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.

Advertisements

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

Writing, Depression & Other Things

With hands grasped in gratitude, I greet you on this beautiful day.

It’s a long weekend for me and I am happy to be enjoying an extra free day off this weekend. As I sat, my soul warmed with another cup of coffee and my Kindle, my mind began, as it often does to wander. I began to think about writing. It has been three months since my last post and almost three months since I have worked on my book.

It has also been almost three months since my last consistent run. This “streak” was interrupted just once by an attempt to test my knee. This “test” failed miserably and caused additional pain. I have had x-rays completed but the physician refused to discuss them with me when she believed this injury had been caused at work. This despite the numerous pages of information which I completed explaining the injury took place as a result of running. I find this to be an indictment of the current state of our medical profession and one, which within my own practice I work terribly hard to avoid. Regardless, I will reschedule with another physician and secure an accurate diagnosis.

Each week which goes by offers me increasing hope as the pain and discomfort continues to decrease. For this I am thankful for it offers some hope the injury will not require a surgical intervention.

I was frightened by the notion that I did not miss running, especially those runs which allowed me to start my day with some modicum of balance.

I have been reflecting on the last year and in some cases wish I could call a mulligan and have remained at the job which I had prior to the start of the last year. Since this is not a possibility, I have reflected on what I have learned in this last year.

Not to be cliché but I have learned the grass is not always greener on the other side. I have also learned it is not a bad thing to be happy with the status quo, to not wish for more, of anything but to be happy or to find happiness in what I already have.

I was reminded balance can be found in such things, that to not see the balance which I already have and to seek something for which the definition is unclear causes one to experience greater imbalance in one’s life. I stepped from the frying pan into the fire. I saw my physical health be called into question and I saw my love for running also being called into question. It culminated in me experiencing a panic attack while out for a very early run. The panic attack saw me sitting by the side of the road in tears with passersby wondering what was going on for me at 4:30 AM. Shortly thereafter I saw my physician and began a course of medication to help me manage these symptoms. I began the search for alternate employment. Finally this goal was reached but emotionally I still felt empty; like a ship bobbing on the waves in the open ocean sails flapping loosely in the breeze with not enough force to provide the energy necessary to move forward. My meditation practice faltered and finally halted and also became nonexistent. I had hung my hat on one decision, one belief, that a new place of employment would provide all the stress relief which I would need. This solved a small portion of my problem, the remainder lied in my belief that there was nothing else to question. Depression set in followed by anhedonia and a general feeling of malaise. I continued to run but even these were forced. The love which I had previously had for waking early in the morning now became a chore instead of a salvation. I still enjoyed the solitude I felt but I also felt myself withdrawing into myself; feeling sorry for myself. Everything became a chore. I functioned on autopilot and left unchecked ends up causing an accident. This “accident” was my knee injury. Even my journaling which provided as much solace as did my daily runs and something with which I found respite, waned and became almost nonexistent. Daily writing fell off to one or two days each week, then once each week. There were weeks where I was lucky if I even inked a fountain pen let alone knew the whereabouts of my journal. I retreated more and more into my head and found reading to be my one remaining constant.

Slowly but surely my energy began to return. I am not fully there but I feel my hope, my desire to return to enjoying the run beginning to increase. It was at first difficult for me to accept the fact that I could not run, despite knowing further pain and injury would certainly follow. This summer, one of our warmest on record and a time of year I look forward to running as it affords me the ability to run in only shorts and running shoes caused additional strain on my mood. Alas, it is what it is.

My own diagnosis is one which places a possible return to running around the turn of the year. Hopefully, with the advice of a doctor and the possibility of physical therapy I can at least comfortably return to some form of physical activity which will help ease my depression.

As I said in an earlier post, one of the greatest abilities we have, if we choose to accept it is our ability to be introspective.

