Yoga Christmas, With Sloth

It’s December, which means that it’s the time of the year where I totally feel like a fat, lazy, bland slob.

I’ve been eating too much chocolate, too many cookies. And not working out at all.

I’m reminded of my undergrad lit teacher, quoting Sloth, one of the seven deadly sins, in Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus: “Hey ho, I am Sloth.”

This line is supposed to be said in a lackadaisical manner, in the midst of a big sigh, and perhaps while lounging and eating chocolate. (Who brings this stuff into the house? It’s everywhere!) And perhaps, in contemporary fashion, while watching, on TV:

a. Survivor (Ah well, Tyson won. Snore.)
b. NHL Hockey (Hey ho, go Avs. Yawn.)
c. A nature show (The icecaps are melting? Ooh, that’s unfortunate.) Or maybe a car show. (Fixing up them old cars, how shiny are they? Takes a big bite of chocolate.)

‘Tis the season for human hibernation.

I guess I don’t like eating my way through the entire Hershey’s and Ghirardelli catalog, because this past week I joined Breathe Studio, which combines spin classes and yoga.

I took my first class on Thursday. Let me just say: I suck at yoga. I’m the worst yoga tryer in American history.

All the other limber folks were bending and folding like Gumby dolls, and me—well, let’s just say the my middle name isn’t Limber. It’s Joseph.

And let me just say: when I bend over the try to touch my toes, I get to a place just under my kneecaps, and that’s all I got.

But hey (ho)! At least I got some exercise in, and got those creaky joints to bend and flex to their rather limited, um, limits. I embraced my history of sloth, and began to beat it down(ward) like a (bad) dog.

At the end of the yoga session, lying flat on my back—in Savasana, I am told—I was breathing deep as light from Colfax Avenue flashed and slid across the ceiling in shards and circles, squares and trapezoids. The gold and silver bands filled me with a sense of ease and joy, and there was no slothfulness in me at all, anymore.

Here’s a lovely poem by Nate Klug that incorporates beauty and yoga—and a bicycle.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

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Rain, and Change

The rains have come and gone, and now all that’s left is the aftermath. What have we lost?
In many ways, after this summer of 2013, we will never be the same. From wildfires to floods, nothing gold can stay, as Frost said so well.

When my wife and I first moved to Denver, in 1997, we had no idea how that Mother Nature had such power, such fury. Growing up in Buffalo, I’d survived lots and lots of snow, but there’s something eerie about the power of nature in the summer. But there’s also something impressive about the frontier spirit here in Colorado, how people wait out the storm, and then they get back to work. There’s no quit out here.

Our first August here, a tremendous storm overtook downtown Denver, and from our second-floor downtown loft, we watched as Arapahoe Street turned from roadway into swirling, rushing river, filled with hail and junk. We thought the city would be decimated. We thought it was the end times. We were supposed to teach a writing workshop that night, and decided that he had to cancel. We called all the students to let them know. However, one guy, a crusty local, laughed at us, saying, it’ll be sunny and the roads’ll be clear in a couple hours. Ah, you easterners, he chuckled.

He was right. The banks of hail melted. The water disappeared. The sun blazed in a blue sky. By 5:30 PM, it was as if nothing had happened.

The rain of this past week might be gone soon, but the destruction will be with us for a long, long time. And I hope that everyone is safe, and that they recover quickly and with little grief. I also hope that my favorite biking trails—and the roads to get there—are still reasonably intact. Though I’m fairly certain that the trails I knew will never be the same. I guess that’s one of the uncanny things about biking for many years—the trials you know so well are dynamic, everchanging. Some sections get easier, some get more difficult. (Cue the riding-as-metaphor-for-life music….)

Here’s a poem I wrote back in 1997, after that first shocking storm.

WHEN IT DISOBEYS

it brings a storm that discovers
a man-made river-bed in concrete
and asphalt, leaves women and men
clinging to rooftop chimneys,
their cold hands trembling in its midst, then
it brings the hail—white, killing,
obnoxious white when there
should be more rain—first pea
then quarter then softball
sized, full of hubris,
stony pellets coursing
through streets, a swirling
river of rain and downed trees and things
it has dismantled. Will it not
avoid stinging the innocent faces,
the defeated shoulders—
will it not give up the mindless idea
that it can last in August?
It is relentless, abiding by precepts
which are not laws
but ideas of laws, things
children copy down in school:
Planets in their ellipses,
the moon’s granite face
waning and waxing,
cosmic dust on a calm night—
meteors burning the night,
seen for a second, then gone,
like the faraway shouts
and moans when the sky
clears and a rainbow comes.

