Monthly Archives: November 2012

When life gives you “Trail Closed” signs…

After a few unsatisfactory sessions on the treadmill (it is SOOOO warm in that room!) I was ready to try running in the real world again, no matter how bad the weather might be. Fortunately yesterday was a beautiful day. As I set out from my usual jumping-off point for the Olympic Discovery Trail (ODT), it was 45 degrees, dry, and absolutely calm. I was warmed up and happy within the first mile.

I’d planned to run an easy 6 miles, 3 out and 3 back. For various reasons I hadn’t run more than 5.3 miles since way back at the Victoria half marathon in early October. So I didn’t want to push hard, but I really did want to cover some miles.

I knew that the trail was closed approximately 3 miles out from my starting point, but I wasn’t sure of the exact location. This section of the ODT was shut down in early November for “an indefinite period” while a contractor does some work related to cleanup of an old closed mill site as well as wastewater management upgrades necessitated by the Elwha dam removals.

I was running along really easily, enjoying the music that my iDevice was randomly serving me. Anytime “Chariots of Fire” comes up during a run, that’s a wonderful thing, right? That and a few other songs that are especially meaningful for me… songs that have sustained me through unhappy times or that I associate with high points in my life. I watched the birds on the nearly still water just offshore — a dozen or so common mergansers were an exceptionally nice sight to contemplate.

Then just ahead I saw this:


There it was. 2.93 miles and I wasn’t going one step more in that direction!

So I turned around.

On my way back I found myself awash in pleasant emotions. I thought about vacations my family took during my childhood. I thought about how, in those days of few divided highways and fewer interstates, long detours on bumpy roads were commonplace. I thought about how my mom would break into song during those detours:

Detour, there’s a muddy road ahead.
Detour, paid no mind to what it said.
Detour, all these bitter things I find.
Should have read that detour sign.

Wikipedia tells me Spade Cooley and his orchestra, with Tex Williams on vocals, recorded that song in 1946 and it was a big hit for them. I actually have that recording on my various iDevices, and although it did not come up randomly during my run yesterday, it’s the song that played in my head long after I got back to my car.

Besides thinking about vacation memories, I found myself simply loving the run. Feeling good with every step. I love to run.

I don’t do this to lose weight or inches (although I did lose them). It’s not about healing my damaged feet anymore. It’s not even about escaping from or coping with life’s problems. I simply love to run.

When life gives you detours, you find a way around them. When life gives you a “Trail Closed” sign just short of your planned turnaround point, you run joyfully back and forth across the Morse Creek bridge as you’re finishing your run, just so your GPS watch will tick over to 6.0 miles.

There’s always a way. Under, over, around, or through. One step at a time. One foot in front of the other. With gratitude and happiness in each and every moment!

What a difference a year makes

I was feeling pensive this evening. I guess it was the approaching holidays. I went back and re-read my blog posts from around this time last year.

I was still deeply grieving for Kurt, but I was beginning to look around and ask “what now?” I was simultaneously dreading and looking forward to going down to Palm Springs for the winter. How would I manage down there all alone? How did I want to choose to live my life from that point on? Could I ever dare to love again? Might I be so lucky as to love again? Who was I, and who was I becoming now that I was no longer Kurt’s wife, his partner, his caregiver?

What I didn’t share at the time was that I had just met CFL. We met, through friends of friends, two weeks before I packed up and moved south for the winter. We barely had time to begin to get to know one another, but he helped me finish packing and stood in my driveway looking sad when I drove away the day after Thanksgiving.

I was so torn. I kicked myself for leaving but I knew that I had things to do on my own, and that I needed to go.

Then followed hundreds of text messages and hours of phone calls. It wan’t anything like the courtships of my previous experience!

But I think the timing of our meeting and immediate separation worked in my favor — the separation and my loneliness gave me the time and space to figure out what I actually did want to do and who I wanted to become. It allowed me to focus on my job… which helped me to see that there really wasn’t anything left of my job worth focusing on, and that my talents and energy would be better spent elsewhere. The separation from both CFL and the Pacific Northwest helped me to see that I didn’t want to be bi-platial… that friends and community are things that I truly value. I deeply want to be rooted, grounded, at home, in place.

So there I was, deeply engaged in thinking through the issues that I needed to resolve and the decisions that I had to make in order to move on with my life. Meanwhile, I was being wooed. It was an honor, a thrill, and an utterly rejuvenating experience to be wooed.

Re-reading my posts from those months, I see my mixed emotions — confusion, joy, optimism, fear, relief when I made the big decisions to sell the condo and quit my job, resolutions of “I shall have fun,” and wide-eyed speculation about the future.

