Love Letters to Mother Nature: # 4

Dear Mother Nature,

Spring.

Again you change, switching from a cover of white to dawning* a rainbow of colors.

In the past, spring simply meant the coming of summer, my favorite season.

But now…

But now I appreciate spring on its own, for the beauty, aliveness, and the scents.  Oh, the scents!  Especially the petrichor, the smell of the Earth after it rains*.  Mother Nature,  your perfume swoons me to another world.

I rejoice at spring’s first flower, bursting with color from the moist, snow-melt earth.  Daily, new colors spring forth with shades so exotic I don’t even have names for them.

And the green, oh the green!  The electrifying hues of just-born plants pushing through the soil, made only more stunning with the darker shades of Evergreens around us.

I too feel like I am being reborn.  Blossoming like a wildflower, reaching for the sun.  Fresh and new, I enter the world, ready for a new cycle of life, a fresh start.

Mother Nature, I am open to your love that nurtures and heals my soul.  I am ready to re-awaken.

Love Your Daughter,

Ray

 

*Intentional play on words.

*Thanks to my friend Morgan for teaching me this word!

The Thief of Joyous Running

While this blog strays away a bit from my usual posts for this site as it is running related, I chose to write this anyway after 1) my sister suggested I write this and 2) running is often a microcosm and metaphor for life.  So even if you’re not a runner, I trust that you will find some meaning in my words.

“Hey Sandi…?”  Followed by a slightly awkward glance as the runner passes in the opposite direction.  In the brief moment our paths cross, I usually give a nod or small smile.  Should I say “hi”, tell him I’m not Sandi, or not say anything? By the time I think this over, I usually end up with the third option and just let the runner go by.

Usually, when someone calls me Sandi on the trail, I take this as a compliment.  You see, my twin sister is badass.  I mean, she is fast.  And strong.  Like about to represent the USA in the World Mountain Championships in Poland next month strong and fast.  And sometimes I just leave it at that.  Other times, I let my joy of trail running be stolen.  Who’s the thief you ask?  Myself and my habit of comparison.

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Me, Sandi, and her partner Sage after her win at the Run through Time Half Marathon in Salida.

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, said: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” *

Those words have held true for my most of my life.

Here’s a look at my thought process and downward spiral:

“I must not be that slow if they thought I was Sandi.”

“And maybe I’m not that much heavier.”

“Or maybe they think Sandi got slow and gained weight.”

“Why can’t I be as fast and skinny as Sandi?  We have the same genes!”

And so it goes.  Ugly right?  Makes one feel kinda crappy.

Why does this make me and, probably you, feel crappy?  Well one, my guess (or at least my hope so I don’t feel totally alone in this habit) is that you’ve had similar thoughts.  Second, when we compare or judge, it is usually a reflection of ourselves.  It has to do with our own lack of self-worth, feelings of not being good enough.  (So please, give yourself some compassion here!  You mostly have a wound from a past trauma or situation that made you feel like this.  Comparison and judgement are often the ego’s idea of self-protection.  It’s of course a false form of protection, but it helps to know this so we can learn and change the habit.)

I can’t tell you how many times comparison has been a dark cloud in my life.  I’ve compared myself to my classmates in grad school ‘They’re so smart! How did I get in?”, relationships “He’s so intelligent, handsome, and skinnier than me.  Why is he with me?” (that lead me to unconsciously act like a jerk that lead to the breakup), and even to all of the pro-athletes in Boulder that work out for hours each day and have bodies of gods and goddesses.

The funny thing is, when I truly reflect on where I am in life right now, I’m happy with where I am and with who I am.  I’m about to enter my 3rd year of graduate school in Naropa’s Transpersonal Wilderness Therapy program and work for SAGE Running part-time.  I don’t have time or energy to work out for hours and have 6-pack abs.  Which is totally fine! I rather be working to become an awesome therapist! I also have a wonderful partner who loves me and will call me out when I start to become “Judgey, McJudgey” (his words, not mine). My body is still exhausted from the extreme exercise and dieting in my younger years, but now I can still run for a few hour in the mountains with my dog.  That is happiness for me.  Life is truly amazing!

