Monday, June 28, 2010

June 28, 2008

From Wedding Dancing

I think that if we thought about it in a purely abstract way, neither my wife nor I would be inclined toward marriage. Most of what we have heard about marriage from those who claim it as wonderful did not have all that much appeal. Well meaning friends assured us that it would be the end of all the things that made life interesting. My wife was assured that I would settle down and become normal. And the idea that marriage would make either of us complete or whole or mean settling down was frankly horrifying. Because neither of us was done growing or exploring our world or changing.

But marriage, and relationships, is not something that is meant to be discussed in the abstract. I have held that discussions on relationships are only interesting when there are names involved. And when asked about how I knew that this is the person I want to marry, my response has been that it was not about who I was getting married to, it was what we would become and how we would get there. And that is what I was getting.

Married life has been surprisingly easy. One other person who had commented on married life being easy likened married life to moving furniture around in the house. There are changes in life, but they are minor compared to the steadiness of the foundation. In our case, it was like moving furniture around, but each of us would have been moving the furniture around anyway, and had considerable flexibility on different furniture arrangements. Marriage did not mean we had to stop growing, changing, or even reinventing ourselves along the way. Neither of us is the same person as when we started dating, or even when we go married. And we have not gotten bored.

Will it stay that way? The same person who described marriage as like moving furniture also described being a parent as tearing down and rebuilding a house while living inside it. Of course, I've done that before :-)

Strange how you know inside me
I measure the time and I stand amazed
Strange how I know inside you
My hand is outstretched toward the damp of the haze

And of course I forgive
I've seen how you live
Like a phoenix you rise from the ashes
You pick up the pieces
And the ghosts in the attic
They never quite leave
And of course I forgive
You've seen how I live
I've got darkness and fears to appease
My voices and analogies
Ambitions like ribbons
Worn bright on my sleeve

Strange how we know each other

Strange how I fit into you
There's a distance erased with the greatest of ease
Strange how you fit into me
A gentle warmth filling the deepest of needs

And with each passing day
The stories we say
Draw us tighter into our addiction
Confirm our conviction
That some kind of miracle
Passed on our heads
And how I am sure
Like never before
Of my reasons for defying reason
Embracing the seasons
We dance through the colors
Both followed and led

Strange how we fit each other

Strange how certain the journey
Time unfolds the petals
For our eyes to see
Strange how this journey's hurting
In ways we accept as part of fate's decree

So we just hold on fast
Acknowledge the past
As lessons exquisitely crafted
Painstakingly drafted
To carve us as instruments
That play the music of life
For we don't realize
Our faith in the prize
Unless it's been somehow elusive
How swiftly we choose it
The sacred simplicity
Of you at my side

- Eric's Song, Vienna Teng

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Rachel Carson Challenge 2010

Saturday was the 2010 Rachel Carson Challenge (notes from previous Rachel Carson Challenges are here). My partner in crime this time was SS, who decided this past winter when things were rather boring that she needed a hobby, and this need of a hobby led her to the Rachel Carson challenge. As usual, we did the series of training hikes (Hi Donna! Hi Bob!) that included wet days and hot days. (I missed the really hot sunny day, figures)

Rachel Carson 2010 Challenge registration

The challenge began with waking up at ~3 AM in the morning so we could catch the bus to Harrison Hills Park. And we did with time to spare before sunrise.

Waiting in the pre-dawn morning for the start for the 2010 Rachel Carson Challenge

We raced through the first section, keenly aware that we wanted to cover miles before it got sunny. By the first checkpoint, everything was still sunny and good.

Checkpoint one -  still in good shape

By the second checkpoint I was running into trouble. I had run out of water along the way, and the second checkpoint had run out of gatorade. (and forgotten my extra bottles of water in the kitchen on the way out the door) So by checkpoint 3 I was starting to dehydrate. Checkpoint 3 was a definite rehydration stop. I filled up my camelbak with gatorade with the goal of finishing it before I left while I was essentially eating lunch. In addition to the usual PB&J sandwiches, oranges, bananas, pretzels and chips there were salted potatoes. But I realized that I was not going to speed up anytime soon so SS found a group and went on ahead. I started from Checkpoint 3 and things got better for me as electrolytes were absorbed into my body.

The auto junkyard along the Rachel Carson trail

The Rachel Carson Trail is a connector trail. It connects a number of county and municipal parks in Allegheny County, starting in Harrison Hills Park and going through Agan Park, Emmerling Park, Hampton Community Park, and ending in North Park. (MapMyHike link). Allegheny County is an urban county (includes Pittsburgh, PA) so to connect all these parks means that there is substantial private property and hiking along roads along the way. There are numerous hills (i.e. too steep for building roads or houses) and streams without bridges on the trail.

By checkpoint four, I was feeling pretty good. And I had four hours to go the last 8.2 miles. No problem. But the clouds were rolling in. And about an hour after I left checkpoint four it started raining. And heavily. And thunder. I found a group that was working through Hampton Community Park together and we made it across Route 8 together. Then the trail started to follow Pine Creek. And by follow I mean we had to cross it. Five times.

Raging streams after a thunderstorm

The creek in the areas we had to cross it ranged from 20 to 30 feet across. While normally it is a shallow gravel stream bed with water about an inch above the gravel, that day after the thunderstorm it was a raging stream thigh deep. I hooked up with J and J from our little group and we crossed the streams together, holding arms to keep each other from being knocked down and dragged by the current.

After this major adventure, we reached North Park. There were four relatively easy stream crossing (much higher than normal, but by this point they were easy), and then the trail went up and into the park proper. A couple miles here and on to one last stream crossing and to the finish at Beaver Shelter.

Finishing with a run

Why do something like this? Like a t-shirt says, it is called the Rachel Carson Challenge, not the Rachel Carson Walk. It is a challenge. And like anything worthy of the name, it is hard. I tend not to be a competitive person by nature, but I am drawn to things that are hard.

J, J and I at the finish

There is also the inherent honesty and reality to such things. You are dealing with nature in a raw and unforgiving form. Heat, sun, dehydration, nutrition, physical limits, water, streams, hills are real. There is no recourse to decisions made by authority that is granted by God or Man. There are people who believe that perception is reality. And on a trail such as this, even in the urban area of Pittsburgh, that is wrong. Perception is not reality and believing otherwise can get you killed. Reality is reality, and there are enough people who believe otherwise that a challenge like this with people who recognize this is a wonderful experience.

Many thanks to SS, for being a wonderful training and hiking companion. Donna, Bob, Mark and many other volunteers for your work (including washing everything today [Sunday]) J, J, E and KB3OGS for being companions along the way. And looking forward to the next challenge. As a volunteer.

SS and I at the finish