A tale of three cacti

Zippy and I ran on the trails this morning, and when we reached the top of one uphill slog we paused to stretch. I noticed a colorful cactus off the trail in the approximate spot where we’d seen a beautiful blooming cactus last April and so stepped closer to see whether that cactus was in flower again.

Wrong and wrong again.

The cactus that caught my eye this morning was nothing like the one from last spring. Instead, it was a prickly pear that looked something like this:

But even worse was that as I went off-trail I didn’t look where I was stepping and by the time I returned to the trail my shoes were loaded with yet another kind of cactus. These were like tiny footballs with two-inch-long spines.** And as I pulled them from my shoes I learned that one spine had embedded itself in my ankle. Yeah, so that was cool. But I got it and all the rest of them out and started running back down the trail. Stinging pain be damned.

Alas, those little football cacti were a gift that kept on giving. About a mile later I stuck my hand in my pocket and experienced a whole other kind of ouch. Turns out I’d gotten a bunch of tiny spines in my fingers when removing the footballs from my shoes.

But you know what? It was still a good run.

** I just realized that the post I linked to above contains a photo of my shoe with a, wait for it . . .tiny spiny football cactus. So apparently I’m bound and determined not to learn from my mistakes.

A tame version of yesterday’s wild

Yesterday as I ran on the open space trails and flax tickled my legs, I wished Zippy was with me. Blue flax flowers are his favorite and they’re at the peak of their bloom right now. Good news for him, our flax is also blooming at home in one of our beds.

Here’s a domesticated memento of yesterday’s trail run.

Twofer Tuesday: running mantras

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.

Twofer Tuesday: Cacti edition

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.)

Twofer Tuesday: a peek into my day

This morning I pulled some manuscript/project boxes out of the closet to see if there’s anything in there worth salvaging for my next writing endeavor. (My little writer brain has to have something to noodle on, so while I await my critique group’s feedback on my work-in-progress, I’ve started thinking about what comes next). Well, those boxes proved irresistible to the cats.

Marcel claiming his literary territory

Later this afternoon, Emma and I went out on the trails. Although it was warm enough for me to wear shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, there were still a few patches of snow along the way. We stopped running so that Emma could do her thing.

I laughed as she scooped snow with her snout and dug holes with her paws and slid down the slope on her tummy.

Emma + snow = happiness

Thankful Thursday: trail run edition

Today I’m thankful for these awesome shoes that carried me over the rocky and uneven trails this afternoon:

I’m also thankful I had the trails 100% to myself as I ran, never seeing another human during those 35 minutes, not once, not even off in the distance.

I am thankful for the company of the 80 million grasshoppers, the occasional butterfly, the what-I-hope-was-a-hummingbird-and-not-an-enormous-insect buzzing in my ear, the one bunny that allowed me a glimpse before disappearing into the rabbit brush, the sunshine, and the unidentified bird with the black tail.

I’m thankful for the strength in my legs, the power in my lungs, and the lack of ego that allowed me to walk when I felt like it.

Finally, I’m thankful that the rain didn’t fall until I was already home.

Twofer Tuesday: Western Meadowlark edition

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.

Today I embraced my inner squirrel

I’m working on a synopsis for my work-in-progress and, as anyone who has ever written one can attest, it’s not a pretty process. This time around I’m writing a synopsis before writing the novel which means I’m not locked into anything.

NOT LOCKED INTO ANYTHING = EVERYTHING IS A POSSIBILITY

Or another way to describe it: SQUIRREL BRAIN FREE-FOR-ALL

My ADD tendencies are having a blast-y as I try to reconcile my rough outline with all the brand new shiny ideas firing in my brain.

ZIP ZAP ZOOP.

However, I did make progress today. And when I’d had enough of ye olde synopsis, I put Emma on her leash and we went for a run on the trails.

Nothing clears the squirrel from one’s brain like a run over uneven terrain.

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Life is just one gigantic marble maze

Exhibit A:

Look at all the bright and shiny colors!
The rocket ship! The stars!
There’s even a dotted line to map out the route.
There’s so much potential in the marble maze of life.

And at the end of some days, I go to bed feeling like a WINNER.

Other days it seems as if I keep falling into the same damned hole.

But the secret  to the marble maze of life is finesse,
a little bit of TILT,
and a willingness to fall down,
get back up,
and show Hole 15 that this aggression will not stand.

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Sunday Confessional: The today-I-parched-my-dog edition

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.

 

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Sharing the Trail

I just got back from a run on the trails.
This sign is at the trailhead:
CoyoteCountry sign

I knew I wouldn’t be lucky enough to see coyotes because I didn’t get out there until about 8:00 when they’d already be on people-alert. I did, however, see and hear many birds. Western meadowlarks, orioles, and magpies. I also saw a friend and her dog.

A few minutes after passing my friend, I was on a downhill. Running “fast.” And I heard a LOUD hissing, rattling sound off to the left of the trail. 

I startled, kind of screamed, did a little side-hop, and kept running. But it wasn’t until I’d taken a bunch more steps that my brain made the connection: rattlesnake. And then my first thought was:

How many times before I hear that sound
and know it’s a snake,
and NOT lawn sprinklers turning on?

IMG_9421

In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous. ~ Aristotle

Writing, Running, & Ruminating

Yesterday I sent off the manuscript for the first book of mine that will be published. It’s a short work-fore-hire book about composting and how to build a compost tumbler. (One of my critique partners (yo, LP!) is a nonfiction goddess who guided me every step of the way as I applied to the editorial company. Thank you, friend!)

One of the hardest parts of that writing process was switching from my fiction brain to my nonfiction brain. Plus there was the research that triggered my ADD tendencies, writing to a lower reading level, explaining complex concepts in a simplified format, footnoting and formatting, glossary terms and pronunciation keys . . . Suffice to say there was a steep learning curve and a few tears of frustration.

learning curve back and forth

But I put my head down to push through the doubts and nasty voices, and I prevailed. Plus, I (mostly) kept to my promise to myself and worked on my middle-grade novel revisions every day. I learned to bounce from fiction to nonfiction and back again. And it felt like a real accomplishment to hit SEND when I emailed my manuscript yesterday.

This morning Zippy and I went out for our run on the trails. As we took off, I mentioned how I wished we could take a different route out there in the open space. I love the trails and they’re kinder to my body than pavement as I pound out the miles, but lately I’ve noticed my mind wanders when I run. And my mind shouldn’t wander when there are rocks and knapweed and eroded trail segments to navigate. But it wanders because I’m comfortable with my route; I’ve run it so often I can close my eyes and visualize exactly where the rabbit brush stalk sticks out onto the trail and how far up the trail past the turn-off it is that I need to side-step a cluster of partially submerged rocks.

So today Zippy took the lead and he mixed it up. He took us on side trails and detours, but the biggest change was we ran parts of the route in reverse. Which meant I was running downhill where I’m usually straining to run uphill, and struggling up the steep inclines where I’m used to flying down the trail.

TrulyErgonomic_LearningCurve

Talk about a learning curve. I thought my brain was going to explode! (Not to mention the other very real concern that I was about to barf up a lung).

Well, I eventually made it home and recovered enough to have today’s deep thought:

It’s good to step outside my comfort zone because doing so allows me to learn new skills and expand my muscles (whether brain or brawn). Becoming more flexible ain’t always pretty, but it’s necessary.