30 September 2012

birthday party no. 1, 2012

It's my birthday tomorrow, and I am going with the all party, all the time philosophy. Everyone deserves a birthday week, at least, if not a month. 

I planned a hike on Saturday, a little far away. It was a comedy of errors, in a sense - we didn't have a Northwest Forest Pass, the Forest Service office where we meant to buy a NW Forest Pass was closed on Saturdays*, the road to the trail we intended to take was closed and very sternly marked against trespassers, there was a crowd of hunters at the beginning of the backup plan trail ("Should we worry about getting shot?" I asked. "No, we're the only people up here," they said, and indeed: we did not get shot). But it was beautiful and perfect anyway, because everyone along was laid back and cool with the changes.

The world looked different from one highway south of where we usually hike. The familiar mountains were far off in the distance or hidden completely, but new ones rose around us. 

We ate lunch on a rocky outcropping with the heat of the sun on our heads, looking out at wilderness area. The temperature was ideal for hiking: warm enough to be satisfying, cool enough to keep from sweating. We sat next to a little pond while R. took a swim. "It's quite nice, actually!" he called from the middle of the pond. (Mountain lake in late September: you will not catch me even making the attempt. Everything in me revolts at such cold.)

After hiking, we made our way to the prettiest hot springs I know. I went there two years ago with N. and S., when I lived in Gone West, and I've been on a quest to get back ever since. We had to scramble up a dusty slope to get there, but the little natural pools are on a bluff over the river, and they are indeed lovely. There were fewer nude people this time, which meant that we didn't feel awkward in our suits. (If everyone else is naked, it actually does feel odd to have a swimsuit on, like you are ashamed of something.)

We lingered too long in the warm water, with a break for slices of cake and camping cups filled with sparkling juice. 

The light turned golden on the drive west through the mountains, and it was long dark by the time we got home.


* We got a NW Forest Pass at a sporting goods store only a block from the closed Forest Service office, but when we got to the trailhead for the hot springs, we found out that yesterday was fee-free for National Public Lands Day. Yay for public lands and free things! Even if you've already paid. (The pass is good for a year.)

27 September 2012


I haven't been as enamored with fighting class lately. A lot of things have played into that, including the fact that work frequently makes me late, so I'm not in the right mental place when I rush in and try to jump into the middle of the workout. 

I seem not to be able to drink enough to hydrate myself lately, and I feel desperately thirsty in the middle of the workout. (I'm trying to drink more earlier in the day to fix that.)

Now that I am a more experienced student, I often end up working with new people rather than learning from the ones even more experienced than I am. It's good for me, but it means that I can't just blast through the scenarios and get advice. I have to get my wrist wrenched over and over in service of teaching someone else how to disarm me.

One of my instructors has decided that I need to work on my speed and explosiveness, two things that are not exactly the forte of my body. My body prefers moving slowly, even when it could keep going forever. (See also: hiking.) So he pushes me to work harder, which I need, but I am also desperately thirsty at the same time, which is miserable.

The same instructor has us practicing the self-defense scenarios in the air over and over, for multiple minutes at a time. It isn't that this practice isn't useful - I have been able to focus on some things that frequently got left behind - but I also find it sort of tedious.

Tonight in the advanced class, though, we did multiple attacker scenarios in the dark - one person comes at you punching, the next kicking, the next choking, the next headlocking - and as I blasted through them, heart pounding, I remembered why I love this stuff. 

Bring it.

Despite the fact that I still can't fall. 

When I had to be an attacker and actually got thrown to the ground, I still landed every single time on my tailbone. I felt that little electrical shock that you get when you land on your tailbone. It's been two years of fighting class, and I'm still going to end up crawling out of bed in pain tomorrow morning (or worse, Saturday morning).

25 September 2012


Sugar is amazingly addicting. I (mostly) went off sugar in April, and with a few slip-ups and self-granted exceptions, I've been (mostly) off it ever since. 

Sundays are my exception days, and every Monday my addiction is back in force. It is amazingly physical, this need for sugar. Fruit does not suffice. The one thing that will trick my brain into thinking it has had sweet without actually ingesting any sweet is flavored sparkling water. Every Monday, it is only sheer force of will that gets me back on the no-sugar bandwagon.

It isn't sugar, really, the problem. It is Red 40 and high fructose corn syrup and no one needs daily sour Jelly Bellies. They just don't. I just don't. 

