Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Going On A Trip

who remembers car games?

my family drove everywhere for vacations while I was growing up, spending hours and hours in the monza, the blue station wagon, the snug little (fuel efficient) yellow rabbit. we would play the license plate game, word games, and that old standby, the I'm Going On A Trip and Taking My . . .

if you don't remember that one, the first person makes the statement then adds something that begins with the letter A. the next person repeats what the first one said, then adds something that begins with the letter B. the pattern continues, and halfway through the alphabet it gets a little more challenging to remember what everyone's items were.

if I were to play the I'm Going On A Trip game these last few years, my B item would always be a--oh big surprise--bicycle.
well, since I am now truly Going On A Trip (and for the first time in a long, long time, I won't be able to take my bicycle), I played the game with myself.

my list includes all sorts of fun, strange, unusual, and hopefully unnecessary items:

cough drops
day bag
eye pencil (giggle)
fleece hat
go girl (check it out)
kindle (borrowed)
large ziploc bags (to pack stuff in)
neck pouch with slash-proof cord
open mind (so open, it's at risk of falling out)
pepto bismal
quirky earrings that are bike chainrings with hearts in the middle
reading glasses (how embarrassing)
toilet paper
underwear, lots
v-neck tee-shirt from the MS bike ride this year
wet wipes
xylophone (just to see if you're still with me)
yellow jelly beans in a bag with those of every other color, too
zithro (azithromycin, yes, I cheated)

and, unfortunately, about a hundred and five more things that I get to squeeze into my big-old bikeless backpack.

so, it's back to packing for me.
now where did those silly tweezers go? oh, and my mascara . . . and the straightening iron . . .

Sunday, November 27, 2011

hilary clinton, or the village

hilary is credited with spreading this statement far and wide:
it takes a village to raise a child.

well, I've figured out that it takes a village to send me to a village.

I leave four days from now on a journey to a small village in the base of the himalayas in nepal. it's been quite a process to get me to this point, and there's even more to happen before I walk onto the first plane.
and this has become quite clear: I have a village surrounding me.
from friends who have contemplated which book to loan me, to my kids' dad who is moving in to my house while I'm gone to keep things steady, to my girls who are going to keep my business running, to the friends who are lending me supplies, I am buoyed up by soul after soul.
a sleeping pad, a duffle, some stuff sacks, a headlamp, a kindle, a camera, some sleeping pills, some medicated ointment . . . my daughter's nalgene bottle . . . a digital voice recorder . . . all things loaned to me.
a set of tibetan prayer flags, and bracelets engraved with a buddhist prayer, om mani padme hum, for my girls to wear and connect with me while I'm gone: gifts from one who will stay here and support me from afar.
two days of labor, a gift from my mother, given to help me prepare a significant order to ship before I leave.
commitments from other friends who have said they will help in any way needed while I'm gone, just give their number to my girls and their dad.
I can feel this palpable sense of love and support with me now, before I've even packed my backpack, and I know it will travel with me across time zones and continents.

my job, then, will be to remember the village that's enabled me to visit kathmandu and points beyond, and carry that love with me into the village I will inhabit next week.
what if each one of us could feel, always, that we had a village surrounding and supporting us?
what if each one of us knew, with certainty, that we ourselves were part of a village that surrounded and supported others?
my guess is that we would all be one step closer to understanding what love truly is.

once again, namaste.

Friday, November 25, 2011

nocturnal attack

sometime in the dark hours of last night I got hit.
it started when I realized it hurt to swallow.
then I discovered my head hurt.
next I sniffled.
and came completely awake, stunned.
I was getting a cold.
correction: I'd gotten a cold.
it had me; it was wrapped all over me.



I don't do sick very well.
and here's perhaps where I should turn some spiritual wisdom upon myself:
what you resist, persists.

okay, I have a cold, it's the pits, I'm disappointed, and I'll take my tylenol and pray it goes away soon.

sniff. groan.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011


it's the day before thanksgiving and it hit 61 degrees this afternoon, so guess who had to go ride her bike?
well, me, of course, and so many other people I couldn't believe it. the canyon was crowded with smiling cyclists, and the people I rode with were having so much fun they said, let's ride to the gate, see if it's locked.
yep, it's locked.
there was some remaining snow directly under the gate, but the road beyond stretched pale gray and dry as far as we could see.
so it became, how about we ride a little further, maybe to where the creek crosses under the road.
yep, let's go.
well, maybe to the Quaking Asp. sign.
sure, why not.
not half a mile past the gate little mounds of icy snow sat on the road, here and there. and then the clumps stretched further in each direction, small puddles of meltage sitting between them. more and more snow sat on the road the further we went, and my heart just thumped happily away.
as the dry, clear road gave way to greater and greater swaths of snow, we moved forward slowly, picking and choosing our way through the white and gray maze.
tire tracks provided spots for our skinny tires, at times two feet wide and well melted, at times much narrower. stretches of road were dry, and great expanses were wet with run-off. on every dry spot I could see skinny tire tracks from those who had traveled upward before us.

