Tuesday, December 31, 2013

the year that was...something

quietly wild. quīld.

"may your new year be filled with quiet moments in wild places."

~ meghan hicks


2013 was a year of incredible stress.

totally first-world, self-indulgent, self-inflicted stress, but hey, we're americans ~ that's what we do.

with that in mind, we'll set aside further discussion of our eye-rolling "problems," and focus on the good stuff, of which there was plenty.

in no particular order...

there are two new lives in our midst. with the addition of a pair of cats from the seattle animal shelter, suddenly the four-legged creatures outnumber the people at our house. this is extra-splendid, since we didn't have quite enough chaos in our lives already. 

henceforth the black and white cat will be known as "daisy." the tortoiseshell (calico?) cat is "miel." ftr, miel is french for "honey." i now speak to the cat in french to orient my brain to the french name. "bon jour, miel" i say in the morning. "bon soir, miel" i say in the evening. that pretty well exhausts my french-cat translations for the day, but it gets the job done.

unimportant note: i had no say in naming the cats. i would've gone with "jade" and "zinfandel." or "cat 1" and "cat 2." but as t.s. eliot said, all cats have three names ~ a regular name, a fancy name, and a name only the cat knows.

i'm meditating on that third name, for both of them. one day, i'll figure it out...


we moved into a new house in november. it's still a stress mess.


i ran some in 2013. most of my miles were covered in washington state, which is one of the finest places to run, anywhere on the planet. if i had to pick one place to run the rest of my life, it'd be here. that said, the planet is full of eye-popping places, some of which i had the great good fortune to amble. or gambol, as the case may be:

honolulu and laie, hawaii
boulder and centennial, colorado
san francisco and sonoma, california
vancouver, BC
côte d'azur, france

if i do half as well next year, destination running-wise, it'll be a very good year indeed.

2014 goals: 
trail marathon
trail 50k
one organized event per month
1,500 total miles

not sure how that last one will be possible. whatever.


there were old jobs lost and new jobs found in 2013. the missus and i were tossed about in the surf, employment-wise, but somehow landed on our feet. sand in our shorts and seaweed in our hair, but still...standing. from a career (and paying the bills) standpoint, we would like very much to remain fully upright in the coming months. just saying.
"how much is one day worth?"
"i don't know, how many do you have left?"

(not sure when i'm gonna work yoga back into my routine. but i could really use it.)

i love me some hgtv shows, but their regular use of the term "man cave" is an abomination that should be stricken from the human record. a few pithy words on this subject from a local trail runner of some renown:

"A cave is a place you retreat to, a place where you curl up and die. Being a Man is something you do 'out there,' in the real world, exposed, vulnerable, and alone, where others can see you, judge you, mock you, discourage you, and even impede your progress. If you have to be in a warm, secure, protected place to do your man things, then you're not doing it right."

~ ultrapedestrian ras

i mentioned the idea of a 50k running event to a friend, and she wanted to know if i'm crazy. in fact, i believe her exact words were, "are you crazy?"

i may be crazy. i mean, it's entirely possible. but i'm getting to the point in life where a little crazy seems entirely called-for.

besides, once you've done what once seemed crazy, it becomes sane, then passé. and you do something different. something more. something crazier. and so on. the corollary to this is, "if you want different results, you have to do things differently."

here's to a different 2014. for everyone.


first thought, 2014

"You're not puking and nothing's broken, so get going."

vivian mcqueeney

Sunday, December 22, 2013

claire, epilogue

"Claire Davis, the 17-year-old who was shot in the head during the Dec. 13 shooting at Arapahoe High School, died Saturday afternoon with her family at her side."

hundreds of AHS students and alumni are changing their profile photos on facebook.

"rest in peace," the badge says, because that's what people say when someone has died.

i don't really understand the "rest in peace" concept, and it doesn't seem appropriate anyway. 

if we're going to offer up words of remorse, they should be, "we're sorry, claire. we're sorry we were unable to prevent your needless death and the suffering of your family. please forgive us for failing you so utterly, and for those we will fail today and tomorrow and every single day in the coming new year.

"forgive us for the fact that if we could somehow magically bring you back today, we would do absolutely nothing tomorrow to change the circumstances that took you from your friends and family.

