on following your dreams/accompishments/making the most of your life (or something)
Around the time of my birthday I made a list. The title was “This is the year I…” and below it I listed things that I wanted to do this year. They were things that I had always thought about doing (like running a marathon) but for whatever reason I hadn’t gotten around to. 8 months later and I have checked off every item on that list.
For me, it’s not just about doing things for the sake of doing them. It’s about finding what will make my life more enriching; things that I can carry with me throughout life, that provide satisfaction beyond the moment that they occur.
In high school I started a list of things I wanted to do in my life. It’s amazing to me that in only 8 years I have done more than half of the items on the list. Now I need to add to it. What is on your list?
Sure I want a dog and sure I want someone next to me at night, but I’ve got these other things I want and right now they’re just a little more important I guess. I want to know what goes on inside my mind when I have evenings to myself, and a big old bed to stretch out in, and whatever music I feel like obsessing over on the speakers, and the same thing for dinner every night, or maybe something completely different. I want to know which thoughts are the last to clear my mind when I walk alone down West Street and come face to face with the Autumn sunset, let it wash over every curve of me, before turning and watching the light get pulled from each flat surface of this sleepy, cozy, neighborhood. After a while the soles of my shoes feel less lonely against the pavement. I’m getting to know this world and it’s getting to know me.
I’m lost in research and education and theory and big robust plans that are rife with uncertainty. All we can do is pursue them with enthusiasm and an open mind. I follow the road even when it bends away from the horizon I thought I was chasing. Suddenly the trees have different leaves, the river moves more slowly, the moon is fat and welcoming, the air smells like fall, and you realize that you’re not where you thought you’d be but you’re ok with that because all of your senses are being engaged. Life is not always so sensory and so you appreciate it, even when the turn of events might bring periods of tears or anger or resentment. Once you feel it you let it go because there’s that moon still shining over the bay and the air still smells the way it did when you were five and you stepped outside and the wood smoke was heavy overhead.
“Why don’t you tell me that ‘if the girl had been worth having, she’d have waited for you’? No, sir, the girl really worth having won’t wait for anybody.”—from This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald. (via fabula)
After 4 or 5 days with a fever I went to the ER yesterday afternoon. I had my blood drawn to test for mono, a strep test, and a chest x-ray. 4 hours later I found out I have pneumonia. I was glad there was something to explain why I wasn’t getting better. They gave me an antibiotic through IV and wrote me a prescription for another. Hopefully it isn’t viral and the meds will take care of it. For the next day or two I’m living off tylenol to keep the fever down. This has really been one hell of a semester.
I have to say I was so impressed with Mercy Hospital. At school we talk a lot about the failures in our health care system and how emergency care is rushed and inadequate. My experience at Mercy was completely the opposite. Everyone was friendly and accommodating. I felt like they took me seriously and listened to me and took time with me.
I also realized yesterday afternoon while my temperature was climbing again, that part of being a good friend is being able to ask your friends for help when you need it. How do you thank someone for sitting in the ER with you for 4 hours, taking you to get dinner, and renting a movie? I think it might take the shape of something homemade and knowing that I wouldn’t hesitate to do the same in return.
A heartfelt thank you to all of my friends over the past few days who have offered to do anything for me. Fingers crossed I’m on the up!
Alright, we’re going to get political for a moment. Portland is having its first mayoral election in a long time. A lot of people are running. Only about 20% of the candidates are remotely qualified. Only one deserves your vote. Michael Brennan:
look at that cheerful face!
I could go into detail about his credentials, but why don’t you read about him in the Portland Press Herald, which just endorsed him as the top candidate for the job. Or you can read about him on his website.
That would be enough for me to vote for him. I know Michael personally though, and let me tell you he is a nice guy. Not only is he qualified, professional, and a native of Portland, but he is genuinely warm and friendly. Occasionally he even cracks a decent joke. And he is pretty physically fit for a guy his age, and anyone who exercises gets points in my book.
he even has the sharpest looking signs!
