Chewin the Fat Boy: October, 2017

After months of wildfire smoke fouling the air here in the NE corner of Washington State, with temps over 90 degrees and the unmistakable smell of burnt wood hanging over us longer than anyone alive could recollect, finally, it cleared a few days ago. The deep orange cast on the sun and moon—an eerie veil lifted, if only for those few precious days. Windows were again opened overnight to cool homes, something that wasn’t a good trade when the smoke was at its worst… A spit of rain found every face stretching skyward, the moisture weighing down ash particles suspended in the air. Weather trackers claimed a century-old record of 73 days without measurable rain had been surpassed by three sleeps. Overnight, the smoke returned… Everyone with a spread in this rural area (nine people per square mile) has watered a perimeter around outbuildings to create a defensible space. Pantries typically stocked in fall have been readied early. Locals know their best chance is what they do before the fire. But even with burning just 10 miles away, that dose of fresh air provided a sigh of relief and renewed appreciation for the simplest things… Given all the catastrophic events that have occurred over the past while, and all those worldwide who’ve suffered, having smoky or stagnant air doesn’t register much worthiness for complaint. But being grateful for fresh air, clean water, shelter and roads clear to ride deserves a nod. There’s a poem by Mary Jean Irions that sums it up with humility; it’s called “Normal Day.” Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you and bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return… I went for a short ride the first day the air cleared. It was an impulse; no helmet, gloves or leather, no sturdy boots for foot planting at stops. Although I was covered from neck to toe, I felt a little naked without the gear. But as the wind freed my hair from an early morning attempt at corralling, tangles reshaped it into the wind’s design, something only a shower and hair product would later tame. It was invigorating, however brief. But as always it got me to thinking… Some of us, we fortunate Americans, have benefited from a road smoothed by those who came before. Some have enjoyed enlightenment and mentors along life’s way. Some of us have applied ourselves with stoic consistency, others have excelled by personal drive applied at an opportune moment, some have tested their mettle by unbelievably hard knocks, self-sacrifice and compromise while others have cultivated their own good fortune and simply smile knowingly when acquaintances say they had good “luck.” Through my work in community and through contacts made through my role at THUNDER PRESS I’ve met some outstanding individuals who don’t stand out at all. They’re not looking for praise but are simply carving out lives that hold challenge, purpose and joy… One such person is a mom, Dayle Mallory-Bell, who suffered an unimaginable loss and opened up to an idea her rider boyfriend Dan Bell masterminded. It would be a way to heal, and to help others. So 14 years ago the duo held the first of many rides to honor Dayle’s daughter who died of a brain tumor while still in her teens. The Brittney Ride Event is celebrating its 14th year, and thanks to some amazing patrons, the ride will again provide 100 percent of proceeds to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. This is a getaway with all the bells and whistles, raffles, car & bike show (on the 14th) contests, music, merriment and remembering. It will be held over the weekend of October 13–15 at the Seven Feathers Casino in Canyonville, Oregon. If you are inclined to get out of town with your wallet or purse, and take a moment to count your lucky stars, this weekend might be for you. Questions: phone 541.664.8585, look online at www.brittneyride.com or email dayle@britneyride.com…

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