Sonot Khaazoot

No, it’s not what you say when someone sneezes.

It’s Athabascan, and translated roughly, it means sliding your feet on snow in springtime.  Those of you who have lived in northern climes know that doing so can be a dicey and often entertaining prospect, which is of course why Fairbanksans think it such a wonderful idea.  There can actually be many forms of sliding your feet across snow…and ice and slush…in springtime and I’m sure it will come as no surprise that we enjoy them all, but this particular enterprise is all about skiing.  Who would think that a ski marathon on an only partially frozen river in the last week of March is a good idea?  We do!

The guy who is in charge of making sure it’s safe for us to do so is Bad Bob Baker.  Any reader from Fairbanks knows the legendary Bad Bob and to give those not fortunate (or nutty) enough to live here a bit of background, Bad Bob is fast, competitive, often wins his age group and races in bright orange.  Always.  He also has a heart of gold and volunteers hundreds of hours to make everything from high school track to ski races happen in Fairbanks.  When thanked, he gives a gruff nod and he would be mortified to know I described him as having a soft and generous heart.

Getting back to the point, would you trust the thickness of ice on a 50 degree day when you can actually see the gravel at the bottom of the river to a guy in orange spandex called Bad Bob?

Of course!  It’s all part of the fun.  And no one went in the drink today, though a few of us got hot enough that we would have been glad to.  And there was some talk of whether the best approach was to ski around standing water or through it.  Once again, part of the charm.

That brings me to the first phase of fun and entertainment for the community – the lead in to the race with all its drama.  Text messages and e-mails fly all over town the week before – are you racing the Sonot?  What distance?  Will it be on the river?  What have you heard?  Part of this is friendly and just about finding out who will be there that you might not have had coffee with recently and the other piece is sneakily competitive.  By figuring out who is there, you can actually start to get a tally on the people faster than you in your age group.  The simple method would be just to look it up on line, but what fun is that?

The other aspect to the pre-event drama is something that only people who have bibbed up for a ski event fully understand, so I’ll describe it in more detail for those of you who do not believe that sliding along the river with boards strapped to your feet and sharp pointy objects in your hands is a good idea.

Let me use running as an example.  If you typically run a half marathon in 2 hours, you may slow down a little in the heat or wind or rain, but assuming that you’re running a road race and that the terrain isn’t too extreme, your half marathon result on any given day will probably be somewhere between 1:55 and 2:10.  On a really terrible day when you’re sick, injured, tired, having muscle cramps, etc. there might be a wider variation, but you can still trace the difference in your result back to a specific factor in how you were feeling that day.

Not so with ski races.  The temperature of the snow itself is a factor in how fast you can go and how much effort is expended to do so.  If you’re on classic skis, you also have to select a wax that will work for the temperature of the snow, how old or granular the snow is, whether you’ll go through icy patches that will grind your wax off and how much climbing you will be doing.  I’m a bit of a hack as a skier and I just generally try to stay vertical and do my best, so I’m not the best person to talk you through all of this.  My point here is that all of these factors add to the drama and anticipation of the day.  On a spring day when the weather may actually change quite a bit between the time you start and the time you finish, the drama and anticipation is even higher.  The comment the race organizers made today was that we would literally be racing spring to see if we could complete the course before the sun did its thing.

I’m not very speedy, so there was definitely slush, shiny spots and puddles on the way back where none had been on the way out.  Just adds to the excitement!  And to my original point about how the conditions affect expectations and results, many of the skiers today on the “fast snow” commented on being able to complete the 20K course 15 to 20 minutes faster than expected.  Going back to that half marathon example, imagine the feeling of crossing the finish line 15 minutes faster than your PR because of “fast asphalt”.

As I said, drama.  Both in the anticipation and the result.

So lets get on to the day itself.  One of the great things about skiing…or running or anything else outdoorsy and athletic in Fairbanks is that we have amazing athletes of all ages here and yet the approach to things is very egalitarian.  I came into the finish today behind a six year old that I can easily imagine as a future Olympian.  And living in Fairbanks, she could set her sights on that dream and accomplish it – many others have.

