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Howdy, pilgrim! No ads — you're in the ^zhurnal (that's Russian for "journal") — see ZhurnalyWiki for a Wiki edition of individual items; see Zhurnal and Zhurnaly for quick clues as to what this is all about; see Random for a random page. Briefly, this is the diary of ^z = Mark Zimmermann ... previous volume = 0.9914 ... complete list at bottom of page ... send comments & suggestions to "z (at) his (dot) com" ... click on a title link to go to that item in the ZhurnalyWiki where you can edit or comment on it ... RSS



Running the Rift

Naomi Benaron's 2012 novel Running the Rift won praise and an award as "Socially Engaged Fiction". The story focuses on the Rwandan genocide of 1994 when hundreds of thousands of Tutsi were killed by Hutus. Benaron's central character is a young, highly gifted middle-distance runner. His coming-of-age, finding love, encountering physical hardship, struggling to help his family survive — these all form plot elements. But all are trumped by the looming horror. It evokes Alfred Hitchcock's comments on the distinction between surprise and suspense:

We are now having a very innocent little chat. Let us suppose that there is a bomb underneath this table between us. Nothing happens, and then all of a sudden, "Boom!" There is an explosion. The public is surprised, but priot to this surprise, it has seen an absolutely ordinary scene, of no special consequence. Now, let us take a suspense situation. The bomb is underneath the table and the public knows it, probably because they have seen the anarchist place it there. The public is aware that the bomb is going to explode at one o'clock, and there is a clock in the decor. The public can see that it is a quarter to one. In these conditions this innocuous conversation becomes fascinating because the public is participating in the scene. The audience is longing to warn the characters on the screen: "You shouldn't be talking about such trivial matters. There's a bomb beneath you and it's about to explode!"

In the first case we have given the public fifteen seconds of surprise at the moment of the explosion. In the second case we have provided them with fifteen minutes of suspense.

Just so in Benaron's novel: the suspense of the approaching mass murder distracts lessens the events of the plot. And though there are rhapsodic moments, for long distances the prose walks rather than runs. A sample scene from Chapter Four, set in 1984 through the eyes of then-9-year-old protagonist Jean Patrick:

He found Roger in the shade of a banana grove. The cattle lolled beside the trees, tearing off mouthfuls of young urubingo. The inyambo steer stood apart from the rest as if he knew he was descended from the cattle of kings. His arc of horns supported a corner of sky, and his oxblood hide glowed in the sun. On his head were two white patches like countries on a map. He sported a beaded necklace—blue and white like an Intore dancer's—and bells tinkled when he shook his head. When Jean Patrick was small, Papa used to hold his tiny hand steady while the steer licked sugar off it with his hot, rough tongue.

Such lovingly-depicted Rwandan landscapes work well, for the most part, as does the artful integration of local language. But the storytelling, especially in later chapters, feels unsatisfying. There's also not much actual running, and the physics which Jean Patrick studies is distractingly clumsy when alluded to. Running the Rift is most successful, however, in the glimpses of the world it offers through central African eyes.

- Saturday, January 31, 2015 at 07:53:31 (EST)


MLK on Oneness

Attributed to Martin Luther King Jr's "Christmas Sermon" of 1967, thoughts on universality:

It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality. Did you ever stop to think that you can't leave for your job in the morning without being dependent on most of the world? You get up in the morning and go to the bathroom and reach over for the sponge, and that's handed to you by a Pacific islander. You reach for a bar of soap, and that's given to you at the hands of a Frenchman. And then you go into the kitchen to drink your coffee for the morning, and that's poured into your cup by a South American. And maybe you want tea: that's poured into your cup by a Chinese. Or maybe you're desirous of having cocoa for breakfast, and that's poured into your cup by a West African. And then you reach over for your toast, and that's given to you at the hands of an English-speaking farmer, not to mention the baker. And before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you've depended on more than half of the world. This is the way our universe is structured, this is its interrelated quality. We aren't going to have peace on earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality.

(cf. Einstein on Self, 01, 0-1, ...)

