^zhurnaly 0.9915

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Howdy, pilgrim! No ads — you're in volume 0.9915 of 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

2015-03-05 - Blizzard Run clementines


(photo taken by Robin Zimmermann at the midpoint of the 2015-03-05 - Blizzard Run ...)

- Saturday, April 04, 2015 at 06:48:44 (EDT)

2015-03-09 - Woodside Forest Streets

~6.5 miles @ ~9.8 min/mi

Lentil Soup for lunch? Perhaps a trifle suboptimal choice before an after-work ramble, exploring labyrinths made of neighborhood roads, dodging between cars stuck in rush-hour traffic, cutting up an alley behind a house rented when first we landed here from the West Coast in late 1979. Time flies! Trackfile

- Friday, April 03, 2015 at 04:36:57 (EDT)

Live the Questions Now

A zen thought — about pausing in a state of tension and uncertainty and non-judging — from Rainer Maria Rilke:

... Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. ...

... from Letters to a Young Poet (#4) as translated by Stephen Mitchell.

(quoted in slightly different form in a New Yorker magazine essay last month by Andrew Solomon; cf. NotEasy (2001-03-31), ...)

- Thursday, April 02, 2015 at 20:14:23 (EDT)

2015-03-08 - Sunday Homewood Meander

~7.5 miles @ ~9.2 min/mi

Snow-melt run-off
    Ice-dam puddle-hop
        Sun-glint car-dodge

... plus the discovery of a new Little Free Library (#16117) at the east end of Homewood Pkwy. Trackfile

- Wednesday, April 01, 2015 at 04:22:35 (EDT)

Confirmation Bias Everywhere

"Gonzo journalist" Jon Ronson on Confirmation Bias, the universal human tendency to notice information that confirms one's preconceptions:

"In fact, ever since I first learned about confirmation bias I've been seeing it everywhere. Everywhere."

(from The Guardian (2015) and NeuroLogica Blog (2012); cf. Big Biases (2014-01-09), ...)

- Tuesday, March 31, 2015 at 05:25:21 (EDT)

2015-03-07 - Saturday Solo Ramble

~6 miles @ ~9.3 min/mi

Meander around the Rosemary Hills neighborhood — with emphasis on the word "Hills" — pushing hard on a warm Saturday afternoon to earn croutons and 1000 Island dressing on a salad afterwards. Sunlight reflects in polychromatic rainbows off road signs. Kids haul sleds up hillsides in hopes of eking out one more slither-down before all the snow melts. Surplus salt makes the roadside feel like a beach underfoot. Cars hesitate and yield right-of-way to a cyclist and me as we cross the one-lane Grace Church Rd wooden bridge over the train tracks. Trackfile

- Monday, March 30, 2015 at 08:56:58 (EDT)

Six Bodhisattva Activities

From Pema Chödrön's The Places That Scare You, near the end of Chapter 17 ("Bodhisattva Activity"):

So these are the six activities of the warrior:

   Generosity. Giving as a path of learning to let go.
   Discipline. Training in not causing harm in a way that is daring and flexible.
   Patience. Training in abiding with the restlessness of our energy and letting things evolve at their own speed. If waking up takes forever, still we go moment by moment, giving up all hope of fruition and enjoying the process.
   Joyful enthusiasm. Letting go of our perfectionism and connecting with the living quality of every moment.
   Meditation. Training in coming back to being right here with gentleness and precision.
   Prajna. Cultivating an open, inquiring mind.

With these six activities of the bodhisattva, we learn how to travel to the other shore, and we do our best to take everyone we can find along with us.

- Friday, March 27, 2015 at 10:15:29 (EDT)

2015-03-05 - Blizzard Run

~9.7 miles @ ~12.6 min/mi

Clementine Courier: neither snow nor sleet nor (lack of) sanity can stop him. Today's mission, during the latest snowstorm, is to drop off citrus fruit for DS Robin — who scores major mojo points himself by being outside shoveling the sidewalk when I arrive at mile 4. Outbound discover a Little Free Library in front of a house near the corner of Hayden Dr and Gardiner Av. During the return trip divert to deliver the last two mini-oranges to comrades Barry Smith and Amy Couch.

Lessons learned:


- Thursday, March 26, 2015 at 05:06:30 (EDT)

World as Ocean

From Guy Claxton's The Heart of Buddhism, Chapter 5 ends with:

In our everyday view the world is like a box with people and things rattling around in it. In the Buddhist view it is more like an ocean, on the surface of which waves are born, travel for a while, interact, and then subside again. Or, as Alan Watts was fond of saying, just as it is in the nature of an apple tree to 'apple', so we are the fruits of a world that 'peoples', each one of us in exactly the right place, doing exactly the right thing — which may, funnily enough, include feeling that we are in the wrong place doing the wrong thing. Whatever we are we are at home, and death is absolutely safe.

If what we are is waves, how then could any man, woman or child be an island, entire unto itself? Buddha tells us that the experience of nirvana, of the land of no-self, is most peaceful in the aftermath of desire and aversion. But it is also most generous and kindly; after all, in this country we are all family, and it is without any effort or thought of personal gain that we help each other out. As Albert Einstein wrote in a reflective moment:

"A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."

(cf. Einstein on Self (2010-01-31), ...)

- Wednesday, March 25, 2015 at 05:44:40 (EDT)

2015-03-04 - Grizzly Statue

~7 miles @ ~12 min/mi

"A giant bear!" Kristin and I peer by flashlight gleam at the front yard statue near the corner of Pimmit and Frieden. It says "WELCOME" on the sign but reminds me of Shardik, the terrifying archetypal title character of the Richard Adams novel. We trot mindfully through intermittent light drizzle, stepping onto the snowy shoulders of neighborhood streets to avoid traffic, warning each other when icy patches intrude on sidewalks.Temperatures are in the upper 30s. Kristin spies a cat peeking in through a front window. "It is what it is!"is the mantra of the day. We admire a melting snowman. "What's the algorithmic equivalent of gears?" I wonder, after Dr K tells of her son's latest bedtime question. Trackfile

- Tuesday, March 24, 2015 at 05:15:26 (EDT)

Ryan Hall on Life

From a beautiful, thoughtful short profile of elite runner Ryan Hall in The New Yorker on 16 March 2015:

"... I want everyone to experience the elation of what it's like to win the gold medal, but obviously that's not possible. But we can experience a joy that's even deeper than that—like, every single person, every moment of every day. It's possible."

... and ...

" ...that's where it comes back to excellence. I try and get everything out of my body that God's put in me, the best I can. You hear it a million times—'Just do your best'—but, really, that's all you can do."

... and ...

"I like to go into a race not expecting anything. Not expecting to feel like a million bucks. Not expecting to hit certain splits or the race to unfold a certain way. I like to go into a race with not a real strong, set game plan, but just knowing that I'm going to take my swing at some point in the race, and then see what happens."

... and ...

"A lot of athletes are trying to prove themselves through their performances. I'm trying to be aware of who I am so I can perform at my highest level. Which is a lot different."

- Monday, March 23, 2015 at 04:37:33 (EDT)

2015-03-01 - Snowy Shuffle

~10 miles @ ~11.5 min/mi

Maracas rattle in syncopation with the crunch of feet on snow — or, in this case, it's beard icicles that brush the beat against the front of a frozen windbreaker. Late morning Sunday snow showers turn to sleet. A rambling trek around slippery neighborhood streets adds a detour to tag the 1792 northernmost DC Boundary Stone plus a pause for photos at the sign for "Mile 0.0" of the future Capital Crescent Trail extension. Trackfile tells the tale.

- Sunday, March 22, 2015 at 06:10:58 (EDT)

Light Pause

Anticipation ... Frustration ... Tension ...