Lining up at the start, you see a combination of old geezers in wool shirts, suspenders and old school wool ski pants lined up next to skiers from the various high school and university teams and scattered among them the smaller kids decked out in the colors of their various ski clubs.  On the advice of a friend, I lined up behind everyone under everyone in bright clothes under 25.  It was a wise decision.

If you’ve ever seen a mass start swim at a triathlon, imagine everyone with sharp sticks in their hands and it will give you an idea of what a mass start in a ski event looks and feels like.  The good news is that you’re not going to drown skiing.  Or at least not until the river melts down a little more.  The little guys (and by that I mean everyone under 4 foot tall of both genders) take off at breakneck speed, giving it their all with an energy level I’m not even sure I remember.

As an aside, one of the great remarks I overheard today was when a tweenage girl was complaining to her dad about a sore throat.  Instead of asking if she needed to go to the doctor, he asked her if it was because she was breathing through her mouth, adding the comment “you know, you were really sucking wind out there for awhile.”

So off we go down the river on a bright sunny day under a clear blue sky, already wondering along with all the questions about who is in our age group and whether it’s going to be icy whether we also might have put on one too many layers.  The answer for absolutely everyone was yes.  It was 35 degrees when I started and 50 when I finished.  Did I mention that the snow was fast, fast, FAST?!

Some of you have heard me say before that my favorite thing about the Equinox Marathon is that it’s a social event – a time to check in on friends and their families in the fall just before winter sets in.  I think the Sonot Khaazoot may be the spring equivalent.  I skied with a group the way you do in any race moving ahead a little when you’re feeling great and dropping back a bit when you need to regroup.  Most of the group I was with for the day were parents skiing along with the younger skiers in their families and encouraging them along the way.  Several of the 12 and under set I skied with today were doing their longest ski ever – 20K is just shy of a half marathon.

There were also three dads moving along with the group towing baby trailers on skis, stopping frequently to make sure that the kids not quite old enough for skis of their own (and in Fairbanks most start skiing as soon as it’s somewhat likely they’ll be able to stay upright for a few minutes at a time) were enjoying their time on the river.

It was a companionable group and I learned a lot about the kids who were trying so very hard not to get passed by an old lady like me.  One little guy in particular was very obviously torn between wanting his mom to be proud of him and not wanting to appear uncool being seen with her.  Knowing her boy, she stayed slightly in front of him or behind him all day, giving us a chance to chat.  When I finally decided to move on ahead, it took me nearly a full kilometer to pass him.  Kid has guts, but sometimes the old dogs still have it in the endurance department.  Next year, he’ll beat me.

I think my only disappointment is that the day went by far too fast.  To be honest, I think I only had 20K in my legs, so I’m not sure going further would be a great idea, but the thing about skiing, at least on a gorgeous spring day like today, is that it’s over while you’re still at the very peak of enjoyment.  It’s a bit more intense than running in that you have a lot more to pay attention to – how the snow feels under your skis, what the trail conditions look like ahead of you, boards, sticks, other people with boards and sticks.  It also goes by just a little faster, making you yearn for more.  Or maybe it’s just that community feeling of seeing everyone out celebrating that made me want to stay out all day.

I can’t quite leave a recap of a race without talking about the results.  Even knowing that my competitive streak is absolutely meaningless given the caliber of athletes I had the pleasure of skiing with (or behind) today, I still have to say that it was a ski I can feel good about.  I set my sights on two and a half hours, friends who know the river and the event amended that to two hours and with the fast snow, I finished in just under an hour and a half.

Just because we all need to keep our egos in check, though, I’m reminding myself that I got beat in an endurance event by a six year old.  I guess I’ll have to wait until she makes the US Ski team a decade or more from now to feel fully justified.

Whether it envolves sliding on snow or not, here’s to happy springtime trails!

She Cannae Take Much More, Captain!

In case you’re wondering whether we’re all geeks, the answer is yes. Be you human, moose, wolf, whale or dolphin, we all share a love for both respecting and defying the laws of physics. And while it’s not really feasible for a 450 pound ungulate with hooves to attend a Star Trek convention, I am absolutely a Trekkie. As are we all.

