An Excellent Plan B

My long run….

My weekend did not work out as planned. I wanted to go to a bonfire Saturday night, so I did my long run Saturday morning. I was exhausted, as usual, but I took a long nap to get ready for a late night out.

About 5 PM I got an email with last-minute reminders about my trail run in Grayling Sunday morning. What???? I totally forgot I signed up for a 10K trail run this weekend. I mean, I thought I had but I could never find the info that I did. So, I assumed I had changed my mind. Since Grayling is a haul, I’d have to get up early. The bonfire would have to wait until another time.

I packed all my stuff for the race, asked my dogsitter to come check on Ashok and went to bed early. I mapped the address, and then I took pause. Instead of 2 1/2 hours to the trailhead, it was 3 1/2 hours. Ugh…. 7 hours driving was a bit much for a 10K. My original thought had been to spend the weekend, but since I forgot about the race that hadn’t happened. As excited as I was about it, the thought of driving that far in one day took the wind out of my sails.

I turned off the alarm clock and slept in. Since my bags were packed, I decided to explore some trails in the area. A few months ago, Wanderlust Outfitters had a class on areas to hike nearby. A man from the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy introduced us to several nature preserves they manage. The hikes weren’t long, but they offered a diverse nature experience within a 40-minute drive.

Wolf Tree Nature Trails….

Ashok and I first visited the Wolf Tree Nature Trails near Mattawan. This lovely little preserve featured a fabulous field of wildflowers that meandered into the deep woods. Signs designated a 5K training course. I thought that was a pretty cool way to get in shape for a 5k. Running in that beautiful place would surely get me hooked on trail running.

I shirked my sugar-free diet for a piece of blueberry cream pie!

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After the short walk, I plugged the Black River Preserve into the GPS and started driving toward South Haven. Blueberry farms dotted the highway, and I stopped in a few spots for treats. Since I’ll be backpacking next weekend, I didn’t buy a big box of blueberries, but at least I know where to go now. I love blueberry season. I eat them constantly until mid-to-late August.

Unusual mushrooms, quiet paths and a sweet little river… but bring your DEET!

The Black River Preserve had longer trails, and we started toward the river. About 50 feet in, I turned around to get my DEET. The bugs were everywhere. We hiked back to the river and through the woods. I followed several of the loops in hopes of finding the “Quiet Spot Bridge” and the old campground. I found the bridge but I never did see the old campground. I loved this little area. Ashok and I even saw a little spotted fawn hip-hopping through the forest.

When I was in Michigan before, I ran the same trails in all seasons. I loved to watch the woods change and evolve throughout the year. This little area was so pretty I decided on the spot this will be my all-season trail. I imagined what the little river would look like shrouded in ice and wondered how the snow might settle in the forest. It’s great to travel to fabulous natural landmarks, but it’s really special to have something in your backyard that becomes your own little paradise.

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When I got back to the car, I opened the door to get a snack. I heard a voice say, “Is that you, Sharon?” I recognized my neighbor Bobbie immediately. I had been thinking about her while I was hiking. She is retired and roams the woods and trails in Michigan like I do. I’m not sure why we don’t get together except we are both pretty independent. She’s participating in the Hike Our Preserves (HOP) program. She gets these lovely little coins for each of the SMLC preserves she hikes. She strung them in this neat little necklace. I love this, and what a great motivation to get out and hike!

So the weekend did not turn out as planned, but it sure turned out nice. Now, I’m looking forward to my Pictured Rocks trip this weekend. This is truly a bucket list trip for me. I’ve wanted to backpack it long before I ever laid eyes on Pictured Rocks. Look forward to some pictures that’ll knock your hiking socks off!

Have a great week, y’all and #getoffyourass!

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Pictured Rocks!!! Here I come!

 

 

Confessions from a Sweater

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I ran this morning. I wish I’d known that the weather would be so beautiful and cool this evening, or I would have waited. Instead, I sweated through the heavy humidity at 5 AM. I left Ashok at home as she would have suffered in the heat. With freedom not to worry about her, I really enjoyed it. I was soaked when I turned the last corner toward my house. I yanked off my headband and squeezed out the water.

My high school boyfriend got another gal pregnant. We had broken up some time before, but I always thought we belonged together. Now I know that would have been a disastrous coupling, but you can’t tell that to a young girl infatuated with a hot-headed boy.

