Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bridging Moments

Mill Avenue Bridge (1931), Tempe, AZ

I rode the exact same route two days in a row because the weather was so fine and the sitting beside the lake so peaceful. To sit here a moment and gaze at the bridge and its reflections on a warm November afternoon was bliss itself. Not a long sit, ten minutes only, perhaps, but ten minutes of solitude with the water and light. 

I know I've mentioned it before--the magic of the late afternoon light in November. It made the substance of this bridge glow. Pure rays of it flowed around me, hit and lit the creamy bridge. Nearby a family played on the sculpture while dad laid back and stared at the blue sky. A super-fit young woman ran back and forth across the grass, full of oxygen life fueling her muscles and glad to be in the moment of exertion, of power, of life itself graced by a feeling of unendingness even while facing the signs of ending: Autumn, a river stopped briefly in a lake, a lake stopped briefly by a dam, the dam itself being replaced by another just downstream since it did not hold up as expected, jetplanes roaring in lines overhead to land, falling water in sheets by the Tempe Center for the Arts running like time itself down reflective walls shining sky and now. 

Her breathing deep and strong but not labored. Steady, a heart rate at heart, wind at her back in every direction, she stops and the universe wheels into a water bottle that could make the Milky Way vortex overhead. Head down, run another sprint. How quiet it should be, to hear feet hit grass as she ran back and forth?

So many hot summer days

So many hot summer days I've ridden past the splash pad and wondered what a bike standing against it would look like. This day the splash pad was quiet of munchkins, but water running, so I parked a moment in the creamy low light, cast shadows long, and paused to think on it. Not on the slash pad exactly, but on the moments which have danced and vanished on its surface. Like shadows, no as shadows have played, so have the countless children and moms (mostly), shrieking in the cold showers, the droplets breaking from the streams and arcing between nozzle and pavement. A place that bridges these moments into days that run into winter.

Not that winter

Not that winter ever arrives here, not really. This warm November afternoon proves that triviality, even as this splash pad proves that moments bridged in a low slanting light sound like a shower of rain hitting pavement beneath steel palm trees and bent arrows or paddles. 

I rode the exact same route two days in a row. The TCT, the tri-city tour, down paths and lanes with a few other cyclists. To sit a moment beside water.  Tilted my head back, inhaled a deep mindful breath, imagined kindness, love, and understanding. 

The light looked like that timeless relaxed being I sought, but did I? It may have looked more like I was on a mission, some kind of fitness-driven time trial, pedaling down the path, like I was racing a heart rate or a pulse ox measurement, a personal best. I may have projected what I did not wish. 

What I wished was some grace-moment, some connection, some hopeful, idealistic exhale with my eyes to the sky. The kind young woman on the bike who told me to go ahead: was that because I seemed in a rush? But where would I rush to? What time would I be trying to beat? What could possibly be more important than a moment on the corner, waiting for the light, a moment at the intersection of before and after? 

A bright enough light will sizzle it all away. Like on Venus. All flesh is grass. Greenhouse. Every metal less than steel melting in relentless rays. Not this winter, though, not this gentle November light. My next exhale hits the splash pad like a shower of cold water on a summer afternoon, and in my center I shriek joyfully for this moment, anyway. A bridge I can cross on two successive days on the same bike to the same place, but different ways. "Only connect!" written in large letters across the bridge, reflecting glowing in the warm light. Each breath, the universe wheeling at the same speed as my bike.

"Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die."-- "Howard's End", EM Forster

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Cars in a Vivid Light

Little cars in a Grand Prix made me think...

The November afternoon light was low and sharp. The sun's low slanting beams cast long shadows, illuminating the scene with vivid clarity.

They erected separate infrastructure for the safety of the small cars. Some controversy erupted around the requirement to wear helmets, as the studies on their efficacy were equivocal. But, as more cars joined in the pack traveling within the cocoon of subjective safety shooting from the rear silk spinner of the mother caterpillar of the encouragement butterfly, the drivers appeared to relax into their assigned roles, driving more boldly from point back to the same point.

Originally, there had been suggestions that the tiny cars would be driven on the streets, in a lane delineated with paint, or perhaps by sharing lanes with the full-sized cars. But fears of being overtaken, of being outmuscled, or just unseen in the tide of cellphone wielding SUVs led to the separate track being mandated. The helmets remained.

Round and round they go

In a vivid November light, I rode the fixed flatland commuter project bike for an easy Saturday afternoon spin, and glimpsed the future. Little car hobbyists and their followers, gathered on a beautiful Fall afternoon to celebrate with nostalgia the day of the internal combustion engine motorcar. Round and round they go, inside walls built just for them, keeping them safe, encouraging drivers to enjoy the space set aside specially for their unique, vanishing hobby.