1. Day 8: Vegetation

    Gonna go for a 40-odd minute run, as prescribed for Wednesday of the second week of the army fitness challenge.

    I’ll keep an eye out for this “strange orchid” along one of my favorite bush tracks. (Photo is from ‘Seasons in the Forest’ by Enting and Dawson.)

    I’m not sure if my scheduled break from abstinence on Monday was a good idea. Sure I enjoyed it but I felt rough yesterday despite only having one beer.

    Also I had an unexpectedly strong desire to consume cannabis. It was successfully resisted but it was like my body figured normal service was resumed and yowled for the drug like a kitten demanding milk.

    Weirdly I feel strong despite wooziness, brought on perhaps by an infected thumb and antibiotics I’ve been taking.

    The course is done but digit is not fixed unfortunately. However the whole process killed my appetite and I feel very light.

    I did a half marathon for the first time a couple of weeks ago which I found difficult but was kinda surprised to discover actually requires very little food input. I think I had two bananas, a strong coffee and a couple of energy bars and didn’t feel underpowered.

    It’s not like I’ve lost a lot of weight either so it appears you can exercise reasonably strenuously and maintain mass without stuffing your face.

    It’s made me look at food differently, specifically the amount I thought was required. Also the feeling of fullness I always associated with a satisfying meal is now somewhat uncomfortable.

    If I try to eat amounts similar to my previous intake I feel overstuffed, like my stomach has shrunk.

    An animist would probably feel food, particularly meat, has or had a particularly lively spirit.

    I’m trying to be more conscious of what I put in my mouth, eat slower and chew more, rather than just bite twice and swallow.

    I figure if something had to die so I could consume it, at the very least I should taste it properly and only eat when I’m hungry and not just because I’m bored.

    Maybe I can eat things I find in the forest. It’s probably not legal but I bet a kereru (huge native pigeon) is pretty tasty.

    Apparently they’re central to the survival of the bush, playing a key role in seed dispersal.

  2. Day 4: Sweet smoke

    Woke up today wanting to do dope.

    So far I have resisted but it is on my mind. This is the sixth edition of GUDFL and the feeling is familiar - calmness bordering on boredom.

    My lungs feel amazing, there is no tickle at the back of my throat, and definitely none of the worrying pain I used to get when I inhaled combusted plant matter.

    Even vaporizing, which I switched to about four years ago, can be a little uncomfortable.

    I usually mitigate the heat by holding an ice cube in my mouth but even so my airways feel constricted after a couple of puffs.

    Counterintuitively this may have actually improved my lung function.

    For a recent role I was comprehensively looked over by a doctor and my lung capacity, or forced vital capacity, is a huge 7.89 liters. This is 140% of that predicted. Like wtf.

    Anyway, I’m off to do a variety of army-style ups, squats and arches.

    Enjoy your Saturday fellow office drones.

    Btw in the course of my brief research into the relationship between lung function and cannabis use I came across this site:

    That page includes the following nonsensical sentence: “Cannabis is the most commonly-used drug in New Zealand – 14 percent of people use it regularly.”

    Dear Pothelp, incontrovertibly cannabis use has negative health consequences both mental and physical.

    But engaging in the kind of doublespeak which attempts to pretend alcohol, nicotine or even caffeine aren’t drugs instantly alienates you from your intended audience.

    If you really want to help people you’ve got to go in hard against prohibition, otherwise you’re just pissing taxpayer money into the wind.

  3. Day 3: Dream spirit

    Dreams pose a bit of a problem for atheist types I imagine.

    Typically they are so loaded with emotion and powerful imagery they demand an otherworldly explanation.

    Can they really be merely the brain’s way of sorting thru life events?

    Or are they as they seem, a portal to another dimension where the normal rules of physics and chemistry do not apply?

    Again, users of psychedelics would probably have little problem making the logical leap to the latter conclusion.

    Sometimes trips feel like waking dreams, full of fantastic characters. Special powers are often bestowed upon the dreamer.

    Regular users of cannabis are also likely familiar with the phenomena of particularly intense dreams after several days without imbibing.

    This happened to me this morning, altho like a trip can be bad, so this was more of a nightmare.

    I can’t really recall the exact sequence of events, which is probably just as well, but I know I was s’posed to be looking after a child however possibly due to inattention or incompetence on my part I lost it, I think to a gang who wished to abuse the youngster.

    The last articles I worked on last night in my job for a large media conglomerate were both concerned with nasty episodes of child murder and human trafficking :(

    I woke myself up, perhaps in an effort to put a stop to the badness, but the feeling of failure lingered.

    I lay there in the half light wondering what it meant and somewhat reluctantly drifted off again.

    However in part II there was some kind of resolution, I think maybe the child was found and I was absolved. I was flooded with a feeling of relief.

    Friday on week one of the army six-week fitness challenge I have accepted (see previous post) is to run at a comfortable pace for 20 minutes.

    I’ve actually been running a bit recently so decided to take a jog down to the lighthouse and back, which took me just over an hour.

    It felt good, which I ascribe in part to the lack of alcohol consumed recently.

    For the past few months I’ve been averaging maybe two or three standard drinks a week, which is not much obviously.

