at home in... w| Gerald Zhang-Schmidt

Look Closer, Learn More, #GetAtHome In This World

Tag: everyday life lessons

Thiers-Issard Crown Oak razor (detail)

The Manliness of Personal Grooming

… or, Everyday Life Lessons with a Sharp Blade

Talk is going around about the demise of guys; men have apparently gone missing – and the images by which advertising and TV shows portray manly men are at least as dumbfounding as the impossible women they present. In such everyday things as personal hygiene, things are particularly interesting.

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Pizza, Pizza

Refuelling to Run Life

Of course we eat, whether we run or not. You live, you eat.

Running and eating, however, often seem to run counter to each other, even while these two sides of life could just as well run in tandem and make for better living. [Sorry about the running gags, can’t resist.]

After all, for all too many a person, running is like so many a type of exercise. It is just taken up in order to lose weight or keep the pounds off. Having weight issues or not, the runner’s life is attractive to them just because of the calories it burns and the indulgences that it allows.

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Preparing Pumpkin

Lessons of … a Pumpkin

The dead of winter, turning of the sun… pumpkins from the fall garden still stored in a cool place, a memory of the last garden year.

First, the pumpkin plants almost get destroyed by slugs.
Then, they took over the patch of the garden where they were growing.
Finally, quite a few pumpkins were to be harvested.

The very smallest of them are the same size as those that get sold in the supermarkets – at quite a steep price. Reason to walk, contentedly, past the baskets advertising them, with a slight shake of the head and a content smile.

Off into the kitchen, a nice-sized pumpkin from our own harvest under the arm.

Preparing Pumpkin

Cutting and peeling half of it, it becomes noticeable that it’s getting too much for the pumpkin (and carrot and rice) porridge that was to be made. Real abundance strikes, shows how it’s better, and at such times much easier, natural, to share – or to make yet more pumpkin dishes, until they are not a treat anymore but a threat looming on the horizon.

Not all would be cut up and used that time, in fact… and so, a next day, there was pan-seared pumpkin with chilli to accompany some rice, too.

There were still the scraped-out innards of the pumpkin, waiting to go onto the compost along with the peels – but how about taking out the seeds?

Something to roast, and immediately have one more light food. A snack? Salad garnish? An addition to bread? Or just seeds to carefully dry, keep well away from the flames, and have more pumpkin growing next year? There’d be a few trees in the garden it would be fun to have them grow up and into, after this year’s pumpkin in the brambles…

Pumpkin in Brambles

Life goes on, and as the garden rests, and we are between off-season and continuation (but with a  different focus, perhaps), the next year’s already on the mind. The present needs mindful attention about the now. But also, the cycles that turn take some thinking forward, and the life that slowly passes is better paid heed…

Running Alpine Paths

Finding Myself on the Path to Hell…

… and the way is up, because it’s the Höllkogel (“hell peak”) I’m talking about, and it’s the path to better.

Snow in the Crags, August 1, 2012

Snow in the Crags, August 1, 2012

The backs of my hands hurt. You can see a distinct line where the shirt began, and find another color again on my palms. Sunburn.

I was dehydrated enough I partially re-filled my water bottle with some of last winter’s leftover snow to melt and drink that; with the water I brought and begged for, I easily drank a gallon in total – and needed more. What I had initially brought with me was just one liter (less than one-third of a gallon).

Ascending, my heart rate was pushing right into the red.

Repeatedly, I wondered how I ever made it up during the mountain marathon earlier this month. I thought that it would make more sense to turn around and head back. Yet, I drudged on.

Often enough, I felt weak and slow – and yet, passed all the other hikers, sometimes even running. With the backpack I was carrying.

In other words: I had a fun day.

Having recently returned from a few days in Latvia (photography from Riga, here; report still on the to-do list), successfully participated in the mountain marathon around Lake Traun, and spent almost two weeks in Italy (we’ll get to that in a following post, too), my wife and I decided to head to the Salzkammergut again.

I decided to move up the Feuerkogel and the Höllkogel again, after the trouble ascending the first during the mountain marathon, and having climbed the latter once before.

