Sunday, April 17, 2016

A bad run, and a good run

I am coming off a respiratory infection. After boxes of tissues, and a strange feeling in my chest, I think I may be getting over a mild case of viral pneumonia. Confirmed by my run today.

I started out good. I parked at a wildlife management area just west of the town of Sturgeon Lake, and headed east on County Road 46, the paved road I had just driven on. There was very little traffic, except, as I would find out later, my son and his friend. They had camped out on the Kettle River, fishing into the night. I don't remember seeing Keith's truck, but I am glad they had a great fishing adventure. 

I ran my first mile in 10:30. Pretty good, but it was mostly downhill. I realized I would have to make up the altitude later. 

My plan was to run that county road to a gravel road that would take me to an ATV trail that would take me to an old railroad trestle over the Kettle River. Then over that, another mile or so, back to the county road. 7 miles or so. But, after mile 2, I realized I was struggling. I could no longer run more than a quarter mile or so without feeling short of breath. My legs were willing but my lungs were weak.

I found the trail and ran/walked to the river. It was there I had to confront another demon: fear of heights. I knew this run would lead me onto an old railroad trestle. I just didn't realize I would be at treetop height before I was actually over the river. Crazy fear I know, after all this bridge was built for trains, and now all terrain vehicles weighing much more than me cross it every day. But still. I did not make it across the bridge.

This is the lovely view I had from the bridge. I'm sure it would have been even better had I made it across the bridge. 

The rest of the run, if you could call it that, was hard. I ended up going back along the trail to a road that would take me back to my car. I tried to run when I could, but my snot loaded lungs would have no more. When I hit 5 miles I called it quits on Map My Run, even though it was about a half mile to the car. I gladly opened my Bell's Two Hearted Ale, about an hour and five minutes after I started. A measly five miles. With the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon in two months. Oh well.

I was glad I ventured out to new territory for my run. And next time, I am going to cross that bridge.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Journey

This poem, by Mary Oliver, says it all.

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voice behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life that you could save.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The road to 50

I turned 49 on Sunday. That means I'm counting down 361 days to a milestone age. And suddenly I'm thinking about where my life is, where I want it to be, etc. and, how I can make this one wild and precious life the best it can be. Not that I didn't think about it before, but face it: I will, for all practical purposes, have two kids in college next year (Nina will be full time Post Secondary Enrollment Opportunity, spending her senior year of high school at Lake Superior College; Vinny will be at University of Minnesota-Duluth). It's a time of letting them fly, but also a time to discover myself. 

A lot of good things have happened over the last few years. I've started practicing yoga, which has had great mental and physical benefits. I've started seriously running and completed two half marathons. I have played a few musical gigs and even developed a group of friends who come out to see me play. In short, I have become much more comfortable in my own skin. 

Still, there are things I want to be better at. Parts of myself that still scare me! I think one of the best ways of working these things out is by writing. I used to blog a lot, and I think the time has come once more. There is so much I have discovered that I want to share.

I don't have a plan for this. I don't want to commit myself to a post a day, because one day I'll break down and not post, and, seeing I have broken the commitment I'll say "What's the use?" And not post for months. So, let me just say, I want to share, regularly, stuff that makes me stand in awe. Stuff that makes me think. There's a lot of beauty that happens every single day, if we allow ourselves to see it.

So today I had some time between work and yoga class. I am fortunate to be able to take a yoga class in the small town/rural area where I live. I started with a class offered through Community Education, then a few classes with a circle of friends, and now I am taking advantage of the class at Anytime Fitness. Getting back to today, the sun was out, weather warm enough to go for a short hike along the Kettle River. The photo above is at Robinson Park, a former sandstone quarry from the 1900's, from which the town of Sandstone gets its name. The trees have grown up among the piles of rock, but the Kettle River flows on.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Something special about an eight mile run Big Goal for this year is to run a marathon. Yes. The part of me that said "a half marathon is all I want to ever run" is officially silenced. I have chosen the WhistleStop Marathon, October 15, from Iron River to Ashland, Wisconsin, along a beautiful old railroad grade. All downhill. Perfect!

I am also running the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon in Duluth June 18th. Last year I was kind of disappointed in how I ran it, although I beat my previous half marathon time by one minute. But, I was not adequately prepared. I forgot to take an energy gel before the race, and there were none available during the race. And, I wore some stupid thin socks that resulted in ugly blisters. Oh well, a learning experience.

This year, I plan to be over prepared for the half marathon. If I am running 8 miles in February, I should be running at least 15 once a week by June 18. So, the half will be just another little training run! 

Anyway, I have noticed what happens when distance is increased. Anything up to 5 miles seems like small stuff these days. 6 miles seems to be the threshold. That is when your body starts asking "WTF???" And, starts reluctantly burning fat. Which is part of my plan. 

Today I had a goal of eight miles. And I did it in personal record time. I had to adjust my course, running on ice covered gravel roads was out of the question. So I had The Hermit drop me off at the nearest paved road. The plan was to run down to the end of the road and back. Eight miles. The first mile and a half was all downhill, with the wind at my back. I was fully aware that this would be a difficult last mile.

I felt strong, although I did ask myself more than once "Why am I doing this?" My phone, and Map My Run froze, so I didn't get any split times past 6.5 miles. Which was probably good. That last mile, uphill and against the 28 degree wind, was a challenge.

Now, six hours later, I am basking in a glow. Yes, I am moving slowly, and I will feel it in my legs tomorrow, but here it is: The feeling you get after running eight miles is a high! So much better than if I had not run eight miles, or only three. Like a good yoga session, only more intense. Running is meditation for me, and in eight miles I get to feel everything. And let it go. 

I have many longer runs ahead of me this year. Anything after eight is tough. But, doing eight in February is a good start!

Sunday, January 03, 2016

My intentions for 2016

I sat down with the intention of writing intentions for 2016, with no single intention in mind. These statements came to me clearly and unexpectedly.

-GROW in art and music. Define my musical style. Define myself as an artist and musician with a message.

-CELEBRATE the abilities of my physical body, and work towards ever improving fitness. Cross the finish line of the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon (and maybe another?) feeling GOOD! 

-MOVE deeper into self understanding through yoga, meditation, and writing.

-USE my gifts to help realize my vision of a human society aware of its connectedness with ALL. (I had a hard time phrasing this one; what I am trying to say is I believe there is no duality between human and nonhuman, living and inanimate, alive at this moment and alive in some past time; we are all the same infinite energy.)

HONOR my time as precious and fleeting.

GIVE THANKS in every moment.

Namaste and may you find happiness in 2016.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Why this blogger likes Facebook

I was a blogger when it was cool. From about 2005-2009, blogging had hit its stride, and I happened to start this blog in 2005. I thought it was the greatest thing. I shared details of my everyday life, and occasionally wrote in depth essays. I made more than a few friends from around the world. I was part of a book group, "Whorled Leaves", that led to some great discussions. I hosted "I and the Bird", an aggregation of birding blog posts, more than once. 

Then, Facebook happened. I joined in 2009, after some initial misgivings. I joined primarily to keep in touch with news from my high school class. By the way, I am not very close with my high school class of 650 people. I did not know more than half of them, and I have never been to a reunion of the Cooper Class of '85.

I found a lot of my blogging friends on Facebook. I also found family members, ones I was not close enough with to keep in touch with by phone (dinosaur) or email (antique). I started sharing more of the things I would have shared on this blog, on Facebook. I started blogging less. We moved the PC back to the cabin, which meant in order to blog, I had to go out there, which was not worth it. I got an iPad in 2011. It took Blogger a while to catch up with mobile devices. All of which contributed to the near demise, but not death, of this blog. I noticed a lot of my blogging friends had gone a similar route. 

Blogging, meanwhile, somehow became a commercial enterprise.

Now, for my defense of Facebook.

1. I have many more LOCAL friends because of Facebook. We may have met up by chance, face to face, but the majority of my local friends are ones with whom the initial contact was via Facebook. I suspect most of these good friends have a Myers-Briggs personality type that begins with "I". We have a hard time initiating conversation at face to face events, but on Facebook the awkward factor is way less. Most of the dear friends who come to see me when I play at the Chickadee are friends whom I've met via FB. 

2. I have blogging friends from California to Alberta to Nunavut to Vermont to Florida to Alabama to Kansas (I'm sure I missed a few locations), who I now keep up with via Facebook. I met up with one of them at a highway exit in Georgia this spring (yes you, Jayne! Finally finished off the Chattanooga whiskey, but still loving the long sleeved Georgia T shirt!) Our blogs were all so nature based, so unpretentious, that we connected, and I consider these people REAL friends. I mourned the loss of Jim from Big Bear Lake, California, as if he and I were neighbors.

3. I have connected with family. Facebook is now the official way to announce holiday get togethers. With the exception of a few cantankerous holdouts (Telstad clan, yes you), I now have daily reminders of the people I am related to. And yes, some of them are cooler than I ever imagined. :)

4. I hear big family news first hand. Like the passing, a few days ago, of my first cousin Brad. I had not seen him since my teens, but I recently got in touch with his sister, and his stepmother, through Facebook. My great aunt, his stepmother, is one of my dearest friends on FB, and in real life since our  Florida trip in March. She has shared all of the pain and sorrow with me, and I am grateful she trusts me with that.

5. Related to that, I just heard the great news that another of my first cousins will be moving from South Africa to Maine! I have not seen her since I was about seventeen, but we share so many interests. And I have never been to Maine. Road trip!

So, all in all, Facebook has been good to me. And it has been much better since I started using the "I don't want to see this" button. Shut out a lot of useless memes. :)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Roasted salsa verde

It was a great year for tomatillos in the garden. Above average year for everything, really, but the tomatillos outdid themselves. I planted four plants I bought from the garden center, but a few weeks after planting time I noticed a volunteer tomatillo or two among the cabbages. That's one good/bad thing about tomatillos; onnce you plant them, they will spring up everywhere the next year.

Tomatillos seem to have one purpose in life: salsa verde. This uniquely sweet, tangy salsa goes well with just about any white meat, eggs, or of course, tortilla chips. I used to make salsa verde by cooking the tomatillos in water, then pouring off some of the water, adding the rest of the ingredients, and whirling the whole thing in a blender. This made an acceptable salsa, but I think some of the flavor was compromised by adding water and pouring it off. So this year I decided to try something different: roasting.

Tomatillos are not as squishy as their ripe red tomato cousins, but their cells, like those of all living things, are made up of a high percentage of water. By roasting the tomatillos in the oven, the excess liquid cooks off, and some of the sugars start to caramelize, making for a unique, rich flavor.

I did some searching for a recipe for roasted salsa verde, but all of the recipes I came up with were for small quantities of tomatillos, not the full grocery bags I hauled in from the garden before the first hard freeze. I'm more of an improvisational cook anyway, so what I have here is a "guideline" recipe that can be adjusted for quantity and taste. One exception: for canning, you want to be sure the acidity is high enough, especially if you're doing a boiling water bath. I add one cup of vinegar per four pounds tomatillos.

Roasted salsa verde

Tomatillos, however many you have
Chopped onions, about a 1:4 ratio to the tomatillos
Hot peppers to taste
Garlic, to taste
Salt (use your judgment)
Vinegar (white distilled or apple cider, whatever you have on hand, or lime juice, which tastes pretty good in fresh salsa)
Cilantro, chopped, to taste

First, husk the tomatillos and wash away any dirt. If you have about three times this amount of tomatillos, as I did, I recommend putting some good music on and pouring a glass of something. This will take a while. And your fingers will get sticky.

Cut tomatillos in half; on the bigger ones, cut out the stem. Place on a roasting pan that has been drizzled with olive oil. 

Roast at about 400 degrees, until some liquid is cooked off and the tomatillos start to turn brown in spots. You want some liquid left; shoot for something like this:

Pour into a Dutch oven or stock pot. Add the rest of the ingredients, tasting often and cleansing your palate with a good IPA. for this batch I used some assorted hot peppers that were given to me by a friend; my hot peppers didn't do so well this year. 

Simmer for a while on low- medium heat. I suppose at this point if you want a smoother salsa with no skins you could run it through a food mill. I'm too lazy to do that.

At this point, it's time to can it. You can use either the boiling water or pressure method. Since my old boiling water bath canner sprung a leak, I will pressure can this batch. 15 minutes at 10 lbs, otherwise 40 minutes boiling. Some recipes call for adding a tablespoon of lemon juice per pint for acidity; since I add vinegar earlier this is not necessary.