Going back and forth and back again.
I had a thought about the classic song by Harry Chapin. For a refresher, YouTube it and remind yourself of what a punch in the gut it is. It’s a beautiful song that can inflict a surprisingly a large amount of pain.
The past weekend I was able to sneak in two 5 mile runs within the city of Edmonton. Edmonton is my favourite place in the world. Running downtown and across the river in Old Strathcona is a super fun experience. This past weekend I also ran on an edge of the city, and found myself with two very different episodes.
It also started a few blocks south of Whyte Avenue at our friend’s house. I laced up the ol’ New Balance shoes and headed out. I stuck to some side roads that zigzagged just west of 109th. There was where I found the students, hustling here and there, most not for a night out, but for a night in of studying and book hitting. Their books draped over their backs, and some sort of athletic shoe on their feet, these people seemed utilitarian in their purpose. No parties (saw an advertisement for a “Toga Party”), just some solid state studying.
First of all, I want to say that this movie is not for everyone. Most people, in fact. If you are not familiar with Darren Aronofsky films, then you should know that they are very different. Very visual, very abstract, and very shocking.
Okay, so as with his film Noah, I went to see Aronofsky’s Mother! by myself. If you haven’t gone to a movie solo you are missing out on a very special, personal, and focused experience. Nothing to do but pay attention and seap into it. Lovely.
Last night I had a plan.
I had heard through a bird that the Northern Lights were going to be shining nice. My plan was to go out and take some pictures of them.
My house is surrounded by trees to the north, so my plan included hopping in the car and driving out to the edge of one of the many farmer’s fields we have in the neighbourhood.
Maybe I didn’t tell you this yet, but I am not a big fan of being alone in the dark. Last night was me being brave. I drove up the road and parked in a turn off just next to an open field. The silence of the night was hard to handle. So quiet it was noisy, you know?
And there they were; Northern Lights were twisting and snapping away. Yet Mr. Moon had something to say, as well. The Full Moon was shining so bright it was stealing some of the show. I could see deep into the field, cattle lying around, snuffing and puffing quietly. A pond and some reeds exhaling and taking a knee after such an unseasonably warm day. I could see some things, and this knowledge seemed to ease my fears.
I propped up my Canon and got things going. Turned out to have a few pretty fun shots. 20 minutes and I was out of there. No coyote gonna to tear me apart, at least not on this night.
I’ve lived in the country for 5 years now. It takes some getting used to, but moments like the one I enjoyed last night confirm that there is so much to experience. So much out there.
All I wanted to do was wish my son a happy birthday.
June 7th, 2017. Every day, I drive my 2 sons down the road to their school. It only takes 10 minutes, and each day we enjoy listening to the local sports radio station. On this day, my boy Jonas was turning 8. He is a big sports fan, so I thought it would be cool to see if the sports guys could wish him a happy birthday on the radio.
I texted in, and heard back that they would see what they could do. I replied with a “no problem, thanks for your consideration.” Then, they said that they would do it, but that they weren’t 100% because things could change the last minute. I said, “sure, no problem. Thanks so much for trying!”
The plan was set. I gave them a window of time when Jonas would still be in the car. The problem was that we arrived 2 minutes before the end of the window, and still no happy birthday. Would they do it still? Maybe not.
Jonas was getting antsy in the car. I couldn’t tell him to wait because they were going to say happy birthday on the radio, because if they didn’t he would be bummed. So, before he started getting angry at me for making him wait (it being his birthday, not a good thing), I said that they could go.
I switched on a recording app on my phone, and sure enough; not 30 seconds after Jonas left the car, they wished him happy birthday in a super fun way. Too bad. But at least I had the recording to show him later in the day.
I texted the radio station back and lied a bit by saying that Jonas loved it. He didn’t hear it, but for sure he would have loved it. I mean, I loved it, so that’s gotta count for something. I said thanks so much, and that was it.
Or so I thought…
An hour later, they called me up and told me that, because I as so polite on the texting, they were giving me Guns and Roses tickets! Crazy.
So a week later I picked up 2 Guns and Roses tickets. I wasn’t going to take Jonas because I am a good parent and he is 8. I wasn’t going to take Barbara because she’s not into that much debauchery. She likes her debauchery in moderation. I could only think of 1 person who I would enjoy this with, and in the end, he couldn’t make it into town for the show.
I stared at the tickets, sitting on my desk for months before the show. Who could I take? What would it be like to see this band after 25 years of only being remotely interested in them?
I liked Guns and Roses back in the early 90’s. They were on the radio, and they had this cool looking guitar player with bushy hair bunched up around a cigarette poking out of his face. They had this one song November Rain, to which I danced many a dance with girls I liked in Junior High. That song never seemed to end. It was wonderful.
Yet I was never a huge fan, let alone fan enough to want to dress up like 1992 and pretend I was young and crazy again. I thought that maybe I shouldn’t go to the show.
