1,000 Miles = Listen & Run

imageHappy dance today at 1,000 miles for my 2016 annual running mileage! This was my total for last year, & I wasn’t expecting to surpass it by Aug. 31. I did it without the expectation. I haven’t been focused on running away from something or running toward a goal like a race or a pace in the future. I am running in the present–looking, listening, observing, being free in nature, and feeling free to discover. I observe so much in the natural world, but my inner world during the run reveals just as much about how I see and experience time and life.


As I’m chased by a hornet and then a horsefly, I am reminded to always show all sides to the trail. I would be lying if I said that I haven’t confronted my fears out here on the trails–fear of falling, getting hurt, being victimized, losing the path in unfamiliar territory, and more, but every day is an act of listening while taking one step at a time, knowing I will hear my body’s signals about placement and speed and breath and water if I listen, hoping that I can trust my fellow humans on the trail to offer kindness and help if needed, but mainly to respect one another’s space to experience nature in positive ways, and believing that I can be aware of the trail and its inhabitants to teach me how to run–the trees, their roots, the mud, rocks, the animals, reptiles, amphibians, the insects and arachnids, the birds and their songs of greeting and warnings to one another, the wind and the leaves it carries, the storm’s flickering messages and the rain’s cool relief.

I am in a constant state of wonder at all of it, and then deer run out into the rain and play chase with one another, and then my thoughts go beyond, to other worlds, and a wondering happens–what are the other trails and trees like in another universe? To imagine the expanse offers a buoyancy to the run and to life–a tiny glimpse into what is in the wide wide abyss. Flight & tethering, and then time to head for home. I am so grateful to experience the run without running away from anything and without wishing to reach some place.


All photos are views from recent trail runs.

Too Much Instant Gratification: Not Enough Anticipation

image Running the Crazy Owl marathon reminded me that I grew up in a time of waiting. I waited for satisfaction–waited for film to be developed, waited for the movies to make the long process to VHS, waited for a ride, waited for a computer to boot up, waited for letters in the mail, and in most all things, waited to move on to the next level without any real sense of what it would look like, how it would actually be. Maybe that’s why I took so long to run an official full marathon, even though I’ve trained enough for it before now.

Race began at the Iriqouis Steeplechase

Race began at the Iriquois Steeplechase


The run brought back memories of my past friendships. Beauty. The wonder and magic of the forests that I shared with my best friends of all time. Some have gone their own ways. We aren’t part of each other’s life anymore. We shared the owl dance under the tall trees by the fireplace. We imagined they were disco owls– the sun, the moon, our strobe lights and flare…the beats echoed in our cadence of running.-~dancing, and walking up the limestone trail–it chipped away and was reshaped by our steps. We laughed, “whoa!” and listened to the pieces roll away and smack rocks and bushes tumbling down into the hollow.



Memory: My college Rumi (artist-chef-philosopher-wild sage college roommate) and I taking photos. Reloading another roll of film in the camera, exploring the forest and trying to capture the essence of tree, light, fern, moss, earth. (During the marathon, I remind myself that film is closer to the scent of some earthiness than the iPhone.)

On my parent’s back deck, I had shaved my college Rumi’s head maybe a week before our hike, so she’s bald in all the pictures. Her blonde hair floated off into the forest.

We hiked, talked, click click the pictures at Percy Warner. Afterward, we parked up where you can look down West End and the whole of Nashville from the hill with all the other smokers, the college students, the grunge and angst seething from us, but some deep red smoldering was there, burning. We waited. The Tao te Ching contains a phrase, “The greatest talent matures slowly.” Waiting a little, but not like apathetic waiting. No, college Rumi and I owned creative waiting–we would create something–the dialogue of plants, the orchestra of hand gestures, the blooming of noodles and food. We waited for photographs to process–film to develop. Images printed of Percy Warner Park–sunflares capturing the ghosts of those hills. We were there. I ran past us.

The Crazy Owl stirred me on and around and up again. Remember: I was with D in the car listening to Jimi–it was all crosstown traffic and watchtowers as we wound through the forests and bumblebee hollow at 2 am, talking men, and God, and Goddess dreaming. Talking shit. Talking. Loving at 16-going-on, then lost and winding on the roads of 20-something. Stopping at a swing set, singing, “Say, say, what about when we grow up and have babies?” Now, late 30s, all the stages of my life have passed at the park.

The Belle Meade stairs in grade school. The field trip. The passing on the way to Cheekwood exhibits. And I descend them first this time, and run around the flagpole, feeling like I’m 8 & racing my third grade classmates. I climb the stairs again, slowly. It’s a long walk to the top, and I know it well, but a volunteer points to the direction. He laughs, “Wish I could say it was the last big hill.”

Wish you could see the stairs going up in the shadows

Wish you could see the stairs going up in the shadows

Early 30’s: running and hiking with my Mom, and just being where I am, where I have been on the Warner Trail. Discussing everything with her there–childbirth, generations, what’s funny, what’s lost, what hurts, what heals, and my family’s history, my family’s now, and where we’re going both literally on the trail and in the future. The Farrell Road trail knows all my secrets and desires.

Another water station. A volunteer reminds me, “It’s just a walk in the park.” I laugh.

I realize in this run–I am my future self. I understand my motion and then I am dizzy and slow. Slow. Be. Walk. Slowly. Soak. It. In. Even the emotion. Let it. Allow. Ahhhhh.


I almost stopped. I did stop. Sat down on a bench momentarily and another runner checked on me. Walked. Walk in the park. Take it easy, baby. The hills are enchanted when you let them in. All the runners who passed me were encouraging. The support rallied me to get out of my head. I worked too hard for too long to let it get to me. Grateful for true dirtbags because they won’t let you fail. They motivate and tell you that you are great and awesome when you look and smell like shit.

