Saturday: A little Dense on the Running

Running in Circles

I sunk into sleep just past midnight after enduring the last attempts at cohesively writing about Barhma and spirituality. Sleep took me quickly. My alarm rang out in what felt like only moments after.
I did not want to get up. It was cold, and I was mighty snug and comfortable under the sheets. The night was dead silent. Why in the hell did I set an alarm to disturb such peace and tranquility? Oh yea, I forgot I convinced myself the night before to go on a little adventure: a 21 mile bike ride to a foot race starting at 7:30am.

My mind interjected with surprising haste and authority

Nope, you’re not doing it. Courageous idea, but not practical. You’re tired. It’s cold out there. Go back to sleep. Enjoy the rest and serenity and safety of your warm bed. There you go. Just like that… ease back on your pillow…

I closed my eyes, obliging to that voice inside my head. But before I could fall back to sleep, my bladder also had something to say.
I got up and told my mind I’ll just have a pee then return to bed as per instructed. I relieved myself then found myself standing in front of my pre packed bag for the planned trip, complete with steamed sweet potatoes, a ruby red grapefruit, leftover lentils, clothes for town, and my Lono Kukini head band. It was all there. Bike was was ready to go, my safety lights were set. I slept in my clothes so I didn’t even have to spend time dressing.

Damn it. I did everything possible to ensure I had no reasonable excuse not to go. I checked my watch. 0450. Plenty of time to get to the race. Yup. This was happening.

Committed, I snatched an old jar of brewed coffee, downed it, zipped up my coat, tightened my straps, grabbed my bike by the handlebars and walked out into the night sky.

The air was cool. Delightful. The moon was lighting up the sky, and the most steadfast stars filtered through. I walked past Aunty’s house and heard Beebs the dog get up from her lanai to investigate. It’s only me Beebs. I walked up to the long driveway and made my way to the paved road. The wet grass dampened my shoes. I heard the sound of scattering hoofs all around me and watched a few dark figures scamper across the driveway, dashing between moon shadows of the mac-nut trees. The late night was alive with activity and I felt my body awaken to it.

Pavement. Feet hit the pedals. Hips swing over the saddle. Legs crank and bicycle glides down the hill to the highway, guided by the silver light of the moon. I reach the intersection at the bottom, a dim yellow streetlight buzzes softly above me. I unclip my pack to check the rear solar light. It’s not flashing. No charge.

Shit. I’m about to bike on the main highway up the Hamakua coast and my red rear light isn’t working. Not a good omen. I was troubled. Now I had a good reason to be hesitant about making the journey. But I also already biked 4 miles down a long hill. I committed my mind and body to this. I didn’t want to give in.

I quickly check in with myself. I have a lot of reflective gear on, and so does my bike, so at least the light from cars behind me will light me up. The sun will be coming up in about an hour so it won’t be the whole time biking in the dark. And I’ll just have to be extra careful and make sure I’m way over on the shoulder. That does it. Good enough for me. I turn on to the highway.

It was hell. It was the highway of hell. Apparently this is the hour of the day all the trucks are driving around the island. Truck after truck blew past me. I could hardly see in front of me. The sound of the monstrous vehicles was excruciatingly loud and disorienting. Knowing my back light wasn’t working, I felt extremely vulnerable. The worst were all the bridges I had to cross. I lost my shoulder lane on these bridges, and there was only a extremely narrow pedestrian raised path where I had to dismount my bicycle and push it in front of my with one hand as I used the other to hold myself to the bridge, hitting my shin every few strides with the pedal.

I had never cursed so much in my life. I cursed the highway. I cursed the cars. I cursed colonialism. I cursed my idiot self for putting myself in this position. I cursed the sun for taking so damn long to rise. I cursed my bike. I cursed my bowels. I cursed the gods. I continued on.

Every time a car or truck roared past me I shouted at it with the rage of 10,000 wild beasts. But I edged onward, not willing to be conquered by this nightmarish scenario. The steady climb from Wainaku to Papeeko gave way to a decent into Hakalau where I gained speed riding along the shoulder. It was still dark, but it felt good to be going fast. I wanted nothing more at that moment than to get to my destination as fast as possible.

I tensed up trying to focus on the pavement zipping past in front of me, looking out for any debris lying in wake while simultaneously paying attention to any traffic that might be passing me by. At first I was frightened, but then I convinced myself I was in an x-wing fighting tie-fighters and implementing evasive maneuvering tactics. The force is with me, I found myself saying.

An hour later the sun had risen. I calmed down a bit. I pulled out a sweet potato to munch on as I pedaled the last few miles. Relief settled into my shaky bones when I turned-off the highway onto the Old Mamalahoa Highway. I was greeted by a yellow sign that read: caution, runners on the road.

