Thursday, May 26, 2005

 

Don't Miss This One!



Here's a "Must Check it Out." Dave and Maxine are a middle-aged Canadian couple enroute right now, biking across Canada to help build support for the Canadian Lung Association.

Here, in their own words, are Dave and Maxine's compelling stories and reasons for embarking on this hero's journey:

"Maxine was born and raised in and around Edmonton where she was married and eventually became the proud mother of three boys, all of whom are now grown up and making their own lives away from home. The young family learned early about cancer and the suffering it brings when their father was struck down with this disease. After the loss of her husband, Maxine packed her three boys into their car and brought them out west to the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island where Maxine had to find a home for her family, a new job and a new life. Here, the boys finished their education, and Maxine now works as a Teachers Aid for a school that caters to youth at risk. One day some years ago - and to the surprise of her family - she took up cycling...


"...Dave was born in England, but within a few months of qualifying as an Engineer, he emigrated to Canada, where he began work in Montreal, then by way of a stint in Manitoba, found his way to Kitimat in BC. He has always been interested in sport, and whilst there was able, along with a friend, to make the first ascent of one of the Coastal Range peaks. From Kitimat, he eventually found his way to Africa. He got married in Cape Town, and then with his young wife, returned to Montreal where their daughter was born. Next was a move to a very undeveloped Dubai in the Persian Gulf and the arrival of their son. Both children grew up in Dubai, but returned to Canada to finish high school and attend universities. It was while in Dubai that they also learned about cancer when their mother was diagnosed, and although she appeared to be in remission and the family returned to Canada, she did not recover and soon passed away at home.

"...An interesting footnote to these bios is that Maxine had long cherished the thought of a ride across Canada, and Dave had wanted to do it since early childhood. Both however, had not told anyone of these dreams for fear of being thought a bit crazy. Imagine their surprise one day when they confided in each other: so the trip was on!"

Maxine's daughter, Corri brought the couple's adventure to my attention. Drop Corri an email if you want and let her know you care.

As athletes, cyclists and human beings, let's all jump in and support Maxine and Dave, tracking their journey on their website and giving them some encouragement as they roll along across Canada in the next couple of months.

Please share this with all who you think might also be interested; this couple deserves some recognition for their heartfelt effort and adventuresome spirit.

Thanks!

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Travel


Today is an "in between" day. Tomorrow I travel to North Carolina to visit the beach, touch base with family and relax; so right now part of my mind is already crawling on the airplane while my body and the remaining part of my mind still wrap things up here. To help shake things into order, Art and I are mountain biking the Mesa over lunch hour...

...A quick spin, a few rocks and twisties, a couple of cactus dodges and I will come together again; the split will be healed.

The big debate in my head right now is: to take the computer or not. I want to blog, but on the other hand (wasn't it Harry Truman who said, "What I need are more one handed economists; these fellows just can't seem to make up their minds,") I think it would be far healthier to just leave all accoutrements behind and go forth clean, uncluttered to enjoy the family time, beach and a new environment.

Yep, there; I have decided, no computer on the trip.

Of course I'll still take along the digital camera, plenty of books and the Blackberry...

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

 

Music for the Soul



Molly Holzsclag of molly.com has posted a soulful soothing bit of music great for the after workout wind down. The free MP3,"Love's Immortal Fountain," is performed in an Arizona Kiva, a round, Native American structure of wood, stone and adobe. You can hear the resonance of the building materials and shape in the song's tones. Give it a try.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

 

You Decide

space aliens

I don't think these people are LOCAL!

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No Edges


I was looking at a North Carolina State magazine this morning because we're getting ready to go there at the end of the week. My wife lived in NC for much of her adult life and I too have lived on the east coast and midwest for extended periods, but was not totally comfortable there. I am at heart, a westerner, and I don't seem to be able to change it.

As I studied the North Carolina magazine with its beautiful photos, waterfalls, trees, mountain meadow sunsets; it struck me that there are NO EDGES...

...and that is, in a nutshell, what makes me uncomfortable.

