Summer paddle

I slipped the bow of my kayak into the glass smooth water. I quickly followed the boat and rejoiced as I felt the kayak free itself from shore and it began to freely float. I settled myself into the cockpit, gently stretching the spray skirt around the cockpit combing.
I reached behind me with my paddle and gently pushed the boat into deeper water. The memory of the paddle stroke quickly returned as did a smile on my face. The bow of the boat gently sliced through the water leaving a gentle wake in my path. The lack of even the slightest breeze leaving the surface of the water as smooth as glass.
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I paddled along the shore examining the wondrous nature laid out before me. The wake left by my boat finally reached shore and gently lapped at the rocks along the shoreline.
The sun, finally making its first appearance above the horizon began to warm my face. I knew at this hour I would have the entire waterway to myself.
As I rounded a bend in the canal, my boat bumped gently into the trunk of a small tree which had fallen and slipped into the depths.  A pair of ducks paddled silently in the other direction.
As I paddled into a more populated area the sounds of barking dogs began to fill the air. Several ran along the shore their stride matching my paddle stroke. When they tired of the chase they returned to their human companions. Flocks of Canadian geese took off from the water circled overhead and glided silently just feet above the water, passing within arms reach of me. This beauty caused me to cease paddling and simply be in that moment.
I reached my destination and began to paddle toward the put-in. Everything that I had seen on the first passing coming to life again as the sun found itself higher in the sky, shadows lengthening, a new perspective coming to light.
Namaste
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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

 

 

 

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.
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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 
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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

My early morning run

It is with hands clasped together in gratitude which I greet this morning. I woke for my run and hearing rain continue to pelt the roof decide to return to bed. The thought of an early morning run escaping as I fade back to sleep. Before I return to sleep, I have this thought, these thoughts about the importance of running early in the morning which I need to capture. as with other ideas, I remind myself if they remain when I wake, they are worth putting pen to paper.

It used to be I ran when I could make the time. Usually, this was after work. I still run when I have time only now it is early in the morning.

I rise not at the “crack of dawn” for that would be at least two hours later. I rise at 4:00 AM, a time when most people haven’t even thought about rising to do anything, let alone go for a run.
For the most part, I have always been an early riser, a morning person. I have never been a lover of people. The changes in society have solidified my rank as King of the early risers. I have no desire, not even a little to face the onslaught of cars as they roll through stop signs and barely slow at a stop light. I enjoy my life and running too much to much to place myself in harms way.
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I run early in the morning for a number of reasons…the air is cleaner and carries little noise other than my own breathing and footsteps. I enjoy the solitude and anonymity which is part of the ubiquitousness of the dark. I also enjoy the gratitude which allows me to start each morning being thankful with each breath. This may sound cliche but having a father who’s legs were taken from him by Polio and who for the last decade has been unable to walk let alone bear his own weight, I am very thankful for the ability to rise early, draw a breath and leave the comfort of a warm, comfortable bed and go for a run.

Rising early is not always easy for me. Most days it is a chore. Others hear of my early morning jaunts around the city and say, “Well, you’re a morning person. That’s easy for you.” On the contrary. Despite being a “morning person” leaving the comfort of my bed especially during a cold winter’s night which remains ongoing at this sometimes ungodly hour of the morning. I argue with myself for a few minutes convincing myself that when I complete my run I will feel better and have more energy to help me through the day. Often I’ll have a private conversation with a photograph of Rob Krar on my wall asking if Rob despite his fight with depression would remain in bed. Sometimes it is a quote by Marsha Doble which enters my thoughts. Marsha said, “I have to exercise in the morning before my brain figures out what I’m doing.”

Even more important is knowing I have accomplished more in 90-minutes of running than most will accomplish in their day. Sometimes I lose the argument although this is rare. This morning, despite temperatures in the Buffalo area which have remained unseasonably high, I rose with my alarm and decided, without argument to retreat to the comfort provided by my bed. Other than being greeted by my alarm, I was also greeted by rain  which appeared to have not ceased since I went to bed the night before. I enjoy running in the rain, but there is a difference between a cold rain in December and the warm rains of spring and summer.

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Sunday morning runs have a special feeling all their own. I used to complete a long run on Saturday and didn’t enjoy the feeling of running and competing with cars and their drivers. You would think people would sleep in on Saturday…not so much as Sunday. My Sunday morning runs straddle the competing worlds of dark and light. Part way through a 15-mile run there is enough light that my headlamp is no longer a necessity. I am now exposed for all the world to see. As darkness gives way to light it becomes easy to see I am still relatively alone in the world. The solitude which I have discovered and made my own remains my own save for the occasional passing car or the even less frequent runner. If the weather permits, I am greeted by an amazing sunrise. I say amazing because this is the Northeast and amazing sunrises are not as numerous and I am afraid taken from granted as they may be in Florida. They are scarce and thus much more important to me. They also remind me of my grandmother and time spent with her in life and in death as I was with her when she passed at this magical time of day. There is something special about catching those first rays of sunshine and basking in their glory while others remain fast asleep.

