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training journal entry

Spacious-mind musings on the map

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For four consecutive summers, my attunement with and relationship to the Kettles has been the axis of my spirit’s turning. 

2016: A force that focused me and gave me hope when I was deep in a haze of postpartum anxiety. Choosing to listen to myself when it made no logical sense.

2017: Cosmic cairns the moment of the total eclipse that validated that listening to the tiny voice of wisdom in my head was the right decision. Creating art with alpenglow, Eagle, and feet; thin, tanned limbs flapping. Giardia.

2018: Alone/not-alone, feet weaving the broken land, heroic dose. Serendipitous connections making possible the seed of an improbable intuitive notion from back in 2016. Artistic fulfillment.

2019: Making my part-time home on a granite bluff overlooking the complicated landscape that holds every bit of my heart that doesn’t already belong to Rumi. Feet meeting dirt making map.

I welcome the uncertainty and hard work it will still take to birth the map. I recognize the map is still only the beginning: unfound bull trout lurk near northern banks in my dreams, springs well up and cascade down cliffs, unclimbed granite looms large under it all and I wonder: 

“Will I ever find the years to become intimate with this place, the sacred Sinixt H'a H'a Tumxulaux?”

read more:

Spokesman feature

Kettles Map Project update

Kavu feature

Training Journal Entry: Joy Is My Healer

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it was less that i went there and more that the place wrapped its mysterious breath around me. the light affected me: i was immersed in a dramatic springtime storm that had moved downvalley (as everything was downvalley of where i currently stood). its squall veil shaded harsh blackened spires into a sort of velvet before passing and leaving the place in even higher halcyon definition than before.

i flushed a grouse then worked Nason a bit before turning back. this is the place where in september i'll run a long run with Moose and Wolf and Grizzly very alone yet not. it is more soothing to me to be in the safe company of the wind and broken pines than tamped down in the valley with people.

Training Journal Entry: Wedding Day

Five years ago today I wrote this. At the time, I was living on the mountain who was my teacher while also being pulled to nearly snapping by a daily commute to the city. Looking back, this moment of marriage to my true lover, the forest, was the moment I committed to the life path I am on now.


trees and vines relieved themselves of the dead summer’s progress
throwing their pieces at me in a happy volley of red and brown
green to black
as I marched in brave and wild spectacle newly joined to my Self

and the wind blew a strange dirge
in honor of the one who passed and joined the source

I wed myself this morning on the familiar hill
as it danced to the tune of a storm
I felt as cool
blustery
thin
and quick
as the swaying trees around me
caressing me as I moved with the force of a gust

all my fingers and skin belong to the forest
and me
an infinite growth and total submission

Training journal entry: Divergent

the sacred Chewuch at twilight

Yesterday evening held its own tiny magick. No one was around save for a passel of chickadees, a choir of frogs, and the pair of great horned owls hooting at one another. It was quiet; it felt quiet; I walked to the river. As Joan Shelley once said: "If you know what you're going to write when you sit down, don't bother." So, too, on this walk I had not a clue why I was walking so that is why I kept moving. When I arrived at the overlook above my crystalline trout hole, instead of taking a left down the well-worn summer path to the river, I took a right down a game path studded with granite mini-boulders to a balcony in the duff with a direct view of the Pasayten up the Chewuch. Sitting there on a damp boulder I tuned in to how the air moving in one languid mass was tepid around me, how wearing yoga pants and no socks in my clogs I wasn't shivering. At once my thoughts gathered on one idea: endurance as a daily practice is the anti-epic; it is, instead, durable and divergent.

Training journal entry: Solo and unsupported

Eagle + swans

When I first sat at my favorite table to work, an insincere snow squall poured through The Narrows, its evanescence belching from a nearly-cloudless sky. Again finding myself in the land of my project, I seek for this summer’s expression to bring about greater balance for me, my family, and for the people who are uplifted by my spirit-work.

So much process goes into this work, that were I an ‘end justifying the means’ kind of athlete I would have given up long ago. Perhaps that is why some of the things I have done, looming obvious in plain sight, no one has ever done before. Surely, I cannot credit this fact to sturdy limbs or ten-gallon lungs - I have proved to be quite proletariat at the human monkey tricks around which much of ‘sport’ (and how I loathe to call it that) revolves. Only when I engage the body as simply a willing vehicle of gnosis; the living, moving, always-shifting manifestation of the beauty I sense pushing up through the land and reverberating through my watery flesh; do I achieve the postures and places I set out to become.

There is no hope, nor volition, in me to ever subjugate the more-than-human with whom I move to some insecurity-placating notion of ‘conquering’ a mountain, ‘adventuring’ on a trail, or ‘finishing’ a climb. Even the goal itself falls away as a superfluous finger-pointing-at-the-moon when I am in the throes of creation, the act and beingness of no-self.