The east is too settled, too comfortable, too civilized for my dryland Coyote ways. The hills are rounded, the mountains are aged and distinguished, the waterfalls flow down over rocks that are smoothed and moss-covered. Even the air, the sky, is softened by the faint haze of ever present humidity.

The Blue Ridge, the Appalachians and the Smokies all have that wonderful dreamy quality that finds its basis in the softening mist. Lighting contrast is low and smooth. Soft.

The west, by contrast, is bare bones. Dry, unforgiving. The air is sharp. The Rockies, Bitterroots, Winds stand boldly out, exhibiting their innards and bones for all to see. On an early morning or late evening, every sound that dares split their sheer cliffs and high mountain meadows rings out like a rifle crack.

In the summer, whenever the sun ducks behind a cloud, you feel the instant chill of the air, minus direct radiation. A thunderhead boils up behind the next peak, and within minutes a howling storm hits and your pleasant summer day is vanquished by threat of hypothermia and exposure.

Or fall on the rocks and get an instant jagged cut from the razorlike exposed edges; no pleasantly rounded features.

Try to grow some flowers or a garden, but you had better to pick short season varieties, species that don't mind sudden jolting shift in ambient air temperature.

I'm not saying west or east is better; both have their beauty and benefits. Some people fit better in one place or the other. Me, I'm just destined to be a scrufty old Coyote, apt at any minute to be bitten by a scorpion, or frozen on a high mountain cliff. I just like it that way.

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Monday, May 23, 2005

 

The Real Stuff


It's good to be humble, cuz if you ain't, it's going catch up with you sooner or later. My "sooner" came on Saturday...

...The stage was set by an overdose of mountain bike riding last week as our weather and trails finally cleared. Then on Friday, I did a Carmichael Training Ststems (CTS) field test.

The field test itself is simple; about every six to eight weeks you go out, warm up for 20 or 30 minutes, then ride two three-mile time trials, back to back at maximum pace, with about 10 minutes between them. Because the distance is short and you have the recovery time between the two TTs, you really go all out. What happens with elapsed time, max and average heart rate, speed, power and cadence between the two TTs gives a very good indicator and baseline for where you are in your training.

But with weather, travel and one thing or another,I hadn't done a field test since January, so was apprehensive about this one. When it was over, I had improved to some degree, but not as much as I had hoped. Still, I felt OK about it because, 1) it is what it is, 2)my endurance has definitely increased over the winter and spring, and 3) on the group rides this last week I was feeling and performing very well.

But after the field test, I was wiped; did a half-hour wind-down, went home and, yes, took a short nap.

Then along came Saturday morning; the second half of my humility lesson. Art, Mateo and I headed down to the Buffalo Creek area southwest of Denver, a great place for fun endurance rides. You head right out of the parking lot with a good, steep 40 minute climb on sandy soil; a grunt. I knew within the first 1/2 mile that it was likely to be a long day; my body was going, "WHOA! Hold on; enough already."

All told, we rode about four hours and had great fun, but I was "tail wheel charley" most of the day. It was, shall we say, real work keeping those yahooos in sight.

By the end of the ride, though, I felt reasonably good, having reached that steady state of pain and fatigue that allows you to keep pedaling, just not with any real vigor. In fact, I was feeling just fine until Mateo said, "Just think; do that six or seven more hours without stopping and it'll be JUST LIKE the Leadville 100 -- only of course the Leadville race is at 10,000 feet, not 7,500."

And there's 12,000 feet of climbing, not 3,000.

Sigh.

I gotta buy me some bowling shoes.

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Saturday, May 21, 2005

 

Trail Monkies

mountain biker photo

Monkies spotted on Colorado Trail

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

 

A Fine Evening Ride


The truth has come crushing down upon me today as I face my coworkers. This inevitable reality has come about through a strange confluence of events, timing and weather.

Fact One: we had a wonderful, hard mountain bike ride up rocky, nasty single track last evening; Fact Two: today is the first day on which it is warm enough to comfortably wear a short-sleeved shirt, and; oh, yes, Fact Three: some skin is missing from both my forearms (with matching ouchies on both knees; fortunately I'm wearing pants, so the knee phenomenon is hidden)...

