Going Long for the Sake of Going Long.


At times life changes you.  At times you can change your life. This happens when you go long for the sake of going long.

Wednesday morning I poured sea salt and honey into my water bottle to make a homemade sports drink. I scavenged through my kitchen cabinets looking for food to pack for my run and discovered five dried apricots. Grabbed my headphones, iPod, toe socks, Vibrams five fingers and I Priused away for my day of trail running.

Drive about 45 minutes from my home, passing the airport, turn right off the highway. Five miles of driving down a county road, passing two bait shops, one gas station and fields of farm land.

I turn left into Raccoon State Park.  I park in a gravel lot, two trailhead markers point my way. I slip on my brown fleece jacket, which would not be warm enough for the day’s weather, tie my bandanna over my head. Twenty miles in either direction will bring me back to the starting point. This is my new goal, my Everest, the Raccoon loop, 20 miles of trail running.

This would not be the day for completing the task, it would be the stating point for the experience.

This day I would go for a 10 mile run.  I would get lost somewhere around mile 4.  I would find the ranger station at mile 6. A frustrated park employee from behind the counter would point me to the main road and proceed to tell me “go that way” with a smirk of don’t bother me on her face. I folded up the park map that I grabbed from the front desk and started running on the road.

At this point I had no idea how far I was away from my car. The map was of no help to me for a couple of reasons: 1) I am a bad map reader 2) I could not find the ranger station on the map for a reference point 3) The park covers 7,572 of acre and I just ran 6 miles through the forest.  I knew my car was parked on this road but I had no idea if I would have to go 1 mile or 10 miles to get back.

The easy solution would be to back track the six miles.  The easy solution seemed to be the hardest thing for me to do at that point.  The terrain was mountainous, the footing was rocky, and the air was cold.  I ran the road.

Going long for the sake of going long.  My favorite thing about running is the goal-less nature I place upon myself.  I run far because I like it.  I am not competing against any thing, myself included. I do set destinations, distances, time on my feet and experiences that I wish to enjoy. However there is no failure point. I run because it feels good (when it’s not hurting me). Some call this the Zen of running; for me it’s just enjoying the run.

Yesterday I was fighting the fear of the unknown distance that I would cover.  Lost on a long road to nowhere.  That’s what it felt like.  I told myself that I would run to the music of one cd. At the end of the music if I was not at my car I would start to worry.  I ran to the music of Bruce Springsteen’s new album “Wrecking ball”, an american roots, gospel-filled album with stories of the working man to keep me company as I ran down the road to nowhere.  When the last song, “American Land”, ended I was runnung into the parking lot.

Dumb luck, good fortune or guided by angels...I do not care about the what or the why of how I made it back on this journey; it was just the journey of doing.

Later on that evening I sat in a room listening to a speaker give a talk on death.  The lecturer said “Deep spiritual healing takes place at the time of death.” This got me thinking about the many small death and re-birth moments we all share, daily at times. How running destroys the muscles only to re-grow them stronger with each run.

We go long for the sake of going long...it’s the only destination we all share.

Enjoy the run.

p.s. The photo above are my new running shoes, Luna Sandals. I hope to have them broken in to run the PGH 1/2 marathon in!  


The Examined Life

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worthy of living.” Not sure I agree with that, however taking notes as you stumble through life is a good thing.

Thoreau’s “Walden” is one of those books that has stuck with me, as it has done for many. The transcendentalist, Thoreau, writing down his daily thoughts on life.  Musings on simple living…readable, interesting…..could I do this?

I have journaled throughout most of my adult life. I have been a dedicated journeyer for the past seven years. Writing down notes, rants, idea, dreams, short stories, daily life and general whatnot's and chronicles of living with NMO.  I got a daughter. I got a disease. I got a habit of writing it down. 

Today I start a new journal. With its clean white pages...it will start with a topic that has been absent throughout these past years...it will start with an entry on my good health.

The first thing I do when I complete a journal is to re-read all that I have written during the past year (it takes me on average a year to fill a journal, give or take).  After completely re-reading and realizing that my spelling, grammar and handwriting have sunk to a level so low that I will be sure to have a burn request upon my death so that my daughter does not know just how bad I was at the most elementary of skills.  She can read the blog which is edited by my wife (somebody has to spell the big words and the bulk of the midsize words). 

After re-reading, I highlight the passages that resonate with me; the stuff I feel that should not be forgotten.  The stuff that I want to be passed down. The exemplary stuff. 

I have done this for the past six consecutive journals. I re-write and add my reflections on these lessons and ideas that I wish to stay present in my thoughts and daily life.

It is the development and the transition on the man I wish to be.

To be authentic.  To be significant. To live simple, purposeful and with rhythm.


It Just Feels So Damn Good ~

I like the moment of conceiving a new idea because it gets you into the zone of the act of doing, the feeling of being spent, excited, thrilled when the work is done...the anticipation of sharing the world...it just feels so damn good.

