Saturday, November 25, 2017

Day 407: Grow a Beard

All thanks to YouTube Videos...
     I've had a "beard" for years now. A thin, patchy sad excuse of a beard. One that didn't demand much attention or authority from anyone (see previous post for proof). But I've never had a capital B-Beard. I think it's inherent in all men to want to grow a beard at least once in our lives. It's primal, it's masculine, and since I'm neither of those, I figure all the more reason to give it a try!
     On the surface, the act of growing a beard feels a little unfulfilled. Even sitting here now, I feel like I have to make the case to even write about it. Because after all, growing a beard has more to do with the absence of shaving than any actual growing. If you don't have a beard yet, wait a few days. I have to admit that I was apart of this camp for many years, many baby-faced years. But as much as it makes me cringe, and as stupid as it sounds, I think there's a case to be made for beards.
Baby-faced this summer

     Let's just clear real quick -in the past three months, I've routinely watched beard tutorials and vlogs on YouTube. The videos provide almost no valuable information, but I keep watching because I'm amazed by the ever-growing subculture of loyal facial hair enthusiasts. Every interest, hobby and fetish has it's own click, and I guess I shouldn't be surprised that -thanks to the internet- beards do too.

     One more confession -although I hated pretty much every Jabroni in the beard videos I watched, I still bought all the crap they were slinging in their vlogs.

"Beard brush?"
"Matching comb?"
"Beard oil?"
     "Don't know what it does, don't have too."
"Beard balm."
     "Take my money."

I'd actually recommend it
     Its all pretty silly, but that didn't stop me from splurging on a beard kit to manicure my peach fuzz in the mirror religiously. And you know what? I actually think I see some results. I had only ever grown out my beard once before and it looked terrible. It was a scraggly untamed mess. But no that I'm armed with an assortment of overpriced products, I can comb/sculpt my beard into submission.

     Now that my beard is past the scruffy stages and entering wilderness territory, I think I'm gonna see how big I can go with it until I either cant take it, or even my bounty of beard care products cant handle it. I figure I can keep it through at least the winter. We'll see.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Day 406: Total Eclipse

     First things first, apologies for not posting sooner. I've done loads of fun new things since I last posted in March, but completely forgot to write about most of them. But I don't feel too bad, because I doubt anyone reads these posts anyways. So you know what? Apology revoked! Yeah that's right, I'm posting sporadically and I'm not even sorry.

     Maybe just a tiny bit sorry.

     A total eclipse is something so strange, so seemingly fictitious, so Old Testament-esque that I didn't fully understand what I was getting myself into until well into our fourth hour of sitting in a collapsable lawn chair along a once deserted stretch of highway in the middle of Wyoming. I realize now why I didn't fully understand what the eclipse was about even after the 7 hour drive. I realize, not due to a lack of interest, or preparation in the days leading up to the eclipse, but because (and this is going to sound very corny) the experience of seeing a total eclipse is one that escapes any sort of description. Words don't do it justice, photos and videos won't either. And that leaves me here, someone who witnessed something so utterly surreal and only my words, pictures, and a video to try and share a piece of what I felt. I know full well that explaining the experience is a futile attempt, but I'm going to try anyways.
Front Row Seat
     The journey started the day before, when my mom and step dad (step dad? When did that happen -oh yeah, earlier in May. Congrats you two!) drove up to the family cabin with a friend of my step dad (man that still sounds weird to say) and his wife. Anyways, we had a great time in the mountains doing outdoorsy things, but that's not what this story is about. It's about the arguably great lengths five consenting adults went to in order to witness the shadow of the moon.
     At 2:45 in the morning my alarm went off (thats the first 2:45. There's a second one, one at a completely acceptable time too. That's not the 2:45 we chose) and by 3:00 we were packed up and on the road. The theory behind this early start, was that the tiny city of Casper Wyoming is too small for the impending flood of eclipse enthusiasts and scientists that would be on their way to clog the highways by the crack of dawn. We still had a considerable drive ahead of us, so we figured that we would rather beat the crowds and wait rather than catch the event while stuck in traffic.
     According to the selfie I took upon arriving at the local Starbucks, it was exactly 6:09 when we made it into town. The town was just starting to wake up, but our crew had been burning at both ends for hours by then. So we get some coffee, we pick up some supplies at the Walmart-
     A quick thing about Walmart: I have never seen so many questionable people all congregate in the same area before. And I mean weird, strange people, and that's even after visiting Trinidad. Half the parking lot had been taken over by some sort of pseudo-tailgating community of busses, trucks, and telescope waiving tourists. The line for the Walmart bathroom was overflowing with barefoot children brushing their teeth and the line was over ten people long. It was terrible.

