The best days start with an empty palette, a clean face. You take a soft brush in a steady hand then add sweeps of color to enhance, define, embrace. And on the best days, the results make the day, the face, show reflect the best side of the person.
The sun is a reclusive diva this May. It hides behind lowered, gloomy, dour clouds until it decides to blaze through the gray in the waning moments of day and tease the eyes with gorgeous light. It takes that promise below the horizon only to reconsider through the night and shroud itself at the next dawn.
January flew by in a haze of travel, sinus pain and snow. Our first blizzard in decades kept me in place much longer than I really like to stay still. But when your head whirls after movement, or even just conversation, staying put became order number one.
I envisioned taking root in our new home and nearly new city this year. In fact Root(ed) is my word and work in 2016. But thirty one days in, I know I didn’t put 2015 completely to rest the way you would put a garden for winter. I refused to sweep away the loose thoughts, old distractions and emotions that no longer suit and so there’s a tangled mess above the surface. I can only hope there’s some Secret Garden work going on that will stun as the growing season approaches.
Looking at the bounty of snow covered photos I took in the last week, I keep returning to the view outside my office window of the dormers across the way.
When the storm set in you could barely tell the sky from the roof line. Pretty much the way I allowed the old year to blur into the new.
As the storm cleared, the colors turned brilliant. The delicious possibilities under that achingly blue sky tempted me to ignore the blurred tangle underfoot and grab onto something new. A something, I’ve learned from experience, that would ultimately land in an unclear space and add to the tangle.
The view today as the work of uncovering what’s underneath continues drip by drip by drip. I’m sure I know what lies in that tangle of emotions but until I allow things to move — to drip away — I won’t be certain.
So this 31st day of the year will be one of clearing. I have blank pages to fill with thoughts. No order, just grabbing that first exposed emotional branch and seeing how easily it slips free. No judgment, no finding fault, just opening up space in order to see what takes root.
A rainy morning for a walk in Frederick. A bit of a rough go for a repaired knee, but out the door I went on what’s become a preferred route of sorts: down an alley to the creek then winding my way to the park and the looping around back to home.
I’m not sure when the route will become habit. Old brick sidewalks don’t lend themselves to an unconscious walk — I have to constantly look down to make certain of sure footing. The practice of these daily walks has an integral element of being absolutely present — despite nattering body parts. Because if I’m not fully aware of where I’m going and where the next step goes, I’m likely to step in a way that send pain up the right leg.
I spend so much time looking down I can feel my shoulders closing in over my heart head lowered to look at what’s at my feet. When I look at my photos, so many of them remind me to look up.
Adding to this week’s practice is finding a balance between the all the way up and the all the way down to find that middle.
Week one of this little experiment of movement and creation is on the books. I get up and out at meet my 9 am goal for a walk, then I find that the rest of the day falls into place. Well, full disclosure: after an extremely busy Friday and Saturday (16,000+ steps each day), I decided two short walks would be the extent of Sunday’s movement, totals be damned. (It was a respectable 7500.)
My mind isn’t responding to the command to write nearly as well. I’ve dutifully sat down, pecked out words and let the story figure itself out. Right now, I’m not giving over to the showing up, I seem to want to direct and control exactly where the words will take me. Should the words be funny? Wise? A slice of life? A philosophical slant to something that happened on the walk?
For week two, the goal is to show up and begin. And will see where I end up.
Photos, though, are not a problem. Today was the first truly cold morning with frost on the park grasses and mists on the water. And then there was the reflection of early light that set this photo on fire.
A fine start to the week.
I’ve passed this several times and wondered. Instead of investigating I made up a story.
Mr. Jacoby Loats considered the house on the corner of Church Street and Maxwell Alley to be the crowning achievement of his young career building homes. Nearing completion of the project, he approached the owner Mrs. Esther Humblebolt and asked that he might stamp his name on a small patch near the front corner of the house so people would know whose services they could inquire about their own future homes.
