Friday, April 15, 2011

blue ice: visits to knik glacier


Wind rides down from the glacier face.
It sweeps in from the Sound
climbs over the mountains
traverses the snowfield
then gains speed as it courses
between arĂȘtes
that confine the ice and steer it
ever toward the inlet.
Lifting snow and silt as it blows
rattling across ice
and sastrugi
eroding ancient blue bergs
and this year’s drifts.
With the wind at my back,
I hear the grains skittering.

Much of the day, the wind passes my ears
White noise,
drowning any sounds from companions.
We four, not being savvy with hand signals
used by those who regularly are out of shouting distance
or have neither voice nor hearing,
must stop to communicate.

We tuck our heads
to keep the wind from our cheeks
Yet, must keep ever alert
for slick spots,
thin spots or holes in the ice
that might suck one of us under.
We pedal
On track to reach the face
It appears closer, though not by much
We ride on snow
On ice
On river rocks that range in size
from aspirin to dinner-plates
Keep pedaling and we can ride over anything
Unless it is the shape and size of an upturned wok.

Another day
Sun pouring
reflecting off snow
blue ice, white ice
river ice, lake ice.
blue bergs frozen in lake ice
sculpted with dimples
locked as they are and still.
Ancient sea creatures
with scales,
We ride past
raise our faces to the sky
wonder at the frozen waterfall
like drizzled icing on a wedding-cake.

At the face of the glacier,
we leave the bikes on the ice
climb onto the sun-warmed rocks
like desert reptiles
after sundown
seeking the residual warmth
the memory of sunshine.
Packs propped against glacier-carved rock
We recline and prop up our feet
look around
remember the distance we have traveled
over the last two hours.
we watch as flight-seeing airplanes
fly low across the ice
wonder if they see us resting there
wonder whose album we will end up in
when they return to the rest of America.


We meander close to the face
pass along uplifts
highmark on our bicycles
Ice made grippy by blown snow and silt
embedded in the surface in drifts and waved patterns.
We take our time
Riding over sea creatures
Watching the March sun move across the sky
Marvel at the intensity of light
absence of wind
With a note of sadness
we turn back
skirt along the base of the moraine
and ride along ice made softer by a half-day’s warming.
Snow softening, water running, slick.

Our crossings become less certain
Open water wider
firm snow, now slush
A sure route is no longer
A muddy stream crossing
Flooded tussock field
Downstream over beaver dams
built of logs, twigs and rocks.

Like a good novel
or movie
the end is sadness
and satisfaction.
I hesitate before leaving the trail,
already nostalgic
for the day.

From a series of poems on biking on ice and snow. I began these during last week's write-a-thon. They are all works in progress, partly because a poem never seems done to me. It's not like a cookie where you can tell by the edges that it's just right. With a poem, you can change a word to change the mood or the meaning.

Over the years, I've found that poetry helps me with my other writing. Sometimes when I'm trying to write a story, it's best to pare it down to find the essence, then begin building. I don't know if other people do this, but it feels like a good form, kind of like stretching my brain before doing the heavy lifting. Thanks for reading.


1) Blue ice, white ice
2) Jon, with ice uplifts.
3) Jon and Alan, still miles from the glacier.
4) Me, Carey and Mauja. Lunch break.
5) Flightseers.
6) Lori and Carey.
7) Carey

Monday, April 11, 2011

little planet

Blue Marble, credit.

Yuri shot into orbit
fifty years ago
shot seen round the world
he left gravity
saw planet earth
with freshest eyes
then landed hard
with a wish a hope
that together humanity
would save and not destroy
our common home.

"Circling the Earth in my orbital spaceship I marveled at the beauty of our planet. People of the world, let us safeguard and enhance this beauty — not destroy it!" -
- Yuri Gagarin, 1st person in space, April 12, 1961.

All my life I have viewed images of our planet as seen from outer space. The image is commonplace to people in my generation and younger. But in 1961, Yuri Gagarin was the first human to leave the atmosphere and circle the planet. The first to see Earth's water and land and ice, with no geographic borders - before parachuting to solid ground after re-entry. When I heard his words on the radio last week, I was moved by his observation. Fifty years later we haven't figured out how to inhabit the "blue marble" without war or a unified concern for the well-being of our planet.

We do keep trying. Maybe we need these reminders more often.

Find out about The World Space Party, happening all over Planet Earth on April 12.

(I wrote this poem during the Write-a-thon.)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

spring in three verses

water flowing in streets
seeking low spots
and clear drains
last fall’s leaves
slowing the rushing flow
until the snow shovel
clears the way.

listening for spring
arriving overhead
geese calling out
above the winter song
of chickadees
cackling magpies and
the caws and chatter of ravens.

Squeaking bicycle chain
puddle-splattered fenders
grit and water on pants cuffs.
knuckles red and windburned
anticipation of spring
not realized,
instead, reminder:
winter does not withdraw
without a fight.

a little warm-up from the write-a-thon.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

share your dollar

" And if I share with you my story would you share your dollar with me?" Aloe Blacc.

I've done it. Just the day before the event, I've signed up to participate in the 49 Alaska Writing Center Raven Write-a-Thon. I can tell you more about it later; you can learn about it here.

