Travel Theme: Winter

What did you do on the winter solstice? Were you warm and cozy inside, working, or out playing?

My dog had to get out after five straight days and nights of sleeping on my bed (a 120-hour nap!), so we ended up celebrating the Winter Solstice for a few hours in the great outdoors of Western Colorado.

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Nothing like BFF dogs playing in the snow to make you smile. And nothing sillier than a couple of 40-somethings going tubing with one little inner tube. Good times!

These photos are posted for Travel Theme:  Winter.

Daily Prompt: Playtime

Yesterday was Friday, the last day of teaching before a week-long Thanksgiving Break. It was also a particularly gloomy day, on the threshold of dark and rain all day long. So it would seem that, as soon as the students left, I would hurry to my cozy home and settle in for the bliss of that “I have a whole week off” feeling, right?

Not so fast.

First I was going running. My friend and I had planned it out a few days in advance. We wanted to get in a fairly long run sometime during the weekend before we went our separate ways for the break. Precipitation was in the forecast for the next few days and it looked like Friday night was our best bet.

As I drove home to quickly change into my running clothes and grab my dog (he, too, was due for a long run after being cooped up in the house for several days), I intermittently ran the wipers to erase the mist settling, and resettling, on my windshield.

Mist. Rain. Sun (what sun?) setting. Temperature dropping. Rain turning to snow? Should we go out for a long run this evening?

But that’s the thing about scheduling something like this with a friend. Neither wants to be the one to call and say, “Meh. I think I’ll just go home and sit on the couch and eat.”

I quickly texted her:  On my way!

The misty rain had stopped by the time we started. We ran on a packed gravel road behind her house, turning our headlights on almost immediately to find our way through the gloom. The temperature – 34 – was perfect for running since we had on hats and a few layers. I knew though that the slightly above freezing temperature would result in sleet, if the precipitation started up again. A few miles in, we noticed particles of moisture dancing around in front of our lights.

When we were four-and-a-half miles along, we turned around. The rain/snow was coming down harder now and we could really feel it once we turned in the opposite direction. Feel it on our cheeks (refreshing!), feel it on our arms and legs where our clothing was thinner (wet!), feel it in our eyes (difficult to look up, look ahead, to see the small pools of light just in front of our feet on an otherwise utterly dark road!).

We kept chatting. Kept running. I kept an eye on the amount of moisture building up on my fleeced arms. Nothing I was wearing was waterproof. “This isn’t the type of weather you want to be caught in too far from home,” I told my friend. “We’re not dressed right to be getting this wet.” We weren’t worried though. Only a couple more miles.

I felt great. There was nothing telling me to slow down, to walk for a bit, not my legs, not my head, and not my dog as he led us onward through the darkness. And certainly not the weather.

When we got back to her house, she asked if I wanted to come in for a bit. No, I needed to get home and get out of my wet clothes, have some hot food from my crock pot, and settle in to the bliss of that “I have a whole week off” feeling.

Today’s prompt – playtime – made me think of last night’s run. Running with a friend is always fun, but having the added elements of precipitation and nightfall made it even more so. It was exhilarating and refreshing and exhausting and just the teeny bit worrisome. And all those things made it all the more playful.

To me, doing anything outdoors is considered playtime; adding in one small, different, perhaps unexpected, element makes it all the more fun, such as:

1. Running with a friend

2. Skiing with a helmet cam

3. Running in the dark

4. Playing frisbee and counting the number of consecutive catches

5. Running in a red dress with a black clutch purse

Clutch Purse

6. Running up the switchbacks and through the tunnels on the Colorado National Monument

7. Pedaling, cooling off with a swim, pedaling home

8. Swimming around an island or across the lake

9. Running in the snow

10. Having a dinner date 20 miles out-of-town in the camper

11. Making a goofy instructional video while cross-country skiing

12. Showering on a slab of slickrock

13. Kayaking upstream

14. Hiking alone

15. Pedaling through a canyon and sleeping in a cabin

16. Hiking with my daughters to a class II archaeological site that cannot be found on a map

False Kiva

17. Playing racquetball at 5:00 a.m.

18. Pedaling from the brewery, out and back, and then celebrating with a local microbrew

19. Kayaking in the snowy desert

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20. Hiking to see petroglyphs

21. Playing racquetball round robin style

22. Cross country skiing to an overlook

23. Keeping a tally of wins during a month of racquetball

24. Floating a river with all of my relatives during a family reunion

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25. Climbing a 14-er and relaxing, afterward, at the clothing optional hot springs

26. Camping under the stars in the backyard

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27. Going on a super moon or meteor shower hike

28. Letting photography be the point of a hike

29. Trail running while Jim ATVs around and stops by with water, smiles, encouragement

30. Taking a day off work with a friend, the sole purpose being outdoor playtime

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Obviously, the list can go on and on. What do you do to get out and play?

