Sunday, November 30, 2008

on blue skies and refrigerators

sometime during the night last night my refrigerator began what I believe to be its death spiral.
I woke up to a small puddle on the floor by the freezer side, and opened the door to significant meltage. orange popsicles in paper wrappers leave a particularly loathsome mess.
I've googled and read the manual and tried everything I can think of to make the darn thing come back to life, and nothing is working. at this point the freezer is empty and I have packages of dry ice in the fridge part trying to keep all of my food from joining the fridge in the dance of death.
after having spent the morning working on this issue along with working on work, I decided that a ride was in order.
yes, escape.
clouds had been playing games with our valley all morning, parting and gathering and thinning and thickening. I saw a break toward the east, and decided to head toward the blue sky. leave my fridge and my leaking kitchen drain and my Christmas tree lights that halfway work (better than not at all, right?) and all of my other household frustrations behind. sweat for a while, raise my heartrate, breathe cold air, and try to keep from screaming.
perhaps I should have screamed.
when I reached the summit the clouds split open and revealed a huge splash of blue sky, the sun peaking around the edge of the bulky clouds. and then I remembered that the sky is always blue. always. and that it's only clouds that keep us from seeing this. it is always blue and sun-filled up there, if we can only see past the gray and gloom and obtrusiveness of the clouds. no matter what bundles of cloud hover over our space, there is a huge, beautiful, sun-filled sky up there beyond. and it's only our clouds that hide this from us.
okay. I think I have some cloud-dispersing to do. clouds of doubt and distrust and impatience. clouds of despair and frustration and weakness. I'm going to get out my little whisk broom and sweep them away, remove them from the landscape of my world. and I am going to focus on that blue sky up there, that is always there.

Friday, November 28, 2008

bird nests

one of the gifts of this time of year is that in the disrobing of the trees comes the unveiling of the bird nests.
I've tried counting them as I ride up the canyon, but I always lose track, get distracted by something, and end up having no idea which ones I've counted and how many I haven't even seen, all of this working together to render any count I've ever made woefully suspect. therefore I will just say that with each ride I catch glimpses of nests that had before been hidden from me, hidden by the plentiful leaves of summer or by my own haste or narrow focus.
these nests fascinate me, these collections of twigs and sticks and whatever else the birds have been able to scavenge from the environs. some look as though they might fit into my cupped hands, while others would need both my arms to embrace their circumference. what kind of birds were hatched and raised in these structures? what scraps of our human lives are woven into the walls of their briefly used homes? are there strings or threads or lengths of twine? snippets of torn plastic, fragments of newspaper?
by the time these nests are visible to me, the leaves having turned color and fallen, the birds are likely to have abandoned them. so what I am looking at are the once safely hidden nurseries of the newest generation of feather-winged creatures. which brings me great delight, as if a secret has just been revealed: ah-ha, this is where the birds have been hiding all those months as they grew from being enveloped in the egg to birth to fledgling to adult.
the trees, stripped bare of all their leaves, still stand so proudly, holding onto these nests. it's as if they know they are the chosen ones, those who have been asked to hold safely and firmly in the crooks of their boughs these fragile homes of newborn birds.
the landscape is bare, the trees barren save for these collections of twigs that please and thrill me with their confidence, their continuity, their belief that given a safe place to grow, the baby birds within will develop strength and faith in an ability to lift open their wings and soar, far and away.


this morning I looked out my windows, up toward emigration canyon, and saw that it was deeply cloaked in fog.
or cloud.
which made me want to ride up into it, to see what it felt like to ride in fog.
or cloud.
I waited until the temperature climbed to 43 degrees, then hopped on my bike for my adventure. it was awesome.
with about 85 percent humidity in the air, my skin was experiencing a cold-water facial and loving it. I could feel minuscule water particles hanging around me, moving with me as I steadily climbed up the road. the fog surrounded me and yet was nowhere near me. I could see it draping itself over the tops of the hills on either side of me, drifting and folding in upon itself, reaching down to the houses but somehow dispersing as it neared the road where I was.
as I reaching the U-turn where the canyon opens up the fog remained below me, and the sky, lined with layers and layers of clouds, spread itself all around. the sun peaked through for a moment, and as I turned I saw the billowing fog hanging over the roadway far below. I just rode through a low-lying cloud, and came out the other side . . . another amazing experience for my heart and soul to savor.
and then the fog seemed to reach up and touch the clouds, and I ended my creative thought process and started the cerebral questioning: what is the difference between fog and cloud?
I knew that I didn't know.
so of course I returned home and after eating (yum) and showering (ahhh) I turned to my best search engine, google, and can now share with you what I learned:
fog (according to the American Meteorological Society) consists of "water droplets suspended in the atmosphere in the vicinity of the earth's surface."
clouds, on the other hand, are also water droplets suspended in the atmosphere but they are not near the earth's surface.
therefore, fog is just an extremely low-lying cloud.
and now we know.
on the way down the canyon I was chilly, as expected, and full of joy that I was slicing my way through the fog. which was a good little fog all the way until the last few miles, when it started seeping. a drip here, a drop there, a few speckles on my sunglasses . . . which deepened my chill and make me excited for the hot shower I knew was coming, during which I could perhaps create my own room full of warm fog.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

the last thursday in november

I have to be like everyone else today, and focus on what I'm thankful for.
because if I didn't, it wouldn't feel right. it's expected of us all, and though I hate to be common, I also exude gratitude so this is a pretty easy process.
you already know so many of the things I'm grateful for that to start from the beginning would bore you to tears. therefore I have decided that today, I will list things you may not know already. this will challenge me, and possibly provide entertainment for you.

I am thankful for:

sweet 'n low
pilot precise V-point pens
funky paperclips
composers and songwriters
beautiful, rich voices
rain that cleans my sidewalks
my icemaker
water, in just about any form
eucerin cream
van morrison
friends who don't give up on you
stores full of amazing things that I am able to just look at
the internet
time with no "have-to's"
my vacuum
fences and boundaries
my mother, incredible woman that she is
the scent of lemons and grapefruit
tootsie rolls
playing cards
dictionaries and thesauruses

and that's my quirky list for the day, a small portion of the myriad things for which I am truly grateful.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


gold, ochre, bronze, copper, fawn, chestnut, pumpkin, burnt umber, rust, sienna, gray, celadon, brown, ash, mahogany, olive, tan, wheat, flax, sable, ochre: the colors of the hillside palette today.
little dell is deep sap green with bluish undertones, the water casually rippling with the slight breeze, shimmering in a deep autumn way, quietly and gently, the light lifting upward but not bouncing as it does in the heat of summer.
the leaves are gone, dropped and blown away, and the tall grasses still reach skyward and flux with the movement of the air where they haven't yet been flattened into an uneven carpet by the early snows.
not surprisingly, it is quiet; the few cars that pass by are sedate today, no engines charging or brakes squealing, no mufflers chortling. no chipmunks or squirrels performing death-defying acts of asphalt racing, not a deer to be seen. or perhaps these creatures are blending so perfectly with the golden land that they are there, watching us humans, safely ensconced in their burrows and blinds and content to observe our antics.
I breathe in peace and exhale discontent. I still ache to ride forever, away, away from discomfort and frustration and disappointment. how much peace and solitude and awe can I breathe into my body before it outweighs the heaviness? how can I expel the heaviness when it won't seem to lift from where it has settled, somewhere deep within my bones?
I breathe in golden hillsides and shimmering water lit by the mid-day sun, and I breathe in dry, expectant air, full of patience as it waits for the coming change. perhaps some of this patience will remain with me, help me straddle the heaviness as I reach for the airiness of the coming season.
soon it will snow and this beloved landscape, full of bronze and copper and straw-colored swaths, will disappear beneath a deep coverlet of white. we will all adapt, from the chipmunks and raccoons to the deer and elk, from the eager skiers to us reluctant cyclists. we will all breathe, we will all move through the season of still whiteness, of hibernation, of renewal.
I will breathe in peace, and exhale deeply, releasing all that is ready to be let go.

