Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mid-Summer Therapies

It was a hot Independence Day weekend Saturday.  I went for a bike ride, leaving the house about 10 am.  It was about 75 degrees, but it felt a lot hotter, maybe because of the humidity.  I went west three miles, then north fifteen miles to M-21, east five miles to DeWitt Road, just a mile west of St. Johns, south through DeWitt and back to our house, 40 miles total.  It was an aromatherapy ride.  Heading north toward M-21, I went by several mint fields on the west side of the road.  St. Johns calls itself the Mint Capital of the World, with a Mint Festival in mid-August.  While it might have been 75 degrees when I started, it seemed to warm quickly into the mid 80s.  With the heat and humidity and the wind from the west, the mint seemed to be giving off scent more strongly.  That was nice.  Deep green fields of mint.  Healthful smells.  Heading south from M-21 back toward DeWitt, I rode past a couple of dairy operations on the west side of the road.  So with the heat, humidity, and west wind, the scent was strong.  Dairy operations give off a sweet manure smell, less offensive than the beef operations.  I suppose it has to do with the feed.  And dairy cattle need a lot of water.  A Holstein averages about eight gallons a day.  The record Holstein, set in Wisconsin in 2009, averaged 23 gallons a day.  It had to be drinking over 30 gallons a day.  Maybe the farmer had it on a huge IV drip to get that much fluid into her system.

I suppose it was also a visual therapy ride.  The mint fields were a rich green.  The wheat is turning to golden, in preparation for harvest within a month.  I did the ride at a moderately hard pace.  When I got done about noon, it felt close to 90 degrees.  I was hot.  We had the sprinklers going, and I got in the sprinklers to cool my body off more quickly.  Pasty white chest, moderate reddish color from the sun tan on my arms and legs.  Light tan of the dried clay fields around the house.  It is quite a shock to the body to have that sixty degree water, especially on my back or chest.  It is fine on my legs, but takes my breath away when it sprays on my chest.  Rainbows in each droplet as the sun shines through them.  Sunday morning I went on another sort of aromatherapy ride.  I rode my single speed with the panniers, to collect cans.  Over a 20 mile ride, I passed about 20 dead raccoons, skunks, opossums.  The previous day’s heat cooked the greasy and slimy road kill to a wretched smell.  The heat bloats the carcasses until they burst, spewing or oozing stomach and intestinal contents, urging flies and vultures to come to dinner.  Not much visual therapy there.  Grey-green slime just does not strike me as visually appealing.

Then there was some aural therapy.  Friday night we went to a show, “Keep on The Sunny Side,” a two hour long musical play about A.P. Carter, Sara Carter and Maybelle Carter.  It was highly entertaining and the quality of the music was very good.  The woman playing Maybelle perhaps played guitar better than Maybelle did, and probably sang better too.  Maybelle picked out melodies and harmonies on the guitar.  Maybelle played a Gibson L-4 (I think), an archtop acoustic guitar (the L-4 became electric, and now the L-7 is their acoustic archtop, close to $6,000); the actress who played Maybelle played a guitar very similar in appearance to the Gibson L-7.  Sara played autoharp.  A.P. played folk guitar.  For the show, they got vintage instruments, very nice.  The show included two dozen of their songs: Keep on the Sunny Side, Are You Lonesome Tonight?, Worried Man Blues, Are you Tired of Me, My Darling?, Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow, Church in the Wildwood, I Never Will Marry, Lonesome Valley, My Clinch Mountain Home, among them.  Some of their performances nearly brought tears to my eyes.  Most of those songs, if not all of them, I have heard played first by other actors.  I heard “I Never Will Marry” about six years ago for the first time by the Peasall Sisters.  In the play, after A.P. and Sara have separated, and A.P. is still passionately in love with Sara while Sara wants to move on in her life, posed at opposite sides of the stage they sing “I Never Will Marry.”  That was painful to watch.  Maybe more painful was to watch A.P. sing “Are you Tired of Me My Darling?” to Sara just after she discussed leaving him.  That one I think I first heard from Emmylou Harris or Nanci Griffith.  I think I first heard “Worried Man Blues” from Woody Guthrie or Johnny Cash.  The play was sweet, funny, sad.  A.P. and Sara were married young.  A.P. travelled a lot trying to get record deals and book shows. Sara stayed home and raised the kids.  She got tired of him being gone so much, and ended up divorcing him.  A.P. and Maybelle (Sara’s cousin who had married A.P.’s brother) and other Carter family members continued to perform and make records.  Sara performed with them only on rare occasion.  A.P. sure wrote some beautiful songs.  One of Maybelle’s daughters (June) married Johnny Cash.  The show did my heart well.  The actor who played A.P. and the actress who played Sara are getting married this month.  I wonder how it felt to play characters who had a rocky relationship that ended in separation, just as you, the players, are about to set out on your own marriage.  Would it make you aware of the kinds of conflicts and challenges that are likely to arise?  Would it prepare you to learn how to address challenges to your marriage?  Would you more likely have a rewarding and surviving marriage?

