Friday, January 27, 2012

Making (Digital) Space

There’s lots of talk about less clutter these days. Less stuff = More Space. It allows room for more possibilities to enter in.

To that end, I spent time de-cluttering my cell phone. I removed the numbers of people that I haven’t called recently, or shouldn’t ever call.

When I got my current phone over a year ago, the salesman transferred all my contacts into my new phone. I remember him commenting on how many there were – over one hundred. I like hanging on to numbers, and a cell phone is an easy way to do that.

Rarely do I forget a face, sometimes I forget a name, but I always remember things about people. I like to connect people, too, so sometime it’s handy to have my virtual business card of everyone I’ve ever met – from people on the dance floor to long lost friends.

Despite my inclination to have everyone at my fingertips, I followed the compulsion to streamline my contact list. I removed 79 numbers from my phone. Most of them were added to a Rolodex on my computer. Some were deleted completely.

To think of all the names I don’t have to give energy toward as I scroll through my address book. Wow! That might save me a bit of time.

It has certainly made a lot of new space.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Positive Affirmations

I talk to myself when I’m running sometimes.

“You’ve got this.”

“You can do this” comes out through jagged breaths as I focus toward a point at the top of the hill – the lamppost or a shrub. “You’re almost there.”
Presentation of the Chakras by Joanna Barry.

I called the same forceful will today to practice meditation for 15 minutes. Again and again, a return to the breath. Again and again, distractions. Again, the breath. Again.

But I sat, returning to the breath. Things were going well for a span.

Suddenly, near 12 minutes the sitting was almost unbearable, my eyes fluttered open to my timer, legs twitched, and I caught myself completely outside of my practice of meditation.

And so, I returned with words of encouragement to myself as I would on any run “You can do this.”

“You can do anything for 3 minutes.”

(I’ll leave out the part where my mind cast my body aware yet again - acutely aware this time of tingling legs and aching IT band - when my eyes flew open to check the timer still with 30 seconds remaining)

And, I returned again, always returning, with practice, to the breath.

Inner Knowing

In a rare occurrence, my sister and I were at the same yoga class last night. It’s cool to share that experience with her because we first started going together to beginner yoga classes with Mary Kay at the Asheville Yoga Center in 2005. It’s really special that we share a town, and it’s neat to think about how far we’ve both come since 2005, on and off the yoga mat.

Yoga last night was focused on inner knowing, on trusting your gut feelings. Intuition can be an illusive thing when we focus so much on using our heads and our brains to be logical, create process, and define a path – rather than simply walk it.

Our teacher Rich focused on helping us bring focus to that part of the belly between the lower ribs and the bellybutton. He wanted us to rotate that inward. I had one yoga teacher in Kelowna who suggested that the best way to get that engagement in the body was to first draw the bellybutton in then feel like you are pulling it up toward your ribs. This automatically draws a hollowing out of the upper part of your stomach. This, coupled with a tucked tailbone, one gains a solid core and the opportunity to expand (or, I like the term “puff up”) the lower, back part of your ribs all the way down to your kidneys.

As a means of honoring the intuition I brought focus to yesterday, I decided to sit on a sunny patch on the hardwood floors – just sit – you know, meditate, because something in my body said it was a good idea.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Marathon Training

So, I'm doing this thing this year; you might have heard about it. It's called the Nashville Country Music Marathon. I'm doing it for a couple reasons.

This was a really good run the day after Thanksgiving.

1) It's a bucket list kind of thing. I have always wanted to run THAT specific marathon. I figure if I run it and decide never to run another than I've checked this one off my list.

2) It seems fitting that its dubbed the Country Music Marathon. For year, lots of years, I railed against country music, or what I thought was country music. The year I hiked the Appalachian Trail, 2003, there were times the radio I carried only received country stations. Low and behold, I discovered that I actually liked country music. Granted, the songs often sent me into tears. That year there was a song about baseball that made me cry. I never would have expect that.

Since 2003 my appreciation has grown for country music. Lots of times it makes me want to roll my eyes (unnecessary rhyming, stupid songs about red solo cups (is that a product-placement or what?), uber-nationalist jingoistic propaganda), but when I get beyond those songs I hear lyrics of living simply, putting love first, the tenderness of families, and life's quirks (the Camo is my Favorite Color song, anyone).
My friend Christina has always held an appreciation for country music. I used to pick on her for it. I came clean about my mutual appreciation when I visited her in December.  We participated in a terrible race with the crowd support of interstate (that we were running on) drivers stalled in traffic (gag on exhaust).

