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Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting

In the silence of the sunset there are thousand things unsaid. Rounds of voices echoing unheard as the day lies dying. Slipping in its silky shadows toward the source- a capsule that remains, truncated in time.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting

I always seem to resolve to take more photos. To this end, I’m attempting WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge- also as a way to keep me more accountable.

The photo prompt for this week is “fleeting.” This photo comes from my last real vacation, which was filled with fleeting moments ticking by- too aware of their impermanence. It seems like the essence of that week and all the uncaptured, uncontainable magic in it.

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To love life

CultFit

to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

– Ellen Bass

Notes:

Smile and be well today.

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Today

I don’t know what else to do today, but run.

Messed up foot or not, I’ll find a way to run.  Slow, short, painful or not, we run.  We will think the same thought as we lace up our shoes, and step out the door.

And step after step, our runs will become a moving mantra of peace. a silent prayer. a quiet vote for a better world. an infinite, unending gesture of love- passed like a baton between every last one of us. And I can’t help but think that somewhere, all this energy must be converging and washing over the people who need it most.

A Runner’s Mind

Historical context for this post :

I started running about 8 years ago, and as the author of a blog about running, it’s probably time I disclose the sometimes ugly truth about what got me started.  

Confession Time:

I started running because I wanted a runner’s body. I realize how screwed up that could seem, and that’s why its time I tackled this topic.

Years, miles, and marathons later, I’m not appreciably closer to this goal than when I started.  Funny, no? Ironic, maybe more so.

I started running with mental images of my lean, leggy future self being so happy and satisfied with her ability to remain unselfconscious in a bathing suit, or some nonsense like that.  When I think about it now, I’m all shades of shame for how much I didn’t get it.

That part would come later.

Sheepish though I may be about sharing this part of me, I can’t be too hard on myself about the initial motivation that got me out on the trails. The reality is, that if not for that, I might never have discovered what it was I really wanted out of it:  A runner’s mind.

It was so superficial, so fleeting this idea I had. That what I would get out of it would be physical.  My body has changed, true enough, but  now I understand this is a side effect (albeit a pleasant one).  My legs are stronger, my lungs have been reinvented by the process, but I have fewer illusions about my body and its incongruence with the air brushed images from Runner’s World.

The magazines have you forgetting how fucking beautiful you are.

  -Dave Chappelle

It took me a few years before I abandoned pursuit of this unattainable image- And when I did, it was not for reasons I could have imagined.  I gave it up not perhaps because it was unattainable.  I’m sure if I were as rigorous with my eating habits and my weight training as I am with other parts of my life, I could come very close.  I happily let it go because running changed everything about the relationship I had with my body, and my brain.  And I can’t thank it enough for that.

Running helped me appreciate the body I have, as it is now, how strong and capable it is.  It made me smile at the junk in my trunk and laugh over dimples of cellulite.  No longer from a place of scrutiny, I came to revere these bones and muscles that support me day in, and day out. I care for them and I’m proud of them, flaws and all.  Lets not assume running is a cure-all for an epidemic of self-image and esteem issues, but for me, in many ways it was.

Beyond acceptance, appreciation, and even the quick breath of humiliation,  I learned when to give up the chase for something trivial, and begin the race for something substantial.

More than the revolutionized perspective it gave me about my body, it gave, and continues to give me, a deep admiration for my brain and the things its capable of.

I did the right thing, for all the wrong reasons, but it turned out ok.

Running Away

I believe in running. No surprise, right? I believe it is one of the most worthwhile things I can do with my time.  Here are some of the reasons why.

Though this belief doesn’t always insulate me from wrestling with assumptions that running can seem vaguely like an escape response.

This notion of running away, it’s my understanding is a  primal part of why we run, yes, but does it stop there? Sure we may spook easily, and whether it’s to beat the jittery feeling in our legs or to escape from our lives, even for a minute, I struggle with the implications of this.  I like my life! On a very deep level and for the first time, maybe ever, I’m content.  Shouldn’t I feel less compelled to run from it?

In the past I’ve understood this compulsion a bit more: I ran from college.  from bad relationships, and amazing ones. I ran from one traumatic work environment to another.  from grad school and thesis writing. I ran from student teaching. I once even ran to South America (not literally, sadly).  I’ve gotten so good at running its a reflex.

Should I be ready to stop running? What does it, or doesn’t it, mean, if I keep going?

