Moving Meditation (subtitle: In training)

2 October, 2013        Moving Meditation (subtitle: In training)

I’ve mentioned in an earlier post that an acquaintance refers to my method of “racing” (and consequently of training) as a “moving meditation.” I concentrate on “having a good time.” Life is short. I’m deep in training for my October race. Today (Wednesday, 2 October, 2013) is the middle of Week 10 of the 13 week training cycle. That means that (at least by my standards) I’m relatively fit and if I’m awake I’m either working or training or eating, and I’m tired and/or hungry a lot. There are some very long training sessions now, including 90 minute swims, 4+ hour bike rides and 2+ hour runs. It gives me a lot of time to think. Too much sometimes, but it goes with the territory.

I’ve wanted to blog more but I’m busy but I want to put in a few images. Also a brief story at the end that I copied from J.D. Salinger; he copied it from a Taoist parable. The stuff I think about when I have too much time to think is addressed in the story.

Meanwhile. We’ve had a run of lovely weather here in central VA – it’s been a lovely weather summer – and it makes for easy picture-taking. I should look over some of my old blog entries to ensure I’m not repeating myself. But the three “L’s” of real estate are, as you are perhaps aware, “Location, Location, Location.” In photography (in my opinion) the three “L’s” are “Light, Light, Light.” And the light has been enchanting (again, my opinion) all summer and into this delightful early autumn. My last blog entry was “Hump Week” on September 19, just before the end of calendar summer. It’s now officially early autumn and the light – my opinion again, third time in one paragraph, sorry – continues to improve.

This picture I took a few weeks ago in the Fan. Not an example of great light or anything, just a pattern that caught my eye:

Subject for meditation

Subject for meditation

This isn’t great light either, it’s just a little hidden-away place in the woods at Pony Pasture:

Gated community

Gated community

And while I’m on the subject of miserable light. I pulled into Pony Pasture on September 24 and a deer walked directly in front of the car – twenty feet away. I sat there very quietly and another one walked out of the woods. For a long time the dogs and I just stared. I always have my camera with me so I got it out and as I did, two more came out, a total of four deer. This picture is miserable quality since it’s taken through my very dog-slobbery windshield. But it’s not every day – at least not within Richmond city limits – that you can photograph four deer at one time:

Embarrassingly poor quality, but what a sight. See the spotted fawn 2nd from rear? Mom in back?

Embarrassingly poor quality, but what a sight. See the spotted fawn 2nd from rear? Mom in back?

Boy all this talk about great light and no examples yet. On the evening of September 19, an hour or two after I put up my last blog post, I was going out the front door to take Mackey and Turner for our walk. They lunged at a holly tree on the northeast corner of my house – directly outside my office window – and put their paws up on it and both had a fit. I went in and got a flashlight and my camera and came out and saw this guy in the tree:

Evening caller

Evening caller

I had recently filled the bird feeder (on my office window) and he (perhaps she) was no doubt filling up. It was a good night to be outdoors; I pointed my camera in the opposite direction to take this picture:

Better light for stealing bird seed

Better light for stealing bird seed

I’ve put a lot of these on facebook, so some people have already seen them. I like them better in the blog.

I take zero credit for what grows in my yard. I cut the grass – the extent of my horticultural talent. You’ll notice the only thing involved there is cutting things that have grown. The roses were here when I bought the house. They somehow managed to survive my living here. Evelyn brought them to full bloom. You’ll pardon the expression:

Evelyn cuts them and brings them inside too - they're old and they smell amazing

Evelyn cuts them and brings them inside too – they’re old and they smell amazing

Here’s one with my boys in some pretty decent light at PP:



Heck, they look so handsome in that picture – and the river is so lovely – how about another:

dogs/river/sky (II)

dogs/river/sky (II)

Also – I’ve been training a lot at West Creek. My short “runs” I do around home (they’re really dog walks), and my long rides I do out in the counties. But I do my long runs at West Creek and also any rides that are an hour or less so I get very, very familiar with it this time of year. And as I jog (or walk) near the eastern entrance I notice an amazing smell and I looked up and there was honeysuckle in full, fragrant bloom! I’m such a nerd. I noted it on my calendar and said if that’s still here October 1, I want a picture of it. So I was out there yesterday and took several. It smells like May – it is incredible – I can hardly believe it’s October.

I cannot believe it is October. I think they use really great fertilizer in West Creek.

I cannot believe it is October. I think they use really great fertilizer in West Creek.

I have my camera with me whenever I’m at Pony Pasture. I love to get pictures of dogs, deer, flowers, bugs, fish, trees, birds, there is no lack of subjects. But the river doesn’t need anything added:

I've looked at some variation of that precise scene literally thousands of times. And I never, ever get tired of it.

I’ve looked at some variation of this precise scene literally thousands of times. And I never, ever get tired of it.

