Farming in June

It’s always a splendid idea to move residences just as farm season ramps up for the summer.  I have done it three times now.  You’d think we’d learn.  Needless to say, it’s been a busy month but we are having all sorts of fun!

This is sort of a photo-dump but here’s what has been going on at the farm in the last week:

 

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We’ve been breeding cows (artificially inseminating) up at Carol’s ranch.  She selects good bulls for sires and hires someone to come AI the cows. The Spring 2014 calf crop is percolating as we speak!

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The weather has been nice, so our broiler chicks have been heading out to pasture at precisely two weeks of age.  They still have their fluffy chick down, but they much prefer being on grass to being in the brooder.  They really forage a lot even at this age.

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We have been happy to see the variety of grass and forb, species that are coming up in the fertilized area behind our broiler pens.  Now that there’s been a bit of rain there is quite the diverse landscape. This is a picture of selfheal (prunella vulgaris) in bloom.

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We are even seeing some wild strawberries (fragaria virginiana) ! They are tinier than the tip of a finger, but they look just as delicious as their domestic counterparts.

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Emmie picked a fight with a tougher dog than herself and ended up with a few war wounds.  She was bedridden for a few days but the first sign of life was her intense desire to go with me to the farm when I’d put on my boots in the morning.  She can’t stand being left on the sidelines while I’m working.  It’s been said of Border Collies that each dog has the energy of a small nuclear reactor.  That’s very much true of this one.  I’m glad she bounced back quickly. I hadn’t realized how attached I’d become to my sidekick til I had to do chores without her.

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We’ve been making hay up at the ranch.  I have been assigned baling duty.  I straight-up love it.   It’s hot, the dust makes me itch and sneeze,  the baler is old, and the fields are rugged.  But the scenery is terrific!  We’re making hay in the foothills of the Coastal range, with covered bridges and vineyards and rivers on every side.  I’d rather be out there making hay on a sunny weekend than doing pretty much anything else in the whole wide world.

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Carol and James first cut the grass down with a swather.  The swather incorporates a conditioner (or crimper) which crunches the grass a little bit to make it dry faster.

Then they come along with a “tedder”, which has tines that fluff up the hay and accelerate the drying process.  Getting the hay to dry quickly is important in the Willamette Valley where mornings have lots of dew and it could rain at any moment.

The next step is raking the hay into windrows.  This puts the grass in nice, straight lines so that the baler can pick it up.  Raking also helps with drying, as it turns the grass and fluffs it up to get more airflow.

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We check the grass by hand and with a moisture meter and when it’s dry enough, we fire up the baler and I get to work.

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James comes along behind me with the bale wagon and scoops up the bales.  When he gets a full stack, he drives up to the barn and and deposits them for the winter.  

And with that, I’m off to go bale some more hay.  We are expecting rain in the early part of the week, so we’re getting it up as fast as possible.

 

 

 

 

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Back to the Pool

Me circa 1994 at the Tall Timber League finals meet in Junction City.

Me circa 1994 at the Tall Timber League finals meet in Junction City, representing the Toledo Swim Club.  Check out those sweet rainbow goggles!

In such times as these, I’m glad my parents signed me up for swim team as a little squirt.  I spent a good ten years swimming laps between the ages of 7 and 17.  It was my first sport and my first love.

Since joining the running camp, I’ve sort of given up swimming for the past few years.  However, now that my foot hurts every time I lace up my running shoes, I’ve been motivated to jump back in the pool.  Fortunately the Philomath pool is less than a mile from my house so I can easily bike there.  So I have been getting up early for their twice-weekly 6 a.m. lap swim times and putting in a few thousand yards before heading back to do chores at the farm.

The funny thing about swimming laps at the Philomath pool is that I used to race at meets there as a kid.  Our summer league competed there and my high school swim team as well. Back then, the pool bottom was painted nasty yellow and the facility was windowless, ugly space.  We always dreaded meets at Philomath.  They have installed a lot more windows in the last 10 years, thank goodness.

While I’m in marathon shape, I am definitely out of swimming condition.  It’s such good exercise though, and a good reminder why I had such strong arms and shoulders in high school.  I hope to keep swimming even once my doctor clears me to run again.  Hey, maybe I’ll do another triathlon if I ever get the time!

 

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Kids These Days

This week, Keith and I learned that if you move your hand in a circular motion, kids don’t know that you are asking them to roll down the window.

We are officially desiccated, old human beings.

In other news, someone thought Keith was my dad yesterday.  Maybe just one of us is getting old.

 

 

 

 

 

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We Bought a House!

