First Blush

Reflections and sightings from [almost] daily jogging at dawn

Friday, March 31, 2006

Sunrise 5:56 am: Souls made of clay

"You know it's going to be muddy," remarked the male Dawn Jogger as they headed out to Arastradero, on what would be the last "sun up" Friday for awhile, what with the daylight savings time change coming. "Our shoes will become bricks," he further warned.

Bay Area soil is largely made up of clay, which, when wet, gets either sticky or slippery, depending on exposure. Conditions can be particularly bad at the Arastradero Preserve where long stretches of exposed dirt result in inch thick clay build up on the soles of running shoes.

A sole of clay is a small burden. But souls of clay carry much more weight, as reminded by Charles Kingsley's famous children's book "Heroes" in the story of Perseus:

"I am Pallas Athene; and I know the thoughts of all men's hearts, and discern their manhood or their baseness. And from the souls of clay I turn away, and they are blest, but not by me. They fatten at ease, like sheep in the pasture, and eat what they did not sow, like oxen in the stall. They grow and spread, like the gourd along the ground; but, like the gourd, they give no shade to the traveller, and when they are ripe death gathers them, and they go down unloved into hell, and their name vanishes out of the land.

"But to the souls of fire I give more fire, and to those who are manful I give a might more than man's. These are the heroes, the sons of the Immortals, who are blest, but not like the souls of clay. For I drive them forth by strange paths, Perseus, that they may fight the Titans and the monsters, the enemies of Gods and men. Through doubt and need, danger and battle, I drive them; and some of them are slain in the flower of youth, no man knows when or where; and some of them win noble names, and a fair and green old age; but what will be their latter end I know not, and none, save Zeus, the father of Gods and men. Tell me now, Perseus, which of these two sorts of men seem to you more blest?'

"Then Perseus answered boldly: 'Better to die in the flower of youth, on the chance of winning a noble name, than to live at ease like the sheep, and die unloved and unrenowned."

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Sunrise 5:57 am: Spring camp out

Sunshine made a rare appearance in the early morning hours in what has been a record breaking number of rainy March days.
The wetness did not deter a group of campers that the Dawn Joggers spotted on Lake Lagunita's "beach." (Some years sand is brought in.) Spying the empty beer bottles, the DJs ruled out a scouting expedition and presumed the still quiet tents where inhabited by students who decided that taking their Spring break on campus was a better bet than returning to a frozen Midwest or Northeast.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Sunrise 5:59 am: Wrapped up in red tape

The Dawn Joggers sloshed through the usual array of puddles in a light but persistent rainfall. Spring break left the Stanford campus empty except for the ever constant work of the facilities and grounds crews. A touch up was in progress at the mausoleum where all three Stanfords are buried - father, mother and son - making the structure look a bit like a crime scene.
Which, in a way, it is. Seems Jane Stanford's death at 76 was not caused by heart failure but rather strychnine poisoning.
Was then President David Starr Jordan the culprit? Palo Alto writer Susan Wolfe provides an overview of the facts - and the suspicions - in an article in Stanford Magazine.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Sunrise 6:00 am: Boats in waiting

Cloudy skies greeted the Dawn Joggers as they took off for a spin around the muddy banks of Lake Lagunita with Cassie in tow. They saw evidence of the upcoming boating season when students return from Spring break next week. Next to an adjoining dorm were stacks of kayaks, and one row boat bobbled in the water. The female DJ remembers the old boat house that once graced the east shore. Torn down in 1989, it was actually the third. The second boat house, which replaced the original in 1913, collapsed under the weight of spectators at the Water Carnival in 1938.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Sunrise 6:02 am: Mustard, parables and grace

The Dawn Joggers took off in bright sunlight this morning intent to enjoy every ray as they march toward the darkness of impending daylight saving time. The abundant mustard between the bike path and Stanford golf course had a nice Bruin gold glow to it. (Superstitious or not, seems best to keep the omens going.)