     Here's where the story really begins. We get our supplies and head back out of town to get "The Perfect Spot" to view the eclipse at. Notice that "The Perfect Spot" is both capitalized and in quotations. There's so much importance placed on the spot we were to view the event because -as I found out- to witness an eclipse at even just 99% totality is like not witnessing it at all. It's true! If you're not within the line of totality, then you might as well have closed your eyes completely during the entire thing.
     By now it's like 7:00, which means we have literally almost 4 more hours until anything remotely cool happens. I'll spare you the details, but it was a a lot of sitting and waiting (and throwing rocks into empty Starbucks cups in a ski-ball style carnival game I made up).
Our Devo cover band album
     The actual event takes about an hour, which is another thing I was clueless of. With the help of solar glasses, we took turns looking into my telescope and gasping at the small chunks of sun that were slowly being devoured by the moon. Without the aid of the telescope however, there seemed to be no difference in the daylight around us. As the event approached, the dirt lot we camped out in had become completely saturated with enthusiasts. In fact, I heard that over that weekend, the population of Wyoming doubled.
     The sun slowly sizzled into a thinning crescent shape. When it was nothing but a bright yellow toenail in the sky the atmosphere started to change rather drastically. The lighting in our campsite was dramatic, I remember looking at the other people's faces and thinking that they looked off. It was like our skin was so pale that it seemed to be fake or synthetic. The air chilled so quickly that I had to layer up with a hoodie and jacket. It honestly felt like a 35 (F.) degree temperature change. The light and temp worked to make the entire scene feel erie. It also helped that the collective group of well over 100 observers fell deafly quiet. Traffic along the highway seised, except for the occasional unfazed trucker.
     I think it's the contrast that makes the experience such a memorable one. Of course the sight was amazing, but it's the blistering heat followed by the sudden chill and the use of both sunglasses and eclipse glasses before it getting too dark for either that I think back to. These changes happened within minutes, which is truly something amazing when you're talking about appreciating nature. As humans, we don't have the context to truly appreciate all the time that went into things like mountains and oceans. They're massive natural monuments that take eons to shift at all. But an eclipse is like watching nature be it infinitely unbelievable self in a frame that we can fathom. It's probably what observing the cosmos would feel like if we only had the patience to watch them churn.
     And as the moment approached, I knew that it was important. I knew that I would never forget what I was about to see. Piece by piece, the rest of the sun was swallowed and finally saw what all the fuss was about.

     And for the record, I totally agree. Words and pictures do not do it justice. So I wont even try.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Day 405: Meditation

     I know, I know. I can tell what you're going to say (just kidding, nobody reads this). You're gonna say "But Kyle, haven't you already tried meditation before?" Well first off, good job, you're very attentive. I did in fact try meditation way back on day 105. I probably looked up a YouTube video or something and closed my eyes and pretended to follow along. This, is not that.
     As part of this year's resolution, I have taken time out of each day to practice meditating. Some days for 10 minutes, while others for up to an hour. Sometimes guided (usually guided) and sometimes not. I've picked up some books on the subject and have reached past the yogi threshold, past the point of no return.
     By far, the hardest part of beginning this practice, has been getting over my own perceptions and assumptions. Sitting quietly, looking inward, these are not easy habits to instill, but they're even harder habits to explain to others. Or at least I feared they might be. In all honesty, whenever the subject of mindfulness came up I was met with nothing but curiosity and remarks like "I've always wanted to try". So once I got out of my own way, the actual act of meditating was surprisingly easy. I sat, and watched my breath. And each time my thoughts pulled me away from my focus of my breath, I'd gently (not always gently in the beginning) return back to the breath. That's it.
     The process is simple, but that's not to say it is easy. For the first month, I couldn't go more than two breaths without getting caught up in some sort of train of thought. I'd spend the entire time returning to my breath and leave feeling like I had wasted my morning. But with some more practice, and a lot of really solid advice from some books, I've (very slowly) started to make some progress.
     I'm still nowhere near mastering my inner mind (and from what I can tell, that's not going to happen), but I do have to admit that there is a noticeable difference I can feel since starting 93 days ago. Not to say I'm cured of anxiety, or self-doubt, or any of the other human emotions we're all plagued to feel, just that now, I have and awareness of them. They're nothing more than thoughts and feelings.
     Even the difference I notice after taking time to focus on the breath is worth the time. I feel calm and grounded, and I find myself looking forward to the next time I can slow down.

If you would like to learn more, here are some great places to start: