Category Archives: literature

Waterworks in Albuquerque

If I had sought counseling, I might have become a more mature, emotionally well-adjusted human being.  But I preferred becoming a writer.  —Viet Thanh Nguyen, “Don’t Call Me a Genius”, New York Times, April 14, 2018

I read a Robert Frost poem this morning, and it reminded me of my bicycle rides in Albuquerque.  The North Diversion Channel multi-use trail is a main cycling connection across town.  It runs along a big concrete ditch that’s been engineered to control the water shed from the Sandia Mountains.   Sometimes I close my eyes and try to imagine what this landscape looked like before we built up this city.  Water, which is often used by poets as a metaphor for memory and justice, is a primary shaping force in the landscape.  Water has a voice.

The situation, now and in the past, is that the minority and marginalized communities of this or any other country are often not voiceless.  They’re simply not heard.  –Viet Thanh Nguyen, NYTimes

On Saturday’s ride I made a point to stop by the Mill Pond Refuge at the Sawmill Community Land Trust.  Keshet, a local dance company, performed a water dance there at 2pm.  It was part of the 3rd biannual National Water Dance, where communities renew their connections to the life giving world of water.  In the arid Southwest, during this drought, it was especially poignant.  The Sawmill location represents our community’s changing relationship with water.  Below is the poem from Robert Frost, and then a few photos from the Water Dance that I saw Saturday.

A Brook in the City, by Robert Frost

The farmhouse lingers, though averse to square
With the new city street it has to wear
A number in.  But what about the brook
That held the house as in an elbow-crook?
I ask as one who knew the brook, its strength
And impulse, having dipped a finger length
And made it leap my knuckle, having tossed
A flower to try its currents where they crossed.
The meadow grass could be cemented down
From growing under pavements of a town;
The apple trees be sent to hearthstone flame.
Is water wood to serve a brook the same?
How else dispose of an immortal force
No longer needed? Staunch it at its source
With cinder loads dumped down? The brook was thrown
Deep in a sewer dungeon under stone
In fetid darkness still to live and run–
And all for nothing it had ever done,
Except forget to go in fear perhaps.
No one would know except for ancient maps
That such a brook ran water.  But I wonder
If from its being kept forever under,
The thoughts may not have risen that so keep
This new-built city from both work and sleep.

References:  “Founded in 1996, Keshet is an Albuquerque-based nonprofit which exists to inspire and unite community by fostering unlimited possibilities through dance, mentorship and a creative space for the arts. Uniting the arts, the artist and the audience, Keshet invites you to engage, experience and be inspired through bold explorations of movement and celebrations of community.”

Keshet’s Water Dance:

Time expansion

Time expands when I’m cycling.  I don’t know how it works, but riding is like a glimpse into the mystery of the universe.  And when I get home I have more of everything.  More time, more energy, more joy, relaxation.  Cycling is so satisfying.  I feel younger.

I think part of it is the magic of cycling.  We are born with legs that want to make us go.  It’s natural.  Then we designed an elegantly simple vehicle that uses our legs and makes us more efficient with two wheels.  We glide over the surface of the earth, flowing with the contours, wielding our own power.  On the bicycle even our leg motion becomes circular.  For most of our biological history, our ancestors had no access to this special experience.  Super-mobility.

That gliding motion, how sensational!  We are the pilot and passenger all at once.  Our thoughts and capabilities so perfectly expressed through this machine.  We can go 50 miles on a burrito with a side of blue corn chips.  How’s that for efficiency and fun?  Take time for paradise today.

A quote from Benjamin Hoff’s The Tao of the Pooh inspired this post along with a book my father gave me (but he doesn’t remember) called Take Time For Paradise: Americans and Their Games, by A. Bartlett Giamatti.  Cycling has a way of making our everyday experiences extraordinary.

“If time saving devices really saved time, there would be more time available to us than ever before in history.  But, strangely enough, we seem to have less time than even a few years ago.  It’s really great fun to go somewhere where there are no time saving devices because, when you do, you find that you have lots of time.  Elsewhere, you’re too busy working to pay for machines to save you time so you don’t have to work so hard.”  –Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of the Pooh

The photos are from rides this week under New Mexico’s captivating and vivid light.  A perfect place to cycle.  Unlike baseball, which separates out leisure from work, cycling is an integrative activity, the perfect work-play-live-learn-love thing to do.  We can generate more of it.

