Beacon

Poetry
 Clouds hang among the mountain tops
 Desperate to quell this need
 I have lost track of the days
 
The aspens glow golden 
in the morning light
 
I long for them to be a beacon  

Milk Run

Poetry
 
 Ejected from sleep  
 by the klaxon alarm
 I tumble out of bed
 fumble with layers of clothes
 
 slumping against the counter
 willing the coffee to brew faster
 
Clamber out the door
 
We ride in silence 
into the approaching dawn
nursing steaming mugs
driving a little faster
to make the milk run
 
The chalet is bright and full of noise
we stuff feet into plastic boots
file outside 
 
Stand in the biting cold
our breath clinging to red coats
impatiently kicking at the snow
waiting for the lift to turn
 
Rising with the sun
as it reaches out to touch 
the walls of the notch and Mansfield’s nose beyond
 
First tracks 
a moment of silence 
before the mountain opens 

January 7, 2006

Poetry
 Last night I painted the moon and stars
 you painted the sun
 together we painted the clouds
 
Hand in hand
we strolled snow covered streets
under trees of white light
 
To a yellow walled room
where we shared
 
The day one year ago 
that changed our lives forever 

Permission to Stop Running

Essay

I was not anticipating the wave of loneliness and sadness that consumed me as I finished my first run in months. I should have been exhilarated and happy from the exertion, but I was not. I’d felt this sadness after a run before, but never this powerfully. Never before had I questioned my reasons for running as I did in that moment. Maybe, I thought, it was ok to not run anymore.

It was the 70-degree weather on November 11, 2020–the wanting a quick fix for the softness around my middle and my inner voice telling me I should be running–that propelled me out the door. I told myself that it would be another form of mediation. I would not keep time, I would not worry about my pace or the distance covered, I would not listen to music, I would just move in the moment. As I took my first steps, I was already looking away from the moment and into the future, scheming that if I could do a simple run a few times a week then I could certainly continue to run through the winter (something I’ve never done), solving the soft middle dilemma (maybe I should stop sneaking M&Ms).and securing what my inner voice was telling me was my lynchpin to happiness. 

It was in 2012 that I started running to cope with my depression, and the death of my father. Then it was needed and it was wonderful, but now, perhaps it was time to find a new “medicine”? In 2014 I did Running Down Cancer. In the summer of 2018, I ran nearly every day because the previous winter I had gone off my antidepressants and after returning from a trip from Utah realized I desperately need to get myself out of the hole I was in and never go off my medication again. By the summer of 2019 while walking on the beach in Michigan I realized that I did not need to run to cope. But I didn’t give myself permission to stop and thus kept “shoulding” (I should be doing this, I should be doing that) myself about how I needed to run to stay on an even keel.

In the early spring of 2020, I ran regularly to deal with being cooped up due to the pandemic. But by June running just seemed like too much–another thing that needed to get done so that I didn’t slip into the darkness. Over the past eight years, I had convinced myself that I needed to run to survive, ignoring the fact that since I’d changed medications and I’d changed my therapist, there was no reason why I could not change my physical activity. The reality was that I had never run just for fun. I’d done it to cope, to put on a mask of who I thought I wanted to be so that I could be happy. But relying on outside forces for joy is simply not sustainable. 

Two days after my less than invigorating run on November 11th, as I walked briskly up the Summit Trail of Mount Philo State Park with our dog Jedi, I realized that walking this mountain was just as exhilarating as running it. I was seeing far more than I had all those hundreds of times I’d run the trail in the past. I was putting my mindfulness practice to work and approaching other people with compassion rather than thinking about myself and wondering if the “mask” of who I thought I should be was showing forth as I imagined it was. This compassion flooded me with joy and at that moment I gave myself permission to stop running to cope.