Stubborn Beauty

Beautiful even in death, this gnarly tree reached out its arms as a greeting, or possibly a warning, on my way to Lincoln Lake near Mt. Evans.

I’m always delighted and often surprised by the surroundings on hikes in my native Rocky Mountains. It is a rare day when a rushing rill or a sneaky squirrel doesn’t touch my heart and lighten my spirit. Today, it was death that amazed me. The death of trees burned in a fire. A burn area with remarkable trees—trees that refused to lay down their lives. Rather than pathetic scorched snags or trunks littering the ground, what remained were beautiful brown cores with scraggly branches forever reaching out —like the arms of lovers on John Keats’ Grecian urn.

“With forest branches and the trodden weed;
         Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
         When old age shall this generation waste,
                Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
         “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
                Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
–from John Keats, Ode to a Grecian Urn

Living trees give mankind shelter, food, and medicine, and thus, have long provided us with symbolic and metaphorical fodder for life. Yet not in life, but in death, did these trees leave me a poetic freeze-frame.  The stubborn branches whispered as I walked by: Beauty is truth, truth beauty, –that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

Cast in the shadow of a cloud, you can see how trees like these could conjure up the likeness of monsters or mystical beings. It is easy to see where Tolkien came up with Ents–tree creatures in Lord of the Rings.

48-Hour South Dakota Soul Safari

The sunrise greets the guardians of our campground, the American Bison.

It never ceases to amaze me what is possible to see and feel in less than 48 hours. Leaving Denver at 6:45 AM and returning the next evening at  6:00 PM, I managed to feel like I’d been far, far away on a soul safari. Wide open spaces and crepuscular moments will do that for you.

In an attempt to not let this summer slip away like last summer, I packed up the Cranberry Crush with her new tent and headed to South Dakota, a place I visited countless times as a child, but had never truly appreciated as an adult.

My experience blew me away. Not only did I see more than 100 pronghorn antelope (one with its two babies dancing merrily around it), I also saw wild turkeys, prairie dogs, bison, bighorn sheep, and  mountain goats. And I was sung to sleep by the howls of coyotes and the yips of their pups trying to imitate mom and dad. I’ve seen all of these animals before, but not quite like this — and not together. The wide open prairies in a National Park are magical. No fences. No houses. Just animals (and lots of them) roaming about as they wish.

Probably the most moving of all was the peaceful coexistence of camper and bison. The bison seemed to guard the campground. They owned it. And we all kept our respectable distance when they wandered through. Twice on my early morning mountain bike ride, I had to stop and wait for a bison to move before I could continue or wait for a car to come by so I could ride next to it for protection. When 2,000 pounds of bison are between you and your destination, you find another way.

Another spectacular crepuscular moment–sunset at the Sage Creek campground.

I was the first to leave the campground (on my mountain bike) and after carefully dodging bison and a swirling tornado of swallows, I was greeted by wild turkeys at this overlook in the Badlands.

I was moved by the beauty of the land and its creatures. But as I  hiked the popular Notch Trail in Badlands National Park, I was surprised at my emotional reaction as I saw a group of people coming toward us on the trail. They had just come up the steep ladder section and were traversing the narrow trail with a drop off to one side.

Boy Scouts. I knew it immediately.

My husband and I didn’t even need to discuss it. We’d both been around Boy Scouts for so long we can spot a troop a mile away. The boys at the front of the group were skipping over the rocks with ease and getting their buddies to take funny pictures. But as I kept going I witnessed something even more wonderful. The leaders, all three, were at the back of the group helping out one boy who was clearly scared of heights. With gentle encouragement they gave him pointers and blocked his “look down.” I was surprised by my reaction. As soon as I passed the four of them, I couldn’t breath. My heart was in my throat and I felt tears start to well up. My desire to work with youth has always been about this very moment. When I see, in action, adults walking alongside youth during their trials, failures, and successes— it hits me hard and it fires my passion for doing what I do. I was so glad to witness a bit of human nature as beautiful as the spires of rock around us.

