Saturday, September 30, 2023

September Moonfall

September Moonfall

Casts all else in the darkness,

lighting Autumn skies.


Friday, September 29, 2023

Health And Action

 One of the rather largish events that occurred during my hike last month to Mt. Goddard was the onset of Acute Mountain Sickness (or Altitude Sickness) in which my body simply refused to function the way I wanted or needed it to.  This was alarming on two levels:  not just that that we were on a hike and this substantially slowed myself and everyone else down, but that this was the first time my body has completely failed me.

Certainly I have challenged myself over the years and there have been things that were too heavy or distances that were too long.  And one simply becomes more injury prone (at least it seems so) as one grows older, at least without an increase warm up period.  And yet never once has body said to me "I am out" and went on strike.

It was shocking.  And ponder inducing.

In reality as I thought about it, this was really an internal discussion that has been going on for a year.

Back last year - almost a year ago precisely - I sustained an injury at a Highland Game (which, to be fair, was my own doing).  It was significant enough that I entered rehabilitation for 3 months and had an impact on my training.  It was pretty clear at that time I would not throw again.

I still went to the gym and worked out and still continued to walk.  And then, in March of 2023, I got laid off.

The lay off did not have a direct impact on my training - other than the fact that one starts looking at expenses and a monthly gym payment is probably not going to be on the list.  And so I canceled my gym.  The good news was that my Municipal Utility District has a recreational arm that has a gym and that it was 1/12th the cost of my current gym (and an annual fee at that).  The not so great news was the equipment was more limited. Sufficient for a program, but there would be no Olympic lifts going forward.

This actually is part of a larger internal discussion I had been having with myself and my coach, The Berserker.

At some point - really before the injury - I had asked him about the fact that I seemed to be making very little progress.  Yes, I was maintaining what I was lifting, but it did not seem to be improving at all.  His response was "You may have just hit your limit."  Hard words, especially in a society that thinks there are no boundaries to what you can do.  Turns out there are.

To be fair, just before the Mt. Goddard Hike I was at the heaviest I have been in my life (note that hiking miles a day with minimal eating has a great weight loss side effect) and that is one thing my reading suggested might help with those pesky triglyceride levels.

Are there amazing benefits from lifting weights?  Certainly, and it is not something I intend to stop.  At the same time, I wondered, what am I really training for?

Amongst my readings, I found a reference on a site called the Bioneer on a theoretical training program like the Spartans might have followed ("might have" being the operative phrase; we really do not know).  The article quotes a phrase from Plutarch's Life Philopoemen (A Greek General of the Achaean League):

  "They told him (and it was the truth) that the habit of body and mode of life for athlete and warrior were totally different, and particularly that their diet and training were not the same, since one required much sleep, surfeit of food, and fixed periods of activity and repose, in order to preserve or improve their condition, which the slightest influence or least departure from routine is apt to change for the worst; whereas the solider ought to be conversant with all sorts of irregularity and all sorts of inequality, and above all should accustom himself to endure lack of food easily, and as easily as the lack of sleep.

On hearing this, Philopoemen not only shunned athletics himself and derided them, but also in later times as commander he banished from the army all forms of them, with every possible mark of reproach and dishonor on the ground that they rendered men useless for the inevitable struggle of battle men who otherwise would be most serviceable."

Now, I would never argue against anyone doing athletics, nor am I inherently training to join the military or become a Soldier of Fortune.  But it does raise a really good question, at least in my mind:  Is my training actually resulting in practical uses?

That is real point, at least to me.  In some cases yes:  between spending time at the gym and on Produce (A)Isle, I suffered no inability in my abilities on the Mt. Goddard Hike related to strength or endurance; in fact, I felt great every morning.  That is the sort of practical application I am looking for.  And should be strong, or at least strong enough to complete tasks that involve work around the house or (eventually) around The Ranch.  But if my strength is completely based on my ability to have the perfect conditions to do that, it will perish when those conditions are gone and likely just when I would need them most.

Will I still work out at the gym?  Absolutely, and I am trying to find ways to supplement my lack of "heavy" lifting.  But inherent strength improvements are no longer my primary goal.  Instead, I am looking for the kinds of improvements that are sustainable over various conditions.

I already think next year is going to have a lot of challenges.  The last thing I am looking for is a physical failure because I have to change my program or my gym - again.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

The Collapse CXX: Return

 30 June 20XX+1

My Dear Lucilius,

It is done.

A deep part of me does not want to speak of it again – at all. And a part of me says that this is a normal reaction.

I say “normal”. But violence, while being part of the natural world, should never be normalized – at least among civilized people. And yet this is precisely what I beheld, people that have normalized violence as a way of life.