I pulled into the parking lot of Waikaumalo park where a number of people were already standing around. It was 0700. I had 30 minutes to spare. I signed in to the 7 mile race, paying the 5 dollars in all quarters. I got some comments but promptly ignored them. I was feeling shy and a bit tired but warmed up from the bike ride. I kept my distance from everyone, nibbling on my remaining sweet potatoes.

30 minutes later, my shirts off, my sandals and Lono headband are on, and it’s time to run. We take off and within the first 100 meters it’s apparent to me that no one here is going to take the pace out. So I take off. I’m feeling good. It’s still nice and cool out, and my muscles are loose from the stressful bike ride.

The race is on the old highway, following the natural contours of the Hamakua coast which is basically a number of watersheds connected by a myriad of streams and rivers that have carved out steep gullies. The road ducks down into a ravine, then ascends back out, over and over again. It’s a fun course made up of these curvy ups and downs. We hit our first descent into the gully, shade and dampness prevails. I cross the small bridge over the stream and kick into a higher gear to climb out on the other side, reaching the exposed sunlight and cresting point of the road before dipping back down into the next gully. I feel relaxed going into the first mile. I check my watch, 6:15. Not bad. Faster than I wanted, recalling my 1 mile intervals from a week ago were at about 6:15 pace, and that was a distance of 5k. This was roughly a 10k with no rest.

I slowed a little, relaxing more into it, feeling alive and good. It was quiet up front. I couldn’t remember the last time I lead a race, and probably never by this margin, although I didn’t bother to look behind me for anyone. I didn’t sense anyone so it wasn’t really on my mind. I just kept running.

Mile two came up quickly. 13:10. I had eased the pace down to 6:55. Now I was going too slow, or the mile sign wasn’t accurate, which could be the case. It didn’t feel like I had slowed down that much, but I decided to pick it up a little bit anyhow. By mile three my pace had gone back down to 6:11. These splits felt really inconsistent. First time back in a race environment for over a year. I was okay with it. And since I was leading I didn’t really have anyone to help regulate my pace, which by the way, running consistent splits is as any runner knows a talented and intuitive skill to have.

I was starting to feel tired by the time the turnaround approached. My chest and shoulders started to get tight, and my breathing had become more erratic and less controlled. It looked like the 2nd place runner (a fellow named Alan who is an excellent long distance runner, beautiful to watch. He runs with very controlled and comfortable form. Very graceful), had gained on me, although this is always deceptive at turn around points because it looks like they are moving twice as fast as they actually are. But even so I started to worry he was picking up speed and would eventually catch me. And when I worry I get stressed and when I get stressed my body tightens. The next mile was no fun.I tried to maintain a pace that didn’t feel comfortable. It was too much work and I could feel the energy draining from me. My heart rate went up and my lungs gasped for more oxygen to keep up with the rate of combustion required of my muscular tissue.

I battled through the anxiety and fought hard to control my breathing to help relax my upper body. Running is so beautiful because in order to do it well you HAVE to be in tune with the various systems communicating and interacting inside of you. It’s a lesson I’ve been learning for a long time and only now beginning to get in touch with. Running is the practice of making constant micro adjustments here and there to maintain efficiency and harmony between energy input and energy output. It is essentially the art of transferring energy into a forward momentum and using every aspect of the body’s mechanics and energy systems to accomplish this, which very much includes the mind’s will on the autonomic nervous system through breath control. Pranayama. The control of Prana; subtle life-force current.

For example, by mile 5 in the race, my right shoulder froze up and my form got all sloppy because the range of motion in my shoulder seized. I started to move my body laterally; less energy was being directed in a forward momentum, which then meant I had to burn more energy to maintain the same pace, which meant sucking in more oxygen for combustion. This isn’t very comfortable, and is the very reason a lot of people don’t like running. It doesn’t feel good, people say. Running never gets easier, people say. My body just isn’t meant for running. Wrong. I see all shapes and sizes running. Even ultra marathon distances. That’s not why people don’t like running. They don’t like running because to get to a point to enjoy running you first have to learn how to run and that takes time and patience and listening to your body. It takes constant adjustments and people just don’t want to be mindful while running.

Yes. that’s my opinion, and I’m aware I am piling everyone into my bias and that’s okay because I’m just trying to illustrate a point. Of course there are many other reasons people don’t like running. I’m just stating one major causality that often goes unlooked.

