Sunday, December 29, 2013

on the joys of running uphill in the rain

I’ve been walking a lot lately for some reason. Suiting up, and heading out the door. rain or shine. At some point, I think it was in the second week of trying to get a half hour walk in more-or-less every day, in addition to whatever running was on the agenda, my feet and lower legs started yelling at me.

It was hard to point out exactly what the problem was: my muscles didn’t seem particularly tight, crampy, or strained in any way. But it hurt like hell to stand or walk around the kitchen in the evenings. My intuition was of a sort of sickly yellow-green color filling up my lower legs. After a day of rest, these sensations would go away. Then that stopped happening, but a new thing cropped up: I’d get chilled in the evenings, a couple of hours after coming in from 20 degrees in the snow, and I couldn’t seem to warm up. Eventually I realized that the rain pants I’d been wearing hadn’t quite done the job, and that I was wearing (unbeknownst to me) slightly wet-around-the-calves jeans. So I fixed that. And then I kicked into a new gear. The past couple of weeks, I’ve been going out walking for at least an hour a day.

The funny thing is is that my brain, which used to kick and scream at the mere thought of a walk (“BORING!”) (beach walks being an exception) has found its bliss in these rambles. Now that my feet and ankles (generally my weak spot) have toughened up, my brain is synchronizing itself to the habit of long bouts of continuous movement. I find I can think about anything on these walks. I can daydream. I can analyze my neighbors according to their taste in shrubbery. I can reacquaint myself with the subtle shift northwards of the sun along the ridge each afternoon as the days lengthen. I can ruminate. I can grieve, and let go of what’s done and gone. Nothing is off-limits, and because all there is to do is walk, I can keep focused for longer, and get shit done, in my head.

And in the meantime, I churn through the miles, nodding at the passing cars, getting to know which stands of trees are where, where do the birds congregate, which neighbor has a Virgin Mary statue hidden in plain sight in a grove of rhododendron.

This walking: it seems to knit my body, mind, and soul together, just as good long runs do.

And speaking of runs, today needed to be a running day – and it needed to be longer than three miles.

Alas, it was raining. Cold rain. The best kind.

I couldn’t skip – I’d already sacrificed a couple of runs in favor of walks, so hot was this new-found affair. I observed myself with fascination as I suited up – heavy gauge tights and light-weight wind pants – what if I get cold? maybe I should just go for a short walk instead – long-sleeve tech tee – shit, my feet are going to get wet – long-sleeve, absurdly expensive Smartwool “garment” from EMS – I can’t just walk, I won’t generate enough heat to stay warm – wind-block fleece – I HAVE to run – wind anorak – hell, let’s just get out there and see what happens, wool balaclava, neck fleece thingy, wool hat, heavy-duty gloves. I knew I’d get soaked, but I figured I’d be moving enough to stay warm.

The actual rain itself turned out to be a pleasant, cool sensation – not a problem at all. My gear was fine and I was warm; my feet and calves were as happy as could be, because of all the miles I’d been doing. My toes, wet as they were, informed me that they were happier than a pig in shit. My thighs were a little surprised to be called into action, but they rallied. But lo, the heart and lungs! I had lost some conditioning. This was a bit humbling. Right around here is when I started climbing a hill. Ooof. Much more of this and I will be actually panting. Or maybe even gasping. Won’t that be fun. A thought drifted through my mind, a thought reminiscent of ancient patterning. It had big air quotes around it, so I knew it didn’t even take itself too seriously.

 I suck, cause this shouldn’t be so hard.

It dissolved as another thought replaced it.

I am running up a hill. In the rain. And I’m loving it. I am a complete bad-ass.

I confess, I did take a quarter mile walking break immediately after this. I thought to myself, “self, you have run nearly two and a half miles. It’s not three miles, but it’s not bad. This would be good enough.”  “No thanks,” replied self. “Let’s pick up the pace.” And I ran the three miles home. In the cold rain.

And it was, indeed, awesome.

If I hadn’t disciplined myself to get outside walking every day, I never would have gone out today at all. I never would have known I was capable of running more than three miles in the rain.