Throughout all my workshops I keep repeating the phrase “You can not purchase your way to good composition.” You have to do the work, you have to click the shutter, you have to take lots of photos, you have to, you have to, you have to enjoy the process.

This is the separation point of where the birth of an artist begins or the impulse of a phase burns out.

There is only sound
There is only light
There is only words
There is no formula...only creating.

Who are you? A buyer of what people create or are you a creator of what people buy?



Current Reading: Daughter of Smoke and Bones by Laini Taylor

Current Music: Wrecking Ball by Bruce Springsteen
Sounds: Typing & TV
Mood: Freedom to feel that I am back where I belong
Smells: Coffee & fresh air
Temperature: Its going up to 80 degrees today in Pittsburgh in March!?!?
Thoughts: Devil is one man with a plan ~ Evil is a collaborate effort….


A Day, A Life ~ Short Story

I grab my wool hat out of the basket.  I wrap my favorite gray scarf around my neck.  I lace up my left boot then my right. I pick up my workman’s jacket that hangs on the wall. I slip on my jacket while being sure to leave plenty of room for my wings to be comfortable for the day of work ahead of me.

I glance in the mirror that is hung by the front door. “I look beat-up” I say to myself .

My day started three hours earlier when I awoke to the ringing of the bells.  Every single day at 3am the bells are struck.  The ringing tone stays present inside my head for the next ten minutes.  I roll out of bed, stretch my wings, wash my face. I sit on the meditation mat…this is how my morning goes, every morning.

I do my utmost during this first period to clear my thoughts and sit in the absolute silence.  Thoughts of what lay ahead kept pulling me off towards fantasies that are disturbing to me.

Three bells ring; I made it through the first of three sitting periods of mediation and I now have a five minute break.

I go into the kitchen get a drink form the sink using my hand as a cup. I slice an apple, wrap half of it in plastic and place it in the fridge for later.  I eat half of the apple and three bells reverberate throughout the land. Back to mat: “Next period of deep nothingness with the right intentions", I think to myself.

I sit back down on the mat, I place my hands in the “mudra” position lying right hand gently on top of the left, thumbs meet at the center lightly touching.  Hand position during long meditation is important, it helps to rest the arms, shoulders and neck to open up the lungs. I spread out my wings then bring them back to closed position. I breathe, I sip in air through my nostrils. I repeat.

This is my morning, my every morning, for the past 213 years.  I get up at 3am to the bells. I meditate for two and half hours. Then I shower, dress, fix breakfast and then out the door for my work in the fields.

Time passes impossibly slow here. Time is not abstract; it has movement and it will end. It feels as if there has never been a tomorrow, just this moment.

I understand the question.  I didn’t know the answer of what lay ahead for me. For 213 ageless years I ponder this question. It seemed so simple why did I present it with effort? There is no conversation at all here about this or anything. Two hundred and thirteen years to prepare for a glimpse of nothingness...no pointer, no hints, no indication, no insight, no direction...only the deep felt awareness that I will be able to improvise when the time comes.  My life is a play without words.

The answer will come straight from the meditation mat; that's what the “Existing Collection” says. Reincarnation offers no comfort, it will start all over again if I do not get it right.  If I get it right a new question will arise.  Whatever I do I sit in emptiness without beginning and without end.  This is what the “Existing Collection” tells us….

Six in the morning, I exit from my front door.  

I do not feel like cutting wood, stacking wood and clearing paths.  It would be nice to have a different job, maybe work in the kitchen, laundry or taking care of the animals. The forest is ever vast and growing; every day new growth sprouts, this is what the “Existing Collection” tells us. I will never get a new job.

The walk to work is one of the few times that I have to myself, when I am not in service to the bells or to the others. My morning walk is the only time I have to enjoy the higher plain, the glories of the ever-present here and now.

Having wings do not give me much freedom, they were never intended to take flight. The wings only expand and collapse, merely decoration and they lack purpose. When the wind is just right I can puff out my wings and glide about four inches off the ground. I float to work as gently and quietly as a flower petal blows through the breeze. I am careful not to be seen.  Trying to take flight is something we are not supposed to do, it is strictly forbidden. As soon as I can see the others off in the distance I get my feet back on to the soil.  I do this by stiffening my entire body, I tighten my wings and they compress into my spine.  I drop like a brick.

The others - That is all I ever knew them by.  That is what the “Existing Collection” calls them, or us.

I gather the tool needed from the shed.  Nobody has to tell me what needs to be completed for the day. 

Clairvoyants. We are clairvoyants.  Never to communicate out loud.  We can talk, it's just that we don’t.  No words and no directed thought towards another. There is a general awareness of what needs to be completed for the days work.  This is how we communicate: random feeling and understanding of each other.  Without separate individual connections we act as one body.