I love that I'm not the only one who finds great pleasure in riding up to the snow.
or perhaps I project my pleasure on all the other cyclists . . . but it's hard to believe that anyone could ride up that gated, car-free, snowy length of road and not experience joy.
I assigned great delight to every one of those tire tracks as I watched them connect one damp spot of road with the next.
and there was a lot of delight, happiness, pleasure, and even bliss occurring in that space today. impermanence lay deep within every skinny tire track, yet even deeper lay the gift of joy that bubbled forth from each cyclist, joining the spirit of those who traveled before and those who have yet to travel, enriching the universe that surrounds us all.

Monday, November 21, 2011

more music

since it's been raining/snowing/sleeting/blowing/freezing
I have indoor power camp classes every day anyway,
it's the season for contemplation and marination,
I have little inspiration bubbling up from within.
so it's back to music.

this morning I had the radio playing in my car, and I heard a song I hadn't heard in so many months I can't remember. I love this song: it captures what I believe, at times, is the essence of my life.
anyone who knows me well has probably heard me say I believe I'm from a different planet. that I somehow got sent here by mistake, and no one bothered to give me the rulebook.
so, yael naim wrote a song called New Soul, which was used in a macbook air laptop advertisement a few years back, that captures this concept beautifully. I'm sharing some of the lyrics with you here:

I'm a new soul
I came to this strange world
hoping I could learn a bit 'bout how to give and take.
but since I came here
felt the joy and the fear
finding myself making every possible mistake.
see I'm a young soul
in this very strange world
hoping I could learn a bit 'bout what is true and fake.
but why all this hate?
try to communicate
finding trust and love is not always easy to make
this is a happy end
cause you don't understand
everything you have done
why's everything so wrong
this is a happy end
come and give me your hand I'll take you far away . . .

I'm not alone, am I? obviously there are others here from distant planets as well.
maybe I'll meet you all on the road, biking, one day.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

some days

there are days when my theme is perfectly captured by the words of a popular song by Hot Chelle Rae (just had to research the origin of that name . . . comes from a stalking fan with a fake name):

I don't know if I'll make it,

but watch how good I'll fake it . . .

nuf said.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

prepare yourself

and skip this if you are one easily offended, disturbed, repulsed, disgusted, or if you are narrow-minded or misogynistic. (right, like anyone who is these things would admit to it. if you continue reading, it is by your own choice.)
it has little to do with cycling, unless you were to look back at the scandal caused by the women who first wore the split-skirted outfits that allowed them to ride a bicycle. if you were to look at that, then this would just flow right into it all.

my step-father recently sent me a copy of an article from the New Yorker about planned parenthood's history and present battle. it's lengthy. it shines a light on how very far we've come in understanding humanity. it showcases our progress, and our lack thereof. it highlights our fears, our lack of vision, our inability to see anything outside of what we choose to see.

and although I hold a position on abortion atop the fence, believing that it is at times necessary and always awful, what planned parenthood offers communities is much, much more. and there are times when a girl, a young woman, a female, needs a place to go for help.
so my conclusion is a simple one, and I phrase it in the form of a query:

what if we could remove all of the men from the discussion, the voting, the laws?

this removal is justified by the fact that not a single male could ever, ever, possibly comprehend what is involved. ever. no matter what they think or believe or feel.

perhaps then, and only then, could we come to fair and reasonable decisions that support life in all forms.

men, back off.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

power camp day two

my days of outdoor riding have been sharply curtailed by the 6-days a week power camp program that began yesterday. and yesterday, of course, was a beautiful, sunny, 57 degree fall day, when I should have been riding my bike.
instead, I spent an unfortunate hour on a spin bike and then 25 gloomy minutes in the weight room.
today, an hour and a half on the bike (yes, these seats are different than my real saddle and yes, I am in a state of transition and yes, I move around a lot because IT'S UNCOMFORTABLE) and then home, drenched with sweat and saddened by the entire process.

however, I'm sure it's good for me.
change is good.