Young Xerxes is shaken – good heavens, I am shaken. Even to be on the fringes of such a thing is to pulled into a maelstrom of adrenaline and emotion.

There is little sense of victory, only of a task completed. Note well I say “task completed”, not “task finished”. I fear we will be at this point again.

Yes, of course I took notes. They are a jumble as you might imagine after the events in question, getting more jumbled as we got to the event. The proverbial “fog of war” is a real thing,

But we are home.

Pompeia Paulina did magnificently, even with the rather abbreviated directions that I gave her. The rabbits have been singing her praises ever since I arrived back home (as if, I suppose, rabbits could sing. It has been a debated subject).

And, of course, I would be lying if I said coming home to someone is so much better than coming home to no-one at all.

I knew the world had changed, Lucilius. I just did not want to believe it had changed that badly, so soon.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

A Visit To The Ranch September 2023

Autumn has come to The Ranch

Autumn has not come to New Home yet: the sunlight is as straight and clear and oppressive as it has been throughout the Summer.  I was concerned that I would not find it here either.  Imagine my relief when I stepped outside of the airport and the soft, slanted light of Autumn hit my face.

This is written on Monday; I am actually already back in New Home due to a work commitment that I had to be present for.  I have taken the liberty of securing permission to be here one week a month through the end of the year.  I need to make sure my productivity merits being absent in body, of course.

The land here is starting to prepare itself for the coming Winter; were I to have a garden I would have until the end of October to plant one as it simply becomes too wet and muddy.  The days here are already cooler - 20 degrees F or more cooler than the Summer and up to 30 F cooler than New Home.  It makes for a welcome break from the remaining Summer heat that awaits me.

Other than my sister and The Outdoorsman, I have not really seen anyone at all.  We did stop by and see my mother, as I have for the last three or four months (even though I have not written about the visits).  The visits are always the same, with myself or all of us carrying on a conversation with my mother listening in.  She will still pay a little more attention when my sister is talking about school or when I am talking about Nighean Bhan's work at the clinic she has to do her internship at.  But other than that, she says little.  I will say that in July when we visited and had Nighean Bhan's fiancée with us, she perked up a bit and gave us hugs all around.

We all agreed my mother looked thinner on this trip.  My sister let me know that the facility had asked them to start buying protein shakes as she was eating less and less.  

I try and turn my head away from what this portends.

The house remains in a varying state of disarray - after our efforts at the end of July little has moved forward, although understandable as my visit in August was mostly the hike and my visit in September was a total of three full days spread over four.  My sister and The Outdoorsman got most of the laundry room cleaned out, both with chemicals and with an array of holiday decorations no longer needed.  

I need to set a list of things to finish off - but again, I shy away from it.

I did make one piece of progress in asking my sister if it would be a problem if I moved here before we got the place rented.  She had none.  That was a relief, even if it was the easiest point on my list of things to do get here.

Still, progress is progress.

The afternoon sun blazes away over the skeletons of the spring grass as the cattle watch me idly watch me go by, while the turkeys in the far corner of the pasture work away at eating the remaining seeds and stalks the cattle have missed.

Winter is coming.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

2023 Mt. Goddard: Rule Of Five

 Thanks for coming along on the 2023 Mt. Goddard Hike.  It is always a joy for me to do this, both because it makes me process things from the hike in a more and it allows me to relive the hike again (this time, from the comfort of my home).  It is also a joy to be able to share these places with you.  

(Note:  All the pictures in today's post are pictures of plants I took across varying days of the hike.)

As longer time readers might now, I try to build a "lessons learned" from these sorts of things, which I call The Rule Of Five, a handy idea I took from a sales and business consultant named Jeffrey Gitomer who borrowed it from an old NCR sales handbook. I like it because it is simple and short - and in theory, can be counted on the fingers of one hand

1) Guides are invaluable:  I have said this the Grand Canyon post-script  as well, but this trip both reminded me of it and made it more real.  Yes, guides are the ones that lead us to places, but the very best sort of guides - and a guide could be a mentor, parent, teacher, or even a friend - stay with us through the parts that are difficult, quietly encouraging us and urging us on.

2) We really can do more than we think we can do:  This, too, is apparently a note I made in 2021.  In this case, I was simply forced to go forward - even at 50 step intervals - because there was no other choice.  As it turns out, I was able to finish the hike.  It was just that I did some days much more slowly.

3) Keep going:  If you cannot do 70 steps, do 50.  Or even if 30 steps are all you can do, do that.  Going slowly is never the end; coming to the point of stopping to advance is.