My husband looks back at the ladder we climbed to get to the Notch Trail overlook.

An overlook of millions of years of geologic history is always a good way to end the day.

And my trip would not have been complete without a visit to Mt. Rushmore and to Rapid City, birthplace of my mom, and home to my great grandparents.  In a town full of summer tourists, I found my way out to sacred places that mattered most to me and brought them all home, tucked inside as precious memories.

Chapel of the Hills, an exact reproduction of the famous Borgund Stavkirke of Laerdal, Norway, is just a bike ride away down Rapid City, South Dakota’s main city pedestrian path. The meditation trail hidden behind the chapel offers a quite respite.

The last of the original historic terraces, looking out to Mt. Rushmore. Most of the original visitor infrastructure, including the visitor’s center and platform designed by my great grandfather, have been torn out and replaced. You can still see it, though if you watch Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest.

My great grandparents lived in this little house in Rapid City well into their 90s. I can still picture my great grandma sitting in a metal chair on the front porch in her lightweight, summer flower-print dress reciting funny poems and rhymes to me.

Everything Changes

“Mud season” in the mountains — fewer people and an evolving glacial landscape marks time for me.

Some things never change. Not true. Everything changes. Some things just change at a glacial pace. No where helps me grasp this more than my frequent stays in  Breckenridge, Colorado—a town and environment I’ve watched change slowly over my entire life. I’ve watched Uncle Frank’s house turn into the Starbucks on Main Street. I’ve watched ski tickets go from $12 to $120.  I’ve watched restaurants make it and break it. I’ve watched my children turn from toddlers to men.

My sons named this magical place Rock Island more than 15 years ago. It is still the place they run to first when we visit Breckenridge.

Time changes everything. Sometimes we mourn the loss. Other times we rejoice in the new.  As I spent a crepuscular moment this Mother’s Day dawn sitting by a new beaver dam, I was giddy with excitement. I’ve never been able to examine a beaver dam so close before. It was remarkable. Those industrious rodents completely changed the landscape. They made  a whole new environment for a host of other creatures to inhabit. As much as I wanted to see a beaver, I knew my chances were slim, but I was able to watch a muskrat dart happily in and out of his home along the bank.

A stellar crepuscular moment and an amazing change to the stream on the way to Rock Island.

Changes sometimes happen so slowly they are hard to recognize, like the snow eroding away the mountains. Other times they are shockingly quick and life-altering, like this dam. I felt both today, as my feet post-holed into melting snow near Crystal Lake and as I listened to my grown sons now navigate their lives in their own way—a way that will change mine forever. I’m swimming in a new pond. It’s a pond they built for me. It’s different here. Everything changes.

This muskrat (crepuscular) takes advantage of the new pond created by his friend the beaver (nocturnal).

starbucks

It’s still a house, but it’s no longer a home.

 

Crepuscular Moments

Sunrise over the Salt Valley in Arches National Park.

One of my very favorite science words is crepuscular. Being a “word person,” I tend to remember when and where I was when I learned a word. While sitting in Mammology class, my college professor described nocturnal animals (yawn), diurnal animals, and then POW…there it was…crepuscular. The word for animals active at dawn and dusk.

Some crepuscular species:

  • Rabbits
  • Guinea pigs
  • Rats
  • Jaguars
  • Ocelots
  • Lemurs
  • Wombats
  • Hyenas
  • Bobcats
  • Quolls
  • Chinchillas
  • Moose
  • Me!

Bonus words: matutinal (only active at dawn) and vespertine (only active at dusk).

Since then I’ve used the word as often as possible. It is fun and surprising to say.  And over the years I’ve found it is even more fun and surprising to be crepuscular.

My soul is filled in crepuscular moments. Those quiet moments when you are joined by only a few other crepuscular living things. You need not speak to them. You silently give them a nod as you pass by. Crepuscular moments cast dynamic shadows and fleeting colors making everyday objects exude magic and majesty.

