Today’s gift

This morning’s trail run offered up the usual delights that included wildflowers, singing birds, and chirping insects. But I was also gifted with something unusual.

A Bullock’s Oriole! The bright feathers caught my eye and I stopped twice on the trail to watch the brilliant flash of orange as it flew and landed on various yucca plants and rabbitbrush shrubs.

Flight
Alight
Flight
Alight
Flight
Alight
Flight
and then out of sight.

I let out a happy sigh and continued on my way with a smile.

Thankful, mostly

After staying safe and healthy for the past 2-plus years, Zippy has Covid and is quarantining in our home. I’ve done two rapid tests that came back negative and this morning felt good enough to do a 4-mile run. That’s very good news. The other very good news is Zippy no longer has a fever (his temperature was 101 on Tuesday when he tested positive). The bad news is I am very much aware that a “mild” case of Covid can cause long-term health issues and am trying hard not to think about the possibility of Long Covid.

Which is why I was exceedingly grateful to be able to run today. It was my first run since the BolderBoulder and I ran up our street to the trailhead, eager to be in my happy place again. About fifteen feet in, there was a broken robin’s eggshell in the middle of the trail. No sign of a nest or baby robins, but that bright blue shell was my first bird-related sighting. A few minutes later, four magpies few over head as another flapped-flapped-flapped to catch up. Farther along the trail, Spotted Towhees sang “sweet-sweet-teeaaaaa.” Later, a Western Meadowlark sang from its perch on a rabbitbrush. Absolute bliss.

But that wasn’t all: a bunny ran across the trail right in front of me! Insects chirped! Several other runners and hikers passed with dogs happy to be out on adventures! A good day to be alive.

There was some sadness, though. For the past couple months, I’ve checked a little round cactus at the turnaround spot, hoping to see signs of life. Hoping it was only temporarily dormant. Today I had to face reality and admit it will never bloom again. Fortunately, Zippy photographed it for me years ago so I have documentation of it in all its prickly and pink glory. Here it is again:

Thank you for the joy you brought me over the years, little cactus. You won’t be forgotten.

Intuitive heads-up

This morning I followed my routine of tapping into my intuition and writing the received message(s) in my journal. Sometimes I ask a specific question about a writing project, such as help with a title or guidance on which new idea I should pursue next, while other mornings I ask for “the exact right message for right now.” This morning’s question was the open-ended “right message” request. The response?

Running on trails
be careful where you put your feet

Well, that surprised me because (1) it seemed weirdly specific and (2) the response felt ominous. My brain instantly went into panic mode: I’m going to fall! Again! [Note: I have scars from various falls over the years and am currently preparing to run the Bolder Boulder 10k on Memorial Day for the first time in years, and when I ran it in 2008, I fell on the trails a week before the race.] My first thought was DON’T RUN ON THE TRAILS! But then I quieted my brain and listened for my intuitive voice which said it would be good for me to run on the trails rather than the boring old streets.

So, I got ready and ran up the street to the trailhead. When I got on the trail, I talked to myself: The intuitive nudge wasn’t an omen, just a reminder to remain mindful. I tried to relax my body as I repeated my trail mantra: Feet on the ground, feet on the ground.

Photo by Grégory Costa of someone younger & blonder than me!

I ran up the first hill and along the ravine, following the trail to the bottom and then back up the other side where the trail is even more narrow as it hugs the top of the ravine. Feet on the ground, feet on the ground. And then, I screamed and jumped sideways toward the upper slope because there on the trail was . . . A RATTLESNAKE.

A big, fat snake that appeared to have recently consumed a large meal. As I carefully moved a bit closer to verify it was a rattlesnake, it lazily flicked its tongue while the rattle on the tip of its tail remained silent. That snake was not at all bothered by my presence and I halfway expected it to let out a satisfied belch. When it didn’t, I wished it a good day and thanked my intuition for the heads-up.

My entire body relaxed after that interaction, and I ran loose and fast with the knowledge I wasn’t about to trip and fall. New wildflower blooms caught my eye as magpies, meadowlarks, towhees, and a lone mourning dove serenaded me throughout. It was a glorious run that I would’ve missed had I allowed my panicked brain to override my intuition. Happy Monday to me!

I receive these gifts

This morning, I ran on the trails for the first time in a while and my heart soared. A Red-winged Blackbird sang its song as I chugged up the first hill, but from then on out it was a magpie-rich experience. They raucously called from trees and flew overhead. One perched on a bush next to the trail and I watched it as I ran closer, regretting that my approach would startle it away. The regal corvid remained there until I was nearly within arm’s reach before flying across the ravine.

Black-billed Magpie out my window.  September 1, 2019

Just up the trail and around the corner on the approach to what we call the Bunny Run (because, you know, bunnies frequently seen there), two more magpies perched on either side of the trail, silhouetted against the sky. That sight prompted me to open my arms wide and proclaim out loud, “I receive this. Thank you!” And as I did, another gift appeared.

Photo by Jim Kennedy (Metzger Farm Open Space)

A coyote about 50 feet away, loping through the brush behind one of the magpies. The dark-faced coyote* stopped to watch me. I stopped and watched it, speaking in a low voice. Reassuring it that I came in peace. Then it took off again and I resumed running. When I reached the top of the Bunny Run, I stopped to look back. The coyote had also stopped to watch me. I waved, shouting my thanks and good wishes, and resumed the run with a smile and a little more pep in my step.

Farther up the trail, I saw two people. As I got closer, I realized one was sitting. In a chair? And then I noticed a hawk circling overhead. I watched the hawk as I ran, wondering at the flash of white underneath the wings. And just as it hit me that it wasn’t a hawk, I heard the loud buzzing sound. That non-hawk was a drone. Ugh. No more bird sounds. No more solitude. No more smile on my face.

But after grumpily running past the people and their drone, I reminded myself of all I’d already been gifted. So I less-grumpily continued up to the turnaround point at the top of The Slog (because, you know, never-ending uphill) and did my stretching. Then I raced down toward the people who sent up an even larger and louder drone right as I passed, and focused on the joy of movement. The only thing that mattered was being out on the trails again. Moving. Alive.

Thank you, universe. I receive these gifts.

* my search for images of dark-faced coyotes was unsuccessful

Monday Monday

November 8, 2021

It could be worse. Much worse. After all, instead of stopping when I felt pain after landing on a rock while running the trails on Friday , I ran another couple miles (and then spent the weekend in serious pain whenever I accidentally put weight on my left foot). Doh.

But today’s x-rays didn’t show a stress fracture so it’s possibly only soft tissue damage. I have two weeks in this fine dancing boot and then go back for a follow-up. (Shout-out to Zippy for somehow finagling a podiatry appointment for me this afternoon!)

Thankful Thursday: new paint now peace

Today I am grateful the week-long paint exterior paint job was completed several hours before the season’s first snowfall.

Image by Wilfried Pohnke from Pixabay

I’m grateful we resolved a big mix-up. Turned out they’d matched the trim color incorrectly, which I didn’t realize until last night. I spent sleepless hours fretting about it and woke all out of sorts. When I spoke to them and didn’t get much satisfaction, I wisely went for a 38 degree run on the trails. The cold air and beautiful open space cleared my mind. Afterward, we talked more, they listened to my concerns, and agreed to return at a later date to repaint the trim the correct color.

It’s been 12 years since the exterior was painted and the southern and eastern exposures were brutalized by sun and weather. I hadn’t anticipated the incredible noise and disruption that would come with three guys sanding-drilling-pounding on various walls, often simultaneously. Not to mention occasionally being caught off-guard when I spotted strange men through the windows.

One more time: I am grateful the exterior paint job is complete! (For a while, anyway).

I’m very thankful for our home and our ability to pay for its upkeep. (And hooray that the supply chain issues only slightly affected the timeline for completing the job!)

It’s a good Thursday on the planet.

Sunday Confessional: I wanted to shove a woman in a ditch

I went for a run on the trails this morning and, as is my routine, wore a bandana around my neck. Whenever I see someone coming my direction, I stop to pull it over my nose and mouth. I do this because running makes me breathe more heavily and I want to minimize the possibility of me infecting someone if I somehow have Covid (and am asymptomatic). Because this was a Sunday, I encountered a greater number of people on the trails (walkers, runners, and one mountain biker). I was the only one masked, but that was fine, and each encounter was friendly. (Okay, the mountain biker reactivated my animus by being an entitled trail-hog.)

Near the end of the run, I saw a person coming toward me. I stopped, masked, moved over to the right, and started running again. When I got closer I realized it was a woman who lives on my street, and I waved hello. Her reply?

She scoffed and yelled, “I’m triple vaccinated!”

As I continued running, I said some bad things out loud to myself. Mostly WTF and what kind of monster shames mask-wearers during a freaking global pandemic and then some stuff about that woman’s intelligence level plus a few choice words about our useless government and how this pandemic is only going to get worse. Whew. Then I reminded myself I was running on narrow, uneven trails with lots of rocks sticking up and that it would truly suck to trip, fall, and add to my collection of scars. So I began chanting my trail-running mantra:

Feet on the ground. Feet on the ground. Feet on the ground.

Image by yellowcat from Pixabay

It worked. I let go of the emotions and made it home without injury. And in writing this out, I just realized that mantra is probably a good all-around reminder to help me stay in the moment during these difficult days.

