“Weight is Training”


This morning as my stove top espresso maker was completing it’s brewing task, and it made that volcano about to erupt sound that means coffee is imminent, I declared, “There’s that sound!” like I’ve said a thousand times before.

But this coffee brewer is new.  I’ve been using a different method for years. So my instinctual reaction, the words, the anticipation in my pores, is a throwback to a time in my life I can barely remember in my old age.

Working in “the field.”

As I poured my hot drink into my mug I said to MCB, “This is how I used to make coffee in the field.  I love that sound.”

“You carried one of those in the field? No wonder your shoulders hurt.”

Well, duh, of course that’s part of the problem, but was it worth it to have a decent brew at 4 am before climbing the Wham Ridge with a bunch of whiney, incompetent teenagers?

Most definitely, yes.

What I didn’t say was, “Don’t forget to add in the 2 pounds of coffee to get me through until the next resupply.”

And the down jacket, the 30-below down sleeping bag, hammock for a 3-day solo, geology and natural history books, climbing gear (rope, rack, shoes), ice axe, helmet, stove, fuel, clothes, mid (shelter), various and sundry other items (journal, chacos, chocolate), and enough food to keep this scrawny little body from completely wasting away at 13,000 ft.

If I could fit it into my Astralplane, I carried it.


Big mother-fucker isn't it?

7000 cu. in. Big mother-fucker isn’t it?


And anything and everything could fit into that pack.

I once carried 90 lbs.

At 20,000 ft.

I lost an inch in height.

This was before plastic french presses. I did carry a glass one for a summer but finally broke it over a fire ring trying to knock the grinds out of the bottom and had to drink cowboy coffee for 3 days.

It was horrid.

Besides cowboy coffee (swirling the grinds around in a pot of boiling water then tap-tap-tapping the sides to get the grinds to settle enough to pour it into a mug) the other options were:

The Gold Filter, which, while light to carry, made light coffee and had a tendency to tip over just as the last of the water made it through and into the mug.

There was The Sock. Some fucking genius thought that one could make coffee in a large cotton condom, over and over, each and every day, and that it would actually taste good.

coffeesock1Just looking at the flaccid, stained, sad little resevior, made me consider options other than coffee.

I tried some of those.

Tea? Blech. Tea is fine before bed or after being caught in a storm – it serves its purpose when one needs to warm up but it definitely doesn’t satisfy in the dark and the cold when one has to motivate to put on a heavy pack and climb to the top of a mountain.

In other words, as a motivator, it sucks.

But what sucked even worse were coffee substitutes.

Double blech.

contains: barley, chicory, rye

contains: barley, chicory, rye

Pero, the substitute of choice, especially in my militant vegan days, was vile, although I pretended to love it just as I pretended to enjoy Textured Vegetable Protein.

A little chicory and barley powder mixed with a little powdered soy milk and voila! you have a morning drink that will make you want to hide back in your sleeping bag.

After you hurl.

I realize that there are many other options out there nowadays; that brewing up is still the pleasure that it always was, just a lot lighter and easier.

For one, someone came up with the idea of small, lightweight, backpacking stoves instead of a Whisperlite and 60 oz of white gas.

But back in the old days, the 9-cup, aluminum (which is why I barely remember those days and will soon forget them all together) ultra heavy, ultra noisy pot was the best option.

So when I hear that sound in my kitchen in the morning, coming from a stainless pot, no longer aluminum, it brings a smile to my face; memories flood my not yet awake brain.

And my shoulders start to hurt.

“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”  

haruki murakami


Just sayin’

What I DO say:


Give me your phone


Put the snow down


Do not lie down on the track

Get off the football equipment

Do you think I can’t see you behind the bleachers?


You get a zero for the day

For someone who thinks he’s such a great athlete…I’m not seeing it

I can (will) write you up

Run. NOW.

What I DON’T say:

Run you little bastard

Go ahead and listen to your shitty music

You have no friends

You’re a puss

I’d put money on you being knocked up by 11th grade

And you, you’re going to be the baby daddy

Exactly what is it that makes you think you’re cool?

No, your 13 year old biceps are not a turn on for me

I hope you fall down

Friday. Third Period. Middle School. PE.

Being the fun teacher that I am, and it being a gorgeous, warm day, I said, “Let’s go outside!”


“Can’t we just shoot hoops instead?”

I put my foot down. They whined some more. I asked what they wanted to play (besides basketball). Capture the Flag was suggested and my decision was made.

“We’re going to play capture the flag! It’ll be so much fun.”

“Nooooooooo. Everyone always cheats.”

“Can’t we play basketball instead?”

