Sore muscles, clear mind

Published 9:37 pm Tuesday, March 16, 2010

It was a beautiful, breezy Saturday.

A perfect day to work in the yard at Compass Lake. The next day I could hardly sit on the organ bench at church. Two days later, every one of the 639 muscles in my body still ache. Actually, they hurt.

My son-in-law, Grant, gets full credit for my condition. He offered to bring down some of his landscape crew to clean up the lake. Knowing a great offer when I hear one, we met early on this past Saturday morning. I was already burning part of the pile left from the past two years when they arrived since we last had a serious workday ahead of us.

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They are all lean and young. Work doesn’t seem to bother them at all. Not wanting to just supervise, I was ready to participate in the heavy-duty cleanup. I didn’t even know the names of all the power tools they brought with them, much less have a clue on how to operate them. However, I did know how to operate the pitchfork to keep the fire burning.

In fact, it was Compass Lake where I first developed my love of fire. Roasting marshmallows and cooking hot dogs on the beach were part of my earliest memories of the lake. As I got older, we would invite friends from around the lake to cook the franks. I was always in charge of building the fire.

Later, we began shooting fireworks from the dock on holidays. From the beginning, I was the organizer of the pyrotechnics displays. From bottle rockets to cherry bombs, I love lighting the fuse and watching the explosions.

Later, I loved to burn the leaves in the yard. Raking them up was a chore, but burning them was fun. Watching the smoke curl and the flames overtake the mounds of leaves would stoke my imagination and I was soon lost in thought.

However, it was no longer a lean and young guy manning the fire Saturday. The two trees that were hit by lightning last year provided much more fuel than the leaves from last fall. I pushed and pulled those logs all day long until all that was left was a mound of ashes and sore muscles.

Actually, I only pulled all day. Muscles cannot push, they can only pull. They make up 40 percent of a typical person’s body weight. I suppose that could be why I weigh more than I did 10 years ago, but I doubt it.

The only two things muscles need are oxygen and food. That could be why the strongest muscle in your body is in your jaw. It is the muscle used for chewing, an activity you maintain even as you cease to exercise other muscles in your body as you age. I suspect my jaw muscles are as strong as they have ever been.

Our hands alone contain more than 20 muscles. Playing the piano helps keep my hands limber as I age. However, gripping a pitchfork all day works out other muscles in the hand that haven’t been used in a while. Holding a glass of water has become a new challenge this week.

It takes 17 muscles in your face to smile, but 43 muscles to make a frown. It is no accident that we have such a huge range of facial expressions with more than 50 muscles in our face alone. It has been proven that laughter lowers the level of stress hormones and improves our immune system.

Children laugh an average of 300 times per day. Adults only laugh 15 to 100 times per day. At least grandchildren help us get that number back up as we age.

Our largest muscle is the gluteus maximus in our buttocks. This muscle is definitely larger in some people than others. The smallest muscle in our body is the stapedius, which is located deep in our ear. It is thinner than a cotton thread.

The fastest muscles in our body are those involving the eye, which allows us to blink five times per second. For some unknown reason, women blink twice as often as men. In just one hour of reading, these muscles will make more than 10,000 coordinated movements.

The real workhorse is the heart muscle. It pumps 2 ounces of blood every time it beats, or more than 2,500 gallons per day. The heart has the ability to beat more than 3 billion times in a person’s lifetime.

Just taking a single step involves more than 200 muscles. Considering that we take an average of 10,000 steps per day that is a pretty good workout.

All day long I tended the fire, allowing my mind to just wander here and there into that area of my brain that stores what my children call “useless trivia.” It can drive them crazy. For instance, did you know that a snail can sleep for three years?

With that, I think I’ll go take a nap and give these sore muscles a break.