Declaration of Interdependence, or, A Beautiful Arrangement

“…the way of the road was the rule for all upon it.”  –Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing
“…cities with a high bicycling rate among the population generally show a much lower risk of fatal crashes for all road users…”  —Marshall & Garrick, Environmental Practice 13:16–27 (2011)

Americans spend so much time on the road we deserve to feel at home there.  Safety for road users is one of the most important indicators for our pursuits of the American dream.  Whether we are driving truck, pedaling a bicycle, pushing a baby stroller, or rolling a wheelchair, sharing our streets is an elemental part of what makes America good.  Streets are a celebration of our public life, and what we see and do there, whether we feel safe and included, speaks to us.


We are witnessing an ongoing tragedy on our roads.   Every month on America’s roads we lose more lives than we did in 9/11.  Most of them are persons traveling in automobiles.  None of us are invulnerable.  “We know all this and act as if we don’t” (Tom Vanderbilt, Traffic, p. 275).  The illusion of invulnerability walls off our sensitivities.  If we pay attention to the human vulnerabilities in all of us, we realize something like a Declaration of Interdependence aptly describes the nature of public safety on our roads.  The streets won’t feel safe for any of us until they are functioning safely for all users.   Recognizing this interdependence is key.


Every human being deserves a safe home, a safe workplace, safe schools, a safe neighborhood and a safe road to travel on in between. Every road is like a bridge from one part of our life to another.  And sometimes the simple act of being on the move is the absolute best place to be in a given moment, feeling wonderfully free.  Safe roads are an essential part of freedom, and we’ll do well securing more mobility freedom for our children, grandchildren, and on down the road toward the infinite horizon for the multitude of generations to come.  Exercising a more responsible freedom on the road helps us reach towards a better vision of the world where people are protected, and expands opportunities to pursue our interests and live our dreams.


From Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan’s song Masters of War

You’ve thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world

We as a people can address actions that instill fear to travel with children on our public roads.  Speak kindly with caring thought and sincerity.  We deserve to be safe.  “This land was made for you and me.”  (Woody Guthrie, This Land is Your Land) .  Begin with peace here.  We are worthy.

Old Town Farm's fresh, local flowers make for a beautiful arrangement by Sansai Studios

Old Town Farm’s fresh, local flowers make for a beautiful arrangement by Sansai Studios

Check out my blog post “The Quiet Catastrophe” on Edward Hume’s book Door to Door.
In Learning from Trails I look at our expectations for cooperative use of shared public spaces.
In Ride 2 Recovery I explore roads as a place for healing, particularly for wounded warriors.

Inspiration for Planning

“It is finally, I suppose, a question of which force proves the stronger: the demand for an efficient and expensive highway system designed primarily to serve the working economy of the country, or a new and happy concept of leisure with its own economic structure, its own art forms, and its own claim on a share of the highway. At present we are indifferent to this promise for our culture, and to the extinction which threatens it; is it not time that we included this new part of America in our concern?  It is true that we can no longer enter our towns and cities on avenues leading among meadows and lawns and trees, and that we often enter them instead through roadside slums.  But we can, if we choose, transform these approaches into avenues of gaiety and brilliance, as beautiful as any in the world; and it is not yet too late.”

–J.B. Jackson, Other-Directed Houses, writing from Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1956



The quote is from an essay in this work.  Landscape in Sight:  Looking at America
Another encouraging book edited by D.W. Meinig.  The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes
Thanks to University of Nevada, Reno, Geography for introducing me to these works.

The photos are from my cell phone as usual.  First photo is from a ride around the Sandia mountains, and the second from a walk through the ABQ Biopark.  Arigato.

Awakening to Albuquerque’s Local Character

This is the time of year to relax and enjoy time on the bike and the gifts of the Fall season.  It’s been a year since we moved here so I’ve been trying to explore more and go deeper into usual places, and take new roads that I’ve never been on before.  Just as my love and respect for my life partner grows year after year, so does my appreciation for the Southwestern U.S.

Hay and bike

East Mountain horses

Purple Aster butterfly on

I enjoy cycling east.  When I ride into Tijeras Canyon the city ends abruptly and the real New Mexico emerges.  It feels like the wild west, although one that is becoming friendlier and safer to travel through, with classic landscapes intact.  We can keep it this way if we continue evolving our knowledge and practice of the conservation ethic.  “When we see land as a community we belong to, we begin to use it with love and respect” (Aldo Leopold).  Tijeras Canyon opens to stunning skies and broad slopes of two immense mountain ranges that harbor bear, bighorn sheep, deer, turkey.  I can see in my minds eye the creek flowing out of the canyon and cutting across the desert connecting with the Río Grande in the South Valley.  Beautiful.