My band might even play at his campaign party. We haven’t decided (which probably means we won’t), but it’s possible. That’s not important though. The important thing is if you live in Portland get yourself registered (at city hall, in the clerks office, it takes less than 10 minutes, I did it recently), and on November 8th get your butt to the polls and vote for Michael Brennan.
Today I took a break from reading about small town planning to pull up the dead plants from my raised bed at school, turn over the soil, and plant garlic (for the first time!). I got down there to find that my bean plants were putting out blossoms for the fourth time this year. Guess what I did? I ripped those plants right out of the ground. I’m over the beans. And remember how I was over the peas by late July? Well the few that I had dropped in the soil sprouted and are now blossoming. Assuming the frost doesn’t get them first I may have snap peas in late October. I’m not sure what I did to get this crazy 5 month production of food.
It was nice to pull up all the dead plants and only see what was still growing, vibrant and alive. I planted some carrots late that are starting to get bigger, some late sunflowers (just as everyone’s wilt and fall over mine are getting ready to bloom), a big bright patch of nasturtiums, and a newly growing cabbage that waited all too long to get into gear. I also have some basil hanging on for dear life.
This summer I vowed never to be jealous of other people’s garlic scapes again, so today I planted 12 bulbs at school and roughly the same amount here at my apartment. I discovered that the cilantro I planted in May randomly started growing, and the dill is pretty happy with these sunny days and cool nights. I just don’t know what to do with it now that I’ve pickled everything I need to. It’s nice planting in the fall, knowing that a little surprise will pop up in the spring just when winter has you ready to give up on life.
While I was planting the garlic at my apartment I heard the squirrels squawking. After all the trouble those little beasts gave me this summer I can’t wait until next spring when they find out those raised beds are lined in the middle with big fat bulbs or garlic, something squirrels detest. Go ahead and take a big mouthful of that.
And perhaps the best discovery of all? The soil at both raised beds has worms! Both beds were filled with new soil/compost this past spring and neither had much life to speak of. I’m happy to see those little guys are already working on my soil for next year.
I planted butternut squash and then discovered that the soil we had at my community garden at school had squash mold. So they all died. It was depressing. I love butternut squash. Luckily here in Portland we have a nationally renowned farmer’s market and I picked some up last weekend. Then I made one of my favorite fall dishes, apple butternut squash crisp. This year I threw in some dried cranberries. Highly recommend.
apples, butternut squash, dried cranberries
Then I melted butter with half a cup of maple syrup, and added a little water and brown sugar for more liquid.
Butter and maple syrup. Yuh-um.
And then I mixed in some oats. I accidentally bought steel cut and I meant to get regular. But it ended up being even better so yay. Then I mixed it with the fruit/veg and baked it. Luckily I had way too much for one person so I get to eat it for breakfast, snack, and dessert for a few days.
Well doesn’t this look delicious!
I feel that it’s ok to indulge in anything that originally came from the Farmer’s Market.
Sometimes I think rural Maine, specifically Waldo County, might be the most beautiful place on Earth. Dirt roads that wind over streams, the bright Fall sun sharp through the trees in the early evening on its way down the horizon, the warm dry smell of September grass, the high clear moon silhouetting the pines and lighting up the overgrown field, the cool night air bringing in a quiet stillness.
I’ve been away, and each time I come back it all shimmers just a little more.
4.5 months ago, in the middle of May, I started training for a marathon. I have been a runner for a while now and I was ready to take on the Big One. It was a wild ride. I got bit by a dog early in my training. I ran my first half marathon in July. Then I struggled with an injury that threatened to take the marathon from my sights. I also made an amazing new friend, Shanda, my running partner who encouraged me through the long runs and supported me through the struggles.
Sunday, October 2nd I ran in the 20th Annual Maine marathon in Portland, Maine and met all of my goals (in the pouring rain no less).
A very wet start
My first goal was to finish and my second goal was to come in under 4 hours (My official time was 3:55). To be honest, the first 20-21 miles were fine (and that’s what training is for). I made a conscious effort to hold myself back the first four miles and stick pretty close to a 9 minute mile so that I would have gas in the tank later on. Most of my race I ran between an 8:40 and a 9:00min/mile.
