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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All I want for Christmas

What do I want for Christmas?

That’s easy. World peace.

And then, I would really, really like a fatbike. One like this:

Image

(from gearjunkie.com)

A few weeks ago, while I was shouldering my mud-clogged mountain bike over a particularly muddy section of trail, a dude came rolling by on one of these. It seemed as if he were floating on air. Man, it would be fun to ride through the winter, through the snow and crud and mud, on one of these.

Just saying the word is fun: fatbike. Saying the phrase is fun, too: I’d like a fatbike. (Dig the rhyme?)

Time to start saving my pennies, maybe for next Christmas.

Speaking of winter, and the recent (non-happening) apocalypse, here’s a short, classic poem by Robert Frost.

FIRE AND ICE

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
a
a

Have a happy, safe, and wonderfully warm Christmas, everyone. Even if you’re out in the cold, on your fatbike.

Tree

Surviving the Cold

Finally it seems as if winter is here, and while I’m a bit bummed about the frigid air outside and the brutally dry air inside, I’m a bit relieved. After all, this summer seemed, well, apocalyptic in its heat, and in the fires that raged all over the state.

Riding can still be had–snow is still lacking–but it’d be a pretty damn cold outing. (Just thinking of this makes my feet twinge with imaginary frostbite.)

This also makes me recall a great poem by Mark Strand. Like many of Strand’s poems, there’s a dreamlike quality that lightens the poem, even though its eventual resting place can be seen as something a bit grim. (After all, what is colder than the eternal, sepulchral bed?)

Lines for Winter
for Ros Krauss

Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself—
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon’s gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.

These lines remind me of the famous dictum of Rilke–“You must change your life”–and yet what Strand argues for is not change, but a determined forging ahead. Perhaps Strand is actually echoing Frost’s line, “I have miles to go before I sleep.” But there is something of Rilke here, I think, in the command of “tell yourself… that you love what you are” even if what you are is fluid, protean, ever-changing.

Strand’s movement is metaphorical in the same way that biking is metaphorical, too–sometimes you just can’t turn back, and the only way out of the woods is forward. The tune your bones play is the exertion of keeping on (to borrow Bob Dylan’s phrase).

And there it is again. The lesson I keep uncovering over and over: endure!

Now for some images of a recent awesome–and cold–ride.

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Downtown Denver, from the top of Green Mountain.

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My riding buddy Ed, after climbing to the top.