Archive | January 2013

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.

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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.

becomes…

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?

bicycle diaries 2012, day 281

National Weather Service has issued a Red Alert due to high winds and dry conditions.

It’s Columbus Day out on the prairie and family groups have emerged from behind their keyboards;  children taking their adult keepers out for a walk on the trail.  The wind sweeps the savanna with the kinetic energy of ocean swells.  There is a square shaped black and white kite bobbing on the gusts resembling nothing so much as an aerial chessboard.

I’ve worked my way up to the point that I can cover 20 miles without much strain.  Eschewing earplugs piping data into my brain, my thoughts are free to go where they will.  Yet I can usually be alert to sounds of potential hazards.

That is how I came up with what I modestly call the Unified Field Theory of Sanity.  While not completely original, it has been cribbed from reliable sources and synthesized on the trail.  Herewith the First Axiom.  Like most axia, this one appears self-evident yet is powerful.  The idea began to germinate while talking with a friend last night.  He is feeling depressed about a partner who is inducing mental anguish, depression, and feelings of hopelessness.  As previously stated, herewith:

The Commutative Property of Health: The brain is the body and the body is the brain.

First Corollary: The mind and soul are not the brain but emerge from the brain and are OF the brain.

Second Corollary: Free will is an illusion.

Get the body up and out the door. Start the neurons firing; grow the synaptic connections. Neural research has shown that we make a decision several milliseconds before we become aware of the decision.  The body wants to move. Get out of the way and let it loose. The mind follows as the brain is bathed in dopamine.  Thoughts, motives, desires are clarified.  The focus narrows on the problem at hand.  Understanding emerges.  I think I can deal with this mess!

The ride home is uneventful.

crash analysis

I was stupid and reckless. Another fall; bumps and bruises. I entered the turn first, carrying too much speed.  She, not as familiar with the course, followed close behind.  Nearing the bottom, I braked and skidded.

The moment is difficult to recall.  “Janet? ”  Where are you?

She cried out softly, I found her on the side of the road among rocks and dirt.  In rescue mode, I went to her.  She was shaken but intact.  I was shaken.  We hugged.

She had the presence of mind to keep the bike between herself and the ground until the last possible moment.  She kept the potential for injury to a minimum.

Travel on a descending path increases velocity.  When velocity for a given turn radius exceeds the coefficient of static friction between the tires and the road, the tires will leave the road.

Recommendation: Reduce initial velocity when entering downhill curve.