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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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

Morning Paddle

I woke early this morning and loaded the boat on top of the Element. This was my first paddle in several months. I drove to one of my favorite put-is on the Erie canal and unloaded my boat. After I packed safety gear in the boat, I sat quietly on a nearby bench watching a family of ducks as they foraged the nearby grounds for breakfast.

I eased the boat into the still water and slid silently into the cockpit. I adjusted the spray skirt and paddle and began. The only sound was made as my paddle blades entered and exited the water.

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I paddled past many ducks and geese and saw a couple of other paddlers out enjoying the solitude of this morning. I paddled into a secluded lagoon, reached forward with my paddle and stretched across the deck of my boat. There I sat silently bobbing in the water, my eyes closed simply being one with my boat and with my surroundings.

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As time passed by it became time to head home. The solitude of the early morning not only broken but gone. I was passed by three power boats, a few fisherman in their own boats and a couple of other paddlers. Several fisherman also lined the banks of the canal.

I paddled back to the put-in, released the spray skirt and brought my legs out of the cockpit as the bow gently kissed the shore. Again I sat, tired but content with today’s efforts and feeling a tremendous amount of gratitude for my life.

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I returned home, brewed a cup of coffee and swayed in my hammock as I wrote. A gentle breeze stirred the leaves; the sound of cicadas joining the chorus before my eyes fluttered and sleep took me.

What are you thankful for today?

Namaste

Enjoy the Silence

Words are violence, Break the silence, Come crashing in, Into my little world , Painful to me, Pierce right through me, Can’t you understand, Oh my little girls.

All I ever wanted, All I ever needed, Is here in my arms, Words are very unnecessary, They can only do harm.

– Depeche Mode, “Enjoy the Silence

Words from one of my favorite bands. I thought of writing these thoughts after I asked myself what it is I enjoy about trail running, road running at 4AM and my Sunday drives to a park in Niagara Falls with my dog. It is the silence which I enjoy.

As we drove yesterday, returning from the park; I wrestled with the notion of stopping to see my parent’s. Guilt, then my love for them were my motivators. 

I have been very busy lately and while I dislike excuses, this is a fact. Twelve hour days have been my norm and when you are an Introvert you must find your silence somewhere. I had called my mother the previous week to “check-in” and see how her and my father were fairing. I apologized, more out of feeling guilty for not being able to stop and visit on other occasions. On this day when I was greeted at the door I was met with a hint of sarcasm. My mother said, “Well, very nice to see you!” This sounds benign I know but one must understand the nature of my mother’s fear. A fear which she manages poorly and wishes to share with those in her presence.  

We sat and talked, or more accurately my mother talked. She does this when she feels there is a void which must be filled. I have never been much for small talk. I find the expenditure of such energy senseless. I am also perfectly comfortable with silence. 

We went through the list of superficial questions, “How are the kids? They don’t call here.” How’s Nancy? We don’t hear from her. Is she angry with us?” In the past one would have found me plying a defensive posture, answering the questions in what I hoped was an even tone, then once I had left I would have exploded and found the remainder of my day going down in flames like a fighter jet on the losing side of a dog fight. These days my response is grounded in solitude and respect. I know longer “blow up” but now sit quietly and meditate on the words handed to me as if carved from a block with a dull knife. I suggest to those involved in such conversations if it is accurate responses which are desired, the questions should be posed directly to the individual about whom the question is centered. As you can imagine, this is met with frustration followed by silence as the other parties attempt to ascertain some deeper meaning in my words. Do not look deeply for there is no deeper meaning. 

Shortly after the simple pleasantries were exhausted we found ourselves sitting in silence. A quick glance around the room identified the level of discomfort felt by the others. My father and I have always been able to converse and discuss things. He is more open minded than my mother who holds very strong convictions and finds no difficulty sharing her thoughts with you. Her discomfort is noticed when she finds herself rising during the conversation to engage in some form of idle busywork. This is her way of disengaging from the conversation and letting you know she is right and thus the conversation can end. 

In the past, my conversation, as much as I enjoy my father’s way of participating, was unfortunately more like that of my mother. I found myself leaving conversations feeling exhausted; as if I had accomplished nothing. These conversations are not debates, some elected office is not held in the balance. 

Today, I find it much easier to listen, for this is a skill which is practiced not nearly enough. The naturalist John Burroughs wrote in his book, “The Art of Seeing Things”, “The art of seeing things is not something that may be conveyed in rules and precepts; it is a matter vital in the eye and ear, yea, in the mind and soul, of which these are the organs.” 

In as much as there is an art in seeing things, there is as great an art in hearing things. 

I enjoy the silence.

Namaste