a kettlebell training log, and
a launch pad for aberrant missives

Friday, March 21, 2008

Santa Cruz Sojourn

It's spring break and Pepper and I finally hit the road. Pepper, of course, is my Mini Cooper. We coasted down Highway 1 and rolled into Santa Cruz last Saturday evening, with my 12 kg kettlebell securely in the trunk, and that bleeping Gymboss tucked among my underwear. What kind of a getaway is this? BLEEP!

I stayed at a Tibetan Buddhist retreat called the Land of Medicine Buddha in the town of Soquel, just south of Santa Cruz. Nestled up high in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the place is absolutely magical. I was only too happy that there was no cell phone signal, and the moment I set foot on the grounds, the outside world faded from my consciousness. The crisp air cleansed and enlivened the soul. I felt I could really see the night sky for the first time in a long while, the kind of seeing that is unbothered by urgency, or necessity. The skylight in my room let in the moon - I slept under its cool light, in a warm bed, made warmer still by the hospitality of the gentle staff. It makes my blood boil now to think of what the Chinese government has been doing in Lhasa in the last week. But when you're among ancient trees whispering their teachings on compassion and equanimity, you understand that Spirit does not wish to countenance anger and other negative emotions. She breezes through the leaves, leaving them rustling, like waves, cresting, falling, now you hear it, now you don't. Listen ...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

2-Arm Swings (12 kg)
1 x 30 = warm-up

Snatches (12 kg)
12 x (7+7) on the minute = 168 snatches

Front Squats (12 kg)
6L, 6R

7.5 miles - I left the Gymboss behind and hiked through the property of the Land of Medicine Buddha and the adjoining (and very aptly named) Enchanted Forest. I love being in the woods and don't understand why people obsess about getting out of the woods. I didn't see any mountain lions - I suppose I should not tempt Fate - but I met Bambi, and two biker dudes riding uphill on a narrow trail. And one other guy who confirmed my bearings on a hand-drawn and not very updated map.

Monday, March 17, 2008

2-Arm Swings (12 kg)
(4 x 25 + 8 x 20) on the minute = 260 swings

4 miles - Even though I am partial towards the hills, in the interest of being well-rounded, I opted for the ocean. I went to
Wilder Ranch State Park, just north of Santa Cruz. The trail down to the coast is pretty flat and without tree cover, and it doesn't loop back, so I think the best way to enjoy it is to ride a bicycle. At first I thought I was going to fry in the sun, but soon enough I was glad for the sunshine, as it got pretty windy along the coast. Here you get dramatic views of sheer cliffs, pristine beaches, and a variety of sea birds hanging out like beach bums. I saw two guys casting their fishing lines off of a cliff. I kept wondering, what if a big sea monster bit the bait and pulled one of them over? The ocean seems vast and willful. I dropped down to my knees before I dared look over the edge. We are pretty small and insignificant, in the grand scheme of things.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

8.5 miles - I am very certain that in one of my many previous incarnations, I was a redwood tree. Whether it's Muir Woods in Marin, or my destination for today, the
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, there is a profound sense of "coming home," that I am of the same substance and marrow as these beautiful, proud trees that have stood the test of time. Beyond the Redwood Grove, the grandma-friendly main tourist attraction, I encountered very few people as I hiked through different micro-climates and terrains. While I really savored the quietude, I wondered where the people were. Are most folks so out of shape they can't venture out of the main loop? I have a "buffet table" approach to my endeavor: I paid $6 for parking and I'm going to hike the heck out of it to get my money's worth. But of course I can hardly pay enough for this enormous treasure that is the California State Parks system. In the last few days, I realize just how incredibly rich we are, that we've been blessed by Mother Nature and her abundant resources, to be "used" without being depleted, to escape to, to recreate - so we can save ourselves from ourselves, from our incessantly demanding lifestyles. The spirit of conservation is best sustained by actively engaging the Great Outdoors. Some parks even have Wi-Fi access, but hey, you don't have to bring your laptop!

I don't know how many steps I took, but each step was a reminder that once upon a time, hardworking men and women blazed these trails and cleared miles and miles of paths so that we could enjoy the wilderness today. I am profoundly grateful for their labor, and their wisdom.

Of course, it's so very American to drive 50 miles so you can get out and walk 5 miles. I don't apologize for it, but I'm fully supportive of a national agenda to develop cleaner energy and alternative fuels.

The way to reach the Land of Medicine Buddha is via a winding, one-lane mountain road. At night, it is pitch dark and I had a fun time driving on it - when else do you get to play with the high beam? Coming back from dinner in Santa Cruz on the last night, I glanced at the rear-view mirror and saw - nothing. I didn't see an empty road. I saw blackness. There was no behind, like there was no before. The whole world is here and now, in this little car. People get enlightened in moments like this. Or you're inspired to write a ghost story. Once upon a time, a young man stood in front of the mirror and could not see his face ...

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