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Keith and I are still pinching ourselves to see if we’ll wake up from this dream.  But it seems it’s real and a bank has really agreed to loan us a shit-ton of money to buy a beautiful 1905 farmhouse, so I guess we’re really grown-ups now.  Or something.

Today was the first day I put my key in the lock and pushed the front door open.  I got a little tingle of delight.  Doors open differently when they belong to you, did you know that?

This is the part where all you experienced home-owners are going to step in and tell me I’m going to be getting a different kind of tingle when I realize the roof needs to be replaced.   Just shush your mouths and let me wander around my gardens  and gaze in rapture at my wisteria for a while before you make me be practical.   Plus, the roof is new.  And so is the plumbing and the electrical.  So there.

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The house is so cool, you guys!  I just can’t wait to have summer bbq’s and invite you all over!  It’s a 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath farmhouse built in 1905.  At one time, I assume it was the farmhouse for a large tract of farm land.  But now that land has been built up into neighborhoods in Philomath and the house is just on a residential street.  So, no we don’t have any acreage.  But we keep savin’ our pennies and one day soon we will have some land of our very own!  In the meantime, we will happily live in this farmhouse, with its original apple trees and walnut trees in the backyard, and imagine the fields that once surrounded it.  There are so many great things about this house and it was kept in excellent condition.  The original fir floors are still intact all throughout the downstairs and there’s new carpet in the upstairs rooms.  The ceilings are original beadboard – one of my absolute favorite features.  The kitchen island is lovely original hardwood.  We have a clawfoot tub in the main bathroom.  The whole freaking house is straight off a Pinterest dream home board!

And then the yards are just full of every type of flower and plant imaginable – clematis vines (Keith got confused and called them Chlamydia and now I keep getting confused too) winding up the porch posts, wisteria trailing over the backyard patio pergola, peonies, roses, lilacs, figs, pears, apples, walnuts, bleeding heart, lavender, grapes, artichokes, asparagus, raised beds for vegetables, you name it.  I had to write it all down because I started losing track after about 20 non-stop minutes of Beverly naming plants for me and telling me how to take care of them.   It’s been well-landscaped, so it shouldn’t be too hard to keep it looking nice, even for me.  I’m much better at taking care of animals than plants, but I’ll try my best.

I’ll have more pictures of the actual inside of the house soon.  Right now, my life looks like this:

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It’s not crazy or anything to try to move house just as farm season is picking up momentum for the summer.  Totally sane.  Butcher a few chickens, pack a few boxes.  Take time to stop and smell the chlamydia flowers.   It’s all good.

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Eugene Marathon – Race Recap

I’m a marathoner!  It’s still kind of hard to believe that I actually did it.

I followed a long, intense training plan for this race with my friends from the HOTV running group.  It was based on a marathon training plan by Coach Jack Daniels and it runs for 20 weeks with mileage up to 65 miles per week.  Suffice it to say, I heavily modified the plan because I’m lazy and I also just did not have the running base to begin throwing down that kind of mileage every week.  My main goals were:  Run the race as fast as I can and not get injured in the meantime. 

In retrospect I’m glad I was conservative.  Many of my friends ended up injured during training for various reasons and we all got a little burnt out from training so hard for 20 weeks straight.   I ran all the long Saturday runs (many at marathon pace or tempo pace) and most of the Tuesday track workouts and then filled it in with a few miles a couple times a week for a total of about 40 miles/week.   Not a lot, but apparently it was enough to get me there.

Marathon morning came early.  I was up at 3:45 after sleeping soundly all night.  Strangely, I didn’t feel anxious or overly nervous.  I calmly dressed and fixed my hair and made myself some coffee.   Then I grabbed my carefully packed bag and drove to my friend Lisa’s house.  At 4:45, Sourabh picked us up in his minivan and we made the rounds through Corvallis, collecting our other running friends.  On the way to Eugene, I ate a Clif Bar and a banana and helped Janine sharpie names onto her right arm for her marathon ritual of running a mile for each of her friends.

We arrived in Eugene as the sun came up and passed a downtown hotel with a line of yellow school buses parked out front.  They were the shuttles, taking all marathoners to the start line.  The streets were filled with runners making their way to the shuttles.  My stomach suddenly gave a lurch and I put my head in my hands and moaned, “Oh my gosh!  Now it seems real!  I can’t do this…it’s too far!”  Janine and Lisa patted me on the back and reassured me that I could indeed do it.  We circled through the UO campus and came across Gerhard’s secret parking spot.  It was only 100 yards from the starting line and the porta-potties, and no one else was there!

