Monday, December 31, 2012

Running Forward

Part of my Mississippi Gulf Coast run, along the I-90 Bridge.
On this last day of 2012, I ponder life ahead as I run, run, run from my regrets. Sure, all the breezy, cool people claim to have none but I'm more of a tortured, awkward soul. (A friend once observed, "The thing is, you can actually pass for normal.") Anyway, these days I run, and man-o-man, it helps.

Denver's Washington Park
People who jogged willingly used to mystify me. Watching their skinny bodies float by in a glowing sweat, I'd mock while secretly marveling at their lone resolve to best themselves. I'd wonder about their motivational source, knowing that mine would likely have to be a threat of violence. They look fit, of course, but there was something more in their faces - contentment? Satisfaction? I could never be sure but there had to be tremendous focus, another envious state - I constantly battle and seek its productive qualities.

And then, one day, Colorado - as she has done so many times before - grabbed hold of my fleshy person and made me do a thing I'd never imagined doing: run. (She did this before with musical instruments and again, with church-going.) Next thing I knew, I was attempting a jog around Denver's Wash Park on a dewy morning without a shred of confidence. I felt like an awkward bag of molasses and heaved like a heavy smoker - I was neither.

Along my North Dakota run.
And, of course, there was That Woman who ran effortlessly past me, blond ponytail swinging with confidence. She pushed a stroller - with triplets - and held two Golden Retrievers on a leash while orchestrating a party over her cell phone: "I was thinking we'd start with some light hors d'oeuvres and fruit...." 

Long Beach path
She haunts me still. As do the two old ladies who passed me, while walking.

Nevertheless, I've come a long way since that first run and this Saturday, I'll be attempting my first half-marathon in Jackson, Mississippi. What's worse, I've foolishly agreed to run the LA Marathon in March. Other than accidentally getting swooped up in the annual Turkey Trot on the beach Thanksgiving Day, I’ve never actually ran in a race before. But I have now been cheered on by strangers (and high-fived by a guy in a turkey suit) so color me addicted. 

In between, I've enjoyed beautiful runs - remote back country roads in North Dakota to bustling beach paths in Long Beach to Colorado's Red Rocks - and I'm always impressed how much peace it brings.

Running has become more than exercise to me, it's become an act of gratitude for my body and where it can take me. Surely, it's meditational, for there is always a point when I am locked into my groove, firmly ensconced in my comfy still-slowish pace, and I forget what my body is up to and my mind runs free.

I even bought special running shoes from an honest woman named Mary at Runner’s High. She knew her shoes. When I asked Mary about her own running habits, she said quietly, “Oh, it’s been awhile but I hope to get back to it.” It was then I noticed her left leg, which was beyond swollen, it was actually about three times larger than the other leg. I don’t know what that condition is called but it can’t be comfortable. And then work in a running store? Oi. 

The holidays are a tough time for me - something to get through - and the literal act of moving forward presents a sliver of peace - running toward the future, leaving my past in the dust.

Ocean Springs beach path

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Here Now

Note the new plates!
With the Mae Flower stuffed into a neighbor’s barn and my pick-up packed haphazardly with worldly goods, I left Second Chance Ranch on October 23rd. In the duration, I’ve been on the road, visiting loved ones, making new friends and exploring America. For myriad reasons, I’ve been unable to fully unpack my pick-up since that day. Living out of a suitcase, I grab things on an as-needed basis.

Yesterday - just five weeks and four days since making hard guesses at what I might need until spring - I finally discovered what I brought other than my ice cream maker and glitter boots. Mostly dresses, fancy shoes and lots of hangers, plus bags of dry beans, wheat and canned tomatoes; it’s like Beverly Hillbillies minus the oil riches.

Glitter boots, back on the farm
All this travel has allowed for ample time to ponder my life - its uniqueness, its riskiness, its loneliness and joys. There is so much that runs smoothly in my world and I’m certainly blessed with immense luck (“The Golden Horseshoe”) but it also includes nags of doubt and snags of fear - though entirely in my head, still quite real.

Truth is, I’m 47 and all I have is time and (potential) garlic.

Back in early October, Evelyn and I planted five rows of optimistic bulbs into the ground - another season, another lifetime ago, it seems. Back then, I was filthy every day, exhausted every night and living an inspired, albeit remote, life. Today, I am clean, well-rested, actively social and culturally engaged - a direct 180. I adore the duality of my life, although many find it hard to understand, particularly banks and anyone who needs my 'permanent' address. (I never thought that, "Where do you live?" would ever be such a stumper question.)

These days, I listen to sheriff helicopters not crop dusters. I switch my pick-up (locked, no keys inside) from curb to curb to avoid a ridiculous street sweeping ticket. I am still inspired by my vision but missing physical exertion. I am actively taking great comfort in the presence of beloved friends who make me giggle like a child and, of course, I am eating too much ‘holiday’ food.

The last 24 hours provide a telling snapshot of my current life:

I hopped on a freeway to attend sleepover with a beloved bunch of women I’ve known since girlhood, hosted by my dearest friend, Lisa. Under a drizzly Orange County sky, we ate Mexican food, drank wine, soaked in a hot tub, drank more wine and laughed into the night. This morning, we ate egg burritos, indulged in celebrity gossip, sang ‘California Dreamin’ and picked oranges from the backyard tree. Then we hugged goodbye, and hopped on our respective freeways after making additional concrete social plans. With decades of shared memories, such friendships feed my soul, reminding me why I am in Southern California for the winter; it's not just about avoiding blizzards, it's about recharging my social battery.

As I told my mother recently, “If I’ve learned anything this summer, it’s how to celebrate where you are and not pine for someplace else - a waste of time.”  I see this philosophy as an extension of the familiar song lyric, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” For god sakes, wherever you find yourself, be there

Nevertheless, when jogging along the beach these days, I see the Pacific Ocean, the Queen Mary, endless happy LBC faces...and rows and rows of perfectly ripe garlic.