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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Daylight Shortage Time...An Endorphin Fueled Christmas Muse

I was inspired by a recent blog post entitled, "Slowing Time," where friend Juliet addresses how she deals with life's anxieties and pressures. Her thoughts are especially relevant this time of year.

A snippet from Juliet's, "Slowing Time:"

"...modern adult living feels like a full-time job with zero seconds to waste...a world where basic to-do's like work, exercise, (children!) and transportation consume every moment...we face a nagging quandary of how to maximize our limited hours and overall impermanence. More trips! More destinations, goals, possessions, notoriety, success. What could make this slog better, bearable, more meaningful?"

When I recall our "driven years," I'm thankful for both the accomplishments,  and that they are over.  Well, most of them, anyway. Everyone needs continuing challenges in retirement, if for nothing else but a reason to get out of bed or off the couch. The good news is that we get to pick our challenges now...as opposed to being assigned. 

My mind often flits and wanders as I self-propel through the outdoors. It's the only thing I've found that tempers my Type A  gnome toward Type B. In looking for a new challenge this past summer, I reluctantly tried swimming laps at the Hot Springs Pool. I always thought lap swimming would be too boring for a Type A. But surprise! I fell in love. I found swimming a nice change of pace, easier on abused joints and a good workout for the entire body. I shit you not, the day after my first half mile swim I could hardly move. And here I thought I was in shape...

It's one thing to swim laps outdoors in mid-summer warmth, another thing entirely to do it in December and January's brain-freeze cold. I was curious if I could regain "the love" during winter upon returning from a month of autumnal "perfect-weather" adventures in Zion. It was, as expected, difficult, a "mind game" of sorts to talk my body into uncomfortably cool lap-lane water as steam rises from the tempting hot section only a few feet away. What to do...

Distant "Bridge of Heaven" ridge (dead center) as seen from my "seat" at the hot springs.

I found it easier to just jump in, an act of total irreversible commitment as opposed to easing in slowly via steps. It's a shock, and the only way to warm up is to swim. So I jumped...bracing for the shock.  It wasn't as bad as my mind suggested it would be, though. I made the mile...32 down and back laps...and found it invigorating. 

Then I stepped dripping wet from chilly-to-me 74 degree lap lanes into a sub-freezing north wind. Yikes! It's only 40 feet from lap lanes to the 104 degree hot section, but on days like that it feels like a mile.  

Skin tingled as I waded into a soup of steamy bliss. Post-swim endorphins trickled into bloodstreams. Breathing and heart rate idled down and so, too, my mind. Reality blurs, as unfocused as the nebulous clouds of steam, swirling into crisp air. Semiconscious (semi-comatose?), a disjointed muse ensues. I give it rein, just to see where it goes... 

It's no secret that I'm not a fan of Old Man Winter's "Daylight Shortage Time," especially when steeped in piles of snow and a blustery cold front...waiting for Mount Sunblock's impending 2 o'clock shadow. But post-swim endorphins and 104 degree water join forces to leave me temporarily content. I'm pleased to have my mile in, the cool lap lanes behind me and an hour of direct sun left in my day. Such is winter life in La Crevice.

I consider a self-indulgent reward...yes, a dark chocolate sea-salt caramel from Mouse's Chocolates!!!  

Mmmm. Should I squander my workout...spend the better part of ten bucks and cancel all those calories burned with calories consumed?  Naw, better just go home...have a bowl oatmeal (yawn). It's a battle of epic proportion: Ladies and Gentlemen, in this corner we have sweet and gooey Sea-salt caramels, washed down with a hot foamy latte. In the other corner, we have plain old oatmeal. Not hard to guess who won. I'm kinda like those Lab Mice given a choice between cocaine and sugar. I choose sugar every time. America has a serious drug problem with sugar, maybe it should be added to the controlled substance list.

At Mouses's, my mind wanders back to Juliet, a young budding writer/gal-friend of ours with an "old soul."  With sugar and chocolate endorphins extending my swim "high," I  thought more on her piece, "Slowing Time." I decided nothing slows my "clock" like a post-exercise immersion in hot mineral water followed by an indulgence in dark chocolate, sugar, and a hot foamy latte.

A winter hike with son, Caleb,  daughter-in-law,  Kelli, and, of course, Soulmate Bobbie.
"So much of what we do while trying our best to be our best actually robs us of the incredibly precious time we have to simply exist and encompass the human experience." Juliet 

How does one "...simply exist and encompass the human experience" these days when it takes both parents working to make enough money to eat and pay rent or a mortgage?

This holiday season I have much to be thankful for. And though I'm often "thankful" in a general sense, i. e., my penchant to wear a "Life is Good" ball cap as a billboard reminder, I seldom verbalize specifically...with the possible exception of the obligatory round-the-table Thanksgiving affirmation our family requires before devouring the Golden Gobbler. I usually say something short and predictable: I'm thankful for the blessing of friends and family, and the lovingly prepared meal under my nose

Perhaps it was Juliet's piece...or maybe Jen's "Thanksgiving Ramblings" post, where she decried the de-evolution of Thanksgiving: "Oh, I'm totally all about expressing everything for which I'm thankful, but not on a timeline dictated by "the man", in a way encouraged by corporate America...(this is) why (the) whole forced Thanksgiving thing irks the shit out of me. My Facebook feed today is filled with people declaring all of the things for which they are thankful. That's great - but why just once a year on a made-up holiday?  Were you not thankful for those things two months ago?  ...why did it take a corporate-America holiday to make you express your gratitude?"  

