Why I Run

I’ve never been a competitive runner. It’s just the one activity I’ve always enjoyed doing. Even at 5am. Even in the rain. Even if it’s only 32 degrees outside (yep it gets that cold where I live in California and I’m not even in the mountains).Running is the only beauty/health product I need: it keeps my skin clear, my hair shiny, my mind focused, mood bright, helps me sleep better, body firm, blood pressure low (90/60), eating habits healthy (you start to crave things like frozen grapes instead of popsicles).

That runner’s high really does exist. If you’re a runner you know what I’m talking about. If you’re not, imagine feeling like you are one with the pavement, everything else around you disappears and all there is is the sound of your breath and heartbeat in your head; you start to not even feel your feet on the ground because you are the ground, you are the air, you aren’t running you are the run.

And I’ve missed it all. Because I love it so much, sometimes I overdo. It’s been weeks since I last ran. I got hurt and have had to rehab my aging body (even though I’ve always taken care of myself, parts start to wear out and are slow to heal). It’s been a long hiatus and I’m itching to get back into it.

Today I’m meeting with a friend, who is a running coach, to help me get my running legs back. I’m beside myself with excitement. I want to be swift, free and unbridled moving through space and time as if nothing else exists.

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Less is More

“Simplicity allows the true character of our lives to show through.”

~ Duane Elgin

During the last several years I’ve adopted a minimalist lifestyle, in part due to necessity and in larger part as a result of the desire to live more congruently with the thoughts and feelings that were emerging from practicing a more holistic lifestyle.

I like who I am and the life I’ve carved out and it made me weary watching and being around others who seemed to not mind being slaves to their possessions and constantly “keeping up with the Joneses”; there’s a “never enough” feeling that comes from that drama. Unfortunately, the area where I live, and society at large, is so wrapped up in this “look at me” mentality.

My son will be moving on to college soon so the time has come to pare down even more, to downsize. At first I wondered if it was necessary. How could there possibly be less that I need or could use that still filled the spaces? But there is! It’s amazing what we hold on to. There are definitely things that remain “must keep”. I’m still evolving and some of my “things” hold memories too dear to part with yet (even though the thoughts and feelings are inside of me).

But aside from the material bits and baubles that will be edited out during this stage of life spring cleaning, I’m finding that a de-cluttering of the mind has become part of the process. This mental cleanse is sort of a detox for the soul. I think because we assign so much meaning to our possessions, letting them go is also a way of letting go of limiting beliefs about ourselves and also a way of examining self-defeating behaviors (what was I thinking buying purple velvet pants?). Often, we fill our spaces with pretty this ‘n that’s to take up empty feelings, to stave of boredom or even to replace the people who are no longer present. Our clutter, especially our mental clutter, is sort of a barrier that distracts us from taking on new challenges and becoming who we are really meant to be.

It’s utterly liberating to unburden one’s self of the things that no longer serve or define who we are. And that’s really the point; material possessions shouldn’t define us.

“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”

~ Lao Tzu

Two Lovelies

“The bud stands for all things, even for those things that don’t flower, for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing; though sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness, to put a hand on the brow of the flower, and retell it in words and in touch, it is lovely until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing.” ~GalwayKinnell

Camellias are adored by gardeners for their symmetrical flowers and clear colors. These exotic beauties are a marvel of the landscape as their lovely blooms and burnished foliage thrive in the dead of winter. Beauty in the stark winter landscape before spring casts her magic. Once gracing the estates and conservatories of the wealthiest Americans, their surprising ease to propagate have them now flourishing in gardens countrywide.

In the Victorian language of flowers (floriography), a white camellia signifies perfected loveliness and adoration. A corsage fashioned with this special flower was a gift from my father to my mother on their first date. Returning from war broken and to a first marriage destroyed by disloyalty, my mom was like the camellia in the winter of his life. Soon they married and settled into a quaint home. They longed to have a family but children were not in the offing. They decided to adopt.

Word came that not one, but two babies were available for them: TWINS!

It was a sign…mom was a twin whose sister was lost at birth and dad had twin sisters. At the time of our adoption, my sister and I were fortunate to not have been separated and raised apart, which was the common practice at the time. That there were two hearts as wide as the world open and ready to adopt twins was Divine. Upon our arrival a camellia bush was planted in the yard and then transplanted at a newer, larger home as the family grew and added a brother. We flourished and so did the camellia bush. It was a special reminder of the perfected loveliness and adoration that was my father’s love for my mother and for his two lovelies.

Today, in honor of our 47th year, I’m sending a virtual camellia flower to my other lovely half…Happy Birthday Sis!

Remains of the Day

It had been an interesting year. We had developed quite a rapport as we always seemed to find a lot to talk about; a special connection. We were two intrepid explorers finding a unique friendship.

