Emma the doggo and I walked on the trails this morning. At one point, as she snuffled at the many odors in the vegetation, something caught my eye. I got a brief glimpse of big ears and two eyes of a creature peering at me from behind a bush farther up the trail. We remained motionless, staring at one another. As my brain tried to process what I was seeing, I blinked, and the animal was gone. I’m pretty sure it was a coyote, although smaller than this one.
Emma didn’t even notice the coyote, but as we advanced up the trail her sniffing became even more urgent. I searched the surrounding area: no sign of what I’d seen. I could almost believe I imagined the whole thing, but every time I close my eyes I picture the fur, the intense eyes, and those enormous ears.
Definitely the highlight of my day.
I’ve had to revisit Dr. John Sarno’s mind-body connection lately due to ongoing vertigo. After three weeks of living at a tilt, I had an epiphany and realized it was my brain trying to distract me from the many emotions I’m experiencing during these difficult times. My brain thinks I’ll be better served if I’m focused on bogus sensations rather than doing the helpful things that help me manage my anger/anxiety/fear, helpful activities such as trail-running. Since the onset of this dizzy bullshit on June 9, I haven’t run on the trails. Because what’s scarier than rocks and roots sticking up on narrow , uneven trails, hoping to trip an already-tippy me?
I’ll tell you. A three-foot snake across the trail.
Image from Wikimedia Commons
How do I know? This morning I finally went out in the open space. (note: the vertigo has greatly subsided since I caught on to my brain, but things are still off.) I’d only run about 20 feet from the trail head when my right foot came down close to an enormous snake. I let loose with my customary profanity as I jumped left. The snake didn’t acknowledge my presence, but my heart still pounded as I watched it slither along. No rattling. I now think it was a bull snake, but I didn’t lean in to verify whether it had slit-like pupils (rattlesnake) as opposed to a bull snake’s circular pupils. I will say that I had a whole new pep in my step when I started running again. Adrenaline can be a beautiful thing.
During my three-mile run, I also saw rabbits on the part of the trail we call the “bunny run” and later on kicked up a flock of magpies. The Spotted Towhees were also out in force, singing their “sweet-sweet-teeeeaaaa” songs. It was wonderful being there again. My pace was slow but my spirits were high.
Take that, brain!
Moon as seen from open space. Afternoon of March 31, 2020.
The moon, by her comparative proximity, and the constantly varying appearances produced by her several phases, has always occupied a considerable share of the attention of the inhabitants of the earth. ~ Jules Verne
Black-billed Magpie. April 1, 2020.
springtime branches budding out
brushstrokes against sky
Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and I felt an array of not-so-pleasant emotions. Rage was high on the list. I’m doing a little better today, in part because I’m focusing more on what keeps me going during hard times.
Open space. April 1, 2020
Today I’m grateful for the many ways nature soothes my soul.
This photo is from earlier this month during a foray into the open space with my blanket and camera. It was taken from quite a distance and, at the time, I thought I was looking at two magpies. It wasn’t until I downloaded my photos that I realized it was one Black-billed Magpie and one American Robin.
Open space. April 1, 2020.
In the majority of the pictures of these two, the birds face the same direction, as if their heads swiveled in unison. Magpies get a bad rap for aggression, so it’s nice seeing this peaceful coexistence.
April 1, 2020.
A magpie in flight
some things truly black and white
This afternoon I packed notebook, binoculars, camera, blanket, and camp chair, and walked up the street and out into the open space. I’m still not feeling great so only “hiked” a short distance before settling in. I spent that time outdoors doing much and also very little.
I sat in the chair and watched birds through the binoculars. I rested on the blanket in the sun, welcoming the heat baking into my black shirt. I explored the immedate area with my camera, jotted in my notebook, and eavesdropped on hikers talking on the nearby trail. When my stomach growled, I fantasized about snacks. I photographed the moon in the blue sky. I rolled onto my back to watch this uncharacteristically mellow Dark-eyed Junco in the tree above me.
Those two hours outside were balm for my soul. I’m very grateful for the luxury and ease of walking up my street and out into the open. Next time, I’ll know to bring something to eat.
I woke with anxiety (in large part exacerbated by the reality of the corporate, political, and media establishment rallying around the candidate who’s campaigning against Medicare for All during a pandemic) and knew I had to do something. Pull the covers over my head and remain in bed all day? Or get up and get moving?