Only a few people saw the sun hit these rocks on Saturday morning. Glad I was one of them.

Our lives are pretty full.  Yet we still have two chances everyday to be crepuscular.  Most of us can’t recall our dawn and dusk moments each day, even though we are often “active” during these times—actively helping kids with homework, actively making dinner, or “actively” sleeping. When we actively seek crepuscular moments it is a rare and beautiful choice. It goes against the norm. It makes life feel less crowded. It gives your soul space. It slows down and extends time. Sharing the sunset with your spouse. Watching the light turn mountains into golden monoliths. Sharing a glance with a white-tailed deer. Seeing the open petals of a Morning Glory. We get two crepuscular opportunities every single day. That’s 730 possible incredible soul moments a year.  Awesome.

Sand Dune Arch is crowded with visitors all day. But at dusk, when people pack themselves into restaurants, you can find yourself sitting alone in the soft sand enjoying the moon glow.

Solomon’s Moon

moon

Solomon: Forevermore this is your moon. Thank you for your story.

As I hailed a taxi at the Indianapolis airport on my way to a conference, I had the pleasure of meeting Solomon, my taxi driver. Though he moved to the United States from war torn Eritrea in 1991, his English was still rather broken.

Looking out of my window I spied a gorgeous orange full moon setting just below the horizon. I squealed with excitement, trying to remember the name of this month’s full moon. I finally remembered it was the Worm Moon and I told Solomon about the Algonquin Indians and why they named it so. He told me that in Tigrinya, the name of this kind of full moon was something that sounded like fortuna…which I translated as fortune (in Greek).

My short, mustached driver spent the better part of fifteen minutes explaining how the moon phases worked, using hand movements where his words failed him. He told me that a full moon, like this one, meant rain is coming. I imagined him growing up in Eritrea with his family and the stories of the moon and its weather patterns passed from generation to generation. (Of course, I looked it up when I got to my hotel and found out that scientists have studied the stories and found that there is actually a shred of truth to this lunar weather predictor.)

After the weather report, I told Solomon about our friends the Bahta family who were refugees from Eritrea back when I was in high school and college. Eritrea, a postage stamp of a country in East Africa, endured a horrible civil war.  I told him about Tigisti Bahta, their daughter whom I tutored in English. Tigisti means patience. And she needed a lot of it having me as an English teacher.Solomon said he had also fled to the United States for the same reason. He told me he started out in Washington D.C. and it was difficult because of the crime there. He said to me, “Black, white…it doesn’t matter. Color doesn’t matter. Crime is crime. Wrong is wrong. And I didn’t like it.” He was extremely grateful to meet his sister in Indianapolis and for the peace he has found here. Solomon means peace.

I’ve learned that Eritreans have a different system of naming from most Western countries. Among Christian Eritreans, children are given two names: a secular name at birth and a Christian name when the child is baptized.

I never learned Solomon’s Eritrean name, but I have decided to give him an honorable one —Werḧi, meaning moon. So together his name would mean peace of the moon.

I woke up the next morning to a precipitating sky. Solomon’s moon was right. And I am better for knowing him…. even if it was only for a 30-minute taxi ride.

Open Up Those Golden Gates

bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge from Baker Beach with Battery Crosby (1900) on the rocks.

When I was a kid we took our share of road trips…and we sang as we drove. We sang John Denver songs and we sang Buddy Holly songs and we sang Disney songs…and of course we sang Al Jolson’s California Here I Come. However, we  weren’t going to California. We often changed the words, because we were going to South Dakota…a lot. So we sang:

South Dakota here we come

Right back where we started from

Open up those Black Hill gates

South Dakota here we come.

Sometimes we would sing the California version. And I always imagined what it would be like to actually drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and sing that song.

