Friday, April 29, 2016

Grow Where You are Planted

Was harvesting some wood from a huge limb that had broken out of an old black locust tree nearby, when I saw this little plant:

[image credit Gary]

Somehow a seed blew into this recess, or was dropped there by a critter, and the plant took hold.

Not to be trite, but I am reminded of such positive attributes as tenacity, optimism, and courage.  I guess the take-away is to grow where you are planted, and grow well.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Tales From the Perimeter: More on That DNF

Perimeter meaning the 6 mile patrol road inside the fence of the military installation on which I formerly worked, where some half a dozen of us comprise a pool of running “talent” and strive to show up for a noontime run a couple times a week if we can escape our desks. We share a lot and these guys are one of the core pillars of my sanity.

It's been far too long since I put up a Tales From the Perimeter post, but since I retired my running frequency with the group has plummeted.  At any rate, though, I'm sure our next run will feature my recent email to the group as a discussion topic:


Must have been a Freudian slip, but I failed to provide results for the Ironmaster’s Challenge 50K this past Sunday that I ran with my buddy JS.  Web site is 

JS ran quite well and was content to stick with me thru Mile 20.  He finished in a decent time, despite a slow start due to my drag.   

Mile 20 at about 5 1/2 hours is where I dropped out (DNF meaning, of course, Did Not Finish).  I had taken 3 hard falls—which is pretty uncharacteristic of me—and I just felt out of gas.  Totally.  The falls banged up various body parts, to include knee, elbow, hand, shoulder, ribs, and a pair of solid shots to the left side of my head (apparently I’m a "left-roller" when I bite the dust).  But mostly I was really gun-shy that the next fall when it inevitably happened would really bugger me up, so I figured it was time to bid adios to those happy trails.  It wasn’t safe and it just wasn’t fun anymore.

Not a stellar day in terms of results, but JS and I did spend some quality hours together.  Here on Thursday, my body still aches: slight limp due to the knee, and the side of my head is still tender to the touch.

A word to the wise: beware of under-training.  You can only pull a big performance--based solely upon long running history and muscle memory rather than good solid training--out of your butt up to a point.  A point that I have apparently passed in my running career, as my nine lives may now be exhausted.

So, that’s my race report.  Now let loose your replies, all of which will likely invoke the words “butt” and “wuss”…. (but remember, be nice, this is the part when you say, “Gary, great job, not many people can run 20 miles, blah blah blah”)


Tuesday, April 26, 2016


On Sunday, ran the Ironmaster's Challenge 50K on trails in and around Pine Grove Furnace State Park in south-central PA.

Pluses: beautiful area, trails, and weather.  Good running companion, my buddy JS, who chose to hang with me, though very much faster.

Took 3 hard falls in the first half of the race.  Unusual.

By the aid station just before Mile 20, I was spent.

Dropped out there.

That's my race report.  Will still wear the shirt and drink bean water from the mug.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Cats in Art: Freya Seeking Her Husband (Blommer)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art.  Having moved on from Stefano Zuffi's marvelous work, The Cat in ArtI am now using some ideas from Caroline Bugler's equally impressive book, The Cat/3500 Years of the Cat in Art.

Image credit Wikimedia Commons, Freya seeking Her Husband, Nils Jakob Blommer, 1852, 52" x 77", oil on canvas, held by the National Museum, Stockholm, Sweden.

The kitties in close up:

Bugler's comments:

An ancient Norse legend tells of Freya, the goddess of love, beauty, fertility, war, and wealth, whose chariot was pulled by tow large grey or blue cats.  One might imagine them as large semi-long haired Norwegian Forest Cats, but the two shown here are more like domestic shorthair tabbies, and they appear slightly uncomfortable in their heroic mythical role.

My take?  This is one, well, bizarre painting.  That's the only word that applies.  C'mon: much as I love kitties, a chariot full of babies pulled by a pair of housecats?  That's beyond strange, though the art itself is extremely well executed by Blommer.  

Poor Freya seems distant and bored, perhaps overwhelmed with her massive duties as goddess of love, beauty, fertility, war, and wealth.  Or maybe it's the 7 children hanging all over her.  The cat on the left is pissed, while the right-hand cat--perhaps the more experienced one--seems to be accepting the "human stuff" in stride.

One final comment.  In Bugler's book the chariot faces to the left, while all images I can find on line show it as above, facing right.  Evidently in the book editing process a negative must have gotten reversed and no one caught it...except me, heroic art aficionado that I am!

[Gary note: With my Cats in Arts posts, I encourage you to scope out the art appreciation site Artsy (I have no financial interest in the site, I just like it), where you can explore many aspects of the world of art.  You'll certainly be entertained and enlightened!]