Tijeras Fall

Purple aster greens and rocks

Route 66 new pavement

On old Route 66 toward Edgewood they are repaving the road with smooth black asphalt edge to edge.  The wide continuous shoulder makes for favorable operating conditions for pedestrian and bicycle traffic, and increases safety, visibility and maneuverability for all modes.  The transportation agency also has signs up reminding us to look for bicycle and pedestrian traffic.  When you get out to the Village of Tijeras you have an incredible selection of roads and trails.  It is higher elevation there, and windy sometimes, but that just makes you stronger.  Lots of people love cycling in the East Mountain communities.  Friendly waves and smiles abound.

chili hearth

Los Ranchos Fruit Basket chilis

When you need an easier day of cycling, you can find great roads up and down the Río Grande Valley.  Yesterday I was cruising Los Ranchos de Albuquerque and smelled roasting Chili.  I had my backpack with so I stopped in and bought some.  The roasted ones I bought were still warm, so I ate them with some sweet potatoes I was carrying that were left over from dinner last night.  Superb comfort food.  I think as the main roads are adapted for better bicycle travel, the local character will be even better appreciated, and the peoples’ inherent vitality will be freer.  Albuquerque has unsurpassed strengths in diverse cultures, traditions and landscapes. We should keep it affordable, ensuring middle income people remain at the center of the cultural vibrancy here.  Bicycling has been an outstanding vehicle to learn about the local character.  Cycling embodies the best of everything, from the conservative principles of smaller is better and maximum efficiency, to the liberal value of free learning.   It’s bilateral goodness, win win win.  It is a traditional way of being.  This is travel like humans are meant to move.

The Lensic

It is a well balanced mix of city and country here.  This afternoon we are going up to Santa Fe to enjoy the free admission to the New Mexico Museum of Art and to experience walking life around Santa Fe.  Santa Fe has a wonderful bike culture too, and together, Albuquerque and Santa Fe make for one of the most diverse destinations a person could possibly imagine.


Leopold, Aldo.  A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There, Special Commemorative Edition .  Quote from the forward, page viii.

Pedaling the Sacrifice Zone

One of my college professors is publishing a book he has been researching for years, called Pedaling the Sacrifice Zone.   Dr. Jimmy Guignard is now Chair of English and Modern Languages at Mansfield University in PA.   He and his family live in countryside that is being fracked to tap into the natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation.  Here is his book’s cover:


Jimmy is an exceptional person.  He was a teaching assistant working on completing his PhD when I had him in my senior year for Introduction to Literary Theory and Criticism.  I had added an English minor to my Geography major and this was a required course.  I had finally begun to enjoy learning and was opening up to the power of critical thinking skills and figuring out my way through this complex world.   Jimmy got to know me and made me feel important.  His father was a truck driver, as I had been and would be again after I graduated, and I remember Jimmy telling me how his father was always on the lookout for hawks and birds as he drove.  Jimmy had worked construction, as I had.  He was approachable and a great teacher.  Jimmy wanted to know what you thought and how you arrived there.   He made the connection between getting in touch through outdoor activities with studious learning and hard work.  I can’t wait to read this book, and I’m so glad Jimmy is sharing with a wider audience.

I’ve been surprised by the extent of gas and oil in New Mexico.  As a State, NM ranks 7th for natural gas and 5th for oil.   Pennsylvania is 3rd for gas largely due to the Marcellus Shale.


We have two UNESCO World Heritage sites, Carlsbad Caverns and Chaco Culture park, that abut our largest oil and gas production regions in the SE and NW corners of New Mexico.  It is a remarkable contrast seeing these different value systems of extraction and preservation juxtaposed in the landscape.  Without energy conservation, sustainable production guidelines, and a serious transition plan, this delicate balance seems headed in a bleak direction.  We need more nuanced economic metrics that measure the quality of what we produce with the energy we use and the efficiency with which we do it, rather than narrowly isolating the volume of production and consumption, which conflates waste and inefficiency with economic growth.

cliff slant

We have a methane hot spot over the four corners region because of leaking wells and infrastructure.  And high ozone levels, though not as extreme as the one’s seen in Utah’s Uinta Basin production region.  We need meaningful, sustainable jobs and energy, and we need a healthy environment for centuries to come.   We need a long term perspective and a serious discussion on how we can make the good life last.   I am looking forward to digging into Jimmy’s book and going for more rides to listen to the lands we draw our life from.