    Not drinking has a negative effect on one’s social life, in my experience, as I’m definitely a lot less fun, however the upside is training is a lot more comfortable, especially over longer distances.

    I made an attempt to sense the wind and rocky road more as I strode, but they just seemed normal and not imbued with any more spirit than previously.

    Birds however I seem to be more in tune with. I notice them more and they seem to notice me.

    When I run into the wind I stretch my arms out to feel the lift of the rushing air, and imagine what it would be like to bound off a cliff and fly.

  4. Day 21: Common sense economics from the Economist

    "A whiff of change is in the air. Officials in two American states, Colorado and Washington, are pondering how to implement their voters’ decisions in referendums last November to legalise marijuana (cannabis). A dozen countries in Europe and the Americas have deemed the possession of some drugs no longer to be a criminal offence. A few Latin American presidents want a rethink of the “war” on the supply and trafficking of drugs."

    Which is of course good news. If the United Nations conventions on drugs which member countries have signed comes under sustained attack, things could change quickly.

    Especially as there is no evidence to support the current models of recreational drug classification, just years of knee-jerk policy formulation.

    Few advocate the prohibition of the widely used drug alcohol, so it follows the use of drugs that are associated with less harm than alcohol should not be prohibited.

    Cannabis and MDMA are the two obvious candidates for reclassification as the use of both is associated with far less harm than the use of alcohol.

    Reclassification would prevent the current distortions in the market which incentivize the involvement of organized, and disorganized, crime.

    Additionally it would make for a much groovier scene.

    To contribute to the cultural change required to effect the necessary legislative update, I take great satisfaction in removing the inaccurate phrase “alcohol and drugs” from articles I edit at work, either changing it to “alcohol and other drugs” or removing “alcohol and” leaving the conveniently short umbrella term “drugs”.

    I wish I could have got hold of the article on the front page of yesterday’s Dominion-Post, Wellington’s daily, about a local festival.

    Entitled “200 trashed teens treated”, the intro stated, nonsensically: “Dozens of drunk young festivalgoers - some of who had also taken drugs - disgraced themselves before they’d even had a chance to listen to their favourite bands at Homegrown.”

    If the phrase “alcohol and drugs” were added to the banned list in the style guide I would be delirious :)

    Speaking of which I feel a bit shit today as I’ve caught the cold going round.

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence I always get sick during my Lenten abstinence observance as cannabis consumption has been associated with improvements in immunity from infection.

    I’ve so far resisted the urge to break my fast however, partly because my lungs feel really good right now and I’d prefer not to assault them with irritants.

    Yesterday I went for a pleasant swim in Days Bay but was slightly perturbed to sight two massive dorsal fins in the water shortly after I made it to land.

    They belonged to two orcas which were gamboling in the waves very close to shore.

    The harbor is clearly currently very popular with marine mammals, this from last week:

  5. Day 24 - Gas exchange

    In which a migrant laborer gives up drugs for Lent, attempts to swim to an island, and gives Buddhism the once-over.

    Like many smokers of drugs, my lungs are much used and possibly abused.

    Combustion and deliberate inhalation of plant material or chemicals is a particularly fast and effective way to get a psychoactive substance into one’s body but the negative effects are often instant and obvious. 

    Coughing and pain were my two main ones when consuming cannabis, altho whenever I was racked by a particularly vicious spasm I would think of Bridget Fonda as Melanie in Tarantino's 'Jackie Brown' who opined thus:

    "Coughing’s good! It opens up the capillaries. You know, when you cough you’re pulling in air, or in this case smoke, into parts of the lungs that don’t normally get used. So coughing’s good, it gets you higher."

    Not sure of her science however after the convulsions subsided I would usually be high so I always associated coughing with something positive.

    That is until my throat started to feel like it was closing up and I would on occasion lie in bed wheezing like an old man.

    Like my old man for example, who smoked cigarettes and then a (tobacco) pipe for a couple of decades.

    Since switching to a vaporizer however things in the cardio department improved dramatically.

    For those not familiar with the process the cannabis is not burned but heated up and one only ingests active ingredients as opposed to all the other pollutants created when you set fire to something.

    Perhaps counter-intuitively I would enjoy exercise after a hit, altho ideally after a good half hour warming up with a few inexpertly executed yoga poses.

    The first time I tried my vaporizer I got so excited while listening to Rihanna's 'Only Girl In The World' on my ear phones I blasted faster than I had for years along a conveniently downward-sloping stretchin a local park.

    Inhaling anything apart from oxygen is probably detrimental to athletic performance but after ceasing the daily toking on a short pipe I felt like I got my lungs back, and maybe the buzz of the pumping pop spurred me to exert myself more than previously.

    Consumption of cannabis also seems to combine well with sea swimming, altho obviously without musical accompaniment.

    Instead I jam my ears with waxy plugs designed to keep the water out and try to feel the water.

    There are three main variables - temperature, chop and swell.

    According to the Greater Wellington Regional Council it’s probably around 17 degrees Celsius out there altho in my experience it varies a lot depending on how fine the day has been.

