Another beautiful day

Cotton candy sunrise at the greenway.
North Georgia cotton candy sunrise.

The skies of north Georgia are beautiful. I admit this freely now. I often stop to photograph daybreak and dawn, sunset, dusk and twilight.

As a Georgia native, there were many things I enjoyed outdoors growing up, but I can’t recall appreciating the sky on the fringes of day.

Florida was a different story. I lived there off and on for many years, and 2009 is the first time I recall pausing at the sight of the setting sun.

Driving across a bridge, I witnessed the huge orb sinking below the horizon. Once bright blue sky, now dotted with clouds and awash in orange and purple and pink, I wanted to pull over in awe. Instead I offered prayers of appreciation. I couldn’t believe my good fortune to live amidst such beauty.

Soon after that I created a habit of being outside for sunrise and sunset whenever possible. Backdrops of water were nice, but not required. I ran at first light, and evenings I journaled, took pictures, or simply witnessed beauty.

One day the sunset was so majestic, I rushed back to my apartment to grab my phone. I absolutely had to to share it with my new guy friend, Blue. Serendipitous moment, as he saw a similarly beautiful sunset 500 miles away. He performed some over the shoulder acrobatics to capture his for me. Our sunset texts arrived moments apart.

Yesterday's midday cloud cover.
Yesterday’s midday cloud cover.

The symbolism of our spontaneous exchange was sweet. But I didn’t picture myself appreciating the Georgia sun quite the same as in Florida.

Soon enough, I moved back to the Peach State and I missed Florida’s beauty for months. I was homesick for its breathtaking views, and I did not have a heart of appreciation for my current circumstances.

Finally I remembered I could seek beauty wherever I was. It was easy to find once I looked.

Within days I gave Mother Nature some credit for the green trees everywhere I looked. Later on I found the many birdsongs quite cheerful. I noticed and enjoyed new fragrances and sounds during my outdoor runs. And yes, the sunrises and sunsets were beautiful after all. Even the midday clouds capture my attention now.

The beauty has always been here. Now my heart can see it.

On parks and land and coded language

Zaimu Challenge

North Georgia is beautiful. I say this grudgingly, as someone who counts Florida’s beaches, glorious dawns and scenic sunsets among my favorite things to experience. Born and raised a Georgia Peach, I know Georgia’s winters are short, summers long, springs fragrant, and falls gorgeous. It’s beautiful here.

IMG_8360I also know Georgia was a slave state, and the legacy of slavery is unmistakeable in these here hills.

Today’s trip to a nearby park was a good reminder of that.

While exploring the area for places to write and think, I noticed a plaque. Memorials are always fascinating documents to examine, and even more so in light of actual history and the language used to disguise it.

The plaque mentions a “beloved plantation” and notes “cotton was grown,” but there’s no mention of people being involved in any way. Certainly no mention of slavery or anything unpleasant as southerners are wont to say. Nope, just cows, cotton, and trees.

Some could argue that the purposeful use of passive voice helps the community heal and come together. Kumbaya and all that. Others could say it obscures the truth for no good damn reason.

Guess what I’d say?

Animals vs. iPhones

Zaimu Challenge
Greenway indigo by nicole denise
Greenway indigo by nicole denise

I spotted one today! An indigo bunting.

I ran for 30 minutes in one direction, and sure enough, on the way back in, I heard one chirping near the 2.5 stretch.

Although I wasn’t very close, he let me snap one photograph while he stood atop a pine. I tried for video, but it turns out, he wasn’t interested in posing. He wasn’t alone.

I ran another mile and a half, then slowed to watch a brown cottontail stretch in rain-soaked grass, silhouetted by the rising sun. She felt me approach, and distrusting my intentions, scampered out of photo distance.

I shook my head, giggling, and continued my journey.

After another half mile, I came to a straightway that sometimes doubles as a deer crossing. Sure enough, one and then another appeared up ahead. They seemed to notice me, and after a quick consultation, they decided one human was too many. Off they bounded into the woods.

Indigo Stretch

Zaimu Challenge

My running trail is an enchanted forest. Trees and grasses in various stages of bloom flank the whole path. Today I experienced the first honeysuckle this season. Nose candy.

Micro climates and mini ecosystems pulse in the enchanted forest. A chorus of birds on this stretch. A pond of frogs and cicadas on the next. More birds with new songs here. A deer crossing there. A snack bar for bunnies and so on. You experience this all within the first 1.5 miles of the trail. If you’re open to the sounds, scents and scenery, you’re never bored along the way.

indigo bunting
Indigo Bunting by Dan Vickers

Months I spent running that stretch, turning around at 2 miles and heading back in. But there’s a stretch farther in the distance. I make it there often now, but what a treat the first time I tried a five-miler…

Somewhere around the 2.25-2.5 mile turnaround, you spot them. About the size of sparrows, they boast a magnetic, electric blue. Their chirps are loud and persistent from atop the nearby trees, yet sometimes they bounce and fly along side you as you run. Cheering you on.