With all due respect, let me tell you where they got it wrong. Anyone who has been watching Star Trek from a young age knows about wormholes, space/time anomolies, warp speed and holes in the space/time continuum. While this is all pretty close to being spot on, I have to say that those of us who actually work with the fabric of time on a daily basis prefer the term “bending time” to “time warp”. The first implies intent and craftsmanship, the second forces beyond our control and somewhat random.

We’re often asked about the qualities of time. A fabric? Yes. A continuum? Yes. Linear? Yes. Fluid? Yes. Subject to perceptions? Absolutely. Can we travel through time? YES!!. Slow, collapse or bend time? Have you been paying attention? Santa makes it around the world in a single night with a team of reindeer and a flying sleigh. How do you think THAT happens?

So let’s talk a bit about “time management”.  I’m sorry to say it, but you two legs have it all wrong.  It’s not about efficiency or effectiveness or how well you can balance different tasks and activities.  It’s about trusting.  Every minute of every day is connected to more than time.  The minutes themselves are, in fact, an illusion and an artificial construct, but I think the geekier among you probably know that.  The magic and beauty of time is that it’s a fabric, a network of connections vaster than anything any of us can imagine.  While you are in the shower in the morning, for example, a child is being born who is in some way connected to you through family, culture, geography or experience.  Someone you know is learning that they’re sick or that they’re well.  Someone else you know is experiencing an epiphany or a roadblock or a life-changing shift in their perceptions.  All of it – grief and fear and sadness and wonder and joy and love – are all happening all the time along parallel lines woven into the fabric of time.

Your Outlook calendar is a very poor reflection of this wonderment.

What the time crafters in our organization do is look at the very qualities of the fabric of time, look at it as a living thing, as a material to work with and craft, as opportunities to enhance connection and joy and celebration and kindness.  The words “time warp” really don’t suffice to describe the breathtaking art and beauty of what’s really happening when time is valued in all its incredibly beautiful and powerful relativity.

Ever wonder why at Christmastime you think of the great grandmother you met only once in your childhood?  Our time artists are hard at working making that happen for you.

Here’s where the trust comes in.  As you travel through this Christmas, trust that there is all the time in the world to spend with the ones you love.  There is – we’ll stretch it for you as needed.  Trust that when you remember a beautiful moment shared, the person with whom you shared it has also remembered that moment.  We’re hard at work pulling gently on the strands of time to be sure you both have access to that moment.  Above all, trust that we are all absolutely in the time and place we should be.  We are.  That part requires no manipulation on our part – it just is.

Coming around full circle to the beginning of this discussion, I want to point out the other place Star Trek got it wrong.  “Captain, she cannae take much more!” – truth or fiction?  In the Yule world, absolute fiction. The systems can handle anything.  Absolutely anything.  Peace on earth and goodwill to men will happen no matter what.  There’s no way to max that out.

Peace and love and joy to one and all!

~Hannah

Play It Again, Hannah!

Hannah here!

While I’ve got some old friends coming to check out the blog, I’ve also seen comments from some new folks – that’s great!  For those of you new to the conversation, I thought it might be interesting to revisit some of my chats from previous years.  This was our very first community meeting in 2010 – our first public discussion about Yule Engineering and our annual appeal for Yule Watch volunteers.  Enjoy!


 

Good evening, everyone!  I’d like to start out by thanking you all for coming out tonight, and a special thank you for meeting out here in the nice cool air.  It’s a little warm for me inside and I think the head librarian may still be holding a grudge over the incident with her cabbages summer before last.

But enough on the PR front – let’s get to our main topic of the evening!  My name is Hannah and I’m a Certified Level 3 Yule Engineer, more commonly known as a Chrismoose.  We’re going to talk about the Yule Engineering program tonight and about our Points of Impact communications plan, but I’d like to start by delving a bit into the terminology we use in the program.  From the time I was a knobbly-kneed calf, you see, I wanted to be a Chrismoose – not a Yule Engineer (I didn’t even know what that was!) – a Chrismoose.  For those of us here in the North Country, the terms are almost synonomous and “Chrismoose” sparks thoughts of warmth and fun on snowy winter nights.  When you really delve into this work, though, a bigger picture begins to emerge.

