Time

I greet you with hands clasped together in gratitude for being given another opportunity to grace this earth. For being able to take another breath and enjoy the things in my life which brings a smile to my face. For my eyes and being allowed to see my beautiful wife, children and grandchildren and whatever else graces my view throughout the day.

I have spent quite a bit of time in thought thinking about how I spent this past Sunday. I was on call for Crisis Services. Despite this and my usual Pavlovian response as I nervously wait for my phone to ring; I decided to relax and spend the day the way I wanted to spend it. When I’m on-call I make no concrete plans because a call can come in at any time. As I grow older I see less and less value in filling each day with concrete plans. There are things which need to be done, tasks which need to be completed. Those will get done for there is little which needs to get done at that moment. I found the world will not cease turning if something is left undone.

Jack and I rose and we went for our usual Sunday morning walk. Before returning to the inside of the house, we perched ourselves on the front porch and based in the solitude of the morning. There is, for me no other time of day which brings so much joy. The morning paper was where it is normally tossed by the delivery read and the CBS Sunday Morning News was watched. There remained two cups of coffee in my thermos. I chose to take those outside and sit. To simply sit.

The morning paper was where it is normally tossed by the delivery person. It sat protected in its orange cocoon protecting it from the elements which may have otherwise disturbed my ability to read its contents with some modicum of joy. Jack watched as I ground beans for my morning coffee. As his eyesight fails at his age of 15-years, his eyes grow cloudy with cataracts, he thinks he is going to be fed again. I allow him to smell the freshly ground beans. he takes a quick sniff and turns his head away in obvious disgust as he realizes this treat is not for him. read and the CBS Sunday Morning News was watched. There remained two cups of coffee in my thermos. I chose to take those outside and sit. To simply sit. I have this new coffee an Instagram friend suggested I try. Don’t tell my friends at Death Wish coffee, but I really enjoy this smooth taste. All of the information if you’d like to find them on the Internet and give them a try is right on the bag.

coffee

For those of us who reside in the year 2017, sitting and doing nothing is difficult. We all know this and many of agree using one of the excuses which make every hair stand on end; “I just don’t have the time!” First of all, this is Bullshit!!!! We have nothing but time. It is all in how we choose to spend the time we have. So, when done correctly, the ability to sit and do nothing productive, is, in fact, a momentous achievement. There are some people who see me doing nothing as defined in their terms because whatever activity in which I am engaging does not fit their definition of productivity. These are the people who would disagree with me. That’s too bad because I find reading, lying in my hammock, playing with my grandson, writing, smoking a cigar and drinking a couple fingers of a good whiskey are being productive.

coffee

In the past, I had struggled with sitting quietly alone. I felt like I need to be in perpetual motion. It seems as though the minute I sit my brain begins to wander. My eyes also wander. I begin to see things around the house which may or may not require my attention. Most certainly those things do not require my attention at that time. My son joined me. We both noted it had taken him 4 hours to clean his car inside and out. It’s not that the car was that dirty, it’s that he stopped several times, sat and we talked.

I have a salve for my spirit. It comes in the form of silence, of solitude. When I am physically able to run, it comes in the solitude which I feel during a run and which accompanies my spirit for some time after the run has concluded. It also comes in the form of reading, journaling and smoking a good cigar. My entire professional life I have found myself chained to a calendar and a clock. Questions abound such as “Do I have enough time to do this or that?” These things have resulted in a perpetual feeling of anxiety; of being on-edge. When I apply the salve, which ever one I have chosen, the grip which anxiety has had on me begins to weaken. The difficulty arises when I do not apply the salve as often as is recommended. When I neglect an application, I feel out of place. My mind wanders and guilt, self-imposed guilt reenters or should I say I allow it to reenter. I regret now not doing more in my work life to disrupt that configuration.

Try it sometime. You might actually become addicted to “not doing anything productive.”

namaste

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Life in Transformation

I greet you with hands clasped together in gratitude for this beautiful day.

Life is transformation. I can think of several individuals in my life who would disagree with this notion. Then again, those same individuals would disagree with just about any notion which identifies the personal responsibility with which we need to take to transform our lives.