What a difference a year makes.

I wish I could convey adequately to Kurt’s daughter and his closest friends that there will never be another Kurt in my life. I will grieve for him and miss him until the day I die.

But love is a many-splendored thing. It is beautiful. It is rare. My relationship with CFL may or may not be forever, but it is real. We’re both taking it one day at a time, both of us sharply aware that life is short and moments are all we have. I know that we have enriched one another’s lives immeasurably. As I look back tonight and remember the person that I was and the person that he was a year ago, I am grateful that both of us have had this second chance at love in our lives.

And on this holiday, I am grateful for loved ones and for being in love, both past and present. I am cherishing the memories and looking to the future.

One step at a time.

Firing up the ol’ treadmill

It’s been almost exactly a year since I last used my treadmill. Last year about this time, I was getting ready to go down to Palm Springs for my first winter there without Kurt. The treadmill was convenient, especially as autumn was deepening into an early winter.

Once I’d settled in down south, I ran on city streets and sidewalks all through the winter. The weather was always warm (sometimes a bit too warm) and dry enough for comfortable outdoor running.

When I got home this spring it was still very cold and wet, but as I was no longer working I had the luxury of running in the afternoons when it wasn’t quite so brisk. On an especially nasty day I could even postpone my run until a better day, and still fit in three runs a week.

The condo in Palm Springs is now part of my history. With my new commitment to a four-season Pacific Northwest life, I fully intend to remain active outdoors all through this winter. This morning I woke up planning to go out and run. But it was 38 degrees and looked like it might rain any moment. Furthermore, I had a bunch of errands to run today and couldn’t really justify the time it would take to get in my car and drive five miles to my favorite running place.

My treadmill gently beckoned in the downstairs room that used to be my office but is now my brewery.

I answered.

In some ways it’s easier than running in the real world. Every step is completely predictable — there are no concerns about rocks or potholes. There is no reason to alter one’s stride, no sudden unexpected wrenches to the knees or hips. The very sameness of the movement can be its own hazard (as anyone knows who has carpal tunnel syndrome from repetitive motion). But the main thing about coming back to a treadmill after a year away is that it’s BORING!

What is there to do but stare at the wall? Well, there’s always turning up the music. That helped.

It’s also very warm. I really missed feeling the cold sea breeze on my face.

I managed to stay with it for half an hour or so. I finished feeling strong. I’m glad my treadmill will be there waiting for me when there is snow or ice on the ground. But I have to say that I’m looking forward to going out there to run in the real world again on Sunday — even though the forecast calls for a torrential downpour.

We’ll see how I do with that promise to myself!

One step at a time.

Things I learned while running today

After all the shouting and divisiveness of election season, I looked forward to my run this morning as a cleansing event. It ended up being exactly that, in a bigger way than I’d expected.

It started out as an ordinary enough run. The temperature was in the high 40s so I had on my new running gloves (with touch-screen-friendly fingertips for easy Garmin operation) and a hat. The sun was in and out of the clouds but the wind was calm, and I stayed comfy for the full 5 miles. I wasn’t going particularly fast, but that was okay because it gave me that much more time to think.

Lately I have been feeling some pressure in my life. It’s been over eight months since I quit my job and I haven’t even started any of the big writing projects I’d envisioned. I’ve run, hiked, and biked. I’ve rearranged some of the furniture in my house. I’ve gradually continued to redefine the logistical details of my life after Kurt. The other day, for example, I finally called the cable company, reduced the super-premium-bazillion-channels package to basic cable (cutting my cost in half), and got that last utility bill put into my name.

I’ve kept myself very busy, and I’ve wondered several times in this blog how I’d ever found time to work. But what have I actually accomplished? Am I truly spending my short, precious lifetime doing and being the things that I value most?

Last night, I watched and cheered as a nation reaffirmed its belief that the world can be a better place, that the future still holds more promise than the past, that together we can be better and more than any of us can be alone.

I was simultaneously watching cable TV news (yes, I turned on the TV for the first time in weeks), monitoring my favorite political blog, and scanning my Twitter feed. For the most part the tweets in my feed were expressing the same positive emotions I was feeling. Except for this one really annoying person…

You may recall that when I came home from Palm Springs I joined a local group that is doing community organizing for local sustainability. I was very enthusiastic about this group because it seemed to be an opportunity to build my local connections and help make my community a better place to live. However, as I got to know the other team members, some of them revealed themselves as downright apocalyptic thinkers. These people were not merely trying to prepare for climate change, resource scarcity, and the like — they seemed to be determined to hasten the demise of the world as we know it. Rather than build on the goodness that exists in our society and at all levels of government, they seemed to want to tear it all down.