Time was running out. It never occurred to me to give the tickets to someone else who might enjoy them. I must have thought that, deep down, I would enjoy the show. I asked Barbara if she would go with me and she said sure.
We got my mom to baby sit. We drove an hour from home to the football stadium. We parked at Barbara’s sister’s house and walked 12 blocks. The sound of the opening band could clearly be heard once we got out of the car. This was going to be loud.
At the stadium it was basically culture shock. So many people wearing skeleton and snake shirts. Ladies carrying around roses. Men and women alike completely tanked at 6:45pm on a Wednesday evening.
We found our seats and just soaked it all in. I’m not trying to say that I was offended with anyone, just that it was such a shock to my system that I felt uncomfortable and anxious the whole time. The people around us were rowdy. Loose lips from the beers. Costumes. A lot of “Hell yeah!” and “Fcuk yeah!” sort of business.
Then the band came out. Loud, noise of such that I could not recognize. Axel Rose seemed excited. He licked and then extended his middle finger to the crowd, which I assume was meant to be a greeting. The crowd ate it up.
Slash, the cool guitar player had an offensive t-shirt on, which I think was supposed to get us all whooping and hollering as to how silly and naughty this night was about to become.
They performed a few more songs. I asked Barbara through our ear plugs if she wanted to leave. She seemed to be enjoying experiencing this experiment. I said we should leave once we heard a song we knew. She nodded.
They came to the 4th or 5 song of the night, Welcome to the Jungle, and we left at the end of it.
It was still early, so we went to Love Pizza, and enjoyed a nice, quiet date. They had an advertisement announcing that kids could eat for free on Sundays. We made a note of it.
I am thankful for the tickets from the radio station. It was really nice of them.
Yet, all I wanted to do was wish my son a happy birthday.
I have Instagram because:
For me, it’s almost always about running. I run a lot, but I’m not running as much as I want. If a post of myself leaning over my shoes helps get me out the door, then so be it!
Really though, we’re all a bunch of show-offs when it comes to posting pics. Everyone’s got something going on in their lives that is more awesome than the sum of their reality. We all just choose to focus on the positives. No big deal, if you ask me.
If you’re pretending your life is always like your posts, then I’m afraid that the joke is on you, my friend.
I see other runners on there, pushing through a tough run, or prepping for a race, and it gets me excited!
If you’ve got a goal, or if you’re doing something awesome with your life because you’ve decided to get on with it, then please, share it with the rest of us! I need the motivation to say ‘Yes!’ every day. Bring it out of me. Be my inspiration!
I’ll keep on posting running pics. I’ll even throw in a pic or two of my kids from now and then. My lovely wife and I on a hot date? Why not! Life’s too short not to share the good stuff.
Summer’s sneaking by me like a ninja. Fast times, for sure.
I have to say that it has been a quite a lot more difficult to throw some consistency into my running. I’ve had to be at our summer camp’s morning meeting to facilitate at 7:45. That means that I’ve got to aim for a 6am 45 minute run, a 10 minute cool down/garden water, shower, coffee and such, and then head in for the meeting. That’s quite a to-do list first thing in the morning.
The problem is that my body was conditioned to run in the evenings. After waking up, some days it takes me up to 15 minutes to actually feel awake. Then I need to push myself out of the door, then hit a bit of a rhythm and then, bam, I’m in the run zone. That’s a lot to ask of an evening runner.
Anyway, I’ve logged about 75 miles this month, down from my 110/month pace, yet still squarely where I like to be.
One big change is my weekly Runner’s Yoga routine. I’ve been at it since mid-June and the other day, while stretching my leg out while sitting in my office chair, I noticed that I could stretch it a lot easier and further than before. Super convenient. I will keep that routine in my schedule. It’s a 30 minute Youtube video with Adriene, which I have pretty much memorized.
Now grab your pillow!
When I do get out for a run, I’ve yet to regret it. The sun is sharp and full of angles as it blasts above the eastern trees. The green grass along the side of the road sways to my music (at least I pretend it does). I’ve seen a Whitetail Deer scurry across the road. I’ve come across two foxes, who take a look up the road at me before darting into the trees. Moments later I come across their scattered paw prints in the morning dew.
The sounds are of such variety. Geese squawking overhead. My feet touching the asphalt as softly as I can make them. The buzz of the power lines echo as I pass each tree line that stretches out between the fields.
This past week, the BC fire smoke made its way into our neighbourhood, having its way with the low-lying areas. I thought about staying in that morning, but then I remembered that while I was living in China, the air was always much worse. If I’m up and ready to go, I’m not going to let some sneaky smoke get in the way of a good, morning run.
July is almost over. I could tell you all of the nasty things that have happened this month, but with it almost behind me, I figure this might be the right time to move on and forget about anything that might have gotten me down for a hot minute or two of my time.
Life is good. Fresh air is good. Smoky air is good enough.
Here we go!
This is a pretty difficult thing for me to write. 25 years is a long time to hold on to something, yet it wasn’t until this last year that I realized it was actually holding onto me.
