No reserves meets the conscientious

In his book “20,000 Days”, Robert D. Smith quotes William Borden, “No reserves, no retreats, no regrets.”  In my quest to live each year as though I have been given 365 days;  of these three, the one I most often omit is “no reserves.” How often I hold back, linger, wait. In that conservatism I insure that I have no cause for retreat or regret.

This week, Jeff Goins is blogging a slow down challenge.

I whole-heartedly understand the benefits (spiritual, mental, emotional, physical) for slowing down and savoring.  I have practiced it more often than not the past few years.  For the past six months I have been walking, writing, reading, playing the piano, enjoying the world around me, as often as possible. Yet, instead of continuing with that regime, I am doing the reverse.  I have taken a full time job. Chide me not.  I needed to eat and I had bills to pay.

I took a wonderful job, believing that a writer can find time to do what she loves to do – is inspired to do – write. What I had forgotten is, when I am over-busy, the inspiration – the desire – withers. On the other hand, I am remembering that inspiration also starves when the writer is hungry, worried about how to pay the rent. Once again, my priorities want to pick a fight.

Perhaps, “no reserves,” means no sleeping in? Waking and getting to a keyboard (piano or Mac) in time for sunrise is yet another source of inspiration. 


Yesterday, I saw my grandmother in the mirror

The days have come and gone when I looked in the mirror and said “Hello, Mother!”  We’ve all heard the jokes. We women past a certain age have experienced that momentary start – seeing ourselves at the same age we vividly remember the face of our mother. The first time I saw my mother’s face in the mirror, I put on a bit more makeup and got a new hairstyle.

Yesterday, when I looked in the mirror, I saw my grandmother.  This is no insult. Grandma died at the young age of 65; having had no time to go gray. Her wits and energy  were still about her. The age at which I remember most vividly her daily influence on my life, is about my current age.

So, yesterday, with hair pulled back from my face and wound into a bun in preparation for a facial, I looked in the mirror, straight into my grandmother’s eyes. Yes, they were tired.  But they were tired from bold adventure.  They were Magna Carta eyes.  Eyes that came over on the Mayflower, with a faint trace of lips that said, “Speak for yourself, John.”

The face I was looking at was that of a woman who knows how to make school clothes and curtains from whatever is at hand, can fruits and vegetables in preparation for winter, knead and bake bread, teach school, ride a horse, plant and plow. She has bathed in the kitchen in water heated on a woodstove, made a home from houses old and new and loves to travel. She taught her sons how to throw and catch a softball and football, started her own business, wrote and published a book, and loves to roll with and support the creative endeavors of her children.

Oh wait.  I don’t think that last sentence applies to my grandmother.

Why then, do the young men smirk when I take my own car in for an oil change?  Why condescend when I ask – and pay – for help with a new car key?

The end to a perfect evening

It was this solo girl’s idea of a perfect night out.  Okay, so maybe I am a bit too far advanced past a certain age to be called a girl, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was a great evening.  An Evening Under the Stars; out of doors, professional music, free admission.  I was off work by four-thirty, with time for online research while dining on a greens salad topped with chicken tenders. There were even a few parking places left way out by the tennis courts when I arrived.

The Centennial Band was concluding the first piece while I found a comfortable space between families, couples and other solo folks. We settled in to be delighted by the usual Americana and Sousa fare offered at an outdoor concert in the park. When Centennial Band polished off the marches with a decided flourish, a local blue grass band filled the gap while the stage shuffled to make room for strings and added a few principals to form the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra.

Attired in a casual T-shirt and jeans, Maestro Gustafson conducted the orchestra through a gentle and pleasing repertoire. At the stroke of twilight, the concert was over – not too long and not too short.  On second thought; perhaps an encore might have put the plural in the words, An Evening Under the Star(s). After a leisurely walk back to the car on a warm and mild August night, I began the drive home.  

How is it that a concert never seems complete without ice cream after? On impulse, I took the drive-through at Burger King, the last possible chance for fast food. Surely, I could splurge one dollar to make the evening complete. “That will be 54 cents at the second window,” chirped the voice.  Then began the challenge to consume soft serve faster than it melts while also negotiating 5 on the floor shifting.

I am constantly amazed at the clarity and brilliance of the stars as seen from my own driveway. I decided to finish my ice cream cone outside in the moon glow and starlight.

Meanwhile, I must remind you that I am a very conscientious, dependable, resourceful and prepared person. Yes, I carry a measuring tape in my purse, a drum key, two guitar picks and a P38 can opener in my wallet. I have kept a sleeping bag in my car ever since two stranded motorists froze to death in Denver in 1998. I like to travel off the beaten path – my tent also remains as cargo.  You know; shelter in case of delay or breakdown.  Depending on the season, either my hiking boots or walking shoes are stored in the car.  I am acquainted with snow drifts and road hazards. Because I have had experience living at high elevation and commuting, my car stays well equipped with essentials. Why, just the other day someone commented, “you must have been a Girl Scout.”  I take that as a compliment. 

