Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Madonna on a bike...

This is Madonna on her bike. No not that Madonna, the Madonna of Buffalo. Or at least that's what she told me her name is. I've seen Madonna in her colorful clothes riding her colorful trike for quite some time now. And when I got out of work today she was at a shop on Allen Street here in Buffalo so I stopped and asked if I could take her photo. She agreed, and I handed her my business card with this blog's address on it. She looks at it, then looks up at me. Then she says my name, and "I know you, you're that bike-riding cook-minister guy"...all I could do is smile. We ended up talking for about 15 minutes...about how difficult the winters can be on a bike but that we still don't want to own a car, about reincarnation and our past lives, and why she says a Hail Mary and does the sign of the cross at every intersection. Then later this evening I passed her on Elmwood Avenue, both of us calling each other's names as we passed. Nice. I'm finally glad to have met you, my eccentric friend.

Urban Simplicity.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fortune Cookie Philosophy (sort of)...

These are two "fortunes" that my son and I received in our fortune cookies the other night...um, not exactly what I was hoping for. Looks like there is a bored prankster in the fortune cookie factory. To see some more inspiring fortune cookies click here.

More in the Fortune Cookie series.
Urban Simplicity.

Sometimes two seats are better than one...and they're for sale.

Yup. It's true. My beloved tandem is for sale. We sort of outgrew it. And by "we" I mean my son and I. This is the bike I used to transport him when he was a kid, now he is a young man. It's a really good and solid bike, it rides great, and is really fun to ride. If you happen to be in the WNY and are interested feel free to contact me. If you want to see some of the specifics of the bike and it's price, click here for its craigslist posting.

Urban Simplicity.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Five or Six Quotes from John Muir (and a couple photos, too)..

The above photo (which was found here) is an image of John Muir in 1902; the photographer is unknown. The below two images are of Muir Woods in Northern California and were taken by me with a little hand-held point-and-shoot camera on a trip I took with my son in the summer of 2010.

"Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt"

“Most people are on the world, not in it. ”

“Few places in this world are more dangerous than home."

“I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news.”

“The sun shines not on us but in us.”

“God has cared for these trees,saved them from drought,disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.”

More Five Quotes.
Urban Simplicity.

Things that can be carried on a bike (#607)...

A camera, a book bag, a tripod, and a tandem bicycle.

Urban Simplicity.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Moon stalking, a correlating poem, and a few other things...

As you likely know--if you happened to be outside last night or the night prior--there was another super-moon, this time it was the harvest moon. It's glow was intense to say the least. The night was scheduled to have clear skies so at sunset I hopped on my bike with my gear and rode to to the pier along the lake and the river. As the moon rose over the skyline it was really breathtaking. And it was interesting to watch the sun set over Canada while the moon rose over the U.S. in the other direction. Anyhow, I took dozens of photos, these are a few of my favorites. Click any for a slightly larger view. A poem by Mary Oliver is at the bottom of the page.

Harvest Moon, by Mary Oliver
No sky could hold
so much light–
and here comes the brimming,
the flooding and streaming
out of the clouds
and into the leaves,
glazing the creeks,
the smallest ditches!
And so many stars!
The sky seems stretched
like an old black cloth;
behind it, all
the celestial fire
we ever dreamed of!
And the moon steps lower,
quietly changing
her luminous masks, brushing
everything as she passes
with her slow hands
and soft lips–
clusters of dark grapes,
apples swinging like lost planets,
melons cool and heavy as bodies–
and the mockingbird wakes
in his hidden castle;
out of the silver tangle
of thorns and leaves
he flutters and tumbles,
spilling long
ribbons of music
over forest and river,
copse and cloud–
all heaven and all earth–
wherever the white moon
fancies her small wild prince–
field after field after field.

Urban Simplicity.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

L'heure bleue et nuit...

Okay. So you may be getting tired of seeing photos of Buffalo's waterfront. Sorry. But I have been so drawn to it this summer. I find it relaxing. Yesterday after a very crazy-busy and super hot-and-humid day of running a round a kitchen and facing a stove, I wanted nothing more than to have a cold beer and feel the breeze off the lake. So, yup, that's just what I did. And if you've visited this site before then you know that my favorite time of day to take photos is at dusk, or what is often called "the blue hour" (l'heure bleue)...it's that incredibly beautiful time of day--dusk and dawn--when everything takes on a blue hue. It only lasts about a half hour or so before the day turns into night and it is gone. 

From Wikipedia...During the blue hour, red light passes straight into space while blue light is scattered in the atmosphere and therefore reaches the earth's surface. Because of the quality of the light, this period is treasured by artists.