3) With any luck I'll be running around some guys who wear cowboy hats.

4) I've heard there's great crowd support.

5) I feel like I've reached a place where a half-marathon isn't a big deal anymore (I can't believe I just said that). It's not that running 13 miles is easy; it's that I know I can do it. Mentally, I've overcome the hurdle. Even if it didn't seem like I could do it last Saturday on my 13-mile training run with Elizabeth, I DO know it's possible to do it with relative ease and enjoy it.

Me and Elizabeth. I was very happy to be finished running last Saturday. It was a tough run for me (was I dehydrated or under-fueled?) And it was really, really cold. It took at least a mile or two before my fingers and face felt normal on my body.
There's a hiccup in my plan to run this year. To achieve my goal, I need someone with a conversion van waiting at the finish line to pick me up and drive me, non-stop to the middle of South Carolina. I'll sleep in the back and hopefully I can convince my massage therapist and friend Audra to flush the lactic acid from my body as I snooze.

Yes, damnit, I dream big! A marathon, a van with room for a massage table, a driver, my massage therapist, and arrival "just in time" for my evening appearance is possible. I believe it!!

Miracles happen every day, I'm just looking for about six to happen in one day.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Fastest Way to Put Out a Grease Fire

It got pretty messy in here a couple days into the New Year. I had a grease fire.

I was making the Liberian black-eyed pea soup recipe from my favorite cookbook, Moosewood Daily Specials on a burner that some grease had spilled onto over the holidays. We had cleaned it up from the burner itself but neglected to get the rest off the drip plate below. I cranked the burner up to its highest setting to start boiling the water for the peas. Soon the burner was smoking. I ignored it for a while, but when the billowing smoke became too much to ignore, I moved the pot and turned off the burner in synchronicity with the burner pan catching alight.

I stood baffled for a split second since only a couple days earlier on New Years Eve my friend Audra and I had been exchanging stories of our childhood, watching our mothers put out fires with baking soda. This memory of my mother and my conversation still fresh in my mind, I turned to the cabinet and reached toward the second shelf where I’d last seen the baking soda.

With a few solid shakes of the baking soda the fire was put out; the mist of powder hung in the swirling smoke.

My pride broke with the ear-piercing sounds of the smoke detectors of the house going off in unison, since my dad has wired them all to coordinate in the event of an alarm.

I threw open the doors and windows, and turned on the fans.

When the ringing subsided, I eased back in to my position by the stove. I felt thankful for all the lessons mommy taught me, and I contemplated the way that particular story re-told came alive again. 

A Word on My Word

Get this, my friend Desiree has a word for each year. The word represents what she wants to be, do, or cultivate in this world during those twelve months. Over lunch at the end of 2011 as she talked about her plans for breakthroughs in 2012, I determined to come up with a word for myself for 2012. 

I thought about this for days and weeks. I vacillated between thinking about it and letting it come to me naturally.

I finally settled on a word during the last days of December: Kindness. I will speak it. I will spread it. I will act it. I will feel it.

It seemed almost too simple, and yet its essence is so powerful. It just kept coming back to me, again and again.

As I played it out in my head it represents how I want to be in the world. I reasoned that if I acted with kindness at the forefront of my decision making then I can make a difference.

I told friends, and they razzed me a bit. They think it will be easy. They asked, fairly, if this will stretch me and if it will be a challenge for me.

At the same gathering I heard of another woman who used “why the hell not” as her mantra for 2011 and planned to use “step it up” as a focal point for change in 2012.

I began to feel like my little commitment to kindness was meager and without courage. Do I need a powerful word to represent my place in this world and set my stage for 2012? I toyed with “unabashed” because it seemed to capture boldness and shamelessness (after all, you serve no one by playing small, to paraphrase Marianne Williamson), but the word is clunky. And I think that kindness still fills the niche. If I speak boldly and fully embody myself in my words and actions, I am kind to myself. If I ensure my words and deeds consider others as much as myself, then that is also kind.

