The Running Manifesto

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Her mind is restless.

She is living with a sense of foreboding that she finds difficult to escape.

Running:

the welcome release valve,

the essential respite,

the place to gather thoughts and make sense of things.

Running gives a woman positive bodily integrity.

The sheer act tells the story of how a woman won’t be controlled

by restrictive laws or narrow thinking

that seeks to put her in her “place”

or shames her into choices

that someone else is making for her and her life.

She controls the pace because it is her race to run.

So why  run?

Run to stay empowered.

The goals?

To remain a free and self-determined woman.

And what is she training for?

Her Life

 

Day 14: This poem has pieces from a post of mine “Freedom of Movement” that I wrote on November 6, 2015- the year before election night. I must have had a sense that changes were approaching. In reality, they were already underway; the widgets were set in place in the 1980’s. 2016 was the beginning of the overt onslaught.

 

Morning Deluge

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            Image Courtesy of: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/early-morning-                rain-sallie-wysocki.html

 

Held hostage by the gravity of sleep,

the ceiling fan spins its hum.

The alarm has been snoozed

My mind fogged is fogged by dreams

It starts as a tapping

and moves quickly into a steady beat.

I kneel at the window,

my eyes unfocused,

peering into the early morning darkness.

I only see trees swaying

Awake now, I stumble down  the hall

and in mere seconds

the sky has released a deluge.

The park is filling with an amber rain

Black puddles shine in my back yard

Overhead, thunder rolls and rumbles

Its vibrations felt by my feet

I pray for its passing

and the easing of the rain.

I long to run before my work day begins

The trail will be flanked by vernal pools

hundreds of frogs

-immaculately conceived-

will engage in their chorus.

In these few moments

A reincarnation of Old Florida reveals itself

Beckoning and Begging and Beseeching

to be Saved before it sinks.

 

Day 5:  Fine tuning this before the end of  a work day.  Written in the early hours.  Published now.

Capturing a Running Moment

 

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                                              Image courtesy of: Becoming Ultra

A long run at sunrise sounded promising

The forecast was for a record hot day

The dastardly humidity returning

Uninvited

April holds out as if a wall is erected

Attempting to deter the thick air

Sidewalks empty of  foot traffic

The road just beginning to buzz with four wheeled machines

The sprinklers performing their duty

in their usual quiet fashion

They hiss as I run past

My mind wanders

Planning the route as I go

Needing to run far enough so my legs don’t give out

The hidden side streets are a favorite detour

before the route to the beach

The boulevard is nearly empty

as I cross to the bridge that rises over the bayou

A woman driving her car eastbound

snaps a photo of the quiescent sky

I run to the nature park and to the path which surrounds me with mangroves

My feet sound different here

palpitating with the beat of my heart

I am unaware of where this path ends

while simultaneously mindful that this is the best I will feel in this moment

 I turn a corner

and I am full on with the salty brackishness

and the day’s rising

Simple in beauty

Conscious that this will be the highlight of my day

I turn to go

Heeding my pace

Aware of the many miles that lay before me

Day 28. Happy Friday!

Seeking Heaven

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I lie on my mat and ponder the wickedness in this world

Softly chanting mantras

Calling for light in dark corners

  Offering praise for the ones showing us the way

 I meditate

Cleaning the slate of my overworked and overwrought thoughts

I move my body

Stretching muscles

Mending tissues

Restoring cells

Experiencing joy in the work

Content that heaven exists

in the garden planted,

the mountains climbed,

the  paths run

and

the moments magnified by love

Day 20. Namaste

Hometown Run

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Photo courtesy of: Trip Advisor (Ward Hill Reservation)

The brisk  mid morning air rushed at my bare arms and legs

The nip a welcome amazement

A bit of bliss

I smile as if kissed

My heart in full surge

Feeling the urge

An unquenched desire to move through the breeze

The hills, rises, and turns feeling familiar once again

The tower bell tolled ten

Its chime a reminder of a lost moment

and the comforting rhythm to our days

 I cross at the light

forgetting the long span of street that lay ahead

Houses and yards void of winter’s white

Daffodils and crocuses rounding out the renewing green of lawns and red  brick pathways

The downhill speeds my pace-

I am used to its more arduous climb, not its effortless decent

I turn on the road where the cemetery lies in the grove

My legs just starting to slightly suffer

I approach a rare flat surface

Relief briefly in store

A left turn into town

Churches white-steepled, granite stoned and russet brick

One last incline then the finish

The high road to where the boys now call home

Day 14: Already Running, Hanging and Cooking with family and friends.