“My dear Mr. Loats,” said Mrs. Humblebolt, “what a vulgar idea! I most certainly forbid any sort of sign that would advertise a company’s service, even one as fine as yours, on the front of my house for all to see!
“I’d planned to write a most favorable letter of recommendation to your mother, but I may have to reconsider in the face of such an outlandish, forward idea.”
Mr. Loats begged her pardon but argued that he meant for it to be a simple thing, that etching. For who knew where he might go as a builder and to have the Loats name on her home could be of very great honor in the future.
“Young man, this is outrageous!” exclaimed Mrs. Humblebolt. “This is 1877 and while I know young people such as yourself have ideas that I find incomprehensible in their forwardness, respectable people do not put names not of their own family on the front of their houses. Now I must bid you Good Day!”
Mr. Loats left the house and met his junior associate waiting eagerly to hear of the decision.
When the news was shared, both men were cast down for such was their excitement to add the etched name to the home.
As they walked done the Alley on the way to the office, Mr. Loats’ junior man, Earnest, looked at the wall with careful thought.
“Did she say anything about etching on a wall on an alley?” he asked.
Mr. Loats considered for a moment and smiled. “Why no Earnest, Mrs. Humblebolt did not.”
It was nearly 3 years before Mrs. Humblebolt noticed the etching as she routinely avoided the impropriety of walking down alleys. By that time Mr. Loats was the talk of Frederick and having his name etched on the wall of a home was of very great consequence.
Mrs. Esther Humblebolt was quick to point out that while his name on a home was fine, having it on a wall along a busy throughfare showed an elevated mind to business and she greatly approved.
While today ended up summery and gorgeous, it started out like the best kind of November day: gray with a bit of a chill. With a list of about 694 Things To Do do between now and Sunday, I went out for a fast walk. It was a Left Brain approved walk: 3 miles at a 16+ minute pace.
And the Right Brain was very pleased by this picture (“isn’t that blue amazing?” she gushed):
The triumph was that I put the shoes on and went out the door instead of letting Item 431 get in the way. The second triumph is that I didn’t let a tricky Item 503 get in the way of sitting down to write this afternoon.
Because in my world later usually ends up three months from now when the List of Things to Do has approached 1000 and I realize I never went out the door. But out the door I went and for now that’s enough to count this day as a good one.
And the list was smaller by two Very Important Items: walking and words.
No mental cacophony today, no philosophical lessons. It’s all about the noise just outside.
For the second time in less than four years, we live with a construction zone just outside the door. In Raleigh, the three empty lots next to us filled in one at a time over our last two years there. Here in the new house construction on the last building big building in the community goes at full tilt to take advantage of the good weather.
That’s a lot of time working to the soundtrack of generators, nail guns and beeping trucks coming and going. Today, the roof trusses are going up so our street is closed and the cacophony is inescapable.
Usually I can tune out the noise, but for some reason today it penetrates. Mainly because I’m so curious to see how things stand by the end of the day. The new building will block the inescapable afternoon light we’ve had in the kitchen and second bedroom since we moved in. By the end of the day, when the generators are off and the reversal beeps stop, there will soon be a three story building 20 feet across the street and that will change the shape and shadows of the back of our home.
We knew it was coming, now we need to see how to live with changing light.
In order to escape the noise, for just a little while, I went for a walk in the bright morning sun. This time I went north on Market Street — usually I’ve driven it, but by foot I noticed things differently like how gorgeous is the uptown firehouse.
And the details you see on buildings when you just look up.
Which I’ll have to do a lot of from the back deck from now on.
I like to think my walks are islands of solitude when my best thinking happens. No music through ear buds so I can hear my thoughts and pay attention to my surroundings. (Safety first!) I’ve forgotten that I’m never really alone.
After logging 14,000 plus steps yesterday I was mainly pleased to have gotten out early despite some aches. A cold morning, the last for a little while, but I was dressed for the second and third mile not the first so I was fairly comfortable.