Today, that dream became a reality. (I also looked up the actual words to the song and I’ve never sung it correctly). But no matter. I sung it my way today. Four times, actually, thanks to Google Maps. I didn’t mean to cross the Golden Gate Bridge four times, but that’s what I get for following Siri instead of my own common sense. And it wasn’t the only bridge I drove over. I also went over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and the Bay Bridge. And though Google told me my dreamy  little “detour” would only take 2 hours and 26 minutes, it was sorely mistaken. Let me just say that rush hour in San Fransisco is not fun. But this is the kind of thing that tends to happen to me when I take spare moments to try to see something when I’m on business trips.  I take risks and am greeted with the unexpected. (See Journey to the Pinball Hall of Fame and Are You Thirsty Yet?, if you don’t believe me.)

sf-route

My route was NOT 2 hours and 26 minutes as indicated.

Was it worth it?  I must admit I was debating it as my stomach was growling somewhere along highway 580 crawling along at 5 miles per hour. But, after I made it to my hotel, finished all my work, and took a look at my pictures…the answer is yes.  It is always worth it.

Along my way I was gifted with these beautiful discoveries–the sounds of waves, the smell of pine, and bright green, Spring grass.

beach

Waves crashing on Baker Beach. Meditating hippies and crazy nude homeless people behind me (not pictured).

beach-night

Baker Beach from the Battery Crosby.

stairs-down2

Stairs I ran up and down from Immigrant Point Overlook.This is fondly known as the 1000 Step Trail (808 steps to be exact).

immigrant-view

View from Immigrant Point Overlook.

pinecone

Very large pine cone on a fallen tree. Smells so good.

sand-fran-architecture

Classic San Fran architecture on my way to the Bay Bridge.

grass

Spring! This is not what my yard looks like in Colorado.

stairs

Sandy stairs back to my car from Baker Beach. Still shaking sand out of my running shoes.

bay-bridge

Headed to Livermore over the Bay Bridge. Bye San Francisco!

hills

Wine country, cow country…either way…Livermore is B-E-A-utiful.

Journey of Trust to the Pinball Hall of Fame

hof

Now that is a seriously large gumball machine!

Nobody trusts anyone, or why did they put TILT on a pinball machine…

–Steve McQueen

I like a destination. And when I’m traveling for work, I like to get my exercise not in the fitness room, if at all possible, but by walking around my new environment and getting a feeling for where I am. Staying in a cheap government per diem hotel in Las Vegas, doesn’t always put you in the optimal location for fantastic hikes, but it does often put you smack in the middle of an adventure. Knowing this was my only opportunity in the next four days to walk outside (during the day before mugging hours), my quest was to get to the closest attraction on Google maps from my location.  That meant just shy of a 3.5 mile walk (one way) to the Pinball Hall of Fame. With dusk on the horizon, I knew I needed to make this walk snappy.  I walked on sidewalks along busy six lane streets bordered by chain linked fences topped with barbed wire curls. Planes dipped so close to my head I fought the urge to duck. I thought it quite convenient there was a mortuary and graveyard across the street.

pinball-map

My route to the Pinball Hall of Fame.

When I finally got off the main thoroughfare and around the airport, I turned in the direction of my target. I can’t say I felt particularly better here, but at least the airplanes weren’t after me. As I walked past Siegfried and Roy Park, which consisted of gravel and a giant silver mushroom-like statue, I passed row after row of apartments. Tucked beneath several of the gates were homeless people. And between them, rows of stores that included at least one or more of the following: liquor stores, tattoo parlors, and smoke shops.

luckys

How lucky! Open 24 hours!

I said “hi” to those I passed, looking less out of place than you would think. The temperature was a cool 45 degrees so I was sporting my black stocking cap, black running gloves, sunglasses, and a black leather jacket (the only coat I had brought). I looked like a hood in the hood. That probably was a good thing. After an hour of walking, I made it! The Pinball Hall of Fame.

