Fragile

To be honest, it wasn’t a familiar trail I was riding.

I was exploring new trails when I snagged my brake tubing on a branch. It didn’t look like it was damaged. It looked like it only came out of its retainer. So I kept riding, testing the brakes occasionally to see if any real damage happened. Sure enough, I soon felt the soft feeling hydraulic brakes get when air gets introduced into the system. Soon after that—nothing—no front brakes at all.

Without being on my knees, I said a quick heartfelt prayer and thanked God it was the front brakes; losing the back brakes can mean the end of riding, or the end of the rider, if he doesn’t know he’s lost his brakes. And the idea of walking my bike is heinous to my mind. I wasn’t going to do it.

Have you ever seen kids walking with a skateboard in their hand? Did you then wonder why they don’t just ride it? That’s how I react to the scene.

“Why don’t you just ride it?!”

And that’s what I would tell myself, even though riding without brakes is dangerous. Then I’d do it and think something equally dangerous like, “I’ll just drag my foot on the ground to slow down.”

Yeah, like that would work. Might as well pretend I was going to whip the loose brake tubing around a nearby tree and stop myself that way. And it would work—in my daydreams.

Back in reality, I know I have some work ahead of me. I’m going to have to bleed brakes (again), cut the tubing back to remove any and all holes, and refill (again).

Man, hobbies can be a lot of work, can’t they? But then, the work is part of the allure.

New Pets

So you think you want a new pet?

One of the greatest stories to come from pandemic life is that the animal shelters are perfectly empty. The way they should be.

Lots of people felt the time was right to adopt a pet.

Pets are great at battling loneliness. If you’re secluded, separated from society in any way, a pet can be a wonderful force for good in your life. They’ll bring a smile to your face. They’ll keep you occupied and entertained.

One piece of advice to give is: before adopting, be ready.

Get a water dish and a food dish. Prepare a shelter. If you adopt a cat, get a litter box and some litter. If you adopt a dog, a sheep, or a horse, get a shovel.

Do you need a leash for your pet of choice? Do you need a collar?

It may be wise to buy some food for your pet beforehand, or maybe not. If you might change your mind on which pet to adopt, maybe you should wait until you come back from the animal shelter. Knowing yourself is always a good thing. If you know yourself well enough, you can plan financially. You can be financially ready to supply food and shelter to your new pet.

The only part no one can teach anyone else is how to truly care for a pet. We can’t really teach each other the love. We can explain ways to love.

I can tell you, “Scratch your puppy behind his ears and he’ll know you love him.”

I can’t tell you, or anyone else, how to develop the love in your own heart. Maybe it will just come to you as you care for your pet, or maybe you already had the love before you decided to adopt a pet. All I can tell you is your pet will need it. Pets absolutely need someone to love them.

The last bits of advice I would have for anyone thinking about adopting a pet concern those of you with children. If you have children, be prepared to teach them how to care for the animal. It’s a great teaching tool when you let children participate in caring for a new pet. They can learn the value of work and responsibility. And someday they may teach children of their own how to care for a pet.

Make Up Your Own Rules

Yes, I spawned a maniac.

It all started with board games.

You and your family may be like many families during a quarantine, and if so, you may have been playing some board games. I’ve played my share during the last few months.

As for the maniac, I blame chess. It all started when I taught my son how to play chess. I taught him the rules…but loosely. I would let him move the pieces any way he wanted so he would get the idea of capturing. Then I taught him a rule here, a rule there. How pawns capture on the diagonal, how bishops do the same, and how rooks command rows and columns. Each time we played, I taught him a little more. I would let him win just to teach him the rules. Eventually we got to the most difficult piece to move, the knight.

Whether you call it a flower pattern, a sun pattern, a series of L-shapes, a queen killer, the knight moves can be the most difficult to see in your mind. He started to understand it until he could finally win legitimately. Now I have a challenge when we play, he’s so good.

Regardless of whether I won or lost, I told him it was fun.

