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Hit My 40s Running

As a kid, I had recurring dreams where all I was doing was running; far and fast outside without effort. In those dreams I ran without asthma or allergies to hold me back, slow me down or steal away my breath leaving me panicked and struggling for air. In dream time, I sped along without care and only felt the thump, thump, thump of my heart beating hard in my chest, my legs strong, arms pumping.

In reality, I’ve never been much of a runner. I played a multitude of sports but I never had the aerobic stamina to be on offence for a team or to finish in the top of a class of racers in cross-country.  Asthma sidelined me a few times with sudden and frightening onset. I never felt agile and running outside always felt daunting; the next tree, the next bend in the path too far away for me to possibly reach.

So I’m not sure why that at age 39 and 40 pounds overweight I decided consciously that I would “hit my 40s running.”

I meant it more figuratively than literally. I had a bunch of goals sitting on a wish list and in order to start achieving them I needed to resolve some health issues first. That included changing a medication that had caused the majority of the weight gain over the previous decade. I desperately and determinedly wanted to be strong again. I wanted to be healthy and athletic like I had always been growing up and to have the body I saw in the mirror reflect how I thought of myself on the inside.

How much I weighed on a scale was never a huge concern for me. Being strong and fit and knowing that sensation in my body is what I have strived for my whole life. Having a body fit enough to propel me through canoe trips and tough portages with packs, a body to take me up mountains and to be of real use during team work efforts that required lifting, shovelling and carrying in all-weather conditions was important. Having a strong body that meant I could keep up to the group and be seen as capable so that others would want me on their team mattered.

I never cared about being best or first. It was never about being “ripped” or having six-pack abs. I just wanted to belong and be useful. If I accomplished that goal then it meant I was dependable and trustworthy, not a liability.

I was active during the decade of weight gain and couldn’t figure out why I kept piling on the pounds until I finally made the medication connection. Advocating for myself with doctors and convincing them to switch it was a challenge in and of itself. It took a few before I found one who heard me. Once I was on a new med, I discovered that the old regimen had also been making me sluggish and depressed. Yes, I had been active often throughout the week but not at a high intensity.

I can literally remember the day three weeks after I had switched meds when I was sitting on the chesterfield and through the dim sadness that had been dogging me for months, I thought, “I feel like running.”

And so I did.

I had purchased a used treadmill months earlier for my dogs to use on extremely cold winter days when walking outside would be too harsh. I got on it and I could only run for about 30 seconds at a shot and walk for a couple of minutes and try again but it felt good.

I had knee issues and back and neck issues and I’d be able to treadmill a couple of times and then be sidelined for two weeks. I’d do it again and keep trying and I started doing other things like joining my friends on cross-country skiing outings. I couldn’t keep up to them because I was new to the sport and not as fit but I realized that they were just happy to have me along. I started enjoying the activity for the sake of the activity itself and the experience of being in the woods. My friends didn’t care if I came in a few minutes behind them. Catching up to them became a game and by the end of the season I was finishing seconds behind them and loving every kick and glide.

One of my friends who is an avid runner gave me a program called Couch to 5 K in two months. I think it actually took me four months in the end but I did it. I did it on the treadmill because I still didn’t trust that I could run outside even as I recognized that it must be a mental block. If I could run 5 km inside then surely I could outdoors but I still hesitated.

One day I realized the ridiculousness of having to shut my husky pup, who always has energy to burn, in another room while I ran on the treadmill to keep her from trying to jump on it with me when we could just run together outside.

For her benefit, I decided to give running outside a whirl and took the Great Dane too. It wasn’t easy and in the beginning we walked as much as we ran but it was fun with them. We had to learn to work together and having a puppy obsessively leaping after butterflies and tripping you is both irritating and endearing at the same time. It’s definitely not a memory I’d have from running her inside on the treadmill. And, being able to outlast my Great Dane once in a while made my ego swell, I won’t lie!

When the bugs and heat got to be too much I gave up running for water sports and that’s fine. I’ve always been better at playing many things than training or competing in one thing. Then winter came again and with it skiing and snowshoeing.

The day I noticed that the snow and ice were gone from the main road in the park this spring, I could hardly wait to get home and tie on my running shoes. What’s crazy is that, having not run now in many months, I was able to run almost the entire 5 km with just a few seconds walking here and there.

