I have alot of tires in my life (yes, I know alot is not one word. But it’s one word in my world, which you are now in. Thank you to those that have emailed to correct me. God bless you. I have two Master’s degrees; one in Education. I’m also big on Oxford commas).
But I digress. I’m not talking about spare tires in the traditional sense of the phrase, “spare tire,” which comes from the Greek word flabous, meaning to sit on one’s ass while consuming large amounts of beer. I’m talking about the more literal, airy, round, spokey, black things that allow us to drive cars and ride bikes and look Middle-Age cool on motorcycles.
I have two cars (well, one is officially Rachel’s but I’m responsible for), a motorcycle, a mountain bike, two street bikes, a wheelbarrow, and a little cart that I attach to my mountain bike and ride to the gym with all my gym-crap (I have alot of gym-crap). I probably look like a weird old guy riding my bike with my gym-crap cart; it has a Bucs flag on it, too. I love that cart. All in total, I have 19 tires that I am responsible for keeping airy and round. 19 tires. Every day. Every. Single. Day. 19 tires is alot.
Recently I’ve suffered the blight of non airy tires, euphemistically called flat. My tires don’t become a little non-airy, slowly. No. They go instantly flat-flat; flat-non-airy, as in no-airy, zero-airy, smooshed, dead, disfigured, lopsided, void of even the slightest pressure, an impediment to any form of use. Use. Less.
Part of the issue is that flat non-airy tires always comes as a surprise. Like, are you effing kidding me right now? surprise. Like being slapped in a really dark room by an unseen hand (whapsh!Wait, what!?); incredulity on a soul level, on a planet-full-of-souls level.
The dreadful weight of comprehension comes slowly. You always squeeze and re-squeeze non-airy tires, slightly before being overcome and sinking to your knees, hands-to-the sky-Elias-dying-in-Platoon fashion, Why did you leave me, air!
Injustice on a cosmic level. Evil has won. It’s almost too much to comprehend. What did I do wrong? How have I sinned? How could this happen? Why is the universe so PSI arranged? Barnes!
Tragic comprehension gives way to anger, hurt, shock, tears, and the sudden impact that all plans have changed. There will be no airy tires going round and round today, no breeze in the hair, no birds, no humming, no sun; only melted ice cream and dog poop.
Oh, we bargain with the air-gods and try to fix it. Desperate and embarrassingly really. Pumps and patches, we spin the tires like we’re an expert and mutter things like goat head and glass and nail, the full measure now upon us.
Finally, it settles. Push or move the flatness back to where it was before we were aware: flop, flop, flop. We now need to find something else to do, some other way to get there, some way to survive, if we can. Our hope and joy smashed on the jagged rocks of ruin and flatness. We make plans to order from Amazon or get it to a Flat Wizard, and hope that someday soon we won’t suffer from the heartbreak atrocity of missing PSI flatness.
I don’t have spare tires, except for the cars, which according to the vehicle secret treasure map are hidden away in dark compartments that require keys and passwords and hieroglyphic processes. Should I? Am I being irresponsible? And if I should or am, why should I need spare tires? It’s like life insurance: I know I’m being ripped off, and even if I’m not, I’m freaking dead! Yay!
As Walter Brennan might say in a late-60’s Western: Gawd a mighty what a summer it was!
But, yikes. What happened? Where did the summer go? And, Ok, a good part of fall?
I’ll get to the particulars in a minute. First: I haven’t written in a long time. A long time. Months! I look back at my last post, before the past crazy summer got started, and wonder how the months zipped by so quickly. I dug out my heavy bathrobe this morning (I always want to take up smoking a pipe) and thought, Man. It seems like I just put this away for the summer, and here I am in it again. I should smoke a pipe. It went by so fast. And it was so good.
Have you ever been aware that you were actually in the very process of creating nostalgia – in real time? You know, that awareness that this, this right here, this very minute, is going to indelibly score your soul and come back to you someday as, “I had a dream last night we were back there … I want to go back.” It was that good. It was that awesome. It was that magical. Laptop screensaver stuff. (Only….in my dream there was this giant cartoon chicken that chased me around the back yard and I was screaming like a little girl and had cement blocks for feet).
All kidding (kind of) and Alektorophobia (very common!) aside, the past summer lived up to every bit of all the hoping, dreaming, and planning that went into it. I covered what we planned to do in the previous post if you’d like to catch up. And honestly, much of it went Better than planned (I should run for Office of Awesome!), some went just as planned (Yay me!), some of it went, well, not quite as planned (who’s idea was this again?), and some of it, honestly, could go in the Went off Half Cocked / WTF!? / Completely Out of Left Field column (don’t look at me!)
But, all in all, I learned a ton. Maybe two tons. I learned stuff that wasn’t even in the neighboring universe of stuff I thought I would learn this summer. Real, Other Universe stuff. And still, all in, it was one for the record books.
Boise Greenbelt: Not quite as planned
Sadly, we did not get to ride the Greenbelt this summer as we had hoped. I rode a couple of shorter rides, but ended up having weird outpatient surgery on my left rear shoulder and had to wait for the 13 stitches to do whatever it is they were doing back there to do. Rachel also ended up having an unexpected summer surgery which precluded her from being able to ride for several weeks. Doctors can seriously be a pain in the ass.
I did, however, enjoy a very unexpected ride with a good friend into the Boise foothills after “healing.” Sorry honey. He was in very good shape and had a totally kick-ass real mountain bike that he paid like half a million dollars for. It was on this ride that I first learned, in suffocating agony, the difference between my bike (hybrid-street-gravel-not half a million dollars) and a real mountain bike. The steepness of some of the climbs and descents was frightening. One lung exploded. I saw Moses and he laughed and pointed at me. I almost died. It was glorious.
Maine: Just as planned
The motto on Maine license plates is, “The way life should be.” Our week at the beach, and the week before at mom’s house: was spectacular. Our visit with my mom was memory-making. After my dad died recently, mom decided to sell the house, so much of our first week in Maine was spent packing, U-hauling, dumpstering, sorting, organizing, and making move plans. The work was painfully enjoyable. It’s a uniquely final thing to help pack up your childhood home (Ma! Looks what I found!) We enjoyed the days and then around 5pm we’d retire to the “backyahd” for an adult beverage and rest. Summer afternoons stretched into evenings and then nights, as we made classic, life-perspective conversation. Mom was no slouch when it came to making “winecoolahs” (a precarious and potentially internally combustible ratio of vodka and wine, heavily leaning towards the vodka side). Gawwd Ma. Wicked Coolah. Pheesh.
After a week with mom, we headed to the beach, and I am challenged to adequately convey the wonder of that beachfront cottage and amusement park. Even the quintessential rainy days were glorious. Everywhere there were families, lines, beach umbrellas, live music, drinks, sand, fried things, seagulls trying to eat fried things, and, of course, “Lobstahs” and “PeeyaFries” (and seagulls trying to eat PeeyaFries). The rental cottage came with two cruiser bikes, and we made good use of them. I found a small gym and used it 3 or 4 times, and added in some beach workouts that bordered on Zen retreats (Sunday morning in an absolute downpour was glorious). I fell in love with the 1800’s architecture, the smells, the sounds (trains at night) and with an adjacent quaint little beach town called Ocean Park. Please, take me back.