Mustard, it turns out, is a very ecumenical plant, featured in all the major world religions. Given its wide appearance in the various traditions, it seems appropriate to read what Trappist monk Fr. Thomas Keating, who has worked hard to foster understanding among the world's religions, discerns from the parable of the mustard seed. In his gently instructive way, he reminds us that it's about accepting grace in everyday life not external accomplishments.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Sunrise 6:03 am: Everything's coming up irises

The Dawn Joggers hit the Portola trails again, which were even soggier than last Sunday. But the week difference also translated into a more abundant display of wildflowers - little purple, little yellow, lacy white joining what the DJs think are wild iris. (Both of the female DJs parents could identify every wildflower along a trail or highway; if only she had paid attention.) Footnote: Just as Spring is slowly but steadily appearing, yesterday UCLA slow danced its way to next weekend's Big Dance. Go Bruins.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Sunrise 6:05 am: All about omens and Bruin blue sky

The consensus, backed by Vegas odds makers, is that the UCLA Bruins will be defeated this afternoon by the Memphis Tigers, who, the pundits say, are bigger, stronger and faster. That to think otherwise is to engage in blue sky thinking, using the old definition (not grounded in reality) rather than the new definition (brainstorming without restriction). But as sports writer Jake Curtis points out in today's San Francisco Chronicle when it involves the Elite Eight, omens become a factor (well sort of).

So the Dawn Joggers set out in pursuit of omens on their Saturday Big Dish route, the female DJ's blue Bruin hat firmly in place as it has been since the Pac 10 tournament. It was a wild morning - gusty winds and lingering rain showers - befitting "wild finishes" experienced Thursday night. Omen number one?

Then coming down the first hill as the DJs made their way up was Duke alum June LaBarre resplendent in a Bruin warm up jacket. Omen number two? Had the ever-powerful Duke basketball gods passed on their blessings to UCLA now that they were out of the tourney?

The DJs hit the highest point of the route just as the sun broke through to reveal Bruin blue sky that perfectly set off the emerald green pastures reminiscent of Ireland. Omen number three? Well, no right thinking person is going to dismiss a little "luck of the Irish."

Friday, March 24, 2006

Sunrise 6:07 am: One sight that just won't go away

It was a sight that played over and over in the female Dawn Jogger's mind as the DJs made their way across the Stanford campus this morning, blocking out any new sight. An incredible sight, astonishing, miraculous. With her son at her side, she had witnessed one of the most amazing basketball comebacks of all time.

There, in front of them, the UCLA Bruins were jumping up and down in victory. But it had happened so fast and seemed so impossible, they were left with only one thought - how had it happened?

"There's a lot of basketball still to play," one of the spectators in the row behind them had said when there were 4:00 minutes left in a game that Gonzaga had dominated from the start. But a win seemed unlikely - not only had they been unable to shut down Zag star Adam Morrison, but the Bruins never appeared to get into their rhythm and key guard Arron Affalo was playing with four fouls in a tightly officiated game.

But "wait one Wooden minute," as Bill Plaschke wrote in the Los Angeles Times. In a stunning "never give up" comeback, the Bruins had rallied in the final minutes to defeat the Zags 73-71 and advance to the Elite Eight.

Many are amused at the female DJ's passion for Bruin sports. Not really explainable and fraught with complicated layers of history, one of which is shared by mother and son.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Sunrise 6:08 am: Put on earth to shake things up

A typically bucolic scene at Lake Lagunita this morning as a solo Dawn Jogger and Cassie made their way around trying to avoid the muddy patches. Lot of 'house hunting' going on by the many ducks - one couple had wandered up the lawn toward the student housing - and the Blue Heron was at the shoreline in search of breakfast. Then the geese arrived amidst much honking, and everything was disrupted - the ducks scattered and the heron took flight.

It reminded the DJ of the most recent saint reading. (The Dawn Joggers read nightly from Robert Ellsberg's excellent book, "All Saints," which contains 365 short essays on both lower and upper case saints.) Emmanuel Mounier (1905-1950) was a French philosopher, whose "independent style of spiritual and social engagement brought criticism from both the Left and Right." Mounier was unwilling to be pigeon-holed by the ideology of either side. Writes Ellsberg: " ...while he opposed the materialism of secular culture he became equally disdainful of the individualistic and complacent 'spiritualism' of the established church." A deeper exploration of Mounier's work may well be beneficial in the current political and religious climate of finger pointing and name calling.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sunrise 6:10 am: Stadium stone work makes its appearance

The Dawn Joggers have been living the Stanford Stadium renovation since it began last November 26 after the Notre Dame game. The unusual earthen stadium, originally designed with engineering techniques borrowed from 2,000 year-old amphitheaters unearthed in Pompeii, was built in 1921 at a cost of $573,470. The current renovation, scheduled for completion before this Fall's football season, is costing $90 million.

