Reinvigorate your purpose and passion for life.

You are meant to be satisfied!!!  Abraham-Hicks

Love is showing up fully with presence — openhearted, raw, and vulnerable to the world. It is the only thing that matters.  Albert Flynn Desilver

“I feel pummeled.”  That’s what I said to my husband Cam the Monday after Thanksgiving in the Minneapolis airport.  “But in a good way.”  And it’s true, I did feel pummeled.  I still do, the way I felt pummeled when my friend Mary and I walked north for a week along the Portuguese Coast on our way to Santiago de Compostela, Spain a year ago.  The waves rolled in off the open Atlantic, a warm salty breeze blew against our skin, and the sun shined down on us hour after hour, day after day during that magical first week in early October.  And the wild sea tossed stones about, piles of them, threw them up onto the Portuguese beaches, pounded them smooth against grains of sand, and we, two pilgrims on a three hundred kilometer journey, collected the tiny ones as talismans, stuffed them in our pockets as we walked along.  And the waves, they sang to us, a powerful constant rhythmic song, and the sand softened our bare toes and we were softened, too, tumbled and tossed and pummeled smooth like the stones at our feet, even as we stood strong on our northbound voyage.

It’s that deliciousness that I am talking about now, that I exclaimed to my husband a little over a week ago at the Minneapolis airport, a feeling of energy, strong powerful positive energy, blowing in, as if on an ocean breeze, blowing at us and through us, tossing and tumbling and pummeling us soft and open and clear and loving, while at the same time, not bowling us over.  And that’s the powerful part.  Mary and I were seduced by the sea, smitten by its salt air, overcome with our adoration for its beauty and power.  It had its way with us.  Our jagged edges were softened and our hearts opened, and, yet, we kept on walking; we didn’t thrash about in its gigantic waves, didn’t get swept away by its powerful currents.  And to me, it is one of the best of feelings, to allow the high vibe ocean of life to course through body and psyche, while, at the same time, finding the steadiness of ground beneath our feet.  And it doesn’t matter whether those feet are trekking along a beach at ocean’s edge or touching the earth hundreds or thousands of miles inland, doesn’t matter whether it is the ocean having its way with us or something else all together pummeling us soft.  It might be a hike on a mountain trail, an afternoon conversation with a friend, an evening dancing our hearts out, wild and free.  It might be a lover’s touch or the soft purring of a cat, a quiet summer sunset or a wind-thrashing blizzard — life is always ready and willing to pummel us with its love.

Sometimes the positive pummeling power of transformation comes when we aren’t expecting it.  I was anticipating something quite different while navigating the airport walkways during a layover in Minneapolis the last Monday in November, something more like exhaustion or relief or a numbness that sets in after four days of intensity or maybe a hollow missing-them feeling.  You see, Cam and I had just spent the Thanksgiving holiday weekend with our kids and grandkids in Moscow, Idaho where both sons and their families reside.  Our family numbers have increased by two babies in the past five months, and, this particular weekend, there was the addition of another couple and their three-year old daughter, friends visiting town.  Thanksgiving dinner this year was more wild sea than quiet breeze, more raucous laughter and baby gurgles, toddler clingings and little kid races than slow mindful eating — and the metaphoric sea maintained its powerful intensity throughout the weekend.  Though there were the early morning alone times, and the sweet moments of steadfast attention shared with one or two of the five kids, there were many other moments when it was a grandparent glob of hand-holding and hip-slinging, of reading a book to one, while admiring the artwork of another, moments of surrendering to an energy that felt as powerful as the ocean rolling in while Mary and I walked the coast.

And here’s the surprise in all of this — the discovery that I made at the Minneapolis airport.  I not only didn’t get swept under, pulled out to sea by all this Thanksgiving weekend intensity; I loved it, this pummeling whoosh of life.  I wasn’t exhausted as the weekend came to a close.  I walked through those airport corridors with the same vigor that I had walked the coast of Portugal with Mary.  Softened yes, salt-soaked, for sure, but not bruised.  The time with kids and grandkids had fed me, and, perhaps, that is the ticket, the free pass to feeling pummeled while not ending up black and blue, to love what we are doing so much that we can allow in an increase in wind velocity and still stay standing.