Chicken Sitting: Better than planned
At the risk of slight exaggeration, I feel qualified now to author (or at least co-author) a book called, “Mother Cluckers: My Life as a Chicken Boss.” I think there were 5 chickens, and I was Chicken Boss for one full week (that’s a 7-day week, not a sissy-fiver). I never had to run screaming across the yard as feared. They probably sensed my courage, bravery steely resolve. Once they learned who was in charge, I think they actually liked me. After dinner I’d tell Rachel I was heading out to check the back 40 and the livestock needed tendin’ and to mind the house while I was out checkin’ and not to worry after me. I had a hat and a stick. They liked to hide the eggs like I was a dumb city softie. The eggs were good and I made sure to brush after breakfast so they would not smell offspring on my breath. It was fun, although I did not come away wanting to invest long term in buying a chicken ranch, so that’s good.
Read Two Fictional Books: Completely out of left field
The truth of it is I did not read any fiction this summer. I meant to. I really did. I wanted to be the guy on the beach (Ok, the ripped, muscly, fit guy on the beach) reading a book like he had the whole world figured out. Something with Native Americans or cowboys or pioneers or ship captains. I carried the intended book to the beach and on planes and left it out on tables. I always ended up playing Frisbee or riding bikes or talking to Ma or doing a little work instead. At least for the first part of summer. And then something completely out of left field happened and it took up all the rest of whatever spare time I had left.
It’s completely mesmerized me. I love not only recording the shows, but find that editing the audio appeals to my technical side. I get lost in my headphone world of editing for hours after each episode. I’ve learned software and audio wave forms and noise cancellation. I researched microphones and music and love the “putting it all together” aspect of production. I’m biased, but as new podcasts go, I think it’s one of the best I’ve heard. We’ll record our 6th episode today, talking about what we’ve learned from living small. I love doing it. I love planning topics. I love the exchange of ideas. We became podcasters!
Squat and Press 185: Better than planned
I did it! I actually did better than planned! (Ok, mostly because I am still getting better at math). But I did it! And it felt good. On the Smith Machine, I ended up pressing 235 for one rep (adding up weight amounts can be so confusing!) and I squatted 185 for 4 sets of 5. I’ve started to feel a little thing in my knees sometimes (I mean, 60 and all. Sigh) so I wanted to be aware while still setting and striving for goals. It’s actually been a fantastic fitness summer. I’m actually up several (4) pounds but still look pretty good. I feel great. I’m moving heavier weights again (which is probably why my weight is up), still slamming balls (!), and still loving the workouts.
Bonus Late Summer Event: I’m 60!
To be honest, it was kind of a dud. I mean, in a good way. I guess. It’s funny that at 59 it’s ho-hum-yeah-pass-the-cake-please and just one year later it’s supposed to be glitter popping cannons and pats on the back and you look pretty good (wait for it…) for 60! and how does it feel? I’ll tell ya how it feels: It feels like I should eat almost $100 worth of sushi and have a top shelf martini. So I did. I take back the dud part; it was awesome. Good conversation, good dream-casting, and really good sushi.
So there it is. Or was. The Summer of ’21 Awesome Adventures and Learning. So many memories made. So many smells and tastes and flashbacks. So awesome.
I wrote this post several months ago. I had been thinking about change and direction and those things (and people) that are good and not good in our lives. I had read that we should feel energized and bettered in some way when we’ve spent time with (and energy on) people and / or things like hobbies. It may seem contrary, but the process of making a mental list for consideration created optimism and energy. In light of our upcoming amazingly-fantastic summer, it may sound pessimistic or cynical, but the more I thought about it the more optimistic I became.
I thought about what our Baby House (either one of them) would look like if we never got rid of stuff; if we never decided that some things needed to not be in our lives anymore. A basic truth emerged: that would not be a good thing. I simmered on that for awhile and decided that it’s not just about stuff. Relationships, habits, hobbies, thought patterns, goals, dreams; is this “useful” in helping me go in the direction that I want to go?
What about people? I’m not suggesting that people are utilitariean, but on some level, well, let’s face it, some people are just flat out drags. A friend once called those kind of people “joy suckers;” they suck all the joy right out of you.
Another friend said once that many people are in our lives “for a season.” I’ve had alot of people in my life for a season. I learned a great deal from many of them, and some of them have made significant impact on my life.
Endings are a natural part of life on the planet. The circle of life, life-cycle; all that. Most see endings as bad things, but some endings are natural and good and signal a transition towards better: farmers plow fields under, school years close out, summer gives way to fall, people retire from working and hopefully into a new and exciting life. In some areas of life, when jobs or relationships end, the endings can be uncomfortable to say the least. Often, the reason people make a conscious choice to end something is because they have lost hope that it’s ever going to get better.
Realizing something needs to end is hard and painful. We want to put it in the back of the closet and lock the door and then brick the door over and pretend it was never there. If we don’t see it, it’s not really there. We hold on to maybe-someday and you-never-know.
It might be that someone is acting as a detractor in your life, or the job doesn’t align with your talents or characteristics, or the environment is awful and makes you feel sick, or you’re bored, or tired, or you’re scared. Or you just know deep down you could be so much more. should be so much more. would be so much more, if.
We round the edges and put it off; maybe it will get better, maybe it’s me, maybe I’m looking at it wrong, maybe if I just wait, maybe next week/month/year. Or what if I’m wrong, what if I make it worse, what if I end up with regret.
Endings can be scary. They signal the need for action. Action can be really scary.
Hard is good.
But endings are necessary before new things can come. We (I) need to remember, often, that the good things in life are almost always the not-easy things. Think about the good things you’ve earned, the goals you’ve accomplished. Tough, yeah? I bet yeah.
We have to do the hard thing before we get the good thing. Be careful when you get a good thing too easily. Maybe it’s not really a good thing after all.
We have to do the hard thing before we get the good thing. It’s almost a Life Rule: Hard = good.
Hard before good. That’s they way life works. Hard brings good.
Necessary endings. Ending the fruitless so the fruitful can begin. Pruning can be a painful process. But then new life grows. And we Middle-Agers have too much to be hopeful for, and are way too cool, to settle for less.
Are we all ready for a non-pandemic summer or what? I know I am. As I write, March Madness is in full swing. It’s a great sport series that makes people optimistic, fills bars, enjoins bracket friends, and makes for perfect spring Saturday TV. Such fun. Every year I fantasize about accepting the workplace tropy amid cheers and cries for speechmaking; also every year the reality sets in that I’ve finished near the very bottom. But no matter; still great fun. I recall the utter pie-hole-agape disbelief when I learned of its cancelling last year. Who could have known at the time the seismic ride we were in for?