It’s almost two weeks in to 2012 and I do think having a word helps. I have given more pause in the space before I speak and act, to try harder to bring kindness into my interactions.

It seems small, but I hope the effect will be large.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

At the Top of My Lungs

Singing is medicine, isn’t it? I’ve never researched it. I’ve never heard or read any news reports on it. It’s just something that I know to be true. I know that when I’m belting out lyrics along with the Dixie Chicks it serves as salve on my road trips, healing the distance between where I’ve been and where I’m going.

I know that as I make up silly songs to friends as they answer the phone to simply wish them well, appeal for a coffee break, or re-create how it sounds to wish Happy Birthday that I feel better at the end of the song. They feel better, too.

After I sang my version of birthday wishes to Marcus last week, he said he was blushing. I can imagine. Overtaken by a song, not lyrically advanced, not delivered on vocal chords trained for precision, but genuine, unrepentant excitement for friendship.

My singing wasn’t always well received. Growing up, my father often admonished me for singing at the dinner table or while he watched TV. After all, his guiding precept until we were all 18 was that children should be neither seen nor heard.

I know that in college I could entertain my walks between classes with humming that would string together highs and lows in what I felt was on par with the intricacies of superb classical music. And I liked the way the resonance felt in my throat and chest.

I sang growing up, both at school and at church. I sang in the church choir with my mom for a while, and I sang in the middle school choir after I withdrew from orchestra (read: never practiced, thus completely demoralized myself during an violin exam when I had to play Ode to Joy solo). In our school performance choir we wore gold sparkly bowties and cumber buns, and sang show tunes; I still recall lyrics to Barbara Streisand movies that I’ve never seen (“memories, light the corners of my mind…”).

I was never as good as my sister who heard pitch and tone, but that never bothered me much until I tried out for Governors’ School for the Arts one summer for singing and didn’t make it. I think that’s when I realized that I wasn’t very good after all, even if I did enjoy it.  

Some of my favorite memories of childhood are visits with my mom and my sister in my mother’s bed. She would have her guitar out along with her songbooks and we would gather together to sing. The pace was often slow for new songs as she found the right placement of her fingers for the chords, but we had “our” standards, like “Tiny Bubbles” that were easy for her to play and for us to sing.

I still like going to church and singing with other voices. I like singing songs of hope, faith and love. I like that singing lifts a heaviness from me each and every time I do it.

I can sing about anything, seriously, anything. My friend Joanna received so many singing phone messages from me that she couldn’t save them all (though she tried), because she was convinced I have a future in jingles.

Singing just feels different than speaking. Messages in song without pretense of pitch, tone, or topic make me feel better. Singing releases the feelings on my heart.

In saying this I’m reminded of an interview I listened to of Krista Tippett interviewing Bobby McFerrin. He suggested that if you ever feel angry or upset that you should sing, because it’s impossible to be upset when you sing.

So here I am, singing at the top of my lungs.

Now, you try…

If you need someone’s ear or voicemail to experiment on, please feel free to use mine.  
Please sing me a message, and I’ll get back to you just as soon as I can.
(this actually used to be my outgoing message…) 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Making Choices

I’m single. No doubt about it. I’ve spent more time being single in the last 15 years than being in a relationship.

Now I’ve reached a time in my life when having a partner doesn’t feel like it can wait. Not one second longer. But my readiness hasn’t yet been answered with a Disney-story prince appearing at my door. So I’ve appealed to friends to set me up on dates with people they know, I’ve signed up for online dating, and I’ve been trying the old tried and true method of flirting like I’m 20 again. 

Sometimes Lots of times my singledom frustrates me. It’s the monster that sleeps under my bed reminding me that no one shares my bed, or my meals, or other great and small aspects of my life.

Granted, this is the precise path I have chosen up to now. Going forward, I hope that my road less traveled may be holding hands with my soul’s mate. Until then, I walk (and run and dance…)

During a recent pep-talk email with a girlfriend of mine, I pointed out to her as much to myself that the tardiness of our finding love is, after all, about choices. In this particular case, it is word choice; she called it “slow,” I frame it as “choosy.”  

I consoled us both with these words: 

You are being selective in finding a mate. You are being deliberate about finding someone who is good to you, deserving of your love and highly compatible. Making the right choice takes time, and that’s something we can never resent. Sometimes rushed decisions can lead to mistakes (I’ll point to my car purchase of this summer as a perfect example). The trick is how can we live fully and happily doing what we really enjoy without feeling like we’re compromised by being single or missing out because we’re not with our someone.