I knew that I was energized by being with the little ones.  Walking with five-year-old Viren to kindergarten, or pretending we’re in a spaceship as he and I whoop and holler and take off down the big hill toward the Food Co-op in Grandma’s rental car is high-flying fun for the both of us.  When two-year old Addie charges ahead with gung-ho enthusiasm, my battery charges itself too, and, when she asks for a hug — “No, Grandma, like this!” — a heart-to-heart, pressing closer slow and deep and lasting hug, I melt into the moment.  Aila, at five-and-a-half months, wiggles and squirms and smiles and coos and sticks her toes in her mouth and is easy to scoop up and squeeze with an abundance of grandma gusto.  And little one-month-old Wesley nestles in and makes little puff-breath noises, leaving a weight and a warmth even when he has returned to his mother’s lap.  Of course, the little ones light me up.  I love them dearly, feel alive and vigorous and happy in their presence.  I have known this.  However, I didn’t know that grandparenthood would pummel me smooth and soft and that the pummeling would feel so good.  I didn’t know that I could stand strong in all its intensity over a prolonged period of time, that I could allow this whoosh of life to have its way with me, and, that, in the aftermath, walk away feeling more vigorous, more loved and in love with life than ever.








IMG_4277Thanksgiving weekend, 2017:  Moscow, Idaho

What is perfection anyway?

Live Well, Love Much, Laugh Often.  Anonymous

The miracle is not to walk on water.  The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.  Thich Nhat Hanh

Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big thing.  Robert Breault

There was a moment while standing in line at the Moscow, Idaho Food Co-op last week that I, Grandma Helen, felt like I was on the verge of losing it.  It had been a long day, an exciting one, and, now, at dinner time, in the midst of the evening crowds pushing their filled-up carts of groceries and deli food dinners toward the counters, my hands were full.  As I stepped up to the check-out and began to unload the bags of fruit and salad fixings, the carton of milk, the glass bottle of apple juice, the plates of food that we would eat at the store’s spacious cafe, the two older grandkids under my care had decided that they were finished.  The sweet adorable cousins who usually love to shop together, Addie at two, sitting in the green cart, Viren, at five, riding on the side rails, were through with it all, the niceties, the fun, the taking turns for their Grandma’s attention.  They had evacuated the cart and Viren was pulling the Peruvian hat with its knitted buffalo nose and ears, the hat that Addie had insisted on trying on when we passed the new shipment of winter wares, down over her face, and she, the toddler who had become a big sister less than twenty-hours earlier, was starting to cry.  And right when this was happening just steps behind me, the man with the beard who was pricing our groceries, decided to chat.  It was in that moment that I began to melt into a puddle of ineptitude.

And why am I telling you this when what I really want to do is gush about the fabulous fifteen days that I have just spent in Moscow, Idaho with my two sons and their families, when what I really want to tell you is that it was all so very perfect?   There were the early morning walks on country roads as the sun rose over the golden hills of hay and wheat, and the cows and the horses that greeted me and became my friends during this quiet window of time before the families began their busy days.  And then there was the waking up of grandkids — and what could possibly be better than welcoming the still-dream-sleepy little ones into your arms and into your eager-for-them heart?  And the walking Viren to kindergarten, sometimes alone, sometimes with his father and his four-and-a-half-month-old sister, and once, with Grandpa Cam, this was not only precious beyond measure; it was fun.  I entered Viren’s world and found it filled with wonder.  During the half-mile traipse through neighborhood streets to the elementary school, Viren and I balanced on the edges of sidewalks, talked of super heroes and the characters in Lord of the Rings, and, sometimes, we met up with other kids, and joined in their conversations.  One second grade freckle-faced guy, looked directly at me, and said with a toothless grin and the utmost of sincerity, “Some people are old, but still have the heart of a child.”  It was perfect, this comment, this time with the grandkids.  To find the heart of a child within a grandma’s body is the best.

There was Addie, who turned two in August, and loves to talk, who sings and chats with pronouns and participles and a pleasure that is contagious.  There were the days that the two of us played on slides and swings, made green mustaches as we drank smoothies at the Co-op, traveled twice to Potlatch to touch the antique train that sits in a park, the Big Black Train, said in a guttural voice with much emphasis.  And there was Aila, Viren’s baby sister, who has a guttural laugh of her own, who is hearty and hardy, and sturdy in a grandma’s arms, who coos and cackles and seems to love a tone deaf rendition of Edelweiss from Sound of Music.  And this isn’t a fraction of it, the rich music of this trip, the deliciousness of time spent as a family, with each and every member, alone and together.  One evening, I stood in the kitchen of Addie’s home and looked out at the family, both families, the dogs, my husband, and I grabbed my phone for a photo.  No one knew that I was capturing the moment; no one was posing.  There was a natural ease in the air as we shared an evening, an evening of presence while waiting for Baby.

