Who the Hell is maadjurguer?

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I like to ski, mountain bike, drink beer, cook and listen to any jam band I can get my hands on; all while making a complete ass of myself. Hopefully this catharsis is as interesting to others as it is to me.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Long way

When the first bead of sweat cascaded down the amber lenses of my sunglasses, I smiled.  Despite the crisp November air washing over me as I floated over the damp landscape of morning, the effort to do so still warmed me considerably.  After an hour of pedaling, my legs were finally getting into a rhythm with my heart and lungs; they pumped blood and oxygen to produce an easy movement through space and time.  When it gets like this after the first hour, I know I’m going the Long way.

Legs previously stiff and dead on the cold start were now warmed and ready.  A two day rest after a hard effort this weekend, made harder by poor hydration choices left me disappointed in my results.  This was not to be a punitive ride since it would do nothing to prepare me for my next one.  Quiet contemplation over ones mistakes, followed by determined acceptance of the need to change, is the only path towards improvement.  This ride was merely a return to the saddle, but it was already turning into something much different; something I talk about with reverence because of its rarity.

The Long way is something I seek, yet is never found by me.  The Long way tends to elude my every desire and attempt to find it.  Rather, the Long way is the thing that finds me.  It’s most common towards the end of a planned ride where I previously assigned myself a finite increment of time.  It presents itself as I look at my odometer and realize that what I’d chosen to do is almost over and yet, my acceptance of this fact is incomplete.  The feelings I have in my body of power and rejuvenation are greater than some arbitrary number on my cycle computer.  The desires of my mind outweigh the need to conform to a formula I’d committed to prior to even clipping into my pedals.  In this manner, the Long way finds me. 

Letting go, I reach the intersection where I would turn home…and choose any way but home, which commits me to more.  I don’t want it to stop; the immense feeling of freedom around me takes every weight off of my body.  The worries and bad visions of night that consume me beyond the present are no longer, my mind is clear in an uncertain path.  It’s when my reality catches up to my path that I realize that my path is certain, and in the short term; this path is not good.  The Long way takes me beyond the certainty of the short term and places me into the uncertainty of the far future…in this I find peace. 

Stopping at a wash cut into a rock band, I dismount amid the silence of the desert; sun streaming down warmth from above.  Gravel beneath my feet crunch pleasantly against the brass of my cleats as I sit down in the soft sand, back against the red rock, absorbing the heat from its mass.  Looking around, the squeak-cluck alarm of Gambel’s quail scurrying around to my right draw my eyes to the ironwood tree on the other side of the arroyo.  Before I can find the noisy birds, I notice quick, irregular movement on the edge of the bank of sand across from me; a black lizard moving to and fro on a boulder, ostensibly looking for something to eat.

As I play with my camelback, sipping in the cool water; I play with the tan and silver flecked granite pebbles around me, tossing some here and others there.  As I close my eyes, the sun above me casts a warm red glow in my eyelids as I absorb the symphony of calm of the Sonoran desert.  Above me, I hear the sound a Saguaro makes in the wind as the air passes through its spines. Clinging to the arroyo’s fractured mass with outstretched roots bound in granite, the Saguaro conducts the performance.  Gentle squeaks are heard, coming from the Palo Verde tree off to my left whose limbs rub against each other in the breeze; leaving their verdant namesake skin rubbed raw.  The sharp report of a Gila Woodpecker is heard far in the distance, too far to locate yet close enough to contribute.

Interrupting this movement of sound, the hollow man made echo of jet engines throttling down upon approach to PHX tear me away from the sanctity of the arroyo.  A thought creeps into the space beyond my eyes; my mind begins to churn on it…and I feel the Long way slipping away; my eyes open.  I immediately stand up, startling the lizard who shared the arroyo with me; it taking cover beneath some limber bush.

I turn around and stare up at the Saguaro, appreciating the glowing white spines which offer a stark texture to the featureless blue sky above.  As I walk over to my bike up stream; I find the Palo Verde tree with the rubbing limbs.  I feel the limbs verdant smooth skin as I reach up above my head to observe the raw limb, tattered and dry.  The quail start to cluck again with my movement, scurrying among the brittle brush ever farther upstream.

Mounting my bike reluctantly, I’m both saddened and happy to resume… As quickly as the Long way can come to me, it too can escape.  I hope that the Long way will return before I reach the next intersection.  Failure to escape the short term has recently translated into my inability to find peace.  Even sleep, a time reserved for rejuvenation, has become another stressful component to my life, failing to offer up the respite of the past.  I’m consumed by fears, darkness and doom.  Failing to escape it, I am bound to its existence.

As I ride out of the wash on steep loose singletrack, my legs stamp out a strained rhythm, seeking a more effortless tempo that once was.  I turn again at an intersection towards a route that takes me farther; still annoyed at the thoughts roiling the waters of my mind.  Focusing on the loose and winding climb in front of me, thoughts disappear as I lift my front wheel over a rock, shove my handlebars and body forward while standing to crank my rear wheel over.  This motion repeats itself several times on the climb, taking only a second, yet leaving my heart pounding within my head.  Each lift move bringing me closer to the top of my climb, where before me; the ridgeline opens up an expansive skyline; river below, mountains 60 miles distant, almost close enough to touch.

