Friday, February 24, 2017

Mr. Brewster

All my running buddies are injured, including Rosie.  This morning I headed out for my longest run in over 7 years ... 6 miles.  One girlfriend had planned to do this with me but she had to go see her doctor for an ankle injury.  Another friend, who actually has inspired this new surge in running for me again, has a possible stress fracture in her foot.  And Rosie has a torn toe nail that has her limping and looking forlorn.

So, I headed out this morning into the sunshine and temperatures pushing near 40F degrees all by myself, but with a gorgeous morning for a run.  

Taking to the ski-mobile trails here I plotted my course as I ran.  I am in training for a half marathon to be held in the small, northern Maine town of  Millinocket next December.  Yes, next December .. like a good girl scout, I believe in being prepared!  But mostly I have fallen off my endurance athletic endeavors and have needed the motivation to get out there again.  With the encouragement of my friend, Beth, I signed up for this half-marathon and  have hit the trails ... running. 

Beth and MW, both amazing women with a lot of miles and marathons under their belts, have been more than kind in their patience and willingness to run with me at my Clydesdale pace.  And the chatting that goes along with these runs makes it so much easier to log another mile or two on without much thought to it.  Thus, today, as I struck out on my own I wasn't sure I would get this job done without more distractions than my own thoughts.

But, running is a solo sport and within the first mile or more I found my rhythm and my thoughts started to wonder:  I began to think of my high school track running days and with this came the memory of Mr. Brewster.

Mr. Brewster was a handsome older man with white hair and a spreading middle. He was my biology teacher my sophomore year.  A very quiet, mild-mannered individual he always seemed to struggle with discipline of his class, and far too many of my classmates took advantage of this as I remember.  But I liked him and I loved Biology.

I ran the 880 in track.  I wish I knew then what I know now about running distance and the training for such distance.  But I was built for endurance and not a sprinter so I got signed on for the longest event available to girls who ran track.  I hated it.  But I would show up for practice and run around and around that track trying to get the 'love of the game' in me.  Our track coach was also the gym teacher.  She was young and newly hired, probably not much older than we were at that time and she had a lot more focus on the sprinters and the hurdle runners.  After all, to run the 880 all you had to do was, well, run!

Mr. Brewster use to walk to school every day, regardless of the weather, covering at least a mile or more in one direction.  During track season he would stop by the track setting his briefcase down beside him in the grass and watch the practice for a few minutes.  Then, picking his briefcase back up, he would turn to walk home.  One day, as he watched, I got a horrible pain in my side half way around the track.  I had to stop running and just walk, bent over and gripping my side.  As I came around to the side by the school he motioned me over.
"Got a stitch?"
"Yeah.  It will go away eventually."
"You might try belly breathing.  It's just gas trapped under your ribs.  So breath and let your belly really expand as big as possible to give that gas some room to move."  And with that he picked up his briefcase and headed for home.

He continued to stop by the track practice every day and I began to go over and speak with him.  One day he told me I might try speeding up a little bit.  "Don't go too fast or too soon.  Just try speeding up your last circle around, a tiny bit, and on that last half before the finish line see if you have enough juice left to just go a tiny bit faster".  And he headed for home.

Another time he said, "as you speed up, try pumping your arms a little more, see if they don't help propel you forward and help with that last push of your sprint". 

Or he would say, "Mary, don't forget to drink some water, it's hot out here today".

I would listen to him and experiment with his suggestions.  At one point my real coach came over and spoke with me saying, "Mr. Brewster seems to be giving you some pointers."  I was a little embarrassed so answered her with a roll of my eyes and a "yeah, well, it entertains him I think".
 She smiled and said, "You know, he was a track star all 4 years of college at Colby.  Broke a lot of records with distance running, some still hold. He's a good coach.  You'd do well to listen to him!"

When I pulled my lower jaw off the track asphalt she laughed and moved on.

