When I travel I refuse to overbook myself or make too many specific plans, preferring to be flexible because it’s vacation and having a rigid schedule sort of contradicts that concept for me. Prior to departing from home, I familiarize myself with some of the offerings and attractions available at my destination and try to determine what might need to be booked in advance. It sucks when there’s something you might want to experience when you’re visiting a new (or favorite) place only to learn that reservations needed to be made ahead of time – think the statue of David in Florence or the Washington Memorial in D.C.
Beyond those sort of points of interest, I’m all about getting a feel for a place, figuring out what can be accomplished without sacrificing my vacation vibe and seeing how the local weather influences which activities can be enjoyed. On this trip, my focus has been spending time with a dear friend, but I did have a couple of items on my hope-to-do list. On Friday I knocked two of them off.
I began with Joshua Tree National Park, a place I’ve never been before. As a person who considers U2’s 1987 album an absolute desert island record, checking out JTNP has long interested me. Unfortunately, the current government shutdown, along with a fierce and cold wind, made for a less than ideal visit. There weren’t any guided tours or services available and I was hesitant to hike any distance solo, so my explorations were limited to a short walk and some clambering up rock piles to access the best views – and what views there were! Every direction beckoned and I had to remind myself to not allow the vistas to tempt me into going further into the park (and away from where I had parked) in an attempt to see what might be visible from a different angle.
The wind was numbing and my hands were stiff from the cold, but the hour or so I spent looking around, climbing and shooting photos provided an introduction to a fantastic national resource that I hope to visit again under better conditions. With teeth nearly chattering, I made for my car and a destination that promised to warm me up – Miracle Springs Resort & Spa in Desert Hot Springs. I needed to soak.
It wasn’t easy to find a spot that offered mineral baths with a day use option, but the established Miracle Springs met my requirements of convenient location, multiple outdoor pool options and not expensive since I only planned to indulge myself for an hour or two. This place checked all the boxes and the $14 daily use fee was just what I was looking to spend. If you’re hoping for fancy this may not be the resort for you, but, if you’re satisfied with hot, bubbling water, sunshine on your face and a view of the mountains, perhaps you’ll be content. I was. Bonus if you, like me, enjoy a dry sauna because there are even a couple of those available. Not luxurious, but more than serviceable and a great way to warm up on a cool, high desert day.
The other afternoon I hit the hills for a hike/run. The sun was warm and I was comfortable in a tank top and capri length pants – a treat to someone who has been layering up in UnderArmour for the past couple of months.
I made it up the first long, steep hill without pause, using my technique of only looking up to the top of the hill once before training my gaze to the ground more immediately in front of me. I find this A. helps me to not get intimidated by how much farther I have to go and B. limits my likelihood of tripping and falling down.
The next hill leveled me. Hands on knees, gasping, I took a moment to look around. The San Jacinto mountains divided the horizon between sky and desert and I was struck by my incredible good fortune. I got to be here, right now, stretching my legs and challenging myself by running up a friggin killer hill in the sunshine. How lucky was I?
As my breathing evened out, I considered that in 2018 I’ve run surrounded by some pretty incredible mountain views – Vesuvius, the Austrian Alps and now these brown mountains dusted with snow in the distance. My eyes welled up and a tear leaked out before I burst out laughing. What a gift, what a life, what a day.
Yesterday I spent a lot of time on my feet exploring and reacquainting myself with Palm Springs. In the morning, I hoofed it to Palm Canyon Drive to wander along the wide avenue, browsing shop windows and people watching. The cloudless blue sky and mild temperatures made it easy to lose myself for a couple of hours and I really enjoyed my alone time.
Later in the day, my friend R and I drove to meet a friend of hers for a walk, that is a walk for me to take with R’s friend, J. An MS diagnosis has caused my friend to curtail her activities and she wanted to give me a chance to exert myself, so naturally a hike with 80 year-old J was just what I needed. Um, ok.
I’ve walked and run these trails before and they are no bullshit. The grade can be pretty steep, the trail is often quite wide, but equally rutted and rocky and the surface is an unsympathetic sandy dirt. Introductions were made and a remarkably fit and youthful J and I headed up the hill in the warm sunshine.
It turns out that J, a retired Canadian teacher-librarian (!), and I immediately hit if off. Our conversation, between catching our breath from the demands of the trail, was easy and comfortable. We talked about sons and husbands and divorce and politics and life and the time flew by. Her fitness was impressive and she told me how conscientiously she has worked to stay active, how it hasn’t been easy but she feels rewarded by her efforts. She was a marvel.