Thursday Tempest And a Run Delayed

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The city park glistens

Its puddles reflect the lampposts’ amber light

The rain pours off the roof

Pounding the patio tiles

And soaking my running shoes under the false shelter of the portico

Lightning cuts across the horizon in violent zigzags

Thunder causes the wine glasses to vibrate in their cabinet nests

Just as I think it abates and finally ceases

The roar and boom and the  furious deluge resumes twice more

and the darkness remains

Day 6. An early start to writing and a later start to running as newspapers-stuffed inside my shoes- dry my well-worn Sauconys.

Breathing Room

I ran this morning until it hurt. Perhaps I was inspired by my work colleague, M. whom I met on the trail somewhere after the 1 mile mark. She was heading North to Dunedin on a 30 mile run. We spoke at length about life as it is and the need for running. How we write lesson plans, letters, solve problems, and create new ideas as our feet guide us to known and often unknown destinations. Her goal inspired me to run further after a week of not running at all.  It was completely unplanned; I surely had plenty of time-more time than usual last week to get in lots of running. Yet, I found myself letting things unfold. Yoga and chakra meditation really called my name. The weather was cool-very cool and windy- and I welcomed the chance for a hoodie and windbreaker to walk in on Spring Break.

Spending time with myself and loved ones down here was the goal. My stepdaughter and I enjoyed lunch and long walks and big talks together; we grew closer than ever. Emily was down for a family obligation and managed to drive the extra 115 miles to see where I live, accompanied by lovely Lillian, her daughter. Her mid-week visit filled my soul and ironically, made me feel more grounded here. Showing her and Lillian the sights of St. Petersburg was truly a thrill.

Mountain Women on the city streets!

On Friday, I spent the morning walking the beach at Indian Shores, listening and looking. Seashore treasures abounded:

 

Peace was at hand at hand-at least for a little while.                                                                                                                                                     

Saturday dawned and we headed for a run on St. Pete Beach, where my father lives. He thought only my husband would be out and said I was a “good  surprise” so early in the morning. I decided to walk and talk with him. Simply wonderful! Later in the day, we joined him and others at a waterfront joint, enjoying the turquoise water,  slow-moving boats and surfacing dolphins. We celebrated a traditional New England St. Patrick’s Day dinner that night at our house.

Still, the specter of insecurity persists, seeping into conversations in the midst of sunshine and laughter. I continue to resist, shining my own light, becoming the change I wish to see.

 

 

The Gift of Time

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How many of us awaken unconscious and unaware, deluged by the usual daily dread of work, caring for ourselves or loved ones or besieged by other obligations that pull at our energies before our feet have yet to hit the floor? I imagine many of you feel this way constantly, or at least from time to time-because really, who hasn’t?

We are only reminded of how fragile time is when a sudden illness or death or when Mother Nature’s fury unleashes herself on us, halting our daily routine in its tracks and-at its worst- upending our life for a long period of time.

I have often written about staying present, mostly when I am aware of being on the verge of a major life transition. During this juncture, I want to capture every moment, knowing that it will soon become just a memory. Then, when my life becomes more ordered and wrapped in routine, I quickly forget to take things in and savor what’s right in front of me, even if it’s not particularly exciting or positive-like being stuck in traffic at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

Of course, I am not advocating that you should rejoice when you’re in gridlock; I remember being aware of how much time was wasting away during the 65 minutes it took me to get to my destination on Tuesday and how angry it was making me!

Then Hermine began to whisper in our ear Wednesday, staying well into Friday afternoon. Schools were closed; thus giving me an unplanned five-day weekend. I had much to do; the start of any school year is always overwhelming. The days fly by and there is truly never enough time in a work day to keep organized and plan ahead.  Much is left to be done after hours.

I recall waking up Thursday in a state of agitation. My thoughts were scattered. Speed work had been cancelled the previous morning due to thunderstorms. But early Thursday arrived with what was to be a brief respite. I knew a good workout would begin to clear my head. Sure enough, it was exactly what I needed! Not long into the run, I looked up and saw a great blue heron, my steady animal sign that reminds me to be patient. I saw still another wading at the edge of a verdant pool in someone’s front yard. I sent out a prayer of gratefulness to the universe; this is exactly what I needed to be doing!  My restless night and worries sloughed away.

While it is important to keep the boundaries of home and work separate, I felt as if Thursday and Friday were unexpected presents-not only to relax- but to gather myself a bit, work wise. I slowly began to check off the tasks that had been stuck in my head overnight. The sense of urgency disappeared; my mind was clear and a weight was lifting.

I write this not as a reminder to be constantly productive but as mental cairn to be open to moments that point us in the right direction. The signs are always revealing themselves; we just need to pause, take a breath and look around.

(This image was taken by me a month ago. However, the post and the image were also inspired by Emily.  She was out on a local hike up north yesterday and she texted me this message: “Just saw 2 blue herons flying at Weir Hill. Cool breezes, warm sun, blue sky. It’s my church today. Peace, sister.”)

 

Speedwork Under a Full Moon

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Rising in the early morning dark has its benefits. When I set out in the humid air this morning, I was blessed to see the full Sturgeon moon. Since moving here, I don’t think I have really see one in all its glory until today.  I was lucky enough to have a regular monthly siting when I lived up North. Less artificial light and a more rural setting really spoiled me in that regard. The whole house would light up and I often would go outside for a little while just to look. In fact, the boys and I even went “owling” in the deep woods on a frigid and snow-filled January night. We had no need for flashlights to guide us. Incredible memory!

Forgive me, I digress…. Recently, I have felt much like the sturgeon itself, at least when it comes to running. I feel ancient, that’s for sure, but certainly not threatened or endangered as these unique fish once were. Still, I was in need of a comeback, much like them. I needed to take action. Yet, somehow I lacked the motivation to do it all by myself. So, imagine my delight when just 3 weeks ago, I came upon a group of people doing speedwork just one mile from my house! I was even more excited when they invited me to join them the following week. It turns out that the guy who coaches the group lives in the apartment complex next to my house and works at the running store where I buy my shoes! I have 2 weeks under my belt, and while getting up @ 4:30 to be ready for a 5:30 run is not everyone’s idea of fun, I really look forward to it. Today I was asked if I have a next race. I don’t. My goal is to get out of my running rut and feel better about myself and my body. If the work reveals a race to me, I’ll go with it. Right now, I’m just happy to be in the peace of the morning with just the moon as my guide.

 

 

 

 

 

Mountain Oasis

 

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View of Mt. Lafayette from the deck of the house

We’ve just come off a 12 day trip to New England, most of which was spent in the mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire. I had been looking forward to the trip ever since we planned it in back in February. Not only were we to take up the challenge of a half-marathon in the heart of the Green Mountains, we were also reconnecting with our tribe-our children, sister, niece and closest friends.

Emily and I at the summit of Artist’s Bluff

I love the new life I am building with my husband. He makes me laugh every day; we are true partners in our relationship. I am grateful that I am in a situation where I don’t I have to prove myself with every breath I take. Also, I have really enjoyed exploring some parts of this new landscape in addition to re-establishing myself as an educator in a supportive and positive school community. But hiking and being in the mountains is one of the things I miss the most about living up north.

If you are neither a hiker nor a runner, it may be hard to understand the joy found in the challenge of a long hard run or a long hard climb. Or even the purpose of arising early in the morning to begin the trek! Although my half-marathon time was slow and the hills nearly impossible to run, the landscape raised me up and the weather cooperated by staying cool. I was so happy to be there! Rolling hills, farm houses, red barns, fields of green and friendly folk enveloped by misty mountains had a medicinal effect even during the hardest parts of the race.

One of the best cures for post-race muscle fatigue (besides yoga) is a good, solid, short hike. My husband and I chose the Sterling Pond Trail at the top of Smuggler’s Notch. At 3000′, it is Vermont’s highest trout pond. With a 1000′ elevation gain, it proved to be the perfect antidote to the previous day’s rolling roads. Slippery, wet rocks and muddy paths were rewarded by the view at the summit.

Sterling Pond, Smuggler’s Notch, Vermont

I knew this was only the beginning of finding my joy and, despite my aches and pains, I was ready for what the White Mountains had to offer us for the rest of the week.

Upon our arrival at the house in Franconia, we were greeted  by this view:

Mt. Lafayette on a sunny afternoon

My eyes welled up. I felt as if I was coming home. And indeed, home came to us in human form as well. My friends rented a place five minutes down the road and we shared many a meal and hiking paths together that week. My sons and stepdaughter arrived a few days later along with my sister-in-law and niece. We had girlfriends, boyfriends and other young adults added to the mix. At times, it felt like herding cats for hikes, but in a good way. Emily and my youngest  and his girlfriend (along with my sister-in-law) were always up and ready to go. And truly, everyone else was a good sport about heading out and attempting (and completing) the climbs.

We talked a lot about finding the joy in the challenge. For me, it isn’t only about reaching the summit, but in touching the earth along the way.

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Wildflowers across from Cannon Mountain

Being in the mountains makes it possible to be embraced by nature in ways that living here does not. The silence, the evergreen scents and sounds and the refreshing tingle of cool air are a reminder of how blessed we are to live on this planet and the need to preserve it.

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Arethusa Falls, Crawford Notch