and today's coach is new to our little community at the JCC, though an old friend of the power camp program. he was generous with tips and instruction, and darn it all, he made me work hard while I tried to emulate his impeccable standing form. transfer your weight from the down leg to the other at 5 o'clock, keeping your hips squared and centered. don't let your body weight shift, use your leg muscles.
oh my gosh.
I was dripping sweat, my legs were screaming at me, and the pitch black sky mocked me, real people throughout the world are still asleep right now . . .

my beautiful cycling fall is over.

change is good.

so they say.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

stay hungry, stay foolish

from the whole earth catalog via steve jobs via his 2005 stanford university commencement address via my stepfather, mike. whew:
stay hungry, stay foolish.

may I always remember to do this, no matter how much planning I do and protection I wear.
no, it doesn't mean don't overeat.
no, it doesn't mean don't educate yourself.
instead, it means don't let yourself be satisfied with median fare, and never let yourself believe that you know all there is to know about anything: be open to knew thoughts, knowledge, beliefs.

in the tarot card deck, the card assigned the value zero is called The Fool. often called the card of infinite possibilities, it is described by the learntarot.com website in this way:

the Fool is a newborn - fresh, open and spontaneous. The figure on Card 0 has his arms flung wide, and his head held high. He is ready to embrace whatever comes his way, but he is also oblivious to the cliff edge he is about to cross. The Fool is unaware of the hardships he will face as he ventures out to learn the lessons of the world.

if we were aware of the hardships, difficulties, pain and sorrow ahead of us, we might all be immobilized. the fool carries with him a small bag which contains everything he will need along the way, and the fool moves forward with an open heart, trusting in the universe to provide him the experiences he needs and his own spirit to guide him through what lies ahead.
when we are willing to approach life from a position of being foolish, we are giving up our barriers and supports, masks and facades, and instead living from a place of vulnerability. this is when we say, I don't know, I don't have the answers, I may need help, I might need to learn how to see things differently.
I will move this way, take this class, open myself up to whatever comes, follow my intuition, and eventually, it will all make sense.
I will admit I don't know, I will let others share their wisdom with me, I will learn to see through eyes not my own.

most of us strive to be competent, experts in our fields, learned. excellent goals, all. but we can at the same time retain the spirit of the fool, being willing to admit our ignorance, being willing to take a chance on the unknown. expand ourselves, fail, lose. step off a cliff. experiment. climb out of our rut, no matter how successful we are within it, and stub our toes on the rocky hillsides that surround it.

I realize that I am just one of countless humans talking, writing, and thinking about steve jobs and the impact he had on our world. I am simply passing along--with commentary--words and thoughts he put out into the universe years ago. but this is how we operate, this is how we process and learn and grow. I don't profess to offer much original thought: the world ran out of that long, long ago.
but like all good marketing students, I know that we learn through repetition. so each time we hear that we should stay hungry, stay foolish, it builds upon the previous times we heard that, and eventually it impacts our beliefs and behavior.
give it a chance.

stay hungry, stay foolish.

have faith.

the commencement address

Friday, November 11, 2011

corduroy, canyons, and setting the stage

first, happy corduroy day! hope you're celebrating in appropriate fashion.
I, myself, own not a single item made of corduroy, having gotten rid of the old and never quite been sold on the new.
and if you don't get it, think 11 11 11 and let your thoughts go crazy.

now on to my thoughts today.
they are about my whining the other day about city riding. yes, I whined. and when it got almost warm enough, I rode up the canyon to keep from going crazy with boredom.
yesterday was a little warmer, and today looks to be the same, so it's up, up again.

thank goodness.

I think better when I get to go up, and I think less when I get to go up, and the combination of the two is just a gift. the project I'm currently involved in exists vaguely and nebulously in my mind: I can see the finished product, it has a title and a feeling and a wholeness to it, but I don't yet know how all the little parts are going to come together. I don't even know what all the little parts are yet. and in those infamous words from my box manufacturer's production man, sometimes you can't know.
I can't know yet how it will all come together, it's not time. I must be patient, I must let things come to me and work their way through me, and finally appear on paper. I can open myself up to it, ask for it, spend time thinking about it, but the deepest and most beautiful creative work occurs below the surface of my mind, bubbling up only when it's ready.
and mindlessly riding my bike is often the setup that allows this bursting forth from the surface.
17 miles into my ride yesterday I was struck by a lightening bolt. a metaphorical one, of course. it wasn't a Huge Thing, it was just a small piece that was exactly what I needed for the section I was working on. every time these things happen, I just grin and shake my head. you can't force it,
you can't wave a magic wand and be filled with inspiration.
all you can do is set the stage and be open to what comes to visit.

my stage just happens to be a canyon: lucky me.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

you knew this

of course, I went up.

