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Posts Tagged ‘Experience’

I live in the present for a number of reasons. I like adventure, even if ever so small, so I seek out new experiences. I have never been able to attach times with events; I have a friend who can name the year, month, and frequently which day an event happened. I have discovered, save a few rare jewels, that few people want to hear about what happened long ago. But today at lunch a definite opening to the past came about and I related a story and asked my colleague to relate a similar experience, “What was the most interesting night you have ever spent backpacking?” She related that it was the first and last time she ever saw a porcupine. Part of her adventure was a lack of understanding at the time of how quills work, that is, how porcupines use them for defense.

I told of a night when it was snowing hard, large wet flakes at dusk and we were looking for an opening with a flat spot for our tent. We came down to a road where a man was checking his mailbox. My friends got into a conversation with him about the weather and camping sites. He offered his barn loft and we jumped at it. The loft smelled of hay but there was none other than a dusting on the floor. We swept the loft so we could start our cook stoves without burning the barn down. Svea stoves sound like small jet engines, so it drown out the windy storm for awhile. Candlelight caste eerie shapes and shadows on the rafters and slats. I took several time exposures with my film SLR. We told stories, read abit and lay down to a long winter’s slumber. It was a pleasant place to sleep not having the tent flapping in the breeze. The next morning it was in the upper teens. My wet boots had frozen overnight and were painful to put on and to walk. I am sure that  up on Whitetop Mtn. there were significant drifts, but there was dry snow here, too. I feel like I have experienced a small taste of what life used to be like when I have done things like sleeping in a barn. Of course, our forebearers didn’t have nylon sleeping bags and packs, or pre-packaged food or white gas stoves or SLR cameras, but they did live simply and sleep hard on occasions.

Telling this memory reminded me of other memorable nights in the woods. Once with another friend we spent the night in a forest of young, straight trees. It was hard to hang our packs with no branches within throwing distance of our cord, so we hung our packs between two small, understory trees with the bottoms of our packs hanging barely above our reach. It had been a very wet day and now set in for a foggy night. We may have napped an hour in our tent when we heard pack rattling noises. Our flashlights revealed three large cubs, perhaps even yearlings, taking turns climbing one of the small trees and jumping out to swipe at the packs. We had left the pockets unzipped so that any mice that managed the climb would simply enter rather than chew holes in our packs. This detail meant that the cubs’ swipes were effective at knocking out our granola and snack bars and meat packets, and so forth. Before they had done much damage to our food supplies or torn open any stuff sacks we were out of our tent yelling and banging tree trunks with sticks, to which they scurried into the rhododendron out of sight. After several exchanges of this kind we could see that they thought it was a wonderful game, but we were becoming more leery at the thought of mother bear being just out of sight ready to attack if our admonitions were not to her liking. Wearily and warily we decided that there was no help for it other than to start a fire under the packs to keep the cubs away and mother hidden from sight. It was the hardest fire I have ever started. My friend collected every potentially dry twig and leaf possible, from under rocks and under logs and in tree hollows. There was only relatively less wet; dry did not exist. With a little of our toilet paper, some white gas from our stove, many minute twigs and needles we somehow got a fire going, but keeping it going and drying wood in the smokey fire was just as hard. Walking most of the day with a pack on requires two things: lots of food and good sleep. We were not getting much of the latter. We took two hour shifts of keeping the fire going and sleeping in the tent. Some time during the wee hours the fog lifted to reveal a moonless, starlit, branch filled sky. It was perhaps the first time that I realized that the sky begins to lighten as early as 3 AM in the summer. What is not perceivable to the eye around light pollution is a wondrous sight to the dark adjusted pupil. We didn’t see the cubs again and can’t say with any assurance that mom was anywhere around, but our packs smelled of smoke for a long time after that.  

Another memorable night I spent on Camp Town Bald, which I think was renamed Viking Mountain. There are few fire towers left in the mountains and probably none used for their original purpose, but one of the larger ones stood on top of the Bald in the late ’70’s- I estimate 80+ feet tall. My most frequent backpacking partner and I camped at the base of it in the tall grass. After dark I mounted the tower to the deck above. The glassed in portion was locked so a sat down, curled up in my sleeping bag, leaning against the wall of the enclosed space. I had a wonderful time of prayer and singing hymns as I gazed over the lights in the valley and the stars above. I began to see flashes of lightning in the far distance, so I moved around to the other side of the cat-walk in order to watch the fireworks. Above the trees and over 5000′ elevation, I could see the storm many miles away. Now that I reflect on it, it was odd that the storm was coming from the East over the mountains moving toward me. Thunderstorms rarely come from that direction. The storm kept building in my direction until I figured that perching atop a metal tower in a thunderstorm was probably not the safest vantage point. Having such a grand view of it I feel sure that I abandoned my post in plenty of safe time, but my friend down below had been getting worried. This story doesn’t make for quite as interesting telling or hearing, but if you can envision the scene with its three kinds of lights and the opportunity to worship the Creator of all that is light and life and beauty, you may imagine the depth of peace and joy the situation brought to me.

