|Palms whipping in thunderstorm winds, 105°F, and this sky: August in Phoenix|
I meant it when I told her that it's been so long since I've commuted by car (four years) that I can't imagine being trapped behind a glass barrier, confined in a narrow space, isolated from the outside, and cut off from the clouds and sky. I started to say it in fun, in response to being asked how I could ride on a bike in the heat, but by the time I finished, I felt honest revulsion at the thought: the anger of drivers to each other, the traffic jams, dodging aggressive morons on the freeway, being tailgated, worrying about my precious expensive metal self-image maker getting smacked by some careless driver moving at 80+mph. No, not only do I not miss it, but it's becoming a sincere desire to never resume it. My hour a day flowing in sunshine on my bicycle has changed me.
|It's something to do with the hot, fast winds tearing the clouds to shreds in August|
You have to be hyper-aware, omnidirectional, to ride in traffic. And I like it. A large SUV dives into the traffic circle a half-beat before I do, and I am timed perfectly to flow in behind her. I wonder if the driver is concerned that I've come in right behind her, but I'm counting on her indifference, valuing it highly, since it means we all get through by doing what we're supposed to and moving on.
I frogger across the busy roads and count on the drivers to be paying more attention to the other frog-squashers moving at high speed around them, because as long as they keep doing that while texting and talking on their mobiles I'm good, moving in behind them, dodging across. I see and hear them. I am close enough to feel the heat reflecting off their sheet metal. There is a kind of infrared sonar interference effect when they pass by me, since they change the feel of the summer heat radiating off the asphalt, the shimmering waves around me bend and pulse when a two ton hydrocarbon burner blobs past. The wind and soundfield and shadow-dance all change at once to mark their passing. I am there. I sense it coming, I wait for it to confirm, then look and move.
The August winds tear the clouds to shreds. The sound of the palm fronds whipping in the wind forty feet up is what I imagine the clouds sound like getting torn up from fluffy cotton thunderheads into shards which fill the sky.
|Insert tree for perfect view|
I'm thinking as I roll up to the four-way stop that the fast-moving car with the loud exhaust on the left is coming in fast. I am way ahead of him, so after I come to a complete stop, I go across. I'm about 98% of the way across when out of my peripheral vision I can see he's going to blow the stop and turn left, to exactly where I am. And the following thought sequence meanders through my brain: that dickhead sees me and is going to blow through the stop and turn left to exactly where I am anyway, loud exhaust, and I am totally conscious of where he is and what he's going to do. I could time it right so that just as he passes, I wobble out a little, to let him know that he's an idiot and I am fully aware of what he's doing and don't care, am not intimidated, and could mark the side of his precious metal box self-image maker if I wanted to. And I hear his tires biting the newly poured asphalt as he pulls through the turn, exactly as I anticipated. Where he positioned, I think I that I could even wobble slightly in front of Mr Fast and Furious and get away with it, there's enough space and time for him to react in order to prevent damage to his carefully bondoed racing machine with the exhaust tip and to avoid even higher insurance rates than he already doubtless faces.
But that ain't me. That's not my game plan. I breathe deep and gaze up at the torn up clouds. I've got my hour in the sun on my bike each day to maintain that equanimity that I desire, the peace-flow necessary to foster the happy dreams of the fish roundup. The balance I desire does not allow wobbling in front of morons to make a point about running stop signs. I move six inches to the right to help him observe the three foot law, and we both went on our ways in benign indifference to one another. When he was gone and the street was silent, I stopped beneath the tree in the last picture to take just a moment to enjoy the ability, the opportunity, the good fortune, of having the chance to consider whether or not one can really identify the precise time of the year, perhaps even the specific part of the specific month, by gauging the temperature, listening to the wind rip through the leaves of a tree, and studying the state of the clouds, and I think, maybe. Maybe.
I'm not sure about that, though. I am certain, however, that by not letting the stop sign running guy change me, by not budging from my flowing line, by caring more about the earth's lines of magnetic force and the wavering of the Van Allen belts, and of course about the ripped-up distinctive August sky, than about someone running a stop sign near me on my bicycle, everything keeps spinning right. I keep him in my consciousness from the moment I sense him rushing the stop from the left, as he passes me, and as he continues on his journey, accommodate and blend with him, but wobble not a bit. I shall not wobble. That's the August Sky Rule.