Wednesday, July 25, 2012

One of the best things about my life is the immersion in Story. Most of the year I'm immersed in students' stories, the honor of reading, the pain of witnessing all they survive. In the summer (with apologies to my colleagues who are working year-round), Story enters me like air, breathes me. Fiction. The books, the movies, the TV shows fill me with characters and actions and insights that have fancy and impossibility and terror and one tick away from reality, which is a comfort. Fiction feeds me, whether it is poetry or playwriting or the elusive art of short story, or a fine lie. I haven't read enough this summer, yet, but Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses swept through me with its sparse, elegant prose. As a trainer for leaner business practices once said, "Apple has won the market share because they offer a few, elegant choices." I've thought about that a lot since I heard the phrase. My writing is more like a PC, lots of too much. Maybe that's why fixies (fixed-gear) bikes are so popular. Simplify... Let the operator or reader have room. Support her with elegance, sound structure, gorgeous choice. And of course, I had to read the second Hunger Games book, Girl on Fire. Had to. That book is scary and plot-based, and as my friend, Sharon Hashimoto, put it, teaches about conflict. Every moment is driven by conflict. My writing tends to be driven by folly, the delicious sound of words, the whim of associative logic. Conflict, hm.... Story is a powerful and sustaining force. I am very lucky to ride it.

Monday, July 9, 2012

favorite sign

Today was one of those magical rides, where what you plan and why you planned it work out. The forecast was for heat and wind, and so, I thought early and north-south, not east-west. Around 7am I had everything loaded (and dogs fed, walked, watered, and bribed in the cabin) in the car, and drove down 7-Mile Hill and on to 84 and off at Hood River, and began the climb up Rt. 35 toward Mt. Hood. The day was already hazy with the temperature already about 70 degrees, so unusual for Oregon. Through the repaving project, past the sign for Odell, I parked at a bakery, which I knew would be a welcome sight after the ride. From there I started uphill, and up and up, with views of Mt. Hood as rewards, I rode. At first the self-doubts were getting to me, but earbuds and peppy music helped me spin the wheels. The rough pavement lasted a few miles, but soon I was alongside the East Fork of Hood River, its glacier water sending waves of freezing air over me. I shivered. Then, the warm, dry shafts of the canyon swept over me. I sweat. No wind, mercifully. In 16 miles I was at the trailhead where Cheryl and Rafi and I had just hiked last week, a gorgeous short hike along the river to stunning falls.

The downhill was glorious. There is a speed around 33 mph where I find I can't keep up, and I have to coast. I was above 30mph much of the way, with views of the entire fruit valley and Mt. Adams, and suddenly, the downhill was over. There was a good slog of an uphill, and I found my very favorite sign in biking:

Few things are more rewarding.

Well, there was the chocolate-chip-peanut-butter cookie at the bakery, the rhubarb jam, and the marionberry empanada for later...

Do this ride.