We made our way down the hill to meet R, who we were going to walk a bit back up the hill with to cool down. As we collected R, another woman familiar to my friends joined us, E. Walking poles in hand with eyes of the brightest blue, E, another active 80 year-old, became part of our posse. I learned she was a retired physical therapist and it seems, judging from her level of fitness, she was good at her job. E made some suggestions to me to work on my bothersome piriformis muscle and shared some thoughts on staying active. Her walk with us was her second time of the day to hit the hill and she said it wasn’t unusual for her to visit the trail three times in a day. Wow.
Growing old can be daunting. We don’t do a great job taking care of the aged in our country and I could really get myself freaked out about staying independent and healthy, but after my time yesterday afternoon, I’m feeling more inspired and positive than I’ve ever been previously about what 70 or 80 might look like. Honestly, I’m hoping to grow up and become Rose.
On Sunday I took a walk at the golf course and found the most fantastic piece of deer “shed.” It was lying in the meadow, completely exposed and bleached white, a four-point rack from a buck. I could scarcely believe it was just there in grass, there where no one else had seen or taken it. I picked it up, surprised by the smoothness, and accepted it as a gift from the universe. You know, because that’s the kind of relationship the universe and I have.
I’m completely convinced that I was rewarded for something that happened a couple of days ago. I had been at the grocery store picking up what I needed for Christmas Eve dinner and noticed the deli counter was featuring two different prosciuttos. The price per pound difference between the two was significant so I asked if I could sample both. As expected, the $19.99 per lb version was significantly better – less salty, more tender. You know, better. I placed my ordered and happened to catch the clerk ringing my purchase up and couldn’t help but see that she entered the wrong PLU. Instead of prosciutto she keyed in the code for pancetta, an item that was only $11.99 a pound.
Enter moral dilemma…
There was a significant line of folks behind me looking to order and I didn’t want to hold anyone up. I also was hesitant to point out the mistake in front of a crowd of people. I didn’t say anything.
I finished shopping, debating internally the whole while, and selected a register, unloading my cart onto the conveyer belt. I gave the clerk my coupons and rewards card and the pancetta prosciutto. I told her a mistake had been made and that the package was mislabeled and therefor mispriced. She called a manager over to make the price adjustment, but first the employee asked me if I knew the correct price. I did and shared it with her. She looked at me. With an expression of disbelief, she asked me another question “So, you want to pay more?”
Well, yeah. I don’t mind paying for what I receive and I don’t need to invite bad karma or negative energy or something gained from an unethical exchange into my life. No, thanks on that.
The manager warmly told me to “get out” and not to worry about the discrepancy and I think we both felt better about humanity in general by our exchange.
The very next day, I found my shed on a path I infrequently walk. Undoubtably, it was an acknowledgment from the universe of the correctness of my action. Incidents like this communicate to me that sometimes you truly do get back what you put out in terms of energy. It doesn’t always work like this for me or anyone else, but if you keep your eyes open you may find an opportunity to do the right thing, as well as a sign from nature that you made the right choice.
Enough writing. It’s time to look out the train window and see if I can spot more bald eagles. I already was lucky enough to see one.
As in “Jesus Christ, are you kidding me?” Let’s talk for a moment about babies and Christians and Christmas songs and greetings and how the upcoming holiday has become a battleground instead of a celebration and why reasonable human beings are allowing that to happen.
To begin, babies. Big confession here…I don’t find babies to be very interesting. When I say I didn’t even like my own babies all that much until I had my third, I am being completely honest. My lack of enthusiasm for infants, however, doesn’t prevent me from feeling incredibly sad for children who are separated from their families or born into situations which fail to provide opportunity or stability. You know, like Jesus – and all the children who continue to live in tents apart from their families in a state of imprisonment. How people who claim the mantle of “Christian” can fail to see the parallels between their savior and those babies is truly one of the wonders of Christmas to me.
“Baby, It’s Cold Out” is not a date rape song in my head or heart. They’re flirting, he’s cajoling her to stay and she’s finding lame ass excuses blaming everyone but herself for not being able to stay. That’s my read at least and I’m entitled to it. I refuse to feel icky about this song, but you can feel free to rail against it if you must. I’m not buying in to that craziness and I’m not taking that song off my holiday season playlist.
The phrase “Merry Christmas” should be received by non-Christmas celebrants in the same way “Happy Hump Day is. Maybe neither are your holiday, but it’s ok to acknowledge that they’re both important days to those who choose to celebrate. If someone wishes you the “wrong” sentiment, do you really get offended by their greeting? Isn’t there so much more to take offense from in our world? You know, like children in cages? As for me, I’m just going to keep saying “Merry Christmas.”