Back to the race. My form is all messed, I’m no longer running efficiently. It’s uncomfortable and I’ve got that death feeling. Well then let’s do something about it. So here’s the beauty. My shoulder has already acted up and if I was a really mindful runner, I would have prevented it before it got to this point. But I didn’t, and the consequence is that there’s only so much I can do while still running. I start putting my attention back into my breathing, and then my breathing into my shoulder. I imagine pushing that air into my shoulder and creating space for the allostatic energy to be freed so the muscles can loosen up again and move in accord with the rest of my body. It works, to a degree. I can feel my body aligning. I begin to pick up momentum. In total it took about a whole mile for the results of this breathing technique to kick in, but it was enough, and my last mile turned into my fastest at sub 6:10.

I’ve never been a great runner. Never been all that fast, and definitely not consistent. But I have been running since I was 8 years old, and every time I go out for a run I am thankful I have something in my life like running, something that never fails to teach me something new about myself, life, and the universe.


Friday: Ah Christ, You’re telling me God IS real?

Running in Circles, Uncategorized

The wind had calmed down since the hours before when I drifted asleep in my swaying hammock underneath a bustling tarp. I could just hear the grinding and rolling of large smooth stones being pushed and pulled by the constant turbulence of waves mingling with the shore. A rhythmic constant penetrating my ear drums and reverberating in the cavities of my body. The stars were brilliant speckles piercing through the Ironwood and Kamani canopy cover. The dark loom of the steep valley walls enveloped my peripherals. Two words dripped from my lips in a steady repeat, “Remember Brahma. Remember Brahma. Remember Brahma.” I caught myself uttering this strange chant coming into full consciousness, shaken awake by the verbal resonance.  And in that moment a vivid memory of my dream came flowing through the ether, passing through my vision like light projecting through rolling film.

I’m standing in the middle of some bazaar. There is business and commerce happening all around me. I feel like a passive observer. Not quite “there”. Like its just a hologram. I’m trying to see if I recognize anyone in the crowd, my curiosity about this unfamiliar place is growing. It doesn’t take long before I spot my father standing out in the open, and next to him is my stepfather. I cock my head. Huh, that’s strange. I never see them together. But it feels good, seeing them standing next to each other, my two fathers. They smile warmly and beckon me to join them, I do, and soon it’s apparent I am to follow them. They are taking me somewhere.

My fathers lead me down into some underground passage. It’s dark and damp, but it doesn’t feel scary. Water is dripping from the tunnel’s ceiling. We come out into a basement. On the other side of the room are two old women with white hair and gowns standing in front of some stairs leading up from the basement. It looks like they are guarding it. I look to my fathers. They nod their heads and the guardians step aside with grace. We head up the stairs into a well-lit room. It looks like some kind of workshop, unfinished projects lying everywhere covered in saw dust. A very old and ancient man with the widest smile and deep rosy cheeks is present. He turns to me and says, “Now,  you must meditate on Brahma.”

Mid life crisis. The little Death. Initiation. Rites of Passage. The Belly of the whale. The Night Seas. The abyss. Cocooned. Metamorphosis. Mythology. Dreams. Symbology. Meaningful suffering. The significance of life. Participation in the sorrows of the world. When I dreamt that deeply symbolic dream in the Valley of Waimanu, I knew I was being sent a message. And I was excited, for messages are signs, a direct communication, a guidance, from nature; from the soul, the subconscious, to the cognitive prefrontal cortex in which I measly go about living out my limited days.

The soul communicates through our dreams in the form of images, an expression of visual dram images of the energies that inform the body and when our conscious self is particularly open and aware of the deeper existence of our whole being, those dreams become powerful messengers of divinity.

Yeah. You bet I was stoked. I did a little fist pump slumped back down in my hammock fell back down into sleep muttering the words remember Brahma…

The morning came, the wind was back, and my companion friend was already up, meditating on the rocky beach. I waited for him to finish, like a dog on it’s best behavior. I was eager to tell him about my dream. Especially because I knew nothing about the word Brahma, except that it sounded familiar, yet foreign. It reeked of spirituality. Daniel would know. He is well versed in spiritual thought.

“It’s sanskrit. From the Vedic texts. Brahma. Brahma is God, the creator, the destroyer. He is sort of the source of everything, and everything is an expression of Brahma.” We sat down to break our fast. “Here this might help. This is a prayer I say silently before every meal I eat. I’ll say it aloud this time…

Brahmarpanam Brahma Havir 

Brahmagnau Barhmanaahutam

Brahmaiva Tena Ghantavyam

Brahmakarma Samadhina…

“It translates to this, ‘The act of offering is God, the oblation is God. By God it is offered into the Fire of God. God is That which is to be attained by him who performs action pertaining to God….’ It’s a powerful concept. It’s said to believe that the very cosmos evolved out of his being, Brahma, and that atma, your soul, is the expression of Brahma…” He drifts off, as if he’s not sure how much more he can really say about this Brahma deity, diving into his own contemplation on the matter of Brahma.