I am coming up to the first scheduled day off since May. It’s been a long time I know. I’ll be heading back to the Adirondacks for some quiet time which will include a lot of reading, a lot of writing as I work toward completion of my book. This time will be punctuated with several sips of bourbon and some Puterkos Pizza.

Fall is upon us. The light of each day grows progressively shorter. We inch closer to the Winter Solstice. It’s that time of year when we begin to once again regain precious minutes of daylight. The calendar, at the same time, inching closer to the new arrival of Spring.

pens

I woke this morning to rays of beautiful sunshine peeking through the slats of the blinds. One of my joys is having an opportunity to wake without an alarm. Another joy are the beautiful sounds coming from the birds at the freshly filled feeder and the smell of freshly brewed coffee. It is these simple things which bring me the most joy. The joy I find in such simplicity reminds me not to take life too seriously, to not worry about the things which I cannot control and to live each day to its fullest.

“When you go out into the woods and you look at the trees, you see all these different trees and some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are green and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it, you see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree. The minute you get near humans you lose all that. And you’re constantly saying “you are too this,” or “I am to this.” That judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees, which means appreciating them just the way they are.” ~Ram Dass

If you think that life is a journey to some sort of destination you could not be more wrong. I understand your thoughts right now because we have all heard the sayings on the t-shirts and bumper stickers which remind us that “life is a journey.” If we think of life as a journey then we keep going faster and faster to reach this unknown destination. Life is transformation. Life is a transformation. We are reminded of this every day while also being reminded of the opposite. We are constantly changing, evolving, and improving. Our growth has nothing to do with speed. In fact it often this need for speed, the need to reach a believed destination which causes us to stumble and make decisions which may not be in our best interest. We need to slow down and assess our direction. We need to ask ourselves what we are transforming into. Every Sunday I receive a text message that asks, “Slow down and ask what you have learned this past week?” What have I learned that can impede my transformation and which can help my transformation excel? Am I a better person today than I was yesterday? Better than last week, last month, last year?

chris

I use photography to help better understand the path on which I am on. I look at my photographs, camera in hand to see how I can see my life and its surroundings differently.

How do you see yourself? When you look at yourself, do yourself a favor and don’t blame others for the condition of your life. Your decisions are just that, your decisions. If you look to blame others, you will find the hole in which you are in become ever deepening. Accept responsibility for your actions. Ask for help from honest individuals and develop a plan that will help you achieve the goals which you have set.

Namaste

The Long Weekend

I greet you with both hands clasped together in gratitude.

I’m here. I arrived at my home away from home yesterday, the Adirondacks. I came “home” because I needed time to rebalance my life. This is the place where it is easiest for me. My phone does not usually work and there are many miles of hiking/running trails to be had within a few minutes drive.

adk

Puterko’s pizza was not to be had. The owners decided to take an ill-timed vacation. Their vacation was ill-timed in that I love this pizza and look forward to eating some slices when I arrive here. NY style pizza with the thinnest of crusts and delicious!!

I woke Saturday morning with the idea of revisiting some places within the Adirondack Park which I had not visited in several years. I look forward to fall every year. There is something magical in the colors which begin to slowly appear on the leaves of the trees which blanket the countryside. These same leaves, soon will fall from their perch and blanket the ground in those same bright colors. Those same colors will soon begin to fade and they will be forgotten with the first snow.

Henry David Thoreau says it best in his description of fall. “October is the month of painted leaves. Their rich glow now flashes round the world. As fruits and leaves and the day itself acquire a bright tint just before they fall, so the year nears its setting. October is its sunset sky; November the later twilight.” – Henry David Thoreau

trees

My first stops were Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake. I stopped at one of my favorite put-ins on the Middle Saranac Lake and reminisced about past paddles on this lake. I stopped in Lake Placid for a quick visit. There is much history in this town with both the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics being held. After a brief walk through town and a stop at a bookstore, I remembered what I struggle with when I visit this town. That memory was brought to the front of my memory when outside a wine store was a white Ferrari. Now I hold nothing against this beautiful car or its owner who I do not even know. It is the attitude of many of the visitors, visitors such as these with which I struggle. I took my book and made my way back to my car with a new destination in mind. As I walked, I enjoyed the light rain which fell giving the area a fresh scent.

