Day 323. The Small Town One(s).

We've all grown up with some verion of the idyllic "small town", right? Whether it came from watching "Leave it to Beaver", "Back to the Future" or some story or magazine, it's quite a bit of Americana to think of a town with a "Main Street" where everyone is nice and everyone knows each other and nothing bad happens...

But then we grow up and we develop some (necessary) self-protective measures and we realize the reality - good and bad - of the world. But, as I've taken on cycling in the past few years, and had to find remote (read: no cars driving me off the road) long stretches of road on which to train, I've found some of these hidden gems around the Columbus area. And, as I pedal through, the images call up those happy dreams of "small towns" - american flags on every light post on 4th of July...town picnics...but I had kinda come to think of it all as a facade. I mean, I didn't think people were mean or anything but, I figured nothing was as good as it seemed. I'm jaded.

Until last Saturday.

I was biking - a good ride - a motivated ride - where I planned on being out for hours. I'd gone about 45 miles out in twisty, turny remote paths and was headed back for the last big chunk when POP! Yep - pop went my wheel - with enough force to blow through the actual tire and cause me to fall (on my gear side) and mess up my chain and remove the ability to shift. (And no, this will not be the time we all comment on how much more I should know about my bike...I can change a flat but the gears were above me...)

So, at 10 in the morning, down I sat, in a random person's front yard, in Ostrander, Ohio. This should be no problem, I thought, I'll just call Stephen and he'll come get me. Well - without too much detail because, to be clear - I'm not blaming anyone - I couldn't get Stephen, couldn't get my parents, and was hesitant to call other friends and ask them to take an hour out of their weekend to come get me and my greasy bike; so I sat in that front yard.... for TWO HOURS.

And in that time, plenty of cyclists sped past, and only one asked if I was OK (so much for all those genial waves we offer each other as we pedal past). Yet every single car stopped to check on me...
"Are you OK?"
"Can I take you to the gas station?"
"Do you need anything?"
"I live right down the road - can I help?"
"Anything you need?"

Even a woman came out of her house..."I saw you out here, are you OK? You're welcome to sit on my front porch"

Now initially, my urban reflexes kicked in - don't talk to strangers, don't get in cars you don't know, people have bad intentions...and I politely brushed people aside "Oh thank you but I'm ok, just waiting to get my husband to come get me, I'm fine, thanks!" (Subtext - thanks but no thanks, you can go now)

But as the time passed, and more and more people expressed concern, even though I still chose to wait on family - and thanks to my mom who eventually was able to come get me! - I allowed myself to really appreciate how nice it was for so many to stop and ask if they could help...because I really believe that they meant it. And my responses became more prolonged "thank you so much, I really appreciate you checking on me..." instead of excusing them away, because, seriously, how nice of someone - to stop and check in. And so many people! Isn't this what we all hope? That if we're in need of help - big or small - someone will come to our aid?

"Small town America" does exist - and perhaps not only in small towns, but the generosity, concern for a fellow person, and willingness to help one another is certainly alive and well in Ostrander, Ohio. And although I don't even know a single name of a person who stopped Saturday...I thank each of them for being so kind to someone they will never even know. I'll just be that girl, riding through early weekend mornings, but to anyone I see, I will smile and wave....


Day 322. The More Than a Writer One.

The universe is funny. This blog's been on my mind lately..."haven't posted in a while" "I'm becoming too cynical" "does anyone care" "well I have to at least finish this thing..." Then, I went to a baby shower where the hosts asked that we bring a favorite children's book instead of a card - and I had no other option pop into my mind than "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein.

Then, today, my friend, Tim, posted THIS on Twitter and thus ensued a whole discussion and sharing of quotes by Shel Silverstein. And all of a sudden, my entire childhood was flooding back to me. And I dove into the "official" Shel Silverstein site (beautiful by the way - to me, totally encapsulates Shel - check it out). And I found the copy of The Giving Tree online, and I read it again. And I looked at Tim's image, and read it again. And I remembered so much...and thus, a blog entry is born.

I remember The Giving Tree being one of the first books my parents gave me. One of the first I could read on my own. It had a coveted spot on my bookshelf. And I remember my grandmother giving me all of the Shel Silverstein poetry books..."Where the Sidewalk Ends", "A Light In The Attic", "The Missing Piece", "The Missing Piece Meets the Big O" and on and on. And I loved them all. Passionately. I still have every original copy given to me. Later tonight, I think I'm going to re-read them all.

Because, these books were REAL. They weren't sugar coated "kids books". They weren't "Poetry" with a capital P. They were stories - that made you imagine, and realize others did and it was OK. Trees did talk to little boys; and if a nonsense word would rhyme in your poem, well use it; and images didn't have to be "pretty" to mean something. I lived in those books...and while, apparently, there was some controversy surrounding these books, (news to me!*) I think I sorta felt all those things that people questioned, but in a good way. It made it ok to think that people do die, or that some people give too much, or take too much or not enough. It let you know that the world was sometimes unfair, and painful but never in an "Afterschool Special" sort of way (shut up - they were on all the time when I was little - 4PM. ABC. I'm old.)

Now, sadly, I am writing this to Mr. Silverstein well after his death in 1999. And therefore, I am somewhat breaking the rules of this blog. But, if you believe, as many writers do, that their written words is how they stay alive, then - well maybe - I'm ok with this post. And, as Shel taught me, if I can imagine that, then its real within my world.

I can't imagine how many kids Shel's writings have touched - but I'm one of them. And they mean something to me not only because of the words on the page but because of all the memories wrapped up therein. I'm glad I had Shel's books as part of my childhood...and I'm glad they're still out there for kids to read. Regardless of your age, I implore you to go get one of his books and read it. Arguably you will find yourself transported - even if just for a moment. It may become more meaningful than you expected.

Thank you, Mr. Silverstein. Thank you so much.

*Sidebar: many of the links here are to wikipedia articles - the content of which was surprising to me to read given that I have had such a profound experience with Shel's books in my life. So, take them for what they are worth, but, as I said, do me a favor, go buy at least one of these books...read it...tell me what you think. That's OK...I'll wait. It will be worth it ;)