Let’s consider the Southwest as an example.  Imagine if you will, a Chrismoose listening in at the back window of a house in Sedona or Tucumcari.  She’d attract quite a bit of attention, to say the least.  We’ve even had Yule department engineers make front page news when we’ve had to deploy geographically mismatched resources like this.  So, our representatives in New Mexico and Arizona aren’t even moose at all, strange as that idea may seem to us here in Alaska.  My good friend Don works the New Mexico territory.  Don Quixote is a burro and while he still attracts some attention due to ongoing issues with the urbanization of Christmas, he attracts much less attention in a backyard in Las Cruces than a moose might in the same situation.

There are so many other great folks out there doing this work – deer, rabbits, elk and even, I’m proud to announce, a few humans.  Very few bears, though, as they seem more interested in sleeping through the winter than in a good honest day’s work.

This brings me to one more topic I know will come up this evening, so I might as well answer the question now and get it out of the way.  When lay people think Christmas, they think elves and reindeer.  The elves and reindeer both play a huge part in the overall Yule plan, but they are really just the two departments marketing and PR features most commonly.  Think of it like a factory.  If you want sound bites and images, you go to the production floor and get footage of all the automation in motion.  The engineer at the drawing board in the back room is not exciting news footage.  It’s like that with us.  Reindeer and elves are cute and sweet and make everyone coo.  Moose and burros are not marketing department favorites, but the job we do is still very, very important.

Two more quick questions I’ll answer to help you understand how yuletide joy is actually created and how you can help:

First, Christmas is a year-round operation.  What you see in “real” time as a single day is actually stretched out over the better part of a year.  Ever notice the similarities between Father Time and Father Christmas?  This really has to be kept within the ranks of Yule Engineers and community Yule Watch volunteers like yourselves, but they are actually one and the same.  That’s how we pull off Christmas – it’s actually a vast network of committed creatures working year round, but with our time bending technology, we can take a whole year to create a single Christmas Eve.

The other question is actually related.  I try to be patient with this question, especially since some of my good friends are reindeer, but I have to admit that I grow tired of being asked why reindeer can fly.  Imagine, if you will, little reindeer hooves trotting along in front of the sleigh.  Now, wrap the sleigh in a bubble of malleable time.  Next, slow down everything around that bubble.  It would have the effect of speeding things up inside the bubble, right?  I’ve practiced with the reindeer and althought it’s a little bit tougher for a moose to actually go airborne, it’s still possible.  When the time around you starts to slow down, it begins to feel like you’re standing on one of those airport walkways, moving faster than everything around you.  As things speed up for you (and they’re actually slowing down for everyone else), hooves get going fast enough to start resembling the propellers on prop jets and off you go!  People don’t really notice when this happens and when they do, it’s just a few seconds of lost time, usually accompanied by that feeling of wondering “now what was I doing?”  That thought is a sure sign that we were delayed in takeoff having to de-ice the sleigh and the little extra hiccup in time was just enough to attract your attention.

Come back throughout the holidays for more from Hannah…

Flight

Reindeer really do know how to fly. We all do. The mystery is not so much whether reindeer can fly as why humans think that is so strange and magical. Ever wonder about your flying dreams? Not dreams, memories. How about why you all like swimming so much and make sure you have indoor ponds available when the lakes freeze? It’s because swimming is just like flying, that lovely weightless feeling, slicing through the water. Cutting through air is a little different, particularly on a cold night, but same basic idea. Back to the question about the reindeer and flight – is it really any more strange that routinely place your trust in the ability of a 30 ton metal tube with wings to get off the ground? Believing that a reindeer can do it is hardly a stretch of the imagination.