You can make a donation by going here.

I'm working on a list of themes so that if I get stuck on a topic I can move on. And because it's National Poetry Month, I may decide to focus on my poetry. So many choices for material, 4.9 hours of chair time (with a few breaks) and no internet. I hope I have something good to share with you. Now, if you'll share a dollar...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

start seeing cyclists, please

In the early minutes after midnight yesterday, at an intersection in the middle of Anchorage a cyclist and an automobile driver collided. The cyclist was killed. I didn't know Wil Curry. But until his name was released around midday, Wil was every cyclist I know who makes their way through Anchorage's streets at all hours of the day or night. Putting on lots of miles; using his bicycle as his primary vehicle; enjoying each ride.

As with any vehicle accident, it will be investigated. Until it is complete, we won't know the details of how it happened. Even an investigation can't tell us all the answers, such as what was on the mind of the cyclist and the driver as they progressed toward each other. But we all know that a moment's inattention when we're driving or cycling (or walking) can lead to terrible consequences.

You look down at your watch or cycle computer to see the time and look up just in time for a big pothole. You glance sideways before reaching for a glove on the passenger seat and another car is moving into your lane and braking. How many distractions do we entertain while out navigating the world? How many times have I been deep in thought and forgotten to turn someplace?

Right now there's no way to comment on the story that appears in the Anchorage Daily News. I wonder why. Maybe because of the kinds of comments that crop up after high-profile events like this one: cyclists shouldn't be riding at night; cyclists shouldn't be on the road (he was on a path); drivers aren't paying attention; drivers are rude and don't yield at crosswalks. The list of grievances is long. As a cyclist and a car driver, I'm paying attention to what people are saying, but one thing is for certain: the automobile has the upper hand.

Most bicycle/car collisions seem to take place at intersections when cars are turning right. My message to drivers is simple: When pulling up to an intersection, stop before the crosswalk and look both ways. Then look both ways again with your focus not on the kids in the back seat or the person with whom you're talking on your cell phone. Really look. Then yield to the cyclist and give them a signal so they can cross safely before you pull ahead to make a right turn on red.

For cyclists, we're told to dress brightly; the law tells us to use a headlight and a taillight during dark hours. We're told to put reflective tape on our bikes or our clothing. We do all this, yet this cyclist was hit even though his bike had lights. So, cyclists, despite all you've done to make sure people see you, you are invisible; not even a mirage. The idea that you might appear at an intersection and want to cross has not occurred to many drivers, no matter what time of day. Keep that thought in your head whenever you ride and ask yourself "do they see me?"

It would be a fine day for cyclists when we could trust all drivers to pay attention and yield to us. But to mangle the exprssion: "Don't trust. Verify."

Take your time, and please be safe out there.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

no idling

Yesterday was my first day back at the shop since last May. As Jon and I pulled up early Saturday morning, there was a guy waiting in his SUV for the shop to open. His window was down, yet the vehicle was running as we walked by, said "hi" and went inside.

He stayed out there, running his vehicle while we got a few things taken care of before opening. He even stayed in his car after the shop opened. When he finally came in to pick up a headset we'd set aside for him on a previous day, Jon didn't mention this pet peeve: idling cars.

We see it all the time; people leave their cars running while they go grocery shopping. They leave them running while picking up their kids from school. All over Anchorage, and the country, people leave their cars running. I figure gas prices aren't all that high until people turn their engines off when they run into a store "for just a minute." Such wasteful creatures, we humans.

Endurance cyclist Jay Petervary is trying to bring more attention to the issue, and good for him for stopping by the shop before beginning his bike ride from Knik to Nome this year. He left a sign that is now in the shop window and a few stickers. When the customer wasn't looking, Jon slipped one of those "no idle tour" stickers into the headset box. Just a suggestion.

Thanks for not idling. Trackstanding, on the other hand, is certainly acceptable.

Friday, April 1, 2011

more to this story

I must admit I've been trying to finish a post about a couple rides I did last week to Knik Glacier. Yes, the same glacier I wasn't able to reach earlier in March. Here's the thing: I keep trying to describe it and I can't quite find the right words or the right form for the story. There's something missing.

Tonight I went to an author reading and Q&A at the museum. The featured author was Susan Orlean, and she was being interviewed by local reporter, Julia O'Malley. Susan talked about how she doesn't use the term "writer's block." She described the three steps of writing: reporting (gathering information), processing and writing. The first two steps are critical to accomplishing the third. If you're having a hard time writing a story, either you haven't collected enough information or you haven't processed the information thoroughly (very common, I'm sure). She suggested that it helps to have another person with whom to discuss the idea so that the story may come to form through conversation.

She took the solitary process of writing and turned it into something interactive; telling us to speak our stories and see how they develop, thus finding the heart of the story. Because sometimes we can only find the story through telling it and receiving feedback from a trusted listener. Someone who knows us and knows what matters to us.

There is a lesson. So, now I think about the two bike trips I took to Knik and I think to myself: either I need to talk with Jon about this experience again or I need to make one more trip. For the sake of research.