Reverence for Roots

image Roots are symbols of anchoring and messaging. They hold on, even as they send information and stretch out. The metaphors for roots go on and on…There’s a reason people focus on “roots”– from novelists to conceptual artists and musicians. Returning to our roots honors our history and the foundations of the past–where we come from–our nourishment from the nutrients we absorb and the genetic code we received through these lines. We want to be rooted in some ways, whether that’s to a literal place (home) or support system (like plant roots) as well as a food system for survival (and enjoyment). We want to learn from the roots of music, literature, and the arts. We develop appreciation for the paths.
Roots are worthy of our attention, study, and reverence. The roots force me to watch where I’m running on the trails. Getting out of the flickering and streaming of media and consumption and into my own focus and creativity requires just being–where I am at that exact moment–on a trail.
For these reasons, I am in awe of the lifeline of the trees–their ability to form trails, to move the earth with gentle force. I also like the way that their impact remains even if the tree dies or is removed.

In fact, the roots themselves stay in tact after the tree no longer towers above. The anchors remain. They whittle themselves down to little knobs, and on a well-traveled trail, they’re polished and shine in the sunlight.

They share and entertain (intertwine) themselves with stones, moss, and plants. They yield to entryways for animals. They work with water. They’re in motion even if you think they’re sedentary.

The great blue heron is a source of inspiration. I see the heron’s legs as stable and rooted while it fishes along the shoreline. I view the heron as a running totem, even if it is very still at times.

Don’t be Afraid–No one is Chasing You: You are Free to Run

Almost Springtime. Everyone who used to be a runner, wants to be a runner again or from a fresh start, and/or who made a resolution to do the couch to 5K or more is out trying to run. Some of you are on the trails. You are getting beat up. I hear you say, “I hate the trails,” to your friends who agreed to help you run again or to run anew. I heard one friend respond, “Just pretend like someone is chasing you. That will help you keep running.”

Ah! As a person who has suffered from various anxiety issues since the age of 13 (panic attacks, hyperventilating, vomiting in stressful social situations–all PTSD-related reactions), I definitely do not need to imagine someone chasing me through the forest. I’ve worked relentlessly to overcome my anxiety, but it never completely goes away (so I run). And as a person who feels at home in the forest, I want others to love the trails as much as I do. I want new runners to continue running the trails. I’ve been on them for 6 years. I lost 70+ pounds after my first child was born. I completely changed my diet. Running trails freed me, but I needed the correct thoughts to guide me.

Running is peaceful to me–alleviating all my stresses. I practice mantras while running and put myself in a meditative state so that I can run up to 25K on the trails if I feel like it. I learn from nature’s never ending classroom.

My best friend suggested I record videos about the meditations and mantras I use when I run. She also wanted to hear the sounds of the birds, the snow crunching under my feet in the winter, my breath, the creaking of the trees–all the sounds I describe to her (obviously, I don’t listen to music when I run). Even though Christy is a yogi, and she doesn’t run trails, she wanted to know what that meditative state could be like–she wanted to see and hear as if she were running with me. She also thought these could be helpful to others who want to run and need good thoughts to guide them.

These are the first videos I recorded for her and for my husband. I needed a specific audience to begin. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy.

These are the first good thoughts you should tell yourself when you run:
I am safe. I am free to run.

Grunt & Haul for Big Mama– A Gratitude Run

My expressions of gratitude happen everyday when I run–for the many taken-for-granted gifts of my life. I also say a special thank you for running–that I am free to run, able to run with my body, given the time to run, allowing my mind the space to run, and provided the safe, public places to run in the forest.
But, my highest gratitude is often reserved for the hill I call Big Mama. She teaches me more frequently than any person, book, animal, or event. She’s more than a hill–she’s an entity– her forest. Running Big Mama takes everything I have. She keeps going even when you think the hill has got to stop with the next stride. Even after you’ve curved past the bench and surmounted a second small hill tucked into the top of Big Mama, the hill rises into a cedar grove and finally, after about a full 4-minute climb, lets go of you on the rocky path littered with tree roots and fallen leaves. As if the height, rocks, and roots weren’t enough to make you do some serious thinking, the airflow is completely banished on the hill, like she has permanently shut the window. On the most humid days, she wears wool. 

The photo doesn't give you the full effect of the climb or slipperiness at times.

The photo doesn’t give you the full effect of the climb or slipperiness at times.

To me, Big Mama has a baby on her hip, and you need to dig your toes along the side of the trail to climb the next hill without rocks rolling underneath your feet and slipping you up. That “baby hill” will cause you to pop your chin on the ground while going up (it only seems like a baby hill when compared to Big Mama), and at the very least, baby will make your palms sting if you climb it enough times. Afterward, it’s a jarring downhill stroll, like your toddler makes, plummeting quickly. You’ll hammer all your joints in place.
I call the third hill Big Mama’s daughter. She begins with lovely dogwoods, fern-filled rolling ravines, and a wiggly path with refreshing winds, but then the pitch becomes steep and you climb the path like stairs and hop roots to the top. Weary–it’s time to twist and slide across the big stones, down, down, down to the flat path until climbing those hills again.
Big Mama and her daughters teach me about empowerment. Though I’m exhausted by running miles along her trails, I’ve learned what it means to be weak and strong, to be relieved of my anxieties, to be open to possibilities. 
When I run, I’m the most receptive to everything in life. I’m open to my mistakes, to correcting my relationships, looking at the challenges I face and the miles I’ve come to accomplish what I choose to be my goals. While I lose sweat and energy, I gain courage and understanding. 
Even as I don’t think I can do it again, I return to the foot of the hill. I can’t see more than her magnificence and height rising above me at that moment–I can’t see all that she sees and knows, not until I climb as high as my legs will carry me on the trail. And yet, there’s all that story beneath my feet, where I must look to keep my balance. So many stories to tell from the plants and animals and stones and minerals and water that make up the path–it’s place & movement that allow the imagination to grunt and haul a story into being. 

The hill lets me know that right away. 
I only forget it in being lost in the trails’ stories.