It’s been a long year, but vaccine #2 is coursing through my veins, the days are lengthening and warming, and I am SO ready for summer.
We’re in a great place to begin mapping out our 2021 summer. We’re debt-free, back to being a two-income team, investing, giving, and the minimalistic living style has created an almost responsibility-free opportunity to be away from home-base for extended periods. My brain is buzzing with potential summer travel options, not just for this summer, but for several more after that. I’ve learned that days and weeks can slip by if we’re not careful; if we don’t have a plan. I don’t want to look back on this summer and wonder where it went.
Additionally, dreaming and making plans is fun, makes for great Martini (Gin, of course) after-work conversation time, and promotes focusing on our successes – something we all should do more.
Dreaming and planning are the first two steps in the four step process of dreaming, planning, living, and remembering. We’ve dreamed an awesome summer; now it’s time to fit all the fun-puzzle pieces together and make some incredible memories!
Some of the things I have listed are couple plans (done together), and some will be individual goals. And that’s ok! Get them dreamed, planned, and on the calendar!
Ride the Boise Greenbelt
Ok, so maybe starting a little on the tame side here, but riding the 25-mile Boise Greenbelt is awesome, and gorgeous, and relaxing. Did I mention that you can also start and stop at multiple amazing little shops, restaurants, and bars along the way? One of our favorite rides is to start and end at Bardenay’s, where, as luck would have it, they distill the best gin on the whole planet! Who knew! And, this year might bring the extra fun of new bikes! It’s pretty tough to beat a summer day on the Greenbelt with a Bardenay Martini (Gin, of course) at the end!
Old Orchard Beach, Maine
Now we’re stepping up the game! We have a beach cottage reserved for a week on the coast of Maine, in what is probably the quintessential and most-awesome summer New England vacay spot: OOB! 7-mile beach, boardwalk, historic pier, beach-front amusement park, pier fries, clam cakes, lobstahs, drinks on the surfside deck; all right on the beach! Sand, sun, surf, and summah! Some wicked good!
Ok, I’m not entirely sure that’s what it’s called. Rachel and I will be house-sitting for some close friends while they travel out of country, and they have chickens. This, then, is the wild, stare-down-fear, livin’ on the edge part of my summer plans.
To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about chicken oversight. I’ve never had chickens. I’ve never even been around chickens (I mean, except to eat them and the eggs, and I have eaten alot of chickens and eggs) I’ve heard elders talk about having mean chickens in the olden days. Just how mean can chickens get? And I’ve seen those AFV videos where chickens chase terrorized screaming kids all over the yard (chicken ptsd is probably a thing). What if that happens? What if the neighbors see? What if the chickens take over the yard? What if they can tell I set the record for per-person chicken consumption? Bravery Mark. Press on.
Read Two Fictional Books
I read alot. Daily. Usually in the morning. I tend to drift towards the deep end of the pool. Currently I’m reading about neuroplasticity or brain plasticity and the ability for the brain to adapt chemically based on experiences, especially as it relates to addiction and impulse control. Dopamine, opioids, neurotransmitters; pretty fascinating stuff actually, but not an easy trudge.
I picked up a historical fiction book the other day (The Son by Philipp Meyer) and found that I liked it. I have not yet had the time to do it justice, and there are alot of names and generations covered as foundational information, so I stopped and will need to start it again. Time is a factor for me still, and I feel like I’m wasting time by reading fiction. It didn’t really happen, so what’s the point? I’m hoping to fix this by reading historical fiction; where I guess it kinda-sorta happened-ish. I set a goal to read two of these types of books this summer.
Squat and Press 185 (Smith Machine)
These two are fitness related summer goals for me. I’m having an absolute blast re-discovering fitness lately. I’m learning more and more about using body weight, bands, tubes, Slam Balls, and I’m watching Athlene-X YouTube videos – that guy is amazing. Actually, Sylvester Stallone turned me on to him. As people like me (and Sly) mature, we can’t push the really heavy weights anymore; it’s damaging to joints and connective tissue. But what we can do is train smarter. An older mentor of mine once said something to effect of, “train today to train tomorrow.” Talk about future-minded.
I also started using a couple of supplements again (joint support and creatine) and feel the difference. So much so that I want to incorporate more weight resistance back into my routine. Nothing crazy heavy, and the Smith Machine keeps it safe and guided. I’m anticipating a very cool milestone this year and I’m very optimistic about it.
What would summer be without spending time with family? Now that the virus is unwinding, it’s time to fire up the barbie and get back to partying. Reconnecting will be good. A year is a long time to not get to wrestle with grandkids. All the great electronic communication tools notwithstanding, there’s nothing that beats a lawn chair, cold beer, sunscreen, maybe a frisbee or two, and barefeet in the grass. Plus, I need hugs and handshakes. No masks, no distancing, and no looking back. It’s over. Let’s go.
Ok, one more. (I really do need to get better at this).
I turn 60! It’s hard to believe, where did time go, and all of the other awful obligatory (last one, I swear) sayings that come with maturing and decade-number-birth milestones. It’s the Big 6-0! Although the core of summer will have passed, it’ll still technically be summer (September 21st). I’m actually looking forward to celebrating this big one. I absolutely believe the 60’s will be my best decade yet. Possible retirement (heh-heh), travel, possible relocation (co-location?), new hobbies, new pursuits, new adventures; talk about exciting. I might even do one of those Man-sexy photo shoots; maybe a fireman (I’ll fight your fire bay-bee!) or maybe a lumberjack (insert favorite wood joke) motif, who knows! The point is I can hardly wait. And cake! How big should a 60! cake be! Right? Ginormous! And with real, numb-your-lips, 200% sugar frosting; none of that whippy crap.
Well, so there it is: Middle Age Mark’s coming Summer ’21. Fun. Adventure. Travel. Sun. Surf. Sand. Grass. Pool. And potential Chicken PTSD (so worth it).
My relationship with my dad is hard to explain. Maybe all dad / son relationships are hard to explain. Maybe it’s the different hobbies and zip codes and communication styles and myriad other nuances as kids grow up and make their own way. I wouldn’t say we were close, but I wouldn’t call us distant either. I guess we talked when we had something to say. I’ve long believed that one should try to emulate the good and leave the bad when it comes to others, family or friends.
All parents are flawed (my own parental flaws are, of course, minuscule) because all people have flaws. As parents we do the best we can and ask for the benefit of the doubt. In my case, my parents were no different. Again, the best idea is to internalize and act out the good that parents modeled, and try as best we can to not perpetuate the flaws. Sometimes that’s easier said than done; DNA, nurturing, stressors, and all that. I have and will endeavor to recognize and fix the not-so-good’s of the mixed bag I was handed, and to model in my own life the good. That’s all any of us can do.
In that spirit of clinging to the good, I learned some valuable life-lessons from my dad.