We used to take apart old board games, mix them up, change them with markers and make our own. Making our own rules was a lot of fun. We still love to play the Monopoly game we altered so the Chance cards have added zeros. (Instead of 100 dollars, you pay 1000.) It adds some surprise to the game.

One of my favorite games when I was younger, was Risk.

When I tried to teach my son how to play Risk, he wanted to make up his own rules. I honestly had no idea how to implement his rules into the game. Risk is a lot more complicated than chess. There are rules on how to gain armies, when to place armies, how to attack, how to defend, when to get cards and what to do with them when you get them, plus 17 other rules with their own timing.

We struggled for a while, him trying to make up newer, better rules, me trying to make them fit in smoothly with the rest of the rules. We would still play Risk, but it hardly ever ended with a clear winner. It usually ended with us upset at each other (sort of how real-life international politics end up, but that’s a subject for another time).

Recently, we pulled the box out of the closet and started a war, a board game war, by reading the rule book. Yep, we played by the rules, and I didn’t let him win; he won with some skilled chess-like strategy.

And at the end, he said, “Hey, that’s a fun game.”

What Do You See?

You see heights. I see rollercoasters.

You see rocks. I see playgrounds. Every rock is a challenge, but in different ways to each of us.

Maybe we see the scene differently. It doesn’t mean either perception is wrong. It only means we come from different places; we see what our own environment encourages us to see.

Possibly we see what we want to see. Our will-power, will-strength, inserts itself into our reality. The mountains shift from dangerous to entertaining according to our will.

This is true for life in general, really. You can look at a pandemic and find great things in it, or you can lay on the floor and weep for all the torment you feel.

I still don’t think either of these is wrong, though one may not be very beneficial for you.

Can you believe there are both kinds of people out there, right now, doing the above? There is someone out there crying because everything is “going wrong”. There is another someone out there finding solace despite losing loved ones, grinning despite the loneliness of social distance, and keeping their chin up even though the economy has taken a dive.

It only takes a moment, if you’ve been pessimistic, to shift your perspective in the slightest. The steep crags could become less intimidating if you think of them as a beautiful, scenic view.

Can You Relate?

The cat wants to know: Are you writing?

You’re a writer.

You’re always writing something, whether it’s a list, stream of consciousness prose, a song, a poem, a novel, a screenplay, graffiti on a wall.

You love the smell of stationery and stationery stores, paper, pens, printers, and sharpened pencils.

Ideas for what to write come in floods. You can’t possibly use all the ideas you have. You have lists of ideas everywhere: in the notes function on your phone, on scraps of paper, in a notebook. You’re always forgetting ideas too. You think, “I should write that one down,” then you don’t write it down and forget it. Happens all the time, doesn’t it?

You’re always mulling over something you’ve written, editing it from all angles, adding juicy adjectives, trading one word for another, removing excessive adjectives, and rotating word positions like rotating tires on your car. Okay, not like that. Nobody rotates the tires on their car that often.

You can’t help but read everything you see with words on it (repeatedly, such as that sign on the side of the road that you’ve read over and over again even though you know what it says, or the label on the inside of your refrigerator, or the graffiti outside on the trash bin—your eyes refuse to avoid it).

You love words and languages. You may be fluent in other languages and you for sure know multiple phrases in multiple languages. Latin, French, Spanish, Navajo, you don’t have a narrow attitude toward languages, just an unstoppable love of all words everywhere.

You’re critical but progressive—you may change your harsh opinions of some things once you see the beauty of them. You have a cringe-worthy desire to edit everyone else’s writing.

It’s likely that you have a pet—and if you’re a stereotypical writer, it’s a cat. Are you a stereotypical writer?

You can see the beauty of less than desirable things like blotty pens, old books, and ancient word processors.

Books draw you in and collections of books draw you in sevenfold. You have haunted, and shall always haunt, libraries (though you would probably arrange the books by a different method than the present one). You love collections of books. Wherever books are, you will be.

And you love the sounds of a typewriter. The cadence of tiny hammers and the ratcheting sound of the carriage return is pure bliss to you. Sure, a keyboard on a computer is an amazing thing, but your soul loves the visual and audible thunder of a typewriter being manipulated.