An Incident at Oaks Bottom

Ever since spinning myself dizzy at two years old, I’ve been interested in states of the mind. Why would the room keep spinning after I stop? The strangest thing I ever consumed in that regard, much later, is called salvia divinorum. I got it off the internet for twenty dollars. I smoked it up under a high temperature flame and saw Charles G. Waldman swimming backwards in time. I protested, “Hey, you can’t do that.” He just kept grinning like a smart ass ape. Getting hit by a moose on a skateboard was kind of an interesting mental experience, too.

Nothing better than a five-mile bike ride to the river on a still warm Sunday evening. I love to dive in and give strong dolphin kicks before emerging face up. I love to float in boat-pose: arched back; hands grasping ankles; face bobbing like a bobber in the sun. A quick deep breath in just before I submerge. A long breath out, cetaceously spouting as I slowly surface. Ten breaths and enough! Much better than last year and I felt good.

I wave to the folks back on the pier, “I’m OK!” I never did ten breaths before and can image that it might look alarming. Concentrating on breath is good, too. Next time out, I’ll give them a heads-up before I dive in.

I swim back in strong like in Camus’ Stranger. I pull out and step on the pier in one motion. Daily yoga and my summer weight have me feeling good. “Well I keep getting younger,” I sing out to no one and everyone, “my life’s been funny that way.” I start my yoga routine chilly-wet in warm late-evening early-summer sun. “Before I could talk, I forgot what to say…”

A young person stood before me, ‘Don’t you teach table tennis at Reed?’ It took me a while to recognize them, without glasses and out of context. When they told me their name, I did remember them. They were a great student: they had fun and got really good at table tennis. They are studying philosophy, so I even got to talk about K. Popper. I was happy.

The top West Hill fir balanced the giant setting sun, and it was time to ride home. I still didn’t quite love my new-old Raleigh ten-speed single-gear. After I got the gearing right, new peddles and toe-straps though, it isn’t so bad. Not yet beloved like my ex-Clubman, still, kind of a fast bike.

The Spring Water Corridor is a jewel of the Portland area and my path to Sellwood pier. When I’m in a little better shape, I’m going to take it all the way out to the Sandy River, about 24 miles each way. A place called Oaks Bottom is the lowest point on my ride home. There is a foot path there that goes in East towards the river. I love to bike there for toe-shoe running on the dirt paths. Opposite the foot path, and also perpendicular to the Spring Water Corridor, is a paved path up the hill to the Oaks Bottom parking lot on Southeast 13th Avenue. I’m sorry to say that folks sometimes like to start at that parking lot and skateboard down.

A cyclist with a blue and white helmet came downhill from the North towards Oaks Bottom. I came downhill from the South. My shorts were still a little wet an I had neglected my helmet for the sweet breeze. Sometimes three things happen at once. This time a moose on a skateboard came downhill from the West: Out from the tunnel under the tracks; Out onto the Spring Water Corridor tucked low into the turn; Right shoulder right into my right ribs. A better hit than any sports reply I ever cheered.

Right around then the laws of physics and my mind took different paths.

In my mind, things were simple. There was no time, only sequence. There was no control, only observation. Undistracted by thoughts of past or future, the brain sees things in the present, each sparkling one at a time, just as they are, without responsibility: I’m going to collide; I’m going to fall off my bike; I’m going to land on my left elbow; I’m going to land on my left upper back and that will hurt; I’m going to have to breathe.

The physical movement of my body I can only guess at using forensics and my mid-air mid-conscious remembrances. That my left elbow has a small circular scab jibes well with my recollection of landing first on my left elbow. That there was no road burn indicates that the moose and I had roughly equal linear momentum. My bike and I must have been going at least 15 miles per hour and thus the moose around that speed as well.

Probably the right side of the face hit the moose’s back as the body folded under the blow. The right hip likely continued forward, meeting the handlebars to receive that elongated bruise. Probably the body had considerable angular momentum. After landing almost lightly on the left elbow, the body likely continued to spin and fall, eventually meeting the path hard with the left upper back, where the pain can still flair most acute. Finally, the legs probably swung around to receive the slight bruising to the outer right foot and shin. The hands were untouched. The body ended in a right-sided fetal position, with face facing roughly North.

Why wait? reasoned the conscious mind and I drew my first sip of breath. White lightning shot from my spine out my left foot and then two bolts through the top of my head.

“Time to call 9-1-1?” asked the cyclist with the blue and white helmet. I sipped a little more air and replied, “iiim eeee aaaaa ineeet.” I took a breath low and worked up to child’s-pose, exhaled and cried out like the first man. I took a slightly deeper low breath and pushed out into downward-facing puppy. As I exhaled and pushed my chest forward and down something popped and the white lightning again shot down and out of my left foot. After a few more breaths I was able to stand up.

The moose was friendly and came over to say, “Sorry about your bike dude, but I’m poor as shit and don’t have insurance.” I mumbled that he was good. “Really?”, he was surprised. “What else could you do?”, I wondered. “Oh, yeah,” and, as he skated off, “Next time I’ll stop at that stop sign, for sure.”

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