Monthly Archives: January 2015

An Unexpected Gift

Friday is almost always a no-run day, has been for years.  That is not to say I don’t get out for a walk, a pedal, or… trying to catch sunset in pictures again.sunset 008
The prairie is behind. Waters of Admiralty Inlet in front. The Olympic Mountains, complete with winter’s shoulders of snow, are just across. The sun is moving slowly across their skyline. A voice from somewhere in time barely remembers something about “two diameters a day”–a clearer memory says we are just over one third of the way through this winter. A solstice or two found me out here checking, taking note of just which peak kidnapped the sun that evening. A ransom was exchanged and warmth returned… two diameters at a time. Ravens and eagles played along the bluff. Vibrant black feathers shone a little brighter each evening. Two eagles, almost adults, only a few brown streaks in their shoulders and great broad tails, played, talons flashing like swords of old. Each day’s passing gave a few minutes more daylight; two diameters at a time.
sunset 023
At water’s edge…, “Is this the ocean?” I looked around, small people nearby–one looked at me quizzically. Where is her big person? “Is this the ocean?” I sat down on a driftwood log, picked up a pointing stick, “No. This is not the ocean.” I pointed off in the distance at the end of the mountains to the flat spot. “See the flat spot?” “Yes.” “The ocean is out there.” “Is that where the whales are?” “Yes. It is getting dark. They go out there to sleep.” “Why do they go out there to sleep?” “If they sleep in here the light from the lighthouse (pointing at the Port Townsend lighthouse—on cue) keeps them awake.” “Oh.” Small person runs off to a large person, “Mom, he said all the whales went out there to go to sleep.” I turned to look at Mt. Rainier.
sunset 026
I should have come out earlier; gone up on the bluff. Time has lapses up there. A not painful, but inconvenient lesson was learned when I plopped down to watch a ship or two, outbound, probably to Perth or Busan or maybe somewhere romantic like Long Beach. A gazillion tons of things unneeded, but easily sold–hidden by lights that look like Japanese lanterns slowly going out with the tide. I have no flashlight tonight and the little person is coming back.
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“Do you know her?” “No. I just thought taking a picture of someone taking a picture was cool.” “Oh. Mom wants to know where the trees are.” Hmmm, there aren’t any trees here. We are on the prairie. “The trees all got knocked over by the glacier a long time ago.” “A glacier?” Uh oh, she knows what a glacier is. “Yes, there was a glacier here about ten thousand years ago.” “Where is it now?” “Canada. It was from Canada and it went home.” “Where’s Canada?” I pointed to Canada. “Is that where the trees are?” “What trees?” She pointed at the car, “The trees on the book.” I glanced at the car. Mom(?) was looking in the back window… hmmm. “Where are you from?” “Iowa. Do you know where that is? We don’t have any of those (pointing at the Olympic Mountains). We don’t have any big trees neither. Where are the trees?” I really wish I could guess at her age. What age does curiosity go away? What would she think of a jelly fish? Mom (?) is still at the car. I got up and walked over. “Are you really from Iowa?” She smiled, “Yes. I’m sorry about Clare bothering you.” “Not bothering, just asking questions about things not in Iowa.” She pointed at a copy of a book in the car. “We both want to know where those trees are.” Ahhh, those trees.  How did they know it was my car? There is always a copy of my book and a copy of Kathy’s book in the car. I unlocked the car and got my book out and handed it to her. I explained where Baker Lake is and how you probably can’t get there at this time of the year because of snow. Mom looked disappointed. Small person looked very disappointed. I got a trail map of nearby Fort Ebey State Park out of the car. In the fading light I explained about Cedar Grove and the old men, the old trees up there–and maybe, just maybe, the two eagles we think live there … “Eagles!?” Small person bounces too. “Yes, maybe, but even if they aren’t home it is a beautiful trail with some very old trees.” I turned to leave. “Bye!” “Bye, Clare.” Mom held out the book, “Your book.” I said, “No, your book–enjoy our island.”
cover_mixHow did they know it was my car

