Thursday, September 25, 2014

ownership

today the coyote feigned nonchalance as I pedaled slowly past, a scant seven feet away, 
silently beseeching him to meet my eyes; 
it is as if by ignoring me he retains ownership of the land, 
the hill and even the asphalt strip on which he stands, casually staring anywhere 
but at me.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

freeze frame

there are moments of my cycling life that I often wish I could freeze:  stop the action, take a 360 degree shot of the moment, somehow distill it into a memory drop that I can access again at any moment, feeling the thrill, the joy, the gloriousness of those incredible moments.


  • swooping down little mountain, headed to the reservoir, after the 10-mile climb is behind me
  • crossing the finish line at lotoja, especially that first year
  • cresting my 6th high mountain pass on day 2 of the double-triple-bypass, knowing that it was all downhill from there
  • riding past the bear, who startles and lopes off into a yard, his brown hind end high and shaggy
  • coasting down into ouray, colorado, from red mountain pass, pedaling through "little switzerland"
  • surprising and being surprised by the coyote the dozen times I have this summer
  • laughing at the oblivious porcupines waddling across the road
  • being face to face with an owl as daylight begins opening up the morning

I don't know the trick for remembering these---and more---extraordinary moments, except that it must begin with acknowledging them for the gifts they are, then writing them down in attempts to capture the essence if not the entire event.  too easily they slip to dark corners, get lost, disappear, much like those of our childhood, of our earlier lives, even of raising our own children.

I hope to hold these forever.  and I hope to keep adding to the list (and not just moments related to cycling) because I've been told there's limitless room in our memory banks . . . we might as well do our damnedest to fill them to overflowing, so that some day when it's dark and quiet we can relive them in our minds, reassuring ourselves of how fabulous it's been to be fully alive.



Monday, September 8, 2014

hair of the dog

lotoja was 2 days ago.
206 miles, logan utah to jackson wyoming, elevation gain somewhere around 8,000 feet, a long day in the saddle.
I completed my 7th, and as always, am incredibly glad to have it behind me.
what I felt at the end this year was not the elation felt in most other years, but gratitude that it was over---safely and completely.  I considered putting my bike away for the season, as quite a few do, or at least for a week, a few days, a while.

today I got back on my bike.

it's the hair of the dog thing ~ the only cure for exhausted, depleted, overly-strained muscles is to put them back to work.

and it was a great ride.  70 degrees, blue skies, cool in the shade up the canyon, a bit of a tailwind up at the bottom and a headwind at the top--both of which reversed for the descent.  trees are turning and the air is crisp, and numerous rainy days of the past month have kept foliage along the route surprisingly green.

those heliotropic (and non-heliotropic) sunflowers are bright as raw egg yolk, cheery and moving gently with the breeze.  we're in this amazing stretch of almost-autumn where the unrelenting heat of summer has passed and many of us creatures begin to revive, soaking in as much sun and air and beauty as we can before winter's hibernation creeps back toward us.

I ache here and there, glutes and hamstrings and peculiarly the instep of my right foot, but I feel strong and capable and the tiniest bit hollow as though I've left something behind somewhere that I can't quite remember.

but the hair has helped.  it's reminded me that life continues, it moves along, whether or not we believe we're ready for it.  it loosened me and challenged me and ultimately, helped me again feel at one with this beautiful land we live upon.

I'm glad to be this far into september, two days past lotoja, ready to welcome what autumn promises to bring.

Friday, August 29, 2014

signals

while cycling, I sometimes yell at cars.  a refined yell, not a scream or shriek.  just loud enough that I feel good about putting energy into the noise, yet restrained enough that I know they're unlikely to hear me.
and what I most often yell is
blinkers!
use your blinkers!

the other day my 18-year-old daughter and I were driving to an appointment and she commented on a motorist who didn't use blinkers to signal a turn . . . I can't believe how many people don't use their blinkers.  I hate it.  
I, of course, had a small moment of parental pride, yes! I've trained my child to use and respect blinkers!
I've spent a bit of time contemplating the blinker situation, why people do and do not use them.  I've decided that drivers who don't use blinkers to signal their intentions are some combination of ignorant, arrogant, lazy, and distracted.
arrogant tops the list.

my other daughter pointed out to me that one can apply for a driver's license and NOT have to take a driver education course if one is age 19 or older.  maybe some motorists are simply ignorant.

distracted drivers?  not too hard to imagine.
lazy?  ditto.

whatever the cause, motorists who don't signal their intentions cause me grief as a cyclist.
just as, I suppose, cyclists who don't signal their intentions cause grief to motorists.

so I try not to be arrogant, ignorant, lazy, or distracted . . . and use my blinkers in my car, and my arms when I'm riding.

there's not one thing wrong with letting the world know where you're going.

see you at the lotoja finish line next week!
and the bestseller list next year,
and at the mini dealership for my new car a bit after that . . .

I have no problem letting you know where I'm going.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

under the perigee moon

last sunday night's perigee moon was one of three perigee moons this year, the moon appearing 30% brighter than normal and appearing 14% bigger as it reached the point of its orbit closest to earth - 221,765 away, but the closest it ever comes. 

this perigee or supermoon was the second, and biggest, of a trio of supermoons to appear in our skies this summer.

on july 12, a smaller supermoon occurred, while on september 9 another is due to appear.  the next after that will be september 29, 2015.

and isn't perigee a cool word?  peri-near, gea-earth.

well, guess what a big, huge, full, super moon means for this early-morning cyclist?
yep, you're right:  an incredible ride without a headlight.

last monday morning I walked my bicycle out of the garage and was confused by how bright it was outside:  had I somehow lost an hour?  usually 4:50 is ink dark, and it was lit as though by street lamps everywhere.  I grinned and looked up, and saw the moon grinning back at me.  everywhere.