Let me take a minute to describe what they mean by “playing basketball.” Most of the boys run around with the balls taking shots at the basket. One girl participates like a badass. Her sister uses trying to get the ball as an excuse to rub up against the boys. Two boys materialize a football which they throw across the gym, through the crowd. The rest of the girls make volleyballs appear out of nowhere which they hit against the wall, and the backflipper turns on the ball inflater and puts it in his mouth sucking in compressed air until he turns purple. I tried for three days to get them to do the drills that their teacher assigned; four people participated, one girl suddenly had a back problem, one girl told me that she had to practice volleyball for tryouts (it’s an all-inclusive intramural activity) and one girl couldn’t participate because she had to play basketball in two days???? The rest of the class threw balls at each other’s heads.

So, no basketball today.

If class in the gym was a freeforall, class outside was simply, a total shitshow.

To begin with, I don’t even know how to play capture the flag so I had to ask someone to give me the basics.

“H and T are captains – they’ll choose teams.”

“Nooooooooooooo. Can I be captain?

“Can I be captain?”

“Let me be captain?”

“They can’t be captains.”


“Can I go help with the gardening class? I don’t want to play with these guys.”

Honey, I hear ya.

“Go dig in the dirt.”

So they wear these belt-thingies, red or yellow, that opponents grab – it’s like tagging someone. The belts pop off and the person goes to jail.

The boy-crazy girl who was late because she and her mother got called into the principal’s office put hers around her neck so that anyone trying to tag her would have to grab at her boobs.

That wasn’t going to work for me. But apparently, it didn’t work as a fashion accessory around her waist for her because she spent most of the class standing behind the goal line adjusting it, trying to get it to sit low on her hips.

Everyone cheated. The Volleyball girls intentionally got caught so that they could hang out in jail, indefinitely, flipping around their dirty blond, hot ironed hair.

Just about every girl in the school has the exact same hair and they all walk around with their heads tilted slightly to the side to sort of keep it out of their eyes. As a wise old woman, all I can think is, “Doesn’t your neck hurt?”

Somehow or another, after 15 minutes of play, half of the red boys had managed to switch out their colors so that the yellow team almost double in size. Combined with the hair girls in jail, that left just 3 kids on the yellow team.


“Come back. We need to redo the teams.”

“Can I be captain? Can I be captain? Can I be captain? Can I be captain? Can I be captain?”

All from the same kid.

“Dude, if the answer is no on the first try, it’s definitely going to be no on the fifth. Quit asking.”

“Can we just shoot hoops?”

“Do ya see a court out here?”

My attempts to reboot the game failed.

It was so fucked up.

Finally, I snapped.

They found themselves isolated, on their asses, silent, and not allowed to move a finger, spread out over the 50 yards of the field.

“Can I go to the bathroom?”


“What, you can’t tell me that I can’t go.”


“I really have to go – it’s an emergency.”

“You should have thought of that before you started throwing snowballs at everyone.”

“I’m going to tell the principal.”

“I’M going to tell the principal. Who do you think he’s going to believe?”

“Can we play basketball?”

“Take the cone off your head. Quit slapping your jacket against the fence. Give me your phone.”

Ad Nauseum.

Finally, class was almost over. The garden teacher offered up one solution – she always needs help weeding. Hell yeah.



“You swore at us.”

“Uh, no. I did not.”

“Yes you did and we’re going to tell the principal.”

Right about now I’m wondering why anyone in their right mind would ever chose to be a school principal.

“I didn’t swear and I know that because I really wanted to and consciously refrained. Now for God’s sake, GO.”

Later, after fantasizing about drinking on the job, one of the only slightly squirrely boys, not even a goody-goody, found me to let me know that he had already written up the class and turned in the list.

Thus validating my agony.



UTAH, the aftermath

I want to lie on the warm slickrock.

Yep, collapsed on the hard stone when I finally, finally, FINALLY, made it back to my campsite.

I want to escape emotional mini-drama

Didn’t manage that until I was out of cell range. Thank god for blank spots on the technological map.

I want to hike until I drop.

Did I really ask for that?

Or until my stubby-legged dog drops.

24 hours later and he’s still asleep.

I want to sleep in a pile of down.


I want to breathe.

Was thinking expansive breaths, not panting and anxiety-driven hyperventilating.

I want to not worry about money.

Who cares about money when you’re not sure you will ever return to civilization?

I want to not risk being misunderstood.

No worries about that when I didn’t see another soul.

I want to feel strong.

I did. For a long time. Before I felt weak, exhausted, and mildly embarrassed. I feel strong again now.

I want hot Emergen-C at sunset and hot coffee at sunrise.

