Gradually, Then Suddenly
A couple of weeks ago I was proofreading a newsletter for my co-worker, and it felt strange that Black wasn’t capitalized when talking about people. I didn’t correct it, because it was consistent and I follow Chicago Manual of Style instead of APA for that newsletter, but sure enough a few days later the CMS confirmed my spidey-sense and announced the change in their recommendations. The AP, and therefore the website formerly known as my local paper, too. It was definitely less than a year ago but feels like ancient history that seeing Black capitalized meant I was reading something from the 1970s or a social work article.

”Is it reflex or sickness?”

I can’t remember how I got there—probably from Twitter—but I watched this five-minute video about asemic writing by Ananda Naima González, and gave it a try. Mine came out like this:
Page of an unlined comp book filled with asemic writing in purple ink

Looking back at the translation I wrote shortly afterward, it does reflect my state of mind on the day I wrote it. My favorite line: “is it reflex or sickness?”

If I try it again, I might write right to left, since I don’t usually get to do that and as a lefty it might feel good.


Love from A to Z, by S.K. Ali
cover of Love from A to Z, aqua background, teenage boy and girl in airport seating
Just finished the audiobook of this Muslim YA romance and it was so good! In the middle I was getting big Pride and Prejudice feels—they needed to work through their different outlooks on life, for real, but it was never the annoying “just a big misunderstanding” romance trope.

Then I was heading out for a walk and there was 45 minutes left in the book, and Adam and Zayneb were in love and trusting each other and communicating, and I thought, “Is it going to be 45 minutes of how things worked out happily?” and reader, it pretty much was!

I loved Adam’s family in particular and also now want to visit Doha. Islamophobia is a topic in the book, but not in the characters’ families or between Adam and Zayneb, It’s more about thinking through how to be yourself and not lose joy in your life even though haters are lurking.

There is a meant-to-be, Happily Ever After vibe much like the one in When Dimple Met Rishi, but it didn’t feel limiting to me like some YA romance does when it goes that way. Maybe because they weren’t high school boyfriend/girlfriend.

Anyway, it was a balm and just what I like in an audiobook.

Three More Things Wrap Up a Post

  • CSA vegetables are a lifestyle. Last night I made a Caesar salad. Tonight is red lentil dal with turnip greens, radish greens, and mustard greens.
  • Sanguinity and I are rewatching Farscape, about halfway through the first season. I forgot how trippy it is! like half the episodes are about some weird drug they come across. We remember the first season being something to get through before the show gets good, but at the same time a LOT happens in the first season.
  • I’ve walked about six miles today. Since I’ve been following a rule that each week’s running mileage is half the walking mileage of the previous week, I will be running at least (checks log) five miles next week. That’s more than I have been.

State of the Running


My bottle of D-Limonene has a very Alice label. Also, it’s sold by “Blubonic Industries.”

I decided I like the feeling of getting better and better, however slowly. So I will train to run the Mt. Hood 50 50-miler again in 2018, and this time come in under the cutoff of 13 hours with early start. I’m aiming at the 50k for 2017. And no knee pain in training, I am done with that. Which means lots of walking mileage.

Of course, no sooner did I decide all that, than I caught a cold that wiped me out for a week. And Wednesday I flaked on my long run, I don’t know, it was chilly when I went to get dressed or something. So THIS week I’m still at Week One, Actually Execute The Baseline Mileage I Supposedly Have.

Since I’d blown last week’s plan anyway, I took the opportunity to try out Zombies Run, which has been sitting on my phone for awhile. I set out while the intro was playing, and then it stopped. Nothing. I went, “hunh, oh well,” dug the phone out of its case, and put on my audiobook instead. But after a couple of minutes, zombies kicked in again! I guess they really meant it about interspersing the story with my playlist, and since I don’t have any playlists…. Fortunately my audiobook at the moment is Daniel Jose Older’s Shadowshaper, so it all fit together pretty well.