city riding

it feels like forever since I've ridden up a canyon, though it's been just 5 days.
I've been riding in the city because it's too darn cold to come down the canyons, and I am missing my uphill escapes.
I miss the quiet, the much reduced number of cars, the smells of trees and leaves and the occasional wood fire, the long continuous demand of the incline, the absence of stop lights, all of which allow me to escape to that meditative state I love.
city riding is full of stops and starts and vigilance, not too conducive to mental jaunts to distant shores.

however, as I'm currently in the process of trying to gear myself up for a ride a bit later, I thought I'd focus on the positive, and list a few excellent things about city riding. (I'm working hard, here, and I hope you appreciate how deep I've dug for some of these.)

  • the smell of freshly baked bread as I pass Great Harvest

  • the aroma of brewing coffee as I pass that strange hangout on 33rd and 20thmore street signs to read, offering words to sound out and play around with in my mind

  • more people watching

  • more opportunities--on residential streets--to ride dead smack in the middle of the road

  • none of those awful, swooping, really fast descents that freeze your fingers and cheeks and chin

  • more obstacles in the bike lanes and shoulders, allowing me to test my maneuvering skills

  • more opportunities to study architecture and personal taste

  • lots of opportunities to stop at rest at stoplight after stoplight after stoplight. m-hmm.

okay, that's it, I can't try any harder.
I miss my canyon, I crave the peace and calm of that routine, and the opportunity to numb my mind. decision time: will I go for numbing my entire body just to reap the reward of numbing my mind?
it's a tough call.
I'll let you know the decision.

Monday, November 7, 2011

me and the condor

in a 1990 interview steve jobs told the story of his reading an article about locomotive efficiency in animals. the research compared animals across the spectrum, eventually determining that the condor was the most efficient, using the fewest calories for the furthest travel. we humans fell far, far down toward the bottom of the list.
until you put that human on a bike.
then human efficiency surpasses even that of the condor.

jobs went on to describe a computer as a bicycle for the mind, extolling the computer's virtues, capabilities, and life-changing offerings.

I think of a bike that way: full of virtues, capabilities, and life-changing offerings. does it make me more efficient? apparently.
do I really care about that? not so much: I am lucky enough to have a car for those times I truly need to get somewhere.

steve jobs started the discussion with efficiency but we all know he was about much, much more. he was about style, gracefulness, creativity, experiences, opportunities, thinking the unthinkable, achieving the unimaginable.
I don't even know if steve jobs found pleasure riding a bicycle, but I like that he appreciated the efficient grace of a bicycle.
and if heaven is anything like my vision of it, steve jobs is up there right now, tooling around, swooping, discovering the pure pleasure of the perfect machine, riding his bike.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


some days I have to be the ant,
some days I'm swamped with simply being a mom,
and some days,
it snows.

riding has been great all week as I've fit in those hour or ninety minute rides.
but come this weekend, when I want to ride longer, what happens?
snow happens.

lyrics to that old byrds song (though I did just discover that pete seeger wrote and first recorded it) are strumming through my head, to everything, turn, turn, turn, there is a season, turn, turn, turn . . .

at the moment, looking out my window, I believe we have some seasonal confusion occurring. my majestic old trees are thick with leaves, many of them still green and only beginning to brown and curl at the edges. my maple has turned gold, but for some reason is reluctant to drop its decor. the others (lindens, maybe?) are rife with green, thick and heavy, drooping, now, under the weight of four inches of powdery snow.

to live in a place where the weather varied little would challenge me: as much as I love (love) to ride, my appreciation for it only grows when I am kept from it by seasonal disruptions. there is a time when fields should lie fallow.
these are difficult times to work through in life, frustrating times, times where emotions surge and our egoic mind tells us we are missing out/worthless/on the wrong path/confused.
stillness does not come easily to us, and none of us ever want to move in a direction that seems to be backwards from where we were.

but stillness is also a period of regrowth, of healing, of mending things we had no idea needed to be mended. just as our muscles strengthen during the rest cycle, and relationships strengthen after rupture and repair, our psyches themselves become stronger and richer when we allow ourselves to slow down, rest, and be still.
and simply be.

so, today I am enjoying the snow. I will putter around my house and dust when I want to, straighten as it calls to me, do laundry if I feel like it, and put pen to paper when so moved. I will not stress about my lack of exercise, and I will light candles in my rooms. I will breathe deeply and know that the snow has allowed my physical self and my internal self to have a break from routine and to relish the simply act of being.


