Thursday, November 27, 2014

Give Peace, Give Joy, Forgive and Be Thankful

What's waiting in the night at the end of the tunnel? I truly do not know.

After a long and exhausting day at work, one of a string of the same, I rode through this tunnel and wondered what was on the other side. Usually it's just a quiet trail beside the canal. But, it could be anything, and sometimes, it could be an unpleasant something.

Once, riding my bike through a similar tunnel along the canal at night, three kids tried to drop a mattress on me, for example. I was booking along about 20 mph (those tunnels have downhill entrances) and it could have severely injured me if they had timed it better.

When I heard the WHUMP! behind me, looked back and saw them laughing, it scared me. Made me shake to think what almost happened. Made me initially want to yell back at them, go back and be a monster right back at them. That would have been stupid in so many ways, but it is what I pictured, actually pictured, in my vivid visual-oriented brain: whip the bike around, charge at them yelling like a crazy man, blitz them and put them down.

Of course I did not do that. Nor would it have played out in any predictable way, but would have been some form of bad. How about wheel around and dial 911? For some reason, I didn't have my cell phone. I just kept riding, which often seems like the best choice, and warned a few riders I encountered of what might be up ahead. 

Watch out, there are kids above the tunnel dropping a mattress.

I do think the world would be better if that was a sentence I never had to say to anyone. But, obviously based on the facts right before our eyes, people all around us make these kinds of mistakes all the time. That's how I look at it: the kids dropping a mattress onto passing cyclists were making a mistake. Committing an error. For example, for me to choose to turn around and go and confront them would almost certainly have been an error. A bad decision. I admit that. 

What I also admit is that, for a few seconds right as it was happening, that would have felt natural to do. That was my choice, my decision, my reality to make or change, and I would be held accountable for it. No one else. I blame no one but myself for what would have happened next. It's on me. I kept riding down the path.

Just a duck couple waddling along the path, right?

Also, and I think unfortunately, I have cut way back on my summer night cycling workouts along the canal, mainly due to encounters like that. It is incredible to fly along on my bicycle in the night along the water. But, having people altered on booze or drugs run at you screaming, which happened a couple time near the mattress tunnel, is enough to knock you off the bliss pedestal, certainly. I still do ride at night along the canal when I just can't resist the call, but it's always with a little wariness, a little extra caution about tunnel overpasses, a little extra edge of awareness. 

Those little extra levels of vigilance exact a cost in terms of taking away from the experience of watching the bats skim the water for insects in the dying light, for example. It can knock down the high of flying through the darkness. Fear rising to that level can dominate the emotional landscape. The only thing I've found to counteract that is to think about radiating joy, peace, and forgiveness. To expect people to be people and to expect them, therefore, to make mistakes and errors all the time. 

To know that we are all, particularly in our interactions with the physical world and with each other, and also even within our own minds towards ourselves, accidents waiting to happen. Clumsy, error-prone and imperfect beings who screw up all the time. With that knowledge, coupled with the desire for joy and happiness, the only reasonable response is to forgive those errors. Let go the rage and embrace peace. It's not easy, it's necessary.

OK, the duck couple. I saw them waddling down the path together and snapped some telephoto shots. As I got closer, I learned they were actually actors in a tense drama. It seems that they have developed a habit of munching the delicious greens being cultivated in the garden of a gourmet restaurant. Mr and Mrs Duck have apparently developed a taste for arugula, watercress, winter greens, and fresh herbs. Perhaps dressed with a lovely vinaigrette.

I saw an encounter brewing between Mr and Mrs Duck and the restauranteur himself. "Those ducks are back," a woman with him said, as they exited the establishment and began walking slowly toward the birds. The ducks paused, and the continued boldly onwards, making for the greens. Perhaps they were hungry. Do ducks' mouths water?

I slowed to a stop to see what would happen. Man on duck violence? Shouting? Defense of greens? A precipitous plot to poison the parsnips, perhaps? No, none of those. The restauranteur said, "Time to get out the chicken wire again, I suppose."

I think about those things: ducks being ducks, people making mistakes, restauranteurs stringing chicken wire to protect the serving of the fresh winter greens dressed in a delightful vinaigrette. When it works, when the tension is held but not released, when tolerance and understanding prevail, I take joy from that. The vigilance can be somewhat relaxed, the tunnel up ahead passed through with a little less concern.

These feelings come about not because there is peace, but because people choose to give it. To make it, as a state of action and a conscious choice, unstopping and unfailing, in the face of certain human fallibility. No one is perfect. But peace, joy, forgiveness, thankfulness, it feels to me like these give us a glimpse of what perfection is like, and allow us to feel some of it not only alone, but with each other.

Give peace, give joy, forgive us our imperfections, and be thankful. No one can live that all the time, but all of us can know that it's what we are supposed to do. Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday I'm Free!

There's this connection with the bicycle: 
an anticipation of
the ride is just point to point but there's something more
spinning and wind
night and me
the traffic feels like a friend
because I know what it's doing before it does it
this light they see
this night is me
it's Friday and I am free

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thursday You Know the Drill

In the morning the day is full of possibilities, the lighting stark and literal

Same person, same bicycle, same place, same day. 

Different times, different light, different feeling, different energy, different.

You never bike past the same canal twice

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wednesday We'll Find a Way

Arizona Canal, November Riding Weather

Wednesday, middle day, let's meet on our common ground, learn from each other, and finish the week stronger thru ongoing dialogue. This may not come naturally to either of us. This tolerance, this listening, this compromise, but keep your mind open, here in the center of the week, teetering at the peak having just ridden up, ready to ride downhill the rest of the week. 