One evening, I was playing tennis with a guy I was casually dating. My old boyfriend and his new, now unpregnant wife showed up. They wanted to play doubles, and I reluctantly agreed. This lovely thin, blonde woman was decked out in the perfect little white tennis outfit. And my frizzy-haired young self was dressed in dime-store gym shorts and a sweaty t-shirt. How does she not sweat, I asked myself as we played – her ponytail bouncing playfully in the sun. The sweat poured down into my eyes rendering me blind. I could outplay her in tennis, but I felt outplayed in every other area of my life.

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Some women say they glisten, but I can’t claim that dainty term. I sweat. And I’ve learned to love it. Sure there are times when it’s inconvenient like when I’d like to wear makeup on a hot summer day. But I’ve learned to work around it. Thank goodness companies like Athleta have come out with pretty technical fabrics that can pass for street clothes. That has made life for us lady sweaters much more bearable.

Sweat is a bath from the inside out. When I’m done working out, I feel cleansed. It’s as if every ounce of sludge inside me has oozed through my pores and washed over my skin. While the heat really bothers me, I sure do miss sweating in the winter. Sometimes I go sit in the steam room at the YMCA. There’s no glistening for me. For my DNA, I seek nothing less than a slippery, slimy, hot sweaty mess.

 

 

 

Going longer… Getting stronger….

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This weekend had a little bit of everything in it. I spent Friday evening with friends at two different art exhibit openings, Saturday with my spiritual community and Sunday out in nature. I even got a chance to cook some nice meals for myself and get enough sleep. While my house is not spic ‘n span, it is not too shabby. I can rest well tonight and go to work feeling caught up. Now, if I could just have several more 3-day work weeks, I’d be golden.

July 4 Long Run….

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My running training is going along swimmingly…. swimmingly in sweat that is. But I’ve been waiting and waiting for it to get warmer, and now it’s here. Unfortunately, we are having a lot of Louisiana-style heat and humidity up here, and it’s making long runs in particular, brutal. For the second time in the last few weeks, I started my long run at 4:30 AM so I could get it in before the heat index started rising. Jessica is doing the same thing in Tulsa as she is at the peak of her marathon training. It’s even hotter there. We laughed that we waited forever for the cold weather to go away, and now we have to hide from the sun and run under cover of darkness.

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The last three days were pretty nice, though. Friday and Saturday in particular were amazing. Unfortunately, I didn’t have to run either of those days. So, this morning I drove to the woods near Lansing to do a short trail run. I’ve added a trail half marathon to my training schedule, and I wanted to check out the course at Sleepy Hollow State Park.

Since it was a shorter run, I took Ashok. She was really happy to get out. For the last six weeks, I’ve had lots of guests, and we haven’t really been doing dog-friendly activities. Besides, it’s been so hot, she’d be miserable. But today we’d be in the shade and would get started before the heat really set in.

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This little park was lovely, and its main feature was a big fishing lake. We were almost the only people on the trails, and we knocked out the four miles at right about an hour. We hiked the rest of the way back, and it was so relaxing to walk in the woods without having to rush. I think we both needed it.

After our run, I changed clothes and we headed home. Since we were so close to Lansing, I decided to drive in and see our state capitol. I’ve never been to Lansing, and a friend of mine wasn’t too complimentary of it. I managed to find Old Town, and it had a nice little park by the river and some interesting restaurants. I sat outside of Punk Taco with Ashok, and I ordered the “Trust Us” tacos which turned out to be fabulous. (You get what they bring ya, get it?) The corn tortilla was obviously home-made, and the pork, sauce and cheese were delicious. I had planned to eat at the BBQ place next door, but I think I made the better decision getting the tacos. It was just enough, and the flavors were extraordinary.

They even had a fish ladder to help salmon over the waterful in Old Town!

I run the trail half marathon in a month. After running 4 miles today (about 1/3 the distance), I see that running that trail half is going to be brutal. I’m going to have to wrap my mind around the effort. At this point in the training – above 10-mile runs – the mental effort of running starts to get difficult. The physical gets tougher, too, but it’s my mind that starts asking “what’s the point of doing this?” I had forgotten about this part of it. At least in the trail run, I’ll have nature around as a distraction, and my mind will be occupied looking for roots and holes that could trip me up.

