Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Calm and Bright

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I've always had mixed feelings about Christmas celebrations. But the one thing I like about this time of year, in particular Christmas eve and day, is the stillness. In countries where the holiday is a big deal everything comes to an utter standstill. It's not just that the shops are closed and the streets are empty. It's the preternatural energy around all that closure and emptiness. It is as if time itself freezes, the Pause button pressed on some giant remote control that affects everything and everyone - save for a few stray individuals making their way down empty, windswept roads. And at times like these, boy does it feel fantastic to be one of those individuals - out and about on a bicycle. The landscape is wound so tight with stillness, it practically vibrates. The absence of activity is a heavy presence in of itself, and on two wheels I feel myself slicing through it like a knife through a block of marzipan. It feels eerie and comforting at the same time - as well as surprisingly, delightfully festive. Here is wishing everyone a magical cycling experience over the winter holidays!

26 comments:

  1. My ride in this morning was still, dark - any joyful. The rain soaked through my "goodwill raingear", but the cold only balanced my generated exertional heat.

    Every person is a universe, and every person is a solitude. Thank you, sincerely, for sharing your universe with this reader. This shared interest lightens the solitude.

    It does not take a scientist to recognize the effacacy of your style in attacting interest, always keeping a bit of mystery and more focused on your topic than yourself. It would be interesting, someday, to learn of the origins of your interest in these beautifully simple and elegant machines.

    Sincerely hope that you have a pleasant holiday/Christmas, in a manner matching your valuations in inclinations.

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  2. Thanks V, and the same Holiday wishes back to you.
    Watch for the spirits of Christmas Past, Present & Future out there tonight!
    Cheers

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  3. Yes, that stillness is the magic of Christmas - thank you for your lovely post and best wishes for you over the festive season and for The New Year.

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  4. Thank You...All the Best!!!

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  5. Merry Christmas to you and a Happy New Year full of Lovely Bike-ing!

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  6. Love that picture! I can almost smell the sea and the rain. Happy holidays!

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  7. Since I am apart from my wife for the first Christmas in twenty five years, I first rode in the morning to embrace the solitude of the day and while doing so, experienced the exact same atmospheric energy of our favorite blogger.

    My second ride occurred at night following a scrumptious dinner with friends. I was dazzled by Christmas lights, yet feeling a bit like a Christmas voyeur as I observed family's gathered around in fellowship in their brightly lit living rooms.

    These rides are all the proof a that mindful person needs to realize that a bicycle is much, much more than simple transportation.

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  8. As usual I read your text with a great pleasure, there is often a touch of romanticism which is probably a part of your mind.
    When I see the picture, I can hear the sound of this area of land: a quantic feeling both violent and calm. Sometimes the wind can be strong or furious, can’t it?

    Best,
    L.

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  9. We too enjoyed a quiet ride Christmas day. Few cars on the road, very picturesque for the 3 mile stretch that wends along the water - and all I could think about was the idea that once I climbed that last long hill just before arriving back home, I could eat a guilt-free piece of pecan pie.

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  10. "The landscape is wound so tight with stillness, it practically vibrates."

    That's brilliant. I've always been aware of this sensation, but never had words for it. You described it perfectly.

