Friday, February 27, 2015

Flowers to the Sea

Errant flower node

When you make art that floats, inevitably some of it gets away, and goes off on its own adventures. Often, it's the happenstance that attracts my attention and triggers my delight. If I could wave a magic wand and convince the world of a few things, one of them would be that not only is it OK to be wrong, but mistakes can actually be beneficial to progress, to understanding, to peace of mind.

There it was, the stray flower glowing in the rising sun beneath the weir structure

But these happenstance encounters don't happen sitting at home on the couch. I have to get up, get out there, ride around, and be open to them. Curious enough to find them. Moving slow enough to notice them. This one is part of the Canal Convergence installation at the Scottsdale Waterfront. I'm hoping to get over there this weekend while stuff is actually happening, rather than wandering through at daybreak when it's pretty quiet, just me and the floating flowers.

Floating flower explanatory diagram. "the Garden Grows: BioMe" by Karrie Hovey

I feel a kinship or connection with these floating elements of art that escape to head downriver to the sea on their own, unpredictable adventures. Chances are, they won't make it to the sea. Chances are, they won't even make it beyond the weir. But that doesn't really matter. They somehow escaped their cinder blocks, somehow floated off down the streams of chance to whatever might be down there. I'm with them. Float on flowers, float on to the sea.

The flower's firmly moored brothers and sisters

This was a provisional location. They moved closer to Scottsdale Road, via, I'm certain, SRP Boat

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mountains Beyond Mountains

You ride to the first range

You ride to the first range, through the foot hills, along the cracked road in the shimmering heat. The road rises ahead and you crank up the incline. At the crest, at the pass, you see the next range in the blue-gray distance. There's an illusory downhill from the pass, the past, which spurs you forward, but the next foot hills begin to rise and rise, and you can only bend into the effort and keep spinning. These are steeper than the first. 

Down shift, down shift, down shift, it's still too hard. The road switches back and forth to hide the effort but it's not working. Finally, at a crawl, you reach this crest. Of course, in the distance, the third range waits, tallest, blue-grayest, and farthest.

There's an illusory downhill from the pass, the past, which spurs you forward. Along the cracked road, in the shimmering heat, you spin.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ramp it Up, Cyclist!

The cyclist symbol and arrow made it very clear: time to ramp things up

Saw this on my ride into work, and thought, time to ramp things up. Yes, I could go around, but that would be the easy way out. OK, yes, I did go around, this time, but all day I was thinking, ramp it up! Ramp it up!

Different way to ramp things up...

One way that I've been getting in some extra calorie burn on my commute is to add in a nice extra two miles along the canal. Another is to take this little diversion route straight up the bottom of Camelback mountain. Today, to ramp things up, I did both.

Ramped up view of 56th Street, Phoenix, very clear day

Riding up the hill is a fun little spin, and the reason that I have a triple chain ring. Riding back down is like this: whoooooooooshhhh!!! I was feeling a little bit Tuesday today, so I ramped it up 2x. Maybe not like the guy I saw working out by holding himself out sideways from a street sign (what the hell was that?? street gymnastics?) but still, something extra, something unnecessary and fun, something cycling.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Learning to Love the Least

Here I rest, here I stay, here I love, right now, today

I don't think we are born with the ability to love. To cling, to want, to need, to hunger, certainly. But it takes time and life to learn love. Recently, during a seemingly endless meeting and I acknowledge this was an odd setting for this thought, while feeling either bored or irritated with the endless discussion and debate about minute and abstract concepts, and simultaneously beginning to despair that humans could ever argue about such things, I felt convinced that if I could learn to love this (where this refers to the present non-loved and possibly irritating source of the present experience of not being in a state of loving), then this would be whole, memorable, and worthy of the expenditure of the minutes of life measurably slipping away while this was occurring. More, it would be (by the definition of "love") something that I wanted, needed, was sustained and enriched by.

I, one, would have to learn that skill. To learn to love this, the least of the day, the small and plodding moments of work structure, project passages, task completions, small tickmarks on minor ledgers of the sideline conversations of all us unimportant personages of middling economic and social standing, the sparse filings forming ghostly lines above weak magnets, the windblown confetti of the shredded receipts of the political and economic penstrokes of the powerful rustling round unremarkable meeting rooms on the dead on Monday. If I could learn to love this, the least things, that would unlock it. 

The thought that if I would it would mean that I could felt for a little while as if I did. I guess I don't, but this experience of loving the least made me wonder why that might be so, and if it wouldn't be some sort of fulfillment to love this always, even when it may seem like the least.