Stopped at a traffic light, when it looks like it's about to turn green the hand goes to the gearshift knob, the foot starts to press the clutch pedal, the eyes scan for cross traffic, the car begins to inch forward. Almost a reflex. Likewise in conversation. And when a project deadline looms. And ...

So in recent months, a tiny experiment: if the light is red, hold palms of hands together in front of heart, a "namaste" gesture. Maybe others think it's prayer, or isometric exercise. No matter! Try not to plan ahead quite so much. Less tightness, trembling, forward-leaning. Simply be. "Waiting Is." Watchful, alert, poised. Holding — ready and calm — in the moment. Attention.

Far easier to say than do. But coincidental happy discovery: a recent essay by Corey Jackson, "Traffic lights and emotional balance", on an Australian site called "Living Dharma". Jackson begins:

Imagine being stopped at a red light, waiting to go through the intersection. The turn arrow goes green and there is an impulse to take your foot off the brake and get going, but you manage to stay put. This is an example of response inhibition and it's a skill that can be developed to improve almost every aspect of our emotional lives.

Fascinating, perhaps useful, certainly different, possibly crucial ...

(cf. Processes not Goals (2014-02-20), ...)

- Saturday, March 21, 2015 at 08:58:06 (EDT)

2015-02-28 - Ridge Road Ramble

~7 miles @ ~10.7 min/mi

"They were called Indian Shutters!" Kerry tells me. We're observing the new hyper-insulated windows in various houses being remodeled on Benjamin St, as we ramble 'round the 'hood late on an icy Saturday morning. I recollect old single-pane casement windows on which ice formed — on the inside — during cold spells. Kerry recalls a 19th Century New England home with interior slide-into-place shutters, supposedly for protection against flying arrows. (The Internet says that's a myth, but then so is everything on the Internet.)

We run the Ridge Rd loop, spy the narrow connector path into the woods, walk icy patches, point out mailboxes decorated to look like sharks and pandas, and end up going rather faster than planned for the first few miles. (My left quad aches afterwards.) Kerry scores bonus points when we meet her neighbor Jenna. Another local resident witnessed me trekking in last Saturday's blizzard, Kerry says. Runkeeper records route.

- Friday, March 20, 2015 at 04:35:27 (EDT)

Mindfulness Workshop 2015

Notes from a meditation retreat on 8 March 2014 in Bethesda Maryland, facilitated by Patricia Long:

A single raindrop
     Onto a quiet pond.
A wave spreads, reflects,
     Multiplies, fades.
Waters again are still.
Yet beneath the surface,
     Invisible in the depths ...
Nine people sit in a circle on a Sunday morning.
Within minutes they
     Talk — share — glimpse
Each other's
     Fears — prayers — guilts — joys
Tears flow.
Dance, when you're broken open.
Dance, if you've torn the bandage off.
Dance in the middle of fighting.
Dance in your blood.
Dance, when you're perfectly free.

     — Rumi, the Sufi poet
"This is the most real part of life."

     "There's more bandwidth here."

          "We're more aware."
          Notice again.

     Pay attention — to attention itself.
A deliberate shift:
     From thinking to experiencing.

Meditation is not something you do.
     You don't do sleep.
Keep squeezing drops of the Sun
From your prayers and work and music
And from your companions' beautiful laughter.

     — Hafez, the Persian poet
There's nourishment, safety, strength, inspiration.
     Relief, and awe.
          Emptiness, void.
     Letting go of hopes.
          Letting go of worries.

Thoughts slow.
      Breathe in love. Breathe out fear.
A two minute practice is fine.
     Pet the cat.
          Watch the fish.
Standing is just as good as sitting.

      Om Namah Shivayah

(cf. Meditation Retreat (2014-01-28), Meditation - Sound, Music, Silence (2014-10-06), ...)

- Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 05:19:31 (EDT)

2015-02-27 - Southridge Stroll

~7 miles @ ~13 min/mi

"Now is the perfect time," Kristin says, as we glide through the twilight separating night from day. Kerry and I quietly agree. Today is the funeral of a local high school student who died suddenly, unexpectedly. We share in the sadness. We're exploring a new area, the Southridge neighborhood of McLean. After temperatures in the teens this morning's 31°F feels almost warm. We unzip jackets, take off gloves and caps. Summer seems unimaginable.

Birds greet us, school buses rattle by, and angular architecture provokes commentary. On Opalocka Dr a brilliant blue bungalow clashes with a garish green one a few houses down. A cat sits on an outside window sill, eying us, then turning back to peek into the home. I pause to rescue a not-too-shabby ice-scraper abandoned on Westmoreland St, and Kristin almost falls down laughing. "I knew you would pick that up!"


- Wednesday, March 18, 2015 at 05:02:50 (EDT)

Mantra - Vast Emptiness Everything Sacred

Vast Emptiness
Nothing Sacred

or perhaps better:

Vast Emptiness
Everything Sacred

(cf. 2008-03-23 - Sunrise Service at Seneca Creek, Zen Soup (2012-02-09), Nothing But Faith in Nothing (2014-09-07, Vast Openness (2014-10-16), ...)

- Tuesday, March 17, 2015 at 05:46:24 (EDT)

2015-02-25 - Little Free Library of Pimmit Hills

~7.7 miles @ ~12.5 min/mi

"Community Library" says the sign on the big mailbox-like container by Pimmit Dr. My flashlight reveals several dozen books available for loan behind the glass front. Kerry, Kristin, and I are on a 19°F ramble along neighborhood streets, dodging cars and icy patches, enjoying one another's company, and admiring blue-and-pink clouds as the sun rises. Eyebrows turn white with frost.

When K&K accuse me of leading I deny it: "I'm just following you from in front!" We explore side streets and map out a fractal route. One of us with an all-day meeting ahead comments that it's ok if s/he arrives a bit late: "I'm just setting appropriate expectations for my presence!" Conversation includes the issue of whether a potential employer is out-of-line in asking an applicant to provide social media account names and passwords. It's a New Age for personal privacy. Runkeeper records route.

- Monday, March 16, 2015 at 04:17:06 (EDT)

This Is Equanimity

From Pema Chödrön's The Places That Scare You, near the beginning of Chapter 12 ("Thinking Bigger"):

Whenever someone asked a certain Zen master how he was, he would always answer, "I'm okay." Finally one of his students said, "Roshi, how can you always be okay? Don't you ever have a bad day?" The Zen master answered, "Sure I do. On bad days, I'm okay. On good days, I'm also okay." This is equanimity.

- Sunday, March 15, 2015 at 05:13:41 (EDT)

2015-02-23 - Pimmit Hills Ice

~6.4 miles @ ~13 min/mi

"We are doing 6 minute mile pace so far ... stopped to pick up $100 bills on road" says my outrageously untrue text message to Kerry, whose family duties preempt her from joining Kristin and me for today's dawn patrol through Pimmit Hills. Birds chirp as the sky brightens. To escape ice we mainly run down the middle of neighborhood streets, stepping aside for early commuters. Trail Talk themes include politeness, mirroring, social civility, appreciation, and how to handle the many frustrations of life somewhat more skillfully. We practice our listening and feedback skills, with a big spoonful of self-referential humor. Thanks be to the world for its wonders!

Runkeeper records route.

- Saturday, March 14, 2015 at 06:40:50 (EDT)

Singularity Spoilers

"The Singularity" — that magic moment when the ever-accelerating rate of technological progress goes to infinity — is much discussed in the context of artificial intelligence. The hypothesis is that as computers get "smarter" then they will catalyze yet-more-rapid progress which will in turn produce still more progress, in a runaway chain reaction. Supposedly, then, some time around 2040 (plus or minus a few decades) machines will become almost infinitely smart, transcend our ability to understand them, and either become our masters or vanish in a flash of brilliance.