Migrants and other seekers of asylum and the chance for a better life, should be more compassionately dealt with, particularly by those who like to claim religion as their justification for how they approach the world. Please don’t talk to me about the miracle of a savior’s birth in a manger if you’re unwilling to recognize the efforts being made by contemporary families to achieve a similarly blessed life for their own child(ren).
I’m all about remembering the reason for the season, but, Jesus Christ, can’t we do a better job honoring him?
When you make plans with your two favorite running partners more than a week in advance, it isn’t possible to predict the weather. No surprise then that the evening arrived with a pissing rain that would inspire most folks to skip the 5 miles and head directly to a restaurant for some holiday cheer. But, we luna b*tches are a hearty breed and despite a moment’s wishful thinking, we were committed. We headed out at about 6:30 and, surprisingly, the rain wasn’t nearly as bad as we had anticipated. I mean, we got soaked, but it wasn’t particularly cold, and the holiday lights decorating the homes along our route provided a warmth of their own.
Following our run, we cleaned up and drove to our dinner destination – Capital City Gastropub. I hadn’t been there in a few months, the menu is always interesting, and their burger is consistently dynamite. We arrived a bit after 8:00 and were immediately seated in a comfy corner. After selecting drinks (the Cremant I wanted wasn’t available, but I was happy with my Sauvignon Blanc) and an order of Brussels sprouts, we made some decisions about what to eat.
My go to order here is the Kilcoyne burger, rare, no bun but with cheddar cheese and carmelized onions. Fries crispy, please. Without fail, my burger arrives exactly as requested with a great sear, beautifully seasoned and always perfectly cooked. The fries, such a seemingly simple side dish, are burn-my-mouth hot and worth every fatty calorie, something that is far too frequently not the case when I order them at other places.
The Brussels sprouts arrived, firm and bright in a light sweet and sour sauce filled with umami. So different than the usual fried or bacon garnished preparations seen around town. We finished them up and shortly afterwards, our mains arrived. My burger was prepared precisely as ordered and the other two plates were also well received. K went with the New Scotland Hot Chicken sandwich, a riff on Nashville style hot chicken and was really happy with her choice. The spice level was balanced and not blazing and the portion was generous without being overwhelming. C’s Grilled Squash Sandwich was nicely presented and seemed to satisfy the need for a solid, but not too heavy meal. We shared a Bibb lettuce salad on the side which was the ideal accompaniment to our plates and tweaked K’s fondness for citrus and greens.
There were no pictures taken of the food because we were too busy eating and talking and laughing to pause for anything beyond this little selfie.
Dinner – an appetizer, a salad, three sandwiches, 3 glasses of wine and a soda totaled $96 pre-tip, a small price to pay for the satisfaction we got from running 5 miles in the rain and rewarding ourselves with simple food made from quality ingredients. You’re welcome to skip the run, but don’t miss eating here.
Despite having returned in recent months to therapy, I still find running solo to be the best way to stretch my brain (and legs) while exploring my world, both inner and outer. It’s when I feel most able to release the leash I at times hold on my thoughts.
I’ve been reflecting, as one does this time of year, and I’ve been thinking specifically about the men I’ve loved over the years and how those relationships changed me and impacted my life. Without a doubt, each one has been unique. It seems that love, like snowflakes to go with a nearly-winter theme, is never quite the same twice. That’s probably what keeps us coming back for more – we often don’t immediately recognize it because it sneaks up on us just as often as it sweeps us off of our feet.
Some of the lasting reminders of a love affair are obvious (hello, children!) while others are only revealed cryptically to those beyond IRL friends. While there have been gifts and lessons and disappointments along the way, I’m starting to realize that the greatest impact on me from my romantic history hasn’t really been on me at all.
No, instead, it’s about how I’ve learned from each relationship, each love, how to be a better love-r the next time. I have an improved understanding of humans and how we each have our own unique needs, needs which aren’t always easily or clearly expressed. I’ve become more patient with another’s flaws because I can more clearly see my own. Instead of immediately thinking that someone’s behavior is directed at me, I’ve finally grasped that it just might be who they are without really having anything to do with me at all. I’ve certainly learned what I want from a relationship but, just as importantly, I’ve realized that being willing to learn what another wants, and finding happiness in being able to provide that to them, comes with its own measure of satisfaction.
Being someone’s girlfriend, partner, wife or lover has maximized my capacity to fill those roles. Understanding that love doesn’t necessarily come with a guarantee of happily ever after can be daunting, but knowing that there’s always another chance to be the best love-r you’ve ever been is its own reward. I’ll just keep trying. How about you?