Thursday, October 31, 2013

Four-legged traffic

Seen on commute: I wondered how they would cross the street. Same as I do, I guess.

Horses, as it turns out, are another way to just take your time and converse as you go

I see a few horses around Phoenix and Scottsdale, but they are uncommon enough that when I see them along the canal, they catch my attention. These were just beautiful: muscled, graceful, taking their time, enjoying the morning. Warm flesh that ripples. Often gentle ways. Power. Endurance. Spirit. Hoof rhythm. Commute rate slightly lower than bicycles. Magnificent transport.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

BW Lockup: 3200 Experiments

Available light: dramatic, noisy, muddy

Even a little light from a headlight is too much

Same shot, available light

A little wider

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Man(hole)ifest Destiny: Printmakers Local 271 Belle Tower

Print from "Printmakers Local 271" by Jake Early

Nothing breaks the wilderness experience like walking through a supposedly wild place, then coming upon a manhole cover with something like "US ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS" on it, proclaiming the control of nature, even there.

Before you despair that I have once again made one of my offbeat leaps by connecting these lovely silkscreen prints of birds and cactus with manhole covers during one of my bicycle ride endorphin-fueled reveries, allow me to quote from the explanatory notes from the installation before I continue: "For this installation, Early created seven original silkscreen prints that merge manhole cover design and desert bird imagery to create bold, graphic patterned wallpaper and lighting shades, which encompass the Bell Tower and beyond. Using over 700 prints, the combinations create a dramatic and modern presentation, powerful from a distance but full of intimate detail as you approach more closely. Each of the desert birds represented in the prints chirp in the background creating a subtle ambience of sound. Pride of place is a continual thread in his work..."

I read that before I rode over to see the art, so I was naturally thinking of manhole covers. What resulted from this extended bike ride meditation on those round steel items of storm drain utility follows. This of course may have little or nothing to do with the actual intention of the artist, but it is where my mind went when it encountered these lovely prints.

When settlers arrive in a place to set up shop, there must be an extended period of time when their existence in that strange, new place feels tenuous, temporary, contingent. They may not succeed there. The crops may fail. Their ventures may go bankrupt. Disease, famine, war, competition, bad luck, drought, monster haboobs, politics, jealousy, revenge, pirates, black magic, smashing asteroids exploding overhead (great, just what we need), any or all of these might undo their grandiose plans, and send their constructions and dreams back to forest, sand, and water which they tried to displace. But once the manhole covers go in, I think a certain level of stability and prosperity must have been achieved, which portends an extended existence for the settlement. When the sewers and storm drains go in, you know you're going to be on the map for at least a while, I guess.

Given that, it's possible sometimes to read history in manhole covers. For example:

See what I mean? Giddyup!

Or, to continue the theme, check out this one I photographed in Tianjin, China:

"Concession Francaise de Tientsin", volumes of history in a steel disk. Near a former synagogue, too.

So, while I initially didn't understand, it made sense the more I thought about it. Then it made even more sense (and was also a flash of recognition) when I did a search for "Vaṣai S-vaṣonĭ" to find out what it meant.

Belle Art in the Bell Tower, Scottsdale, w/chirping bird manhole silkscreen print lampshade

The Autumn, 2013 issue of Granta (#125), "After the War," has a piece called "Stalkers" by Hari Kunzru in which tourists visit the exclusion zone around Chernobyl, which is notable in several ways, one of which is that nature—forest, animals of all sorts from moles to large carnivores, birds, plants, and insects—seems to thrive in this area made inimical for centuries to man by man. I imagine the busloads of residents leaving everything behind as they evacuated the city of Pripyat, banging over manhole covers on their rush from the radioactivity falling around them, with the wolves and bears peering from the forest, just waiting for them to go.

As they replace the crumbling enormous sarcophagus that currently barely contains the exploded molten ruins of reactor four, including the lava-like fuel-containing material (FCM), with the project called the NSC (New Safe Confinement), the largest moveable structure ever made, we the human race might do well to remind ourselves that the manhole covers on and around it do not portend our extended existence within that place, but rather the exact opposite, which began with the hasty retreat of tens of thousands from that place due to the disaster we made there, by adorning them with the figures that now dominate that landscape: the wolf, the bear, the mole, the glowing mushroom.

But, I doubt that the artist had Pripyat and Chernobyl, or even Ajo and our Palo Verde Nuclear Station in mind (although, with a name like that...). No, those colors, patterns, and bold designs proclaim, look, we made it, we're here, and we know of and embrace those things and creatures which make this place distinct from other places. The flora, the fauna, the history, on manholes we so enscribe. Perhaps something like this:

POW escape tunnel marker by Laurie Lundquist manhole cover that I also passed on this ride today

Although I have a bold imagination. Covering a reactor containment building with brightly colored, bold silkscreen prints of roadrunners, quail, gila woodpeckers, and other local creatures could be the smart thing to do. All things considered.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Yet I Hunger

Honestly this is what the sunset looked like tonight in Phoenix during my bike commute

I didn't run, and I didn't see, but in between the sun and me, I caught myself accounting for this particular day, held it up, turned it round, remembered that I never imagined what I found. What passes for normal amazes me if I think it over. What casual technology and connections were at my beck and call feel like science fiction to remembered me. I'm surrounded, enwrapped, supported, and enfolded, yet still I hunger. To ride downtown and be among a merry band of cyclists. Tonight's sunset crushed me, then poofed me away like a handful of dandelion pappus.

