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The Weight of the Clouds

Out on my bike in the early hours, I’m passed twice by a man on a motorcycle. The motorcycle is fitted with a sidecar, and the first time he passes me, heading in the opposite direction, the sidecar is empty. Twenty minutes later, he passes me again, this time coming from behind, the sidebar now occupied by a golden retriever wearing googles. The dog looks back at me with evident interest, and for a moment I’m afraid he might jump ship, but soon the motorcycle sweeps around a corner with everyone still in place.

Later, on my way home, I pass the parking lot of the old church, where it’s well known that people like to pull over and get high. Back in my day, it was all about wine coolers and weed, but now I find discarded needles and little balls of charred tinfoil, evidence of harder stuff. Maybe the drugs have gotten heavier because the pain has gotten heavier, or maybe it’s just the natural order of things, that inexorable human pull toward more. There’s a padded bra in the church lot, too; I’ve been watching it for months, ever since I first kicked it out of the snow with my skis. One of these days maybe I’ll pick it up, but I’m also thinking that maybe I won’t.

I realize that what I like about riding my bike is precisely the opposite of what I like about skiing: The bike brings me closer to humanity, while the skiing takes me further away. And I guess I need them both, the closeness and the distance, one being the antidote to the other and therefore necessary to even know the other, like the way you can’t truly appreciate how good it feels to have sunlight on your face if you haven’t felt the weight of the clouds.

18 thoughts on “The Weight of the Clouds”

  1. Especially well written today Ben. I hope you don’t mind my comment, I feel like I know you after reading your blog for a while now. Really well done today, as always.

  2. Heather would refer to the WAIT of the clouds, eager for blue above. Is there a “Goldilocks” sport right between skiing in bicycling that has you paralleling humanity? Swimming? In my Portland OR-based Buddhism group last night, we were considering relative versus absolute. Awareness has its utility.

  3. If people are going to use needles, the least that they could do is keep a plastic pop bottle for a sharps container. I’m Type 2, so I keep a 32 ounce Gatorade bottle for my used needles.

    One good thing about injectables is that they are easier to overdose on, potentially putting the user and his/her family out of their collective misery sooner.

    I offered to buy a rural fire department a new ambulance if they would stop using NARCAN, but they said they couldn’t deny treatment to overdosed people if they had the means to help them. I told them to stop carrying NARCAN, ’cause if they didn’t have the means, they couldn’t use it, but they seemed shocked by my indifference toward human life.

    1. Possibly missing the point that many users got hooked by drugs that were prescribed. The 1950s stereotype of addicts persists to this day!

      1. Possibly missing the point that I don’t care about the health and welfare of addicts, regardless of how they got themselves addicted. Every addict that I’ve known has been an accomplished liar and manipulator, regardless of whether their drugs came from the street or from an FDA approved pharmacy.

        I’ve had Oxycodone prescribed multiple times, both for wounds suffered while in the military and for surgeries incurred as a civilian. and only took it to mask the pain caused by powering through the physical rehab process. I currently have an Oxy prescription for the knee surgery that I had on 03/29, up 30 mg per day. I’ve handled most of the pain with a max dose of Ibuprofen, 1,200 mg per day, and Acetaminophen, 3,000 mg per day. I did take 3 2.5 mg Oxys when I was breaking the scar tissue adhesions loose, but other than those 3 tabs, I’ve handled the pain with OTC NSAIDs and bags of frozen peas.

  4. Ben – another great little snippet about a moment in time in rural America. Your final line is fantastic! (And you’ve written a lot of good ones!)

  5. I am a life-long trash picker-upper. It began when my older brother and I would take our radio flyer wagon and pick up bottles and cans from the construction sights near our grandparents’ house. They lived in a state with bottle and can deposits and she would take us to the local ice cream shop with our earnings. Do you remember a TV commercial with a Native American standing on a hillside looking out into space with a tear running down his cheek? The camera pans out and you see he is looking at a valley filled with trash. That is probably the only TV commercial I have ever seen that really left its mark on me. When I was a younger person, I found (one separate occasions but in almost the exact same spot) a $100 bill and a bouquet of red roses, still cool from the florist refrigerator. This was one of my cool stories to tell for years and provided lots of fodder for possible stories as to how those items got there until an acquaintance asked if I ever considered the possibility that it could have been a set-up by some nefarious person. Honestly, that thought never occurred to me as it was in a rural area with no houses nearby. To which, this person said, “That would be the perfect place for someone to do something horrible to you.” Hhmmmm….Didn’t stop me from picking up trash, though. When my children came along, we found ourselves picking up trash at playgrounds and along the roadside on our walks. We still do that. Fortunately, it is mostly soda cans and things people have neglected to strap down in their trucks on the way to the dump but we have found a smashed cell phone and, once, a notebook with angry letters to an apparent boyfriend and plans for a funeral written in a feminine hand. There is something there – why certain things are discarded or lost but I am not sure any conclusion I could come up with will be more than just a guess. I know your post wasn’t really/only about trash but it made me think (as you always do.) Thanks for that!

    1. Trash is so fascinating, esp when find something more interesting than Bud Light and Twisted Tea cans.

  6. Hi Ben….This post is a powerful piece of writing. It hit me with force, such force that I’m considering printing it, framing it and putting it on the wall so I can reference it often.

    As for the drugs that have penetrated such places as the Northeast Kingdom, I blame the Federal government as much as I blame those who know the pitfalls of getting involved with opioids and other substances. Just the same, addicts need our help too, perhaps more so than others. We can’t just look the other way because that solves nothing and we all are ultimately impacted in some way, just as you note in this post.

    Thanks very much for this!

  7. Googles is better than goggles! And sidebar or sidecar??
    I read your story to my husband who isn’t much interested in blogs but he proclaimed it was well written. Later in the day, while on a drive to our favorite nursery in Santa Rosa (2 hour drive), suddenly out of the blue my husband said, “ thanks for sharing that story, it’s made me think” and who is that Ben person and what’s his story?

    1. Googles! Oh jeez. It’s the corporate hijacking of my brain.

      Regarding your husband’s musing, I ask myself the same questions all the time.

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