I think Mile 23 was the worst. For no reason at all at the mile 22 water stop I wanted to start crying. But then I saw someone I knew who was also running up ahead and got distracted. And then I had someone cheering me on at mile 24.5 and mile 25.5 and it helped me to stay excited. I had my parents and a neighbor from home at miles 6, 10, 16, and at the finish, which was so fun to have people screaming and jumping up and down and holding signs. My friend Kate jumped in at mile 20.5 and I asked her to just talk, talk about anything, so I had a distraction. So for about two miles straight she just talked, and it really did help. It was awesome to have her there to keep me going. Because of the way the race is measured you actually end up running more than 26.2 miles. My watch (which unfortunately accidentally deleted my race right after the finish, so I don’t have my data…) read 26.4. So I actually ran more than a marathon!
If you scroll through the finish photos most people are not smiling. But then you get to my photo and I have this huge grin on my face. How could I have been anything but happy? I had just finished a MARATHON!!
The big finish! (ignore the heel strike…)
Despite the rain, the cold, and the discomfort in the end, it was incredible. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever done. I thought a lot about how to run the race and I feel that I ran a really smart race. I didn’t go out too fast and I ran a very steady race. I finished 80th out of 406 women, and in the first quarter of finishers in my division. Do I think I could run the next marathon faster? Definitely. But I am nothing but happy about this race.
Today I was driving my Subaru Forester from Whole Foods to my home in the West End and I realized it doesn’t get much more yuppie than that in Portland, Maine.I won’t blame you if you feel the need to unfollow me now. At least I don’t frequent Aurora Provisions, right?
The other night it was warm and sunny and I went out to the Western Prom to do some writing. While I was there I saw the sun slowly dip below the horizon and fill the sky with color. It was breathtaking.
Today I was in front of my computer most of the day working on a paper and around 6pm I decided it was time for a break and headed out to walk around the prom and get some fresh air. When I got to the end of West Street and onto the grass, I noticed there were numerous couples, families, friends, and individuals sitting watching the sun put on another display. It was as though there was a live outdoor concert and everyone had come out to watch it. But everyone was there to see the sunset. I felt this profound sense of community, that we had all come out to enjoy this simple, natural experience.
I walked a little more and stopped where the path crested and I could see over the bushes, and stared for a while at the mountains in the rosy sky. Then I turned to look back at the street and came face to face with the moon, just under the curve of a branch, plump and glowing. There I was, standing right in between a gloriously round, rising moon, and an incredible setting sun.
I walked slowly home. There were no vehicles and I took my time strolling down the middle of the street, the moon tugging from ahead like it had wrapped a lasso around me. It felt like late august, the sky screaming ever more red behind me, the air temperature so perfect it was unnoticeable. But then I passed under an old drooping pine, ducking a little, and I caught the faintest hint of balsam just as I noticed a porch lined with squat orange pumpkins. I remembered that summer was ending, fall was here, and winter would approach, and I smiled at the luxury of having each season pass over my senses all in one evening.
Gosh this week was terrible. Overwhelmed, stressed, too much to do. I was sinking down into the depths. But this sunny Friday pulled me out of the ocean, dried me off, and gave me a good strong cup of coffee. And suddenly the world was back on its axis.
Old Friends This morning I met a friend for coffee whom I hadn’t seen in two years. She and her son (who I absolutely adore) and I hung out at Arabica, had some coffee, and caught up about life. We both left feeling really happy and uplifted. It’s a cool thing to both receive that feeling and have that affect on someone, especially when you’ve been disconnected off in your own worlds for a while.
Meaningful Work As a global culture our lives pretty much revolve around work so that we can afford to live. In a lot of ways meaningful work is the holy grail of life, because it means you won’t spent 30+ years hating your existence. One of my assistantships is to work basically as a consultant for Portland, Maine to help them prepare for sea level rise. This past week I have been trying to get data from them and its been one dead end after another. Then one of my supervisors made a joke that I had been hired to deal with the bureaucracy of City Hall. Great. But this morning I went and met with a bunch of people and finally got the information we need to move forward with our study. I took the initiative to get this done, and I think I potentially could be project managing some of this. Which is wicked exciting.
