Another Rainy Sunday

Rainy sunday

I’ve been getting pretty good at getting up at 6 or 6:30 on Sundays to have enough time to get in a longer-than-a-weekday run and still get back to the cave before the kids or the Big Guy are ready to hit the all-you-can-eat buffet in Cambridge, NY.  Sunday wasn’t much different.  It was raining, but I’d tackled the rain issue, and decided to go anyway.

I planned to go to the park since my usual route was about to be the scene of a 5k and 12k to support our local community day care center.  But as I got to the turn for the park, I pulled the steering wheel the opposite direction and headed toward the covered bridge in West Arlington – a stone’s throw from Norman Rockwell’s studio.  When I drove through the covered bridge, I saw several cars parked at the grange building on the other side.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to support the day care center – both my kids went there for preschool.  But I have my first 10k coming up at the end of October, and I knew I needed both Sundays to get the longer routes in.  I was also keenly aware that this race would be longer than anything I’d planned or done.  I wasn’t thinking clearly because somehow I ended up getting out of the car and squishing through the muddy field to register for the 12k part of the race.

My boys were still at home with their aunt, and the Big Guy had gone in to work to cover a shift for a friend, so I was feeling a little lonely, but it had been a spur of the moment decision.  I’d be busy for an hour and a half, but I knew six-year-old Thing2 wouldn’t tolerate an hour in the damp.

The rain stopped by the time the kids’ 1k fun run began.  By the time the 5k and 12k participants began assembling, I’d waved to moms and dads I hadn’t seen since the beginning of the school year.

Fiddling with my music player and zipping it into its Ziploc baggie in my belt, I started dead last.  I was to be happier for it.

I started slowly, determined to run the entire thing one way or another.  The only person I passed on the entire race was another runner with a music player malfunction.

As I got close to the first turn around, other runners began passing me the other direction.  I started yelling “Good Job” and “Way to Go”, and they did the same.  I began passing friends.  Sometimes we waved, other times we slowed to high five each other.  Everyone – walking or running – was smiling.

The 12k continued past the starting gate for another lap out and back the other direction, and for a while, I was very alone.  I settled into my Sunday pace, meditating and enjoying the saturated fall colors against the grey sky and dirt road.  Then the front runners began to pass me on their way back to the finish line.  Again we cheered each other.

Typically (for me) I got close to the turn around point, and promptly got confused.  After running back and forth few times until my app said I’d gone 6.25 miles, I decided I was far enough out to get back and get all 7.45 miles in.  Except for a car making sure the last runner hadn’t collapsed, I finished the rest of the route alone.

At the end, there were a few people still waiting to cheer the slow pokes. I got my 3rd place souvenir (out of 3 in my 40-something age group).  I gave pats on the back to a few people and got a few myself and then went home to get cereal on the table for my boys.

I was soaked.  I was sore.  I was freezing.  And I couldn’t stop smiling, even when I snuggled on the recliner for a nap.  Some Sundays, the best plans are the ones that get rained out.

Fear and Better Things

BookI know not to compare my writing to anyone else’s writing. I have my voice. They have theirs, and when a writer finds her voice it’s all good. But when a writer is finding her voice or adding a new dimension to their craft, it’s hard not to make comparisons, and it’s even harder not to feel like you’re coming up short.

Trying to make the jump from blog posts to short fiction prompted me to go back to my library of short stories. I spent the summer reading old favorites and discovering new ones. Reading feeds my inspirations and aspirations. Some of my favorite writers started with short stories, and more than a few have defined their careers as short story artists.

Now, after a summer of reading and journaling and drafting and scrapping ideas, the aspiration to make a life writing a lot of short somethings is still strong. But there has also been a nagging knowledge that my short somethings will never be the same caliber as the ones that inspire me.

I know not to make comparisons, but I still do. Now, as the end of another year approaches, I am at a crossroads. There is the option to use my voice – even if it means singing off key. Or there is the option to let fear keep it silent another year and then another.

Six-year-old Thing2 will be seven this month. He’s at the age when the world begins imposing it’s hangups, and his fearless refusal to accept the imposition inspires in a different way. He found his voice the minute he first felt a drum beat move through his body, and he will not be silenced.

We’re having a haunted birthday party very soon, but I’ll be celebrating his life and his inspiration again at the end of the month. I’ve been working on a few stories for the last few months. I’ll be putting five of them into an ebook on my site by the end of the month. It more than a deadline. It’s a moratorium on fear.

In the Beginning

Running  in the beginning

Everyday is a beginning, and in the beginning, it’s always murky – sometimes even dark.  Beginnings still take determination and fight – whether it’s a new run or another day toward a new life.  It’s not until the first bead of sweat breaks that the rhythm of the trail or the day takes over.  It’s self-sustaining until the exhaustion that must come does, but when it passes, what is left behind is the fight and determination to begin again tomorrow.

Un-Tunnel Vision

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I hadn’t been on a bike in 20 years and was more than a little nervous about the prospect of spending 3 hours riding on mountain trails – however flat they were.  The last time I was on a bike a motorist had literally run me off the road into a ditch, and, after limping my bike home, I stuck to walking.  But this has been a summer of redemption for me, and it would continue to be from the first 10 minutes of our journey.

