Invitation

 

 

Michelle and I recently ordered some hammocks from Fox Outdoor Sports and decided to test them out this weekend. Behind our apartment there is a Greenway around a small lake that has several wooded spots you can stop to enjoy the tranquility of the surrounding scenery. This Greenway allows us to forget that we are really in the center of busy city. The poem that follows was inspired by this hammocking adventure and was written in response to the daily word prompt, invitation. The two photos were taken using a GoPro and I feel really capture the ambience of the location. 

treecanopy

Here we hang,

Suspended

            Hanging from

            Tree to tree

Beneath the

            Lofty pine.

Invited by

            Ambience,

            Of this place.

* * *

Here we hang,

Arm-in-arm

Below a

            Canopy.

Sky, painted

            Blue, brushed with

clouds of white.

Invited by

            Soul’s delight.

* * *

Here we hang,

Lost in love,

Ignorant,

            To the sounds

            That surround

Unaware,

            Of patrons

            Passing by

Invited by,

            Solitude.

* * *

Here we hang,

By hammock

            Lost in our

            Pseudo woods.

Forgotten,

            Is the city

            That surrounds.

Invited by

            God’s good grace

An ambience

            Given this place.

         hammockshot

Trail Bucket List

A brand new year is upon us and with that new year comes the traditional posting of resolutions:

The list can go on-and-on. Some of us will succeed at meeting our resolutions and others will fall well short, but the important thing is that we will all attempt to better ourselves in some way. One of the resolutions I made in 2016 was to start riding my trail bucket list.

arcadiadunes
Riding Arcadia Dunes, MI (2013)

What is a trail bucket list? Well, a trail bucket list is a list of your favorite mountain biking (or hiking) trails that you want to visit and explore. When I first started riding my Giant Talon 29er in Michigan there was one king trail that I always wanted to visit: Copper Harbor. However, before I could ever ride this epic trail I moved from Michigan to Illinois. And all I had left was a mountain of regret and dreams of missed opportunities.

rockyknob
A trail shot of Rocky Knob Park, Boone, NC (2016)

After Illinois, I moved across the country to North Carolina and discovered a new epic trail to dream about: Tsali Recreational Area. According to the Singletracks website, Tsali has been voted as one of the Top 5 trails to ride in the country and is located near Bryson City, NC. After growing up in Michigan and missing a chance to ride Copper Harbor, I knew that I couldn’t let Tsali become another missed opportunity. I couldn’t have another someday trail left unrdidden.

tsalibikes
Taking a lunch break at Tsali Recreation Area, Bryson City, NC (2016)

Michelle and I executed a trip to Bryson City, NC last October to visit the Great Smokey Mountains, take in the beauty of the fall foliage of western North Carolina, and shred some of the most epic singletrack NC has to offer. Tsali did not disappoint. The trail had amazing flow, a good balance between climbs and flowing downhill, beautiful scenery along Lake Fontana, and a great mountain biking lesson (always carry a small air-pump and spare tube; thank you to Tsali Cycles for helping to get me back on the trail).

flattire2
Learning a life lesson at Tsali. Always carry a spare tube and portable tire pump. (2016)

Riding the Tsali Recreation Area was a great opportunity to scratch a dream trail off my trail bucket list, but more importantly it took me to a new area of North Carolina and gave Michelle and I a lifetime of memories. I can’t wait to see what adventures unfold throughout 2017 as we continue to tackle the trails on our bucket list.

What trails are on your trail-bucket list? What trail is your Copper Harbor (a missed adventure)?

Some of the targeted mountain biking areas on my trail bucket list:

  • Moab, UT
  • Mountain Bike in Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado
  • Trails around Charlotte and Asheville, NC
  • MTB the Triangle (Harris Lake, Crabtree, RTP Trails, San Lee, etc.)

Your Buildings Be Damned

            When I awoke this morning I left bed with heavy eyelids and a grumpy attitude. Athena had decided that last night that if she was unable to sleep, then nobody would get any sleep as she woke me up twice to go to the potty, once by getting stuck in the bathroom, and finally to bark at the things that go bump in the night. Needless to say, rising from bed was a true struggle today.

20161216_094548_hdr
Athena’s “I’m sorry I kept you up all night” pose

           But, there were some silver linings. It is a Friday morning and that means brewing the special coffee that celebrates the end of a long and tiring work week. However, as I was preparing the coffee cup a loud screeching noise was heard echoing from outside. The screeching noise consisted to attack my ears through my fist cup of coffee and breakfast. Before leaving for work I decided to step onto the back porch of our apartment and see how heavy of a coat the day would require as I stepped onto the porch Athena and I discovered the source of the screeching.