...So there I was last night, ridin' along minding my own business, climbing up over the water bars spanning the trail; one, two, three; no sweat... easy, four, five; one to go... SPLAT!

As the old song says, "Ya gotta having TIMING!"

I smashed my front wheel into the downside of the water bar, weight forward, and slammed down straight over my handlebars so fast that both feet were still clipped in the pedals even as the bike waved spectacularly over my head. Then the bike and I just slumped the rest of the way onto the trail, both wondering what on earth had just happened to us. We had been so smooth, so polished, so together; so, soo... in the groove!

Mateo, who was riding in front of me said it sounded like somebody suddenly slammed a big old fat pancake onto the trail. (I thought the 'old fat' part was a bit harsh.) Art, who was behind me, actually became concerned enough to ask, after a second of stunned silence, "Are you all right?" He then, of course, maneuvered by my writhing body and headed on up the trail (can't break your pace, ya know) suggesting that perhaps I "needed to work on my power" a bit.

As the laughter subsided into the distance in front of me, and once I had stopped whining, rocking back and forth moaning something about pain, I wiped the tears from my face, threaded the chain back onto my middle chain ring, mounted up and vowed, for the Umteenth Time, to never, Ever, EVER daydream while riding a mountain bike up an obstacle-laden trail.

[Elemental Lesson # 356, Week One: Repeat as Necessary]

So, Ladies and Gentlemen; today you gather here in the presence of someone who has once again [yes, it's happened before] performed the difficult, amusing and always SURPRISING Up-Hill ENDO!]

Thank you! Thank you! Please hold the applause until after everyone has had an opportunity to exclaim.

And recognize, given all this, that I have spent my day having pleasant conversations with my coworkers right up the point where they glimpse my trail-trashed forearms, exclaim, "Echhk, what happened to you?" then try to change the subject as I poetically wax on about the beauty and the glory of technical trail riding.

Ah, it is difficult to be so misunderstood.

But, one more point I must add; later in last evening's pleasant ride, our buddy, Chris, added cosmic balance to my brilliant maneuver... while attempting a steep, rock-strewn switchback that I would not on my best day attempt, he did a DOWNHILL ENDO!

Yeahhhh. It was Beautiful!! Thank you, my good friend. It's a great sport. And thanks to Jamey who provided the chow and Guiness at trail's end.

We ARE what we eat.

And, even more than that,
I think.

We ARE what we ride.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

 

Spring Rites


Ahhhh, spring must at last be here. Even as the fluffy clouds sail in from the west and threaten to turn into late afternoon thunderheads, the phones ring and emails fly. After-work Mountain Biking is about to begin for real. For the first time this spring, the clan is gathering...

...There's Art, who's training for triathlons (but then, Art NEVER stops training.) Mateo, who likes nothing better than to ride gnarley trails 50-or-more miles at a pop without stopping. Our good buddy, Steve, who has been detailed to Washington, D.C. for the last four months, while the rest of us have been praying that his red blood cells were dying off in droves; even as he trained like a maniac, so he's probably still strong as an ox. My good training buddy, Megan; expert class mountain bike racer who loves nothing better than to grind we mortal males into granite dust (which she does regularly) and myself; an innocent, benevolent, aging bystander who just peddles for peace and love.

So, tonight, when we arrive in the parking lot at the foot of one our favorite local hills (mountain) the smack will start for sure. Art will "be tired from the 90-kazillion road miles' he put on over the weekend. Mateo will still be recovering from the knee problem he developed about a month ago. Steve will prattle one about how this is just a training ride that he's really not up for. Megan will be taking her first ride on her brand new Yeti team mountain bike with the special carbon fiber rear triangle -- plus still have a 'bit of a weak knee' from last autumn's ACL reconstruction. And ME; well, we KNOW how tired I still am from all that desert mountain biking over the weekend, PLUS this is my "Easy" week; gotta watch the heart rate and all that.