4)  Make the most of the view you have:  In my mind as I was preparing myself for this hike, I tried to visualize myself at the summit of Mt. Goddard.  Visualization has a lot of research behind it in terms of success; what it does not account for is when things like the physical inability to do something manifest themselves.  In those cases, there is still a view to be seen - just perhaps not the one we were planning for.

5)  Just go:  Too often I do not try to do things for the silliest of reasons:  I do not feel ready, I do not know that I will have the money, I do not know that I am capable, it is a silly idea.  Certainly not everything can be done right away, but "right away" is not the same as "never".  If we continue to find reasons not to do things, eventually we will not try anything at all.

Again, thanks for coming along with me.

Next week, we will be returning to Greece and pick up where we left off - at the monasteries of Meteora.

Monday, September 25, 2023

2023 Mt. Goddard Day 6: Post-Corral Creek To Courtright Reservoir

The last day of a hike is almost always the same:  everyone is up early and ready to go.  I am sure it is for various reasons:  getting that food one has been picturing in one's head as a reward for the hike (mine is a vanilla shake), getting a shower, getting back to loved ones.  In our case we had a second incentive:  the gentleman we had left behind at this campsite had hiked out and gone home and taken with him the bear can that had our breakfast in it.  Thus, beyond the remnants of snacks we carried with us, getting out was also our road to food.

The day was thankfully clear and bright and was the first day of the hike that we did not have any rain,  although the signs that it had rained while we were gone were present: the trail was much muddier and streams were running a little higher.

In what was a bit of an unusual practice for me, I struck a conversation with one of the guys on the hike I had not really talked to before.  He was a pilot but he did not start out as one; talking to him about his journey and how he got there was interesting and really made the miles fly by.

By 1100 AM we had all cleared the trail and were ready to head back.

Heading back is typically the same experience for every hike:  to a greater or lesser extent, the vehicle smells like a badly maintained high school locker room.  Everyone is generally quiet, either in reflection or sleep or looking at pictures - and then the buzzing and pings of phones fill the air as we come back into range.

Civilization has returned to find us.

Lunch is usually at a local place.  We sit and wolf down calories (sadly, they did not have shakes at a reasonable price) and reflect, sharing pictures or being surprised by what has gone in the world while we were away.

In this case after lunch we went back to the cabin we started at where we get to indulge in that most pleasant of activities, a hot shower.  You cannot believe how good a hot shower feels after 5 days of not having one.  With that, we all begin to slip away one by one as we head back to our lives and the "real world".

The drive back takes about 4 hours.  The Outdoorsman, The Brit, and I chat about the hike and the high and low points (Interestingly, The Outdoorsman shared that one thought he had when we were going up the Wall was who would be "better" to lose: myself or The Brit.  We all agreed that based on who he would have to report to - with The Brit my sister and his daughter - I was the logical one to lose).

The yellow square in the picture above is Mt. Goddard from the trailhead.  It always amazes me when I am able to find pictures of where I have been from the starting point; it seems so far away.

It is always good to hike, but it is also always good to come back home.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

What's The Good Of Tempation

"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man."  - 1 Corinthians 10:13 

"The word 'temptation has come down in the world; we are apt to use it wrongly.  Temptation is not sin, it is the thing we are bound to meet if we are men.  Not to be tempted would be to be beneath contempt.  Many of us however, suffer from temptations from which we have no business to suffer, simply because we have refused to let God lift us to a higher plane where we would face temptations of another order.

A man's disposition on the inside, i.e., what he possess in his personality, determines what he is tempted by on the outside.  The temptation fits the nature of the one tempted, and reveals the possibilities of the nature.  Every man has the setting of his own temptation, and temptation will come along the line of the ruling disposition.

Temptation is a suggested short-cut to the realization at which I aim - not toward what I understand as evil, but what I understand as good.  Temptation is something that completely baffles me for a while, I do not know if the thing is right or wrong.  Temptation yielded to is lust deified, and is a proof that it was timidity that prevented the sin before.

Temptation is not something we may escape, it is essential to the full-orbed life of a man.  Beware lest you think you are tempted as no one else is tempted; what you go through is the common inheritance of the race, not something no one ever went through before.  God does not save us from temptations; He succors us in the midst of them (Hebrews 2:18)."

- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest


If temptation comes along the lines of one's ruling disposition and it fits the nature of the one tempted, then can the nature of the temptation point to the possibilities that exist in our personality?  If I am tempted by a lack of self control, does that mean I have the potential for self control?  If I am tempted by pride, does that mean I have the potential of reputation and honor?  If I am tempted by fear, does that mean I have to potential of of courage?