Hello, my name is Hannah and I’m a Yule Engineer, Species Alces Alces. In lay terms, a Chrismoose. A few years back, I was at a chestnut roast with a couple of chickadees from PR and Marketing (yes, they really are talking to you and they’re WAY smarter than you think). We got to talking about the bell curve of wonder. There’s a natural drop off for most humans over the course of their lives as they progress from discovery to wonder to knowledge to wisdom. Unfortunately, external factors can wreak havoc on the natural progression. The knowledge and wisdom phases, for example, still allow room for discovery and wonder, but a number of factors from self-centeredness to too much stress to over-reliance on data over experience tend to “calcify” knowledge and wisdom. In their hardened state, knowledge and wisdom become simple stubbornness and refusal to believe. Those of us who work day to day in the Yule sciences understand the full implications of this. If Christmas goes away, so does the hope that gets us through midwinter. It’s a real problem.

Anyway, as the chestnuts warmed our bellies and started to influence our thinking, we had a collective flash of insight (don’t you agree that some of the best thinking is inspired by favorite foods?). We decided that it might be time to pull back the curtain just a bit and show you all how things work. After all, based on your limited knowledge of thrust and lift, you believe that it’s ok to entrust flight to an awkwardly constructed 30 ton machine. If that’s possible, how amazing would it be if you knew just enough about how hope and wonder and light are created to trust in the holiday spirit?

And so here I am again this year to tell you a little bit about Christmas, not just from the moose perspective, but also on behalf of my colleagues worldwide. You know about the reindeer thing and I’m sure you can imagine owls and squirrels and bears working some angles, but I think you’ll be surprised by some of the interesting creatures in the game. We’ve got everyone from tree frogs and lizards to porcupines and huskies on the team. I’m a little leary of the canines, but I’m working on being more accepting…and less paranoid. That one may take a little time.

So let the games begin! Lesson one: believe in flight. It happens, even for reindeer. Especially for reindeer, because they live uncluttered lives, work as a herd, run free and allow themselves to fly. Ever see a herd of them running? If you have, then you KNOW they can fly.

While you’re believing in flying reindeer, test the boundaries a bit and see if you can believe in a few more seemingly improbable things. You’ll find it simpler than you think – you do it all the time, just consider the “laws” of physics.

I’ll also give you a quick practical tip – more cranberries. Really. You already know that blueberries will give your immune system a boost and that citrus will help when you have a cold. Cranberries create joy. Period.

Look here for more throughout our final approach to Christmas day and look for me as you drink your nog – like Santa and the reindeer, I’m in more places than you think.

Why Did the Ptarmigan Cross the Road?

If you’ve never lived in a rural area, you may have a quaint idea someplace in your mind that people like me move out into the boonies to get away from it all, get some peace and quiet.  Well, yes and no.  There’s definitely something to be said for not hearing your neighbors’ marital spat and having that stuck in your head when you see one of them heading down the drive to pick up the morning paper. Lest anyone be living under the illusion that nothing ever happens out here beyond, though, allow me to correct the record.

Take the squirrel party as an example.  Short of seeing a squirrel passed out on the lawn from the previous night’s indulgence, there’s not much trouble frat boys can get into that squirrels can’t.  I must have had about 40 of them out at the cabin the other night making a ruckus.  Scampering, chattering, chasing, even swinging from the rafters…literally.  They eat as much as frat boys too.  The morning after, piles of pine cone remains all down the drive and out into the road bore testimony every bit as compelling as pizza boxes across the frat house lawn.  Thank God there’s no such thing as squirrel beer.  And if there is?  Please, for the love, don’t tell my squirrels. In the city, you have garbage trucks.  I have moose.  Sirens?  Dog yards. Traffic jams?  Wildlife delays.  

Which leads me to the point of today’s discussion – why did the ptarmigan cross the road? The ptarmigan crossed the road because ptarmigans do.  Because roads to them are just easier places to walk.  Because they’re basically pretty dumb and don’t understand that I’m a predator and could decide to put them on the dinner table.  Because nature likes to show off her beauty and ptarmigans, though intellectually challenged, are part of that beauty.