And then we'll tear out of the parking lot, head up the trail... cranking like banshees, dodging rocks and trying to keep from flying off the singletrack, which will be difficult cuz we'll ALL be going too darned fast whenever we can! We'll be pretending not to be breathing hard whenever we get close to our associates, all the while being just about ready to hurl, or pass out from the black spots bouncing before our eyes, lungs on fire and legs heavy as stumps.

And in the end we'll glide back down into the parking lot, laughing like maniacs. It will be all about the joy, the freedom and the incredible great good fortune we have to be alive and healthy enough to do this. Oh, and, yes, and in celebration of the wee bit of competitiveness that just MIGHT have come forth.

I love this sport!

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Monday, May 16, 2005

 

Miles and Miles




Miles and miles of singletrack, a smattering of doubletrack. Welcome to Fruita; a mountain biker's Mecca. Not as expansive as Moab, but with more singletrack and less sand. Plenty of technical challenges and all of the exposed cliffsides you will want; slightly less insane than Moab, but with all the challenge of variety you can handle. Fewer big drops, but nastier tight, rock strewn singletrack. This was my playground over the weekend, starting with a drive from Denver late Friday morning...

...getting the Colorado National Monument campground in mid afternoon. As the sun dropped into evening I rode my bike slowly up the road through this unworldly land of sandstone canyons, sculpted by winds and waters through the ages. I say, ages, but really in a geologic sense, only moments, the most recent of moments; the soft stone being shaped with a geologic rapidity that is almost breathtaking in its immediacy.

And as I rode, slowly, just feeling the land and wind around me, the dross that had been my week, that had tired my heart, began to slip away. Not that I really noticed as it was happening, but the emotional load was lifting, gradually lifting, drawn off by dry evening breeze. Life and the environment around me, nature, was reshaping me and sculpting me, even as it had the rocks on all sides. I was coming home to the desert and peace. To reality, to my Self, to that thing that all people in all lands call, one way or another, God.

I slept well that Friday night, under chilled sky and the natural cloak of night. A good beginning to a restorative journey.

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Adversity


blooming cactus photo

Within Adversity,
Beauty


Desert speaks softly,
Harshly.

Rocks, heat.

Come play.

Do as you will,

Make a mistake.
Pay.

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Friday, May 13, 2005

 

Respite




After a week in which it was announced at my workplace that our organization will be cut from six regional offices down to two, I'm escaping in a few hours to Fruita, CO for a 2-1/2 day orgy of mountain biking and camping! Out to the desert rocks and singletrack. Out to the sky and earth, where I will regain...

...perspective and be put back together again. Out where 'the big picture' will sink in and permeate my soul, where peace will kiss and caress me as sweat pours from my body and my muscles scream with exertion. Where my breath will come in searing, deep pumps and my nose will run while my mouth dries. Out where the blessed climbs will be followed by dangerous and exciting downhill plunges during which my eyes will water and my sunglasses bounce so violently that I get triple vision. Out where the gel paks and sports drink will taste sweet, at least at first, until when fatigue sets in and they taste like dull plastic and wet slime that neither nourishes nor quenches the deep, deep thirst, when food just won't go down and the world turns hateful and brown and the stomach churnings become full blown nausea screaming, "Stop!" Out to the point where my legs keep peddling like the stirring of a dying roach, lying on its back with its legs kicking spasmodically and meaninglessly.

But... THEN... Then... from somewhere within, comes at first almost unnoticed, the first inklings of the RETURN OF ENERGY, the displacement of the nauseating fatigue, the riding through the pain to a strange, other worldly STEADY STATE in which you can just keep going and going. And after a few hours of that, some rehydration and refueling, I pull back into the roadside parking lot, back to where normal people assemble for short hikes or reasonable, recreational bike rides, where I ride up to the back of my truck, stop, step off my bike and FEEL LIKE A GOD... Happy, grinning, content, and whole; peaceful and in love with the world and everyone around me, strangers and friend alike.

Yep, it's going to be a fine couple of days.

See ya when I get back.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

 

More on Tyler




Several people have asked where they can learn more about Tyler Hamilton's situation. Best place to start is at Tyler's own web page. It gives a good, open history of events as they have occurred. Read it and judge for yourself.