Well, y’all have a good week. If Jessica increases me again this week, I’ll be at half marathon distance. I’m trying to think cool to drum up some cooler temps on long run day!

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Up North Sampler: Round 2

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Last year, I joined our local outfitter (Wanderlust) for a beginner backpacking trip “up North”. I had not been backpacking since I moved here, and I really wanted to get back into it. I enjoyed myself so much and met so many interesting people, I decided to do it again this year. As a matter of fact, I’m going on TWO trips with them this year!

The “Up North” trip was in late June, and we followed the same itinerary that we had last year. We backpacked in for 6 miles, pitched camp, played around at the Bowman Bridge Campground and canoed out on Sunday on the Pere Marquette River. They said the river would be lower this year, so we’d get to see this pretty little jewel in its normal state.

I’ve been visiting the store with some frequency over the year, and I’ve attended several classes, so I know the owners and their staff a little better. I know you can’t imagine that I’m shy, but I do tend to hang back a bit when in the presence of a lot of strangers. I knew at the start that I already felt more like myself with the group, and I hoped I’d meet some more friends that like the outdoors.

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I spent some time getting to know folks on the school bus ride to the Manistee National Forest. We unloaded our gear, doused ourselves with insect repellant, got packs on our backs and started walking. It was a beautiful day. I’m still a bit shocked at the green lushness in a Michigan forest. Our growing season is not long, but our plants seem to make the best of it. This trail is lined beautifully with delicate ferns. I felt like I was walking in a magical land.

We hiked really fast in, so some of the group went on another hike, but I wanted to hang out and relax. Brittany assigned fire duties to me, as they were going to be preparing meal packets for cooking over the fire later. With no cell service, I spent the afternoon tending the fire, enjoying my surroundings and chatting with fellow travelers.

When everyone returned from the hiking and the gear demos offered down by the river, we cooked our meal packets over the fire. Campfire food is so delicious. I took one bite from my packet and decided I wanted another packet of potatoes and butter for dessert. I fixed it while I was eating so I could chow down right after dinner. I was pleasantly full and relaxed after all of those white potatoes! I slept amazingly well.

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We woke up to rain, but it was just a drizzle. After eating breakfast, we broke camp and started our canoe trip. The river was beautiful and so was the day until it started raining. But, hey, I had on a swimsuit, so who cares if it rains? It was still nice, and I felt very relaxed if a little cold when we got back to sandwiches and snacks.

This is such a great little trip for beginners. It gives you a taste of canoeing and camping/backpacking. But it’s even fun for people like me because you have someone doing the heavy lifting on cooking and cleanup while you just enjoy the trip. I spent Independence Day with one of the friends I made on the trip this year, and I’m running a race with another one in early August. It was a great way to meet some like-minded people. I hope to make more friends in Pictured Rocks!

Now, I’m looking forward to the Pictured Rocks trip in a few weeks. This is one of my bucket list trips. It’s an intermediate backpack, so I’ll have to get back into my routine of packing my own meals. I’m looking forward to brushing off my dehydrator and trying some new recipes. I had so much fun doing that in Louisiana. And now I’ll get to do it on the shores of alligator-free Lake Superior! (BTW… I do think they have a few spots left if you are interested! Check out their Facebook page for details.)

Pictured Rocks, Here I come……

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Nothing Ever Stays the Same

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One of my Whirlpool heroes retired Friday. I met Ann at the call center in Knoxville when we both were on a project to centralize our service operations. Little did I know that this woman – who had a marked resemblance to me – would become a mainstay in my life for over 20 years and counting.

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My curly-haired work sister would support me in running half marathons across country, grabbing coffee and water as needed.  She would mentor me in my career, and she would be instrumental in bringing me back to Whirlpool in 2016. I, in turn, inspired her to rock her curls and talk about her feelings. Now she’ll show me what it’s like to retire like a badass. That’s just the way she is.

When she first told me she was retiring, I was devastated. I’d somehow fantasized about working together for another 5 years or so and maybe even being on the same team. Instead, almost as soon as I got back, she decided to retire. Luckily, we had time. We spent lots of evenings walking after work and had countless meals together in the last 2 years. By the time last Friday rolled around, she had settled into a retirement mindset, and I was happy for both of us. After all, I would no longer be called “not Ann” or mistaken for her in the hallway. Whirlpool will be my kingdom now, and she will have her own.