Indeed, some devote entire websites on taking photos during this time. Anyhow, I'll stop blathering on about it, but it really is a magical time. The above and below photo are of Buffalo Harbor, and the bottom photo--after night had fallen and I was on my way home--is an image of Buffalo Navel Park. Click any for a slightly larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Upcoming Book Group...

Hello Buffalo / Western New York / Southern Ontario Friends. I'll be facilitation a book group starting in another week-and-a-half or so. If you are interested in the origins of the bible and accept it as metaphor you may like this. The book is not for the faint of heart. All are welcome no matter what your faith or non-faith.

Here's a link to the book itself.

And here's a link to the Facebook page with most of the details.

Email or private message me for details if you are interested.

Urban Simplicity.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Things that can be carried on a bike (#606)...

Forty-one red bricks...

Ok, so I have to say a bit about this. You likely noticed that the bricks are not strapped down. I didn't have to "ride" very far with these bricks, just about 4 houses away...actually I walked the bike. But hey, the bike still carried the bricks. They were curb-side and I am a sucker for free bricks...one can never have enough bricks. I was riding down the street when I spotted them, so I loaded them up and walked the bike home. I do believe I could have ridden the bike if they were propperly strapped down, but it would have been heavy. But this was an easy way to get all the bricks to my house in one trip.

Urban Simplicity.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Three Flags, the Shark-Girl, a Gaggle of Geese, a River in Two Countries, and a few other Things I saw while Riding my Bike this past Weekend...

I've mentioned it before but I have to say it again, taking photos for me is like a form of therapy or meditation. I love focusing on something and trying to capture what I see with the camera. With that said, these are a bunch of photos I took this past weekend while riding my bike. It was Labor Day weekend in both the U.S. and Canada--and I was really trying to enjoy the last official weekend of the summer--so on Saturday I rode up to Crystal Beach for a swim, stopping on the Peace Bridge to snap a photo of the Niagara river while I had one foot in Canada and the other in the U.S. I also spent the evening last night at Canalside here in Buffalo. And interestingly, in both Canada and the U.S. I saw off-shore rainstorms (one of which I got caught in later)...they were beautiful. And lastly, if you are not familiar with her, Shark-Girl is a somewhat new art piece on the waterfront in Buffalo. I saw her for the first time yesterday and I'm not sure how I feel about her. Anyhow, click any photo for a slightly larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Thoughts on the 23rd Psalm...and what it means to me.

So I've been thinking about the 23rd Psalm a lot lately. I go through periods where it seems to bubble up from my subconscious. I'm not one to know bible passages by heart, but this one I do. Over the past decade or so it has, on various occasions, helped me a great deal.

This psalm—as with most of the bible, or any sacred text for that matter—I take as metaphor. I like to see how it translates to my life in this time in history, not what it may have meant two or three thousand years ago. This said, before I speak directly of this psalm I have to mention my views on who (or what) I think God is. Yup, I said the G-word and with a capital G.

My views are very personal (but aren't everyone's?) and may be out on the fringe for some, so if you are a literalist (meaning, you take the bible as the inherent and unfailing word of God) or if you have religious views that lean decidedly to the right, you may want to close this page right now and not read any further. But if you do continue to read on please do not send me hate mail or try to “save me.”

Ok, so I'll get back to the big G...who, or more specifically what, God is to me? Well, I certainly do not think of Him as an old man with a white beard sitting up on a cloud somewhere looking down. And I'm conscious that I just used the gender-specific “Him” in the previous sentence. I do this out of habit, I suppose, just in the same way I use the word God for what I consider to be the Ultimate Reality. To me—in my heart—the word God is also interchangeable with Spirit, Divine Source, Universe, Indwelling Presence (just to name a few)...the list could go on. I really believe that the concept of God is incomprehensible to our human minds (though not necessarily our hearts) but at the same time It/He/She is all that there is. I believe this Ultimate Reality is in everything and is in fact everything and we are part of It and It is part of us and in some unfathomable way we as humans live and move within this Reality and are connected to each other and everything and everyone is connected to us and everything in It. In short, I believe there is nowhere we can go where this Reality is not.

Split a piece of wood and I am there. Lift up a stone and you will find me there.” 
Gospel of Thomas, saying 77

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” 
Psalm 139:7-8

For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me.” 
Bagavad Gita 6:30

And how do I personally know that God exists? I see It/He/She reflected back at me when I look in the eyes of another fellow human. I feel Her when I see a person moved to tears...I know It when I am moved to tears. He is present in my heart when I help another person or if I see another person helping another. The Universe speaks to me when I feel a gentle breeze or rain on my face as I ride my bike, or when, amazingly, plants push through the spring soil after one of the harshest winters I can remember. And I even know this Reality when one of my beautiful dogs looks up at me with unconditional love the way that a canine does. I could go on, but you likely get the picture. Do I feel or know this Presence in my life all of the time? No, of course not. I'm a work in progress (but we all are). And that's why I need helpers like this psalm to remind me.