"even if for that there is no excuse, and can be no forgiveness." 

our community is in crisis, but we've lost the ability to do anything about it. we starve our meager mental health services, and we bow to small gods speaking to us from large screens.

and we worship guns. oh, my yes. we love the guns that are killing our children and maiming our future. 300 million guns laying around for absolutely anyone to pick up...and still we are viciously hostile to the slightest suggestion that we make doing so more difficult.


maybe we say, "rest in peace" because that's what people have done since long before we were born, and we find comfort in the ritual. 

maybe, though, we say it because we can't bear the thought of what our loved ones might say if they had one more breath to take and one more message to deliver before continuing on their journey.

something like, "i won't rest ~ and i won't give you a moment's peace ~ until you do something."

we shouldn't have to hear it. if we loved them and wanted their deaths not to be in vain...we'd already be doing it.

Friday, December 20, 2013

1200 and counting

"your fate is intertwined with
cheddar-flavored potato chips."
with a couple weeks to go in december, i passed 1200 miles for 2013.

for me, that's a lot of miles, considering they were running ~ not driving ~ miles.

come to think of it, that's even a lot of driving miles, if they're all in one trip. they go by quicker in a car...but they're a lot more enjoyable on foot. i digress.

by the end of this year i'll have run about 200 miles more than in 2012. (no idea how many i drove, year over year, only that it was too many.)

so, in some circles and by some standards, progress.

today at the Y i chatted briefly with a guy i used to play basketball with. talking about running, he said, "you've totally transformed yourself."

i wasn't sure what to make of that, so i demurred. "a little bit," i said. "a little bit." then i left, because he started changing his clothes, and that wasn't really something i needed to see. 

point of order: you can't "totally transform" yourself "a little bit." i mean, how would that work? 

"you've totally transformed yourself..." 

...is not something you hear every day. as we don't know each other well enough for him to be talking about the inner workings of my soul, i assume he was referring to my appearance.

i may, in fact, look a little different than the last time he saw me. i've had to buy lots of smaller-waisted pants this year, and even some of the older-new pants are now too big around. 

this is a healthy kind of change, so hey, thanks for noticing. still, appearance is transitory and frivolous. if there haven't been more important changes, i've really been doing something wrong. with that in mind...

important changes: i never have more clarity, or more peace of mind, than when i'm running. the farther, the better. the miles don't have to be fast (mine seldom are), they just have to be done, at whatever pace is manageable. 

i can go out any given day and run for an hour or two (sometimes three...rarely four), which is in itself transformative. the capacity to do this is a gift, and one i no longer take for granted.

because there was a time when one part of my brain would say, "time to go run," another part would have a tantrum. "ugh! why?? do we have to? i don't want to!" and so on. now that voice usually just says, "okay," or even, "cool! let's go do this thing!" seriously.

occasionally, though, i still hear, "ugh! why?? it's cold out there. we don't have time...!" this is the voice of the blerch, and i fear it. its continued existence in my psyche is a reminder that large-waisted pants could return to my closet at any time. 

and that it may be possible, after all, to totally transform yourself ~ a little bit.

which is still better than none.

2013 has been a good year, in so many ways that matter (more on that to follow).

running-wise, it's been extraordinary ~ about 1200 different ways.

2013 Events and notes:

(i ran at least one organized event per month, a streak that began in may, 2012.)

·    Bridle Trails Winter Running Festival ~ typically this course is a mud pit (the promotional stickers say, "i survived the mud.") it was cold, though, and the trail was frozen. bonus!

·    Lord Hill Trail Run ~ another cold day (in the winter ~ imagine!) but above freezing. there was mud. and a very steep hill. lord.

·    Lake Sammammish Half Marathon ~ a flat, fast course, on which i ran a PR (1:36-ish). i may have hit peak-time with this one.

·    Squak Mountain Half Marathon ~ toughest half marathon course in my limited experience. lots of elevation. it snowed at the top. that was fun. 

·    Rattler Half Marathon ~ my first race in the methow valley. a tough, gorgeous course. a welcome warm day for a change. no actual rattlesnakes.

·    Soaring Eagle 20-Mile Trail Run ~ my first longer-than-13.1 event. it rained. i laughed.

·    BolderBoulder 10K ~ it was so great to be back in boulder after a many-year hiatus. altitude was a factor, but still...great. 

·    Taylor Mountain Half Marathon ~ not too tough, not too taxing, and...i fell down. not too painful

·    Cougar Mountain Half Marathon ~ i don't remember a thing about this race.

