Tuesday, May 20, 2014

There's This Fence Beside the Path

There's this fence beside the path that the flowers try to press through

Due to some events in my personal life, I'm going to be off blogging and social networks for a while. Thank you for reading. Peace.

The flowers try to press through and some make it, for a while anyway

Love and cherish your loved ones

Leaving the blog in good hands

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Search for Some Hidden City

Strider removal operation at Scottsdale Waterfront

There is no solace on earth for us--for such as we--
Who search for a hidden city that we shall never see.
Only the road and the dawn, the sun, the wind, and the rain,
And the watch-fire under stars, and sleep, and the road again.
--from The Seekers by John Masefield (thanks to Ironwood Bike Bags Blog for this quote!)

Water Striders, on land momentarily, headed to another destination

I've come to think of the continuity of my bicycle commute as a year-long distance ride of approximately 3,000 miles. Although the daily route is nearly the same each time, with changes I make to accommodate both construction zones and curiousity, the change of seasons, of weather, of human movements and schedules like schools, vacations, seasonal visitors, and ongoing construction and destruction both man-made and natural are triggers for my continuing quest to look below the surface of the cities in which I live in order to discover what truth, what beauty, lurks beneath.

The bicycle pace, the bicycle openness, the bicycle simplicity, enable this quest, as I've written about previously. 

Twelve foot long fiberglass bugs parked on the Soleri Bridge, in blazing morning sunshine

It's the hidden city of the the title and quote that I'm seeking, the one you don't see or only catch glimpses of from inside a fast-moving air-conditioned vehicle. Sure, I also feel the heat of summer, the dust of haboobs, the blast of wind, and get much closer to the uglier semi-hidden faces of the cities I ride through, too. The poor, the homeless, the overlooked, like the woman just off to the side of this tableau who I encountered with her bags and hacking cough as I rode around exploring this process as she was rousting herself after sleeping rough. It seemed as if no one else saw her. I see those sides, too.

Striders below the pylons, in what Soleri called the comfort zone created by the architecture

But I disagree with the opening line of the quote above, that "there is no solace on earth for us--". I beg to differ with the former poet laureate of Great Britain on that point. Solace that you seek. Solace that you make for yourself. Solace that you discover along your bicycle commute to work, like laughing out loud with sheer amazement and joy the first time I saw the water striders in the canal, and again on this apparently final act of theirs at the Waterfront, arrayed along the path in whole and in their parts in the process of being removed.

Twelve foot green fiberglass bugs which light up at night floating in the canal. I've tracked the cycle of their green floating surreal accent to our hidden city in this blog over the last few months. I've seen them, paused to ponder them in different light and at night, even programmed their lights to flash in sequence and also at random.

Separately lit and iPad-controllable water strider antenna balls: those things actually existed in my city for a while this spring. So again I diverge from John Masefield: you can see such things in this earthly city, but only if you look for them.

The road and the dawn, the sun, the wind, and the rain, and here in this desert canal-watered valley, the wind, dust, and monsoon rains, these factors feed and sustain my continued search for the hidden side of our cities. I suppose if I am totally honest, part of me does continue to seek that City of God, De Civitate Dei, that appears to be the heart of Masefield's poem. But also seek, with all my heart and mind, that Hidden City of Man that does offer solace, and truth, and beauty, to those who seek it here/now, in this life, in this world.

I've recently been disheartened, disillusioned even (which is rather amazing at my age, and may actually be a good sign!) with the irrationality and cruelty of humans both singly and in groups, both in my personal experience as well as in the news. We have these immense powers of both reason and creativity, enormous potential for both logic and love, yet it seems that nearly constantly I am bombarded with news and examples of the senseless exhibition of the exact opposite of these noble characteristics.

If I'm too idealistic then I guess I should expect disillusionment, right? It may even be impossible or pointless for me to wish that everyone would remember and learn from (consider carefully if not believe in) what Augustine wrote in the fifth century, as we're increasingly becoming programmed to view and forget in ten minutes viral videos and tweets on platforms engineered purely to influence our buying decisions of the moment. But there is no solace there for me. Or rather, recognizing the ironic self-contradiction of that statement in a blog post (no ads here, though!), I should write, my solace continues to be in seeking for some hidden city in the real world.

Sometimes the best parts of that hidden city reveal themselves, and then pass away. Float downstream. Get washed away by rains and canal water. But the impressions of them remain, whether on year-old satellite photos that still show colorful triangles floating in this canal as of this post, or in minds which are supported and sustained by differences made by artists and thinkers who also desire for more than what we normally see. You have to keep looking. You have to be open to it while staying strong in the face of not-it. The search for some hidden city, the ride to it and through it, goes on.