Well, maybe not, even granting all those radical assumptions. Look more closely: technological advancement is far from uniform today. Some countries are far ahead of others, as are some regions within countries. The same thing will happen as AI programs start to reprogram themselves, re-architect microelectronic fabrication facilities, etc. Local zones will approach transcendence first, like bubbles in a boiling liquid at a phase transition. Some will get ahead of others, perhaps spread and take over. Some may try to "push the Reset Button" on others, and IQ-wars will break out. The speed of light will, barring improbable new physics, let multiple singularities happen in disjoint places. Some may build metaphorical walls to protect themselves. Some may turn back from nirvana, Buddha-like, to uplift the rest of the cosmos.

So a single "Singularity"? Doesn't look as likely as a messy turbulent explosion of progress — much like we already have, eh?

(cf. OnSingularities (1999-06-07), Singularity Skepticism (2008-11-02), ...)

- Friday, March 13, 2015 at 04:18:41 (EDT)

2015-02-21 - Hard Core Foolishness

~3.6 miles @ ~11.1 min/mi

"Hard core!" the fellow in his front yard says as I jog past. "No, just foolish!" I reply. It's a late morning blizzard blitz around McLean neighborhood streets and bikepaths after a few Saturday hours at the office. Snow falls fast, the temperature is in the upper teens, and it feels like I'm running on a beach. Sensible comrade Kerry declines my invitation and stays snug in her PJs, but kindly offers to let me into her home to recover when I'm done. But fortunately I head directly back to my town, making it just in time as roads turn to ice and cars slip-slide on hills and curves. Runkeeper records route.

- Thursday, March 12, 2015 at 04:21:06 (EDT)

Self and No-Self

Guy Claxton's The Heart of Buddhism, Chapter 5, discusses self, or the illusion of self, or maybe no-self ("anatta"). Analyzing "self" as something like a computer program, Claxton argues that the self sees itself as a kind of "thing" — "It starts out by putting the 'entity' into 'identity.'" — with a place, boundaries, independence from other things, and persistence. But perhaps "self" is none of those? Claxton goes on:

... But as we shall see in more detail later, Buddhism agrees with modern science in regarding this construct as both optional and inaccurate. Aldous Huxley in Island gives two nice summaries. First:
Tunes or pebbles, processes or substantial things? 'Tunes' answers Buddhism and modern science. 'Pebbles' say the classical philosophers of the West. Buddhism and modern science think of the world in terms of music. The image that comes to mind when one reads the philosophers of the West is a figure in a Byzantine mosaic, rigid, symmetrical, made up of millions of little squares of some stony material and firmly cemented to the walls of a windowless basilica.

Well — maybe. Quoting somebody doesn't make it so. On the other hand, Mantra - Notice the Music. And consider 0-1: the naïve concept of "self" is the antithesis of all three of those atoms: not "0" in that it's something, not "-" in that it's unchanging, and not "1" in that it's separate from the rest of the universe. Or turning that on its head, the Buddhist conception of "no-self", as Claxton presents it, is precisely 0-1:


- Wednesday, March 11, 2015 at 08:52:30 (EDT)

2015-02-15 - Kerry Sunday Neighborhood Ramble

~5.8 miles @ ~10.9 min/mi

By mid-afternoon it's a balmy 15°F and north winds have slowed to intermittent gusts of only ~25 mi/hr, so Kerry and I venture out. Sidewalks are icy but her neighborhood streets are 95% clear. We tread cautiously on the other 5% and concur that it will be too risky to run in the dark tomorrow morning. Conversation covers 3D printers, music schools, cognitive fallacies, new home construction, and the wisdom of not clinging to plans for the far future. Maybe I won't hope to buy that island after all!

Runkeeper records route.

- Tuesday, March 10, 2015 at 04:59:38 (EDT)

Staying In-Between

From Pema Chödrön's The Places That Scare You, in Chapter 22 ("The In-Between State"), are metaphors riffing off the Shunryu Suzuki aphorism, "The secret of Zen is just two words: not always so." Chödrön suggests:

Anxiety, heartbreak, and tenderness mark the in-between state. It's the kind of place we usually want to avoid. The challenge is to stay in the middle rather than buy into struggle and complaint. The challenge is to let it soften us rather than make us more rigid and afraid. Becoming intimate with the queasy feeling of being in the middle of nowhere only makes our hearts more tender. When we are brave enough to stay in the middle, compassion arises spontaneously. By not knowing, not hoping to know, and not acting like we know what's happening, we begin to access our inner strength.

Or, in some of her briefer phrases:

- Monday, March 09, 2015 at 06:21:02 (EDT)

2014-02-13 - Brrrrrrrrr

~1.8 miles @ ~11.5 min/mi

"Peer Pressure!" Kristin offers, as our reason to run in 13-degree weather with sub-zero wind chill from northerly gusts of 20+ mi/hr. "Bragging Rights!" I counter-propose. We dance around ice puddles and take the Hunting Avenue cut-through. "No rabbits this morning?" I ask when we pass by their typical zone. "They're too smart!" Kristin says.

There's a busy work day ahead for us both (including a major interview, which turns out ok, yay!) so The Sensible One suggests we end the circuit early. The Foolish One concurs. We give thanks for the company and for hot showers. Monday's forecast is 4°F. Runkeeper records route.

- Sunday, March 08, 2015 at 07:56:20 (EDT)

Ten Percent Happier

10% Happier is 90% Dan Harris.

The book is subtitled "How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works — a True Story". It's a semi-autobiography by a semi-celebrity TV news guy, Dan Harris, and revolves around the author's experiences in mindfulness meditation. 10% Happier is awesomely egotistical and blatantly disingenuous. But it also includes some excellent bits — e.g., the figurative phrase:

"... nostalgia for the present ..."

The words appear in Chapter 9, with fuller context:

... I could actually feel this happening with me. I noticed myself cultivating a sort of nostalgia for the present, developing the reflex to squelch pointless self-talk and simply notice whatever was going on around me: a blast of hot halitosis from a subway vent as I walked to work, the carpet of suburban lights seen from a landing airplane, rippling water reflecting sine waves of light onto the side of a boat while I was shooting a story in Virginia Beach. In moments where I was temporarily able to suspend my monkey mind and simply experience whatever was going on, I got just the smallest taste of the happiness I'd achieved while on retreat. ..."

Yep, that density of first-person pronouns is quite typical. 10% Happier is, however, a blitzy-fast read, with plenty of confessional bits alongside shameless self-promotion. The advice on how to meditate is useful. Anecdotes from interviews with famous folks in the self-awareness sphere — Eckhart Tolle, the Dalai Lama, Mark Epstein, Joseph Goldstein, ... — are often entertaining, though Harris doesn't seem conscious of how much they're using him and vice versa. (He is also somewhat harsh toward Tara Brach; perhaps that implicitly speaks well of her?)

And maybe, at least for some, a utilitarian rationale for mindfulness is persuasive? As Harris says, it's "... being nice for selfish reasons ...", and he has found it helpful for getting ahead in his career, marriage, etc.

Well, ok ...

- Saturday, March 07, 2015 at 06:49:36 (EST)

2015-02-11 - Benjamin Architecture

~9.2 miles @ ~13 min/mi

I liked it better in the dark!" Kristin comments about an oddly-textured white mansion near the end of our Benjamin St tour. The sun is rising earlier every day, and architecture that for the past few months was mercifully clothed in gloom is now over-exposed. We divert at James F. Cooper middle school to run a lap around the dirt track. "Check that one off the list!"

A bank thermometer reads 26. Birds chirp and sunbeams glint blindingly off a distant window. Orange-and-white ribbons are newly nailed to trees along Kerry's forest path, signifying nothing to us. Conversation is quiet and thoughtful, ending with thanks and a salute: "Namaste!" Runkeeper records route.