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All smiles (and tongue) running with my best friend in Salida.

So recently, when I went on a 3-day solo as part of my Rites of Passage journey for my Transitions class (I know, I know- I did that for school! Again, totally awesome.) In addition to going into my 3-day solo with two intentions I wanted to honor for myself, I also considered the piece of me that I wanted to let go of.  I decided the piece of me that I wanted to let go of was my comparing self.  It may have served me in some ways over the years, tried to protect me, but I was ready to say “thank you, but I never want to see you again.”  I can’t say what went on during my 3 day solo, as I feel it is a bit too sacred to write in a blog, but what I can say is I focused on loving and honoring myself.  I found my beauty, deep within in me and in my body-including my curves and touching thighs.  Part of what I found was love for myself, which pushed out any need to compare myself to others.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that my comparing mind is gone for good.  It likes to sneak back in here and there.  But I’m on the lookout and ready to call it out when it rears it’s ugly head.  Like today, when I was beginning a run with my pup at Golden Gate Canyon State Park.  We were headed up a rocky trail that had a lot more vertical than I expected, and I was hiking.   There was an instant where I thought “I’m sure a lot of other runners could run up this.”  Then, the magic came.  I said to myself “Who cares?  Let’s just enjoy this time in nature with your best friend.  If you end up hiking a lot, then you just get to spend more time outside!  And I did hike a lot.  And I smiled a lot.  Which I actually think helped me save some energy to run at the end, in between my pup’s creek baths.  It was a beautiful, joyous morning.

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Pacer, distracted by another dog, while I try to take picture at Golden Gate Canyon State Park.

I’m sure there is someone our there thinking “But comparison is a motivator, it makes you want to get better.”  And maybe it does.  My issue with comparison in running is the “beat the other guy/woman” piece.  The ego steps in.  I’m not enlightened enough to say that comparison and ego are always bad, but at least from what I’ve witnessed, ego and comparison might help get you ahead for a bit, but it doesn’t last.  In looking at elite runners, the ones who continue to win are the ones who have an internal motivator, the ones who continue to find joy in what they do.  Looking at all runners, the ones who are often able to run for years are the ones who can do so with less comparison and with more focus on the process.  They have an inner drive, a gratitude for their own ability, and a sense of play whenever they get outside.

With that being said, I’m definitely not perfect.  But when those clouds of comparison begin block out my light, I’m learning to see the thoughts for what they are and bust my rays right through them.   Then I get back to playing with my dog.

With Joy,

 

Ray

 

*Okay, maybe comparison isn’t always bad: https://medium.com/thrive-global/roosevelt-was-wrong-comparison-is-not-the-thief-of-joy-9e490cd6225

Love Letters to Mother Nature: #3

(Originally written on 1/19/18)

Dear Mother Nature,

I love all of your cloaks, your seasons.

Each inspires me and grants me glimpses wonders and wisdom.

But, dare I say, your beauty impresses and stuns me the most when you lie asleep.

With a blanket of white covering your curves, snow dancing down like sleep dust on all of your children.  Hibernating, resting in preparation for our own blossoming.

As you exhale and the wind sweeps snowflakes over your frozen lakes and napping trees, it’s as if I can see all dreams.  Past, present, and future.  They sparkle and shine as they reflect the light from the sun and moon.  Magic.  Living and breaking in your dreams.

Sometimes I walk through your reveries, the wind kicking up and snow fluttering around me, gently kissing my cheeks.

Am I part of your dream?  Or am I living your dream?

Mother Nature, I bid you a goodnight and the sweetest of dreams.

Love,

Ray

 

 

Supergirl’s Return

It has been about 2 months since Pacer came down with the HGE virus and made her heroic recovery, to save me from loneliness and my own negative self-talk.  So I would still have my adventure partner, best friend, and love of my life.