25 years ago, you passed away. You were just a kid. That’s it. That’s all I can really think about. That’s all I’ve ever really thought about it. The problem, the thing that’s been holding me, is that there is so much more in my memory.
We were at summer camp. Mid-week, sunny weather, the days of our youth. What a week that was! I had all my best friends in my cabin. I know you had some friends there, too. I can remember your friend Dave was there. 25 years ago and I remember your friend.
It was the evening and they had decided to take us over to the property up the road. We were going over there, about 60 of us kids, to have a wiener roast. I remember the sunshine. I remember the gravel road that we set out on. They hitched a wooden wagon to the back of a pick-up truck and lugged all 60 of us up the road.
I met you. I never knew you before, but we met. I had a Casio wrist watch and I noticed that you had the same one. That’s it. Just you and I, sharing a moment. Acting mature for a couple of 11 year olds. Almost unlike me, a quiet, shy kid, to strike up a conversation. Must have been the weather. Must have been the company, too.
We made it up the road. At the wiener roast I was back with my friends. Chatting about the kind of fun we had and that kind of fun we were gonna have. Lots of good times left in the week. We alluded to the girls we had crushes on. There they were, across the fire pit. We dreamed of summer romance. We were kids.
The roast ended, and we headed back. Something wasn’t making sense, so a bunch of us started to walk down the road. I don’t remember why, but we did, and it wasn’t bad. But then, the truck and wagon showed up. It slowed down, as slow as it could, and a bunch of us jumped on. I think others just decided to walk. So there were a bunch of us on the wagon. It didn’t stop, just slowed down. I didn’t know why, didn’t seem to be a problem at the time.
Then I remember when it all wasn’t right. I was sitting in the middle of the wagon, on a bale. Surrounded by dozens of other kids.
Thump. Thump. I can still feel it. I can still feel it go up my back. It was so unexpected. The moment stands still in my mind. I looked up to see what everyone else was trying to see. What did we run over? What is going on?
There you were. laying on your side. Then I remember you getting up. He’s okay! But you weren’t okay. Bone where your skin should have been. Bone and blood. Your arm wasn’t right, I knew it. Your mouth was red. You fell down again and the poor man in charge scooped you up like a bundle of muddy sticks. Unhooked the truck, off you went.
I remember Jeff running back to pick up your hat for you. I don’t know what he did with it. He was just a kid.
A van drove past again, taking you away to be saved.
We got off of the wagon and walked on into the rest of our lives. The rest of the week was left in tears. Lots of sitting. Police and pastors. Kids holding hands. Singing songs together. My cousin and I went down to the lake to pray for you. I remember.
In the morning they told us that you could not be saved. I remember it not making any sense. You stood up. It didn’t make sense that you could be gone. You were just a kid. You had your Casio watch, too. You were supposed to lose it, like I lost mine a few years later. You were supposed to get a new one. Lots of new ones. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it and I don’t think that I ever did. You’d never get another watch, and that was a strange thing to think about, but it’s what I did think about and it was awful.
I want to hold your memory close. You mean a lot to me, as strange as that might seem. Watch buddy. But I can’t stand that memory when it grips my heart so tightly. I need to get this out. I need to get all of it out of me so that I can build on something new.
Otherwise I’m crippled. There’s too much fear in raising my kids. They’re just kids, you know? One of them will be 11 in a little over a year. Just like us, Paul. Just like you and me, back then. That wagon ride. It was such a nice day. Super weather. The perfect evening for a wiener roast. The perfect conversation struck up between two engaging kids.
25 years ago, and time still has its grip on me. The Casio watch. The one I was wearing the day that you died. I lost it somewhere. Maybe at the pool, I don’t quite remember. I want to lose my fear, too. Of that day, and the hurt it still brings. Time hasn’t really helped all that much at all.
I’ve been out on the road less than I’d like, if I’m being honest. My job is busy, my kids have been filling up the schedule with baseball, and a million other excuses have brought me to a slight plateau. I’m still getting out the 3 times a week at minimum, throwing down an average of 17 miles. But that’s below my goal of 25/week.
I think it’s just a lull. I’ve got a bit of an abdomen injury that might have something to do with it, but nothing serious. With my marathon only 53 days away, I’ve got to get at it!
Digging in the dirt is quite a nice thing. I’ve only got little kid-sized garden tools, so I really get in there! The watering barrel has been at encouraging levels these days, so I can’t complain.
Overall, life feels like its pressing down on me. It kind of hurts sometimes, but it’s forcing the good parts of myself to the surface. This summer is going to be a wild ride and I’m thankful for moments like this, and like when I’m running or digging, that remind me to not take everything so seriously.
Lately I have been really trying hard to be aware and present. I want to be present with everything that is going on around me. I’m turning 36 next month and I’ve breezed through too many days.
Way too many.
So I fight for every second for clarity. I need to step back, in my mind, and appreciate things a little bit at a time, step by step, each hour, each day. Piece by piece. Moment by moment. One person at a time.