Men Should be Manly. Men should be tough. Strong. Capable. Friendly. Brave. Able to fix things. Able to stand outside the car in the winter while pumping gas. Men should not run from the rain, or any weather. Men should know how to shoot guns, fish, back trailers, and swing an ax. They should bear a few scars, and should know the basics of tools. Handshakes should be firm, tears if any should be minimal, and solutions should always precede, if not replace, complaints.
Men Should Take Action. When I was maybe 6, my dad pushed over a dilapidated 2-car garage. He didn’t ask (it belonged to a relative), he just did it. After the dust settled, he said, “There. Now I guess I need to build a new one.” Men should investigate the noise at night, the squeak in the car, or why the furnace won’t furnace. We should build, create, learn, fix, help, lead, make mistakes, figure it out, and occasionally break things (needed replacing anyways). Talking is nice, but “I really ought to’s” and “Someday I’m going to’s” are wimpy and take valuable time away from actually doing things.
Men Should Eat the Damn Cookie. This is sometimes a hard one for me. I’m pretty careful with my diet. If I can work my brain around to a more metaphorical position, maybe it could also mean to enjoy the good “tastes” of life without so much worry over the little things. Dad was a firm believer in a preset death date; he would die on the exact time and date that was designed for him. Nothing and no one could change that. While we differed there, the belief allowed him to live a fuller and less worried life. Maybe the idea is to eat the “cookie,” savor it, and then move on to what we know are better things. Perhaps this could even carry over into, say, martinis (Gin, of course). (Look at me learning!)
Men Should Follow the Spirit of the Law and Round Edges Where Needed. Dad was a Maine State Trooper for several years. I think he always regretted getting out before retiring. Back then the State Police paid too little to support a young family with 3 kids, so he moved into insurance as many of his colleagues were doing. Dad came with built-in stories. He seemed to hold great tolerance for people that made honest mistakes, and little for those that were dark or disrespectful. He kept a binder of some of the cases and crimes he worked; some of the photos are quite gruesome. Through all the stories, all the people he “let go”and all the ones he didn’t, there seemed a common thread of seeing the good, the goal, and the purpose, and not being caught up in details.
Men Should Take Care of What They Have. This was a big one. Dad was always mowing, cleaning, adjusting, repairing; making things better or keeping them as good as they could be. It taught me to respect what I have and to be thankful that I have it. We don’t need everything brand new (most of what we had as kids was not), but we can keep it in as good a condition as possible. Even older things can be nice.
It’s OK to Do Stuff Alone. Over the years after I left home, all of my dad’s hunting buddies died. As he aged, he moved away from the hobby of firearms hunting and took up archery. I don’t really know how he learned it; it was before the time of YouTube videos and I don’t remember hearing of lessons. He seemed to just decide he was going to learn archery hunting, talked to folks at LL Beans, bought a bow and all the accompanying stuff, and started practicing in the back yard; far too close to the neighbors (sorry neighbors). Tires were punctured, sheds were holed, cats accidentally went missing. But he did it. And he seemed to really love those solitary hunting trips, even if it was just him. He was not afraid to try new things.
I’m sure there are a few more life-lessons I learned from my dad but I guess those are the big ones. He died a few weeks ago, after succumbing to dementia. Covid made it impossible to see him and perhaps no matter there; he was not one for philosophical departing words, or philosophical words of any kind for that matter. We hunted and fished together for years when I was younger, but my Coast Guard career made it increasingly difficult to get home. I’ll fly to Maine in a few days to visit and help with what I can. I’m still processing his life and what it meant to me.
Our last words were when we were departing after a visit and he shook my hand after a little dementia-fueled blow up the night before. “No hard feelings and let’s just forget about that thing last night.” “What thing last night?” I said. He smiled, choked up, nodded, and looked away.
To this day I struggle with keeping my voice during times of high emotions. Praying at family dinners gets a little drawn out while I work to get it back under control. So much for moving orations. Thanks dad.
One of my favorite memories is of sitting together in a field after a day of hunting and watching the treeline as cold Maine November dusk settled. Not alot of words; more a feeling of presence. I’ll miss him in that time. I believe I’ll see him again, and I hope we can sit a field again at dark and watch the treeline.
For now, I think I want to draw his bow and see how it feels.
I recently received my first Covid19 vaccination; a sign that the Ordeal might be thinking about starting to wind itself down. As I waited in line, I saw that people were being polite, kind, and calm. It was not at all the Friday-Night WWE Smackdown crowd I expected. All in all, a very pleasant experience. The time spent with my fellow human beings allowed me to reflect on the year that was; perhaps for the first time. Seeing as how it’s February 2021, it’s past due.
Many people had a very rough 2020. Separated from family, sickness, death, fear, lost jobs, businesses closed, and houses foreclosed; the effects still linger. I don’t offer my perspective as counterweight or contrast, but as my own reflection. My own passing through the year was not without suffering the impacts of challenge, but mine were light. Still, I chose to set my sights on what I learned, how I grew, and what I was and am thankful for.
So here’s to the 8 things I’m thankful I did or learned in 2020.
I Relearned How to Live Small. Rachel and I live in a very small space. At our age (I’m almost 60), one might expect that our American Dream Bauble Bag is nearly filled with copious square footage and multiple monthly minimums. Our small space is enough for us (3-digit square feet; not gonna lie, it gets small sometimes), and it reminds me to be thankful for the basics; a good bed, a good pillow, heat, windows that allow sunlight, way more food than I need, and an oversized rain-style shower head. With the closing off of other places, 2020 taught me to revalue my needs and be thankful for a clean, bright, organized, well-decorated space.
I realized the Importance of Liking My Mate. It’s not uncommon to profess love for one’s mate. It can be another thing altogether to like that person; like who they are, what they bring, how they affect the space you share, and like being around them. In September, the Times reported that the number of people seeking divorces rose 34 percent from March through June compared to 2019 (Read: I loved you, now I can’t stand the sight of you). The irony here is that it probably wasn’t an overt act by either party, it was more about who they were. Long-term time spent together in small spaces, working from home with the kids, no alternatives, cut off from other family and friends; liking your mate is a big one.
I Called my Mom More. My folks are in their mid 80s. Dad doesn’t talk on the phone, and is now living his final days on hospice in a locked-down facility. Mom handles the updates and local weather reports. I’d estimate that I called 5 times per week this past year. I’d call in the mornings when mom was sharpest and least cynical (it’s a New England characteristic), and try to be the voice of optimism and calm. Many of the conversations were me listening to the same stories over and over, and I wasn’t always as successful as I would have liked in being able to highlight the positives, but the talks helped me verbalize all the good that was still taking place. We still talk just about every day and I’ll fly soon to see her. I’m glad I paved the way for routine conversations. They’re going to come in handy.