I am always reminded of the Patty Loveless song, “How Can I Help You Say Goodbye?” when change is inevitable. When life is good, I try to hold on tightly and keep things the same at least for a little while. But, the Universe has a way of dashing those dreams and moving us forward. I know that I’m learning to let go when I find myself humming with a smile,  life’s about changing… nothing ever stays the same.

This morning I opened up my Facebook account, and I saw a post from 2013 announcing that it was Day #1 of my Louisiana adventure. Five years ago today, I moved home with the intention to stay. A picture of me and my friend Jadine in Bay St. Louis was next, marking the weekend that Whirlpool contacted me about the job I would eventually take in 2016. And yet another post reminded me of a kayaking trip on the Wolf River 7 years ago in Memphis with a young Ashok.  The news feed just keeps on rolling.

 

I know I’ll see Ann again, but it will be different. WE will be different. I always say that either you are evolving or you’re not. Right before saying our work good-byes to Ann, I met several new people on a backpacking trip. A few of us are making plans to hang out soon. I have no idea if any of these friendships will stick, but eventually some will. My life here will evolve. In three years or so, today and even next year will be a memory in my lifetime news feed. Because nothing ever stays the same….

 

 

 

I Would Have Missed This

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I’m on my way up! This week I had to increase my long run to 10 miles. In last weekend’s hot and muggy weather, I ran 9 in Chicago. No, I did not enjoy it although I did enjoy having my friend Sally with me. It’s not often I get running partners these days. The hot, sweaty miles dripped off much faster with good conversation and a few laughs.

So Jessica challenged me with 10-miles this week. However …. I’m going backpacking this weekend. I do not want to run 10 miles on Saturday morning and then go hiking, so I decided I might try a long run before work. Nine miles took a little over 2 hours, so 10 would take even longer. The math told me I’d need to start no later than 4:30 AM to get it done and get ready for work.

I went to bed at 8:30 last night determined to get a good night’s sleep. But first I googled to see if any other idiots ever attempted a long run before work. Sure enough, several bloggers had written about it, so I fell asleep with the confidence that it was doable. I even gave myself permission to split it in two if I desired.

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I woke up on my own at 3:30 AM and considered it a gift. I had time to drink a cup of coffee and leave at 4 AM, giving me a little more time to get ready for work. Ashok and I took off in complete darkness. I ran a 5.5 mile circle and dropped my girl off at home so I could finish the rest on my own. After a quick restroom break, I started out again, and my body was begging me to go back home. But I remembered from my past running career that this feeling would pass. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

The sun was just starting to come up, and I ran down to the beach. A great blue heron waded in the lake. As a little blessing it started sprinkling, and I was thinking how nice it was to feel cool raindrops on my skin. It wasn’t too hot, but it was hot enough with all the running. I rounded the corner by the fountain, and I noticed a faint rainbow over Lake Michigan. With only a hint of color, it was perfect and whole. It framed the path ahead of me. Wow…. I thought to myself. If I had not done this, I would have missed it.

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The rainbow got a bit brighter as I felt a happy burst of energy. Two deer headed out on the beach at the park. I’d never seen deer on the beach although I assumed they probably drank there. They looked at me as I came closer, and they headed down toward the water. The sand sloped into the lake, and I could only see their faces and ears as they watched my every move. I stopped to take a picture, and a fellow runner said, “Are you taking a picture of the rainbow or the deer?”

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You can see a little set of ears over the hill.

“Both,” I answered back with a smile on my face. And just think, if I had turned back toward home, I would have missed this.

I almost ran over a bunny in my subdivision who waited too long to run away. We startled each other as it leaped out in front of me. Orange exploded into the sky as the sun began its ascent. Other runners began to pass me as it got later in the morning. Traffic picked up, and by the time I got home, my neighbor was out walking his dog.

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Had I decided to run on the treadmill instead, I would have missed that lovely little rainbow. If I had only run 5 miles, I would have never seen the bunny or the deer. If I had decided to let backpacking derail my training, I would not have felt the sense of accomplishment of seeing 10 miles click off on my Runkeeper app… or at least not today.

