Archive for May 2010

Lilacs, Swans, and Chocolate Chia

May 5, 2010

I cannot breathe deeply enough to satisfy my sense of smell.  The lilacs are out in full bloom, and the sidewalks on South Street are lined with the purple and white-tipped branches.  I run by bush after bush, my lung capacity inadequate to perform what my desire demands.  I close my eyes for as long as I dare, checking the sidewalk ahead of me for pitfalls before I inhale again.  I push the air back out fast, draw the next breath through my nose and remember my grandmother’s house and the lilacs she cut, the vases she loaded with the flowers so that the whole house smelled like heaven.  I look ahead for more.  I picture myself like a puppy, nose to the ground, pressing into the scent, then completely succumbing to it, rolling in it, pressing my entire body into a carpet of the tiny, fragrant blossoms.

The early morning invites me to run and run as far as I can go.  I am light today in body and spirit.  The thin shorts and tank top are just right after I am warmed up; my cell phone is at home.  No one can call to interrupt this morning’s pleasure.  I left all my worries behind my front door when I pulled it closed.

The magnolias have gone by, only to be replaced by cherry, sand cherry, and apple blossoms and their scents mingle with the lilacs and the smell of the sea at low tide.  Some of the sand has returned to Pebble Beach; the shoulders of the boulders exposed during the heavy spring storms are half-buried in the fine brown and mica-sprinkled sand.  On Cambourne Pond, the swans are nesting.

I  seek out the bright white shapes of the swans deep among the reeds.  There she is, the swan mother, all curled and curved around her nest.  I feel a smile spread across my face and a rush of love for nature as I remember last year— the nesting, the loss, and the nesting again—and yet here they are once more, these two beautiful white birds, having weathered the heavy winds and storms of this past winter, ready to try again.  The male paddles nearby, keeping a watchful eye on his nest and its precious contents, warding off the ducks, geese, and gulls that share the small pond all year.  I continue on, and I promise myself I will keep an eye on the nest each time I run by.

I make sure to look at Richard’s tulips as I pass his house on Eden Road.  At the overlook, I slow down enough to watch the water sparkle and lap the rocky shore.  I see the new spring green growth on Thatcher Island, and the Twin Lights, back-lit by the bright morning sun.

I return to South Street, then turn onto Marmion Way.  More lilacs, more deep breathing to take in my favorite spring smell.  I will run home and cut all of our lilacs, and maybe some of the neighbors’ too, and fill clear glass vases for the bedrooms and kitchen.  After breakfast.

Post-Run Chocolate Chia Shake


12 oz unsweetened almond milk

2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

2 small frozen bananas

2 Tbsp peanut butter

dash of vanilla extract

2 scoops chia seeds


Put all ingredients in blender and process until smooth.

Serves 2.

Per serving:  290 cal; 15.5 g fat; 13 g fiber; 13 g sugar, 9 g protein.


Cry Baby

May 3, 2010

Richard was walking in front of me.  He was wearing his day-glow yellow vest, and I recognized his gait.  Since his hip replacement, he rolls his hips a bit as he goes along, not really favoring one side or the other, but almost as if it takes a different  motion to move each side of his body with each stride.  I was headed up Eden Road, zipping along.   The morning was perfect.  Cool salt air brushed my cheeks, the sunlight shining on the sea along Pebble Beach dazzled me, taking my worries away, if only for the length of the run.

“Hey, Richard!’

“Hey, Elizabeth!  You seen our tulips?”

“Ah, no.  Not yet.”

“You never stop and smell the roses.  You’re only interested in how fast and how far you can run.”

Richard is a funny, kind man.  He’s a family man, spends time with his wife and children.   I know his intention was not to hurt me, only to remind me to notice the beauty around me, even if it means slowing down when I run.

I foolishly tried to explain myself.  Choking on my words, I told him how sick my dad has been, and about my husband and his mom. The hubby has been relegated to the sidelines with another knee injury, my mother-in-law is just home from two weeks in rehab, and me, responsible for care taking and meals.  I spluttered to say why running was separate from the rest of my life, how it was not my “rose-smelling” time.  As I trotted off, I looked up on the hill at his home.  I saw thick rows of tulips all in full bloom, a dense, low fence of flowers.  Reds, pinks, yellows, orange-y reds burst from their green stems to brighten the whole landscape of the property.  He was right.  I should be looking.  I often do look at what’s around me when I run; I have written plenty about that.  But I had failed to notice the bank of flowers for several days in a row.

“They’re beautiful, Richard!” I called over my shoulder as I jogged by.

The next breath after hollering to my friend came hard.  I felt tears prick behind my eyes and a fat lump assert itself in my throat.  I straightened my sunglasses and kept running.  The road’s incline made it even harder to keep moving, and I considered, as I passed the overlook for the Twin Lights, that perhaps I should take a walk break.  I couldn’t do it.  I had to keep running.  An image of my father, struggling to stand from a chair and walk down the hall with his walker filled my mind.  Then another image, this one of my mother, her small frame as she flits around my dad, checking his legs and breathing and pills and blood sugar.  I remembered her voice on the phone so many mornings, sounding sad, disheartened, and afraid.  Then I thought about my mother-in-law, and remembered sitting beside her on the edge of her bed as we waited for the ambulance to arrive and race her to the hospital just a few weeks ago.  I saw again the fear on her face and felt the trembling of her hand I held as we waited.

Each breath hurt a little more than the last, and I let the tears escape and run down my cheeks without wiping them.  I crested the first hill and rounded the corner, pressing ahead.  I could not put the image of my father out of my head.  I kept thinking Daddy, Daddy, I’m so sorry. I miss you.  I want you to be well.  I want you to be you again.  I don’t want this old, sick man.  I want my dad back.

I ran four miles while crying.  That’s hard to do.  The breath comes in jagged draws, but wants to come in long, smooth, rhythmic pulls.  Muscles ache for the oxygen.  Tears blur vision, leaving the runner struggling to see the edge of the pavement and the dips in the sidewalks.

In some way, the running and crying felt good.  I’m not usually a crier.  I stuff everything down inside, and then pound it all out every single morning in sprints and dashes.  Tears just take too much out of me.  They  hurt, even though they give release.  On this day, though, the combination of running and crying was good.

I can’t expect Richard to understand, because this is mine.  He was only a catalyst for what happened on that run.

Log:  8 miles.  63 minutes.