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.
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.
Boost energy, joy, hope.
Be more powerful, and lighter at the same damn time.
Float, fly, soar,
on your own terms.
From the inside.
In your cells.
Spirit. Breath. Light.
High vibration is goddess energy. It is magic stirring.
When I neglect pleasure and beauty rituals,
when I consume nonfood instead of divine nourishment,
when I am not salt bathing or sunbathing, or
any of the things I know to do,
I look around and there I am: stuck, stagnant, heavy.
I feel weak. Powerless.
Even laughs are smaller and too far apart.
Have you swiveled your hips today? #SelfCareIs
— ✨#SelfCareIs✨ (@PhYINomenal) May 6, 2016
I swivel my hips.
With music and with silence.
To the mirror and the wall.
In front of my husband and in empty rooms.
It’s just something I do.
In moments of low vibration, I forget.
Today, in the shower, feeling the music, I swiveled.
It rained forever and a day. Seriously. Forever, then 24 more hours of rain.
It was probably more like a week, but it really seemed the clouds would never cry themselves out.
I run. And while I engage in a variety of exercise programs, running outdoors is my favorite. It’s lovely to watch the sun rise. To smell the flowers and pine trees and whatever else is on my running trail. To listen to birds as they sing, or fight or just say hello. It’s corny. It’s great. I love it. And thanks to The Rain, I couldn’t run. For days. (Forever).
Then The Rain stopped.
The local runners waited a day for The Dry because we knew our trail would be flooded or overrun with unpassable puddles, slick with wet leaves and what have you. So we had to be patient. And on the second dry day we ventured out to brave the probably-still-messy trail.
But the main trail entrance was locked. A big gate chained shut so no cars could get near the trail head.
Not to be outdone, we, and now I really mean me, I took to the street to find another trail head at the nearby park. It would be my first time using this new entrance, so I set off with an adventurous spirit. I found it with little trouble and was on my way. A little muddy, a teeny bit slippery, but I had a nice run on a new path. I managed 4 miles that day.
Then The Rain returned.
Between The Rain and The Dry, it would be another SIX WHOLE DAYS before I could run again. And even then, I had to sneak. On the sixth day, trails were still closed, but the shy sun beckoned and I answered her call. Off I went to put my name on four miles.
In my excitement I started too fast and tired quickly. And if that weren’t enough, I soon came to a puddle I couldn’t pass. It was simply too deep and the grass around it too muddy. I was going to have to call it quits just halfway to my goal. Disappointed, but really glad to be outdoors, I turned around and ran it back in.
In the end I claimed the win. First, for going out and trying my best. And second, for getting some miles. It took twice the grit to get half the distance, but that’s how champions are made.
I fancy myself a runner. Or a jogger, as the case may be. As a general rule, I save my miles for clement weather. Put simply, I do not run in the cold. Pish posh on the mildness of Georgia winters; you can let your chest wheeze for an after inhaling frigid air. There are exceptions to my no winter running rule, but more often than not, I hang up my running shoes in November, and pull them out again around March.
I spend the intervening months exercising with a DVD program. When I travel, I take it along. Unless I forget, which is the case at present. En route to the airport yesterday, I realized I packed everything I needed to do PiYo except the PiYo DVDs. Massive side eye to me.
There was no turning back at that point in the journey, and with my destination’s forecast promising sunshine and nice temps, I wondered if I might not run after all.
I’ll skip the part about why I didn’t run this morning, and jump right to the good news: I ran today! And it was challenging, and I had to stop often because of runner’s itch, which sucks. A lot. And blah blah blah, eventually, I hit my 2-mile goal! On a treadmill, no less.
I’m already sore, which is not happy-making. But I am very pleased, which is! The first of spring remains my official target to resume a running regimen, but it’s nice to have unexpected wins.
It’s not winter yet, but Mother Nature has been pushing us to get ready for it. The days are noticeably shorter and unseasonably cold. The weather, along with my recent adventure, has put me in the mood to hibernate. Most mornings (and early evenings), I just want to swaddle myself in a ball and sleep. It’s starting to impact my exercise regimen.
From March to October, I jump out of bed before dawn, ready to log a few of the 40-50 miles I jog each month. I tweak my mileage to allow time for strength training with a barbell and plates. But all of this happens in the warm weather.
Once we’ve entered true fall in north Georgia, I put away the running shoes and opt for indoor cardio. My program of choice has long been Beachbody’s TurboFire. It mixes long, intensive workouts with short, high intensity interval training and strength training with resistance bands. There’s a lot of jumping up and down.
I believe in listening to my body. But lately, when I’ve asked my body to get ready for plyometrics, it has responded with some version of chile please. I haven’t had much of a counter offer, so there I’ve been, snuggled under the cover dozing, instead of running or jumping.
My body seems ready to try something high energy, but low impact, with a lot of stretching. I’ve considered Bikram yoga, for instance. But that involves traveling somewhere, and I don’t like to spend much time in transit for exercise. Plus, despite the generally good reviews, I’ve never really “felt” yoga as exercise. Even though, truth be told, I sometimes naturally perform elements of the sun salutation, just because some of the poses feel organic. So I’m not a yogi, and although I’ve taken a couple of Pilates classes, it never stuck as part of a regular routine.
