Monthly Archives: March 2012

The In-Between

I’m in the middle of packing and shipping some things, discarding other things, and mentally preparing myself to leave many things behind. Not surprisingly I suppose, in the middle of trying to do all this I got sick with a weird left-side-only ear/throat infection. It may have a physical cause (last Saturday I went hiking in a cold wind with periodic hard rain showers and I do recall having rain driven into my left ear), or it may be entirely due to the psychological stress of leaving this place and this part of my life behind me.

My physical surroundings are in total disarray. Yesterday I took 200 pounds worth of “stuff” to UPS and shipped it home. I’ve done a dump run, and this afternoon I’ll do a Goodwill run. Then I’ll have to figure out how to fit the artwork, electronic gadgets, and things needed en route into my car. My cats, that stuff, and I will hit the road within the next few days, leaving an unsold, mostly furnished condo behind. I’ll probably do another price reduction soon, and then cross my fingers that someone will want it furnished so I won’t have to come back later to dispose of the rest of the stuff. When I go, I want to be gone for good.

As far back as I can remember, leaving a place has been a gut-wrenching experience for me. Even leaving a place that I don’t want to be can be difficult. My choice to do a dissertation about the experience of being in a place was not an idle one; this was something deep that I really needed to understand about myself. Why do I get so attached to places? Why is it so hard for me to go? Why is it that, once I have left, I can hardly bear ever to return?

Once about ten years ago I had the opportunity to move back into a house that I’d loved very much but had had to leave about five years earlier. As much as I had loved that house and that town, I could not go back there. Partly that was because I didn’t want to be the person who’d lived there then, but mostly it was because leaving there had broken my heart and I didn’t want to risk having to go through it all again the next time. It was a house perched a mile high on the edge of a mountain range, overlooking a large portion of southern California. I looked down on millions of people, houses, cars, and lights. On a clear day I could see the ocean. I left it because keeping my job required it. I could no longer do the commute, which was 96 miles each way.

I am leaving this condo because I don’t need it; it is superfluous; it is holding me back. And yet I know what it meant to Kurt, and I know that he truly hoped I would keep it and live the life that he had wanted us to live. So this is me saying goodbye to something more complex and subtle than just another place.

I have other places to go…

It is time for me to say goodbye to this place.

Yet as I’ve said here a few times, this place does have its charms. Want another example? I took this photo the day I tried to go hiking in Joshua Tree National Park.

This was the day after the hike in the cold wind and rain, and hours before I realized I was getting sick. Although I’d expected to see snow and dressed accordingly, I wasn’t prepared for how cold blowing snow can feel when you’ve been in warm sunshine for the past few months. I was out of my car only long enough to take several photos.

It’s been a couple of weeks now since I’ve run, but right now I barely have the energy to walk, so I’m not worrying about not running. I expect to get right back on a regular schedule when I get home.

Right now, I am living in the in-between… but soon… I will be home.

How soon we forget

Less than three weeks after quitting my job, I’m getting more comfortable with this post-corporate thing. This morning I found myself trying to recall what that daily stress felt like… and it’s like it was another life, perhaps somebody else’s life. Everything that seemed important in that world is now simply gone. Just letting go of the effort to pretend I still cared is a huge stress relief in itself… without even considering the stress involved in actually trying to do the work.

While I’m loving the relaxed and carefree nature of this new life, I’m also having to let go of the idea that I’m going to run several times a week. I jump right out of bed when I awaken, but I’m waking up too late to feel enthusiastic about running. So I haven’t run since Sunday morning, and I have plans for the next several days that will keep me from running. But that’s all right because I did an absolutely wonderful hike yesterday. I returned to the Coachella Valley Preserve and tagged along with other hikers for a 6-mile, 4-hour hike way back into one of the less accessible palm oases that line the San Andreas Fault in this area. This hike involved walking along the tops of steep, spiny ridges and scrambling up and down boulder-strewn washes. I was rewarded by vistas that did not include obvious signs of human habitation. Yes, it is a bit of a moonscape, but there were moments when there were no airplanes overhead and the silence was profound.

If you look about dead center in this photo you can vaguely see a clump of palms that would be my eventual destination: Pushawalla Palms. The trail at this point runs along the ridgetop at the right.

Here I am just entering the oasis, and looking back up the wash that I had just hiked down:

At the canyon bottom there is a running stream; the palms line the stream for roughly half a mile. There were lots of wild animal prints here (large canines, felines, probable bighorn sheep and several birds) and in several side canyons that I cautiously explored. If any large carnivores saw me, they stayed hidden and out of the midday sun.

There was a slight breeze that caused the palms to rustle and whisper. It was, quite simply, a magical place.

The way out of the oasis was similar to the way in, but steeper and less well marked. Basically, the route was “turn left at the old truck wreck and scramble up to the ridgetop.” The actual way up is to the left of this photo and did not require scaling the cliff itself.

How did the truck get to such a remote location, you ask? Well, the ridgetop here turned out to be the edge of a level plain running several miles northward. Someone must have taken a wild ride across the moonscape, over the edge and down into the canyon.

While I’m not running as much as I’d intended, I feel strong and sturdy and I’m certainly not losing any muscle tone. Hiking up and down hills will actually be good preparation for the trail runs that I’ll be doing on the Alaska marathon cruise this summer!

Overall it was a great day. Hiking out there in the middle of nowhere, I am giving myself permission to do whatever I choose to and learning that I can, indeed, accomplish the things I want to do. That’s powerful learning. This is an exciting time of possibility, and I am relishing every moment of it.

