This Sunday is the Davis Stampede 10k and Half Marathon. I have registered for the 10k race, hoping to clock a decent time in order to place in an early wave for the Memorial Day Bolder Boulder 10k run (otherwise one could be smashed among the almost 50,000 runners who congregate for this celebratory event in Boulder, Colorado). I registered for the Bolder Boulder these past two Mays, hoping my training would surpass my chronic injuries, only to withdraw because of biting pain. So I try once again, determined not to be overcome by history but to enjoy the present and anticipate a future where running remains a significant part of my life.

This morning’s run on the Sonoma bike trail passed the Sebastiani winery and historic vineyards (1825), the Sonoma Depot Museum, the driveway to General Vallejo’s house (mid-1800s), and neighborhoods with lovely craftsman-style homes. My training schedule called for an “easy” run; all the running books, blogs and opinions remind us to RUN SLOWLY when the plan calls for it even if the body wants to splurge ahead in joy and lightness. I am following this plan religiously, alternating running days with cross-training (or as I’d rather call it, bicycle riding, swimming or hiking, exquisite activities in and of themselves, not merely the “me to” of running). The goal for me is to be able to continue to run even if my hamstrings are never quite what they once were, so I meter out the running days with these other activities. I wish I could run whenever I wanted but I can’t. I must be satisfied with the soupcon of running that is allowed to me.

Heavy rain and winds are forecast for Sunday’s race. I don’t mind running in  rain but the wind makes for very unpleasant conditions, especially in Davis where headwinds can stop us in our tracks. Some external forces cannot be predicted so I’ll be prepared with plenty of foam roller activity and hydration, then see what the weather has in store for us. I can always withdraw and save the run for another day (and as for Bolder Boulder, the back waves may not be so bad!).

[Old iron fence at Sebastiani Winery, Sonoma, California]

Book Soon

Thinking about marketing for my small memoir, “First Friends: Love, Loss and Life in Humboldt County.” My son has lots of ideas, guest posts on runners’ blogs, contacting local book stores to pique their interest about a home-town author, using social media to advertise the book’s availability, email all my friends and acquaintances of this latest endeavor, to shouting from the rooftops (my idea). The goal: to inspire people to find their personal strengths, albeit physical (running in my case), emotional (friends), or spiritual (whoever your god or higher spirit may be, if you have one), to not only survive setbacks, hardships, heartaches, and the unexpected, but also to thrive. My story acknowledges and celebrates running and the friends made during the hundreds, maybe thousands of miles run, as the foundation for much of who I became.

I am excited as the publication date approaches and, even though this is a self-published work, I hope it’s well received. After many years of fits and starts, indecision about telling this story, and concern that the details aren’t quite right, it is how I remember those years in northern California. Look for it soon!

Aging and Activity

"Older, Faster, Stronger," by Margaret Webb, is a book about masters age women athletes from their forties to nineties+. How do these fit, healthy, strong women athletes, in particular, runners, find the time, the inspiration, the strength to run and keep on running into very old age? This in a time when many more women are running but also when too many women—and men—are sedentary, obese, suffering chronic illnesses? This book explores one woman’s goal to become "super-fit" and run the masters world championship half marathon in Turin, Italy. She asks the right questions and poses challenges to our traditional way of thinking about aging and activity. Many issues are ones I consider as I try to continue to run, to bicycle, to swim, to do Pilates, to move, sometimes as if an outlier at my age doing these things. Webb demsytifies the practice required, the nutrition (yes, Paleo+), the impact of estrogen loss as women age, the different caloric needs of women v. men, the opportunities to break records; but also the lack of attention to masters class athletes, those talented, dedicated, compassionate women and men, who break barriers because they love to move, to remain active, to be joyous.

I look forward to being more pro-active in my learning of aging from an active person’s perspective. We don’t have to become another stereotype that “I’m getting older so that’s why this is happening TO me.” We should live our lives so that we control how we confront and embrace each new birthday (as one friend so kindly described getting older), making sure that each year is better than the one before.

I am inspired to climb fourteeners, to once again run a half marathon, to once again bicycle metric centuries (even if I can’t do a full century), to swim miles (well, at least one mile) in the open water, to celebrate this life with joy and movement—until I can no longer do so.