- Friday, March 06, 2015 at 04:23:00 (EST)

Nothing Else

"I love the red in your hair!"
"My hair isn't red," you say.
Yes, but beneath all the other colors
... there's nothing else!

- Thursday, March 05, 2015 at 07:05:36 (EST)

2015-02-09 - Franklin Hills at Dawn

~8.4 miles @ ~12.7 min/mi

"HUMP" the sign on Powhatan St says, provoking banter as to whose mind is first into the gutter. Kerry, Kristin, and I are trying a new route this morning, further southeast along Old Dominion Dr and via Birch Rd into a beautiful hilly neighborhood that Kerry remembers house-hunting in ~2000. The huge eagle statue we saw months ago still perches atop a mansion. Birds greet the springlike sunrise. Kristin carefully avoids pointing out abandoned food by the sidewalk, lest I pick it up and eat it. She laughs when I mention not fighting the squirrels yesterday for a torn-open bag of chocolate chip cookies in the parking garage. (Hey, that's just professional courtesy among scroungers!) Runkeeper records route.

- Wednesday, March 04, 2015 at 04:18:58 (EST)


Guy Claxton's The Heart of Buddhism, Chapter 6, begins with a classic story quoted form Philip Kapleau's The Three Pillars of Zen:

One day a man of the people said to Zen Master Ikkyu: 'Master, will you please write for me some maxims of the highest wisdom?' Ikkyu immediately took his brush and wrote the word 'Attention.' 'Is that all?' asked the man. "Will you not add something more?' Ikkyu then wrote twice running: 'Attention. Attention.' 'Well,' remarked the man rather irritably, 'I really don't see much depth or subtlety in what you have just written.' Then Ikkyu wrote the same word three times running: 'Attention. Attention. Attention.' Half-angered, the man demanded: 'What does that word "attention" mean anyway?' And Ikkyu answered gently: 'Attention means attention.'

- Tuesday, March 03, 2015 at 04:45:39 (EST)

2015-02-08 - Turkey Run Trek

~10 miles @ ~12.6 min/mi

"Think T'ai Chi!" Kerry says as she tries to talk me across the creek on slippery rocks. I'm scared and teeter for a while, but eventually recover enough courage and balance to make it over to join her. We're on a Sunday afternoon mini-adventure run, following the Potomac Heritage Trail and then branching inland through Langley Oaks Park to explore connections among Ridge Dr, Bright Mountain Rd, and Turkey Run Rd. Kerry scores bonus mana points when she's spotted running by husband, daughter, and more than half a dozen friends. A runner along the river meets us near the Beltway bridge and asks if he can use it to get to Maryland. "Uh, no, that would be incredibly dangerous," we tell him. "You'd be better off swimming!"

As temperatures rise into the upper 40s we roll up sleeves and strip off layers. Back on the roads we admire beautiful houses, discuss the plasticity of memory, then reminisce about last night's desserts. Red ribbons and signs on almost all the homes in Kerry's neighborhood express sympathies and #PRAYFORBMAN on behalf of the little boy who was hit by a car in a sledding accident recently. We add an extra meander to get total distance into double digits. Kerry points out roadside reflectors, carefully arranged with blue on one side of the posts and red on the other. "So we're not the only OCD ones, eh?" Runkeeper records route.

- Monday, March 02, 2015 at 06:00:31 (EST)

No Goal

From Sakyong Mipham's Running with the Mind of Meditation, Chapter 32:

One of the benefits of the outrageous runs is that we run without ambition. Since running is essentially a goal-driven sport, at this phase of running, we can relieve ourselves of that orientation. Part of what allows us to be goalless in this phase is an inherent trust in our fitness and our ability. We do not have to prove ourselves. At this level, it does not actually matter. We have achieved so many goals in the past that now the only goal is no goal. Mentally, the garuda phase means running without hope and fear, not running by constantly being driven. Running in this way helps us to be more present.

(cf. LoseTrack (2002-11-11), Buddhism - A Way of Life and Thought (2008-09-30), Without Effort, Analysis, or Expectation (2010-08-04), Expect Nothing (2012-02-20), Expectations vs. Possibilities (2013-08-13), Aspiration, not Expectation (2014-12-12), Goals and Failure (2014-12-13), No Expectation (2015-01-02), Mantra - Without Effort, Analysis, or Expectation (2015-02-15), ... )

- Sunday, March 01, 2015 at 06:20:26 (EST)

2015-02-06 - Thirteen Degrees

~5.8 miles @ ~12.9 min/mi

"White mascara!" The sign at McLean High School says 13°F, and on Kristin's eyelashes the condensate frost is dramatic enough for me to make her stop under a streetlight to photograph. Today's run is shortened by the need to get back in time for early meetings. We try a new circuit, southeast along Old Dominion Dr until the sidewalk ends. Neighborhood streets take us back via a route previously traveled only in the opposite direction.

Striking architecture at the home at 6522 Old Chesterbrook catches our eyes; we make a note to revisit it during daylight. I trip and fall near the bridge over Pimmit Run, but thanks to thick gloves and many layers suffer only minimal damage. A slightly bloody left elbow and right knee will have to suffice for today's national "Wear Red Day". Conversation is delightful and philosophic-therapeutic. "It is what it is," is the bottom-line conclusion.

We skip outdoor stretching. Inside the building Kristin comments, "Heat — what a great invention!". In the shower my beardsicles finally melt. Runkeeper records route.

- Saturday, February 28, 2015 at 05:14:36 (EST)


From Pema Chödrön's The Places That Scare You, near the end of Chapter 18 ("Groundlessness"):

Trungpa Rinpoche's translation is "OM, gone, gone, gone beyond, gone completely beyond, awake, so be it." This is a description of a process, a journey, of always stepping out further and further. We could also say, "OM, groundlessness, groundlessness, more groundlessness, even beyond groundlessness, fully awake, so be it!"

No matter where we are on the bodhisattva path, whether we are just beginning or we've practiced for years, we're always stepping further into groundlessness. Enlightenment is not the end of anything. Enlightenment, being completely awake, is just the beginning of fully entering into we know not what.

In other words, "Nothing But Faith in Nothing"" — and that's just the beginning?

(cf. InfiniteSky (2001-10-15), NothingnessShowsThrough (2005-02-06), Coming Back to Your Breath (2011-09-25), Friendship and Meditation (2012-11-06), It is Thou (2014-09-24), Life on the Other Side of Inquiry (2014-10-10), ...)

- Friday, February 27, 2015 at 04:22:59 (EST)

2015-02-04 - Langley Circuit with Kristin

~9 miles @ ~12.4 min/mi

Birds chirp. first singly when a faint glow begins on the eastern horizon, then in duets and choruses as dawn progresses. Kristin and I trot quietly, remembering past runs and sharing the morning. A cyclist pops out from a side path and passes by on the shoulder of Hwy 123, headlight brilliant, and rides along in front of us. "Clear the way, please!" we request, feeling for a moment like lead runners in a big race with an official escort.

We divert for a symbolic lap around Langley High School's lovely new track, to balance out the lap we did Monday at arch-rival McLean HS. "No favoritism!" Kristin avers. Twinges in hips (ITB?) fade as we warm up. The forest path back is peaceful. Clouds ripple like gentle waves across the sky. Runkeeper records route.

