ping of a direct hit is gratifying. And since it takes focus, any frustrations or worries are forced out of mind. Just working for that solid thunk of dented metal, concentrating on lining up sights and holding steady. A hit usually puts a small hole in the can, and the more hits the more holes and openings. At some point, BBs will go in and get caught inside, where they spin around, metal tapping on metal, looking for a way out. Just like the words and thoughts in my mind.