And Baby did arrive, the next evening on Monday, Day Ten of my fifteen day visit, after another family dinner at Addie’s home, and a quick ride to the hospital, and a very short labor for his mom.   At 9:57, just as his sister was falling asleep in Grandma Helen’s guest bed, Wesley Ernest entered the world.  And he is beautiful and healthy and carries the names of his great grandfathers.  And there is nothing to prepare you for the awe and the beauty and the emotion that occurs when you first meet a little one, whether you are the parents or the grandmother or the toddler sister or the five-year-old cousin.  Sometimes it is beyond what you can put into words and into your body home.  Sometimes it overflows into a moment in line at the Co-op.  And I’d be lying if I told you that there weren’t other moments of frustration, of exhaustion, of melt-down with no new baby as an excuse.  But the truth is that the melt-downs melted into the next moments, were carried forward with an undercurrent of love and stability and sanity.  And isn’t that perfection, the knowing that it is okay to be less than what you deem as perfect or good or “in-line” as you wait in the check-out line, that you are “love” and are loved no matter what?

Just as I was about to sink into the grocery store ineptitude, Viren’s dad, holding Baby Aila in her carseat, walked into the Co-op, and greeted the three of us, Viren, Addie and me, with a chipper hello.  He hustled Viren away to choose our seats at the cafe, and I picked up Addie who immediately stopped crying.  Viren’s mom joined us as we sat down to our deli-food dinner, as I snapped a photo of Addie happily stuffing a fork-load of mashed potatoes into her mouth, as I sent it off to her parents and Baby Wesley Ernest at the hospital just a block away.  It was perfect.














Ode to Addie

Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.  Socrates

Why fit in when you were born to stand out!  Dr. Seuss

. . . be joyous and romping full force toward what you want!  Abraham-Hicks

It was a warm June morning in Moscow Idaho when Addie took off down Main Street full throttle.  She cocked her head to one side, raised the other shoulder, let out a high-pitched steady shriek and skidaddled as fast as her pink-sneakered feet would carry her — past the art gallery and the rock shop and the outdoor store, straight ahead in a bee-line for the fountain.  It was a moment to behold, a moment of high velocity pig-tail-flying joy.  And I her Grandma Helen witnessed it as I scrambled to catch up with this out-of-my-grip toddler.  A while later, while the two of us sat on a bench, drinking our smoothies, a grandpa-aged man approached us and gleefully pointed at Addie.  “I heard you, young lady!  You keep it up!  We need to hear voices like yours!”  And to me, he said, “Isn’t it the best?!?”

It is the best, an honor I hold dear, to hang out with the young people in my life.  Our two sons and their families live in the same town in northern Idaho, so, on visits west, I drink up an over-the-top healthy dose of grandparent immersion.  And claiming time with a two-year-old is about as fun and funny as it gets.  On mornings after her parents have left for work at the university, Addie and I prepare for our day of play.  When I was a girl, a highlight of my grandparent visits was knocking on the guest room door, and being invited in to watch my grandmother dress each morning.  It seemed exotic to me, the rituals of my grandmother, the way she carefully braided her long salt-and-pepper colored hair, powdered and perfumed her body, slipped into layer after layer of silken underclothes and a loose-fitting patterned dress.  I loved this waking up time with my grandmother, and remember it more clearly than anything else about her.  I’m astounded that I have now switched roles, am the grandmother being watched by the young granddaughter.  And I’m equally astounded that this ritual seems as exciting and as sacred to Addie as it once did to me.  We lay out my clothes on the guest room bed — the sparkle skirt is her favorite — and I slip into the sport bra and tank top and leggings with a lot less fanfare than my grandmother did with her mindful motions.  It’s the preening after the dressing, however, that really stirs Addie’s juices, the hands-on part, literally sticking her hands into the container of Grandma’s lotion and smearing it on her little arms and legs and face.  I wonder if I too was not just an appreciative observer of my grandmother’s rituals, but an active participant like Addie.  For Addie, lotion-smearing is right up there with skidaddling along Main Street toward the fountain and throwing pennies into the stirred-up water and drinking a green smoothie through a straw when the pennies have all been thrown.

In Addie’s world, the day begins with an enthusiastic “yes” and the “yeses” keep on coming!  Whether it is shoveling food into her mouth — she loves to eat! — or racing down the driveway on her pink kick-bike or running across the lawn with her five-year-old cousin Viren who has brought her into a game of police and robbers, Addie thrusts herself full-force and forward into her living.  Her strong bold color strokes and unique dance-moves reflect this exuberance for life.  And it is contagious, this exuberance.  I find myself joining in as she and I drive from her home in the woods up and down the country roads past wheat and lentil fields into town each day.  Our voices rise into a shout as we call out our observations.  “Little white house!”  “Big red barn!”  “Bird in the sky!”  “Horses on the hill!”  “Tall green tree!”  I’m not just playing along.  I’m genuinely excited.  I find myself wide-eyed and eager, ready for the next ordinary extraordinary “something” around the corner.  One car ride in particular stands out as a highlight among highlights.  It was late afternoon, and both Viren and Addie were sitting buckled in their car seats in the back of Grandma’s rental.  Viren had just finished a story about Lego Batman and it was Addie’s turn.  She said it to us, “Addie’s turn!”  And then she began her litany of likes.  “Addie likes Mommy.  Addie likes Dada.  Addie likes cousin Viren. . . ”  She named us all.  But she didn’t stop with family and friends.  She wanted a long turn because she had a lot to say.  “Addie likes trees.  Addie likes houses.  Addie likes Whiskers kitty.  Addie likes yellow.”  I felt as though her list could go on forever; there are that many “likes” in Addie’s world.

