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Tracie Skarbo was motivated to write by her father, who was her biggest supporter. “He was always behind me, rallying me on with my writing. I would always see him with a book in hand. He gave me a great appreciation for the written word, and the power and responsibility that writers have to shape those who read their words. He also taught me to respect nature and to value the beauty within it; my reflections on my environment are just an extension of this.” Skarbo was raised on Vancouver Island and is working on her next two books.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Laced Up Confessionals Part Eleven

I looked out the window today at the trees and could see from my vantage point that the boughs of some were swaying, and they almost seemed to be tickling the dark grey clouds.  I knew that with conditions like this, it was going to be a lively run.  Smiling I began to get my gear together and lace up.  By the time I was finished and looked out the window again, I was confronted with a downpour that had drops bouncing back up off of the road, and rivulets flowing down the hill. 

Perfect!  The last time I had run in the rain was way back in the end of May when I was in a running clinic and we were running along one of the main arteries in the city.  It was a hot day so it hadn’t mattered that I was getting drenched.  We had lots of fun as we slogged along, shoes squishing out their protest.  Today was going to be another of those days, one where people look at those of us on the streets and think that we are mad running in such weather.  But perhaps that is only because they have forgotten what it felt like when they were children dressed in their raincoats and boots, jumping in puddles and listening to the music the drops made on their hoods or umbrellas.  They have forgotten that juicy joy which comes from taking part in the simple things life gives to all of us.

I set out and I wonder if the glee of such a delicious moment is apparent on my face?  The cold drops have soaked me only slightly slower than a regular bathing shower.  Immediately the brim of my running hat is dripping and I am glad that it will be keeping the huge kisses of the clouds at bay, lest my contact lenses be sailing down the road a top the small rivers that steal pine needles and small stones with their current.

I am up the hill before I know it.  I wonder at how I got up it so fast, is it because I was focused on the drops and the wind littering golden leaves upon me, or perhaps because I am concentrating on being seen by the drivers more than ever today?  No longer focused on the heat and the little pains that sometimes plague me I am full of present and now.  I appreciate that which is before me and I am grateful for my health that allows me to get out and see and experience this. 

I pass the skate park where usually there are teens performing feats with both skateboards and bikes, that make the laws of gravity look like a child’s toy, and one that these wheeled wonders seem to have left in the confines of the crib’s they had grown out of long ago.  It is empty, slick and grey.  It looks lonesome and somehow lovesick for those young mavericks, who usually caress with sweat, skin and soles. 

Carrying on down to the half way point, I enjoy how alone I am on this trip.  It’s only myself and the steel shells of people coming from work who brave the streets, and every so often I am rewarded with a fresh splash of a puddle as one zips by.  Somehow it makes the whole experience all the more magical and meditative.  I have left my MP3 player at home, and I am totally immersed in experiencing the all of these moments. 

I focus on the hiss of the wet tires as they pass, I watch and run through rain chains dripping from the telephone wires above.  I listen and feel the slap flapping of my black running pants on my calves, the squelching of my shoes as every step is taken and spent, and the feel of my socks as the water makes them suction onto my toes.  (Which by the way is what I imagine vacuum packed sausages would be apt to feel, if they were capable.)  I know my cheeks are rosy, and probably match my raspberry colored top, which is a great color against the green and yellow of the background landscape.  I will, and have been seen.  I will need brighter colors come winter.

I finish up at the bottom of the hill and I am again grateful that the grip of my shoes didn’t let loose on the slick gravel and toss me on my behind.  No doubt an accident like that would leave me picking gravel out of road rash for weeks afterwards.  I had a coach once who did that very thing, although she was trail running at the time.  Came down a hill and tripped hit her cheek on a rock and the rest of the side of her face took gravel in depth.  A frightening bruise showed in the weeks afterwards, and since seeing and hearing her story, I am always reserved when it comes to steep hills.

I wrap it up at the crosswalk that marks the finish and think to myself that I am happy that I didn’t listen to the lazy girl that arises in me sometimes when facing the elements.  Even though I feel lazy at the start sometimes, I know that if I kick myself outside to just do it, I am always returning with a grin.

