A Poetic Journey Down Memory Lane

Last night I found myself, or more appropriately lost myself, looking through an old poetry journal.  I started writing poetry when I was maybe 10 or 11.  There was a threesome of good climbing trees in the far corner of our backyard and one in particular had a nice solid branch that I would perch on for hours and daydream and write poetry.  I have kept some of those poems and a “book of poetry” I created for a school assignment.  I continued to dabble in poetry until my mid-teens when my focus shifted.  Then in my late twenties, seriously in need of a creative outlet, I picked up my pen and started to write poetry again.  Instead of a tree perch, it was a chair looking out at my backyard that became my favorite writing spot.  For several years I wrote regularly and even had a few poems published.  Eventually though, the smell of baby powder and dirty diapers lured me in another direction and my poetry writing has been gathering dust.  One thing I noticed looking back at my collection of writing is how many of my poems were inspired by nature.  Maybe the nature theme was partly due to where I did most of writing, with views of my yard, but I have always been drawn to being outdoors and contemplating the beauty of the natural world.  This is why I like running, riding my bike and gardening so much, I need my daily dose of nature.

Poetry can be a highly personal writing outlet and great therapy.  For instance, you can learn a great deal about what is going on in a child’s life or check in on their emotional register  just by reading their poetry.  For this reason I won’t be sharing any poetry that I wrote during those boy crazy teen years as it is filled with sappy reflections on “love”.  (don’t really know why I kept those)  What I will share is something I wrote about nature.  It was published in a poetry anthology in the early 90’s.  I’m feeling inspired now, especially after my jog through the valley today.  I just may have another bout of poetry coming on.

 

The Storm

Gentle breezes turn to gusty gales,

Churning the skies;

Gathering clouds dark and ominous.

Flashes of light charge the air,

Boasting of power with thunderous booms.

Sweet, the beads of moisture fill the air.

Trickling, now surging, pummeling,

Wind and water casting nature’s wrath.

Rivers flow in once dry gullies.

Trees sway, leaves battered and blossoms torn.

Calamitous forces make swift their departure.

Raging winds turn to quiet breezes.

Rays of sunlight pierce the gloom,

Casting rainbows, linking sky to earth.

An offering, renewing nature’s harmony.

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TGIF

If there is one thing that is sure to put me in a funk, it is January.  Just like some people are not morning people, I am not a January person.  I can not seem to get anything accomplished in January and my motivation drops below sea level.  The fog in my brain never lifted enough to pick up a pen or pluck at my keyboard.  So, TGIF – Thank goodness it’s February!  I woke up this week with a renewed sense of direction and am filled with optimism for the coming year.  In fact, I think I will start the new year anew by celebrating the Chinese New Year this Sunday February 10th.

Of course many people start the new year off with New Year’s resolutions.  I could not come up with any, other than the usual live in the moment and be a better person until I was out on my bicycle earlier this week.  Like I have said in earlier blogs, I have a mountain bike which I ride on the street.  This year I resolve to change that…I am going to hit the dirt!  One reason that I ride on the street is that it is easier.  I just hop on my bike and go. No having to load up the bike and search out trails.  It is hard enough to carve out time to ride with a teenager to chauffer around and a toddler hanging off my leg.  But this year somehow I am going to find some time to hit a few trails though because it just sounds fun.  Also, it will give me something new to think about and get motivated about.

My other resolution is to continue to get outside with my kids.  A couple weeks ago I took Ginger, now 4, on her first real hike.  We carried backpacks with a picnic and took a short hike to a nearby waterfall.  She was so excited to go on a “big girl” hike and can’t wait to go again.   I am a strong believer in getting kids out in nature.

I am not a great photographer, but I came across a picture recently that I want to share  that I took last March or April while on a hike with my teenage son.  It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen….thousands of ladybugs covering the ground, bushes and nearby trees.  So get out this year and hit a few trails whether on your bike or on foot…you never know what you might see!

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Mother Nature Rules

           We humans have invented, created and built some amazing products and buildings.  We have traveled to the moon, the depths of the oceans and to the tops of the highest peaks.  We have figured out how to split an atom and cure diseases.  We are the most intelligent beings on earth.  However, Mother Nature is truly in charge here and likes to remind us of that with little and sometime huge gestures. 

            Haunting images of the destruction from Hurricane Sandy are everywhere.  Luckily, technology has given us the ability to predict (to some extent anyway) the path and severity of storms like these so that people can take precautions to protect themselves and their belongings.  There is no way to avoid them entirely though and there is always an unknown factor at play.  Also, luckily, these huge gestures from Mother Nature are relatively infrequent.  That said, I do feel great empathy for those affected and wish them all a speedy recovery.