If I thought of myself in terms of what potential I might have based on the temptations I suffer instead of seeing myself through the lens of my temptations - lack of self control, proud, fearful - how might that change my life?

Saturday, September 23, 2023

2023 Mt. Goddard 5b: King River to Post Corral Creek

 As we put our backpacks on and headed out into what would be the last leg of the hike for Day 5, our guides let us know what the plan was.  We would all start out together but the guides would move to the front and head on, once to stand a stream crossing (and make sure we got across), the second to get to the camp site and begin getting dinner ready.  With the rain increasing in volume, we headed into the forest.

The forest was thick - thick enough that what was a fairly intense rainstorm became a light series of drops, except where the tree cover cleared out.  Within half a mile I found myself hiking by myself, due not to any kind of illness or ill-feeling but rather simply the speed of my hiking: too slow to keep up with the fast hikers (and those with long legs), and quicker than those that were sauntering.

As I continue on, I ran into the stream with The Commissioner waiting.  After looking at the options and risk for crossing without getting my feet wet, I simply walked through the stream.  I was done (and, it seems, am done) with excessively going out of my way to avoid getting my feet wet.  Feet and boots dry.  Risking taking your backpack in as well seems like a poor gamble.

The Commissioner smiled.  Good choice, he said.  It is what most hikers do.

With that, I continued on.

The rain continued.  The Commissioner eventually caught up to me and passed me by.   And once again, I was alone.

And then, I began to freak myself out I was lost.

The pictures here do not do justice to how I remember that part of the hike.  It seems far lighter than I recall it being, and does not account for the continuing rain and the fact that the trail did not seem as clear cut as it does looking at the pictures now, from the safety of a warm house in the daylight.  But as I continued to march on in the silence of the trees and dripping of the rain, I sincerely began to fear that I was off trail.

I was concerned enough that I actually started taking an inventory of what I had on me in terms of food, water, and shelter (which was pretty good on all counts).  How long would it be before someone realized I was lost?  When would they come?  At what point in the gathering gloom would it be good to conclude I was lost stop to make myself easy to find.

I know. It seems a bit ridiculous now.  I can only attribute it to a combination of being tired, just coming off being relatively sick, being alone, and being assailed by a lack of confidence - in my confidence of finding my way, in my confidence of my ability to choose.  This had not been quite the confidence building trip I was thinking it would be.

And this is the point where some actual self growth happened.  Rather than take counsel of my fears, I decided I needed to do something.

Long-time readers may be familiar with FOTB (Friend Of The Blog) Eaton Rapids Joe.  He has one of the finest analytical minds I have ever met - he reads widely and analyzes things thoroughly.

What, I wondered, would ERJ do.

ERJ would think logically about the situation.

My thinking then ran like this:  The rain had started just as we were entering this last stretch.  The trees above prevented a lot of rain from getting down but were allowing some, so the trail would be wet - but not too wet.  Therefore, if I found places where the trail was damp but had been stirred up, it should mean that people had been hiking on it recently.  As I had encountered no-one yet, it seemed probably that the only people disturbing the trail would be my hiking team.  Keep looking for the disturbed trail and I would find my way to them.

Turns out it was a pretty solid choice (although to be fair, a bracelet with "WWERJD?" [What Would Eaton Rapids Joe Do?] is probably a limited market and thus not the great sales idea that popped into my head right after this experience).

I would be lying to say that chain of logic alone resolved my fears.  I was still tentative in my treading, and still in the back of my mind the "You are Doomed!" leitmotif was playing - conveniently with a soundtrack in a minor key, indicating danger around the corner.  But I kept on, until I found the hiking stick left to indicate the turn.  One last slog through Post Corral Creek and I was back the campsite we had left four days earlier, but really seemed like a lifetime ago.

To celebrate, the rain fell even harder as I made camp and we went through the spectacle of starting a fire (again, The Brit and his fire making skills came through) and even into dinner.  Although that turned out to be okay; our spirits were high on our last night in camp as we had completed the loop.

Tomorrow, we were for home.

Friday, September 22, 2023

2023 Mt. Goddard Day 5a: Rainbow Lake To King River

Day 5 came with a glory of sunrise (as you may have seen on Wednesday's post) and, thankfully, no rain confronted us - which as good news, as was the fact that our hike would be (for the most part) downhill).   The less good news was that it would be the longest mileage, over 14 miles.  The goal was to reach our original campsite, the Post Corral Creek. 


Last look back towards Mt Goddard:

The descent was, for the most part, pretty straightforward. The trees, shrubs and plants grew more plentiful as we continued down.