- Friday, January 30, 2015 at 04:25:12 (EST)


2015-01-07 - Black Ice Butt Bump and Scalp Scrape

~1.5 miles @ ~20 min/mi

The Risk/Reward ratio is too high!" Kerry declares when I propose continuing our run on the icy streets of McLean. Thankfully this morning I'm with her and Kristin, two sensible people. They insist we turn back when, at the end of Davis Ct, I slip on a patch of black ice and land on my fat rump. The back of the old brain box gets a minor scratch and is bleeding, so my buddies make me promise to visit my new friend the nurse as soon as her office opens. "Yes, Moms!"Runkeeper records route.

- Thursday, January 29, 2015 at 06:34:45 (EST)


2015-01-05 - Falls Church Morning

~8.9 mi @ ~12.4 min/mi

"And now you're awake!" Kristin observes as I accidentally splash through a puddle in the dark. She and Kerry and I are about to join the W&OD Trail at the Virginia Ln overpass above I-66. "My right foot is, at least!" I reply. Brisk winds gust from the northwest as temperatures fall into the upper 30s.

A cyclist with anger management issues curses as he swerves around us in the dark. Half a mile later the negative karma is neutralized when another bike rider responds to our "Good morning!" with a cheery "Happy New Year!" A cute dog has red-green color-shifting lights on her collar. Scantily-clad members of a hot-yoga class warm up in the studio by the bridge over Route 7.

Sunrise hues shift from somber blue-gray into bright peach. Traffic is heavy and sullen kids wait at the bus stops for their first day back to school. Drs K&K and I walk the hills and thank each other for being such wonderful friends. Runkeeper records route.

- Thursday, January 29, 2015 at 06:31:53 (EST)


2015-01-04 - Ashburn Afternoon Amble

~8 miles @ ~17 min/mi

Sunday walkabout with Mary Ewell in her 'hood: geese glide in to land on the pond, copper-clad church steeple glows against gray clouds, flooded swamps block side paths ... and Leesburg Fire House pizza is tasty with Mary and her husband Andy afterwards. Runkeeper records route.

- Thursday, January 29, 2015 at 06:28:51 (EST)


Yasutani Roshi

From "Shut the Door" in Charlotte Joko Beck's Everyday Zen:

Two qualities of Yasutani Roshi struck me most deeply. I would say he was luminous and ordinary at the same time. Looking into his eyes in a formal interview was like looking for ten thousand miles — there was nothing there. It was amazing. Yet, somehow, in that open space there was total healing.

Outside of the zendo he was just an ordinary little man running around with his broom and with his pants rolled up, eating carrots. He loved carrots.

Yasutani Roshi gave me my first experience of what a true Zen master is, and it was a very humbling experience because he was so humble. Radiating from him were freedom, spontaneity, and compassion, the jewel that we all seek in our own practice. But we must be careful that we don't look for the jewel in the wrong place, outside of ourselves, failing to see that our life itself is the jewel — unpolished perhaps, but already perfect, complete and whole.

- Wednesday, January 28, 2015 at 04:52:53 (EST)


2015-01-03 - Trail Trek with Michele McL

~8.5 miles @ ~13 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Ross_Dr_NW_DC_bridge_Michele_McLeod_z.jpg"Brown ice! Watch out!" Michele McLeod warns. We're trekking through intermittent drizzle in Rock Creek Park, temperatures just above freezing. Mud in flat spots has a sheen of slippery rime coating it. A couple of times we almost lose our footing.

But all goes well, and thankfully nobody falls. The half-dozen others in the 8am Saturday trail group pause for us to catch up a couple of times, then run ahead. My GPS stays on during restroom breaks at the Nature Center and the facilities near Military Rd.

Michele and I exchange trail talk, family news, race reports, training plans, and just enjoy the rocks and roots together. She pulls me along at a fast pace, but mercifully allows walk breaks on the steeper hills. We pause for a photo at Ross Drive Bridge, according to [1] "... one of the earliest known triple-hinge bridges in the United States. The bridge is an open spandrel, reinforced concrete bridge with three parallel arches. ...". Wikipedia says that it dates back to 1907.

A huge one-year-old shaggy dog makes instant friends with us. Michele's friend Dave Schock kindly waits for us at the parking lot to make sure we return ok. When I arrive home I learn that the floral-design black panty hose that I wear for leg warmth — found in my drawer at dawn , in an old zip-lock plastic bag — were somebody else's, left there by mistake. Oops!

Runkeeper records route.

- Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at 04:20:27 (EST)


Body Mind Consciousness

From Sakyong Mipham's Running with the Mind of Meditation, Chapter 13:

... our consciousness is not just in the brain; it runs throughout the body. So by paying attention to your body, you are paying attention to your mind and therefore to who you are.

- Monday, January 26, 2015 at 04:43:44 (EST)


2015-01-02 - Lupine Loop

~10.7 miles @ ~12.8 min/mi

Kerry has early meetings today, so to let her start/finish at her home Kristin and I text her as we begin and en route, then rendezvous with her at our mile 3 on Churchill Rd near where she lives. Kerry denies it, but we suspect she came out early and ran hills until we arrive.

We do a quiet five mile ramble together, along back roads and past the burned-out house on Lupine Ln (see 2014-12-31 - Happy Old Year). It's a trifle too dark to crawl under the police tape and take post-apocalyptic selfies there, alas. We share news of New Year's Eve and Day activities. None of us stayed up until midnight.

Dawn arrives with pink glows on clouds that portend rain tomorrow. Puddles are frozen and icicles decorate Kristin's hair for our cooldown walk. The hot shower afterwards is welcome! Runkeeper records route.

- Sunday, January 25, 2015 at 07:06:39 (EST)


Kim

Rudyard Kipling's book Kim, published 1900-1901, is a spy story, a travelogue of India, a coming-of-age novel, a sketch of Buddhist philosophy, ... — and although well-written, oddly unsatisfying in all of those categories. Only one chapter really shines with imagery, though there are glimmers elsewhere. As the protagonists climb toward the Himalayas, Chapter 13 begins with the beautiful:

'Who goes to the hills goes to his mother.'

They had crossed the Siwaliks and the half-tropical Doon, left Mussoorie behind them, and headed north along the narrow hill-roads. Day after day they struck deeper into the huddled mountains, and day after day Kim watched the lama return to a man's strength. Among the terraces of the Doon he had leaned on the boy's shoulder, ready to profit by wayside halts. Under the great ramp to Mussoorie he drew himself together as an old hunter faces a well-remembered bank, and where he should have sunk exhausted swung his long draperies about him, drew a deep double-lungful of the diamond air, and walked as only a hillman can. Kim, plains-bred and plains-fed, sweated and panted astonished. 'This is my country,' said the lama. 'Beside Such-zen, this is flatter than a rice-field'; and with steady, driving strokes from the loins he strode upwards. But it was on the steep downhill marches, three thousand feet in three hours, that he went utterly away from Kim, whose back ached with holding back, and whose big toe was nigh cut off by his grass sandal-string. Through the speckled shadow of the great deodar-forests; through oak feathered and plumed with ferns; birch, ilex, rhododendron, and pine, out on to the bare hillsides' slippery sunburnt grass, and back into the woodlands' coolth again, till oak gave way to bamboo and palm of the valley, the lama swung untiring.

Glancing back in the twilight at the huge ridges behind him and the faint, thin line of the road whereby they had come, he would lay out, with a hillman's generous breadth of vision, fresh marches for the morrow; or, halting in the neck of some uplifted pass that gave on Spiti and Kulu, would stretch out his hands yearningly towards the high snows of the horizon. In the dawns they flared windy-red above stark blue, as Kedarnath and Badrinath — kings of that wilderness — took the first sunlight. All day long they lay like molten silver under the sun, and at evening put on their jewels again. At first they breathed temperately upon the travellers, winds good to meet when one crawled over some gigantic hog's-back; but in a few days, at a height of nine or ten thousand feet, those breezes bit; and Kim kindly allowed a village of hillmen to acquire merit by giving him a rough blanket-coat. The lama was mildly surprised that anyone should object to the knife-edged breezes which had cut the years off his shoulders.

But alas, so much of the book is spent on plot machinations, on arbitrary mysticism, and on how-superior-we-are condescension comparison of cultures. And women? Hardly any of significance, an odd omission (or deliberate decision).

- Saturday, January 24, 2015 at 07:28:53 (EST)


2015-01-01 - VHTRC Red Eye 50k

~31 miles @ ~15 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Red_Eye_50k_2014_pre-start_z.jpg"Awesome beard!"a young lady says at mile 18. I wait for her to add the honorific "Sir" — but she refrains, and I feel doubly complimented. Yay!

