A river runs through it

A river runs through it but the problem is, I miss a lot of it on a bicycle.

In our Georgia city, the Chattahoochee River divides us from neighboring Alabama. The paved Riverwalk alongside it is a popular spot for exercise and outdoor enthusiasts, in part because of the lack of motor traffic.

I actually got to pay attention to the river today, because when I went to get my bike from my friends’ back porch, the back tire was flat. It was a beautiful day and I was determined to spend at least part of it outside. (Imagine the scene in Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory” in which the young Capote, flying a kite, says, “I could die with today in my eyes.”)

So I decided to walk.

So many things looked, smelled and felt different at the slower pace. I heard more conversations of passersby. Two joggers were debating the relative merits of citrus drinks versus water. A fisherman on the bank watched patiently over several lines. I yelled down to him to ask if anything were biting. He nodded.

A young couple were teaching their child how to ride a bicycle. A dog walker got tangled temporarily in the leash.

And perhaps the best scene of all: Twenty yards north of the fisherman, a guy in a red suit and black top hat faced the river on a grassy perch while playing a harmonica.

As for the river itself, it was smooth as glass. Most of the time, when I’m riding, I just glance over to see which way the waves are headed. Away from me means a wind advantage. Toward me means it’s in my face.

Today’s slower pace gave me a change in perspective. I don’t have to go fast all the time. I did miss being on my bike today; but I likely would have missed the man with the harmonica, offering a symphony to the birds, the walkers and the river.

Comfort measures

“White blanket.” That was the name of the blanket I used to carry/drag/tote around when I was a child. I never asked, “Where is my blanket?” I said, “Where is white blanket?” (But truth be told, it was seldom white.)

My mother tells me she could wash it only when I slept, so attached was I to the blanket and the comfort it gave me.

Since becoming a hospice chaplain at an inpatient facility, I notice similar things patients bring with them. Maybe not baby blankets, but sometimes framed photos from home. Their own pillow. Art supplies. Sometimes a pet. And why not? These things give comfort in trying times.

The very young and the very old seem to know, instinctively, that it’s the simple things that soothe. The time in between looks like amassing too many things that don’t satisfy. I know this is true for me.

I wonder what I will take to my room in my final days? Certainly it won’t all fit. Better to travel light.

Some days I sure miss white blanket.