[Doug and Patricia at Barr Trail, Manitou Springs, CO]


January Thoughts

Early January: single digit temperatures in Boulder but emerging spring (this day at least) in Sonoma. The first bicycle ride of the year was a bust as the front chain ring of my road bicycle broke leaving me with only the highest gear to climb 15% grade hills. I struggled and strained to move upward, frustrated by the constant problems with the cables on this bike. One tune-up later, however, and the gears are working smoothly; that same grade, while not melting away as I pedaled, was feasible without grunting!

The huge, old tulip trees are starting to blossom, the waxy tulip-shaped flowers a warm pink against the grey branches and trunk. A few narcissus, yellow and white, baby cousin to daffodils, are poking up alongside the roads. The yellow mustards are blooming in the still-winter vineyards where vintners are trimming so carefully errant branches before the vines start to green. We are greeted most mornings with dripping fog, fingers crossed that the sun will emerge later to brighten the greening landscape and reward us with views of the surrounding soft hills.

It is only the middle of January, though, too soon for spring: rain is sorely needed in the valleys, heavy snow in the mountains, and the streams and rivers enough water to surge, so full we might worry about flooding.

This time of year teases us with warm breezes before startling us with cold and chill. Hot chocolate is in the cupboard for late afternoon post-walks, an invitation to curl up with a book and worry about the dead leaves to be carted away later. We are spoiled in this land of contradictions, the crashing ocean, the soft green valleys, and the narrow roads among the oak-lined hills.

[Lovall Valley Road, Sonoma, CA, January 2015]

Sunrise Moon over Dakota Ridge

Cold, single digit temperature days in Boulder require a different perspective on one’s daily activities: we are used to being outside at whim but with this cold, we plan, bundle in layers, and walk gingerly on slippery sidewalks. And then, in the time it takes to watch a long movie, we are back in Sonoma, with spring-like breezes, a few daffodils poking above the ground, squirrels jumping from tree to fence and back again, their faces full with acorns.

One wonders about our adaptability, our transience, our ease (or discomfort at times) of never quite being in one place. Doug says our life has been a series of transitions, rarely in one place long enough to learn all the nooks and crannies, adventures, and opportunities. I sometimes wish for deep roots, familiar roadways, neighbors who know our quirks without the intimacy of best friends. 

We balance this life of ours, sometimes in synchronization of the adventures, other times, one of us (usually me) yearning for stability. Yet, we remain together, weathering more than thirty years together, despite job opportunities that take one or another to other geographies, children grown with their own adventures, family dynamics of aging parents, and siblings so different from one another. 

My brothers and sisters are mostly stable, the years since college in more or least one geography; my addresses are written in pencil, the changes too often to remember the most-recent telephone number or street address. How did we come to this history? I wouldn’t have intentionally chosen to be a wanderer, but circumstances have given me this path.

I see the moon from various horizons, with the children’s song: “I see the moon, the moon sees me, the moon sees the one I long to see, so God bless the moon and God bless me and God bless the one I long to see,”  the sheep-counting variation to which I try to fall asleep. I may wake in the middle of the night, in the pitch dark, trying to remember where I am for the night. I find my bearings, sometimes only after a bump or two into a closet or misplaced door location, then head back to bed, assured for a time that I’ll be in one place. 

I wonder how long we will be at this location? How many moons will I see wax and wane? How many summers will we spend in the mountains, dreaming of fourteeners, having the boys visit, planning on, finally, swimming in the cold reservoir? How many times will we tell friends and family that we’ve settled down, this is our plan? I wonder.

[Moon in the morning just above Dakota Ridge/Sanitas Valley Trail, Boulder]

The Line

"The Narrow Road to the Deep North," by Richard Flanagan was one of the most powerful, sad, beautifully worded, thought provoking books I’ve read in a long time. It was timely having just seen the movie "Unbroken" about Louis Zamperini, but much more heart wrenching in descriptions of prisoners-of-war and slaves in Japan, forced to build, by hand without mechanical tools, the almost unfeasible railroad from Burma to Thailand (the dream of the Japanese Empire, a project during WWII of the Imperial Japanese Army, but the labor, primarily, of almost 250,000 slaves and POWs). The rail builders were sick; maleria, cholera, ulcers, dehydration, malnutrition; they were ill-prepared for the projects; the endless jungles were dark, wet, muddy, forlorn, isolating places.