That kind of thinking, in my opinion, is toxic.

I don’t have room in my life for people who complain, criticize, and seek to destroy. No, we don’t live in a perfect world, but there is so much here that is good. Let’s celebrate our successes, no matter how small, rather than lash out in anger over not getting more things done more quickly.

I have often repeated my running mantra: “One step at a time. One foot in front of the other.” In the months of Kurt’s illness, and in the weeks and months after his death, those words kept me going in running and in life. One step at a time. Sometimes an individual step might be weak or wobbly. Sometimes I’ve had to take a step or two sideways or even backwards. But I’ve done my best to keep moving, keep the momentum going. Small steps and sideways wobbles are still progress, and they’re much more productive than falling — or jumping — off a cliff.

I’ve come to realize that the world is not going to collapse overnight, any more than it has any of the many previous times that people thought it would. Civilization actually seems to be quite resilient in the face of crises and emergencies. If I am mistaken about this, I will expect to deal with the consequences in the best way I can at the time. In any case, I always try to keep my pantry well stocked. And I always try to keep moving forward and building on what I have accomplished so far, because I believe that my doing so is my one small step toward making the world a better place. In any case, it beats the heck out of small-minded, churlish rants on Twitter!

I finished my run feeling refreshed, energized, and optimistic for the future. I have plenty to feel optimistic about. I live in the state that voted for marriage equality and legalized marijuana! I am represented by two awesome female senators who are about to be part of the largest contingent of female senators ever! Whatever your political leanings, whether these specific events seem good or bad to you, you gotta agree that the world is changing, indeed.

I came home feeling profoundly grateful for being alive and healthy on a beautiful autumn day.

I wrote a resignation letter to the sustainability group, wishing them well but telling them I could not support their gloomy outlook on the future.

I am giving myself more time to write, more opportunities to be outside in this beautiful world, more freedom to get involved in positive actions to benefit community and society. Most of all, I am giving myself full permission to enjoy my finite life as much as I possibly can.

I’m going forward — one step at a time.

Rediscovering the joys of slow happy running

It’s been a while since I have run purely for fun rather than because I was training for a race. My knees have needed and appreciated the near-complete break from running after the Victoria half marathon four weeks ago, but over this past week the itch to run has returned.

I ran an easy four miles along the waterfront the other day, accompanied by the calls of an unusually vocal common loon. Today I was ready for something a bit more adventurous.

I haven’t done any trail running since the Alaska trip last summer. This morning I suggested to my friend that we do the nearby Adventure Trail — he on his mountain bike and I on my two feet. It was not raining when we set out, but we both wore our waterproof jackets in anticipation of a sudden downpour. I normally wouldn’t consider running in a jacket — much too warm — so I was setting myself up for a leisurely run.

As it turned out, I was correct about the “leisurely” part. There were so many leaves on the trail that the numerous rocks and roots were completely hidden in many places. Every footfall became a planned, tentative event. The sensation was almost like running in slow motion (and the result was definitely slow).

But this wasn’t about pace! I had my GPS watch on but that was because I wanted to know how far I’d run. I wasn’t at all interested in how fast. I took a lot of walk breaks and stopped completely several times to capture scenes like this one.

The story gets better. By stopping to take that photo, I created a space and time in which to experience something truly rare and remarkable.

I heard a tree fall in the forest.

I didn’t see it directly. I heard two sharp cracks, the second louder than the first. I looked just to the right of the trees in the photo and saw branches shaking as though a large animal had just run through them. I heard a couple of soft whooshes as the tree (or it could have been just a large branch) fell through other trees — then a loud BOOM as the timber hit the ground.

My friend, who was out of sight ahead of me on his bike, did not hear the tree fall. For him, the tree falling in the forest did not make a sound. For me, it was a breath-taking audio experience!

Philosophical conundrum solved! It’s all about whether you have made yourself receptive to that tree at the moment of its fall. I had chosen to stop, look, and listen… and there it was.

I finished my run a little tired (trail running uses different muscles than road running!) but very happy. It was wonderful to be out there, finding my way through the leaves, rocks, and roots and not stressing one bit about how slowly I was going. Sometimes just the simple fact of forward motion, with nothing in my ears except my thoughts and the sound of my footsteps, is enough.

I hope you too found some happiness today… at whatever your favored pace. One step at a time!