Sometimes running is not so fun. At times it’s like checking the box. Other times it takes everything I have to get out and do it. And frequently it feels good physically but I’m distracted by other stuff. But this morning I was reminded of the gift of running that always inspires me to come back for more. For, if it wasn’t for running this morning, I would’ve missed this. And that would have been a huge loss.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to bed. I’m exhausted for some reason.

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You Don’t Always Get What You Want

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This morning’s readings were strikingly similar. One was from Hope for Today, and the other was from Around the Year with Emmet Fox. They both were about prayer. One set the expectation that God doesn’t always answer prayers in one fell swoop. Sometimes the answer comes in steps. The other one asked me to let God decide which are my biggest needs. I should pray for help but let her work out the details. I may not have enough insight to understand what’s stopping me today from being a channel for good.

It made me think of my past experience with prayer.  Time and time again in my prayer life the answers I sought were not the ones I got. In the end, they always provided what I needed. I’ve learned to be open-minded about the solution. Instead of God giving gifts, he often provides paths into a deeper understanding.

I prayed for companionship and unconditional love, and I found my sweet dog.

I prayed for peace in my marriage, and I got a divorce.

I prayed for a better job, and I got laid off. I got another job still not suited for me, and I got laid off again. Five years and many steps later, I’m in a job that seems to suit me. More importantly, I learned that a layoff can be a signal that something better is in the wings. Wait for it.

I prayed for love, and I was given a mirror to learn to love myself.

I prayed for relief of my anxiety, and I found meditation.

I prayed for better sleep, and I was taught about the impacts of sugar.

I prayed for riches, and I was given sunsets beyond my wildest dreams, winter landscapes that inspire fantasy and deep, wild forests to explore.

I prayed to heal my depression, and I found a running group that provided a meaningful social experience, motivation and a love of running.

I prayed for wisdom, and I became a writer.

What prayers have you had answered in a surprising way? What things have you prayed for that, in hindsight, have been answered over time? 

 

 

 

 

 

Treasures in the Sand

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For my second run this week, Jessica told me to run 30 minutes and then run some dunes or stairs. Luckily I had taken today off, so I decided to go to Grand Mere State Park and run the trails and dunes. I’m always afraid to do it before work even though daylight comes really early now. There are trails all over the place, and I just know I’ll get lost and wander into work late.

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I loaded up Ashok, and she was very excited to see that we turned into a green, wooded area rather than downtown. Several deer were at the trailhead, but they ran away before I could snap a picture. I knew immediately this was a great idea, and I decided right then and there that I will go even earlier next time so I can catch the soft dawn light settling over the wildflowers and dunes.

At about the same time, I realized most of this run was going to be in sand. Runner’s World had a feature last month that raved about the benefits of running in sand. So I knew it would be good for me even though it would be a challenge. We ran through the woods on the edge of the dunes for about 20 minutes before heading toward the lake.

We were all alone except for the animals and the rising sun. The beach was deserted for as far as I could see, so I let Ashok off leash, and we ran a long, slow beach run. Little baby waves lapped at the shore. I remembered a story one of my friends had shared about Grand Mere. A few years ago around this very bend, an ancient shipwreck emerged. People flocked around and looked at it for weeks before it disappeared back into its watery grave. Wouldn’t it be fun if I found a treasure this morning?

All I found was a lovely seascape, some bonfires ready to be lit, an enormous amount of sand and one very happy dog. While the treasures may seem small in comparison to an ancient gem, the moment and the effort was worth every breath. I am not disappointed at all with my bounty.

Have a great weekend, y’all! And get off your ass, will ya? It’s good for you, and you never know what might find along the way.

Michigan asparagus….

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Learning from Anxiety

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I woke up this morning before the alarm. My jaw was clenched. My eyes felt wild and panicked, searching for something to fixate on. The back of my neck gripped onto itself. I knew I wouldn’t go back to sleep. My animals started to stir, reacting to my movement. Anxiety, dammit…. Damn IT! 

I’ve been practicing meditations for anxiety when I wasn’t anxious so I could be prepared the next time this happened. I have a list of interventions that I know with some certainty work to ratchet down the relentless grip of tension. Practice yoga … no coffee or sugar … let myself cry … meditate … take a walk …. listen to Gregorian chants… there are many solutions at my fingertips. There is no need to panic. But anxiety screams, “OMG… PANIC … PANNNNIIIIIICCCC!!! This will never end. Today will be HORRIBLE!”

