Zen On Dirt

Impermanence, joy, and birds


Note: I wrote this about a week ago when we were up in Madera Canyon bird watching. I couldn’t decide if I liked it, so I got busy with life and forgot about it. But I reread it. And I thought it was okay. So here it is. Along with bird pictures.

It was a hard week for the cycling community.

First, Mike Hall was killed by a car in the final 24 hours of the Indian Pacific Race down in Australia. MH was the best of the best in the long races. Tour Divide. Trans Am. His dots were amazing to watch going down and across the continent.

Then this morning, news of Steve Tilford’s death in a car accident came across the FB. Aside from all of his cycling accolades, he was evangelical about ridding cycling of doping, and I often found myself cheering when reading his rants about cheats in the sport.

I didn’t know either of them personally, but it was gut-wrenching to hear about their deaths.


The Broadbill Bully. Small but mighty.

Of course, whenever we’re affected by death, especially death that’s sudden and unexpected, there’s the realization that none of us are going to live forever, and we never know when our time is up.

It sets off a flurry of activity and life motivation. Make the most of each day! Carpe Diem!

Which is all well and good, and generally I attack my goal of carping the diem by going on an adventure which takes me to beautiful places and leaves me thoroughly exhausted and satisfied.

Except this week, I’ve pretty much sat on my ass, even though every cell in my body has be screaming to go do something big.


El Magnifico. aka The Lunk

You see, I’ve come down with a self-diagnosed case of Ouchie Foot, which started from Ouchie Shin, which was a result of Ouchie Calf, which pre-dates even that 50k that I ran back in January. In summary, I’ve been dealing with some level of pain running pretty much since we got back from New Zealand when I, once again, over estimated my running abilities and over did it. Most of the pain wasn’t really bad enough to cause a full system shut down, but it also wasn’t going away, especially this last iteration of Ouchie Foot.


The Lunk and the Bully

So I grounded myself for a week to try to let things get better. And then Mike was killed and I was reminded that I’ll never get this week back. And who knows if I’ll get one after it.

But you know what? It’s been a good week. I’ve been reading The Book of Joy about a meeting between the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu (excellent, I highly recommend it) where they spend a week talking about joy, what it is, what leads to it, how to maintain it in the face of sadness, adversity, struggle, and strife. There’s much talk about how joy comes not from our external situation, but how we react to it. Cup half empty or cup half full. Searching for the silver lining. Do we agonize over what we can’t do, or celebrate what we can?


I’m a sucker for a good looking turkey

Sure. I was hurt and was trying to stay off my feet. But that didn’t mean that we couldn’t go down to the humming bird feeders in Madera Canyon and watch birds go by. It didn’t mean that I couldn’t spend the time reading my endlessly growing book list. It didn’t mean that Scott and I couldn’t start rewatching Breaking Bad, starting from Season 1. It didn’t mean that breakfasts couldn’t take extra long, lingering with Scott over the last sips of coffee before even turning phones on to see what had happened in the outside world overnight. It didn’t mean that I couldn’t spend extra time working so that when I was better, I could spend less time working. It didn’t mean that the sky was any less beautifully blue, that our new 2-inch memory foam was any less comfortable, or that we couldn’t go out snipe hunting in Patagonia Lake State Park.


Osprey with dinner (Photo from Scott)

So I say screw carpe diem. That puts way too much pressure on to do “something” with a day. I say carpe joy. Whatever that happens to be that day. Maybe it’s going out to do something big and noteworthy. Maybe it’s laying in our reclining chair under an oak tree, enjoying the breeze and listening to Fred the cooper’s hawk that lives near our favorite campsite outside of Patagonia chortle and laugh to his hearts content (we think there’s a baby Fred in the tree across the wash! We hear it call when it gets hungry).


Soaring vulture

I’m still sad about Mike and Steve. But I’m glad they even existed in the first place. I’m glad that all of the people in my life exist, and I’m okay with the fact that none of us will be here forever. And I’ll keep working on finding joy, regardless of what life throws my way.


5 thoughts on “Impermanence, joy, and birds

  1. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing this. I know you are way ahead on the minimalist curve, but have you read a book called “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” Somebody recommended it.

  2. Reading this after a long work day has given me much joy. Thanks. Heal well. Jo

  3. Amazing as always. Saw you down at the start of the AZTR when we pulled in Thursday afternoon – I managed to introduce myself to Scott but my introvert self got the best of me and couldn’t bear to do the whole “hey I read your blog thing” twice in five minutes. Haha. Seriously though, thanks for your writings over the years – they played a role in me showing up at PCL for sure. Hopefully next time I can get over myself and say hi. Take care!

    • That’s funny! You should have said Hi! 90% of the reason I keep writing here is because it leads to meeting people in this world who I otherwise wouldn’t get to meet! Nice work on the 300, I hear that second day was pretty brutal. People were dropping like flies. Heat AND wind, ooof!

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