running buddies

What, what would I do without them? How would I get out the door when it’s like 18 degrees? When it’s snowing? Raining? When I am feeling blue? The truth is that were it not for my running buddies there are probably many days when those kinds of conditions would get the best of me.

This morning is a perfect case in point. It was like, yeah, 18 degrees with snow, of course, still all over everything. And there was a smattering of snow overnight which meant that the windshield was going to need clearing. But I knew my buddies would be looking for me, so I layered up, pulled on my SmartWool socks, two pairs of gloves, the whole winter drill. I tossed in 5 extra minutes for warming up the truck.

Except that when I get out there, the truck has a flat tire.

I could have easily given up right then. What better excuse? But, no, I knew my buddies would all be there. Long story short, after digging out and clearing off, I got to the meetup about 5 minutes late, in my borrowed beater car. And there they were – my running buddies. All looking my way as I pulled in.

I jumped out, but as I approached the group, uber buddy and inspiring runner Diane comes up to me with something in her hands. She holds it out to me. It’s this incredibly beautiful, plastic-wrapped matted photograph of a swan with a baby swan on its back. Tears spring to my eyes.

“It’s for you,” she tells me simply.

Indeed, all summer long and into late fall, we had run the loop through the park where we had watched two swans parenting two little ones. Eventually, one of the adult swans disappeared, but the other stayed and raised the babies. Week in and week out, Diane and I watched the babies grow up as we went running along. We looked for them every time we ran the park, and never failed to be amazed and delighted by them.

The swans in June.
The swans in June, taken when we were out on a run.

In the fall, we began to worry over them, as they remained in colder and colder weather. We speculated that maybe their beaks would finally turn orange, or their plumage more white and less grey, or some other sign of maturation, before they’d actually fly away.

There were days we stopped in the middle of our sprints to be awed by the flight of other migrating swans coming in for a landing, right over our heads, on their way south. We were astonished to hear the sound of their wings.

One day, we discovered a dead swan, with its beautiful neck laid back across its body, in the water right next to our running path. We stood quietly for a moment, distressed by the sight. Later, independently of each other, we both had called the parks department.

Some days, we stopped on the lookout deck just to stand silently together and appreciate the swans when they were close in. The migrating swans all eventually moved on, but our little mother and her two now full-sized babies remained in the cold, graying mists of late fall.

And then one day, very cold and late in the year, our swans were gone.

As the seasons of the swans had progressed, our own lives had as well. During this time, Diane’s mother was in hospice, and she finally lost her in October. At the same time, I was coming to terms with huge and difficult life changes, sorting out a new life of my own and adjusting to the idea of my sons being grown and on their own. As the miles passed under our feet, and we watched the swans grow up and leave, a deep bond was forged.

This beautiful photograph I now held in my hands, taken by an amazing local photographic artist, embraced our friendship, our shared experience and more.  That mother swan with the baby on its back is about boundless love that knows all along we must let them fly. And we have to fly, too.

I held Diane’s gift in my gloved hands, standing out in the cold, overwhelmed by tears.

She wasn’t going to let me do that for long though, because we had some running to do. The rest of our gently smiling buddies gathered us in, and off we ran.

Indeed, what would I do without them?

car stuff

ImageI have noticed a trend with guys working on car projects. There’s generally tools and nuts and bolts and duct tape and parts all over the place. I bet you’ve noticed it, too. ahem. There’s usually a little metal dish or a turned over hub cap with a bunch of little parts in it. I must have seen these car scenes a million times over the years. But today, I had a rather freeing thought about it: It’s the same thing as sewing.

That little pile of parts in the dish probably looks pretty good to the wrenching guy. He knows what the parts all are and what he’s going to use them for. He’s guarding them in the dish until he’s ready to put them in place.

It’s just like my fabric and scissors and needles and pins. When I look at my little stash of felts and the various colors of threads, hey, that’s a good feeling. It makes me happy to do the work of designing, tracing, cutting, sewing. I love the potential I see in my little stash of stuff – just like the car parts in the dish. Check it out, I bet it makes you happy, too.

Believe it or not, I have a hard time giving myself license to work on these projects. I have discovered, however, it is essential to my emotional well-being. (Car stuff probably is to car guys, too.) So, even if it’s just a little bit, I am trying to find time in my day to pick up my sewing work. To me, my sewing is a creative art.

In other matters, it was a fantastic blue-sky, sunshine day today! It was windy and cold, but the sun eclipsed all that for me. Spent about an hour on a good brisk walk, even singing out loud to myself at one point. I came back with a new knowing, and some settledness in my mind about where I’m headed.

Tomorrow, it’s my favorite run of the week – Saturday with my running group.

closer to life

skyAnd then sometimes I think about living closer to life. Like growing my own food. Which you would think is funny if you knew me because I have a pretty terrible track record with gardens. I always start out with the best of intentions. Then things just get out of hand. That’s not to say I haven’t managed some tomatoes, cukes, zucchini…. Basil.

So I think about growing my own food and then it just seems ridiculously impossible. Really, though, it’s just a matter of planning and discipline, right?

I even think about growing stuff indoors during these Michigan winters. Remember that character on Northern Exposure who had his greenhouse full of growing food up in Alaska?

