Routes, Maps, and Routines

I take off on my bike only to stop and strap my Fitbit to my shoe—this requires untying and retying the laces.  I should know this by now, I think, except that I haven’t been riding my bike as much this summer as I used to.  This evening, the need to move faster than a walking pace took hold, so here I am.  Laces securely tied, I straighten up and take off again.  I think of a route that will lead me through about half of Willamette Park and past some bits of neighborhood I particularly like, including at least one house I’ve fantasized about buying (I’ve been a renter my entire adult life except for a few years in my twenties).  Pedaling through the neighborhood, I’m tempted to stray from the route I set, as I often do, but I’m pretty sure the park is the priority, especially the flashes of river I know I’ll see.  The air is cool but laden with moisture, smelling of negative ions, awakening my desire for a summer rain.

As I bike through the furthest entrance to the park, I notice some maple leaves are turning color—it is August, after all—and a few yellow ones are scattered across the path.  The sight is bittersweet despite the fact that I have always preferred autumn and spring to summer and winter; I do love these long days and the way my mind and body seem to drink up the light.  I can see a pattern of changing colors in the wooded edges of the park.  I’m glad I came this way, especially when the path opens up and the river is visible, shimmering in the overcast light of early evening.

Riding back through the neighborhood, I see the house I’ve imagined buying.  I wonder briefly what it would be like to move to this house with its spacious back yard and updated kitchen, in a different part of my own neighborhood but further north.  I make a left to take a side street I don’t often ride on.  Heading home, I note the house where a winemaker family lives, the Habitat for Humanity house, still vacant, that seems finished except for the yard, the house where a librarian lives behind a screen of sunflowers, lilies, and dahlias.  The house where some wonderful neighbors moved out, finally achieving their dream of buying; the house next door to us where the family we’re so fond of is off on vacation so we are feeding the cat and watching things; the house where our own cat the avid hunter drives the birdwatching owner crazy.  (He’s a street cat we rescued; the damage he did when we tried to keep him inside for several weeks was too memorable and severe to risk repeating.  We do make him wear numerous bells.)

I hop off my bike, roll it back into the garage, hang up my helmet, and re-enter my house.  It’s about time to make dinner, but first I feed the cat.

Today was not one of my perkier days.  I felt down, sad, due I think to a combination of many factors; the grey sky probably was one although I welcomed the idea of rain.  Normally I’m pretty energetic on a Saturday, but today was rough.  I finally rousted myself off the couch sometime in the early afternoon and made myself take a shower.  Then I went shopping with a long list.  After accomplishing the many tasks of shopping I felt a little better.  The bike ride made me feel much better.  I needed the exercise, the fresh air, the endorphins.  Exercise always helps, I find.  It’s been important to me to create some kind of exercise routine, and because I hate gyms, it’s required some creativity.  When I can, I get outside to do it, walking or biking.  I don’t do it to lose weight, and the idea of getting or staying in shape has taken on new meaning as I age, particularly after a hip replacement.  I do it to feel better. My body has changed, softened, widened, and I don’t think that’s going away anytime soon.  I take up more space.  I’m gradually becoming more accepting of that.  Having some healthy routines and some self-nurturing rituals (meditate once a day, always watch my breathing, find spiritual meaning, spend time with people I love and enjoy) is just simply necessary.  But what happens when those routines are interrupted?  What happens when there’s a crisis or unwelcome news to adapt to, and my routines fall by the wayside?

What happens is that I feel at least a little lost, cut adrift, even if the reason my routines fall by the wayside is a good one.  My routines are touchstones that create a map.  The map keeps me oriented.  But there’s another map underlying that one, and it’s much harder to read.  It’s the map of my life, where I’m going, what will happen before I die.  It’s a map I only contribute to, because I can’t control all of that.  It’s the map that has my goals on it, which change over time and are affected by what’s happening not only in me, but around me.  And I think it’s just a microscopic part of an infinitely larger map.  Let’s face it, humans have been around a very long time, there are billions of us alive right now, and who knows how many came before us—but we have no way of knowing how much longer we’ll be around.  Not only that, but we’re a tiny fraction of the number of organisms alive at any time in the history of the universe/s.  So that map is far beyond anyone’s understanding, I’m pretty sure.  At least, it’s far beyond mine.

Of course, I do the best I can to plan my life’s route with what I know at any given moment.  I’d be foolish to believe I could know how it will all turn out.  I’ve been shocked, sometimes pleasantly, sometimes painfully, at some of the twists and turns this life has already taken.  I’ve noticed that while I haven’t achieved nearly all my goals, the ones I put the most energy into tend to come to fruition.  And the older I get, the more I accept that we don’t live in a vacuum of individual intention and happenstance, and although it doesn’t necessarily feel like it, that’s a good thing.

When things we didn’t know were even on the map happen—a loved one is diagnosed with something dire, we receive some devastating financial news, our body fails us in some way, a relationship ends, horrible things happen in the world—some of our routines and rituals may disintegrate.  Some may save us.  It’s essential to know which ones to let go of, but that can also be a cause for grief, because our routines and rituals, to a large extent, tend to define us by default.  It’s important that instead, we define them.  It’s important that we make choices about what we do as much as we can.  It’s important, because so much of what we do is unconscious, that we make conscious decisions carefully and with all the wisdom and love we can muster.

So, I come into the house.  I feed my cat and talk to him lovingly as I fill his bowl.  I talk to my husband about dinner, knowing that someday, even this mundane conversation will be denied us.  And I go on.


Speak Your Mind


311 SW 2nd Street
Corvallis, OR 97333
(541) 262-0080

Got Questions?
Send a Message!

By submitting this form via this web portal, you acknowledge and accept the risks of communicating your health information via this unencrypted email and electronic messaging and wish to continue despite those risks. By clicking "Yes, I want to submit this form" you agree to hold Brighter Vision harmless for unauthorized use, disclosure, or access of your protected health information sent via this electronic means.