I never became a very good runner, never did much for the track team with my 880 times, but I was pretty proud of the fact that Mr. Brewster saw something in me that worth nurturing and helping along.  Today, as I stopped while running up, yet another long hard hill, I had a stitch in my side. I stopped and breathed by expanding my belly into a big "Buddha belly".  I pulled out my water bottle and I lifted it to the tops of the great pine trees I rested under with a toast to Mr. Brewster.   I tucked my bottle away into my runners pack and,  pumping my arms, I ran up that damn hill with that stitch no longer bothering me.

I was able to run 6.71 miles today and cut two full minutes off my most recent min/mile running times!

I give full credit of this to Mr. Brewster, my running partner today.

Loving you all back,

I'm enclosing an article from Downeast Magazine about this marathon in Millinocket;  an old mill town that was created by the papermill and was a thriving area while that mill was running.  But, like a lot of Maine towns, the mills have shut down and the towns have become ghost towns.  Millinocket is the gateway to Baxter State Park and our majestic and loved Mt. Katadhin.  The people of this town are proud, but their town economy is suffering.  This full and half marathon was created by Gary Allen - "The Marathon Man" -  to help pump money back into this town.  Thus, only a good cause like this could get me attempting to run 13+ miles again ... next December!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Come Winter

There is a dusting of snow on the mountain that overlooks our homestead this morning.  The air is not just the crisp, clean spirit of a fall morning, but the crackling, breath taking cold slap that is more common to a winter morning.  Come winter these temperatures will be more accepted, but today I'm not quite use to it.

Yesterday, in the early morning, I headed out to climb Varnum Mountain with my dog Rosie.  The minute we stepped off the deck her hackles were up and her nose to the ground. The erratic circles of the invisible trail she followed spoke to me of our resident skunk that has sprayed her two times now.  But as we got down onto the trail I could see the deep, blanket of leaves disturbed ahead of me.  Rosie, still with her hackles up and nose to the ground was also aware of the disturbance; more of a straight line vs. circles and definitely something big enough to leave a trail in the leaves.  Moose?  Deer?  Coyote?  The tracks weren't clear enough to tell; they left only a faint memory of what went before us.

But come winter I will be able to see very clearly the tracks in the snow that Rosie "sees" with her nose.

Today I am thinking about an entire community in the small town of Orono who are grieving the loss of one of their members.  A man who traveled to Antarctica and the Arctic studying climate change, glaciers and ice.  A man who was an amazing scientist, teacher, friend, father and husband.  A man whose death has rocked the entire world.  A man whose image I see at our camp fire deep in the north woods on Spencer Lake with the rain falling, the wet wood smoking, the fire sputtering and Gordan's head thrown back laughing.  All who knew him speak of the laughter and fun-loving spirit of a very devoted and intelligent scientist.    A man who spent much of his time on ice and in winter.  A man who leaves a crevasse as huge as the one he fell into in the hearts of those who knew him. 

Come winter we will all need to close the circle around her and build up the fires to warm that empty space.

Come winter Dave and I will explore these woods on snowshoes, identify the tracks of the others who share the land with us,  watch the snow fall over the mountain and hold all our loved ones close.  For I have learned first hand that there are no guarantees in life, that all that we hold most precious can be whisked away in a single moment; no tracks left behind for us to follow them.  Only the memories of what once was.

Loving you all back,

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

"A Sense of Wonder"

Prior to becoming an acupuncturist I use to be an environmental educator in another life.  And after that life I became a high school science teacher.  Regardless of the grade or the "classroom" I always tried to teach a sense of wonder to those young minds that were opening to the world I was showing them.  The world of insects and plants, trees and birds, lichens, moss and single cells.  Rachel Carson had instilled in me the importance of "not knowing"; the importance of simply seeing something and feeling awed by it.  The importance of a sense of wonder.

