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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mindfulness and the Grackle Invasion

I stepped on a rock today.

Of course, I step on rocks every day. There was nothing special about this rock. In fact, I don't remember it at all; but it's safe to say that since I was running around the neighborhood, chances are I stepped on a rock today.

Even though I don't remember this rock, I can tell you what happened. As my foot landed on the ground, in the first few milliseconds it felt a protrusion. My brain sent the message back to my foot, "telling" it to relax and start bearing the weight of my body on some other part of the sole. Usually, if the rock is on the outside of my foot, my weight shifts a bit to the inside, and vice versa. If the rock is in the middle, my forefoot bears the weight and my heel never touches the ground for that step. And so one and so forth.

Part of the trick (and joy) to running barefoot is to be constantly mindful of your surroundings. Feeling the texture of the ground, using that steady flow of information to adjust running form accordingly.

It's grackle invasion season here in Cackalacky. Thousands and thousands of grackles chatter away in the trees and on the lawns. When they move, they're a flowing river of blackness, their flapping wings sound like muffled waves. As I watch different groupings fly from one tree to another, I wonder what their training regimen is. Do they have a nest-to-5k program?

And then - chaos. A red-shouldered hawk comes shooting out of the sky, into a tree that explodes with grackle. The hawk performs acrobatics, darting in and out of the tree, trying it's best to put on a gruesome show for the savage bi-peds watching below. No luck this time. Why? Because the grackles were mindful. The moved away from danger. If you were to ask them a little later on, they would probably say something like...

I was chased by a hawk today.

Of course, I get chased by hawks every day. There was nothing special about this hawk. In fact, I don't remember it at all; but it's safe to say that since I was flying around the neighborhood, chances are I was chased by a hawk today.

ANALOGY UPDATE: the grackle does not represent me the runner so much as it represents one of my footsteps. Just thought I'd clarify. What can I say; I'm obtuse at times.


  1. hahaha, very nice read, buddy! :)

  2. Sometimes though, the hawk will catch a grackle. What about a rock? Cheers!

  3. Nice writing! ;) BTW this is the very first time I have ever heard of a grackle. Something similar to a black bird here perhaps?

  4. Barefoot-J - thanks!

    Viper - sometimes I'll be looking at grackles instead of the ground... that's usually when the rock gets me. Instead of dying a bloody death, I mutter an expletive and start paying attention. But you know that.

    Sarah - they're related. A lot of people don't like them, as they swarm around all Hitchcocky-like, but they eat a lot of the bugs and grubs that damage lawns and trees.

  5. Ran through Bird Park here in North Park, San Diego yesterday for the umteenth time during these past 30+ years. The Park from bird's eye view is shaped like a bird. The kid's playground is rubberied and it has 3 blue egg shapes representing the bird eggs. Then etched in the concrete pathway are listed all the perching birds of San Diego. I think we lack grackles.

    Enjoy reading you.

    In health, friendship and on the run,

  6. Thanks, ozzie. You should YouTube that styrofoam cup experiment on your blog.

  7. test internet explorer vs firefox

  8. I have the chickens on a nest-to-5K program. They should be ready to take you on by this Saturday's Warrior 5K.

    (Also, posting this with Firefox, latest version.)

  9. Barefoot Larry - yeah, something is up with blogger. The wife's been trying to get me to move everything over to wordpress... I might have to.