2pm: 3 bells ring out, afternoon meditation. I face the sun. I sit in the field.
I’m back chopping wood at 4pm.

We live in a miracle.  That word has been used too often and has lost its value. We live in a miracle.  There is nothing special, yet miracles. Too bad only the obvious ones can be seen. I will write this down in the "Existing Collection” tonight when I get home.

7pm: Gregorian chanting with the others at the main alter. I like the chants. It's the only time I get to use my throat.  The chant lets us know about specific celebrations and what's to come. The soloists sing out and we repeat the phrase; it is our version of a calendar, or a To-Do list.  The cadences, the reciting of the notes, the simple melodic formulas...it fills me with purpose. I often wonder if the “no god, no-no God” is listening.

After the chanting I go back to my home. 

I prepare a simple meal of vegetables and rice.  The variety of vegetables vary from day to day. They are whatever the gardener places in my fridge for me. The rice is steamed: sweet jasmine with an aroma that I adore. I cut up some eggplant, white potatoes and onions, sauté them in a pan with sweet curry and basil. I have a couple of beers with my meal and then I clean up.

After dinner I pour myself a glass of Scotch, turn on flamenco music, light three candles and write down my thoughts in the “Existing Collection”.  This is something we all (the others) do every night before bed. It is a mystical ritual, it is the only mystical thing about this here and now place that I call home.  At night we all individually grab the “Existing Collection” book off of our shelves and write.  After we finish writing and place it back on the shelf it is updated with all the others writings.  It is truly the existing collection to the all-be-all.

I write:

“There is no God, not in the preconceived notion of him.  There is no God All Mighty, there is no Lord and Savior, there is no creator of the universe. Well...maybe there is a god but this god is a small case letters god, not the upper case capitals letter God that folklore has turned him into.  To clarify there is “no god & there is also no-no God”. There is no point in trying to understand this because there is no understanding of the nothingness and everything, it is effortless to the point of exhaustion.

The no-god, no-no-God is more akin to pollination rather than the map maker of the great bang. For the record the Big Bang did happen: life exploded out of a seed of emptiness. It's just that the no-god, no-no-God had nothing to do with it, not directly at least. He was the creator of the new seed, but not purposely.  Merely a witness to it. In fact, not even an interested spectator. We live in a miracle.  There is nothing special, yet miracles. Too bad only the obvious ones can be seen.  Life is self-pollinated; a piece of the god-ness is transferred but never separated….no effort, no intentions, no purpose. Only outcome in the the here and now.”

Finished my Scotch then poured myself another one. I dress in sweat pants and pull a blue t-shirt over my head, wiggle my wing through the holes in the back. I sit on the side of my bed and expand my wings to the fullest position then collapse them back into my body. Gulp down my drink and cover myself with a blanket and close my eyes.

As I close my eyes this thought drifts into my head: "Life is a meditation on where I am going to stand in this world”…everything goes white.

 I improvise.


Updates, Running & Life

The mild Pittsburgh Winter has passed and a warm sunny Spring has sprouted.  Flowers bud in my front yard, birds chirp and kids ride their bikes that have been sitting dormant since the holiday. 

Running season is back; no more treadmill work outs for me.  I'm back in the woods. Running the trails and being chased by a flock of wild turkeys. OK...maybe not chased: I accidentally ran through a flock (or gaggle) of turkey on the trail and the turkeys weren't sure to flee or attack...I ran fast that day.

Last fall I decided that running was going to be a major part of my health and how I would do my advocacy work. My first major race of the year will be the Pittsburgh 1/2 marathon on May 6th.  It looks as if I will have a t-shirt designed and printed by folks who also have a NMO.  It will be a special feeling for me to wear a t-shirt that represents the people and the cause that I am running for.

It has been about three weeks since I wrote my Radical Reversal blog post.  Since then I have not written publicly because of my need to digest the feedback that I was getting from the post.  Also, I have not written due to the fact that I have been taking lots and lots of photos. More to come on the photos...good stuff!

The feedback I received from my post was split down the middle...I was either placed on a pedestal or I was knocked off my pedestal. Either place that I was put, I deserved neither the praise nor the put down.  With that said, thank you to all who took the time to write to me, it was appreciated.

Connect and collaborate.....



Current Reading: One Way Forward by Lawrence Lessing & Driven by Razi Imam
Current Music: Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody by Al Di Meola
Sounds: Washer & Dryer
Mood: Foggy
Smells: Clean floor smell
Temperature: 50 degrees  
Thoughts: Its all written down in the existing collection….


Photo of the Week

 Spent this past weekend in Laurel Highlands PA adding to my stock portfolio.



Current Reading: A Glimpse of Nothingness by Janwillem van de Wetering

Current Music: Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage by R.E.M.

Sounds: Birds chirping
Smells: Coffee & Toast
Temperature: 31 degrees
Thoughts: What if wealthy would be determined by the amount of simplicity that you could achieve in a lifetime.