Monday, November 24, 2008

tikkun olam

the Jewish faith is full of quirks and oddities and incredible wisdom. those of us who consider ourselves "Christian," and call acts of kindness, compassion and generosity "Christian" behavior, should really rethink that whole thing. such acts are completely in alignment with Jewish belief ~ and the beliefs of many other religions across the world ~ who are the Christians to believe that we own such acts?
the Jewish people do a much better job at it than we Christians do.
or if they follow the tenets of their faith that I am familiar with, they do.

and where is this coming from, you ask? on cold weather days (and yoga tuesdays), I work out at the Jewish Community Center. not only is it housed in a beautiful facility, perched high on a northeastern slope of our city, but it is a community I feel part of. the people at the front desk know me, and I know many of my fellow early-morning work-out companions. like bunny, who has got to be in her seventies, who is there every weekday morning from 5 until 6. and nick, who is swiss, who loves to and lives to ski, and who is also a few decades older than me. some people I know only to wave hello and goodbye to, and then there are my biking buddies, bob and andy and now oz, who introduced himself to me last week. there are my yoga friends, and the other regulars who float in and out who make me feel part of something bigger than myself.
besides the community, something I love about the JCC are the signs they put up on walls and doors and bulletin boards, signs like "call your mother," and quotes from people whose mission is peace. they post notice of community events of every kind imaginable, and signs that encourage health and fitness and open-mindedness. "You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose." (dr. seuss.)
and then there's tikkun olam.

tikkun olam is sometimes referred to as the spiritual purpose of life: its literal translation is "world repair," which is made more user-friendly in the phrase, repairing the world. my JCC has a tikkun olam corner, where they collect blankets and coats to give to those in need, and food to give to the hungry. other collections and activities gather in this corner as well, and this "corner" is not truly a corner but alongside the wall you pass by as you enter into the facility. front and center, impossible to ignore. though these collections are but a small part of repairing the world, they are proof of a commitment to the practice.
some say that tikkun olam is both an inward and an outward process: not only service to those in need, what we call social justice, but also a service to the divine, through uncovering and freeing the light within us.
what a beautiful teaching, so full of wisdom and confidence and certainty.
along with yoga and some core work this morning I received a significant gift in those two words, tikkun olam. they resonate so strongly with me because I feel their importance and their necessity. if I could have just one wish granted, it would be that all of us on this planet be given an understanding of and a belief in the phrase tikkun olam.

today, may you find peace and comfort and continuing ways to liberate your inner light.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

the grotto, revisited

city creek canyon, november 23, 2008.
cold. crisp. clear. invigorating. refreshing.
the beautiful grotto at the top, small patches of snow still scattered across the road. sun peaking over the hilltop, lighting the statue-like rock formations on the high northern wall, but not reaching the place where we shiver and refuel and rest our hearts before we head back down the winding, leaf strewn road.

I fear that I am beginning to take all these experiences for granted.

as with all things in life, nothing ~ not even a state of mind ~ stays the same. therefore, my enthusiasm and excitement about my cycling experiences is bound to change over time. a canyon seen for the first time from a bike is still the same canyon seem the twenty-ninth time from a bike, but to experience it the same way each time is unlikely. I am still in the honeymoon phase, where everything is new(ish) and wonderful and amazing. but little wisps of repetitive-itis have already slipped into my riding, when I wonder to myself, do I really want to be riding that same road again today? do I want to climb that overpass, do I want the hassle of that intersection, do I want to climb up that hill again and again?
nothing lasts forever.
not our pain, not our joy. not our boredom and not our passion and not our enthusiasm.
a teacher in my high school told me the story of King Solomon's ring inscribed with the words and this too shall pass. these words were supposedly suggested to him by a selection of his wisest men, to be used as a way to change a depressive state. for the longest time I used those words in that same way, to help me deal with difficulty or unhappy times. but it's not until the last few years that I began to accept the opposite side of the coin: that the joyous, amazing, wonderful or passionate times will not last, either. they, too, will pass away.
nothing lasts forever.
everything changes.
and this is how it's meant to be: we live in this every-changing world where stability is fleeting. we work so hard to form security and safety around us, and we learn the most when it is taken from us.
so every ride matters. none can ever be repeated exactly as it was in the past, and none will ever be the same in the future. I may pass through the honeymoon and fear the "taking things for granted" phase, but if I hold true to what I believe in, that dreaded phase will never arrive. I can continue to find beauty and joy and newness on my rides, though I travel the same roads and paths. because everything shifts and changes and the only promise we can truly hang on to is that
this, too, shall pass.

things mechanical

I was raised to be a traditional female. I learned to sew, to clean, to iron, to cook (well, really to bake more than to cook), to play the piano and cello, to be a good student, to be nice . . . all of those girl things. I played with barbies, and collected little miniatures of mice and loved animals and read nancy drew mysteries.
during my early adolescence my parents would occasionally drag me outside to help in the yard or help stain our wood siding, and I do remember visiting my dad's workshop and admiring all of those little baby food jars, each filled with a different size nail or screw with the lid nailed to a shelf above so that all my dad had to do was look for the right jar, then twist the jar free from its lid to grab the item he needed.
all this to explain how far I've come.
that I have made great progress, being able to change my own bike tubes and tires, and having a rudimentary understanding of how the whole darn gearing system works, as well. that as a result of being a single homeowner for over four years, I have learned how to put up electrical fixtures and change parts inside a toilet and clean gutters and patch holes in walls and fix sprinkler heads and about 50 other types of amazingly necessary home repairs.
I have come a long way, and though it has tested me sorely at times, I am proud of my progress and thrilled that I can model for my children a female who is capable of handling whatever gets thrown at her.
until this morning.
a few days back I decided it was time to think about putting some lights up on my house, you know, in the Christmas spirit. the first year I was on my own I put lights up, having to borrow a 12-foot ladder from my neighbor to reach some of my peaked roof lines. I remember freezing fingers and a healthy portion of frustration, and a great sense of satisfaction when I was done.
and then half a strand went out. you know, the strand right in the middle of it all, the one that was most difficult to put up in the first place.
half a strand.
I've never had a season where all of my strands worked all of the time. yet. I know it's coming.
this morning I hauled the bin inside that houses all of my exterior lights. I carefully pulled each bundle out, and started plugging them in to make sure they worked before I hung them outside.
I plugged the first one in, and a third of the strand lit up. I started working my way through the unlit portion, looking and feeling for loose connections or bad bulbs. ha. after about three minutes of that, I put the strand aside and plugged the next one in.
half the bulbs lit up.
next strand: not a single bulb lit up.
next strand: completely dark.
did my outlet just go bad? I actually looked around to see if other things in my home were receiving electricity: had the power just gone out??
I took the strand to the kitchen outlet just in case: dark, dead, nada.
not a single one of my 6 strands worked.
and I know they can be fixed. they're not terribly expensive, but I really don't want to go buy an entire new set of outdoor lights when I have all of these . . . but then again, I only have this sense of how to fix them, and I'm frustrated and I just want to throw them all away.

and have I told you that my bike's still squeaking, still making this noise I can't diagnose? not all the time, and not always under the same circumstances, no, that would make it entirely too easy to go have fixed.

I'm not sure what I want here. I want to be capable, effective, self-sufficient. and then, I don't want to have to do any of that stuff. I learned a little, I've achieved a certain level of competence, but I don't really have the energy and desire to leap to the next plane. do I really have to keep growing? I want to rest here, for a while. I love to learn and be challenged, but I'm tired. I'm like the young adolescent with growing pains: we can only take so much growth and change before we need to rest a little, absorb the changes, and maybe even take some ibuprofen.

it's a gorgeous, sun-filled day out there, and having now spewed all of my frustration, I am going to go lube my bike before my ride, and then settle down on the floor with my 6 strands of malfunctioning lights (yes, they're the icicle kind with all of those confusing strands hanging off the main strand) and look at bulbs, one by one, and see if I can make a difference.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

crazy quilt

so far today I have come up with 5 ideas of things to write about here, and none of them is worth more than about a paragraph. thus, today you get a crazy quilt, a hodge podge, and perhaps something is one of them will send your mind somewhere fun.

words of encouragement.
I rode up big mountain today, something I haven't done for a month. I've claimed time limitations, but I've actually been reluctant to attempt it for fear it will be too difficult. yes, even though I've done it probably 25 times or more. today, I broke my fear barrier, and as I was riding I thought of what a fellow cyclist, brett, said when I first started riding: if you can climb big mountain, you can climb anything around here. imagine the confidence I gained when I learned I could climb big mountain. it was huge. and then there's biking buddy bob's words from last year: if you can do the here-to-huntsville-and-back ride, you can do lotoja. I did the huntsville ride, and my confidence soared. these two guys don't know what huge boosts they gave me with their simple words.

yes, I'm on it again. last night connie r. told me that often, while she's out walking, she will pass people who won't say hello or even acknowledge her. argh!! can this really be? you know how I am on a bike, but this is how I am on a sidewalk: in their face with a smile, a hello, and eye contact. when I'm working outside and people walk past on the sidewalk, I've been known to stop them and ask questions, just to engage them in this process of acknowledging me. I just don't believe we are supposed to pretend others don't exist. it's not part of the master plan, and I am going to keep working on this one. strangers, beware.

utah vs. byu
on my way home from today's ride, I saw hundreds of people wearing red in cars on their way to the Big Game. cars sported Ute flags, and people were honking horns at some Utah fans on foothill drive with big banners and posters. I don't care for football, but I love to see so many happy, enthusiastic people on their way to do something they're excited about. I ride my bike, they go watch the Utes: happy is happy.

lungs vs. legs
a few years back I was discussing running/biking/jogging with a friend. he asked me what reached its limit first when I was working really hard, my lungs or my legs? I think of this question frequently, when I'm working hard climbing a hill, and I'm never quite sure of the answer. it seems like when I'm breathing quickly and heavily, my leg muscles are working at full capacity as well. if I were not gasping for breath quite so much, would I be able to work harder? or are my leg muscles at their limit, keeping me from moving any more quickly? how can I test this theory without killing myself?

my daughter got a kitten last week, and I am fascinated with her playfulness (the kitten's, not my daughter's). when she is in the mood, she just throws her body around, tumbling herself over, reaching out to swat at whatever is nearby. she jumps at the arm of the couch, latching on with her front claws, hanging on like she's wearing little velcro patches. she'll dash around the house, full speed, then suddenly stop and throw herself backward in a somersault. playful is one of my life challenges, I'm pretty sure. I am here to learn how to play, and it's not easy. I can be quirky and goofy, but underlying it all is this deeply serious me. perhaps I'll be able to take some lessons from skittles, the kitty.


