Lessons of History (30 Days of Gratitude: Day 28)

“History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are. ”

~ David McCullough

Grateful to those who recognize the lessons that history leaves for us, and have the courage to speak truth to power. May they continue to do so, and may we always find the strength to join them.

~ Kat

Love Nature More (30 Days of Gratitude: Day 5)

I usually do not condone graffiti, but have to admit this inscription on a large rock brought a smile to our faces as my friends and I walked along Lake Superior’s Brighton Beach.

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Lord Byron’s words are fitting, given the fury Lake Superior unleashed just over a week ago, rearranging the shoreline and man-made paths.

Reminders of Lake Superior's power along Brighton Beach

“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.”

~ Lord George Gordon Byron, from Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage

Lake Superior redecorates Brighton Beach after t

Gratitude for Nature’s gifts, as well as for words that stand the test of time.

~ Kat

Don’t Boo, Vote … #ImWith Her

At tonight’s Democratic National Convention, President Obama made a powerful case for and endorsement of Hillary Clinton. He reminded us of the need to do more than boo, but instead get out and vote, make democracy happen, and let love and inclusiveness drown out hate and fear.

daring greatly

#ImWithHer #ImWithTim

Ciao! ~ Kat

The Hay Is in the Barn

Five days from now, I will be standing — uninjured — at the starting line of Grandma’s Marathon.  Goal number 1, check!  Five days from now, I hope to finish — uninjured — my first marathon.  Goal number 2, pending.

Between now and Saturday morning, the key will be to not melt in a pool of anxiety, obsessing about the weather (too warm! — substituting Powerade instead of my usual red wine in the evening to hydrate in advance!), phantom aches and pains that come and go (hello, foam roller and yoga!), and that subtle sniffle that threatens to turn into a full-blown cold (daily dose of Emergen-C!). Our training group coach, Tony, reminds us to relax when these nagging doubts creep into our thoughts and conversations, reassuringly telling us, “The hay is in the barn.” It’s hard to keep things in perspective as race day looms closer, but reflecting back over the past 6 months, I am reminded of the need to pause and be grateful.

“In running, it doesn’t matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last. You can say, ‘I have finished.’ There is a lot of satisfaction in that.” ~ Fred Lebow, New York City Marathon co-founder

I started the 22-week training plan with one of our local training groups back in January — you may recall my “Optimistic” post as marathon training formally launched.  The first evening group run was a balmy 7 degrees Fahrenheit (-13 degrees Celsius).  A few weeks later, a sunny Saturday morning provided an opportunity for Jack Frost to give me a new look mid-way through a 10 mile run, with -11 Fahrenheit (-23 Celsius) temperature at the start of the  run.

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.”  ~ Alfred Wainwright

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Lake Superior kept changing things up to keep us entertained mile after mile — windswept, icy shores in March, even as the sun shone bright, as I finished 14 miles.

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There were snow-dusted trails in Iowa, while traveling to watch my son’s robotics team compete in March … and snow back up north covering the Lakewalk as I took my favorite running companions out for a joyful spring jog.

When blustery winds and snow continuing into April made open paths along the Lake a bit daunting, the Willard Munger State Trail provided sheltered beauty for 12 miles.

“I always loved running… it was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.” ~ Jesse Owens, Winner of four gold medals at the Olympic Games

Thankfully, the snow did eventually exit to make way for Spring.  I made time for my runs while traveling for work, even setting an early morning alarm to accommodate conflicting schedules, to get the miles in.

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Given the choice, though, I would always opt for an evening run over early morning.  My circadian rhythm naturally gravitates toward the pink glow along the horizon of the big lake as the sun sets, backlighting the stark trees of spring.

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The miles grew longer, the grass grew greener, and the ice finally blew off the blue waters of Superior.

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12, 14, 16, 18  … and finally 20 miles. I am no speed demon, so these longer runs meant a half-day plugging along, 4 hours on my feet.  One of the 20-milers I had the benefit of running with my good friend and the training group, but the second one, I had to gut it out solo. Thankfully, I was graced with a perfect Duluth day that made the miles fly a little faster.

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“It was being a runner that mattered, not how fast or how far I could run. The joy was in the act of running and in the journey, not in the destination.” ~ John Bingham

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The Garmin GPS watch would beep to count off each mile, but I found that the further I got into training, the less I looked toward it to define my run. I often turned inward, visualizing the race, mulling over a challenge at work, or just taking time to smell the roses … or at least admire the tulips, as the case may be ….

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Come race day, despite thousands of runners pounding the pavement as the gun goes off, the act of running is ultimately a solo event —  each runner is dependent on his or her own legs, lungs, heart and mind.  And it is that mind that is more powerful than almost any physical attribute as the miles stretch on.

Bryce Courtenay’s words from one of my favorite books seem a fitting way to close, reminding us to take a deep breath, stop hitting “refresh” on the forecast websites, and exercise the power of positive thinking. Remember, the hay is in the barn and we are ready to run.

 “The power of one is above all things the power to believe in yourself, often well beyond any latent ability you may have previously demonstrated. The mind is the athlete, the body is simply the means it uses to run faster or longer, jump higher, shoot straighter, kick better, swim harder, hit further, or box better.”

~ Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One

Good luck to all runners enjoying the beauty of Lake Superior’s North Shore and Duluth’s hospitality on Saturday — I will see you at the finish line!

Ciao! ~ Kat

Do Not Hurry the Journey (Weekly Photo Challenge: Half-Light)

Remembering to enjoy the journey, rather than missing the joys along the way because of a focus on the destination, is a constant struggle.  C.P. Cavafy’s poem “Ithaka” reminds us in the most lyrical way that what fills our spirits during our  lives are all those journeys connected together, making up the memories we treasure.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

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And there is no better companion for reminding me to be mindful on my voyage than a dog.  Actually, for those you have been with me these past few years, you know I am specifically referring to a certain dog …. Corbin, my 100 pounds of black lab love. While this photo I share is not one of my best from a photographic quality perspective, it was one that captured the essence of the poetry and the half-light, as the sun set on one of our many hikes through Minnesota’s Northwoods.

Corbin turned 10 earlier this year, and he is slowing, but still in remarkable health for his size and age. It is hard to imagine life without him, although I know I will have to, sooner than I care to think about.  We have had many dogs over the years — some joined us later in their lives than others, all “rescues” adopted from the local animal humane society or shelter.  From the beginning, when we brought the 7-month old 70-pound pup into our home, Corbin and I have had a special bond.

I intend to enjoy this leg of the journey to Ithaka, however long it may last, for as long as my friend is by my side.

The full text of Cavafy’s poem, “Ithaka” (also translated as “Ithaca”):

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

A wonderful reading of the poem by Sean Connery with music by Vangelis can be found on YouTube:

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge. “Half-Light” is this week’s theme. Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here: Half-Light.