If life is a circle, as they say, at some point, all this running away I’ve been doing is getting me closer to, not farther from,  something better.   I believe in running, and  in the delicate dichotomy that exists in it: the escape and the journey.  I believe in the virtue of braving the things beyond, while being at peace with what lies behind.

The conclusion, in my humble estimation, is that running away is only the beginning, only the impulse to get us out the door.  A direction. Once we’re out there, who’s to say when it stops being about running away and when it becomes about running toward something.

 

“But if these years have taught me anything it is this: you can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in.”

– Junot Diaz from The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

On Beavers and Momentary Blindness

Daylight savings and the slow descent into darkness have meant that once again its headlamp season for many of us outdoor runners.  While my forehead and eyes are busy adjusting, I’m forcing more optimism about this season of rainy, darkish runs.  Yes there are unpleasant topples thanks to sheer slicks of leaves and just a hint of un-coordination.  There are mental hurdles and the temptations of cushy couches, but taken all together, this season I’m trying my hardest to embrace the dark.  Its harder.  Maybe the hard is what makes it good.  After the fair weather runners have dashed into warm, dry gyms, the sidewalks are roomier, and the runs are shared with only a few fellow drowned rats who, oddly enough, seem to have indomitably broad grins.  This is not a coincidence, I don’t think.

About 10 minutes from home, it starts to rain.  Like a challenge from the skies, I’m compelled to try to beat the droplets back to the warmth of home. I’ve been thankful for an uncharacteristically dry run this evening, and the only thing between me and that goal is a bit of pavement.  I’m almost ready to click off the headlamp, but there is one more dark patch between us and the front porch.   Soon enough my thoughts are distracted and before I know it, with horse-to-the-stables pace on, we’re rounding on the driveway.

Bodhi is pulling hard on the leash as we approach the front yard.  He makes a move toward the lawn and I’m jerked off course,  the pool of foggy light landing squarely on the blinking eyes of a beaver.  An actual, live, beaver.  Holding a stick (as they are wont to do, I understand) in the grass of our front yard.  Here’s something I don’t see everyday.

Bodhi stops dead in his tracks as he gets a good look, the leash taught between us and his ears alert, nose working overtime.  He fights me on the leash as I realize, slowly, what I’m looking at enough to be pretty impressed (THERE’S a BEAVER in the yard! CAPS LOCK! CAPS LOCK ALL OVER! It’s a caps lock occasion if ever there was one, at least in my head).  Bodhi does not growl, but puffs up and sidles closer to the grass.  I’m not sure what his plan is, since I’ve seen him bolt, tail between legs, at the mere sound of a car door. I have also witnessed him pull a live mole out of the ground and rocket it skyward with a flick of his head (albeit also with a startled yelp.)

I’m dumbfounded at this beaver, just sitting here in our yard, and seeming very comfortable with us coming up on him and his dinner in the dark.  I scoot past and coax the dog inside, while the beaver makes some slow movements toward the hedge. As I pull the door behind us, I’m pondering beaver land speed and the possible outcomes of what would surely be an embarrassing scuffle for Bodhi if I let him out potty, as is our post-run routine.   Hoping  my sweet dog can hold it just a little but longer, I’m convinced the beaver is an auspicious omen.  The rain is not all bad, he reminds me.  With it come so many good things, slips and scrapes and some clammy skin too perhaps, but in the end the reward is there, and even just a bit more gratifying.  Blinding rain, beaver or not,  most runs end with a satisfaction and clarity I’m hard-pressed to find elsewhere, and for all the harder it gets in the winter months, the reward is just as good.

Run on, friends! You never know what is waiting for us out there.

 

**Please note: No moles (or beavers) were harmed in the making of this blog post.

The Final Countdown

Well friends, it just got real.  After spending this week in my bike saddle trying to heal some pretty gnarly  toe blisters, I wake this morning to the reminder email that my race is now officially 8 days away. (NBD!) 

No need for coffee this morning as the adrenaline just reading the email set off was enough to roust me from a pretty stubborn Friday morning fog.  If the toes are ok, I’ll attempt about 8 miles on Sunday and then the major tapering takes effect as the days march closer to the start date. I think I’m prepared, but I also know I shouldn’t be that naive.  Any one out there done one before? What’s going to happen that I will never expect? 

Happy Friday!

