Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Morning Report

Today’s morning sky is crystal clear in Olympia. The bare trees of winter give me a sweeping view of Venus rising brightly in the east, Saturn high in the west with Leo, and Gemini farther down in the northwest. Another fine view into the solar system, galaxy and beyond. Always a great pleasure to see and understand exactly where I am.

If you want to know the what’s overhead, you can find a skymap here. You can customize it to your latitude and longitude. I recommend that you simply the information as much as possible. Moon, planets, big stars, constellation outlines and names will identify pretty much all you're likely to see without some good equipment. My sky map looks like this.

Olympia may have been clear but farther north was overcast. I know this from personal observation, having made the round trip to Sea-Tac, seeing Maggie on to her flight to Phoenix. On the return, crossing the Nisqually Basin just north of Olympia was especially pretty. The fog bank Maggie and I saw on the outbound trip, had settled across the Nisqually River's marshy lowlands. Shrouded in fog, the twin trusses of the river crossing were silhouetted in wholly different shapes by oncoming headlights. I pulled off I-5 at Niisqually Wildlife Refuge to look at the sky. Gate was locked, only place to park was bathed in light and still foggy. I turned back onto the convenient ramp and continued home. A few minutes later, the view from the balcony was more than enough reward for any missed opportunity.

Short geography lesson. A large portion of the Nisqually Basin is Fort Lewis which lies between Tacoma and Olympia. The fort keeps the area mostly empty. I'm pretty sure I trained somewhere in those wetlands. The National Wildlife refuge preserves much of the Nisqually delta between the fort and the sound. Driving into the basin from the south on I-5 offers a striking view across the Nisqually delta into Puget Sound.

Traffic report: Easy round trip not too far ahead of the morning trek into Seattle from the nether parts of South Pugetopolis. I saw the headlights streaming north by 5:30 as I headed back. Much less traffic traveling south. The Fort Lewis exits were backed up like shopping mall exits on the last weekend shopping day before Christmas. Business is good, I guess.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Pretty Soon I Must Choose

A while back, I wrote about the Washington Democratic caucuses and presidential primary. I have since learned that the primary on 19 February is a "beauty contest" that doesn't actually determine delegates. Delegate selection will actually take place at the caucuses ten days prior to the primary. That means I get to actually participate in selecting Washington delegates. All I have to do is show up at the caucus site, about a block away. That's the cool part.

The uncool part is, so what? Since we'll be caucusing after Super Tuesday on 05 February, it may make any real difference. If the race is still fluid, Washington's delegates could be significant. If that's the case, what's this Kucinich supporter supposed to do? Even in the best of all possible worlds, Kucinich will never, ever be the nominee. I'm not even sure he'd make a good president. I do know that he is right on issues that I care about and deserves my support for that reason. But will I be wasting my time holding out for a hopeless candidate? Should I move toward one of the front runners, none of whom are nearly as good on policy matters? I know that in the end, I am likely to be voting for whomever wins the Democratic nomination, faults and all.

Maybe I should just go and see what happens. Who knows? I might even meet some interesting people. Besides, it's only two hours on a Saturday afternoon.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

On the Edge

Sir Edmund Hillary’s death this past week came at an interesting time. A few nights prior, I met a woman who climbed Everest three times, once without Sherpas and once actually reaching the summit. She was telling a class of would-be winter travelers about the Ten Essentials for Survival. She and the other instructors are pretty knowledgeable and serious about winter travel, so reading of Hillary’s life, I can understand and appreciate the effort put into his many adventures. I’ve done the same on a much smaller scale but it’s enough to appreciate Edmund Hillary’s skill and determination.

I can also recognize the risks he took. The backcountry, no matter where, is a place were you are entirely on your own. The more remote the location (eg, Everest Summit, 1953) the more on your own, the less chance of rescue. You fuck up, you die. Nature doesn’t care one whit about you, your dreams or your life. If you’re not prepared to deal with nature on her terms or if you do something stupid, you die. I’m challenged by snow in Washington’s Cascade Mountains. Everest summit may just as well be another planet yet Edmund Hillary went there, a knife edge ridge with sheer seven and eight thousand foot drops on either side. The much smaller drops in the Grand Canyon are plenty sheer for me, thank you.

Edmund Hillary was fortunate to live in a time of unexplored places. Everest was hardly unknown–his attempt was not the first–but he and Tenzing Norgay were the first to reach and return from the summit. They were also part of a team. Without that support, Hillary would not have even been in a position to find his route to the top. The same is true of his many subsequent adventures, I am sure.

That’s what makes Edmund Hillary’s life so exceptional. I have a small taste of adventure but it’s only a fraction of what Edmund Hillary has seen. Yet I am ecstatic and pleased to have seen that much. Imagine a life lived wholly in that spirit of adventure. Hillary was a fortunate man.