With the help of my student loans, my dad/Pacer’s grandpa, Aunt Sandi and Uncle Sage, and the kindness of everyone who donated to the GoFundMe page, the $7,000 vet bill is paid off.

Going in to 2018, I could not be more grateful.

On my Christmas card this year I wrote the M.K.Clinton quote “The world would be a better place if everyone had the ability to love as unconditionally as a dog.”  Luckily, I know many people do.  I am hopeful for a nicer world.

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Our holiday card photo.

Pacer and I had our first snowshoe of the season today on Leadville’s 11+ mile mineral belt trail.  Afterward, I stopped by Coldfoot Auto Repair to see Randy and Jackson, Randy’s chocolate lab.  In August, Randy managed to fix the axle in my car (despite being a one man car shop and not having the part on hand) while Pacer and I hiked up into the mines, giving me both a great deal on the repair but sharing his light with me (he has blue, joyful, and soulful eyes).

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Supergirl on the Mineral Belt Trail.

This coming summer, Supergirl and I hope to complete all the “dog-friendly” 14ers in Colorado (she’s currently at 30-something).  The thought makes me smile.

Actually, I laughed and rejoiced out loud on our snowshoe hike today as Pacer wiggled her nub and pranced with joy in the snow… my baby is happy and healthy.

And I have people who love me.  Strangers willing to donate money to help pay for veterinary bills.  The world is not perfect, but it is good.  And there is plenty of love to go around.

With Love & Gratitude,

Ray and Pacer

 

Family Xmas 2017
Happy Holidays from the Supergirl Family!

Love Letters to Mother Nature: # 3

Dear Mother Nature,

I imagine your canyons to be the intestines of the world, taking in and digesting all we feed you- the junk foods, the health foods, the superfoods.  We give you madness, terror, anger, fear, doubt.  It’s no wonder why you regurgitate in hurricanes and tornadoes sometimes.   But we also give you happiness, hope, love, and so much more.  In return, we receive sunny blue skies, shooting stars, and gentle, cleansing rains.

You also nurture us with love.  For us, you eliminate what you can of the bad and give the rest of your body, and us, your children, the good.  The healing.  We don’t always return the love, but you still keep giving.

Mother Nature, you continue to astound me.

In these canyons, you swallow me whole.  I feel so small, yet so connected with the rest of life.  I may be tiny, but I am vital.

Most of all, you swallow me in your love.  All of my parts-the beautiful parts and the parts I deemed as mistakes.  You accept all of it.  I am learning to accept all of me too.

Last, I wanted to let you know that I love you too.

Yours Forever & Always,

Ray

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Supergirl: The Bravest, Toughest Dog in the World

At this time, I’m not able to really write about Supergirl’s recent encounter with a HGE, which led her to Alpenglow, an Emergency Vet Clinic.  Below is my FB post, along with a link to the GoFundMe page my sister started to help take care of the $7,000+ bill.  I was away in the canyons of UT while the event occurred, by my sister describes what happened on the page.

My love and gratitude for everyone’s support, donations, prayers, and well wishes.

My FB post:

“30 hours after finding out that my baby was so sick while I was a way, I am still feeling a tornado of emotions. Mostly, I’m feeling enormously (x the moon and back) grateful that she is okay and that she had the best support team in the world surrounding her.

There’s also the guilt, whether rational or not, that I wasn’t there when Pacer needed me the most and all the “what ifs” that go along with that. That she was hooked up to an IV, heart machines, and was so scared…and I, her mom, was absent. There’s sadness and anger at myself, my naivete for going into the wilderness without any contact to loved ones, and at my school’s policies for only having on outgoing phone.