It was also an inspiring and hopeful inaugural run. In spite of my nerves on that first run at the thought that maybe I wouldn’t be able to get 100 metres down the road, and with the dogs pulling and jockeying a bit out of control, all three of us quickly fell into pace. I experienced a completely new frame of mind than I’ve ever felt while running outside. There was an almost meditative in-the-moment sensation that I’ve never known before, except in my dreams. I ran without care and only felt the thump, thump, thump of my heart beating hard in my chest, my legs strong, arms pumping.

I’m turning 42 this year and even I’m a bit surprised to be able to confirm that I have hit my 40s running – literally and figuratively – and I can’t wait to see what’s beyond the next tree and bend in the road.

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2014 in PonderQs

 

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Frozen

-39C. With the wind chill feels like -48C.

Cold

Yesterday the temperature was steadily dropping and the wind did this super eerie thing. It didn’t blow. It didn’t buffet. It didn’t howl or thrash or cause damage.

All I can compare it to is the sound of a sheet being pulled steadily across sand. This maybe explains what the snow texture is like but it just made this freaky, steady soft shckshkshckshckschskshkch sound. The sound was low to the ground but it was everywhere enveloping everything and going straight into our bones.

Colder

My animal instinct was to run from work to home. Home to post office. Post office to work. But that only seemed to make things worse because it felt like knives sticking into my forehead and crinkles around my eyes – the only exposed parts of me. My eyes watered so bad I couldn’t see and then the tears froze on my cheeks and my eyelashes froze and I had to pull a mitten to thaw them so I could blink again and then it was like knives stabbing my hand.

Skin freezes in less than 5 minutes in these temperatures.

I have to wear a mitten to open and close the back door for the dogs to go out for a pee or my fingers freeze to the knob. Ever picked up an ice cube when your hands are wet? Just like that. Sticky ouch!

I’m supposed to drive to Alberta today for a one-week wildland fire communications course and it’s blue-sky gorgeous outside but I’m having trouble convincing myself to run to work to get the SUV I’m supposed to drive out there. I wonder if they’ll set fires for us to talk about? They’d be warm at least!

South Bay   December 15 052

 

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2014 in PonderQs

 

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The Architecture & Culture of Nature

I’ve been thinking about silence and nature and art lately.

The Narrows  Late Fall 2012 087

About how it started with cancelling my television subscription more than a year ago and though I miss easily getting live news and I do still watch lots of DVDs, I love that there is often no background noise in my life.

I remember climbing the walls that first weekend of going cold turkey without TV. It surprised me! So many summers throughout my life, when I headed north or to where ever it was that I was going to be canoe guiding for a few months of the year, I never missed TV once. Never thought about it the second I got outside, but here in my home that first weekend with no distractions … it was physically uncomfortable.

Squirrely

But then I adapted. I’ve spent more time listening to music and searching out new music. I’m sure I spend my time better and I’m positive my psyche is better for not being inundated with ads and violence and “reality.”

Then, two days ago I read a blog post by Irish travel writer Pol O’Conghaile about Fogo Island that is here in Canada. I’d read about Fogo before and been quite enamoured by the landscape and the architecture of the artists residences and his article inspired me to look some of it up again. Stunning!

Then I read an article yesterday about depression and children with ADHD and how those things can be alleviated by spending more time in nature. It spoke about the theory that humans are hardwired to be in natural environments and if we are deprived of that opportunity we suffer mentally for it, which I also believe.

December 15 085

So as someone who lives essentially in the woods and in a remote location, where between September 15 and May 15 of each year I can go for days without seeing more than a handful of people and spend countless hours out of doors, I should be the healthiest woman on earth.

CurlyQ

Yet, I am beginning to desperately miss culture and cool architecture and art and theatre and dance and beautiful fashion (not because I know how to wear it but simply because it’s another form of art work to appreciate).

I left those ideas to settle inside my head and work their way around each other as I walk and snowshoe and stargaze. While walking home yesterday in a freezing wind chill, the sun on my face and deer and elk about, it dawned on me that humankind would not have ever been able to conceive and construct beautiful works of art in any medium if they didn’t first have Nature as their mentor and model.

