Monday, March 18, 2013

Finding the negative space

The old quarry, having given up its rock, reminds me of photographs by Naoya Hatakeyama. He makes these huge landscape prints in subdued colors, usually of the human-altered earth. The SFMOMA uses the word austere to describe his work. I like that. 

His series on limestone quarries is lovely and unpredictable. Gazing into the quarries he realized at one point that he was basically looking at the negative space of whatever was built with the excavated rock. 
If the concrete buildings and highways that stretch to the horizon are all made from limestone dug from the hills, and if they should all be ground to dust and this vast quantity of calcium carbonate returned to its precise points of origin, why then, with the last spoonful, the ridge lines of the hills would be restored to their original dimensions.
The rock from Neary Quarry lies under Moffett Field and under Highways 101 and 85. The luxury homes now lining the slopes were built with materials from elsewhere. But I like the way the old and new coexist visually, right next to each other. It would be easy to imagine the starter castle with its trophy vineyard springing from the raw, scraped hillside a few yards away.

Why are we here? Sunday's post talked about motivation (or lack of). Well there are at least two kinds: toward a positive goal, or away from a negative consequence.

Tomorrow, a follow-up at Valley Medical. No way am I showing up at 9am without first going for a ride. Just not a good idea. 

Thus it matters more what I don't want than what I do want. 

Atoning for a late start I choose the hilliest, most indirect way out of town. Leading into Los Altos Hills and the quarry neighborhood.

Climb Altamont, which is usually Deer Central. A small tribe is lounging under a spreading oak tree near the top. Right next to a massive construction site for someone's future castle. The noise doesn't bother the deer at all... They care about grass, which is new and sweet up here.

The idea of a mostly flat 50-mile ride got me out of the house. The Loop to Woodside, plus an out-and-back on Canada Road. Easy enough.

After a few miles another option comes to mind. Old La Honda. It's a better design to climb the hill, descend to lunch, then head home from there. I crack open the banana from my back pocket. Gonna need that in a few minutes.

OLH is our benchmark hill. Your time climbing Old La Honda marks the kind of rider you are. Twenty-five minutes or less, that's the goal. There are those who push for a personal best, passing as many cyclists as possible on the way up. So yes, the rush and competitiveness of Silicon Valley can be found even in a forest.

Today instead of this scenario I find its negative space. The road is a cathedral of silence. The mind runs out of chatter and lets go. Notices the rhythm of climbing that develops. The smooth pavement, several years young. The small clustered groves of redwood trees. The narrow bit through the bigger trees, exactly 2.1 miles from the bottom.

1.2 miles after that here we are, the mailboxes at the top. A big UHaul truck steams past on Skyline. No idea how long that took but the end came a little too soon.

 It's a joyful descent into Woodside for beef barley soup.

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