Descending once again, the feelings of flow surprise me as a sense of wonderment returns.  The Long way is back, driving me onwards and down.  I continue on like this for hours:  riding, stoping, listening, looking, thinking, climbing & descending.  Only when my water is nearly gone am I forced to make the decision to return.  Taking the final turn towards home at the last intersection; I leave the Long way behind and ride back to the present.  The Long way still remains out there, elusively existing as a sound too faint to hear, a sight unseen and a feeling too weak to touch.  I am assuaged only through graceful acceptance that it will find me once again, somewhere Out There.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Shadows and Glow

Early rays of November made their mark on Cholla and I on our weekly SoMo morning ride.  Blessed with cool temps in the lower 50's, I took advantage of the cool air and warm light to play on the camera and trail.  Waiting for Cholla to pad up, I spied interesting shadows on rock and rubber alike.

Peering at the glow of morning on the texture of blue anodization was intoxicating...even after almost three years, this bike still makes me smile.....

Leaning forward, I noticed the way the carbon fiber absorbed the warm light, and reflected it back on the dust accumulating on the Ritchey headset cap.....

Climbing into the ride....clear skies were welcomed as our lungs took in their share to fuel our legs......

Stopping to session an up, Cholla shows how it's done.....it looks tame from above....

....but from the side, the angle of attack presents itself.....

Topping out on another climb........we moved from the cool desert shadows.....

...into the warm dry light..........

Enveloped in the damp shade of the upper waterfall drainage, more front wheel ups were attacked before turning around at Buena Vista for our withdrawal from the mountain; our return to the day opened up before us, a descent towards the sun.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Tree

Deep in the forest there is a tree.  I ride by it from time to time and stop beneath its branches which reach out across the forest and grow towards the light of the sun.  Nestled deep within the center of the tree is a hole where a limb once fell off.  This hole is now occupied by a hive of bees which buzz away, night and day.  Bringing pollen from the beauty upon the fields, the bees produce honey and stash it away for safe keeping within the tree.

The bees work tirelessly all day long, contributing their efforts to the honey within the hive.  The tree knows this as it feels the pulse and hum of the hive, warming their home in the night and cooling it during the day.  It could be said that the hive and the tree work together as one.

Sometimes a black bear wanders around from time to time clawing at the tree, leaving its bark torn and tattered; but for the most part the bear just rubs against it leaving its hair matted along the scratched surface of the tree.  The bear knows the hive is there and sometimes it takes from the hive.  The bear has to climb high up and loiter as it takes the honey, but pays a price written in the stingers which dot the bear’s nose, still pulsing from the bees that gave their lives protecting the hive.  However, the bear accepts this lapse in comfort for the gain of honey; for the most part, the bees forget it as well and resume like always, building the hive.

As the bees rebuild and restock, so does the tree.  The claw marks the bear leaves in the bark, heal with each passing season.  A living thing, its bark grows over the scars throughout the day; breathing in the light of the sun and air, contributing back a new wealth of oxygen for the bees and every other creature that loves the tree within the forest, even the bear.

That tree still stands there, with the bees inside its heart; pulsing and buzzing away like always; yet the tree is beginning to lean.  Some of its arms are no longer filled with leaves.  Some of its branches are bony and naked; no longer contributing its gifts to the forest.  And as the tree provides less to the forest, the forest no longer provides as much to the tree.  The tree begins to lean ever more as its strong roots lose purchase on the rocky soil, slowly dying.  As more roots lose hold on the earth, more branches fall to the ground and break. 

Eventually, the tree topples over such that the heart of the tree that held the bees is now at ground level.  The bear comes and takes from the hive every day now since it’s much easier for the bear to take a little honey and run away.  Each day, the hive gets smaller and smaller.  The bees for sure try to keep the hive alive in the heart of the tree, but after many raids on the hive by the bear, their honey depleted; the bees take flight to find another tree to begin the cycle again.

On my ride through the woods, I still stop to imagine this tree; its towering majesty softening the glow of sunshine upon me as I rest where it once stood.  Peering up through the hole left in the forest canopy, my eyes narrow to the shaft of harsh bright light issued from the world beyond the forest.  I recall the light of the world, filtered in green; a pleasant reminder of the life giving properties of the tree in balance.  From the sun and the air came the tree, and in return; the tree gave all back.  The hum of the bees in its heart was the sound of life contributing to others.

I still ride to this place and cast my eyes in dispassionate remembrance of the tree that used to be.  It’s now shattered where it fell.  Its roots, no longer deep in the ground, have been torn from the earth.  The tree and roots now lie exposed, bathed in unfiltered white light from the space in the forest canopy above.  The hole within the tree is still there, yet the bees are gone and so is the bear.  The only reminders left are the last scars the bear made in the bark as it grabbed the last of the honey shortly before the bees flew away.

The bees left to find another tree to populate and the bears in kind have moved on.  I get back on my bike and pedal away to find the bees, yet I’m haunted by the tree that used to be.