- Thursday, February 26, 2015 at 04:42:21 (EST)

Pimmit Run Trail Graffiti

Artwork on Pimmit Run Trail, underneath VA-267 (the Dulles Toll Rd connector highway) as seen on the 2015-02-01 - Architecture Analysis with Mary trek:






- Wednesday, February 25, 2015 at 04:32:06 (EST)

2015-02-02 - Warm Icy Trek

~10 miles @ ~12.5 min/mi

"Let's do the bridge over Route 7," I suggest to Kerry and Kristin, "in case the Hot Yoga class is in session." Alas, when we get there the big picture window is dark. I jump to get a better view and almost slip on the ice. "Now if you fell," Kristin says, "That would definitely have to go in the report!"

Rabbit count = 1 today, a big soggy bunny by Kerry's cut-through at McLean High School. We do one lap around the track there to decorate the GPS map, then proceed down Westmoreland St to the W&OD Trail. Dogs wear flashing lights, and their eyes glow in our headlamps. I stumble but manage not to fall on the sidewalk, giving K&K a surge of adrenaline.

A light drizzle begins to fall midway through the journey. Cyclists are uniformly polite today, and a school bus stops to let us cross Idlywood Rd safely in front of it when we find ourselves mistakenly on a stretch without sidewalks. Birds chirp at us as the day brightens. Temperatures in the mid-30s feel warm compared to last week. Runkeeper records route.

- Tuesday, February 24, 2015 at 05:08:13 (EST)

Living in the Light

All "me, me, me" — Shakti Gawain's Living in the Light: A Guide to Personal and Planetary Transformation (with Laurel King) is boastful and anecdotal, silly and illogical. Does anyone else care how many copies of her books were sold, or why she bought real estate in Hawaii? Is the mystical-ritual invocation of science ("Physicists are now discovering what metaphysicians have claimed for thousands of years: seemingly solid matter is, in reality, made of energy.") any reason to believe magical thinking about money, relationships, or health?

Gawain's thesis is simple: "Trust your intuition". Her prose is purple. Her arguments, which typically boil down to "this happened to a friend of mine", prove nothing. Her advice is likely dangerous and could lead many into bankruptcy, illness, or suffering.

And yet ... and yet ... every few chapters, there's gold. For instance:

... thoughts worth remembering.

(cf. Coming to Our Senses (2009-01-01), Karma (2009-07-15), Core Buddhism (2011-11-17), Softening into Experience (2012-11-12), Clinging Is Optional (2013-08-21), 01 (2013-11-05), Buddha's Brain (2014-07-27), ...)

- Monday, February 23, 2015 at 04:29:38 (EST)

2015-02-01 - Architecture Analysis with Mary

~6 miles @ ~16.5 min/mi

"That's disgusting!" Mary says as we pass a particularly garish mini-mansion. We're enjoying a Sunday morning tour of Pimmit Hills, fitness-building and therapeutic Trail Talk combined with hilarious architectural critiques of newly constructed homes that clash, or more rarely harmonize, with their neighbors.

The temperature hovers at freezing and the sun is only dimly visible. Gray clouds portend snow, sleet, freezing rain, or perhaps none of the above later today. The GPS glitches and adds several tenths of a mile when I pause under the highway to photograph fresh graffiti. Stepping stones on the natural-surface Pimmit Run Trail are tricky but neither of us falls into the water at stream crossings. We could have avoided a road segment if we had been willing to ignore "Private Property" signage along the creek. Mary exceeds her quota of "I'm sorry!" (one per mile) but gets a bonus from a humorous meta-apology for over-apologizing. Runkeeper records route, in a map that looks like a child's drawing of a cow, with the tail our start-finish and the GPS glitch at Mile 5 a horn.

- Sunday, February 22, 2015 at 06:35:20 (EST)

Mantra - Without Effort, Analysis, or Expectation

Without Effort,
Or Expectation

... as described in Finding the Quiet by Paul Wilson, in the section "The art of letting go":

... be prepared to allow things to happen at their own pace. Without applying effort. Without trying to analyze in any way. And without expecting any particular outcome. ...

(cf. Without Effort, Analysis, or Expectation (2010-08-04), Expect Nothing (2012-02-20), Expectations vs. Possibilities (2013-08-13), Aspiration, not Expectation (2014-12-12), No Expectation (2-15-01-02), ...)

- Saturday, February 21, 2015 at 19:43:10 (EST)

2015-01-30 - Pimmit Hills Ice

~10 miles @ ~12.3 min/mi

"This is why we run!" Kristin says, as wind-chimes ring, sunlight turns clouds orange and treetops yellow-green, dogs bark, hamstrings twinge, and icy sidewalks send us down the middle of neighborhood streets. "All the senses!" We meander through Pimmit Hills, share sad news of a neighborhood 6-year-old in the hospital after a tragic sledding accident, and cheer for the Langley High School basketball team's recent winning streak.

"Are you actually going to eat that?" Kerry and Kristin ask in mock-horror, when I pick up a silver packet from the pavement. "Hmmmm ... it feels like a granola bar," I say, "and it seems like it's still sealed." (And yes, it turns out later that is what it is — and it tastes great!) Kerry branches off at 6+ miles, and "a couple more" for Kristin and me turns into just over 10 total. Runkeeper records route, with a trackfile map that looks like a child's drawing of a doggie or a horsie.

- Friday, February 20, 2015 at 05:52:53 (EST)

Equanimity and Magnanimity

From Guy Claxton's The Heart of Buddhism, Chapter 1, the section "Why now?" discusses two themes that Buddhism addresses that, perhaps, make it particularly relevant to modern times. Those themes are:

And these two themes lead, a few pages later, to Claxton's summary of the entire enterprise:

... We know that our own perspective alters depending on whether we are in a good mood or a bad one. A problem that had seemed insurmountable becomes much more manageable after a heart-to-heart with a friend, or a good night's sleep. When we are 'on good form' the fact that it is raining on the day of the picnic can seem funny, and an opportunity to do something silly like go anyway and get wet, or to sit on the living-room floor eating with your fingers. When we are 'off-colour' the whole thing is a disaster, and the rest of the day is spent sulking or picking a fight with the children. All that Buddhism is asking of us, as the price of admission, is an openness to the possibility that we can acquire the knack of being on good form more powerfully, and more of the time, and that there are other people from whom we may have something to learn. We do not have to accept these people as authorities because somebody tells us to. All we have to do is to be on the look-out for people who seem to us to have mastered the art of living more comprehensively than we have ourselves. The odds seem to me to be overwhelmingly in favour of the existence of such people. (Of course there are also charlatans, and we have also to trust our intuition in steering clear of those candidate 'gurus' who do not feel right. We shall have more to say about 'shopping' in the last chapter.)

(cf. On Good Form, ...)

- Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 05:27:08 (EST)

2015-01-25 - Montgomery Village Walkabout with Meredith

~8.7 miles @ ~20 min/mi

"Four deer!" Meredith spies them in the brush and points them out late in our ramble. It's the same number of does as formed each herd this morning. A standard family size?

It has been far too long since Meredith and I chatted, so today we trek around her extended neighborhood, enjoying the scenery on the south and east sides of Green Farm Park. We try to find our way back, without success, among the cul-de-sacs of mini-mansions to the north and west. Advice from passing joggers and dog-walkers is to no avail.

Our route takes us near a great blue heron perched by a creek, under the flight path of small aircraft taking off and landing, and past a home destroyed last month in a tragic plane crash. Conversation is wide-ranging, with topics including the American legal system, navigation, fine phrases from both great and trashy fiction, world history, hacking (in the cross-country horse-riding sense), and modern education. I come away with a host of books to add to my reading list, starting with William Manchester's biography of Winston Churchill. Our meandering route takes us twice as far as planned, a boon for me. Again, and soon! Runkeeper records route.

- Wednesday, February 18, 2015 at 05:21:00 (EST)

2015-01-25 - Bethesda Loop with Marshall and Stephanie

~11.6 miles @ ~12.1 min/mi

Deer Day! A small herd of four does munch the brush by Rock Creek, and a few miles later another four step aside to eye Marshall, Stephanie, and me as we pass by. Trail traffic is thick as folks squeeze in their jogs between winter storms yesterday and tomorrow.