The "Red Eye" 50k consists of three ~9.8 mile circuits in Prince William Forest Park with a 2+ mile prelude to spread out ~130 participants. It's the 19th year of this free New Year's Day "Fat Ass" race, put on by the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club. Rolling hills are cloaked with yellow-brown leaves and dissected by noisy brooks. Sunlight's sheen on spandex catches the eye as I follow a fellow trekker. Puddles are icy and shoes crunch when crossing frozen muddy patches.

Official results — from the honor-system pages where runners write down their times and distances — put me in 34th place or so of ~45 who finish the whole 31+ miles, with a total time of ~7:44.

New friends and old greet one another as they go in opposite directions on alternate loops: Neisa Condemaita ... Caroline Williams ... Adeline Ntam ... Pete Pontzer ... Paul Crickard ... Don Libes ... Gretchen Bolton ...and the merry trio of Bill Gentry, Bob Gaylord, and Quattro Hubbard, who trek with me for the final miles.

Posting too many selfies makes the phone battery die: the GPS misses the last 2-3 miles of the course. Near the end most of the blue marker ribbons are already taken down, but by luck and careful observation of footprints I manage to stay on track. Pound cake, grilled cheese sandwiches, and donuts at the aid station fuel the journey, supplemented by a couple of Snickers bars and 4 "Succeed!" electrolyte capsules.

Runkeeper records most of the route. See 2008-01-01 - Red Eye 50k and 2011-01-01 - VHTRC RedEye for past experiences on this course.

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Red_Eye_50k_2014_z.jpg

- Friday, January 23, 2015 at 04:33:38 (EST)


Touch and Go

From Pema Chödrön's The Places That Scare You, near the end of Chapter 4 ("Learning to Stay"), a lovely metaphor that brings to mind the practice in aviation of "touch and go" — where a pilot-in-training brings a plane down to land but then immediately takes off again:

Attention to the present moment. Another factor we cultivate in the transformative process of meditation is attention to this very moment. We make the choice, moment by moment, to be fully here. Attending to our present-moment mind and body is a way of being tender toward self, toward other, and toward the world. This quality of attention is inherent in our ability to love.

Coming back to the present moment takes some effort, but the effort is very light. The instruction is to "touch and go." We touch thoughts by acknowledging them as thinking and then we let them go. It's a way of relaxing our struggle, like touching a bubble with a feather. It's a nonaggressive approach to being here.

- Thursday, January 22, 2015 at 04:15:15 (EST)


2014-12-31 - Happy Old Year

~10.5 miles @ ~12 min/mi

"Instead of 'McLean Dawn Patrol' maybe we need to get t-shirts that say 'Portajohn Inspection Service'?!" I suggest, as Kerry, Kristin, and I run along Wemberly Way. The temporary toilet is missing at the local Middle School, but at a construction site we find one that is relatively clean and offers hand sanitizer as well as tissue paper. Woot!

A lovely sunrise tinges the horizon pastel pink above Georgetown Pike as we cross. Our mansion tour extends down side streets, where near one cul-de-sac we smell smoke. Kerry spies police tape and a lonely chimney, the only remnant left standing from an almost-finished new home that burned down last Saturday.

As the day brightens two contrails stretch parallel across the sky. Our footsteps crunch on dry leaves and frozen mud. Kerry tests out a new headlamp, fuzzy-warm socks, and sleek tights -- Xmas gifts to her that have a utilitarian winter running theme this year. She shares a handwarmer with Kristin as I tie my windbreaker around my waist. Frosty condensate whitens outer layers.

We exchange stories from recent weekend excursions (what happened in Las Vegas stays on the trail!) between quiet meditative stretches of just trotting along together. Langley High won the big basketball tournament that finished yesterday, and Kerry has a house full of celebration. We're back in time for her to make her next important New Year's Eve meeting: a "Body Pump" exercise session with a friend! Runkeeper records route.

- Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at 04:13:15 (EST)


Winter's Tale on Final Frenzy

From the chapter "The City Alight" in Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin:

Two days after Christmas, young men and women were dancing at the Plaza, the lifters were roaring over the harbor, the bridges to Brooklyn and Queens were alight with evening traffic, and the factories had resumed their rhythmic work. Lawyers who never slept took in bushels of facts and regulations, and spat out arguments twenty-four hours a day. Deep underground, repairmen were at war with pipes and cables to keep the city above them illuminated and warm. They moved with the tireless determination of tankmen in an armored battle, straining to turn huge ten-foot wrenches, facing explosions and fire, digging like mad, rushing squads and battalions through the dark tunnels, their miner's lights bobbing over dirty and timeless faces Police fought through mortal encounters in separate incidents all over the city, foreign-exchange traders held six phones in each hand, scholars in the same room at the library were, nonetheless, in a thousand different places as each bent over his book in one of the thousand clear pools of steady lamplight. And they danced at the Plaza—women in white or salmon-pink dresses, and men in black and white and cummerbunds. Balding violinists with pencil mustaches and amazingly dissolute faces filled the marble-columned court with music. Hanging thickly from the columns and the ceiling were streamers and bunting in pink and gold that gave the dancers a summer glow. The backs of the chairs were draped with beaver, mink, and other furs which, as if they could remember the cold, were cool to the touch. Outside, carriages were trotted by, and warring winds from the north shook the icicle-covered trees like crystal bells. The finery and fine movement, the health and dancing, the joy itself, were soon to come undone.

- Tuesday, January 20, 2015 at 04:22:00 (EST)


2014-12-29 - Benjamin Street Shuffle

~10 miles @ ~12.7 min/mi

"Maybe we shouldn't," Kristin decides, in response to my suggestion of taking sunrise selfies in front of Kerry's home. "We might set off her dog and wake the neighborhood!" So instead we take a McLean mansion tour down Benjamin St, admiring holiday lights, a big antlered deer and his mate, small puddles on the Dead Run pathway, a hawk that glides across Chain Bridge Rd to perch on a telephone pole, and polite early commuters who carefully avoid hitting us as they race to work.

There's time for walk breaks (the psoas seems to be recovering well) and much peaceful, mindful, gentle conversation. We share weekend news reports and thank each other for listening. Roadside loot recovered includes a Pearl Izumi cyclist glove and a high-bouncing superball. My fingers are weak from chill, so Kristin helps unzip my jacket pocket to get out the phone for a GPS check. As usual we overshoot today's goal (9 miles), and as usual Dr K continues running to push her mileage figure to the next nice number. Not that either of us is obsessive that way! Runkeeper records route.

- Monday, January 19, 2015 at 05:52:17 (EST)


2014-12-28 - Ken-Gar Ramble

~11 miles @ ~12 min/mi

"I did NOT just feel a raindrop!" says Rebecca Rosenberg during our first mile. "Oops! Neither did I," is my in-denial reply a few moments later. We're escorting Barry Smith on a Sunday afternoon stroll along Rock Creek and the Matthew Henson Trail. Showers are forecast this afternoon, but we manage more than an hour of running before sprinkles start in earnest.

To put ~5 extra miles in the bank I jog to the Ken-Gar rendezvous point early, with digressions and meanders in Kensington to decorate the trackfile and synchronize with R&B. Upstream we go, comparing notes on Disney movies, making weak NOAA/Noah puns, and commiserating with Barry's injured left foot. Rebecca and I persuade him to stop before further damage (we hope) as he tapers for races January 8-9-10-11 at Disneyworld. During the return to Ken-Gar Rebecca spots a six-point buck crossing the trail behind us. We stop to admire its rack, and to discuss point-count systems.

We finish up with Rebecca and me on playground swings while Barry does push-ups. Then I almost manage 1/3rd of a chin-up — but, alas, nobody is looking. Barry gives me a ride home and at 7-11 tests his new phone app by buying me a cup of coffee. Post-run salad is followed by a slice of the cheesecake I baked this morning. Yum! Runkeeper records route.

- Monday, January 19, 2015 at 05:39:10 (EST)


Buddhism and Suffering

From Guy Claxton's The Heart of Buddhism, Chapter 1:

This brings up another quite common reaction to Buddhism: that its concern — some would say its obsession — with 'suffering' is depressing and unhealthy. Indeed, from the point of view of the more usual attempt to deal with trouble by trying to ignore it, it does look perverse. Why on earth would anyone want to dwell on the bad stuff? We cannot really answer this yet, for to do so we have to get right into the core of Buddhism. All we an say is that people discover for themselves that the attempt to avoid the hurt and pain of living is more trouble than it is worth, and that equanimity can be found by staring distress in the face, not by running away from it, or trying to do battle with it. The buddhist emphasis on 'suffering' is not masochistic, but an unsentimental, clear-sighted, pragmatic response to the problem of how to be as happy as possible in a life that is bound to hit you from time to time.