A glass of wine and six strings My life has been a mess lately. Not really, it’s just that I’m so busy I feel like I can’t get my head on straight. And I just want to scream all the time. But on Thursday nights I get to turn off the computer, leave my cell phone in the other room, forget the seven million responsibilities I have to think about, and sit back with my guitar and a glass of red wine. Creative outlets are vital.
New Friends I have some pretty awesome friends from graduate school. Sure we’re not really racially or culturally diverse (this is Maine we’re talking about), but personality wise we are very diverse. There’s the foreign exchange student from Post-Soviet Eastern Europe, the mustaches in their tweed (and can I just say that I think it’s pretty awesome to be in your mid-20s and already be a dapper guy), us native Mainers, and a smattering of others who just make me laugh.
Accomplishment Lest we forget that less than a week ago I ran a strong first marathon. It’s pretty empowering.
The new Ryan Adams album, Ashes and Fire holy god. It’s not even out yet and I’m already obsessed. Thank you NPR for streaming it all week.
I’m going to the place where it rains every day and I’m gonna shut myself away. And I’m gonna bring a couple-a old cds and play em real loud and sing at the top of my lungs.
I’m going to the place where it rains every day, and I’ll hide for a while amongst the dense pine trees. You won’t find me; no one will. And I’m gonna bring my guitar and do nothing but play. Sit around in the morning in my underwear with a luke warm cup of coffee and write me a song. A song about leaving. A song about sadness. A song about how it never works out right. A song about how sweet love is. A song about how I’d make you mine if I knew how.
I’m going to a place where it rains every day and I’m gonna make pots and pots of hot vegetable soup. And I’m gonna sit next to the window in an old wool sweater and eat my soup and stare and stare at the cold damp world outside until it knows that nothing’s gonna stop me.
And I’m going to sleep soundly through the long, slow, peaceful nights, the rain tapping out a rhythm on the roof. And I’m going to take lazy naps under down blankets in the middle of the day. And I’m going to write letters I’ll never send, and read books that someone I never knew left on the shelf before I was even born.
I’m going to a place where it rains everyday, and there I’ll remember myself.
Today my body is still trying to recover from Sunday’s marathon (more on that later, but soon) and I’m still telling it to get over it already because I have too much to do (as exhibited by yesterday’s 12 hour day), and in return my legs are still flipping me the bird in a big way.
What I really want to do is lay in bed and drink hot tea and nap all day (the best way to enjoy the cool rainy weather) and play some guitar and watch crappy movies. I’d ignore my phone, forget my e-mail, and shut the world out for a full 24-hours.
come on come on lay it down, the best made plans (are your open hands) -Deb Talan
Sometimes I think I’m superwoman. I once said: “I can’t do it all at once, but I can still do it all.” Right now I’m trying to do it all at once. I’ve got this whole independent woman thing down (along with many of my other strong, fierce, female friends), and sometimes it’s hard to remember to take care of myself. There’s no room for myself in my life right now. How strange.
It’s hard to admit it, but at times I just want to throw up my hands, scream with all my might, and then ask someone to save me for a little while. You don’t always have to save yourself.
I tend to listen to an album for a week or two straight. It’s like a drug, I want it over and over again. Then I get tired of it and file it away in the albums I like folder and search for the next high.
This week it’s Van Morrison's album Wavelength. My parents had this album on LP growing up. It was the only Van Morrison album I knew for a long time. My parents house is open and airy/spacious with tall ceilings, and I used to blast the album and dance around the house when no one was home. I’d forgotten about it until Spotify came into my life.
This time of year in New England it’s like a war zone. The squirrels go all kamikaze and pelt acorns at people. You think I’m joking, I’m not. The other morning I got in my car and an acorn came at me sideways through the window. Then I heard the telltale rustle of the leaves as the little beast made his escape.