Saturday, April 04, 2015

Life at the crossroads: Wonderland & Nine Mile Road

An unplanned change in direction
Middlesex County, ON
March 2015
As intersections go, this one shouldn't be particularly memorable.

It's a few miles north of the edge of town, surrounded by farmland and little else. It looks remarkably like countless other intersections in the southern Ontario countryside, differentiated only by the street signs poking out of the still-thawing ditch.

And yet, I found myself standing here with my bike last weekend, on a brilliantly sunny, bitterly cold and windy afternoon, taking pictures to remember the moment. But why?

This place has something of a hold on me. See, this is where, on a similarly sunny yet much hotter summer's afternoon, I had stopped my bike.‎ And on this day, I had approached from the west, near the end of a long loop of a ride that had taken me on a high-speed tour of the hinterlands deep in ag country. The plan was to turn right on Wonderland and follow it back to town, then home.

Problem was, Wonderland was under construction‎, and I learned this only after turning right and running straight into a hopelessly blocked road. I peered over the barriers, figuring it was a small enough interruption that I could walk the bike past. No such luck: It seemed to go on for miles, and I was going to have to detour far around it.

So I turned my head waaaaay to the left to make sure I wasn't about to become some motorist's new hood ornament, executed a neat u-turn and headed back to the open road.

Although I didn't know it at the time, my little head‎-turn prompted a nasty chain of events, as it caused a tear in my carotid artery that later that evening prompted blood clots to break free, lodge in my brain and touch off a stroke.

It's been close to two years since that rather pivotal day, and this corner continues to serve as something of my own personal Ground Zero, the spot where my life took a decidedly unplanned turn. It isn't a bad place, nor is it a good one. It just is.

And on this day, my first ride of the season, as I sped past still-dormant fields and heard the electricity crackling through the wires overhead, I knew it felt right to stop here and reflect on the bike season that lay ahead, and why something as simple as a bike ride far from home means so much more now than it did before August 5, 2013.

I realize how lucky I am to have been given the chance to return here, and to continue to use my legs to cover ridiculous distances in impossibly lovely countryside. I returned from what, for so many others, is permanent disability, or worse, and continue to write, speak, tell stories, and simply live my life with my incredible family.

If stopping by the place where it all began becomes an occasional ritual to remind myself how precious all of this is, and why riding my bike is now a treasured act of defiance and a sign that the universe didn't win this time, then it's a visit I'm all too willing to make whenever I feel the need.

Your turn: ‎Do you have a spot in the world that you need to return to every once in a while?

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ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

What a story, Carmi. Reminds me of the Griswold family trip to Wally World.

21 Wits said...

I do, and just like you I give thanks, and keep the memory of it all locked within.