"It is not half so important to know as to feel"
Rachel Carson

I still nurture this in myself.  I am awed whenever I hear the Loons talking on the pond with that wailing, octave jumping song that echoes across the valley, calling to a mate.  Hearing that song always stops me in my tracks, as I stand silent and listening and feeling as it stirs the wild child in me.  Trillium, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Mayflowers and bright green moss has me taking a moment on the trail to look closer and to simply notice and feel the joy in their being there.  Rejoice in their ... being.

Last week Dave came and gently woke me from a deep sleep.  I glanced at the clock, it was 1:30a.m.
He took my hand and said, "come outside, you have to see this."

I pulled a warmer shirt over my pj's, stumbled to the living room and slipped my feet into a pair of boots that sit by the sliding door that opens to our deck.  As I stepped outside I literally gasped.  The air, the fields, the lawn, the trees, and the entire sky was filled with thousands of twinkling lights; winking, blinking, tiny yellow beams of light.


I felt like I had walked back into my childhood on Scarborough beach where on those hot August nights someone would suggest a swim in the surf.  On those very special nights, running into the waves there might be an explosion of tiny, white lights!  Sparklers, shimmering and twinkling as they dripped down our hair, disappearing back into the water.  Fireworks bursting beneath my fingertips as I twirled in place, trailing my spread fingers behind me through the water to ignite the phosphorescence; an arch of brilliant light beneath my fingers. Diving into the water I was a Mermaid with a glittering trail before and behind me.  The foam of every wave illuminated with bright, white, tiny lights.

In that very early morning standing on our deck Dave and I just held each other in awe as the night sparkled all around us with the mating "calls" of the Firefly. There was joy in being part of this amazing, extravagant display, feeling so lucky that I was there to witness it. Thirty minutes later a thunderstorm hit and all those tiny lights went out.

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”
Rachel Carson

Loving you all back,

Monday, March 14, 2016

Trusting and the Blossoming of Spring

I saw crows carrying nesting material yesterday.  I stood and watched them to see if I could tell where they were headed with it.  One squawk from a crow overhead, who was standing guard, had these two nest builders immediately fly in opposite directions of each other and the direction they were initially taking.  Nest building is, after all, top secret.

I continued to stand and just look up, something I learned to do when Jim was sick.  To take that few minutes of quiet time and look up.  Yesterday I saw that the Marsh Maples have buds now, bright red and swelling with the sap that has ascended up to them.  The first tree to flower in spring, offering the much needed nectar to the emerging honey bees.  The birches are not far behind, their tops are turning yellow, soon to flower as well.

Our streams are swollen and flowing free from the encasement of ice.  This happens so fast, just a few days of temperatures above freezing and suddenly there are mini-waterfalls at every bend and twist of the flow.  What was a muted gurgling of flowing water under ice is now a roar as these small streams flood over their banks and create rooster tails with the volume of water hitting the rocks and trees within the path.

The birds are singing, so I'm told.  My hearing is so impaired I can no longer hear the song birds, only the more raucous Corvids or the "cuk, cuk" of the Pileated Woodpecker defending his territory. So much activity up above with the eternal preparations needed for the reproducing and continuation of the species.  Soon the spring Peepers will begin their chirping.  I know Dave will tell me when he hears them and I will stand, silent and straining as I try to hear one of my all time favorite songs.  But, only the memory of what this sound was will flow over me since the peeping is a high pitch, a range that I have lost.

I'm watching for the return of the Woodcocks to these fields,  having promised my nieces that I will take my grandnieces and nephew "woodcocking" when the time comes.  A truly fun spring ritual to be done at the crepuscular evening hour when the male Woodcock does his comical flight and dance routine in hopes of attracting a female to mate, but instead gets giggling first graders who hide in the bushes with me.

Spring has arrived in the mountains.  Folks up here have a harder time of letting go of winter; letting go of their cold weather activities. But the snow is melting and there is now more bare ground than there is snow cover.  We are entering mud season with over-saturated land that nurtures the tiny bulbs of the crocus and daffodil that have yet to emerge.