            This morning, when Athena and I stepped out on the porch, we discovered the source of the screeching noise was coming from a saw operated by a tractor. This was a true horror to witness! Our apartment is a terrace level room with a back porch that overlooks this beautiful wooded lot. In the summer, the trees provide plenty of shade keeping our home extremely cool and they provide the other perk of preventing us from seeing cars and people in the middle of Raleigh. The trees are a true blessing. As you can imagine, I proceed to enter a melodramatic rage at the machine destroying our beloved trees. This is what Athena and I yelled.

*  * *

“What is this?

What are you doing out here?

Do you not know,

That these trees are mine?

They are not yours,

They do not belong to you,

You cannot chop them down!

*  * *

Why must you chop down

            My trees?

Why must you remove the woods

            From the city?

Are we not aware,

That the beauty of Raleigh

Grows from the dirt.

Tall trunks standing erect

Leafy canopies casting

much needed shade

From the sun’s fiery touch.

How can we be,

             A City of Oaks

If there are no more Oaks?

*  * *

Perhaps, I thought,

This saw was meant to bolster

The woods behind my home.

Removing only those trees

That are dead

            Or sick.

But such a job, requires only a person

            And his saw.

Yet, here I see

A yellow tractor,

A yellow devil

amidst my trees.

Whose engine roars

Drowning out,

 morning birds’ song!

Whose exhaust

Blackens out,

 the early dawn!

*  * *

This yellow beast,

Can mean only one thing.

My Trees are doomed!

No more,

Shall I hear the birds’

No more,

            Will squirrels taunt my dog

No more,

Will the forest’s peace

            Surround.

How can I know, such a thing?

Because it has happened

            Before.

Last summer, there was a grove

of pines, standing on a corner

They graced both Tryon

             And Walnut

With a releasing green space

Amidst the hurried traffic.

But, green things do not last!

They are forcibly removed,

(as these pine trees were)

In place of warehouses,

            And stores.

            Apartment buildings too!

We say, it is

For progress,

The trees must go.

For city’s growth,

            The trees must go.

For man’s wish,

            The trees must go.

We say, it is

For another building,

            The trees must go.

To this, I say

Let the trees remain

            The Oaks stand.

And your buildings be damned!

 

Passing a Milestone

Satisfaction.

The rigors of academia have a magical power of beating down and demolishing any person’s feelings of accomplishments. In this world, for every good there is always an inevitable bad. You overcome a major hurdle that has hindered your research for the past year, only to discover that a reviewer isn’t convinced that your experiment truly addressed the problem. That’s why any feelings of satisfaction are short-lived and why it is important to bask in their brief glory.

            Sometimes, these timeless moments have no correlation to my world of research and instead are related to the darker and less-loved side of academics. Exams. Final reports, mid-terms, and exams map out a student’s existence from August to December and begin anew from January to May. As these tests and projects continue to oscillate the life-time students, such as myself, reach a point where the exams become indistinguishable and passing these written assessments becomes a habit of everyday life. An accomplishment not worth noting, an accomplishment marked by fleeting satisfaction.

            Eagerness!

            There was always one set of exams during each semester that brought a mixed feeling of dread and excited anticipation. Finals week. When Finals week would begin, I always felt the stress through the first set of exams while cramming a semester’s worth of forgotten knowledge back into my brain. But, amidst the stress there was another emotion; a feeling of eager anticipation for that last Final. The one Final that blocked the road to freedom.

            In some years, preparing for the last final was impossible as I was filled with an enthusiastic giddiness about what was next. These were the years marked by change. These were the years of graduation from high school, college, and graduate studies. During those times, studying for any exam was impossible as the future held too much excitement.

            Over-Joyed!

            After the last Final of the semester, the pure happiness of the student body cannot be missed. The college bars are packed to capacity and students who had forgotten how to smile, cannot stop smiling. Feelings of joy bubble over everyone and temporarily block out worries about grades and GPA.

            Disbelief.

            How I felt on Tuesday, December 6, of 2016 after taking my final. After finishing the last page and reviewing my answers, I turned in my exam with an unbelievably light heart. I had the classic spirit of happiness that always marked the end of a rigorous semester, but there was a new emotion underlying my joy. Stunned disbelief. This exam was not just my last final of the semester, it was my last, last, final. Never again, would I have to cram a semester’s worth of knowledge into my noggin. Never again, would I have to stress about an exam’s grade impact on my GPA. Never again would I have to prepare for a written final!

            Instead, I now have to prepare for something more difficult and, ultimately, more fulfilling. Now, I begin preparing to showcase my knowledge of chemistry and prove my expertise in the field per evaluation by committee who will push me; a committee who will search for my limitations. This task is not for the passive student, that I was, sitting in classrooms and reciting knowledge for exams. No, this is not a job for the passive student. It is a job for the professional and creator of knowledge that I have become, who addresses the tough questions that do not have clear-cut answers.