Warm winds bore aloft my feathery fragments through the neighborhood, dispersed and scattered, and what remained of me was hunger-fibers (dry, white and gray) illuminated by these crimson rays of setting sun. 

This message I send back to remembered me, who as I recall wondered if this would be so, at this point in life: it is so. I am not sated. Instead look up, and see me, that fluffy, floating, seeking wisp, rising against the incandescent clouds. These seeds won't be held, they warp out of this space, growling in their hungry, tiny voices, you promised we would grow.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Human Machine Light and Motion

I ride over for this, break my line on my commute home. Deviate. Swerve from shade into sun. 

Change rhythm, alter the route, make an unplanned quick turn. Off the path. Up the sidewalk. Over the median. Frogger between traffic. 

I am motion, and motion is me, this mechanical man machine with two wheels covering ground. The mind of the machine is captivated by a flash of sunshine, and the machine-man changes course in an instant, merely to see.

They had it right, the artists and athletes who have seen this blending of steel and flesh and movement, and found in the combination something greater than the sum of its parts. This fleeting phenomenon of sunset through fish art prolonged by a machine that lets me be where I want to, when I need to, over there at that point at that time when this happens, and to be aware that it's going to happen, and to be connected with it all with mind machine light art motion time and place fitting with almost no effort to this end of my wanting.

I'm pointing to a coordinate in space-time when sunlight bursts through steel scales, blazing an ichthyphotonic scalene triangle of me-machine, art, and light. We form a scale for weighing light which was emitted from a nuclear fusion reaction 8 minutes and 19 seconds earlier, by one way of reckoning, or instantly, by another. I am heartened. I become lightened. I ride home, a human light machine, in motion man.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Yes I'm That Happy Cycling

The simple object of my sudden bliss

Every night on my ride home I pass this construction barrier in the canal with only the light showing above the water. It is surely a trivial and insignificant thing, of no great importance or significance to anyone, but it's something different in my visual field, yet a constant, and the way that it catches different flotsam and holds it against the current does cause me momentary pause just to see what it may have caught and held on any particular day.

On top of that, I kept wondering what it would look like if the light hit it just right. This is a factor of timing, position, and motion on my bike, as well as a matter of the sun changing position in the sky as the earth continues on its transit around the sun, and the seasons change. I kept thinking, if it all came together in one particular moment, there would be a flash of amber, a glint of sunlight on the water, a flash of brightness to catch the eye and freeze the mind. Thursday that happened as I passed it.

This transient phenomenon grabbed me

I grabbed the brakes and skidded a little fishtail around to go back and look. It was dead quiet except for the quiet flowing of the water. I can't explain why it made me so intensely happy or how it made me feel incredibly full of that moment, but it did. Possibly, it was some unconscious thing that had been working inside me for weeks, finally getting itself out triggered by sunlight on water flashing through an amber lens. Can't really explain it. But this happened.

I rode on from their with a big fat silly smile on my face. Laughing at the meaningless intensity and immensity I felt at so small a thing. As I rode back into traffic, a few drivers who were sitting stuck at the light looked at my face lit up by the setting sun, and I could read on their faces a reaction to my expression: can you possibly be that happy riding your bike home from work on a Thursday evening? Why yes, yes I'm that happy cycling. Why don't you give it a try, too, Thursday evening commuting drivers, and perhaps an ineffable moment of inexplicable bliss triggered by a small thing could be yours, too.

This juxtaposition keeps catching my eye, too. I think Something is going to happen here next, soon.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Desires Down the Drain

Desire lines become drain lines

Today it looks more like a drain, a catcher of runoff, than a desire line path formalization project. Could it be a drain and a path? Multi-mode, to catch runners, cyclists, and running water, and channel us (and our desires) appropriately? At the far end in the photo is a storm grate, so it will, at the very least, catch and drain water when it runs through here. A most impressive army of constructors, riding in a convoy of city trucks, descended on the trench in the morning, and formed this in a day. Think what they might accomplish in a week.


Monday, October 14, 2013

The Path of Concrete Desires

Path perception, a desire for direction, point to point by the shortest line thru the lay of the land

Year after year I cut through here. At the end of the day, in the back half of commute, rain or shine, hop up over the curb and follow my desires along the most attractive line. My desire line, no secret, but expressed boldly and habitually, brashly riding across the grass before drivers confined to the pavement who steel glances at my fast shortcut through the triangle park. Now the line is turning to concrete, and I will take it. Or perhaps gravel, or eco-blocks, that would be cool, for I do not desire the sharp acute angle turn onto the busy road which is part of the go-right-then-left route. I desire to go straight, here, and perhaps to frogger across 44th when necessary. Or (gasp!) a HAWK signal could go here, we'll see where desire leads next. 

