Helmet Required

Today I was blindsided in the Grange Feed and Farm Supply store. I sauntered through the door thinking about sprinkler heads but was hit by a smell: a warm grainy farmy earthy atmosphere made up of soil, cornmeal, of rawhide. It struck me that it was the first time I’d been there since my dog passed last August. For the 13 years of his life, it was our tradition to walk to the Grange for a bag of dog food and bones. That smell set me back 8 months.

It felt ridiculous to fall apart in the store– among the ranch-hardened men, the rows full of gopher traps and hoses–so I stepped back outside. Karen, the Grange clerk, sat at a sunny table surrounded by racks of geranimums and cosmos. Though over the years we’ve only spoke of gardening tools and fertilizer mixes, I couldn’t resist the urge to disclose: She had always been a good friend to him, tossing him biscuits from behind the counter and kindly turning a blind eye when he snatched treats from the bottom shelf. “I am overwhelmed in there. The smell.” I sat down and explained.

Having dogs of her own, she understood exactly. And she knew about smells. She told me that her father had stasis planted outside his front door. Now that he is deceased, she is undone by the faintest scent of the flower.

Back in the car, I called a friend who had loved my dog almost as much as me, who accompanied us on many walks to the Grange. He listened, empathized, cried and then the conversation ended badly and I was left even sadder. Another loss. We broke up exactly one year ago today. One year. And still.

What else can I do about these losses that sometimes seem frozen in place? I’ve cried plenty–even made an alter in the Temple of Forgiveness at Burning Man. When it burned on the last night of the gathering, I felt a huge release as the spectacle of embers floated up into the desert night sky. I moved ahead and filled in the gaps with many great people, places, and things. I’ve spun suffering into stories.

And learned to fly.

Back now at Woodrat Mountain, I’m getting my first real sense of “coring” a thermal–turning in 360s and rising into the wild blue and a whole new world has opened up again. So much terrain to explore. And math, which has always been irritating, has become suddenly fascinating, as I attempt to calculate altitude, windspeed, and glide path.

An emotional day in all. Life is fraught with sharp-edges, things to crash into. And the ground is hard. But as pilot Stan Koszelak says: “Anything worth doing…”–and I think this can apply to love as well as flying–“…requires a helmet.”

One thought on “Helmet Required

  1. What a beautiful post. You managed to encapsulate a lot of terrain on a very small plot of pixels. I bet that someone, somewhere, could turn those sentiments into a lush and heartbreaking song.

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