Fortunately, you really don’t forget how to ride a bike, and my summer fitness plan – intended to make sitting in a standard-size train seat more comfortable – paid off once again.  The mechanics were in place, and we would be riding in a converted railroad bed, ensuring there would be no maniacal motorists.  Faking the absence of fear was getting easier as we got closer to the starting gate, and then the trail guide began giving us the rundown of the road we were about to travel.  

We were to start with a 1 1/2 mile ride through a tunnel with no light save for our headlights.  There would be several tunnels throughout the ride, and several of them had trenches running alongside them.  I listened and smiled, taking courage from the relaxed faces of my family, but my stomach was already beginning to churn.  

The safety warnings noted, we mounted our bikes and headed for the first tunnel.  Thirteen-year-old Jack and his eighteen-year-old cousin, already thick as thieves despite having only met a few days earlier, charged ahead.  Fearless but not reckless, Jack sped towards the tunnel.  I was still getting my bike lets and was happy to pedal more slowly.  The Big Guy was trailing our youngest son, and went between us.

The darkness closed in around us quickly.  Behind me I heard one of my nieces struggling with her own fears, and the mom in me slowed to try and comfort her.  Her father, however, was just behind us and, falling back on his twenty years of military-instilled discipline, barked at her to get moving.  It worked for both of us.  I began peddling and calling back encouragement to my niece. 

Jack and his cousin got to the end of the tunnel first and were waiting for the adults.  One by one, we emerged, blinking at the summer sun.  I was shaking a bit, but when I looked at my oldest son, there was only excitement and happiness with the day and the mountains around him.  There was no fear, and I could see there hadn’t been any.  Part of me pondered how he got so brave with a mother who constantly lets fear govern her life – and his sometimes.  The other part of me was absorbing his excitement.  

We snapped a few shots of cousins and then pedaled further.  Every mile featured breathtaking views and, often, equally breathtaking drops that seemed incredibly close to the road.  The further we traveled, however, the less I even felt the fears that would normally have me thinking about the size of the drops and what it would be like to fall from them.

The sun in the cloudless sky that framed the majestic peaks that surrounded us drenched the day’s palette in intense blues and greens.  It also brought everything into sharp focus.

Jack and his cousin remained in the lead the rest of the ride.  And, while he was busy growing the part of me that had absorbed his excitement and joy realized that I was busy being reborn. 

Pictures of Us

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My sister-in-law’s been going through her attic and stumbling on ancient family photos along the way.  She’s scanned them and emailed them to us in groups.  Most of the photos are of individuals or groups posed carefully and solemnly for a camera that required the subject to stay still for several minutes.

The clothes and the hair are different, but the stories they tell are very familiar.   There’s a great-grandmother who once wrote and published short stories.  There’s a great-grandfather who owned a music store.  I’m hoping to see a photo of a great-grandmother who was a Mohawk and the story of whose union with the family I hope to discern someday.

I’ve always been a history buff, and especially a family history buff.

It started one summer when my aunt and uncle were visiting and my uncle was relating the story of how they had met and married despite strong objections from my aunt’s mother (my grandmother).  He was German, and she was American, and my grandmother was very unhappy at the idea of my aunt moving so far away in an era when long-distance phone calls were still extremely rare.  My uncle was not so easily deterred and, after having received a reluctant refusal, had flown from Germany to Chicago and then driven 6 hours to find my aunt and make his case.  As he told the story, remembering how their 50+ year marriage had almost not happened, a tear ran down his face.  I, like all the other females at the table, decided this was the most romantic story that had ever been told in our family.

The next day, I began to wonder if there were other stories that had simply not been told.  Subsequent trips to our annual family vacation spot became research opportunities, and when a knowledgable aunt was visiting, I began tape recording them as they related the family stories.

In that time I’ve learned about another pair of star-crossed lovers whose parents, a generation ago, had objected to their marriage on the grounds that they were different races and from different countries.  That couple is still married.   I learned how my grandparents, despite Grandmother’s summers spent near Grandfather’s home town never met until they were adults because they lived in completely different worlds.  And I’ve learned that I love the stories of how people come together.

We live in a world where the stories that make the headlines are about people being driven apart.  They’re about lives being blown apart.  Often, the even the storytelling becomes a wedge, breathing distrust into every disagreement until the participants hardly recognize each other as members of the same species.  Over the past year, I’ve made more of an effort to look for the other stories – the ones that bring people together.  I used to be embarrassed about my love of romantic stories of people overcoming odds to be together, but now I think they’re an expression of faith that people can actually do that.

I’m looking through the photos and stories of my husband’s family, one photo stands out.  It is a picture of a husband and wife, the husband staring at the camera while the wife leans her head on his shoulder.  They both have wistful smiles on their faces.  It’s from the late 1800s, and their clothes date the picture more than the aged sepia.  I know their world was a million miles away from mine.  When I look at the serenely happy and casual pose, however, I realize that they look a lot like us.  It’s a story worth pursuing.