I pushed the save button that afternoon.  I don’t want to forget how good it feels to shout out appreciations to the world as you pass it by, to not pass it by at all, but, instead, to soak it in like a toddler does.  I don’t want to forget how good it feels to listen to a litany of “likes”, how good it feels to come up with your own list — on a daily basis.  Baby Aila, Viren’s little sister who is a few months old, made it onto Addie’s “like” list that afternoon in the car, and, when Addie is in the presence of her baby cousin, she lights up, gently touching Baby Aila’s face or hands.  And now, within a matter of days, Addie’s baby brother will be born and I’m sure of it, that Baby Brother will make it onto Addie’s list of likes.  I also was two when my baby brother was born, a few months older than Addie is now.  My grandparents came to stay with us and I remember that they brought candy and a box of cookies.  And I remember that my father walked with us, my older siblings and me, to the hospital in our neighborhood, remember that it was a brick building, that my mother held the baby up in a second story window for us to see from the grass below, that we had ice cream on the way home.  And I remember sitting on the radiator in our home eating the cookies.  I wonder if I too was exuberant with my likes.  “I like my Grandma and Grandpa.”  “I like my mama and daddy.”  “I like cookies and ice cream.”  “I like my baby brother.”   Addie is my toddler teacher and I certainly feel it now.






Addie at two: August and September, 2017


Resources of abundance are raining down on you always.  Abraham-Hicks

Everyone on earth has a treasure that awaits him/her.  Paulo Coelho

Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.  Paulo Coelho

There’s something about the promise of treasure that keeps us digging.  When I was a child, the digging was literal.  My younger brother and I were certain of it, that somewhere in that crack of a cove between the Fourth of July Rocks and Sister Point, the one on our coastal Maine property that was called Deadman’s Cove, there was a treasure buried under the rocks and shells and piles of blown-in seaweed.  Although we didn’t flesh out the details of the before-story, it had something to do with pirates and the dead man who we imagined was the namesake for the tiny inlet and a classic fairy-tale chest of riches stashed ashore for safe-keeping.  So, on many a summer morning, as we made our way out for a picnic lunch on Pretty Rock and an exploration of the tide pools at Sister Point’s tip, we clamored down the granite ledge to the shell-strewn bit of beach at Deadman’s Cove in the hopes that this would be the lucky one, the summer day when we would uncover it, our personal treasure.

And fifty years later, I guess I’m still digging for tangible hands-on riches, this time for treasure I think might be buried in my very own house.  When our two boys were toddlers, they inherited from their dad a gold mine of miniature toy cars from the sixties, the kind of cars that grandparents buy you for Christmas, fancier, sturdier and far more cool than the Matchbox set that I carefully tucked in my little plastic case.  There was an MG, an ambulance with doors that opened, station wagons and trucks and sport cars — and there was a Batmobile, my husband’s favorite, one he had purchased himself when the television show Batman hit the airways.  Our boys adored this canvas bag of cars.  As tiny toddlers, they lined them up on their grandparents’ patio wall in Grand Rapids, and, later, when the cars traveled north with us to our home in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the boys played with them for hours on the imaginary highways and farmlands and neighborhood streets of our living room carpet.  These cars were a treasure, a treasure I intended to pass down to the next generation.  And, it was when our older son and his wife announced that they were going to have baby, our first grandchild, that I remembered my stashed treasure and started digging for what I thought would be an easy jackpot.  That was six years ago this autumn, and, alas, I am still digging and they have remained as elusive as the pirate chest of riches in Deadman’s Cove.  I have looked all over this house for these gems from the sixties, in the obvious places, and, in the dark corners of the basement, have dug through boxes and pried open suitcases.  I am almost positive that I did not give these cars away  — why would I?!? — and I remain hopeful that I will retrieve my pirate’s bounty.

