You caught yourself musing over lines, strokes, differences on a predawn run the other day. The difference in three strokes. Three markings. Their directions can make a difference between a capitol A and a capitol Z. Each have three strokes. Yet the letters vary in placement, meaning, and usage greatly.You sit here at night as you write still considering this as you hear the West Seventh cross-country train sound its horn warning the city of its impending approach. A soundtrack that plays in the backdrop of your life. So many sounds that go unnoticed. This train zooms through here with urgency over tracks that are a mile away from your home in Saint Paul, and yet the train's whistle can instantaneously place you in the backyard of the rail yard at the Santa Fe Hotel where this train first came into your awareness. This train is one of the same trains that sits there, where you used to live. The pale yellow box car with the words Santa Fe painted on it in fading red letters. Yes, that box car you noted from your hotel window has passed you at the tracks in Saint Paul and you have sat in your car and watched, as your boys in the back seat delighted at the sight of so many cars, such a long train, passing before their eyes.

Today you swam in the Highland Pool for the first time without a swim cap, without a hair covering, in front of others. You battled and played with the sound track that floated through your mind with each stroke as you did lap after lap of 100's. I wonder what my spotty hair growth looks like to others. Should I have worn the swim cap? You extend your arm scooping water that is in front of you back as you swim. These thoughts like that faint whistle sounding off, a whistle that many nights goes unnoticed. You begin to sense and feel your body from the inside out. Letting the outside judgements float away. Let yourself know yourself from within. You watch. You play being the witness of your thoughts that the practice of yoga, of meditation, of running invite you to be with your life. You watch as your little self shrinks. The thoughts that can pull you down, thoughts that can make you sink without enough ability to catch your next inhale get pushed behind you with your next arm stroke and your feet flutter kick them away.

In between your training plan's laps you rest standing in the shallow end, head above water, playing with the plunge between watching others watch you and the self consciousness that comes from that, and you watching yourself as you moved through water, now standing tall to rest, letting the thoughts move through you. Pulling yourself back toward thoughts of love. Thoughts of  I am enough as I am.  This leads you into playful territory. Into playing with breathing on your left side of your freestyle and alternating your breath between arm cycles. Extending your exhale to naturally lengthen your inhale. Hair, no hair. Three strokes. Covering up. Not covering up. A. Z. Caring. Not caring. Playing with "both and ands" and shedding the "either or" mentality. Letting go of right and wrong thinking and allowing yourself to experiment, to play with cause and effects. Tomorrow you will run the annual trail race at Afton Alps, a 25k, and you've been there before, but this time it is different. And as you conclude this post, the whistle of the passing train sounds in the distance and you become aware again.


Alpha & Omega

When your last name ends in Z you know where you will land in the pages of the morning obituaries; the last page. And quite possibly the last person to be announced that you died that day. You know that your obit will be called up by clicking page 5 of 5, like you did the day your friend's dad died, to read about him--and learn more about her. You know this because with certainty, no letter comes after Z in the English language. But what comes after death?

Maya Angelou's obit would loom before the section of the obituaries. Her death announced on the front page of newspapers would also come on the first page of the obituary section because of the luck of the draw her last name had when it began with the letter A. So many letters fall in-between. You rooted further down the line of letters when you married, going from E to S.

You wonder about the in-between, the pause between the exhalation and the inhalation, the pause that gives rise to the next movement of breath you take for granted until it is no longer present, and what remains is your life settled in print on page. You wonder will you go out on the in breath, or the out like your writing teacher, Natalie, once asked. And the dramatic pause that lives between the inhalation and the exhalation, how big will it be? (And yet, in your study of breath, you learned a little trick if you want to lengthen your inhalation focus on a longer exhalation it will happen without force on the inhalation and you will feel calmer.)

Sometimes like today, the ferns blowing in the wind with the summer sun shining on the greenness of the earth you wonder at yourself and how much you take being in a body for granted. How you just presume your life will follow day after day. Sometimes this presumption when it rises to the surface catches you off guard, takes your breath away, and your heart aches at how much you will miss this life when it is no longer your life. It's sometimes a dull ache and other times quite sharp. You feel your breath, and your body spiraling into form and light and pattern, and you can feel your heart center opening to receive more of what your life has to offer, and you think you are preparing to fly. Yet, some voice inside says humans don't fly. You are told yogis do, and can and you wonder its truthfulness? You feel that sacred soft space at your back body between your shoulder blades where they meet your spine, and you imagine your wings growing out from that soft heart center and expanding like angel wings--shimmery and strong, shades of white iridescent light. And you sit a little taller while you sit on your front stoops watching those ferns sing in the wind.

You sit, amazed at all that was hidden in the winter months from your view, all that slumbered beneath the thick sheets and layers of ice and snow and polar winds. These ferns you think would never survive that howling wind that whipped through the landscape carving out crusted snow dunes, yet they laid buried beneath snow and ice and soil. And you remember your delight when your footing fell through the snow's crust in March giving way to the promise that the greens of the earth would once again reveal itself, because you began to wonder if it would. Your winter so cold.

When your seven year old boy returned home from school angry at being left out and hurting himself on the playground during free time, you were certain that some sunshine and grass on his bare feet would reconnect him to his goodness, his shiny self, his body. And so, you knelt down as he splayed himself defeated on the douglas fir porch floor and peeled off his shin high socks inviting him and his bare feet back outside to the earth's green carpet. Reluctant he went. And you watched him, and wondered about the final retreat back to the earth's soil is it met with reluctance? Do you return to your body with resistance? Do you find your breath with revere? Does loving yourself mean as Thich Naht Hahn states you come back to your body over and over again, saying "Hello body, I will take care of you....You're body is a wonder." And like that your heart wings grow.