Stitch in Time

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So, the old saying still holds true on many levels. A stitch in time saves nine. Here is a photo of my 1 year old backpack. They sure don’t make ’em like they used to!

Before packing for my 2 month journey in Central America, I noticed a small 2-3 inch tear in the corner of my backpack. I fully intended to stitch it up before I packed and left. Alas, it proved difficult to find the correct needle and thread to do a proper repair. Finally, the night before my departure, my daughter and I found a store across town that had the correct items, a curved needle and upholstery thread. Items acquired!

Upon examination of the backpack and the time left before departure, I convinced myself that it would hold up, and I could make the repair at my 1st stop. Admittingly, I was running a little behind in packing for reasons of procrastination, along with the need for these items to fix the pack. So, I got all packed up and ready to travel. The pack was less than 40 pounds, a good checked baggage weight.

I got to my destination airport and found my backpack had ripped considerably more in transit. I gimped it along carefully on a cart to my waiting shuttle. At the shuttle terminus, I had dinner and called a 4×4 taxi to take me up a mountain to spend the evening and morning with friends. Two hours later a small 2 wheel drive taxi shows up that can barely hold me and my bags. I opted for flat ground transpo to a beach hostel. I’m telling you, this backpack was not liking the multiple rough handlings of the trip thus far. The tear was getting larger each and every transfer. The picture above shows the resulting damage that was once un-picture-worthy. So, after a night of chatting with a friend that I ran into at the beach hostel, I awoke to stitch my bag before my next bus. I broke out the supplies for repair. I decided, although it would take more time, I would do a very proper repair. I did not want to revisit this problem once completed. So, I began by stitching the 2 pieces of layered backing and facing materials together parallel to the the frayed edge. The early years of my youth with my Great Aunt Venie, and a year of 8th grade Home Economics with Ms. Smith, gave rise to my knowledge of the need for this measure. Off I went, sewing the frayed edge to near perfection of acceptable standards of Aunt Venie and Ms. Smith.

But, now there was no time to complete the sewing task of joining the separated side to the back. The bus was coming soon. I strategically tacked the corner with several loops, and repacked the gear for that pack. The owner whisked me off to the bus stop.

The bus was late. I had 2 connections to make to my final destination. A taxi pulls up. He offers me and another potential passenger a discounted ride to the next connection. We load up to head out. The tack loop breaks. The taxi breaks down 3 kilometers down the road. No way am I carrying this backpack anywhere without problems. Tic-toc. Tic-toc. I could be hitch hiking, but my lack of diligence before I ever set out is haunting me. Taxi is finally mended. We arrive at the connection point as the connecting is about to pull away. The taxi driver notifies the bus driver to wait. My other bags are thrown in the belly of the bus. But, I carry the ailing pack onto the bus to prevent loss and further damage.

I arrive to my next stop well within time for my next connection. But not enough time to address my sewing duties. Two and one half hours of bus ride later, just before sunset, I arrive at my last stop. It is about a quarter mile walk down a bumpy gravel road, with 4 pieces of luggage, to my pre-booked room. Luckily, I made it without losing anything.

I checked into my room. I had a some food at a local place. I poured a drink or 2, and swore to myself I was gonna fix this bag before it was time to move again. I wished I had been as committed to the small repair before I ever left.

The next day was New Years Eve 2014. I was up to no tasks, other than relaxing after the previous journey to get there. That is not to say this task was not on my mind. New Years Eve cameĀ  and went. Through recent discussions of New Years Day traditions, of which I had none, I decided to have an easy flowing day with no toiling. And that I did, as to say, I did nothing other than relax. But, the task was still on my mind as unfinished business. I had full awareness of my need to fulfill my intention of completing the repair before my next move only 3 sleeps away. I did not want to start my new year with an intention, which is a promise to my self, left unfulfilled.