Within all of that, I actually broke my shell and talked to some other runners. I admitted that I felt intimated, and they understood! So happy to talk with fun people during the race–women and men with more experience than I, and I learned so much just by being near them. Thanks to Donna, her friend who fell and couldn’t finish the race (I forgot his name), and many other unnamed runners.


I kept going and go, go, go. I can see my husband in my mind–and just at that instant, I get a text from him. “Breathe” and another text, “you’ve already done great”, and more texts and more encouraging messages. I am done. Yes, that’s Right. Done is coming up, so I get going. And I know he’s there with another memory for me and him and my girls at this finish line. I could hear my daughters’ laughter half a mile before the finish. My children and their laughter echoing over the hills, the trails, the roads–all my selves there to embrace. It was the real epic–what you want to get from your(soul)self, the place, and the people in one day.

If you can visualize it, then you can achieve it. Anticipation is what you need.




When What Motivates You Also Breaks Your Heart

This morning was packed with an accomplishment and a letdown. I decided to run downtown, a route I don’t take often. Maybe 20 times a year, and I usually run every day. About four years ago, it was a part of my running routine, and I ran there at least one day every week.

Stretching out alongside the river and finding a stride is one of the best feelings. I even enjoy climbing the stairs up the bridge, skipping them two at a time. Crossing over traffic on the pedestrian bridge, I noticed a homeless person sleeping under a blanket on the corner of the bridge.


I climbed the next hill, skipping steps, and ran in front of and behind the city offices, the police station, across an old train trestle to view the courthouse rising up on the hill to my left and the river rolling along between the fields and forests to my right. Up Dog Hill, where I lived as a college student, and that old 1840s house where my boyfriend camped out in the vines was razed a decade ago–I reminisce and run faster. See a feather on the sidewalk and pick it up.

At the end of another train trestle, the trees are tall and thick as I look out over what was once called “Gallows Hollow” and, though I can’t see them, I listen for an instant to children laugh and play on the playground in the distance. I’m happy about how time changes some places. I turn back and cover the same route.

When I pass the homeless person, I see a woman, and she’s skinny. I run harder and faster than ever before. I do the whole route one more time, to see if she’s breathing. I hone in on her as I pass by. She sleeps and the blanket rises and falls slightly. I run faster and harder– my brain working and pushing me. I make a decision: I will get her some food and leave it beside her.

I stop at the car, check my time and distance. First realization–amazed! Shock. I have set a personal record and ran faster than I ever believed possible for myself. I call my husband. Ask him the time. He asks, “Did you already finish your run?” I always call him before I begin. Confirmation.

Almost forgot why I ran so fast as I drive away from the river. When I see the Arby’s, I remember and pull into the drive thru. With the food and drink, I return to the river and park close to the bridge. I run very lightly up the stairs and across the bridge, but she is gone. I look around on the other side, down along the road, to see if she’s walking close by, and I don’t see her anywhere. She is gone. I return to the parking area, cover the route again, but I don’t find her. Due to a meat allergy, I can’t eat the food myself. Second realization–devastated.

The woman was my motivation to run so much faster than usual and as a result, I received a huge realization about how hard I have trained my body to run. But, and this trumped everything, I didn’t get to accomplish my mission, and that felt devastating. I will go back, and if she’s still on the streets, I hope to help her, but my biggest hope is that she won’t be on the street anymore.

There is an effort to open a homeless shelter in the town where I live. Please, help Manna Cafe to accomplish the goal of giving people a safe place to go and rest their bodies.

P.S. (Adding this as an afterthought): I usually keep care packets in my car (ziplock bags of toiletries, food gift certificates, etc.), but I ran out of them about three weeks ago when it was so hot, and that was one reason for my dilemma about how to help her. 

Playfulness is Mindfulness is Enchantment


I play every day. I like unstructured play–no particular rules or strategies, nothing to win or lose, no set goal except to play and see what happens and allow my playfulness to evolve. Play = motion + discovery, for me. Summer always reminds me again & offers a chance to regain any playfulness I’ve lost or forgotten.

The forest is an essential playmate since it’s always changing, yet always there. Not only does it change for the seasonal shifts, but changes happen every day in the forest to offer a different type of play. As if a hot blanket were thrown over me during humid days, I stumble and fall and wrestle with the trails until I’m a puddle of sweat. I’m reminded of wrestling with my brother as a child, of trying to slip away and falling in spite of thinking I had the advantage.

Slipping on shiny stones and splashing up the mud, I dance out a rhythm and partner perfectly with the bird song and drumming of the branches. I’m reminded of dancing in the yard in the sunshine with wild abandon as my mother’s radio blared the Rolling Stones or Huey Lewis & the News from the windows of the house.

The rain splashes down through the tree canopy and running is like swimming and flying and freeing all at once, like when an aunt or grandmother or some relative we begged would drive us to the pool or the lake in the summer and we lost track of time and dove and floated in the water until it felt like we swam in our sleep.

As I was running last week, two young brothers (maybe 8 and 6 years old) began following me on the trails after I passed their family. They laughed and ran behind me. They giggled and bounded, and I felt a pang of nostalgia for the trails from my childhood.

When I run in the forest, on trails, I play the most. It doesn’t feel difficult to my body when I approach it as play–jumping over roots, slowing when necessary, gaining momentum downhill and bounding through the creek, across a bridge, sometimes leaping and other times tip toeing. I get lost in this playfulness. I start writing stories in my head, making up scenarios, laughing aloud as the story plays like a movie for me. When a character does something I don’t like, I rewrite it, try another scene, another lover, give her a different bicycle to ride to work.

For me, writing and running create the perfect mixture of playfulness. The summertime intensifies the combination with enchantment.