The video that Jeff Zischke posted about his work "Water Striders" is like a map to finding that amazing, welcoming, artful quarter of some better hidden city. Watch the video. It reminds me of what I keep looking for out there, down here on earth.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Work-Buy-Obey v. Play-Make-Imagine

Work/Play, Buy/Make, Obey/Imagine

Television advertising inclusive of product placements is approaching the 75% of air time metric necessary to ensure continued unnecessary consumption. The potent combination of fear-news and insecurity-nurturing is a promising technique of amplifying anxiety-driven purchases, augmented by pervasive interruptive personal device interaction. With average total cost of ownership for private automobiles approaching 20% avg yrly income (operating costs at four times acquisition costs), discretionary purchases of alternative transport will seem out of reach due to the sunk costs fallacy. Citizen metadata monitoring and analysis is in place to ensure WBO compliance. Impending implantation of a free device* that tweets out dreams in real-time in exchange for agreeing to permit the implantation of subliminal subconscious messages of the WBO** family. The closer your thoughts adhere to the WBO norm and/or earn frequent shopper points on your value cards along with certification of working the required shifts with discipline on schedule, the more you will experience Direct Pleasure Stimulation (DPS***) by the WBO device, which sends indescribably pleasurable sensations coursing throughout you just for conformance to WBO code.

It's Bikes vs. Bike-nots over here

The bike-nots have driven off in clouds of potent exhaust headed to the big box store to stock up on corn chips, corn dip, corn-fed meat analogue, corn dogs, corn-sweetened soft drinks, corn alcohol, and corn. The bikes have gathered at a nondisclosed but well-known location to go for a late-springtime ride along the river. Picnic lunches, coffee, books, blankets, silverware, plates, wine, musical instruments, kites, poetry, painting supplies, assorted materials akin to various craft supplies including but not limited to crayons and random stryofoam packing materials, charcoal pencils and Blackwing pencils and deep black Sharpies, and small gifts for one another have been packed into backpacks, panniers, handlebar bags, and yes not a few plastic bags hanging from handlebars because the other bags were full.

Cycling attire of all manner shape and form is apparent, along with all manner of non-cycling attire including dresses, skirts, fedoras, wool, tweed, mucklucks, Wellingtons, and sandals. The destination is either the beach or the meadow in the trees or both. The loose approximate semi-agreed upon plan is to ride and ride until they should not ride any more, and then stop in either place where they will devote an uncertain period of time to play, poetry, and imagination. With sufficient attention paid to eating and drinking. Then, when it seems indeed right and salutary, they will break open the various craft supplies and encourage each other to make something new and heretofore unseen, there beneath the leaves in the meadow in the hills, or in the sand at the beach next to their bicycles,

*device free for first twelve months, then $9.95 per month, subject to 36 month contract, usage fees and taxes extra. targeted ads will be placed.
**Work Buy Obey, inspirational, advertorial, political
***DPS is self-adjusting and calibrating, so that as mind becomes accustomed / numb, the power and specific brain targets are increased hundreds or thousands of times, as needed to continue achieve the desired result of positive reinforcement for WBO-compliant thoughts, feelings, and impulses.


Monday, May 12, 2014

Could You Carry a Kitten?

Perhaps in here, with the zipper open just enough to let in some air?

What if: you are sitting at work one day, and for some very good reason, you find yourself in the position of deciding whether or not you can transport a kitten home on your bicycle. 

I was considering the possibility, yes, and did not end up with an actual kitten to carry home, but I gave the question considerable thought. Could I do it if I needed? What are the options? Empty out the One Big Bag that goes on the back rack, and put him in there? Would it be too dark, scary, hot, or airless in there? Would I have to cut holes in the bag? Would the kitten mess up the inside? Or grow frightened?

What about inside my shirt, against my skin? I'm just exploring options here. Easier to keep an eye on him, a Turkish Van, by the way. He seemed big enough to hack it, but not too big. Full claws, though, as it should be, but would he freak out and use them on me in an effort to get out? That's what I might do if I found myself in a parallel situation, riding inside the shirt of a giant cat, let's say, being jostled about while he took me somewhere, I know not where, for some reason, I know not why.

Or perhaps a quickly improvised cat carrier to bungie onto the rear rack: small holes for breathing, something soft to lay on, perhaps something familiar-smelling to comfort him. That might be the best option. I don't know for sure, though.

I thought that my ability to carry a kitten home on my bicycle spontaneously, or lack thereof, would say something important about the bicycle as a means of daily transport. Does it limit options? How severely? Does it cut off some spontaneous acts while enabling others? Could you carry a kitten?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

I Was Good With the Traffic Across the Lake

A steady stream of vehicles across the water

A steady stream of traffic flowed on the busy street across the lake. The rumble of tires on pavement blended with the sounds of engines revving and decelerating up to the light, but the sound was muted by the trees, the breeze, and the steady splashes and calls of the birds in the water, and in the trees behind me.