January 2nd rolls up just as predicted on the Gregorian calendar. Time to address tasks at hand, and tie up loose ends, figuratively and literally. After handling internet business in the morning, at some point in the early afternoon, it was time to sit down and sew. I put on some headphones and began to work. I did a loop stitch to gather the frayed edge to the previous parallel stitch. It made a better than expected rolled edge seam, gathered tightly to prevent future fraying. It looked quite nice. Aunt Venie and Ms. Smith were both smiling on my work; I am sure.

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And yet still, I did not have a single stitch to rejoining the side to the back!

I re-threaded my needle with a enough thread to get me to a strategic stopping point. From my early teaching, I knew that it would be best if this joining repair was made in sections, rather than a continuous thread from end to end. I then joined the sections down to the stress-point where the strap attached to this seam and a perpendicular seam. And I called it good for the night.

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That night I had a rough night of sleep, or lack there of anyway. It was well after dawn and even a cup of coffee before I fell asleep. I awoke just before noon. I arose and made coffee and brunch. It was now time to finish this dragged out process. I was over beating myself up for putting it off in the first place. I was now on task to finish it with style, and complete a superb repair. I sat in a spot with a decent view and went to sewing. But, I was not without interruption. Other guests engaged me with talk talk about what I was doing, about their surfing and beach combing, and the like. These are main features of some of the joys of my travels, experiences and exchanges not to be discarded. Also, the previous sleepless night, I read an article about a local man who was holding Tai Chi lessons in the town I was in. What do you know? Up he walks and starts talking to the owner of the place I am staying. Although he didn’t mention it directly, he was asking the owner if he would like to join his retreat the next day. I just knew it was the man I had read about only hours before. At a pause in their conversation, I spoke up and asked if it was the Tai Chi lessons I had just read about. He smiled and confirmed. We chatted as I sewed, and the owner fielded phone calls in the midst of his conversation with the man. A German lady sat next to me and joined the conversation as well! But, through it all, I kept sewing. The conversation amongst us was wide and varied, yet still centered on how we make ourselves better, and in turn make each other better. Before you know it, the afternoon had passed, and sunset was about an hour away. But guess what… my sewing was complete! The small group looked over my work with approval, And so did I.

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My stitching was better than original. I looked over the rest of the pack and found other very minor failings. I looked at it closely this time. and I assessed their relation to stress points. Should I fix these other spots now? A second look, and a third look… hmmm a stitch in time saves nine…hmmm.

A second and third opinion from my new friends gave me reassurance that the backpack would make it the couple kilometers up the hill to my next destination tomorrow, where I will be spending a month. During that month, I will provide ample energy to mending and reinforcing stress points on that backpack. Hopefully, this time, the stitches will be in time, to save way more than 9.

And in the end, my early learned knowledge and wisdom paid off. And it has been reinforced better than ever, just like my backpack. And just as will I continue to stitch up and reinforce my backpack, I will do the same with my life and my body. Making me better than I was before. And though some of those stitches have come well after they should have, others will come before they are needed.

Next stop: Yoga Teacher Training for 26 days. I wish I had known to do this 25 years ago. But now that I am, I will take every step necessary for a full, complete job. And I will be better than ever, just like my backpack. And when that is done, I will take that backpack, and we will set out on new adventures; all the more prepared to explore the world without falling apart. But when I see rip or tear in me, or my life, or my gear, I will stop and make repairs before equipment failure leads me down this road again.