Gloves would have been nice though.
I walked down the alley that passes our church and that’s when the inner conversation started. The Right Brain piped up: “Oh take that photo! The light is great and the clock shows how early it is!”
I was happy to oblige because basically the RB was correct. But if I always agree, we never really move.
The app regularly broke the silence with update: time, distance, pace. No judgment, just facts. But the Left Brain took offense: “Move faster! Three years ago you were 5 minutes faster!”
I felt myself speed up, but the cranky Right Knee immediately showed herself: “Wait a minute, this is how we got into this mess. We moved too fast for my healing self.”
I settled back into a steady, albeit slower pace. The various parts of the body would chime in but I let them fade to the background. Then we got to this place:
and I agreed with RB — I had to stop. Groans from the Left Brain that I wasn’t making any progress. Squeaks from the Right Knee about all this stopping and starting when I moved again.
“I’m going to buckle, I just know it!” Right Knee exclaimed. “I’m going to collapse and then you’ll have to use that phone to call the paramedics and go to the hosptial in an ambulance! I’ll be useless! Useless I tell you.” A drama queen, that right knee.
Then, for the first time in four years, the LEFT Knee spoke up: “How come you pay her all the attention? I’m going to hurt now too. Just see what happens when you favor one knee over the other. I responded to cortisone in 2011, how come she can’t do that?”
The Left Brain ordered both knees to shut the hell up because dammit all, we’re slowing down.
Mid Back decided that she needed to offer some thoughts: “You know, I feel sort of achy. If you’d only just use the mind-body connection and make the abs do some of my work, I’d have some support. You remember that Pilates training, don’t you? I showed up and helped you do Teaser, but did the abs do anything? Nooooo! It’s all me, it’s always me. Make the transverse abs do something instead of just hanging out and swaying my options.” (Apparently, backs are sarcastic.)
I actually did listen to the back, brought the abs back under control and all the complaints faded for a bit, whispering in the background but at an ignorable decibel.
All at once, coming toward me in a single, unified running body was a cross country team. Boys and girls moving at a steady pace, taking turns at the lead to draft for the others.
“I want us to do that,” whispered the Left Brain.
“Don’t they make a lovely picture,” mused the Right Brain.
“We wish we could move with such ease,” mourned the Knees.
“At least they have good posture, bet the abs are involved, ” muttered the Back.
Silence from all as we considered how to move that lightly, that freely again.
And then Right Brain saw another photo. “Please, oh please! I promise it’s the last one!”
I started to head out of the park down a street I’d never walked before. Pretty houses still dressed for Halloween, though maybe fewer ghosts in deference to Thanksgiving. The air was still cold, but the magic of the second mile made it feel comfortable.
And then the Glutes Triplets — Max, Mede and Min — made their presence known. “If you don’t stop this soon, we’re going to make getting up and down the stairs and in and out of chairs (“ooh, a rhyme!” from Right Brain) a raging agony for the rest of the day.
I thought, hmm, good day for Foam Rolling.
There was immediate silence.
“Take your time,” came a small chorus. And so I did.
Will see what happens tomorrow.
I have a modest goal to walk every day in November, aiming for at least 7,000 steps before 9 am. After nearly a year of negligible consistent movement and another OBX Half Marathon passing me by, I decided to make certain things a habit. Walking is first.
I won’t be a slave to my Fitbit — in fact the only rule is to move consistently before 9 am, rain or shine. Otherwise I’ll have workout gear on and do one more email, read one more post, answer one more question and then it will be 4 and all I’ll really want to do is start dinner and relax.
The tandem goal is to add photos and words to this space daily. Now that we’ve moved into a new house, now that certain health issues are in the rear view mirror, it’s time to clear the mental palate and work at the words. The photos may or may not serve as prompts. There may or may not be lessons in the words. There may or may not be made up histories about my new home town.
There will be consistency. Curious to see what that brings.