Sunday, June 25, 2017

Why Shouldn't You Go Hiking with a Strained Oblique?

I'll give you one reason.

I’d been itching to get out and climb Mt. Hachibuse for weeks. Then suddenly the day came. The sun was rising bright in the sparkling sky; immediate responsibilities, both parental and professional, were nil; the car keys were just sitting there.

My wife yelled in my general direction as I was pulling out of the driveway; something about one of the kids and a piano lesson. “One of my kids takes piano lessons?” I mused as I sped along Route 63, winding along the foot of the mountain range that culminates in this curious, non-descript peak I was rushing toward.

Honestly, I don’t know why I wanted to climb Hachibuse-yama. Of all the countless mountains around here it is nowhere near the highest. It is nothing you could call dramatic. There’s a road that takes you within a half mile of the top. Hachibuse means ‘prostrating bowl’ for Pete’s sake.

If I'm careful what could possibly go wrong?
If you decide to hike the short trail (built for those of us with a wife who needs the car later) you'll find it meanders through the woods until, halfway up the mountain, it spits you out onto the road. As if suddenly aware that it wasn’t supposed to be playing in the street, the trail quickly dips back into the woods. Then as if it were one of my kids it forgets it isn’t supposed to be playing in the street and runs out onto the pavement once again. At this point the trail turns into a squirrel in a panic, running into and out of and into and out of traffic’s way until it finally dies like road kill at the blacktop’s edge.

From there it’s a twenty-minute walk along the rocky shoulder, up to the parking lot where the smart people start walking.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Rush of a Run Through the Woods

Chasing Down Time

The first thing I realized, chugging up through the woods, was that I miss this feeling. I miss the exertion, the adrenalin. The rush that only comes when the physical meets the emotional in a drawn-out moment that we wish could last forever. When gasping breath and pounding heart are forced to share one’s attention with the love of something as simple and elemental as the forested side of a mountain.

It seems frivolous from a distance, this urge to go run up a trail. And from a distance the feeling is easy to forget. Life gets in the way, in the form of kids and play, of work and self-ascribed responsibilities, and over time the pursuits that give us pleasure get pushed to the side.

We realize it. We mean to lace up those old sneakers and go recapture that feeling. I’ll get out this weekend. Or the week after that. When things slow down enough to justify the frivolity of a run up a mountain.

Steadily, the months pass. Then so do the years, if we let them.

And I saw that I was letting them, even as I said I would not.

Today I went out and put a stop to the passing. Not the passing of time, but the passing of my time. The passing of the chances we all have to draw out those feelings.

I realized a few other things today too, out there where I heard only the songs of unseen birds, the playful hiss of a river tumbling over itself and the labor of two lungs trying to keep up with this forty-something running in denial of his age.

I realized that sometimes two very different paths will lead you to the same place.

I realized that, though some may tell you to keep your eyes on the prize you are after, there are times when the best thing to do is stop and look around. Sometimes the best way to go is sideways.

And I realized – or perhaps I knew but forgot – that no matter what the trail up ahead looks like, it’s bound to change soon enough. The path twists and rises and dips and rises again. One moment you’re flying over rocks and roots, and the next you are slipping through the mud you couldn’t see. Just when you think you’ve run out of breath the terrain changes and you feel you can keep on going. Although eventually, every trail run ends.

And I realized that it’s okay if I don’t make it to the top of the mountain today. Because I’ve already gotten what I came here for. That rush, that clash of feeling and emotion. It’s back. And so am I.

I’ll make it to the top of that mountain, I know. Tomorrow, maybe. Next week, or the week after that. And I’ll find, I’m sure, some satisfaction in knowing that what once came quickly but was suddenly elusive I chased down to make mine once more.

And that drawn-out moment will come once again.

But no matter how far I’ve gone, no matter how high I’ve climbed, that moment that comes will also end.

And there will be nothing left to do but go home and do laundry.

Monday, April 13, 2015


Jogging in the rain

Cherry blossom petals fall

And I slip on them.

(Based on a true story.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Carrying a Tune

Last week, among the many mentions of and references to John Lennon on the 30th anniversary of his death, I spotted an interesting thread on facebook. Okay, using 'interesting' and 'facebook' in the same sentence shows a lack of qualitative judiciousness, so let me say instead that it was simply amusing. Of course, the thread became instantaneously more amusing once I jumped in. (I believe, by believing this, that this puts me in the self-aggrandizing facebooking majority.)

So in this thread on or around John Lennon's tragic anniversary someone mentioned the song 'You Won't See Me,' which was written by Paul. I don't recall the reason or significance of the song with regards to the original conversation, I only remember how the mention of the song was meaningful to me. (This because I am in the self-absorbed facebooking majority.)

My brain, like God and Google, works in mysterious ways. The connections that form up there in my spongy gray matter fall well within the cross-over realm of miracles and algorithms – or, in non-believer math hater terms, coincidental, self-deluding hooey. Usually these associations arise in the context of riding my bicycle, when my mind is clear of needy kids and writer's block and basic traffic safety rules. And, usually, it involves a song I haven't heard in years.