I, too, struggle with the dilemma in terms of wanting to share activities and partnership now verses waiting until it happens. I just have to hope (and this might not resonate with you) that there is divine timing for union with my man because sometimes I feel like I’ve done all I can do.

Friends, if I haven’t already talked to you about this, and you feel compelled to help, please take advantage of this very public invitation to set me up with someone you know, respect and believe to be a compatible person for me. Feel free to consult with me if you feel stumped about the qualities that I’m looking for in a guy.

(This just goes to show that my former internal debate about what level of transparency I’ll have on this blog has rapidly slipped from opaque to Cling Wrap.)

Then again, if I say I’m ready for my life’s love then it’s best heard from rooftops, not simply as a murmured whisper to the monster that’s been sleeping under my bed.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Talking for God

While I was running yesterday on the greenway near UNCA, I ran past a spray painted message on the greenway asphalt that said "nature still hates you," and it really upset me.

It didn't upset me because I thought "nature hates me." No, I feel like nature loves me / us. I feel like nature is the safe place, a haven, and is forgiving (even as we murder parts of nature...she reluctantly adapts - indeed - that is the force of nature). But I was aghast that anyone could think they speak for nature. It made me think that those are the ways that people speak for God. They say "you're a sinner" or "you're going to hell" or "you can't be loved by God for this or that" - you know.

And, it just resonated for me that who speaks for God and Nature can be so self-appointed. And who will we listen to among those who claim to speak for God or Nature? Is it the people who profess fear, hate and vengeance? Or, is it the people who profess love, compassion and forgiveness?

So, that was my philosophical musing on my run, and it kept me entertained for a while.

(This was written following a run on February 27, 2009 during a time I was dancing with the Community Choreography project for the performance Knock! Knock!, crossing the threshold of faith and home.)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Keep it Simple

There are few things that I’m absolutely certain of in my life right now. I’m pounding out a new path, as I’m apt to do, with my work. I’m making my way as an independent contractor for conservation based organizations, as a writer, and as a facilitator. Every day I face an untried way as new opportunities present themselves, as new projects launch and others come to a close, and as I decipher whether to add more classes to my teaching schedule.

It can be a scary process to work for oneself. It’s not the same as showing up to the safe office building of regular paychecks, a group health insurance policy, and dental coverage. It can be full of fears and self-doubt and questioning. Am I doing this right?

So I take heart in knowing something really simplistic about myself. When things get difficult and my mind muddies or completely swamps the trail I’m trying to make, I can always come back to this:

I am in here to bring joy, hope, and optimism into this world.

This simple truth makes it all better. If I achieve this in my day then I have done my work. If, through my encouragement, listening, teaching, or support I manage to inspire others to be their best then my purpose is fulfilled.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Walking Contradiction

Seven down, 359 to go.

As I consider the seven posts from this past week, I’m a little embarrassed. They seem disjointed and random. In time, solid themes may develop, but until then, you may find yourself reading the discord of my vast musings.

If a streamlined compilation of labels is refined to define my work here, I’ll gladly accept it, but I am skeptical. After all, I am a contradiction.

I love backpacking, walking through a dense fog through the woods, and sleeping on the ground, as much as I love getting dressed up in sparkles, heels and make-up for an evening of dinner, dancing, or the arts. It’s the reality of my distinct appreciation of simple pleasures and my fine tastes (if I must say so myself).

I’m adventurous but like to follow the rules.
I’m a dancer, a runner, and a yogi.
I am passionate about local food, physical activity as a key to unlock emotional energy, and trails as a national resource for recreation and nature. I excel at networking, listening, problem solving, and singing silly songs. I’m good at listening and accepting, and knowing when it is the right time to offer advice.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to reconcile the dichotomy of all my interests. There’s no singular bumper sticker that sums me up. There’s no category that I fit into.

I think our buzzword culture makes us want to put everything in neat little containers with strict labels: Republican, Democrat, hippie, hipster, professional, punk, conservative, geek, liberal, bum. But those words can’t possibly capture all the minutia of our individual thoughts, ideas, opinions, and emotional experience. If we step back and look at the labels we’ve self-imposed, we might just discover that country music has some redeeming qualities or that people who are seemingly different than us aren’t so different after all. They’re made up of a variety of interests and aspects, too.