As I walked briskly along the sidewalks in Lake Placid, this small town for which I have a love/hate relationship, I found anxiety beginning to rise. I needed to leave, to travel down the road and away from the throngs of people. I needed to return to the woods and the cathedral which is the woods with its silence and brilliant colors displayed for all who wish to see. Thoreau said, “An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” I could not agree with this more.

I traveled to Whiteface Mountain and marveled at its beauty. The summit of the mountain was bathed in fog as the rain which has accompanied me since the start of this trip, remained. It was this rain and the accompanying temperatures which brought the fog. More beautiful memories were made this day. I remained at the base of the mountain not wanting to take the time to travel to its summit as “a lot of snow” was being forecast later in the day. Not to mention, I had a strong desire to return to the Ausable Chasm. I haven’t seen the chasm in all of it’s fall glory in several years and this was a sight I did not want to miss. Whiteface was otherwise bathed in the beautiful but fading colors of fall. The colors, had I arrived a week earlier and the sun had been shining would have been even more delightful to behold. Regardless, their beauty did captivate me. Several times I stopped in pull offs along the Ausable River to snap photos and to write in my journal.

wf

Not to mention, I had a strong desire to return to the Ausable Chasm. I haven’t seen the chasm in all of its fall glory in several years and this was a sight I did not want to miss. Whiteface was otherwise bathed in the beautiful but fading colors of fall. The colors had I arrived a week earlier and the sun had been shining would have been even more delightful to behold. Regardless, their beauty did captivate me. Several times I stopped in pull offs along the Ausable River to snap photos and to write in my journal.

journal

ausable

Driving back to Indian Lake from Ausable found rain continuing to fall. As I neared my final destination of the day, the rain became heavier and had begun to transform into sleet. Within several minutes the transformation was complete and it had begun to snow. My first snow of the year. I retired to my room to eat dinner, read and write. I heard a sound outside my window which carried with it the eerie feeling that winter in my neck of the woods would not be far behind. That sound was a plow clearing the street.

snow

On my solo drive home from the Adirondacks, I think about my return to my office feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. I think about getting into a car again Friday evening, this time with company and traversing the highways as we travel to South Bend, Indiana to watch the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame take on Miami University.

go-irish

Namaste

I am home…again

I write with hands clasped in gratitude and in prayer.

I returned from an all too brief trip to the Adirondacks. There are an equal number of philosophical questions remaining as there were prior to my departure. This quote from Charles Bukowski is cause for my continued reflection. Charles said, “The freeway always reminds you of what most people are. It´s a competitive society. They want you to lose so they can win.” This concept of competitiveness is one which I no longer comprehend. I barely comprehended this concept when I was younger and am unsure that I ever did. Perhaps it is age and the accompanying maturity. Competitiveness is a concept with which I struggle, especially as I grow older. In the four days which I spent in the Adirondacks, I spoke to no more than four people. Two of those “conversations” were to place an order for food so I am unsure if they qualify for the definition of “conversation”.

I arrived on the Rock River trail and breathed a sigh of relief that there were no cars at the trailhead. This meant, at least for the time being that this would be a solitary trail run. As I approached the sign in, a smile formed on my lips as I noticed there were no other signatures indicating hikers or trail runners remaining on the trail. After signing in at the trailhead, I began my trail run on a soft, leaf covered trail. The sound of the leaves crunching beneath my feet and the trees bare of leaves, reminded me of Fall. This trail, I am guessing is a seldom used trail. I worked my way over a few rolling hills before descending to a low-land area with Rock Lake on my right.

Rock Lake

I was able to see the lake through the trees which, at this time of year remain naked. The buds on the accompanying branches not yet exposing their secret. Another hundred yards down the trail and I heard the sound of water cascading over large rocks. This would be Rock Creek. I stood in the middle of the footbridge spanning the creek, the sound of the creek louder than I had expected considering the width of the creek was no more than ten feet. I was reminded that everything, especially to me is louder than what would be expected in the Adirondacks. I was also reminded of this fact as I perused the headstones in a cemetery at the entrance to the park. A break in traffic passing the cemetery left me in total silence save for what appeared to be a buzzing in my ears. Perhaps the buzzing was me adjusting from the constant bombardment of noise to the profoundness of the Adirondack silence.