I was not too impressed by the sign. Where were the neon and flashing lights? Where were the free food and fountains? I clearly had not walked far enough.

pinball-hof

Not the most impressive building I’ve ever seen, but I’d made it this far!

I went in and was shocked by the number of people inside (despite the missing cars in the lot). For $0.75 a game, you could play pinball on machines from the 1960s to modern day. I walked among the pinging and ringing, snapped a few photos and then quickly left.

elvira

Elvira! Now that is a pretty high score!

Now I had a dilemma. It was getting dark. And though I looked like I could rob a bank, I didn’t feel like it. Luckily, I had a twenty dollar bill and had scanned the bus routes earlier that day. I stopped at a nearby 7-11 to get change and purchase water. Two men wearing construction uniforms sat at the video slots and finished off their day with a bit of hope. I stood in line behind five people (all unrelated), each with multiple 24 oz. Bud Ice beers in their hands.  Apparently they knew something I didn’t. My Aquafina was clearly not the best bargain in town.

budice711

At this point I started jogging toward Eastern Avenue. As I reached the corner of Tropicana and Eastern, I saw the bus parked at a stop about 100 meters in front of me. I started sprinting. There was a man waiting to board and by the time I reached the bus the same man was still standing patiently waiting his turn. The fellow in front of him was feeding the bus fare machine slowly with pennies and nickels (possibly not realizing it was not a slot machine), but I was grateful. I caught my breath as the gentleman ahead of me and  I assisted by picking up rogue pennies as they rolled off the machine and onto the bus floor.

I hopped on the double decker bus and watched as a colorful cast of characters got on and off  (fully aware I was one of them). I was even asked where my motorcycle was! That’s how “bad to the bone” I looked!

As I stepped off the bus (forgetting my bottle of purchased water on public transit for the second time that day), I was happy I trusted Vegas enough to go for a walk, and happy Vegas trusted a hood like me.

Distraction Only Masks the Pain

paradise

A nice place to be in pain ..but it still hurts.

Blog Reader Warning: This post is not uplifting. If you are an eternal optimist, Osh Popham, or Pollyanna…stop reading now.

I am in quite a bit of pain today. My neck is so stiff I can’t turn my head. I am seriously considering going to an emergency clinic for muscle relaxants. The problem with pain is there is never a good time for it. I happen to be on vacation trying to relax, but it is pretty hard when you can’t turn your head and all you can hear is your brain screaming. Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Now if you are a follower of mine on Facebook, you probably saw a different version of my vacation. You saw my smiling face as the winner of my self-inflicted Coconut Decathlon. Vacation is awesome. My smile is real. But so is my pain.

Today, when my pain was at its height, I excused myself to go float down the lazy river. I adjusted myself in the inner tube so my neck was resting as gently as it could and I prepared to distract myself to mask the pain.

First, I pretended I was baby Moses going down the Nile…being rocked gently by the water…oblivious to the alligators floating beneath. I pretended to giggle and coo at the birds and palms as they passed overhead.

Next, I became Anne of Green Gables. I relived one of my favorite moments where she lies down flat in a canoe, closes her eyes like she is dead, and launches herself down the river while reciting Alfred Lord Tennyson’s The Lady of Shallot.

As I came around the corner, I could hear the rushing falls. I pretended it was the distant sound of Niagara and I was in a barrel headed toward the edge. As the sound became intense, I crossed myself…a mighty rush covered me… but I made it out to the other side.

These tactics worked for a bit. I practiced them a lot when I lived for six grueling months with a herniated disc in my back. I learned how to put the pain in a different compartment in my head and go on living.

Sadly, this made me think of my friends back home. My dear friends and their 16-year-old son who passed away by suicide exactly one year ago today. Noah, couldn’t distract his pain any longer. And now his parents and brother…and community… are still in pain. All trying to live between the ebbs and flows of feeling the pain and distracting it.  Feeling and distracting. Feeling and distracting. Like the waves under my inner tube on the river Styx.

