April 2008 - Posts
I've been wanting to write this post for a while, but it's never felt right until now.
I went out to a different park today than the one I skate around because they have this annual festival there this time of year. I just wanted to walk and think about stuff, a typical pastime for me. I always go barefoot as well. As soon as I got out of my parked car I looked up at the sky and heard thunder off in the distance. The clouds looked a heavy rain-soaked blue as it was, but the thunder was the tipoff that rain was a comin'. The post that I had been wanting to write was about just this moment, what was about to happen.
As I was walking around the track I must've been about a quarter of a mile around when I felt the first raindrop hit my skin. The frequency increased until I was officially being rained on. I was near a grove of trees so I was protected for a while, but I kept walking. I had been wanting to experience walking in the rain again for a while. There's just something magical about not giving in to civilized behavior and doing what you're not supposed to be doing.
Not having my glasses or shoes on made the experience much more enjoyable, I had less to worry about. I felt even more a part of nature. The rain hitting my skin, bouncing off my head, my feet feeling the warm wet ground. I felt more connected to the environment than I otherwise feel. I felt happy. Just putting myself out in the storm, soaking up the experience, not running away. Perspective plays so much a part of experiences. Instead of fretting about my clothes getting wet, or rain falling into my eyes, or maybe catching a cold or something I looked at the moment as something to enjoy. It's what my heart wanted to experience. It's amazing how a singular experience can have such divergent viewpoints.
I couldn't help but smile as the rain was trickling down my body, making my shirt stick to my body. As the track led me to the entrance cars were racing to leave the park. I wonder what they must've thought to themselves when they saw me. "Look at the poor guy stuck in the rain." "Look at that idiot walking in the rain, with no shoes on!" "Wow, that's a cool idea, I'm gonna walk barefoot in the rain too!" I had to cross the road at one point and there was only one car left and they stopped to let me pass. I waved a thank you gesture at them, still smiling. Even in situations that would typically be viewed as unfavorable it's only perspective that keeps a smile at bay.
After I crossed the road the rain started to pick up. It felt like bullets hitting my skin; the rain can sting. Some of the banners the city had out promoting the festival at the other park were flapping wildly in the wind. I could see the rain changing directions: first stinging my neck and then my cheeks, and finally back down on my head. I have to admit I felt really alive then. I wasn't prepared for that, wasn't prepared for the rain to hurt, not prepared for it to feel cold at times. But it's what I wanted. I gasped at times at the unexpected strength of the downpour. Suddenly there were little impromptu rivers I was walking in. Ha! I'm alive!!
By the time I got to the end of the track my shirt and shorts were thoroughly stuck to my skin. I had been listening to music on my cell phone the entire time but decided it might be better to take my earbuds out. I actually think it was better keeping them in since they kept the rain from getting into my ears. I had flower petals stuck to me that had been blown in the wind. I must've looked like a wet, ragged dog; but I was happy. :)
The weather definitely plays a big time role in my emotions. When it's dreary and cloudy out I feel downer and more depressed than normal. When the sun's out there's suddenly no end to the joy I feel.
A lot of times I experience that immense joy by speed skating on a track around a lake. Parking my car on the grass on the side of the track, knowing what's in store, I get excited. I fold my glasses up and put them in the overhead compartment. I open the door and just to feel the warmth of the sun on my skin makes me giddy. In the dog days of summer the heat can get oppressive; and oddly, I love it even more then. There's something about pushing my body to its limit that I just can't get enough of.
I open up the back door to my car and pull out my skates, wedge my water bottle under the back tire. I have to wear thin socks to even fit into my boots, it's a very tight snug fit. Lacing up my skates is like a ritual, I have time to take in what's ahead for me, see the other people walking around outside, feel how hard and fast the wind is blowing. I leave them partially untied as I walk to my trunk to get my helmet -- the only protective gear I'll be wearing -- because walking on my skates loosens the laces.
Head wear on, skates laced and tied, I wait for all the cars to pass, and I put my first foot on the asphalt. Even now, after skating for some 10 years, it's still a little nerve-wracking to feel how easy it is to fall while on my skates. But that uneasiness is precisely why I love skating -- can't have the joy without the risk it seems. After putting my second foot on the road the uneasiness subsides as I rely on years of faith in my ability.
Hold my left foot study while I push off with the right, and again with the left, and the right, and suddenly I'm skating! There's just no better feeling than feeling the wind rush against me as I move through it so effortlessly. The first turn of the track quickly approaches though and I have to forego joy and concentrate on not hitting any stray rocks while doing a crossover.