I wisely chose movement and for the first time in weeks, went for a run. Well, a walk/run. For once, I was kind to myself and didn’t berate myself whenever I slowed to a walk. I went out on the trails in the open space and within minutes, I saw a bunny under a bush. I greeted it as I chugged on by and then a few minutes later, I spotted a talkative magpie perched on the water tank.
Black-billed Magpie in neighbor’s yard. August 29, 2019.
I’ve become accumstomed to being the only human out on the trails, but today I encountered a total of ten people and three dogs. I hope that if they also woke with anxiety, that their time in the open space soothed their souls. I know it did me a world of good.
This morning I went out on the trails to run. I haven’t been out there in two weeks, in part because of the snow and rain-and-more-rain we’ve received. Muddy trails are no fun. But the last two days have been sunny and warm, and sure enough, once I got out there the trails were dry. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that as I neared the end of my run and was on a slight downhill, I hooked a toe on a rock. The next thing I knew my arms were outstretched and I was soaring. Through the air and then on the ground where I slid across the dirt and rocks.
It all happened very quickly and my best guess is that I hit first with my left knee and then slid onto my right side. I lost a chunk of skin from the heel of my right hand. My right elbow is a mass of bloody scrapes. My right hip bone is scraped. My right thigh is scraped, but not bloody. Same for my stomach. I got dirt in my navel and my mouth.
My immediate reaction was to scream profanities. It all hurt SO MUCH. But when I stopped screaming, I realized I didn’t feel pain anywhere that wasn’t bleeding. In other words, I hadn’t jammed a shoulder or wrist. Even though it was the worst fall I’ve taken out there in a few years, it wasn’t too bad. I think adopting the Superman pose was key. That allowed me to slide along the ground in a bumpy imitation of a batter sliding into second base.
Still, I’m thinking that next time I run out in the open space I should wear a cape. Might stay afloat that way.
This morning Zippy and I went for a run on the trails. Trailrunning is great fun because it usually keeps my thoughts focused on the rocky, uneven terrain. My mantra is “Feet on the ground. Feet on the ground.” That helps keep me in the moment so I don’t hook a toe and fall on my face. However, today I struggled with the nasty voice in my head, telling me I was slow and tired and really-Tracy-you-should-just-walk-because-you’re-not-a-real-runner.
So I fought back with two new mantras.
The sky was blue, the temperature was a perfect 58 degrees, and the Western Meadowlarks were out in force, warbling their beautiful songs. There was no reason to feel anything other than pure joy and gratitude for my time out in the open space. Today’s mantras became “Beautiful day, beautiful day. Birds are singing. Birds are singing. Beautiful day, beautiful day. Birds are singing. Birds are singing.”
Once those went on repeat in my head, the nasty voice was nowhere to be heard.
Yesterday I went for a run on the trails. While stopping to stretch at the top of what Zippy and I refer to as “the slog,” I spotted a splash of bright pink off to the side of the trail. At first I thought it was a candy wrapper and as I moved closer, decided it was a painted rock. It was neither. Sitting there all by itself was a perfectly round, perfectly lovely little cactus. **
Later, as I continued running, I noticed something sticking out of my shoe. I figured it was grass that’d gotten stuck in some mud in my tread, and promptly forgot about it. However, when I was home and taking off my shoes, I nearly impaled myself. Not on a wad of grass, but on the spiny cactus that had hitched a ride on my shoe.
Now I remember why it’s much more fun to run on the trails than the streets.
(** I didn’t have a camera with me, but when Zippy went out to do an errand, he drove to the nearest trailhead and photographed the beauteous cactus for me.)
Today I am thankful for:
(1) open space
(2) Emma the happy pup
clover vetch (h/t Jenn Hubbard)
One of the very best things about running on the trails in June is the Western Meadowlark companionship. They’re all over the open space, perched on yucca or rabbit brush. The colors shown in these public domain photos might lead you to believe that meadowlarks are easy to spot. Not so.
I almost always hear a Western Meadowlark before I see it. These birds have the most beautiful song. It’s liquid and lyrical, warm and smile-inducing. A pure shot of joy.
And lucky for me, these birds love to sing.
Removed wall hanging
and all the clutter on top.
More room for my thoughts.
To whomever is lighting fires in the open space surrounding my neighborhood:
I went out on the trails with Emma today. It was sunny and warm (probably about 80 degrees), there was substantial elevation gain, and we ran when we could.
Another pertinent fact? I didn’t bring water.