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We all piled out of the van and got busy pinning on our bibs, our black ribbons for Boston, tying our race shoes, and applying liberal amounts of BodyGlide for chafing.  I pinned a couple Gu gels inside my shorts, a trick I recently learned as a convenient way to carry gels without pockets.  Some did a few warm-up strides and we all made a couple trips to the portapotties which had steadily increasing lines which allowed plenty of time for photo ops with Ana Lu.

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Jenna and Lisa came to the bathroom line to let me know the marathon was about to start and I better high-tail it to my corral.  By the time I made it to my corral, it was filling up with runners and I couldn’t find them.  I located Elias and Sourabh, but I felt a little distracted because we had all been planning on starting and running together.  The national anthem was sung and we had a moment of silence for the Boston marathon bombing victims.  It felt good to close my eyes and clasp my hands under my chin and calm my mind for a minute.  Then, the count-down was given and the wave of runners started to move.

The first mile was effortless, as we left the campus and wound through neighborhoods.  I couldn’t stop smiling as we sailed past crowds of spectators waving signs and cheering.  While I knew it was still early, the 7:50 pace felt ponderous.  “Twenty-six miles of this will be no sweat”, I told myself.

Soon, I spied Lisa and Jenna running right behind the 3:25 pacer.  Sourabh, Elias and I caught up to them and we all settled into running together, chatting easily with one another and the friendly Clif Bar Team pacer.

At mile 3, I saw Keith, Jessie and E holding signs and cheering loudly.  To my surprise, my sister Danae and sister-in-law Corina were there too!  Danae was wearing a shirt she’d made that said “Team Rachel – Run, Chicken, Run!” and they had a slew of brightly colored, encouraging (and hilariously sarcastic) homemade signs.  Seeing them made my heart soar – they had gotten up so early and come all this way just for me!

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I saw Scott and Jenni cheering a short while later.  It was so fun to be surprised by familiar faces along the course.  Things were going well and we were running easily.  That smile was still plastered on my face, but my right foot was beginning to hurt.  I have small extra navicular bones on the inside of my feet and they used to hurt when I was an adolescent but haven’t bothered me in years.  My shoes seem to have been rubbing them the last few weeks though, and the pressure on the bone was starting to cause my right navicular to be painful as I ran.

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I knew it was likely to bother me, but I also knew I could run through it.  So from mile 5 onward, the pain developed but I kept loping along.  The road canted sharply to the right for a while (it felt like we were in a NASCAR race) and I had to run along the center ridge to keep the pressure off my foot.   We were easily staying up with the 3:25 pacer though.  At one point, the girl next to me tripped over her own feet and hit the pavement hard.  I yelled and looked back to see if she was okay but we were running so fast she was instantly out of my sight.  The pacer quickly handed his balloon sign to a random runner and told him to keep up the pace while he went to check on her.  For a good two miles, Random Runner paced us and then the pacer suddenly reappeared and took the reins again.  I’m glad he didn’t hand me the sign.  I would have been horrified at that much responsibility!

The miles flew by.  I wasn’t even feeling tired as we passed the halfway mile mark at 1:42:00.  Our pacer was really helpful, giving us reminders to relax our shoulders, let the downhill slopes carry us, reminding us when to eat our gels.  He told stories and kept our minds off the miles.  I was really thankful to be running with a pace group.

Just less than two hours in, while I was somewhere around 15 miles, Keith got an automatic text message saying that I’d finished the race at a world record speed of 1:57:01.   Everyone got a big laugh out of that, especially considering they’d just seen me running a few minutes ago.  They chalked it up to a glitchy computer chip in my bib.

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Keith and my cheering crew kept popping up mile after mile, hollering my name and waving their awesome signs.  I was so happy to see them every time.  Every time I saw them, I needed the encouragement just a little bit more than the time before.

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Keith would run into the race with me briefly and hand me a water bottle and a Gu, and then duck back out.  It wasn’t til mile 17 that I breathlessly told him my right navicular was killing me.  I knew something was seriously wrong with it at that point, but I wasn’t about to slow down to find out.  I just needed to tell someone.

Scott L.  jumped in and ran a mile with me and took some pictures of me looking like a happy goofball.  I was quite impressed that he could run while talking, taking pictures and holding my water bottle.  After he left it took me a while to get back into the zone.  I felt a little lonely and my stomach felt strange from all the Gu and water I’d been consuming.