Otherwise, in the usual flat part of the country where we live, I don’t exactly get in much hill training – there simply isn’t enough of them – and these peaks are some of the first, but tallest, at the very beginning of the Alps. In other words, they are already mountains, but they can still be run up; they don’t have to be climbed.

So what?, you may be thinking now. What’s it to me?

You don’t have to care. Certainly not about the little stupidities  I made. In fact, I’d very much appreciate it if you didn’t comment about them.

There’s also, though, the lessons that make such running adventures the perfect training for life:

For a bit of adventure, you don’t have to go to far-away places. Your own backyard, often even literally, can be enough. You just need to get into the spirit; go out and explore. The alpine meadows held lots of interesting plant life, by the way, including Wolf’s Bane (aconite, which is highly poisonous) and wild oregano (which is tasty). The Almrausch was flowering, the bees were buzzing about, and the dwarf mountain pines exuded their fine wild aroma…

A bit of sun, and plants holding on

In the course of a run, there are steep ascents that make you barely able to walk on, bringing you to the point of wanting to just leave it be, robbing you of what feels like all your energy – and you may not even know why you are stupid enough to just slough on, one foot in front of the other. But you do.

And then, there’s a sweeping view that rewards you for all the effort, a descent that is easily run, bounding from stone to stone – and even on the next ascent, you now know that there’s more, and still more, energy in you.

Sweeping Vistas

Over time, not only do these experiences add up. You also look around, and you see that people of all different ages and body shapes are able to at least go for a leisurely hike here. Doing more and more, you see that the effort you’re making, as leisurely or agonizing as it may be, brings you forward.

Where only too many people decide that they don’t have the energy for anything but passive TV consumption and junk food, and get into a spiral that reduces their energy, fitness, motivation,… ever more, you do the opposite.

Go out, find paths that are hard enough you may sometimes think that walking them is hellish but that lead to ever – better fitness, greater health, more experiences and knowledge, a better character – and walk them. Or even run.

Do it well, and the pain will disappear again. What you have learnt, however, will be with you.

Running Alpine Paths

“I’d Run Like That”

On a RunEasy training run recently.

Focusing on keeping the heart rate down.

At kilometer 10 of 12, coming past a guy and a girl at a picnic area just outside of town. Both went there on his motorbike, both are just post-teenage years, both a little heavyset, smokers.

She sits cross-legged on top of the picnic table, looks at me running past, mumbles “I’d run like that, too.”

If only she did, her life and the world might be better for it. EcoHappy-ly.
Except, she wouldn’t, and the quick glance and immediate interpretation of the scene – “wow, he’s slow” – betrays that she, in fact, doesn’t know the first thing about it.

I’ve experienced that sort of reaction quite a bit. The running tights, in particular, are only too good at getting the non-running folk to come out with all their stereotypes against anything and anyone that’s different.

Looking at people who did parkour was a great lesson on that, too. Young people, loitering around, jumping up and down walls… must be dangerous. They are at least going to hurt themselves, trying to emulate the stunts they see on TV (or make that YouTube). Except, often enough, they were some of the most mature and safety-aware “kids,” working to train both their bodies and their minds… but of course, you wouldn’t see that just from the looking.

We are quick to judge, and based on appearances at that – but we won’t know a thing until we’ve, well, run a mile in someone else’s shoes. Or 50 or 100 in our own, with them.

Starting fire in the stove

Life Lessons in a Wood Stove

This winter was our first Central European rather than Hunan-Chinese winter (for my wife; for me, the first in a while), with temperatures not only going down to around freezing, but down to -20C, but with heating.
(Hunan is one of China’s provinces south of the Yangtze, thus subtropical, thus getting no heating installed in the apartments.)

The contrast made the heating come to prominence as

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Everyday Life’s Lessons…

…, Or: The Best Habit Is a Tool

Convenience. It is our time’s great guideline. And it’s what makes us live ever more on this world, like tourists just visiting, rather than truly at home in this world.

Even “lifehackers,” who seem the best example of

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