Wednesday, October 16, 2019

A ride, recently: Therapy.

It happens to all of us: A need to sidestep the frustrating, maddening chaos of "the world" that we're tuned into.  A desire to check out, to unplug, to gain a better big picture perspective by deliberately removing ourselves from it for a few hours.

Vacations work great for this but the time required to take one just isn't always there.

We 'make do' by using our weekends as wisely as we're able.  Sometimes weeknights, too.

One of the best ways of temporarily removing our focus -- from things that feel either beyond our control or utterly hopeless -- is to go for a mountain bike ride.  Not a road ride, where the metronomic cadence allows our minds to wander back to that which we want to avoid.  And not a gravel ride, because, well, those are usually worse.  

Nope, trail.  The more technical it is, the more removed from our normal headspace we can be.

So it was that Jeny and I found ourselves on our favorite tech trail a few days ago.  For well over 4 hours, nothing about Ukraine was mentioned.  Even though I *am* Ukrainian.  Neither of us uttered the words 'impeachment', 'betrayal', nor 'subpoena'.  In reality we discussed almost nothing at all, for we'd chosen a trail that -- technically speaking -- is really engaging.  So much so that conversation is difficult at best, at least for mortals like us.

For that glorious handful of hours we lasered in on maintaining traction through off camber corners, across slabs of rock littered with ball bearings, up steep, scrabbly grunts with funky, hinky mid-pitch moves to be made.  The climbing on this trail is usually steep, so much so that speech is the last thing on your mind as you focus on putting out as few watts as possible, the better to keep your heart rate in check for the yet-harder move just over that little knoll.


Fail to clean a move -- guaranteed on this route -- and you walk your bike back to the most obvious spot to re-start, catch three breaths while admiring the panorama, then try again.  As many times as it takes.

A good friend often reminds me that mindfulness makes the need to get out for a ride like this superfluous: You don't need to "do" anything to change your mind -- you just need to slow down and, well, change your mind.  

He's right, of course.  And we both practice that daily.

Perhaps it's because we've not yet mastered the achievement of a mindful state.  Or maybe it's because we know that exercise, endorphin incineration, focus, and concerted effort are all healthy endeavors in their own right.  But we find this particular 'solution' -- temporary though it may be -- much more satisfying.
Plus, we get to therapeutically smash some rocks along the way.

Thanks for checkin' in.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

A ride, recently: The capacity to make anew.

A human being is not a waxen rubbing, a lifeless imprint taken from some great stony face.  Rather he is at liberty to use the inclinations of the past as he sees fit.  He is free to perceive the matrix, and, within his limits, change from it.  By seeing both the futility in trying to relive the old life and the danger in trying to obliterate it, man can gain the capacity to make anew. His very form depends not on repetition but on variation from old patterns.  In response to stress, biological survival requires genetic change: It necessitates a turning away from doomed replication.

~WLHM, Blue Highways

Monday, October 7, 2019

Strategic rut avoidance.

As we flutter down into autumn, shorter days create opportunities for new habits to form.  Or maybe just old habits re-emerging after a summer of dormancy.  One of these -- which is quite welcome -- is finding time to read before bed, instead of merely collapsing exhausted.

While camped at 10,000' a few nights ago, with the wind ripping outside and a few dozen driven raindrops stinging the skin of the van, I burrowed into William Least Heat Moon's Blue Highways.  It is, in my humble opinion, a work that can (must?) be re-read every few years, so insightful is it that I doubt even a borderline savant could ingest every gem in fewer than a handful of readings.

One of many that leapt out at me that night, and that stuck with me throughout the next day's ride, was this:

After the Rappites, the hedges disappeared, but a generation ago, citizens replanted the maze, it's contours strikingly like the Hopi map of emergence.  

I walked through it to stretch from the long highway.  Even though I avoided the shortcut holes broken in the hedges, I still went down the rungs and curves without a single wrong turn.  

The "right" way was worn so deeply in the earth as to be unmistakeable.  But without the errors, wrong turns, and blind alleys, without the doubling back and misdirection and fumbling and chance discoveries, there was not one bit of joy in walking the labyrinth.  

And worse: knowing the way made traveling it perfectly meaningless.

Like many who've arrived at middle age, I often find myself consciously leaning into the happy rut that is my everyday life, embracing what has been created through years of effort and not a little bit of good luck.  

It takes something special -- the change of seasons always suffices -- to make me conscious of the need to step out of that rut.  

Once I've stopped looking over my shoulder at its' comforting familiarity and begun to embrace what's in front of me, I always, always realize that new experiences are more valuable to me than almost anything else.

Thanks for checkin' in.

Thursday, October 3, 2019


I don't do it often, but today I'm dredging one up from the archives.  The intent and vibe are unchanged -- get up, get out! -- but we're 5 years older now, and the puppy is gone.

The clip of Doogs rolling in the dirt, trying to absorb fall stink into his very being will always be one of my favorite moving pictures.  Ever.


* * * * *

I am speaking directly to you.

Stop.  Get up.  Look out the nearest window.


Fall is right now upon you.  

Blue skies, warm days, cool nights, the deliciously overpowering stench of decaying organic matter in the woods.

Hadn't noticed?  

Might want to check for a pulse.

Go.  Get out there, rub your own nose in it.

Soon it will be gone.  

Now is the time.