Wednesday, July 30, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


ruth's diner---established 1930---sits 2 miles up emigration canyon, in what used to be an old trolley car which over time has been remodeled into much more and somewhat less.  it has a large patio in the back dotted with space heaters for days that begin and end in goose bump temperatures, shaded by a dozen trees, and focused, on just the right evenings, on a small three-sided building where musicians perch on stools and strum guitars and sing into perfectly calibrated microphones, clear and of a level that slips smoothly under conversation yet above dish clatter and birdsong.
in the morning they serve biscuits with raspberry jam:  I could live on these alone.
over the years the recipe has changed and although I would choose those from 10 years ago over what they are today, I am still inordinately pleased by the crumbling pale flesh streaked with bright red jam thick with tiny seeds.
the coffee is coffee.
most menu items are unspectacular but highly edible and two giant leaps above true diner food.  my favorite salad was removed from the menu half a dozen years ago and I pine for it every time I visit, then settle for something else because it doesn't matter too terribly much what it is I eat.

ruth's is 4 gently uphill miles from my house.
which is also 4 miles from home at the end of many of my rides.
I think, often, of stopping at ruth's on my way home to celebrate the early morning, the conclusion of a long ride, or simply the fact that I'm alive.
we've even discussed group rides that pause at ruth's on the way home, for sustenance or spirits and a more relaxed version of our camaraderie.
it's never happened.

I've planned, a time or two, an early morning ride to the top of big mountain---14 miles beyond ruth's---that would put me back down at ruth's shortly after they open at 7 am.... where I would stop for coffee, a biscuit and jam, and ambiance.
I haven't done it.

great big metal bicycle structures stand on the side of the building, a place to leave your real bicycle, and at the hostess station they'll lend you a bike lock if you leave them your credit card.

it's doable.

but I always want to get home.  strip off my sweaty cycling gear and pull on something comfy, make a cup of coffee and curl up on my couch to read or watch the world outside my windows continue to waken and come to life.  home seems to pull me more than ruth's does.

but someday.
someday I will make the plan, firmly, and stick to it.  I'll remember to bring a credit card, I'll remember an extra layer to pull on so I'm not cold.  I'll plan to embrace the new experience instead of missing my own couch and dry clothes.  I'll look around, observe and absorb, and make up stories about everyone I see.  I'll meet the servers whose cars I cycle past time and again.  I'll drink coffee from a fat white mug and I'll eat a biscuit, slowly, with fresh raspberry jam.

ruth's is a reality, and a fantasy.  the sturdy building and solid patio host hundreds of people daily, and its aura hosts me every time I pedal past.  up, then down.  a friend, a constant, and someday, a place I'll visit 4 miles before I finish my ride.

Monday, July 14, 2014

the goodie tin

so I've been cleaning out my biking goodie tin.
you know, the container that collects all the treats you buy in anticipation of future rides or receive in pre-race bags, and everything left in your pockets at the end of those rides.

my goodie tin included:
  • a honey stinger waffle, expiration date 08/2012
  • a honey stinger waffle, expiration date 10/2012
  • a honey stinger waffle, expiration date 04/2014
  • 4 packs of cliff shot bloks: tropical punch, strawberry, citrus, black cherry
  • 11 assorted Gu's,  citrus, vanilla, lemon sublime, raspberry, montana huckleberry, razz, chocolate outrage, and the only one I really like:  double expresso.  
  • a baby ruth candy bar, best by 06/2011 ( just kidding, I can't find a date.  it's been in there forever.)
  • a snickers bar almost as old as the baby ruth.

and by "cleaning out" the tin, I mean using items on my rides.

the old honey stinger waffles went first.  mm.  they get hard after a year or two.
the april 2014 waffle was excellent:  soft, yummy.

then the strawberry shot bloks:  strawberry is my least favorite flavor.  shot bloks are these chewy half-inch cubes packed with electrolytes and some calories.  think "dots" candy but softer.
they come 6 to a pack, and I worked my way through the other flavors, ending with the tropical punch, a flavor I like even less than strawberry ~ it comes in blue packaging, which is why I saved it for last, thinking it was something yummy like blue raspberry.  my bad.

I've had two Gu's.....  and will eventually force myself to have some vanillas and chocolate outrage (best by 11/12).  expiration dates here range from 09/12 to 11/14.

what's still in the tin:

  • honey stinger fruit smoothie energy chews (2/14)
  • two packs of 100% all natural new zealand whey protein powder, chocolate, exp. 4/15.  
  • a pack of strawberry "heed" sports drink powder, exp. 4/14.  I will never use this.
  • a pack of lifesavers.  don't know why this is in here.
  • a pink lemonade "zip fizz" energy drink powder in a cute mini tube.  3/12.
  • a pack of "endurolytes" electrolyte replenishment capsules.  made with natural ingredients!
  • 4 packs of electrolyte stamina "power pak" powder:  2 acai berry, 2 raspberry

oh, and one packet of "bioZzz instant alpha-lactalbumin supplement," which I think is to help you go to sleep the night before a race.


by the time I work through all this stuff, my body will probably hate me.
2012? it will say.  what are you thinking?  throw it out!
2013? well, maybe.
2014?  getting closer.

the only 2015 item is something I can't imagine ever using: chocolate protein powder from new zealand.    geez.