Honest Hiatus

Running as EverestI don’t mean to sound like I love running all the time.  I don’t.  I wish that were the case. It’s been my opinion that, like anything you do often, you have those days where it becomes just another inconsequential strand in the web of routine, like brushing your teeth.  These are the days I try to remember the reasons I do run.  When it seems like another chore I have to get to before I can try to relax or curl up with a book.   These days are also usually the days where something hurts, my legs will tighten up or my back will refuse to relax,  my clothes will rub a strange way or I’ll wind up just a little bit unimpressed by the experience.  Like today, for example.  It’s hard to get over.  And it can be persistent.  I’ve taken hiatus from running for various periods of time, and in the same way I’ve been blocked at writing, i’ll invariably come to a point where I just can’t face putting on my shoes.

I like to think this is a sign that its true love.

We have rough patches, the runs and I, where we wonder if it is really working out, but in the end, I always come back.    And the run is always there for me, like it has been before.  I know it won’t let me down if I just suck it up, trust it enough to get back out there.  Its like writing for me that way, I can be blocked and  before I know it, months have turned into over a year, and I still can’t make any progress.

Is it an excuse?

Probably.

I can be a pretty gifted procrastinator, and i’ve been avoiding this blog post because of it.  (Also because training has taken a turn for the drudgerous, and i’m  maybe ashamed to admit it.) Things hurt.  Things ache,  a lot more and it seems to get worse as the miles add up. Training is taking its toll.

Sometimes writing is a chore for me.  The thing I usually adore and would spend all day and night at, sometimes feels dull and almost annoying.  But in the same breath, it is the  way running is  for me. They exist in parallel real estate in my headspace.  The quirky relationship I have with these outlets is complex but rewarding.   I know I can always come back to them and they will reward me.  For my foolishness, for my brash attempts to return to them after I’ve spent so long neglecting, for the simple act of putting pen to paper.   The pavement will always welcome me back with open roads to be raced down and the words will be waiting with their familiar solace.

Edmund Hilary is reported to have said after summiting Everest that “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”  Its one thing to understand this concept, and quite another feat entirely to come around to it organically I think.  As the marathon looms closer, i’m understanding more and more that I have my own obstacles to move past, about running, writing, and everything in between in all this interconnected eccentricity.  With many long miles ahead and sore knees and joints to prove my resolve, I think I can say if this is all I learn, it will have been a victory in its own right.

Running it Out

One of the things I crave about running is opportunity to touch something real, even if its simply with my feet.  If you’re like me, you could spend a surprising amount of your work-a-day life never really coming in contact with the natural world.  It’s a sterile place we first-world-ers live in, and running gives me an excuse to plug in to a tactile part of my brain that needs to connect to the planet.  Its  pretty basic, this touch, but its the repetition and the renewal it brings that helps to calm the frenzy of a life surrounded by plastic stuff and digital everything.

I stumbled across this realization partly, I think,  because I’ve been reading Last Child in the Woods recently and its fascinating how big an effect even minimal exposure to the natural world has on developing brains, as well as mature ones.  Its major, if there was any question.

Stare at a photo of a landscape, take a short walk,  even cursory contact with the greenness of outside yields effects that light up the brain like fireworks.  The brain’s reaction to nature is immense and stunning in ways that continue to baffle scientists.  The little we do know shows pretty remarkable evidence that nature’s ever-larger absence from our day-to-day existence has adverse consequences for the healthy development and maintenance of our big noggins.  There’s also pretty conclusive studies to suggest the increase in hyperactivity and attention disorders among our kids maybe be directly linked to “nature-deficit disorder.”  Pretty weird to think about when you consider we may have evolved our way into new mental disorders.  In addition to building new brain cells, if you’re an outdoor runner, its pretty clear you’re getting an extra benefit for your brain in terms of your nature-exposure quotient.

I also find it curious that at the same time  my physical self is focused on this tactile presence in running, there is something so much bigger going on that can’t be touched at all.  The calm, the quiet that comes through the run, the sensation completely devoid of physical contact but still so very evident.  Its got me wondering, are they two sides of the same coin?

Hello Friends!

My brain works best on my feet, and so I suppose it was only natural that this blog came to be.

I run a lot.  In Portland.  Outside.

And funny, sad, amusing things,  profound life-changing ideas and hilarities often befall me throughout the course of said jaunts outside on the streets and trails of Portland.  Stay tuned for what I hope will be entertaining and thought-provoking reflections on life, running, brainwaves, jogging shoes, ADD, inspiration, philosophy and all the curious things I discover in between.

And in the mean time, happy  running!