In fact, a week ago, I dreamed of the cars.  I think it was because Viren, our five-year-old grandson, and a passionate lover of cool-driving vehicles and everything Batman, was visiting.  I told him about my dream, how I woke up happy and filled with wonderment.  You see, in the dream, I found the cars, all of them, including the Batmobile, hauled them out of their hiding place and into the light of day and play.  It was a moment to behold.  And although my waking self could not remember the X that had marked the treasure’s spot, the dream had brought them alive for me again, so vividly alive that I resumed the search that next evening.  It was after Grandpa Cam had gone to bed that Viren and I plopped ourselves down on the carpeted floor of the upstair’s hall closet, a small walk-in where we keep our linens and suitcases and a few stray boxes.  I knew from past searches that the bag of cars was not among these items, but I was holding out hope for the Batmobile — and so was Viren.  I remembered that there was a box pushed underneath the shelving that was labeled with Viren’s father’s name, and perhaps, just perhaps, that treasure among treasures, the Batmobile, was tucked inside it among the other artifacts from our son’s youth.  So the two of us dragged the dusty treasure box out from its hiding place and into the middle of the closet floor, opened its lid, and began our exploration.

The box was filled to the brim, with a plastic bag of copper coins and another of shells from Florida, with a pottery mug that was once a Christmas present and another smaller wooden box that Viren’s dad had made in school, with a metal turkey won in a Thanksgiving Day running race and a fossil discovered on a family trip out west, all treasures, I’m sure, to a younger version of Viren’s dad — and treasures to us too as we examined each item during our archeological dig.  And when we reached to the bottom of the box, there was no Batmobile in sight.  But there was something else, something intriguing, a stack of about fifteen handmade books, lying there waiting for this moment, a gift from the past, from Viren’s dad at eight-years-old to his son crouched now beside me.  We laughed out loud as we perused these books, admiring the art, reading the stories.  Some were books that he had written at school, probably in second grade, and others he had created at home on recycled paper, bound with masking tape.  For Viren, it must have been pure wonderment, to witness his father as a boy not much older than himself, a boy who loved monsters and superheroes as much as he does now, a boy who created a giant cat named Cathra with powers strong enough to ward off Godzilla and a punk-haired alien who managed to get along just fine without a Batmobile or canvas bag of awesome cars.  And for me, it was pure preciousness, to giggle along with my grandson who was lit up with it all, and to see, with fresh eyes and a huge dose of admiration, the creativity and humor and charm of his wonderful father.

I think that I was the one who suggested making the phone call, but it was Viren who exclaimed that the car was the perfect place for us to talk to his dad who was miles and miles away in Idaho.  And he was right.  Under a nighttime of stars, after a five-year-old’s usual bedtime, with the car turned on in the driveway, and both of us sitting unbuckled in the front seats, we talked right into Grandma’s car’s marvelous speaker system, right through the miles and through the years to Viren’s dad about this treasure we had discovered from his childhood.  Viren’s enthusiasm filled the airwaves and his dad’s laughter responded as he remembered the books that he had written and illustrated so long ago . . . Our hands were never empty as my brother and I traipsed back over the rocks and through the huckleberry and balsam paths toward the cottage after our jaunts to the point.  There were stray buoys some days and long strands of dried kelp.  There were tiny orange and yellow periwinkles and sea moss for our mother’s pudding recipe.  There were treasures to behold and memories to hold onto and the deliciousness of the possibility that maybe, just maybe, there really was a treasure chest in Deadman’s Cove.  I haven’t given up on the cars, am still holding onto the possibility that I will find this canvas bag some day, and yet, in this moment, my hands are full, full of treasure, full of the knowing that Viren and I dug up pure gold last week and that the two of us shared this golden moment with his appreciative dad.






The treasure we found in the closet: Viren’s dad’s books, circa 1987/8.

Busting Free

The limits of the possible can only be defined by going beyond them into the impossible.  Arthur C. Clarke

Don’t get too comfortable with who you are at any given time — you may miss the opportunity to become who you want to be.  Jon Bon Jovi

Every time you create a gap in the stream of mind, the light of your consciousness grows stronger.  Eckhart Tolle

I couldn’t get enough of it, my daughter-in-law Shelly’s story of her half ironman race at Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho.  Although the race had occurred a year ago this past June, Shelly just shared the details with me when I was in Idaho recently visiting our kids and grandkids.  Listening to her account, I found myself with a burning desire to hear the same tale over and over again.  “And then what happened?  Tell me more!” I knew there was something deeper for me in all of it, something I couldn’t quite grasp at first telling, something more profound than a newspaper just-the-facts article of a sport event.

