Friday, January 31, 2014

The Closest I Get To Miracles

I want to believe I can walk on water, but skating on thin ice (without falling in) is typically the closest I get to miracles.

It's been two weeks since my husband drove me to the airport in freezing rain and on ice rink roads. I breathed deep breaths and gulped down water and talked very good sense to myself, but my pounding pulse could not be tricked into slowing down.

There was something wildly unsettling about leaving my most precious people to fend for themselves in icy weather, to miss seeing their first ski meet, to risk that a long weekend with "just Dad" could turn into an entire childhood of the same.

I know that sounds melodramatic (and it totally is), but I'm not so naive as to think life carries always and perfectly on. And I was about to spend a good deal of time on the LA freeways, so the worrying was at least partially warranted.

But there was something triumphant about leaning into the anxiety, looking fear in the face, going out of my way to meet risk and discomfort  

I know. I must be a real piece of work to call myself courageous for leaving my family in Alaska to enjoy a girls weekend and run a marathon in California. I fly on a plane to flip-flop weather, and somehow this translates to me being brave?

But it does. In my pitiful, privileged way, it does. This is my vulnerability--that I love three people to the depths, the source of my wildest joy and most wrenching fear.

Tonight we scarfed pizza and devoured books. They're still reading as I type. The sun dipped behind the mountain, and we sat underneath the same roof while the moon rose. This is lovely and safe and comfortable and I could go on like this forever.

Except I couldn't. And neither could they. At least not without a heavy dose of antidepressants. That's why I left them for a weekend. That's why I set a goal I wasn't sure I could reach. That's why I took a risk.

Because this is what you do when you want a story to tell. You get off the couch and you go somewhere besides the carpool line or the cubicle. You stop picking stupid fights about where to store winter gear and start asking the hard questions, listening to the uncomfortable answers. You invest without guaranteed return. You give your whole heart to beat loudly into the day; and you don't damper-pedal dreams, yours or theirs.

I want to believe I can walk on water. Don't we all? And of course, we can't.

But you know what we can do? We can take a risk.

Sure, we could slip or sink, get soaked, start shivering. But we also might swim it, surf it, skate it, scale it. Water walking doesn't have a monopoly on the miracle market. It's not the only way to cross.

Most of the time, I think, the miracle just slips quietly into the back row while we're telling our stories--the stories of how we came up with the courage to cross, how we made it to the other side.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

In the plod after plod {Just Write}

Sometimes the hours are rote, a plod after plod through daily dirt. Sometimes the miles are long, like manning the doily booth at the flea market. No one stops to examine the lace or ask for a price. And it's one thing when life is lonely, but when it's both tedious and lonely, all you can think is maybe you should give up on selling doilies. Or running 20 miles on the treadmill.

But even the rote hours deliver the surging moments. Ideas surface, endorphins rise, strides lengthen. (And doilies sell. Just maybe?) Somewhere in the plod after plod, you begin to feel strong where you once felt lame. Somewhere in these everyday hours, the dull staleness morphs into a brilliant stillness. And you cling to it like desert icicles. Who cares that it always melts away? It's magic while it lasts.

Every now and then in the plod after plod, the legs stop feeling like bricks. You look down to see a rushing ground. You sprint. You smile. You wonder--is this how it feels to float? The drudgery may be back tomorrow or maybe by mile seven, but for now, you are no longer lonely. You are no longer bored. You are as alive in your own life as a person gets to be. 
And this. This is why you keep running. Or selling doilies. Or mothering. Or doing whatever it is in life that you do. 
Because in every faceless desolate 
step-after-step minute, 
there is a chance to find a desert icicle, 
to be surprised by speed or 
astonished by stillness, 
and to feel 
so very much alive.


I have no idea where the doilies reference came from. The running, yes, because it's the only darn thing I seem to do these days. But doilies. Really? I have to blame the doilies on Heather, since she's the one who started this whole Just Write nonsense. (And I love her for it.)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Just Wait Until Winter

What winter looks like along the Turnagain Arm. Gorgeous, yes?
The rumors are true. I've been neglecting my family to spend a scandalous amount of time with Newman.

Calm down. Newman is just a treadmill. And it isn't really neglect if you feed the kids eventually, right? A few mornings ago, I stumbled my way into running shorts at 6:00 to run 20 miles with Newman. The night before I gave the kids strict instructions: 1) sleep in like you've never slept in before, and 2) get your own breakfast. 

And you know what? It worked. When I came upstairs a bit before 9:00, two puffy-eyed bed-headed children looked up from their cereal bowls and cartoons to say good morning. Well, it wasn't so much good morning as it was, can we watch another show before you make us do responsibilities. Translated: We wish you'd run a bit longer, Mom. 

So anyway, we are all surviving my winter marathon training. The timing isn't my favorite--with mileage peaking at the most wonderful (coldest, busiest) time of the year, while the kids are on break from school and my time to run is limited by our need to sled, ski, skate and have All The Fun. But all this winter training will be worth it, if not merely for the accomplishment of 26.2, then for the fact that I get to attempt a BQ wearing shorts.


I've been doing all my best writing with Newman too. Which is unfortunate, since neither of us can take notes, and my memory is only slightly more advanced than his. (He can calculate pace and calories like a math whiz, but his creative writing skills need some work.) You'd be amazed at the deep thoughts that are dredged up during 160 minutes of running, once I get beyond the usual cursing and self-loathing.


When we first moved to Alaska, many people warned me to "just wait until winter!" in response to my gushing about how much we loved it here.

Well, I waited.

And I still love it.

Where else can you go snow tubing at the break of dawn? Where else can you watch a bowl game before the sun comes up? (I know, I know, the break of dawn isn't until 10 o'clock, but still....).

We celebrated winter solstice by spending every second of daylight outside skiing. You can fill up on just five hours of daylight. You really can.

Last week, I referred to 20 degree temps as "warming up" and took the kids to a sledding hill with more vertical drop than our old Ohio ski slope.
Our sledding "hill"
This week, I glimpsed Denali on the way to the library. 

Last night I cooked the salmon our neighbors gave us for Christmas (the fish they pulled straight from a net in the Kenai).

This morning I laced up my spiked trainers and ran 16 miles on a trail of packed snow.

And this afternoon was spent skating and playing pick-up hockey with friends on an outdoor ice rink at a neighborhood school.
So yes, just wait until winter. Because after just one gorgeous and snowy and cold Alaskan winter, you might never want to leave.