I survived the first of the rains that are part of living in rainforest area.  I know that this season will have much more in store as time moves on.  I am excited to see what emotions Fall will reveal.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Meditations with Tom Thumbs

For those of you who are not privy to who Tom Thumbs is, let me explain.  Tom is a caramel colored tabby who came into my life last winter as a stray.  Tom is the larger of the two cats who have decided, through the gentle coaxing with cat food no doubt, that life on the “streets” is harder than life within the compounds of our residence. 

Shy Tale, the small, dainty, grey tabby prefers the comforts of the insides of our dwelling while Tom is the defiant patio rebel.  Taking it upon himself to guard the flowerbeds and gardens from scaly and whiskered foe that dare to show themselves.  He lies out lion like, rolled over onto one shoulder and hip while surveying his domain, basking in the afternoon sun or in lazy crawling shadows of weeds that insist on emerging between the cobble stones. 

I look deep within his eyes which are flecked with a brilliant lime green and I wonder if he is somehow sending me Morse code messages through his slow winks and almost imperceptible nose twitches.  Perhaps this is some kind of feline alphabet that he shares with me through a silent knowing?  For it seems that through his lazy gaze he is also intent and focused on the slightest change I make with my own face turned upon him. I take it upon myself to try out this hypothesis on our seeming mediation and wait until I have his full attention.  When I do close one eye a little more than the other and then slowly and deliberately close both of them together, and repeat this again when I see that he is raptly focused upon my face and particularly my eyes.  I hope that if I am saying anything to him at all that it was not aggressive, the last thing I wanted was Tom’s claws in my calves.

I was somewhat surprised when Tom rose and came over to where I sat, he mewed once—almost as though he was letting me know he understood, but understood what if anything was yet to be determined—then he lay down over my feet and began a loud rumbling purr. 

I smiled to myself wondering what exactly I had said.  Did I give the signal that my toes were in need of toasting?  Or that I was feeling sleepy and wanted to cuddle?  Or was Tom secretly chuckling to himself at my frail attempt to bridge the language barrier?  Either way I enjoy my meditation time with Tom Thumbs and I am grateful for such a brave backyard warrior.

The Laced Up Confessionals Part Ten

Here we are in mid September and the first rains are beginning to fall, marking the end of our wonderful Indian summer and cooling the temperatures.  As a runner I am happy for the change.  It is amazing what a difference a couple of degrees can make in performance and how comfortable you are on a run. 
I live on the west coast of Vancouver Island, and most times on my run I am apt to see different kinds of wildlife on my way about my route.  The most common being deer, rabbits, eagle and vultures, I have even seen a bobcat one time. (What a rare treat!)  So when I think about my last run it shouldn’t be any kind of a surprise I suppose.
I was on the start of my run up the hill.  It is a long one, about half a kilometer at a forty-five degree angle, and I was about three fourths of the way up it when to my right I noticed a commotion going on up by the freeway.  An elderly woman was at the side of the road doubled over beside her car and there were people surrounding her.  I was trying to figure out what was going on and at the same time not run out into traffic, when I saw what had been the cause of the strife.  A young female deer was lying in the grass not far from the woman and her car.  Unfortunately it was a common sight along the city roads.  I was glad it was lying still and no longer breathing, because there are times when reality is not so kind, leaving the animal and the driver to suffer.  I hate seeing such things, clashes between nature and our encroachment upon it, but these days I am also surprised that there is not more of it.  I saw that the others had the situation under control and ran on, thinking about mortality, our fragility, and the meaning of such things.
On the way back I passed an area where there are many rabbits inhabiting an area off to the side of the road.  There must be forty to fifty rabbits amongst the briar and little forested area.  People come and drop off apples, grass clippings and other yard waste for them to eat.  Some people bring their children to feed them carrots.  This is probably why the population has rocketed out of control.  Or perhaps it is just because being rabbits, fertile is what they do best.  Some of these rabbits are huge, the size of small dogs really, and I love seeing them on my run.  A large grey one caught my eye on runs, it had white feet a white tail and I enjoy seeing its nose wriggle while it sat ridged trying to judge whether I was a threat. 
I saw the rabbits on the side of the road first.  There were about twelve of them all huddled close, looking at something on or across the road.  I was too far away to see.  As I got closer I saw what they were looking at.  My grey bunny lay in the middle of the right lane of the road.  Its front and back paws were straight across the road and made it look like it was in mid leap across the road when it had been struck.  There was no blood, and if you were to glance at the animal and overlook the horrid stillness, you would have thought it was just down for a nap. 
My eyes began to water.  I couldn’t tell what had upset me more, the sight of my favorite rabbit lying still, or the sight of the other rabbits looking over at it.  I wondered at their extent of comprehension of such things.  Elephants understood death, even came back after years and mourned those that had passed before them.  Could these bunnies, some so small and recent, understand even a sliver of what had happened?  It must have had some sort of impact on them or why would they be huddled together looking at the dead rabbit and not moving?  Even when I came up on the scene they didn’t scatter.  I thought of the book I had read in my youth The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, and a shiver went down my spine. 
I continued my run, pondering the death along it.  Was it the change in weather that helped end these two lives today?  I know that all things must have an end at one time or another and it would happen when we least expect it just like the rabbit and deer had experienced.  But even though it is a shared experience, a penance for life, it didn’t seem to make things easier.  A thought provoking run for sure.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Laced Up Confessionals Part Nine