(okay, but if the sun stays out and the roads dry up . . . hmm . . . )

Thursday, November 3, 2011

tennis, anyone?

stranded in a waiting room this afternoon without book, notebook, or pen, I turned to the magazines scattered on the endtable. Family Fun, Home Journal, Newsweek, Cruising World (really?), Ser Padres . . . nope, nope, nope, ah, Tennis. well, it was the best of a weak selection.
and what did I turn to but a column titled The Gift of Tennis. the author began by describing how happy he felt to pass by people jogging on treadmills---staring dead ahead, solemn, bored---and spinning maniacally on spin bikes---music pounding loudly while the instructor yells at them---and move on to the tennis court, the best place in the world to be.
I grinned.
we all find our favorite places, don't we?
and thank you, God, we don't all choose the same place, for then my bike lanes would be much too crowded.

every time I ride up emigration canyon I pass through a golf course and a set of tennis courts, the latter uncovered and open to the sun for five months, hidden under a huge white bubble the rest of the year.
I don't envy the golfers, but I do experience a twang of envy for those playing tennis. I do love tennis. and to be good at it would be a thrill. but it's hard to do by yourself, whenever you can fit it into your day, spontaneously.
some day I will play tennis again. the columnist pointed out its benefits: hand-eye coordination, strategic thinking, and---in his eyes, the best---the society surrounding the sport.
cycling does ask us to think strategically at times and to be coordinated (especially in pace lines), and to share ourselves with others . . . but, quite obviously, not to the same degree as tennis.
rushes are provided by both, fitness, joy, camaraderie.
and someday, perhaps, I'll add a smidgen of tennis back into my life.
but for now I'm happy to pass the bubble and inhale fresh, clean, crisp air, as the days draw me nearer and nearer to the stuffy, smelly, dreary spin room (which is thankfully blessed with a wall of windows that let me connect with the real world), where the music is loud and the instructors yell at us, and people walk by and think thank God I'm not in there but am heading to the tennis court, instead.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

my moose, joe

some people feel a strong connection to loved ones who have left this life. they dream about the loved one, they may feel messages coming through subconsciously, or they may sense their loved one's presence, either just surrounding them, or in some element of the natural world or some other living being.

I'm reading a book set in China during the cultural revolution of the mid twentieth century, in which a chicken wanders into a Chinese widow's home, immediately convincing the woman that it is really her husband, returning to her. she grooms the chicken, cares for it, engages in conversation with it, and is devastated when it disappears (and unbeknownst to her, gratefully, ends up in someone else's cooking pot).

my son jake died three months before his 19th birthday. on his birthday that year, a reasonably warm and wintry april 20th, I rode my bike up emigration, down to the reservoir, around the locked yellow gate and up toward big mountain as far as the road would allow. snow hunched deep and heavy in the shaded stretches as the elevation increased, and I was finally thwarted about halfway to the top. I paused and had a chat with his spirit, spread a few of his ashes, and created a new touchstone, a place of memory and meaning, by the side of the road and the spread of the hill.

on my way home from that ride I saw a moose, and immediately I thought of little joe, jake's twin.
I do not know why.
I sensed a message as well, one of comfort and confirmation, letting me know that it was okay to feel alone as I did, that those feelings were part of the natural rhythm of existence, and that they were truly nothing more than an illusion, anyway.

but now, when I see a moose anywhere within that area, I connect it with little joe and a message from what is most easily called the other side of the veil.
perhaps I make up these messages, or perhaps they are placed within my awareness only through a divine will.
I can't know.

yesterday, little joe visited again, strutting right in front of me, big and bold and fully in his young manhood. I had just left the top of emigration, heading down and toward home, when I rounded the second curve and saw a huge beast walking across the road. I braked 60 feet away, and the distance kept closing as he moved regally across the asphalt toward the hill on the right. at 30 feet he paused, and I decided I would be best off to simply stop, as he had to be a good 8 times bigger than me.

not a car around, not even another cyclist, it was just the two of us sharing this space.

I crept a little closer as he turned his head from side to side and then back to the hill in front of him and began his plodding, head thrusting climb up the hill. bushes bent for him, the ground held firm under his majestic hooves. his antlers were slender and spiky and rounded, and his entire body shouted power, ownership, possession. as he moved up the hillside I started to lose sight of him; he paused again near the top and I saw him through a screen of tall golden grass and shrub, then lost him over the ridge.

the grin didn't leave my face for ten miles, and still hasn't left my heart.
was it little joe? it doesn't matter. it's always little joe to me, and the message is always one of peace and certainty. of faith and patience. of being on the right track, of perseverance, of moving along, pausing, and moving along again.