“I see,” I said, wrinkling my forehead, trying to grasp what Daniel just shared.

“You said you dreamt this?”

“yea… I was told by an old man to meditate on Brahma.” I related the rest of my dream to Daniel. Afterwards we continued on with our morning routine in silence, cleaning our camping dishes, packing up our hammocks, scraping the fungus out from between our toes. 

“That’s a powerful dream, whatever it means.” Daniel finally said.
“yea,” I replied. “I think I’ll let it sit for a while.”

1 year and 4 months later, I’m sitting up late into the night, wide awake and I can’t stop thinking about the dream. Tomorrow I plan to wake up at 5am and bike 20 miles to a 7-mile running race. But right now, at this moment, there’s a symbolic dude with rosy cheeks smiling in my head telling me to meditate on some personification of the entirety of the universe. Well fine. Lets do this.

Time to research.

I type in “Brahma” on Google, and read the subsequent Wikipedia article.  I write some notes down:
Brahma… gender specific…masculine…emerged as a deity, the conceptual personification of Brahman, a visible icon of the impersonal universe… Brahman is the ultimate formless metaphysical reality and cosmic soul in hinduism… from the Bhagavata Purana: Brahma is drowsy, errs and is temporarily incompetent as he puts together the universe… he becomes aware of his confusion and drowsiness, meditates as an ascetic, then realizes Hari (vishnu) in his heart, sees the beginning and end of the universe, and then his creative powers are revealed… Brahma thereafter combines Prakrit (nature, matter) and Purusha (spirit, soul) to create a dazzling variety of living creatures and tempest of casual nexus… he is attributed with the creation of Maya…wherein he creates for the sake of creating…perpetual cycle…on going… imbuing all things with good and evil… the material and spiritual…a beginning and end…Barhma is depicted with four heads looking in the four directions…creator of the four vedas…mounted on a swan… is of the Hindu trinity; Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva.

Pause. Pen taps the notepad. I bite my lip in contemplation.

Contextual information. Nothing more. This isn’t mediation on Brahma. This is meditating on thoughts and ideas representing the concept of Brahma. I’m just researching Brahma. This can’t be what my dream message means me to do. I’m supposed to be Searching, not researching. But researching is what I know how to do. It’s a good skill, it’s just…limiting. But it’s all I have to go by. My intellect. My supple, yolky, tangental intellect. Oh Intellect, how thee connects dots and organizes patterns. How thee extracts reason from rhyme. Lets see what sense you make from all this. Lets see what conclusions you come to. I bet, my sweet sultry Intellect, that you’re going to arrive on the other side of analytical attempt dissatisfied with the answer you find. Here it goes.

Time to process.

I hope you’re ready for this. It’s a special invitation into the greased mechanics of my mind.

To start, the masculinity aspect seems significant here. Connection with my two fathers in my dream and Brahma being associated with the masculine energies. For me it seems masculine energy is a invitation into the descent. Okay let’s put that aside for now.

Moving on, what’s this Brahma/Brahman relationship? Gotta zoom out and do some theological/metaphysical didactics. Might get stuck on this thread for a while. Bear with me…. So Brahma is a God… ok what is a god? Well if we look at the majority of religions (not including Christianity, Islam, Judiasm, they’re the exceptions, funny enough), the commonality is that a god is some kind of personification of an energy form. Essentially, god is the collectively agreed upon imagery of a culture for the individual mind to grasp. It’s a metaphor to describe something actual. It’s not the actual, because the actual transcends our mind and the thoughts stored within. It’s just a model to help explain this transcendental thing we cannot apparently see or sense.

If God is human’s interpretive tool to help perceive different kinds of energies, then what are these energies and why create these allusive and mysterious mythologies surrounding them?

Ahhhhhhhhh. This is a good question is not! No this is really good. I think I’m starting to get somewhere. But before we move on, let’s distill this down just a little more. We’ve now learned the distinction between Brahma and Brahman. It’s the same distinction as Metaphor and Actual; A representation of a thing and the actual thing. Take that cup of coffee in front of you. The cup itself, on it’s own, is a just that: a cup. That’s Brahman. But the word “cup” that you attach to the actual object, that’s Brahma. Okay now let’s synthesize that with what Daniel told me a year and half ago. He said atma/soul is the expression of Brahma in each of us. The cup in front of you is the object. The concept attached to the object is the subject. That subject doesn’t exist in any means that we can see, it exists in our mind, a.k.a the ether. But it’s very significant. Just like you yourself are significant, right? Your body is the object; matter existing in nature, but you, well you are the subject. You are the soul. That’s Brahma. Your body belongs to Brahman, your soul belongs to Brahma…. you are the creative expression of Brahma, in your own way, an unraveling unique story with your very own plot; your own life.