Sunset 2013-05-23  Endless

How could anyone imagine constructing a safe skyscraper or an appealing, innovative building if they’d never appreciated geography- layered cliffs, sand dunes, fjords, mountains, rushing rivers, meandering rivers, grasslands, tree roots, icebergs – to begin with?

Ice  Birch in Autumn February Melt

How could a symphony, with all of its delicate and intricately woven layers and sounds, be written if the composer had not first trained their ear so well in the “silence” of Nature that they could pick up the lyrical uncurling of a flower bloom or the light flutter of a butterfly landing beside them even as the wind was creating drama in the branches all around them?

Boreal Chorus Frog Compressed 2013  Phyllis Diller Flower  A Sunday Drive 023   Dragonfly Beaver Pond Trail

How could a designer ever fathom intricate stitch work and appreciate textures if humans had not first hunted and trapped for furs and learned to work with hides and dye grasses or use quills and the patterns in the night sky to adorn their clothing with geometric shapes?

Lynx Edited Elk Island National Park 2014-01-15 Coyote Little Reds  Elk Youngster Head Shot 2014  Bull Elk Late Autumn

Where did dance come from but First Peoples who used their bodies to imitate and understand the world they perceived around them; connecting emotion and memory with their surroundings and then expressing those ideas and desires through movement? First story tellers of our communities through the ages.

 Amisk Wuche Trail   Lakeshore GrassGrass in the wind   

Movement before language.

Melody before lyrics.

We were tactile, sensory beings before concept and visionary thought evolved.

Elk Island Bison Rutt 2013 052   Elk Island Bison Rutt 2013 050 Leaves of a colour

It dawned on me yesterday that I am bestowed with the great gift of being able to live, work and play surrounded by the very foundational elements from which creativity likely evolved. And this gives me great hope that I am not turning into a “backwoods” weirdo and that perhaps I have not fully discovered the depth of my own creative well. And, when I do get to visit big urban centres, I will have a deeper appreciation for the thought and care, whimsy and abandon that artists have bravely invested in their work.

Snowshoeing at Kingsmere 040

The Sound of Silence Weekly Writing Challenge

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2014 in PonderQs

 

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Sweet Sunny Days

It continues to be colder than Hell frozen over. My cheeks burn like someone’s holding dry ice to them most days. Why does cold burn?

Anyway, in spite of the wind chills that continue to plague us here, the days are getting longer and the sunshine sure does wonders for my soul. I wake naturally around 6 am now as there’s jusssssssssst enough daylight to stir me and at 7 in the evening the sky is still aquamarine; the trees in inky black outline making the whole scene appear like a fine water colour painting.

Yesterday I wanted out! Outside! I knew my old guy and the Dane could only handle the biting wind for a short jaunt about town but oh, that little husky. She doesn’t just take the wind and cold in stride. She seems energized by it.

True-lou on Waskesiu Lake

I suited up in full-on thermal layers and then snowpants, big boots, scarf, toque, hooded up in my down jacket and then clipped her on a 20-foot line and grabbed my snowshoes and off we headed. She was really zippy, not listening and getting under foot tripping me and winding around tree trunks. I had a decent holler at her finally.

I may have dropped a couple of F-bombs. I might have threatened to skin her alive.

And then I thought my way through the problem and took us out onto the frozen lake where there was nothing to impede our process and dropped the line. True will be 3 in April. It’s more than time to test out her stick-to-me skills. And she had energy to burn, that much was obvious!

She was FANTASTIC! Little buddy! She so needed to rip around and that’s exactly what she did. She never went more than about 30 feet away and then arced back to me or would run out ahead, stop suddenly, turn and then gleefully charge me and leap through the air to play. We had so much fun!

True gets “winter nose.” The black pigmentation of her nose turns pink in the cold months. I forget now why some dogs noses do that but it’s an adaptation of sorts. Here she is taking a break from all  her running; back to the howling wind and soaking up the sweet sun.

Chincicles

It was so much fun that in spite of the bitter cold again today, we headed out for an even longer snowshoe and this time we took our friend Eric who threw snow for her and played chase. At the end of our walk when I needed her to come back to me so I could gather up the long line and hold her close to be safe from traffic, she beelined it to him first. 

HARUMPH! Just like a kid. They always let you know who the favourite one is.  :)

Happy dog

And what’s the best thing to do at the end of a long walk outside?