Let's say this thing comes up. Something difficult. A new challenge. Here's what I think, Wednesday: let's look at the options we have which let us look at this challenge as an opportunity. Or if that's too sunny for too dark a thing, let's be real: let's find a way. Rather than stopping before we start, let's decide on a first step and take it. Then use that one-step-forward position as a new perspective on the challenge, from which we'll take one more step. Each time, thinking: we'll find a way.

Every day, each sunrise, a new chance to find a way. Thank you, Wednesday!

Sometimes the Wednesday way is indirect, but down a lovely trail

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tuesday Can't Run

Tuesday came after me...

Tuesday came after me and expected me to run. Instead, I stood my ground. Maintained my optimism, my clearness of purpose, my equanimity and balance, and stared Tuesday down. Suddenly, in the face of my resolve and steadfastness, Tuesday turned tail. Turned tail and ran. 

But I gave chase. Tuesday would not get away so easily. I followed across the distance, closed with Tuesday as the hours wore on, until I caught up. I had a word with Tuesday. A firm, direct, reasonable word. And you know what? Tuesday and I worked it out, and went on with our lives.

Yes it's a Christmas tree. Slightly off center of the red line, oh the OCD!!

Squids in the sky glowing in the night. Heart.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Monday Can't See Me

The normal flow changes when the traffic lights become non-functional

Out the door on Monday and find the back tire is running short on air. Back inside, go to the bike area to fetch the Airbase Pro wonder pump, return to find that the cat has stolen the valve cap I left next to the tire. He grabbed it and ran off as if he had really found something. He dove into his tube house with his bounty, and probably added it to the pile of other small things he's taken from me. He peeked out from the doorway at me. I know he was thinking, "He can't see me. I am stealthy, and hiding. Motionless, I am invisible to him."

Fine, I said, keep it, it's yours, I have plenty, just don't eat* it. Return to bike area, get another valve cap, return to bike, pump up tire, install alternative valve cap, take Airbase Pro pump back to bicycle area. Return to bike. Find cat staring intently at the new valve cap, wearing EXACTLY the expression, "Why is your valve making that soft yet distinct hissing sound just slightly too quiet for your abused human ears to make out but plenty loud for my sensitive cat ears to hear?" Great. 

He gives me a look. His look says, "I have concerns about you riding off on this quietly hissing thing. Perhaps you would prefer to just stay home on Monday. We could bat valve caps across the floor and all around the house. Perhaps we might eat some."

I think it's a Christmas tree installation

The traffic at the light was thrown into a tizzy because the stoplight that they drive through every day at the same time for years happened to choose this day to lapse into a non-functional state. Everyone knows that you're supposed to stop at a non-functioning light as if it were a four-way stop, but no one seems to do this in practice, so they brought out a policeman to stand out there in the middle as a visible authority figure to wave at them to remind them what to do. I decided to avoid the whole thing and diverted to the sidewalk to just ride around the mess. 

Ride around the mess worked marginally better than riding through the mess, but still required a zig-zag two block detour to slurp around the back end of the disturbed mass of crawling drivers of disrupted routine. I thought I might never get around, but of course that's just a dire exaggeration, because just a few moments of patience and perseverance got me around and across, and put the micro-jam behind me.

I felt Monday breathing down my neck, but I did not look him in the eye. Instead, I left Monday in my dust. Monday can't see me, and the tire held just fine.  

*I briefly considered not telling my wife, the cat lady, about this incident, since I immediately had fears of what a cat endoscopy might cost. Then I doubled that. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Echo Coffeeneur #7: Where we coffeeneur echoes in Eternity

Conclusion of my Coffeeneuring 2014 rides

For the final ride of my entries in the Coffeeneuring 2014 Challenge, I chose Echo Coffee, a 12.5 mile round trip. Immediately upon entering Echo I noticed how hard everyone there seemed to be working. Yes, the baristas were hopping, but I mean the patrons: everyone, except one lady at the bar, had laptops open and papers spread across the table. I felt a little out of place without a laptop to work on, or at least some papers to spread out to look busy and full of purpose.

Convenient staple rack bike parking

Echo ambiance shot. The woman in the yellow sweater was the only person I saw there without a laptop

Echo is another place that takes coffee and roasting very seriously. From their web site, "For straight espresso, macchiato, and cappuccino drinkers, the default choice is a single origin El Salvador Bourbon. This amazing coffee is so round, complete, and complex it belies the fact that it is a single origin coffee. The crema is sweet and thick, like chocolate butter, yet it presents a wonderful brightness and berry fruit flavor as well."

The cappuccino in question

Coffeeshops with Bridgestones parked out front always are good

The coffee was good, with flavors more on the subtle and complex end rather than on the deep and assertive end. It seemed like what you would want to sip during an afternoon of working on your laptop with papers spread across the table.

This wraps up my Coffeeneuring 2014 Challenge rides. It's the first time I've finished. I enjoyed both the idea of it, and the actuality, of looking for good coffee shops to ride to, going to them, snapping some pictures, blogging a few words. I've tried some places I haven't been before, and found some new go-to shops when I want a fine cup of coffee combined with a bike ride. There were several that I didn't get to try yet, but there's always Coffeeneuring 2015!

As for the title of this post, I thought about the name of the shop, and the movie quote came to mind. I was thinking, if for some reason someone a hundred years from now wants to find out what was Coffeeneuring in the year 2014, and what was I doing on this day, I think I want them to read these seven posts. Humans landed a space ship on a comet this week. I coffeeneured to Echo Coffee. A lot of the other things from this week, well, I hope the echoes of them fade quickly. 

Global map of Coffeeneuring 2014!