- Sunday, January 18, 2015 at 05:19:20 (EST)


2014-12-27 - Rock Creek Ridge Road Ramble

~16 miles @ ~12.5 min/mi

"Bring packs!" I text to Barry Smith, alluding to George Armstrong Custer's last message. Beams from the rising sun reflect scarlet on the underside of somber gray clouds. Frost covers windshields; rime decorates shallow puddles. The drinking fountain at Ray's Meadow is frozen, but water comes out from the dog-bowl tap on the side when I test it on the way to Candy Cane City, where a big MCRRC trail running training group gathers. I shake coach Mike Edwards' hand and tell him to stay healthy, so he can drag me along at the Umstead 100 race that we're both signed up for in March.

Gayatri Datta greets me, and when Barry arrives we set off down Rock Creek. Today is one of Barry's last long runs before the Disney "Dopey" series of 5k+10k+half marathon+marathon in two weeks. He tells me some of the history of Little Big Horn and Custer's Last Stand. Gayatri describes the chocolate mousse and coq au vin that she made for family dinner, and the bread pudding that she's preparing later today. We return via Ridge Rd and Oregon Ave, diverting for a photo op at DC Boundary Stone NW9, placed there in 1792.

Back at Candy Cane City, Barry and Gayatri have logged 10 miles and head upstream on Rock Creek Trail to add a few more. When they turn back I continue onward, trotting briskly to pull the average pace down. A loop around the block gets my total safely past the next integer number on the GPS. Booty captured en route today includes a nice gray tube-scarf from near Peirce Mill and a black glove at Meadowbrook Stables that Gayatri points out for me to pick up. An iron-oxide hand warmer that I find on the ground alternately thaws one palm, then the other, during the downstream trek. Runkeeper records route.

- Saturday, January 17, 2015 at 07:14:42 (EST)


No Drama

From "The Razor's Edge" in Charlotte Joko Beck's Everyday Zen:

STUDENT: For me the razor's edge is the experiencing of what the moment is. As I continue practice I find more and more that the simple mundane things of life aren't as boring to me as they once were. There is sometimes a depth and beauty that I was never aware of.

JOKO: That's so. Once in a while a student comes in to talk with me, and she is sitting well but she complains, "It's so boring! I'm just sitting and nothing's going on. Just hearing the traffic . . .". But just hearing the traffic is the perfection! The student is asking, "You mean that's all there is?" Yes, that is all there is. And none of us wants life to be "just that" because then life is not centered on us. It's just as it is; there is no drama and we like drama. We prefer to "win" in an argument, but if we can't win, we'd rather lose than not have a drama centered on us. Suzuki Roshi once said, "Don't be so sure you want to be enlightened. From where you're looking, it would be awfully dull." Just doing what you're doing. No drama.

- Friday, January 16, 2015 at 04:24:42 (EST)


2014-12-26 - Meteor Music

~8.8 miles @ ~12.6 min/mi

"Was that a streak of light?" Kristin asks as we run down Great Falls St at 5:55am. "A meteor low in the west — I saw it too!" is my reply. The morning is a quiet one, full of music. We walk backwards along the W&OD Trail, paying attention to the sunrise as subtle tinges of pink near the horizon shade into indigo tones above. Half an hour later Kristin points out the northern sky where hues now flow the opposite direction, dusky reds over deep blues. Wood smoke from a fireplace is followed by a sweet apple scent on Virginia Lane, then overtaken with a burnt-breakfast-bacon aroma on Idlywood Rd. Birds chirp to greet the dawn. Frozen dewdrops glitter like diamonds on brown grass. We pause to toss a rock through the icy surface of a puddle. It's so good to have a fellow trekker to share the daybreak with! Runkeeper records route.

