Friday, November 23, 2012

Becoming A Wild Woman

Today is my exercise deadline.  Do you all do those too?  A moment in time where the exercise must begin.

 No more procrastinating.  No more lounging.  No excuses.  Playtime is over.  

Well, today is my day.  Agility drills and running must commence daily.  So there, Self!

Wild Woman Trail Marathon and Relay
Last year's Wild Women in front of our mountain.  The mountain helped convince me to run. I can run in front of our mountain; it is known, it is comfortable, it makes anything possible.

 On August 10th (tentatively) the Wild Women will race.  The Wild Woman Marathon is a 26.2 mile trail run at the base of Mt. Adams through the local National Forest.  Exclusively run and organized by women, it is designed to push every day limits and release your inner Wild Woman.  The secondary purpose is to unite the women of the community in personal strength and sisterhood.  There is a communal family camp out before the marathon, and the after camp out is set up to watch the Persieds meteor shower. All the food is local, organic, and vegetarian mostly served by the farm folk families of those running.

Running isn't my thing.  I never thought I would run a marathon.  Maybe a half, maybe if zombies were chasing me, maybe if there was a BlendTec blender waiting at the end, but never voluntarily.  I'll climb mountains.  I'll walk across the nation.  I'll swim across the Columbia River in a full wetsuit to protect from hypothermia.  Not running.  Running is my Kryptonite.

But then Jules decided he wanted to become an ultramarathoner.  And then The Barracuda decided he wanted to participate in adult triathalons (the kid ones around here are rather cutesy and no where near enough for him).  And then people started talking about the Wild Woman.  And now it is November 23rd and I actually have to start training!  I'm still mildly baffled at how I talked myself into this.

The Barracuda and I do these agility drills twice a day during school days.  They are total butt kickers, but who can't fit in 4 little minutes?

Currently my goal is just to finish.  I know I can finish.  I can hike 26.2 miles in a day, so I know I can finish.  Moving at 3 to 4 miles an hour it will take me 6 and a half to 8 and a third hours.  It would be pretty neat if I could finish in 5 and a half to 6 hours.  That still won't be a competing time (the average female marathon time is just under 5 hours), but I think it would pretty darn good.  We'll see what happens in a couple months.  I might just decide to attempt to compete.

I have just over 8 and a half months to try and get there, and a whole lot of family to run with.  Here's the current running schedule:  Each run is approximately 30 minutes in duration this month and there are 4 runs a week

Week One:
1st Run: 10 minute warm up walk; 1 minute run, 1 minute walk (x 5); 10 minute cool down walk

2nd Run: 10 minute warm up walk; 1 minute run, 1 minute walk (x 7); 5 minute cool down walk

3rd Run: 10 minute warm up walk; 2 minute run, 1 minute walk (x 5); 5 minute cool down walk

4th Run: 5 minute warm up walk; 2 minute run, 1 minute walk (x 7); 4 minute cool down walk

Week Two: 
1st Run: 5 minute warm up walk; 3 minute run, 1 minute walk (x 5); 5 minute cool down walk

2nd Run: 5 minute warm up walk; 5 minute run, 2 minute walk (x 3); 4 minute cool down walk

3rd Run: 4 minute warm up walk; 5 minute run, 1 minute walk (x 4); 2 minute cool down walk

4th Run: 5 minute warm up walk; 8 minute run, 2 minute walk (x 2); 3 minute cool down walk

Week Three: 
1st Run:  5 minute warm up walk; 10 minute run, 5 minute walk, 5 minute run; 5 minute cool down walk

2nd Run: 5 minute warm up walk; 12 minute run, 3 minute walk, 5 minute run; 5 minute cool down walk

3rd Run: 10 minute warm up walk; 15 minute run; 5 minute cool down walk

4th Run: 6 minute warm up walk; 18 minute run; 6 minute cool down walk

Week Four:
1st Run: 5 minute warm up walk; 20 minute run; 5 minute cool down walk

2nd Run: 5 minute warm up walk; 22 minute run; 3 minute cool down walk

3rd Run: 3 minute warm up walk; 25 minute run; 2 minute cool down walk

4th Run: 2 minute warm up walk; 30 minute run; 2 minute cool down walk

The goal of this first month being to sustain a 30 minute run.  Next month I hope to be able to sustain a 30 minute run at least twice a week and work up to an hour sustained run.

Everything we have achieved as a family began from seemingly impossible goals.  Somewhere in me, I always knew they were possible.  This is the first time I'm really having to leap without much faith.  Running seems rather impossible for me.  A 5k, sure, but not 26 miles.  Not over an hour of sustained running at a time.  Not running solid for 4 or 5 hours.  But here is to self-stretching.  Here is to the impossible.  Here is to becoming a Wild Woman!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving, So Share It Maybe

 Upon this wonderful Thanksgiving day (because it is by far my favorite holiday) may we all learn a bit about sharing from our friend Cookie Monster as he sings to us "Share It Maybe".....

