I’m home again, and for the first time since I got here – it’s a day without a deluge. It’s been raining. Not just raining, but pouring – almost since I arrived back, it’s been tipping great gouts of water from the sky. Lashes of rain, flooding, spectacular curtains of water heaping down on the city, and all I’ve been able to think of is how different the Rally would have been if it were this week and not last. It really gives me the willies.
What a different sort of Rally we had this year. Every year I feel like there’s a theme that develops over the course of the ride. It has been bravery, it has been endurance, it has been loneliness or difficulty, it has been friendship, and even love. It’s become so predictable, this idea that a theme will emerge, that I’ve started to look for it. This year, with my job on the Rally being what it was, I expected that the theme might be responsibility, or care-taking. I thought maybe it would be sacrifice – our time and work for someone else’s need, or good time – sort of like being the host of a really big week long party, metaphorically filling the bowls of chips and worrying about running out of ice.
There was some of that too. Every time I saw an ambulance I worried it was a rider, every time the weather threatened to be too hot or too cold or too wet, I worried it would be crappy for the riders and crew. I was very, very, very worried that something terrible would happen on my watch. There were meetings morning and night, and lots of extra work to be sure, but in the end, I didn’t see the theme coming, and it emerged just the same. It was luck.
I have spent so much of this last year feeling unlucky. Unlucky that my Mum died the way she did, unlucky that Susan followed her so quickly. Unlucky about the stupid shingles and the way my hair always does that thing. Fill in the blank, and I’ve been feeling unlucky about it.
I have spent great gobs of time reflecting over the last year on the ways that I’ve been lucky too, trying not to sink under the sadness or feelings of poor fortune. I’ve reminded myself that I have a wonderful family left, that Elliot came at exactly the right time for me to have something joyful to hold on to, that I am beyond blessed to have such good friends, and people around me who care, and that I’ve got friends who might let me sit at the edge of the self-pity pool and dabble my feet for a bit, but won’t let me jump in and swim. I know we are not supposed to talk about this sort of thing, but I have truly struggled for my happiness this last year. Genuine joy, however small, has been fleeting, and difficult to grasp – but this last week I found it again. Every time it didn’t rain. Every time someone wept from happy pride that they were accomplishing all this. Every time we met another fundraising goal, every time someone spoke about the work that PWA does and will do with the money and time we all gave them, every time we reflected on the privilege we have that gives us the time and energy to do something like this… every time we weren’t lost, or poor, or hungry, or sick, I thought “There it is. We are so lucky.”
It was there the very first day, when as we cycled across beautiful Ontario, in the bright sunshine, and I turned to my friends and said “look how lucky we are.” When that night, even though it called for thunderstorms, it just sprinkled, and then there was a rainbow – actually, scratch that. There was a double rainbow.
It rained a little in the night I think, but the tents weren’t even wet in the morning. One of the days – who knows which one, they’re all a blur – we arrived in camp, Cameron showed me the weather forecast – and it was dire. Rain, rain, rain – with little respite all night, and even more dumping on us the next day as we rode. At the time I told him that I was opting out of believing it, that maybe it wouldn’t rain, and he cocked an eyebrow, continued putting a tarp over his stuff, and shook his head a little at my delusion. I knew it was crazy, but I’d long taken things I couldn’t control off my worry list, and the weather was right up there. Ten minutes later it sprinkled again, not even enough to bug anybody, and then cleared right up beautifully.
There were no ambulances. Nobody got badly hurt. We met a fundraising goal and didn’t raise it, feeling bad about moving the goalposts, and then were staggered when we surpassed it, and then surpassed what we’d secretly hoped for, and then surpassed that again. The fancy message from the Prime Minister we didn’t think would arrive in time did. I felt great on my bike, strong and fast. The generator broke one night, but it was fixed really quickly. People got along- they made friends, I didn’t have to work so hard that I didn’t have time for some fun, and on the last night in spider camp, there was only two spiders on my tent and that is a freakin’ miracle. It was warm, but just a little overcast so that nobody got too hot, and three days there was a wind at our backs, speeding us along. I have never been more grateful. Almost everything worked, even the things that I didn’t think were going to. One night, as we slept, the worst part of one of the bike paths we had to ride was freshly paved – we didn’t even have to deal with the construction crew.
I am not going to pretend that there weren’t challenges. The whole thing is a challenge, that’s the point. I’m not going to say I didn’t cry on my bike a few times (the hills, holy wing of moth) or that there wasn’t a morning when we all ate ibuprofen like they were tictacs. I won’t tell you it wasn’t hard, or that there weren’t things that went wrong – and I’m also not going to fail to mention that a lot of what seemed like “good luck” was the result of a lot of people who worked really, really hard in the year leading up to the Rally to make it a great place for good luck to land – but overall, the fates smiled. (I still slept for about three days straight when it was over – and I’m not the only one. Ken was still sitting gingerly at dinner last night.) I am not going to tell you that this fixes everything- that joy and unfettered happiness are back in my life without restraint, but oh, it felt so good to have a success – to see everyone succeed, to see them so moved by it all.
When we arrived in Montreal, I stood up in front of all the riders and I told them the truth. In your life, if you are very lucky, you will get one hundred summers, and I cannot believe that they chose to spend one of them on this. I am so proud of them, of the riders, of the crew, of the committees who worked so hard. I am so proud of every single one of you too – Team Knit collectively raised $105,326.49 this year, and the Rally itself a record $1.73 million. I have said it a thousand times, riding my bike to Montreal does nothing without you. It wouldn’t make a single bit of difference without the donations and momentum you all put behind us. The ride is just a metaphor – a symbol of our commitment, and without your actual commitment, we’re just some really sweaty people on bikes. You, my petals, are the thing that made it matter, and I am so lucky to have you.
When I asked for your help, you said yes, and helped as best you could, and now, each one of those yeses, is going to turn into something amazing over the next year. They’re going to turn into times when someone enduring real bad luck walks into PWA and asks for help, and whoever is sitting at the front desk can say Yes, this is your lucky day.
(I’m going to knit something now.)