Now here is where things start to get real interesting. Brahma was a concept created much later in the whole history of the Vedics; the ancient texts explaining the universe and how it came to be. The sanskrit verb root is Brih: to expand, conveying the Vedic concept of divine power of spontaneous growth bursting forth into creative activity. What this boils down to is that the universe continues to exist only by means of lifeforms appropriating energy to further create life. That’s why we’re god’s children. Think of your kids, or future kids, as an example. You create them, and thus their existence is the continuing evolutionary cycle of perpetuating life! It’s why phallic  and vaginal symbols are prolific in many cultures, because fertility as regeneration is the only thing that keeps our temporal universe in eternal existence. 

But none of that matters. None of that means diddly squat to hear nor to understand because get this – the essence of who we are, what we are, does not want to be handed the answers. This extinguishes the flame of life. It removes us from the Maya. Life is a mystery for a very important and vital reason: to keep us alive, to keep us living. And this so called God wants us alive because without us, God has no means in which to express itself. And religion and mythology and stories and songs and art and poetry, all these things that represent the truth behind the curtain, behind the illusion, that realm beyond the enclosure of maya, that’s all here to motivate us to keep on living, to keep searching, to keep creating. Whether you’re a monkey or a human or a polyp.

Just look at a good story. A well told story does not tell you straight up what the story is about. It doesn’t sit you down and spell out what the character’s qualities are, their flaws and faults and gifts and strengths. No. As the viewer, you have to go on a journey and discover it for yourself. You have to earn it through the guidance of the telling of the story by means of its structure and form. The structure and form are the symbology; the secret hidden meaning only to be revealed as it is expressed through the telling of the story. We hunger for these stories because it gives us flashes of insight into our own story, our own life. For a moment we see a greater truth, and we’re tricked into thinking we found it ourselves, and it is that moment of gratification from watching or listening to a well told story that parallels our own puzzling life. Our life tiny lives are placed in a  greater realm of existence, one not bound by the physical confinements of a body in space and time. That experience is healing. It motivates us to continue to pursue our own life; our hopes, our dreams, our purpose.

So my psyche told me a story. I don’t know where my psyche got it from. I don’t know where it extracted the symbology of Brahma, or why it decided that would be a good symbol to use for me in particular. That understanding is beyond my intellect’s computational powers (Sorry old pal). I don’t know what all the parts mean, but I’m starting to grasp the overall message. It’s something like this:

It’s time to become a man. It’s time to come into my full being. To do this, I have to jump into the void of life, the underground. All I have to do is face all that I fear, all the pain and suffering and sorrow, I must use my creative energy to see past the guardians of the gate to the tree of life; the workshop; and embrace it with a rosy cheeks and joy and wonder and a cosmic desire to be closer with God – those tiny invisible particles and waves of energy informing my life of its nature and purpose. Now I just have to do it. I must participate in the sorrows of the world, as Buddha eloquently puts it. I must sacrifice the safety of my nest and go out and create a life for myself. And by doing that, I will be enacting the divinity in which our very universe is comprised of. Brahma. Not to shabby yea?

May I rest soundly, indubitably knowing that no matter how much I crave the truth, I will not find it by meditating on the concept of Brahma… only by meditating on Brahma himself… not the idea of god, but God itself.

And in the wise words of Yoda, I bid you good night

Premonitions, Premonitions… these visions you have…Careful you must be when sensing the future… the fear of loss is a path to the dark side… death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them, do not. Miss them, do not. Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed, that is… Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.

Sure, I believe in ghosts.

Running in Circles

I once had a dead cat tell me I need to be more in touch with my feral side. That cat has been haunting me ever since. Ghosts, they’re real, stop denying it. Everyone has something from their past that haunts them. Mine is a dead cat. It’s also a break up in high school. That ghost is the ghost of guilt and regret. Another ghost is a friend who I worked with for six months on a bird colony island sanctuary with 7 others. Thats the ghost of shame.

There’s probably other ghosts in my life too, one for each fault, for each buried issue. But that cat, man, that cat just keeps going on haunting me.