Buddies

 

Cuddle with your fair-weather sister.

To see some videos of our day out on the lake, click HERE

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2014 in PonderQs

 

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Photo Album Odds & Ends

Elk Youngster Head Shot 2014

I’ve nothing much to say. Just thought I’d put up a few photos.

Here is an elk youngster, maybe one to two years old, that was happily foraging the short grass exposed along the highway edge after a grader passed through. I love how thick its coat is. Those ears look nice and warm! Also hard to believe they can be such a menace to my dogs at other times of the year when they look so cute at this age.

Elk Youngster Profile 2014

I got lucky on this one! I was on the parkway in Elk Island National Park looking for somewhere to watch the sun set but the road was covered in a thick layer of ice and impossible to steer on so I was watching for somewhere to turn around and go home when I noticed the slightest movement out of the corner of my eye. A lynx! I was able to get out of the truck and we watched each other for a while before it turned and marched off showing me its bobbed tail. Quite thrilling actually.The first lynx I’ve ever seen.  

Lynx Edited Elk Island National Park 2014-01-15

This is the one tree in my back yard and I was headed on a road trip the day I took this. It occurred to me that the leaves would likely all be blown down by the time I returned from my week away so I took a few photos.Good thing I did because it was completely bare just as I had anticipated! This tree provided a wonderful spot all summer to read novels beneath or to stand in to escape black flies (they don’t like having a “roof” above their heads) and my cat Jack has left permanent marks in the bark from scratching on it happily.

My Birch Tree 2013

Autumn videos Waskesiu 020

Up Close and Personal

And this one, I love. I was ripening peaches and then remembered that a summer student who had lived next door built a garden that never grew anything that she could eat except a bit of lettuce. After she went home in the fall I noticed small tomatoes in it one day while playing with the dogs outside. I headed over with a bowl and pulled off all of these tiny green tomatoes as big as golf balls.There was one ripe one in the bunch. Anyway, they all eventually ripened and were very tasty with avocado and cheese on toast.

The coffee beans! My friend Laura taught me how to roast my own beans using an old air popcorn popper from the thrift store. She bought me a bag of raw beans and I made these up in the back yard.

Garden Tomatoes and Roasted Coffee Beans

And because this is my blog OF COURSE there are photos of my dogs from that autumn road trip. People wonder how I travel 10-12 hours in my little car with three big, active dogs. No one seems to believe me that it’s one giant dog pile sleepover back there but it really is. They’re so good on the road!

True-lou and Piper 2013

                   Autumn videos Waskesiu 034

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2014 in PonderQs

 

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Mr. James Brown & I

Mr. James Brown and I share a dance move. I’d like to take credit for it but I know he was the king.

Here’s the story.

I was invited to a party but was going to arrive late as I was playing soccer in town first. I cruised by the house party on return and could only see four men sitting in chairs and soft lighting in the living room and thought, “Oh no! Poor Marie! Hardly anyone went to her party.”

I ran home long enough to change and grab the cookies I’d baked for the party then bundled up as it was -30 C or colder with the wind and started walking to the party. I headed up the five or so steps to the front door and rather than knocking, simply opened the door, stepped up into the foyer and called out cheerfully, “HI! I’m HERE!” with a big smile. It was at that point that I noticed the other 10 people sitting on the floor playing a game. They all turned to say hi but

It was also at that point when Mr.James Brown took hold of my body.

I (minus the scarf in this photo but otherwise wearing this outfit…)

Can you tell Im smiling

 

had planted my right foot on the linoleum of the foyer and as I pulled my left foot up to go in the house it caught on the lip of the doorjamb and, rocking back on my right heel to regain my balance, the snow on my boot turned it into a slip ‘n slide on the flooring and

BOOM!

Down I went like James Brown onto my left knee, right foot shooting out in front.

I had the container of cookies in my left hand and my right on the doorknob and all the people disappeared as I disappeared from their sight below a half wall separating the foyer from the living room and everyone shouted

OH! 

in unison as I hit the ground.

Well, laughing, I started to try and claw my way back to standing and kind of did but then as I stood, my forward momentum pulled the door shut behind me and pinned my left foot outside, still stuck in the doorjamb and

BOOM!