And one last thing before I talk directly about the 23rd Psalm...I have to mention the J-word. Yup...Jesus. Because I know that if I've kept your attention long enough to read this far then there are at least a couple of you who are wondering what my views are on Jesus. I will only touch briefly on him because I have thoughts in my head about what I'd like to write and it could go on for pages and I don't want to bore you with it now (but probably will in a later post). And another quick suggestion...if you are a literalist and you made it this far this may really be the time to click another link and get out of this page.

Firstly I would just like to say that while I believe that the Divine Spirit is part of each one of us and that we are part of It in equal measure, no matter what our race, religious background, gender, sexual orientation, etc....there is One Spirit that permeates all things, but at the same time I consider myself a Christian. And by this I mean that I try to follow the teachings of Jesus the Christ as best I can (but usually fail miserably on a daily basis). Do I think he was the only begotten son of God...no. Do I believe he died for our sins...nope. I'm not even convinced he died a physical death on the cross. Then what do I believe, you may be wondering? I believe that he was a divinely-inspired teacher who was trying to tell us how to live and that the life he lived was an example...pure love and compassion. He was truly enlightened in the same way that the Buddha was, and that he was telling us that if we did what he did we too could find heaven in this lifetime. So there it is.

Sorry for the long ramble, here—finally—is how I view this psalm, and what it means to me. To sum it up in just a sentence, this psalm makes me remember what is real and important in life, and that even when things seem hopeless I still am connected to and inseparable from the same Divine Source as you and the next person, and that I have this Source within me to know that deep down everything is just as it should be. The psalm is in bold and my thoughts/interpretations are in italics, and I have to emphasize that these are simply my personal thoughts. I am not trying to force them on anyone. Thank you for reading this far.

Psalm 23 

The Lord is my shepherd,

(The Divine Presence is all that there is. It dwells within all things including myself, and it guides me.) 

I shall not be in want.

(I have everything I need in life, including more food than I can eat, clothing to wear, a house to live in, and the love of family and friends.) 

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,

(Even though I am often tired and overworked and feel like there is no end in sight it is often an illusion, because I am allowed to take rests whenever I need to...sometimes it's just a matter of turning inward. And when I do, through prayer, yoga, and meditation, I realize that I am on the shores of quiet waters.) 

He refreshes my soul.

(When I am at my most tired and stressed, when things seem hopeless, all I need is to remember the above three things and I can be refreshed. Turning inward and to remember what is really important in life.) 

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

(I am guided by intuition, or “gut feeling,” the goodness that each one of us has written on our hearts. All I have to do is listen. And little by little It guides me to become the person that I was meant to be.) 

Even though I walk through the valley of darkness, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

(Everyone has dark times—and I could write a book here, right?—but knowing that our Divine Source is with me always reminds me that there truly is nothing to fear. This, and the fact that I know I am in some sometimes incompressible or unknowing way being guided, comforts me.) 

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

(The table is my life spread out before me—where I truly do have everything I need—and my enemies are internal (fear, selfishness, envy, etc), and these can be overcome.) 

You anoint my head with oil;

(Because I, like each one of us, is a welcome guest at this time allotted for me on earth.) 

My cup overflows.

(I may not have everything I “want” but I surely have more than I truly need. My cup (life) is literally overflowing with goodness.) 

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,

(Life really is what you make it. If I offer goodness and love, then goodness and love are returned to me. All I have to do is be open and allow it to happen). 

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

(Yes, I am a Christian that believes in reincarnation. Thus, I have been connected to this same Source—and probably you too—in previous incarnations, this current one, and those to come. And I could go on about this, but I won't) 


Thursday, August 28, 2014

On the Waterfront...a few photos and a few words

So in a few days it will be September already. Where has the summer gone? Time goes so very quickly doesn't it? And with this thought in mind (and the thought that it is predicted that we will receive an early visit from the infamous polar vortex this year) I headed to one of Buffalo's beautiful waterfronts last evening (even though I didn't entirely feel like it...though I'm glad I did). I really and consciously wanted to take in a summer evening--to remember it--for three months from now when it will be frigid. There's a really nice outdoor bar at the Buffalo waterfront so I grabbed a beer and waited for the sun to set. And the Yuba works great as a shelf for food, beer, and other things (see below). Anyhow, it really was a nice evening...feeling the breeze come off the lake while watching the sailboats come in for the evening. I snapped more than four dozen photos and here are a few of my favorites. Click any for a larger view.

Urban Simplicity.