Namaste

I’m here…

I’ve been a little down these last couple of weeks. I attempted a run Monday morning and was stopped after just one block. The pain in my shins screaming at me to not take another step. This time I listen. My legs are happy with this decision, my mind is not. There is a brief argument in my head as my thoughts drift to an upcoming race; a half-marathon for which I think I may not be ready. The thoughts which scream at me to not run have won this battle. It is a good win. I walk back to my home, my right shin reminding me of this decision. I walk up the driveway, hands on my hips as if to say to a potential passerby, “Whew! What a run I just completed!” I am the only one who knows the truth. This secret is safe with me. I retreat to my porch. If anyone would have been outside and saw me sitting on my porch, my head in my hands; they would have thought something to be wrong. Not this day, not at 4:30 in the morning, for there are no passersby.
I sobbed as I admitted to myself “I had pushed my minimalist running too fast.” The result? Painful shin splints which will keep me sidelined for at least a week. Thoughts flooded my head. What have I done wrong? I’ve had many good runs in minimalist shoes. Did I push too far, too fast? Thoughts continued to race. Should I keep my photography business open? Referrals are down and couples want the best package for next to nothing. I am tired! Emotionally drained.
I no longer desire to work 12-hour days. The days feel disjointed. I feel like I’m piecing together a 1000-piece puzzle. Everyday! I go to the sanctuary of my bed at night, reach for a book and read. The alarm sounds again at 4:30 AM. I sit on the edge of my bed contemplating another 90-minutes of sleep, run or lament the fact I cannot run right now. I rise and take a couple of tentative steps. My shin hurts. It screams at me to not run. I reach for the blinds and peer out the window. I relish the opportunity to be outdoors if even for a few minutes to enjoy the peace and solitude. I hobble down the stairs; my leg reminding me why I am not running, allowing me to feel twenty years older than I am. I make a cup of coffee, grab my fountain pen and journal and retreat to the humid air outside.
As I sit on the porch, my breathe comes with ease. The walls gone, unable to close in. I empty my fountain pen and fill the empty pages of my journal…thoughts pouring from my mind like water from a faucet left fully open. As my mind empties clarity follows.
I cap my fountain pen and close the pages of my journal on still damp ink. I gaze East and see the beginnings of what will be a beautiful sunrise. The rays of sun tickels the tops of the trees and filters through the humidity hanging in the air. I smile. I am at peace.
For now…everything is right with the world.

Arriving in the Adirondacks

It was dark when we packed the truck with our gear. Backpacks, snowshoes, trekking poles and food for the long weekend ahead of us. Bleary eyed we headed out of the driveway, my thoughts about a hot cup of coffee and the weekend to be spent with my son. The Tim Hortons sign beckoned and the smell of coffee faintly tickled my nostrils. We pulled out of the drive-thru and pointed the truck North. I set the GPS so we would be able to tick away the hours until we reached our destination in the middle of the Adirondack Park.

The brief stop at the tool booth marked one small portion of our trip. I put the truck into gear and began the long trip down the NYS Thruway. I clicked on the cruise control and set the speed at 70 MPH. Stephen and I shared conversation about the coming trip; our excitement and anticipation growing with each passing mile. As we continued the interior of the truck grew quiet. I looked at Stephen and found him happily asleep. I smiled. His happiness and comfort was my happiness and comfort. Any remaining fear and anxiety rapidly melted away.

We were met with the familiar sign which welcomed our arrival to the Adirondack Park. I felt at home. The next stop was the lodge at Indian Lake.

We pulled into the parking lot and unloaded our gear. Dinner was made and consumed with zest. Nancy had packed chowder which she had made and froze several days before. We washed dishes and pots, made hot chocolate and settled in for a quiet, relaxing evening. A quiet knock could be faintly heard on the door. We looked at each other wondering who decided to visit in -25-degree temperatures. I twisted the door knob, pulled the door open and smiled as my eyes met those of Barry and his wife Kathryn. What a pleasant surprise. Barry and I shared a greeting of Namaste and we welcomed them into our humble lodging.

We sat and talked, smiled and laughed. We rekindled old friendships and made new ones. We discussed plans for the morrows hike and discussed the anxious anticipation of once more being able to strap snowshoes to our feet and enjoy the silence that is the Adirondacks.

Barry and Kathryn departed, our souls overflowing with joy. Stephen and I dressed warmly and wandered out into the cold night, snow crunching beneath our boots. We looked toward the heavens and marveled at the stars. Despite being many millions of miles away, they appeared within easy reach…ready to be plucked from the sky for safekeeping. Several streaks crisscrossed the sky; shooting stars. We both stood silently and marveled at the view. Our breath added another dimension to the night. When we could stand the cold no more, we retreated to the warmth and safety of our cabin, wrapped our hands around mugs of steaming hot chocolate, marshmallows floating on the surface like the stars we had just witnessed. All was right with the world.

I read and Stephen watched television, sleep beginning to creep into our consciousness. I looked at Stephen and found sleep had already found him. Sleep was rapidly encroaching on me. My head began to bob against my chest. I rose and went to my bed where I thought I might revisit my book. The thought was good but sleep would let this happen for only the briefest of times. Minutes later sleep swept over me and consumed me like a warm blanket. I drifted off with the happy thought that I was able to share this day with Stephen.

Namaste