But again, overriding that is my overwhelming gratitude to mine and Pacer’s heroes and angels: SandiJoshua, and Sage. She probably would not be alive without them, which means a part of me would have died too. Everyday, all three of them went to see Pacer at each of the 3 visiting times. That they decided to foot the bill up front, no questions asked. That they interrogated the nurses and doctors. That my dad told Sandi “do whatever it takes”. That Sandi broke down, shedding her tears and my own. That they called everyone possible at Naropa, all the rangers and visitor centers near Natural Bridges National Monument, and every other medium they could to try to contact me on Saturday night when they were worried she wasn’t going to make it. I could have asked nothing more of them…they did everything I would have done. Them telling me that they would “do anything for you and Pacer”. They kept my baby, my adventure partner, my best friend, the love of my life, my therapist, my resiliency, my unconditional love, alive.

I also have a HUGE amount of gratitude for Alpenglow Veterinary and everyone who has texted, called, and messaged me to see how Supergirl is doing. THANK YOU to everyone who has made a donation, prayed, and sent their loving energy. I apologize if it takes me a few days to reply back…my nerves are still a bit frayed.

Pacer, my brave, brave girl, is truly living up to her nickname Supergirl (even the nurses started calling her that!). She is eating a bit again, going for short walks, and even made an attempt to chase Joshua’s cat (which we ended when I thought the “meeting” was too much stress for Pacer and myself).

Sandi, Joshua, and Sage: Thank you x a million. I’ll never be able to repay you for this. I love you all to the moon and back.”

Supergirl’s GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/pacersmedicalbills 

 

 

 

 

 

Love Letters to Mother Nature: #2

7/26/2017, San Juan Mountains

Dear Mother Nature,

Love is the word popping into my mind right now.  Love for this valley, for Pacer, for the mountains, for the sky, for my body, for my whole self.  And love for the boy too (even if I won’t tell him so).  How is it than I can feel it so strongly, so freely now up here?

In my book, I just read about a study that revealed that viewing/being in nature generates a sense of “awe” that in turn gives a sense of contentedness and peace which can enhance productivity and creativity.

I’m guessing this sense of awe isn’t too far off from love.  With that, knowing deep down, even if I can’t always feel it, that I am part of this awe too.

Is it in the beauty of the awe that I find love?

It can’t be.

I think it has more to do with my connection.  But, in my present human state, I can’t completely reach the depths of it.  It’s like my roots are just brushing the core of the matter.  Yet, when I let myself be still, the upwards energy of the love still embraces me.

It’s getting cloudy.  I’m beginning to have goose bumps.  I wonder if I should continue walking or head back.  The next turn in the road captivates my attention.

Love,

Your Daughter

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Love Letters to Mother Nature: #1

Aspens Aglow

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I’m just a short hike up from the Fourth of July trailhead in Indian Peaks Wilderness, sitting on a larg boulder with my best friend, Pacer (an Australian Shepard). Before us are several small, bright yellow leafed Aspens interspersed among the pines. The sky is playing with us. As times it has been dark with clouds and a light rain tickles my cheek. The woods feel sacred when it is like this. Minutes later the sky clears. The sun shines on us through the Aspen leaves, aglow. But at this very moment as I write, the sun slips behind the mountain to our southwest. I sit and close my eyes. All I can do is breathe in the crisp air, smelling the dying leaves. I notice my hiking partner is finally sitting still for once, with the same breeze that is blowing through the Aspens also gently playing with her fur.
I don’t feel young, like I do at times in the summer when I am running down on trail. Nor do I feel old. I just am. I wonder if this is how the trees feel. Not tired, but just ready for a slow down. Along with the trees, I am fully here for this change in season.
Driving back along the bumpy, Aspen and pine strewn trail towards the town of Eldora, I wonder: what if there was a nature attachment theory*? A theory that stated all living things are connected, from the dirt to the sky, from trees to humans. And if one was to let herself slow down, to remove the superficial thoughts and things and just be, that she would be able to re-connect with the wilderness, to be held by Mother Nature. In this re-connection, healing from the trauma of the “created” human world would be found.