Feet on the ground.

My Saturday

Emma and I ran on the trails this morning. It was my first outdoor exercise in over a week because of the horrific air quality. While the morning’s AQI wasn’t Great, I just couldn’t take another treadmill session. Running outside felt like a reasonable trade-off between lung health and mental health. I brought water for us and we did a mellow 3-miles with me urging her on most of the way. Halfway through the run, she pooped. I scooped it into a rice cake bag, knotted it off, and tied the bag to her collar. It’s tricky enough holding her leash while trail-running (sudden stops and detours really increase the likelihood of wipe-outs) and adding a poop sack was more than I could handle. The good news is Emma didn’t really seem to notice. (I did feel like a bad human-friend once we got back on the streets and ran past people from the neighborhood, Emma’s poop sack swinging for all to see.)

When we returned home, I saw a missed call from Wildebeest. I called back and we ended up conversing for nearly two hours about all sorts of things. While talking, I took my camera outside and continued our conversation on speaker phone as I photographed the zillions of bees on the fern bush.

I eventually told Wildebeest what I was doing, knowing he might freak out or, at the least, get really twitchy and itchy. (When he was a teenager, he got stung by a bee while at outdoor camp and was taken to the nearest hospital where he was jabbed with an epi pen. As bee sting reactions go, his wasn’t uber-serious. Yes, his throat did close a bit but, in his words, he had plenty of time to get to the hospital.) Turned out, my announcement didn’t send him spiraling. However, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have waded into the fern bush with me to get close-up shots.

And I know for a fact he would’ve steered clear of this specimen:

Yikes. A quick online search for “red wasp” tells me this species isn’t even supposed to be in Colorado?? And I saw several of them on the bush??

Thankful Thursday: full heart edition

I got up this morning and went for a run on the trails.

Hayden Green Mountain Park.  June 24, 2021

While this photo was taken a week ago, I enjoyed the same view today (these three dragonflies may or may not have been present this time around as I tend to watch the trail more than the sky due to tripping hazards) and grinned pretty much throughout the entire run. My body felt sluggish, but my soul overfloweth with gratitude as I drank in the natural beauty.

*happy sigh*

Twofer Tuesday: tuckered hikers edition

Emma and I just returned from a sunny and warm excursion in the open space. We hiked up the mountain as fast as we could and then ran down. Well, we did some running. My short-legged companion doesn’t like the heat and slowed to a walk multiple times. At one point, she even did her signature “goin’ on strike” move.  She stopped and dug in to pull the leash taut, then flopped on her belly with pink tongue hanging out.

I’d already offered her water from my cupped hand when we were at the top of the mountain, which she refused. So when she was on her belly, I tried another approach: pouring water in front of her. Instead of lapping it with her tongue, she ignored it. Silly dog, refusing libation when hot and thirsty. Well, I wasn’t willing to take no for an answer and pried her jaws open to pour water in her mouth.

Worked like a charm! Emma got up and ran almost the entire way back to the street. Such a good doggo.

(Note: Zippy took the photo with the camera still set for shooting the Brown Creeper in low light even though Emma and I were in bright, bright light. I salvaged the photo via a filter. Artsy, no?)

Twofer Tuesday: shadow edition

I’m making a concerted effort to focus my gaze on activities and topics that bring joy rather than churning anxiety. Today, along with Zippy and Emma, I went out in the BLOWY sunshine to hike/run on the trails. I felt so much better as a result, even if I did have to carry my running hat that would NOT stay on my head.

Yesterday’s act of self-care was to photograph lovely shadows on the patio. Here are two of my favorites (the one on the right also contains sunflower stalk shadows):

         

So much going on in the world demands our push-back, but sometimes I need to  lower my gaze and focus on the small stuff. Sunshine, wrought-iron patio furniture, and shadows. Who knew?

Good omen

Zippy accepted my invitation to run on the trails with me this afternoon. It turned out, lots of people had the same idea so we ran our regular route in reverse to avoid the hiking couple we saw as soon as we got on the trail. I’m so glad we did because as we ran along the ravine, we were gifted a wildlife sighting.

Photo by Jim Kennedy.  Metzger Farm Open Space, CO.  January 19, 2019.

Four coyotes on the opposite slope. Two loped off to our left and the others sat next to the trail where we planned to run. We debated turning around so as to not further stress the remaining two and then decided it was a stress for them either way. So on we went, and the coyotes melted into the brush at our uphill, huffing approach.

I’d thought my coyote-sighting days were behind me as I’ve mostly seen them early in the mornings and I’m no longer an early-in-the-morning runner. But this here Monday played against type and started the week with a wonderful surprise. Definitely a good omen.