As the transition of winter to spring blossoms all around me I find myself facing new professional challenges.  It's fitting that the big changes in ones life should begin to unfold at the change of this season.  As the winter lets go of it's icy grip on this land and the buds swell and the promise of flowers hang from above, I have the budding of, yet another, new path to take.  Transitions can be difficult, but they can be exciting too.  Just as we trust that the Woodcocks and other species will return with the sun I am reminded to trust in the Universal energy as well.  To trust that there is a path laid before me, like the unseen migratory track that birds follow, my path appears unseen but I trust it is there all the same.  Trusting that this new endeavor will blossom into the perfect fit for me.  Spring is about emerging from the dark and the rebirth of all that is  ....

.... and thus, this timing is perfect for me.

Loving you all back,

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Lights

I took an early morning walk this morning with Rosie.  Now that we live in Temple one, or both, of us will walk every morning with this sweet little dog we have.  This morning I went alone and savored the time before my busy work day. 

I walk along one of the two streams that confluence on this property we are stewards of.  The path twists and turns with the tinkling and gurgling of the stream flowing strong over jagged rocks and downed trees.  It's incredibly beautiful.  Today one of Joni Mitchell's songs, Electricity, came to me with this line being most appropriate:

I'm learning,
It's peaceful
With a good dog and some trees
Out of touch with the break down of the century

This space, this land, these trees nestled into the valley of three mountains makes it very easy to get out of touch with the break down of the current century.  On the full moon last month I found myself wide awake at 3:30 a.m. I slipped from the warm bed and put the coffee on.  The moon was so brilliant that I didn't need to put on a single light, and the world outside my big windows was shimmering in the blue-white light of that moon.  I got my coffee, stoked the stove and sat down in front of the window.  From there I watched that moon make it's way across the very top of the mountains ridge.  For an hour I watched the moon move until it slipped down into the notch of the two mountains and disappeared from my sight.  The light continued to glow, illuminating the few wispy clouds that nestled there.  There was still so much blue-white light it looked like a large city was pulsing on the other side of that ridge.

Recently I woke as the first light of dawn was seeping into the valley and across the lake that I can see from my bedroom windows.  The lake looked like molten silver as it reflected this early, gray light.  But the first rays of the sun always hit the top of the mountains, glowing rose and fuschia up there before the sun climbs higher and spreads into the fields below.  The last of the Oak leaves still clinging to the branches shimmer with a copper glow on some mornings ... and I walk to the windows and breathe in this light and I forget about the break down of this century.

I worry there is much that is broken lately; in our politics, in the candidates who are asking for my vote in order to lead this country down a path I fear.  A path  that I see paved with greed, dishonesty and intolerance of others. I'm told this will be the break down of one of our political parties and this will lead to a resurgence of something better.

I listen.  And I watch this months waxing moon.  I walk into the woods and along the stream allowing the noise of the world to wash away with the babble of the water beside me.  I slow down, and quiet my mind and seek the peace that is within me.  I'm learning ... with a good dog and some trees ... how to stay out of touch with the break down of the century.

This Christmas I ask that you may find your own peace from within.  That you might stop and look up to notice the moon that grows towards full for the birth of the Christian God on the 25th. That you might find a wooded path, or one tree, to sit under and take a moment to simply be; to take a moment and get out of touch.

My wish this Christmas is that more people will begin to learn that this holiday is a Christian holiday that celebrates LOVE, and that each and every religion honored by all the other humans on this planet also worship a God and have celebrations that are about LOVE.  My wish for the coming 2016 is that LOVE trumps the anger and the hate that we are seeing far too much of.  

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.  So I go to find my inner peace and ask that we
all just walk the same walk...

 ... with a good dog and some trees.

Loving you all back,


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Hey Jude

Judy, son Marcus, and his wife Jana
On Monday, August 3rd I headed to our homestead in Temple where we continue to work on the house in hopes of moving out there this fall.  As I drove across the bridge over the Sandy River in town a huge adult eagle flew directly over my windshield.  I know there is a mated pair who claim territory on this river as well as a two year old juvenile still hanging about.  Still it always has my heart skip a beat and then soar whenever I see one of these magnificent birds.

