For 90 minutes every morning I’m in the best shape of anybody within a 60-mile radius.

That’s only true for 90 minutes. Before and after… not so much. All the life-hardened old ranchers, the young buck tradesmen, the hunters, hikers, climbers, and snowshoers who tackle these mountains, even the high school kids in gym class—all of them individually and collectively kick my butt all the rest of the time.

But for 90 minutes every morning, I rule.

How do I know? Hey, I know what goes down in gyms and fitness clubs. I know what people do there. I know they’ve got jobs and families and all kinds of life realities sucking the juice out of them all day. I know how much socializing goes on—not a bad thing, but it’s not the same as squeezing out a few more beats per minute.

Why 60 miles? Because that’s how far away everything is. 4-60 is the local jargon. That means it’s 60 miles in any of the four directions until you get anywhere.  Go further, and there might be somebody else working out like I do. I actually doubt it, but let’s not get too carried away.

I’m in the third month of a plan to get stronger, faster, more enduring conditioning out of myself. I’m winning. Last week and this I’m hitting personal bests almost daily. I love exercise metrics. They tell me how I’m doing—really, actually, statistically—not just do I feel better or worse, am I having a good day or bad, but what’s actually happening. And lately the metrics have been telling me I’m kicking ass.

So I’m an exercise god for 90 minutes and 60 miles. Then what?

I go back to being the irrelevant old man that I am.

All the rest of the day, everybody else wins. I know that too, because I know what goes down in normal life. While they’re out there chasing the American dream I’m at home doing irrelevant old man stuff. I write, read, research, learn, create art, cook the meals, clean the house, order stuff on Amazon, unpack it when it arrives. Call me Cinderella—without the evil stepmother and the fair godmother and coach and footmen.

And I feed the beast—I watch what I eat, especially how much protein I’m taking in, carbs and veggies and fruit, too. You have to watch all that to build muscle when your body is done bothering to do it any more, not like it used to. Don’t believe the supplement ads—old men don’t pack it on, don’t get buff.

Me, I do an okay job of not looking feeble.

Big deal.

It took moving to the country for me to finally learn that the three dimensions of my life are small by silly by insignificant. Living where nothing ever happens, where the same issues have dominated the local existence for 150 years and will keep dominating it for as far as anyone can imagine there might be a future.

Yeah, go live where a vast silent emptiness dwells in the air. It takes away your illusions.

We have two kinds of people here who make a lot of noise that breaks the silence.

One is a cabal of right-wingers whose goal in life is to be right—not just right-wing but right as in correct—and to make sure they prove it by taking over all the boards and dominating the elections so that nothing ever happens. They win. They never do anything other than win. They don’t contribute. They don’t make anything better for anyone. They just sit around being right and being angry about being right. They need the anger to keep their edge so they can be right at a moment’s notice. They have lots of guns that they open carry, they love talking about the Constitution like they have the slightest clue what it is, and they make sure American flags always line the three blocks of Main Street so they can remember that they’re free—lest they forget, which I wish they would.

The other kind of people who make all the noise are the Christian fundamentalists who fill the churches every Sunday. They’re right, too. The also never do anything for anybody, never make anything better, they’re just right, and they have lots of meetings where they remind themselves how right they are. Like the right-wing cabal, these people also hold tight to all the ridiculous fantasies of stupid, small thinkers. The cabal knows about guns and the Constitution. The church-goers know the most important thing there is to know in life, which is where you “go” when you die. (Like you “go” anywhere.) It’s impolite and rude and totally wrong for me to talk about how small and silly and stupid the stuff they believe is, but I get to do that because I was one of them, too, for years of my own life in which I traded thinking for delusion.

Those two groups mostly overlap in membership. Both tell you to have a “blessed day.” And both feed the beast, too—although their beast wants more than protein and carbs and veggies and fruit.

Then there are a bunch of other less noisy people who might be okay to know and maybe you could have a conversation with them and don’t have to avoid eye contact when they wish you a blessed day, but never mind because they’re either young and busy trying to make a life here or they’re old and busy with the grandkids and taking trips to avoid the weather.

Which leaves the rest of us—the empty ones, living empty lives in an empty land. And the lesson for us to learn is that’s the way it is for everything biological, which includes us. We go from empty to empty in the span of one lifetime—each of us so minutely insignificant it can’t be registered. There’s no metric small enough to measure the empty span of any biological life, human or otherwise.

The wind blows, then moves on.

We’re gone, and we don’t “go” anywhere when we leave.

The Earth endures, goes from fireball to teeming to flameout. The span takes billions of years, which seems impressive, but the Earth’s span is lost in the span of a universe of immeasurable eons and incomprehensible distances, so anything you can say about us and our Earth is just flat out embarrassing, it’s so small.

Mostly empty.

Entirely empty.

Let’s just say “empty” and leave it there.

That’s what I’ve learned from this empty land and its vain people. Vanity is another kind of emptiness—humans and this land are a perfect match.

Nobody knows about my 90 minutes of kicking it. Nobody’s studying it, recording it, featuring it. Nobody’s impressed by it, learning anything from it. It’s just me, doing the reps. My workout routine doesn’t seek anything, know anything. It won’t “go” anywhere when I’m gone. Neither will I. I don’t tell people about it. Why would they care? I care, that’s why I do it, but does it matter on any scale?

No it doesn’t matter, not on any scale. There’s no scale small enough to measure it. It’s just my life, condensed into 90 minutes that doesn’t matter to anyone but me and even then has no meaning or purpose, doesn’t contribute anything. It just is, and then it won’t be anymore.

90 minutes of eternity.

Immeasurable.

Empty.

That’s what I’ve learned from moving to the country.

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