The attachment to Mother Nature has all the love and safety one needs to be securely attached. In this oneness with nature, humans could become whole within themselves and with the world.

(In what will be a series of my Love Letter to Mother Nature, this first love letter was written in September of 2016 as a class assignment. )

*Learn more about attachment theory here:  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/compassion-matters/201307/how-your-attachment-style-impacts-your-relationship

https://clintonpower.com.au/2012/07/wired-for-love/

 

The Broken Parts: An Ode to Gestalt

The Broken Parts

Dear Beautiful,

Can you love me wholly, for all my parts?
The parts that you thought were bad, ugly, and broken?
The parts that were never bad, ugly, or broken at all,
but really the most beautiful parts of you?

These are the parts that are the most painful…
but they are part of you and they are gorgeous.
You are gorgeous.

If you love these parts
they may open themselves back to you.
Now they are a bit timid

They are scared to enter the light for fear they will only be shut out again.

Be patient.
Be willing.

Now you are scared of losing your freedom.

When you used to run
it was as if your soul was breaking out of you.
Those broken parts of you,
the parts you hid away,
could finally inhale the world.
In the breath of Mother Nature,
they too could breathe in your untamed stride.

Beautiful,
don’t you see?
That freedom you felt running
came from inside of you.
It is and will always be inside of you.

Whether healing can be physical is still an unknown.
The healing of your soul is always available to you,
my dear Love,
if you accept the broken parts of you.

“If you love me,
if you accept me”,
they scream
“we can become Whole”.

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Adventuring with Supergirl: A Few More Tips and Tricks of the Road/Trail

The majority of mine and Supergirl’s adventures involve car-camping: driving to a camping spot near a trailhead and hiking or running from there. And so, when we camp I have all my gear, food, and clothes accessible and often within 10-20 feet of my tent. Quite convenient, especially when I wake up freezing in the morning then jump in the car and blast the heat until I warm up.
However, as “luxurious” (aka “glamping”) as this may sound, this can easily turn into a disaster if things aren’t organized. Furthermore, if I don’t have good directions or a working GPS (yes, I have an old-school GPS that plugs into the car) this can make finding a trailhead extremely frustrating. Then there’s food, cleaning up, finding the best route, etc. While I’m still learning (and driving in circles) here are a few of mine and Supergirl’s tips on how to get the most of your adventure and keep the “wild and free” spirit.
Organizing Your Car:
At the start of summer, one of my biggest questions was about how to organize my car and keep Supergirl safe. While my organization of food, clothes, gear, and dog by far is not the most structured, I found something that works relatively well for the two of us: in the rear, I bunjeed down my camping/gear bin. This is also where Pacer stays and still has over half of the space in the back. In the middle seats, I put my basket of clothes behind me, dry food and utensils in a basket in the middle, and the cooler on the other side of that. In the foot space behind the driver’s space, I keep the water jugs and my shoes, while Pacer’s food is kept on the passenger side by the cooler (that way I can easily get mine and Pacer’s dinner going at the same time). Next to me in the passenger seat, I usually keep my backpack. I can also might hang a towel, jacket, or hydration pack from  some of the seats.


Showers:
I would love to be a girl who could go a week without showering and shaving, and I have, but most of the time, I feel a lot better if I can clean up a bit after 2-3 days.
In most towns, I can find a visitor center and they will easily point me in the direction of a rec center, laundromat, campground, or even a motel that offers showers. Usually, they cost a few bucks. At other places, like the showers in Buena Vista at the park, showers are 4 quarters for 4 minutes…this means you’ve got to be ready with soap in one hand and a razor in the other, but totally doable!
Then there’s the creek option, usually freezing from snowmelt coming off the mountains. This of course is a great, free option…unless you are already freezing your butt off or there are fisherman lining the creek. Then, some improvisation is needed.
On my last trip to Montana (really Bozeman, get with it! The only place that offered public showers only offered them until noon-when I was still hiking or running)

