One of the things I always missed when I lived in Phoenix was a meaningful connection to nature.
The grass there grows on lawns and manicured golf courses, which shouldn't even exist in the Sonoran Desert. The birds are mostly skanky pigeons. Wildlife? You might see a rattlesnake or a coyote, but probably only if you live on the edge of a suburb. If you want to get out and stomp the terra, you'll be driving at least an hour just to get out of town. And unless you really work to find a remote spot, you'll be stepping in the tire tracks and footprints of thousands of other people.
I'm spoiled. I can pedal out of my driveway and, in a few minutes, be riding singletrack through quiet woods where I encounter bears, moose, eagles and all sorts of other critters. I don't think I could survive going back to living in an environment of asphalt and concrete.
That's why this image struck me as I pedaled along the bank of a canal running through the heart of urban Phoenix a couple of weeks ago.
A young guy was sitting in the early morning sun and trying to catch a fish. Out of a featureless, artificial stream. Beside the freeway that towered over him. No grass under his feet. No gentle waves lapping at the shore. No breeze blowing through trees.
He had his folding chair, his cooler, a tackle box. He even had a modicum of solitude as speeding motorists rumbled past behind their concrete wall, unable to see him. I sort of had to admire his quiet determination to enjoy tossing a line into water.
But mostly, I just felt bad for him.