Friday, July 24, 2009

Contrast

Exercising inside,
when it is beautiful outside,

listening to overplayed pop music,
while turning the pages of The New Yorker
and The Economist.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Periwinkle Memories

When I first witnessed a cross country race, it was the Alaska State Championships my 8th grade year. Wanting a weekend activity, and seeking to get involved at our "new school", my mom loaded up four kids (age 3-14), a bag of white cheddar popcorn, a trunk full of rain gear, change for hot chocolate and drove an hour to Palmer High School, and a set of dirt trails I would eventually know like my own backyard.

We watched the muddy races in the midst of sprinkling rain, marveling at the nasty conditions in which this sport took place. I thought it was ridiculous and wondered what kind of person would sign up for such a thing. As I sipped hot chocolate that burned the roof of my mouth, and cheered for athletes wearing my high school's jersey, I recognized that though the experience seemed a bit absurd--it was it's own culture. It was a group of people that enjoyed being a little crazy, a little out there, unfazed by the mud and grimaces and unfavorable conditions that came along with it--they were almost bolstered by such realities.

A year later I joined my school's cross country team, seeking to be a part of this group. Donned in baggy mesh shorts and a paint stained Reebok t-shirt I joined new teammates through sunshine and rain, through mud and gravel, spending the night on the floor of high school classrooms, and doing homework through the jostling of 15-passenger vans.

Slowly, I began to look like I belonged. I gathered the yearly team t-shirts, the mud-stained socks, the black spandex tights, the school's hooded sweatshirt, and of course, a few pieces of dry fit material. I still have my first "running" shirt, a long sleeved periwinkle blue Patagonia top that zipped a few inches down to be easily pulled over my head. It was too short for my short torso, and a little wide for my narrow frame, and a tad short on my arms--but it was great. As far as I was concerned, it went with everything I owned, and was a the perfect pullover for all non-formal occasions. When I wore it, I felt like a runner. I felt like I belonged.

I now half a dozen half-zip dry fit pullovers in many different colors, each representing a different memory, from a different phase of my career. There's a white one I got from my cross country coach when I started my first collegiate season, and a navy one with the team's logo that I took with me when I completed my college career. There's a couple black ones I got as gifts from my grandma, a neon green one I got from my mom, and a navy one I got from my husband's parents while we were still dating. My most recent one is powder blue, which I got from my aunt in the days before my wedding.

I don't wear these items with quite the fervor I did at the age of 16, but they hold a special place in my wardrobe. And even though the blue Patagonia top makes few appearances in public, it still makes me smile to see it in my drawer when I dress for my daily run. It reminds me how far I've come as a runner, the people that have (and do) accompanied my journey, and the many lessons I've learned along the way...the least of which being I don't need an ill-fitting top to belong.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rain.

Rain has not often been something I have loved. I am an outdoor person...and rain is not often conducive to being outside. As much as rain used to be readily appreciated for water supply and thus cleansing, in our modern society it seems to makes things dirty--from the car, to the mud, to the splashing of pavement oil on my clothes as I scurry from place to place. I still have running water in my house, regardless of what the rain forecast has been.

This summer has shown a clear need for rain. The grass is brown and crunchy; the plants are withering; the vegetation is dying. In the midst of shortsighted appreciation for sunshine in this non-dessert area of the country, the consequence of a beautiful abundance of sunshine has taken its tole.

A couple summers ago I remember sitting with my aunt as she told me of something she was working harder to do: appreciate rain. She told me how the Israelites often pined after rain, for they readily appreciated all the ways it met their needs: nourishing food, providing drink, and cleansing from the ever-present dust. It was God's provision for their needs; she wanted to remember that. I think of my aunt often in the absence of rain, though especially in this season of absence, because she desperately needs to be cleansed, to be touched by God's provision, and to find rejuvenation.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Falling Apart Part II

Irony (noun): Incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result.

Yesterday I found out that my aunt, who is a few years older than fifty, likely has ovarian cancer. She has previously had bouts with breast cancer, which she treated with natural methods, aggressively purging her body of toxins, rather than pumping them in through chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

"Obviously, I don't know how extensive things may become," she wrote in an e-mail to my sister. "The staging is considered to be a minimum of 3 (out of 4, though there are varying sub-stages) if cancer cells are found outside the mass. If so found, and if it is intermediate to high grade cancer, it means the necessity for swift systemic cleansing/killing of the little devils before they create problems elsewhere."

Little Devils Indeed.

I couldn't help but smile as I read her eloquently worded message, complete with plans for making a life in the downstairs of her house because of the pain and discomfort of going upstairs to her bedroom. A bedroom next door to an office that my uncle used before he died of cancer seven years ago. I don't know if she has cleaned or filed through the details he left behind, which had remained seemingly untouched when I was there four years ago.

"This may be debilitating to a greater/lesser extent," she continued "depending on whether I opt for chemo/radiation, though you should know I am not a fan of those and prefer healthier alternative methods. Ovarian cancer has a high recurrence and low survival rate, not least because severe chemo toxins are used to attack it, and they have been proven to cause secondary/recurring cancers soon after remissions."

"Damned if you do; damned if you don't" as the old adage goes.