A stunning story with great imagery, stats, and research on the San Juan Basin gas:

Michael Collier has done incredible work documenting the changes in the land and people with the Uinta production fields with his An Unconventional Future coverage:

NM State planning:
“Breakeven costs for oil development cost to completion range from $52 to $70 in the San Juan Basin and $40 to $55 in the Southeast.” p. 41 NM Energy Policy and Implementation Plan
“Implement an education campaign to increase citizen knowledge of renewable energy and energy efficiency operations and investment potential. Explain the nature of renewable versus non-renewable energy resources.” p. 36 NM Energy Policy and Implementation Plan

“Beauty…is something that inheres between the congruence of the landscape and the strivings of the spirit.”  –D.W. Meinig, Reading the Landscape, an Appreciation of W.G. Hoskins and J.B. Jackson, from The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes: Geographical Essays  p. 232

NM Renewable Energy

Jimmy’s blog:

Exercising Sustainability on the Road Less Traveled

Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
–Robert Frost, from The Gift Outright

standing tall

Monday magic.  Monday was a ride up the Crest.  I was taking my time, one of those backpack rides, and I took these pictures.  I was sick all last week and still am, but not riding much is not doing me any good.  Riding is good.  I was reminded on this climb what suffering on a bike is like.  The long slow wilt on relentless grade.  I gave into it and kept on churning.  The journey is rewarding and seeing summer growth is amazing.  Indeed the roads are lined with flowers.

in a mood

wild mixture


There was smoke in the air from the wildfires in the pacific northwest.  It looked hazy.  All the shades of sky in New Mexico are incredible.  I don’t think we have any bad sky days here.

sunflower cactus

the road less traveled

The poem from Robert Frost, The Gift Outright, travels with me and helps me think about what it means to live here in New Mexico.  Bicycling helps me connect with the land and develop my sense of this place.  It is a great equalizer.  If I wake up high minded it will humble and ground me with earth.  If I am feeling poor or down bicycling helps lift me up and I feel wealthy because I’m healthy and can move with grace and dignity.  When I am anxious about the future bicycling helps me be present in the moment and do what I can to make a difference today.

gold green blue

Gutierrez wind

I am grateful I found bicycling again back in 1997.  It activates potential that is hiding untapped.  I see so much more when I am on my bicycle, and take in all the flavors and sense the world I’m a part of, get a feel for the shape of the day.  It’s interactive and places us in conversation with people and land.  It’s no wonder I’m working on sustainable transportation, developing sense of place and learning everyday I bicycle.  At the conclusion of every ride when all the photos are taken and places are visited, I tell myself to bring it home.  Bring the knowledge home with humility.  How fortunate we are to find something we enjoy, that is also something good for us, and something we need.  I keep on riding, giving myself to this land of living.  Trato Hecho.  There is so much more to discover right here in front of us, underneath us, all around us.

straight shot

Santa Fe Institute, the Humanities, and Learning

“If I had to vote for one novel by a living American it would be Blood Meridian which is a fearsome story…with a deep implicit warning for American society…Bloom Meridian is the ultimate western.”  –Harold Bloom, How to Read and Why (see video below)


I have heroes in life.  Most of them are writers.  Barry Lopez, Wendell Berry, Peter Matthiessen, EO Wilson, Emerson.  Their voyaging curiosities usually interact with science, philosophy, anything and everything to help follow the narrative and tell the story.  One of the people I look up to, Cormac McCarthy, has articulated some wisdom in this two minute video below.  He says the Santa Fe Institute, where he engages regularly, is “absolutely relentless at hammering down the boundaries created by academic disciplines and by institutional structures.”  It is also good to hear the focus on sustainability, the environment, and human welfare.  It doesn’t narrow down the avenues to achieving improvements in these things, but identifying them as the center points for our pursuits is a timely focus based on what we know at the present moment.

It is inspiring to see one of America’s heroic story tellers interacting with science and society.  If you have not read Bloom Meridian, give it three tries.  Even uber critic Harold Bloom had to put the book down the first two times he tried.  “You get a great vision, a frightening vision, of something that is very deeply embedded in the American spirit, the American psyche.”  I love the unity of literature, history, and science working to solve the problems we have in front of us today.  We need all the help we can get.