How to Find Hidden Treasure

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COINING 20

Most of the books I’ve read about creativity encourage a daily walk. Apparently this is how many of the greats get (or got) their inspiration, and a recent Stanford study even found a strong correlation between walking and creativity.

I usually prefer to run, pound the pavement, and fly along (granted a slow flight because of my rather short and un-runnerlike build). Running lets me escape, working off whatever ails me. I will always love it as long as I am able to do it.

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Legs for walking or running.

But this year my hip told me to forget it, so I’ve joined the walking masses and found, instead of an escape, a deeper connection to the world that lends itself to creating stories, music and pictures.

Walking, in fact, turned out to be a treasure hunt where the doubloons show up as surprises when I am least looking for them.

Inside I feel like this kid whenever I find something small but grand.

Inside I feel like this kid whenever I find something small but grand.

At times my treasure comes in the form of new and fresh ideas for a story or essay I’m working on. Much more often it comes in the form of some slice of beauty I find in a bit of nature or a person who catches my eye because they radiate joy.

Here is one of my most recent gold coins. I almost stepped on him but instead jumped back at his shape and swirling colors. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a snail like this before out of doors. He begged a picture the second I managed to avoid squashing him flat.

Not only do I find these hidden wonders on the road, but something about the act of moving my legs and going outside cracks open my mind and rewires it ever so slightly so that when I do sit down to my projects, I am ready to create.

I think those greats and the Stanford researchers are on to something with this walking idea. I might even rethink how often I run and add more walking as the hip (finally!) heals.

This month I’ll share some of my discoveries with you.

May you find treasures all your own-

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Blessing a Running Road with One Less Crow

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Question of the week: How do you reclaim a place with memories of sorrow?

I recently read a piece by Martha Beck on how to mentally rewrite your tragedies so that you can find meaning even in the random badness that sometimes happens to us. In the case Beck describes, a woman is able to find meaning in a car accident so that she doesn’t have to stay stuck in fear or sadness. This seemed a good idea at the time I read the article. Now I’m considering how to apply the idea to a Sad Thing that recently happened.

I am looking for this meaning because a death ruined my favorite running route. In fact, most of my running routes are ruined because the Sad Thing happened on a road I run which all of my routes stem from or lead toward. This road is like a spine with arms that grow from it or like the trunk of a tree that that lead to the branches of the other roads I follow.

I was running down this road on one of the terrific evening runs I sometimes experience. The weather was pleasantly warm, the air was turning fall crisp and my feet were flying. At that best of moments when I had almost crested the top of the hill on my tree trunk road, a crow flapped out at me from nearly under my left foot.

After jumping up and over, my heart beating harder than it had from the hill, I stopped to take a closer look. My tree trunk road was not a main road but cars kept zipping past. The young crow flapped its wings uselessly each time, unable to get up off the grass and gravel where it sat, one foot splayed out to the side.

I stood to the side wracking my brains for what could be done for the little guy. His eyes were bright. He was clearly young though full sized and clearly stuck in this sad place where the cars came far too close and too often.

I googled with the phone I had just been using for Pandora, but wildlife rehab places are few and far between and not open after 7:00pm.

Finally, I sprinted home to call a relative who knows birds. He wisely and kindly told me that there wasn’t much to do and that the fellow crows would likely take care of him. I tried to relax and went to bed only slightly achy from the sprint and the thought of leaving the crow in the dark.

The next day after taking my kids to school I drove back thinking I would check on the crow to see if I could find a way to help him.

I found him still alert but not flapping. He’d run out of energy. And there was nothing I knew to do, so I again tried the rehab center who kindly told me to drive him there. I did. He was paralyzed and had to be put to sleep. Maybe he had been hit by a car. Maybe he fell out of the tree while trying to fly. Anyway, he’s gone.

I suppose I’m hoping that by writing this post, I’ll be able to run past that spot again. I’m not sure if it’s a way of making meaning or just, as I have sometimes done, a way of cleansing a spot with painful memories. I know I’m not alone in the need for this. Associated Ministries in Tacoma will often bless the sites of violent crimes.

Although my crow death might be small in the scheme of things, I am thinking that finding a practice of letting go of pain is something with which everyone can find a connection. Here’s to another fabulous run in my future and to peace for us all.

 

Rat Terrier Teachings

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I’ve finally revised my About Page. It took most of the week to get the written ‘selfie’ into shape, so I’m cross posting it here. I don’t remember the rat’s name. I wish I did.

 

I saw the rat terrier sometime after I’d been chased by the pig. Or maybe it was before. It was, after all, over 15 years ago and I don’t have a memory that sticks moments to a bulletin board.

But one day around 1994 when I was cleaning the dog kennels at the Whatcom County Humane Society, a dog the size of a ferret sat shivering in isolation without much hair to protect her from the cold concrete. She’d bitten someone. That’s what landed dogs in those back kennels away from the public and the adoptable dogs.

The isolation kennels had a guillotine structure between them, allowing cleaners to put food on one side, open the guillotine and then the dog moved to the other side. Most dogs went willingly. This rat terrier did not, so I had to try to get her to move over. I knew she was ‘in’ for biting but thought something less than 5 pounds wouldn’t be hard to manage and swung open the door.

She slipped out the chain link kennel between my legs before I could bend down far enough to stop her. Then she bolted down the back side of the kennels and turned the average bored barking of the dogs into the frenzy of dogs barking at other dogs – especially loud since she dared to run past their cage door fences.

Shutting the noise out of my mind, I walked the concrete floor in my rubber boots trying to scoop her up. The terrier shivered and, when I finally got her in a corner, she bared her teeth. I was still green enough to think I could pick her up because she would sense that I only wanted to help her. True to all the doggy signals she sent, she bit down hard on my hand the moment I picked her up.

My hand throbbed and, after managing to get her in her kennel,  I shook it, feeling shock more than pain.

My life comes at me sometimes like that rat terrier – it feels like a series of small things that bite hard and teach me lessons I need to learn.

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My life is also learning languages and then trying to teach them to others, beating my head against a wall when we can’t communicate and then feeling the joyful zing of sudden understanding.

 

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My life is running because it brings me intense joy and then stopping because I’ve overdone it and got tendinitis in my hip, regrouping and building myself back up again.

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My life is wrapping bits of yarn together by clicking needles together. And then pulling that yarn right back out because I have not yet figured out how to carry the colors across a row. The third or fourth time I start to make a square for the blanket that I can begin to love.

And for this blog, my life is throwing things on the page and screen in a first draft, knowing they absolutely stink, reworking them beyond the point where I want to give up more than I want another cup of Earl Grey tea and then reaching a sparkling moment where I think, “You know, I actually LIKE this post. Who wouldda thought?”

Strangely enough, the feeling is like that rat terrier’s bite. Sudden and unexpected, almost like a sharp pain. If I remember right, that scared dog made it home again, like I do every time a piece comes together.