We descended into what was effectively the King River Canyon, where the river became our boon companion over the next several miles.

The hiking along the river was much more up and down as we followed the contour of the trail and the landscape. The good news was that we were back into maintained trail territory; we passed at least two sets of hikers, the first time we had seen anyone other than ourselves in two days.

This years' rains and snow made for some green, large Alpine meadows.

Our halfway point was a stop along the King River, where we spent about 30 minutes relaxing.  Overall my stamina held up well during the descent and there were no signs of anything like Altitude Sickness, likely a combination of the descending altitude and finally getting acclimatized.

Just as we were getting ready to head out, the rain clouds started to roll back in.  It appeared we would spend the rest of the hike in one final rainstorm.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

The Collapse CXIX: Statiera


Dear Mr L.,

It’s funny, writing a letter to a person name Mr. L. I would have written out your full name, but...Young Xerxes (that is a funny name as well) insisted that as that is what he called you, it would be okay if I did it to.

My name is funny as well – Statiera? It’s fancy and all but hardly the sort of thing that rolls off the tongue at all. Mr. S. from what Xerxes has told me, likes to use these names instead of our real ones to protect our privacy or something – as if now we worried about it.

It has been five days since Xerxes, Mr. S, and everyone else left. We haven’t heard a thing. I kept bothering Mom about it to the point that she suggested I write to you – probably to keep me from bothering her about it. It is keeping my mind off everything else for the moment.

Proper introductions. That is something Mr. S. always says, proper introductions. He can be so weird about some things. Again, not something I think we should be worried about, but he seems worried about a great many things that don’t seem like they matter anymore.

You know (I guess) that I am Pompeia Paulina’s daughter (another one of those funny names. He is a character) and that we have lived here know, it is hard for me to remember quite how long we have been here now. Probably shorter than I think, because it feels like we have been here for a large portion of my life.

When we moved here originally, I had no idea what we it would be like. My Mom talked it up – It would be great, she said, lots of Nature and different weather, even snow, so different from Arizona where I had grown up.

I think – looking back – that it was a lot tougher on her that she ever let on. She has never told me why she decided to move, even though I have asked and even pestered her. She maintains it was just for a change of scenery. I don’t believe it. She had a successful business, friends, a life – that was completely upended and abandoned to come to what seems like the middle of nowhere.

I met Young Xerxes maybe three years ago? I had picked up a Summer job in the larger town at a store – if you do not have a ranch here or are not employed by the government, you work in the tourist towns. It was a coffee shop; he walked it all puffed up and self assured and asked for two things: coffee and a date.

The coffee he got. The date took longer.

He grew on me – mostly because of his attitude. People that live here fall into four categories, those that have lived here all their lives and won’t move, those who have lived here all their lives and are looking to get out as quickly as they can, those who moved here from somewhere else and are looking to move away, and a very few who moved here and make a life of it. Xerxes is one of the fourth kind.

He said at some time he had written you a letter too (I would look in this journal, but I have been strictly told to read no pages but my own), so you probably know his story. He did not really strike me as dating material the first time we went out, or the second or even the third. It was only as we started to do things outside of “dating” – fishing, hiking, just driving the roads here – that I began to actually appreciate him and fall in love.

I have come to love it here. Yes, the weather can be cold and there are not a lot of people around, but that is okay with me – I like the silences and the wide open spaces that are easy to get to and the skyline that has nothing on it but mountains and clouds. And Mom and I have learned to do all kinds of wonderful and silly things here, gardening and learning to fish (and how to clean them) and canning and preserving food and the sorts of things we never would have done if we still lived in Arizona.

And now, he’s gone and there’s no word.

I see my Mom every day – either she comes over here or I go over there (it’s weird that she lives somewhere that is not here now). She tries to cheer me up, but I can see that she is sad inside as well and putting up a brave face. She has always been passionate about everything – her work, her relationship with me, and her dating relationships to the extent she had them, although they never seemed to last too long.

I think she misses Mr. S more than I miss Xerxes.

I really hope that someday we get to meet you. Mr. S has made you out to be quite a character; if you are half the character he is I can only imagine the two of you together.

Your Friend, Statiera

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

2023 Mt. Goddard: Black Cap Wilderness

Typically in writing my hikes, I go in chronological order of days, not in locale.  But for this location - Rainbow Lake, located in the Black Cap Wilderness, I am making an exception.  The views here were beyond magical; they reminded me of Tolkien's writing in The Silmarillion of when Arda was young and untrammeled by evil.

These pictures are evening and morning of Days 4 and 5.  This, for me, made the whole hike worth it.