Friday, January 30, 2009

Winter Commute

A final kiss goodbye
A prayer my family sleeps safe
Layered gloved and helmeted
I step into the dark, latch the door mount up and
Ride into the final days of winter

Into the lees of the last snow
Treacherous gravel and wet grime curb to curb
I take the center in the fog until overtaking headlights
force the drift and skate of the shoulder sandbars.
Arrival the postponing of a skirmish

Resuming in the evening through quartering wind
cars hissing rain, following my feeble arc of light
Home, back knotted with work and road rudeness to
Uncoil the hose and flush muck and oily grit
Into the thawing earth.

Above, the slimmest shard of the new moon
rattles in the winter wracked limbs of the old dogwood
curved arms of light
reaching for the nearness
of the one star in the sky.

Read, ride, repeat.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

25 tidbits: Face(book)ing the past

I opened a Facebook account last week. I could blame my wife - she wanted to chat with me while I was at work.  But secretly, I wanted to. Being the social stegosaurus that I am ( I was trying to think of the opposite of butterfly), I surprised myself. I'm not so naive that I think my Facebook "friends" are really my friends, though some are, of course. And I've been "friended" by people who seem to know me but who I can't remember. I'm getting old. I finally decided that for me it came down to "Am I even remotely interested in what this person does/wears/listens to/reads/dreams/thinks/eats/etc?" For some, I am. Part of me thinks that the whole thing is kind of weirdly voyeuristic, but on the other hand, it's not spying since you only see (or show) what people choose to post, and while a lot of it may be mundane, some of it is interesting, some is touching, and some even occasionally profound. The weirdest thing - in a kind of Twilight Zone way -has been getting "in touch" with some folks I used to know nearly 30 years ago from Encounter, the college-age group at Easthill Church in Gresham. With the exception of my friend Chris, I lost touch with a lot of people who were, honestly, the center of my life for several years. I bailed for reasons that had to do with age, church intrigue, my faith, and probably some other stuff. In some ways that period of my life has been an embarrassment to me (the naive confidence of my faith, the Jesus pop music, the hair) But like an Eagles reunion (minus the money), the painful past has taken on a rosier glow and I find I'm able to revisit it with fondness. Someone found me, told me there's a Facebook group for us, and now we're "friending" each other all over the country, catching up on jobs and kids and marriages (and divorces) and sharing some really frightening pictures of each other. My wife and kids have been amused and horrified.

I also think it's interesting how Facebook has made "friend" a verb. Does this mean we have no further use of "befriend?'

I got this little activity from a "friend" a couple days ago - a kind of mini-autobiography. I had fun with it. It's all true.

25 things about me
Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

Here's mine:

1 - married very well.
2 - would like my children a lot even if they weren't my children
3 - has 7 nieces and 7 nephews. So far.
4 - had a 1.7 GPA at end of 1st year of college.
5 - once won a bicycle by writing an essay about why I should.
6 - has seen a snow leopard print in the wild.
7 - did not receive a high school diploma.
8 - has never been to a graduation. Including my own.
9 - once had a ponytail. Which I still own.
10 - rode my 1st (and 2nd) century this year.
11 - can use a sewing machine.
12 - has eaten yak and water buffalo.
13 - hates cheese.
14 - has rock climbed in Yosemite.
15 - has made a pot roast from a steer named Bufford.
16 - Rode a Greyhound bus to Michigan. And back.
17 - first "real" job was throwing pizzas (see # 13).
18 - once worked on a mink farm. Part of the job involved sweeping up the feet.
19 - still likes Electric Light Orchestra. Unapologetically.
20 - Used to think John was the greatest Beatle, but is not so sure now.
21 - annually rides more miles by bike than he drives.
22 - has summited Mount Hood at least 25 times.
23 - Worked at Old Faithful Lodge.
24 - was sniffed by a grizzly bear
25 - has not yet vacationed in Italy with his wife, climbed El Capitan, baked a pie, run a marathon, or ridden Paris-Brest-Paris, but plans to someday.

Afterward, I though of some things I could have included. 
The Footnotes:
 - got my first tattoo this year.
- took 10 years to earn 1st college degree.
- has worked as a chimney sweep.
- has never podiumed
- has 4 chickens
- has broken ribs, fingers, toes, nose, clavicle, and jaw, but never a limb.
- prefers to sleep outside the tent.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


While I sleep, snow comes
I wake from dreams of regrets
and ride in white peace

Thursday, January 22, 2009

ah! bright wings.