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I saw my crew again at mile 21 and high-fived all of them.  Keith made me take one last Gu and I tried to refuse it but he insisted so I tucked it in my bra strap where it stayed for the rest of the race.  I felt like I was going to vomit if I ate one more of those things.   Keith shouted that they’d see me at the finish and then I knew I was on my own for the next 5 miles.  That’s when things started to get tough.

Around mile 21.5, I felt myself fatiguing.  The pacer warned us this was normal and said we just had to push through the next couple miles and it would get better as we got closer to our goal.  But his balloons started to bob just a little farther ahead of me with each step.  I fixed my eyes on Sourabh’s shoulder blades, watching them go up and down with each step, trying to zone out and just focus on keeping up with him.  Jenna and Lisa and Elias had dropped behind me out of my line of sight.

Mile 22 suddenly felt very, very difficult.  I had gone from effortlessness to feeling like my legs were made of lead.   I let the pacer get a few more yards ahead of me and I told myself I’d catch him in just a minute.  The man running beside me had his 14-year old daughter pacing him.  She chattered on, “You got this Pops.  You knew this would be hard, but just push through the pain!  Reel that pacer in, Pops!  Just push a little harder and you can BQ!”  She’d been running with him for the past 5 miles, flitting in and off the path, running around fire hydrants, dropping her Gu and dodging runners to pick it up again.  She had been driving me a little crazy, but now that push came to shove, I found myself grateful for her incessant patter.  I ran beside her dad for a while, pretending the encouragement was for me and it really gave me a little extra push to keep my legs moving.

Miles 23 and 24 were awful.  I wanted to die.  I wanted off the course.  The idea of three more miles didn’t seem hopeful – it seemed an impossible distance.  The pacer and his ballons were out of sight around the bend in the path.  I slowed to a walk for just a few steps, feeling defeated.  There was no way I’d make my time goal of 3:25 and I was certain that Goal B of beating 3:35 was shot too.  I didn’t turn around but I just knew the 3:35 pacer’s balloons were right behind me.  I forced my legs to start running again.  It helped to look at my wrist where Keith had written in fine-point Sharpie, “Run fast, have fun. You can do it!” and at my fingernails painted blue and yellow for Boston representing both my qualification time goal and the victims of the bombing.  Each reminder kept my legs moving for just a few more steps.

At mile 25 I began straining to see Hayward Field but I couldn’t figure out where I was in relation to the campus.  At this point I truly felt the race would never, ever end.  I walked another few steps and thought how good it would feel to just lie down on the grass and quit.

But I wouldn’t let myself do it.  I’d trained too hard and this race meant too much to me.  I was going to finish victorious, if it took everything in me!

Then finally, FINALLY we were back on the road leading to the stadium and there were spectators lining the streets.  I felt like I was running SOO SLOW, but I think it was all in my head.  It took every last ounce of energy in my body to run through the gates of Hayward Field and round the corner onto the track. The thought of being done running consumed my mind.  I heard my family shouting my name as I ran those last 200 yards towards the finish line.  And then, unbelievably, the blue line was before me.  I put my hand over my heart for Boston and crossed the finish line at 3:27:16.  I heard my name over the loudspeaker and looked up and saw Lisa right behind me, pictured on the Jumbotron.  I did it!!!!

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Then a volunteer slipped a medal over my head, and someone else handed me a space blanket (which I eagerly grabbed – it seemed really important to me at the time to “look like a real marathoner”).  I got a water bottle and then just stood there spacing out.  I wanted a nap so bad. Water.  Sleep. Water. Sleep.   That was truly all that was going through my head right then.

I stumbled into Janine in the post-race area.  She was wrapped in a space blanket waiting for all of us.  She told me to eat something because I looked pale.  I ate about 6 mandarin oranges and they were the best thing I’d ever eaten.  Then I got a chocolate milk and drank the whole thing in record time.  Then I felt a little sick.  I tried to sit down to untie my shoe where it was rubbing my navicular but my legs wouldn’t cooperate, so I wandered around aimlessly for a while.

As everyone in our group crossed the finish line, we compared war wounds.  Janine was in a lot of pain but putting a brave face on it.  Something had happened to her hip at mile 18 and she’d finished the race in agony.  Some of us had ice packs on knees, some had stomach issues…we were all so tired and sore.  But we’d finished and we had a bunch of personal bests to show for it!  Oh glorious finish line!

I finally made my way out of the restricted area to find Keith, Danae, Corina, Jessie and E waiting for me.   They followed me around while I stretched and sat in an ice bath.  That didn’t last long.   I had had enough misery for one day!