Of course, then there’s the cat. If I’m growing anything inside, I have no doubt he’s going to eat it, at least strip the leaves off. Why worry about tomato hornworms when you’ve got a cat?

Again, a matter of planning and discipline – arranging things so the cat can not get access. Is that really so hard?

Which leads me to ponder other things that seem ridiculously impossible. Like making my living in a way that makes me happy, that’s authentic and meaningful, and, well, closer to life. Maybe, just maybe, I need to revisit that through the lens of “planning and discipline.”

I have ideas of things I’d like to do, but I never get very far with those thoughts before the “That’s ridiculous!” voice sounds off in my head. Whose voice is that anyway? Who is it that tells me I can’t? That it’s silly. That what I need is to have a marketable skill.

Ah ha! I recognize that voice. But that was then, and this is now. So I need to find and listen to my own voice, silly. Planning and discipline, eh?

musings on motion

Tonight’s salad, which has little to do with musings about self-powered journeys, but was simply too delightful not to photograph and share.

So sometimes I think about making a self-powered journey with a little distance to it. Like riding my bicycle across Michigan, or maybe heading somewhere south. Or maybe it would be a walking/running journey of some sort. Think of all the things you’d see. And the people you would meet.

What a meditation each day would be.

I would probably start small, say, just take a two or three day trip – out and back. See how it goes, work the bugs out. Try it a few times ‘til I know I’ve got just the equipment I need. And it would definitely be minimal. Still, I’d have to be prepared to camp and all that.

I noticed All Seasons Cyclist rode just under 6,500 miles in 2012. Bravo! That’s pretty cool. That’s all miles in the now.

An acquaintance of mine is preparing to hike the Appalachian Trail. Maybe I could tag along for a bit.

People are out there doing this stuff. (I know because they’re blogging about it.) Many years ago, I made a truly epic journey by boat. I’d do that again, too. I used to think a lot about building a sailing dinghy and taking it along the intracoastal – a slow and careful trip where you would see all the details up close. For that matter, I could spend months just messing around a place like, say, Pamlico Sound with my little imaginary dinghy.

Back to real life, ahem, I went for a three mile run with my buddies just as it was about to start getting dark. Two new people showed up, which was great. It was cold, of course. The roads were icy, so it was slow going – we all went cleatless since not everyone was so equipped.

Back at home, warmed up with homemade split pea soup with carrots and onions and garlic. And had a delightful salad with my fave baby spinach blend, cucumber, tomato, sugar snap peas, and sprouts. Life is good.

It’s cooold!

That’s the thing about Michigan in winter. It gets really cold sometimes, and then it often just stays that way for a good long while. We Michiganders have learned to deal with it, though.

Later today, I am meeting up with a couple of buddies to run a few miles in town. Can you tell I really, really, really do not want to run on the indoor track? Because it is seriously cold out there. I’ll take my cleats just in case. Last Saturday, we wore cleats on a snowy/icy 5-mile trail run (read ’trudge’) and they were fantastic. It took quite a while for me to get the feeling back in my toes after getting so cold and wet. We’ll see how the roads are today.

Cantelope, blueberries and strawberries today! Yum!

Yesterday was a non-run day for me. My calendar informed me to do my core exercises and my yoga. I put it off most of the day, but thank goodness, there it was on the calendar. I cannot leave things unchecked on the calendar. So I gave in and did both, and felt very good for it.

This week I am doing a little bit of yoga every day. I am starting very simply. All I am doing are the warm up exercises as described in Alice Christensen’s Beginner’s Manual – a book I already like very much. Once I have the warm-up settled in my brain, I will begin to incorporate more asans – bit by bit – as outlined in her course 1 curriculum. I am in no hurry. I want to be thoughtful and attentive.

As for the core work, there’s some cool stuff in The New Rules of Lifting for Women by Lou Schuler. I’m not following it to the letter, but have structured a core workout for myself that I like.

I am hoping to run a half marathon at the end of March, so the calendar’s all filled in with my plan. Now, I just have to work it.

In other matters, knuckling down on several work projects that I was resisting before the holidays excused me. Now, I need to embrace them, and give them the love they deserve.

the path to happiness

“The path to happiness – and deep down, we all know this — is created by love, and being kind to oneself, sharing a sense of community with others, becoming a participant instead of a spectator, and being in motion.” Yeah, Michael Moore said that on his Facebook page yesterday. IMG_7047 How is that I’m not surprised at his spot-on summation? But, I ask, why is it so difficult to actually put into practice? It all sounds so simple.

At least I think I’ve got the ‘in motion’ part covered. I ran 3 miles yesterday, easy running, on my hyper local route. The dirt road I traverse was mostly snow-covered. Headed west, the wind was at me and my hands were cold. Coming back, I unzipped my windbreaker and my running shirt. It was the warmest I had been all day.

So, I also found a cool site for logging/tracking runs at – so I am trying that out.

In other matters, one of my little tasks today is packing to leave. Yep, that’s among my 2013 mini-goals. It’s on the official list. Right there, see? “Packing to leave.” Because I might. It remains to be seen just what I will do, but I want to be ready. Yesterday, I gathered up all of my photographs, because if I leave, they’re going with me. I do not want them lost in the shuffle.