Sunday, October 30, 2016

I Am Rocky Pumptrack

Scene of rocky visions

Can cycling alone in natural (as opposed to human-dominated) places lead the mind to new and provocative places? Of course. Like listening to a kind of music you don't typically grok (try Carina Round), or spending time with new people, natural settings on their own, on your own, might move your mind to other places.

Trail 100 around Dreamy Draw on a record hot October Saturday afternoon is an empty place in the middle of a crowded city. In an hour, I saw maybe three other people. 

Listen. First, you listen for other people. Voices, boot steps, tires crunching on rock, but there's no one. Then you listen for familiar city sounds, traffic, sires, machinery, leaf blowers, car stereos, commercials, jet planes, helicopters, urban cacophony. It's there, but muffled and distant, held beyond arm's length, a mile or more far, and much less intrusive. Down in the washes, and behind certain mountains, it quiets entirely. 

So you make a wild leap: maybe, I could hear the sound of the cosmos, the voice of God, the whisper of Holy Spirit, or, at Halloween time, the whispers of ghosts, the creak of ghouls, the cries of the undead. 

How long can you go without pedaling, pumping through washes and whooshing berms?

Suddenly the term "sacred place" makes some sense. But, even listening at length, sitting still, closing eyes, murmuring come holy spirit come, this day only these sounds: wind, gravel and rocks beneath tires, call of cactus wren, buzz of insect. Only those.

Shade, swoopy trail, run of stream, desert sounds, identity locale

Initial disappointment, followed by soft realization: these sounds, of wind caressing my ears, of tires crunching through gravel, of shady palo verde fronds touching my helmet as I turn back and forth through their cool wash bowers, are sacred voices. This moment felt like that, anyway. Maybe to listen hard enough is to force hearing, but it is also true that forced not-listening guarantees not-hearing. 

Saturday I owned something that is not ownable: a desert trail all to myself, a sense of the sacred, a rocky pumptrack to call my own for an hour or two. I am Rocky Pumptrack, and I am listening. What do these sounds: wind, gravel and rocks beneath tires, call of cactus wren, buzz of insect, amount to? To hear them you have to listen. To know them you have to hear them. For that, I ride.