Friday, August 29, 2008

shout out

How can I even begin to express my gratitude to everyone, for everything? I've been buying thank-you notes with every intention of sitting down and filling them out, but the quiet moments are so few and far between that when they offer themselves, all I want is quiet. I will write them, I promise, but in the meantime, I wanted to give a shout out:

--to the aunts who sat with me through the whole ordeal, who made me laugh and let me cry, and who provided the necessary words, hugs, babysitting, and meals.

--to my cousin Karen, who slipped into my house while we were on vacation, mustering up the courage to go through our dirty, ancient basement by the light of her cell phone, and then cleaning our house, top to bottom, so that we wouldn't have to return to squalor.

--to the friends and acquaintances who brought meals when I didn't feel like cooking, and to my pal Stacey, who made the arrangements..

--to my Wednesday night running group, and to the parents of two of Dylan's classmates, who sent Edible Arrangements.

--to the friends who made the drive from CT (and NH), logging 300-400 miles in a day just to pay their respects and lend a shoulder (this means you, Kristen,Fran, Anne, Kim, Sarah, and Stacey!).

--to the many, many wonderful folks who called, mailed cards, sent positive energy, gave me space when I needed it and company when I craved it.

--to Bryan, who whisked the kids off to Vermont when my father first passed--even though he was grieving, too--so that Dylan and Lexi might salvage a little of their vacation.

--and to everyone who has donated to the Heart Walk, which I'm doing on Sept. 13 in memory of Dad. Thanks to my generous cousins, aunts, friends, and in-laws, we've already raised over 700 dollars. You rock!

Have I forgotten anyone? I'm sure I have. You can bet this entry will have some amendments. In the meantime, though, just wanted to say a big, hearty thanks. How blessed I am.

Friday, August 22, 2008

treat family camping trip

We spent a few days camping in Jamaica State Park, VT. What a lovely campground--and that's coming from a curmudgeon who prefers wilderness camping.Dylan and Alexa with cousin Emma Treat, who was visiting from Seattle.
We met this dude on the hike up to Hamilton Falls.
Alexa contemplating whether to put her feet into the icy water.
Dylan makes a face for cousin Kylie (Treat).
Bryan dipping Dylan into the drink.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

on trail running

On weekend mornings, before the sun gets too hot and the air too heavy, I like to visit my personal temple, the trail. When I discovered trail running, back when I was living in Colorado, it was like a revelation: how wonderful to be able to marry my two favorite activities, running and hiking. It added to my running a spiritual dimension, as I have always felt closest to "God" in the woods and on the trail. There's something so invigorating about the feeling of mud on my calves, of leaves under my feet, and something rejuvenating about the mental challenge of negotiating roots and rocks and streams without any time to plan my next move.

The solitude of the trail is much like the solitude of the temple: it gives me time to breathe, to contemplate, to meditate. When my brother Michael died, I was very pregnant with Dylan, and so trail running was out of the question; however, I took long walks in the woods of Brooksvale Park, and often, during my rambles, I could feel Michael's presence beside me. Sometimes I would cry, sometimes I would smile, and sometimes I was simply complacent as I experienced this closeness, however real or imagined.

Since Dad died last month, I have muddled through my runs, forcing myself to put in the miles because I know I'll feel worse if I neglect my routines. But with the New Haven 20k on the horizon, this morning I awoke and said, "12 miles, baby, whether you want to or not." I fed Sasha and we headed to Brooksvale. Midway up the first hill, I thought of Dad, thought of how the woods will always bring me closer to Dad because he loved being in the forest, especially when it included sitting by a campfire with his family. Once, after we had quarrelled, he wrote me a long, beautiful letter in which he said that the crackle of a fire always brought him back to the camping trips we took in our younger days, and went on to say how overjoyed he was that his children had inherited his love of the woods.

Of course, thinking of Dad made me cry, but it was a cathartic cry (which made my nervous dog throw her ears back and look at me sideways), and in my grief I could really appreciate the time that I did have with my Dad. I was grateful that he had gotten to take at least one camping trip with my children (and two with Dylan), even if it is likely that Alexa's memories of him will be muddy at best. Such remembrances don't really make his passing any easier, but they are a welcome distraction from the sadness.

Lately, I've been reading Thich Nacht Hahn, the Buddhist philosopher, who says, to paraphrase, that if you accept that all things are impermanent, you will be able to fully appreciate them while they grace your lives. He adds that thinking deeply about this concept and embracing it as part of your consciousness will allow you to "smile through your grief." Now the last part feels a little farfetched to me, but I have been trying to focus on the memories rather than the loss.

Okay, so I've digressed a bit from my original topic--trail running--but it was the run on the trail this morning that brought me here.

I've also been re-reading Wordsworth, one of my old favorites, and I stumbled upon a poem I hadn't read before, one I found slightly amusing: "To a Young Lady, Who Had Been Reproached for Taking Long Walks in the Country." It called to mind 18th and 19th century novels, where women often "take ill" because they dared to walk a quarter-mile in the rain and their soaked layers of clothing (petticoats, bloomers, stockings) brought on a "deathly chill"(likely a pretty good case of hypothermia) . I considered how I would have appeared to a 19th century gentleman at the end of my run today: sweat-soaked shirt and bandana, socks and shins covered with mud, face red with effort and exhilaration. Surely I would have been reproached. Would Wordsworth have spoken up for me, or would the horror of such an image have caused him to faint?

In typical fashion, the poet lets his emotions overflow, and idealizes the daring young lady in his passionate pastoral:

Dear Child of Nature, let them rail!
--There is a nest in a green dale,
A harbour and a hold;
Where thou, a Wife and Friend, shalt see
Thy own heart-stirring days, and be
A light to young and old.

There, healthy as a shepherd boy,
And treading among flowers of joy
Which at no season fade,
Thou, while thy babes around thee cling,
Shalt show us how divine a thing
A Woman may be made.

Though I sometimes find Wordsworth a bit overdone, I've always felt a kinship with him for that very reason: in all honesty, I, too, am about as sappy as they come, especially when it comes to my emotional reactions to nature. When I first visited the Grand Canyon, I wept; same thing happened when I stood beside the Colorado River in Moab, Utah.

So, it makes sense that the trail is my temple. I'm thinking of becoming a "religious fanatic" and forsaking road races for trail runs, but I'm sure the racing bug will return, as it always does. And trail running doesn't always necessitate solitude: at least once a week, I'm joined by my running pals, most of them female, and the sense of community, too, is a wonderful thing. In fact, it seems as if more and more of my running friends are putting aside their fears of broken ankles and coming to appreciate the wonders of the trail.

In wildness is the preservation of the world.--Thoreau