For it is this same Creator who has saved me and given me purpose and a future with Him. He commands the thunderstorm and the snowstorm, sets the stars in their places, gives man shelter and provides all that he needs, grows the trees and provides for the bear cubs, and will extend to you grace also if you will acknowledge your sin and His Son’s work to put it away. Glory to God for His goodness and His benefits to those upon whom His grace abounds.

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That’s what I need to take it to the next level- local endurance. “Local endurance is a muscle group’s ability to sustain effort over a period of time.”

I was climbing on Sunday, the second time in a comeback attempt after an injury. My finger strength is good- no real decline there. I can crimp on half finger pads, but I have maybe 12 to 15 feet of crimping and I’m done for 15 minutes. After flashing a 10a I’d never been on, my partner and I set-up a 10d on top rope. I knew that I needed to climb fast to make it through the 25 feet of sustained 10d climbing. I was just past it making the next somewhat easier move when the strength drained out of me. I reached for the next hold just above the directional quickdraw we had placed. My fingers would not grip. I came down and my right middle finger went right through the gate of the carabiner, stripping a half inch of flesh off adjacent to the nail. Had I grabbed for the quickdraw? No, the injury would have been much worse. My extended finger meant I only peeled some flesh rather than broken a finger or skewered my hand. Instead, my finger should be good in a week or so. I’m not a free bleeder, so after a momentary spirt of blood, and a shake out (hands above my head to prevent further bleeding), I finished the route without much difficulty. But how frustrating, to be one move away from completing the climb and getting shutdown. My overall strength is sufficient for higher grade climbing, I just need this local endurance. So here are two websites that describe training for this deficiency:

Learn to Train: Local Endurance for Climbers

Training: Maximize Your Endurance

I hope to increase endurance through these workouts. I am always having to balance responsibility, desire, time pressure, enjoyment, higher priorities, and relaxation. I like to play hard and rest well. I am thankful to God that I still can, but wonder with my most recent injury if that will be possible much longer. I wasn’t doing anything extreme or foolish. I just strained connective tissue from midway down my leg to around the knee. For a time running and climbing stopped and even walking any significant amount. As they say, things just don’t heal like they used to. Both life and climbing are challenging and take strength. 

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Pastor preached on Proverbs 27:17 this morning: “Iron sharpens iron,
so one man sharpens another.” He spoke about the need, purpose, and process of believers helping each other grow spiritually. I enjoy extending metaphors, which requires care not to come up with analogies not there or elsewhere delineated in Scripture or life. The usefulness of such an enterprise may be to help those who hear to further understand the importance of the concept portrayed by the metaphor.

Why does the Scripture say iron sharpens iron? That has long bothered me, because anyone who has sharpened a knife or tool knows that you use a whetstone, grinding stone, or ceramic sharpening tool which are harder than the tool.  And such tools existed. I Samuel 13:20 records the desperation for Israel when “all Israel went down to the Philistines, each to sharpen his plowshare, his mattock, his axe, and his hoe.” These events were more than 300 years before Solomon wrote the proverb. For that matter, why shouldn’t I use modern technology, the diamond sharpening stone?

The proverb is a metaphor for fellowship and discipleship within the congregation of believers. God doesn’t give us any other choice. We must sharpen each other. And we are not back at the castle. We are in the battle, so the grinding wheel is not an option. We go to our brother, cross swords in a mutually beneficial way and come away sharpened for more battle. Fellowship is the non-optional, God-ordained means for being honed to battle readiness.

Those who want to exclude themselves because of “hypocrites in the church” or “I can worship in nature” just fine or “all I need is Jesus” are dull or more likely twisted and unbalanced weapons. The problem is everybody wants to be sharp but nobody wants to be sharpened. When you are sharpening a blade, one swipe of the finger near the edge will reveal why so few want to be sharpened. Your finger will come up with a dark gray dust from the sharpening process. Sharpening removes material. Bad material and excess material must be removed from your life. It can be painful and humbling.