Bumper stickers are often the vehicle (no pun intended) for us to communicate who we are and what we stand for, but I don’t have one on my care. Nope. Not. a. one.

For a while I had one for the Appalachian Trail because I love it so much, but it shriveled up and fell off.  Then I sold that car anyway. Even still, I won’t replace it.

There isn’t a handful of bumper stickers that capture what I feel are the most important aspects of who I am. I am too many things, and at some point you can have too many bumper stickers. Plus, how would I prioritize the most important aspects of myself to highlight?

I guess that’s what it comes down to with the blog, too, but rather than leave a blank canvas, I’ve decided to go nuts with the messages (and creating new labels). I’ll post here all the seemingly random and disjointed things I ponder, because I hold it all together. I am a walking contradiction, after all.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Heart of An Adventurer

“I’m more like the woman I want to be when I am in the woods, “ said Anna Huthmaker. “I am strong and capable.”

This truth has wormed its way into the heart of all people who call themselves outdoor enthusiasts. To them nature provides a sense of belonging, a connection with something bigger, and a truer sense of self, but among others it’s a daunting arena rife with potential hardship, solitude and wild life.

Huthmaker attests that any woman can find the promise of belonging on a trail and discovering her own strength, power and heart. With this in mind, she led the first Trail Dames hike to the top of Springer Mountain, Georgia in March 2007 and officially launched the organization in 2008. Meant to empower women who lack the confidence to explore the natural world on their own “the hiking club for women of a curvy nature” was established to provide a safe and supportive environment for women, regardless of age, fitness level, economics, or pant size. 

Her organization answers the question of how a woman can hike at a pace that’s right for her while enjoying the safety of hiking with others. Ultimately for Huthmaker, it’s really about getting women on trails where they might discover the independence, confidence, and wonder of nature that she enjoys while hiking.

The emphasis for most hikes is taking it slow and having fun so that even the last hiker can feel proud of what she has accomplished when she reaches the mountaintop.

“The one in the very back who is older or less fit, when she reaches the top, that’s when the real magic happens,” said Huthmaker.

She has experienced the magic herself. As a hiker Huthmaker knows that the slowest person is achieving the most. During her first backpacking trip she felt the elation of summiting Big Bald hours after her group, and she faced the challenges of walking the requisite ten miles into the night to eat a pot of undercooked ramen seasoned by the leaf litter of untreated water.

Undeterred by the difficulties and inspired by the adventure Huthmaker backpacked 700-miles of the Appalachian Trail in 2003, hiked the Inca Trail in 2008, and has visited Africa, Cuba, and the Arctic Circle. She accounts for her travels with the explanation that she has the heart of an adventurer, the body of a real woman, and the belief that it’s just as easy to dream big as it is to dream small.

Huthmaker took her big dreams, a “yes I can” attitude, and dedication to inspiring others to a new level at the end of June when she organized The Summit, the nation’s first hiking and backpacking conference for women.

Anna Huthmaker greets attendees during opening event. 
Gathered from across the nation in Harrisonburg, Virginia in June 2011 women learned from one another on topics of gear, nutrition, hiking logistics, nature appreciation, and issues specific to their gender. They gleaned inspiration from each other’s stories in workshops and over meals.

Huthmaker shared her experience of hiking the Inca Trail and delivered the authentic tale with such pitch and fervor that wet-eyed attendees cheered and clapped along with the porters who showered her with their respect at the end of the journey.

Other stories of global travel were shared by hike leader Cheryl Bharath who talked about hiking in Trinidad and author Cindy Ross who presented stories and slides from her treks around the world with her husband and two children.
Cindy Ross (right) was recognized as Woman of the Year. As the keynote speaker of the event, she had me absolutely captivated by her pictures and stories of traveling the world with her family. It gave me hope that family and travel are not mutually exclusive. Thanks, Cindy!
Ross was presented with the Woman of the Year award for her excellence in outdoor pursuits. Eight-year old Scout Aulenbach received the Adventurer of the Year award for her positive attitude and aptitude for easing the nerves of Dames she led on a caving adventure. 