Feral. Ferus. Wild animal. Untamed, escaped from captivity. Free from domestication. Feral is the hero that leaves home and never looks back. Feral is the Sheep herder in southern Spain who sells all his sheep, his only measurement of security, and crosses the great desert of Africa and transforms into the wind. Feral is the freedom and liberty we all value so much but fear even greater. It’s the human nature we left to die and turn into a ghost, that haunts us every day, every time we strap on our shoes and walk across concrete and feel absolutely sheepish in the wild.

That ghost haunts you every moment you start functioning more like a complex design of parts acting in expected, mechanized, two dimensional ways. It haunts you every time you encourage your baby to stand up and walk for the first time like that’s some sign of it’s progress, like you’ve got some agenda you know is best, like crawling is some primitive savage way of moving that only beasts of the wild do and we don’t want to have anything to do with them. Like speeding up the crawling phase somehow makes your kid smarter when in fact it is those essential exploratory kinetic lateral movements  that allow the two sides of the brain to get to know each other intimately, married in holy matrimony. We’re creatures of the wild, we always will be, and until we we accept that, we are going to continue to be haunted by the ghosts of the dead oceans and forests , the exctinct buffalo and tropical birds, and even those kitty cats who tell us to get in touch with our feral side.

It’s dark out, but the birds are awake and the Coqui frogs turn to slumber. The time between night and day is an exhilarating transition. It’s when the Mountain Lion hunts, it’s when life is most vulnerable and death is most vibrant. I’m laying in bed but am surprisingly awake. I wonder what’s woken me.

 I’m having a particularly hard time raising my head. In fact, I can’t do it at all. There’s a numbing pain coming from my right shoulder and neck. Woah. That hurts. I roll over and try to lift myself onto my side. I grunt. A sharp pain slices up my spine like a spray of hot grease. I’m definitely awake now. No chance of falling back asleep. I guess it’s a good a time as any to start my day, but I can’t seem to get out of bed. Usually it’s mental. You know, like those online questionnaires to measure your depression symptoms, “do you struggle getting out of bed each day?” But this is physical.

I manage to swing my legs around to the edge of the bed. I forget my mosquito net is there, and my feet get caught in an already large gap in the screen. It’s dark out. Now I’ve trapped myself in my own protective screen and the left side of my back is out of commission. Maybe I’m not supposed to experience this day.

Then I remember I’m supposed to meet Rich the prospective bike buyer in town in an hour. I do a little fish out of water maneuver to loosen my feet, grit my teeth and slip down on the floor. My feet make contact with the rug. I’m standing. The rug feels particularly damp. I smell rat piss. I’ll deal with that later. For now, back to the basics. Gotta make it to my yoga mat. Gotta get down in child’s pose. Gotta sell this bike.

I stretch a little bit, breathe into the tight muscles surrounding my shoulder blade and rib cage, trying to explore my body, discover what’s acting up. What went wrong? The theories start whirling. Probably when I tried to make a weightlifting workout carrying two, five gallon water jugs down from car port. That on top of carrying 5 gallon buckets of water to water the new beds of Taro. Probably all the pounding from the increase of running mileage. Probably the hunched over posture biking up the hill.

No time to waste sulking in where I might have neglected my body. Gotta hunch down on that monster frame bike and zoom down the hill. T-minus 20 minutes. 

I throw on my rain coat. A a coqui frog  throws itself out of the sleeve. Territorial bastards. I fly down the road, dropping into the cloud cover over the bay, feeling the cool drizzling particles kiss my face a million times. I hit the base of the hill, swoop through a couple intersections and coast into the coffee shop. I get in line, looking for the cheapest thing on the menu, small drip by the looks of it, when lanky Rich stands up from his lookout spot behind me and lingers in his American Apparel hoody and the latest trendy framed glasses.
“Hey, are you Jon -” He hesitates, “Erik?”
I’m a sensitive guy, I get intimidated easily. But his hesitancy is reassuring. This guy is  approachable. Reminds me of Portland. There’s a lot of that in Hilo. I like it. I show him my bike, he’s pretty sure his friend used to own it, typical small town symptom. I show him the works, and being my too-honest-for-my-own-good self start pointing out the kinks. Dammit, I’m thinking, The guy’s not gonna want to buy my bike at this rate. Gotta switch my game up. Don’t have to lie to do it. Gotta be business like.
“…But it rides real smooth. Solid bike for sure. All tuned up and everything. Got some new tires, derailleur is in good shape. .”
Rich seems nice, he’s eyeing it over. I think he likes it, aesthetically. I tell him to ride around the block, warning him the frame is deceptive in size. He hops on and circles around, dismounts and says he thinks it can work. He slaps some bills in my hand, I shake his – and boom – I just tripled my finances. I’m gonna treat myself to a mocha today. No small drip for this guy.