Last month they witnessed immense earth carrying trucks lined up before dawn at a construction site near the golf course to get their payload of dirt for transport over to the stadium. An equally immense clam shovel, adorned with lights, dug from a large hill of dirt to deposit each payload. That hill is now largely gone.

This morning they were stopped by another huge truck and trailer as it backed into a different construction site near Frost Amphitheater. It was carrying an actual piece of the new stadium made of stone work and concrete.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Sunrise 6:11 am: In the company of Big Bird

One of the Dawn Joggers ongoing delights is encountering a Great Blue Heron in the morning. Some years back one decided to "overnight" in a redwood tree on their property, and they would be awakened at first light with its piercing "I'm up and on the move" shriek. These big birds, very dinosaur like in their demeanor, hunt small ground animals/reptiles in the early morning. It's challenging to get a good photo without a long lens as they are smartly wary; at their size they can't take off quickly. But once airborne they are very graceful. One of the hidden treasures of the Bay Area is Audubon Canyon Ranch in Marin where they nest each Spring.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Sunrise 6:13 am: Purple people eaters invade campus

On this the first day of Spring, the Dawn Joggers were confounded by the sight of three giant purple wheels smack dab in the middle of the Stanford campus. Some additional torture for the students already beset with finals? Post jog sleuthing revealed that they were produced by WEMCO, whose web site pronounces the company not only the "global leader in wire technology" but also the "Wire Handling People." The wires had evidently been used in some construction project with the wheels now forming a new kind of campus sculpture.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Sunrise 6:14 am: Giant plants amidst streams of water

The Dawn Joggers and Cassie hit their favorite Portola Valley trail this morning for the first time in a couple of weeks. This trail has been a good bet in all seasons - never too muddy in the winter and plenty of shade on a hot summer day.

But evidently the multiple rain storms over the past week were just too much. The ground is saturated, and many stretches of the trail have been transformed into a running stream, a great feature in Cassie's mind. She took full advantage of every bit of water, which seemed to invigorate her 12-year-old bones.

The DJs also saw lots of new growth, including some "giant" plants that had sprung up along one six foot section of the trail.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Sunrise 6:16 am: A case of grass is greener?

The Dawn Joggers were greeted this morning by about three dozen adolescent cattle immediately adjacent to the Piers Lane gate into the Big Dish area of Stanford land. Neither of them could remember seeing cattle in this area of the Dish before, a fact that may or may not have anything to do with the last cattle rancher's retirement in August. (The long time leaseholder grazed his horses in this area, which is next to the old ranch house.) As the DJs rounded the bend and proceeded up the first hill, the rest of the herd came into view, all clumped next to the cattle grate with wistful eyes fixed on their brethren on the other side.

Note: Male DJ decided to find the number of paces from home to Dish and back today - recorded at 12,675.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Sunrise 6:17 am: Hip and out of the way

One bad habit the Dawn Joggers adopted over the years is stopping for coffee - and scones - at the Konditorei in Ladera after an Arastradero run, thereby undoing any good they just accomplished. The Konditorei was one of the first local spots to offer free Wi-Fi and is a scene of Silicon Valley morning deal pitching, although less well known than Buck's, just up the road and around the bend in Woodside. It did achieve some fame in Randy Komisar's book, "The Monk and the Riddle" and has endured through the Valley's ups and downs as a good community gathering place with dog-friendly (complete with water bowl) tables in front.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Sunrise 6:19 am: Steadfast morning community

The Dawn Joggers have been sharing life tales with Judy for many years now - through law school, passing the bar, her children's triumphs, family vacations, and sadly, the death of her long time running companion, Zaire, a Vizla about Cassie's age. She was listening to their reports of the successful snow shoeing expedition to Montana when a man ambled into view, causing Cassie to investigate the new stranger.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Sunrise 6:20 am: A robber baron's family great sorrow

On their "long" Stanford route, the Dawn Joggers pass the Stanford Mausoleum . Situated on a rarely seen part of the campus known as the Arboretum, it was originally going to be the site of the Stanford's home. But while on the a trip to Europe, their son and University namesake, Leland Stanford, Jr., died from typhoid and plans were changed. A great university was born and the home site became a grave site. For years, it was the location of a raucous student Halloween party, although there's been no evidence of the festivities more recently.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Sunrise 6:22 am: Very wet world