I'm thinking the same (or more) could be said for Christmas. Juliet basically does in her subsequent "Giving Tree" post: 

"Over the last few years though, I've become overly conscious of the vehement wastefulness of the season, and it makes my skin crawl. I can't stand the massive amount of asinine crap involved in celebrating the holidays. Useless, plastic, themed shit that gets stored away for 50 weeks of the year.. Millions of trees cut down.. the wrapping paper alone! AHHH! I can't step foot in most stores right now without feeling like I'm going to spiral into a panic attack."       

Yes, Juliet, China is hellbent on filling our landfills with their cheap plastic crap. Victory! Without so much as firing a shot.

Truth is, what between "Daylight Shortage Time," Old Man Winter and being smothered in layers of clothes...not to mention dreadful Holiday Headlines about how the world's coastlines are soon to be inundated by rising seawater while society in general continues to slip-slide into a duality of "Haves" and "Have Nots," it's a struggle this time of year for me to live up to my "Life is Good" mantra. Maybe it's too much sugar, food and alcohol, and the realization that I'm accelerating headlong and full-bellied toward yet another Holiday that will put me on the verge of yet another indulgent-to-the-point-of stupefying binge on said sugar, food and alcohol to the point where I snooze comatose through football and the true meaning of "Christmas."  Thanks in large part to Ad blitzes by Corporate America, we are guilted into diamonds by Jared, His and Hers Generalized Motors SUVs, Apple Watches, and a wide assortment of unbridled gluttony. What example does this serve for our children? 

Why not get back to making Christmas about children...especially those that must sift through restaurant dumpsters or landfills for their next meal. Adults need to look more into their hearts for Christmas and less under a tree. Maybe set an example for our kids.

I'm reminded of a Biblical story my mom told used to tell when Christmas drew near. It was the parable where Jesus and his disciples looked on as parishioners bore offerings to the temple. Some were wealthy and made a show out of donating large sums of money. But standing in line is a poor widow, and when her turn comes to give her offering it amounts to only a few cents. Whispers of disapproval circulated among the crowd. Jesus turned to his disciples and used it as a "teaching moment," explaining that the widow's gift was worth more than all the others combined, for she gave all she had

Then Mom told us about what her childhood Christmas's were like during the depression, a time when her family could only afford one quart of milk per week, and that it often soured by the time they got it home. Not wanting to waste this luxury, Grandma used the soured milk to make pancakes. 

For years, Mom and her brother and sister were told to not expect anything for Christmas because Daddy was still out of work. But Grandma was shrewd with her pennies, stashed enough away to buy each of the kids a shiny orange so they would have one present to open on Christmas morning. Hard to imagine today...three oranges, wrapped in yesterday's newspaper.  

I wish you Peace, good tidings, and most of all, health...the one true measure of wealth. It's all we really need, right?



  1. Several years ago Hans and I got our families to agree to no longer exchange Christmas gifts, we just spend time together. So much more pleasant than the old days of stressing and shopping and hoping that people will like what we've chosen for them. Our time is so much more precious than to spend it on enforced social customs.

    Wishing you and Bobbie a healthy and outdoorsy 2019!

    1. That's a great idea! Now if you could just convince my family :)

  2. Well said, my friend. Today I was at the pottery studio, looking out at the perfect snow, having just thrown an almost-perfect bowl, my belly still full from yesterday's fantastic dinner (and company) and I thought "wow. this is the life!" Life is, in fact, good.

    1. Thanks Jen and Doug. It was nice getting together with you guys for a Christmas dinner. Keep throwing bowls and moving outdoors!!!

  3. I absolutely love seeing you ponder these same things, and to know that my little story inspired any further thought let alone some great writing is a solidly wonderful feeling. Also, to be honest, I'm super jealous of your local hot spring. Hot water is without a doubt one of my absolute favorite ways to slow the day.. Much love Mark!

    1. It's what I do best when mellow :) Your stories are always interesting and inspiring, Juliet. Keep it up!

  4. Out of the park Mark. From one OM to another, Thanks!

  5. Excellent musings! I try not to let 'the almighty dollar is the reason for everything' get me down but it's tough when it's everywhere all the time especially at corporate dictated holidays. I'd rather celebrate Solstice and the coming light though it's the dark that gives us time and conditions for such introspection. Thanks for it all including the intro to fellow musers.

    1. Thanks Sherry...wishing you and David more "light" in 2019.

  6. BRAVO, made our day: just wished we had that hot springs pool in Guerneville, would love to swim some laps this time of year.
    Ok, if it's that salted carmel & frothy latté from Mouse's I'll get a gift card ASAP and send :)
    A Big Happy New come 2019 to you & Bobbie

    1. Cheers to you guys, too. Enjoy your wine country drives...
      I'll keep an eye out for that gift card to Mouse's Chocolates :)
      mark and bobbie

  7. I'd rather collect experiences than things. And I do enjoy reading about yours. Happy New Year!


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