Scout Aulenbach
The event even celebrated individual attendees. Everyday women were honored for the strength, power and heart that epitomize the Spirit of a Dame. Among the recipients was a woman who arrived at her first hike following a surgery, pushing a walker, and emphatically saying that she wanted to learn to backpack. A Georgia Dame was recognized for her compassion and generous spirit in bringing a woman with special needs on hikes. Another woman had been confined to her home by anxiety prior to joining the Dames for hikes. Through her participation she gained the confidence to literally continue living in the world beyond her home and the trails.

Through Trail Dames many of these women have discovered what Huthmaker optimistically set out to achieve – an awareness that a simple walk in the woods is an empowering experience.

As the conference drew to a close, Huthmaker asked participants what they get from spending time in the woods. The answers rang out from across the room: freedom, sanity, beauty, strength, connection, no responsibility, self-sufficiency, confidence and a way to break down unrealistic expectations.

Armed with these truths, women are taking to America’s trails.  

Trail Dames has grown to an association of more than 2,000 members in 10 states. 

Grand Dame and visionary founder Anna Huthmaker
 You can read my full interview with Anna here.

Learn more about the 2012 Summit by visiting This year's Summit will be held in Durango, Colorado. Get ready, Colorado, these women are amazing and full of heart!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

You Look Great

When I lived in Washington DC in the early 2000s there was a man with Coke bottle-thick glasses who doled out compliments to everyone. Known as “The Compliment Man,” he had a knack for knowing what you wore that brought you the most pride– shoes, jacket, skirt, purse. He could spy a new hair cut. He had a naturally gifted talent to recognize your adornment, and he crowed his observations fueling confidences and narcissism. Often he was thanked for his keen observations with a tip.

I like getting compliments. I think it’s safe to say that we all like recognition of feeling well put together or beautiful. We appreciate when someone else finds an aesthetic appreciation for our clothes, accessories, or hairstyle. 

The one thing I’ve never been comfortable receiving are comments on my weight; any observation at all makes me squirm a bit. It feels to me like a judgment on my body – judgments based on appearances alone. I haven’t quite figured out why, exactly, it makes me so uncomfortable.

What I do know is that I don’t comment on the weight of others. I largely omit ever referring to a person’s weight in my observation of them because I’ve always thought there was too much damned focus on weight in our culture, fueling eating disorders, obsessive behavior, and the diet industry. We’re all built differently, and when I see somebody I feel like I’m looking beyond the external (after all, what I see with my eyes is only skin deep). What does extra weight gain or loss matter to my interaction with the full soul of a person in that shell of a body?

We’re made up of more than a number, and we have so many other external attributes that make us unique and beautiful: skin texture, color, hair, hairstyle, and (this is a big one) personality. There are the things we add to our appearance to embellish our beauty: nail color, make-up, clothing, jewelry, and other accessories.

These additional embellishments to our bodies are the things of compliments, and are best received when we understand why the compliment is given. For me, it’s good to know that a particular outfit looks exceptionally flattering, that a scarf looks good with my eyes, or that that combination of shirt and scarf makes you think of a French love affair. It’s an exposition on “you look great,” a phrase that has recently entered our lexicon of greetings in the U.S. and will lose ground and meaning without the genuine thought put behind it. Without thoughtful understanding of what we are saying, it could become the automatic “how are you?” greeting that elicits an equally robotic response. 

Again, I love compliments; I just want to know they are genuine, are made up of my adornment rather than my size, and that when you see me "I'm so happy to see you" comes as readily to your lips as "you look great" because there's a soul inside me that is so happy to see you - the you that's inside your body. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Runner's Contemplation

As I went for my run this afternoon, I contemplated the differences between obligation and commitment.

These are my thoughts: Commitment is something you do because you desire the outcome it will bring you. You do it because you've set it as something that is important to you, in the long or short term.

Obligation is something you do for someone else, or for the greater good of the world. These are my definitions.

If commitment to an activity is resented, it often feels like obligation. So, it helps to step back from the activity and revisit the initial goal that established the commitment.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I Feel Bliss

I feel blissed out. Maybe it’s a combination of fresh air and the stinging of my cheeks after exposure to the suddenly low temperatures. Maybe it's the feel of a night hike, trusting the quiet and the darkness. Maybe it’s the moon shining so brightly that I needn’t a headlamp as I walked through the glowing surface of the snow up the quarter-mile road to my house that looks as gingerbread as ever with the dusting of snow.