For some it’s rust from lack of use or exposure to corroding influences that needs to be removed and is hindering the cutting edge. For others, it is good material, all be it not according to faith or God’s direction, that needs to be removed to reduce the fat edge of dullness.

When two materials of equal hardness are used to do the sharpening, material is removed from both edges. Discipling and being discipled means involvement in another person’s life with all of the mutual messiness and need for honing away spiritual dullness.

And some of us are more of a mess than others. I own a double bladed axe. The way that I came into ownership of this axe goes back to the beginning of my wood heating days. I borrowed this axe (first mistake) to split some of the first wood I cut. While attempting to split some very twisted forks, I got several wedges stuck in a piece. I used the axe to attempt to get the wedges out (second mistake). I bought the axe, that is, I replaced the friend’s axe and kept the broken one. The strike took out a half-moon divot in the blade about the size of your thumbnail. In years since I have used the good blade to split and the broken blade when risking to remove wedges or cut roots near metal or concrete. No other sizable divots have been removed but the the edge has been bludgeoned a few times. I have tried for years to sharpen that divot out of the blade. For the longest time my efforts were to no avail, but now, years later, that blade is reasonably sharp while still having somewhat of a dent in the edge. It took years and that blade is possibly an inch shorter than the other one. That blade is me. The difference is that I have multiple divots. God has had to work for years to grind away the dullness of my spirit due to sinful habits and difficulties of life. I still show the scars and I’m not the sharpest tool in the box, but neither am I who I was. And much of that has been because God has used brothers and sisters in my life to remove rust here and dullness there. I doubt seriously that I will be admired as a shining blade of perfection, but I do pursue a cutting edge pursuit of God in the battle of life. And for that I give Him all of the praise.

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I have the privilege (really!) to patrol Monday morning parking lot duty from 7:15 until 7:50. On most Monday mornings there are no more than 2 or 3 cars in the parking lot when I arrive. That makes for some quiet moments to consider the day, pray about concerns, and look around. Quiet allows you to observe better. One morning I saw various seeds under the trees: Bald Cypress cones, acorns, and Sweet Gum balls. Another morning I saw oak leaves of various sizes and broadness on the ground. Looking up into the tree I could see that smaller ones generally came from the top of the tree and larger ones from the bottom. These larger ones are called shade leaves. They are competing for the sparse sunlight in the shade cast by the rest of the tree. Yet a third morning I spied leaves popping up a few at a time in the direction from one bush to another. I kept watching and every 5 to 10 seconds the leaves would pop up an inch or so. After every few minutes the movement of the leaves would retrace the path back toward the first bush. I concluded that I was seeing a mouse or other vermin forging a tunnel just under the leaves and mulch on this frosty morning.

Speaking of frost, the very next week the morning was even colder, around 27 degrees (-2.8 degrees Celsius). As I approached my usual vantage point for watching cars, students, and nature, I saw that the golden brown Bald Cypress needles had fallen to the ground in the last week and this morning were fringed in frost. I went to investigate and caught a hold of an early arriving former student, requesting that he snap a picture and e-mail it to me (gonna have to get one of them new fangled smart phones one of these days).

Bald Cypress needles

The most Exquisite Lace

I retreated back to my self-appointed post. Still there were but few cars in the lot and none nor no one stirring. I glanced over toward the frosted needles once or twice. Then between two bushes I spied a curious sight about which I was at first incredulous. In fact, a few minutes later a student came to pass my way and I requested the use of her young eyes to see if she would see what I think I was yet seeing. She confirmed that there were indeed the appearance of heat waves between the bushes. Imagine, heat waves on a frosty morning! She went on and I was left standing to contemplate how this could be. Moments later a small breeze kicked up and the waves were gone. That only served to confirm my belief that they had been heat waves.

Heat waves are caused by varying densities of fluid (air in this case) refracting light passing through them. Usually the warmer fluid is rising, forming a convective cell. As it randomly snakes upward the background images are gently contorted by the light passing through the foreground fluid.

But what was forming the heat waves? As my eyes scanned the parking lot and Cypress needles, it seemed to me that the frost was heavier during the short period I had been standing there. That may have only been to my sight because of the increasing light as the sun rose, but it brought a possibility to mind. When frost forms, water vapor in the air turns directly into solid ice crystals on the grass or windshield. This process is called deposition, which is the opposite of sublimation, and skips the liquid state going either way. The heat given off by changing from gas to liquid and liquid to solid is about 8 times more than the heat given off by the same amount of liquid water cooling from 100 to 0 degrees Celsius. Needless to say, a significant amount of energy is given off by the deposition of frost. Frosty heat waves, that is shimmering amazing.*

*If my conclusion is correct

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As I said in a recent post, I have taught whole science lessons by using the illustration of the woodstove. See if you can name the concept being taught by the following story before I name it at the end.