Going down the shallow incline gives me time to conserve some energy as I rest my hands on my knees. Trying to concentrate on keeping my wheels straight and not slanted out. At this point I can hear my frames vibrate and that metal sound just emphasizes how fast I'm going. I use a particular tree on the side of the road as a guidepost that it's time to get down to the exercise of skating. Fold my arms behind my back, duck slightly, and now it's just my legs in control.
Straightaways are always the best part of skating as I get to take long strides. Momentum plays a huge part of everything, it's how I can lessen the effort it takes to go forward. It's what I use to propel myself up the first incline. During the first lap everything is so much easier, I have so much energy, it's so tempting to play with it and waste it by not being efficient with my body and going faster than I should. Being efficient isn't fun, no joy, but necessary for the later laps. Once I get to the top I rest some. I'm trying to increase my endurance though so I still propel myself forward.
The track is like a rollercoaster ride. After the incline there's a flat curvy section where I can rest some. But very soon is a steep decline.
As I round the turn leading down I listen for cars, watch for groups of people walking in the road, keep an eye out for dogs on long leashes. I don't have much time to do all this and my senses are definitely heightened, even listening to music is a detriment for me. With the way clear comes the excitement of rushing down the hill!
It's better, I find, to stand up straight, keep my hands behind my back, and slowly duck into a crouching position as I glide down the hill. There's a fluidity of feeling the environment through my skates that makes this easy. I can hear the wind speed increasing every moment I descend. Once I hit the bottom I have enough momentum to carry me all the way to the next turn so long as I stay crouched down. As I approach the turn I sit up ever so slightly to ease the coming crossover. This particular turn is the most nerve-wracking of them all because of my speed, I really have to work my arms to balance myself through it. My first lap I usually don't even do a crossover; have to get a feel for skating all over again.
Going down the longest straightaway of the track is very very fun. But for the first two laps of my first set I don't do any vigorous arm-swings to conserve energy. If the wind is right I can hear the metal frames vibrating again. It sounds so much like an airplane or an engine! I love that sound because it reminds me that I'm going fast! 30 mph one guy once said.
The second lap is tougher as I lose some energy. Going up the incline isn't nearly as joyous as it was the first time around. By the time of the third lap I've got that long straightaway on my mind. Crouching down during the steep decline I'm preparing for it. I'm going to just blow all the energy I can muster into going as fast as possible, screw efficiency, I've been waiting for just this moment. My nerves carry me through the crossover, confidence high by now. Instead of folding my arms back behind me though I leave them out, I'm going to need them. I have to work into a rhythm to get the best speed possible and I use my arms to increase my momentum. Timing an out-swing of an arm with the push-off of a leg is key. I'm even still debating whether it's better to sync my right arm with my right leg or use a different arm for each leg. Everything's a feeling though and I can only feel my way to the rhythm I desire.
Once I get it though it's magical. Skating becomes even more automatic as I use my arms to guide my legs into each push-off. By now I'm going so fast that any mistiming on my part will spell a vicious wipeout. I need to just feel everything, go with the flow, and trust myself. Doubting will cause me to tense up ever so slightly and lose the rhythm I worked to build. Feeling my skates slide to the side and then applying just enough force to keep me from falling is exhilarating. It's just a total abandonment of inhibitions and belief in myself. I can do it.
That metallic sound from my skates is very loud now, even walkers and sunbathers are noticing it. I have to admit to liking the attention I get while skating. People stop what they're doing and look my way, kids stare intently, some yell in excitement, it's neat. My heart beats furiously from maintaining the pace though, I'm definitely paying a price for pushing myself so hard. I approach the sign on the road I use as a guidepost to stop and I stand straight up and just glide. Feeling the wind beat against and rush past me the whole time. My lips are chapped by now, my throat parched, I need to rest.
Some people meditate by sitting still and folding their legs, I meditate by moving and feeling. I want to be the wind. This is the closest I can get for now.
Just a theory on evolution. Not physical evolution, but spiritual, or whatever you want to term non-physical; consciousness.
Evolution involves increasing levels of awareness. At some point consciousness becomes aware of its surroundings, it becomes aware it's alive. At some point later still it becomes aware of itself; it is. Is it possible to exist and not be self-aware? Seems a silly question to ask, as silly as a resident of Flatland asking about the existence of its own world. Beyond self-awareness what is there. To look further beyond or further within. Why look at all. Why do plants yearn skyward toward the light. Why do people question.
I have to admit, I have a newfound respect for the human body after spending two hours last night, off and on, hacking my guts up from eating some tempeh. It's a fermented soy cake that's more nutritious than tofu. It's cheaper than the Morningstar Farms soy burgers I've been eating since forever, has more protein and fiber, and virtually no sodium. Basically a really healthy food, everything we're supposed to be eating. Except it tastes like shit to me and apparently I just can't stomach it, literally. That sucks too since it has some good stats.