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This straddling of the dark and lighted worlds gives me the same amount of joy as does running in the darkness. It allows me to return home with the thought of a hot cup of coffee on my back porch while I enjoy the solitude which remains and which I know will escape and be lost as the hands of the clock inform me the time continues to progress despite me desire that it remains still if even for a few minutes.

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Namaste

Sauntering

Today I went “sauntering.” Henry David does a much better job of explaining the definition of this fine word than I so I will allow him the effort. “I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of walking, that is, of taking walks – who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering, which word is beautifully derived “from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going a la Sainte Terre, to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, “There goes a Sainte-Terrer,” A Saunterer, A Holdy Lander. They who never go to the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are in deed mere idlers and vagabonds; but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre, without land or a home, which therefore, in the good sense, will mean having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea.” – Henry David Thoreau

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As I watched the Sunday morning news, I found myself glancing toward the window several times to assess the weather. Each assessment rendered the same result; a cloudy, overcast sky. The news, now concluded offered me brief respite from the reality of the goings on in the world. I put down the Sunday Times and retrieved my camera from it’s hiding place in my camera bag in the basement. My camera has not seen the light of day in several months due in part to the excellent camera on my phone also an opportunity to work with Groupon left me feeling emotionally exhausted and with no desire to pick up the camera, let alone to make photographs.

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I inserted a memory card, cleared the card of any photographs left over from a previous shoot and retrieved my hat, mittens and a cigar. I entered my car, clipped the end of the cigar and toasted the end before lighting the cigar and inhaling the fragrance of this fine smoke.

 I made the brief drive to the location where I wanted to shoot, parked my car and grabbed my gear. After turning on the camera, I set it to monochrome desiring to make every photograph in black and white. The overcast skies lent themselves to the simple beauty of monochrome as it allows the highlights and tones to stand out and speaks volumes regarding the mood of the lighting. It felt like a black and white day.

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Because of the time of year, I had the entire area to myself save for the one or two people also out sauntering. I made my way around Gateway Park to an area adorned by several benches. I brushed the water left over from a cold night from the surface of the bench, sat my camera bag down and pulled my journal from its hiding place in the back pocket of my camera bag. From the front pocket I retrieved one of my favorite fountain pens inked with the deepest of black inks to match the black and white mood in which I find myself.

I wrote with abandon, the thoughts pouring from my brain faster than they could be captured by the nib of the fountain pen. as I stopped allowing the ink on the page to dry, I lined my head back and allowed the emerging sun to shower me in its warmth.

Today was a good day.

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.
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 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.
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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

Balance & Gratitude

A Beautiful Moment

With palms together,

I wish you all a Good Evening.

I left the office at 6 PM. I completed a staff meeting 60-minutes early and let my staff retire for the day. The week was a difficult one; busy but productive.

I sit alone in my backyard, laptop on my lap, three fingers of Bulleit consumed, journal written and a cigar burning in my hand as I type. My only company are the cicadas and crickets as they compete for the coming darkness and the solitude which is provided. A cool breeze which has all but erased the humidity from the air providing a comfortable evening in which to sit in stillness and in silence. The time is 8:04 PM. Darkness is descending quickly as we approach the second week of September. My son and I have tickets to the Notre Dame game the weekend of September 26. I look forward to spending this time with him.

I am thankful for the 7-mile run this morning. A run which started my day. It is my running, my early morning runs which remain one of the keys to balance in my life.

I love rising in the stillness of the early morning. I run with no one else around with the exception of the few passing cars of those souls who begin their workday. I ran across the bridge which spans the Erie Canal and sweep the light of my head torch to the left. The light is reflected back to me in the eyes of several deer; resting peacefully before the light of day reveals their sacred position.

This run this morning, while anticipated was one which I thought several times of abandoning. The thoughts of abandoning are quickly pushed to the side as I remain motivated to complete this run. My legs struggle to find a comfortable cadence, the humidity striking me and reminding me this run will not be an easy one. Thoughts of my favorite runner, Rob Krar also come into play; his silent encouragement helps to keep me going.

I complete this run with mixed emotions. I sit on my porch and cool off, sweat dripping in this humid environment. My only company are the crickets which break the silence. A glance to the East and my eyes meet the brightening sky. The color remains pale but also provides hope the sun will shine.

Happiness in my life is ensured because it is what I make of it. A helpful quote by @iamthecitymonk…”What you focus on expands. Look at the beauty and virtues of others all the time instead of their flaws.” I extrapolated the content of this quote to everything in my life. Daily, I look for the beauty in everything and everyone around me. Most of the time it is found and when it is, I am allowed to see the beauty within. See your beauty every day.

Namaste