I Got Really Creative with My Exercise. I’m “somewhat” of a fitness enthusiast. When the gyms closed (I belonged to 3), I contemplated moving to a nation that might have open gyms. There were none. So I found an outdoor fitness station at the local park and was thankful to be able to use workout bands and outside equipment. Some grumpy voyeur caught me and narced me to the park cops, and they taped it off. So I found a huge cherry tree and was using it until the neighborhood national arborist witch saw me and again narced me. Not to be thwarted, I gathered up some rocks and my bands, bought a cheap exercise bike, and took to the garage, the living room, the home office, and the balcony (sorry neighbors). I got really good at figuring out cool and fun new ways to get my fix. It worked! And it set me on a path (Slam Balls!) to create all sorts of approaches to fitness that don’t involve heavy weights or gym machines. I now do a combination of bands, weights, machines, and am thinking of starting a Slam Ball! club.
IGot a Guy. The phrase, “I got a guy” can often be the answer when asked how you got something done with seemingly minimal effort. It hints at inside connections and people who have a particular set of skills. Near the end of 2020, Rachel and I finally found and hired a financial advisor: George. We met with George first online, and then in his office as conditions relaxed a bit. George is the guy. He helped us kick our debt-free lifestyle to the next level. Rachel loved playing with the available software, and we’re now leveraging the power of long-term investing. God willing and with some wise decisions, our retirement status looks very promising. It’s really fun to be optimistic about the future, and we’re already having fun making plans (Bahama Catamaran!) It’s several years off yet and that’s good; we’re having fun working from home and investing as much as we can.
I Got Better at Not Caring (still working on this one). We all have those things that set us off. Especially around the house. We like things the way we like things. And two people sometimes have differing but equally passionate and equally nonsensical ways they like things. I am a meticulous bed-maker. Rachel does not like dishes soaking (she bought cardboard bowls to break me of bad habits). I am highly anti-clutter, anti-horizontal-surface-stuff-put-on-er (?). Rachel is passionate about recycling (she bought another trash bin to break me of other bad habits). There is also a towel thing I’m still learning (kitchen floor spill cleaned up with a quick bathroom towel grab = death wish). Communication is key, but even the best communication can’t compete with an unmade bed (It’s like a fat uncle who sleeps on the couch all day). I learned (still learning) to know the important ones, and to let the non-important ones go.
I Got Better at Living in Community. I hate wearing a mask. Hate. I can’t get air. It’s probably some sort of leftover childhood thing. Even now I can’t sleep without the window partially (wide) open, even in winter, because closed windows equal no oxygen. I could asphyxiate in my sleep. I was also never really worried about contracting the virus. Even if I did contract it, I am a healthy, active, fit, 59 year old, which put me at the bottom of the risk column. Mask wearing took on a life of its own and seemed to become more of a moral issue than a scientific one. I was getting looks in parking lots 100 yards from the store. I realized that looking first to my own comfort created discomfort in others. I learned that people were genuinely scared, probably not evil. There’s a common ground between individuality and societal responsibility (like not Slam Balling on the 4th floor – sorry neighbors). I still hate wearing a mask, but I like living in community.
The Best Friday Night Special Gin Comes from Idaho. I started another new tradition in 2020: the Friday Night Special Gin Martini Reward. This is one drink, made with Special Gin, at the end of the work week, to celebrate and commemorate a week well-lived. The first sip is other-worldly; savored for a full 30-seconds before swallowing, in silence, eyes closed, as I reflect on the success of the past week (release, relax, visions, Handel, enlightenment). Of course, there can be only one Special Gin, which of course comes from right here in Boise, Idaho:
OK 1 More: People Are Still Good. I have restraint issues. I know. But I needed to add this one before publishing. Taking in media these days, in any form, can acidize the soul, corrode the spirit, and surreptitiously darken the lens through which we view the world. There’s lots of research on negative bias and why we’re drawn to it, on generalization bias and our tendency to make broad assumptions from specific events, and on what keeps us clicking, reading, and watching. Spend even minimal time taking in most media, and it becomes easier to conclude that we’re all descending into hatred, chaos, and disaster. But it’s still a true, if ancient adage: Please don’t believe everything you read (or watch) (emphasis mine). What I experience when I go outside, ride my bike, go to the gym, get on the elevator, shop, dine, take out the trash, and generally interact with humanity, is that people are kind, friendly, courteous, well-meaning, and a little bit freaked out and scared.
So there it is. Some of the more important things I learned in 2020 and will take into 2021. It is and is going to be a great year.
So! It’s been a few months since I’ve been able to get some time to write, and boy have I missed it. I feel like I’m getting backed up. Like most Americans, life has been a little more than full. I’m blessed to have a full life. A full life is a good thing (but if the pace came off just a bit I’d be ok too).
A few months ago, I started an adventure in food intake called Keto. Most people are by now aware what Keto eating is. The general idea is to remove just about all carbohydrate foods from the diet, and replace those carb-dense foods with added fat and protein. The idea is to train the body to burn fat as the primary fuel source.
Rachel and I started Keto eating about 4 months ago. She was addressing some joint pain and inflammation issues. I tend to be really food-lazy (when left to my own devices, I usually find something left over and add alot of mayonnaise to it), so I figured why not? Perhaps sadly, I could eat the same thing 9 times a day and be fine (as long as it had alot of mayonnaise on it). See why Rachel handles the meals?
My aim in our adventure was to tone, tighten, try to hold my muscle mass, and make my fat places less fat (and ok, not cook).
We all have those places that we look at first in any reflection or picture of ourselves. We sigh. My areas were and are my abs and love-handles (waist), so thankfully I need to be mostly naked for those to show (which happens more often than it probably should. What?) At 59 and 1/2 (thank you financial advisor for pointing that out), I was not expecting bodybuilding show quality, but I do try to set a better-than-your-average 59 and 1/2 standard.
Plus, Keto just sounded groovy. I’ve never been part of an eating group, so of course I was anxious to try it out. Keto menus, keto ice cream bars, keto websites, keto workouts (mayonnaise is of course the top keto condiment – score!). For me it sounded like a slow fat one over the plate.
Like most new adventures, I set my goals and created a plan. My goal was centered around a keto trend, but not necessarily going whole-hog (although, actually eating a whole hog would trend towards being keto-friendly, so there’s that).
– Be smarter about my selection of fats but maintain an increased level of fats in the diet – Reduce the carbs but still maintain energy and strength – Get those carbs largely from the garden – Stay away from anything man-made (except after-dark bites of my Keto bars) – Stop eating / snacking at night while watching “Alone” (Hey bear! Grilled muskox hooves!) – Get another lipids panel pulled in 30 days – Reach 190 and order the new Speedo (Rachel said no but no can mean so many things) – Consume a fine martini or two a night (Gin, of course) – Maintain my love of all things fitness and slam my balls (It just never gets old)
How Keto Really Worked For Me
The real test of any plan is living it, and keto was the same. The truth is, for me, I didn’t alter a great deal of what I was already doing. Mostly, I cleaned it up a bit, learned more about how many carbs I was actually getting (yikes), and paid more attention to the evening snacking. To be honest, after awhile I found that keto was leaving me flat, feeling a bit thin, and lacking energy to slam my balls (and that dog won’t hunt).
