Tuesday, August 19, 2003

From Friday, July 18th through Friday, July 25th, I spent time driving out west with buddy Steve. Out west is a little vague, but that's the way I see it. Here are some memories from that time.

The Coyote and the Cloud Wall--

After leaving the Black Hills of far western South Dakota late Saturday afternoon, we headed toward Sheridan, Wyoming, targeting as far into Montana as we could get. The sun crept downward that evening, but the air cooled quickly--relief from the beating sun of The Badlands, experienced earlier that day. We drove with windows down and sun roof open, beginning a stretch of narrower, windier I-90. The cd player deserved a break, so we searched the stations and settled upon country. KYTI--the Coyote--played a mixture of today's and yesterday's hits. They weren't lying. Merle Haggard lulled me into western dreamland, singing "Big City". Just passed Sheridan, out the western window sat a cloud wall. The lights dim, the sky blushing pink and deep purple, almost black, an opaque wall of cloud touched the ground and spanned a width that looked about as big as a sheet draping down from some sleepy giant's quarters. In it were bursts of lightening--a self-contained orchestra, curtained, but so lively that its energy could not be contained.

The Stars at Night . . .

The first night that we camped I was excited to spend part of the evening viewing the stars. Late that night, after lanterns shut off and campers found their way inside their tents, Steve and I sunk down in our canvas chairs, rested our feet on the picnic table, and tilted back. After about 5 to 10 minutes our eyes dialated enough to unmask the cosmos zinging along. It was bright, vivid, active. There were thousands of stars. So much was moving up there. Of course we began counting the shooting stars. We got to about seven before the game wore off and the glow set in--the warmth of things far away, unknown, greater.

The Glacier and the Flat Head--

These are places, not things. A place is something that holds wisdom, available for us to take whenever and however we need. Glacier is a national park in northwestern Montana, and Flathead is a lake found down the road, south from there. But I came to know them in reverse order.

Water that takes on shades of blue that remind you of gemstones often keeps you looking at it for long periods of time. Flathead Lake is sapphire blue. Aged, deep, and miles long it seemed to tell me about continuity. Neighboring this place are mountains, shaped through the centuries by the freezing and thawing of ice on glaciers. The mountains are craggy, dark, and sometimes snow tipped--stark colors bordered by a sea of deep green pines. Movement and change abound in this place.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

okay, since i can't get anyone else to enter the contest (you know who you are), it's time to announce the winner. fanfare.

1st prize goes to: Josua
(this would look good on a resume under "special skills.")

thanks to all entrants!

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quote of the day

excerpt from "The Cool Passion of Dr. Dean," Time, August 11, 2003.

Being a burnout got old after a year, and Dean decided his life could take one of three paths. He could teach, as he had done for three months at a junior high school in inner-city New Haven, Conn., near Yale. He could be a doctor. Or he could take 'the path of least resistance' and go to Wall Street. He quickly dismissed teaching as 'too hard . . . There were a lot of kids with enormous numbers of needs, and I couldn't meet them all.'

umm . . . preach it, Dr. Dean.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

"What do Great Sports Triumphs Show us About Ourselves?" essays

by Josua (pronounced HO-swah)

Maybe not quite an essay, but at least a couple paragraphs...

The sports world is now usually seen with a dollar sign attached. It is about winning, but that winning is measured against the cost; “Of course the Yankees won, with their $160 million payroll.” “He’s the MVP of the league, but isn’t worth $25 million a year.” “I loved going to the game, but what about those $7 beers?” We have transformed our perception of the sports world to include the home run and the home wrecker, which are both judged against their per annum salary. But there also are times when a sports event or a sports figure transcends the associated monetary moniker. And this is when we see ourselves in sports. Whether performing or watching, our hearts race, our muscles flex, our minds sharpen, and our passion for the moment peaks. We extend, physically, mentally, and emotionally, and stretch our limits to feel new feelings and to inhale the excitement of the event.

What does a great sports triumph show us about ourselves? (Patronize me a little here, because I might sound like an NFL pre-game promo, but I’m still very serious.) That hope is not in vain. That commitment is rewarded. That each of us has the ability within us, somewhere, to achieve goals and reach places we have forgotten exist. We exalt and idolize sports triumphs because they epitomize what we strive or at least dream to be; the best…and not in comparison to others, but the “best we can be”. It is easy to mock what I am saying, because often sports are over-hyped and basically Hollywood recreations at their best/worst. And it is easy to cynically bash my enthusiasm for a sports event or lifestyle that some deem completely unnecessary or unfulfilling. But when I think about the essence of a victory after taking away the glitz and the glamour, it is one of the purest forms of achievement. Not just physical, not just mental, but absolutely emotional.

I could go on to other aspects of these lovely v-style essay questions right now, but I think I won’t. Maybe later. Hasta pronto.

by Sistra

What got me going on this little endeavor was indeed an article about Lance. I like to take a result or an emotion and work at understanding all its components. The force, one tangible being the newest Nike "Can't tell a joke . . ." commercial, generated by Lance's cycling has become something that we want to touch or wear like a banner. It has become something for which to stand behind. And I wonder how physical exertion in competition leads us to that end, as humans, because we all know this goes back to our dear friends and models, the Romans. But, as I think on it, the physical expenditure need not necessarily require competition to become something to exalt. Think of the climbers of Mount Everest. There is the part of us, driven to burn energy at ever-more-challenging levels. Okay, plenty of sedentary folks exist. I've even heard the virtures of a sedentary life be exalted as well. But even the sedentary may, often do, take pleasure in being the spectator of such wondrous human achievements as Mount Everest climbs and 5-time Tour de France championships.

The thing that I am most interested in is the question: how does the physical extend the mental. When I run, I need more air. If I stop, it will be easier to breathe. But I lose something. My legs are no longer pushing off the ground in strides. Perhaps that doesn't sound fun, but who of you as a kid didn't try to see if you could leap from stone to stone across a creekbed, or simply swing as high as the sky? Mentally we are problem solvers, survivors, and communicators. When I am running, I am repeating a motion over and over. The same muscles are responding. The response is gratifying; the exertion is gratifying. The stretch, stretching to connect with a ball flying through the air, or stretching to reach a blurry endpoint marked through sweaty eyes, or stretching to hold muscles in a planted position tied to the ground, is gratifying. The physical is forever distinct from the tangle in the mind. It is clear and pure and felt. It is singular and present tense. It is something we strive for mentally, but can never achieve because the mental is past, past-perfect, present-perfect, and future tense. It is neverending, even in sleep. Through the physical we push through our own thoughts to find a respite that teaches us about ourselves.