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The Adventure Begins

About 12 hours ago I wrote a blog post. In a quick series of events, that post was lost in the sands of time and cyberspace. I will get back to that, after I re-begin my story…
Last night I was as prepared as I have ever been for a trip. I pared down a pile of stuff into a 35lb backpack and a 15lb duffle bag. I felt like I was slightly over packed, yet I felt everything had its purpose. I decided I would bare this weight, figuratively and quite literally. Still, I could not bring myself to sleep. I was restless and excited to embark on a journey I had envisioned years ago. This plan lay dormant until the possibility arose late last year. I came up a few dollars and a few days short of being able to make it happen, and still adhere to my commitments further down the calendar. This year things fell into place, and it has now come to fruition. I was preparing to cross the smallest continent by backpack.
I began by crossing the border from North America into Central America over land. Sure I could just fly into Belize City and begin there. But, it just seems worth the effort to cross that border by land. It just seems more complete in my mind.
So there I sat, waiting for my dawn departure to Cancun. Fidgeting with my luggage contents and their optimal placement, and other busy work to kill time. Sleep was only a concern to be avoided. No way I was going to miss my flight by over sleeping.
I made it thru the airport in stellar fashion. I paced the terminal until boarding. Sleep came quickly after reaching altitude above the freezing cold and snow storm below.
I awoke in the B seat, between a retired couple, who purposely chose their seating arrangement. We had pleasant and humorous conversation for the short remainder of the flight.
Luggage pickup, customs, and duty free booze were a breeze. Less than 10 minutes later I was on the bus, and on my way to my transfer to the border. The transfer had a little confusion and a slightly late bus.
The bus shows up and I am one the last to board. Luckily I get my prefered seat on the driver’s side, which is also the ocean side. Another stroke of luck; my phone begins chirping with accumulated emails and texts. One of which saying that I have unlimited text and web, because (unbeknownst to me) it was part of my global connection plan that included a national Mexican carrier.
With a long ride ahead of me, I figured I would tap out a blog post thru traffic, and sleep the long steady ride.
So, that brings us full circle to the beginning of this post. I finished some semblance of the preceding story. I added a couple pics, and clicked post. A couple of minutes into the upload, I got a low battery warning. At that moment, before I could reach for my auxiliary backup battery, I noticed some construction workers gathered at the curb with their hard hats off. There was a young man lying just out of the way of the traffic, but still on the asphalt. A small pool of blood puddled where his head touched the pavement. His strapless hard hat was lying a foot or so from his head. He clearly had died within moments of my bus window passing within a couple feet of him. I had never experienced human death in such close proximity of space and time. It was slow motion time as we passed. My eyes captured many details of the scene like a long time exposure of a camera. I can still see it; probably will forever. The hard hats off with bowed heads, the traffic cop holding the space, the washed grey of the pavement contrasting with the rich red of the fresh blood, the procession of ceaseless rush hour traffic, the faded white buildings decorated for Christmas, the people one block away totally oblivious to what had happened 100 or so feet away, and so much more…
As I transitioned from this surreal moment demonstrating the frailty of life, I noticed to that my phone had died as well. And with it, my blog post was gone too. I pictured the young man’s soul riding the lost radio waves of my post into another dimension. I recited the Gayatri Mantra 3 times to ground my experience, and perhaps propel him peacefully to the great beyond.
I slept restlessly for the next few hours of the bus ride, as the sun sank in front of the windshield. And the day turned into night.
I arrived at the terminal hungry. With the help of an unknown fellow on the bus, I sorted a taxi ride to the border. But first, local fare from a street vendor. Delicioso!
The friendly taxi driver overcharged me a bit, but was very pleasant. He spoke some English and gave me the lowdown on crossing the border. The Mexican exit was $25, but otherwise friendly and painless. The Belizean entry was free and easy. I was happy to be back in Belize. A place where English is taught in school and the exchange rate is a quick 2 to 1.
While waiting for the van to town, a young girl who had overheard my destination at the terminal, offered a free ride with her and her father. They brought me to this guest house. I had great conversation on socially and environmentally pertinent topics, with two lovely Belizean ladies, both named Anne, as we drank icy rum and Cokes. I knew I would not sleep until I penned or tapped this blog post. But, the time was well spent with them.
It was a beautiful day; leaving the snow to bask in the sun. My eyes grow weary as I finalize this blog (Who got the Primus reference?)
For the next few days I will be facing fears on a remote island atop the Great Barrier Reef. Hopefully I will live through it, and make anther blog post by Friday. Surely, at that point, I will be embracing my fragile, adventurous life