If you’re not sure you’ll make it to 2.5, these blues are worth the stretch. For the longest time I simply called them my electric birds. Google tells me they might be indigo buntings.

Blue and I went for a run date this morning – the first in months. We ran an easy conversation pace, and blissfully far enough to say hello to the indigos on the back stretch.

Good morning, sunshine.

40 miles

Temple Building
Today I hit my goal of 40 miles.
Today I hit my goal of 40 miles.


Each month during “running season,” I set a mileage goal. Most of the time it’s 50 miles, but this August I cut it to 40 so I could add strength training to the mix. Some months it’s down to the wire in terms of whether or not I’ll hit that magic number. In fact, one month it seemed so unlikely, I pretty much gave up.

Last month was another close call. On the very last day of July I ran a personal long of over six miles in order to pull out a victory.

I was very proud of myself, but I’m not a fan of close calls. I just can’t stand the tension. So although today would’ve been optimal for cross-training, I opted instead to head out for the winning miles.

For my troubles, I spotted a deer. And although I wasn’t able to snap his picture, I was able to at least say hi before he dashed back into the woods.

All in all a challenging but satisfying run.

runkeeper FB

Today, again, I ran.

Temple Building

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 10.23.08 PM

And it was a great run, too. I lifted weights yesterday, which means squats among another things. And although my legs started to feel it toward the end of today’s 3-miler, I really can tell the difference. I really love the difference.

I saw my two regulars today. I’ll call Ivan and Dan. I’ve never spoken to either of them except breathless good mornings or smiles or waves. They are both mustached men. Ivan bikes. Dan runs.

Ivan and I often arrive around the same time, which is interesting to me since I don’t have an official start time. But time and again, there we are. He pulls up in his Jeep, unloads his bike, straps on his helmet and rides off into the distance as I’m walking up to the start. We don’t see each other again until the next morning I’m out for a run.

Dan, on the other hand, doesn’t arrive when I do. Most of the time I go out for a stretch – anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 miles – then I turn around and come back in. I’ll usually pass Dan on the home stretch. He’s a walker. His stride is an interesting cross between a brisk march and a stroll, all while his head tilts a bit to the right. In case I miss the gait, the mustache peeking underneath the army green baseball cap gives the game away. And sure enough, the hand juts out in greeting just as we pass.

A few mornings I’ve gone running much later than usual, only to find Dan on the home stretch while I was just starting. And the other day, I took such long rest breaks, Dan walked past me on the way and turned around and passed me again on the return.

I like seeing them. The regulars. The other day I recognized Ivan’s jeep approaching as I was preparing to turn on the main road leading to the Greenway. And when we both arrived, his wave was a little more vigorous than usual. It had been a few days since we saw each other.

Today, again, I ran. And Ivan biked. Dan walked. We waved and smiled good morning.


Stream of Consciousness Sunday: Clearing.

Personal Narrative

Are you a people person? Do you feel energized or drained around people?

#SOCsundayI’m an introvert. This means I get energized (or re-energized) when I have alone time. Solitude. But this does not mean I’m not a people person, because I am. I’m a teacher and I love it. I’m a spiritual coach and I love that. I like hanging with friends when our schedules and locations coincide. But there comes a time when I get overloaded and it becomes too much.

When I can take a whole day to myself, I do. I spend the day alone exercising, reading, running errands, playing on the internet, basking in the sun, and catnapping. I call it self-care.

When I can’t take a day, I steal away as I can. Case in point. This week has been busy for me. I’ve had meetings and home visits and gatherings and just nonstop “with peopleness.” Today I reached my limit. The cacophony of noises, voices, music didn’t help matters. Although I was “on duty,” during a slow period, I was able to secret myself away in my car for about 20 minutes. It was all I needed to refresh and finish the rest of my shift in high spirits. Twenty minutes seems to be the magic number.

When I feel the overload of other people’s energy, I clear it in nature. I sit in the sun for about 20 minutes, or walk (or play) in thick green grass if any is around. I nap by the ocean or, favorite of all, sit in its salty waters. I like people just fine, but whenever I can, I also love to be with just me.

This was my 5 minute Stream of Consciousness Sunday post. It’s five minutes of your time and a brain dump. Want to try it? Here are the rules…

  • Set a timer and write for 5 minutes.
  • Write an intro to the post if you want but don’t edit the post. No proofreading or spellchecking. This is writing in the raw.
  • Publish it somewhere. Anywhere. The back door to your blog if you want. But make it accessible.
  • Add the Stream of Consciousness Sunday badge to your post.
  • Link up your post below.
  • Visit your fellow bloggers and show some love.