Zen on the Trail 

It has been a long week. The candle was burning at both ends most days; I sacrificed some needed sleep to find those extra hours in the day. So when the end of the work day rolled around on Friday, it was tempting to just pour a glass of wine and tell myself I could postpone a run until the weekend.  Finding great camaraderie and motivation through the “Another Mother Runner” podcasts that often keep me company on the road, I signed up for a 5-week training program through the “Train Like a Mother Club” to jump-start the fitness machine after taking a break following the more intense training earlier this year for my June marathon.  Nothing like a  virtual community of training partners to provide some accountability … in addition to my faithful companion.

Today’s training schedule called for a “Zen Run” – leave the GPS watch behind, pull out the ear buds if you run with music, and just go while letting go … It was exactly what I needed.

Corbin was born the year I turned 40, and as I approach another decade marker, Corbin and I both are a little grayer, a little slower, and more appreciative of the little things … OK, perhaps Corbin has always been blessed with that joie de vivre ….

We set out with the intention to enjoy a leisurely 3-mile loop on the trails before the sun set.  While the days are growing shorter, tonight still had echoes of summer …. almost 70 degrees, a tad humid (by Duluth standards), and forest sounds more reminiscent of August than September.  As my trusty pal has aged, he has become more sensitive to the warmer temperatures, particularly if the humidity is up, so he did not stray far from my side as we trotted along at an easy pace.

Corbin used to pull me up the hills with my hands-free leash around my waist. This evening, I found him preferring to slow to no more than a fast walk up even the smaller inclines.

The somewhat muggy conditions on the trail made for a perfect meditative pace.  We jogged, we walked, we took note of the signs of the changing seasons.

When Corbin was younger, he would run twice as far as I would on a trail run, looping out and coming back to me, again and again.  Now, he was just as happy to stop at the river overlook and catch his breath as I caught mine, before we started off again.

I admit to feeling my eyes fill with tears at one point as we ran along, realizing that this very well could be my last fall running with my dear four-legged friend on these trails, given how much he has slowed down over the past year.  I was reminded, though, that Corbin is blessed with that gift that we all seek — enjoying and living in the moment.  As we trotted side by side, he looked up at me with a grin.  I let go of the worries of what the months ahead may hold. We just ran and I was grateful for the time we had right now.

I got my zen on and cleared my head, noticing the gifts that Mother Nature had placed for us to enjoy along the way.

We paused periodically to admire the treasures of the great outdoors.

The diversity and delicate details on the forest floor are awe-inspiring if you take a moment to truly appreciate them.

We extended our 3-mile loop, by another mile or so, continuing to intersperse walking with running.  I let Corbin set the pace – he would slow on an upward incline, and then once the trail sloped downward or flattened out, he would start trotting along again.  We embraced the silence between us, and filled it with the evening sounds of the woods.

Our relaxing evening jaunt came to a close, and the sun started to peek through the gray cloud cover.

We made a brief detour before heading home, and stopped to say good evening to Lake Superior. Peaceful and serene, the big lake embodied that zen I sought and found on the trails with my dear friend.

Ciao! ~ Kat

Weekly Photo Challenge: (Life is a) Blur

The background blurs as the boys run playfully by …. years ago …. life is a blur as the years fly …..

Life is a blur .....

These boys are now teens — one in college and the other a high school junior off to college visits later this week.  And yet, on some days memories like this snowy October day at the cabin over 8 years ago seems like yesterday.  I would love to be able to say I have treasured every moment, lived mindfully each day along the way … but I haven’t.  And that’s OK.  Life is an imperfect journey, and we sometimes just do the best we can on any given day.

Doing the best we can is all we can ask.  That means on some days we yell at our kids, are short-tempered with our spouse, don’t make time for a friend, and regrettably, sometimes learn there is no “next time” to make it up to them.  Reminders of the fragility of life come more frequently as we age, but I think as we mature we also learn to appreciate the moments that make up life that much more.

We recognize that the blur of life when slowed and viewed frame-by-frame is not only the major milestones of life — the births, the weddings, the deaths, the celebrations in between — but more than anything, it’s the walk with the dog on a quiet wooded trail; it’s watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “A Christmas Story” every holiday as a family even though we’ve all seen them countless times; it’s banter and debate that grows more interesting over the years as the boys grow up, prompted by programs on Minnesota Public Radio as we drive those couple hours to the cabin and back again; it’s the long talks over a meal about dreams, and hopes, and goals …. it’s the blur of life.

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.  ”Blur” was 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.

Paying Joy Forward

“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” ~ E.B. White

These words echoed in my mind today, thanks to the reflective sermon at church this morning.  I am not an overtly religious person, and am of the “live and let live” philosophy when it comes to life choices.  But as I grow older, I have learned to appreciate the importance of taking an hour here and there to slow down and just be . . . just listen . . . just think.  Perhaps that is why no matter how frazzled and stretched thin I may be when I walk through the doors into the welcoming community at church, I feel a peace settle in during the hour or so that I am there.

Avalanche Lake Trail ~ Glacier National Park, Montana

Our pastor shared the E.B. White quote that opened this post, and she reminded us of the need to make room for joy in our lives every day.  Her sermon reinforced the ideal of enjoying the world while improving it at the same time; the two aspirations are not mutually exclusive.

Avalanche Lake Trail ~ Glacier National Park, Montana

During the month where so many take time to reflect on their blessings, gratitude often is intertwined with acts of kindness — joy given and joy received.  Improving the world may be found in the daily headlines — a solution that improves world health, predicting storm patterns earlier to help people move to places of safety in a timely manner, a brokered peace treaty.  Improving the world, however, also may be found at the local school where a volunteer sits with a child and opens his mind to the power of the written word, or down the street where a neighbor cheerfully shovels not only her sidewalk but also her elderly neighbor’s.  The world is not only the global stage, but also your own backyard.

Avalanche Lake ~ Glacier National Park, Montana

Take time to experience joy, to share joy, to receive joy.   And in doing so,  find your own way to improve the world.

Ciao! ~ Kat

21 Days of Gratitude

It is not too late to take the 21-Day Gratitude Challenge!  Between November 7th and Thanksgiving Day (celebrated on November 28th in the United States), KindSpring will send a daily reminder of gratitude if you formally participate in the challenge.

Coneflowers on the North Dakota prairie

I am looking forward to actively seeking expressions of gratitude and parlaying those expressions into acts of kindness.  Particularly when life’s schedules are bursting at the seams, practicing an attitude of gratitude is essential and injects an element of mindfulness into the daily routine.

Autumn colors along Minnesota's Oberg Trail

Certainly, you do not need to formally register anywhere to seek and express gratitude in your everyday life.  But if you are so inclined, you may sign up for the Challenge here.  

I look forward to experiencing the worldwide synergy of gratefulness over the next few weeks.   (And I suspect you may see a post or two from me expressing that energy as the NaBloPoMo Challenge continues this month!)

Ciao! ~ Kat

Be Conscious of Your Treasures

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” – Thornton Wilder

Inukshuk on Jost Van Dyke, BVI

~ Kat