·    Redmond Watershed Half Marathon ~ a nice, summer jaunt through the woods.

·    Lake Chelan Shore-to-Shore Marathon ~ my first marathon. i finished. i finished under 4 hours. oh, yeah, it rained the entire time. still, i'd do it again.

·    Xterra Gunstock Trails Half Marathon ~ awesome. you just can't go wrong with a trail race on oahu. warm, humid, hawaii. perfect. 

·    Grand Ridge Half Marathon ~ a slog. my training for this event was, uh, inadequate. and, it was cold. i dislike being cold. 

·    Redmond Watershed “Reindeer” Half Marathon ~ cold. 17F cold. but sunny, which helped. a little. and...i fell down. jarring, but no lingering effects. nothing wine and naproxen couldn't fix.

Friday, December 13, 2013

another day, another gun

most people with guns are anxious to use them.

and because that's true, not a day goes by that we don't hear about another "senseless" shooting.

"so sad! so senseless! praying for the victims and the families!"

that's about all people can muster up before going back to their TV sets, the digital equivalent of whistling past a very large and rapidly expanding graveyard full of children.

"A student opened fire with a shotgun at Arapahoe High School on Friday, wounding two fellow students before apparently killing himself, Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said. One student was reported in critical condition."

related note: i attended arapahoe high school. as did my brother, and many people who are still among our friends. i am far away from my high school in time and miles, but find myself grieving and angry and helpless.

i find myself wondering if every man, woman, and child in america must personally be shot before they'll say, "we need to do something about all these guns."

our culture is awash in murderous rage, which we seem disinterested in assuaging. combine that with unfettered access to guns and many people die. every day.

what does our refusal to act say to our children? inescapably, it's that they don't matter. that their lives and their futures are worthless next to the right of every nut in america to own and use an arsenal.

more guns, we are told, make everyone safer. we are told this by people who sell guns ~ and lots of ignorant and delusional people believe them. and so there are 300 million guns floating around our communities, causing over 30,000 gun deaths each and every year. 

which is sort of like crashing a jetliner full of 300 people into the ground every three or four days. the fact that we allow this to go on means our domestic terrorists ~ the gun manufacturers and the NRA ~ have won.

this is today's link to the ahs daily announcements web site. it's full of exclamation points and details and daily routine, all of which now feel sad and empty. except for the last line, which haunts me this evening: "Warriors always take care of one another."

i hope that's true. these kids are going to need it to be true...

Sunday, December 01, 2013


what does one say to the mother of a murdered child?

this is not an idle question.

we met one of our new neighbors last weekend. she walked across the street as we were working in the yard. she introduced herself, smiling, and we did the same. we made "welcome to the neighborhood" small talk for a few seconds and then she was crying. trying hard not to, but crying just the same.

in the next few moments we learned her daughter was killed six months ago in a drive-by shooting.

we heard about the case when it happened, before we moved into this new house. we saw the news photos of the beautiful girl who was celebrating her 15th birthday when she was killed. back then, we shook our heads and grimaced, slightly more than usual perhaps, because the girl lived somewhere in our neighborhood.

then we moved on, because we didn't know her or her family, and the shooting was in some other neighborhood, and this kind of thing happens every day and there's only so much grief and horror to go around from one day to the next.

then we moved and we met a mom across the street from us, and everything changed.

"can i show you her picture?" she asked, pulling out her phone.

of course.

"this is her. can you see how warm and caring she was? i think it shows there."

you could see it, in fact. it was in her eyes. "she's beautiful," i said, present-tense.

in loving detail she told us about her daughter, where she went to school, that she was a 4.0 student and an athlete and loved to babysit and so on. the kind of things any proud parent would tell a new acquaintance, except for the tears because her child is gone.

we looked her in the eye and spoke quietly and nodded and smiled at the couple of warm stories she shared with us. she smiled occasionally, briefly, and then the dark, haunted look would return, and she'd look away.

with a few more meandering words between us, our neighbor went back across the street and we went back to our yard work. the disquiet has lingered ever since.

except for a couple years' difference in age, the parallels between our daughter and her daughter are obvious. here at home in the past week there have been more hugs, and more patience. everything has changed.

it's doubtful we'll need another reminder that the wolf is always at the door. it's unlikely we'll ever say, "it doesn't happen here. it can't happen to us."

it does. it can.

the world is stupid-crazy full of examples.

and the truth is right across the street.