Any drive one might observe as an element of my mountain practices is simply my reverence for what it takes for me to form myself into a tool capable of a tight twirl; the positions my body takes in nature among my omniscient rock, tree, and animal friends; and the invisible path of travel that I leave behind as paint if only in my body, mind, and soul after the event for which I had trained is complete. It is not the satisfaction of having done so I do not have to do again. In fact, this year’s top summer project is to re-do something I have already done while in a style, in a physical form I find more aesthetically and ethically pleasing.

Always solo (never alone); always unsupported (never without).

The mask

pacing the Colville Wilds, Fire Season 2017

pacing the Colville Wilds, Fire Season 2017

it is easy to think of excuses and often there is no solution; it takes grit to look for the solution anyway.

I tossed my icy hand bottle, mask, and dirty trail shoes in the trunk, popped it in gear, and raced to the end of the pavement. once I hit gravel, I drifted my Subaru around every corner, all four tires ripping and all four windows down, singing along to All Them Witches turned up to twenty-two. it was 96F at 4pm with an air quality index worse than Delhi in September 2009 but the baby just fell asleep and the grandparents agreed to watch her so that is when I got to run.

every day I create opportunities to be feral, nearly naked, running uphill like an unteathered trout hucking falls and banging its head against granite banks not for the luxury of it <though beating my feet on Earth as my drum IS the ultimate luxury> but because I need it. I’ve always had too much energy for one body, too much verve inside me to sit still placated by money or upward mobility or matrimony or motherhood; too much vim to be kind until after I’ve had my romp. the movement is the path, the medicine, and the practice.

with the mask sheltering my breathing orifices from the 152 air quality index, the space between chin and bridge of nose felt as though I were running on the Napali Coast while the rest of me, parched and caked with dust, knew for certain that I moved with the numinous Colvilles. knapweed, thistle, and mullein tapped at my marble columns as they tumbled forward, always racing to be first as I fell on the hill over and over. in addition to the condensed breath and sweat that ran a river down my décolletage, the mask made it feel that I’d gone from 2500’ to 9000’ all at once and rather than the smoke giving me a headache slight hypoxia did the job just about as well. 96F began to feel like an oven, a sweet oven basking my skin in a generous sepia, and as I baked therein my entire being glowed with joy. I fell into step with Moose, who ran this way not an hour earlier, and I pondered as I usually do what fearsome beast could make Moose break into a gallop.

this movement is a gift; this movement is my savior and the light that I send out into the universe that lifts us all for the moments when I manage total presence. total ignites inside me, the sparks ripple out, and soon I’m hallucinating that I’m as good a runner as Moose, as deft as Eagle, as still as Hummingbird while I’m in the flow. how the fuck could I sacrifice this way of being to some stupid excuses? “it’s too smoky”, “it’s too hot”, “I don’t want my legs to get all scratched up”, “I’m tired”, “I only want to run single-track”, “this mask is uncomfortable”. give me the pain any day; it will never eclipse the vibration of my body ringing against our body <gonggonggong> as I run with the woods.

Ferocious

sometimes I am a frothing beast plowing quads-first in new directions. on this particular day, we had just parted seguaro, cholla, and decaying granite with three and two points planted. gaining over 3,000 vert in just under an hour left my internal compass spinning as I set foot in the shelter of the first manzanita groves. the feeling that I was in a sacred tunnel traveling toward the barely-lit core of the land came over me. it tucked itself snug around my shoulders, dampening the desert’s few harsh sounds. climate’s heat eased, the scrub became forest which enveloped me deadening the roar issuing from the mouth of a storm growing on the western horizon. the tunnel closed around my head.

I peered out a clearing of what had become mid-sized trees at the break between deciduous forest and familiar ponderosa and tamarack stands just ahead. I’d be there soon. altitude thinned, though, taking from my once-bawdy pistons some of their verve and Nature kept reeling the pine forest away from me - some cosmic bait on a gigantic hook inciting a return to the violence I do to my bones and organs on these long runs.

the path could just as well require not-movement just as it does no thought and no speech. I could take the freeway route to this altered state of being, and I have in decades past, but the afterglow of chemically-induced states of wisdom feels cheap. 

I perceived a subtle pressure shift from right ear to left, WNW to ESE, and knew the force of the storm had shifted. each step for a space of a mile or more I shaped my toes into proboscis capable of feeding and feeling off the land; I moved away from miosis on the endless beat of legs turning and into our conversation. .though I am barely worth or even capable of forming a question for the desert, I did and asked for its will in the moment. unequivocally it uttered its response. with a tank full of oxygen, a pack flush with water, legs certain of their ability, I chose a diving granite slab as the high-point of the day’s run - 8000 feet above the valley floor where I began.

conversing with a greying ceiling of clouds I thought of how I’ve aged, how ashamed and proud I am of the woman I’ve been and become. hearing the clouds' response I rose and began the long float back down. not five minutes after beginning my descent the rains began (an aside: this storm was not forecast. it turned epic: flooding LA and bringing heavy snows to the slabs on which I’d just lounged.). feeling gradients of raindrops begin and cease as I passed through diminishing manzanita tunnels, I found my power.

my power belongs wholly to the Earth, she spurs every moment of genius I’ve ever had - including this one. my power lies not with achievement, ticking some meaningless goal off a list; my power lives with vulnerability, with giving up hope, with trust in the media with whom I dance. my power is in the acceptance of my constant defeat in the hands of my broader body, in nature. my power is found by tuning in to a sacred landscape, animate with cacti, mice with big round ears, ravens, and the cougars hiding in the brush. power is trusting our tiny voice. my power makes my endurance perpetual; I am ferocious.