Rock Creek

John Burroughs in “The Art of Seeing Things” said, “If I were to name the three most precious resources of life, I should say books, friends, and nature; and the greatest of these, at least the most constant and always at hand, is nature. Nature we have always with us, an inexhaustible storehouse of that which moves the heart, appeals to the mind, and fires the imagination,—health to the body, a stimulus to the intellect, and joy to the soul. To the scientist Nature is a storehouse of facts, laws, processes; to the artist she is a storehouse of pictures; to the poet she is a storehouse of images, fancies, a source of inspiration; to the moralist she is a storehouse of precepts and parables; to all she may be a source of knowledge and joy.”

ADK1

As I made my way back on this 3-mile out and back trail, I decided to branch off onto another trail. This trail was no longer marked by the “hiking” blazes but by red “snowmobile” blazes. This trail was wider and marked by more frequent changes in elevation. It also extended this run from 6 miles to 14.5 miles with an elevation gain of over 1000′.

In his book, “The Art of Seeing Things”, John Burroughs shared the following thought, “So far as seeing things is an art, it is the art of keeping your eyes and ears open. The art of nature is all in the direction of concealment. The birds, the animals, all the wild creatures, for the most part try to elude your observation. The art of the bird is to hide her nest; the art of the game you are in quest of is to make itself invisible. The flower seeks to attract the bee and the moth by its color and perfume, because they are of service to it; but I presume it would hide from the excursionists and the picnickers if it could, because they extirpate it. Power of attention and a mind sensitive to outward objects, in these lies the secret of seeing things. Can you bring all your faculties to the front, like a house with many faces at the doors and windows; or do you live retired within yourself, shut up in your own meditations? The thinker puts all the powers of his mind in reflection: the observer puts all the powers of his mind in perception; every faculty is directed outward; the whole mind sees through the eye and hears through the ear. He has an objective turn of mind as opposed to a subjective. A person with the latter turn of mind sees little. If you are occupied with your own thoughts, you may go through a museum of curiosities and observe nothing.”

Path

Little could have been more beautiful this day. Sunlight began to drift through the bare limbs of the many trees. Silence, other than my breathing and footfalls was my musical accompaniment. Grtatitude for my breath. Gratitude for my eyes and my ability to take in such beautiful sights. Gratitude for my ears both to hear the sounds around me as well as to hear the silence in which I find so much solitude.

May you be able to experience such beauty in your life.

Namaste

 

Am I Living the Life I want to Live?