God's Grandeur
By Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs--
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

This poem has been haunting me lately. Hopkins is considered a 2nd tier British poet. He's called by some a religious poet, and by some a nature poet. I guess if one needs boxes, those fit. He was born Anglican but converted to Catholicism in college, taking orders as a Jesuit. Whether his sometimes bleak personality was a result of this or led to it is, I guess, a chicken-egg argument. He seemed torn by his sense of duty to his religion which - to him - conflicted with the longing of his soul to see and write beauty. I think this poem captures well the sense that the world is God's gift to us, and we have trashed it . And yet... day dawns, "nature is never spent," the Holy Ghost of God "broods" over the world (as in mother hen, I think, though I'm uncomfortable with the image). There is, behind what can be seen, a greater unseen.

I considered, instead of Baiku, calling my blog "ah! bright wings."

Though he suffered from serious depression, and fatally contracted Typhoid fever at age 45,  Hopkins' dying words were  "I am so happy. So happy."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Two Fools

The Coho has been crazy the past week. To most people (in cars) it's a minor annoyance - unless it results in this:

The truck had Virginia plates. Nothing says "Welcome to Oregon" like a tree dropped in your pickup bed. Hey, we've already got this guy, these, and our beloved tree-slaying rodent. I say tie it down, stick a "Wide Load" flag on it, and haul it back to Virginia as firewood.
Anyway, since my normal morning commute points me at the mouth of the Columbia gorge for ten miles, I've become somewhat of an east wind aficionado. Most winters we get maybe half a dozen spells of one-to-three days of blow. Wind speed is kind of irrelevant, so I use the Velomann wind scale, where a blow of 1 is mildly annoying and means I get a shorter shower at work, a 5 means, like a sailor in a storm, I could go down in a crosswind, and a 9-10 howler brings flying debris and downed power lines. It's been in the 5 range for several days, with a good 24 hours in the 9's in east county (fortunately that was over the weekend and I didn't have to ride.) I know math is not my strength, but I was calculating that at an average riding speed of 15 MPH into a headwind of 25 MPH, I'd get to work quicker riding backwards.

Occasionally I find myself thinking that if I could ride into the wind like a Zen archer, I could learn to slip between the currents, untouched and tranquil. I'll work on that.

On the plus side, I got this Baiku - I call it "Two Fools"

Crow flies by laughing
at me cursing the east wind
to him it's all play

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama's "Praise Song"

I don't know about you, but I find it encouraging that, when Barack Obama took the oath of office and became our 44th president a couple of hours ago, one of the first things we did, as a country, was listen to a poem. The poet is Elizabeth Alexander and I understand she's also a personal friend of the Obamas. I've been searching for the text and here's what I've found. (Update - I edited the formatting after I found out how it was supposed to look.)

Praise Song for the Day
by Elizabeth Alexander
A Poem for Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other's
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what's on the other side.

I know there's something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need
. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

It may be worth noting that Bush did not ask a poet to read at either of his inaugurations, nor did his father. In fact, this is only the fourth time a poem has been an official part of the inauguration. For the first, Robert Frost planned to read "Dedication," at John Kennedy's inauguration, but the sun was so bright he couldn't, so instead he recited from memory "The Gift Outright." Maya Angelou read "On The Pulse of Morning" at Bill Clinton's first Inauguration, and Miller Williams read "Of History and Hope" at his second.

I Like the part about patching tires :) and repairing things in need of repair.

Now if Obama will do this
And this

We're set.
What do you think?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Another way

Cold wind from the east
I am trying to learn to
slip between the gusts

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Baiku #1

The poet speaks of
the other way of the world
like the bicycle

Welcome to my blog, Baiku (from "bicycle" + "haiku.") There will poetry, bicycles, and other simple pleasures. Tell me what you think.

A good poem is beautiful, at least in part, because of the economy of words. In poetry, less really is More. I believe the bicycle is like that, a pure and distilled way to wander, with purpose (or not.) And if Poetry is language in it's purest form, then I think of the bicycle as a poem on two wheels. For me, both have opened windows to what is beautiful and hopeful and true. Like poetry, I hope what I post conveys a sense of Less is More. I'll strive for short and simple (no easy task for me!)

It won't be all poetry and bikes, but they will be the threads which weave through the fabric of this site, and I hope the deliberate simplicity and surprising joy of each will infuse all I write.

I know the web - and the world - contains more then enough ego, advice, whining, thoughtlessness, profanity, and general blather. it's wearying and diminishes all who speak it and all who listen. I want to be different.
I want to celebrate people who take care.
I want to think first, and then speak. Or not.
I want to embrace thoughtful dissent.
I want to point at beauty and share it.

Read. Ride. Repeat.