Or, you can do the super-efficient but maybe not so effective shower:  Find an empty container in your car (honestly, I’ve used an old salad bowl), and poor a minimal amount of water over your head.  You don’t need much of your precious water supply (more on that below)!  Just dip any long strands of hair into the bowl to get them wet.  Then, apply soap/conditioner and poor a bit more water over your head.  You might not get all the soap out, but at least your hair now has more shampoo in it than dirt.  THEN, use the soapy (and slightly dirty) water in the bowl to shave and/or wash off “some” of the dirt on the rest of your body.
Maps
I highly suggest that before your trip, you get a map of the trails in the area. If you can’t find one locally, I would plan on driving directly to the visitor center, ranger station, or the local outdoor retailer that is near the trails you wish to explore. Of course you can find  routes and driving directions online, but these aren’t always correct. Plus, I am a total nerd about my growing map collection!
Water
Water is, obviously, essential. Every few days I find myself in a store or a gas station to buy a few more gallons. If you have a filtration system, you could save yourself quite a few bucks by just getting water from the creek. However, I have a filtration straw that I just attaches to my hydration bladder, so it is not very feasible in other situations. Another trick to save a few bucks is that every time you stop in a gas station, visitor center, or coffee shop, bring in a water bottle to fill up. I’ve also filled up my hydration bladder too by keeping it in my backpack when I head in to a coffee shop.

*After talking to some friends, they reminded me that I could use a water-bottle, like a re-used Smart Water bottle, with my filtration straw!

Food

As many of you already know, I am plant-based and vegan.  I’m not about to sacrifice my morals or nutrients when I’m on the trail!  Breakfast is usually oatmeal, a banana, and tea.  Before I leave my place, I usually pre-mix it with cacao and flax/chia seed.  Lunch is almost non-negotiable (save for when I am backpacking).  I always have my super-ginormous salad.  I usually make a few ahead of time before I head out, and then hit up a grocery store in town to restock.  For dinner, I have 3 go-to JetBoil meals:

1. Pasta- Usually, I prefer organic black bean noodles with organic sauce from Trader             Joes, with a bunch of extra veggies thrown in.

2. Soup-  Again, Trader Joe’s has a few vegan and organic options that come in a box,             but most places sell Amy’s organic soups. I’ll add in some more veggies and/or noodles     too.

3. Stir fry:  I start the rice first, then add in veggies and black beans.  Then I just throw           on some seasoning and tamari sauce.

O, and I sprink almost everything with nutritional yeast!  It add some extra flavor and a good does of B12.

*Please share any of your favorite vegan camping meals!

Expect “Mis”adventures
Anytime you are driving to a new place, I would simply keep it in your mind that not everything will go as planned. This isn’t to say things will go wrong…just that they probaly all won’t go right. It might be difficulty finding a trailhead, not finding a camping spot, or be pouring rain. Really, it’s all part of the adventure.

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“Pacer, how the heck did we end up here!?”  (Ibex City, Leadville, CO)

*Shortly after writing this post, I started to have car trouble.  After a bout of anxiety and finding a car repair shop, I was amazed at how well thing turned out.  From the shop, Pacer and I headed up on a 4 hour hike to old mining sites (and got a really good deal on the service!).  However, just to let this lesson sink in a bit more, we then got stuck for an hour on the highway waiting for an accident to clear up.

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Again, this is just a short list of tips Supergil and I learned this year. You can find some great articles on the subject on iRunfar.com, like this one:
http://www.irunfar.com/2014/10/camping-on-the-run.html
Also, for information on personal safety as well as taking your best 4-legged friend along, check out my past posts:

https://adogandhergirl.com/2017/06/06/women-of-the-wild-part-2-safety-and-sexism-on-the-trail/

https://adogandhergirl.com/2017/08/18/dog-stuff-adventuring-with-supergirl/

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” -John Muir

“Not I, not anyone else, can travel that road for you.  You must travel it for yourself.”-Walt Whitman