When we got home Friday night after the show, our neighbor was shooting off big fireworks.  They had stopped by earlier in the week to give me a flyer and invitation to join them around 8 pm for a party in their back yard, with fireworks show after dark.  I thought they’d be over with by the time we got home from the play.  But no, they went on for twenty minutes after we got home.  And I thought they’d be not too flashy, ones that would go as high as your house, or were ground fireworks of flash and light.  But no, they were commercial quality.  I was stunned how impressive the show was.  A really good fireworks show gives me the analogy of a THC-induced laugh.  I can’t control the joy of the visual candy, the light and color against a dark night sky.  I would not be surprised if he had spent over $2000 on fireworks.  Lansing downtown was to have fireworks July 4.  We went to their Independence Day parade around the state capitol at mid-day.  What a dud of a parade!  No marching bands, no floats.  There were a bunch of tow trucks, a bunch of customized cars (late 1980s two-door Oldsmobiles, for example, with large diameter low-profile tires, cars jacked-up, glittery paint jobs, loud stereos, doors that are hinged to open vertically rather than horizontally), an adopt-a-pet group, some pony league football teams, a few dance groups (belly dancers—gave a whole new meaning to being a belly dancer, several ballet groups, Mexican folk dancers, cloggers), and I almost forgot the local flat track roller derby team, the Mitten Mavens.  The Mavens’ website says “no experience required,” and it showed.  But I suppose as mavens, some of them have some sort of trusted expertise that they hope to pass on to others, expertise on flinging elbows, dodging opponents’ elbows, jamming, pivoting, blocking, not to mention roller skating.  Overall, it was laughable for a parade.  It seemed like anyone who wanted to could walk or ride the parade route and wave at people sitting at the curbs.  Maybe that was the point.  Maybe the organizers were post-modernists trained in the craft of poking fun at us the audience.  I told Beth she should have decorated her bike and joined the parade. The Memorial Day parade in Coleman, MI (pop. 1229) was better than the Independence Day Parade in downtown Lansing.  Given that, we decided not to go to the downtown fireworks show.  We were going to attend, but after the parade, we were not confident that Lansing could put on a good fireworks show.  There was also one in St. Johns, about fifteen miles from us past the mint fields, but we stayed home.

A week before Independence Day, I rode 88 miles.  It was the first I had ridden in two weeks.  During the group ride, the leader and I broke away from the group for four miles leading to a sprint.  We were working right at our limit, very very hard, 24-32 mph.  Coming to the sprint, he led me, but the sprinters from the bunch just caught me about 30 yards from the line, and I took third.  Shortly after that, about 35 miles into my 88 mile ride, my calves started cramping.  I worked on cramp-therapy management: pedal easy, don’t put in hard efforts, stay in the draft, drink a lot, have an energy gel.  On and off for the rest of the group ride my legs were cramping.  Then on the ride back home, about twenty miles, it seemed like every muscle in my legs were cramping.  If there are such muscles as toe-flexors, they were cramping.  If I tried to push very hard on the pedals, my calves and quadriceps cramped.  If I pulled up on the pedals, my hip flexors and tibialis anterior cramped.  At one point, I almost had to stop pedaling.  I’d never had it that bad.  The very hard and long effort after not riding two weeks, and insufficient energy intake (drinking only water, not an energy drink) is what did it.  Stopping at a drinking fountain, I drank a bottle full of water and had an energy bar, and was fine the rest of the way home (except that I got two flats over the last seven miles to home).  That night I thought my sleep would be miserable, and my legs would cramp in the night.  But when I got home I pursued further cramp therapy.  I drank a recovery drink, and fixed two grilled tuna sandwiches.  The recovery drink and the protein in the tuna was perfect. In the future, I am taking Cytomax (like Gatorade, but a different brand).  I hadn’t been taking it since I haven’t been training to race, and figured water was good enough.  Plus energy drink spills on my bike making a sticky mess, and the bike needs to be washed after the ride.  I’ll wash my bike and hope to avoid such severe leg cramps.  I did about 250 miles this past week.  Fat-burning therapy.

Finally, my garden is growing well.  The zinnias are starting to flower.  I have picked three green peppers.  Tomatoes are coming, but I am not sure they will be good.  I expect to get beans in about a week.  I transplanted a cantaloupe from in the garden to just outside, and also a tomato plant that was growing wild.  Maybe they will take and produce something.  I had to spray again for the small beetles that are eating the leaves of the bean plants.  What kind of therapy is growing a garden?  It seems to me a kind of therapy, to take a bunch of seeds, till a garden area with a shovel and spade fork, smooth it with a rake, mark rows, plant seeds, weed and water the garden, tend it, watch it grow, harvest it and enjoy the harvest.  Maybe it is geo-therapy.  Becoming healthful and attuned toward the earth, from which I came and to which I will return.

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