dry and wet

There’s something about biking in the rain. Feeling the power of the elements; wind-driven rain, clatter of hail on the helmet, surface water tugging the wheels, but persisting through to the destination. In the case of lightning, the wiser choice is to seek shelter. Huddle under a bridge or in a 7-11. The electric potential of lightning can run to the millions of volts.
My companion and I, lost in ecstasy and spurred on by dog-urgency, rode on. Arriving home, we are glad to be alive.


I was watching her rear wheel. The sensation was not so much of falling as of the ground coming up to meet me. Or hitting a wall. I hurtled forward propelled into a wall of soft grass.
Proprioception depends on having a horizon. For that moment, the wheel, the sidewalk, the lawn, became my horizon. And like an errant gyroscope, my brain miscalculated the whole equation. I was a toddler without my training wheels.
Now I’m a center fielder with a grass stain on my pants from a diving catch. Brush myself off, survey the field, and get in position for the next play.


bicycle diaries 2012, day 276

Early autumn on the prairie; still green, now awash in amber, gold, sienna, and sepia tones. Headed into the northeast wind — windward out, leeward in — taking me through Herrick lake preserve. Pilot black snake lying in the middle of the crushed limestone path, absorbing his preferred infrared band of the warm October sun. Through the horse tunnel into Danada, I arrive at “Wheaton overlook,” a modest hill above Rice Lake with a wide view of its indigo surface and the shops and houses beyond. On the way back the hill now looms as a singular challenge: flex the quads, gear down, now recruit the abdominals, breathe. Retrace my path then re-enter the late afternoon traffic crush. With an assist from the brisk wind at my back, I achieve a respectable 22 mph until I am able to turn off onto a residential street and home to enjoy an endorphin cocktail.

winter sun

Sun block on my face.   January wanes and the planet’s tilted orbit has swung us  toward our thermonuclear star.  The sun  climbs higher in a clear blue hemisphere of sky.   Snow crunching under my boot heels is melting by radiant heat in air temperature of -4C.  On the trail, runners, dog walkers, parents pulling their progeny on wooden sleds greet one another as comrades — fellow short term winter trekkers.

The warmth on my back  is palpable as I cross the top of the dam from west to east. Water churns out of the spillway with the turbulence of a mountain stream. Toward town the river flows freely with icy patches along the banks while  frozen and snow covered north of the dam.

I take my body out on these excursions to participate in the rhythm of the natural world.  As Brian Brawdy has observed, many of our most important revelations have occurred out in nature — Moses on the mountain, Buddha in the garden, Jesus in the desert, Newton in the orchard, and Darwin in the Galopagos.

save my text

I’ve been playing with this text editing software lately.  You can try it for free.  I got some ideas for punching up my prose.

When some of my friends were home on college break, I took them to the Stock Yard Inn for prime rib and martinis.  Being the only one living at home and attending commuter college, I wanted to demonstrate some urban panache.  The only times I had been there previously was to drop off fares. I don’t remember much about the dinner.  On the way home, in my overconfidence in showing my mastery of city streets I made a wrong turn and we found ourselves in Chinatown.


When friends were home on college break, I took them to the Stock Yard Inn for prime rib and martinis.  Being the only one living at home and attending commuter college, I wanted to demonstrate urban panache.  I had, of course, been there many times — to drop off fares. Don’t remember much of the dinner; but on the way home, with overconfident mastery of city streets  made a wrong turn and found ourselves in Chinatown.

What do you think?

December 1

The first day of meteorological winter. Out in the park, the crew has finished setting up the orange plastic fencing and foam padded fence posts wrapped in layers of duct tape to prepare Rotary Hill for safe sledding. Across the DuPage River, a large grassy area has been enclosed by wooden boards to form ice skating and hockey rinks.
The weather forecast: 16 C.
Meanwhile, in northern Canada air temperature is -40 C (also -40 F, being the point at which the two scales converge). The Celsius scale was adopted by most countries in the mid to late twentieth century to replace the Fahrenheit scale. When will the US officially join the scientifically literate metric world?

Out and Back: bicycle diaries 2012, day 289

I’m a kid on my bike.

Overjoyed that the McDowell Grove trail has been reopened to cyclers, walkers and runners, allowing me a direct route to connect with the prairie path. No need to mount flashing lights to ride on the streets. The preserve lands are still fenced off — reseeded and planted with saplings — and the auto entrance closed.
At the north end I travel through the golden forest, the sunlight filtering through a stand of yellow maples, the ground carpeted in bright yellow leaves.

I take the Batavia spur, first paralleling I-88 — the doppler of engines and whining tires distracting. Four more miles and the trail opens out onto cornfields and wetlands. Then through a series of rectilinear tree tunnels. It is at about the 10 mile mark that I enter a meditative state; the rhythm of the pedaling becomes hypnotic. The landscape rolls along around me. The blur of a thousand starlings turning and wheeling over the fields.

Usually when I’m riding an out and back route, I find a natural turn around point — a crossroad, a bridge, or trail head. Today I’m urging myself to go a little farther, farther yet. The air is cool and clear; the trail entices me. I know the way back will be mostly down grade and down wind, so I tell myself I can coast back home. Finally I find the place: Fox River flowing serenely, sun glinting on ripples.
I’m in Batavia, faced with a 17 mile return trip and now feeling my chronological age.

There is a golden forest near you. Seek it.

dog walk

On our post sunset dog walk at the Naperville river walk, Janet had Shorty and I was tethered to Millie.  On these walks I see the dog world at ground level and vicariously smell with the dogs’ heightened olfactory sensitivity.  Every bush, patch of grass or light post holds a wondrous variety of scents; as does that dog totem: the fire hydrant.

Noodling along the red brick path, I noticed the large spruce ensconced in the middle of the ball fountain.  The tree decked out in tasteful white lights with full branches spread beyond the perimeter of the circular fountain across from the Nichols Library.   Beyond the fountain on either side of the entrance to the wooden bridge, we encountered religious displays; one a nativity scene, the other a menorah. North Central College students had left a “Happy Holidays” message on the sign.

Shorty wanted to investigate. Janet pulled him toward her as he began to lift his right leg over the holy infant. I mused over whether any outraged non-believer had yet raised a legal objection to the overtly religious displays on municipal land.  I took no personal offense. These human totems struck me as quaint expressions of our mythic heritage. Why do we imbue them with so much power over our lives?