It’s been so cold and rainy at this third camp location that I had to engineer a new blogging strategy this morning. The little trailer office is un-warmable, under these circumstances, and also became electrically charged. The fat power cord from our generator to the trailer is in pretty bad shape, on one end, and we’ve been meaning to buy parts from Tractor Supply and fix it, but hadn’t gotten around to it yet. I don’t know if that’s the issue, but we came back from a walk to find raw voltage running through the metal parts of our trailer ahaha hm. Nick was the first to touch the doorframe. Most of the trailer’s office is wood and carpet, but we still feel uncomfortable with it — it’s impossible to alert the little dogs to the situation. I mean, they can alert themselves to it, lol, but we’d rather avoid that. It seems to have to do with the rain. Our walk, with the fuel tender Shad, was really fun and beautiful, but at the furthest point out (literally when we said “we should probably turn around now”) a torrential rain began with, first, a few pitter patters, and then a prompt chronic deluge. It was like in those romantic comedies where the couple finally kisses, very gently, and then start trashing and overturning furniture in their haste to get naked and horizontal.
Our trailer office has been “live” ever since, off and on, but if it was the warmest place to be at five am, I’d sit there anyway. It’s just so rainy and so cold. I gotta have the door open to tell people, “Yes, go into the shower” — literally that’s it. And I’m down to my last propane bottle. So this morning I pulled the pickup truck around front, after filling the generator, and life is grand! Buffy is in the driver’s seat, enveloped in her fluffy doughnut bed, the heater is cranked, it’s as warm as I can stand it, and the lights from the shower trailer make all the water droplets shimmer in the pre-dawn blackness. I think this might be the blogging configuration for the rest of the season; I’m very happy.
Yesterday Nick and I were talking about the Hawaii advantages we haven’t even unlocked, yet, consciously. The basic criticism people seem to have of the place, besides being expensive, is that there aren’t seasons. This is like complaining that there aren’t people punching you in the face for no reason. It’s insane. I don’t know where people live, who say things like this, but have you met “seasons”? So toxic. In Flagstaff, summer lasts three weeks, once you factor in the endless freezing shitty windy spring, and the descent of the monsoons later on, and in the higher desert Southwest generally, it’s about two or three months. Summer is accompanied by this psychological frenzy that arises from an ultimate scarcity mindset, the feeling of a terrible clock ticking. When it’s over, damn — it’s over for a long time.
Fall is nice, kind of like the last chapter in a fantastic book that you don’t want to be over is nice, and eventually you resign yourself to the fact that it’s winter again, which will last like nine months. Life there is mostly winter, with brief splurges of other seasons. It’s so depressing. It’s not winter like the movies, or like the commercials and stock photos of happy white people lounging around in immaculate cabins, holding coffee mugs, and wearing adorable sets of matching long underwear that cost like three hundred bucks, or carrying in armfuls of pre-chopped firewood while grinning at each other with the best dental work money can buy. It’s just a grind. It’s not the Midwest, by any means, but just every day, layering up, scraping off your car, wind, trying to make yourself get out in it for a walk or any activity. “Braving the elements” — I’m ready to cowardly the elements, for hopefully the rest of my life.
People claim to love the seasons, which I interpret as Stockholm syndrome. I liked it just a little, when I was in college, and it was someone else’s job to scrape and shovel and clear all the walkways and roofs, but…those were still some freezing, windy trudges. I was able to tell myself all sorts of things, less and less convincingly over the years, until I gave myself a better option.
It all got so much worse once I started doing fire season. I’d always get home from my last fire right around the first snow, having missed the whole one good season, and then it was time to just settle in for the bullshit. Amazing clothes, that I didn’t get to wear all fire season for obvious reasons, just languishing in my closet, because it’s 41 degrees out, or it’s 29 degrees out, or it’s 17 degrees out. I’m so glad I got a gym membership, got myself steady working out there, and met Nick. It’s been a pretty crazy ride so far but we’re going to relocate this ride to Hawaii in, like, two months, and the reasons I’m excited about this are so numerous and so integral to who I am and what I know I *don’t* like that it’s almost impossible to discuss rationally.
