flourishing of the physical body

Because May is May  ::  In honor of my sister Ironic Women :: To celebrate completing the first quarter of a month-long Double-Iron (so far, 13.5 miles on foot, 57 miles cycling, 40 laps swimming) :: By way of sharing only the hundredth part of today’s ride near the hub of the miracle ::

by Mary Oliver

May, and among the miles of leafing,
blossoms storm out of the darkness —

windflowers and moccasin flowers. The bees
dive into them and I too, to gather

their spiritual honey. Mute and meek, yet theirs
is the deepest certainty that this existence too —

this sense of well-being, the flourishing
of the physical body — rides

near the hub of the miracle that everything
is a part of, is as good

as a poem or a prayer, can also make
luminous any dark place on earth.


(“May” by Mary Oliver)

Where will you ride today?


taking pictures 2011 – June “Wing It”

(#9 in a series) The pictures that took me when I took them:   October 2010, November 2010, December 2010, January 2011, February 2011, March 2011, April 2011, May 2011, and now . . .  

 June 2011 “Wing It”

“Wing It” has so many things I love — the details of veining, the luscious purple, the translucence, the evening slant of light. Though it was a close contest for me between this “Wing It” and “Uphold My Dignity” — which I loved because it turns upside down so many expectations.  A picture of a pink peony that emphasizes the strength of the stem, the definite vigor of the sepals.  For June, why eye… was full of flowers.  The most effective, in addition to “Wing It” and “Uphold My Dignity,”  probably “Edge in Sweetly” and “Bloom Bluer.”

taking pictures 2011 – April “Breathe Hyacinth”

Seventh in a series. These are the pictures I liked best in the past year:  October 2010, November 2010, December 2010, January 2011, February 2011, March 2011, and . . .

April 2011 – “Breathe Hyacinth”

April saw only two blogposts and despite the nice fruit shots in “singular plurals“,  I much prefer some of the photos I put up on why eye . . . , especially  “Breathe Hyacinth” with its rich texture.  I also love the series that includes  “Read Aloud“, but can’t tell if that’s just because it’s of Fritz & Son.  As for the series that includes “Pray in Petals” —  almost too calendar-picture-pretty.  (But with all the ugly around, is that really such a bad thing?)

taking pictures 2011 – February “Take Tulips 2 Tango”

Fifth in a series:  the pictures I liked best over the past blogal year:  October 2010, November 2010, December 2010, January 2011 and now  . . .

February, 2011 – “Take Tulips 2 Tango”

I had such fun with these white tulips.  They showed up in  “tongues of love, the lettered heart, and other bad translations” and then again “in different lights”.

I chose this one particularly for the romantic shadows and the tender way the leaves touch petals, but I also loved other tulip pictures:  “Consider the Other Side,” “Ripple,” and “Speak Softly” especially.  Which is not to say I am not still very much liking “Triangulate” and “Look Where I’m Standing“.  I’d never realized how anthropomorphic tulips are.  Maybe that’s why I love them so much?

the earliest native bloom

When I am dead and my body donated to science, they will crack open the shell that has held the sweet kernel of all my thinking and find in there, I think, only a few well-worn phrases, twisted endlessly back on themselves and reinterpreted over and over.

One phrase will be:  “We must forgive and bear no malice toward those who offend us . . . We do not know the hearts of those who offend us.  Nor do we know all the sources of our own anger and hurt.”  Which I have written on a yellow sticky pad and now keep moving back and forth between my top drawer and my biking bag, re-reading it, re-applying it each time it comes under my hand.  I don’t know why I move it back and forth.  Maybe only to give myself the chance to read it over and over.

Or maybe not even dried-up phrases will they find in my skull-can when I am gone.  Only the spare change of single words.  I’ve been ill, but now am as well as I need to be.  Today is the first day my bike has seen sunlight in months.  I do not know the sources of all that drives me, but swinging my leg back behind me, up and over to mount into the saddle after stopping to look more closely at blooming osoberry — the whole body working together, the balance, the air, that silent glide — brought me nearly to tears.  Gratitude maybe.  Reprieve.