I also encourage you to dig deeper into this whole area of blood testing and learn for yourself what the deal is. To me...

Tyler's situation is a case much larger than just one athlete; it's the nightmare that could befall any competitor as we move to tighten illegal drug use in sports. All of us, for our own good, need to increase our awareness the vulnerabilities to which we can be subjected.

True, we need to be as hard on dopers as we can, but at the same time we need to make certain that athletes gain access to due process BEFORE public accusation, not after, and that drug testing procedures are rigorously accurate and not open to subjective manipulation nor personal interpretation.

To me, Tyler Hamilton's situation is an example of a highly suspect process, riddled with politics, gone amuck. There are just too many unanswered questions about both the testing method and the politics surrounding it.

In the end, it comes down to one guy sitting alone under a funnel of public charges and allegations made with little or no consequences to the accusers, regardless of whether those charges ultimately prove inaccurate.

The burden of proof is all on the athlete, not on the accusers.

Strange way to run an anti-drug campaign if you really want to clean up drug use in sports by getting the cooperation and respect of athletes.

For an athlete to respect and work within the enforcing system, that system must reciprocate with respect for the athlete, regardless of who he or she is, or where they come from, or what their sport.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

 

More Tyler Hamilton Developments



A New York Times article adds credence to Tyler Hamilton's claim to be innocent of blood doping. In what has been an unusual case from the beginning, Tyler's innocence may indeed lie in the fact that he was once an embryonic twin.

Skeptics have pooh-poohed this defense, but as far-fetchd as it may first sound, good scientific evidence points to the fact that such a state may be much more comon than previously believed. It is only now, as blood testing gets increasingly sophisticated in its ability to pick out ever finer details, that situations such as Hamilton's can arise. More athletes, in the near future, could face similar nightmares, suddenly seeing their careers slammed shut overnight through suspect testing....

So take a look at this article; if nothing else it is fascinating reading for anyone interested in athletic performance, human health or the state of anti-dope testing.

And if you feel so inclined, drop Tyler a word of support at his website, Tyler Hamilton.com.

This is a guy whose career is being ruined by a presumption of guilt before due process has even played out. That seems wrong to me.

So keep ridin' that bike up through the canyons of Boulder, Tyler.

And keep fighting. This too shall pass.

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Monday, May 09, 2005

 

Couple of Truths


My friend, Jamey, just walked into my office and we got lost for a few minutes studying an all-important booklet I just received in the mail: The full results and split times of last year's Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race.

So the official 2005 strategizing and pucker factor begins...

...I start looking at all the guys over 60 and seeing their times from last year; one guy in particular, since I came in second in my age group last year and he beat me by 40 minutes. The rascal also won the year before.

And now ya know the ugly truth: why Jack's been training his butt off this winter!

Of course, then, Jamey pointed out another guy who will be 59 this year and had he been 60 last year would have won our class 25 minutes ahead of the guy who beat me.

Damned. As Jamey just said, "there's never any finish line; there's just another year."

Or as Greg Lemond once so succinctly put it, "It never gets any easier; you just keep getting faster."

And in that lies the charm and the attraction.

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Sunday, May 08, 2005

 

Gathering Spring Storms

spring storms near denver




Saturday's ride was a doozy. I mountain biked White Ranch, between Denver and Boulder, one of my favorite rides near my home. Things quickly got more interesting when the clouds in this picture shifted and thickened,...

...blowing in from the north and west, turning into a brief, but raging snow, sleet, and hail storm. Fortunately by the time it hit, I was over the high point of the two hour ride and had only to descend like a banshee five miles down to the parking lot 1,200 feet below. Of course, in great spring fashion, by the time I hit halfway down, a two-wheeled purple ice-sickle, the clouds had parted and riders were struggling upward on the trail, oblivious to what had just taken place on top.

Spring; it is absolutely great!

What a fantastic day to be alive,
and a divine privilege to be out in it.

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Friday, May 06, 2005

 

Time to Hit the Rocks Again!


It's a Zipeddy-Do-Dah kind of a day. The sun and moon are in heaven, birds are singing, flowers are blooming and, somewhere, Bambi's Mother is all right!

