Have you noticed how many thin lines there are in life? Today, I’m feeling the very thin line between strength and vulnerability.
I love to ride my motorcycle – down winding roads, over mountains, across deserts, along the coast. Following that yellow brick road known as the center line. The line is not very wide. On the 4th of July several years ago, I was happily riding my Yamaha FJR in the mountains north of Durango, Colorado. Feeling strong, confident. Until I rounded a curve and saw a herd of mule deer milling around in the on-coming lane just across that double yellow line. FYI mule deer are huge, weighing 200 to 250 pounds, compared to their spindly Southern cousins known as white-tailed deer who weigh a mere 100+ pounds. And when you rapidly approach a mule deer on a motorcycle, they grow bigger, fast. I got on the brakes hard and had a fleeting image of getting safely by these deer whose heads were higher than mine. But one of them bolted, and in a Nano-second I was down with my left shoulder on that double yellow line. I’m a flat-lander from Florida, but I understood immediately that it’s never a good idea to lie down on a double yellow line in the mountains. So, though part of my rational brain said I shouldn’t move in case I had spinal injury, my louder, animal brain screamed “Get outta the road!” And so I sprinted – straight to the narrow, grassy strip that capped one of the many steep cliffs in the area. Then, I sat down. Just in case I was hurt. The bike went on down the road about 30 feet without me and then did a 180. Neither the bike nor I were where we belonged. I was glad to be out of the road and that my bike hadn’t launched over the edge. That would have made for a really bad day. I had T-boned a very healthy mule deer; he got his hooves caught under my front fender and kicked loose, dropping me and the bike. At that point the deer was nowhere in sight. But honestly, at that point I wasn’t worrying about deer. My shoulder, knee, and wrist hurt and I didn’t know about my bike.
I didn’t realize how much traffic was on that road, until I stopped it with my quick dismount. Several people got out of their cars or trucks to help. I asked some guys to pick up my bike and point it with the traffic (I didn’t relish having to do a tight U-turn at that moment.) The FJR was gouged and bent in places but appeared to be functional. I was pleased to find that my left arm and leg still worked, though seriously stunned and stiff. So, I got back on my bike and rode it to my RV, about 10 miles away, with my left leg straight, using it and my left arm only when essential.
I was leaving the RV Park the next morning, so I loaded the bike, hooked up the trailer, and headed south. But when I unloaded the bike, releasing the pressure of the tie-down straps, things didn’t look so good.
Short version – I had some impressive road rash on my left knee and shoulder – leaving enough permanent scars to qualify as bragging rights and a gimpy left shoulder. I learned to not wear a cuff bracelet while riding (it gouged my wrist, leaving a big knot). The insurance company totaled by bike. I cried when they loaded it up on the wrecker.
And several years later, I’m still reminded of lines. Lines that can delineate my vulnerability; lines that separate the past from the present. Lines on my face as I somehow have aged beyond recognition. The moving line between what I could once do without a thought, but now??? Maybe I better slow down and look at it before I launch.
In a recent intense yoga class, my brain (or was it my ego?) assured me I could still do a back bend. And I could, too. Except the next day, I began to seriously pay the piper. And now weeks later, I still move gingerly through doctor appointments and tests. I’ve had to delay my departure to New Mexico, and otherwise begin acting like a responsible adult. I asked my friend Michael, “How do I know where the lines are now? I don’t know how to get old. I don’t want to pull up short ‘cause I’m scared. I don’t want to miss something.” He responded with a laugh, “Run over the lines and kick ‘em as you go by.” Riding the motorcycle means a great deal to me – in a way I cannot explain to those who don’t ride, those who ask me to carefully stay behind the lines, now that I’ve hurt myself. I’ll be careful –but I’m gonna keep riding my bike over the lines 😉