Re-membering ourselves

my commute, Colville National Forest, Nov 2016

these are her mountains and skies and
she radiates
and through history’s rivers of blood
she regenerates
and like the sun disappears only to reappear
Maria, she’s eternally here
her time is near
never conquered but here
— Rage Against the Machine “Maria”

my feet refused shoes as I walked from my camp chair to my yoga towel in the warm November sun, the sun that had me happily confused by its permeating warmth. when left with a few hours alone while Rumi was with a sitter I followed the molting tamarack and solitary snowberry up a closed crushed-granite forest service road to the third bend where it benches out and faces southwest. yesterday with my writing I wanted to bask in the warmth of the afternoon, the feeling of rightness I have here.

the other day I ran myself silly on this closed road. today my sacrum begged me to come, sit closer to the earth so I planted my butt directly on the cool autumn ground. husks of knapweed bowed over my page. Raven made her bright cry. a winged songmaker dipped ki’s* way across the small cleft that holds the stream I never knew was here. it is so still here that I could hear ki beat ki’s wings in a soft whump whump. I am as much a snowberry as I am a moose a raven a fly the dirt (I’ve slowed down enough to see that ki is alive, too) the wind a mushroom or a human. we have so many options and most of them veer sharply from the secular, sterile, disembodied life of the city. I am planted in the earth these days.

I remember turning my back on the sunrise each morning on my commute in to work from the mountains. deeply out of integrity with my values it ached like I was leaving behind a beloved child each morning who would certainly accomplish something remarkable while I was gone. there was some part in me that thought I HAD to do what I did, that I NEEDED the money or the path that was externally created for me. I had no idea the meaning of a dollar in its energetic form.

now as I recalibrate the meaning of work, the meaning of purpose, I find that plea quelled in some respects. the voice that always urged me closer, closer, closer to the earth no longer does so with such frustrated fervency. now the voice is soft, she knows I am never far from the broader body and that I’ll readily heed her request.

I urge you to re-member yourself in the earth and by so doing plant yourself in the infinite body we all share. re-member the sacredness of this mother body, the giver, the one the scared of us try to tamp down, the immutable, the resilient feminine.

 

* As suggested by Robin Wall Kimmerer I have adopted a new pronoun for nature.

Emotional landscapes

a last push into the Pasayten without skis

I paced my giant medicine in flesh form: Moose. she rose to the minor pass where snow clouds converged, releasing their tired load over this burned-out drainage. and I stopped there, just the two of us in a howling expanse.

there is beauty in the downed logs painting my bare shins black. there is beauty where no green stands in fire's path, where even the aspens have gone to sleep in their naked form.

I worked amiably with bright feet and an open heart, free of observation. my wise self spoke again and again, writing ephemeral running poetry for only me and the freezing multitudes to enjoy.

after crossing the thirtieth downed log that caused me to break running gait to climb over or under, I called it the halfway point and milled about a bit. tracing lines in the white granite mud with the toe of my neon shoe, I noticed sign that Moose was here. steady release in the lonely landscape taking heart in the synchronicity of meeting my medicine on the trail and my drive to complete this unrewarding work made sense.

My medicine

the body was creaky behind the knees, cold of fingertip, and not quite awake as I began to move six feet in the praying hour on my favorite moose-infested human-abandoned logging road. in the span of five cold minutes on the trail I gave up on completing my entire planned training run, resolving instead to spin once I reached the mileage marker after the first big rise. I clenched and grumped along knocked out of my selfish spoolings upon rounding a glowing bend to find Nason with a slop of some poor animal’s intestines dangling from his toothy grin.

distracted by his exuberance at this odiferous forest gift I forgot quitting altogether and must have sped past the place where the rise flattens and soon found myself nearing the top of the hill where I usually turn around. and then the epiphanies started cascading and I’m afraid I’ve lost the genius I had in those moments of motion.

I realized presence is equal measures forgetting and intention.

I pondered the raucous adventure of the blood shoving itself through my veins and my innate intelligence innervate my intricate fascial latticeworks.

I remembered the c-curve of my graceful spine and pegged my heart rate at 188 - right at threshold - breathing calmly, deeply, fully.

I felt God’s hand in my chest squeezing my heart in autonomic time.

this morning, by the time I plied my feet from my shoes, I’d remembered once again that this craft sometimes elevates to art which over time becomes medicine and on blessed occasion transcends even that to become religion.