    I do wear a wet suit and cap but it still feels cold when I first get in, for the first few seconds anyway.

    I’ve not got the post-swim shivers too bad this season but would really like to avoid hypothermia, especially as one of the first symptoms is confusion.

    Take a few slaps to the face and you could easily drown, aka “the New Zealand death”.

    It doesn’t matter how fit you are if your lungs are full of seawater and I’ve only recently worked out how to adjust my stroke to the conditions.

    A few times I’ve been fully pounded and unable to continue more than a few minutes.

    However then I just turn around and came back, which is a lot like going downhill when on land.

    Suddenly all the sea’s kinetic energy is on your side and with the buoyancy of a suit it’s like you’re paddling a craft.

    It’s an awesome feeling especially if the sun is shining and you’re being followed by curious gulls.

    I really feel like I belong; I like to imagine I’m a sea creature chasing seals for sport.

    However I have experienced paranoia about what else I may be sharing the sea with.

    I’ve seen dolphins on numerous occasions but not in the relatively shallow waters between Eastbourne and Makaro / Ward Island, and never orca or sharks altho both are known to inhabit these waters.

    If I spotted any kind of fin, round or pointed, I would probably shit my suit tho of course I understand I’m more likely to be struck by lightning than be bitten by a fish.

    Despite that sharks are on my mind and also on the minds of others.

    I met some guy down the beach who pretended he’d seen one, tho only as a joke, and again when I was in Lake Wanaka a comment about sharks was the opening remark of another bloke passing on a surf ski.

    Several other people I know who swim are scared they might encounter one.

    So why are they on minds so much?

    Presumably they represent something beyond their real world threat.

    If the sea is the subconscious, then what are sharks?

    A reminder of mortality perhaps.

    We know they’re a predator that’s bigger and better than us in their territory.

    No gasping and blowing bubbles for them - sharks have mastered the trick of extracting oxygen from seawater as it passes over their gills.

    If I could do that too I would wiggle thru the ocean like the Man From Atlantis rather than thrashing about on the surface in my comparatively ungainly manner.

    That said I have increased my range, having completed a couple of two kilometer plus sea swims recently.

    So I could probably make to the island I gaze at from the shore, I just have to make sure I can get back.

    Painting by Michael Smither

  6. Day 6: Meds

    In which a migrant laborer gives up drugs for Lent, attempts to swim to an island and gives Buddhism the once-over.

    Got back from Queenstown in the Otago region of New Zealand's south island this morning and am still reeling from the spectacular beauty of it all.

    Unfortunately I’m also reeling from some bug so have treated myself with paracetamol, ibuprofen and cannabinoids.

    I find if I’m sick consuming marijuana doesn’t get me particularly high but it does ease the symptoms. 

    Probably exacerbating my condition were dips in the picturesque but chilly lakes Hawea (below) and Wanaka.

    Pretty cold

    Probably coincidentally my dad also broke his Lenten fast by having a glass of wine with dinner.

    I’m still off the booze and still plan to use cannabis for medicinal purposes only till the end of Lent

    This Thursday I’ve scheduled some meditation - check back at a later date for a report on what will hopefully be my altered state and another mix.


  7. Day 1: Single step

    In which a migrant laborer gives up drugs for Lent, attempts to swim to an island and gives a religion the once-over. This year Buddhism!

    Why Buddhism? Well partly because I’ve done Christianity, Islam and atheism so it’s Buddhism's turn, but also it seems in these straightened times a religion that's not about having it all is quite refreshing.

    Wikipedia tells me Buddhists should not consume any quantity of intoxicants which would “prevent mindfulness or cause heedlessness” so that’s most of the fun stuff out however as there’s no higher being to appease you could get on it discreetly and no-one need ever know ;)

    I’m not a particularly accomplished drinker so giving up the drug alcohol for Lent (or Buddhist equivalent) is unlikely to fuck with my program.

    However I do consume cannabis most days, and products containing caffeine pretty much every day.

    I did quit coffee for Lent once but don’t recommend it if you’ve a lifestyle or employment duties which requires you to operate without necessarily getting your eight hours beauty sleep every night.

    Caffeine is also notably useful if you’ve a physical training goal which involves aerobic exercise such as swimming.

    As giving up drugs for the 46 days of Lent is actually not that hard I also plan to paddle my way to an island.

    Specifically Makaro Ward Island (below), which is in the harbor of Wellington, New Zealand

    It’s only about 1500 meters off shore however conditions are variable and the sea is often rough.

    Eastbourne is pretty

    Other topics on the agenda till April 7 are birds native to this country, crime and music.

    Below is a link to a downloadable mix, tracklist as follows: Grimes Genesis’, Delilah Go’, Die Antwoord ‘I Fink U Freeky’, Redlight Get Out of My Head’, Burial Ashtray Wasp’, Guetta & MinajTurn Me On’, Väth vs RotherKomm' (Gregor Tresher remix), Avicii & LewisCollide’, AviciiLevels' (Skrillex remix), EnchanteReggay

    It was recorded on an iPad using the Djay app, altho I don’t yet have split output phones and I’m self-taught as of about three months ago so it’s a bit sloppy but should sound good if you put it on loud.