I have lived here long enough that many words for the things of this particular Northwest world rise at sight.  Osoberry my mouth said before I knew what I was seeing.  The earliest blooming native shrub.  Indian plum.  Oemlaria, which I mispronounce almost certainly, but happily.  A private Oregonian form of yoga.

Another phrase the white coats will find in my cracked walnut shell:  When I detect a beauty in any of the recesses of nature, I am reminded, by the serene and retired spirit in which it requires to be contemplated, of the inexpressible privacy of a life – how silent and unabmitious it is . . . ”  which I wrote about before.  When a commenter gave me another lasting phrase:

I call this neighborhood proprioception, this sense of deeply knowing the place where you live and bike (or run, or walk, or lay in the grass watching the clouds go by). It’s a connectedness to your surroundings, the places and sensations, the people, climate, geography, wildlife, architecture, changing of the seasons, the whole picture. It’s the feeling of knowing which plants or trees will have berries or fruit you can grab on the way home, what time of the year. You have to feel the fog on your face, and have some of the local gravel ground into your knees, to really know the place. You feel it, but you can’t share this private sense readily with others, much as you need to.     John Romeo Alpha 

It’s true:  I do need to share this sense. I have to believe this sense can’t be completely inexpressible.  It shouldn’t be unusual to know the earliest native bloom.  But I would have missed it if I hadn’t been on the bike today.

My ride today was a recovery.

A recovery of physical strength certainly.  Also recovering a sense of place.  A renewed affection and connection for this town that I love again:  before I had gotten to my first destination, seven people I didn’t know had waved and smiled, pausing at crosswalks to let me pass, scooting out of the lane to give me room.  Does anyone smile at me when I drive the same route by car?  I don’t know.  When I car it, I don’t have time to see more than the fact that they are there — in my way.  But biking gives me back the kindness of the people I live with here.  And on top of all this, a re-immersion in the seasonal rhythm.

So many reasons for hope in this world!

And how silent and unambitious these hopes are.  How patiently recurrent.  How persistently unnoticed.  How dependent on my showing up, being there, ready to contemplate them.

Future Cycle: Small Town Revival (of 24 : 3) A Morning’s Ride Away

You want to go on a bike ride with me, don’t you?

It’s 7:30 in the morning.  We meant to leave earlier but  there were tires that needed pumping . . . Son’s bike helmet . . . water bottles.  But now we’re ready to go.  The morning is still fresh and we have sunshine for the first day in years . . .

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Pedaling into Portland, I imagine  — with such energetic glee — myself living there, the wonderful smells of restaurants, the shops, pedestrians and cyclists and people sitting at sidewalk tables.

But wheeling home at the end of the day, I am so glad I can pedal into Portland for a day-cation, but come home here to rest my weary head where all I smell is the drying grass hay and all I hear are birds.

what MAKES it | BREAKS it

  • + splendid day-cation possibilities in close-range
                      • – bike lane (westbound) out of Portland, between St. John’s bridge and Linnton is far too narrow
  • + and biking to get there
                      • – camping trailers, big semi-trucks far too close to bike lane in that narrow section
  • + bike lanes along Hwy 30 mostly clean of debris
  • + bike lanes feel safe to ride
  • + the regional organic, local scene
                      • – coveting thy neighbor’s farmer’s market

Future Cycle: Small Town Revival (of 24 : 2) Old-Fashioned Roses & Community Spirit

“Do you mind if I take some pictures of your roses?” I put one foot down, pausing in my morning ride to take in the glorious burst of blossom.

They aren’t really her roses.

They’re also mine and, if you pay county taxes here, yours, too.

But she’s the one out there in the welcome sun, weeding out the sow thistle and pruning back the spent blooms.

