Day 49: Malta, MT – Havre, MT

The plan in the morning had been to ride to Chinook, about 60 miles away, but we were blessed with amazingly calm winds in the morning and we flew the first 50 miles. We met up in Harlem and decided to try ride to Havre instead. Little did we know that the wind gods would laugh at that idea. Around mile 55, my ride went from an amazing 18 mph to a slogging 8.5mph. Don’t let the smiling faces deceive you, we were sad to see our zippy speed go!

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From Chinook to Malta, the road had sporadic shoulders and constant headwinds. Ryan and I cycled together while Matthew forged ahead. I can’t overstate my happiness at having friends to ride with. Ryan and I talked as we biked, when we had a shoulder, and agreed that when you aren’t alone you can more easily find humor in difficult days. I know that drafting off of him made my ride immensely more enjoyable!!!

We laughed at geographic features (Saddle Butte), observed houses in need of repair, and stopped to eat peanut butter, when eating peanut butter was about all in the world you wanted to do.

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In Havre we stopped at the grocery store. Phil, I saw these and thought of your comment. Not quite live piggies, but they count, right!? Ive seen (and smelled) oodles of piggies on this trip. I’ll try to document them photographically before the trip is done!

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Havre is a largish city not far from the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation. Last night camping in the city park I got my first real introduction to poverty, homelessness, and what must feel like eternal suffering. Matthew, Ryan and I got to the park around sunset and set to making dinner when three people came up to us. They were drunk, but the man asked if they could pray for us in Cree fashion, with a burnt offering of some plains grass that you were to waft over yourself. I think all three of us were surprised and didn’t know how to respond, but Ryan and I said yes and they seemed happy to participate in our journey in their own way. We said thank you, and two of the three walked off. One woman, Karen, stayed. She was visibly upset and kept saying that she knew she shouldn’t be drunk. It was very hard for me, because I realize that the circumstances into which we are born, or the resources we have, are sometimes out of our control. She asked that we pray with her, which we did, each in our own way. I gave her a hug and she started crying. It makes me feel so helpless. She told us that her son is in the hospital because he tried to overdose on drugs. I could tell how much she loves her son. Not to justify her abuse of alcohol, but just to recognize the very human desire to numb such pain, I could understand her suffering. I’m really cognizant of the structural inequalities that make life more of an uphill battle on reservations, but I dont know what I am to do.

Meeting Karen after a long, tiring day was humbling. I took on this trip as an adventure. Like in everyday life, there are ups and downs, but I see the brightness of each new day. I encouraged Karen to take care of herself, and to pray with her son because she really found strength in prayer. At the end of the day, all I had to give was hugs, but they seemed well received.

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3 Responses to Day 49: Malta, MT – Havre, MT

  1. Regina says:

    Hi Flavi,
    We are living in our own cosmos and are not able to see the others, despite they live a few blocks away, which are living in a total different world.
    I understand your feelings and I am glad that you got the chance to meet these people. I would be surprised when you would not feel helpless then than you would not have a chance to make new experiences.

    I wish you a lot of new impressions. 🙂
    Love
    Regina

  2. Michael Hummell says:

    Hi Flavi,
    Very poignant insights. Thanks for sharing.
    Abracos,
    Michael

  3. sea mik_c says:

    flavi, on a very basic level, you encountered a group of human beings old before their time.

    asking herman about alcoholism generally and his clinical perspective, he answered simply, -alcoholics are unhappy people.

    as both regina and michael h indicate, this is the beginning of a profound meditation.

    the aiharan practice that we learned with herman focuses on physiological balance and making meaning. karen and her friends had neither. as you note, this is particularly sad for those who encounter them.

    you already know from your public health work that the alcoholic brain scan – as those of other substance abusers – is markedly similar in outlook to that of a geriatric; the diminished blood flow and the lack of brain activity are evident in both. geriatric patients often need friends and family around them to help in both making balance and meaning. the alcoholic requires the same, as is seen in the ongoing work of a.a. membership in a.a. is entirely voluntary. karen demonstrates this in her voiced – though muted – desire to be free of abuse.

    at french meadows, we chant the buddhist heart sutra every morning, asking the universe of provide enightenement to all sentient beings. of course, karen is included.

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