My pain in the neck will eventually go away (I hope). Their pain won’t ever go away completely…not the way Noah’s did. I suppose they shouldn’t expect it to.  None of us should really. Pain…whether physical, mental,  or emotional…is either felt or distracted…until it ends.  And, sadly, some pain just doesn’t ever go away.

My heart goes out to you today, my friends.

I’ll Have a Neck Pillow with a Side of Scientology, Please?

menu

Hmmmm….what to order?

These two menu cards were on my dresser in my hotel room this week. How nice. Menus. I love menus! They mean I get to choose. But these were like no menus I’d ever seen.

First of all, let’s look at the Pillow Menu.  I was all over that one. Finally, a hotel that understands my need to gather most of the pillows in the room and build a fake “husband” on the other side of my bed so I subconsciously feel a familiar presence and sleep well. With the menu, I could just get one pillow that would do the job. A body pillow! Order it up!

But what to go with it? Let’s see. What goes well with a body pillow? A Bhagavad Gita or a Tao Te Ching or …….wait… hold the phone! This Spiritual Menu was flawed. I’m sorry, but the whole idea of a Spiritual Menu was already a strange concept to me, but after I read it, I was utterly confused. (The curse of the editor strikes again.)

The menu says: Time to Reflect? Let us bring up a copy of your book of faith. So, I started to reflect. If you are going to go to the trouble of making such a menu, shouldn’t you provide choices based statistically on people’s religious preferences? If that was the aim, then there were definitely some missing and lopsided choices on this menu. I decided to analyze how well they did.

Here’s what the world looks like based on size of major religious groups.

pie-chart

Size of Major Religious Groups, Pew Research Center, 2010

So, how did the Spiritual Menu stack up to world stats?

  • 31% of the people had two menu choices: King James Bible or New American Bible. I prefer the New International Version myself, which was not available, but two choices isn’t bad.  Check.
  • 23% of the people had their book of choice, the Koran. Check.
  • 16% of the people didn’t have anything on the menu because they don’t really have a “holy book.” This piece of the pie includes atheists, agnostics, or people that don’t identify with any particular religion. Maybe, just maybe, that is who this menu was actually meant for…not sure of the hotel management’s motives. Sort of Check.
  • 15% of the people were offered the Bhagavad Gita. The Hindus actually have several holy texts including the Vedas, the Upanisads, the Smrutis, Ramayana, Mahabharata (which includes the Bhagavad Gita) and the Puranas. Would they be satisfied with just the Gita? Probably not. Very Partial Check.
  • 7% would be quite disappointed with the menu item called the Eight Noble Truths (Buddhism). Though a tenant of the religion, a book on the truths isn’t really their”holy book.” It certainly isn’t the forty volumes of Buddha’s teachings, known as the Sutras. I believe the Buddhists would be a bit offended. After all, if you have to tell a Buddhist in parenthesis that the Eight Noble Truths belong to them, then we’ve got a problem already. Not Check.
  • 6% of the people are out of luck. I imagine this would be a pretty hard library to obtain. This piece of the pie, folk religions, includes faiths that are usually associated with a particular group of people, ethnicity, or tribe. So you’d have to hunt down copies of everything from the Mayan Popol Vuh to the African Hwlɛngãn. Not Check.
  • 1% of people in “other religions” had three choices on this menu: What is Scientology, which I’m pretty sure is a pamphlet, not a holy book; Tao Ti Ching , a book for Taoists; and the Book of Mormon. But this 1% also includes Baha’i faith,  Jainism, Shintoism, Sikhism, Tenrikyo, Wicca, Zoroastrianism, and many others. A Very, Very Partial Check.
  • 0.2% (which is usually a percentage that surprises a lot of people) got theirTorah. I like to play a game with this pie chart and make people guess which religions go with which pie slice. I have yet to find someone who gets this slice even close to right. People usually pick Judaism as one of the larger slices. But regardless of the tiny percentage, they have a book on the menu. Check.

