Lessons from Bicknell Brook

It may not look like much from the road, but it’s paradise!

One of my favorite running trails is Bicknell Brook – Colette Trail a few miles from my house. Unlike running up back, I have to remove myself from my environment and routine and drive there. I found it about 2 years ago and it’s more than just a hike or run.   It’s a classroom for all sorts of lessons I could probably find elsewhere, but not with nearly as much enjoyment.

Since I found this little piece of shady paradise, I have wavered between taking people with me and keeping it to myself.  Each time I visit it’s an experience I cherish, no matter who I’m with.  And each time I seem to learn a bit more about myself.  Life Lessons learned in the woods.

Sometimes you need to stop and stick your toes right in.   At least stick them into the trickle of the brook that covers the beautiful rocks.  Too often in life I run through my daily routines, taking little time to relax and let life gently surround me.  Instead, I get caught up in the whys and hows of what is, what was and what shall never be, becoming so locked in my own head I’m not truly present.  Today as I looked at the cool water running ever so gently over the moist rocks, I thought “hey, I bet that would feel good…” And it did.  Instead of running right by with the thoughts in my mind, I took the time to slip out of my shoes and socks and let the water caress my feet.  It felt good.  It felt better than good; it felt amazing!

Sometimes you just need to have your ass on a rock and your toes in the stream.

You can do anything you set your mind (and legs) to. As long as you stick to it.  I started running trails two years ago when it became a matter of necessity more than anything.  I had added more and more mileage to my morning walks throughout the summer when the kids were home from school and needed to make up the time somewhere.  I started running the downhills, working my way up to the flats and eventually most of the uphills too.  The first time I ran Bicknell I gave myself a goal of 1 1/2 hours.  After all, I could HIKE it in 2, so this should be a piece of cake.  When I came back out in the parking lot in one hour, I was thrilled! Tired, but thrilled!  Not only had I done it a lot faster than I thought, I ran the whole thing. I didn’t need to stop once.  I suppose it might be one of the reasons it’s my favorite!  It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you just start small.

It might take a while, but that tree WILL come down

It’s okay to look behind you, but only to see how far you’ve come.  I won’t lie.  I’m a big one on looking in my past and thinking of all the things I could have done differently.  But on the trail, if you look behind you too much you’ll fall flat on your face.  You always have to be looking one step ahead of your feet so you don’t trip on a rock or root or twist your ankle in a hole.  There is way too much shit going on to worry about where you’ve been. Still, it never hurts to look back and see where you’ve come from and how hard you’ve worked to get there.  You just can’t spend a lot of time doing it. Move along little doggie…

There are a lot of trails in life. Try them all.  Every trail may lead to the same place, but each one has its own unique quality.  There are quite a few routes you can take through the Colette Trail.  Some cut off the points closest to the water, bringing you deeper into the woods, making your run faster.  You can take the long loop back to the parking lot or the shorter, more direct one.  While I generally stick to the main trail, I’ve found myself delving into the less active paths to see where they come out.  I know I won’t get lost, but sometimes I just need to spice it up a bit, discover something I never knew existed. As I face the next stage of my life, I know there will be a lot of trails for me, a lot of paths I can take.  The one I ultimately choose will be the right one, but taking the path less traveled has always been my way.  I just keep wondering…what does it hold? Where will it take me?

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Be free to make changes as you go and add where necessary. “The Best of Kansas” isn’t always long enough to make it through the full run. Sometimes I have to add a bit of J. Geils and The Cars too.  The art of improvising is key in every facet of life.  While I’m sure it makes more sense to create a long playlist from the beginning, sometimes it just isn’t what you need.  Frankly, I don’t choose my music until I’m out there (and if I’m listening to the radio I have no control). Every day is different and what’s needed to keep going changes as you go along.  If you find yourself short of dreams, find some more.  It really is that simple.  Besides, how boring would the same ole’ playlist be?

Just because it feels good at the time doesn’t mean it was the smartest thing to do… This lesson came a few years ago when I thought it would be really cool to take the kids to the pools and swim.  NOT a good idea. I, of course, was the only one to swim…and then had to hike out in wet clothes. Really? I was SO chaffed I thought my legs were burning when we stopped at Grafton Pond for a real swim.  They hurt for days!  But you know what, it was fun while I was doing it, so was it really that stupid? Well, probably.  Next time I’ll just bring a change of clothes!

Sometimes we have to go through the shit to appreciate the smallest of things. When you are sweating like crazy, even the slightest breeze feels amazing.  This one came to me today, my second 80+ degree Bicknell run in a week.  Sweat was dripping into my eyes, coating every inch of me in a thick layer of yuck.  But then the breeze came and felt SO good!   I was reminded of my girlfriend, Laura, who lost almost everything in Irene last year.  When the smallest plant came back in the Spring, it was like a gift from on-high.  It’s amazing how a simple word, smile or action can make a world of difference.  You can be having the worst day in the world and when someone reaches out and takes the time to care, it really feels amazing.