I wonder what else I’m capable of.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

a matter of focus

I found a birch sapling today, hallelujah. My first birch buds since moving down here. I’ve seen yellow, black, white, gray, they’re all here, but not in the abundance they are in Vermont.

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hey buddy!

I saw something behind it I wanted to focus on, but I had set the camera’s focus on “manual”, and then forgotten I’d done so. So the first shot out of the barn was blurry.

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I liked how it looked, and started fiddling with the lens, twisting it bit by bit to see what I would find.

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This is where fairies come from: the in-between spaces.

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see her rippling?

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ghosties dance even as the next layer of reality resolves itself...

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...into leaf litter against a boulder, only faintly smudged with the idea of birch buds.

I’m enjoying these in-between states. It seems to me there’s a lot to learn in these spaces.

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Even something out of focus can be beautiful.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

slow news day

We have a couple of holly trees here.

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I never realized their berries were on long stalks – having never before encountered holly up close and personal.

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Some of the branches produced berries...

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While others produced these. These are buds, apparently.

We have just a couple more brown-eyed susans ready to open up. When I spotted one, it was so cute I was cooing to it and Maggie got jealous and came over to investigate.

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Two pretty girls!

Monday, October 14, 2013

naughty maggie

Recent news: I completed my sixth half marathon – the ING Hartford – over the weekend. Kevin was out of town on bidness, so I was on my own.


Typical pre-race madness. I was in with the 2:15 pace crowd, mostly because I was too lazy to fight my way back to my own people, but as it turns out, it was a gloriously crisp day. Cool temperatures + flat course = I was right to be with that crowd, because I finished just a bit after the 2:15 mark.


That’s my second-best time ever, so yay, me!

Kevin came home later that night. Whew. I always do better when my boy is around. Yesterday was all about pancakes, and beginning to install book shelving. As for today:

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Perhaps this is the last of the brown-eyed Susans?

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And on the other end of the spectrum, a blasted-away Susan.

I spent a while trying to get enough decent shots of some sort of possibly-a-weed – I suspect in the mint family, but it has no particular minty odor. I’m not saying this is a good shot:

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...I just like the fact there’s a spider in it, whom I didn’t notice at the time.

The azalea buds (?) have these awesome, whimsical decorations:

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Probably the remnant of the stamen. Or something.

It is a gorgeous fall day. Alas, I’m trapped here this afternoon because the chimney sweep is due to arrive momentarily. I’d much rather be out in the woods, OR perhaps helping to earn my keep (via an as-yet-to-manifest job), or perhaps helping to contribute to global peace and environmental sanity.

Charlie has it worse: he’s at the vet all day, having his teef cleaned.

Maggie, on the other hand, is as happy as can be.

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My departure with Charlie for the vet this morning was hasty - I forgot to put away some things. A freshly licked-out can of cat food, and Charlie’s broken food dish (half-filled from last night, but since then, scrupulously licked clean) greeted me upon my return. No wonder she’s licking her chops. Naughty Maggie.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

dave deux, part deux

So back to the home improvement channel – here are some random before-and-after shots of various spots throughout the house:

Downstairs bath/laundry room



A sickly beige and a completely random dull magenta. Awesome!

Let’s apply our Benjamin Moore magic to it. Remember, our favorite color is their “butterscotch”, a deep orange – every other color in this house is either butterscotch, or one of the four lighter shades on the same paint chip.


So this leaves us with a groovalicious peachy scene. At first I thought this was a little too much “hand me a drink with an umbrella in it” but it’s grown on me.

The master bedroom.

Oh, the master bedroom...the wallpaper from hell. We tried removing it ourselves.


That didn’t go well. It just wouldn’t come off. After a combined maybe six hours of developing tendonitis from working on it, we called a friend for a recommendation and he handed over Tommy, the sheetrock guy. Tommy thought he could strip the whole room down in a half day, by slathering joint compound all over the walls.