The morning coffee was everything that I had hoped for – in my pile of down – with my stubby legged dog.

I want to stretch my legs, my mind, my spirit.

Oh I stretched it all, for sure: joy, wonder, bliss, befuddlement, confusion, anxiety, fear, worry, relief, joy, merriment.

Can’t get there fast enough.

Can’t wait to go again..

Life Elevated

I have a lot of days off from work right now, many of which I have spent sleeping, eating, reading, and sleeping again.

I get panicky that I haven’t “done anything” over break so I go into a tailspin and try to cram in a bunch of activities. Then, I go into a tailspin because I am not at home, taking advantage of the alone-time and writing the Great American Novel.

In-my-head is a hard place to live.

Saturday morning I left the house to go run a few errands and see a noon movie with a friend. The plan was to return home immediately after the film so that I could have part of the afternoon at home alone.

After the movie and strolling around town and a trip to TJ Maxx, I arrived home at 6:00 pm, after my children.

So Sunday was going to be a visit to MCB at his jobsite and a hike from there, then back home to wrap up my masterpiece.

Or start it.

When I arrived at his workplace, I was offered Prime Rib for lunch (with Green Chili). Suddenly I was frozen; I was spontaneous yesterday – could I handle 2 days in a row?

But lunch sounded so good, as did a little bit of extra time with MCB.

“You can hike afterwards,” he suggested.

No, no I can’t. I can’t because I only allotted a certain amount of time away from my quiet house and if I take the time to eat, then I won’t have time to hike and still get home before I turn into a pumpkin.

I ate. I mean really, who could turn down prime rib with chili?

After lunch I stood by my truck, totally stymied. It was a beautiful day – was I really going to blow a day in the canyons because I was inflexible? Was I going to choose being an introverted, hermitish, homebody over  slickrock?

I was facing west as I pondered.

I gazed out at the horizon, steeped in indecision, and thought, “Utah is right there.”

And I jumped in the truck and drove, calling out the window, “If I’m not home by morning…”

See, I can be totally spontaneous. I can fly where the winds blow me. I can embrace adventure.

Besides, it was quiet time in the car – or almost quiet – Tchaikovsky, sun on the sandstone, blue sky forever, and I didn’t say a word to anyone for the entire trip.

I had been struggling with sadness that morning and with each step, the sadness slid off of me and I felt ecstatic.

Life Elevated.






  1. an audiocassette or CD recording of a reading of a book, typically a novel.


No, I haven’t just discovered audiobooks per se. I’ve been listening to them for years; small children, road trips, concussions – plenty of times when listening to someone else reading a story is just the best.

What I have recently figured out is just how perfect they are for running.

I have actually struggled a bit with the idea of listening to music while running.  I always thought myself to be more “pure” than that – believing that listening to the wind in the ponderosa placed me on an elevated spiritual and intellectual level.

Then I got an iPod because I am weak (on every level) and have had moments during which listening to Pearl Jam Ten sends me blasting through the trees at the speed of light, oblivious of the pain in my foot, knee, hip, back, shoulder, hand, and neck.

But it’s short-lived – the change in tempo from one song to the next brings me crashing back to reality and allows me the mental space to realize that I can barely breathe.

Recently, I’ve been mixing it up – some days with music, some without. My feelings about it have been mixed also.

And then, yesterday, I had this flash of brilliance…

What about listening to a book while I run?

Left the office, raced to the library, picked out a few books, including one that I always wanted to read but couldn’t get past trying to mentally pronounce the dialect.

Raced back to work, burned all of the books into my Library, synched it all with my iPod, and at the end of the day, raced out to the trailhead.

It was fucking divine.

Of course I chose the challenging one.  Read by the author. He know how to pronounce everything. When he calls his girlfriend “Mammi” it sounds bario-cool.  When I said it in my mind, the character had an oedipal complex.

I ran. I remained evenly paced. I got (mentally) lost. I was completely absorbed in the story.

But not so lost that I couldn’t appreciate the sunlight through the trees.

A book and nature seem aesthetically compatible in ways that any music beyond classical violin and nature doesn’t.

I run to give myself a break from reality. I read as an escape. The two together brought so much peace and quiet to my brain.

For a little while afterwards, I felt that I was still stuck somewhere in Santo Domingo. I had a little bit of trouble grounding back in MT.

It was absolutely delicious.

I am going to get online this weekend and start downloading books and run myself right around the world.

Run, Darlin’, Run.



How it is in my town

“How’s that new baby doing?”barrels07

“He’s so great.  Almost 3 weeks now.”

“And how’s mama?”

“Great. Got back to barrel racing last weekend.”

Hot dang, makes my uterus hurt.