Stephanie mock-obsesses over making her weekly mileage goal, as she ramps up and piles on today's trek after two runs yesterday. We experiment with a 2:2 minute walk:run pattern, good practice for ultra pace. Marshall suggests we call this Low-impact Interval Training ("LIT"). He and Stephanie answer more of my questions and suggest foot treatment tactics to try.

At mile 10 I notice I'm missing a glove and dash back to where I think I dropped it, but no joy. My attempt to sneak up on M&S while they pause at a traffic crossing fails when I inadvertently make a noise while trying to hide behind a telephone pole. Note to Self: review tips in Monty Python's "How Not to Be Seen"! Runkeeper records route.

- Wednesday, February 18, 2015 at 05:18:17 (EST)

Front Yard Berries


photo taken 2014-06-30 — possibly wineberries aka rubus phoenicolasius ...

- Tuesday, February 17, 2015 at 06:55:36 (EST)

2015-01-24 - Wheaton Sprint

~9 miles @ ~ 9.3 min/mi

As soon as the morning's cold drizzle stops it's time to test new shoes picked up today from the half-price remainder room at RnJ Rockville. (They're Mizuno "Paradox" men's size 12.5, and except for some scraping on the top of the left foot feel pretty good.) Push hard to pull down the average pace after climbing the Mormon Temple hill. Puddles decorate sidewalks; a Sligo Creek tributary floods over usually-dry stepping-stones. Cars blast down University Blvd and ravens flock overhead. Brief pauses at major road crossings slow progress only minimally. The left hip and hamstring twinge. The sun peeks out as the Kensington-Wheaton-Sligo circuit closes. Runkeeper records route.

- Monday, February 16, 2015 at 05:14:38 (EST)

Skylike Mind

From Sakyong Mipham's Running with the Mind of Meditation, Chapter 31:

The level of clarity that occurs during meditation is not simply the result of physical activity. Rather, clarity is what the mind is, like the sky. Stress and agitation are like clouds. If we don't see the sky very often and it suddenly breaks through the clouds, its clarity may feel like an anomaly, but we know it is the sky. Just so, when the practice of meditation lets the natural skylike mind break through the clouds of discursive thought and worry, what we are seeing is the mind's innate clarity, awareness, and joy.

- Sunday, February 15, 2015 at 07:01:46 (EST)

2014-01-23 - Georgetown Pike Ripples

~8 miles @ ~12.3 min/mi

Today's topic is renormalization: "A year ago, could you have imagined saying 'I have an early morning meeting — we have to cut this run short, to 7 miles.' — and then overshooting to 8?" Likewise we note the evolution of revised standards for running in rough weather, over new routes, in darkness, etc.

So Kerry and Kristin and I muse, as we abridge our trek. I've forgotten my flashlight and Kristin's batteries need changing, but Kerry's headlamp is bright enough for three. Trail talk includes reminisces about throwing up after hard exercise in high school or freshman college gym classes. And there are delicate observations re what groups of solely boys (or girls) sometimes chat about when rambling along the road. (Say no more!)

We admire the dawn, review last weekend and upcoming family plans, and then sprint back in time, barely, for early work appointments. Birds chirp at us as the sun rises. Runkeeper records route.

- Saturday, February 14, 2015 at 07:33:10 (EST)


Pema Chödrön's The Places That Scare You, in Chapter 9 discusses Tonglen, "exchanging oneself for others" — taking in the pain of someone else and sending out happiness. In the middle of the somewhat-mystical discussion:

Doing tonglen for another person ventilates our very limited personal reference point, the closed-mindedness that is the source of so much pain. To train in releasing our tight hold on self and to care for others is what connects us with the soft spot of bodhichitta. That's why we do tonglen. We do the practice whenever there is suffering—either ours or others'. After a while it becomes impossible to know whether we are practicing for our own benefit or for the benefit of others. These distinctions begin to break down.

Maybe it's the "1" of 0-1, the "heartfulness" in mindfulness, the "softening" that grows from being with things just as they are right now ...

- Friday, February 13, 2015 at 04:31:26 (EST)

2014-01-21 - WOD Hot Yoga

~10 miles @ ~12.5 min/mi

The Bikram yoga studio is especially hot today, or so it seems from our viewpoint on the W&OD Trail bridge above Route 7. "Don't say any more in the report!" Kristin suggests. Further observations are therefore off-the-record.

The same angry cyclist blasts past us in the darkness as did a few weeks ago, but today he refrains from cursing and merely suggests rudely that we wear taillights for his convenience. Perhaps he will slow down in a few years? Other bikers go by more calmly and return our "Good morning" greetings.

Threatened snow and freezing rain fails to materialize. Three big deer twist their necks to eye us at McLean High School. We exchange stories of our families, reminisce about learning to read and write, comment on classic movies, and set a good example for the elementary school children by waiting for the crossing guard to stop traffic. Icy patches are few. Geese honk, crows caw, and a mystery bird calls out to us from the brush. It's a beautiful morning! Runkeeper records route.

- Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 05:32:08 (EST)

Tysons Metro Art


... on the side of the new Silver Line aboveground train station at Tysons Corner (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority) ...

- Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 04:19:34 (EST)

2015-01-19 - Mormon Temple Meet-up

~6 miles @ ~10.8 min/mi

Slurp down a bowl of über-salty ramen, then hit the road to sweat it out and enjoy a late afternoon meet-up with Marshall Porterfield, Stephanie Fonda, and Amy Couch. Interrogate M re his 100-miler training tactics (build up to 70+ mile weeks, strengthen the Core, run long two days back-to-back a fortnight before the Big Show, then rest those legs!) while A&S catch up on "girl talk". Enjoy a couple of dashes up the Mormon Temple Hill, then loop back via a little stream valley. Shade eyes against a dazzling-bright setting sun to spy high jet contrails arrowing westward. Sniff hickory smoke near the old stone church. Runkeeper records route.

- Tuesday, February 10, 2015 at 05:18:33 (EST)

2015-01-19 - Bolger Center

~7 miles @ ~10.9 min/mi

The W. F. Bolger Center for Leadership Development — a fancy U.S. Postal Service conference/training facility — has a jogging path around its grounds. Emaad Burki, training for the Bighorn ultra, leads us to it from his home, past Sugar Ray Leonard's former mansion and other neat houses. Ken Swab is coughing and Barry Smith is recovering from Disney races a week ago. Manly banter continues post-run in Emaad's basement-cave where he shares ale that he brewed himself. Runkeeper records route.

- Tuesday, February 10, 2015 at 05:16:31 (EST)

Neverending Story

Echoes of echoes, of echoes: The Neverending Story by Michael Ende is a fantasy novel, published in 1979. But reading it now for the first time, every chapter brings to mind another author. Themes or devices appear from J. R. R. Tolkien and Roger Zelazny, E. Nesbit and Salman Rushdie. Miguel Cervantes and Jorge Luis Borges, and diverse others. There's a constant basso continuo of Lewis Carroll. The plot doesn't feel derivative, as it twists and turns, but it hardly ever startles. "Clever" may be the best summary. Allusions abound to philosophical and literary concepts. Ende offers considerable fuel for intellectual musing, especially on computer-science themes such as recursion and abstraction. But characterization is thin and language is flat, at least in the 1983 English translation by Ralph Manheim. The poems don't scan and the prose rarely sings.

Most attractive: the centrality of nothing. In Chapter VI ("The Three Magic Gates"), for instance, to overcome the final barrier a hero is told, "But if someone succeeds in forgetting all purpose, in wanting nothing at all—to him the gate will open of its own accord." So Zen.

