1. Day 40 - Rockin’ robins

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

    Buddhism - tick.

    Swum to the island - tick.

    Giving up drugs - well, mostly ticked altho since March 22 I have drunk liters of coffee, consumed cannabis for a few days when ill, and imbibed a glass of champagne.

    Plus there’s still six days to go, but as we’re pretty much there I’d call GUDFL 2012 a success.

    In terms of subject matter for this here blog, there’s been plenty of miscellaneous music, druggy banter, and crime I plan to cover later this week.

    As for birds of New Zealand, I got up close to a number of endangered native robins this morning.

    I’m on the mailing list for the Mainland Island Restoration Operation (MIRO), who work in partnership with Greater Wellington Regional Council in East Harbour Regional Park.

    They called for volunteers to take 40 North Island robins by helicopter from Kapiti Island, a large protected area off the west coast, and release them in the park behind my current location and home town of Eastbourne with the aim of establishing a sustainable population.

    Yes I know we’re all a bunch of tree huggers but in my opinion native flora and fauna is something to be encouraged and it’s nice to get involved.

    Take off was delayed due to fog, which is very unusual in the Wellington region, but eventually we heard the chopper as it headed toward the beach, and then a couple of four wheel drives pulled up with a bunch of cat boxes in the back.

    After a lengthy prayer from a kaumātua (Maori elder) and a brief briefing from the MIRO dude we were assigned a box, each with a single bird inside.

    I was fearful mine would be dead or maimed after its unsettling journey but it fluttered and chirped like a little gremlin all the way up the hill until it was time to ready to fly.

    Money shot below.

    New Zealand robin release - Butterfly Creek - April 1

    It felt a little bit special actually and I’m hoping next time I go up there my bird will come and land on my finger like I’m Snow White.

    Overall I feel pretty virtuous, calm and happy, which isn’t to say the prospect of a ingesting a shedload of intoxicating substances isn’t appealing.

    I will be a very cheap date however. 

  2. Day 39 - Made

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

    Made it to the island!

    Cold tho.

    Now for enlightenment.

  3. 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

  4. 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.


  5. 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.