Over on my side

Over on my side, the cormorants and ducks splashed and dove in the shallows for food. Dragonflies flickered around my head. Nine out of ten people who passed on the path on my side were cyclists. Couples on cruisers, shoppers on el cheapos with plastic bags dangling from handlebars, hardcore kitted up mountain bikers, a road bike or two. My fixie sprawled like me on the grass just being in the sun.

Twine shellac bars in the sun, ready for a new coat, soon, anyway

At that distance, with the buffer of water, birds, and dragonflies, I was comfortable with the muted traffic across the lake. The planet turned and the vehicles over there flowed. On my side, I took out a scrap of paper, and scribbled something on an old membership card holder.

That's a very skilled rendering of a dragonfly up there

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Euphoric States of the Bicycling Mind

A feeling like a waterfall of flowers is about to cascade onto me in the bike lane (tilt your head left a little bit)

When riding your bicycle, do you ever experience mental states which you would consider to be meditative, euphoric, or even slightly hallucinatory? A heightened state of awareness? Imagination fueled, mind opened, dreams inflamed, daydreamer on full throttle?

I do. Very often. A few times the results have appeared here: My Flower Things Bike Lane Dream, Be This Gentle, Small Creatures Living Next to Water

Picnic with a fish. God I love that photo. These things swimming in the canals, looking at me. He's looking at you.

Umbrella Me with Otherness, How Full My Head of Useless Thoughts, etc. You get the idea. All, I would say, cycling-induced, velo-enabled, products of a mind thoroughly influenced by a recent bike ride.

Though I understand the casual meaning of the terms, I'm sure a specialist or expert could correct my usage, and give me better terms: meditative, euphoric, slightly hallucinatory. Perhaps there are better ways to express the results.

Years of riding under this tree, particularly on hot days or after a long ride, I always think the same thing: FLOWERS IN YOUR FACE! FLOWERS IN YOUR FACE!!

Truly, I never remember a car drive itself inducing similar states reliably. Maybe I wasn't driving right. Maybe rush hour on the freeway in a traffic jam isn't the right setting for it. Maybe driving my '57 T-bird down the street with the overflowing flowers would make me feel something similar (if I had a '57 T-bird).

The dog seems euphoric. I flashed back to my dog, when I was seven years old, who really loved this.

The bicycling mind would seem to be susceptible to euphoric, meditative, or slightly hallucinatory states. Discuss. Or consider. Or meditate on. Or reflect about. Preferably while humming to yourself in a purple-pinkish flower-burried bike ride dream state.

Monday, May 5, 2014

His mind moves upon silence

A strider, going down

THAT civilisation may not sink,
Its great battle lost,
Quiet the dog, tether the pony
To a distant post;
Our master Caesar is in the tent
Where the maps are spread,
His eyes fixed upon nothing,
A hand under his head.

Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
His mind moves upon silence.

-- "Long-Legged Fly", W.B. Yeats

I noticed the other day [be precise here: Friday] that one of the striders that was installed for the Canal Convergence event in Scottsdale was listing to starboard. Yes, it caught my attention, but I rode on by. 

Later [specificity below, no need to repeat here], I saw that it had sunk all the way. I took a few photos, and thought about the different types of buoyancy--displacement, surface tension [insect feet pressing against the skin of the water], hydrodynamic [think water skiing], and even the pure power escape velocity type where fish shoot up out [or rockets, or beach balls held under then released that do NOT pop out], of which there are doubtless several sub-types. 

I concluded, after some scattered wide-ranging Mythbusters type intermediary thoughts, granted, that it would be impossible to water ski in gelatin behind a powered craft since any craft with enough oomph to get you up out of the gelatine would disrupt the surface so significantly that any semblance of "skiing" would deteriorate into a Pythonesque gelatine showering and plowing exercise.

Close-up of the number one pod, taking on water, beginning to fail to buoy

On Monday, however, I determined that another strider, the object of photos 1 and 2, above, appeared to be headed toward the same fate as the first, which on Saturday looked like this:

A long-legged fly, with just pods and an antenna ball still above water

And which by the end of the day on Monday appeared to have turned fully upside down, or rather headside down, I think, illustrating simultaneously the length of one and the depth of the canal:

Antenna ball no longer visible. Some sort of unfortunate strider headstand going on here

With two long-legged flies going under in as many business days, something more serious and contemplative than the gelatine water skiing experiment was called for. Enter Yeats. He detoured me from writing about the passage of time and all things, of the transient evanescence of life and beauty, the ravages of age and chaos...and brought me back down to earth. Or rather, back down to the skin of the water pressed by insect feet. 