- Monday, February 09, 2015 at 04:36:12 (EST)

On Good Form

Guy Claxton's The Heart of Buddhism in Chapter 1 (section "The fruits") offers an awesome and inspirational image of an ideal human state (independent of religion or philosophy or practice) that epitomizes awareness:

Perhaps the best answer to the question, 'Why Buddhism?' is to point to its fruits — the qualities that naturally arise in someone who pursues the Buddhist path. There is a sense that the problems of life are dealt with more smoothly than before. One is less thrown by unforeseen or unwanted events. One takes things in one's stride more easily. As the advertisement says, one is less inclined to make a drama out of a crisis. Somehow one's peace of mind is more stable, so that, although things may be difficult from time to time, one does what one can without becoming distressed or confused. Inner strength grows, and one seems to have greater reserves to draw upon At the same time a non-complacent self-acceptance builds up — one sees oneself more clearly, warts and all, but without the degree of debilitating self-criticism that might have been present previously. One develops the capacity to be self-aware without being self-conscious.

People who have been practising meditation for some time are recognizable by their poise, naturalness and spontaneity. They gain a non-defensive cheerfulness, a light touch in their dealings with others. Without making a big song and dance about it, they develop a gentle kindliness which is perceptive but not intrusive or sentimental. They are available without a need to 'mother' people. Yet this increased generosity of spirit is down to earth, it is unsanctimonious and certainly non-evangelical.

Also people become more clear in their thinking and their responding. The 'right' thing to do somehow emerges with greater obviousness. Someone once asked Bobby Fischer, the chess champion, how many moves he considered in his mind when it was his turn to play. He said: 'Just one . . . the right one.' In the same way Buddhist practice seems to flower in a greater expertise in making real-life decisions. We could sum up all these effects perhaps by saying that Buddhism helps people be at their best more of the time. All of us have periods when we are 'on good form', in which these qualities are available to us. But we are also only too aware of the other times, when we are ratty and muddled, mean-spirited and intolerant. Buddhism expands and consolidates our better natures.

Many virtues to ponder in Claxton's description:

His British idiom suggests a perfect summary, and a mantra candidate:

Be On Good Form

(cf. My Religion (2000-11-06), No Method (2010-01-21), Core Buddhism (2011-10-17), Mindfulness for Beginners (2013-07-18), 01 (2013-11-05), 0-1 (2014-08-29), ...)

- Sunday, February 08, 2015 at 06:34:12 (EST)

2015-01-18 - Sligo Creek Shuffle

~10.7 miles @ ~11.4 min/mi

"It's a three-day weekend — it's silly to get angry!" Amy says as we begin our trek to the music of cars honking at each other. We're on dual missions: to drop off my son's mail, and to give Amy some tempo mileage in preparation for a multi-stage ultra-relay in a few months. Our pace is brisk but conversational.

Fog replaces rain and temps are in the low 40s, so no jackets needed this afternoon. Geese feed on the infield at a Wheaton Regional Park ballfield. Traffic lines up to reach the skating rinks and tennis bubbles. Icy patches in shaded spots impose occasional walk breaks along Sligo Creek. Amy logs ~8.9 miles, with faster splits sub-11 min/mi and overall average well under 12. We vary our route slightly on the return journey to make a prettier trackfile. Runkeeper records route.

- Saturday, February 07, 2015 at 08:04:33 (EST)

2015-01-17 - Rock Creek Trails with Barry

~10 miles @ ~12.4 min/mi

"Are they fracking in Rock Creek Park?" I ask Barry Smith when we hear a strange mechanical noise during this morning's trail run. But as we get closer the sound resolves into jackhammers from emergency winter road repairs.

After the third time we go off course I start deliberately taking wrong turns and backtracking, to add some spikiness to the trackfile map. After the third time that Barry slips and almost falls, at mile 6 we take to the road for safety. Temps are in the 20s so recent melts have refrozen into an icy glaze.

We pause at the Ross Dr NW bridge for semi-selfies (Barry turns his back). A pair of ducks paddles in the stream . Barry tells of last week's Disney Marathon (and half-marathon, 10k, and 5k) experiences. Ken, Rebecca, and the rest of the 8am trail group finish far ahead of us. I add half a mile at the end to make a double digit distance. Runkeeper records route.

- Saturday, February 07, 2015 at 08:02:43 (EST)

Awareness Is the Key

From Pema Chödrön's The Places That Scare You, in Chapter 5 ("Warrior Slogans"):

Our patterns are well established, seductive, and comforting. Just wishing for them to be ventilated isn't enough. Those of us who struggle with this know. Awareness is the key. Do we see the stories that we're telling ourselves and question their validity? When we are distracted by a strong emotion, do we remember that it is our path? Can we feel the emotion and breathe it into our hearts for ourselves and everyone else? If we can remember to experiment like this even occasionally, we are training as a warrior. And when we can't practice when distracted but know that we can't, we are still training well. Never underestimate the power of compassionately recognizing what's going on.

- Friday, February 06, 2015 at 04:20:21 (EST)

2015-01-16 - Gluteus Maximus Calorificus

~11 miles @ ~12.9 min/mi

"Gluteus Maximus Calorificus?" We're trying to come up with a polite name to trademark for a line of cold weather runner-warmers designed for use not on hands or feet but in, ahem, another vulnerable body zone. Earlier, while trotting past kids on their way to school, one of us is holding hand on hip to keep an experiment from slipping out of place. The technology is not totally successful yet!

Kristin and I meet Kerry on the McLean forest path before sunrise, where her new headlamp makes our flashlights seem faint. We walk carefully over icy patches and detour around frosty trash cans that block the sidewalks. Saturn glitters within a degree of the waning crescent Moon.

A woman joins us at the Georgetown Pike crosswalk as we wait for the traffic lights to change. She's headed back into her neighborhood, training for the DC Rock & Roll half-marathon in a few months. "Did you all run here together?" she asks. "No," we joke, "we're just a bunch of crazy people who met in the woods this morning." She laughs and says, "We're all crazy to be running at this hour!"

Pinks turn to blues as dawn brightens. The long line of cars stretches almost a mile to get into Langley High School for 7:10am classes. Just as we cross the entrance to the parking lots, Kerry's son and daughter drive past and wave. "Yay, Mom!"

Runkeeper records route.

- Thursday, February 05, 2015 at 05:25:44 (EST)

2015-01-12 - Parking Garage Ramps with Kristin

~5 miles @ ~11.9 min/mi

"Hi, John!" Kristin greets my boss's boss's boss as he gets out of his car and heads in early to work. We're running helical laps, spiraling up and down the ramps in a parking garage by the office.

Freezing rain forecast for this morning is just a chilly drizzle. Car thermometer reads 33°F, which feels warm compared to recent days. But when we begin our attempt to trot along neighborhood streets we only make it to the first corner where a sheet of ice stops progress. "OK," I concede to Dr K, "you were right. Next year I'll be the Sensible One and you can be the Crazy Runner!"

So we push the pace, take no breaks, and decide when we're finished that the GPS probably underestimates by 5-10%. We watch trains cruise through the gloom on the new Metro Silver Line and admire the glitter of water coating tree branches. Between monologues I mention another non-New-Year's-Resolution: to talk less and enjoy more quiet during our runs. "So he says," I say!

Runkeeper records route.

- Thursday, February 05, 2015 at 05:23:06 (EST)

Beyond Hope and Fear

From Sakyong Mipham's Running with the Mind of Meditation, four symbolic phases of running (or any other long-term enterprise?):

A bit silly perhaps, but in Chapter 28 of Mipham's book, "Beyond Hope and Fear", some wisdom about letting go of expectations and avoiding goals:

Throughout life it is inevitable that we will experience both pain and pleasure. Learning how to handle them leads to harmony and happiness. ...