Friday, November 21, 2008


the difficult thing about making a choice is that you have to choose one thing over another.
and the great thing about making choices is that we have the opportunity to do it.

this morning I chose to go work out in the weight room instead of riding my bike outside. I am itching to do an early morning ride again, but it has just been too darn cold. hard to imagine, I'm sure, but I do have limits. this morning the 5:30 am temperature was supposed to be about 38 degrees in salt lake, which means a few degrees colder up the canyon, and I just didn't think I had it in me to be that cold.
I had also made the choice a few weeks back to not sign up for Power Camp, which began november 10. a handful of my friends have been getting up early and trudging off to class, which begins at 5:15 am, every weekday morning these past two weeks.
so I am feeling somewhat sad about not being part of Power Camp, and I'm feeling sad that I'm not on my bike in the dark, early morning.
and as I sat at the stoplight on foothill and sunnyside at 5:30 this morning, a cyclist passed me, heading up toward the zoo and possibly emigration. an entire wave of longing encompassed me and I felt like a puppy dog whose owners had just left for the day, leaving him all alone, lonely, sad, rejected.
I had made my choice, but oh, it was still painful. I had even been quite rational in making my choice: I don't want to freeze (morning ride). and I don't want to spend a lot of money and have to get up at 4:45 every morning (Power Camp). these were rational decisions. but I still ached.

I am one of the many people who have sought out and benefited from therapy. life has thrown me a bunch of curve balls, and there have been a few times when I have needed someone to help me sort things out. one of the best lessons I learned during this work is that knowing we have choices can help reduce the stress of a difficult situation. just to know that we aren't completely stuck, immovable, trapped, can offer us a toehold on sanity. obviously I'm not talking about decisions about whether or not to ride my bike in 38 degree weather, but the underlying issue is the same: the fact that we have the option of making choices that will, in small or great ways, adjust our lives.
how very lucky we are, to have options. many people in many countries do not. and although we may not like our options, we have them. at times when we are forced to make a choice, it can feel overwhelming, and can take a great deal of time and energy to arrive at one. but what if we weren't able to choose? what if we truly had no other options?
we are so fortunate, so very blessed.

my twinge of pain this morning, triggered by the well-clothed and bundled 5:30 am cyclist, is a potent reminder to me of how good my life is. that I have a bike, that I have a place to work out, that I have friends, and that I sometimes have to navigate that road full of forks and curves and make decisions, make choices, choose how it is I am going to be.
today I choose gratitude for everything life is directing my way.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

what's left in the snack bowl

I have a big bowl in my kitchen cupboard that holds all of my biking snacks.
the GU's, the shot blocks, trail mix bars, and the occasional Payday or Salted Nut Roll. I raid this bowl whenever I'm packing for a ride longer than about 90 minutes. I haven't been much into GU's this season, therefore at least a dozen little foil packets fill the bottom of my snack bowl. and as of today, nothing sits on top of them. nothing.
I told this to bill the other day, and he said, well, don't you replenish the bowl? well, duh, a light bulb went on over my head. I usually do, during cycling season. but since cycling season has been on this long, dragged-out, slowly dying end run, my replenishment hasn't kept up with the riding, and thus my goodies have run out too soon. before the snow has taken over. and I guess I've been on more of a short-ride mentality, not thinking I need as many treats because I'm not riding big long rides.
this reminds me of the well: we need to refill our well if we're going to be pulling from it to get ourselves (and others) through the day.
I have not replenished my snack bowl well.
tsk, tsk.
so treats have been on my mind. thus, I thought I would inform you of exactly what goes into a GU:

Maltodextrin: a complex carbohydrate which is easily absorbed from the gut and provides glucose polymers for sustained energy.

Fructose: the principal sugar in fruit. This sugar works in conjunction with maltodextrin to provide energy. Fructose is absorbed rapidly, but utilized more slowly than glucose.

GU Herbal Blend: a unique blend of performance-enhancing herbs; cola nut (caffeine), chamomile, and ginseng. Caffeine aids in the metabolism of fats for longer-lasting energy. Chamomile has anti-inflammatory properties. Ginseng, Siberian and Korean, has been used for centuries in Eastern medicine to enhance energy production.

Leucin and Valine: branched-chain amino acids, which provide up to 5% of the calories burned during exercise. Endurance activities can lead to deficiencies in blood leucine, which the body tries to restore by degrading muscle. These amino acids also play an important role in maintaining focus and concentration.

GU Antioxidant Blend: a blend of Vitamin C and Vitamin E that is designed to protect tissues by neutralizing free radicals which are produced by the muscle's use of oxygen during exercise.

Histidine: an essential amino acid that acts as a buffer to slow the build up of lactic acid.

Potassium and Sodium Citrate: essential minerals that must be replaced during exercise to maximize performance through the optimal absorption of liquids.

Pectin: a natural fiber without bulk that controls the absorption of ingredients from the gut, helping to minimize the stomach distress many people experience with sports bars, drinks, and other gels.

Sea Salt: a natural source of sodium which includes essential minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, copper, and zinc.

Calcium Carbonate: an easily absorbed form of calcium which plays a large role in muscle contractions.

slightly scary, isn't it?
do you wonder why they're still available in my snack bowl?
my favorite thing these days are Cliff Mojo Mountain Mix bars. boy, that's a mouthful. (pun not really intended but then when I caught it I liked it and left it in.) I like these bars because they're substantial; I feel like I'm really eating something. I hate to waste my calories on things I don't get to chew.

so, I ordered a box of mountain mix bars, and they arrived today, and now ~ phew ~ the snack bowl just might get replenished.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

lunch bunch

today instead of counting cars heading up and down the canyon, I counted cyclists. and I was pretty busy doing so considering it was a weekday early afternoon.
to be truthful, I lost my train of thought a few times and had to work really hard to try to remember where the count was, so my number is not completely accurate, but I'm sure it doesn't really matter. I'm close.

cyclist number three, heading west down the canyon as I was heading up, wins the My Favorite Cyclist Today prize: she was grinning from ear to ear and looked as happy as I felt. I love that. cyclist number ten heading west was a close second, as he actually verbalized a "hello" across the road to me. third place goes to the guy in tee-shirt and shorts who was cruising down the back side of little mountain as I was heading back up from the reservoir: he wins the Warm-Blooded Cyclist award today, because 54 degrees to me still warrants a little more clothing than what he had on. he said hi, though, and I'm pretty sure that was a happy grin I saw connected with the greeting.
and the other forty or so cyclists out today seemed outwardly pleasant enough, though I imagine inside they must all have been feeling like me, incredibly grateful to be out in this weather at this time of year. how else do you explain almost 45 cyclists riding up and down emigration in the middle of a workday? it's not something I see very often.
I wonder how many are on a lunch break and return to work stinky, starving, and on an endorphin high? do you think this is something that increases productivity, or perhaps just guarantees them solitude for the rest of the workday?
I passed three men heading up today, and they were all of an age that makes me think they didn't have to worry about lunch hours. they were all riding steadily, just at a pace somewhat less than mine, and they stirred thoughts within me about my riding future. will I be riding in 5 years, in 10? and will I be riding when I'm in my sixties, my seventies? I don't see nearly as many women of "retirement age" out riding as I do men of the same age. which makes me curious. and I guess it really doesn't matter who I see out there doing what, it all just depends on what I do.
I plan to keep riding.
and waving and smiling and saying hello.
and some day I'll probably ride a little more slowly.
but I will still wave, and smile, and say hello.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

create peace

I saw a bumper sticker today that read "create peace."
this struck me particularly firmly, right in the head.
the car was an older four wheel drive, maybe an international or something similar, blue and white, pretty beat up. there were a few other bumper stickers on the back (probably "free tibet" and others of the same ilk), and a bunch of stuff inside, visible through the rear windows. the driver had a cap on his head and a few days' growth on his chin and lower cheeks, and he looked eager to be participating in the world today.
I felt better just from looking at him.
not that I wasn't feeling great: the sight of this fully engaged person just boosted my spirits.
and then I thought about the bumper sticker that had caught my eye.
create peace.
not just, be peaceful.
create peace. go out there and make it happen.

thus, I have a focus today, and am sharing my list of thoughts about how I can work on creating peace in my own way in my own space:

be pleasant even when thwarted.
step into an argument and teach how to see each others' sides.
offer a shoulder to someone who seems tense.
smile at absolutely everyone, and work at making my eyes participate in said smile.
say yes more than I say no.
invite people over.
accept what is.
give what's needed.
let others be right.
offer help.
expect peace.
have chocolate cake for breakfast. oops, wrong list!

this man's bumper sticker made me want to do something big, to hold a peace summit, to offer my services to president-elect Obama's team. but as with anything, it all really begins at home and in small spaces. thus my rather simplistic list. which is only missing one thing:

create inner peace first, by riding my bike.
I'm off; see you at the summit.

