Sunday, October 31, 2010

Slickrock Playground

Words and photos by Greg

Autumn is spinning rapidly along. Temperatures are dropping. Which makes for excellent riding. The days are growing shorter. So a ride can go on until darkness without the need for carrying a vast supply of food and water.

I joined an old friend and two new friends at a local stash of convoluted rock, a veritable playground for those who like to explore interesting lines down slickrock and through the air with wheels and will.

Me, I took photos. And we rode until dark.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Crabgrass Meditation

Instructions and photos: Trina

We begin this meditation with a simple, mindful greeting and recognition of our foe, the crabgrass, except that being enlightened, we know that there is no such thing as "foe." We greet the crabgrass as a friend. Not a heinous, hideous, invading, alien enemy aggresively colonizing our lawn. A Friend. Our friend, the crabgrass. Much like the more well known sun salutation in yoga, this is a crabgrass salutation:

“Hi, Crabgrass.”

No sarcasm, no seething, no clenched teeth. Just a simple, respectful greeting.

Next, take a deep, slow breath in. Let the breath leave your lungs at a relaxing, slow rate. Don’t force it. This is not a hard, quick battle-worthy snort accompanied by the stomping of work boots. This is meditative, relaxing, deep breathing.

When you feel ready, flex your fingers, stretch your arms, noticing the muscles elongating ever so slightly as you reach toward and grasp your heaviest-duty shovel. Holding the shovel with reverence for the simple, humble, ancient tool that it is, breathe in and plunge the shovel straight down into the crabgrass-infested earth. Breathe out, relaxing into the movement as you lever a huge hunk of gnarled, twisted, knobby crabgrass and ever-resilient crabgrass roots up from the earth, turning it over to expose its tender underbelly and, again breathing in, whack the holy bejeezus out of the clump of roots and earth with the shovel blade. Breathe out.

Repeat for hours on end, approximately 8,946 times, all the while making sure to be mindful, to be present, using each of your five senses to anchor you in the magic of the moment:

See your efforts manifest as a pile of crabgrass and crabgrass roots voluminous enough to completely fill your 50-gallon-capacity city garbage can. See that when you finish removing the crabgrass, you have no lawn of any kind left.

Smell the sweet, dark richness of moist, earthy humus spiked with the sharp tang of a wee dollop of dog poop that you missed in your initial lawn-work preparations.

Feel the seven little clods of dirt that flick into your eye when you shake a clump of roots free of soil. Really feel them. Be with the dirt clods in your eye. Notice that they don’t belong in there, in your eye.

Taste the metallic tang of the blood drawn while biting your tongue to keep from screaming mindfully hateful things at the crabgrass, causing the neighbors to call the police with a report of domestic violence at your address.

Hear the snick, snick, snick of the five foot long crabgrass tendril reluctantly releasing inch by inch from the earth as you slowly, carefully, mindfully pull-without-pulling.

Inhale. As deep as the crabgrass roots go: that’s how deeply you need to breathe. It’s surprisingly, ridiculously, infuriatingly deep if you think about it.

Exhale. Not with disgust. Not with exasperation. Just exhale.

Banish all judgment. Crabgrass is not evil. It just is. There is no such thing as evil. We aren’t removing the crabgrass because we hate it; we’re just removing it. Even though it isn’t evil. Or ugly.

Banish all worries. Don’t worry about the fact that, at 6pm you suddenly realize you haven’t taken a single sip of water all day. You don’t need water. Your love of crabgrass will sustain you.

Once all the crabgrass and its extensive, deep, pervasive, albino-snake-like root network has been removed, the next step is re-leveling the mounds of freshly sanitized dirt and deep shovel gouges into something that once again resembles a flat lawn surface. This is very similar to the meditative practice of raking a Zen rock garden. Remember: it’s about enjoying the process, being present for the process; it’s not about some arbitrary end result. Except that in this case, nothing short of perfectly level will be good enough.

Finally, be thankful. Be thankful that the band-aid you had on did such an excellent job of keeping dirt out of the cut on your finger.

Be thankful that you've made such a remarkable transition; you used to view every length of crabgrass pulled out of the lawn as yet another nick in your root-tendril-by-root-tendril diminishing sanity. Now you joyfully and mindfully recognize the pulling of crabgrass as the physical meditation that it is.

Be thankful when, at the end of your nine hour day of digging, bending, up-turning, smashing, pulling-without-pulling, raking, re-raking, re-re-raking, and seeding, you wrap up the project with one final, ceremonial stroke of the rake across the newly pristine, newly almost-level, newly seeded lawn and one of the rake’s tines snags on a clump of crabgrass you missed.

Rejoice, knowing that your long, hard day of blood, sweat and dehydration probably did more to stimulate the crabgrass than eradicate it, so that the crabgrass will return, with a vengeance, providing you with eternal opportunity for Crabgrass Meditation.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Small Things

Photos by Greg

This past weekend when we were camped out in the scrub oak forest, I spent part of the day creeping along looking at the small things that accumulate on the forest floor.

Rolling Gold

Words by Greg
Photos by Greg and Trina

Autumn settles from above. In this land, high mountains and mesas slope and roll downward toward low valleys and canyons where rivers slip between winding lines of wooly trees. The two rivers of our small city flowed between cottonwood trees that were still mostly green. We pointed the truck upriver and drove deeper into autumn.

The crispness of morning had vanished under a blazing blue sky and the afternoon was warm enough to warrant a quick stop and a splash in the river. The further upriver we went, the more yellow leaves there were. We passed by small towns then headed up toward the Colorado high country.