When we got off the trail and back on the street, we’d gone about 2.75 miles and Emma’s tongue was hanging out. We walked about 150 yards and then hit a patch of shade. She flopped onto her belly, legs splayed behind her, and panted. I let her stay down there while I stretched, and then got her going again. Several patches of shade later, she did the same thing. Belly flopped.
So I picked her up and carried her.
We passed some guy who asked, “Isn’t she supposed to be walking?” Nope. It was totally my bad. I overexerted my short-legged dog in the heat AND neglected to bring water. Two belly flops from her meant the rest of the way home was on me.
So I carried the 25-pound dog the last half-mile. For the record, she completely enjoyed the ride, looking around from her new vantage point.
She’s still a bit tuckered, though. While she rested, I dug my water pack out of the closet to use on our next outing.
No snow in the near future, but there’s currently a FIRE WEATHER WATCH. That’s just freakin’ great, especially because someone keeps lighting fires in the open space that’s so close I can see it out my window.
Good thing climate change isn’t a real thing, or I’d be feeling really anxious.
Last night Zippy and I celebrated my birthday by going to a dive bar to hear local bands. My logic was that I’d feel less old and obsolete if I hung around the younger generation and heard new-to-me music.
The first band was a punk trio that played song after song in what felt like 45 second bursts of sonic-boom fury. People avoided standing in front of the stage because it was SO loud, and if I hadn’t feared for my long-term hearing, I would’ve been out there pogo-sticking. There’s something invigorating about music you can feel in your spleen.
Back at home where I’m modeling my wrist band that proved I was old enough to consume alcohol. I had to show ID for that sucker!
We stayed for two more bands and had a good time. Earlier in the week when I’d told my brother and his girlfriend our plans, she’d approved of my pre-emptive logic but also warned we’d be the oldest ones there. Well, I’m happy to say that Zippy and I spotted five people in the crowd who were clearly older than us. We high-fived after each sighting.
My plan was a success.
Today was another blue-sky-and-sunshine day, so I invited Zippy for a hike up in the open space. It was blissfully quiet out on the trails.
Another good call on my part.
Me meandering ahead of Zippy. We’d just scared up a Red-tailed Hawk, some magpies, and a flicker that’d been hanging out in a tree together.
So now I’m moving beyond another year and another birthday, and looking forward to any-and-all good stuff up ahead.
Zippy and I just returned from a hike in the open space. We walked up the street a little ways and were out on the trails.
Invasive mulleins in the foreground.
Unfortunately, I started having discomfort in one of my toes and guessed that the neighboring nail was cutting into the skin. We stopped so I could take off my boot and sock and, sure enough, my toe was bloody. So I found a small rock and used it as a file to grind down the nail’s sharp edge. It worked! For the first time ever I had faith that I could’ve survived more than an afternoon in Lonesome Dove (contrary to a friend’s long ago teasing).
Zippy and I continued on our hike. There was so much cool stuff to see (flowering thistles and seeded-out knapwood plants and bright red rose hips and wildflowers and hawks and songbirds), and I kicked myself for not bringing camera and binoculars. But Zippy used his phone camera for these shots, and I’m glad to have documentation of our lovely hike on this August afternoon.
Another mullein invading the space on the right side of photo.
This photo doesn’t do justice to the thicket of white stalks which reminded me of birch trunks but is probably wild parsley or wild parsnip or something like that?
I’m so very grateful for open space that allows me to clear my mind and ease my soul.
Today I am thankful for easy access to wide open space where I can clear my mind and soothe my soul. I am thankful for the sixty minutes I had all to myself, with no one else around except some magpies and a coyote. I am thankful for the snow- and ice-crusted splendor (such as these images provided to morgueFile.com by people who had the foresight to bring along a camera):
I am thankful for the mystery of animal tracks in the snow:
I am thankful for the delight of seemingly random patterns in the snow (although I figured out the ones I saw were made by small clods of earth coming loose from the hillside and rolling down the slope to stop in dark blobs at the end of their dainty trails, an image I REALLY wished I could document with a camera):
I am thankful for delicate, lacy sheets of ice melting in the sun:
It’s been a tough week in a whole lot of ways, and so when I saw a cluster of mullein stalks standing ramrod straight in the snow, something about the weak shadows they cast made me teary; it was like some lonely roll-call. Lonely yet courageous. In any case, today I am thankful for Nature’s refuge that I found via my snowshoes.