The story starts smoothly enough in the cold northern waters of a mountain lake with the swim portion of the race, smoothly because Shel is a smooth swimmer, a strong swimmer, a Division I college champion and a member of the Masters program who has kept herself swim-fit over the years.  I’ve witnessed the way she glides through the water, stroke after stroke, barely creating a ripple.  She said that the first third (the swim) of the half ironman was easy for her, and I’m sure that it was, that she ran out of the water with a smile on her face and an abundance of reserve stored up for the next portion, the fifty-six mile bike ride through town and up over the mountainous terrain.  She shared with me that she had been nervous about the bike ride, especially about a hill, not just any hill, an incredible monster of a steep mountain decline at the bike race conclusion that would lead her back into Coeur d’ Alene.  She shared that she had obsessed about this hill for weeks, scared of the speed that such a decline would invite.  But when she climbed onto her bike after the swim, there was that smile on her face and the reserve of energy and the cheering crowds lined up along the town’s streets.  And the spectator’s enthusiasm and the ease of the swim carried her forward through the town of Coeur d’ Alene and up into the mountains, and up and down and up and down the hills for miles and miles and miles — miles with barely a spectator in sight and barely an aid station to behold, just Shelly and her bike.  And although it was grueling, she did okay, pedaling along, for hours, pedaling and pedaling and doing okay — until she wasn’t anymore.  Something had happened.

“it was at about Mile Fifty that my legs just stopped working,” Shel said.  “The quad muscles weren’t firing.  It was as if I didn’t have muscles at all — my bones were the only thing I could feel.”  It was then that she took her friend’s advice to heart, a friend who had experienced many an ironman race: “Don’t stop.  Don’t turn around.  Don’t get dead.”  She said this mantra over and over.  And it makes sense.  If she had stopped, she would never have started again, and, besides, there she was in the middle of what seemed like nowhere.  And why turn around when you’ve already pedaled your quad muscles into jello for fifty miles?  And don’t get dead.  Well, that one is self-explanatory.  So she kept her legs moving somehow, bone-pedaling from telephone pole to telephone pole to telephone pole, alternating her friend’s mantra with her own command to her noncooperative legs, “Up, down; up, down; up, down.”  Her mind let go, and her brain went into primal survival, and sheer will propelled her forward.  “Up, down; up, down; up, down.”  And then, through some miracle, she was there, at the hill, the dreaded monster hill, the one she had obsessed about for months.  And it was crazy steep and long, and she was on it, and she was flying, flying down it, unable, unwilling to slow herself, knowing without a doubt that she wasn’t going to fall.  All the way to the bottom she flew  — and, when it was time to dismount and prepare for the third leg of the race, the run, she just knew her non-firing quad muscles would not hold her up.  She was sure of it.  But they did.  “I got off the bike and I couldn’t not run.  My legs had a mind of their own.  I was sprinting, passing people, feeling the best I’ve ever felt.”  Shelly ran the first miles of the third leg, the half-marathon, with a gusto that seemed to come out of the ethers.  And she finished the ironman with a smile on her face and a remark to her husband that she had been transformed in a way that she couldn’t put into words.

I love Shel’s story, want to glean its gifts, bring them deep into my own bones and share them loudly with the world.  Maybe we will never participate in an ironman race, but we all have dreams and visions, and we all have boxes we place around ourselves, too, self-imposed limits that sometimes seem impossible to bust through, keeping us from these cherished dreams.  Sometimes our limits feel physical.  “I couldn’t possibly make it up that mountain.  Or ride my bike down it at the end of a race”  “I’ll never be strong enough to carry that load.”  “That yoga pose is beyond my capability.  I’m not flexible.”  Sometimes our limits feel mental.  “I’d love to write a book, but I’m no writer.”  “I don’t have an engineering mind.  I couldn’t possibly figure that out.”  “I’m not a happy person.  That’s just the way I’m wired.”  And sometimes our limits feel spiritual.  “I don’t believe in what I can’t see.”  “I have to do it on my own.”  But I believe that it’s all one package, the package of who we are — body.mind.spirit — and Shelly’s story reminds me of this, the remarkable way our wiring is meant to be interconnected, and the remarkable way that our limits are just a line traced across the road that we can pedal ourselves over.  Shelly kept going when her body shut down, and, to her astonishment, her bones kept pedaling.  And her mind stayed out of the way.  And there was the wind of spirit blowing through her, and that amazing flight down the mountain carrying her to renewal and the best-feeling run of her life.  In what ways am I holding myself back from that feeling of freedom and the pursuit of my dreams?  In what ways are you?

Soon after the half ironman, Shelly got pregnant and didn’t find herself on her bike again until a few weeks ago, during my visit to Idaho, when she participated in the Moscow triathlon.  It was after this triathlon, a race in which she placed second in her age group, that she told me her half ironman story.  And there was a postscript to the story, an addition that I found fascinating, one that Shelly couldn’t have discovered until that  particular day due to her bike-riding hiatus.  “Today, I had no fear on the bike.  Because of the Coeur d’ Alene race, I’m a different bike rider.  I’m forever changed.”  Once we bust free, there is no turning back.  We are forever changed.