I shunned this the first couple of times I heard of it namely because of my lukewarm feelings about Pilates and yoga, the main elements of the program. It supposedly takes the best of these two systems and combines them into a high energy, low impact, strength- and flexibility-enhancing program. Sounds like just what the doctor ordered. Zerlina and Lurie, two people I engage with on Twitter, have raved about it. So I’ve decided to give it a shot.
It’s an 8-week program, with workouts 6 days a week. No equipment is required, and I love that, especially given my travel schedule. I completed the first workout today, which was more instructional than anything else, but it was a promising start.
I feel that good way I feel when my blood is moving as it should.
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.
This is stream of consciousness from my efforts at NaNoWriMo last fall. This is fiction. I wrote 1,000 words a day for 30 days. This excerpt was selected at random this afternoon. This is raw data. For better or for worse, it’s unedited.
I finally arrive and set up as close to the ocean as possible. Only a few people are out. I stretch out my sheet and lay my belongings on top. I quickly strip down to my suit. It’s a simple black bikini this time, and I’m aware of a few appraising eyes glancing at my glutes. I tie my hair in a messy knot atop my head and stride toward the ocean. I sigh as my feet, right first, then left, touch the cool, clear water. The bottoms of my feet barely register the little shells underneath.
I walk on.
The water is to my ankles. My calves. I stretch my hands out, beckoning the water to me. Beckoning my spirit to it. I keep walking. My hips are underwater now. I stop and slide down, until the water is at my neck. On my knees, I am still. I play a game with the water, keeping my abs tight, trying not to move my body. It’s good exercise.
Once fatigue sets in I stand up and walk a little deeper into the water. The waves come toward me and I draw them to me with big sweeping gestures to pull the water in. a little ritual. I say a little prayer – I welcome all the blessings and love of the universe into my heart, into my life. I turn around, facing the shore. Starting at my chest, I push outward, pushing the water away. I say another prayer – I expel all of the thoughts and doubts and sadness that no longer serve me. I pray that all the negativity is transmuted for the good of all mankind.
I turn around and repeat this ritual several times. Then I just play in the water for awhile. Spying the few people in the ocean with me. Admiring the sun. I swat at the schools of fish to see what they’ll do. They change direction and keep moving. There’s a lesson in that.
After about 20 minutes, I decide it’s nap time. I stroll back to the beach and begin untying my hair. I towel off and spray the Banana Boat liberally on my exposed skin. I add sunblock to my face and don my floppy beach hat. I stretch out on my back and begin dozing to my favorite sound in the world.
I wake up a few times and turn over. Don’t wanna be too brown on one side. Eventually I can no longer ignore the gnawing in my stomach. It’s lunch time. It’s been a long time since I’ve eaten alone. I tell myself it’ll be fun. Like old times. Relearning to enjoy singledom and solitude?
I begin driving along the causeway just looking for someplace that might have some good fried oysters. I eventually stop at a Green Iguana. I know for sure they have good turkey burgers, and that would be yummy too.
How many? Asks the host. His spiked Mohawk just cool enough.
… Just one.
He begins to lead me to a table when I ask to go outside. I sit at one of the tall tables, remembering the last time I was here. Sophia and I met in person for the first time. She was a friend of a friend who thought it would be nice if we connected. It was. We did. Although I never saw her again after that. Our lives simply weren’t in sync.
I ordered the turkey burger I wanted. Avocado and pepper jack cheese. Lettuce, tomato. No onion. Fries. Yummy indulgences. I brush away tears from time to time. I savor each bite although I secretly want to wolf it down and get out of there as quickly as possible. Another round of tears I hide as those darn allergies. I even pull out a book to read. Zora Neal Hurston keeps me company. Probably not the most upbeat book in places, although it’s one of my favorites. Maybe I need to get a comedy or something more neutral that doesn’t involve relationships at all.
I think about going to Barnes and Noble to find another book. Then I remember, that’s where I met Daniel. I have a library card. I can go there instead. Or I can go home and download some ebooks.
I tell myself it’s okay. I’ll be okay. Today it’s just an exercise to prove to myself that I can be alone. That I can continue. Tomorrow I’ll do something similar. Go to my favorite dinner spot. Maybe I’ll even cook by the end of the week.
And one day, I’ll even remember what happiness feels like.
I posted a fiction excerpt one other time. Check it out here.
Take time to stop and smell the roses.
It’s an old sentiment, but one I’m thinking about as I fly home. I’m above the clouds now, and over my shoulder I spy the warming tones of the setting sun.
Running outdoors is my meditation. My journal. It’s high fives to the rabbits who line the greenway, and smiles to the rising sun. It’s awe with flowers blooming in spring, leaves turning in autumn. It’s deep breaths in time with my feet – percussion behind a chorus of birds.
It’s been a while.
Sometimes my entire work day is spent in the bowels of a school. Cinder blocks obstruct the sun and the evergreens right along with cell service. “I’m in a bunker today,” I tell Blue.
The moments left before sunset are spent navigating Atlanta’s traffic. If you wait too late to hit 400 from 285, you might as well stay put another hour or two.
Despite an uncooperative schedule, it’s easy enough to experience beauty.
Seek and ye shall find.