Monday, November 17, 2008

wicked wind from the west

little fingers of smog-ridden air were pushing their way up the canyons today, reaching all the way up parley's to mountain dell. I've never seen anything quite like it, and I hope never to again. ugh. the yellowish yucch just hung over the valley, and I could almost see the wind moving it up eastward, toward the top of emigration, my bike, and an otherwise pretty blissful me.

ignoring the yellow air down there, it was a perfect day for riding, and a good couple dozen other folk agreed and were out there on the road as well.

once again, I am thankful for my flexible job that frequently allows me to sneak away in the middle of the day and go for a ride. I know most people don't have the option of working during the evenings and on weekends to free up time during the middle of the weekdays, and I am grateful that I do. it's the trade-off of always having work staring at me at home.

today I fit my ride in between work, running the dog to get cleaned, and picking kids up from school and running them to the orthodontist. I carefully plotted and schemed, and actually fit my auto-pilot route to little dell and back into a very snug little hole. of course, three hours after returning from my ride I am still trying not to stand too close to anyone, for their benefit.
before I began my ride I reloaded my pack, putting in a new tube, a new cartridge, and ~ yes, I remembered ~ tire levers. I am once again prepared, though I'm pretty sure I won't be experiencing another flat for a long time.

the canyon was much as it has been these past few weeks, in that lonely fall place of bare, scrawny trees and brown and golden grasses plastered against the hills and roadside. everything is lying in wait for the coming snow, patient and quiet. the animals are settling into silence, and I haven't seen a deer for weeks now. crushed, damp leaves crowd against themselves at the edge of the road, and that loamy smell leaps up to my nostrils when I pass. the bikelanes are liberally sprinkled with gravel and small rocks that remained after the melting snow washed them across the road, and the steep hillsides continue to send larger rocks down to their deaths as they shatter upon impact with the asphalt.
little dell is solemn and thick with waiting, the blue green water dense and unreadable. no shimmering, just an absorbing of the thick fall air and a holding on to its molecules, preparing for its coming change.

wind gusted up the canyon, pushing against me as I headed home, laughing at me and whipping tears across my cheeks. I laughed back, amazed and thoroughly grateful to be out and riding on a sunny monday during the third week of november.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

the significance of small things

some kind of cosmic shift occurred during my bike ride today, I'm fairly certain.
I left my home one version of susan, and returned home somewhat different.
I can't pinpoint the exact changes, but I know I am different. and I'm thinking perhaps this happened to everyone in the world today, not just me . . .

after that 66-mile ride yesterday kicked my butt, my intention today was to ride to little dell and back, my standard 23 mile, ninety minute route. that would be plenty. but if you know me, you know that there was a secret plan plotting away inside my brain that eventually took over: if I could ride 34 miles today, that would make 100 for the weekend, and wouldn't that be a nice, round number to add to my odometer? I'm rolling my own eyes, so I can imagine you are, too.
I rode 34 miles.

little dell is this magical spot for me, and today I did something completely atypical for me: I stopped, got off my bike, reclined on a couple big rocks, and soaked in the sun and the setting for a while. there are a few huge rocks by the gate that closes off the road to big mountain during the winter. they are pale gray and flaky, and today they formed a perfect resting spot. I sat there, alternating between closing my eyes and savoring the peace and the sun on my eyelids, and looking out over the east end of the reservoir, trying to memorize the sight. when human sounds were absent, I could feel the stillness and hear the lapping of the water against the eastern shore, pushed by the wind that rippled the surface.
I was feeling small and insignificant, as though the world didn't need me: a rather unpleasant feeling to sit with. the name "lonely planet" had earlier jumped into my brain: that was how I was feeling this morning. as if I were this solitary entity, functioning completely on my own, spinning away in a galaxy full of other lonely planets doing the same thing. I started up emigration canyon with this thought, and along with it came a desire to ride and ride and ride and never return home.
no psychoanalysis, please, I already know myself.
when I climbed down from my rocks and said goodbye to the wickedly branched, barren scrub oaks and the field grasses already battened down by the season's early snow, I was somber but settled into myself, accepting of the "I am where I am" condition I seemed to be in.
and then, halfway down emigration, I passed a lemonade stand.
okay, really it was a table, and the sign said "gatorade" and as I passed by I could see a big plate of cookies. and three cute blond girls sitting behind it, one of them calling out "gatorade!" in a hopeful voice.
I slowed, my mind played a quick game of yes-no-yes-no and about 50 yards down the road the "yes" had won and I turned around and rode back up to the table.
I've been carrying a 5 dollar bill in my pack for at least a month without having had to use it, so I excitedly dug it out. 50 cents for a cup of gatorade or a dollar to fill my whole water bottle, and 50 cents for a cookie. and the girls were writing down their sales in a notebook and donating all of the money to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
they had just set up less than 10 minutes before, and I was their first customer. had I not sat on those rocks for 10 minutes, I would have missed the opportunity to give these girls my five dollars. thank you, rocks, for calling me. thank you, lonely planet, for putting me in that contemplative mood. just plain old thank you universe.

I set off down the road again, tummy appreciating the half cookie I'd eaten. the wind had decided to push its way up the canyon, so I was working hard to keep a good downhill pace, but I had fortification now, and sipped from my gatorade-filled bottle. I had just about made it to Ruth's when something started to not feel quite right. something on my bike, something in the back, okay, truly, this couldn't be happening . . . I pulled over to the edge of the bike lane, right across from Ruth's, and stopped. turned around, and saw my back tire completely deflated, it's saggy walls resting on the asphalt.
remember last week when I typed really lightly about not having had a flat tire in months?
it was my time.
I dug out my spare tube, and my cartridges, and then my . . . where were my tire levers? I dug deeper, felt all around, no tire levers. geez.
the first cyclist who slowed to ask me if I needed help said "sure" when I asked if she had tire levers. she dug in her pack, pulled out a tube, pulled out a cartridge, dug deeper, felt all around, and guess what? no tire levers. geez.
cyclist number two said "sure" when I asked if he had tire levers, and luckily he knew his pack better than either of us females did (and how embarrassing is that to admit? answer: extremely).
cyclist one left, and cyclist two helped me change the tube in my tire. we chatted about how great it was to be out riding this time of year, how crappy tire levers are, and how many rocks there seem to be in the bike lanes right now. he left, and eventually I figured out how the wheel goes back on the bike (I always struggle with how it fits in with the chain and the derailleur and it never looks quite right until I get it on and then it's so obvious I feel like an idiot).

and I returned home different from when I started out. I still can't put words to it, but something happened between the rocks and the sun, the gatorade and cookie girls, and the flat tire experience. either the whole world shifted just the tiniest bit, or I did.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


november 15th, clear blue skies and 46 degrees, a perfect day for just about any outdoor activity. but especially a bike ride.
while all my neighbors were doing boring things like raking leaves, mowing lawns, and cutting back perennials, I went for a bike ride.
it was more of a bike ride than I had bargained for when bill said hey, let's ride saturday. he had suggested staying out of the canyons (too chilly) and just riding out south on wasatch. which sounded great to me. this morning when he showed up, I asked how far he wanted to ride. "to suncrest" was his answer.
and I fell for it.
I neglected to ask the question, up the hill all the way to suncrest, or just to that general point of southern-ness?
as we neared draper I finally asked just what "to suncrest" meant, and sure enough, it meant to the top.
if you haven't ridden or driven this, the road is Traverse Ridge Road, and it climbs from about 146th south and Highland Drive up to the top of the pass that then drops down into alpine and lehi. it's a 3-mile climb that gains a little over 1300 feet, with grades in places that reach 10-12 percent.
so susan and bill rode to draper, then up traverse ridge road to suncrest. "what next?" led to us deciding to drop down the other side into alpine and loop back around the point of the mountain to draper. and then home along wasatch, with a minor detour on Little Cottonwood road to the mouth of the canyon.
66 new miles on the odometer today, and not once did I wish I were raking leaves. a handful of times I wished I were not riding my bike, but I never got so far as to wish I had a rake in my hands.
and this terribly long preface was really just so I could tell you about the view coming down from suncrest, looking out over happy valley. [an aside: when we were riding in the dixie national forest two weeks ago, climbing the road that drops down into boulder, we passed a street sign that told us the road taking off to the east was Happy Valley Drive . . . I can't help but smile when I think of the silliness of that name.]
everything was tinted blue. even the yucchy, hateful particles of the small inversion hanging over orem. the white-capped mountains, their slopes covered with trees and bushes, the steeples of churches and hipped rooflines that pointed skyward, everything, everything, had a slightly bluish cast to it. even the lake. utah lake, a body of water I've visited once and ridden by just a single time. it lay between the western mountains and a lacy, decorative border of houses on the east, and it shimmered in the early afternoon sun. it lay there, deep blue and rich and luxurious, just another feature of this incredible tableau that spread itself in front of us as we descended down the road from suncrest.
my beautiful blue world disappeared as we reached the valley floor and started our way west, as the lake was no longer visible and the sky returned to hanging above me instead of around me.
the ride back home was long and much more challenging than I wanted it to be: have I become so wimpy already?
you've heard about my favorite view, and now here is my favorite thing about the ride: coming back along wasatch between big and little cottonwood canyons, I saw vehicle after vehicle with snowboards on top, snowboards that had obviously been used today at one of the resorts.
I thank God, again and again, that I ended up in this city where I can ride my bike and they can snowboard and we can all glory in a perfect, dazzling, splendiferous late-fall day.