Shelly starting her run in the Half-Ironman, Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho:  June 2016

Sweet Days

We are placed on Earth . . . to learn to bear the beams of love.  William Blake

Find the sweetness in your own heart; then you may find the sweetness in every heart. Rumi

We took our shoes off.  And isn’t that a perfect way to start a day’s adventure, with no worry about the other shoe dropping, with no nervous system on alert that something could go awry, simply with bare feet pressed into the ground and a soft breeze caressing your face, simply trusting in the well-being that is at your core, and at the core of those around you, and at the core of this very moment?  When you let go that deeply, when you remember that there is no need to hold on tightly for fear that the next moment might bring a shoe-dropping disaster, that the Universe indeed does have your back, only then, in that delicious state of relaxed receptivity can you squeeze out the sweetness that is always tucked into the present for you to savor.

That’s what we were doing, my husband Cam and I, yesterday morning, as the southwest wind blew the clouds away and the sun warmed the early September air; we were drinking it in, the deliciousness of it all, allowing our toes to grasp the silky sand that was still damp from the middle of the night rainfall, allowing our calf muscles to propel us upward as we climbed the first of nine steep sandy hills on a path that would take us up and down and up and down, again and again, to a pristine section of Lake Michigan, allowing our spirits to soar because our spirits really do want to soar.  The happiness in the air was palpable.  Perhaps that is because we were in a national park — Sleeping Bear Dunes Lakeshore, along the sandy coastline of a northern stretch of Lake Michigan near Traverse City — and it does seem like people enter our country’s national parks with an expectation of dazzlement.  The reason doesn’t matter.  It felt wonderful, all this joy sprinkled over the whole of the grassy dunes, in the sand that tickled and soothed our feet as we walked along, in the grasses and thistles that shined in the sun, in the lake that was impossibly blue on the horizon beyond the dunes, in the children dive-bombing their way down the hills and the parents and grandparents walking behind them, in the smiles on people’s faces.  Though the languages spoken among the dunes were many, the smiles were universal and contagious.

With all these smiles, all this sunshine and sand and lake and not a shoe in sight to drop, it was easy to embrace and embody the sweetness of a Labor Day Weekend morning hike in Sleeping Bear Dunes.  But what about the next day, when we’ve returned home to our neighborhoods and there is no national park moment in sight and we’ve put our shoes back on and there are bills to be paid and groceries to buy and dinner to make?  What about then?  Can we remember how it felt to practically sail down those hills on our own two feet, how we knew, in those sandy moments of dune-playing that we were safe and secure, grounded on the earth and soaring in the skies?  Can we bring this sense of relaxation, of receptivity and trust into the every-day moments?  It is a tired old belief, one to send out the door, that we need to be on alert for the shoe that might drop.  And when we let this belief go, then there is a steadiness in the air and a sense of serenity within, and there is the sweetness of one moment after another after another to simply experience.  An abundance of smiles isn’t confined to the boundaries of our national parks.  And neither is dazzlement.  It is available to us all, wherever we find ourselves.

The idea for our mini-vacation to Sleeping Bear Dunes seemed to float in as lightly as a feather from the ethers.  It was on a walk in the woods a few weeks ago that the name settled into my mind.  Sleeping Bear Dunes.  I had never been there — and neither had Cam.  And the idea took hold and excited us both and that’s how we found ourselves at the dunes, on a whim, trusting a vague guidance from within.  The guidance didn’t get specific, didn’t tell me that I would be checking something off my bucket list.  It just called out the name, Sleeping Bear Dunes, and drew us south to the Traverse City area.  It was in the midst of the hike yesterday, on a steep downhill as my legs started to leap in long running strides that I felt something familiar, a body memory from childhood.  I remembered Shelter Beach on Hermit Island in Maine, and its tiny dune behind the shelter and the way my siblings and I would climb to the top and run and roll and leap to the bottom, how it felt free and expansive and like nothing else in the world.  I remembered yesterday how I loved sand dunes.  And the child in me felt like she was getting the Disney World ride of them, hours of play on the biggest of dunes.  So, you see, when we are present to and trusting of our moments, they will lead us where we need to go, and it just might be a national park.



Labor Day Weekend: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan, 2017

Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.  Steven Wright

One step at a time is good walking.  Proverb

It wasn’t my intention when I started out.  I had been planning a short walk behind Snyders on the two-track that winds its way back through the woods and out past North Lake, but the puddles covered the path and there was no getting around some of them.  And my second choice also had been a bust.  Stoneville Road was being paved and there was no place to park my car by the Heritage Trail west of Ishpeming.  So I drove east a few miles to the town of Negaunee and started trekking down the trail that follows the historic mining route from town to town to town.  The air was fresh and crisp on this Tuesday afternoon in late August in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the sun was poking through the stacks of billowy clouds and the Queen Anne’s Lace was swaying in the breeze and I was swooning and swaying too, with all this clarity of air, all this August lushness laid out before me.  Why not go for it? I thought.  Why not keep walking?