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  11. A couple years and a quarter century ago, my dumpster-green 1973 VW Camper Bus and I landed in Albuquerque after a spell sitting behind a desk in the bike business. As I would describe it to people for several years afterward, I didn't want to "become"my job. I hadn't done enough research to realize how cold it got in ABQ in December. So Frank (the VW) and I headed down the Rio Grande Valley 300-odd miles to Las Cruces on Christmas Eve. The little card on the desk saying there would be no maid service on the 25th suited me fine. It's a strange feeling to be driving around in a city, in America, in the 20th century, with a full wallet, and wondering if you'll have to go hungry that day. I finally found a drive-thru KFC, and stocked up with a barrel of Extra Crispy.
    The next day, Frank and I headed down the narrow irrigated corridor of green beside the river. I left him with with the old greasy note taped to the steering wheel sayng, "On a bike ride", and headed south on route 28. I didn't know they grew pecans in New Mexico, but there were miles of groves of them along 28. Looking at Google Earth now, it tells me they aren't owned by the Pecan Mogul of Mesilla, but instead by New Mexico State University. Over a two hour ride, maybe five cars passed me. Unlike ABQ, their drivers would wave, and 10 or 15 minutes down the road, I'd see the same one parked in front of one little adobe or another, and I'd catch a whiff of turkey or tamales in the air.
    That afternoon, Frank and I drove up the long climb to the pass through the Organ Mountains and down into the valley where they test missles at White Sands Range. We were pleased at the absence of flashing lights telling us to stop during a test. Frank got overheated on the climb and would enjoy cooling off on the long decline down into the valley. I guess they were taking the day off from the Cold War.
    The gate to the the National Monument was open and the guard house unattended. I think I remember a sign saying "free admission Christmas Day", but I still worried about getting locked in since it was late in the day. The website now says closed on the 25th, but it was pre-9/11 then. So, we drove in and were soon among the dunes growing higher and higher and gently drifting across the road.
    In the summer. the light off the pure white gypsum sand is blinding, but in the winter, on an overcast day, the dunes seem comforting and inviting like the wrinkled sheets of a sunday morning spent in bed. I parked Frank, and for a moment regretted that I'd left the security blanket of camera and tripod back in Albuquerque. It's amazing how walking around with a pro camera outfit will make people clear out of your area and parents grab the hands of unruly children and actually "Shhhuush!" them, "so the man can CONCENTRATE!".
    But I was totally alone, and could wander off safe and unjudged. For a while, I poked around east of the road, where there were some low, damp areas, where you could run across tufts of tall grass, or clumps of PJ (the low Pinion and Juniper trees common to all of New Mexico). It was getting darker, so I crossed the road and and headed into the high dunes where nothing grew except more dunes for miles and miles dozens of billowy peaks and ridges, high enough above the flat valley floor that they seemed to go all the way to the Organ Mountains, which were now just a black ridge with the sun already behind them. Then I looked above and the sky was a duplicate of the earth with the clouds coming wave after wave, like the furrows of a plowed field. sky and earth converging into a black line.
    When you're 56 and look back upon yourself at 27, sometimes with regret, sometimes with admiration, you realize there are few precious instances when the self disappears and you become absorbed into a whole. For a perfect moment...
    Middle-aged me is reminded to tell you that the cloud formation is called billow altocumulus.

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    1. "t's amazing how walking around with a pro camera outfit will make people clear out of your area and parents grab the hands of unruly children and actually "Shhhuush!" them, "so the man can CONCENTRATE!"."

      Ha, yes indeed!

      And funny enough one of my Christmas Eve memories involves a bucket of KFC. This was a couple of decades ago, when the stuff had a decadent, festive feel to it (right?).

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    2. As I'm from the South, and the nearest KFC was right across the street from my former employer, it was more like standard fare. The feeling now, is less festive, and more like something than can be alleviated with Immodium. Happy New Year to the Emerald Isle, and keep up with the good work! I hope there's a book somewhere in your resolutions. You and Pondero are the only real writers among the Bikeniks!

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  12. 12 years ago I spent Christmas in Northern Ireland with my former in-laws and was struck by how much more religious and family oriented, and less consumerist it was than in the US. Also, I remember everything being closed for what seemed like weeks!

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    1. The first part of your comment is definitely no longer the case. Based on my experiences over the past 2 winters, Christmas here = shopping madness and much stress over gift-giving expectations; I would say even worse than in the US at the moment. Religious stuff is at a minimum. But as far as closures, yes - lots of businesses shut down, or have limited operating hours, for about 2 weeks. It's driving me nuts to be honest, as it's hard to get things done!

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  13. I love the empty roads on Christmas Day. But between Christmas and New Year watch out, the shoppers are out in full force :((

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    1. Not to mention the drunk drivers!

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    2. Drunk drivers are not too bad here actually, after years of serious police crackdown.

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  14. I just wanted to thank you for this blog. The photographs and the articles are excellent. I enjoy your writing style and looking through your camera lens. Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy and Prosperous New Year to you.

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  15. While reading this I sorta think both 'yes' and 'no'…Yes, the stillness is a wonderful invitation. So many times during the this holiday I'll walk, or ride, on empty streets while others are inside participating in equally lovely moments with family. But it's so clear and refreshing to experience the quite and be open to what that may invite. Often bittersweet. But the landscape, for me, is not wound tight with stillness. Taught is not my experience, newness is. New paths I did not see previously, new sounds, being open with myself. Again, it's bittersweet and I envy those with access to both worlds.

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  16. Hello dear V.,

    I wish you a happy new year and give a virtual four-leaf clover to you and fellow readers too.

    L.

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  17. Hello dear V., All the best for the new year. I hope that our dreams of PBP will come true (specially for you as for your first participation). Stay safe, best regards and keep on rolling!

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  18. Is that a Raleigh Shopper in the pic? I just acquired one and am having fun fixing it up, accessorizing etc. Love it around town. Need to find a good front basket system for her though! Nice looking basket (?) on the bike in the pic!

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  19. It's a Brompton, with a handmade "bagsket" by Dill Pickle.

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