I must have smiled the entire way up the canyon, riding through moon shadows made by trees lining the road.  I'd turn my front light on whenever I saw or heard a car approaching, and then quickly turn it off once they passed.  

the question, of course, is why.  why is this such a delight?  and the only answer that will unveil itself to me is that the absence of artificial light draws me that much closer to the natural world.  the real world.  the earth, rocks, hills and trees that surround and support us.   losing my battery-powered light allows me access to the authentic dawn, which comes subtly and particle by particle as I move slowly through it all.  I myself become subtle, I blend into my surroundings.  I am one with the morning, more peaceful, more delighted by my moon-given opportunity to shed edison's invention.



Monday, August 4, 2014

when sunflowers follow the sun


years ago I fell in love with heliotrope:  the word, the color (purple), the flower (sweet, delicate, and purple.)
over time, heliotrope faded into a fold of my memory bank and I hadn't thought about it until today when I began researching sunflowers.  no, there isn't a purple sunflower, but sunflowers do possess the attribute of being heliotropic, which sounds suspiciously like heliotrope but like many things in our intriguing english language, has nothing at all to do with being purple.

sunflowers have popped.  it's august, it's hot, and these cheery tall plants gently bend and wave along the sides of emigration canyon road as I bike past.  it's only been a few weeks since they burst forth,  and they've brightened my mornings as their little heads catch my light beams.

the first clump I noticed had blooms facing east, and I remembered that sunflowers follow the sun ~ facing east in the morning and west in the afternoon.  in the early morning dark they'd already turned their heads toward the sun that hadn't yet risen, and I thought, these flowers are just like me.

at night before I retire, I pull together the biking gear I'll need in the morning:  shorts, top, heart monitor and socks in the bathroom, cyclometer and lights on the bike, shoes, helmet and glasses by the door, water bottles on the counter next to a protein breakfast bar.  I prep before the sun comes up.

so too the sunflowers.  I thought.
until I noticed that some sunflowers, in the early morning dark, were still facing west.
and then some faced east.  random?  or was the story that sunflowers followed the sun just a myth?

to google I went, and while googling I bumped into a tweaked version of my old friend heliotrope.

heliotropism is a trait of moving toward the sun.  and sunflowers are heliotropic.  well, the actively growing parts of sunflower plants are heliotropic.  young leaves and buds still in need of photosynthesis are heliotropic;  once the leaves and flowers have matured, they no longer chase the sun because their needs have been met.
and this is how they do it:  during the day, the stem on the side away from the sun elongates, tilting immature flowers and leaves toward the sun.  as the sun moves, the stem adjusts, which allows the flowers to face first east and then west.  in the dark, the process continues, preparing the plant by pulling it back into position for the next morning's light.

mature flowers no longer need to follow the sun, and will face any direction, often hanging their heads from the weight of seeds.

so.
I guess I'm like the young, immature sunflowers, preparing ahead of time for what's to come.  stretching one part of myself to help another, keeping a vision of something bright always in view.  knowing what I need, and availing myself of that:  bikes rides, great conversation, a few baked goods,  fabulous books, strong coffee, hot showers, plenty water, productivity, a goal or two.
friends, love, hugs, a good chamois.  google.

and bike rides in the dark so I can learn about things like heliotropism.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

who

the who-who astonished me.  sunlight not yet peaking over the mountains to the east, the air was thick with lingering strands of dawn and the edges of each shrub, rock, and gambol oak were gently blurred and softened.  looking to the sound, I saw nothing unusual, no oval feathered silhouette, no winged creature flying from roost to roost.
just the call, the greeting.
that was six years ago, and I didn't hear another call or see an owl for the next four years.  they were there:  I didn't possess the ability to see them.


there was a time when humanity recognized itself as part of nature, and nature as part of itself.  in the past, shamans, priests, and priestesses were the keepers of the sacred knowledge of life.  they helped people remember that all trees are divine and that all animals speak to those who listen.  to them, every species and every aspect of its environment had the power to remind them of what they could manifest within their own life . . . an aid to bridge the natural world to the supernatural, awakening the realities of both within the environs of their own lives.  we can use animal totems to learn about ourselves.*

in the world of animal totems, the owl symbolizes the moon, the night, the feminine, and is believed to have great healing powers.  the owl is a bird of magic and darkness, of prophecy, and of wisdom.


a magic window exists for spotting owls, a window that coincides with my early morning rides during the summer months.  nocturnal hunters, owls are most active in the dark and most reclusive during sunlit hours.  therefore, my early morning rides that begin in the dark and take me up a wooded canyon as the sky begins to lighten are perfect for sighting owls.

I've learned to scout for a shape, perched atop a utility pole or barren tree, elliptical and motionless.  I keep a vigilant watch on the sky to catch one in flight, its significant wings silenced by the fringe on the front.  and I listen for a screech.

a year ago I saw two smaller owls perched on a utility pole, and I heard screeches.  I thought, screech owl, and began investigating when I returned home.  I learned that screech owls don't screech, but adolescent great horned owls do.  
so now I listen for screeches, and am often able to find an owl hidden in a tree or taking off in flight.

the other morning an owl flew across the road dozens of feet in front of me, landing in a tree on the hill to my right, where I stared directly into its eyes from perhaps 8 feet away as I passed.  I count myself as one of privileged few who are able to have so many close encounters with these winged creatures, more this summer than in my entire life before.

I don't know that they have particular messages for me.  but if they did, I'm certain the messages would be to carry on, to believe in my own magical powers, to embrace the beauty of the night, to always remember that I am one with nature, one with this amazing world, one with those who live alongside me . . . whether or not I'm able to see them.




*ted andrews, author of Animal Speak: the spiritual & magical powers of creatures great & small