Speaking of beauty at the river. I was down there with Mackey and Turner earlier this week and they bolted straight to the water’s edge. This guy was already in the air before they even got their paws wet. He (or she) flew out about fifty feet and settled down to relax:

Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias, Pony Pasture, James River, Richmond, VA, USA

Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias, Pony Pasture, James River, Richmond, VA, USA

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

My friend Luigi gave me a gift certificate to buy some books. I got some great ones and I’m working my way through. Lots of learning and lots of enjoyment. The first one I got was an old favorite, Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck, 1962. “Charley,” if you’re unfamiliar, is Steinbeck’s dog and cross-country traveling companion. The book has a line I’ve always enjoyed, “A dog is a bond between strangers.” Dogs help me bond with strangers nearly every day. I am especially fond of the dedication:

photo-64I was with a buddy last week who was having a tough time. We’ve known each other for years. We have what Mr. Steinbeck might have termed “respect born of an association and affection that just growed.” I’m sure he’s better now. He’s one of the more resilient people you’d ever meet. Spending time with him brought this story to mind.

It’s a parable, so it’s not of course about horses. And maybe it’s about people, but more broadly it’s about appearance v. substance. What’s beneath the surface.

Have a great day,


= = = = = = = = = = =

This is an excerpt from a 1955 book by J.D. Salinger. Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters. The excerpt is worth reading and so is the book:

photo-65Duke Mu of Chin said to Po Lo: “You are now advanced in years. Is there any member of your family whom I could employ to look for horses in your stead?” Po Lo replied: “A good horse can be picked out by its general build and appearance. But the superlative horse — one that raises no dust and leaves no tracks — is something evanescent and fleeting, elusive as thin air. The talents of my sons lie on a lower plane altogether; they can tell a good horse when they see one, but they cannot tell a superlative horse. I have a friend, however, one Chiu-fang Kao, a hawker of fuel and vegetables, who in things appertaining to horses is nowise my inferior. Pray see him.”

Duke Mu did so, and subsequently dispatched him on the quest for a steed. Three months later, he returned with the news that he had found one. “It is now in Shach’iu,” he added. “What kind of a horse is it?” asked the Duke. “Oh, it is a dun-colored mare,” was the reply. However, someone being sent to fetch it, the animal turned out to be a coal-black stallion! Much displeased, the Duke sent for Po Lo. “That friend of yours,” he said, “whom I commissioned to look for a horse, has made a fine mess of it. Why, he cannot even distinguish a beast’s color or sex! What on earth can he know about horses?” Po Lo heaved a sigh of satisfaction. “Has he really got as far as that?” he cried. “Ah, then he is worth ten thousand of me put together. There is no comparison between us. What Kao keeps in view is the spiritual mechanism. In making sure of the essential, he forgets the homely details; intent on the inward qualities, he loses sight of the external. He sees what he wants to see, and not what he does not want to see. He looks at the things he ought to look at, and neglects those that need not be looked at. So clever a judge of horses is Kao, that he has it in him to judge something better than horses.”

= = = = = =

About Jay McLaughlin

I am a rehabilitation counselor. I have many friends with autism and traumatic brain injuries. They help me learn new things constantly. I hike with dogs at the James River in Richmond - a lot. I've completed an Iron distance triathlon a year for 11 years. My most recent was in Wilmington, NC in November, 2013. I currently compete in mid-distance triathlons. And work and hike and take pictures and write and eat.
This entry was posted in Dogs, Endurance, Flowers, Fun, People, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!). Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Moving Meditation (subtitle: In training)

  1. Barbara Mann says:

    What a beautiful and peace-filled entry, my friend!
    Warm greetings to you and Ev!


    • Hi Barbara! Long time no talk! And thanks for the note! This is a beautiful and peace-full time of year; it’s easy to take pictures and write words that reflect that. I hope you’re well! Warm greetings to you and Wayne too and I look forward to talking with you soon,


  2. Clare T says:

    Ditto – it appears that when in training, your senses and your heart go into overtime and show up in your writing – as Barbara said, beautiful & peace-filled.

    one quick comment about the ‘possum…..Zoe, my almost-17-yr-old dog, walked into the living room the other nite with a ‘possum in her mouth and put it on the living room rug…..i responded, “i don’t think so!” and got an old Ukrops bag and a dustpan and put Mr. Possum in the bag and laid the bag on its side outside where Zoe couldn’t find it.

    Water cooler discussion – possum was not harmed and lived to roam free yet another night in the “hood”.

    Good luck with the race!

    • Hi Clare! Very perceptive – when I’m in training I often experience my senses as heightened. I think it may be a function of the many, many, many hours I spend alone and quiet – mainly in the pool or on the bike. Saturday I rode for 5 hours in a downpour – lots of time to think. Which gave rise to the title “moving meditation.”

      Exciting that Zoe was thoughtful and brought you a new pet! I’m guessing that’s not one that wanted to be “rescued” by Zoe and was thankful you re-rescued it to the Great Outdoors.

      Have a great day and I’ll see you soon,


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