The protagonist, an Austrailian physician in charge of a group of POWs, is incredibly well drawn with his foibles and strengths, the sadness and emptiness of a life of solitude and loneliness, yet mistaken for a hero. His redemption, perhaps, is found in his fight for the POWs under his command, standing firmly, but without resources, against the Japanese captors. He is unable to find solace in the misery and inhumanity wrought on men by men. At the end of his life he realizes that he didn’t love as he might have; he was not who others wanted him or thought him to be; he wasted his talents and friendships.

This story will linger. 

[Hong Kong skyline]


2014: A Retrospective in Brief

December 31: often a time to look forward to resolutions and plans for the coming year. It’s also a time to contemplate the year soon ending. I could not have anticipated on January 1, 2014 all the joys and sorrows that occurred these past twelve months. Lists do not do justice to the depth of emotions I experienced or to the incredible people with whom I shared friendships and philanthropic work or the time with my family, Doug, Christopher (and his wife, Kate) and Alex (and his girlfriend, Glory), and my mother, my brothers and sisters.

The year 2014 could have titled “Three Weddings and a Funeral.” Christopher and Kate welcomed friends and immediate family to a magical wedding ceremony at Milford Marsh in State College, PA, on June 7, 2014.  A nephew (Paul and Megan) and a niece (Kelly and Logan) also married this past summer. My mother (Eleanor Burgess) passed away on August 5, 2014 (the anniversary of my father’s birthday) after a brief illness. Anne, Janet, Bruce, Robert and I came together to care for her, enlightened by her indomitable spirit but sorrowed by her death. Our father would have been proud of us for taking care of his beloved wife, our mother, together, so willingly and without complaint. Robert, especially, was so tender and loving, spending almost a month with Mom before she passed away. We will never be able to thank him enough for that time.

We travelled to Sicily in February with Christopher and Kate. We finished the repair work on our Boulder house caused by the heavy rains of September 2013. Doug ran the Boston Marathon in celebration of “Boston Strong” in the wake of the prior year’s tragedies. I hiked mountains in Colorado, although no fourteeners yet (definitely a 2015 goal). We had several weekend visits and Thanksgiving week with the boys, Kate and Glory, the absolute best parts of our year! We walked, miles and miles of walks, an integral part of our daily lives.

We lived in Austin, Texas, for two years until the west coast’s pull became too strong: family, friends, community, the physicality and beauty of this part of the world. We feel as if we’re back home as we “repot” ourselves (as Doug would say) in Sonoma, although I miss the women of Impact Austin and the people of CASA of Travis County. I thank all those I met during our brief tenure in Austin for their generosity and friendship.

I’ve reconnected (or have on my schedule to do so) with friends and colleagues back here in California: the joy of being embraced in person, of friends glad I’m “local”again, is endearing and so appreciated.

My professional career is winding down, only a few legal projects in 2014; meanwhile, I have almost finished a short memoir that I hope to independently publish early this spring. I started a blog, a place to record my musings and reflections about nature, my days, family, most anything. 

I miss my parents; that goes without saying. I miss my boys but there will  be visits in southern California with Alex and the east coast with Christopher and Kate, maybe even some longer time in Boulder, the family retreat. I hope to get to the Pacific Northwest to visit my sisters and many of the Walla Walla connections that have resurfaced through Facebook.

Doug and I are ready to embrace 2015, hoping, perhaps, for a little more quiet and stability than 2014. We are blessed with this life.

 [Boulder spring snow storm]image



Christmas Day

Christmas morning hike among the Blue Oak trees covered with moss, stubby manzanita bushes and bark-peeled madrone trees. We could see San Francisco Bay, the Oakland Hills, Mt. Tamalpais and Sonoma valley from the top of the overlook. The surrounding hills and valley teemed with most every shade of green as a result of the recent rains.

The day was quiet without family or friends visiting; a morning hike and an afternoon movie (“Unbroken”) with popcorn. Saturday Doug’s family will visit for post-Christmas and pre-New Year’s Eve gathering. I’m baking mixed berries with peaches “sonkyers,” a southern dish similar to cobbler, which Alex introduced at Thanksgiving dinner.

I was homesick: for the boys, for my parents, for traditions that seem to have faded. Only a few stockings hung on the fireplace, a poinsettia plant purchased for the media cabinet and candy-cane striped candles on the mantle were the visible remnants of a family holiday. We enjoyed the neighborhood lights and the downtown plaza with palm trees and the city hall outlined in lights as if drawn by a child.

