Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Biking to Hood Canal; Mission: Lower Stress

When I go alone by bike to Hood Canal, my mission is to reduce stress. But lately my trips over there have had their stressful moments. For instance, last time when I was riding up to the ferry pay booth, I was assaulted, yes intentionally assaulted, by a large pick up truck. The truck crashed into the side of my bike as an enormous tire rolled over the side of my foot. A gray baseball capped head protruded from the window frame of the truck.

“Don’t cut in line!” Pretty high stress.

His accusation was correct. But there were extenuating circumstances. There were two semis in line behind the pick up and no place else to go but out on the street.

This trip I got a gentler start. I took the Link light rail and got off at the International District/China Town Station. When I arrived at the ferry terminal there was no one in line, so I pulled right up to the booth and paid without incident. I spent the fifteen minute wait for the boat basking in the sun as though it were July. On board, I began reading the novel Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, a frivolous old fashioned example of British humor. Very low stress.

When I got off the ferry in Bremerton, there was a stress free perfect connection. Kitsap County Bus #14 was waiting to take me to the Silverdale Mall. But my polymyalgia rheumatica was acting up so it was a slap stick skit getting the bike onto the bus. I dropped the bike on the pavement while slamming the carrier arm down on my front wheel. Moderate stress. .But no matter. I got on the bus and entertained myself with the novel until we got to Silverdale.

Now for the biking part of the trip. It’s only seven miles from Silverdale to our family cabin in the village of Old Bangor on Hood Canal. It’s a bit hilly but not bad. Basically it’s a matter of climbing up over the ridge and down between Dyes Inlet and Hood Canal. I headed up Old Frontier Road just as I have been doing for more than thirty years.

Old Frontier had always been a fairly gentle up hill slope so I started steadfastly pedaling in the sunshine enjoying the warmth and familiarity of it all. But something began to feel different. The slope became steeper than it had ever been before. Maybe I was getting old? I looked up hill ahead of me and saw that the world had changed. Although I had been biking straight ahead and had not to my knowledge made a turn, I was no longer on friendly, easy Old Frontier Road but was traveling on an entirely new road that was headed steeply up over the ridge off in a different direction. To get back onto Old Frontier I had to make a sharp left turn that had never been there before. A new road had been built since I had come this way only a few months earlier. Moderate stress.

From then on I relaxed under blue skies, the roads deep in shade as they took me through forested suburbia. There were pleasant roller coaster ups and downs, a soft wind whistling in my hearing aids, lots of nostalgia feelings. I had raised my children in this neck of the woods, and it was old home week. Stress very low.

Our family cabin sits in a meadow overlooking Hood Canal and the Olympic Mountains right next door to the Trident submarine base. As the years have gone by we have learned not to notice the twelve foot chain length fence (barbed wire on top) on two sides of the property. Most of the time I come here to the whisper of wind and total peace. But this time neighbors were standing outside to greet me as I came up the road.

“We’ve had a little excitement. Someone cut a hole in the fence last night and broke into the Base. Not to worry, it wasn’t terrorists, just some protestors.”

Not to worry. That was fine to say, but when they showed me where the hole had been, it was on our land only a few feet from our driveway. Stress way up.

I had just barely turned on the heat in the house and started to stuff in lunch when there was a knock at the door. Two lovely ladies wanted to talk with me about the hole in the fence. Assuming that they wanted to question me as a possible witness, I explained that I had not, of course, seen anything because this was a vacation house and I had only just arrived a few moments before. But I invited them in. sat them down, and offered tea or coffee.

No, they didn’t want tea or coffee.

“Are you police?’ I asked.

They handed me a business card that read, “U.S. Navy Criminal Investigative Service.” Stress going up.

It became evident from their polite line of questioning that they had come to check me out, not so much as a witness, but possibly as some sort of accomplice. Maybe they thought I had given the protestors permission to use my driveway?

That was a silly thought because someone planning to commit a federal offense probably wouldn’t ask permission.

Their implied suspicion was reasonable however. I am well known in the neighborhood as a peace activist as evidenced by my published novel, Alien Child, and my former participation in a number of demonstrations at the Bangor gate. The two women fixed their lovely bright eyes upon me and asked about the comings and goings of my family and friends, what church I attended, the names of some of my peace activist friends. Because I am an old lady and not much good at recalling names, I asked them to read me a list, and I would tell them if I remembered anyone.

I recognized one name.

“How long have you known her?” they asked.

I thought back. Although I did have some distant fond memories of this person, I had not seen nor heard from her for a couple of years. “Thirty years or more.”

Early next morning my husband phoned me from Seattle to say he had seen a press release saying there had been a “plough share action.” Not only had the protestors cut a hole in the fence by our drive way, they had done the same to a couple more fences. Ultimately they had gained access to a nuclear weapons storage facility, made a trail of their blood, and put up banners claiming the weapons were against international law and the law of God. The woman I had remembered was one of them. The others were strangers from out of town. The press release said they had all been hand cuffed and required to lie on the damp, cold ground for four hours. They had already been released, but, of course, will eventually be put on trial and sent to prison.

I thought about that. But like so many of my fellow world citizens, I snuggled back down in my warm comforter and sipped my morning coffee, trying to fulfill my mission: lower stress.