—–Run gently out there—–

A good thing ends

26 January 2015 … Mr. Whitley on my mind

HPIM3781
Forever in love with the ghost in the distance

“When good things end” rattled around in my head as I started up the last bit of climb to the trailhead. I thought about delaying the end, but the sun was just about to touch the water when I left the bluff thirty minutes ago and, try as I may, I have not been able to slow its descent. There is a single LED light in my fanny pack, but its uselessness as a primary light source has been proven. Sadly, I must admit, more than once. I did postpone the inevitable end of my run for a few minutes by turning up the trail with no name. It is a horseshoe trail off the main trail that has caused more face plants and strained shoulders from grabbing limbs for balance than any other three trails put together. I took it simply to add time, not really caring about the reduced speed in the darkening woods. Reduced speed? Had the day been about speed? Or focus? Or something else? What was I doing that I was so reluctant to end? It had not been a well-focused run, not thought out at all. chuckanut 031 When I began this run, the time it took to find out what today’s run should be or was to bring passed without notice. The grey, almost black, clouds got more attention than the junctions and decisions about effort. It wasn’t until fifteen or twenty minutes after I started that I noticed the face full of zeroes on my watch. Okay, scratch running the perimeter for time. What is the next option? Just keep going and enjoy the day. At the bottom of the kettle five trails come together. From here my mind’s eye sees me as being in the middle of a five-petalled flower. Each teardrop shaped petal is about a half mile long and climbs (or drops) about 200 feet. Aha! I’ll do each “petal”—obviously a hill-repeats day. The face full of zeroes glared silently. I started up the hundred yards of ball bearings that lined the first climb. chuckanut 008

I made it through two petals and was merrily kicking rocks out of the way going down the third when I did one of the few tricks that I have mastered with no regard to speed, terrain, or season. I kicked a rock. “Watch that rock,” came a voice inside. Hmm, it is rolling back into the trail… right where my mind’s eye says my foot will need to land… uh oh… this is where you do the magical change stride length while in midair. I cheated by grabbing a handful of salal to pull myself a few inches to one side while my eyes remained locked on the still-moving rock. Okay, now I know the rock can’t see me and doesn’t know which way I will go, but it has just adjusted course so I know it is going to be under my lead foot. If its intentions are to cause me to stumble and roll most of the way to the bottom, it is doing a pretty good job for an inanimate object with few sentient qualities. The guys in charge of deciding on shoulder roll versus butt slide have opted for butt slide. I accept their decision. I’m going down, but it is a controlled fall and I am back on my feet before the bottom. Two petals to go.

The pleasure of an unexpected hard workout raised my spirits. As I ran out from under the dense canopy of the forest, the cleared power line right of way let me see the clouds again. A touch of chill came in on the wind and the warmth from my recent hard effort went away. Pausing to see which way the clouds were going, I untied the jacket from around my waist and slipped it back on. I laughed at the lump in the pocket. Gloves? Yes, there are almost always a pair of gloves in my jacket or fanny pack or backpack or vest or whatever. I have never known the weather to guarantee feel good stuff. Above me, there was a distinct line separating the black clouds from the grey across the westerly sky. There was a front coming in. I thought of which trails would have the most tree cover and turned off the power line trail. chuckanut 032

As so many times before, the first drops of rain brought the late Keith Whitley’s “I’m No Stranger to the Rain” to mind. I was silently getting through “I’m no stranger to the rain, I’m a friend of thunder…” when the first flash of lightning came. We don’t get many thunderstorms up here. We get gentle rain, sometimes followed by hard rain, sometimes accompanied by wind, but we don’t get flashing lights and sound effects. “And I’m good at finding shelter in a downpour….” Maybe I should try for another song. I wasn’t worried about the lightning as I had turned down onto a trail that was winding its way around and down—down where no trees were on high to attract a random bolt of electricity. I was looking for some cedars—nature’s umbrellas. I got to them and sat down on one of the contorted roots I had long ago understood to be there as a bench for when I wanted to sit and pause in the quiet of the bottom of the kettle. I pulled a smashed up PB&J from the pouch, knowing I wouldn’t need much time to eat it. Rain that started that suddenly with that intensity seldom lasts very long around here.crooked_trees 066

The quiet returned as the rain passed. The rain laden leaves were heavy enough so as to not dance in the rising wind. My sandwich was finished and the rain was gone. I got up, listened to the creaks and pops of my now cold joints, and started the climb to the bluff overlooking the beach. Passing storms mix the grays, greens, blues, and whites of the water in the strait that, like snowflakes, are never recalled as having been seen before. The eastbound storms hide the mountains to the south and east, but the westerly end of the mountains are visible and sharply silhouetted by the lowering sun. A raft of surf scoters, probably never having acknowledged the storm, bob on the waves.  There are three kayakers just pushing their always frail looking watercraft back into the waves. I wondered if they had soggy PB&Js to eat while waiting out the storm. The sun is a lot lower than I had expected and I needed to head for the car, but the clarity of wave patterns and snow lines on the mountains kept holding me there. The contrasting stillness of the mountains and the ever moving waters of the strait are left to a poet to describe—all I can do is look from one to the other. The contradictory thought of each being older than the other does not bother me.

What bothers me is not having a flashlight and the idea that a good run is in need of an end.

—–Run Gently Out There—–