Just imagine: living your life without an enormous unstoppable clock of doom ticking. Today is a nice day; tomorrow will be a nice day; six weeks from now will be a nice day; eight months from now will be a nice day. There’s no scarcity. I don’t have to cram in all the hiking or camping or laying in hammocks or wearing pretty dresses I want to do, into this tiny diminishing window, because it’s not a window — it’s an endless open highway of one good season. I’m sure there are, like, micro seasons there, which is fine. If we miss the snow and cold, which I friggin doubt, we’ll just visit someone somewhere.
I’m really excited about this body project I have going on, pursued in the face of a lot of logistical obstacles currently, which will largely free up in Hawaii. It is just so crazy what a heavy barbell lifting program does for a body, and how it makes you feel. Even with haphazard and shitty fire camp food (how we eat is often appalling, even to us), even with almost zero cardio because we’re pretty much chained to this shower trailer (and I’m not complaining, I’m very grateful), even with a total absence of the daily green smoothies I prefer to consume, mmmm (FYI: spinach, cucumber, lemon juice, avocado, and a tiny dab of virgin coconut oil. And Nick likes some green apple in his but I don’t. Try it, it’s amazing), the regimen of heavy lifting, as we’re able to pursue it, keeps us looking and feeling remarkably good, no exaggeration. I’m so excited to take this fun practice of the body and mind, relocate it to a non-hostile climate, add in some surfing and walking and maybe jogging, idk, and a steady influx of great food, and just watch the miracle occur.
Equally exciting: my brother and dad are going to be lifting with us! My brother was already on board, after some intensive fitness red-pilling by Nick over the phone and internet, last winter, and had actually signed up for training at his local Starting Strength gym, and was excited for his first session, which was interrupted by….COVID. Insert massive fart sound. This fucking hoax.
The whole world is turning out and protesting it right now, I don’t know if you’re aware. In the US, we’re too busy sticking our heads all the way up our asses, but in the UK, Germany, Belgium, Russia, Bolivia, Serbia, Poland, Madrid, Canada, South Korea, Argentina, Israel, Romania, Netherlands, Nepal, India, Ghana, Italy, New Zealand — PEACEFUL protests, demonstrations, signs rejecting the never-ending lockdown, the threat of mandatory vaccine, the New World Order agenda, the lies, the erosion of freedoms, the whole stupid thing. Here in the US, it’s just presented to us as “it’s all Trump’s fault”, and like the rest of the world is super into lockdown and masks and we’re made to feel bad about ourselves, and it’s just not true. Everyone is freaking out about this obviously coordinated global attack on our freedoms by way of a flu virus with a 99.6 survival rate.
Sorry, got a little sidetracked there, but yeah: my brother is the most epic candidate for this lifting regimen ever. He’s really big, almost 6’ 7”, really really strong naturally, has tended towards overweight in later years, and living in shitty climate Seattle, loving food as an art and a pastime, and having the king of all sedentary jobs (computer programmer type) hasn’t helped. But Nick is so good on “selling” people on the beauty of their own body type, first and foremost. He’s changed the lives of a couple people, just this fire season. He doesn’t have the time and logistical freedom to fully train them up, obviously, but he had this one girl on the management team in tears — happy tears — last fire, when he just ran into basecamp to get some xeroxes, for gosh sakes. People ask him fitness questions, because when someone who looks like that walks into the room, it’s just obvious that he knows what he’s doing. It’s, like, unavoidable. And whereas someone else might see a pudgy gal who needs to lose some weight but still won’t ever look like a model, Nick sees strength, and the potential of strength. He’s not invasive, by any means, and you have to be really careful these days as, you know, a toxic white male lmao, but she was one of those “I’ve tried everything” girls. He’s got, first and foremost, a spiritual mindset about it. The thing is, we don’t even realize how much we’ve been influenced by media images. And there’s no need to go to war over that, or lay down on those train tracks for even one second. The media’s gonna do what the media’s gonna do, with journalisming, portrayals of reality, portrayals of beauty and abundance, and it don’t mean shit.
She really wanted to talk to him, the more she found out he had this radically different perspective, and he convinced her to truly fall in love with the inherent strength and functioning of her body, and the exciting prospect of becoming more of herself, not starving herself into becoming less.
And the coolest part is, he was really excited about it, when he got back to spike camp! He’s not blowing smoke up people’s asses. He was like, “She could be so strong. She’d be one of those gals who changes other women’s mind about what beauty looks like, and can look like. If she’ll just stop all this cardio and starvation nonsense and learn the lifts and stay consistent, she won’t even recognize herself in the mirror. It’ll happen fast.”