State of the Running

I spent 2015 developing what I don’t think I’ve ever truly had before: a training base. Dailymile kindly sent me this summary of my walking + running mileage for each month, starting in January when I walked two miles a day and ending in December, when I did three runs each week (7, 4, and 3 miles) and walked three miles on each non-running day:

bar graph of mileage, rising from 61 in January to 116 in December.

(I was sick in November and didn’t feel like trying to catch up, what with Thanksgiving and all.)

I called a lot of December fingernail mileage, as in I barely clawed my way through it each day. Once I spent an hour walking through hallways at the university because it was raining and I needed to stay dry for an office party. Once I got dressed for my long run as soon as I got up on my day off, and still never dragged myself out to do it, and then had to rearrange the rest of the week to make it up. I thought I would probably quit or take a break in January. But it felt wrong not to walk on January 1st… and run on the 2nd and 3rd… and I’m still going.

I am proud of this, after so long being perpetually undertrained for races, so much starting and stopping with running. But I don’t really know what I want to do with it.

Walking is easy. It makes me happy, gets me out in the daylight, and often I can do it with Sanguinity. I’ve been hankering to go hike at Silver Falls pretty soon, because we haven’t been there for years, but even our one-mile walks to the library and my commute miles have an obvious payoff in how I feel.

I would not say I’ve been enjoying running, particularly. Every single time it’s hard to get out there, and I’m glad when I’m done. Is it the cold and the rain? Is it that generalized “resistance” that doesn’t mean much of anything? It is hard to tell.

I would be happy to drop any individual run, but not running in general, apparently. When I have dropped running, pretty soon I started dreaming about it.

I don’t really care if I get faster, and going longer doesn’t appeal to me much either– more time away from home and all the other stuff I love to do. Races aren’t appealing to me right now. I guess I’ll keep this baseline for a few more months and see if spring and summer feel different.

And keep inching up the walking, because I love to walk outdoors and look at trees, and it’s fun to see the bar graph grow. And it injury-proofs me for the running.

My next run has built-in motivation: I got new shoes this month!

blue Mizuno Wave running shoe

Aren’t they the prettiest? I keep making Sanguinity admire them.

snow day!

fir trees at Mt. Scott Park with snow on the ground

no longer samesies

Portland woke up to an inch or two of pretty, powdery snow! In the afternoon it started turning toward freezing rain, and the university just notified us they’ll open two hours late tomorrow, at ten. Good job, weather, at stretching out the holiday that last little bit.

I decided to walk to the community center and do my run on the treadmill. And, since I had to carry my running clothes anyway, why not carry a swimsuit and visit the pool and hot tub afterward? This turned out to be a great plan. The ellipticals were full, but I was the only one treadmilling. I called Sanguinity when I had two miles left to go, and she joined me for the pool part. There were empty lanes in the lap pool! The changing rooms weren’t all wet, because almost all the kids were playing in the snow instead of swimming! We didn’t even have to wait to go down the water slide! And there was plenty of room in the hot tub to stretch out, while looking out at the fir trees.

It’s also a good day to curl up and read Yuletide stories. Two I enjoyed from kidlit fandoms:

running resolution

I came up with a New Year’s resolution that felt satisfying as soon as it occurred to me: I want to finish the Portland Marathon this year without knee pain.

My knees have never kept me from finishing a race or an event, but they’ve slowed me down, and are definitely my weak point. Pain-proofing them will involve a little weight loss, strength and flexibility work, steady and abundant mileage, and maybe a backpacking trip in early September. :D

I’m starting from sedentary-ish, a mile’s walk daily and four miles’ walk/run over the weekend. It feels like very little, but that’s good. I still need to figure out the plan for strength and flexibility training.