- Thursday, January 15, 2015 at 05:10:25 (EST)


National Museum of the US Air Force

Photos taken during a visit, circa 1988, to the US Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton Ohio. Captions, anyone?

http://zhurnaly.com/images/Aviation_Museum_WPAFB_1.jpg


http://zhurnaly.com/images/Aviation_Museum_WPAFB_3.jpg


http://zhurnaly.com/images/Aviation_Museum_WPAFB_2.jpg


http://zhurnaly.com/images/Aviation_Museum_WPAFB_4.jpg


http://zhurnaly.com/images/Aviation_Museum_WPAFB_5.jpg

- Wednesday, January 14, 2015 at 05:28:20 (EST)


2014-12-25 - Patapsco Valley State Park

~13.5 miles @ ~14.6 min/mi

"Did you finish delivering all the packages?" two young women in USC sweatshirts ask, when they meet me by the Patapsco River and pretend to mistake me for Santa Claus. "Yep!" I reply. "This is my recovery run!" They laugh. Geese honk and ducks splash.

It's Christmas morning in Ellicott City, near Baltimore, and DD is playing violin in the Korean Presbyterian church. Maps from the Maryland Park Service suggest that neighborhood streets connect to the Patapsco Valley State Park. Dog walkers give directions to a trail they think deer made, and indeed there are a couple of big does by a tributary stream. I take several wrong turns on the way but eventually arrive.

A wide path, rutted with bike tire tracks, leads downriver. Boggy spots from recent rains slow progress. After a dam the route is interrupted by private property and the trail climbs steeply to circumnavigate it. Eventually back at the waterside there are railroad tracks that curve below Interstate 70 and enter a spooky-dark tunnel below US-40. Instead, at that point since time is running short take a dirt path and bushwhack up a steep slope the highway. Follow it back and close the circuit. Be thankful for the paper I'm carrying with me (and don't ask for details!). Runkeeper records route.

- Tuesday, January 13, 2015 at 04:32:22 (EST)


Be Friendly to Yourself

From Sakyong Mipham's Running with the Mind of Meditation, Chapter 11, talking about getting started running (or any other endeavor):

During this phase of the tiger, the best advice that I received was to be gentle. We are not talking up running with the mind of meditation to give ourselves a hard time. A Shambhala slogan associated with the tiger is "Friendly to Yourself." A good friend has our best intentions in mind. Friends don't yell at us, "You're a lousy meditator!" or "You can't run!" They encourage us, reminding us why we got into running or meditation in the first place. They help us stick with it. Most important, a friend wants us to do what is best for our progress. Therefore being friendly to yourself means offering yourself a little leeway, honesty, and humor. A combination of mindfulness and friendliness is ideal.

- Monday, January 12, 2015 at 04:34:22 (EST)


2014-12-23 - Southern Walnut Creek Trail in Austin Texas

~12 miles @ ~10.5 min/mi

Three deer eye me from the Austin Blacks rugby field as I trot by at dawn. To avoid freaking the Mundanes by the sight of my puny underdeveloped pecs, the shirt stays on during road segments of today's trek. A rooster crows and morning commuter traffic rumbles on the US-183 highway bridge above Boggy Creek. Brisk winds gust from the north. Brown leaves swirl. The chorus of "Runaway Train" plays in my head.

Tuesday morning's ramble is the reverse of the 2014-10-07 - Southern Southern Walnut Creek Trail expedition. A quart bottle of green Gatorade weighs heavy in my hand for the initial hour. When I finish it at mile 10 a sudden burst of energy helps pull the average pace down a notch.

Work up courage to do cooldown Taijiquan in Mom's driveway, to the entertainment of passers-by, rather in the back yard as on Sunday when only a stray cat could see. Concentrate on hands, balance, awareness. Runkeeper records route.

- Sunday, January 11, 2015 at 05:22:49 (EST)


The Heart of Buddhism

Guy Claxton is a psychologist, a professor, and a writer. His 1990 book The Heart of Buddhism: Practical Wisdom for an Agitated World hits a huge number of home runs in its early chapters. Claxton is analytic and honest, sharp-eyed and critical. And his prose sparkles. Chapter 1 ("Why Buddhism?") explains:

Buddhism offers a practical way for normal, healthy people to become more healthy and less normal. It is the 'religion' for a secular age, concerning itself centrally with improving the quality of everyday life, requiring no adherence to obscure or magical beliefs, and offering a penetrating analysis of the condition — or lack of it — that we find ourselves in, as well as a powerful and proven set of specific techniques for increasing happiness, kindliness and peace in people's lives. Buddhism is really a deep do-it-yourself kit of ideas and practices for changing in the directions that most people would like: more openness, less defensiveness; more tolerance, less irritation; more ease, less worry; more generosity, less selfishness; more naturalness, less self-consciousness; more equanimity, less frustration. At the heart of Buddhism we find a Buddhism that is very much of the heart. Its subject-matter is the day-to-day business of feelings, relationships, and self-respect. Its aim is to enable you to look at yourself in the mirror with absolute honesty — and feel at peace with who ever you see.