The rest of the story I balanced the sticky remainder of the ice cream cone in my left hand.  Already the cream had soaked through the bottom of the cone.  I unlatched the driver’s side door and shoved it with my elbow. With my right hand I removed the key from the ignition to stop the infernal beeping.  Carefully thinking ahead, I reached my right hand under the steering wheel to pop the locks switch so I could grab my purse and jacket from the passenger side later. Drinking in the beauty of the moonlight and stars, I leaned against the side of the car and finished my ice cream. I wiped my sticky hands and sauntered to the opposite side of the car, lingering and star gazing. Sigh.  “I’d better go on in.” I pulled the handle on the passenger side. It was locked.  But, I specifically remembered UNlocking everything. I hurried to the driver’s side.  Locked.  The tailgate.  Locked. Back door to the house.  Locked.  Front door of the house locked.

Picture this.  At 9:30 p.m. I am standing in my yard in my dress shorts, tank top and casual shoes. I am locked out of my house because my house keys are locked in my car.  No problem, I reassure myself. I can sleep outside. I have all survival essentials, blanket, two jackets, shelter…LOCKED in my car.  I weigh my options.  9:30 is not an economical time to call a locksmith. Forget that. My phone is in the car.

I could break into my car. I could break into my house.  I could walk two miles to my son’s house. But, I  am supposed to be at work at 8:30 in the morning and my work clothes are in the house. Come to think of it, my walking shoes and my hiking boots are – wait for it – locked in the car.

A quick inventory of outside tools reveals a vintage metal garbage can, a Christmas tree stand and a storage tub full of abandoned boffers and miscellaneous camp-cooking gear. I was inside the house and dusting myself off within 10 minutes.

No longer do I fear the thieves, vagrants and pranksters. It is I who am a formidable danger – to myself.

Benefits of hiking solo

While I agree somewhat with the assessment that wanting to take vacations alone is a sign of unhealthy isolation; there are times solitude is desirable. Today, I am thinking of three reasons I love to hike alone:

  1. freedom to pursue my own pace
  2. opportunity for introspection (the examined life is well worth living).
  3. freedom from embarrassment

Recently, one of my co-workers reminded me, “If you wait to hike until you have a hiking buddy, there are lots of places you will never see.”  She is right.  I get the most out of seeing what I want, when I want – often on the spur of the moment. And, I enjoy traveling at my own pace. 

It is amazing the places you can go, the things you can accomplish at your own pace.

Independence Monument from upper Monument Trail
Independence Monument from upper Monument Trail

Last week, I descended 33 switchbacks and a few miles into Monument Canyon. It was steep, slippery, and bruised my toes; but I learned a secret.  If you stop and take off your boot, wiggle your toes and readjust your sock, your foot will get a refreshing second wind. I also learned why I love to hike alone.  No one rushed me. No one twice my size tried to tow me through the canyon like a two-year-old drug through a shopping mall. No one tried to motivate me to move faster with false concern, “Are you sure you’re okay?  Maybe you should have a doctor check out why you don’t have more energy.”

DSCN5899hummingbirdToday, I chose to hike upper No Thoroughfare Canyon.  I contemplated John Denver’s lyric, “you know he’d be a poorer man if he never saw an eagle fly.” I decided I would be poorer if I never saw a turkey vulture fly, or heard a red tailed hawk, or had a humming bird buzz my neon backpack. At the canyon bottom, I stood in the cool of the shade, the sun arrested for the moment east of the rock wall, and breathed the early morning mountain scent of piñon pine and it was healthy, oh so healthy, to be alone.

Further along the unmaintained trail came a true scramble. A 30 to 40 foot putty colored dirt slide, devoid of footholds, made a near perpendicular plane into a wash overgrown with dense vegetation. It was going to be a three points of contact slip and slide, maybe four points – make that a five point contact crab crawl. And the best part?  No one gave me advice. No one chaffed at how long it took me to choose the best route – or to seriously consider if I could manage the return incline once I got down. No one was there to witness my gamble, or my ungainly ascent, grasping and pawing back up the slide.

No Thoroughfare Canyon
No Thoroughfare Canyon

Oh, the places you can go, when you choose your own pace!

Juxtaposing friendship, work and love

I have some close friends whom I love getting together with – but could never live with.

There are some people with whom you work – or play – quite well; but you could never live with them.  And there are some easy going folks, so compatible to live with, who would drive me nuts at work due to disorganization. Likewise, there are a handful of folks with whom I have made stunningly beautiful music; but working with them everyday, or living with them, would be impossible.  If you think about it, I bet you know people who feel this way about bosses, co-workers, friends, spouses or dance partners.

You can live with them, but you can’t work with them;


You can work with them, but you can’t live with them.

or maybe, 

You can enjoy them in small, concentrated amounts, but concentrated becomes insipid 24 X 7. 