The final answer for me was limiting my carbs and moving into a sort of modified keto. I left most of the processed food alone (rice cups, bread, and crackers). I just didn’t feel well adding a lot more fat to my diet. I did increase fats like avocados and peanut butter, but that whole bacon thing made me ill. The main achievement for me was in reducing my carb intake and switching what carbs I do get over to whole foods.
I tried to be food-aware every day; to lean into whole foods that would get me where I wanted to go, and to leave the ones that were boxed or packaged alone. I eat a lot of food every day, and more now because of the slam-ball workouts. In my quest to take up slightly less space on the planet, I sought to better understand the effects that carbohydrates had on my body.
We are awfully carb-heavy in this country (see what I did there?) and I was no exception. I became more aware, ate slower, thought about the food in my mouth, planned meals, didn’t buy the crap, and really evaluated portion sizes. I’m not a resrictionist; less and less is not a sustainable approach. I do believe in awareness, exercise, and fun, and more.
My daily food now consists of a morning Muscle Milk potion with blueberries (blueberries help keep lead in the pencil, and the antioxidants are an added bonus), or egg whites and cheese. Maybe half a banana. Tropical fruits like bananas have a lot of sugar, so I go easy there (banana and coffee. Yes.).
For lunch it’s usually some variation of leftovers from the night before or something with cottage cheese (tuna?) and mayonnaise of course. My mid-afternoon snack is probably more of the same as lunch. My after mid-afternoon snack (slamming balls takes lots of energy) is often an apple and peanut butter or the other half of the morning banana and peanut butter.
For dinner we grill some sort of protein or tofu (if you’ve not grilled tofu, don’t write it off just yet. Put the barby sauce to it and you’ll be surprised). We grill just about every night, year round, and we grill just about anything and everything you can think of, including all manners of vegetables and proteins. You name it, I bet I’ve grilled it (next up, muskox hooves). We mix that with a giant salad or grilled cauliflower or broccoli or carrots or brussel sprouts. Grilled broccoli tastes like steamed clams. Try it, you’ll see. Pretend you’re on the coast of Maine overlooking the surf and are rich. A fine martini (Gin, of course) really cements the fantasy.
In the evening when I get snacky, I go back for the blueberries (heh-heh) in a bowl, and add peanut butter, baking chips, and soy milk.
Of course, like I planned, I’ve kept the evening martini (Gin, of course) (or two), along with the great conversation time with Rachel. We plan our future, talk about goals, make plans, and recount the day. I’m working on perfecting the Blueberry Martini (Gin, of course).
But Wait, There’s More
I would be remiss if I did not mention that when I want a treat meal (not cheat meal. Stop thinking like that), I have it. We had pizza last week (loud noises and involuntary hip thrusts. Sorry neighbors). It is life, after all; eat the damn cupcake and have fun and make noises (just don’t do it every day). And then remember you had that enjoyment, keep a big smile on your face, and look forward to making plans over the next week to stay on your goals.
I would be remisser (?) if I did not also mention exercise. Although I might not be working with the poundage I used to (always a good idea to delay knee replacement), it’s really vital to the long term success of any life-health plan. I can’t say that enough. We have to move, and we have to maintain muscles, which means lifting things. Keep it fun, mix it up, get creative, work hard.
It’s been a little more difficult wearing a mask at the gym (feels like being waterboarded), but every once in awhile, because of the decrease in gym attendance, I get the place to myself…and…I mean…well?
I know most people want some sort of quantifiable progress so here’s that: Although I hate scales (they only really tell you what planet you’re on), I went from 202 to about 187. My body seems to want to stay right around that weight; some days a little more, some less. I closed up one notch on the belt. I ate alot of food. I didn’t take body fat percent or any of that, but I think my fat places are skinnier.
Here’s the real deal: I feel great. At almost 60, I have somuch energy. I’m happy and optimistic. I’m ready to go all the time. I can’t wait for the next workout, or mountain bike ride, or aerobic housecleaning, or whatever it is. Again, I’m focusing on a workable health and lifestyle plan that’s fun and sustainable. Modified Keto did what I wanted it to.
As always, I’d love comments. I have zero interest in arguing, so if you disagree, be well and more power to you. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but often just having a real conversation about ideas can be the action that gets us past that sticking point. If you have pointers or a life-lesson, I could use all of them I can get.
It’s been fun. It is fun. I feel great as I near the end of my 5th decade in this realm. I’m still making positive changes. I eat clean and light most of the time. I eat often. I’m happy. I move in all sorts of ways. I lift heavy things. I have more fun. I look pretty good for my age and for someone who does not obsess (but, I mean, c’mon, who doesn’t do the booby dance when they can?)
Fitness is one of the pillars of my life. I enjoy it immensely; talking about it, planning it, eating for it (keto success update coming next post – I feel good!), teaching it, reading about it, and doing it. It’s definitely one of the things I’ll take into retirement and will devote significant portions of each day towards.
Sometimes I come home from the gym and tell Rachel I saw Moses. Seeing Moses is a phrase I use when my workout was really good; when everything just works and I’m firing on all cylinders. On particularly (really) good days, I tell Rachel I saw Moses and the Seven Elders, which means (of course) that my workout was over-the-top; I’ll probably be parking in the handicap spot the next day (or two).
This morning, I saw Moses, all the Elders (there seems to be more than seven now), and some other bearded guy (Abe?) All were raucous with applause and angelic singing. Oxygen deprivation you say? Music too loud you ask? 3rd Martini (gin, of course) last night perhaps? Nay, major nay. Rather, the workout was so amazing that it loosed me from earthly chains and transported me into spiritual realms.
No, seriously. In lay terms: I got there. Uh-huh. So good was the workout, in fact, that I came home and immediately needed canned clams and cottage cheese (email me for the recipe) to fill the carnivorous void (are clams meat?)
For a few months now, I’ve been Slamming Balls (?) Hm. I mean, I’ve been Ball Slamming (longer Hmmm). (Gets a running start) For a few months now, I’ve been incorporating the aggression, speed, power, agility, and strength of using Slam Balls.
Slam Balls pretty much live by their name: weighted rubber balls (varying weights) about the size of basketballs, that are filled with sand, and are intended to be thrown (as hard as possible (!)) against walls – commercial concrete and brick, not house walls (learned that the hard way or floors. They can also be thrown in the air – not straight overhead (learned that hard way), or lifted and moved around the body for resistance moves. Slam balls don’t bounce and they don’t roll. Think splat, thud; really heavy splat thud.
Think: pick up and slam, as hard as you can, as many times as you can, as fast as you can, before your heart explodes. See?
