Monday, August 10, 2009

Silat Sera in the Sun and Sand

At the campground

Break for a breather

Early and not tired yet

Stretching in the sand

Water break in the shade

The view from the flat

Got home last evening from a silat seminar up near Mount St. Helens. For those of you who vaguely recognize the name, St. Helens is an active volcano up here that, after steaming and spitting up ice chunks, let go with a blast in 1980 that pulverized the top of the mountain and spewed it into the atmosphere, sent a pyroclastic flow down the valley, killed fifty-seven people with that and the stone wind, and turned hundreds of square miles of beautiful timberland into a desolate wasteland. Trees, houses, rivers, lakes, blasted, flattened, and buried in minutes.

We watched the first eruption -- there were others -- from the parking lot at Trojan, a thing that has amused me to tell of it since. There we were, my family and I, parked in the lot of an operating nuclear power plant, watching a volcano erupt across the river ...

Nearly thirty years later, much of the area has come back, but the ash is still very deep in spots, and when we say "ash" here, we aren't taking about the stuff in your barbeque pit after you grill, but something that is much more like fine sand.

A small group of us, fifteen or so -- and five dogs -- met at a campground near a park on the Toutle River. Most of us got there Friday evening, set up tents or parked our campers. Drank some beer, visited. Big Jason brought some twenty-year-old bourbon you wouldn't believe how good it was. Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve. Smooth as silk. I just tasted it, didn't really drink any ...)

A few other students showed up Saturday early, whereupon we drank coffee, then headed for the workout area.

It was a bit of a hike to get to the site, slogging through sand the whole way, and I was warmed up nicely by the time we made it.

Saturday was cloudy and cool, perfect for working out, and the flats above the bank of the river, a lovely spot. The sand pretty much covered everything from the water to the trees, and made moving around hard. This stuff is almost like aquarium sand -- it doesn't pack at all when dry, you just keep sinking, and there are rocks and sticks buried under it.

The bees, mostly hornets, actually, were bad, but only one guy got stung, on the leg. He dabbed the wound with some cortisone cream and went on, no trouble.

Even with the cloud cover, most of us got too much sun. You tend to forget that you can cook on an overcast day. Sunday, old sol decided to peek out mid-morning, and it is amazing how fast the sand can heat up to foot-burning temperature. Six inches down, it is cool, so you walk and burrow your feet as you move ...

Sunday, we sprayed ourselves with Coppertone Sport, donned hats. Some of us were clever enough to leave our shirts on, and we trained until mid-afternoon, with breaks for lunch. Did legwork, groundwork, djurus, played with empty-hand combinations, and danced with knives. If lurching around in the calf-deep sand can be called dancing ...

At the end of the first session, somebody asked Big Jason how he felt. Like I've been beaten with meat hammers, he said. It was not a session aimed at the couch-potato crowd.

Saturday night, most of the crew went to Rodney's dad's place, not far away, and barbecued a big salmon, drank beer, and watched a MMA championship fight on the big-screen pay-per-view. (This was apparently so exciting that Irene fell asleep watching it.) Since I had Dianne and the dogs with me, I passed on that, had a quiet evening in the camper, and only once had to jump out of my chair with a leg cramp.

I slept like I'd been hit in the head with a big rock.

The Sunday session was cut a couple hours short -- the sun hammered us pretty good as it burned off the cloud cover, and a couple of people had to be made to go sit in the shade because they were swaying dangerously.

"You okay?"

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine."

"How many fingers am I holding up?"

"Um ... ? Twelve ... ?"

"You aren't fine, you are on the edge of heat-stroke and graying out. Go sit, drink water, pour some over your head."

"Oh. Okay, then."

But nobody passed out, broke anything, tossed their cookies, nor fell and couldn't get up. It wasn't Las Vegas, but a great time was had by all.

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