It seems right to ask for her permission.

She looks up and grins, “Sure.  Go right ahead.  Come right in, but be careful.  Some of these are really thorny.  But you’ve got to get up close to smell them.  You want me to move out of the way so you can get pictures?”

I put the kickstand up, “Actually, I wanted you too, working with the roses, if that’s okay.”

Happily, this pleases her.

I tell her, “I like the hat.”

“I got it from Walgreen’s,” she says, “It works well.”

The roses are even better up close.

And unlike most of the pampered darlings growing in unquestioned abundance in Portland’s Test Rose Garden, all of these are heavily and beautifully scented.

“Did you smell that one?” she points it out to me.

“I did.  It smells almost like raspberries.  I’ve never smelled one like that before.”

“It’s wonderful,” she says.

“So do you volunteer here?”  I’m wondering if she’s doing this on her own?  or maybe part of the Master Gardener program?  employed by the parks department?

Volunteer.  She’s here most mornings, when it’s not too rainy.  I love volunteers. The whole idea that some things are so worth doing, we don’t have to be paid to do them.

Or are willing to be paid in other forms of remuneration, “It’s great here,” she gestures at the sunny square bordered by blooms. “The roses, the baby birds back in the corner making their noise.”  I can see from her face this public space is also a Secret Garden, full of healing and quiet delights.

“Do you want me to hold that one up for you?” she offers. “So you can get a better picture?”

“So how’d you get started?” I ask her.

A friend’s family member was doing court time and she’d given her a ride.  Sitting in the car. Bored to death. “I saw those roses needed help.  They needed some work, so I just called up at the people at the county. It’s not about the money, I told them. I’ll just do it for free.”

She turns back to her work.  She’s got an assistant today, a young guy, highschool-aged, and she sets him a last task before he breaks for lunch.

I bend over the sweet-scented bushes to get some close-ups.

“But you’ve got to look at this one,” she points out another I haven’t gotten to yet.

Soon she’s walking me around, showing me the best ones. (They’re almost all the best for something.)

“Who planted these?” I ask her.  “Do you know?”

“I don’t know,” she says sadly. “They’re old bushes.  They’ve been here a long time.  I mean, look at that old stone in the old courthouse.  Maybe they’ve been here that long.”

Then she points out the healthy, leathery leaves of one variety.  The shape and pale shades of another.  The deep sweet smell of another.  “This one isn’t Mr. Lincoln.  It’s similar.  But Mr. Lincoln is a little deeper, a little bigger.  I’ve been trying to figure out what this one is.”

Her love and knowledge is apparent. I have to ask her if she grows roses of her own.

She did, when she was living at her dad’s.  Now she’s homeless.

“Oh, look at this one!  Do you see that?  And they’ve still got the dew on them.  That makes a good picture, doesn’t it?”

It’s not just the roses.  She points out the magnolia trees that grow in front of the new courthouse.  “They only bloom a short time in July and last only about a week.  This is the best time to see them.”

And the baby birds squawking in the background. “They’re scrub jays, hear that?  Steller Jays have a call more like this – and she scritch-scritches just like the birds that used to come eat the cat’s food on my back porch.

When it’s time for me to get back on the road, I have to thank her.  Not just for the almost, not-quite spent roses she snips and gives to me to carry in my bike basket.

Not just for her pleasant welcome.  Not just for her willingness to be photographed, her eagerness to introduce me to each rose.

I’m grateful for what she’s doing – on her own, with what she has – to make my town a sweet place to be on a sunny morning.

And if you’re looking for someone to lavish your roses with some well-deserved attention, let me put in a good word . . .

what MAKES it | BREAKS it 

    • + volunteers
    • + community spirit
    • + public gardens
    • + talking to strangers
    • + old-fashioned roses
                • – homelessness
    • + wildlife/ birds
                • – a few roses trampled on, broken off “by rowdy kids”