Next year I will be certain it’s not just the two of us; the time is too precious to pass without family with us.

[Sonoma Overlook Trail]


Sonoma Walk-Abouts

We’re slowly getting familiar with the neighborhoods on the east side of Sonoma: broad streets, lush greenery, huge oak and magnolia trees, pocket lanes, houses with broad-covered porches for summer evenings. Each street quickly ends into the hills above town where more luxurious houses look down on us townies. We’ll explore the upper reaches once the weather is better and we can ride our road bikes up the hills. The urban bikes are perfect for the neighborhood rides even wine-tasting about town (we learned of wine bottle holders for bikes in the event one buys bottles of wine after the tasting). We serendipitiously stumble upon old churches, houses of Vasquez and General Vallejo, early settlers in the valley, family wineries, tumbling-down barns with Clydesdale horses peaking out of the stalls. 

I met a woman yesterday who gave me a quick overview of the area’s philanthropic opportunities. I’m excited to get back into community involvement, approaching it slowly until I understand the landscape, but trusting my skills and experience can be utitlized.

This place feels right even with the morning fog, so familiar from living in Sacramento and Placer County for years. The Christmas and holiday decorations certainly add a warmth along with the holiday shoppers and steaming coffees. I am glad we made this move. I wish I could share this phase with my parents, both of whom I dearly miss this time of you.

Holiday Traditions in Transition

My family celebrates the holidays in small ways: I bake “Dad’s white fruit cake,” a tradition from my childhood and reminder of our Grandma Burgess, to my brothers and sisters; we find a local Christmas tree for the house, which I trim with ornaments purchased or made throughout the years, remembering each one with little stories as I point them out to my husband and boys (if they’re home) while I’m hanging them; we unpack the large stockings and hope the house has a fireplace on which to hang them; I sometimes decorate the dining room table with huge Sierra Nevada pinecones and tangerines; I bake gingerbread cookies (fancifully decorated unless I’m in a rush and then, they become gingerbread balls, still delicious but not fancy); i dig out my old Christmas music, the one time each year that I actually play the piano on consecutive days for almost a month, starting soon after Thanksgiving,the songs reminiscent of Christmas Eve church services when I was a child; we tour the neighborhood at night to exclaim over the various outdoor decorations, some done with such care and precision, others a bit haphazard (and then explaining, when our sons were young, that there father didn’t like to put up outdoor lights, so we make do with a wreath on the front door); we invite Doug’s family over for Boxing Day, December 26, as they usually go to their in-laws for Christmas Day; and we send cards, often with a long-missive to catch everyone up on that year’s events.

Sometimes the four of us would spend a few days at The Sea Ranch, a long stretch of land with architecturally-unique houses along the northern Sonoma coast, where we read, sat by the fire, walked for miles along the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean, ocassionall spotting whales but always seeing sea lions. The last time there, a few years ago, Christopher and Alex cooked local crab for the first time, a delight to see them drop the live crustaceans in boiling water and laugh as the crabs changed color. We also watched Christopher slip off to call Kate, who was on the East Coast, as their romance was in its infancy. It was a rain-drenched time, but no matter, we were together.

This year, Christoper and Kate will be at her family’s lake house in upper New Jersey. Alex and Glory will be traveling in Amsterdam, Denmark and Paris for three weeks. Doug and I will celebrate at our new home on Christmas Day, maybe watch a movie, go out to dinner, give each other socks (truly a tradition). His family will visit the following Saturday, not on Boxing Day, to accommodate schedules. 

I decided not to decorate a Christmas tree this year. I already miss drinking my early morning coffee in front of a brightly-lit tree as the sky slowly lightens to full day, that quiet time with the wonder of a child up early, with the world news yet to unfold. This will be my first Christmas without my parents: Dad died eight years ago and Mom this past summer. Even though we rarely spent the winter holiday with them, we always talked and shared news of families and friends, sent token gifts (usually books), and of course, they were recipients of my fruit cake. I miss their presence, their love, warmth and inclusiveness. The holidays emphasize their absence, but they also bring me closer to my brothers and sisters.Traditions change but the love among us remains strong.

[Christopher, White Sands, New Mexico, December 2013]