Friday, November 14, 2008

the weather, and swear words

lately I've written about yes, no, and maybe, so I think all that's left is the weather.

well, I wrote that sentence about 5 hours ago, and since that time I have found other things to write about besides the weather, though said weather IS incredibly gorgeous and feels much warmer than the 44 degrees they say it is.

first of all, I'm typing in the uncomfortable position of having my right leg propped on a chair so that the bag of frozen peas on my knee won't slip and fall off. this tweaks my body, and my right shoulder is letting me know it's not happy about the situation. so this entry may be brief.

do you ever have moments where you think to yourself, is this truly my life? I had one of those just a short while ago (before I bashed my knee into the corner of my cast iron coffee table), and this is what led up to it:

my son was scheduled to come hang out with me today. on such days the Flextrans bus picks him up at his care center then delivers him to me, he hangs out with me, then another bus comes to pick him up and return him to the care center later in the day. when we do this, he arrives anywhere between 9:45 and 11:30, and I always keep my eyes on the windows and my ears alert for bus sounds until he arrives.
today, while I waited for the bus, I thought I would work outside on the leaf project mother nature has given me. after about 45 minutes of that I was dirty and messy and tired of the whole thing, but jake hadn't yet arrived.
and then I thought of something else that has been begging for my attention, something propped against the armoire in my family room . . . something that would be best worked on outside . . .
you got it. my bike came out to be pampered in the bright sunshine. I got my bowl of soapy water, my degreaser, a couple rags, and I set to work. in fact, I got the entire thing cleaned and degreased, and still no jake. that meant it was tire time. uh-oh. we moved inside for this.
I can't go through the whole thing ~ you don't want to suffer through it ~ just know that after half an hour and one broken tire lever, I finally have one new tire on my bike.
one down, one to go.
and then jake came.

it's really been a good morning. I did a little work, I got to sit and read for a brief time, I raked leaves, I cleaned my bike. I am so grateful to be able to do these things, truly.
but when the bus driver was unhooking jake's wheelchair from the restraints and I waited by the lift, I had my moment. my I can't believe this is my life moment. I can't believe my son lives in a care facility, I can't believe he's almost 18 years old, I can't believe everything we've experienced in those 18 years together.
I can't think about it too much, because it overwhelms me. it literally blows me away and I become untethered. this makes it difficult to continue my daily life, so I have to place it back in its box and put in on the shelf with all of those pictures and memories.
therefore my moment was just a moment, and then I kissed jake hello and wheeled him into the house.

and in the process of getting him settled on the family room couch, I bashed my knee into the corner of the coffee table. the good thing is that this allowed me an opportunity to release all of my tire-changing frustrations when I roared in pain and repeated a significant swear word over and over and over.
this is when I'm grateful that jake doesn't understand those words.

my knee is now feeling a little better, and it didn't bleed much at all so I think I'm going to be okay.
I only have one tire left to change, and I'm thinking that I might even get to it this afternoon, possibly.
and then there's the weather: it's an absolutely gorgeous, perfect, gift of a fall day. no if's, and's, but's, maybe', or no's. just a great big, yes, it is.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


you knew it was coming, didn't you?
I can't live long with a "no" attitude, so I am having a "yes" attitude today.
so far, these are the things I've said yes to:

sleeping in until 5:25 and then getting ready for yoga
glorying in that INCREDIBLE MOON hanging in the western sky this morning
100 crunches and a a few dozen core strengthening exercises pre-yoga
a new yoga instructor, who arrived 5 minutes late and taught without music (eeek)
my wonderful heated seat in the car, and hot air blowing out to warm my ankles and feet
making whatever it was my girls wanted for their lunches today (one chose PB&J on tortillas, the other went for turkey and cheese on a tortilla roll-up)
ramming the edge of a cardboard box into my lip, causing my teeth to puncture the skin and make my lip swell. I swore first before I said yes to this one.

that's a pretty good sampling of my pre-8:00 am "yes" practice.

and I've been thinking about how often I approach life with a "maybe" attitude, especially when it comes to scheduling events and activities. I hang out in "maybe" more than either "yes" or "no."
I am such a hermit it's easy to say no to things, because I'm so very happy hanging out by myself, reading, being productive, nesting. saying "yes" means I have to give some of this up, and I am reluctant to do so. a "maybe" allows me time to think about it, to explore how I really feel about it, and to come to a decision about whether or not I'm willing to trade my solitude for the experience.
a "maybe" also allows me time to predict outcomes. what will happen if I say yes and participate in the event? will I have a new experience, will I be glad, or will I find myself in a familiar and uncomfortable situation, one that I always swear I don't want to repeat? I try to stay positive, and tell myself that "you never know," but sometimes, I know.
finally, a "maybe" gives me time to settle into my answer and commit. some people say yes immediately and with enthusiasm, and then end up not participating for whatever the reason may be. I am much more comfortable being sure of my answer and commitment before I respond with a yes. a "maybe" allows me to commit fully when I commit.

I envy people who are yes-with-enthusiasm-and-certainty people. people who embrace new experiences and don't spend all that energy assessing trade-offs and predicting outcomes. who follow through, and aren't attached to the end result but welcome the event and whatever unfolds.

the bottom line is I'm still working on yes. finding that comfort zone where I'm stretched from hermit land but not pulled fully from it. where the outcome doesn't matter nearly as much as positively welcoming the experience. where I don't pre-judge from past results. where I enjoy whatever comes without attaching too much meaning to it.
and I will find this place, yes, I will. I'm inching closer to it every day that I hold yes in my mind.

PS: do you think these means I should say "yes" to all of those chocolate chip cookies staring at me?
no. that's the answer to "susan, did you work on your bike yesterday?"
no is also this feeling I'm experiencing this morning.
and instead of banishing it, pretending it doesn't exist, telling it to go away because it's unwelcome, I am accepting it and embracing it, acknowledging it and writing about it. then it can go away.
(social worker training 101: meet the client where they are. I am in "no," so I'm going to sit with me here until "no" releases its hold on me and goes away, and I can float back up to "yes" land.)

it started when I tried to transfer money by phone from one account to another. after pushing at least 100 buttons, being transferred 3 times, talking to people who are housed deep at the bottom of the ocean, hanging up and calling back, and holding yet again, I was finally told "no." it couldn't be done.
then I came to the computer and played a clip on YouTube that a friend had sent; it was about their son's death from a prescription drug overdose. oh, so much pain and sorrow.
next, since I was on YouTube, I clicked on the video to the latest song-stuck-in-my-head: Beyonce's If I Were A Boy. I love this song not only for the hauntingly beautiful melody, but more importantly, for the fact that the songwriter correctly used the subjunctive mood by using "were." [this seems to be difficult to teach, and I'm forever having my ear tweaked by people who say "I wish I was . . ."] Beyonce's song is wistful and frustrated and feels like another big "no."
and finally, I checked the fat cyclist's blog, because it's been a few days and I wanted to know how his wife was doing. the answer to that is not well. which makes me just want to shout NO! she does not deserve to be dying of cancer, and he and the kids do not deserve to have this experience, either. No. No. No.

I am a huge proponent of acceptance. of forgiveness. of letting go, releasing, moving through things and moving on. but I still have these moments of No.
No, it's not fair, no, this is not okay. no, I don't want to, no, I won't. (I'm suddenly feeling like a two-year-old.) no, no, no, I won't, I won't, I won't.

guess what?
I still have to go to the bank to transfer my money.
Josh Kresser still died of a prescription medication overdose.
Beyonce still wants to be a boy so she can be a better man.
Susan, the fat cyclist's wife, is still losing her battle with cancer.
and my bike is still staring me in the face, greasy and dirty and bald.