The others still floating [in silence]. Displacement as a signifier of tension, until it's not

A mind moving in silence is Yeats' refrain in this poem. Go, find it, read it, mull it over while looking at the striders and their current states, their inevitable fates. I've had an ongoing affair with art that floats here on the blog, and until I found the Yeats poem, I was going to call this post "Art that Sinks." But, I guess, all art that floats will sink eventually, like everything else that floats. The sinking of floating art is part of the work itself, as the eventual sinking of an actual water strider bug is when it meets its end. 

The third and last mind moving in silence is Michael Angelo's [sic] as he lays on the scaffolding painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, his hand moving "With no more sound than the mice make." I thought: we're all connected, we humans, Michaelangelo, WB Yeats, Jeff Zischke who made this, me the bicycle commuter / father etc, you the blog reader etc, all of us the viewers momentarily of floating striders going down beneath the soft waves of the Arizona Canal, so quietly. 

Most Yeats' poems leave my head spinning. So again this one. Right in the middle, he wrote "Move most gently if move you must / In this lonely place." Against the fall of civilizations, I think, he imagines a mind moving deliberately and gently in silence, with some child-like attributes, and definitely open and aware of the awe and not-hereness, not-nowness, not-me-ness that art can inspire. Caeser, for a moment in his tent during a distant campaign, his mind empty, the decisions which yield either nurturing or destruction before him, but not yet made.

I keep going back to those maps spread out before Caeser in his tent, but his eyes not fixed on anything [yet]. He needs some quiet moments. Not noise and chaos, but some silence in which his mind might move, a delicate but necessary balancing act upon the skin of the waters which would pull him, along with all of the rest of us, under. The prospect of that, the possibility of it and its alternates, ought to be worth some quiet time sitting beside the moving waters of the Arizona Canal, pondering the fate of some floating green plastic bugs, toward better understanding of whatever it is that connects us more deeply. THAT civilisation may not sink.

Tuesday update: the strider at the top of the post looks like this now

Sunday, May 4, 2014

What Makes a Day Summer?

Hot afternoons, nearly empty paths

Somewhere between now and the summer solstice, it begins. Not talking about the official starting line, but rather the sense, the understanding, the feeling of it. How can you tell, around here?

Shade, water, bicycle

Some things hint at it. The sun streams in my window earlier and earlier, until it wakes me (and the neighborhood birds) before my alarm.

Certainly the rising heat. Afternoons approaching one hundred eff. Blazing sunshine out of a cloudless sky against single-digit humidity. Turning on the AC. Rising levels of dehydration during rides. More bottles of water required. More sunscreen needed. Thoughts of any clothing beyond the lightest, coolest, more comfortable, long gone. Caps with brims, sunglasses, avoidance of mid-day and scuttling from shade island to shade island on foot.

Still together, but decreasing in number as they increase in size

The duck families still trying to make a living in the canals. Attrition has decreased their numbers, down from the dozen babies gamely paddling against the current, down to a hardy handful who have escaped the predators and other aggressors who would take them.

People not from this area or neighborhood asking about the bats around sunset. Excuse me, do you know where the bats roost? Yes, yes I do. But I'm not sure if they're back yet, or even if they'll be coming this year. Since I just read Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction, I am hoping they return in large numbers, hoping they fly out every night to skim the canals for insect meals, but I have doubts and fears about that, now. Now whenever I see bats, or hear frogs croaking in the night, my heart skips a beat, and I wonder if it will be the last time.

Added the Crane bell from the parts box, for making music with cicadas

Surely by the time the cicadas sing it's summer, but that is some time away from now. Haven't seen them yet, haven't heard from them  yet. So what is it? What makes a day summer?

I can feel it in the late afternoons, around the hottest time of day. By agreement, by consensus, people begin to not ride their bicycles when it is perceived to be too hot out. It's a pretty sharp dividing line, when afternoons of springtime joy exuberant riding transition to too-hot-to-ride-now perception. People stay in, to watch TV, or to go shopping, or whatever, and quite suddenly, the trails, the paths, the streets are nearly empty of bicycles at that hour.

That's exactly when the summer fever hits me, though. Time to acclimate. Time to think about carrying two water bottles, work on the homemade electrolyte mixture, ensure sufficient supplies of good sports-oriented sunscreen are secured. The sweat beanie under the helmet is already a winning addition to the summer gear list. The summer songs are starting to go through my head out there. I think it's here. It certainly feels like it.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Going to My Bicycle Place

He's there too

I'm tired. Probably need to do better at managing stress. In fact, writing that sentence is likely an indicator that it's true. So I'm riding to my bicycle place. It's quiet there. Water gently ripples against a serene shore. Egrets strut in the shallows. Ducks cross. Wind blows. Bicycles roll along there on smooth well-maintained paths. I'm going there. Happy Friday.

Bridge to the path to the bicycle place

King of the bicycle place