Also, I don’t know if it will stick but today I went to dailymile and entered my two walks so far this year and looked at what people in Portland were up to. Feel free to friend me if you hang out there! I’m trying to convince my brain that working out and being active is the norm, by showing it people all around me doing it.

squirrel pee and alder borer

Remember how a few weeks ago I was yearning for something new to happen on my way through the Reed canyon? Yesterday I had just come down the slope from the street to the canyon floor when the bleeding-heart plant next to me started rustling. I leaned closer to see what little critter or bird was in there, then saw that the noise was coming from water drops hitting the leaves. It was a cloudy, still morning; had a rain shower started? But when I looked up, all the droplets were falling from one tree branch. I stepped back to get a better look, and confirmed: I’d almost been peed on by a squirrel 30 feet up. So that’s new.

At a trail junction a mother and daughter were staring at something I couldn’t see. “What are you looking at?” I stage-whispered, not wanting to blunder through and scare whatever it was. It turned out they were looking at the thimbleberry bush right in front of them, where one of these perched on a leaf:

None of us knew what it was, but the internet told me later it’s a banded alder borer. (Photo by Patrick Loes for

When I passed the bee tree, it was very active and I could smell it! Like honey plus sap.

A kingfisher flew down the canyon on the other side of the water. I was looking through gaps in the greenery and couldn’t see it for long, but I could hear that rattling call that I always try to remember for the future.

Last weekend I hardly got out for exercise at all, and it made me restless and moody. I realized it was like I was tapering, but there wasn’t even a race to give it a point. Also in the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reading race reports with renewed interest. I think I’m ready to–and need to–ramp up the running again. Sang is going to be working most evenings for the next couple of months, so I have all sorts of plans for after-work writing and workouts. We’ll see.

Yo Mama’s noveling, rain running, and a fine weekend

Yesterday afternoon was rainy and I hadn’t been out of the house all day, so I walked to Yo Mama’s Coffee & Tea House for some writing time. It’s fairly new, over on 65th and Foster, and I liked it as soon as I walked in. Tall wooden booths with good lighting, laid-back music, and good food on real dishes for reasonable prices. Tasty hot chocolate, too. I will never forget you, Bubble Bubble, but my mourning period may be at an end.

I am starting to pull together my next long project novel. Just starting. I am not really sure how to do that, without overrehearsing or overdetermining or scaring it away. But without underworking it until it withers and dies, either. I have a couple of glimpsed characters and maybe a setting, that seem like they might be amalgamated. Other things will present themselves to be added in, and the energy holding them all together will somehow be the aspect of the story that makes people say, “It was very, um…you,” when they read it.

I haven’t decided whether it will be a NaNo project. I will set up a word counter for it, but I don’t know if I am willing to risk rushing into 50k words of crap. I suppose that over the next six weeks I’ll see what the momentum looks like and how much time I’m managing to give it without NaNo to boost and contain it.

Today was my first run in the rain since I don’t know when. Warm, off-and-on rain, so it was fine. I ran down to the college track and trotted around while the Ultimate Frisbee teams warmed up for their games, and listened to Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Talents. My September mileage as of today pulled ahead of August’s total mileage, so my plan to run/walk more miles each month is working. I hope I can keep it up as the weather turns and the days get short.

It’s been a good weekend, also featuring a leaky toilet repaired before the subflooring rotted, and a surprise visit from Evan, who was able to join in our celebratory lunch. Sang and I will finish the night off with purple peppers and jalapenos from the garden, stuffed with cream cheese and roasted in the oven, and eaten while we watch Friday Night Lights and share a beer. I am so lucky.

physical or mental?

From GearJunkie’s short interview with Kilian Jornet, this year’s Western States winner:

Is ultra-running more physical or mental?
It is impossible to separate physical and mental — if you have mental, you construct the physical. It’s not just a percentage of one or the other.

Reed campus report

  • a mallard hen with a batch of five tiny beeps! It seems late for this. And, further down the canyon, one beep on its own, ignored by all the adults. I hope that has a happy ending.
  • ripe salmonberries in the canyon. Someone else had been at the thimbleberries up by the track, so I just smelled the roses.
  • the swingset has shiny new chains. Putting the seats at adult height is easy on the legs but makes for a short pendulum.
  • a CSO riding a Segway!