It’s okay to not run full steam ahead.  There are many times when I just can’t run the whole trail.  I no longer mind if I have to slow down and walk for a while.  It actually gives me the time to reflect, react to my surroundings and take stock of what I’m trying to accomplish. And sometimes it just gives me the time to catch my breath before running again.  Whatever the reason, it’s okay to go at a comfortable pace no matter what I’m tackling. Sometimes it yields much better results in the long run.

Welcome to my Paradise!

There are hundreds of other lessons that run through my head as I run (and walk) the paths around me.  Some are random and make absolutely no sense to anyone but me, while some are more poignant.  Sometimes I think of who I am and who I want to be. Other times I listen to my playlist or my favorite DJ on iheart radio and don’t think of anything at all.  It all depends on the day…and the run…and the lesson I seem to need the most.

Reading is Fundamental…but it doesn’t always cut it.

I’ve noticed lately that something is missing.  It’s something powerful, creating urges I can’t quite quell. My heart and mind are searching, reaching out and testing the waters in areas I shouldn’t be.  I have been delving in the darkness. I couldn’t put my finger on what’s wrong or why, all of a sudden, this surge of uneasiness has bubbled up in my life. All I knew was something was missing.  Something calling my attention away from my day to day routine, begging for excitement. Today, alone in the early hours of the morning, I realized what it was.

If you know me at all, you know I’m a research hound. Even my license plate reads “LIV2LRN”.  I was born to keep my imagination stoked and my mind reeling in excitement.  I need to tackle a topic and delve in hard and fierce, learn everything I can, create a world and all its characters and spew it onto paper.  I cannot keep my wild, vivid imagination locked away, inactive, in my mind for very long.  It leads not only to anxious, worrisome obsessions, it leads to dissatisfaction.  It leads to trouble.

What I need is to write. So, with the new “50 Shades of Grey” phenomena making waves all over the place, I decided to dig out my character notebooks and I plucked Lynette from my vault of lives.  Lynette is just the one I need right now; a strong, vibrant woman going against the rules of Victorian London. Lynette is a whore.

Okay, so it probably doesn’t sound like the best voice to pull out of storage at this point in time, but Lynette is exactly what I need. With the success of Shades, it’s obvious it might just be what a lot of women need.  And not just the unf*^%able ones.  Experts say the success of the racy books – dubbed ‘mummy porn’ – has been driven by  ”frustrated middle-aged mothers.”  Of course, those experts are at the dailymail.co.uk.  More experts took a survey of 400 women – all aged between 25 and 50 -and found  43% of women would rather read about sex than perform it. Really? You’re doing it wrong.

“One respondent, who didn’t want to be named, said: ‘I’d much rather read about it then do it. It’s always exciting in a book and, unlike in real life, the hero never rolls off when he’s finished and starts snoring without so much as a cuddle.'”

What’s even MORE disturbing to me is this is article: “ ‘Mummy porn’ Fifty Shades Of Grey outstrips Harry Potter to become fastest selling paperback of all time.”  The article went on to say, “Last week alone, the first installment sold more than 100,000 paperback copies – a feat most of the Harry Potter books and all of the Twilight novels failed to achieve.”   Okay, I can see the Twilight saga, after all, that’s not much more than vampire porn, but I’ve read ALL the Harry Potter books at least three times.  I couldn’t get past the first five pages of Shades.  The writing doesn’t even compare.  JK Rowling is the queen of writing.  EL James is the slow child in the back of the room.  Okay, I know that sounds harsh, but really?  Are there THAT many “middle-aged mothers” out there that don’t know good writing when they find it? Paleeese!  I could write a better book with my eyes closed. Um, I mean, in my sleep. I mean, with one hand tied…oh, never mind. You get the idea.

Let’s get back on track.  Let’s get back to me.  Actually, let’s get back to Lynette.  Perhaps I should toss aside the historical novel Lynette took a backseat in and put her right out there in the spot light.  Give those frustrated middle-aged mothers something to read that isn’t filled with, to quote Shades, crap.  I suppose that’s what got me thinking about ole’ Lynette, that strong-willed prostitute.  She’s not stupid.  As a matter of fact, she achieved something these “mummy porn” readers haven’t.  She’s come to the understanding that sex isn’t something that can be confined to paper.  She knows she’s sexy and uses it to her advantage.  And why not?  While many Victorian prostitutes were not in the profession on their own accord, many others took control of their own fate. In a world where women worked 12-14 hours a day then came home to filthy, overcrowded, disease ridden basements, prostitutes often chose the profession as an easier alternative.  If they worked for a house, they received better health care, ate well, and wore nice clothes.  Who wouldn’t rather have a bed with sheets, receive gifts and…well, let’s face it, have sex all day long.  Unless, of course, you’d rather be reading about it.