 I am thankful I am still learning from a blue fuzzy monster who loves cookies.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.  May we all share the bounty of our lives with others.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

It's Time for a Turkey Slaughter!

We were up before 5 am this morning and out the door till somewhere just before 4 this afternoon.  There was a turkey slaughter to attend.  Yep, turkey slaughter.  It's pretty exciting and we have been looking forward to mid-November for quite a while.  Due to living on National Forest property we are not legally allowed to have much usage of the land our house sits on.  However, we live in a major agricultural area.  Our family - mainly The Barracuda and I - help a local farm bring in their raw milk, organic produce, slaughtering their free-range birds, mend or put up fences, and general farm work.  More than anything, this is a way for us to afford high quality food, help the local food bank (over half the harvest goes to the food bank), and practice hard work.  We work for food and maintain the local sustainable community of agriculture fostered around here.  From pigs, to raw milk, honey, fowl, beef and veggies, it is all grown within 30 minutes of our house and directly traded to create an off the grid food network.  It keeps our freezer and canning shelves overflowing, it shows The Barracuda exactly where his food comes from and helps him get his hands dirty.  At its core, it places the value directly in work since no money is ever exchanged.  It is one of the many ways we try to practice justice, love kindness, and walk humbly in our everyday existence.

This big boy is in rut and all he wants to do is snuggle!  If only he didn't stink quite so badly...

Often times there are Spanish Immersion lessons as well, since one of the moms (it's a family farm with lots of extended family) is fluent and The Barracuda has a bent for languages.  We harvested thousands of pounds potatoes while listening to multi-cultural stories in Spanish, we learned anatomy while gutting over a hundred chickens, and today we proceeded to turkeys.  When a calf died of bloat, The Barracuda got to hear all about ungulate digestion and various stomachs, as well as the special needle-tube used to piece the distended organ to let the pressure out. It was fascinating!  There is a skin to scrape, brain to smear, and a hide to tan.  He wants to make mittens.  Sometimes he gets to ride in the tractor, sometimes he gets to listen as the men fix the tractor, sometimes he gets to feed the pigs;  he always has fun.

We have seen these birdies since they were small and fuzzy.  Now they live in the freezer.  There is nothing more intimate than watching your food grow and feeding it as it will feed you.

I'm learning as well.  Today it was the signs used to communicate with a tractor/fork-lift driver and how to anticipate the movements of a machine weighing in just over 11 tons.  We hauled fencing off a semi and will later use a power auger to string high power electrical fencing.  I get to learn electrical work from an engineer and taxonomical anatomy from people who raise and breed animals.  The continual reinforcement of learning outside a classroom is always a major perk.

That tractor scares the crap out of me.  The wheels are bigger than I am and I've seen my son crawl under it to pull out jammed debris that only he could reach.  Today I ran back and forth around said tires and under the forklift to help negotiate the moving of hundreds of pounds of fencing.  Conquering fears can be immensely empowering! 

In the shadow of our mountain, the farm grows on. This is their life and they live it out loud.  We go up and get our hands dirty in freshly tilled loam or the guts of freshly grown fowl.  It is an authentic existence with death, and birth, and dirt, and guts spoken of matter-of-factually as we gather around the slaughter table and dump goopy innards into 5 gallon buckets. 

As much as they think we are crazy for getting up at 3 am to eek out one last climb of the season or meticulously teach The Barracuda knots so he can deftly preform crevasse rescue if necessary, they have a tube-needle to allow excess gas out of their cattle's stomach if necessary.  Both lives are equally crazy.

Neither is seen as odd though. We are both safe in our extreme existences.  They slowly talk to him about how to make the proper cuts to a bird's jugular or the proper psi for the wheel barrings of the tractor.  They describe all the different potatoes, where in the world they come from, what the different varieties taste like, their growing seasons, the adaptations evolved for different elevations and vast amounts of knowledge both The Barracuda and I soak up like sponges it is so interesting.  We can talk about hikes in all different ecosystems; they can talk about food and life.

The Barracuda is checking the temperature of the dunking water and warming his hands.  By the end of the 40 turkeys all our hands were numb and having trouble working.  Today was wet and cold, but he held on manning is duties to the dunking water and the feather plucker.  He is working his way up to the initial jugular slicing and has frequently helped with guttings.

The more I look around, the more I realize we are not isolated in our desire to live out loud.  Authentic lives are all around us.  These people aren't playing; they aren't dabbling; they mean it.  It isn't something they do on the weekends or do just for fun.  They live it 24/7 three hundred and sixty five days a year.  If we were playing at life, they wouldn't have us come and help.

As an on-call farm hand, I often only get a couple days notice for harvesting.  Usually I'm given the time to show up a day or less in advance, and it is an all day long affair - or sometimes multiple days back to back.  When the birds are ready, we slaughter.  When the frost is coming, we dig.  When the weather is good, we work.  They need to know we will be there in the cold, the muck, the dark, whatever.  They need to know The Barracuda will put in 6 to 8 hours of solid hard work right along with the adults, learning as needed, paying attention and keeping his mouth shut.  They need to know that we really mean it.  It works because both families are all in with whatever they decide to do.