For those of you who might be wondering right about now “what is a ptarmigan?” it’s ok. We’ll forgive you. In addition to being the state bird (and really – you have to give them points for being an above averagely awesome state bird) ptarmigan are just below squirrels on any dog’s list of favorite things.  The ptarmigan is something of a cross between a chicken, a quail and a roadrunner and there are a lot of them.  Nature has been so good to them in terms of natural habitat up here that they feel comfortable hanging out dead center in the middle of St. Pat’s road.  Having grown up in New Mexico, I naturally think roadrunners are pretty cool, but you’ve got to give it up for a bird with unnecessary consonants in its name and how very cool is it to make jokes about Ptarmigan Pturds?

We all have schedules, timelines, appointments, things to do and places to be.  We’re important and our lives have meaning because we’re very, very busy and our time is valuable. That’s great, but let me tell you how it works here. You’re driving down the road and a quartet of not-so-smart ptarmigan plunk themselves down right in front of your car.  You think “wow, that’s kind of neat and they’re very pretty.”  They don’t move.  They really aren’t concerned with your interest in communing with nature and your assessment of their beauty means nothing to them.  You stop the car and sit back to watch them, thinking, “how lucky am I that I live in a place where ptarmigan cross the road on a random Tuesday morning?”  They still don’t move – again, not so well endowed in categories of basic intelligence or survival instinct.  You start to consider driving around them so that you can get on with your business.  You honk and they just scatter more evenly across the road.  Now there is no way to pass without destroying a state treasure. Terrific.  You are now late to your appointment and these fat, stupid birds are standing in the middle of the road.  Their neck feathers are standing out, making them look like giraffes with winter scarves and that’s kind of cool, but you’re late now and you’re wondering…. How did God make a creature so absolutely absent of intelligence that it doesn’t know to get out of the road when I could squash it with my car or grab it by its spectacularly ruffled neck and put it on my dinner table?

Seattleites and Phoenicians have gridlock and road rage.  We have ptarmigan. At the end of the day, I know that I’m very lucky to be staring at the tail feathers of a ptarmigan rather than the tailpipe of a big truck, but still, I hope everyone appreciates how very busy, stressful and important our lives are up here. Really.

If I’m late to meet with you this week, please forgive me. There are clearly forces beyond my control working here. And for my friends in ptarmigan-free zones out there, please don’t take yourselves or your stress too seriously this week. If you are staring up the tailpipe of a Ford F-150 and wondering how you’re going to make it on time to your nine o’clock, trust that the universe really doesn’t give a rip and that the joy in life often rests in the absurdity. In the larger scheme of things, it’s entirely possible that we’re meant to be off balance. I’m pretty sure we’re meant to be laughing.

Here’s hoping that the laughter finds you. Happy travels, everyone!

Random Writers’ Workshop – Princesses and Super Heroes

KK is one of my favorite people…and my birthday twin.  She’s like a lot of people I know in Team In Training – direct, pulls no punches, tells it like it is and yet capable of demonstrating incredible depths of compassion for people she’s never met.  People like KK go the distance – literally – out of love and compassion for those known to them only as a name, a story or a crumpled and sweaty photograph. This is a letter KK wrote to one of her superheroes:

Suck It Up, Princess

Hi Kaylee-

Thank you for being our inspiration this weekend at the Whidbey Island Marathon.  Enclosed is your finisher’s medal!  Karla and I shared your story with our participants throughout the marathon and they were very encouraged by how strong you are!  They thought if you can do all the things you’ve done, that they could finish the marathon with The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to help find a cure – so that other kids won’t have to go through treatment.

In this package you will find many of the treasures that our teammates are awarded during their training. [I put in some extra stuff to share with your brothers so they don’t feel left out.]  The purple wrist band reminds us every day during the 22 weeks of training for the marathon of our mission.  The white shirt is worn during these training runs, andImage the purple T-shirt is a gift from one of my teammates to you.  The Suck it Up Princess tattoo (ooh, I hope mom is ok with that expression!) is from a 9 year-old girl named Natchie.  When people around her were having a bad day that is what she would tell them.  Sometimes I just put it on to remind me that not every day is perfect, but it will get better.

The purple singlet is very special because only teammates get these and you are now part of our team.  The Washington/Alaska Chapter is identified by the fish on the front.  The Alaskan’s make us all color our fish, because healthy fish are beautiful, and we want to be reminded of the good health a cure will provide!  Also on the front is a place for the racer to put their name so everyone on the course can cheer for them by name.  You can write your name here!