Actually, we never made it to the high country. We made it as far as the medium country before the autumn colors began to overwhelm us. Above, we could see the grey stone of the high peaks, shadowed faces frosted with early snow, skirted in dark pines. These high peaks stood tall amid a rolling sea of color. The high yellow froth of aspen trees rolled downward into the gold, orange and red of oak scrub, chokecherry, box elder, then funneled into valleys traced with yellow-green cottonwood and willow.

The season of harvest. We'd left our own garden harvest to come and experience more harvest. This, the local flavors of a small earthy town, where we'd join others for a luxurious farmhouse dinner. We found a place to camp amid the bright oak, then dressed up and headed into town.

The meal was family-style sit-down, and about 30 guests filled tables at various rooms of the old house. The meal was wonderful. Corn soup for starters, pumpkin ravioli for the main course, and blackberry-pear crumble for desert. All local, healthy, organic and delicious. And we were happy to have some companionable table-mates with whom we chatted and laughed.

After, we turned into the darkness and headed for our camp. The dogs were excited to be out and were on high alert inside the tent, waiting for creatures to pass by. They finally settled down. At least until near dawn, when two flashlights appeared in the darkness and two hunters walked quietly past. The dogs vigorously defended our peaceful spot in the woods by barking noisily.

We slept until the sun hit the tent and we were making breakfast when the two gentlemen hunters came back from their wanderings. No game to be found out there today, it seemed. Still their blaze-orange regalia made me realize that I had only brought along earthy colored clothes. We dressed the dogs in their hunter-safety suits, but I had to make do with a startling pink hat-cover improvised from a pair of Trina's undergarments. And no one shot at me, so I guess it worked.

We spent most of the day doing almost nothing, if reading, wandering, lounging, watching, listening, absorbing, frolicking, contemplating, snacking, and observing can be considered "nothing". The warm sunlight poured down on the green-to-gold oak leaves all around us and gave a honey-sweet sense to the light. There was a distant hiss of water from a nearby stream. A few bird-chirps from feathered friends who had not flown to warmer climes. Occasionally a chittering squirrel would rouse the dogs from their other explorations.

Along the rough road we had driven, there was a lonely apple tree. Whether the remains of a long-ago homesteader's orchard, or the accident of a tossed-out apple core, we did not know. High in the branches there were still a few small, red apples, and our harvesting instincts took over. We took turns, one of us shaking the branches while the other tried to catch apples. The shaking went well, but the catching wasn't very effective. Still, we gathered a small pile of bruised fruits and took them home with us where they would become an apple crumble.

Late in the afternoon, we headed to the nearby town for dinch (dinner/lunch). And then to a winery and garden where we were tempted into more harvesting by the U-Pick Tomatoes sign. The garden was near the banks of the river, and the mountains we had left were shining in the distance We walked through rows of withering plants seeking the bright surprise of ripe tomatoes hidden within.

Back in the truck, we followed the line of the river into the setting sun, heading home with our harvest of food, our memories filled with a harvest of golden autumn leaves.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Harvest... 'n Stuff

Semi-random photo spew: Trina and Greg

Collective farmwoman melons


Five-color chard

Blackberry Alsacienne tarte

Gravid mantis on sedum

Gravid mantis on photographer


Young Fuji's first tiny crop

Apple pie with crumble topping





Wasp nest

Chocolate souffles

Apricot Alsacienne tarte

Filling little pumpkins with baby poop

Pumpkin souffles

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Wedge Before Winter

Words and photos by Greg

From town I could see the golden fringes on the flanks of our huge local flat-topped mountain. The gold, I knew, would be groves of aspen trees, leaves changing with the season. It seemed like it would be good to get up there and take a look. I called a friend, and the next day he drove us up.

On top, we unloaded the bikes and set out. By some accounts, this is the world's largest flat-topped mountain. And this western end of the mountain is amazingly flat. Which means that it's miles of riding with no climbing and no descents. Just flat, sometimes bumpy trail. Not usually my favorite kind of riding. But the highlight of the trail is the view.

We'd passed through groves of golden trees on the drive up. But on top, the season had progressed further, leaving copses of mostly bare trees and dry beige prairies. Our trail wove through open country and dove into small groves of white aspen trunks, or into darker pine forests. The real draw, though was the edge. The trail repeatedly brushed near the cliffs where we could look down onto the gold of trees further down the mountain. And even further down to the slope and roll of the dry land below, to where rivers cut canyons, where farms cut patchwork patterns into the earth.

Further yet, and higher than our viewpoint, there were distant pointed mountains where snow had already left a dusting of white. I suppose that winter can come all at once, but this year it seems to be moving slowly downward from high places.

Where we were, the season's spent vegetation painted with muted colors. The bright sun washed the lichen-covered rocks to grey, the sage to palest green. The wide blue sky above seemed to draw all color with it except where it shared its color with the flocks of bluebirds gathering the last harvest. Around us there was a sense of anticipation. As if everything was waiting for the season to turn its final corner, for the sky to loose its color, and from that grey, for the first white flakes to filter down and blanket everything around us in winter.

We pedaled our miles and earned our smiles. My healing wrist rattled quietly inside its brace as our tires rolled along smooth singletrack or lurched over the corrugated stone. The air was autumn crisp with a slight bite in the shadows. Our pace was warm. And under the bright sun it was easy to remember how lucky we were to be where we were, high on the mesa and slipping like a wedge into the narrow space between autumn and winter.

Note my cybernetic right arm.