Maybe it's knowing I'm the first, here, now. And there's evidence.
The feeling of euphoria might be from not fighting it, not fighting any of it. I was a few minutes late to my yoga class this evening and was locked out; “oh well, I reasoned, must not be meant to happen.” I felt it genuinely, too. It wasn’t a consolation or practice in self-soothing; it was a recognition that tonight may not have been the night for me to show up for this class.

The slight surrender I’ve experienced this evening wasn’t with me all day. I struggled with wakefulness and my snooze button, but calm set in around noon when I was the only person in my Groove class. So I danced alone for that hour. I enjoyed playing in the space, trying new things with my body, and seeing just how the music wanted me to move.

There’s a hollow calm in me tonight, and I like it. Maybe this is peace.

Monday, January 2, 2012

This Blog Matters

It’s the first time I’ll say it. I want to write a post daily here this year. I’ll write because I hope that what I have to say matters. By the account of my friend and constant blogger Cathryn Wellner, when we blog because writing matters to us, and then to do so about topics that matter to us, then it matters! So, I hope you’ll bear with the indulgence as I write about whatever it is that strikes my fancy this year.

It may be that I write about food.
It may be that I write about walking, or running, or dance.
It may be that I write about friends.

I may, and hope to, have audio installations – podcasts – that capture interviews of the most interesting people I know.

I’ll do it here and now because it’s high time I speak up, whether its about the minute observations, like ones I made today on a first time visit to The Asheville Public for breakfast, or bigger ideas, concepts and questions (that I’ll save for later).

My two cents on the old Silver Dollar (now TAP) are that the renovations have turned the dark shell of a greasy spoon into a bright and welcoming destination. The designers thoughtfully included laptop plugs at the bar but overlooked the install of necessary purse hooks (which are hard to come by in this town at any rate). The waitstaff are still wobbly on their service; I had to flag down my waitress for coffee refills, salt and pepper for my companion, and the bill. I didn’t bother correcting the botched custom order of the house cured salmon bagel, and wondered why they paired the salmon with such a run-of-the-mill bagel in the first place.

I feel like a food critic, and I’m not. I’m a simple girl, with simple food tastes. I know what I like, and I think that generally the food writers in Asheville are overly kind about their experiences. It’s a small town, and I understand not wanting to ruffle feathers, or worse, make enemies. In fact, I’ve been trying to avoid that for a long time, which is why I’m speaking up now, even if it’s something as mundane as needing a better bagel.

At the dam, on the dam-pasture trail at WWC.
After breakfast the cold wind drove with Julie and me to Warren Wilson College where we took a hike on the network of trails from Pasture-Dam to Suicide Ridge. We snapped a few photos at the dam, I performed a few cartwheels through the pasture, and we ambled easily on the paths talking, as hikers do, of everything and nothing. 

A cartwheel for 2012!
Several years ago someone talked of spending New Years Eve in the way you want to spend the next year, perhaps surrounded by friends, dining finely, or partying heartily. Really, it’s however you want to spend your time. I always take that to heart as the New Year approaches. How do I want to spend my year?

I want to spend it as I’ve spent these three days since New Years Eve, sharing meals with friends, taking long runs, practicing yoga, writing, walking, speaking my mind, celebrating the beauty of this place, and having conversations about everything and nothing.

How do you want to spend yours?  

Sunday, January 1, 2012

365 Days

My friend Julie Steffler just completed a Bikram Yoga 365 challenge. She committed at the outset of 2011 to take 365 classes in 365 days. To do this she had to be consistent. Sometimes, she had to double up, or triple up on classes certain days to accommodate for travel or other inhibiting factors. She had to rethink what most people believe is possible for our bodies. In fact, our bodies and our minds are capable of so much. We just have to give them the challenge, and allow ourselves to flourish in it.

Seeing someone set a goal and then achieve it is so inspiring, isn't it? It's like hiking a long distance trail, running a marathon, or biking across the U.S. (or the world!) It means planning ahead. It means taking it one class, one day, or one step at a time. The outcome will be worth it.

Julie lives and practices yoga in Kelowna, British Columbia.