well, after all this writing and detective work (finding those expiration dates is not an easy thing to do, as buried and as undecipherable as some are), I'm worn out and need something to pep me back up.
I could go for a low-cal energy drink powder in a tall glass of water . . .
or I could check out the snickers.

chocolate wins.
see you on the road!  I'll be the one pulled off to the side, probably vomiting.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

the coyote in my canyon

approaching the final curve before the hill’s crest, the sun is moments from advancing the sky from dawn to day.  particles of the night’s darkness hang in the air and everything—rocky hillsides, trees, the road itself—blurs gently around surfaces and edges and my headlight throws a fat cone of weak light that illumes naught but hovering molecules of night.

nothing is sharply defined, and all is tinted by the watery mutedness and appears mottled green or one of sixteen shades of earth.

when a dust brown creature suddenly appears at the far reach of my vision it shifts from apparition to solidity slowly, my revolving wheels lessening the gap between us and changing fuzz to fur, brown, mottled, four legs, a slender torso, a long and narrow tail.

it is my coyote.  he has crossed the road south to north and disappeared into the tall grass and scrub edging the asphalt.  I watch the spot with intensity, wondering if he will wait and watch me pass as he often does.  the steep grade retards my approach and I am still half a dozen yards away when a howl shatters the air.  bark, bark, howl.  I see him now, he sits in the sage and cheatgrass, his back to me, and howls.  another bark, and a long howl sent out over the valley opening below him.  the sound dancing on those lingering particles of dawn, dropping on trees and shrubs, falling on leaves, tickling the ears and minds of squirrels and rabbits. 

parallel to him, now uphill of him, he howls again, ignoring me, or perhaps serenading me with nonchalant neglect.  I pedal, he howls, I reach the top of the climb after his vocalizations have ceased, their reverberations no longer trembling blades of grass. the air is still, and the sun, lifting itself over the furthest eastern mountain, has removed the last vestiges of dawn and what had been soft is now sharp, what was unclear is now illuminated.

this morning’s sighting is my seventh, and each has brought me as much delight as the one before.  it’s an unspoken hope each time I ride, let the coyote cross my path today.  he is curious and, other than the single concert, silent.  for a canine he is surprisingly cat-like, his paws like fog.  he has dashed across the road behind my descending wheels, he has hovered on the side of the road.  he has feinted toward me like a pugilist, then apparently thought better of it and retreated to the shoulder to watch me pass.  I’ve been studiously ignored; I’ve been studied as though I’m the first human he’s encountered.  he brings what’s untamed, wild, to my border and dares to cross into my land.

great horned owls hunt in my canyon as the sky releases its deepest ink and the world becomes one of silhouette, their wings spread wide in flight, to scan, to attack.  I look to treetops, utility poles, seeking that familiar elliptical shape focused on examination of the shrubs and ground below.  details cloaked, it is shape, silhouette, everything dark against a sky of baltic blue.  porcupines amble and deer startle, bounding up hillsides of scrub oak and balsamroot.  a stretch of road is silent, then the cacophony of bird song reigns for the next mile.  raccoon eyes shimmer between scrubby brush, a rabbit turns tail and runs.  but not a creature is anything like my coyote.

perhaps it is the teeth, its predatory nature, the fact that it is only size that keeps me from being at risk.  or perhaps it’s that he is only evolutionary steps away from being a household pet.  that my mind and heart think dog when he trots across the road or seems to consider interaction.
or maybe it’s the howl.  a howl that send shivers up spines, that declares desires and needs, that energizes air and speaks to all within earshot.

the canyon is not mine, nor the coyote. but at the edge of dawn and day when all is dirt brown and muddy green, I am transported to a world of deepest truth and being by four-legged creatures that leap and amble, bound and jump and trot, and, when all my stars align, occasionally and resonantly, howl.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

at odds

I have this thing about honoring commitments.  doing what you say you're going to do.  integrity.
so when I fail to keep my word, I am at odds with myself.

I'm at odds with myself.

which means out of sorts, in conflict, not in integrity.

the reason I'm there is because I've committed to posting here regularly, and I haven't been.  I'm in one of those phases that most writers eventually move into (and hopefully through) where writing isn't coming easily.  the phrase I'll never write again dances through my mind, dipping and twirling and taunting; flirting.

in the past few weeks I've ridden a 140-mile fundraising ride for cancer research, a self-made century following a route I've wanted to ride for years, and multiple terrific, awesome, beautiful, challenging, and difficult rides.  I've seen owls in flight, listened to crickets and grasshoppers, stared a deer in the eye, and had a coyote howl and bark and yip as it sat fifteen feet away from me.
I've sweated and glowed, ached and revived.  I've laughed, smiled, and sang as I pedaled.  I've sworn.

but I haven't been able to come home and write about it.

so I'm apologizing for not keeping my commitment, because it doesn't sit well with me.

july 19, 2008, I began writing here and committed to posting daily.  eventually I pulled back a bit, and committed to posting only on odd days.  then I wanted more freedom, and agreed with myself to post weekly, or more often if spirit moved me.
and now, almost 6 years into this blog, I am again negotiating with myself for an agreement that allows me to be in integrity . . .
so I will post when I do.
no more, no less, no conflict, no being at odds with myself.

I'm making peace with myself, and hoping that when the world ~ spirit, nature, what is ~ moves me, I will find a way to share it here that will make it worthwhile for both you and me.