My feral side starts acting up. Woah, feeling social all of a sudden. Next thing I know I strike up a comfortable conversation with Rich. We talk about his punk band, scavenger hunt bike rides, an ’83 Raleigh, how much we like Portland.  I like the guy, and I think there’s more to him. Turns out he works for the Forest Service. I let him know a little about myself; from Seattle, currently unemployed… I drop the and I’m looking for work seed and he says, “well hey I’ve got a lot of scientist friends involved in the rapid Ohia death project, they’re about to get massive State funds and will be needing some technicians. Send me an email and I’ll get you in touch.” Germination station. This seed might bear fruit.
Bonus. Nothing like a profitable transaction followed by a job opportunity. Maybe I’ll treat myself to a bagel and cream cheese with that Mocha. I feel rich, a business man. Roots in the community. Santiago. Siddhartha.No ghosts are gonna get me down today. No shoulder ache is gonna keep me in bed. Today I’m known. Today I’m somebody.  A hui ho Bitcin’ Blue Bianchi. So long. Here’s to dead cats.

Wednesday: It’s not me, its the Vog

Running in Circles

They say a pearl is formed by a single irritating grit of sand or maybe a parasite that gets lodged into the soft tissue of an oyster. The oyster begins to cover it with deposits of smooth liquid nacre turning a once irritant into a beautiful, shining pearl. We all have our own grit of sand, that one thing holding us back. That parasite sucking our energy. That aspect of us we’d rather pretend didn’t exist. But that grit is just gonna keep rubbing us the wrong way until we acknowledge it. It’s not going to go away, it’s a part of us now, and always will be. Mine as well turn it into a pearl.

Today’s a big day for me. Job interview, first one since December. Entirely my fault. Not aggressive enough, not motivated enough. Probably not mature enough. Remember that ideal life I live over in paradise? Yea, well, it sort of keeps me from caring about living a responsible adult life. A bit of a catch-22 isn’t it?

I’m searching for the right clothes to wear. My two pairs of shorts aren’t really going to cut it, my corduroys you already know about, and the other has a blasted bleach stain on it. My only pair of pants I wore too many times during land work and now they have mud stains. Jesus, I’m like some weird forest creature coming out of the woods into civilization for a job interview. I better shave.

I got up extra early for this. My nerves already running hot. Good thing, because I haven’t been able to afford coffee so I’m running on pure anxiety this morning. I stepped out of my 10×20 tent and planted my feet into the wet grass as I took a large relieving piss over my new Taro patch I planted yesterday. The urine helps keep the pigs away.

Something irked me to spin around.I turned to find the recently full moon looking back at me shining that fading blue like it does when the first light of the day shimmers across the atmosphere. She stared me down. Or as Tolkien would put it, he stared me down. I wavered for a moment trying to catch its details with my less-than-perfect vision before walking down to my outdoors kitchen where I get hit with a blood-red sunrise peeking through the hazy filter that has settled around Hilo. The sun rising in the east, and the moon setting in the west. I need to wake up at this hour more often. This is magic.

The haze is from the volcano, Pele, if you want to be personable about it. We call it Vog. People don’t like the Vog. It’s full of toxic fumes, chiefly Sulfur Dioxide, which cause anything from mild allergic symptoms to loss of consciousness to crashing your car while driving to work to simply making poor nutritional decisions like eating a whole bag of chips. Fuck it all.Good thing I can’t afford an over-priced half empty bag of processed corn. Good thing I don’t own a car anymore. Sold that Subaru to my roommate who now drives me around. I used to drive him around.

But this morning I’m riding solo. I’ll be on my bike. My favorite thing to do these days. Coast down a four mile hill into town. There’s only one part where I have to pedal. The rest is just me and the wind blowing past each other. Me high-tailing to town, the wind high-tailing to Mauka.

The job is working at a mental health resident program. I’d be a relief assistant, hanging out and supporting adults with various mental health struggles. It’s one of those jobs where some days are quiet and calm, and others involve intervening in a crisis situation, and you never know what you’re gonna get walking in that day. I can handle crisis situations. It’s the anticipation that kills me.

This morning I’m on fire. I even did a couple head stand sets and even more impressively brushed my teeth. Things are looking good. A guy texted me this morning saying he wants to look at one of my bikes I’m selling, which would be abso-fucking-lutely perfect. I could really use the cash. That bike is so goddamn big though I don’t know what I was thinking when I bought it from my grizzly mountain-man of a friend. I guess I was doing him a favor, and I did think I could make a profit on it after fixing it up. It was in sad shape. Now it’s sitting in my tent upside down collecting crab spider webs and slug slime. Who the hell on this island is gonna fit that bike frame? I have to row that steel monster like a boat and pedal it like a ballerina on point. But maybe this guy is big enough. Maybe he’s my man. My saving grace. My Virgin Mary. I’ll throw in a Shark Bite milk shake to sweeten the deal if things start going sour.