I was standing in the median photographing my bike sitting against a saguaro amongst the daisies and I wondered what a policeman might think if one saw me, when one rolled by.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Migration Installation Plus the Prettiest Median Strip in America

Installation of "Migration" by Saskia Jorda for Canal Convergence at Scottsdale Waterfront

Those guide wires turn out to have a useful function after all

Bird suspension lines in use

Something burning and traffic chaos cannot undo the beauty of African daisies exploding in the median
Had to throw in a black and white version

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Path to Passionate Balanced Peace of Mind and Heart

Somewhere down some path

I approached her from behind on the path. She was walking directly in the center, impossible for me to pass on either side, so I move the the left and dinged my bell three times. She glanced back over her shoulder, stepped to the right, then made some nasty comment as I spun by.

A sequence of three unkind thoughts warped through my mind of which I was not proud, or glad, or comfortable. Two minutes before, I was just noticing that my pretty new shoes were teaching me a light, easy pedal stroke by reminding me with an ever so slight rubbing on my ankles that I might spin easier with a steadier and more efficient, perhaps easier, foot angle. The exact position may not be easy to describe, but it felt easy, and light to ride like that, and I felt in that moment that this was a path of peace and lightness that had some kind of essential connection with one of the better parts of riding my bike. Then, an unnecessary nasty remark from a stranger, and a string of three unkind notions bouncing around my head in reaction.

Here's my pretty new shoe

They spun away, spun away, spun away fast in the ride, as she with her black heart and resentful lash-out were left far behind. The waters of the canal kept washing downstream, while the lightness of this ankle-sparing foot position that's a bit difficult to articulate but which was so comfortable in practice carried me onwards. 

A simple machine, reclining on the sun-turned faces of the flowers

In the dream that won't stay whole, it's actually true that both the snarky lady walking down the middle of the path and my three unkind reactionary thoughts to her don't exist and never did, and also that they would not evolve to be or emerge from the nothingness into being as the result of some other events, but that instead this exact path along this exact canal would stay a constant place of balance and light, of flow and ease, of peace of mind and heart and motion. 

This exact path along this exact canal (would be that dream which won't stay whole)

But, certainly, by observation, these are not so, not here, not now, not today. I study my feet, clad in my pretty new shoes, and the feeling of the ankle rubbing just ever so slightly on the tops of the shoes if I pedal too hard or with too little graceful coordination while noticing the light feel of ease and balance which ensues if I manage to pedal with that specific form which feels like physics in effect encouraging that dream which won't stay whole to stay whole. I come out there with a passion to just see how far and how still I can go and be, and how this exact path might lead to that exact place, now and here. 

With this mind and heart I ride on, though: that the pure absence of pain of any sort is equivalent to the greatest pleasure, like a vast otherwise empty field of spring flowers bending their faces to the sun and being capable of upholding any amenable physics-enhanced pedaling form you might care to try for miles and miles down this exact path down this exact canal.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Flat Tuesday

One tire was harmed in the making of this post

I like cheap and reliable things which give you some warning before they fail. So when my cheap and reliable commuter tire starting making this "flup-flup-flup-flup-flup" sound without actually going flat, I knew it was trying to tell me something. Something like, "Hey, you got your money's worth after umpteen thousand miles of riding back and forth to work, it's time to go ahead and put the new one on."

That's almost a perfect scenario for me. To feel like a nice, reliable thing nicely and reliably notified me that it was time to celebrate a product well used, and move on. Looking at the photo above, the tire is perhaps a bit beyond that point, but nonetheless it soldiered on, and did not actually fail me on my commute. The "flup-flup-flup-flup-flup" sound was that flap of sidewall hitting the brake arm every time around, and for both the flap and the brake arm, I am grateful that they informed me prior to a blowout or some other less pleasant failure mode. That's pure wear you see there, as far as I know: I don't think I ran over something, and I'm sure that the brake pads aren't rubbing the tire. That's just several thousand commuting miles taking its toll. Call it Spring, Summer, Winter, rain and beating sun, just adding up, just breaking down.

Thank you, cheap reliable tire, for performing your lowly but vital task for all those miles, and for letting me know when it was your time to go. Happy Flat Tuesday!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Instant Poems of Water and Sunlight

Seen on my way home, at 1/2000th of a second

I look at these photos and also these falls, and feel like yeah, that's what I want to say. It's the 1/2000th of a second that got to me, too. A few instants captured, though the moments themselves passed so fast. To be in that, all in one, the sound surrounding and the drops splashing on  my skin. The evening canal commute ride, wheeling around and down here just to take in the sunset of 10 February 2015, which is now over. Caught and colored, and water falls.

Where the Bike Lanes are Paved with Oranges

In the middle of the harvest time, the leftovers litter yards, ditches, and roads. Boxes of oranges, grapefruit, and lemons sit at the curb waiting for pickup. It's all postscript, coda to the yearlong song of blossom and growth, as well as prelude, preamble, preface: in a few weeks, when the blossoms pop, the early evenings (growing in heat) will be saturated with citrus blossom perfume, and my head will go all crazy.

