Wednesday, August 20, 2014

On the Death of a Loved One...and Lonesome Dove

We are in the process of burying the bride's father.  He was in failing health, yet there was no inkling that he would suddenly collapse and die (although he likely would have said, "That's a good way to go.").

So, shock, sadness, regrets, laughter, tears...all the emotions that wash over you when a loved one dies.  The funny stories and the tearful ones, all part of a life well lived.

You readers--the handful that will stick through reading this homily, which is, after all, about a complete stranger--of course didn't know my father-in-law (FIL), since I keep my family stuff fairly anonymous and generic here at Mister Tristan (the blog, not the 6 year old human being).  

But there are many things we could say about FIL.  He was 87, a WWII veteran, a farmer and mechanic, but mostly I think FIL would like to be remembered as a family man: husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, uncle, friend, and role model/mentor to many young people in his family and community.  

In his robust years, FIL was kinda the go-to guy for broken stuff and when you simply needed a hand or some advice.  Or just wanted to bullshit with someone.  In his later years, the favors were returned when his abilities to cope with his home and property became too much, and many family members and friends would cheerfully pitch in to help FIL with his tasks. get back to the blog, one of my all-time favorite novels and film productions is Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove.  This story has it all: love, friendship, family, loyalty, bravery.  I am convinced that EVERY lesson you need to learn about life, you can find in Lonesome Dove.

I can't get into all the character background here, so please read on, but for you aficionados, today I especially recall the part of the story where the scout Deets was killed.  Whenever anyone dies, the ones left behind always have some kind of self-recriminations:

Woodrow Call: I guess it's our fault, we should've shot sooner.
Gus McCrae: I don't want to start thinking, Woodrow, of all the things we should have done for this good man.

And the epitaph on Deets' headboard, carved by Woodrow Call...which with some changed words could have been FIL's:
Pea Eye Parker: What's it read, Gus? 
Gus McCrae: It says, "Josh Deets. Served with me 30 years. Fought In 21 engagements with the Comanche and the Kiowa. Cheerful in all weathers. Never shirked a task. Splendid behavior." That's what it says. 
Pea Eye Parker: My lord. Old Deets is gone. My lord. 

And finally, Gus McCrae's philosophy of life, which could have been FIL's:
Gus McCrae: Lorie darlin', life in San Francisco, you see, is still just life. If you want any one thing too badly, it's likely to turn out to be a disappointment. The only healthy way to live life is to learn to like all the little everyday things, like a sip of good whiskey in the evening, a soft bed, a glass of buttermilk, or a feisty gentleman like myself.

Rest in peace, Charlie.  I loved you.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Snot Rockets...and Ultrarunning

Mister Tristan (the 6 year old human being, not the blog), learned a valuable Ultrarunning-related skill this weekend. 

When we were out in the hot tub, his nose was running, and no tissues available, I taught him how to blow a snot rocket. 

That's where you hold one nostril shut while you blow vigorously, launching a blob of snot--the snot rocket. Then you do the other nostril. Naturally, there is an important component of directionality that must be well considered.

It's gross but effective, and extremely useful when the traditional nose blow with tissues is not an option.  

As when you're running in the backcountry.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Cats in Art: Les Deux Chats (Foujita)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I'm using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.  This is the seventh in a series of posts of the cat art of Leonard Foujita.

Image credit WikiArt, here.  LĂ©onard Tsuguharu Foujita,  Les Deux Chats, date uncertain (1960s, perhaps), media and size unspecified, held in a private collection.

The title in English, not surprisingly, is The Two Cats.  These guys look like a real pair of troublemakers (don't be fooled for one minute by the placid sleepiness of the kitty on the right).  The one on the left is so ready to bolt or play or chase.

Again we see the realism with which Foujita creates these felines.  I am particularly struck with the detail and realistic rendering of the left cat's torso.  Capturing that mottled tortoise-like pattern of fur coloration is far from easy.  

It is quite obvious to me, from looking over his numerous cat paintings from various times of his life, that Foujita must have been a dedicated cat lover as well as an excellent painter of the kitty form.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

In the Shadow of....Great Blue Herons?

I posted here about a year ago about how frequently it has happened to me that I've been in the shadow of Turkey Vultures.  Usually it happens when I'm on a sunny ridge top, and all of a sudden a big shadow passes over: a Turkey Vulture.

Well, last week I did some canoeing with a friend along the Conococheague Creek north of Greencastle, PA, and we we so fortunate in that we saw too many Great Blue Herons to count.  In most of the cases we would paddle downstream and startle a heron, which would flap away, mostly in the downstream direction.  Of course, in a couple minutes we'd flush the bird again.