# # #

Here’s a pic I took on Monday, riding the Hog Back, about 15 minutes before the front edge of the storm rolled in.

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Postcards From November

I wish postcards were still a part of our written culture. There’s something whimsical and nostalgic about them, something poetic in their paucity of words and dependence on images, and the fact that they are both private and public in their message.

(An aside: I remember, a long time ago, buying a postcard that had a pretty generic beach image, along with some pre-printed handwriting that read: “So are you still having those erotic dreams about your mailman?” I found this especially funny because my dad was mail carrier–for 35 years–before he retired.)

Well, here’s my attempt at some e-postcards.I hope you find the images beautiful and memorable (as I do), and maybe even a little nostalgic, as the sun sets on 2012.

Oh, and just for fun, here are a few postcard/epistolary poems:

 

Chains

Yesterday, while riding up a trail called Mayhem Gulch at Centennial Cone (great names, aren’t they?—but that’s another story), I think I (brilliantly, amazingly) developed a new kind of essay: a chain.

Riding is good for such deep, creative musing.

Anyway, a chain essay is a linked series (duh), connected by an idea, image, or concept. And the ending has to loop back to the beginning somehow.

This new form is perfect for writing about riding, of course.

Other forms I know about: lyric, braided, collage, hermit crab.

Speaking of marine animals, I’m not a big fan of the band Phish, but I fondly remember teaching freshman comp back in the early 1990s, when about half of my students wanted to write the following essay: “Why Phish is the Greatest Band Ever.”

A collage(ish) memory: lots of slackerish types, slouched in cheap stacking office chairs. Lots of corduroy and long hair. Chunky black boots. The dudes and gals abide by Grunge. Rain, in Boston. Slush. Carrying around a large stack of papers to grade in a soft leather briefcase. The Internet wasn’t ubiquitous yet.  (Man, that’s so weird to realize.)

Listening to KBCO while driving to work the other day, as Brett Saunders chatted with Trey Anastasio, he of Phish fame, I got a big kick out of Trey talking about biking in Central Park. Especially how some riders look and act like they’re world class athletes, with the fancy gear they wear, and how they blast by, yelling things like, “on your left” or “get the frick out of the fast lane!”

http://www.glidemagazine.com/hiddentrack/audio-trey-anastasio-interview-on-kbco/

And here’s a note on the woman who placed fourth in the Olympic road race—the one that probably flies by Trey every morning in Central Park, the one he talks about:

http://summergames.ap.org/article/flat-tire-kicks-olds-medal-stand-cycling

Things were looking good for her—she was in the lead pack—until an unfortunate flat dropped her back. Though she still finished in seventh place.

http://velonews.competitor.com/2012/07/news/shelly-olds-rues-bad-luck-that-saw-her-flat-out-of-winning-break-at-2012-london-olympics-road-race_232277

Here’s a Youtube video of Trey performing his song about cycling slowly, “Let It Lie.” With the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

I got two flats while riding home from work the other day. I had to call my wife to come pick me up ( I only had one tube).  And then I thought I lost my wallet somewhere out on the trail home, maybe fallen out of my jersey as I tried to fix the flats. So I called and canceled all my credit cards. And then two days later, my wife found my wallet, stuck between our bedspread and the bedframe.

All because of the flat tires. It makes me want to scream.

Here’s that biking song, which is quite pretty, and unlike grunge, has no screaming in it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXxdfRDqGXk

Speaking of video, and the Olympics, I just loved watching the mountain bike race. There are some wicked technical sections on that course. These guys are no slouches.

http://www.nbcolympics.com/video/cycling/mens-cross-country.html

Yesterday, like I said, I rode Centennial Cone, around 18 miles worth. I’d only ridden it once before. Which made it awesome—a loopy singletrack that’s new and fresh and tasty, with steep, exposed sections, rambling forest loops. Just about everything you could ask for. Kind of like a race course.