The irrigation ditches are drained for cleanup just in time to be filled with downer citrus

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Three Sources of Water

One you know...

Plan around three sources for water: one you carry, one you know, one that you seek and find. Each will serve you, and save you, in different ways.

The one you carry is always the one to think of first. It seems the most sensible and most important at first, but once you realize how fast you consume it versus how little you can carry on your back or on your bike, it fades in importance. Yes, when moving from place to place, the water you carry is most convenient and ready at hand, but when moving for any length of time, in anything like the desert where I live, the other two will increase greatly in significance. Because in as little as an hour, you will run out of the one you carry.

The African Daisies are popping. One of my favorite sights in one of my favorite seasons.

The one you know can be the nicest. Some rides, I don't carry any water, and rely on the sources I know. In the photo at the top you will notice no water bottle. The 1973 Interex Rebel Contender had no water cage bosses in the frame, and the makeshift clip-on cage just irritates me. I've got a set of ten to twenty mile workout routes where I know the water stops, so most times on those rides I don't carry water. Even in the summer, I have primary and backup sources in mind, and on those familiar routes it works out. I wrote here about how the metal thieves stole one of the frequently used sources in question, but on that ride I had a backup in mind and it was intact. 

You don't plan on metal thieves stealing water fountains, though, and it's always the unplanned risk that upsets the monkey barrel. The source you know is no good if what you thought you know turns out to be incorrect when reality storms in and changes things up. Which it frequently does. You can count on that.

Tree flowers starting to go crazy, too

That leaves the source you seek and find. Sometimes when that's in the plans, carrying a filter and/or purification pills (iodine) or drops (chlorine) comes into play. I had a Sweetwater cartridge pump filter for backpacking that I used a few times, but we live in high-tech times, and now the wayward wanderer can carry a Lifestraw, or even better, a Sawyer filter, and be prepared.

Already gone through at least one dandelion cycle

Such a great day for a bike ride in Phoenix. Many people out in the sunshine, many couples riding cruisers basking in the glory of the afternoon. Then there's me, blasting through the day on my fixie, repeating to myself, the one you carry, the one you know, the one you seek and find. Hey it's a baiku:

Water you carry
Water that you seek and find
Water that you know

As I planned to write this and as I was finishing my ride, I saw a dude washing his car. Picture me whirling around and telling him to spray me. Wait which one is that? I wasn't carrying it, I wasn't seeking it, I didn't know him or that he would be washing his car. That was water of opportunity, water of fortune, water of a universe that sometimes smiles upon me. Rain from heaven. Silence and stillness in the moment of splashing.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

On the Unreliability of Words, Science, Dictionaries, Poetry, and Our Five Senses

Utility poles, sometimes (but not very often) are preserved with creosote

Yesterday, and before, I've mentioned the effects that the perfume of creosote bushes (for the rest of this post referred to as Larrea tridentata for clarity/sanity, and you'll see why in a minute). Today on the commute this pile of poles reminded me that I thought that they were pressure-treated with creosote to preserve them, which made me think that the smell of the bushes and the preservative although sharing a name must be different chemicals. So I checked. But, let it be established, these poles and those bushes smell nothing alike.

At first, I was led further astray by the indication in the usual references that the smell of the bushes Larrea tridentata as well as the chemical derivative from coal tar and primary constituent of liquid smoke flavoring are, in fact, all creosote. This seemed disappointing, discombabulating, and distracting since the perfume of the bushes last night was nothing like liquid smoke (as far as I could tell or recollect) and vice versa, neither of which smelled much like these poles.

A bit more searching uncovered this site, with a thorough overview of the preservatives used for pressure treating utility poles, and it turns out that, these days, and for a long long time, the most common chemical used for that purpose is actually pentachlorophenol, followed by (less commonly) chromated coppper arsenate CCA which was banned for residential lumber use in 2003 (which I remember), and then copper naphthenate, which gives one some reason for trying to pronounce "phth". Last and apparently least these days come creosote and ammoniacal copper zinc arsenate, which apparently are seldom used.

But I've been around enough railroad sleepers and old timey utility poles to think I know what they smell like, which doesn't seem similar to either liquid smoke or the Larrea tridentata bushes. Apparently, however, and setting aside that these poles in the photo are probably stuffed full of pentachlorophenol and thus can be dismissed from this present discussion, I am not only mistaken in my memory of railroad ties and old timey utility poles, but also in my understanding of liquid smoke flavoring, coal tar distillation, and even in the poetics of Larrea tridentata

At times like this, words, science, dictionaries, poetry, and particularly our five senses and the perceptions arising from them seem to collapse and fail. All we have then, I suppose, is love and bicycles. I can grab a handful of creosote leaves, rub them back and forth, then smash them into my face and breathe deep. No words then, just love and bicycles, both of which there's just not enough of in the world.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Stopping by the Arroyo at Night

Where I ride there are places like this

Blasting down the path and it feels like blasting because it's night, it's downhill, it's swoopy, and I'm wearing dress clothes. For some reason the dress clothes make it feel blastier. I flow up over a small rise then down into a low place where the stream crosses in flood time and there's a depth marker 1 2 3 4 5 6 so one can easily gauge how deep the waters running even though anything at or above 1 should be obvious enough to mean STAY OUT DO NOT CROSS.

