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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Dance Upon the Mountains Like a Flame

“Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.”
― W.B. Yeats, The Land of Heart’s Desire

Wind Turbines Blackwell, Oklahoma (click to enlarge)

Wind Turbines
Blackwell, Oklahoma
(click to enlarge)

What You See Over There Aren’t Giants, But Windmills

“Destiny guides our fortunes more favorably than we could have expected. Look there, Sancho Panza, my friend, and see those thirty or so wild giants, with whom I intend to do battle and kill each and all of them, so with their stolen booty we can begin to enrich ourselves. This is nobel, righteous warfare, for it is wonderfully useful to God to have such an evil race wiped from the face of the earth.”
“What giants?” Asked Sancho Panza.
“The ones you can see over there,” answered his master, “with the huge arms, some of which are very nearly two leagues long.”
“Now look, your grace,” said Sancho, “what you see over there aren’t giants, but windmills, and what seems to be arms are just their sails, that go around in the wind and turn the millstone.”
“Obviously,” replied Don Quijote, “you don’t know much about adventures.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

(click to enlarge)Wind Turbine Blade on a tractor trailer, Interstate 35, just south of the Kansas/Oklahoma border.

(click to enlarge)
Wind Turbine Blade on a tractor trailer, Interstate 35, just south of the Kansas/Oklahoma border.

Like Spiders Across the Stars

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”
― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Wind Turbine blades on Tractor Trailers, Interstate 35, Oklahoma (click to enlarge)

Wind Turbine blades on Tractor Trailers, Interstate 35, Oklahoma
(click to enlarge)

All up and down Interstate 35 you see trucks hauling giant turbine blades, destined for the wind farms that have been growing like mushroomy weeds all across the wind-swept plains.

“Shaw banged on the door of the shack and explained to the farmer what had happened. The farmer started his tractor and the two men rode back to the car. After tugging, digging, and a push from the tractor, they were able to free the Model-T. Shaw continued toward Clayton. Anxious, thinking about the baby, worried about more drifts, he kept the speed up, pushing the car to its limit. When he came to a sudden swerve in the road, he was going too fast to correct his speed. The Model-T teetered on two wheels and tipped on its side. For an instant, Shaw thought he was pinned. He was bruised and bleeding but otherwise all right. As he crawled out the window, he saw two wheels still spinning in the dust. He was able to pry the car out of the dust and tip it back, right-side up. The engine started. He finished the drive and made it to St. Joseph’s Hospital. Just as Hazel went into her high contractions, in walked a bruised, bleeding, dusty man, his eyelids clogged with mud, his fingers oiled and dirty. Hazel gave birth to a girl late that day, April 7, 1934. They named her Ruth Nell. She was plump and seemed healthy, but the doctor was concerned about taking her outside. The air was not safe for a baby. He ordered Hazel to stay in the hospital for at least ten more days and remarked that the young family might want to consider moving out of No Man’s Land. Others were buttoning up their homes and getting out before the dust ruined them. But the Lucas family had planted themselves in this far edge of the Oklahoma Panhandle at a time when there wasn’t even a land office for nesters. They were among the first homesteaders.”
― Timothy Egan, The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl

C-Beams Glitter in the Dark

I have… seen things you people wouldn’t believe… Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those… moments… will be lost in time, like tears… in… rain. Time… to die…
—-Rutger Hauer, as Roy Batty, in Blade Runner

Photos of Wind Turbines in the Blackwell Wind Energy Center wind farm, near Blackwell, Oklahoma.

Wind Turbine, Blackwell, Oklahoma

Wind Turbine, Blackwell, Oklahoma

Wind Turbine, Blackwell, Oklahoma

Wind Turbine, Blackwell, Oklahoma

Wind Turbine, Blackwell, Oklahoma

Wind Turbine, Blackwell, Oklahoma

The first thing that strikes you about the turbines in a wind farm is the sheer size. Since they are hoisted up above a featureless, flat plain – they are visible for miles away and it took more driving than I anticipated – down sliding sand roads to reach them. I was surprised that there were no fences, gates or other security and that I was able to move right up to the base of the massive towers. Then, looking up is a giddy, vertiginous adventure. The size of the tower and the surprising speed of the blades is intimidating and unnerving – like looking up into an unexpected, impossible abyss.

The second, even more unforeseen thing is the sound. The rural bean fields were completely quiet – the air at ground level apparently motionless and completely silent. Yet the blades move at astonishing speed with an exquisite swoosh. It’s the sound of a giant jetliner wing flying past you at breakneck speed only a few feet overhead. Amazing.

Kite

“A kite is a victim you are sure of.
You love it because it pulls
gentle enough to call you master,
strong enough to call you fool;
because it lives
like a desperate trained falcon
in the high sweet air,
and you can always haul it down
to tame it in your drawer.

A kite is a fish you have already caught
in a pool where no fish come,
so you play him carefully and long,
and hope he won’t give up,
or the wind die down.

A kite is the last poem you’ve written
so you give it to the wind,
but you don’t let it go
until someone finds you
something else to do.”
― Leonard Cohen, The Spice Box of Earth

Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

Dallas, Texas
(click to enlarge)

“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.”
― Anaïs Nin

Racing the Wind

White Rock Lake, Dallas, Texas

“hark, now hear the sailors cry,
smell the sea, and feel the sky
let your soul & spirit fly, into the mystic…”
― Van Morrison

racing_wind

“Where lies the final harbor, whence we unmoor no more? In what rapt ether sails the world, of which the weariest will never weary? Where is the foundling’s father hidden? Our souls are like those orphans whose unwedded mothers die in bearing them: the secret of our paternity lies in their grave, and we must there to learn it.”
― Herman Melville, Moby Dick