I woke this morning after a fitful night of sleep. I slept poorly and I am guessing because of the cold which has been my companion since late Thursday. Running these last few weeks has been almost nonexistent save for the one run I have added to each week. There has been little desire to run and even a smaller desire to rise at 4 AM.
This is typical for me this time of year. The weather becomes increasingly colder and the days shorter. January brings us to the “middle” of winter. I am happy to see winter beginning to come to an end. The days begin to grow increasingly longer as the amount of daylight steadily increases. This visual representation of lengthening days is often enough to help improve my mood. The hope of spring in the air, literally and figuratively. Since I began writing this entry more than a week has gone by. There has been a desire to write but little time. The weather has dramatically changed and the unseasonable temperatures grew colder and brought with them snow. Last Sunday, the last day I ran, the air temperature dropped to a low of negative 16. The photo shows what happens to one when one decides to exercise in those elements.
Frozen selfie
This time of year for me is normally a time of quiet introspection but even that has been decreased. I have found the time which I have spent writing in my journal has even decreased. My goal has always been to write every day. Often a week or more has gone by between journal pages. Today, the temperatures are approximately 10-degrees colder than yesterday when we reached a high of 51. The majority of the snow has melted and despite the colder temperatures, I needed to go outside. This is where I feel more at ease and more calm. My domain has never been inside. Inside is where I must be to accomplish the tasks associated with my job.
When I woke I reviewed the photos which had been added to my Instagram stream since I last checked at 3:00 AM. Many photos caught my eye but one also grabbed hold of my emotions like a lasso thrown around the neck of a bucking bronco.
This caption accompanied the photo:
“I’ve often imagined that trees keep their favorite humans as pets, since their lifespans are much longer than ours. Much the same way we keep cats and dogs. They watch over us, love us, and after we pass they mourn us. They adopt new humans after we’ve gone. Like ants scrambling madly in an ant farm, we don’t fully recognize their ownership or their care. Science is slowly discovering the sentient qualities of trees, but some of us have been sharing these friendships for centuries.”
—Vanessa “Runs” Rodriguez 
 Trees
I was and continue to be drawn to this photo. I find myself staring at it as I gaze at the previously blank wall across from my cluttered desk. I find myself staring at times when I have allowed my day to become unbalanced. Poor food intake, plus poor sleep, plus allowing myself to overwork is what often leads to this imbalance.
Yesterday I drove home from my office in Niagara Falls and to the west, my right eye caught the bright orange glare of the setting sun. Another mile down the road I pulled into a parking lot which runs parallel to the upper Niagara River. I backed the Element into a parking space which offered an unobstructed view of this beautiful sight. I rolled down the window and listened to the beautiful sounds which gently enveloped my ears. A gentle breeze caused the naked branches of trees to harmoniously rub together while a family of geese sounded their approach as their beautiful wings allowed them to gently touchdown in the still unfrozen water. A smile crossed my lips and within a few minutes, the memories and stress of the day were washed away.
When I look at or rather stare at Vanessa’s photo, I see the beauty of these elegant trees, her gentle touch on the bark of these gentle giants and the path which has been worn on the surface of this beautiful forest. My thoughts drift to my time spent in the woods behind my house, or the trails which I am privileged to run and snowshoe enjoying the solitude provided by the relative absence of the rest of society. I think of my time spent in the Adirondacks where this same solitude passionately grips me.
Are you living the life you want to live? Are any of us living the life we want to live? Do we realize there is a space to live the life of which I fear many of us dream but never attempt beyond the expectations of family, ourselves and society in general?
These expectations are dangerous and for the majority of us they are never fully revealed. We live our life in a dreamlike state agreeable to be “weekend warriors” while we may harbor dreams of something more; more freedom. We are tied to a paycheck and their belief that we need to make more money. We fail to realize this need to make more money comes with more responsibility which takes away the one thing which none of us are guaranteed, more time. I recall hearing this fear on a daily basis. “Be glad you have a job. It may not be the job you want but it’s a paycheck.”
It is becoming uncomfortable to sit outside any longer. I ask you to ask yourself if you are living the life of which you dream or are you living a life which you believe you must live and hope there will be time later to live.
Namaste