             I had my own encounter with the unpredictable Mother Nature recently.  About three weeks ago was me and my son’s long planned adventure to climb Mt Whitney, the tallest peak in the contiguous United States at 14,505 feet.  We set out on a thursday for our 5 hour drive to Lone Pine, CA, where we met up with our six climbing companions.  As we approached the town we were met with fog, rain and hail; snow could be seen on the surrounding mountains.  Of course, being October we knew ahead of time that the weather could be unpredictable.  To climb Mt Whitney you must have a permit and the permits are issued in a lottery system so this particular weekend was what we were given.  We had originally planned on camping at the base of the mountain that night, but the day prior had made a group decision to stay in town because of the wet weather.  We didn’t want to start off with wet, soggy gear.  Friday morning we awoke to gloomy skies and as we drove up to the base of the mountain to begin our hike snow was falling.  It was eerie and beautiful.  We had all planned for chilly, wet weather so with loaded backpacks and excitement we hit the trail to our next destination, Outpost camp, to spend the night and get acclimated to the altitude.  At about 10,000 feet this is a popular camping spot for hikers making the climb in 2 days.  The sun was out by the time we got there and the storm had moved on. 

             We pitched tents, got water and ate.  By the time the sun was setting it was cold enough to force us all to our tents and sleeping bags.  Not such a bad thing as we needed to rest, wake up time was at 2:30 am.  Neither my son nor I slept much that night though.  He was cold and I was restless.  After hot cocoa, coffee and oatmeal we started hiking at 3:30 am.  Two of my hiking friends, Joe and Jeri had done this hike several times before and they were our mentors on this trip and knew from experience that this was the time to start hiking to make a good summit and return time.  It was cold and the trail was icy and snowy, not to mention dark…we all wore headlamps to light the way.  I will say I was the slowest hiker, the altitude was affecting me but Shaun seemed to be doing great, leading for a lot of the way.  It was hard to drink water because it was cold, so cold that our water bottles were getting icy.  About the time the sun was starting to glow on the horizon we stopped for a rest.  We were at about 12,000 feet.  Checking in with my son, he seemed exhausted and did not want to drink water or eat.  As the others moved on, tears appeared in his eyes and he said he really thought he could make it, but he just didn’t have it in him.  I was already to the point where I was seriously questioning my ability to reach the summit that day so I gave him a hug and said we could turn around if he wanted.  We did turn back and slowly made our way back to Outpost camp.  Hiking downhill on ice is harder than going up.  We both did a little ice skating  and landed on our butts a couple times.  Back at Outpost camp we lay on our sleeping bags with our feet sticking out of our tent as we warmed up and moped a little in our defeat.   It was still early in the day, and a beautiful day it was turning out to be, so we decided to pack up and hike all the down the mountain and head for home.  As we descended we both began feeling better and were getting giddy at the thought of a big hamburger at the trails end. 

             In retrospect, it was probably the best decision for us.  I hadn’t realized that the last 2 night’s of insomnia I had endured were a symptom of altitude sickness.  In fact, I felt pretty good as we started the drive home, probably just from all the adrenaline.  A few hours down the road I was hit with incredible exhaustion and dizziness.  It took all my reserves to get us safely to a stopping point and we ended up having to find a motel for the night.  The aftereffects slowly dissipated over the next several days, but left me wondering if I would have become more ill had I pushed on that day.  As for Shaun, he did amazing for a 14 year old and although he was disappointed to not make it to the top he has many more years to go and face the mountain again.  We both agreed it was one of the hardest physical things either of us had ever done.   And we both agreed that if we were to do it again it would be in the summer time when (hopefully) Mother Nature would be more cooperative!

Humble Pie

       Undoubtedly the most universally humbling experience has to be that of getting older.  Anyone over the age of 35 would surely agree and if you are not yet that old I say, “don’t worry, your day will come!”  I experienced my share of humbling in the past week, starting with a hike I took with my 14 year old son, Shaun.  I consider myself to be in pretty good shape and felt well prepared for this hike, an 8 ½ mile trail to the top of Mt.Baldy at just over 10,000 feet.  In fact, I thought I was doing great except for the fact that Shaun was bounding ahead of me the whole time and every little bit stopping to call back, “come on mom!”, or “hurry up mom!”  I did take solace in the fact that several hikers who we passed stopped to commiserate with me over the exuberance of youth.  And as if the hike alone wasn’t enough to make me feel my age, it was the next several days when gimpy girl here was hobbling around with sore thigh muscles and Shaun, apparently unfazed from the hike, was off to run 4 or 5 miles with his cross-country team.  Not to be all negative though, I am still proud of myself for getting out there and I am thankful that I am blessed with the good health to be able to do it!