The farm is named Sunnybrook and that is Rebecca - Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.  She and Micheal got married this past summer on the farm as we walked across the country.

These are our people.

We aren't so alone after all.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday's Funny Stuff on the Interwebs

As a homeschooling parent anytime I can find educational Internet gold that isn't annoying, obnoxious, contains bathroom/potty humor, and my child thinks is rad, I'm excited.  Here is just a bit of the awesomeness discovered this week.

Conjunctions song to the tune of Firework by Kati Perry....

And just to make your life a little more complete, here's prepositions to the tune Paparazzi by Lady Gaga...

Enjoy your week and have fun getting your learn on!

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Re Entry

Coming home from a thru-hike hurts.  It is often masked by eating mountains of ubiquitous food, luxuriating in melt-your-skin-off hot showers, and sleeping in just because there is a bed covered in blankets.  But, once that initial joy has worn off , it hurts.  You have experienced something you cannot explain to others, but so desperately want to convey yourself.  The ineffable struggles, triumph, and insignificance that only someone how has lived out of a backpack for months can feel places you closer to most homeless people than your family.  In our society, most homeless people are viewed as crazy and you begin to wonder about yourself.  You are stuck in the position of being type cast as a person by an experience you cannot reiterate.

The isolation haunts you.

Clouds make you cry.  Birds cause you awe.  Everything moves so fast. Food begins to taste beyond divine, only then to nauseate you as your stomach stretches back to normal size.  People you once found comfort in now seem trivial.  The practices that once caused relaxation now feel vapid.  You are left re-defining everything in your life - relationships, occupations, basic choices.  You're a freak, and only you know it, for no one else has changed.

Watching my child go through this has been both heart-breaking and frustrating.  I can not ease his pain; no one can.  The lasting effects will exist within him forever. At first he toggled wildly between extreme isolation - taking 5 mile walks during the day to sketch or "just be alone" - and extreme clinging - not wanting Jules or I out of his sight even to sleep or use the bathroom.  This has slowed down now that we have been home for over a month, but he still has difficulty sleeping and struggles with fitting in with friends he once played with so happily.  He does not wish to talk about the hike with anyone except Jules and I, and even then it is only in passing or as a descriptor.  Quite often his reason is simple, "I don't want to be the weird kid."

I would love to claim that I have fared better, but my response was similar.  Unable to explain myself to others, I retreated dramatically, cried a lot, found our meager life gluttonous, and felt unworthy of most everything around me.  Jules and I bickered almost constantly about matters so trivial they could only be masking much larger emotional insecurity.  Divorce was mentioned, frequently.  So, The Barracuda and I play "the weird kid" together, and I try to steady the rocking boat that is our family.

We read a lot more now, if that was even possible.  Our discussions of classical literature have jumped a few more octaves as The Barracuda now has so much more suffering to relate to.  So much of the heroes epic, the plight of the human condition, the experience of the outcast, have now been felt first hand.  We read Ozymandias and after extracting its description, The Barracuda will come at me with "Human life is so fragile.  Why do we hold onto it so tightly?....It's like we go Lennie on it and never give it a chance." (Lennie is a reference to a very simple-minded character from Of Mice and Men who loves things so much he doesn't realize his own strength and crushes them with misplaced affections.)  These are questions that have no answers from me.  Do they have any answers anywhere?  These are the reasons classical literature will remain enduring the times.  Now he gets it in a way I could never teach, and he's not letting go anytime soon.

It requires a whole new level of emotional honesty from me and character education.  I'll admit, as of late I'm falling a bit short.  In so many ways, that is the brutally tough part of the whole lesson: we can work, and strive, and get infinitely close, but in the end we all fall short somewhere.  We have never coddled our son, or sheltering him from the world in some misguided attempt at innocence.  Innocence is a way of approaching the world when you know all there is; naive is being ignorant to the darkness.  If there is one thing we never want it is an ignorant child.  So we talk, and we read, and we forge into the unknown of where we are going.

All of this might seem remarkably bleak or at least a very distressing outlook to come home to.  However this topsy-turvey life re-evaluation and personal soul searching is what any great pilgrimage requires.  Religion must be worked at...If you truly take religion seriously it has to transform you.  We are transcendentalists.  To hike is to live our faith, not merely out-of-the-box as Thoreau did, but more in the fashion of John Muir.  We wish to get our hands, lives, and souls dirty, not just play at kitchy, counter-cultural references.  We wish to stretch ourselves: to grow into the uncomfortable places and to be chanted by what we find there.
"And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey of miles, a journey of one inch, very arduous, and humble and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our feet and learn to be at home."
~Wendell Barry; "Unforeseen Wilderness"

Our very arduous, humble and joyful journey has brought us back to look at our own feet and rediscover home.