I am going to finish my coffee, finish wallowing in no, and then take a deep breath, shout yes a few times to get me in the mood, and go tackle my day.

I'm not sure that my yes will extend all the way to bike maintenance, however . . .
there's always tomorrow.

Monday, November 10, 2008

bike repair

my bike has been resting in my family room since saturday afternoon.
(okay, it did escape sunday for that brief ride to little dell and back, but it quickly returned and took up its same position, jauntily leaning against the armoire.)
it's there because I'm hoping that having it stare me in the face will eventually force me to give it some attention.
I love the darn thing, but I sure don't feel like sitting down and caring for it the way I should.
what's up with that?
come to think of it, whenever I have a "patch and repair" project in my sewing pile, it tends to wait quite a while for me. why do I put these things off? it always feels so good when they're completed . . . why do I wait so long to start them? just like I did with my bike, I often leave them in plain sight, hoping that the visual stimulation will ignite a physical response. and it just doesn't happen.
hmmm. I could either delve more deeply into my psyche, or I could shrug my shoulders and say, yep, that's how I am.
guess what I just did?

this is what I need to do for my bike:
clean the thing, mainly the frame and wheels, with water and a mild soap. involves water and a rag and try as I might to avoid it, spillage, drips and splatters. tough on the carpet: would be much better outside but I am too much of a wimp to do this in 40 degree weather.
degrease all of the parts that collect grease. which to me, means the chain, the rear derailleur, and the rings, too. this involves a rag, the degreasing agent, and if I were being really good, my bike-cleaning-toothbrush. it's kind of messy, and difficult to get into those tight little places.
again, much better to do outside, but . . . you know, the weather.
lube the chain. pretty simple, really, but does involve another rag and I usually drip at least a little of the lubricant on something I don't want it to be on.
change my tires. take off the front and throw it away (which is painful, because I'm sure I could get at least another hundred or so miles out of it. but I'm trying to save myself the agony of a blowout and the embarrassment of having to ask someone to come rescue me when it happens), take off the rear tire and save it as "spare," and put on the two new tires I've had for the past couple months.
an aside: changing tires is frustrating for me, because even with the use of tire levers, I have a heck of a time getting the tires off their rims. I watch guys do it, and they just slip the lever in, flick it a couple inches around the rim, and presto, off pops the tire. it takes some strength, and I just don't have it in my right shoulder, so I struggle to yank (not flick) that lever along the rim. I'll eventually get it off, but it drives me crazy to know that half the world can do this fifty times more easily than I can. God knows this about me, though, and has given me the most incredible gift this summer: I have not had a flat tire since early july. that's over four months. I don't dare say this out loud, and I'm typing really lightly as to not make much noise ~ kind of like whispering ~ I can't believe my good fortune.
I think it has something to do with the fact that in june I ordered 10 spare tubes from a biking catalog.

and that's all. I could probably do it all in about an hour and a half. if I would just buckle down and do it.

I'll be sure to let you know if I get to it today.


the snow level today is predicted to drop to about 7500 feet.
which means rain here in the valley.
but my thoughts drift to the mountain peaks, which are hidden from us, draped in heavy gray-white clouds. to know that it is snowing there and not here makes me feel somewhat "less than." our beautiful mountains are definitely superior to me today, and they grab the snow from low-hanging clouds and cover themselves in that deep, rich blanket of white.

for the past few weeks I've been thinking about peaks and summits. I have reached so many this past summer, and not all of them on my bike. but the ones achieved on my bike thrill me, and thus I am fulfilling my desire to make a list and document for posterity exactly which spots I have climbed to in the past 5 months.

Little Mountain (emigration canyon) 6227'
Big Mountain (east canyon) 7420'
Lamb's Canyon 8200'
Millcreek Canyon 7640'
Big Cottonwood (brighton) 8645'
Guardsman Pass (big cottonwood) 9710'
Little Cottonwood (albion basin) 9500'
City Creek Canyon 6000'
Parley's Summit 7000'
Trapper's Loop 5900'
Alpine Loop summit 8030'
Wolf Creek Pass 9485' (began in kamas, elevation 6300')
Mirror Lake Highway 10759' (began at kimble junction, elevation approx 6200')

all of these except the last two I reached by beginning at my house (elevation 4600') and pedaling away . . . and what makes these climbs even more fun is that you often go up, and then down, and then up, and then down, and up once more before you finally reach the top.
all the more reason to have a little toy on your bike that tells you what your total elevation gain is for a ride. but since I haven't made that purchase a priority in my life, I just hold on to the fact that I know I've climbed a little more than what the straight math tells me.

the rain has tapered now, and I can see the white residue left on the upper planes of the eastern foothills . . . I believe the 7500' snow level has crept down quite a bit lower.
which means that every peak I climbed during these past few months is getting at least a dusting of white this morning, and at most, a heaping pile of solid snow.
which means that my bike and I won't be visiting them again for quite a while. the gates have already closed, or will be closing soon, and before you know it, I will no longer be able to even ride past those "closed for the season" signs I've been looking at this last little while.
little dell will freeze around the edges, and then will start to let the ice creep out toward it's belly, and then the snow will pile upon the frozen water. the reservoir will sleep under its winter blanket, and I will once again rediscover my reserves of patience.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

tomorrow's ride

yesterday I stood in my garage, all ready to ride, but unable to make a decision about where to ride.
today I stood in my house, unable to make a decision about whether or not to ride.
what's going on with me?

all week I have been mentally prepared for a cool, rainy sunday. so when I woke up this morning to semi-clear skies, I questioned my weather report, and whether or not it would be a riding day. I turned on my computer and went to the weather channel, where it showed little rain drops and clouds for every hour of the day, with precipitation percentages in the 30-50 range.
thus I decided it was a day for yoga, reading, cleaning, writing, and working, all of which make for a very satisfactory sunday.
but what happened is that on my way home from yoga, I saw boys on bikes. first just one, up by the U of U. then two coming down sunnyside, from emigration canyon. and another one heading up. uh-oh. you can imagine what this did to me. they're out there riding, shouldn't I be, too? I checked the outside temperature, which was 50 degrees. at 10:30, when the high for the day was only supposed to be 47 . . .
the seed had been planted.
at home I worked, read, scrubbed my bathroom ceiling (yes, really), and then at 2 o'clock left to run errands. when I noticed that the temperature outside was now 55 degrees. that little seed had begun to sprout, as you knew it would. it was ridiculous: I had only planned to stay off my bike because of predicted cold and rain, neither of which had come to fruition. I started scheming: if I skipped the grocery store, I could be home by 2:30 and on my bike by 2:45, and could ride for 90 minutes . . . I could go to the store tomorrow, couldn't I?
so I went for a ride.
and it was cold.
a few other stalwart cyclists were out, but it was a lonely ride. a cyclist actually used his vocal cords and said "hi" to me from across the road, and it made my heart sing. he will never know just how much that little bit of effort warmed me up on this blustery, solitary day.
there is definitely a storm moving in, and I watched the clouds separate and re-group, breaking for a time to let the sun pour through, then gathering again and darkening the sky. though I fought a bugger of a headwind on the way up the canyon, I had the best tailwind ever on the way down: extra effort on the way up makes a great workout, and the push on the way down gives you a thrill.
while swooping down beacon drive, almost home, the song Riders on the Storm jumped into my mind: I loved this song when I was young! one of my friends must have had the 45, because I can visualize us listening to it, watching it spin around on one of those portable record players that came in a box you could unbuckle and open up to use. I've been singing it in my mind since I got home, and can hear the thunder and crackle in the background of the recording. gotta love the doors.
so tonight I will relax and watch the weather change, knowing that I've done tomorrow's ride already, and the gift of that is that tomorrow morning I will sleep in.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