I bottom out in the low point and start to ride up the small rise on the other side, when it hits me: the post rain perfume of a non-cold desert night, the plants all open and happily full of water, the creosote in particular completely exuberant in their exuding exhaling of mysterious scent of desert. I spin around and go back, point my bike upstream, and close my eyes. Inhale. Hold it in. Exhale. Breathe. It's cool and it's warm at the same moment. There are so many different perfumes and odors assaulting and caressing my sense of scent that it is overwhelmed: after-rain, and a hundred different plants, and something like coyote or other animal that scampers by, flowers just blooming, trees, cactii, wet rocks, damp earth, washed pavement, moldy leaves, apples and why would that be, or citrus yes washed down in the last rain from a yard uphill, and others I don't know just on the edge of almost-smelling. 

I stopped by the arroyo at night, and let some of its perfumes tickle my brain and seed my memory as they also winnowed it. A photo with my light on the rocks. Maybe the best moment for me of this day, and that might mean it was kind of a great day.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Swale and Flow, Needle and Thread, Sky and Sun

Looking up at Stacy Levy's "Swale" from the bike path, Thomas Road bridge at Indian Bend Wash

I love that this definition of "swale" from the storm water Management resources site fits this whole scene perfectly and thoroughly. This description is the Indian Bend Wash, if you are permitted to make your swales about a quarter mile across:

A grassed swale is a graded and engineered landscape feature appearing as a linear, shallow, open channel with trapezoidal or parabolic shape. The swale is vegetated with flood tolerant, erosion resistant plants. The design of grassed swales promotes the conveyance of storm water at a slower, controlled rate and acts as a filter medium removing pollutants and allowing stormwater infiltration. When properly designed to accommodate a predetermined storm event volume, a grassed swale results in a significant improvement over the traditional drainage ditch in both slowing and cleaning of water.

Up top of our long swale is some new art. It's colorful, swaying forms are topped here and there with seedpod-like shapes.

From the road. Pickup driver be all like, "What the hell, 14 foot tall weeds growin up here!"

I've previously posted some photos of the aftermath of floods in this swale: plants and debris washed all over, mud in the tunnels, paths washed out, small trees bent over like there's still current running after the current is no longer running. Much better that these waters run through this controlled channel in the intended manner than elsewhere freely and with more damaging and unpredictable effects. "Flood tolerant, erosion resistant plants," the definition states. I think these 14 foot tall steel beauties qualify.

Needle and thread in use

During the latest rains which washed waters through here, the ones that made the ducks laugh and brought the dense fog of the previous post, I discovered that my standby commuting rain jacket had a hole neatly torn along the seam under the armpit. I considered leaving the hole, since this jacket also has pitzips that I generally leaved unzipped for ventilation, so more air should be a good thing, but the rip seemed in danger of continuing its ripping course along the seam, so I put a stop to it, and closed it up. 

This particular material seemed to be strong and work well with a needle and thread, unlike some earlier, more fragile stuff of previous rain jackets. I considered brushing on some Nikwax sealant after sewing, but yeah again with the pitzips open water is going to get in there anyway, so I didn't do that. Now my standby commuting rain jacket is ready to be stashed back in the bag and left there for six more months until I happen to get caught in another rare commute-time rain shower.

The other reason I sewed up the jacket was the "Swale" art. I rode over there after the weather had returned to the normal sunny and warm, and my inclination was to just forget about the tear in the the underarm. Then I looked up and saw these steel needles sewing up the sky, drinking up sunshine and photosynthesizing it into metal sugar with enamel chlorophyll, and I felt the urge to sew. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

PHX Fogopalypse !

When eucalyptus trees become ethereal

It seems prudent this morning to postpone any travel by any means in Phoenix until the sun does its work and causes the unusually dense fog we woke up to to burn off. The gray soup turns everything beautiful and mysterious, until you need to drive or bike somewhere, with others out feeling like they need to do the same, and then it becomes rather terrifying when you realize you can't see the lane markers twenty feet ahead, and taillights are merely indistinct red glows which must not be very far ahead but you can't tell. Even the morning birds are freakishly quiet now. They seem to know that the nest is best, presently.