I started using Slam Balls at the local Idaho Fitness Center (love these little well-equipped, clean, inexpensive gyms) as a warm-up exercise. The balls there were 15 lbs and 20 lbs, and the more I played with them (the gym has cinder block walls that read “throw balls here” – Ok!), the more I liked the variety they brought to my typically static and form-conscious weight routine. I began to create various movements with the Slam Balls and found myself spending my gym time split between using the Balls and using weights. Plus, with my music blasting in my earbuds, it became sort of noisy-heavy-agressive-dancing-moshpit-slamballing.
I find as I’m maturing (read: becoming vintage and classic), I’m learning that I get bored easily with certain locked-in, by-the-rules (I hate rules) approaches to fitness (used to drive my son insane when we trained together). I’ve become more eclectic about fitness (ok – I’ve become more eclectic about alot of things). I almost always make it up as I go.
Sidebar: this type of what my mom used to call “energy,” is what got me into trouble as a kid (heyyy, I know what we could do….) Now, as a Middle Aged “Classic,” this energy is helping me create new and fun things – like Slam Balling.
After I had used the 15 and 20 lb slam balls at the gym for a few weeks, I was hooked and found myself wanting to go and just, well, Slam Balls. So deep was my new love for slam balls, that I knew I had to have my very own. I ordered a 30 lb Slam Ball. And loved it. I loved it so much in fact that I ordered a 50 lb slam ball.
Sidebar #2: It’s fun getting something in the mail that’s small, round, and weighs 50 lbs. I told the UPS guy I had built a cannon and needed a cannonball to test it (he scribbled a quick note at that point and nodded silently). The tape-covered shipping box had ceased being a box by all box standards and had become a wholly useless and dilapidated cardboard sheathing. I dropped it in the elevator and felt it bounce (the elevator, not the ball).
Here’s where I share with you that my fitness has become a new thing. The mix of slamming balls, added to weights and cardio, is just downright adventurous. Slamming balls leaves me breathless. Honestly, at first I thought the 50 lb ball was a bad idea (just getting it into the gym is comical). Because of it’s small size and shape, it seems really heavy. And it’s a mistake to start with that one (especially 1 week before my 59th birthday).
But I’m up to 7 slams (with the 50 lb) now before I am out of oxygen (or my lungs partially collapse – hard to really tell); my new goal is ten. I make a lot of noise and Oh.Em.Gee., the all-at-once-overall shoulders-legs-back-arms-lungs workout leaves me wondering how much the fine would actually be for parking in the nearest handicap spot (plus, who’s not up for the fun of coming home after a great workout and making endless jokes about slamming balls?) I mean, winner all around.
Additionally, we Middle Age men seldom get the opportunity anymore to use everything we have; to really go all-out; the explosion of speed, aggression, strength, power, and the sheer violence of throwing something so hard as to try to destroy it, repeatedly, until you just can’t anymore, reaches somewhere into the ancient animal of the soul.
Pure, unbridled, physical power.
It’s little wonder Moses and the Elders cheer and sing.
It’s yet another one of the things in life I never thought I’d find myself doing. I love that about life; being able to do things I just never thought I’d get to do. It creates optimism, hope, expectancy, and a feeling of accomplishment. Plus, it’s kind of fun when young bucks give me that Dude – what’s with the William Wallace? look.
Sidebar #3: Rachel just ordered her own 10 lb slam ball (I think she’s jealous of my spiritual audience and the access to never-ending joke material). I thought it might be fun to develop a couples’ Ball Slamming (leave it alone) workout. This one could be more of a she-throws-hers-and-he-fetches-it-back (clearly a potential precursor for all sorts of other fun things).
Just the dialog alone could get the neighbors peeking over the fence. Let your couple’s imagination run wild. I have.
In most adventures, many things go right. And usually there are some things that don’t go quite as right as hoped (in my adventures there are usually several, “Well…(long pause)…shit”). But adventure equals risk, and where there’s risk there’s the real option of screw ups, fall downs, minor crashes, and, the worst, going ass over teakettle. That’s how it is with my current keto adventure. At 59, and a long-time trainer, I’m experimenting with what I thought I knew and seeing if there are better options for the middle-age me.
If you’re like me (you should thank God you’re not), you’ve heard enough about diets, food plans, fads, and Keto. Eat this, that, and the other, don’t eat this, that, and the other, he said, she said, experts say, other experts say, doctors say, other doctors say, Facebook, experts this, experts that; you get the idea. Too many differing opinions. We’re left to sort it out ourselves.
But not venturing in is a 100% sure-fire way to not learn anything new and to remain where we are, so I ventured in. I wish I could report that I’d found Ponce’s youth fountain, but that would be a lie. I have actually learned, and am learning, some pretty cool stuff though, so read on and perhaps it may be of some use to you.
I first started Keto eating when Rachel started it about 2 months ago. She was addressing some joint pain and inflammation issues. She handles most of the meals and cooking in the house, so I thought why not? I’m very food lazy. I could eat the same things 9 times a day and be fine, as long as it’s easy (see why she takes care of all the food?). I’m also a very active man (am strong like bull), lift heavy weights 4-5 times per week (I make noise), add all manner of resistance bands and weight balls (just bought a 30lb Slam Ball – so excited – sorry neighbors), mountain bike, hike, and love lawn and yard work and projects. But it’s probably a safe bet that at 59, eating like I did at 29 is a bad idea.
I wasn’t really looking to lose weight per se; I wanted to tighten, tone, and add some definition to my abs. I also wanted to stay strong and have energy to spare.
It took some time to get used to. Keto meals take planning. I was used to eating alot of protein, but it was alot of fat for me. A few of the meals were crossed off the list after I beached myself and Rachel needed to roll me back into the surf. I soon learned that my activity level required a modified keto plan. From what I can tell, alot of keto plans limit carbs to under 20 per day, and that left me feeling a bit flat and thin. But I kept tinkering with it, and started seeing positive change pretty quickly.
After about 30 days, I’m down 9 lbs (193) and am seeing nice changes in my abs. My fat places are getting thinner. I think I’ve got the carbs figured out (I don’t count. I just try to be aware) and have learned tons. I feel good, have tons of energy, and am still strong like bull. My new goal is to get to 190 lbs and see what that looks like. I have to report that so far it’s been pretty easy (because Rachel does all the work and I just eat).
It wouldn’t be fair or useful if I didn’t report my, “Well…(long pause)…shit” moments. I was already scheduled for a routine yearly physical with a full set of blood labs. While most indicators checked great, my doc had his own cardiac event when he saw my cholesterol level (245) after it had always been in the healthy range (170’s). His chart note read: strongly recommend reducing saturated fats and cholesterol intake in the diet. I did research on HDL and LDL and VLDL and triglycerides; a fella could get lost in there and never come out. I was a bit discouraged but more curious than anything.
To be fair, I eat alot of food. Like, an enormous amount of food. And I ate some of the meals too fast, and some were too heavy for me. Large amounts of heavy cream and butter can’t be good for me. My body thought I had declared war against it. And, ok, did get a little crazy with the bacon (well?) We have been doing alot of camping, and coffee, bacon, and the campfire is just what to do. I was also eating 4-5 whole eggs every day. With bacon. And these little keto muffins called fatbombs. With peanut butter (well?)
