Friday, September 21, 2012

Thursday Mountains

I went running yesterday. No, that's not news. I go running a lot of days. I annoyingly wake up even before my alarm goes off and have the daily mental argument with myself about getting up, pulling on shorts, putting on a bra, cramming my bed hair into a cap and hitting the road. The road wins every day. Not Mondays, though. On Mondays I can justify that since I'll be in spin class that night I don't have to go running that morning. That thought never brings comfort in the form of sleep. Just comfort in the form of not having to go running.

My friend Amy has started going with me two days a week. She was my walking buddy on Tuesday nights. Now she's my running buddy on Wednesdays and Fridays. She graciously drives to my house since I have a route in my neighborhood that I know and trust. Since she's just getting back into running after a multi-year hiatus, she lets me choose the running route. Even though we're on my turf, she sets the pace. I believe in not only running faster than you have strength, but also in not running faster than your running buddy. It defeats the purpose. I also know that pretty soon she'll be out-pacing me, and I'll have to keep up with HER, which will be good for me. So for now, I'm content to walk when she needs to, or set a goal to "run to the next tree," and in-between, we talk about....whatever occurs to us. Stream of consciousness running-buddy conversation.

Yesterday was Thursday. I had no running buddy to text me telling me she would meet me in 15 minutes. But the road won the argument ... again. I rolled out of bed and pulled on my running clothes, already set out the night before (I know the road always wins). Brushed my teeth, ate some grapes, caught up on Words with Friends while waiting for the grapes to get past my esophagus, and hit the road.

With no running buddy, I felt no need to do a pre-set route. I decided to try some hill training. They say (the running powers that be) that running hills is a good way to improve your overall speed when you run a race. What the heck - I need all the help I can get. I started running uphill. (Ironically enough, one of the hills I did went past Amy's house.) Now I'm running in a different direction than I usually do, and on different roads, so I have to pay more attention. I can't just schlub my way through the streets. I have to breathe, concentrate, set goals: "I can make it to that lamppost then walk for 20 yards to catch my breath."

During one moment as I'm not too terribly oxygen deprived, I think about how temples are always on the top of hills or mountains. Even before the actual edifice of a temple existed, the prophets would go to the top of a mountain to receive revelation. Moses went to Sinai and Horeb - good stuff happened in those places. Nephi learned how to build a boat while he was on a mountain. Getting to the tops of those mountains couldn't have been easy. They didn't have Jeeps. They didn't have cushy running shoes or hiking boots to protect ankles and feet. They wore sandals. Sandals with lots of spaces for rocks and pebbles to get into. Their feet must have been plenty calloused. We don't really hear about their journey to the top of the mountain; just what happens once they get there. But it couldn't have been fun. They probably had their fair share of internal dialogue running through their minds. "First my bow breaks, now this. It's just not enough, is it? Everyone griping at me about not having enough food, but I don't see THEM going to the mountain."

On second thought, I'm probably projecting. Nephi wouldn't have had those types of thoughts....would he? (See 2 Nephi 4 for an answer to this - let me know what you think.)

Running uphill isn't easy. You're working against gravity. Working against yourself. Your body complains, wonders, "What did I do to deserve this? Wasn't I good to you yesterday? We ate, we laughed, we hung out, and you do THIS to me?"

There are a lot of gospel principles and life lessons to be learned from running uphill. Getting to places to commune with God isn't easy. It's a struggle. You work against opposition (gravity)and you think, "What was wrong with those flat roads down there? I was happy there. I was still running and exercising and getting all those benefits, but now I have to WORK and it's uncomfortable and I don't like it."

Then you get to the top. You can hardly believe it - but the road has leveled out, and you can stand up straight again and BREATHE. Blessed oxygen flows through your lungs and you feel human again.

You breathe again, look around and ... Wow. The sun isn't quite up yet, but the clouds are tinged with a golden pink glow. Beautiful. Breathe again, listen to the birds talking to each other. Breathe again, and there's the hint that summer's almost over as the cool air fills your lungs.

Breathe again, and...thank you, Heavenly Father, for putting me on this earth to enjoy this sunrise, this body, these lungs, this beating heart, this beautiful view, and even the sweat dripping down my face.

Look at that view! I may not know what the day holds for me - what obstacles I may face, challenges I get to overcome, but the experience of overcoming THIS challenge, climbing THIS hill tells me that I can handle whatever else may come my way today.

Perspective is more easily gained from a higher vantage point. Inspiration comes after the climb.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Capital Capitol

This weekend I took a quick and almost impromptu quick ("almost" because I only planned it a week prior) trip to Sacramento. A friend of mine is on the lecture circuit as a presenter for a women's conference put on by a book publishing company. How it all came about (my attendance there and going to see this friend) was a whirlwind and all the pieces fell into place in such a way that confirmed that's what I needed to be doing and where I needed to be. That's a story for another day and another entry.

This is about Sacramento. The hotel I stayed at was across the street from the convention center - the venue I'd be attending on Saturday, and both were about three or four blocks from Capitol park - where the state capitol building is. I went for a run on Saturday morning - partly for the exercise, partly to scope out the mall I'd be meeting yet another friend at for dinner, and partly because I wanted to see the capitol and the grounds.

The building and grounds is a California state park. It sits on 40 acres of land, and even in the dim pre-dawn light, it was beautiful.

The capitol building is framed by two other buildings. I loved the motto above each one. (Not sure why the flags were flying at half mast.)

At first I thought that's all there was, but as I continued with my run, I found the rest of the grounds. There were a lot of beautiful plants and trees, each labeled with its name and native location. Then I saw a statue of some firemen, and I paused for a closer look. It was a memorial for firefighters in California who have died on the job. It was beautiful.

Then I found the Vietnam memorial - all solders from California, listed by city and including their rank and age, who died or are still missing in action during the Vietnam conflict. Even with music still playing in my headphones for my run, I was deeply moved. I looked for both of my hometowns - Burbank and Walnut Creek, to see if there were any names I recognized.

My sweat mingled with tears - a small salt water offering for those who have given their lives - the ultimate sacrifice - for my freedom or that of others. Most heartbreaking, perhaps, is the names of those still missing in action. Any war or "conflict," in any cause, on any soil, is heartbreaking, regardless of cause. I am glad I had the opportunity to pause and reflect on blessings of freedom before continuing on in my own little galaxy of first-world problems.