Sunday, March 30, 2014


when I was gifted with it last spring, I named my new bike couer, the french word for heart.
this morning while I was riding in a wicked-lovely pre-storm wind, which fought me on the way out and pushed me all the way home, I kept thinking about that name.
I'm all about heart.  about love, compassion, connecting, empathy, deep heart-to-heart relating.
and it seems like life has given me both great opportunities for this and in-my-face walls preventing it.  and I think---I believe---it's my job to learn from both kinds of experiences.  it's my life journey to follow a path full of heart, and to learn to handle what happens when that's denied.

this morning I thought about my bike.  it's a beautiful bike, a fabulous bike, one that looks sleek and performs incredibly well and takes everything that's thrown at it: wind, dirt, grime, sleet, potholes, cracks and bumps and jarring changes in pavement surface.  it also receives caresses, cleaning, lubricants, and some good rub-downs.  but more often than not it gives a lot more than it receives.

sometimes this happens to real hearts, too.

the amazing thing is that we---like my bike, couer---carry on.  we give, we ache, we hurt, we revive, we become stronger, we love.  again.
however, it does---like a bike---take upkeep, attention.  cleaning, lube, a new chain now and again.  a new tire, a tune-up at the shop.
for the human heart, attention, cleansing, new education--awarenesses--instruction, time, space, tenderness.  

hearts are precious and vital.  and they will do their job for a long, long time if we take care of them.  ask a cardiologist:  the human heart, given proper attention, can last a century or so.  ask a therapist:  the human heart, given proper attention, can survive any experience thrown at it.

couer has given me a year's worth of rides so far.
my human couer has given me five decades worth of experience so far.....
and I plan to keep taking care of both of them, whatever comes our way.

Monday, March 24, 2014

woodpecker weekend

I'm reading a book about mountain biking.
well, mountain biking people.
mountain biking people who share their thoughts and discoveries as they ride--and sometimes don't ride--and explore the world around and within them.
Wild Rides and Wildflowers, a book penned by two men who formerly taught at BYU and formerly believed in the mormon religion, shares their botanical and philosophical observations, often humorously and never without that fascinating perspective that comes from being marinated in testosterone.
I love this book.
perhaps the most fun of all is that they keep falling off their bikes, endos and sideslips and full on tumbles, feet still clipped to pedals.
but it also makes me think even more deeply about all that surrounds me when I'm out on my bicycle.

I rode saturday and sunday, following the same route each day, up emigration canyon and down past the now ice-free reservoir, past the still-locked gate and up toward big mountain.
saturday I made it 2.5 miles past the gate.
sunday I made it 2.6 miles past the gate.
and both days I heard woodpeckers.

I rarely hear woodpeckers, and to me, each sighting is exciting.  woodpeckers are so clean cut, sharp-edged, spiffy.  they are hard-working, industrious, serious about the work they do.  no messing around, no lollygagging, no leisurely bikerides for them.

my publisher has woodpeckers at his house in torrey and swears they'll be the death of him.

but I was excited to hear them at work this weekend, high on telephone poles, bodies tense and relaxed simultaneously.
and it made me think of Wild Rides and Wildflowers, this book full of flowers and grasses, fox and deer, snakes and rocks and roots.  with a little philosophy thrown in, a bit of angst, the tiniest smidgen of humility and a bit of humus.  a few male jokes, a few tributes to women.  all written with a light but wisdom-soaked heart.

I don't think I'll ever really be a mountain biker.  it's seeming further and further from my path, as I like bumps less and less.  but to read about it and experience it vicariously is a gift.  and to read about it, with a little botany lesson here and there, a few ah-ha's, and a dose of well-weathered testosterone, is a deeply satisfying way to spend a chilly evening indoors wrapped in a blanket on a soft couch.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

landscape lessons

for the book I'm soon handing over to my publisher (I still love the sound of that!) I'm having to answer oodles of questions that will help their marketing team determine the book's marketing plan.
one of the questions is this, how has landscape shaped you?

I could take that literally and say that climbing up all the mountains I do has put more bulk in my quads and less on my upper body...  but I don't think that's what they mean.

