The Emptiness Below Us

“Anyone whose goal is ‘something higher’ must expect someday to suffer vertigo. What is vertigo? Fear of falling? No, Vertigo is something other than fear of falling. It is the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves.”
― Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Crystal Beach, Bolivar Peninsula, Texas

Now, here is is, the first day of a spanking new year. And I have these goals for 2018 – I’ve worked hard on these… and the main three are:

  • Read 100 books
  • Write 50 Short Stories
  • Ride 3000 miles on my bike.

Since this is only the beginning, I didn’t want to get behind right at the start. So I cheated on the reading a hundred books – and jumped the gun by starting two weeks early. I’m up to six so far… which is good. I’ve already written one short story – so I’m OK there.

But I am stuck in a beach house with no bicycle and freezing cold… incredible wind… what we used to call a blue norther. I had planned on a little flexibility on my goal – knowing that I get sick over the winter and need other means to keep up with my goal.

At home, I have two exercise bikes – so I decided that riding one of those is worth ten miles for each hour riding. That way I can keep up if I’m forced inside.

At the beach house I thought about it and decided that, in a pinch, I can walk to make up the goal. Only in emergency situations, like now – the first day. After some thought and internet research, I decided on a three mile walk, at a brisk pace, would equal ten miles of riding. I walk at about three miles per hour, so that’s about an hour – which corresponds with riding or stationary. Also, that’s in addition to whatever I walk on a normal basis – the usual strutting around doesn’t count.

So at the end of the day, I layered on as much as I could (the temperature was below freezing and the wind was… really strong. I walked out to the beach and watched the kids fire off the last of their fireworks, then headed out down the beach. There is a little creek that emerges from the dunes and blocks off the rest of the beach from where we were and I knew that to that creek and back would get me to the three miles I needed.

I started out into the wind, pulling my hood closed so I was looking out a tiny circle at the water on the right and the dunes on the left. The moon was full, so there was plenty of light. It was very cold. But I started walking.

And it put me into the thought of all the other times over my life that I had walked on the beach, especially at night. From Panama to Nicaragua, to South Padre Island over spring break (That was a long drive from Lawrence, Kansas) to this very beach over the years with my kids growing larger and larger.

There is a rhythm of walking on the beach, in the wet sand between the surf and the loose part (in Texas it is generally allowed to drive on the beach, so, especially at night, you want to stay close to the surf), as the time and the miles go by all those old memories become telescoped in to the present day, the experience of being and moving along a border between two worlds.

It was a lot easier to walk back with the wind behind me. So now I have the equivalent of ten miles of bike riding on the first day of January. Still on track – so good, so far.

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Maybe They Never Vanish

“Maybe it’s wrong when we remember breakthroughs to our own being as something that occurs in discrete, extraordinary moments. Maybe falling in love, the piercing knowledge that we ourselves will someday die, and the love of snow are in reality not some sudden events; maybe they were always present. Maybe they never completely vanish, either.”
― Peter Høeg, Smilla’s Sense of Snow

One Last Look At Winter

One Last Look At Winter

Ice Contains No Future

“ice contains no future , just the past, sealed away. As if they’re alive, everything in the world is sealed up inside, clear and distinct. Ice can preserve all kinds of things that way- cleanly, clearly. That’s the essence of ice, the role it plays.”
― Haruki Murakami, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

I have always enjoyed the slightly dated but still beautiful fountain at Richardson City Hall, behind the library. It, for example, was one of the destinations on the famous Richardson Sculpture Bicycle Photo Scavenger Hunt.

7) City Hall Fountain

Today, I dropped some books off at the library after work, and noticed the fountain had a different look about it.