       It’s not just the creaking joints and slower recovery time that served to humble.  I also like to think I’m into what’s current in music.  I watch the Grammy’s and I’m even hip on electronic house music, at least  I know what it is.  But, no, it seems I am woefully slow in that department too.  You see, there are subgenres of electronic music and there is dubstep and all sorts of machines used to make this music of which I am still to be educated on.  And no matter how hip I think I am, I am still behind on the finer points of social media, texting acronyms and slang. 

       The mirror, of course, is the most humbling of all devices.  I don’t care how young at heart you are or how much hair dye and anti-wrinkle cream you apply or even if you partake of the needle or knife…..Mother Nature will eventually catch up to you.  Believe me, I’m sure even Heidi Klum has had her day facing the ever truthful piece of glass.  I am making peace with that vision I see reflecting back to me everyday….I am not always happy with it, but we are on speaking terms and I think we are going to be together for a long time.   The saying “It’s what’s on the inside that counts” resonates more fully as we age.

       Which brings me to my last point, there is humble pie to be eaten when we realize that yes, our parents were right about a lot of things.  Time does heal all wounds and the earth does not revolve around one person.  And remember some of those phrases they said that you swore you would never repeat to your own children like “money doesn’t grow on trees you know”, “because I said so!”, or “I have eyes in the back of my head that’s why”.  Yep, they will pop out of your mouth one day when you are not even thinking about it. 

       There are more humbling moments I’m sure, I just can’t remember what they are right now.

Watching from the Sidelines

         Now that the Olympics are over it’s back to my regularly scheduled life. I am always captivated by the Olympics, especially the summer games.  There is just something special about all these athletes from around the world getting together to compete and show off their sport to the whole world.  My only complaint is that most of the sports that I wanted to watch were on past my usual bedtime.  I don’t know why “prime time” is considered between 9 pm and midnight.  I think it should be more like 7 pm to 10 pm….but that’s just me… night owl I am not.  Thankfully I have discovered places to watch online, like through my Direct TV account so I can keep up with most of the action.  It sucked up large chunks of my day though.  Thank goodness it’s only once every 2 years (counting both summer and winter). 

             This year I found myself observing the parents of the athletes during and after the competitions.  Their faces were a roller coaster of emotions, fear, excitement, pride, devastation and joy.  It was their child’s journey, but they have been right there along with them for the ride.  Most of us parents spend a large amount of time taking our children to sports and other activities.  I can only begin to imagine the amount of time, money and sacrifice that the parents of the young Olympians have put into attending practices and events, buying shoes and outfits and helping them keep it all in perspective.  And for all the parents of the Olympians there are countless others out there who have put in the same time and effort for their children only to realize that it just wasn’t meant to be for them.   Hopefully they all find that the journey itself was worth the effort.

           I am rather looking forward to my own little parental journey.  After a three year break from organized sports, my son is now venturing into high school athletics and my calendar feels crowded already.   He is pursuing mountain biking and cross-country.  My only hope for him is that he has finally found his niche.  I mean really, this kid has tried a lot of sports: baseball, gymnastics, soccer, martial arts, lacrosse, volleyball, swimming, bmx, skateboarding, snowboarding (this one he likes and is pretty good at, but alas we only get to the snow about once a year), ice skating and a few others like basketball and tennis through PE at school.  I am particularly excited that he has decided to give cross-country a try.  I have been careful not to let him know this of course.  And I try to keep my own running advice to a minimum, which is hard for a blabber mouth like me.  I know I have to observe from the sidelines, pom-poms in hand, as he makes his way and finds his own motivation. 

 Keys in hand, I’m out the door now, time for the after-practice pick-up.

Motivation – May the force be with you

            Several months ago I was coming back from a run on a rainy morning when a neighbor saw me and commented “Now that takes motivation!”  I replied something innocuous like “oh, it’s just water.”  It really didn’t seem like that big of deal to me, a light rain, not too cold.  I have certainly endured worse weather during the time I lived in Wyoming and Colorado.  The comment got my mind going, though, on the subject of motivation.  What motivates me?  What motivates others?  On a very basic level we as human beings are motivated to seek shelter and food, generally achieved by going to work everyday or if you are so inclined, by mugging for cameras in the hope that celebrity alone will carry you through life.  There is, I guess, a certain kind of motivation that drives some people to just want to be a celebrity.  This is different of course from people who achieve a celebrity status because they have excelled at their craft.  One can see though that motivation is a complex set of factors that varies from person to person.  Some are motivated to achieve excellence in sports, others writing, acting, singing, painting, academics or a myriad of other pursuits.  Being motivated to simply be a good person or do good deeds is an admirable characteristic as well. 

