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So Much Evidence
My dive into self study came to a lovely apex this past week when my sister arrived from Alaska and we had the chance to talk about our experience being raised by our parents and growing up where we did. It was kind of like looking in a mirror and it was really satisfying and comforting to talk with her about our childhood and how it has played out in our adult lives.
We had a lot of fun in her short time here, even though part of it involved moving our elderly parents into a new space, setting up their tech stuff, etc. It made me wonder how much my kids will be eye-rolling and laughing behind my back someday.
My sister, Kristin, walks really fast. She lives in Alaska and rides her bike to work … year round … ? She’s that kind of human. I admire it all from a great distance. I also miss her all the time. Because she’s fun to be with, she’s very smart (science professor) and interesting and because it’s so comforting to be with the one person who understands what it has meant to be an O’Brien girl and woman in this life.
We spent a night together in downtown Saratoga, in a hotel room that felt a lot like a dorm and we dissected our parents, siblings and selves. I think the conclusion is that we’re so happy that our kids are so awesome. This small family started with seeds of wind and somehow just a couple of generations in did not end up dead addicts or robotic suburban dwellers.
Big phew there. Fortunately we’ll be together again in the summer when my son, Nate, and his love, Gretta, get married. She’s trying to get me to go to Alaska for some sort of x-c ski race in the spring (to watch!), but Sverre is, too, for a nordic race in Minnesota and in the summer, a bike race in Italy and I really want to go to Aspen to watch Sam’s girlfriend’s brother race in a couple of World Cup alpine races in March.
Funny, now that I think of it … after Coco graduated from high school and left town this year I lamented the loss of standing on the side of a field watching one of my kids play some sport.
Be careful what you wish for, most certainly.
I have been traveling some lately with more to come tomorrow. NYC for two days, then Saratoga. I found those places to feel more menacing than ever before. Even in sweet little Saratoga, walking one block to the coffee shop in the morning we encountered homeless people hustling for something. There was a ton of that in NYC, with plenty of mentally ill people shouting and those bike guys harassing us to take a ride.
We kept having to avoid uncomfortable situations. I don’t say this from a place of disdain but rather sorrow and with lots of questions: what are we doing to make this situation better? Are we building more shelters? More affordable housing? Are we training ourselves to help with mental health issues? Are we forging new paths to decrease drug addiction?
I think we all know the answers to those questions. We’re not. We’re at war with ourselves and in many places in this world. How many years into this humans on Earth thing are we? Couple million now? And we are still picking up rocks and throwing them at each other? Unbelievably shameful.
Probably what fuels my great interest and love of all things having to do with life, post-death.
I’ve been a little too riveted by this strange trial in Austin, Texas the past two weeks. In part because the woman who was murdered, Mo Wilson, and her family are on the periphery of our lives: the skiing world, Dartmouth and living in Vermont where, if you’re here long enough you just kind of know everyone. Or at least that’s how it feels.
There was the weirdness of the whole thing: these three healthy people, all living the bike racing life in a cool place, but when deception and jealousy were sprinkled on the situation the story turned to murder. And truly heinous, meditated murder. In the end, as so many said in their parting words, there were no winners. The murderer (Kaitlin), a yoga teacher (confused face), will spend her life in jail; the man in the middle (Colin) has lost everything that defined him and the young, vibrant and, by all accounts, kind, thoughtful, effervescent and very talented Mo Wilson, is dead.
I think what captivates me is this: I’ve experienced all of these thing. I’ve lived in the cycling world, I’ve been a jealous girlfriend. I’ve been a young pup, confused and delighted and trying to figure out who I am in the world. I could put myself in each of their shoes, to a degree. But never in my wildest or darkest moments could I have imagined someone showing up with a gun and pulling the trigger.
And not only did Armstrong shoot Wilson, twice in the head. She then put a bullet in her heart before she fled the scene.
I keep asking myself: what would it take for someone to become that person? She was, as I mentioned, a yoga teacher. On the outside healthy, vibrant, beautiful, successful. I can’t make sense of the disconnect.
Armstrong sat like a zombie for the two weeks of the trial, showing no emotion, even when she was handed a 90-year prison sentence. Even when Mo’s mom gave her parting statement, saying that if only Kaitlin had tried to talk with Mo, it would have turned out well.
I am, I guess, enormously curious and also losing steam on the subject of humanity.
Are the machinations in the gun factories and the halls of politicians and drug manufacturers stealthily taking over our lives? I keep thinking about the money, the power, the greed, the disregard. And I keep digging for clues that things are OK, but I have to confess that it’s getting harder and harder.
I’m grateful to be where I am, surrounded by trees and rocks, quiet. It’s such a privilege, but I’d probably be running away to a place like this if I wasn’t already here.
How do we keep moving forward when life is giving us so much evidence that we’re terrible?
Tiny bits and pieces, I guess. Be gentler, be nicer: don’t say anything if you have nothing good to say. Carry an extra twenty and give it away. Show up for your people.
I wrote all of this and didn’t even touch on this story coming out of Colorado about the eighty immigrants living under a bridge. It says in this article that housing is scarce, but I happen to know that fifteen miles down the road, in Snowmass, lies a Benedictine monastery where about eight old priests live on thousands of acres with a whole bunch of empty buildings. I have yet to hear that those “religious” folks are stepping up to help.
Where do I find peace? In my dreams, in the woods and in my interactions with those who have died. I pray you are able to find yours, too.