In the Shadow of the Mountains

Roadway in autumn forest

I rose this morning, the floor cold to my bare feet.
Golden daylight falls through the barren branches of the stand of white birch trees.
As I stare through the stand of trees, I see the silhouette of one of the Adirondack ranges standing majestically.

Hot black coffee.
Alone with my thoughts,
As I stare out the window.

Things are simpler here.
I can just be…
There is no judgment, no expectations, no goals,
No fears.

There is no one to please, no one to help.
The quiet solitude of leaves as they dance on the breeze.

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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

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

Why do I run?

I greet you with hands clasped in prayer and gratitude.

I was asked this question the other day, “Why do I run?” I am unsure why I chose to write about this topic today as I am asked this question with some frequency. The question is “Why do I run?”

I jotted down some thoughts…It is just after 4:00 am. I was dreaming about a trail run which I had recently completed in the Adirondacks. As I rose and dressed for my run, thoughts, as they often do at this time of day crept in and challenged my belief to stay in bed and get more sleep. I think of a photo of Rob Krar on my wall, his bouts with depression and my need for solitude which helps to contribute to the balanced start of my day.

I know within the first few steps of my morning run that I have what it takes to beat my demons.

I run to be awake. I run as a reminder of what I am capable of achieving. I run for my father who can no longer walk. I run because it is an opportunity to be alone with my thoughts and reexamine my passion for the process of change, both in my life and in the life of my clients.I run because it allows me to challenge myself and to give me some modicum of control over the life stressors which I encounter over which I have little or no control.

I run to be a better person, a better father, grandfather and husband. I run because I have the ability to see the world, my world through a different set of eyes, a set of eyes through which I can see the morning sunrise as the rays of light leak through the branches of the nearby trees. I run to stop running; to feel the stillness and the quiet as I sit on my front porch after a run while everyone else remains safely tucked in their beds. I run to enjoy the solitude and quiet which I seem to only be able to achieve after a vigorous run.

I run to think about the people I have in my life, those who I love and those who I can do without. I think about the latter and I say a mantra for them in the hope they may find the same peace I have been able to find. I run for them. I run to release the stress in my life. I run because it reminds me of the importance of humility in my life. I run to remember and to forget. I run because of the order which I find during this time of solitude. I run to feel and experience the emotions which we all feel and too often deny because we are afraid. I run because it’s free and because it allows me to feel free.

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

 

I’m home…

It is with clasped hands together in prayer and with much gratitude that I greet you…

I’m home…or what I refer to as my second home. Next to the Gulf of Mexico, the Adirondack region is one where I could easily make a life. It’s been almost two years since I’ve made the short trip up North. Excuses have been many.

Last week I left my job as the Director of Social Work at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center. This was a job which I desperately needed to leave. I spent the last 11 months and two weeks, but who’s counting. I have allowed this position to drain every ounce of energy and desire from me.

I’ve spoken with individuals who know me and have been emotionally supportive of me and they knew I could have persevered and hung on. One friend saying, “I know you can do it. But how much longer do you want to do it?” I didn’t want to do it anymore. The stress accompanying the position started to damage my health; physically and emotionally. My blood pressure rose, I added weight and despite the relatively mild winter, I found myself running only a handful of times during the first two months of the year. My desire to run was strong, but my desire to rise at 4:00 AM to do so was lacking. An afternoon runner I never was.

ADK

Somewhere along the way, I lost myself. I forgot what I stood for and simply rose each day going through the motions. I ran on autopilot. Anyone knows, if you run on autopilot too long without monitoring the traffic around you, you’ll eventually crash. I left just before the crash.

I decided to take a week off from my practice and take time for me. Some me time. When I have taken time off previously, unless I have left the area I still met with patients in my practice. My wife was surprised to know I had nothing of importance to anyone but me scheduled for the week.

Lake Akanabee

As Henry David once said, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.” I will go now confidently in the direction of my dreams. Identify your dreams and go after them.

Namaste