“It could be a meeting on the street, or a party or a lecture, or just a simple, banal introduction, then suddenly there is a flash of recognition and the embers of kinship glow. There is an awakening between you, a sense of ancient knowing.” ~John O’Donohue (Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom)

A seasoned adventurer, he enlightened me with all manner of new experiences in every realm imaginable. This day was no exception, bittersweet as it was. His late morning arrival in rumpled clothes from the previous night’s bacchanalian foray told me it was over and we both knew it. But, we were determined to make it a great day. Save the best for last; and we did…

It was as if the Universe sent a not so gentle nudge to say “Be right here, right now; in this moment. I have a plan for you that is far better than you possibly could have imagined.” And so it was that Sunday afternoon we spent, just two souls eager for adventure and hungry for serenity. Answering the siren call beckoning us to the coast, it was a day that was utterly inspired. The rains had let up and it was gorgeous for a winter day. The deluge had left lush green in every corner of its wake. It was hard not to be happy and exhilarated with such raw, rustic beauty streaming by as we drove through Devil’s Slide and down to the coast highway. It was crystal clear and the sun was high.

Moss Beach unfurled her nature’s bounty like a weaver unlooming her latest tapestry masterpiece. A vibrant explosion for the senses, each moment more perfect that the last. We had stopped at a local spot that was famous in the old days. People were taking brunch inside, but the patio was the place to be. We order drinks from the bar and scouted the best spot to take in the view. Like a million earthbound stars the sun glinted and gleamed off the grey-green ocean, beautiful and violent at once. The sea lions were basking in their briny spa, a rocky sea ledge only just right for their blubbery, dough-boy forms. “This is the way to relax,” they seemed to mock. And so we did from our perfect blanketed bench perched above the glorious splendor, enraptured by the warmth of the fire pit and cocktails and conversation and two hawks courting above the chartreuse tinged cypress. It was like heaving a thousand deep breaths all at once, shrugging off the long winter we’d had and the grief of endings. He regaled me with stories of his travels in his youth and stories of I don’t even know what, one thread embroidering into the next thought, laughing and joking like our hearts weren’t heavy and breaking.

We took a quick jaunt to Half-Moon Bay for a day’s end tour of the pier which revealed a brown sea gull feasting on the remains of the day on the deck of a fishing boat–a sea star dinner. Then we were off to sate our own hunger at the local brew pub. Like two salty dogs we dined in fine fashion on the day’s catch crafted into an array of palate pleasing flavors as a local band entertained the regulars. Walking hand-in-hand and arm-in-arm, a perfect but unlikely pair, we saddled up for the drive home as the sun began to fall beneath the water’s edge. Quiet and slow, not wanting it to end…

Scallop Shell

I was still exhilarated from the bounty the sea had offered me while trawling to the scuba diving spot; 10 albacore and a giant yellowfin (all of which would become our lunch at the fish shack on the beach in Mismaloya).

While the others dove with their gear for the coveted certification, I plunged into the cove with my snorkel and fins to see what other treasures I might find. She didn’t disappoint. The ocean was a miraculous world of pinks, purples and greens. I spied a crusty, brownish shell and snatched it from its ocean cradle then headed back to the boat. With great care I pried open the barnacled lump, astonished to find a milky, bite-sized scallop. A squeeze of limón made a briny appetizer and beneath this tasty treat lay a beautiful, iridescent shell to remember the day…

 

It was a sign. The scallop shell is the symbol of the pilgrim travelling on the Way of St. James, or the Camino de Santiago in Spain. In antiquity, the pilgrims would use the shell as a scoop to receive sustenance from households along their way to the apostle’s shrine in the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Galicia.

My pilgrim’s progress…

 

Rock City

Mount Diablo State Park is one of the ecological treasures of the San Francisco Bay Area. Towering 3,849 feet at its summit, on clear winter days, one has a 360 degree view of some of the most well-known landmarks in the region. To the west lies the Golden Gate Bridge and beyond to the Farallon Islands; to the southeast one can see the James Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton; looking south one sees Mount Loma Prieta in the Santa Cruz Mountains and finally turning one’s attention to the north, Mount Saint Helena. A popular spot for mountain biking, horseback riding and camping, many visitors to Mount Diablo head straight for the summit to enjoy this famous view and to see the prettiest wildflowers that grow here.

But the greatest fun of all is spending the afternoon in Rock City. When my son was young, we would pack a picnic and drive the winding, narrow road to this amazing spot. We’d spend hours scouting around, climbing the rock formations and crawling through the caves. Take a peek…

Pause

Bullwinkle websmall

I’ve been forced to slow down. A running injury has sidelined my often intense level of activity for the last three weeks. Always a bundle of energy even from the time I was very small (my mom says I used to bounce off the walls), I wake very early most days, without the alarm, raring to go.

In these moments of pause, I’ve had time to think differently. Even though I have a meditation practice (more like a moving meditation), stopping to reflect more during this healing process has made me appreciate my physical strength and stamina more. Moving swiftly through space and time has always helped me settle. The spirited, unbridled movement gets me out of my head and into a rhythm of being fully present. It has always brought clarity that focuses my creative flow. And it doesn’t hurt that it is good for my health and makes my legs look great.

But I’ve begun to think that perhaps I’ve been running away from being fully present with myself. Taking time out to mend has brought awareness of what it feels like to be in my body, not just flinging it into the world like a whirling dervish. I’ve pushed it hard and now it’s pushing back. Sort of like my body is saying “Notice me”. The injury and this hiatus have reminded me that I need to be more kind and compassionate, not just to others but to myself as well. That it is okay to not charge full steam ahead all the time; to react right instead of fast. What I need to do is run into myself.

Doubtless I can’t wait to get back to running. But I think I will return to it from a different angle and mindset that I’ve gained from the pause.