The reason for all of this is that I just got back from my first local SPRING Noontime Mountain Bike Ride!!! YEAAAA!

We have flat top mesa near my office that dries out early and is crisscrossed with nice rocky, fast narrow singletrack; a few good short little steep climbs, some whoop-de-doos and, did I mention, more ROCKS. In short: paradise. And...

Art and I just bombed down off of it right in front of a spring thunderstorm. One thing about Colorado; when you see the thunderclouds and rain coming you want to zip off the high places ASAP. Lightning bolts zip right down to the ground and they love tasty, dirty wet mountain bikers.

So down we came, laughing and flying all the way, grooving on the singletrack laid in along the steep side of the mesa. Ohhhh Yeahhhh!

Why, right now I don't even hate my trainer sitting in the basement,because, surprise, all that winter spinning seems to have improved my power to weight ratio a bit; the steep poppers didn't seem quite as steep as last fall!

Heck, there might be something to this intense training stuff!

...but DON'T tell my coach; she'll immediately up those intervals!

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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

 

Raven, be wary not

wild raven spies food
Originally uploaded by bikejake.



Sometimes I act just like this raven, spending too much time messing around with crumbs and nibbles, while life goes flyin' right on by! Yesterday was one of those days.

A wet, cold Monday in May in Denver, cruelest day of all. Our friendly sun had long since disappeared somewhere back in the middle of last week....

Earlier blossoms put forth by shrubs and trees had been beaten back by wind-driven waves of sleet, rain, and snow; raw daytime cold and freezing nights. For me, the weekend had fled with no noticible outside activities, only some household chores and two endless sessions on the indoor trainer, sweating to keep up a good cadence and decent power.

And today, people around me in the office walk around in a fulltime funk, waiting for appointment of a new director to replace the old one four months gone.

We float; we drift, in the Sargasso Sea of leaderless apathy.

So I, like a dummy, succumb. I buy into the malaise, twiddling away the day doing meaningless little tasks requiring minimum effort. And in the process, I keep myself from actually gathering any personal power that will allow me to focus on something important.

My own fault.

Fortunately, right before lunch, my workout schedule carries me to the health club, where I work out, coming back briefly energized. Then, later in the day, right after work, I get another good jolt of energy by doing a 45-minute endurance spin. After that, while eating and talking to Katherine, it dawns on me how much I've let this gray May day suck the life out of me, coaxing myself into letting other peoples' negative agendas rule my own thoughts and actions.

Whoa.

So I do a brief stint on the computer, make a couple of changes on this blog, and go to bed determined to make tomorrow (today) a better day.

Ah Ha! I get up this morning at six a.m. The SUN is SHINING! I eat, go out to the pickup to drive to work. The air is cold and crisp, not wet and raw like it has been. And all around me, those spring blossoms and leaves that were so beaten down and curled into submissive nonexistence for the past week are OPENING once again, and smiling. One and all, nature's glories are shaking off the doldrums, sparking up their reinvigorated colors, breathing deeply and declaring to one and all: LIFE; Life is good. Life is fine. And it can't be stopped.

So once again, I shake it off, boosted by nature's glory. I move past the darkness.

I live; all I have to do is tap into the positive energy around me, In the rocks, flowers and trees. In the rocks, the sun, the moon.

Oh, sure, we will each grind to a halt one day. But even as we do, the process -- the GRAND PROCESS -- goes on and on. It has done so for millions of years, maybe more, here on earth. And elsewhere -- who knows about elsewhere -- but its a good bet that the universe is teeming with this thing we call life., and WE are an integral part of it all. We are a bubble, a blip, a few coordinated electrons buzzing together for an brief instant. As we live, and, yes, as we die; we become a part of this grand process. We shout out our existence by our very BEing. We BECOME this lightning bolt we call, "Life."

So, shy Mr. Raven, and Mr. Jack, be not afraid.

Grasp not only the nearest, smallest crumbs, but open up and reach out to embrace and share this LIFE FORCE that surrounds us all, every day, regardless of how dark it may sometimes seem.

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