It is such a shame, really. 

My cousin once said she finds her friends at work.  Those are the people you see every day. You grow closer to people who are available, who share the same path; but would you want to live with them?

Businesses frown on employing married couples. The usual compromise is that family members are not allowed to work in the same department – or at least – not to supervise each other. Not only does this protect the company from conspiracy; it protects the spouses from potential coercion or retaliation at home or at work. 

There have been folks I worked with so well, I attempted relationship outside of work with disastrous result. Yes, there are several people I respect for their work ethic, but our social values do not align and I would not want to be tied to them in the daily mundanities of married life.  

I have been in relationship with some folks so phlegmatic relaxing with them was wonderful; but expecting them to kick any butt at work was hopeless. My best dance partner ever felt absolutely safe and secure in the dance studio. I trusted him implicitly to lead, lift and catch me; but I would not want to meet him on a dark street.  

How many do you know who are true soul mates?  Who can live and love and like and laugh and trust and work together 24 X 7?

Boots ‘N Socks

I didn’t mean to walk that far this morning.  Now I’m tired. My body aches. My toes are sore. A two and a half hour hike should not be a problem on my day off, but wearing my boots on a hot summer morning felt a little like driving a moving van out to get ice cream instead of effortlessly cruising in my compact Subaru.

My hiking Nikes have taken on a cactus spine
My hiking Nikes have taken on a cactus spine

Yes, my summer Nikes are out of commission. They were free in the first place, handed down from my cousin in new condition after my old kicks went bald.  These tennies have taken me so many places over the past year; Rough Canyon, Mica Mine, Nothoroughfare Canyon, Monument Canyon, Liberty Cap, Echo Canyon, Black Ridge, Ribbon Trail, Ouray, Cedaredge, Fort Collins, Glenwood Springs.  But a couple weeks ago, I laced them on quickly and took a ramble over some wild property on Glade Park. On the way back to the truck, I felt like a nail was poking my left big toe. I had taken on a cactus needle from the plentiful pear cactus in the area. Since that time, I have prodded the shoe sole in vain in search of the renegade spine. Does anyone have a shoe sole X-ray machine?

I have options.  After all, my converse have taken me hiking at Arches NP
I have options. After all, my converse have taken me hiking at Arches NP

Shoes and Choices The first day after taking on the cactus spine, I wrote: “Sigh, I am reduced to staying on the beaten path; and everyone knows how I like to hike off into the hills. But hey, at least I can still walk. And, I should be thankful I actually have a pair of shoes I can walk in – just not off the standard trail.” Converse are not bad for light hiking.  After all, they supported me down all the maintained trails on a spur of the moment trip to Arches National Park. But, the soles are rather thin for sharp rocks and small boulders, and the canvas sides?  Well, I’d best avoid the cactus by staying on the trail.

Boots 'N socks and summer heat 'N socks - you can't dance to it
Boots ‘N socks and summer heat ‘N socks – you can’t dance to it

This morning I awoke in need of a challenging hike, so I pulled my boots from the trunk and added a pair of socks. Usually, the hiking boots don’t come out until the first snow and they were never meant to match my workout shorts, but it is August and western Colorado is a desert.  I headed up Holy Cross.  And up.  And up some more, and then opted to come back down the trail instead of meeting up with the road where heavy road equipment and 18 wheelers are going about their business. It not being winter, I was not wearing my great wool socks.  My toes started whining. Inspired by my boots, I decided to distract myself with beat-boxing.  “Boots’n Cats’n Boots ‘n Cats ‘n.”   I expanded my vocabulary as the sun sizzled and I perspired, “ “Boots’n Socks’n, Summer Socks ‘n Boots’n Socks’ n summer heat Socks!” (Ya just can’t dance to it).

A Perfect Fortune Cookie

DSCN5831benchcreekI had lunch at a little Chinese place with my parents, my aunt and two family friends. We met as early as possible because I had an appointment in Cedaredge at 1:00 p.m.  The conversation was usual, with plenty of good natured joking.  As I rose to rush off, I flung an unopened fortune cookie into the take-out box and headed for my car.  The rain was just beginning and it followed me all the way up highway 50 with varying intensity. Independent educators ran for the building and rain continued to drum on the roof throughout our our orientation meeting. When the meeting concluded at 4:00 the rain had abated.  I drove a few more miles toward Grand Mesa, up to my cousin’s place at 8,000 feet. She wasn’t home from work yet, so after I said hello to her husband, I changed my shoes and took a hike; through beautiful rain washed scrub oak, service berry, choke-cherry and pine trees, down by the creek that rushes through the lower part of their property.  My soul was drinking in the refreshment and beauty at every turn. DSCN5829creek

My cousin came home.  We threw some fresh veggies on the stove and ran outside again to see the vivid and complete rainbow.  And then, I opened my fortune cookie.