|In Phoenix, we ride|
The warmth of a blanket and a good book are nice, but it's the kiss of the sun and the embrace of the wide open blue sky that make my heart sing. I'm riding, the cobwebs clear out, I feel a lightness behind my eyes and a smooth confident flow in my chest. It's a brilliant warm February afternoon, and time to head to some mountain trails.
|Yes, up, over, around there, trail 100, North Mountain, Shaw Butte, all around, go|
Someone asked me a question about a particular, slightly out of the way bike route this week. I knew it, knew it well, and while telling her about that part of the city, felt something click, something resonate in me, a confirmation of neighborhood proprioception,
" this sense of deeply knowing the place where you live and bike (or run, or walk, or lay in the grass watching the clouds go by). It's a connectedness to your surroundings, the places and sensations, the people, climate, geography, wildlife, architecture, changing of the seasons, the whole picture. It's the feeling of knowing which plants or trees will have berries or fruit you can grab on the way home, what time of the year, to stuff your face with. I think you have to feel the fog on your face, and have some of the local gravel ground into your knees, to really know the place."
|This is my city, and I don't need a map or a GPS|
These hills, these streets, this gravel, these desert plants that brush my skin as I ride past, I know them, they know me, and we swell with clarity and being in the presence of each other. I pause to rub a handful of their leaves between my palms, the creosote, the mesquite, the sage, each different, each spearing deep into my memory with molecules of being: here I was on a summer day ten years ago, here we were twelve years ago in a monsoon storm with thunder and the darkest clouds I've ever seen, here we were I don't remember when with two beautiful tourists who needed some water and I gave them all I had because I knew where to get more, and they looked like they would have to be wheeled out in a fire department wheel cart if I didn't help them out.
I breathe in deep the perfume of the crushed leaves between my palms, and closing my eyes see myself in this place ten years from now on a blazing hot summer day, and I smile and touch my finger tips to the mesquite bush, brushing against it to leave a bit of myself behind for the coyotes to think about tonight when they run through here yipping their fool heads off. Send ahead ten years in time some knowing of myself now, then, a scrap of heart* and being to greet and welcome myself to here-and-then when I pass this way again.
|Down the road, around the corner, this art is my city too, water jet cut steel art|
I bailed off the mountain trail near the visitor center, and everyone I saw appeared perfect to me, like old friends out for a hike on the greatest day in history to this point. Up and over the mountain with the traffic on 7th Street, then down the hill on the other side, good thing I put the skinny slicks on the mountain bike, we went fast fast down the other side. Coming to the canal, I looked for my old friend "HI-BROW" at lift station #53. The fences are down and the lights to illuminate it in darkness are up. One summer night a few months from now, to escape the full heat of the day, I will ride along this canal at 8 or 9 at night, and stop here to see the thing lit up in its nighttime configuration, and it too shall join my oneness with this place. I am it, and it is me.
As I pulled in to the driveway, breathless and tired, but never happier I thought, my daughter met me, reminded me of our new tradition of family bike rides, and asked where we are going next. "Where would you like to go?" I asked her, knowing we could ride anywhere in this city, full of knowing and being in it. "I want to see some horses, do you know where some are?" she asked me. Of course I do, several in fact, we can go and see them all if you like. We will, I think, I really do.
Later, though, after a long, hot shower and dinner, there still could be time for the blanket and book. I know where they are, and I have a place I know for that, too.
*sending ahead a scrap of heart to myself, that I owe to Frederick Buechner