He loves it. He’s so good at this initial, fall-in-love-with-yourself maneuver because that’s the first thing he had to figure out. After years of mimicking the dumb, personal traineering, “keep your heart rate up”, throw spaghetti at a wall approaches he’d seen, his first strength coach — also his AA sponsor, incidentally, who was squatting 5 or 6 hundred pounds in his 60’s and looking like a unit — was the first person to tell him, “Dude: you’re never gonna be that guy. You’re never gonna be the skinny, shredded, boyish surfer guy you idolized growing up. What you’re going to be, is a brick shit house.” Nick always had good shoulders but was a soft, muffin-y type at this time. Still handsome, imo from pictures. He had to abandon a self-defeating fantasy image in his mind and embrace the reality of his actual body type.
And now he’s not only good at helping other people do that — that’s actually what he sees, when he looks at them. Everyone, in Nick’s view, is either a vessel of strength or a potential vessel of strength, and he just doesn’t have any patience for fitness or body image theatrics. His main complaint, observing people in the gym and in the world, is: “why would you bother doing that, when you could be getting strong?” Physical strength is the vocabulary of expression. A person with a great vocabulary can say, and write, whatever they want. A very strong person can run, or dance, or compete in any sport, at a higher level, and more enjoyably, and with lower risk of injury. It’s just crazy not to work on strength directly.
So back to my brother; however my brother sees himself, and however anyone else in the world sees him, Nick views the world through this Terminator-overlay POV, with digital 3D imaging of how people’s bodies look now, and how they could look on a rational strength program. And he’s right. Strength looks good on everyone. It just fixes everything. My brother is going to fall in love with his own body, first in theory because Nick is irresistible in his clarity, and then in the mirror. That’s just a done deal.
My dad sat in his plastic Adirondack chair, smoking his pipe, watching us lift in the carport many, many times, happy to be uninvolved. My dad isn’t about getting involved in things. I think that’s where I got it. “Get involved? WHY??” He is happy to watch the world go by, that’s for sure. He frequently recounted to Nick a time in college when he progressively loaded weights onto a curl bar, over the course of many months, and lifted it over his head while laying down, and was able to out-lift even very strong, muscular classmates on that one dimension. Nick always involved my dad as much as he was able, even conversationally and avowed that all were were doing with the barbell was the same thing, just on multiple dimensions. Three dimensions, to be exact: squat, push, and pull. When you cut through all the fitness bullshit and confusion, those are the movements our body can do.
Finally, and frankly unexpectedly, my dad had this inner turning point and said, “Okay: let’s say I wanted to try this….” Friggin bonanza! The only people who need barbell lifting more than young people is old people. I mean, this is where the real gains happen. My dad has stayed active in terms of walking, only, and wouldn’t be caught dead in a gym or fitness class. His interest was finally piqued, and only because the program he saw us doing, over the various days and weeks before fires and between fires, was so obviously calm and rational and low key and just the opposite of frantic. The opposite of throwing spaghetti at a wall. It’s very low key, except for spans of really intense seconds, here and there. And it’s truly accessible to anyone, because you just start from where you’re at, which may not even involve anything close to full range of motion, or even holding a bar at all, for months. And then a starter bar, not a full weight one, and then it might be many more months before you add weight to it. The important thing is to start, and incrementally progress. The important thing is that our bodies crave movement and thrive in muscularity, to any degree.
We got called out to another fire before they could make any progress, but the idea was anchored, and Nick and I are both very very excited to reconvene with everyone in Hawaii and get this show on the road. I’ve tended to check out a bit when he’s coaching other people. I’ve flirted with the idea of getting my own Starting Strength coaching credential, which is like a graduate degree amount of work and theory and hours of supervised coaching assessment, and I don’t know. I’m definitely getting better and better — Nick hardly corrects my form these days, and I’m able to get someone started if he’s not around. I mean, people drifting over the the barbell set, from elsewhere in the fire camp, and randomly asking for a deadlift lesson is not, like, unheard of. So I can take people through it but I mostly sit out, if he’s around. But as regards my brother and dad, I’m really excited to make this an actual family project, with the built-in amazing results I already know are in store for us. The invisible parts are just as exciting as the visible parts. Lifting like this stresses the bones and the skeleton in a good way, and the bones are hardly inert. They’re responsible for the manufacture and regulation of so much of our metabolic processes, and skeleton resistance training is as important as muscular resistance training. And the way the body recalibrates and optimizes mood and metabolism and hormone levels, as a natural by-product of lifting, is also a huge win.