The running has been good. I impulsively registered for the Hilo Marathon, cutting my savings in half by doing so. I cursed as soon as I hit the payment button. What an idiot. Who registers for an $80 race and can’t even afford a new pair of shorts for a once in a blue moon interview? Me. But at least I have a focus. 26.2 miles.

I signed up late, and started training even later, and now the race is but 4 weeks away. I’ll do what I can. 35 miles last week, 40 this week. Throw in a three mile tempo during a long run, and maybe I’ll be set to run a 3 hr marathon. Maybe.

I’ve never actually done a marathon before, well, never finished one. In 2014, I ran this very same race in Hilo, and had to quit at mile 21 after my right foot started acting up. I wore shitty shoes. I was an idiot, and now I want to redeem myself, and run it again, finish it this time. But I was in better shape back then. I was averaging 6:50 miles during that race. I’ll be happy to average 7-minute miles this time around. And I want to do it in my sandals. I’m an idiot.

But I’m an idiot who’s taking care of the grit. The world is my oyster and I am the oyster and this is my world and that fool that I am is going to be the pearl of my future. Time for a job interview.

February 21st 2016. Where to Begin?

Running in Circles

The world is your oyster. I don’t even know what the fuck that means anymore, but I use to say it all the time all nonchalantly to whoever floated alongside me in stride down the sidewalk during a run or perhaps after a marginally satisfying burrito at Lucy’s.

I just got home. Pedaled four miles up a steady paved road that looks out above the town Hilo, Big Island of Hawaii. My head is dripping sweat and its steaming hot in my crotch. Too much friction. Shouldn’t have worn my corduroy shorts. One of two pairs of shorts I own. They need replacing. Worn out in the crotch.

I strip off my outer-layer clothes and am left with a smelly pair of running shorts around my waist I’d been wearing since yesterday after a 14 mile run. I sat through a two and half hour movie in them. I ushered in them at the local Vagina Monologues that night, a delightful performance of all women reciting fantastical interviews of other women talking about vaginas. I even tried to sleep in them but decided naked would probably be cleaner since I was crashing in my friends bed. The lesser of two evils. I wonder if she’d appreciate it if I told her my consideration. She was gone dancing all night at some zoo party or something exclusive like that. 


My Tent of a Hut

And now I’m home. Finally. Alone in my little tent of a hut. Finally. Gone a day and half. Too long. Finally the running shorts come off, feels like some kind of ritual. I stand there naked for a while. Not out of freedom but out of a total lack of motivation. The day’s half over, tomorrow is Monday, and I’m still a broke, single, frail, jobless, prideful young man in his mid twenties who’s invincibility cloak, left over from the high chool days, is slowly degrading into a shallow pool of self-pity that I’ve been standing in for far too long. It’s all swampy. Stagnant. I’m all pruned, just a butt-naked pruned swampy kid living in a tent with a laptop and a work-trade lease on a mac-nut orchard on a tropical island hiding from my past and too depressed to put clothes on for my future.

This is my life. I eat soaked and boiled lentils with millet and avocado and taro. I eat the occasional satisfactory grande burrito from the Lucy’s; the sister taqueria of Gorditos in Seattle. I run. I run in sandals made in Seattle and sometimes I run in shoes made God knows where. I don’t ever run in a shirt because its too hot and god the whole point of running is to be minimal and pure and the feeling of a shirt rubbing across a large surface area of my body just makes my nipples turn all purple. Sometimes they bleed. I drink turmeric and ginger tea grown in our garden. I sometimes bike to town to convince my ego I’m doing something productive like applying for jobs. I’ve been applying for jobs for five months, kind of.

My life is simple and poor and pathetic. To many its an ideal situation… living on whole foods in a beautiful quiet getaway in Hawaii. And, you know, it is great, and I give my appreciation everyday when I wake up and watch the first sunlight hit my tent illuminating the new day. But if it wasn’t for running, I might just curl up and die in this safe-haven, this sanctuary this… idling life.

I’m still naked. I’m still standing here, wondering what the hell I’m doing with my life, wondering what direction I’m headed, wondering how many more days I can survive with only 150 bucks in my account, wondering if I should break down and cry or go plant some Comfrey. I blink. The bugs buzz, and I head to the garden, nearly forgetting to put any clothes on.