I had neglected to tell my doc I had started keto when we met. I just didn’t think about it. And high cholesterol levels are not something I’m prepared to live with (defib paddles are like $500). His chart reply read: Hard to say it if is adversely affecting your cholesterol, though. You might try increasing your protein intake and reduce your fat intake to see if that helps reduce your cholesterol numbers. As of now, however, your heart disease risk is well-managed and I am not going to push you too much on that. Overall, I think you are taking good care of yourself.
Mm. Not the definitive Mark! You’re a stud! Love keto! Eat more bacon! All is well! I was hoping for. But I had already re-modified my modified keto diet to stay clear of the saturated and animal fats (sniff, sniff) and align more with plant fats: nuts (mmmmm….peanut butter), guacamoles, olive oil, etc.
And here’s maybe the coolest part of my adventure. I’m learning that I was eating a medium sized Uhaul trailer full of carbs, even as I was trying to be smart and make healthy choices, like whole grain pasta or one small cup of Jasmine rice:
40 carbs per serving. It’s easy to eat 2 servings
50 carbs per cup. Sometimes I’d eat 2 a day
Even a banana will find you eating 30 carbs. Carbs convert faster to glucose and create an insulin response in the body. Elevated insulin levels in the body promote increased fat storage. Although I’m not anti-carb, I was unaware how many I was eating per day. By increasing healthy fats while lowering some carb intake, I can help lower insulin response and create the sensation of being really full.
So, here’s my next phase of the Middle Age Modified Keto adventure: – Be smarter about my selection of fats but maintain an increased level of fats in the diet – Reduce the carbs but still maintain energy and strength – Get those carbs largely from the garden – Stay away from anything man-made – Stop eating / snacking at night while watching “Alone” (Hey bear! Scary!) – Get another lipids panel pulled in 30 days – Reach 190 and order the new speedo (Rachel said no) – Consume 2 fine martinis a night (Gin, of course) (what?) – Maintain my love of all things fitness and slam my ball (heh heh)
So, “after” pictures are coming! I’m excited, and I find new opportunities and adventures really fun. It’s not about being perfect, or being as good or better than anyone else. It’s about improving, and showing thanks by taking care (a big one for me).
So, if you’ve had any experience in keto, please do add comments. Learning from others is the best way to learn.
I wrote this blog in a little notebook while sitting at the water’s edge in the above picture on the last morning of our most recent camping trip. There’s a special ambiance that comes with camping near water. It’s even more relaxing and mystical. I didn’t know what day of the week it was. I did know I didn’t want to go home.
Although I love where we live in Boise, I wondered why I was so resistant to heading back to the real world. We had braved cold (low 30’s at night), dust storms, smokey fires, being sunburned and bugbit; even taking a classic header while fly fishing. But on that last morning, I would have written a blank check to be able to stay. As I walked myself through why, here’s what I came up with.
We Get Outside Ourselves. There are no reflective surfaces when camping. No mirrors and nothing that reflects what we look like. We’re not reminded of our hair or weight or wrinkles or those places that we focus on every single time we look in the mirror. We have charcoal smudged hands and sandy feet. I have the best wild camping hair and it’s great to just wear my even more wild camping straw hat. We get to focus elsewhere. It’s freeing.
Talking to God is Easier. Maybe it’s because I’m in the middle of His Nature Show. The stars at night beg wonder. The power of forces are easier to see. I reflect more. I’m more thankful. I feel appropriately small and reminded that an awful lot of stuff goes on with no help from me, like forest fires and bears and rivers and wildflowers.
Concerns Become Simpler. We headed to the mountains just as a mandatory mask order was being put into place and all the usual political/ social / medical hoopla was in full hoop. Once in mountain air, all of it was quickly forgotten. My concerns became very simple: tent zippers, weather, food with minimal ash, enough ice, firewood, not getting eaten by a bear, and trying to catch a fish. That’s pretty much the list. My brain unknots. I become tolerant, easy, happy; heck, even funny. I like me.
Peeing Outdoors. I really like to pee outside. Peeing outdoors has got to be one of Man’s first best enjoyments. It’s natural. It feels right. There’s room. And things to look at. It’s feels Manly. And feeling Manly leads to using saws, building fires, getting wood and then making jokes about getting wood, creating the perfect Man-kingdom-settlement-campsite, toting big caliber handguns, and exploring; all things that give men back their wild. Wild is good.
Less / No People. Camping, especially outside of regulated campgrounds, lets us get away from people. People are often the reason we have challenges. Their actions impact our lives, and we’re forced to deal with their dumbness. Managers and leaders know that people themselves make up the bulk of work problems. Less/no people, less/no problems. Less we have to adjust to. An increased likelihood that our grand plans come to perfect fruition. As they should, of course.
No Calendars. In the real world, the non-camping world, our lives are strictly regulated according to time. Everything we do, from waking to sleeping, has an allotted time, including the waking and sleeping. 7 minutes to shower, 3 minutes to brush the choppers with the sonic, pouring coffee and grabbing the lunch is 2 more, and out the door by minute :17 or traffic will be a school bus bitch. Then it’s 3 meetings, 30 minutes to eat lunch, and 3 more meetings, all with accompanying reminder dings. I hate dings. But in the camping world, there are no calendars. F&#! calendars and f&#! dings (and the horses they rode in on). In the camping world, days are known by the one thing that is enjoyed that day, like hiking, or biking, or beaching, or napping, or reading, or fishing, or sitting with your toes in icy river water. We get to slow down. We get to breathe. We drink cold beer. We are successful.
We Get to Minimize. Camping allows us to remember the simple things, the minimal things, and how rewarding these things can be. The sound of the river at night and tent zippers, owls, shooting stars, campfire coffee and bacon, sunrise, the moon, and crickets. Staring into a quiet campfire until late at night. Hushed conversation with wide open spaces. It doesn’t take very long for these things to begin to unwind us. We feel the stress begin to come off, the shoulders drop, a few cleansing breaths, a deep sigh. It can make one wonder if the real word is really worth it.
Sex. This one probably should be closer to the top. Camping sex can be awesome. Although air mattresses don’t always offer the best support, not to mention if they pop it might mean a night on the hard ground, there are multiple other campground places that work. Couples feel more connected. We need each other more. We talk more. We wear less clothing. It’s cold at night and hot during the day. Men feel more manly in the wild. You can play games like lumberjack and/or lady camper in distress. There are no people around so being loud is not an issue. Although the term “Squirrel!” might take on a more literal meaning, getting the Bow chicka wow wow going in the great outdoors should certainly be on the list.
So there’s my list of why camping in Middle Age is just an all around great idea. I’m sure you can add to the list, but the important thing is that you just go. Find a place, get some stuff together, and head out. Summer will fade all too soon; get out there and make some memories.