Heating with wood can be interesting and exciting (chimney fire!) but also mundane. When something interesting happens it gets your attention. One bright morning in early Spring in the Horseshoe I got up and ate breakfast. I had not started a fire the night before because it wasn’t that cool and we like to sleep cool. My wife said, “Don’t you think it’s cool enough for a fire?” Of course, there is only one right answer, so I gathered wood and kindling and sat down to build a small fire to “knock the chill off.” I had only just lit the paper and cardboard when the smoke started billowing out of the top of the open door into the living room. My immediate response was to slam the stove door followed by jumping up to check to see if the stove pipe damper was open. The smoke started oozing out around the door dampers, so I hastened to screw those shut, only to continue more slowly coming out around several small gaps around the doors. All there was left to do was to open the front door and start fanning. After a few minutes the smoke was cleared and the living room really needed a fire in the stove. I got my flashlight, cautiously opened the stove door and peered into the exiting stove pipe at the back of the stove. There seemed to be no obstruction. I even used a mirror but couldn’t see around the curve for the smoke. There must surely be an obstruction in the chimney, be it birds or squirrels or bats or nest thereof. I was determined to get to the bottom of the problem. I put on a coat and hat and went outside to get the ladder and lean it up against the house. As soon as I got out from under the back door porch, I realized that the morning was warming up quickly in the bright sunshine. It was warmer outside than inside. Maybe I should just open the doors and wait. But instead I continued on the mission of solving the mystery stoppage in my chimney. I climbed up onto the red metal porch roof with the flashlight and then scampered up the steeper main roof and grabbed ahold of the chimney. Straddled across the peak of the roof, I removed the chimney cap and pulled the flashlight out of my back pocket. When I shown it down into the opening, I had to wait for my eyes to adjust and move my face closer. I could see clearly down most of the length of the chimney. There was very little creosote build-up. But toward what I judged to be the bottom where I should have seen the pipe coming into the chimney from the stove, the view went fuzzy. I could not tell what I was looking at. I tried to adjust the flashlight and my head to see better, but to no avail. Frustrated, I thought, “I’ll fix that,” shut off the light, slid down the roof to the porch, bounded down the ladder, and stepped over to the old smokehouse, now a storage shed. I strung up my 100′ extension cord with a plug-in socket and light bulb on the end and retraced my course back up to chimney side. Next, I lowered the lit bulb down into the chimney, which was very well lit now. When I lowered the bulb down to the vague area, I could see that there was smoke hovering low in the chimney. I lowered the light into the smoke and it totally disappeared after several inches more of lowering. It would appear and disappear as I raised and lowered it out of this dense smoke layer. I turned my head aside for a moment to consider, since fresh creosote is not the most pleasant smell. Just as I turned back to look again I got a face full of smoke that just kept coming. I choked on the lung full I received and must have called out in alarm because my wife yelled up to ask if I was OK. I hastily pulled the light out and made my way down to the porch with the smoke settling down the roof behind me. What in the world was happening? The smoke cleared quickly, because there really wasn’t all that much. I climbed back up on the peak of the roof and again lowered the light. The chimney was clear.

It took me awhile to figure out what had happened. Have you figured it out, yet? There are several hints in the story having to do with temperature. Before you read below you may want to go back and reread with the hint.

The temperature was warmer outside than inside. Cold air is denser than warm air. Since there was not a fire the night before, the air in the chimney was cooler than the quickly warming exterior air. When I started the fire, smoke was not able to move through the pipe because the air there was heavier than that higher in the chimney where the sun beamed down. There was a thermal inversion in the chimney restricting the air from rising. When I left the light bulb in the smoke layer for a few moments of slow reflection, it warmed the smokey layer so that it was lighter than the air above it and began to rise. I got a face full of lesson about thermal inversion. This situation happened again years later in the home we presently live in. I didn’t even hesitate. I climbed up on the roof and lowered a light bulb down into the chimney. The smoke rose. I climbed down and started a fire and had a warm feeling inside knowing that knowledge and experience go a long way toward clearing away smoke that obscures your path.

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