This day my job was to continue to stack our wood pile that lies outside on the ground into a shed and under cover for the winter coming.  At one point in my hauling and stacking I stopped for some water and looked up at the clouds, a frequent pass time for me out there.  Today the mountain was building thunder heads.  There, soaring very high was an Eagle riding the thermals.  Ah, two sightings in one day, fabulous!  I went back to work.  After several hours of stacking I called it quits, took my dog and went to the lake for a swim.  On our return I laid on the deck in the shade of a Maple tree and enjoyed the summer breeze blowing over me, cooling and drying me from my morning of hard labor.  As I opened my eyes directly in my line of sight was another Eagle soaring higher and higher into that towering  thunder head still forming over the mountains.

"What is going on in the Universe that I get to see three Bald Eagles in one day?  Something is happening somewhere" was all I could think.  I remembered Stanford Addison, the Arapaho medicine man who conducted the sweat lodge for me in Wyoming only months after Jim had passed, saying, "Eagles man, they see what's needed, they look straight through you.  Give them your prayers, they take them straight up."  And so, this day, I sent a prayer straight up.

Monday night, back in Farmington, I got an email from a dear friend of mine, Mick.  He informed me that he had lost his wife, Judy, earlier that day.  I went into shock and then curled over and assumed the fetal position and wailed.  Mick and Judy, I've known them over 25 years, two people I love like family.  My heart ached and felt like it had been ripped from me.

That night, a short time after getting this news from Mick, those thunderheads released their energy with a severe storm complete with bolts of lightening streaking down between the houses here in town, powerful winds bending and whipping the trees back and forth and a pelting rain coming sideways.  Dave and I sat outside under the cover of the porch just holding each other.  All I could think was, "even the heavens are raging against this!" 

Judy, or Jude, as Mick always called her, is one of the few people who when I think of her all I see is a huge smile and all I hear is laughter.  Judy, who may have been the only person who could have moved me off my sisters couch where I collapsed after Jim's memorial service.  I was beyond exhausted and could only sit on this couch with immediate family and my closest friends gathered.  But, my niece is lead singer in a band, The Awesome, and they were playing that night in Portland.  Judy said to me, "We have to go hear Jennywren sing and you have to come Mary!"
"I do? Really? "
"YES! You really do!" she said with her laugh.
Judy and I, center stage on the dance floor

And so I went, we all went, and we all danced and sang and we closed the bar.  I don't think anyone but Judy could have convinced me to move again and to go out that night.

"Hey Jude, take a sad song and make it better ... "

I have a ton of stories filled with crazy adventures, laughter and love that involves Judy, Mick and their family.  Such fabulous memories.  She was such a wonderful woman and friend

It's been a difficult week for me since last Monday, but certainly not as hard or as bad as the week that her family has had to endure ... or the lifetime that remains now without this amazing woman.
I found comfort in the image that came to me one, sleepless, night this week; I saw my Jim and one of Judy's sons, Jason (who passed last April) together, taking her hand and leading her off with them.  This image is one of peace and love and has me feeling she's OK now, she's with a lot of other loved ones on the other side.  Any pain she was enduring is gone, there is only peace now.

Hey Jude, don't make it bad,
Take a sad song and make it better.
Remember to let her into your heart,
Then you can start to make it better.

Jude, don't be afraid,
You were made to go out and get her
The minute you let her under your skin,
Then you begin to make it better.


I will miss that woman like I miss the summer sunshine.
My youngest sister recently commented to me about how much loss I have had in my life in the last five years.  And it's true.  Yet, these people who filled my life taught me how to love.  And losing them so early is teaching me how to live.

