Casts all else in the darkness,
lighting Autumn skies.
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.
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
Autumn has come to The Ranch
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.)
"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?
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.
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 for...you 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