Thursday, August 18, 2011

Yes, I'm Over the Handlebars (Again)

Downloadable Audio file / Podcast:

I saw her clip the wall, literally fly over the handlebars of her bike onto the cement bike path.

Oxygenation in the stream: roiling, churning bubbles effervesce upward, outward, away. They hit the rocks, turbulent and then they splash, wet energized spray into the air.

Fish thrive in pools of pure bubbles and charged water as the molecules break apart, release energy into the stream, into the ether - the zeit-stream, if you will … and when those charged particles come together, it’s raw, pure convergence, and your mind flies with it, marshaling forces for ongoing and ever-undefined forays into the unknown.

Weren’t you once complacent? smooth laminar outpourings of thoughts, dreams, ideas, material liquid self, and then you hit the rocks, where the light hits the spray of water, and you could see the full spectral flow – the purple blue green yellow orange red of a bright, proud rainbow.

I saw the whole thing – in fact, she rolled like a pro and ended up 3 or so feet away from where I stood. She was bleeding at the elbow, and there was a gouge in her helmet. A lesser cyclist would crack a shoulder, snap a fibula.

It was on the Boulder Creek bike path where it splits into a “Y” – one arm goes under the Folsom Street Bridge, the other to street level. I was sweating, taking the half-mile hike to Benson Hall on the Colorado University campus in high heels, tight skirt, ridiculously expensive Donna Karan pantyhose tights with waist-level elastic that sprung itself useless after only ten or twelve hot water washings…

Boulder Creek churns down the mountainside, cold and yellow and filled with the bacterium of existence. Under the Arapaho Bridge a “stream observatory” had paused the day before to peer through porthole plexiglass windows inserted into a reinforced concrete wall (part of the bridge).

Watch the fish? Watch the bubbles? Champagne? Mountain Dew?

Breathe in. Breathe out.
You don’t know where you’ll end up next.

“Are you okay? You really know how to take a fall.”

It was all I could say. She stood up. Amazingly, just a scraped elbow. No medi-vac to jet to the nearest hospital, no ambulance to transport the body to the morgue.

Flash memory: South Canadian River (Oklahoma), summer 2000.

Dirt-biking involves a different kind of flow – dunes, quicksand, braided stream in drought conditions.

Dirt bike hits Jeep.
Jeep wins.

16-year-old dirt-biker lying broken on the ground. The next morning’s Norman Transcript gives it a mention on page 3 under “Fatality at River.”

It was not easy to accept that the sweet-faced person I saw lying crumpled on the sand was dead.

Thank God my Jeep was not that Jeep. Mine was one that was simply there to explore the dunes.

Who would ever think that when you popped up on the dune, you’d run smack into a dirt-biker with the same idea, just with two wheels and no exo-skeleton (unlike the Jeeps: 4 wheels, replete with fully hardened exoskeleton).


So let me tell you about Camp Cimarron. It was the all-girls summer camp I went to when I was 10 years old. I was a Campfire Girl, just “flown up” from being a Bluebird (for second and third graders). The camp lasted a week. I had just finished the 4th grade. We slept in cabins. We took classes, but I remember very little.

In contrast, the three years I went to the Baptist Camp Nunny-Cha-Ha in the Arbuckle Mountains are very clear to me (grades 4, 5, and 6). It was also very different than the large Arrowhead-type Camp Kickapoo (Kerrville, Texas), where I stayed for 5 weeks. Camp Cimarron was less about the other campers, the counselors, the people, and more about the place itself: the river, the sand, the water, moon and stars and hot, dry air at night.

My favorite place at Camp Cimarron was a sand bar next to a cutbank on the barely-flowing except in flood Cimarron River where the river had eroded the bright red Garber-Wellington sandstone. Ledges felt like large nail files. The sand under our feet felt like rough, hot, calloused hands rubbing the arches of our feet and the spaces between our toes.

One night, we camped out under the stars. Bright starlight. How could anyone possibly sleep? New moon, no city lights – the Milky Way looked like fog, and the nearer and brighter stars were celestial river sands, sinuous and meandering in and out of consciousness.

Infinity comes to you in the form of restless, half-dark, half-light mind, when you’re sleeping rough, stretched out on a yoga mat under a cotton sheet, wondering about life, love, the smell of night, and creeping hot breath of scavenger birds and coyotes.

What do you do when you’re ten years old and you already know that the feeling you have when you’re touching the earth, feeling the hot, dry wind, and hearing the soft slip of waters over sand, will haunt you every time you close your eyes?


There is an obligatory “full circle” element here. I need to refer back to the woman I saw take a dive over her handlebars.

I need to discuss the oxygenation process, and the way that turbulence engenders life and creative self-expression.

It’s not very appealing, though, to construct such a nice, tidy narrative.

After all, I’m sad, and I’m not happily oxygenated by the combined behavioral determinants of gravity and foolish optimism.

I’m aware that the place anyone takes themselves when infused with euphoria has to do with their perceived need to retreat back to their own minds, into their “happy places.” It also has to do with what they do to trigger euphoria.

If it’s an exercise addiction, it’s one thing. If it is all about expensive, commercialized products (“solutions”), then I think the persons are involved are sacrificing their hearts, minds, and futures.

Is it worth it? You decide. I can’t.

The breeze was cool during the meeting. Their hearts trembled in anticipation.

Oxygen, turbulence, pain, hope.

It was the perfect way to push oneself over the handlebars of life.

Videographer: Dave Feiden