Can't argue with that!

Alas, after that strong start Claxton's book drifts toward the mysticism and muddle that it begins by criticising and disavowing. It too often slips into philosophical quibbles, suggesting plausibilities as if they were logical arguments (i.e., "intuition pumping"). And it's padded with too many quotes from sophisticated but tangentially-relevant fiction.

But no worries — many felicitous analyses, happy thoughts, and apt quotes to follow ...

- Saturday, January 10, 2015 at 10:29:24 (EST)


2014-12-21 - Northern Southern Walnut Creek Trail

~18 miles @ ~10.9 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Austin_Blacks_rugby_z.jpgEau de Jardin Hose 2014 -- an impudent vintage with rubbery nose and hints of copper flange. I'm thankful for permission to refill my empty water bottle at mile 11, lost in a maze of twisty coves in an under-construction upscale housing development, By luck, a man drives up and emerges from a car, the only living soul seen here.

And It's All Good! Buzzards circle hopefully overhead as I follow the northern half of the Southern Walnut Creek Trail extension past Lake Walter E Long. The music of double-barreled shotgun blasts at the skeet range echoes from the hillsides, joined by the buzz of radio-controlled model airplanes. A sinkhole at the corner of Lindell & Decker Lanes is less scary by daylight than when I almost stumble into it before dawn three days ago.

I miss the turn onto Blue Goose Rd and inadvertently add ~4 miles to today's trek. The theme song from Gilligan's Island plays inside my head ("... a three hour tour ... a three hour tour ...") as I lose count of couches and mattresses dumped into ditches. A speed limit sign is pocked with target-practice bullet holes.

The film Forrest Gump is on Mom's cable TV a couple of evenings ago and I watch it for the first time in many years. This viewing it seems far better than the book, and inspires me to keep running farther and faster than wise. But the bowdlerized broadcast version uses the phrase "It Happens". What is "It"?

Sunday afternoon drivers on the narrow country roads uniformly wave back as I salute and step off the asphalt into the weeds. Nobody wants to antagonize Santa Claus this time of year!

Runkeeper records route.

- Friday, January 09, 2015 at 05:27:05 (EST)


Mantra - It's All Good

It's All Good!

... the ultimate in optimism, joy, thankfulness, ...

(originally heard from dear friend Caren Jew during long trail runs; cf. All Good (2007-01-13), Byron Katie (2014-09-12), ...)

- Friday, January 09, 2015 at 05:18:10 (EST)


The Places That Scare You

Pema Chödrön's book The Places That Scare You begins with a bang on page 1 with the lovely goal: ...to be open, flexible, and kind. And a few pages later, there's a list of beautiful practices: ... meditation, loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity ....

But alas, those gems are soon lost in a sea of jargon and doctrine. Chödrön insists on using the distracting metaphor (oxymoron?) of "compassionate warrior" for the student of awareness. It doesn't much work. She drifts into anecdote and through parable. Maybe they convey the point better in person? An "Acknowledgements" section suggests that this book originated in a series of talks. And Chödrön thanks Charlotte Joko Beck and Ezra Bayda, as well as Sakyong Miphan for their helpful influences. That's wise, honest, and helpful.

And back to the gems — a sample suggestion, from near the end of Chapter 11 ("Enhancing the Training in Joy"):

Even the simplest of things can be the basis of this practice—a beautiful morning, a good meal, a shower. Although there are many such fleeting ordinary moments in our days, we usually speed right past them. We forget what joy they can bring. So the first step is to stop, notice, and appreciate what is happening. Even if this is all we do, it's revolutionary. ...

Sweet thought! — ... stop, notice, and appreciate .... More sparkles to follow ...

(cf. Chödrön's Practicing Peace in Times of War (2014-05-25) and excerpts from that book ...)

- Thursday, January 08, 2015 at 05:21:00 (EST)



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