Loving you all back,

Judy and I dancing (and part of Mick)
The Awesome

Judy, Mick, Gunnar, Karmo (my sister) at Jims memorial party

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Heart of Buddha

View from Bald Mountain, Maine
I was out early this morning for a bicycle ride, before the heat and humidity of the day could wilt me.  Climbing up to the ridge that is known as Mosher Hill I could see the western mountain range off in the distance, shimmering in the heat that would be descending later in the day.  This is a respectable climb on my bike, and I was going pretty slow needing to stand on my peddles at times or bounce back down onto my saddle to maintain some kind of momentum so I wouldn't fall over like the tricycle riding comedian of the Laugh-In generation.  It was during this slow climb that Jim came to me.

He does this, pops in at different and unique times, not always associated with an anniversary any more.  Today, as I climbed, I got thinking about his actual passing in Hospice.  We were in Hospice for five days and during this time many people came to our room to sit by Jim, or sit with me on the couches across the room from the bed where Jim lay in his morphine induced coma.  One frequent visitor was our dear friend, Jane Burdick.  Jane is a practicing Buddhist and has been for years.  She became Jim's mentor in his studies and a trusted friend and teacher who helped him find a deeper understanding and appreciation for his own practice.

On one of Jane's visits, after she had sat and meditated beside Jim, she took my hand on her way out and told me to whisper into Jim's ear, "dissolve into the heart of the Buddha".  I thought this was beautiful, and I began to hold this mans hand and, truly believing that hearing is the last thing to go and that Jim was capable of hearing everything, I would whisper into his ear to dissolve into the heart of Buddha.  And then I would kiss that unresponsive hand.

The morning of Jim's passing the night nurse woke me at 3:30 a.m.  She had to shake me pretty hard to get me to wake up.  I had been awake at 2:00 a.m. and all was fine and yet in that hour and a half I fell into a deeper sleep than I may have had over the entire 18 months of Jim's struggle with brain cancer.  Someone had told me this is a phenomena that happens, as though the individual who is passing is able to silence their loved one by putting them into a deep sleep or even to time their passing for when the loved one leaves the room, thus slipping away without the witnessing of that last breath.  I do believe this is what Jim did not only to me but to my good friend, Mary Margaret, who spent her nights at hospice with me. She told me she was also in a very deep sleep even though she had gotten up at 2:30 a.m. to check on Jim.

As this kind nurse woke me she gently whispered, "he's gone" and gave me a hug.  There was an odd feeling of nothingness in me.  I looked at MaryMargaret and said, "what do I do now?"  She suggested I take my time.

Prayer flags, Ladakh India
 I got dressed, called Jim's sisters who were staying at our house during this time and began to pull things together.   The nurse came back in and told me she needed to share with me the experience she had prior to checking on Jim.  She said she was sitting at the computer in the office and heard, "the most unusual, but very beautiful, tinkling bells.  And my first thought was to check on Jim!" (there were many other people in the hospice house at this time, but it was Jim she thought of).

I knew instantly what the tinkling bells were this nurse had heard.   If you have ever held the small, brass, hand cymbals that the Buddhist monks chime during ceremonies you would know the tinkling, but unusual, sound of these bells too.

I began to cry as this nurse squeezed my shoulder and said, "I thought you might want to know this" and left the room.  And thus, I knew that Jim had dissolved into the heart of Buddha.

As I reached the highest point of my climb and traveled along the ridge with that gorgeous view of the mountains I thought ...  now Jim is not only part of the heart of Buddha but he is part of everyone's hearts too.  He is not only part of my heart, but he is in and deeply dissolved into each and every heart of the people who knew and loved  him.  The gold thread of connection now has all of us connected together through and with Jim.

 I knew that Jim wanted me to write this today, wanted me to tell those who will read this to know,  we are all connected by this LOVE.  This LOVE, that is of the Buddha, Jesus, Mohammad, God, Great Spirit, The Divine ... whatever you want to call it, it is all the same LOVE.  Only humans and their belief systems seek to separate this and alter it to appear different from one another.  But it's not, it is one LOVE, and we are all connected to it.

Loving you all back,

Jim, on the left, in Ladakh India