Richardson Fountain

Richardson Fountain

Richardson Fountain

Richardson Fountain

Richardson Fountain

Richardson Fountain

Ice and Iron

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A hungry feeling came o’er me stealing
And the mice were squealing in my prison cell
And the old triangle went jingle jangle
All along the banks of the royal canal

To begin the morning the screw was bawling
“Get up, ya bowsie, and clean up your cell”
And the old triangle went jingle jangle
All along the banks of the royal canal

The screw was peeping, Humpy Gussy was sleeping
As I lay there dreaming of my girl, Sal
And the old triangle went jingle jangle
All along the banks of the royal canal

Up in the female prison there are seventy-five women
And ’tis among them I wish I did dwell
Then the old triangle could go jingle jangle
All along the banks of the royal canal
All along the banks of the royal canal
—-The Auld Triangle, trad, Dominic Behan

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Dallas Tweed Ride

Today was an event I was looking forward to, the Dallas 2013 Tweed Ride.

I had what was, I guess, the bare minimum – a tweed jacket from Goodwill and a tweed cap a friend had found on Amazon. So I was ready, if only minimally so.

The ride was originally scheduled for a week ago, but had to be postponed because of the ice storm. The weather was impossible that day, but it was pretty cold today – low forties, overcast, foggy, with a wicked north wind screaming in like a wave of icy razor blades. The last tweed ride – two years ago – was on a preternaturally warm day and had a huge turnout. Today looked like the opposite. I had to think hard about whether I wanted to go. It was nasty outside and the house was warm. I had plenty to do at home.

I futzed and dutzed and prepared as best I could. I decided to ride my commuter bike, and strap on as much crap as I thought I needed onto it. One pannier was packed with my camera and tripod and the other one I filled with two vacuum bottles of hot coffee. I also filled a small flask with some rum, just in case.

Though it wasn’t authentic, I wore a modern thermal vest under my jacket – hoping to keep my core warm.

And I set out to ride my bike to the DART station. As I turned north into the wind, at the end of my block, I decided to turn around and go home. I was out of breath – since the ice storm I’ve been hanging around and am not used to riding… I felt ridiculous in my silly getup. But most of all, the cutting cold wind made riding simply too miserable.

But then I thought about how decisions about giving up go down. The problem is; the pain, the uncomfortable cold, and the icy wind are all too obvious negatives… while the positives of actually braving the elements were out there in the uncertain future, and not for sure. How do you judge the merit of something that you don’t actually do? If you give in to the immediately uncomfortable and reject the possible future… you won’t get out of bed in the morning.

So I sucked it up and pedaled on. As I rode toward the train station, I noticed the clouds breaking up to the north and by the time I reached it the sun was actually breaking through the clouds, and the vicious wind began to break. I bought my pass and the transit gods sent a train in at the exact second I arrived on the platform (that is rare – I’m usually cursed and get to see my train leaving as I pull up – and have to wait).

The ride started by the Grassy Knoll at Dealey Plaza in Downtown Dallas, behind the famous wooden fence. I had thought that the interest in the assassination site would die down after the recent fiftieth anniversary, but there was a huge crowd of tourists wandering around… looking askance at the small crowd of people wearing odd clothing, standing around with a motley collection of bicycles, and shivering.

The crowd wasn’t huge – the cold and the postponement had taken its toll – but there was enough. We set out and rode through downtown, looping past Klyde Warren Park for photographs, and then down Main Street – past the Dallas Eye – and across the Jefferson Viaduct Cycletrack into Oak Cliff.

About two weeks ago, some folks and I had spent a few hours sweeping the track clean. Unfortunately, the ice storm had forced the city to sand the bridge heavily and the traffic had pushed a lot of sand and rock into the bicycle lanes – making our work worthless and the track difficult and dangerous. I took my time crossing – I didn’t want to ride fast through that slippery gravel, but the sun was still out and the view was really nice.

We rode into Oak Cliff, through Bishop Arts and on to the Turner House, where there were refreshments and photographs. We couldn’t stay too long – it was a long way from home, so I rode back across the river and caught the train downtown.

The temperature dropped after the sun went down and the ride home from the station was very cold… but bearable.

Tweed is warmer than you think.

The Tweed Ride posing in Klyde Warren Park

The Tweed Ride posing in Klyde Warren Park
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Dallas Observer Article and Photos of the ride

Charming Portraits of People With Their Bicycles at the Dallas Tweed Ride