I went down again and everyone said

OH!

and I called out from the floor laughing, “I’m fine!”

and tried to claw my way back to standing but the door swung shut again and

BOOM!

James Brown again.

OMG!

I think I did it four times getting the same reaction from the crowd. I never dropped my cookies and I never stopped laughing but did finally admit defeat and croak, “I’m stuck…”

at which point it occurred to me to let go of the doorknob but that meant I fell to the ground like a worm and then managed to roll over and free my back foot to pull it inside the house and THEN I was able to stand up, pull the door shut and hand my hostess the cookies.

Not long after that they threw me into the final round of the charades game where I deftly led my team to victory. I went home an hour later with a chocolate-peanut butter cupcake and two prizes – one for being on the winning team and another for being the top scorer of the game.

IN case you’ve forgotten the sheer genius and sex appeal of one Mr. James Brown, please remind yourself of why he was a world-class entertainer. Move ahead to 3:50 in the video and from there you’ve pretty much got a reenactment of my grand entrance to the party. Sadly, I wasn’t making men at the party scream for me in quite the same way that Mr. Brown had the girls in this video shrieking for more.

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2014 in PonderQs

 

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Moe & Joe: Leave Your Shoes at the Door

Leave Your Shoes at the Door weekly writing challenge is set on an acreage near Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and is based on the tail end (pun intended) of a scene I watched unfold yesterday as I drove by on the highway.

Moe and Joe

Moe: Squirrel Squirrel SQUIRREL SQUIRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRREL!!!!! (doing the running man in his sleep)

Joe: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz snort (fart stretch) Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Moe: Hmmmm good dream. (downward dogggggggggggggg stretch) Hey Joe. The sun’s getting low.

Joe: (Yawwwwwwwwwwwwwn) You’re right Moe. We should get ready.

Moe and Joe walk to the water bowl: schlop schlop schlop schlop …

Joe and Moe: (Shake my head … shake my ears … shake… shake … shakeshakeshakeshake, wiggle my ass wiggle my ass wiggle my ass, shimmyshimmyshimmy my tail and look pleased)

Moe: Is the sun in the right spot yet Joe? Is it? Is it?

Joe: Nope. Gotta wait. Go sniff something. I’m gonna take a pee over there.

Moe: (sniffing the ground sniffing the ground sniffing the ground – stop – inhalllllllllllllllllllllle dust particles, snow mold and a pine needle) SNZOPAZZZZFZST! (sneeze – sniffing the ground sniffing the ground sniffing the LOOK UP at the sky, watch a bird fly by, look at Joe)

Joe and Moe: (lie down side by side on the edge of the house deck and stare off into the distance)

Joe: (ears perk up. He sniffs the air) It’s time.

Moe: Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh I knew it I knew it I knew it. Oh boy oh boy oh boy

Joe: Settle down kid. Grrrrrr.

Moe: (scamper scamper in circles behind Joe)

Joe and Moe walk down the deck stairs, canter across the snow-covered yard and to the lane, Joe stopping to sniff here and there, Moe stopping to sniff what Joe sniffed and then running to catch up to him. They round the bend in the lane …

Moe: SHE’S HERE!! OMG SHE’S HERE!! WOOT WOOT! JOE SHE’S HERE!!

Joe: C’mon kid, you’re embarrassing your – THERE SHE IS!! SHE’S HOME!!! OMG SHE’S HOME!!

Moe and Joe sprint the remaining 50 metres to the school bus where their little girl has just stepped down from the open folding door. She sees them and throws her arms wide.

Joe and Moe: sprint, riggle, wiggle, bum wiggle, bum wiggle, run, skip in a circle, hop up and down

Moe: (a mass of riggling joy bouncing against her body) I missed you so friggin much OMG you’ve been gone all day AGAIN where do you go I was so worried about where you were and why did you leave me at home I could have gone with you I’m a good boy Do you love me do you love me do you love me?! do you do you do you YOU dooooooo.

Joe: (waits for Moe to calm down and then pushes his way into her arms) I told him you’d be back just like you always tell us. (tail wagging so hard his paws come off the ground) I missed you. (he touches his cold, wet nose to her cheek) Am I still your good boy? Let’s go home. I’ve been waiting to play ball with you all day.

The three of them dash back up the lane towards home.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2014 in PonderQs

 

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