I love to walk.  I have loved to walk forever.  When I was a little girl, it was the granite sidewalks with their ancient jagged cracks and the stonewalls that stood tall beside these sidewalks and the shortcut paths that criss-crossed our town in coastal Maine that called me forward into adventure after adventure.  It was like a board game of possibilities, the routes I could take to my elementary school.  I could leave my big rambling house on Washington Street and turn in either direction, one way meeting my friend Sally at the corner of Middle and North and heading up High Street by the house with the very old dog who was missing an eye, or I could make another choice, in the other direction, climbing onto the stonewalls that lined the sea captain’s homes in my neighborhood and  then up the giant hill that would lead me to the shortcut path and our brand-new school with the rickrack roof.  After school, the town was our playground and the world never seemed to be in a hurry.  My friends and I lingered on street corners and paved paths, explored the river’s waterfront, made our way to the downtown sometimes, to the park with its pond and the cannon that once had been real, to the library and the Y where we lifted our walking feet, swam for an hour or so, then walked our way back home again.  I walked my way through childhood and into adolescence, from small town sidewalks to college campus, from the paths and country roads of coastal Maine, to the city streets of Ann Arbor, Michigan to the two-tracks and trails of the Upper Peninsula.  Day after day, year after year, I have walked my way on adventures far and near, have walked my way into this moment, and this day and this particular walk on an afternoon in late August.

Why not go for it?   It was eleven miles on this trail to the center of Marquette and my husband Cam was planning a trip into town for groceries.  He could pick me up in the early evening, and, in the meantime, I could walk, for hours, without an agenda, one foot in front of the other, soaking in the wonders of this day.  And that’s what I did.  I walked past a field of wild flowers and into a hardwood forest and out into the open for a long stretch along a marsh.  I felt as though my feet had wings and I was as free as a bird in the sky.  I found myself humming under my breath, “Tis a gift to be simple,” and it was a simple gift, this walking.  And it wasn’t a problem, my lack of preparation.  I didn’t need water.  At first, it was the blueberries that showed up for me, a little shriveled but sweet and tasty.  And then it was the raspberries, and a few heaping handfuls of warm ripe blackberries.  But it was the deep red thimbleberries poking out of their wide maple-like leaves that appeared in a abundance, sweet and tart and as refreshing as any drink I could have stuffed in a pack.  So I ate berries and I hummed my simple tune and I allowed my cluttered mind to empty itself — because that’s what happens when you walk a long ways; your mind becomes spacious like the sky above you and your thoughts, they blow on by, like the billowy clouds.

I love that about walking, that my mind becomes clear.  And I love that it then fills itself up again with no effort from me, with inspirations and insights and maybe even a poem or an essay or the seed of a story.  And, on this day, it did exactly what it needed to do; my mind became a still clear pool reflecting back to me the gifts of this summer, a summer so fully-packed that I hadn’t known how to digest it all.  And so, with each step, past the quarry and under the railroad bridge and into another hardwood forest, I soaked it in, the trip to Maine in late July.  I needed this afternoon of walking to absorb the bounty from that trip Downeast, the wonderful day and evening spent on a river boat and in a sweet downtown restaurant with Cam’s mother and her beau, the re-wedding of a relative to his first wife after years and years apart from each other, a memorial service for a dear beloved uncle, and all the visits and pauses in between.  And there was the adventure to western Canada with women friends, and the fortieth wedding anniversary a week later with our kids and grandkids at a rental townhouse in the mountain/lake town of McCall, Idaho.

The sun warmed my shoulders as I walked eastward on the woodland path toward the outskirts of Marquette, and I felt warm on the inside too as I thought of these trips.  There is nothing more wonderful than a summer breeze in northern Michigan and the sun on your shoulders and the taste of thimbleberries on your tongue, while, at the same time, thinking of McCall, Idaho and the glacial lake and an impromptu renewal ceremony of vows in bathing suits and beachwear, with your daughter-in-laws as bridesmaids, your granddaughters as flower girls, your grandson holding the rings and playing Batman Lego’s theme song on his mother’s phone, one son as best man, the other officiating.  This particular eleven mile walk was big enough to contain it all, the Black-eyed Susans sprinkled in the field beside the trail and the Black-eyed Susans in the hair of an infant and a toddler granddaughter at a beachside ceremony three weeks earlier.

It was dinnertime when I found myself skipping off the path and onto the streets of Marquette.  I met Cam at Border Grill.  I was hungry, hungry for fish tacos and the company of the man I’ve been married to for forty years, and I was satiated too, filled to the brim with berries, and a summertime of memories now saved in some deep part of my marrow, and with this walk, an unexpected gift on an afternoon in late August.








A walk on the Heritage Trail from Negaunee to Marquette, Michigan: Late August, 2017

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