feast day

a perfect day for a fall bike ride, it surely is.
I carefully checked my hourly weather prediction this morning, and determined that a departure time of 1 pm would allow me to be riding in the warmest hours of the day.
so I left at noon, because I couldn't wait.
I had been working all morning, indoors, in my jammies while sipping coffee. which is all good, and I was very productive, but I was itching to get that ride done. yes, done. not to get the ride going, but to get it over with. I am in another one of those phases where I have to search high and low and all over the place to find motivation to get out there and pedal away.
this motivation lately has been coming only from my uncontrollable desire to eat, and the resulting tightening of my clothes. not a good thing. I'm blaming it on the changing seasons, and the fact that my body likes a little more fat hanging around it during the cold winter months . . .
and get this: I just had to go answer my door, where my cute neighbor stood with a warm loaf of pumpkin-banana bread that she had just baked. just the smell of it makes me salivate and gain half a pound . . .
back to biking.
the sun was out, and that helped me to get my gear on, but then I stood in the garage, all ready to go, and couldn't make a decision of which direction to take off in. south or east. east, or south? south . . . or east. geez. it took me a ridiculous amount of time to decide I should head east, up emigration, because I may not be able to do that as much in the future. a thirty-miler was my plan, and I headed out.
and this is what my rides up emigration these last two days have given me: a completely sensual experience that I just want to roll around in, luxuriate in, and memorize so that I can relive it a month or two from now, when I am relegated to spin bikes and couch potato land.
it is a veritable sensual feast right now: the snow and rain of earlier in the week have saturated the ground and all that rests upon it, unleashing those rich, earthy fragrances that I cannot name. the leaves are wet, emitting that sharp, distinct smell of fall that fills my nostrils with its richness. wood burns in fireplaces and drifts out of chimneys, pleasing my nose and imagination, as scenes of cozy homes dance through my mind. my cheeks are just cold enough that I can feel the chill without having to touch them; I feel it from the inside, and glory in the crisp air that has tickled them. my fingers tingle, too, with the cold, while sweat drips down the hollow of my back.
and my eyes: they move constantly, scanning the hillsides for changes from the last ride, looking to form pictures and memorize what I am able to see. a medium blue sky, clouds pushing themselves across it, and the sloping hill spotted with snow and bare trees and low shrubs that have shed both leaves and snowfall. and my favorite thing of all, little dell.
yesterday, under a sky heavy with clouds, little dell reflected a hillside of brown and white. but the water itself looked as though a huge slab of slate lay directly below its surface, a slab so large that it reached from shoreline to shoreline. the deep blue-gray of the slate, coated with just an inch or two of water, colors the reservoir, and the reflected hillside then becomes almost iridescent, as though a drop or two of oil have spilled into the water and sent the merest hint of playful purples and greens into this deeply solemn water.
the sensual feast concludes with the quiet in the air, the skittering of small animals in the roadside brush, a gentle hello from the older couple walking down the bike lane, hand in hand.

I returned home and began raking leaves, stirring up more pungent smells, taking my bare hands and grabbing piles of the damp things, stuffing them into plastic bags which will wait patiently to be collected later in the week. the sun stayed strong and warm, my lawn slowly reappeared from underneath its blanket of yellow and gold, and each inhale reminded me of my ride up the canyon, which I was terribly glad I had not only completed, but fully experienced along the way.

Friday, November 7, 2008


each week I check the upcoming weather and make a biking plan, which, albeit flexible, is still the backbone of my week.
on our beautifully stormy tuesday I decided that I would ride outside friday afternoon and saturday, when the weather was looking a little warmer and drier than earlier in the week.
so I actually slept in this morning, arising when it was (oh my gosh) somewhat light outside. I had a plan to fit in my ride between a few other "have-to's," and although my day was busy and full, I was determined to ride.
and then a few things came together that made it imperative that I ride.
today I rode for my mental health.

I didn't think I would be doing that, but by 2:45 this afternoon I couldn't get on my bike fast enough and pedal away from everything that was trying to pull me one way or another.
of course, these things came with me. I knew they would. but I also knew that by the end of my ride they would have changed into manageable issues, tame little bunnies that were just around to keep me hopping. no more the stampeding buffaloes they seemed to be midday.
and indeed, I returned home with just a few bunnies. and a calm demeanor. and a plan.

earlier this week I was assessing certain aspects of my life and asking the universe for a little bit of guidance. which way to go, to move or not to move, to open my mouth or not, to change something or another or to swallow and dig deeper. the answer I received was to "go now," and I was completely stumped. go where? (remember how literally I take everything.)
it wasn't as if I had asked "should I stay where I am or go do this new thing?" because I have no plan of a new thing. so to receive the answer to go, and to go now, left me confused and confounded.
so I asked for a little clarification.
I tried to meditate and let the answer come to me: nada.
I asked a few friends: nothing came to light.
I slept on it: zilch.
I slept on it again: only a teeny little glimmer of a thought.

and then came today, with it's push me-pull me conundrum of experiences, and the running out the door to get on my non-thinking machine, my bike.
and a few more messages for me to contemplate:

* a dozen or so cars passed me as I was riding up the canyon, and I glanced at all of their license plates. only one was obviously personalized, and I think it was also obviously personalized for me, as it read
* shortly thereafter I noticed that my bike was squeaking. yes, squeaking. I think it's coming from my pedals, more my left than my right, but this little (and sometimes not so little) squeak continued to dog me the entire ride.
* the skies have been overcast today, at times quite gray and committed to protecting us from the sun and blue above. but as I rode up emigration, I saw wide swaths of blue cutting holes in the gray, up near the top. and as I neared the top, I saw more and more blue, blue that brightened the entire area. the sun broke through for a few small moments, and I watched my shadow smile.

and what, you ask, makes these three things personal messages for me?
well, me.
I know they are messages I was meant to receive, and this is what they mean.

ROOT: keep rooted, don't give up, dig into who I am even more firmly if needed.
SQUEAKS: the squeaky wheel gets the grease, doesn't it? start making noise, searching out that agent who will champion my writing, my books.
BLUE SKIES AHEAD: they are there. there is light at the end of my (what seems to be) never-ending tunnel. there is hope.

once again, I thank God for my bike.
and since it spoke so clearly to me today, I promise to give it some "grease" before I take it on its next adventure.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


I don't do "bored."
in fact, I tend to have little patience with people who state that they're bored.
but then . . .
then there are those times in spin class or riding laps through sugarhouse park, or on the elliptical machine when I find myself constantly checking in with the clock, willing it to move more quickly through those interminable minutes . . .
so to be completely honest I must admit that I, too, have moments of boredom. such moments arise because of activity that is "wearingly dull, repetitive, or tedious" (per ). which state, try as I might to avoid this, some of my exercising still tends to slip me into. during these moments I just want it to be done. over with. finished. complete. crossed off my list.

monday I rode outside in the chilly pre-storm atmosphere. clouds moved steadily across the valley, breaking for twenty minutes to let the sun shine down, then closing back in and helping me prepare mentally for the incoming rain and snow. I had decided I needed a recovery ride, just a mild, easier ride, as I hadn't had one of those in a long, long time. perhaps that would reinvigorate me, or at the least just be something kind to do for my body.
the thought of riding out south along 23rd east wasn't so much boring as it was frustrating: too many stop signs and stoplights along that route. if I'm going to ride, I want to ride, not to play a game of ride-and-stop, ride-and-stop. therefore I chose to do laps at sugarhouse park. I put in a few miles around the neighborhood here first, so that I wouldn't have to do too many of those potentially semi-monotonous laps, then headed down to the park.
the first lap was fun. the road dips and swoops back up, moves smoothly for a distance, and then does it again, all in an approximately 1 1/2 mile loop. the second lap was okay as well, as I concentrated on keeping my heart rate down on the "ups," which is always a challenge for me.
then another cyclist entered the loop, which was fine on her warm-up lap ~ when I passed her ~ but not so fine when she later decided to zip past me. I wanted to stay with her, but I had committed to playing the recovery heartrate game, and knew I would blow it if I let myself get in that competitive mode.
I let her go.
the fourth lap started to wear on me. I kept riding past the same walkers, joggers, and roller bladers as before, and by this time knew all of the dogs I would pass: oh, here come the two yorkies, oh, next it's the big golden retriever, oh, now it's time for the beagle . . . and now I'm coming up on the yorkies again, and then it's the retriever . . .
I was amazed by how many people talked on their cell phones while they were walking. I think that I wouldn't do that, but then, maybe they became bored walking that lap again and again. I think I'll be empathetic.
the fifth and sixth laps blurred, and then I had no idea how many darn times I'd gone around the thing.
one more, I said to myself, then I can head home. just one.
okay, one more, just in case it's less mileage home than I thought.
I wanted desperately to pull out of the park and turn up the street, in fact my bike was urging me in that direction, but my darn, stubborn, unreasonable left shoulder forced me around the curve to the left that led me to one more lap.
I was nearly ecstatic when I completed that last little ridiculous loop and turned out of the park and back into civilization, through the streets, weaving my way back toward home where I could move on with my day and leave any thoughts of boredom far behind.
because, as I said, I don't do bored.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

the huge box on my doorstep

how can I not be political today?
I could write about the beautiful snow outside, how much I enjoyed watching it from the spin room this morning, how much I also watch the clock during spin class, or how my heart is heavy from loss of outdoor morning riding . . . but because we as a nation have risen to new heights, I need to go there.
to an abstract concept, that of

I have paused so long my computer is ready to throw the screen-saver action up.