... In both running ad meditation, one needs focus, determination, and a goal. At the same time, that determination and goal can become a disease. We become ambitious and are therefore plagued by hope and fear, which destabilizes our training and practice. Thus the garuda phase is letting go of hope and fear—not as a technique to achieve our goal, but as a genuine recognition that hope and fear stifle our potential and infringe deeply on our mental well-being. They tighten our mind and limit our possibilities. It is just a vicious cycle in which hope is driven by fear, and fear is driven by hope. We cannot allow ourselves to have big dreams because we are plagued by our fears. To break out of this cycle, we must release ourselves from such small-mindedness by relaxing into an even bigger space.

(cf. Without Effort, Analysis, or Expectation (2010-08-04), Expect Nothing (2012-02-20), Expectations vs. Possibilities (2013-08-13), Processes not Goals (2014-02-20), Giving Up Hope (2014-09-01), Aspiration, not Expectation (2014-12-12), ...)

- Wednesday, February 04, 2015 at 04:30:29 (EST)

2015-01-11 Rock Creek with Amy, Gayatri, Stephanie

~8 miles @ ~12.8 min/mi

"Your bindi is off-center!" Amy Couch and Gayatri Datta tell me at mile 7. "Yeah, maybe my Third Eye is askew," I reply. "We already knew that!" Stephanie Fonda comes back instantly.

With a thermometer reading of 11°F we start at dawn, pink clouds glowing against pale blue sky. The Candy Cane City parking lot is empty. A coyote emerges from the brush and trots down Rock Creek Trail. The downstream trek is lonely, but on the way back we greet big packs of training group runners. Small birds peck for breakfast in the snow by Beach Dr.

Layers and caps and mittens keep us mostly warm but, "My ass is cold!" somebody says. Other voices concur. We're back in time for everyone's diverse family duties-of-the-day. The parking lot now is jam-packed with cars, and temps are rising into the 20's. Frozen water bottles and icicles in hair begin to melt during the ride home.

Runkeeper records route.


- Tuesday, February 03, 2015 at 05:25:46 (EST)

Sunflower Selfie


- Monday, February 02, 2015 at 04:20:08 (EST)

2015-01-10 - Rock Creek with Rebecca

~10.5 miles @ ~10.9 min/mi

It's 22°F when we start on Saturday afternoon and warms to a balmy-feeling 24 by the time we finish. Rebecca Rosenberg and I trot down Beach Drive into DC, as usual going too fast, as usual each blaming (and thanking!) the other for pushing the pace.

My scalp and glute bumps from Wednesday's fall on the ice are semi-healed, but now the old left hamstring is twingy. Rebecca has an ominous ache that we hope doesn't presage plantar fasciitis in the left foot. I forget to bring water or food, and pause to drink at miles 4 and 7 from the tap in the men's room while RR takes a walk break.

Phase-changing handwarmers, a gift from DD Gray, keep fingers toasty during initial miles. Both Rebecca and I suffer from weak gripping strength when chilly. I learn a bit about Raynaud's Phenomenon, which a cousin of hers has experienced. We admire the beautiful semi-frozen Rock Creek, chat about training strategies and upcoming races, compare injuries, step aside for cyclists, and admire cute doggies dragging their owners along. It's such a wonderful day for a run with a friend!

Runkeeper records route.

- Sunday, February 01, 2015 at 07:30:10 (EST)

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)


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.


- 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?






- 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)

For back issues of the ^zhurnal see Volumes v.01 (April-May 1999), v.02 (May-July 1999), v.03 (July-September 1999), v.04 (September-November 1999), v.05 (November 1999 - January 2000), v.06 (January-March 2000), v.07 (March-May 2000), v.08 (May-June 2000), v.09 (June-July 2000), v.10 (August-October 2000), v.11 (October-December 2000), v.12 (December 2000 - February 2001), v.13 (February-April 2001), v.14 (April-June 2001), 0.15 (June-August 2001), 0.16 (August-September 2001), 0.17 (September-November 2001), 0.18 (November-December 2001), 0.19 (December 2001 - February 2002), 0.20 (February-April 2002), 0.21 (April-May 2002), 0.22 (May-July 2002), 0.23 (July-September 2002), 0.24 (September-October 2002), 0.25 (October-November 2002), 0.26 (November 2002 - January 2003), 0.27 (January-February 2003), 0.28 (February-April 2003), 0.29 (April-June 2003), 0.30 (June-July 2003), 0.31 (July-September 2003), 0.32 (September-October 2003), 0.33 (October-November 2003), 0.34 (November 2003 - January 2004), 0.35 (January-February 2004), 0.36 (February-March 2004), 0.37 (March-April 2004), 0.38 (April-June 2004), 0.39 (June-July 2004), 0.40 (July-August 2004), 0.41 (August-September 2004), 0.42 (September-November 2004), 0.43 (November-December 2004), 0.44 (December 2004 - February 2005), 0.45 (February-March 2005), 0.46 (March-May 2005), 0.47 (May-June 2005), 0.48 (June-August 2005), 0.49 (August-September 2005), 0.50 (September-November 2005), 0.51 (November 2005 - January 2006), 0.52 (January-February 2006), 0.53 (February-April 2006), 0.54 (April-June 2006), 0.55 (June-July 2006), 0.56 (July-September 2006), 0.57 (September-November 2006), 0.58 (November-December 2006), 0.59 (December 2006 - February 2007), 0.60 (February-May 2007), 0.61 (April-May 2007), 0.62 (May-July 2007), 0.63 (July-September 2007), 0.64 (September-November 2007), 0.65 (November 2007 - January 2008), 0.66 (January-March 2008), 0.67 (March-April 2008), 0.68 (April-June 2008), 0.69 (July-August 2008), 0.70 (August-September 2008), 0.71 (September-October 2008), 0.72 (October-November 2008), 0.73 (November 2008 - January 2009), 0.74 (January-February 2009), 0.75 (February-April 2009), 0.76 (April-June 2009), 0.77 (June-August 2009), 0.78 (August-September 2009), 0.79 (September-November 2009), 0.80 (November-December 2009), 0.81 (December 2009 - February 2010), 0.82 (February-April 2010), 0.83 (April-May 2010), 0.84 (May-July 2010), 0.85 (July-September 2010), 0.86 (September-October 2010), 0.87 (October-December 2010), 0.88 (December 2010 - February 2011), 0.89 (February-April 2011), 0.90 (April-June 2011), 0.91 (June-August 2011), 0.92 (August-October 2011), 0.93 (October-December 2011), 0.94 (December 2011-January 2012), 0.95 (January-March 2012), 0.96 (March-April 2012), 0.97 (April-June 2012), 0.98 (June-September 2012), 0.99 (September-November 2012), 0.9901 (November-December 2012), 0.9902 (December 2012-February 2013), 0.9903 (February-March 2013), 0.9904 (March-May 2013), 0.9905 (May-July 2013), 0.9906 (July-September 2013), 0.9907 (September-October 2013), 0.9908 (October-December 2013), 0.9909 (December 2013-February 2014), 0.9910 (February-May 2014), 0.9911 (May-July 2014), 0.9912 (July-August 2014), 0.9913 (August-October 2014), 0.9914 (November 2014-January 2015), 0.9915 (January-April 2015), 0.9916 (April-July 2015), 0.9917 (July-September 2015), 0.9918 (September-November 2015), 0.9919 (November 2015-January 2016), 0.9920 (January-April 2016), 0.9921 (April-June 2016), ... Current Volume. Send comments and suggestions to z (at) his.com. Thank you! (Copyright © 1999-2015 by Mark Zimmermann.)