As I shared this information with Curtis, a handful of days after he had proclaimed the truth and risk of the presence of ovaries in aging women, he was in disbelief that this would happen now, as he witnesses and assists in the examination/treatment/removal/assessment of so many ovaries every day.

How interesting that such a life giving organ can be a home for a massive collection of such silent little devils. It happens all the time, I'm told.

But that doesn't make it any easier.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Falling Apart

Our house is quiet. The waning daylight fills our living room, four open windows allowing the fresh air of summer to temp us with the essence of charcoal burning, children laughing, overdue fireworks and evening yard work.

I wonder if the neighbors have any idea how clearly we can hear their shared remarks, broken only by a passing car or conversing bird.

We are inside, and my feet rest on his hips as he studies Grant's Atlas of Anatomy. He remarks to me that a woman having her ovaries removed before fifty will likely die at a younger age, while being less susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer. I let that reality turn over in my mind, settling on the fact that disturbing your body that drastically, removing two hormonally crucial pieces, would seem to make you more likely to fall apart at an earlier age...even well protecting you from a different danger.

Ultimately, that's what he studies in his free moments, investing the energy remaining from 70 and 80 hour work weeks in learning ways to keep people from falling apart so quickly.

It's ironic that his study of such seems to make me prone to do so quite easily.

He puts in earplugs. He does not do well with distraction. I have always been readily able to focus in the midst of a multitude of sounds and distractions. He can't handle the conversation across the street and three doors down.

But he is a good listener, a great listener. And that was the first thing I noticed about him when we became friends. So I will forgive his florescent orange earplugs, as he has forgiven my multi-tasking and wandering mind. And I will appreciate the sounds of summer, and he can appreciate the anatomy of ovaries.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Justification.

I decided to nap this afternoon, after justifying the decision by: a) getting up at 7am, b) having run 12 miles and c) simultaneously doing laundry. Running a lot makes me tired. And even though our medical school regulated house goes to bed at 9:30, 10:00pm tops, a nap is sometimes still needed--especially when it can be taken on a gold velvet couch, surrounded by windows letting in a gentle breeze, a hint of neighboring wind chimes, and a chorus of birds.

Yes, napping can be a rich experience indeed.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Things I have accomplished today:

1. Giving up on getting an antenna that works in our apartment.
2. Four handwritten letters, one accompanied by a package (bonus points!).
3. Cleaning up the family room, which has been strewn with multiple antennas, two televisions and a converter box.
4. Six 800m repeats that sucked.
5. Brushing my teeth.

This summer has turned into a time where I practice not finding my worth in what has actually been accomplished. I sleep until I want to get up (or until I fear the heat that will dominate my running experience that morning), I eat when I want, and I try to accomplish one tangible task for each day in addition to working out. (Non-tangible tasks include, but are not limited to book reading, nap taking, blog reading, internet surfing, and internet television watching)

I secretly think that getting rid of the internet would be a good thing for me, but since I already don't have television, that would leave me with the radio, and that would put me back to say the 50's? And I'm not that hardcore, though I would thoroughly enjoy having a larger selection of dresses in my wardrobe, which I could wear as I put dinner on the table for Curtis as he comes home from work. This would be an improvement on the mesh shorts I wear with cotton tank tops. But I digress...

As much as I feel like a "time waster" for not having jam-packed days filled with measurable productivity, granting me worth and value and much self-esteem, it's cleansing to remember that there is value in reflection, in journaling, in writing letters, in having the freedom to have a twenty minute conversation with the man stocking the diced tomatoes at the grocery store about his sons college decision making process. I'm not good at those things; they don't hold the tangible value that a good solid eight hours of teaching does, or the value of countless hours invested in a masters degree, or the value of coaching for hours after school and on the weekend. But tangible value, when it is all said and done, is just one kind of value. And there are so many things that never show a return, that can't be measured, and that few will ever notice...that are still important.

And so, in my two months of solitary summer existence, I hope to find myself immersed in such things...and that I won't scramble to defend my existence when asked, for the 407th time So, what are you doing this summer?

Thinking.
Writing.
Reading.
Talking.
Laughing.

...because I can, and because there is value in these things.

Monday, July 6, 2009

On egg yolks and lichen.

Egg yolk smaller

Notice the man with three grocery bags
in each hand; compliment his skill
at closing the trunk with his belly.

Do not forget your body.
You are earth inhaling, exhaling,
mud imprinted with God's face.
Do not forget the grass

which shares your souce, and the leaves
dead on that vine. Look around you: all this breathing
earth, walking, godlike.

Do not forget the color
of egg yolks. Of telephone wires in rain.
Of lichen. Of bubble gum.

Do not forget how wellyour skin covers you.
How warm another's palm is
on your shoulder blade.

Hear bird calls.
Try answering.

Remember the color of the lake when light leaks
all over it at sunrise. Be awakesometimes, on purpose
for sunrise. Trust the night;
it too is God's. Learn quiet. Learn sleep.

Learn the names of your fears.

Remember the times when you are like a cello string
drawn awake, a held note throaty with longing.
Be honest about hunger. Practice hearing that note
in human beings. Pray them awake.

Notice your laughter.
What does your soul have to do

with grocery bags?
What is it?

Never forget
to keep asking.

-Stephanie Gehring, "To a Young Thinker, or Sermon to Myself"