Friday, April 22, 2016

Tree Work...and Ultrarunning

NOTE: I guess Wednesday's post was a bit prophetic, coming as it did a day prior to the death of Prince.  He was truly a musical force and will be missed.

Now...on to today's post.  I did some blowdown removal along my section of the Appalachian Trail on Thursday.  The work just about kicked my butt: I was really whupped at the end of the day.  Tree count was about 7 trees on the ground across the trail, and another 3 leaning but not yet down.

This particular tangle involved the 4 trees you can see plus another out of sight below.  Thank goodness none exceeded about 12" in diameter.  This was a pretty straightforward cutting job.

[image credits Gary]

On the other hand, the blowdown pictured above was a bugger due to its sheer size, a dead oak some 28"-30" in diameter.  I thought carefully through the job and elected to make 2 cuts approx 4' apart (the width of the trail), then I'd roll the cut section away.

No dice.  While I was able to make the huge twin cuts without any issues (such as pinching my saw), when the log dropped I still had a pair of issues.  First, the log was simply far too big for me to muscle.  Plus it was kinda wedged or slotted between the standing tree on the left, the rocks on the trail, and the remaining unmovable ends of the downed tree.

The only solution was to make 2 more through cuts to render the big log into 3 smaller pieces that I could handle.

The connection to Ultrarunning, is of course, that trails do not maintain themselves.  It takes a legion of volunteers to construct and maintain the backcountry paths that we enjoy so much.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Mourning Dove

Was up on a ladder a couple of days ago washing windows at the back of the house.

I knew there were mourning doves were in this conifer from seeing them thru the big cathedral window from the inside. This is the second year in a row that they have nested in this exact spot, so that continuity makes me happy.

But I had no idea that the bird would stay put on the nest when I was literally only 3' away:

[image credit Gary]

I did the window and exited as quickly as possible.  The dove held steady the whole time, keeping a watchful eye on me.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Some Good Trail Time

On Saturday I took Mister Tristan (the 8 year old human being, not the blog) along on a Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) work trip on the Alice Trail.  This is a feeder trail to the Tuscarora Trail just west of Mercersburg, PA.

We had a situation where the trail is mostly on PA State Game Lands, but a short section crosses private land where owner relations are a little precarious.  So the decision was made between PATC and the State to relate a 3/4 mile section of the Alice Trail (PATC maintains the trail in partnership with the State).

This was my first hands-on experience with trail building.  Mostly it was just clearing the footpath with rakes and blazing, although one sidehill section required digging out the uphill side to build up the downhill side, thus creating a more or less level footpath.

My main contribution was making and installing this trail sign:

Then the next day I took a nice long run along the C+O Canal near Sharpsburg, MD, where I noted the Virginia Bluebells are in full bloom:

[image credits Gary]

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Cats in Art: The Love Potion (De Morgan)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art.  Having moved on from Stefano Zuffi's marvelous work, The Cat in ArtI am now using some ideas from Caroline Bugler's equally impressive book, The Cat/3500 Years of the Cat in Art.

Image credit The De Morgan Foundation, The Love Potion, Evelyn De Morgan, 1903, 40" x 21", oil on canvas, held by The De Morgan Center, London.

And the kitty close-up, where the surprised cat eschewed posing in the standard lower left corner, for the lower right:

Bugler's analysis:

All is not what it seems in this picture.  The black cat is one of the witch's traditional attributes, but the femme fatale concocting a love potion hardly fits the conventional stereotype of the elderly, ugly sorceress....So in this picture the black cat is an alchemic creature of the night (and an ironic comment on the idea of the witch), and the red lions on the tapestry represent the wisdom of Christianity, while the woman's golden robe indicates her spirituality.

As the proud "owner" of a  black cat whom we call Ca Beere, I am smitten by this young kitten.  De Morgan captures the cat's eyes and facial expression just right.  I feel pretty sure that De Morgan must have had cats of her own.  

This is our Ca Beere.  She lost most of her tail to an infection early on, but it seems not to be sensitive to the touch.  The only lasting effect seems to be that she frequently misses some of her leaps, presumably due to the lack of a balancing/ruddering tail.

That said, for lack of a better term, Ca Beere is the sweetest kitty I have ever known.  Meaning that she is totally invested in her people--meowing, rubbing, trying to get your face--than any cat I've sever seen.  It's as though, to paraphrase the Edgar Allen Poe poem Annabelle Lee:

And this maiden she lived with no other thought 
Than to love and be loved by me.

[Gary note: With my Cats in Arts posts, I encourage you to scope out the art appreciation site Artsy (I have no financial interest in the site, I just like it), where you can explore many aspects of the world of art.  You'll certainly be entertained and enlightened!]