Like most of us, the worst and most painful thought is any of my loved ones or family members declining or suffering, physically or mentally, and since strength training dramatically improves all these markers and more, it feels like the funnest investment in not only my health but the health of the people I love most. And I happen to have this boyfriend that is like a heat seeking missile about it, and it’s such a blessing.
I don’t know if he’ll reorganize his (COVID-crashed) business model for coaching strength, and his fees are pretty reasonable when he does, but he could be a coach at literally any level. He loves the whole process of realistically assessing where people are at and where they can take it. It could be an 80 year old grandma, it could be a star quarterback — he’s just like, “okay, next level!”
His clients in Albuquerque miss him, still. He even tried to refund their money and no one would take it. He had one young gal, in her 20’s, and she was very overweight, and had been diagnosed with PCOS, and the asshole doctor had basically assured her would progress to cancer. On top of that, her boyfriend had cheated on her and then TOLD her it was because she was fat and unattractive. When I spoke to her at greater length, one day when I was along for the ride, she disclosed a bunch of other stuff that she had not yet framed, but I was able to frame, as verbal and emotional abuse from this guy. Sweetest girl, pretty face, pretty long dark hair, and that kind of body that the world might dismiss but Nick, as usual, sees as a shit ton of strength just waiting to hatch. She was a phlebotomist and made good money, owned her own house in fact, and her car outright — hard working young gal.
She was deadlifting more than me, just a month or two in to her training, and was really making progress. She’d text Nick and I both how excited she was about her workouts, the changes she was seeing and feeling in her body, the surprising way her lift numbers were going up when she didn’t even expect them to. Just magic.
It’s crazy to know this secret — and it’s not even a secret, or it shouldn’t be, but people’s thinking about it is so broken that it functions as a secret. They can look right at it and not see it as anything remarkable. Everyone wants to do some dumb shit to keep their heart rate up and balance on one leg.
Anyway, back to the meta-point, we’re both really excited to live a life un-impacted by “seasons”, where it’s groundhog day in the best sense. I have enough going on, and want to have more going on, with my physical and mental and spiritual pursuits that I don’t personally need the drama of slogging through a variety of hostile conditions to keep life interesting. I mean, isn’t that what’s going on, large scale? People are bored, and fatigued from lockdown ennui, and rabid about some external problem when they haven’t even made their own bed.
I’m going to wisely abstain from further political and social commentary, this morning, since I’m so happy in my warm pickup truck and optimistic for the immediate future prospects and wellbeing of my small clan, anyway. I hardly see myself in a mirror these day, and when I do it’s a ragamuffin mess, and so I’m mostly incognizant of even the low key miracles happening with my own body, in this fun lifting journey. All my life, people have mostly said things like “how do you stay so skinny” or “do you do yoga” or “you must be some kind of fucking vegan”, etc. I’m used to all that. But Nick relayed the nicest thing to me, last fire — he was talking with some ground support drivers that were constantly shuttling back and forth to their campsite, right behind ours, usually during the time of day when we were lifting. They were talking about fitness, because that’s what people do when confronted with the physical prospect of Nick, and after some peripheral chatting, they were like, “Does your wife compete too?”
Nick said, “Girlfriend. Not so far, but she really likes to lift. She’s really good at it.”
They circumspectly said, “She looks like she should compete.”
That was so nice! I feel like such a drudge, just floundering around with my hair a mess and sun baked skin and increasingly not-fresh sweats and tee shirts on, as the laundry situation gets more and more dire. But then I’ll see pictures of myself and I’m like, jesus, I look really strong. And I am :). I got five sets of three on bench press at 115 with not a hiccup, yesterday, and another three sets of eight at 95. I remember having the hardest time getting even five reps at like 85, last year. There’s a whole breathing/postural knack to it, that takes some time to perfect. Once I stopped thinking about my chest, with bench press, and started thinking about squinching together my shoulder blades, it all happened much faster. I can’t wait to add some non-shit food into this equation. I just now ate an “Uncrustables” pre-fab sugar bomb PB&J that came from yesterday’s sack lunch, as I typed this out in fact. What an abomination.