My reverence for the body has been long-standing. When I was a kid I read a book about it and when I got to the part about the lungs I suddenly had a hard time breathing. Up until then it was just an automatic thing: you breathe, don't know how but you do. Trying to consciously control my breathing though made me appreciate the fact it's an automatic thing. The body's a product of millions of years of evolution, longer than that if you include the creatures we evolved from. It knows how to take care of itself and survive. There must've been something really disagreeable about that tempeh for my body to try so violently to get rid of it. Good stats or not it was just not for me to consume.
There are a few branching off points from here. One, focus on the wisdom of the body. Two, focus on individual bodily needs. When I say the wisdom of the body I'm referring to the years and years of encoded learning built into our genes. Vomiting is a survival mechanism. You eat something that looks otherwise fine to eat, but has some hidden bacterium, your body has learned in some cases it's best to just reject the whole meal. Better to get energy from fat stores than risk compromising itself trying to digest a new energy source. Particles enter your lungs that can compromise breathing, and hence surviving, it violently expels them via sneezing. Runny nose? Body trying to get of bacteria, viruses, particles, or in general foreign substances that would impair it.
It's a point to mention when you consider all the prescription drugs out there designed to tamp down on bodily processes that don't fit cultured society. Anti-histamines, decongestants, cough suppressants. Your body needs the very thing these drugs are trying to prevent to heal itself. Of course drugs almost always seem to focus on symptoms than causes. "Who cares why you're sneezing like crazy, coughing your lungs out, or whatever, just take this pill and it'll all be better." Of course the pill itself probably has a long litany of side-effects that have nothing to do with the symptom you're trying to control. Scientists study the body for a few hundred years and think they understand it enough to interfere with it.
The second point is that everyone is unique and responds differently to the same things. Not everyone exhibits side-effects from drugs, but some do. Not everyone can't handle tempeh, being eaten for hundreds of years proves many people can tolerate it. You have to listen to your body. Truth be told I knew within the first bite I didn't like tempeh, but since it was so healthy I was determined to like it. The sense of taste is cool because it makes things that are good for you pleasurable so you want to eat more of it. Sugary things are high in energy and so are highly desired by the body, and thus taste so good. Things that taste bad to you? Maybe you just don't like it, maybe your body detects it just doesn't jibe with that thing you're eating. Lactose intolerance just sprang to mind. Your body doesn't produce the lactase enzyme and milk will be hard to digest.
It's almost like we rent our bodies. As much as we think we're in control when extreme situations present themselves it takes over. But we can poison and abuse our bodies for years and it'll compensate the best it can. At some point a limit is reached and disease seems to manifest. In truth it's probably just the body could no longer compensate what was happening to it; exhausted its resources. Live fast and die young. There's certainly a harmonious interaction necessary for sustainability of the body. Especially if we have the ability to do things to it that are to its detriment.
Okay, okay, I've been slack but it's finally here, the SubdomainModule for Community Server 2007. Yay, rejoice. I'm not going to bother talking about it here since my main site does that well enough. So head on over there and get it.
And BTW, I do have forums. They're a much better place to discuss it than blog comments <hint />.
I have to admit I absolutely love life. Quite a turnaround for someone who once often considered suicide.
Lately the song I've felt compelled to play over and over has been DJ Sammy's "You're My Angel". It's a euro house song from 1998 I stumbled upon during the mp3 free-for-all that was college. I just find it fascinating to consider why I'm so suddenly fascinated with it. Been on various drives and discs for years and not once have I loved it out of the blue like I do now.
I remember there was a girl I liked and I was letting her listen to a mix CD I made that had this song. While playing the songs on the CD I skipped this song because I felt embarrassed to like it and didn't want her to know I did. It's odd though because she was a clubber and probably would love this song. That's what music can do for you, take you back to past times.
What I find so fascinating about my sudden rediscovery of this song are the other things I'm learning that seem to connect to that experience. Foremost is the thought that expressing your true self, rather than being embarrassed about it and hiding, will actually bring you more of what you want. I say thought but it's turning more into a feeling, something I'm finding less of a need to actively think about to express. The tree of mind is growing roots into the heart.
The other fascinating thing is the timing. I find it so hard to resist pondering the why. There may be nothing else to glean from the timing, but I don't know, I still want to savor it. Why do feelings and compulsions arise seemingly out of the blue? Hm, the universe is mystery-filled -- and I wouldn't have it any other way. :)