After revisiting winter as a metaphor with my last post, I’m feeling a bit poetic. My first attempt at poetry (in this blog — I wrote plenty of sappy rhymes in my school days) was a tribute to nature titled Poem: Word to Your Mother (Earth). The second one was called Verisimilitude: Leap Day Twenty Twenty Poem; it dealt with a day in the life and went a little into politics including the environment. In case you missed them, or have forgotten, enjoy. As for today’s words, they’re about the longest period of subfreezing weather in Texas for a long time and the third heaviest snowstorm ever, resulting in power outages and water line breaks for millions across the state and many here in Austin. In fact, there’s an Austin water crew digging up the street to fix a leak as I write. This poem is also about life, politics and nature; I’m beginning to see a theme.
What does nature and political poetry have to do with pedaling a bike? As always, I think the best weapon against climate change is the bicycle. It was warm enough today I went out for a 10-mile ride. If it’s cold where you are but you’re brave and layered up enough, be safe out there. Or if you have one, get on your stationery bike or put your bike on a home trainer like I did the last few days. And if you’re amongst the hoi polloi, well, I doubt you’re reading this dude’s blog, but if so, have fun on your Peloton. We don’t judge. But before your pedaling, or after, here’s my poem. I don’t claim to be a good poet, but it’s like art: I don’t know much about it, but I know what I like. Hey, I’m no Ralph Waldo Emersonor Mary Oliver. I hope you like it.
A year and two weeks ago, I wrote Snow in Austin, Winter in America, based on a powerful song by Gil Scott-Heron. I think that post is some of my best work, not necessarily prize-winning, but in trying to capture a mood. (You should go read it now. I’ll wait.) The street poet, progenitor of rap, musician, and author was a voice of conscience regarding the state of Black people in America, among other things. He could also lay down some serious grooves to go with his strong words; Winter in America is in a minor key and has a great blues flute solo. I wrote that post right before coronavirus began its whirlwind tour of the US — just before it went viral. (Ha!) It was a few months before the modern-day lynching of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. (Not ha.) Scott-Heron died on May 27, 2011, a decade ago later this year. What would he have to say about Floyd’s killer, Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin still being out on bail awaiting trial and maybe even getting some justice for George (yeah, we’ll see about that)? Time marches on. But as Sting once sang,“History will teach us nothing.” The prophetic music and lyrics of Scott-Heron and others like him (Marvin Gaye comes to mind) are relevant — still. Maybe in GSH’s poetry we can find a little solace in these cold and dark days. Or maybe we’ll get pissed and take action somehow. It is Black History Month, but is there more to it than history?
Hot it’s not. Hotter than hell would be swell right about now. Because here in Central Texas the Valentine’s / Presidents Day cold front is a weeklong blast that has 2 million people statewide without electricity. Like much of the US, we’ve suffering through an Arctic weather pattern that is so cold (how cold IS it?) that temperatures are below what it normally is in Anchorage, Alaska. It was forecast to be 5 degrees F tonight, and we got our first ever Wind Chill Warning, meaning it could feel like under 0. This was the third heaviest snowfall ever and the most since 1949. Over 6 feet fell at the main weather station, though where I stay was not as much, but it was plenty. Except for my year in New England, this is the most snow I’ve ever seen. The roads are not safe, and most everything is shut down for several days. But today the sun came out, and I’m still A Dude Abikes, so I went out on a wobbly, wandering walk, and later a short, slushy, and slow bike ride.
Snow fell from the cold, dark skies on my bike ride home from the gym. The frozen precipitation is rare in Central Texas, especially in relatively mild winters like we’ve been having. So it’s a wondrous sight when it does snow. I felt lucky to have been outside riding when it came down. Light, white, wet kisses on my face melted quickly. Some accumulated on car hoods and lawn chairs, and the roommates and dogs were happy to see and feel it, too.
Of course in other places, there are no romantic notions about snow, because they’re drowning in it and shoveling it by metric ton. Another substance is also being shoveled in similar quantities, but it’s brown, smelly, and comes out of the back end of a cow. And by that of course, I can only be referring to the State of the Union, which was by some accounts a total snow job. Winter isn’t coming, Jon Snow, it’s already here. The revolution will not be televised. It’s winter in America.
All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray I’ve been for a walk on a winter’s day I’d be safe and warm if I was in L.A. California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day
— “California Dreamin'” by The Mamas & The Papas
Baby, It’s Cold Outside. So What? Go Exercise, Dude.
A Dude Abikes does not think of himself as a quitter but he has let go of many things over time, some by choice, others not (car, job, a really nice pair of Ray Bans). Some wisely, like trying to be a vegan. Others, maybe not so skillful, like eating frozen pizza (haven’t had one of nature’s most perfect foods this year so far). Today I kept my walking every day for a month practice going. If I Don’t Break The Chain and make it all year, I’ll have walked over 400 miles — on purpose! Someday maybe I’ll be at a weight where I’ll feel it’s safe to run again without damaging my feet and joints. For now, I’m just getting out there and putting one foot in front of the other for half an hour, even if it’s 28 degrees F like today. That quality of doing it no matter what that I’ve tapped into with the yoga, biking and no-car-having is not really something you can teach. But I think everyone has the capacity for being resolute, stubborn, determined or committed. I also put on 19 articles of clothing, so I was prepared like a good Boy Scout. Yes, A Dude really was an Eagle Scout.