I got out my 10% Happier app and pressed play on the “Before Getting out of Bed” meditation. It helped a little, but when I opened my eyes I could still feel the tension in my neck. I gave myself a little neck massage and it relaxed a bit. I had to get to the gym, so I went, and the anxiety ratcheted up again. I found myself hating my workout. I tried to talk myself down and stay in the moment while I worked through my reps, knowing that I needed the workout even if I was anxious. It was not pleasurable. I hated virtually every minute of it, but I did it.

On the way home, I was really uncomfortable. Instead of falling into the trap of blaming myself for my anxiety, I reminded myself that this was like a headache for me. It’s not because I’m overthinking. It’s not because I don’t trust God enough. It’s not the result of eating anything bad. I just have a headache, and, for me, the headache symptom is a relentless attack on my body by my anxiously-wired brain. Beating myself up only exacerbates the problem. And latching on to any of the crazy, hateful thoughts my brain is tempting me with is like pouring gasoline on a fire. Just let them go and do the next right thing.

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I got home, made myself some herbal tea and chose the Working with Anxiety meditation from my app. She had me focus on my feet – like really, really focus on my feet. Oh my, that felt comforting. Next we focused on my hands, and the anxiety was loosening its grip. Then we moved to my stomach and on to my breathing. I followed her instructions, and like butter oozing off a sweet potato, my anxiety slipped away.

By the time I opened my eyes my anxiety level which was definitely at defcon 8 when I started was probably at a baby 3. Wow! I’m still at a 3 right now as I sip my herbal tea, and it could still go back up again as the day goes on. But the more I just let it be and take care of myself, the less it seems to impact my mood. I’ll just keep it simple today.

 

 

Swimming Upstream

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I pulled the Salmon Medicine Card this morning. I couldn’t find the card reading to share with you this morning, but I did find another website with information on salmon medicine.

My book club just read a book about a woman who was raised by a Native American and who was deeply steeped in their ways. Her father was a psychopath, but he taught her a lot about living off the land and learning from the animals. Our world is full of different kinds of animal species who each have lessons that can teach us to survive and thrive in different situations. One of the greatest sadnesses I have right now is the consistent loss and suffering of our animal species due to our over-consumption and lack of compassion for the earth. They teach us and give us much. We should appreciate and fight for them more.

Salmon are the epitome of determination. But the lesson from salmon is much broader than that. They live much of their life swimming in ocean waters before they make the arduous journey back to the place of their birth to spawn and then die. They do this with an undeniable instinct and inner knowing that what they are doing is in their best interest. Predators, boulders, dams, and lack of water kill many but the most determined and hardy of them will make it back to the calm waters where they were born.

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This journey is a celebration. It is a celebration of their life, and it is the celebration of the lives they are meant to spawn. They leap over waterfalls, jump over rocks and press against the current. They play. Salmon tells me that I should have fun and celebrate with child-like energy and enthusiasm as I manage the obstacles in my path. It is also obvious from the journey of the salmon that the destination is not the place to celebrate as the destination is my death. It is the journey that matters.

Salmon are masters of the water and water symbolizes emotions and change. Salmon reminds me to let my emotions ebb and flow and to follow the river without judgment or fear. My inner knowing and instincts are my compass. The river of life may take me on many twists and turns and erect barriers to slow my progress, but the pursuit of learning for learning’s sake is worth the effort. Salmon tells me this morning to delight in the obstacles of my life. He also reminds me that the journey is short, and I need to be awake and energetic to get the most out of it.

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If I were a salmon this morning, I’d know nothing except the present moment. Breathe in…. breathe out… I’d find food for my hunger, swim against the current if necessary and enjoy the sunshine. I’d trust my strength and my instincts for each obstacle even if I’d never encountered it before. Breath in … breathe out…. I’d steer clear of bears if at all possible, hang with my shoal and linger in cooler water when I’m hot. Most of all, I would have some fun. My instincts tell me that life in the stream is short, and I have much to do. Breathe in … breathe out…

Happy swimming, fellow swimmers! Make today a day of strength and ease.