Thankful Thursday: 5 items, yo!

Black-billed Magpie in open space. March 31, 2020.

This morning, for the second day in a row, I got up and ran on the trails.

Black-billed Magpies perched on yucca alongside the trail and flew ahead of me as I chugged along, bringing smiles and lifting my spirits.

I’m excited to regain the strength and endurance I’ll need for the many fights ahead on behalf of the people and planet.

Day by day, I’m inching closer to FINALLY understanding my protagonist in my new novel project. That’s the good news. The bad is there’s a very good chance the 4k words I’ve written thus far will end up in the trash and I’ll be back to 0 words. However, I’m feeling more solid and at peace with this newer understanding.

While knotty writing problems sometimes amp up my frustration, they also take my focus and provide a refuge from our current (and future) reality. Hooray for an inner creative life!

Thwarting my brain

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!

Thoughts on a Magpie Monday

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.

#Caturday distraction

Marcel ruling the roost. January 25, 2020

Zippy and I just returned from a run on the trails with Emma, and as I sat in recovery mode (basically, waiting for my ears to thaw), I noticed the floor was in serious need of vacuuming. But on my way to retrieve the vacuum from the closet, I noticed Marcel’s regal bearing. So, I adroitly abandoned the vacuum for the camera. And now here I am at the laptop, posting on my site.

I’ll take a nice cat photo over clean floors, any day.

Sunday Confessional: my mountain biker bias might be past its expiration date

This morning I went out for a run on the trails. Even though it’s Sunday, which would mean more people out in the open space.  And sure enough, I saw a fair number of folks. One male runner in bright, multi-colored shorts and no shirt. Two women hiking off in the distance. A man and woman walking a big ol’ black dog. Plus, quite a few of my least favorite trail users: mountain bikers.

I’ve been anti-mountain biker for years because (1) they carve up wet trails, creating grooves that harden into ankle-twisting ruts and (2) they’re rude, rarely acknowledging when I stop my run to let them pass.

My motto has long been F*CK MOUNTAIN BIKERS!

Well, today I’m rethinking my stance. Within two minutes of getting on the trail, a mountain biker rode toward me. He was on the uphill and I was on the down, so I stepped aside. The man said, “Thanks, but I can get by.” I recovered from the shock and started running again. A while later, three men on bikes rode toward me on the wide gravel portion of my route. They all smiled and called out Hello. I was barely out of their sight as  I started down the narrow part of trail where another man rode up the incline. When I stepped off the trail he called out, “That’s okay. There’s room.” I replied that I didn’t want to slow him down on the uphill and he said, “We can make it work.” He was right. We easily passed each other and off I ran again. A few minutes later three guys on mountain bikes came toward me and I stepped off the trail just as they pulled off to the other side.

“Go ahead!” one called out.
I said, “Thanks, guys!”
“Anytime!” one replied.
“Enjoy!” said another.
“Have a good one!” called the third.

I grinned as I continued along, wondering if the pod people had taken over the mountain biking community. I was filled with love for mountain bikers! But because I am in the confessional right now, I must also admit I’d still prefer to have the trails to myself. However, this morning’s interactions went a looong way toward cancelling my mountain biker bias.

Pod people or not, those men were good ambassadors.

Hitchhikers

This morning Zippy and I ran on the trails in the open space. It’s hot here so I carried a full bottle of water in a waist pack. I drank it all as we went along (sharing a few swallows with Zippy) which lightened my load. When we got home I removed my shoes and sweaty socks. This is what I plucked from them:

Look at all that extra weight I unknowingly carried. What clever little hitchhiking seeds!

Getting back on that horse

Ten days ago I took a bad fall while running on the trails. I’m healing and this morning decided it was time to get out there again. I’ll admit to being nervous, but once I was out there amidst the wildflowers, butterflies, grasshoppers, meadowlarks, magpies, and robins, I was so happy.

A taste of what I saw this morning. Image from AllTrails site.

However, happy doesn’t equal not-nervous. As I got closer to where I’d fallen, images of that fall popped in my head and I tightened up. So I chanted, “Feet on the ground. Feet on the ground. You are connected to this trail. Feet on the ground. This is your happy place. Feet on the ground.” My body relaxed.

I intended to run past the scene of the fall, but decided it was important to stop and examine the site. I immediately spotted the rock I believe was the culprit. It was dark and partially submerged, hard to see. Damned rock. But now I know it’s there and will forevermore lift my feet high as I run past it. I also know there will be many more joyous runs on that trail because today I got back on the horse that threw me. Yeehaw!

Sunday Confessional: today I did a poor imitation of Superman

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.

Image by Prawny from Pixabay

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.

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.