In space, in public, the rolling of my tires through grass has marked the following of my desires, and now they're taking the next step. Next to the oleanders, which within this same calendar year, were hacked and burned to stumps, now exuberantly regreening adjacent to the pathway of my desires, even pouring green drooping branches into the channelization of their concrete realization.

Oleander, oleander, will you shade the former path of my desire lines next summer? Will you wave over it in monsoon winds, and whisper in the night breezes? May I lay next to you aligned perfectly with my old desire line to stare up at the stars on a rare clear and dark night, making a desire angel? 

You run, you ride, you stop to rest, and I will always still pause to give you direction: my desires lie down that way, what about yours?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Where I Live

Not where I reside.
Not where I work.
Not where I parent.
Not where I exist.
Not where I husband.
Not where I rest.
Not where I read.
Not where I Internet.

Where I live. Two wheels, Saturday afternoon, out.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Life Luminous and Breathless

I've been here before:hi-brow, by colab studio see Bicycle Commuting Past Lift Station #53

"At night, eight LED lights cast patterns on the slump walls in the dark," said the artist's web site. As Autumn, a time of harvesting and gathering, slips in, a night ride to go see the patterns on the slump walls in the dark felt necessary. When I arrived, though, after riding along the canal at night which still feels a bit like flying after all these years, I found that the LED illuminators were not casting patterns, not tonight.

Which, as it turned out, was perfect for my purposes: sometimes you find the light you need, other times you make it yourself. I have lights, and although I couldn't figure out how to get them on the other side of the steel plates (quad copter drone with bright LEDs, here I come!), I pointed my bike headlight up there to see what I could see.

He looks even more like a brain lightning peyote shaman cap at night

Perhaps pressing the letters in different combinations unlocks a secret code which activates the illuminators...

Autumn is a time of self-assessment for me. Reflection and contemplation. Sometimes some of it turns a bit dark, I guess, but it seems like a natural turn of mind for me, and when that happens, one alternative is a night ride flying along the canal to gather up what I need. 

The last mile or so along the canal is a particularly quiet and nearly straight stretch of fine gravel which often induces me to put forth a maximal effort, in order to feel my lungs and heart doing their thing, to see what my legs can do, to feel what all-out flows through me like. There's a starting pole, and a finish line, naturally. If I finish that mile breathless and spent, then I'm happy, and I can ride the last couple of miles home in a peace that comes from trying really hard.

Just before the sprint, since it's a contemplative time of year, I was thinking, what would you have life be like? What is it that you want? And this word came into my head, "luminous," full of light, and honestly I'm not entirely sure what the means in precise or logical terms, but it feels emotionally true: I want a luminous life, clear and full of light, precisely like LED lights casting patterns through water-jet-cut steel cornice, or the same but illuminated by a bright LED bike light mounted on my bike which I lifted in one hand while taking photos with the other.

As I approached the start of the sprint start line, I kept thinking, "luminous, and..." and what? It had to be luminous and something. A Life Luminous and Amazing? and Loud? and Round? and Surprising? and Stunning? I rolled many words around and around as I flew along the canal, then slowed to take a last drink and prepare myself for the maximal effort. As I came to almost a complete stop and stood on the pedals to start (there's a bit of ritual to this thing), the other word of the life I want finished off the phrase: A Life Luminous and Breathless.

Flight zone

Breathless, as in the end of an all-out mile along the canal at night. Precisely that feeling. Of giving it everything, feeling lungs and legs burn a bit, but also feeling very good to be alive and speeding along. To be full of light, and feel like that, is all I need.

I feel it's time now for a fall blog break. To reflect and reassess, to ponder, and other adventures. Part of me wants to spill out some doubts about blogging, about what it is I'm doing here, along with questions that would reveal more of of the dark turn of mind I mentioned at the top, but I've always felt this exercise here, whatever it is, is not for that purpose for me, but rather it's opposite. Something of that tension, of trying to maintain the discipline of not going to that place here to any extent while still feeling it, has been a fascinating experience. I don't think overcompensation by way of excess wonder, curiosity, openness, or desire for understanding is necessarily bad, and it's kind of fun, but I do have doubts about the results sometimes. Perhaps it is just for itself and that may be enough.

But, before I go, just one more question: where to find this breathlessness and luminosity? This place, of course, this city I am in now, but also others, and not just on gravel paths beside canals at night, but along quiet lanes lined with trees, at seasides and also lands of thousands of hills. The world, in other words, is where I seek a life luminous and breathless. I have only to go, and gather up. Gather up.

talk to you after fall blog break.