Running in the summer months can be a challenge.  Sure you don’t have to tackle drifts of snow, blizzards, or horizontal frozen rain but there are dangers out there just the same.  Changes and adjustments must be made if you are going to get through the months with a smile on your face every time you get out onto the asphalt ribbons. 

Consuming more water on your runs and before and after you are running is a major factor.  If you go on a run when you are dehydrated you will notice immediately that something is wrong.  Your legs will feel as though they are full of lead and you won’t have the least amount of get up and go.  If you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated.  Not a fan of drinking water by itself?  Add some lemon for a twist, there are many ice tea variations out there, or sport drinks that will help prevent you from becoming dehydrated.  I am not a fan of these sports drinks myself so I have opted for ice tea in my water.  It is a brand that has less sugar in it and I only put half of the amount that they recommend in my bottle so it is just lightly flavored. 

The timing of runs should be adjusted due to the heat, morning or evening runs are most desirable.  Running in the apex of the day is the hardest on your system, and only invites sun stroke and exertional heat stroke. 

“With exertional heat stroke, victims continue to sweat, despite the increased core temperature. For athletes, the diagnosis of heat stroke is made with a core temperature of greater then 40.5°C/105°F and mental status changes, such as confusion, disorientation and clumsiness. Collapse and coma can occur if symptoms are ignored. The underlying cause of heat stroke is connected to the sometimes sudden inability to dissipate body heat through perspiration, especially after strenuous physical activity.

This accounts for the excessive rise in body temperature and it is the high fever which can cause permanent damage to internal organs, and can result in death if not treated immediately. Recovery depends on heat duration and intensity. The goal of emergency treatment is to maintain circulation and lower body temperature as quickly as possible.”  (Sourced by the Rafed.net article on Heatstroke and Sunstroke found here http://en.rafed.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=749:-heatstroke-or-sunstroke-&catid=138:family-health&Itemid=992

Summer is the time when we shed layers and run in tanks and shorts to beat the heat, so lathering up with suntan lotion before running is a great idea as well as wearing a hat to keep the sun off of the top of your head.  Insects can be a problem on runs, wasps and mosquitoes bother me the most, so I limit scented products and use bug spray when needed.

What else do I carry on my running belt?  Sport beans for a quick pick me up if I am on a longer run, Water bottle, Band-Aids for those unexpected blisters, Id in case the unexpected happens, house key tied into my laces, Carmex, and bus fare just in case of injury. 

I find running in the summer to be a mixed bag.  I like it because I am unencumbered by layers of clothes and I enjoy the warm weather, but when it gets to be too hot, running can become a chore and I don’t enjoy getting out as much.  If I can find runs that have more shade on them, then I am a happy camper. 

September is here and with it the cooler weather is on its way.  I look forward to the turning leaves to colour my routes and the rains to come back and green up the yards I pass.