How others responded to this prompt:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/11/23/daily-prompt-play/

Daily Prompt: Safety First

I brought my kayak to the river’s edge, out of the swift current and into an eddy. I stepped out and threw off my life vest. The ground was solid – river rock, not the typical mud that sucked you down to mid-shin and had you wondering if you’d ever get out – and I wanted to walk around for a bit, stretch my legs, do some exploring.

Jim pulled his boat up near mine and got out. He left his jacket on and went out into the slow eddy, cooling off from the hot September afternoon.

The dogs, too, jumped out of the boats, happy for the opportunity to run. They had been swimming some, but mostly riding because the river was running high and fast after a record summer of flooding. The bike path along the river had been ripped out in spots and tossed aside, as if it was just loose, leftover driftwood from the last high water season.

097We had stayed off the river for most of the summer. It was just too dangerous. But, now that it was the end of the season and the water speed and level had subsided, we decided to try one of our regular floats through town, about ten miles from the put-in to the take-out, two to five hours depending on how fast the river was moving.

I happened to be watching Jim in the eddy, where he could easily touch the bottom and stand up if he wanted to, when all of a sudden the eddy’s current, counter to the main current, grabbed him, pulled him upriver about ten feet, pushed him out from the shore about twenty feet, and then, before there was time for me to worry, whipped him downriver and right to the spot where I had landed my boat, right to the shoreline.

He stood up, exhilarated. “Did you see that? That was awesome!” He took the ride two more times, the flow in the eddy taking him on the same path each time. “Come on! Come do this with me!”

“Nah. I don’t have my vest on. I want to walk around for a while.”

“Come on! It’s great!”

I really wanted to be off the water and out of my life jacket for a few minutes. But I didn’t want to ignore his enthusiasm and his invitation either. “How about you just hold my hand?”

“Okay.” And he grabbed it and we went for the ride.

But it didn’t turn out as it had the first three times. At least not for me. Jim’s body took the same path as it had before. But the river ripped me from Jim’s hand and as I was pulled, unbelievably fast upstream, I screamed, “Help me! I can’t make it!”

Of course, there was nothing he could do. It would make no sense for him to step out of the safety of the eddy and into the main current of the river. And he couldn’t swim upriver and get to me. Some great power beneath the surface had abducted me and was pulling me into it, like a space ship that zaps humans up into itself before anyone even sees it hovering above. As my head went under, I had one last glimpse of Jim standing there, in the eddy, looking at me, the smile of fun still on his face.

And then I was underwater. Against my will. Not far though. The river wasn’t that deep where I was. I don’t recall consciously opening my eyes, but I could see the riverbank to the side, a dark wall beneath the water, blurry green grasses against blue sky above, and, when I looked straight up, the limey green surface of the water was not far over my head. The bright sunshine streaked down, plunging into the water, beckoning me to it.

The light! I needed to get to the light.

My arms went up, but my fingers did not break the surface. That light – it was just inches from my fingertips. I started breast-stroking, in a vertical position. Pull, pull. The rhythmic words of swim coaches past, both mine and my daughters’, walking the deck alongside racing swimmers, chanting “pull, pull” each time their heads broke the water, echoed in my mind. I pulled harder, harder. And I kicked, kicked, surprised each time that my feet did not touch the bottom. How could it be this deep? And why couldn’t I get to the surface? I was a strong swimmer. I was in good physical condition.

I wasn’t panicking. It had happened so quickly that I was not yet out of breath. I was in no pain.

But then I knew. It didn’t matter. Didn’t matter how strong I was, how close I was. I wasn’t going to make it. The river was stronger, the forces great, the potency for destruction way beyond any understanding I had had before this day, this moment.

No! I screamed to myself. I cannot die this way. I am a swimmer. I am experienced in the water. I cannot die now. I have children. They need me. I’ve got plans, things I want to do. I cannot die here. Not where Jim stands waiting, the feel of my hand still fresh on his, my words—“Help me! I can’t make it!”—still hanging in the air.

But I knew I had no say in it. I couldn’t fight the river. A peaceful feeling began settling over me, the light infiltrating the green water above my head calming, the water surrounding me soothing, as it tends to be for those who have spent a lot of time in it. And I wasn’t opposed, really, to going if this was what God had in mind.

So this was it. I was going to die today. 46 years old. Two teenage daughters. My true love standing there, waiting for me to surface, to come back to him.

The light was no longer that light I needed to get to to go on living; it was now the other light, the one that brings us home. And so I gave in to it.

And I gave in to the river. I stopped fighting. And at that moment, the moment when I stopped pulling, stopped kicking, the river released me. It spit me out, like a cat lets go a mouse it’s been chasing, pouncing on, and batting around, no longer having fun with its prey.

Back on the river after my near-death experience.