The Dawn Joggers returned to the Bay Area - with its earlier sunrise - to lots of moisture and reports of snow, hail and thunder while they were away. Multiple streams were gushing into Lake Lagunita, the ducks were enjoying the widening delta area, and Cassie had multiple puddles to splash through. One tree stump appeared to be eyeing its new necklace of mushrooms.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Sunrise 6:53 am: Big sky and superb food

On their last day in Big Sky country, it remained cool and blue. The crusty snow glistened as they made their way to breakfast and then a morning of snow shoeing on the well-groomed Lubrecht Forest trails, destination Jones Meadow.

An "over the top" trip pronounced the male DJ about his birthday surprise. Expected was the breathtaking scenery and the fun at getting to do a different kind of hiking (not to mention a rare horseback ride). Unexpected was the creative and inventive food, prepared by Paws Up chef Jacob and staff, who executed a "Wow" five-course tasting menu last night, giving the male DJ lots to ponder from a culinary standpoint.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Sunrise 6:55 am: Snow shoeing and more snow shoeing

Today the Dawn Joggers became all-day snow shoers with bright sunshine again greeting them. Temperatures were cool - the 5 degrees at dawn had warmed to 29 by lunch time. But no wind made the snow shoeing conditions near perfect.

The two and a half hour morning outing was spent trying to find the trails into the adjacent Lebrecht Experimental Forest .
Headed Cross country up a long hill only to be greeted by a couple of fences followed by increasingly deep powder. After their descent, they discovered the trailhead, which a right rather than left turn would have gotten them to.

The second two and a half hour adventure was up the Sunset trail to Lookout Point and then down along the Blackfoot River where they came upon a large flock of geese (ahead of schedule?). The Blackfoot was frozen solid until about three weeks ago and still showed signs of iciness.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Sunrise 6:57 am: Hitting the trails

Greeted with bright sunshine and little wind, the Dawn Joggers hit the trail two ways - first on snow shoe and then on horseback. It was near perfect conditions for the snow shoeing adventure up a nearby hill - crunchy Spring snow with only a few patches of ice or bare spots. The wind picked up at bit as they headed for a ride along the Blackfoot River and then across a nearby prairie dotted with sage brush. Along the way, they spotted a couple of eagles and lots of white-tailed deer. The elk herds remain elusive. The eating does not - every meal has been superb at Paws Up.

As reported in the Missoulian, sunrise is a full 30 minutes later here than in the Bay Area. Sunset seems about the same - 6:36 pm - a fact to be confirmed upon return.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Sunrise 6:27 am: Birthday surprise

Well before sunrise, the Dawn Joggers took off to catch a plane to ?, lifting off almost the exact same time as the sun appeared on the horizon. It was a birthday surprise for the male DJ who heard the skycap say "Missoula." Quick check of the map revealed that they were getting there on a dog leg route rather than as the crow flies. Oh, the woes of airline hubs. But now they find themselves amidst 37,000 acres of majestic Montana wilderness, looking forward to splendid isolation, some snow shoeing and other adventures at Paws Up esconsed in the Wooly Bugger cabin.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Sunrise 6:29 am: God's moment, Spielberg version

Yet another glorious day's awakening was on display as the female Dawn Jogger, solo again, hit Lake Lagunita right at sunrise this morning. The DJs have come to call these vistas - a particular mixture of streaming sunlight and billowing clouds - "Spielberg God." It signifies that movie convention when evil has been vanquished all, once again, is right with the world.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Sunrise 6:31 am: Solo musings

Solo run by the female Dawn Jogger this morning prompted some musing.

At First Blush, it would appear that the Academy just decided to honor a LA story. But what if gay cowboy story really was too much in a category that's voted on by the entire membership. Back up: 1) Legions of usually, enlightened progressive males stirred clear of this picture with the pitiful excuse of "it's just not something I want to see." 2) Gay is ok when the person is dying (Tom Hanks in "Philadelphia") or the gay person has a gay-acceptable occupation (Phillip Seymour Hoffman in "Capote"). Call it the John Wayne legacy of "the real American cowboy."