             From my perspective motivation is like a constantly shifting energy force, a buzz in my head, a tug at my heart, a gurgling in my gut.  In my younger days I was motivated to exercise so I could look good in cute clothes and to work hard to move up, get promoted, earn more money and a bigger title.  At some point I became motivated to run races not just for fun, but to improve my time and maybe even place.  Not surprisingly, my motivational force shifted when I had a child, as if pregnancy itself changes your center of gravity.  Suddenly, keeping your child well and safe takes top priority.  Which is not to say that I still didn’t want to fit into my cute clothes or make money, it’s just not what was driving my highest motivational forces.  Life changes everything, right.

             When my now 14 year old son was just barely two, my husband passed away from cancer.  Having my son is what pulled me through.  My motivation to get out of bed and keep going everyday was to care for him and keep his world as normal as possible.  I changed careers because doing what you love in life seemed more important than just bringing home a paycheck.  Exercise became more a way to help me keep my mental health intact than to achieve anything.  Time goes on and I have since remarried and had another child, now 3 2/3, as she will readily tell you.  Being over 45 and having a toddler, my biggest motivation these days is staying healthy so I will be around to see my children have children!  I am also motivated to do more writing, something I have always enjoyed but never allowed myself time to pursue.  Ok, I’ll come right out and say it, I am motivated to get something published!  Again, life is tenuous, do something that makes you smile.  And when you feel that motivational energy force grab hold of it and let it pull you forward, you never know how far it will take you.

            One last note on children being a motivational force…my son and I are going to be going on an adventure in a few months, climbing Mt Whitney with some good friends.  At14,505 feet it is the highest peak in the contiguous United States and can be climbed without the use of mountaineering equipment.  More about this adventure in future blogs, but I will admit that I am very motivated right now to get myself  in good condition not only to accomplish  this goal but to not get shown up (at least not too much) by a 14 year old on our climb!

A Day of Nothing

            One of my daughter’s favorite books right now is called “Nothing To Do” by Douglas Wood.   In it, a young boy revels in the possibilities life offers when there is a day when nothing is on the calendar.  A world of free time, play and exploration awaits him.  Children, no doubt, are wired to experience the world in this way, but as adults, are lives are so busy and hectic that sometimes we need to be reminded to slow down, be in the moment and just enjoy life.  Reading this book made me wistful for one of those days.  Imagine, nothing on the calendar, no grocery shopping or laundry, no kid shuttling, no must get this done today or the world will fall apart feelings.

 

            Then, the unimaginable happened!  I turned the page on my planner and there it was, a Monday with nothing on the calendar!  And to sweeten the deal, it was my birthday.  What better excuse to have a day of nothing, than your birthday.  My husband had made coffee already, the kids were on the good behavior program and I got to enjoy the newspaper relatively uninterrupted.  Then, with no agenda looming, it was off to thelandofBarbie’s with my daughter.  As the sun got higher in the sky, the thought of an adventure took hold and we (my husband, 3 year old daughter and I) piled in the car and headed toward the beach.  Once we were on our way, I discovered I had left my watch at home and that my phone battery had died.  What better way to stay in the moment than to let go of time!  A picnic sounded nice but, as is common this time of year, the beach was overcast and a bit cool, so we opted for lunch at one of our favorite restaurants right on the beach.  By the time we finished lunch it was warmer and some joyous time was spent running up and down the beach, creating avalanches in the sand and poking at seaweed. 

 

            Back at home, I enjoyed a little siesta, possibly brought on by all that fresh sea air, but more likely due to the glass of wine I partook at lunch.  While I enjoyed my peaceful respite, my husband, with a little help from the teenager and toddler, prepared a wonderful dinner complete with brownies for dessert.  With only a quick check for Facebook birthday messages and e-cards, I didn’t linger on-line that evening, but rather read books, had conversations and didn’t even look to see what was on tomorrow’s calendar.  Some people would call it a mental health day, but I prefer to call it “a day of nothing”.  With school out for the summer, I am looking forward to more days of nothing!  Try it yourself and see what adventures evolve.

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