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Keith checked the computer at the results tent and apparently my name was showing up as the winner of the entire marathon on the front page of the Eugene Marathon website.  Friends were already sending me Facebook messages and emails to congratulate me!  I’m not really sure what was going on with the electronic results system, but it was fun to have it work in my favor for a little while.  It’s probably the only time I’ll ever see my name in first place for a large marathon!

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My mom and Mark sent me a bouquet of flowers!

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Then we all went out to eat a post-race brunch at Glenwood Restaurant on Willamette and I tell you, food has never tasted so good.   And then, I went home and took a delicious two and a half hour nap.

My foot still hurts and is quite swollen.  I can only stand to wear flip-flops at this point, but I am confident it will resolve with rest.

I’m still reflecting on that race and what it means to me personally that I was able to run 26.2 miles.

It was simultaneously more fun and more difficult than I ever anticipated.

I feel so blessed to have a body and mind that are strong enough to go the distance.  I truly thank God for that ability every time I run.  It is a huge gift and I am resolved not to take it for granted.

I am endlessly thankful for the many friends and strangers who cheered for me, ran alongside me, sent messages of encouragement to me and otherwise helped me reach my goal.  No exaggeration – I could not have run that race without my community of friends and family.  

And all that?  That is why distance running feels just like life.

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The Morning’s News

 

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The Morning's News

To moralize the state, they drag out a man, 
and bind his hands, and darken his eyes
with a black rag to be free of the light in them,
and tie him to a post, and kill him. 
And I am sickened by complicity in my race.
To kill in hot savagery like a beast
is understandable.  It is forgivable and curable.  
But to kill by design, deliberately, without wrath, 
that is the sullen labor that perfects Hell.
The serpent is gentle, compared to man.
It is man, the inventor of cold violence, 
death as waste, who has made himself lonely
among the creatures, and set himself aside,
so that he cannot work in the sun with hope, 
or sit at peace in the shade of any tree.
The morning's news drives sleep out of the head
at night.  Uselessness and horror hold the eyes
open to the dark. Weary, we lie awake 
in the agony of the old giving birth to the new
without assurance that the new will be better.
I look at my son, whose eyes are like a young god's,
they are so open to the world.
I look at my sloping fields now turning
green with the young grass of April. What must I do
to go free? I think I must put on 
a deathlier knowledge, and prepare to die
rather than eneter into the design of man's hate.
I will purge my mind of the airy claims
of church and state. I will serve the earth
and not pretend my life could better serve.
Another morning comes with its strange cure.
The earth is news.  Though the river floods
and the spring is cold, my heart goes on,
faithful to a mystery in a cloud, 
and the summer's garden continues its descent
through me, toward the ground. 

by Wendell Berry

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Boston

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My heart hurts.  The Boston Marathon tragedy feels really close to home for me.  This is the first year I’ve known anything about the race and I spent the early hours of Monday morning eagerly watching the live feed from Boston as the elite runners ran their hearts out. I was cheering for Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan, both Portland-based runners who I admire greatly.  But I was also cheering for Yolanda Caballero from Colombia who lost her husband in January to an mis-diagnosed stroke.  I was cheering for all those athletes,  both elite and community runners who each had their individual reasons for pushing their bodies to the limit for 26.2 miles.  I was imagining how it must feel to be that brave, because my own race is just a few days away.  And I was thinking again about my own personal reasons for running a marathon, which I think must be just a variation on everyone’s reasons, so succinctly stated by Ezra Klein on the Washington Post blog:

It’s just a quiet, solitary triumph over the idea that she couldn’t do it

As a nation, our hearts are all broken by this tragedy.  I don’t know if it affects runners more or differently, but for the first time I do know a lot of people who ran Boston this year and a lot more who hope to go next year.

I admit to feeling fear in my heart at the idea of friends with small children cheering for me at the Eugene Marathon finish line, sick at the idea that I’d feel responsible if something happened to them.

I feel so angry that anyone would bomb endurance athletes.

I feel a little terrified at the idea of anyone running 26 miles and being stopped mere feet from the finish line and having to summon the strength to run a few more miles to safety.  Isn’t a marathon hard enough?  Must they prove their endurance again?

I keep asking God, “why?”  I don’t expect an answer because I already know it.  Evil exist in this world, plain and simple.  But I do keep crying out His name, “Emmanuel” as I lace up my shoes and run.  God be with us.  We need you here in the middle of all this darkness.  God, be with me.  I’m afraid.  God, be with them.  This darkness threatens to overtake us all and we need you.

I don’t really know what to pray most of the time, so I run and I let the tears fall.

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