Oh, Tommy, Tommy, Tommy...this room defeated even Tommy. It took him four times longer than he thought. He wound up needing to skim coat most of the room because there were so many little slubs of imperfection in the finish. He got it down to a state of virginal purity, and then I threw up a couple gallons of paint on it – one wall in the famed butterscotch and the rest in an innocuous, related, nearly-off-white. And then Kevin put down some flooring.


Here’s the butterscotch wall – note the subflooring, with a few pieces of the new flooring waiting to be sent into action.

And here we are with the new flooring. Ah. Much better.



Guest bedroom/home gym room

This room used to be painted a disturbing pale yellow, and was complemented by set off rather grossly by industrial gray wall to wall. I already told you about my bestie Michele visiting and kicking ass

Here she is moving heaven and earth in order to remove a tiny bit of that wall-to-wall that was wedged underneath the murphy bed (! we have a murphy bed! so far, we’re thinking that’s a cool thing). I was super helpful during this process. I handed her tools, and I took pictures. Couldn’t have happened without me, nope.



Isn’t she adorable? She’s adorable.

Here’s the after:


Why yes, that is a tasteful peachy color that positively glows. Very mellow – does not induce a desire for an umbrella-festooned drink. Which is good, since this room is devoted to virtue and health.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

travels with charlie

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my muse.

I am e-x-h-a-u-s-t-e-d. So is Kevin – in fact, he’s upstairs napping. Please to note: it’s Tuesday afternoon. He came home sick at lunch today, which was shortly after I wrapped up my GAZILLION errands this morning. Which I did in old-lady-slow-motion, because like I said – man, I’m tired. I think I am just catching up to myself, or something. Life’s been great, and all - it’s just been intense, and I’ve needed some down time. I didn’t catch up to this fact til I started to get a cold last night, which meant that I had to cancel my morning shadowing at the local hospital where I’ll be a Reiki volunteer.

So, this morning, the errands, which could not be avoided, and this afternoon, I got the first coat of paint up in the master bedroom. And then, with nothing to do but give in and relax, I headed out with the camera.

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We are surrounded by trees here, and guarded by sunflowers. They’ve long since withered.

Some unknown (as yet) to me perennial outside the kitchen has long stalks bedecked with brilliant hot pink bobbles. The Nikon turned up its nose and refused to focus on them:

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This one looks like a painting to me:

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What do you think?

A Charlie and a brown-eyed susan loom menacingly over some hapless victim, out of sight:

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(cue theme to ‘Jaws’)

I decided to investigate those pink bobbles more closely.

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The Nikon was happy to oblige. My theory is that something crisp, surrounded by blurry, is “art”.

In which case, this one wouldn’t qualify:

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...except the more I look at it, the more I like it. Nice composition, nice colors.

I was playing around in the driveway circle with the Panasonic (the point-and-click), framing shots of (who are these berries?) -- when who should drop by?


The Charles.

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This kept happening.

I proceeded to the hostas and took one MILLION gorgeous shots, NONE of which worked out, because the Panasonic hates light purple and I’m too lazy to learn how to manhandle the settings into submission.


This one was the crispest of the lot.

I finally conceded, put the Nikon into manual mode, and left things blurry.

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I guess this is how I photograph hostas.

Onward to the ROSES! Did I mention we have a rosebush? It is so lovely that I already promised it I would feed it fishheads if it wants (and if you know my feelings about fish (as in, to eat) you know that’s a BIG DEAL.)

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How can something so blatantly gorgeous be so coy?

I watched an insect toil up and down the canyons.

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I recalled the moment, many years ago when I was a Park Ranger and goofing off one day, that I discovered rose hips. My grandmother grew roses but somehow I’d never noticed the hips.

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They’re not be trifled with, apparently.

More gratuitous beauty.

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...and now, for the same shot, focused elsewhere:



All this will fade. All this will pass.


So says the crone.

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You sexy thing, you.

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“I will draw you in...”

Then I got interested in compositions. Well, first, there was the bug sex.

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THEN there were the compositions.

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No one’s in focus in this one, but I like the composition.


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Which is more interesting? The all-blurry, or this one?


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Ahhhhh...not a bad afternoon.