I still don’t know what to think of this menu. I’m not sure if the Gideons would be flattered or horrified. As for me, I couldn’t decide which I wanted to order because at this point I kind of wanted to read them all. But I didn’t have that kind of time for contemplation. My brain already hurt and all I had done so far was reflect on the menu.

Walk With a Purpose

sign

I like this quote even more now that I understand how to interpret it.

When I was 21, I went to New York City for a Technical Communication conference. As I walked through Central Park at dusk toward my hotel, I became acutely aware of some rather shady characters following me. I realized at that moment my desire to see everything I possibly could in this new fantastic city might have well been tempered with a bit more caution. The words “walk with a purpose” echoed in my brain. I held my head high, eyes forward, and picked up my pace with the strength of a soldier marching into battle. I caught up to a group of strangers heading the same direction and stayed close behind until I reached 72nd Avenue and familiar ground.

That day I learned something. I am not invincible, but I do have power…and drive. And I never wanted to be afraid to try. I was a pretty fearless kid, and now as an adult, I didn’t want that to change. That’s not to say I wouldn’t or shouldn’t apply a bit of caution at times…but not too much. If I wanted to see life….then I needed to go see it. If I wanted to learn something…then I needed to learn it. If I wanted to go somewhere or do something…even if there was some inherent risk…then I needed to do it. Sometimes this philosophy has cost me a heavy price. But what has kept me running full speed down this path is my consistent motivation to move in a positive direction …toward helping and loving others and the world…all the time. It makes the price of the effort always, always worth it.  But just walking with purpose has never been enough for me…I’ve felt compelled to walk it as fast as I possibly can. Hence, the pictured quote above.

Our life on this Earth is pretty short. As I reach my midline in years, this becomes more and more apparent. If I’m honest with myself, this “risk-taking, go full throttle” philosophy of life has made me pretty tired. On the plus side, I can’t look back and say I haven’t walked, often run, without purpose…and for that I’m grateful. But, now, what to do about the bags under my eyes?

Lately, I’ve started to slow down (I’ve named it failure) and it’s been forcing me to rethink my philosophy. Do I really need to push myself this hard? Is that what “walking with a purpose” really means? I keep coming to the same conclusion. Yes. Until there is no more purpose – until I come to a different understanding of the meaning of life—then I’m in for another tiring 50+ years or however long I last at this pace!

That is, until today.

Today, some 27 years since my New York City adventure, I found myself on another business trip–in the opposite direction—Tacoma, Washington. On the airplane, I sat by an older couple (who held hands during the flight) and needed wheelchair assistance at the gate. The wife told me they lived in Portland and needed to make a connecting flight. But, alas, our flight was 30 minutes late and when we landed it didn’t seem promising they would make it. I thought to myself, “I’ll jump up and tell everyone to sit down and to let them out first so they can make their flight. Then, I’ll alert the flight attendants about the wheelchairs.” As the seat belt signal pinged off and the plane parked, everyone stood up and started disemboweling the plane. The flight attendant announced, “Those waiting for wheelchairs can just sit tight. The chairs haven’t arrived at the gate yet.” I looked at her and said, “I’m sorry. I’m not sure if you’ll make your flight.” She shrugged and said, “That’s ok. You can only move as fast as you can move.”

Whoa.

You can only move as fast as you can move.

I’m not 21 anymore. I’m not a lot of things I was anymore. I can only move as fast as I can move. Sometimes that’s pretty fast. But some days….it just isn’t.

So, my picture quote above isn’t exactly wrong. It still means something to me. I’m still going to push myself and walk with a purpose. What’s different now is the “ability” I’m measuring needs to be based on my ability today and today only. Tomorrow I’ll have a new ability level to judge myself by and it might be better than today…or not.

Sometimes walking with a purpose looks like sitting and waiting.

Thank you my profound Portlander!