Slow happy post-corporate person

My adjustment to post-corporate life continues, and will be a work in process for some time as I find my way to a new rhythm. Running in the early morning is now completely impossible (What? Set the alarm? Never!). I am experimenting with new venues for a late-afternoon run, but as spring approaches it will become too warm for a long run at any time of day. Last Wednesday I ran 4 miles beginning about 5:30 PM. While the temperature was fine, before the end of the run I was wishing I had worn my reflective vest.

This morning with the change to Daylight Saving Time I thought I’d try a morning run, but it was already 66 degrees when I started out at the crack of 10:30, and well over 70 by the time I completed a 5.63 mile loop through downtown and back. It was a good run, though — I planned it so it was downhill or level all the way back, and I backed off my recent pace by a full minute per mile. Slow and happy works for me.

I figure I’ll get serious about running again when I get home to Washington. My next planned race isn’t until early June, so as long as I stay active over the next few weeks I should still have plenty of time to increase my mileage on cool trails with soft running surfaces in April and May.

I’ve definitely been staying active. I have either run, hiked, or taken long city walks for 14 out of the 16 days since I left corporate life. A few days ago I hiked two miles up the Araby Trail and back. This is a well-traveled, moderately steep but well-marked and maintained trail that winds up to and beyond the Bob Hope house (designed by John Lautner). Most visitors to the area merely glimpse the house from their cars, as a large turtle-shaped structure high up on the hillside south of downtown. I took this photo shortly after passing the house, but I ended up a good 500 feet above it, and 1,000 feet higher than where I’d started.

Yesterday I returned to the Thousand Palms Oasis area and hiked in the other direction, high up on a ridge that was probably an earthquake scarp. This was a more remote location but I carried plenty of water, kept other hikers in sight, and felt comfortable out there. The view was great; I could see several oases tucked into various canyons, and also had a good long view across the valley. I forgot to take any photos, however. Afterwards I celebrated that hike with another date shake. I’m still amazed that it has taken me this long to find out what I’ve been missing! I have now even dared to eat fresh whole dates, although one at a time is plenty. They are not the most visually appealing fruit, but they do taste good.

I have done a price reduction on my condo. It is getting showings and I hear favorable feedback, but I have not yet had any serious nibbles. I am fully aware that this is a terrible time to sell real estate and I’m yet not desperate to sell it, so I am not losing any sleep over it. It will sell in time. I have lots of time.

Slow and getting slower

It’s hard for me to believe, but I have been post-employed for more than a week now. It seems that I have been quite busy, but looking back it’s actually difficult to recall how I have been spending my time.

The first several days felt like being on vacation, of the “stay-cation” variety. I slept. I slept a lot. For years I have used two alarms; the first one is happy music selected randomly by my iPod and the second, five minutes later, is a more strident buzzer alarm. Within the first few days I somehow accidentally deleted the music alarm completely. Last night I decided to turn off the buzzer alarm. I slept quite late this morning.

I’ve run a couple of times over the past week, but nothing too strenuous. I just can’t get excited about getting up at the crack of dawn, and later in the day it’s too warm and I get lazy. I’ve tried running in the late afternoons, using the local high school track after the sun has gone behind the mountain. That has worked all right and I’ve appreciated not having to be out on the streets in afternoon traffic. But let’s face it, running around a track is almost as boring as running on a treadmill!

So I’ve decided to be good to myself and let myself sleep and rest as much as I apparently need to do in this in-between time in my life. I plan to head northward back home before the end of the month, but I still have things I need to do here — getting rid of stuff and packing and shipping those things that I still want to keep. I’ll get busy doing that soon enough. Right now is about resting and de-toxing, and letting myself be OK with resting and de-toxing.

I haven’t been completely idle. I did a half-day trip around the Salton Sea, and managed to see both interesting wildlife and famous architecture! I enountered half a dozen white-faced ibises together in a marshy field — I’d only seen one white-faced ibis before in my entire life. Despite their name, they are decidedly brown birds.

At the recently-restored North Shore Yacht Club (an Albert Frey designed building at a long-defunct Salton Sea resort) I was thrilled to see two of my favorite things — white pelicans and mid-century modern architecture — in such close proximity that I was able to capture them in one photograph!

I’ve also had my first-ever date shake. I hated dates as a child but I decided to be daring and now I’m wondering how I allowed myself to miss out on this wonderful experience for so long! I highly recommend Windmill Market in Desert Hot Springs (featured in the current Sunset magazine as the home of the “best date shake in the desert”). The place doesn’t look great from the street but yes, the shakes really are that good.

I tried a little hiking on the trails leading from downtown PS straight up the mountain slopes, but the terrain was extremely steep and I didn’t feel entirely comfortable up there. This afternoon I visited Thousand Palms Oasis and hiked a short, flat trail from there to McCallum Pond. Native palm oases are an experience not to be missed! These oases sit directly atop the San Andreas Fault at a location where groundwater is forced to the surface. They are cool, dense havens for wildlife, which are generally heard but not seen amidst the thick trees. At one place in McCallum Pond I could literally see water bubbling up from the pond bottom, which is a little weird when you contemplate the tectonic forces that create this outwardly peaceful place.

Maybe that’s a good metaphor for me right now. I’m outwardly calm (much calmer than a couple of weeks ago) but there are all sorts of forces coming to the surface within me. I’m beginning to realize that all that stuff about “creating a new life” is real and urgently present for me, right now. While I have a lot of thinking and being and doing ahead of me, I also need to let myself slow down and become open to whatever emerges. I’m not so sure that I know who I am right now. My work, right now, is to become comfortable with that not-knowing.

Perhaps I shall become a Slow Happy Human.