On the back, we list our honored hero – YOU!  Everyone on the course will shout “We love Kaylee too!” when we run by.

Love,

KK

 

 

KK – your very own superhero!

Random Writers’ Workshop – Vivienne Finds Her Voice…and Her Feet

Freed from the confines of her everyday self by a simple nom de plume, Vivienne had a fun romp finding her voice and her feet – I think you’ll enjoy this one!

May I let you in on a secret?  Come closer, I’d hate to offend anyone by discussing such a thing in public, I have feet.  Yes, feet. Worse,  I have runner’s feet, marathon feet.  Like most of their brethren they are not generally to be spoken about in polite conversations.  Unless they cause a problem we all seem to pretend we haven’t any.

Today’s declaration:  I, Vivienne, have feet!

Feet with bunions and calluses.  Toenails that are just tragic (though always nicely painted dear readers).  Muscles and tendons that scream things like plantar fasciitis and cuboid subluxtion at inopportune moments.  Feet that get tired, achy, smelly, and sometimes make me cry.  Feet that would never in a million years be placed in the care of anyone other than myself for fear of inflicting such trauma that the viewer would need years of therapy to recover.

No more. No, no more my running friends!  For upon my comfy couch just weeks ago I experienced agony enough to leave me breathless, then bliss and an epiphany.  All three at the hands of a non-running friend.  As we sat sharing our days I plopped my feet in his lap and he started to rub them, then instantly stopped.  I didn’t mind because, well, ick.  Really, don’t touch my scary, scary feet.  Just let me sit here with my feet in your lap so I can be comfy and connected while we talk and I am a happy woman.

Half of you are now shaking your heads and thinking me crazy for not asking him to keep rubbing them.  The other half are nodding in agreement with my hands off policy.  Admit it!  Well dear readers he did not rub them, not even a little.  He flexed them, he pointed them, he twisted them and as he did he worked over every single tight spot he found. Then he popped every toe.  I didn’t even know it was possible to do that!  There were times it was so painful I wanted to jerk my feet away and cry.  But each time he paused to shift his fingers to a new spot there was this moment of…”Oh! Hmm..”

When he’d hit especially painful spots I’d explain the reasons for the pain and then go back to just trying to breathe through what he was doing.  Afterwards my feet felt, for lack of a better way to explain it, energized.  Honestly though I did not believe that feeling would last any longer than it took for my feet to hit the floor.  But it did!  In fact, and I know all you runners will truly appreciate the staggering beauty of this, my feet were 100% pain/stiffness/tired free for four solid days!

Four days in which I became oddly hyperaware of all I ask of my feet.  All I have asked over the years.  These feet that I so oft feel embarrassed by have carried me through every moment of my life.  Literally. They propelled me up mountains and into caves as a child.  Splashed in puddles, kept me steady on a balance beam, and helped push me through the water as a teen. Danced me until dawn through my twenties.  They paced endless hospital hallways, tip-toed around dozens of hospital bed. They pounded out countless miles on trails and treadmills while I poured out the pain of watching someone I love die. Then they carried me sure and steady out of an empty hospital room and back out onto sunny trails where I learned to rebuild. 

Until those few days I never thought much about the phrase, “Stand on your own two feet.”  When I did it wasn’t in the literal sense at all.  I’m sure the same is true of each of you.  Think about it though, YOUR feet.  Where have they taken you?  What have they seen you through? How do you stand on them?  My feet, the ones I’ve always hidden away will no longer be treated as a shameful secret.  Yes, they are runner’s feet.  No, I’m never going to be asked to model for pedicure ads or do photo shoots featuring strappy stilettos.  But my feet are a miracle of design that will carry me through whatever I ask of them.  Although I’m inclined to treat them far better in the future, they’ve earned it.  I may not always have someone with talented hands to tend them for me but at the very least can live the words of Jarod Kintz in Sleepwalking is Restersize, “My shoes are in the fridge. So are my feet.
”  That dear readers is all it takes.