After a couple times, the heron would usually wise up and instead of fleeing away downstream, it'd turn either left or right and circle around, getting behind us on the upstream side, probably muttering to itself in heron about those damn canoeists.

At any rate, there was one instance where we didn't see the heron, but all of a sudden a large shadow swept over us on an otherwise open and sunny stretch of water. I immediately looked up towards the sun, and sure enough, there was a Great Blue Heron sailing overhead.

I smiled, having been party to an uncommon treat, being in the shadow of a heron.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Cure for Anything is Salt...and Ultrarunning

I may have heard this on Public Radio, but I'm not sure or I would give credit, but the topic was salt, where I heard this:

The cure for anything is salt, whether it be sweat, tears, or the sea.

So much wisdom packed in there.  When I run in the backcountry it always involves sweat, and not infrequently involves tears.  Not necessarily tears of physical pain, but I can recall many runs with companions--particularly in a race situation--where in the deep talk about stuff that seems to be invoked by the camaraderie, I have gotten moved to tears by the emotions of the tale.

Sometimes it's my tale, sometimes it's the other person's, but I've blogged before about how perfect strangers on the trail can open up about the most personal things so quickly, in a post I called "Sharing Secrets With Strangers on the Trail," here.

Needless to say, salt also looms large in our hydration scheme.  Just like we sweat copious quantities of water, we also lose salt and other electrolytes that needs replenished as well.  Many Ultrarunners use Succeed capsules during hot weather (I have no financial interest, Google it if you want more info), or make sure they ingest salty stuff along the trail.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Golf...Which is SO Not a Sport, in a Pickle...and Ultrarunning

I ran across this article back in April and stashed it till now:

GREENSBORO, Ga. — Golf holes the size of pizzas. Soccer balls on the back nine. A mulligan on every hole.
These are some of the measures — some would say gimmicks — that golf courses across the country have experimented with to stop people from quitting the game.
Golf has always reveled in its standards and rich tradition. But increasingly a victim of its own image and hidebound ways, golf has lost five million players in the last decade, according to the National Golf Foundation, with 20 percent of the existing 25 million golfers apt to quit in the next few years.
People under 35 have especially spurned the game, saying it takes too long to play, is too difficult to learn and has too many tiresome rules.
Go ahead and read the rest at the link; it's a pretty in-depth and decent article.  I guess my main complaint, if you will, about golf is that it takes too much time, that's the main reason it never appealed to me.

But...and that's a BIG but...instead I do a sport where the mileage is measured in tens of miles and the time is measured in hours, or even days?  What kind of sense does that make?

Well, I never said that Ultrarunning makes sense.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Seen in a Cardiologist's Office

Something about this cover bothers me.

[image credit Gary...and Angina magazine]

This is one of those skinny medical periodicals that one finds in various doctors' offices.  So I suppose I should not be surprised to find the periodical Angina in a cardiologist's office.  After all, I see diabetes and thyroid disease mags in my endocrinologist's office (I am under long-term care for hyperthyroidism).

Naturally, the purpose of the cover is to remind folks that the heart condition Angina is no respecter of persons, and in fact can happen to practically anyone, including young, pretty women.

But my first impression of this medical magazine was that the woman's name is Angina, and I couldn't help wondering whether her loved ones call her Angie for short.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

An Astonishing Statistic...and Ultrarunning

According to this recent article by Reuters, many teens are using human growth hormone:

U.S. teenagers' reported use of synthetic human growth hormone more than doubled between 2012 to 2013 as they sought to improve athletic performance and appearance, a survey by anti-drug advocates found.
Eleven percent of 3,705 teenagers in grades 9 to 12 polled by the non-profit Partnership for Drug-Free Kids said they had used synthetic human growth hormone at least once without a prescription, up from 5 percent in 2012.
Use of synthetic human growth hormone (HGH) was higher among blacks and Hispanics, at 15 percent and 13 percent, respectively. Caucasians were at 9 percent, according to the group's annual survey released on Tuesday.

Twelve percent of boys said they had used synthetic HGH compared with 9 percent of teenage girls.

These data are absolutely astonishing to me!  Are you kidding?  One in ten high school aged kids have used HGH?
Now I love me some Ultrarunning, and I am not above using coffee and Mountain Dew in the latter stages of a race to perk me up, but injecting HGH as part of a deliberate strategy to improve performance?  I cannot imagine the pressure that these kids must feel to resort to that solution, nor can I imagine the type of rationalizing mindset that would pass that off as something OK to do.