My four-mile run felt awesome. I’ve been running in NB790s, a minimal shoe I bought on super-sale when New Balance quit making them and then let sit in my closet. So far so good. Low mileage is fun. I think I’m going to enjoy every stage of my running comeback. Maybe that’s why it took me about seven years to get to a 50-mile event? Who knows how long it will take me to get to 100. But the scenic route is better than guilt and frustration, for sure.

Here’s something I never would have believed as a child: I’m seldom tempted by garage sales anymore. I have enough stuff…even books.

Drifting away, and climbing trees

Yesterday morning I went for the first run in a long time. I realized when I pulled my water bottle off the shelf that it had been a long time since I’d held it in my hand or filled it with water! (Then I realized that weird black stuff had spotted the inside, and I found another bottle.) I did four miles omg. Could be I’m back to running and still on my way to 100 miles. Not this season, but maybe next year. If things go great this season, maybe I’ll try for 50 miles at Autumn Leaves. Hard to know.

It’s so easy to drift away from things. In high school I was a musician, getting first chair in statewide orchestras and working up short piano recitals. There didn’t seem to be any difference between me and the kids who went on to be music majors and professionals. But once I went to college I didn’t audition for anything, didn’t play anything on the piano that I didn’t already know, and pretty much left performance behind. I don’t really know why.

And so with running. After recovering from the PCT 50-miler, I never got back in the groove. Then the winter weather made it very easy not to run. I missed it sometimes, I guess, but not enough to pull on the tights. I could always walk instead, in my regular clothes and carrying stuff if I wanted. I still don’t know that it’s not just a fair-weather blip that’s got me running again. Have I tipped over the line of doing what it takes– for example, running on workdays when time is tight?

I was grateful to read Evan’s post today about the “I just HAVE to write!” crowd. Because that’s not me either. Weird but true: the thing I am most disciplined about is going to work at my job to make money. If I’m low on energy, running and writing and most other things (not reading though, hmm) fall to the wayside, but I almost always still catch that bus downtown to the office. I often wonder what it would be like for writing to be that bottom-line for me.

Makes me glad for those one-time fun things that I don’t have to worry about or get attached to– like goalball, and tree-climbing! Last Wednesday, Elizabeth and I finally cashed in her Christmas present, a one-day tree-climbing class out at a farm in Oregon City. I didn’t know if there would be other students, because since I’d signed up the website had changed and it seemed to be just the lead guy doing stuff on his own now, but there were six of us students. Plus a French intern who had only been immersed in English for a couple of weeks and asked charming things like “comfy, that okay to say in a class? You should be comfy?”

We got to climb almost first thing, supervised and using ropes they’d placed before we got there. Then with that out of our systems, we learned knots so we could run things ourselves. Oh, knots. I’d seen many of them before, but knots and card games don’t stick in my head for long. There was lots of cheerful “good! Untie it and tie it again!” from the instructor.

We picknicked out of the breeze, and strolled around. It was cool and overcast, and the ground was muddy. One student’s car had gotten stuck on the way to the grove. We were sharing the field with cows, but they stayed picturesquely in the distance. The trees were oaks, a hundred years old or a little more–not common to find a whole grove of them intact so close to Portland.

After lunch we learned how to throw a thin line over a high limb, with a little weighted bag, and how to replace it with the real rope. Then we got to climb one more time, on ropes we’d placed ourselves. Here are E and me (I’m in purple, with my helmet ridiculously askew, I know!)

Three of our classmates were coming back the next few days to learn how to move around in a tree and from tree to tree; they’d be sleeping in hammocks aloft at least once. I know I’d love that “spiderwebbing” part, because it’s really fun to stand and move freely on the limbs knowing your harness will catch you if you fall! But I was fine with calling it a day and driving home for pizza. Hello, sore muscles!