I realized that my answers have a lot to do with cycling, and that they have a lot to do with life in general.  which is, in reality, why I call this blog the tao of cycling.  the way, the path, the tao, of cycling....  which has very much to do with the way, the path, the tao of being.

these are what I listed as my answer, and if you read through them slowly and with thought, I hope it strikes you that you've had similar thoughts, feelings, and experiences.  because we're really all very much alike, as different as each one of us is.

landscape has taught me
to honor who and what I am.
to always breathe.
to remain rooted even when I'm soaring and flying.
to do what it is I'm meant to do.
that when I stop and listen the world around me grows deeper and richer and full of song.
that seasons are inevitable and restorative.
that a circle of mountains, no matter how far away, as long as they're in sight, can hug.
that the sound of even an unseen creek heals.
that peaks and summits are places to pause and celebrate.
that every mountain began as disruption.
to accept the purposefulness of all that naturally occurs.
to work hard and then soar.
to be patient.
to let loose and howl.

honor the deepest you, the one who knows you best and will gently guide you when you pause to truly listen.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

the zen zipper

chop wood carry water was one of the first "zen for everyday life" books I owned, a book I purchased over 20 years ago.
its message that I love is this:
     before enlightenment, you chop wood and carry water.
     after enlightenment, you chop wood and carry water.
your external life continues---it's your internal life that's radically changed.

many of my internal processes are related to zen-like or yoga-like thoughts, most of which are rooted in a sense of flow.
of moving with what is, of not resisting.
of accepting and moving through challenges without attaching to the difficulty or the potential outcomes.
of breathing in, and breathing out.
over and over again, reminding yourself to breathe every time you need to do so.


I own a black zip-front jacket that I wear to spin class.  I shed it before I begin sweating, tossing it on my bag behind the spin bike.  then I put it back on after I've cooled down and toweled off after class.  I've only had it a year or so.
a few weeks back, however, the zipper started balking.   you know, when it acts like it isn't going to work, and then, magically, it does.
after a week or two of "will I--won't I" zippering, with its magical resolutions, I finally detected a pattern:
the more thought I put into the process (is it going to work this time or not), and the more tension I applied to the zipper pull, the less likely it was to work.
the more relaxed I was, the less I thought about it or tugged on it, the more likely it was to happily zip its little way up.

it's my zen zipper.
it reminds me to relax, not to stress.  that the more I worry and push and tug, the more resistance I'm going to meet and the less likely I am to be able to close my jacket.
I kid you not.

I still think about chopping wood, carrying water.  I do laundry, walk the dog, clean, shop, tidy up.  I work, I write, I take my kids to appointments and nurture, listen, and love.  I sometimes cook.  it's all chopping and carrying.
and my zen zipper keeps me steady.  it reminds me to breathe, to relax, to trust.  it reminds me that I'm not always in charge, that things flow better when I don't try so hard, when I don't stress and push.

it makes me smile.
and every time it doesn't want to zip up, it reminds me not to argue with my life.
so I relax, I give it up, and up that little zipper zips.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

wisdom of the wolf

there's an ad campaign using billboards around town focused on character, integrity, commitment, determination.  all those qualities we know to be desirable, admirable.  the ads feature people such as lincoln, churchill, edison, einstein.  the ads have few words, all about character.
one of those billboards challenges me.
the photograph is of winston churchill, and the words are this:  never, never, never give up.
while I'm completely in agreement with this, it's also terrible advice.
sometimes the best thing to do is to give up.

one of the lines in my book about wolves speaks to their nature:
a wolf won't give up until the only thing to do is give up.
this is the best way to prove your mettle, demonstrate character;  this is a better way to be tenacious.

tenacity is the ability to hold on, remain committed, follow through on an idea, a promise, a task or assignment.  it's the trait we access when we ride our bike up a big hill, or on a century ride, or on a trainer through a difficult workout.  it's what churchill was speaking of.  never give up, make it, complete your task, don't be swayed by enticements, naysayers, distractions that might pull you from your path.
but at some point, your inner wisdom might send you messages that it's possible your best option is to fold in the towel.
sometimes the only thing to do is give up.

when? you ask.  I've been taught to follow through, to not give up.
the answer:  when the "giving up" is on a specific task, not the dream.

  • sometimes the tasks we assign ourselves are ill advised, but we don't figure that out until we're well into them.
  • sometimes our tasks take the focus away from the dream, which we don't realize until later.
  • sometimes a task drains us so completely that we lose sight of our dream.
  • sometimes our task is a step toward our dream, but seductive, waylaying us.
  • sometimes we accept tasks that others think we should do, but they don't further our own progress toward our dream.

sometimes it's okay to give up.
what's important is that we understand why we began, what we're doing, and how it is affecting us . . . and how it is helping or hindering us along the way.  all things that take awareness, insight, thoughtfulness to determine.

when a wolf begins hunting an elk, he is whole-heartedly committed.  when he starts getting kicked in the head, in the ribs, he has to reassess.  if he can't get his jaws on the haunches, on the neck, and keeps getting kicked, he might reconsider his decision.  when the elk is inflicting more pain than the wolf, it's probably time for that wolf to give up.  most will.  and those that don't, usually die.

so, take churchill's words to heart.  never give up on your dreams, your principles, your character, those things that drive you, shape you, fuel you, make you who you are.
but remember that sometimes--when it's necessary for you--it's better to give up.
when the only thing to do is to give up, give up.