Sunday, October 05, 2008

Bicycling Meditation, Colorado

Every bend in the road brings me new ideas; every dawn gives me fresh feelings.
- Haiku writer Matsuo Basho; quote as a paraphrase of the original in The Te of Piglet by Benjamin Hoff

My home was at Cold Mountain from the start,
Rambling among the hills, far from trouble.

Gone, and a million things leave no trace
Loosed, and it flows through galaxies
A fountain of light, into the very mind -
Not a thing, and yet it appears before me:
Now I know the pearl of the Buddha nature
Know its use: a boundless perfect sphere.

- from The Cold Mountain Poems, by Han-shan, translated by Gary Snyder

My pedal mechanism broke one evening outside of Leadville. I fixed it with some zip-ties. Zip ties are awesome, btw. I try to always have some zip ties on me in case of whatever. 

This was a good-enough fix since without being able to clip in to these pedals they are basically useless. And the next day I was due to climb over Independence Pass (just shy of 12,100 ft, see below). I am a hardcore mofo but I don't think I can do that with only one leg. 

The drawback with this quick-fix was that my foot was permanently affixed to the pedal - so to get out I had to undo the velco and take my shoe off. Getting back on was pretty awkward with the bike loaded down with gear - but I only fell over once, so I feel pretty good about that. And luckily I didn't crash, because if I would have, if the zip ties didn't break it probably would have ripped my leg off at the knee. But I took the descent into Aspen slow - the better to observe the fantastic scenery - and made it into the campground at Maroon Bells without incident - woo hoo!

Mount Elbert (tallest mountain in CO) - at sunset... the early dawn...

...and late dawn.

Climbing to Independence Pass...

Nate met me at Maroon Bells for some sweet hiking.

The path to Han-shan's place is laughable,
A path, but no sign of cart or horse.
Converging gorges - hard to trace their twists
Jumbled cliffs - unbelievably rugged.
A thousand grasses bend with dew,
A hill of pines hums in the wind.
And now I've lost the shortcut home,
Body asking shadow, how do you keep up?

- from The Cold Mountain Poems, by Han-shan, translated by Gary Snyder

There's a naked bug at Cold Mountain
With a white body and a black head.
His hand holds two book scrolls,
One the Way and one its Power.
His shack's got no pots or oven,
He goes for a long walk with his shirt and pants askew.
But he always carries the sword of wisdom:
He means to cut down senseless craving.

- from The Cold Mountain Poems, by Han-shan, translated by Gary Snyder

As for me, I delight in the everyday Way,
Among mist-wrapped vines and rocky caves.
Here in the wilderness I am completely free,
With my friends, the white clouds, idling forever.
There are roads, but they do not reach the world;
Since I am mindless, who can rouse my thoughts?
On a bed of stone I sit, alone in the night,
While the round moon climbs up Cold Mountain.

- Han-Shan, 750, The Enlightened Heart, translated by Stephen Mitchell

Yeah man, you know to me a mountain is a Buddha. Think of the patience, hundreds of thousands of years just sittin there bein perfectly perfectly silent and like praying for all living creatures in that silence and just waitin for us to stop all our frettin and foolin.

– Japhy Ryder, in The Dharma Bums, by Jack Kerouac

In my first thirty years of life
I roamed hundreds and thousands of miles.
Walked by rivers through deep green grass
Entered cities of boiling red dust.
Tried drugs, but couldn't make Immortal;
Read books and wrote poems on history.
Today I'm back at Cold Mountain:
I'll sleep by the creek and purify my ears.

- from The Cold Mountain Poems, by Han-shan, translated by Gary Snyder

Cold Mountain is a house
Without beams or walls.
The six doors left and right are open
The hall is sky blue.
The rooms all vacant and vague
The east wall beats on the west wall
At the center nothing.


When men see Han-shan
They all say he's crazy
And not much to look at -
Dressed in rags and hides.
They don't get what I say
And I don't talk their language.
All I can say to those I meet:
"Try and make it to Cold Mountain."

- from The Cold Mountain Poems, by Han-shan, translated by Gary Snyder

A reward for Nate and I after many miles of biking and hiking - a dip in Conundrum hot springs.

From the Taoist alchemist Ko Hung:

The contented man can be happy with what appears to be useless. He can find worthwhile occupation in forests and mountains. He stays in a small cottage and associates with the simple. He would not exchange his worn clothes for the imperial robes, nor the load on his back for a four-horse carriage. He leaves the jade in the mountains and the pearls in the sea. Wherever he goes, whatever he does, he can be happy – he knows when to stop. He does not pick the brief-blossoming flower; he does not travel the dangerous road. To him, the ten thousand possessions are dust in the wind. He sings as he travels among the green mountains.

He finds sheltering branches more comforting than red-gated mansions, the plow in his hands more rewarding than the prestige of titles and banners, fresh mountain water more satisfying than the feasts of the wealthy. He acts in true freedom. What can competition for honors mean to him? What attraction can anxiety and greed possibly hold? Through simplicity he has Tao, and from Tao, everything. He sees the light in the ‘darkness,’ the clear in the ‘cloudy,’ the speed in the ‘slowness,’ the full in the ‘empty.’ The cook creating a meal with his own hands has as much honor in his eyes as a famous singer or high official. He has no profits to gain, no salary to lose; no applause, no criticism. When he looks up, it is not in envy. When he looks down, it is not with arrogance. Many look at him, but nobody sees him. Calm and detached, he is free from all danger, a dragon hidden among men.

- Quoted in The Te of Piglet by Benjamin Hoff

My route: Jefferson -> Breckenridge -> Leadville -> Twin Lakes -> Aspen -> Maroon Bells

I’ve been reading Whitman, know what he says, "Cheer up slaves, and horrify foreign despots," he means that’s the attitude for the Bard, the Zen Lunacy bard of old desert paths, see the whole thing is a world full of rucksack wanderers, Dharma Bums refusing to subscribe to the general demand that they consume production and therefore have to work for the privilege of consuming, all that crap they didn’t really want anyway such as refrigerators, TV sets, cars, at least new fancy cars ... and general junk you finally always see a week later in the garbage anyway, all of them imprisoned in a system of work, produce consume, I see a vision of a great rucksack revolution thousands or even millions of young Americans wandering around with rucksacks [and on bikes!], going up to mountains to pray, making children laugh and old men glad, making young girls happy and old girls happier, all of ‘em Zen Lunatics who go about writing poems that happen to appear in their heads for no reason and also by being kind and also by strange unexpected acts keep giving visions of eternal freedom to everybody and to all living creatures…

– Japhy Ryder, in The Dharma Bums, by Jack Kerouac


The Last Bite said...

You hit one of my favorites: Conundrum hot springs... I was there for the first snow in 2003. Beautiful. There is nothing like getting out of a nice warm pool to find your clothes frozen into a big blob. -V

@knatchwa said...

great information thanks for sharing your experience over the hills, your blog is well wriiten thanks for opening the eyes to the possibilities.

hal said...

Wonderful photographs! Really enjoyed the post, especially imagining biking up that windy road to Independence Pass. That takes some determination.

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Eddie Lee said...

Awesome site. enjoyed the tons of great pictures. Can't wait to get out to the Rockies some time