At First Blush, it would appear that Hollywood prides itself on racial tolerance. But seems to hold true only when its African American actors playing safe/stereotypical not challenging/in-your-face roles (Sidney Poitier for "Lilies of the Field" not "The Defiant Ones;" Denzel Washington for "Training Day" not "Malcolm X").

At First Blush, it is better that all five nominated 'best picture' category were thought-provoking films rather than movie entertainment. On second blush, too.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Sunrise 6:32 am: The case of the mysterious bicycle

Some time during the construction to expand the bridge over San Francisquito Creek on Sand Hill to four lanes, a red bicycle appeared. It would greet the Dawn Joggers, locked in in one of several locations. They figured it was owned by a construction worker who used it during the day for work or play.

One day the red bicycle had a tire stolen; soon its remaining frame disappeared. About the same time the construction was completed. End of the tethered bicycle?

No, a new, spiffier black bicycle made its appearance. Locked on the north or south side of Sand Hill, it is reliably on view when the DJs pass each morning. The mystery remains: whose bicycle is it? why is it parked on a busy road? does it get ridden during the day and put back each evening?

Footnote to keen observers of increasingly early sunrise: on 5 of the last 10 days the sun has risen two minutes earlier than the day before, as it did today compared to yesterday.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Sunrise 6:34 am: Running on water?

It poured all night, letting up just before dawn. San Francisquito Creek was higher and swifter than a few days ago, whisking along debris from the hillsides. Nearby fields glistened and sported a moor-like mist. With the clouds giving way to blue skies, it was another glorious morning that greeted the Dawn Joggers. Much water remained on the ground, giving the illusion that one could "run on water."

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Sunrise 6:35 am: Sturdy little Aussie pup

The Dawn Joggers opted for a walk around Lake Lagunita this morning, given another busy Sunday schedule. But the abbreviated outing paid off when they met Opal, a four-month-old Australian Shepherd pup, on an excursion with her three-year-old housemate, Jeeves, a tricolor male Aussie. Like Cassie as a pup, Opal is a sturdy little girl, ready for rough and tumble play. What with the lake as fill as it's been since early January, they were soon joined by a group of Labradors ready to 'terrorize' the duck population. No feathers flew.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Sunrise 6:36 am: Plethora of best games today

Its March and that means an abundance of "best games." The Dawn Joggers tackled "long Dish" this morning and were greeted by the annual winter/spring crop of adolescent cattle with their game faces on.

"Our best game has returned, and it is most welcome" writes San Francisco Chronicle columnist Bruce Jenkins, whose "3 Dot Lounge" is always great reading. The "best game" that Jenkins refers to is, of course, baseball, with the Giants playing an exhibition game against the Cubs in Scottsdale today, winning 7-2.

And finally there's the best game of basketball, made sweeter this year for the female Dawn Jogger who later in the afternoon witnessed her alma mater's victory over Stanford to claim sole possession of the Pac 10 championship. Seated as she was right behind the UCLA Bruin bench, it was a "up close and personal" thrill.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Sunrise 6:38 am: Rain turning to snow.....

OK, mea culpa. It didn't really snow this morning, although Cassie -shown here atop Windy Hill some years ago - undoubtedly wishes it would have. Anything was better than this morning's drenching, very cold rain that once again grounded the Dawn Joggers, who both fled to their respective gyms for a workout. Forecast continues to predict "snow on the foothills" so Cassie can continue to hope.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Sunrise 6:39 am: Never met a puddle she didn't like

Cassie, the Dawn Joggers' 12-year-old Australian Shepherd, has always been a "water girl." As a puppy - and puppyhood lasts until about age seven with Aussies - it was never enough to splash once in a puddle. Just as often there were multiple "splash throughs" at each and every puddle. And rare was a puddle that went unnoticed. Such joyful puddle enthusiasm has led to her moniker as the "dirtiest Aussie in Menlo Park."

Now that she's a more mature girl, there's a bit more selectivity with puddles. On this morning's jog, she only hit about 80% of available water holes. But they joy remains.

Note another two minute gain in sunrise from yesterday.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Sunrise 6:41 am: Grounded times two

Rare is a day the Dawn Joggers don't take to the streets/paths of the mid-Peninsula. But this morning found both DJs with an annoying bug that felled them late yesterday. On the mend and sorry to miss what's supposed to be the one sunny day of the week.