I read somewhere recently that sugar is like a drug not only in the addiction factor, but that you need more and more of it to get the same high. I can see that. I can feel it, even, on Sundays, but it doesn't stop my feast-or-famine primitive brain from cramming all the sugar it can many Sundays. Which is better than cramming all the sugar it can every day of the week.

23 September 2012


Twice before I have hiked a particularly beautiful trail through the Cascades, but both last year and the year before we hit the pretty part at the end of a long, painful hike and there was no time to stop. This year, I was determined to just sit for a while in the pretty meadow, so I gathered up some friends, ordered up a permit from the Forest Service, conceded the need to get up at a ridiculously early hour, and off we all went.

The day was charmed. The sky was blue until we headed home. The temperature was cool until we hit the meadows. The smoke from the wildfires across the mountains had miraculously lifted. The air was clear all the way to the mountain near Gone West. The route we took this time was only 12 miles, and all four of us were fit enough to be fine with the length.

The company was perfect, too. I have been realizing how very much I enjoy spending time with people who, like me, talk in stories, and all three of my companions did just that. We kept a constant flow of stories up through the trees and over the lava and through the meadows.

I kept saying, at every view, "[State of Happiness], you're so pretty." Over and over, I beamed with happiness. It was perfect, just perfect, all of it.

We hit the pretty meadow in time for a late lunch, and we sat among the sparkling obsidian to dip carrots in hummus and pass around sour candy. I laid down and put a big piece of obsidian under my head as a pillow. The sun shone warm on my head as I drifted almost to sleep.

The beautiful thing about hiking a 12 mile hike that begins at an obscenely early hour is that part of the day remains upon completion of the hike, and we took advantage of that remaining time to head to the nearby hot springs and lounge in good hot water.

I may or may not have felt dizzy by the end of this, but it was not until I'd driven all the way back to Universe City with increasingly sharp hunger pains (restaurant tally on the drive back: closed = 2, full to the brim with bingo = 1) and ordered food that finally, finally came and tried to eat it and found myself feeling sick to my stomach that I realized that I was incredibly dehydrated.

When I woke up this morning feeling like I'd been hit by a truck, it was not my muscles that ached (12 miles. please.), it was the rest of me. I was actually afraid to look at my camelback to see how little water I'd drunk yesterday.

12 miles. 8 hours of hiking or lying in the sun. 1 hour in hot springs. 3 hours of driving.

1 liter of water.

What an amateur. I know better than that.

So today I spent the whole day force-drinking myself. I haven't had to do that in a while.

11 September 2012

call of the south

I am a bit writer's block ish. Blocky. Something like that. 

This time of year, I start to feel sort of frantic about soaking up the remaining sunshine (bigger, better happy light: only $140 at the green home products store. I am saving up my pennies), and the thought of the oncoming rain and gloom makes me want to cry, peremptorily. Sun, don't leave me, please!

But it will. It always does. 

The sun is a fickle friend.

Of course, it always does come back, too. There is that.

There has been too little hiking this summer, too little camping, too little basking in the sunlight. I want to grab it all in my arms and hang on. I know that summer will come again, but that next one, nine months away, seems far too distant to be useful. I want more time outside now. Now now. 

Last summer at this time, I had used all my vacation days. This year, I am saving them. I intend to go to Africa next year, come hell or high water. (That phrase, if you think about it, is possibly the best cliche in existence. I defy you to find me a better one.) Maybe the saving up of vacation days is why I feel like this summer has not even happened. I was waiting for summer to start, and then I had the heartache, and then the remaining months were wasted in tears, and now the days are getting shorter and shorter, and I want the long ones back. 

I need to move south.

04 September 2012


Every time I go to the farmers market, I am seduced by all the delicious-looking fruits and vegetables. I buy a bunch of them and balance them in my arms on the way back to the office. (Today one of the sellers tried for a hilariously long time to fit my little watermelon into a plastic bag that was just too small. It should have been a comedy routine. In the end, I had to carry the watermelon under my arm like a football.)

I always forget how long it takes to cook or cut or eat all that food, and that when I come home exhausted in the evening and still hoping to get a bit of a run in, I will end up snarfing some cold cereal or popcorn and then have to spend the post-run evening cutting watermelon and cooking corn and carmelizing onions and stir-frying beans and eating my way through a box of raspberries before they go bad. All of this after having ruined my appetite with the non-produce option that got me through my run.

Whole foods are exhausting.