Business Dealings with Men

With respect,
I have been struggling of late with my new employment. It is with gratitude that I have employment with relatively fair compensation and which affords me the ability to have health insurance but there remains something lacking and it is happiness. For me, happiness in my employment is derived from fulfillment in my daily activities. There is fulfillment in my career but none in my present job. This was a job, had I known the unrealistic challenges, would have been an offer I would not have accepted.
There are moments during the day during which I am able to locate a small modicum of hope that change will follow however slowly, but those moments, as brief as they are, fade often as rapidly as they have arrived.
I sat outside on this beautiful November day thinking thoughts which poured incessantly from my brain. I briefly retreated indoors and retrieved Mr. Thoreau’s journal. I opened it to the day which accurately represents today’s calendar date, November 15th. The difference is in the year. Mr. Thoreau wrote the following entry in 1853, one hundred and sixty-two years ago. The words, while old and while they may also appear outdated are quite reflective of my current status.
 bridge
 Mr. Thoreau wrote,
“After having some business dealings with men, I am occasionally chagrined, and feel as if I had done some wrong, and it is hard to forget the ugly circumstance. I see that such intercourse long continued would make one thoroughly prosaic, hard, and coarse. But the longest intercourse with Nature, though in her rudest moods, does not thus harden and make coarse. A hard, insensible man whom we liken to a rock is indeed much harder than a rock. From hard, coarse, insensible men with whom I have no sympathy, I go to commune with the rocks, whose hearts are comparatively soft.”
This has been one of the more noticeable difficulties as I have had little time to “commune with the rocks.” It is unfortunate that my daily duties cannot be completed away from these men and with the rocks for if this was a possibility, I would certainly accept the invitation. Instead, I take advantage of days such as these and remove myself from the ‘uncomfortable comforts’ of the indoors and retreat outside to the comforts which are provided by Nature.
still the mind
I countered this force, these business dealings with men by going to what I refer to as my “second home.” My schedule, or what I used as an excuse allowed me to not venture homeward. Instead, I remained within the confines of my real home struggling with the thoughts nd feelings which are a part of these “business dealings with men.” This morning, after rising well before my clock suggested I rise, I dressed and went for a run. The skies, still dark from the ending night were cloudless and showed their residents. Before starting my run, I looked up, as I always do in wonder and saw many familiar constellations.  Visibly present in the early morning sky was the planet Jupiter, shining brightly in the early morning sky. If I would have been accompanied by a small telescope, the planet’s four main moons would have also been visible. I settled for this beautiful vision, a vision which reminds me of the insignificance of the life stressors with which I am attempting to manage.
My route, at least for the first three miles of a ten-mile run, was lit by a headlamp showing me the way and illuminating any obstacles which may serve to trip me and cause additional stress. This was one of those runs which found me enjoying the solitude which accompany’s me on most of my early morning runs. Cars and people are few, business dealings with men nonexistent and stress, at least for the moment is low. I ran at my own pace; a pace at which I found comfort within my body; thoughts, other than of what street I might turn, failing to keep up. Shortly after I began, the sun began to accompany me. It’s first whisper of light glowing a dull orange-yellow on the Eastern horizon as a reminder that despite the stresses which I encounter, another day will always dawn. As Thich Nhat Hahn has said, “It is another new 24-hours.”
Another new day will always dawn and there will always be another 24-hour period of time with which to improve our responses to the stressors which have caused us concern.
Namaste

Humility & Patience

With palms together, I wish you all a good afternoon.
I woke this morning after a fitful night of sleep. It needed to find me or I to find it; either way sleep was not to happen.
It took me several hours of fighting with sleep or perhaps to sleep to realize, or should I say admit the cause of my restlessness was right inside my own head. I work in a profession which I love, for which I share a tremendous passion. That passion, if left unchecked turns into burnout. My problem is I have a tendency when I allow myself to go on autopilot  to miss or perhaps more accurately ignore the signs which lead me down the road to destruction.
I teach mindfulness and pride my own mindfulness practice, but lately this practice has been anything but mindful. Mindless would be more accurate.
Three or four times each year this happens. I allow myself to go on autopilot and neglect to watch the road in front of me. Thoughts speed up and slow down. There are on-ramps and off-ramps all relatively safe if we pay attention to what is ahead of us, on either side of us and behind us. I am usually pretty good at spotting when a breakdown might occur but this time I had taken my eyes off the road for a period of time which was in hindsight, too long. You know what happens next. That’s right, I was involved in an emotional accident. This year it was allowing myself to miss both of my trips to the Adirondacks. The winter trip was missed, well for reasons which I can no longer recall. The summer trip was missed because of many, too many excuses and rationalizations. This summer trip has been greatly missed. These trips, especially the summer trip have been an anchor for more than a decade. When the anchor is lifted, moved or is neglected, the ship will drift. I knew something was wrong when I saw my 4 AM runs dwindle from 5-6 times each week to three times if I was lucky. My alarm sounded and running was never the problem, getting out of bed was. I was emotionally exhausted yet I refused to acknowledge this. I refused to look within. If I had, the answer would have been within arms reach. I would have only had to reach out and grasp it.
Typically we become angry and quickly look around for someone to blame for if we search hard enough there is always someone to blame. Unfortunately, we never look in the right direction as the blame falls squarely on our shoulders. Sure there are other, outside contributing factors but it is our responsibility to pay attention and when we don’t…well it’s safe to say we all know what happens next.
It is important not only for us to pay attention to what lies ahead and around us but to take our proverbial pulse several times each day. I remind patients within my therapy practice of the importance of self-care and forgot about myself.
Namaste