I find myself without words again. so I will begin somewhere else, and see if I can work my way into what it is I'm trying to express.
I have felt pulled by Barack Obama since I first heard of him, years ago. everything that he was then he continues to be now: strong, confident, calm, peaceful, patient, compassionate. he is the person I want to represent me. I may not agree with every thought he utters or every belief he shares, but I respect his thoughtfulness, his wisdom, and his determination to move in a direction that benefits a greater number as opposed to fewer.
Obama carries himself with respect and dignity, and challenges us all to do the same.
I believe that his election to the office of President is a gift to our entire nation, that this man is capable of changing our world. I know this is an aggressive statement to make, but certainty about this resides in my soul. I am not naive, and I know he will accomplish things only if we pull together and assist in the process. but I am certain that his presidency will leave a positive, lasting handprint on this world.
that we have finally acknowledged a need for differently-minded people to guide us is so very beautiful to me. I have been hearing for years about the "spiritual awakening" that we are in the process of experiencing, and this election, to me, signifies another step along the way. it feels like a decision to heal, to move forward, to share more deeply of our common lives.
it's as if a huge box was delivered to my doorstep last night: I untied the bright, joyful ribbons and lifted the lid and there, inside, perched on the bottom but ready to take flight were hope and connection and faith and belief. they have colored my world today, and have touched millions of us with their optimism and strength.
I watched people cry last night, as a dream they did not believe possible came to fruition in real life.
I have always held hope for us all, and you know faith is tattooed on my knuckles, but last night I was given tangible proof of the power of prayer, patience, and wisdom, and I plan to revel in the glory of our nation's huge healing movement for a long time to come.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

teasdale, part II

time and distance and the steady rainfall in front of my window have worked their magic, and I can now write about riding last weekend.
I love to ride, once the first fifteen minutes or so are over. and friday afternoon those first fifteen minutes went on forever. we took off on a nicely paved, two lane road, just to ride for an hour or so. thirty minutes out, then turn around. we didn't know where we were going, so each curve and dip and rise was a surprise.
the first few bends and slight rises were fine and fun, and then came a climb. still in my getting-used-to-riding frame of mind, I wasn't prepared for a lot of huffing and puffing and 6 mph stuff. nevertheless, that's what I got. I thought to myself, how about if I just turn around and go wait by the car? bill can ride as far and as fast as he'd like, and I'll just sit there, peacefully, and wait.
but I kept going. I had approached the crest of the hill by that time, and had a little more breath to share with my brain. so the two of us, my brain and I, kept the legs pedaling.
we curved around and thrilled to a descent, then pedaled some more and came to an intersection where we headed south on SR 12.
small rises, brief descents, slight downs, gradual ups: the next handful of miles were relaxing and just right. the landscape shifted slightly with each half mile: red rock mixed itself with bleached bone, with stunted pinon crouching everywhere across the flat spaces of land. in the distance were hillsides blanketed with conifers, deep green against the ivory and rust-colored rocks.
occasional signs and houses dotted the roadside, telling us that 43 acres were available, the hansen's lived at number 389, and that 3 to 5 acres sites with improvements were located just over the hill and around the bend.
we ended up riding this road each of the three days, and on our return leg on the final day, it had become familiar enough that I could anticipate the approaching grade and terrain, the place I would pass the cattle, the graveled drive where I would ride past the decorative mailbox crafted to mimic a fancy red barn.
the sagebrush, the tumbleweeds, the jutting rock towers that make me think God created this fantastic playing board for his own pleasure: these are what will remain with me. the deeply pinkish red soil, the jackrabbits with their dark lined ears, the three bucks in the ravine, the black and white rock faces, and on saturday, the smashed pumpkins decorating the asphalt every few miles.
and, of course, the red dust on my shoes.

Monday, November 3, 2008

red dust on my shoes

getting away is a great thing.
unpacking is an okay thing.
and discovering an unexpected memento of your trip once you're home is a truly excellent thing.

two years ago I rode in the Skinny Tire Festival in moab. it happened on the first weekend in march, and, big surprise, we were gifted with an intense, not-unseasonal cold front for our riding pleasure. I was with a friend, and the night before the ride we hit every store in town looking for booties to cover her shoes. I was fortunate to already own some, but she wasn't so lucky, and she remained unlucky, as every store was sold out of booties. my creative friend then ended up soliciting two empty plastic bread bags from the restaurant at the hotel where we stayed, and slipped those over her socks before putting her biking shoes on. when the temperature is predicted to be 26 degrees, one will try just about anything to stay warm.
I will just say that both of us were cold on the ride, but I think perhaps she was the colder of us two. at the first rest stop we spent a good fifteen minutes with her hands flipping from front to back in front of a propane heater, and she actually borrowed a pair of gloves from a woman who happened to have (??) an extra pair.
it was a beautiful ride along the colorado river. chilly, but a treat, especially after a winter of sitting inside on a spin bike. the next day we rode to dead horse point, sat at the top to eat lunch amidst the patches of snow, and raised our faces to the sun high in the pure blue sky.

the day after I returned from moab, I went to spin class. I put my cycling shoes on, adjusted the bike seat, and hopped on. I clipped one foot in, and then tried to clip in the other. I turned my foot this way and that, stood up and did another little hop, trying to press the cleat into the clip. it wouldn't go.
I unclipped my other foot, got off the bike, and turned my problem foot so that I could see the bottom of my shoe. there, embedded in the cleat was a glob of hardened red rock dust. a grin spread across my face, as the joy of riding around moab instantly returned and encompassed me. I knocked some of the red clump away from the cleat, and got back on my bike, happy as a clam.

this morning I shook out my riding clothes in the laundry room, my shorts and socks and arm warmers that were all in a bag with my shoes, and I watched red dust settle to the floor.

I smiled.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

teasdale, part I

I have always found that travel fills my creative tank and unleashes this desire within me to write, write, write. I am stimulated by the new landscapes and environments, by the unfamiliar sights and sounds. everything is refreshed and renewed and I see as with new eyes.
this happens whether I am driving on the freeway headed to cedar city, or sitting in my brother's living room in texas, or relaxing in a lounge chair on top of a cruise ship, watching birds fly above a seemingly endless ocean.
I grab a journal, a notebook, a scratch pad or whatever I can find and the words drip from me and form puddles and lakes and oceans.
but I have just returned from two days in torrey, and I am still awaiting inspiration. I soaked in enough stillness and outrageously stunning scenery to fuel my brain for a year, and yet when I tried putting a creative scrap of sentence on paper I puttered out before a single word escaped my pen.
I am unable to describe my experience.
I am like a radiologist who's forgotten how to read an x-ray.
an architect who cannot draw.
a singer without a song.

a cyclist without a bike.

okay, now I'm back on track.

I am a cyclist with a bike, one who rode a few dozen excellent miles around torrey, utah this past weekend. and having just returned home late this evening, with a seemingly stunted creative drive, I do not have the ability to describe a single mile of my riding.
my belief is that I absorbed so much beauty and space and immensity that it is just taking a while for my mind and soul to incorporate it all. that perhaps tomorrow when I put pen to paper I will be able to find words to express my experience.
but not tonight.
tonight I will remain a writer without a story, but still, and always, a writer with a bike.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


it is said that recovery is a critical piece of any training program.
recovery, rest, sleep; all of these things are supposedly important.
I like this aspect of training, perhaps best of all.

according to running coach dave spence, "actual physiological gains occur during rest and recovery," not during the times we are physically challenging our bodies.
intellectually I have learned to accept this, but it is still a hard concept to fully envelop into my life. I am driven, and determined to better myself. if I rode 159 miles last week, I want to ride at least 160 this week. I want to become better faster stronger, all of those things. and so I think I need to work at it. to work hard. to push. to challenge myself.
and then to do it again the next day.
I've written before about recovery days (also known as "active recovery"), and how I have a love-hate relationship with them. I like being able to take it easy, but . . . I also like to sometimes sprint up a hill. or if I'm not allowed to sprint up the hill, perhaps I could just stay in bed. isn't "active recovery" an oxymoron? let me do one or the other: this both-yet-neither thing is a challenge for my psyche. a challenge which I continue to work on overcoming.

so then I turn to the best thing of all: rest. and I love the days when I know I've earned a rest. when I've worked hard, ridden hard, put in lots of miles and effort, and thus am deserving of rest.
rest days for me usually mean I catch up on laundry, cleaning, and ~ shudder ~ yardwork. I run errands, I straighten my house. I mend what needs to be mended, I clean out a drawer. I make lists of those little nagging jobs that never seem to make it to the top of any list, and I sometimes do a task and cross it from that list. I get out the glue gun and re-adhere something that's come unglued, I sweep leaves off my back patio. I clean a shelf in the refrigerator, I organize a file, I write a note to my great aunt and uncle in missouri.
rest days are good for my organizational self.

and then there's sleep: oh, I love sleep. I love my bed; I often look at it with longing in the middle of the day. I love to curl up at night and let every little muscle in my body give up its hold. I let my toes uncurl, I feel each muscle in my hands let go and relax. I sigh, I say my brief little prayers, and I ask for sleep to take me away.
and to think that sleep, rest, and active recovery are really benefiting my fitness level . . . how incredible is that?

it's a very zen concept, really, the belief that just "being" is of greater benefit than we can usually acknowledge or understand. that we grow most when we do the least. the stillness, the non-doing, is when we incorporate our new learning into who we are, and it's a process that cannot be accomplished by thinking about it.
our physical improvements can't happen until we let go of the work and just let the muscles and body do their own thing.
rest, sleep, recovery.
these make me smile, for they challenge me.
and when I'm challenged, I grow.
when I grow, I am happy.