Back on the river after my near-death experience.

Just as it had with Jim four times, the current shot me forward and it dumped me in the eddy, next to my boat, next to Jim.

Jim was where I had left him, now horrified, no longer smiling with the fun of the day.

I gathered my feet beneath me and stood up. Relief. Tears. Hugs. Reprimanding for letting me go out there without my life vest.

I didn’t realize it until I wrote this, but, now, I rarely take my life jacket off while on the river, whether I’m in my boat or walking on the shore. I never know when I might need to jump in—to play in an eddy, to help a friend, to get on down the river faster than I was planning on.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/11/21/daily-prompt-safety-first/

Daily Prompt: Inside the Actor’s Studio

On the interview show Inside the Actors’ Studio (which I’ve never seen, but is the impetus for today’s daily prompt), host James Lipton asks each of his guests the same ten questions. What are your responses?

  • What is your favorite word?     I like the word accordingly. I feel the need to explain myself,  to explain my thinking and actions, and this word comes in handy during situations where this is required, especially when writing business letters.
  • What is your least favorite word?     Jesus Christ, when used as an interjection or exclamation, is an indication of  insensitivity, or, worse, immaturity or ignorance.
  • What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?     Enthusiasm will get me thinking creatively, whether it is my own or someone else’s. The incredible beauty of nature and the adaptations of its species ignites my spirituality. I am moved emotionally when I sense, even briefly, that I matter, that I am essential to someone’s well-being, when there is evidence that I inspired someone to want to change or make a difference. I am equally moved when I sense my insignificance in the grand scheme of things.
  • What turns you off?     People who overly project themselves on others or into a normal social setting turn me off. It could be a smell–cigarette smoke, perfume, body odor; a loud voice or car stereo; an out of control or excessively active body; or stepping, uninvited, into my personal space.
  • What is your favorite curse word?     I get a kick out of strings of profanity that people let loose when they are completely frustrated:  “Goddamnmotherfuckinpieceofmotherfuckinshit…” When I am at my wit’s end, I deliberately spew one of these and it always makes me smile and lightens up the situation. A perfect example is the scene in A Christmas Story when the 1940s dad crashes down the basement stairs to do battle with the furnace. Black smoke poofs through the vent into the kitchen where the wife and children sit, stunned, as he “weaves a tapestry of obscenity that as far as we know is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan.”
  • What sound or noise do you love?     I love the sound of silence. Not complete silence (is there such a thing?), but the silence that compels you to listen to all those sounds that your brain typically filters out–the wind, the hum of the refrigerator, the breaths of your child. Another type of silence is that which enables one to get completely lost in thought, lost to their surroundings, listening only to that  in the mind. And then there’s the sound of a comfortable silence, when I’m with someone who totally gets me, who already understands what I’m feeling and no words are needed. This is the sound that often comes along for the ride on a road trip through beautiful country.imagesCAR97PPJ
  • What sound or noise do you hate?     I hate the sound of silence. The sound of no talking, no interacting, no taking chances. The silence that follows a one-word answer. The silence that understates your value. It is the sound of walking on eggshells, of tiptoeing around passive aggression, of resentment. This was the predominant noise in my house for too many years.
  • What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?     I would do well with any career that recognizes initiative, rate of production, and results and compensates accordingly.
  • What profession would you not like to do?     I have no interest in touching strangers’ bodies or hair. I would, therefore, not enjoy hands-on medical work, styling hair, or giving pedicures.
  • If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?     Come on in and you will see that everyone is here. You were right to believe that I would welcome everyone.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/daily-prompt-favorite/

Travel Theme: Delicate

This week’s travel theme is “delicate.”

http://wheresmybackpack.com/2013/11/01/travel-theme-delicate/

How long can these delicate fibers hang on in the chilly October wind of the high plains in northern Colorado?

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Br-awesome

October 16th is officially declared Person X Day (http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/daily-prompt-honor/) or, in my world, Boss’s Day. I don’t have time to go into why my boss–the principal at the school at which I teach–is so awesome and deserves to be honored, but I will share with you the award we presented to her this year on her special day.

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You know she’s pretty cool if we can risk giving her something like this, right?

Leave Only Footprints (And a Smile)

Take Only PicturesFor the most part, I follow this basic outdoor ethics philosophy:  take only pictures, leave only footprints. Actually, I take it a step further and do my best to take lots and lots of pictures and to not leave any footprints, especially when hiking in our desert where we have lots of cryptobiotic soil.

However, when hiking in the San Rafael Swell, Utah recently, I got a wild hair and left something other than footprints. I don’t think anyone will mind.

If you happen to get to Crack Canyon or Little Wild Horse Canyon, let me know if you see this guy or any of his kind around.

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Posted for Creative Challenge 273 – Post anything YOU have created using the inspiration (prompt) word/phrase smile.

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