Thursday, November 27, 2014


For the

sound the ocean makes, and the way the sky and the dog is reflected in the wet sand after the waves break, making a downward dog doppelgänger who also enjoys chasing large flocks of shore birds.

imperfectly good health that grants me a daily run, if I make the time.

fact that even when life is too much, the chickens still require release from their shelter not long after sun-up.

three teenagers who are flying from my nest, one by one.

piano that once was the Leithold's. They owned the music store in my home town. It was middle aged when I was a teenager, and now I am middle aged and my piano is old and wise enough to play Brahms.

22 years plus with my best friend, who knows the words to every important song, and knows word-crafting like Ollivander knows wands.

memory of my parents.

one certain redwood on trail 10 that is my touchstone.

friends, silver and gold. Which totally makes sense if you ever spent a summer at Camp Ehawee.

fact that I do not have to spend every day worrying about Ebola, malaria, my next glass of clean water and what the heck that huge insect is crawling up the wall by my bed.

work I do, which is interesting, pretty useful, and gives back to me more spiritual mojo than you can shake a stick at.

endorphins. If everyone on earth just ran a lot, we would not have any drug addicts. We might, however, run out of deodorant and spandex.

smell of my dog's feet. Seriously, it is like cinnamon and nutmeg and pine needles. I know this because he often shoves them directly into my face when I am trying to sleep.

ability to live on the coast. Despite my midwestern beginnings, I seem to need the ocean really close by.

fact that it is now seasonally correct to listen to The Messiah. Over and over. Till your family starts making jokes about how much we like sheep (see below).

smell of the top of my children's heads.

quotes of William Osler.

books, music, movies, art, food, drink, travel I will experience, with no end in sight. Unless my plane crashes. In which case, I told you so! You know who you are, all those who quote me facts about the safety of air travel every second of the day.

metro card.

terrifying and beautiful and awful and inane nature of being human.

exhilarating feeling of knowing you are going to totally kick ass in this race (Go Tigers!).

heck of it.

Monday, November 10, 2014

If Music

"If music be the food of love, play on."-Twelfth Night, Shakespeare

I am a musician. More a musician than a runner. More a musician than a doctor. More a musician than a person soon to get a root canal.

I left music professionally to be a doctor and I wish I could be a professional runner, but the sub 5 minute mile eludes me, so, here I am. But music, it never stops feeding my soul. I play it, I listen to it. And I listen to it while I run.

I am thinking about bringing my headphones and music to listen to during my root canal. There is some vague science to support this. What is an optimal root canal play list? Please, let me know your thoughts on this.

Running playlists, they are very personal, I think. I recall the days of carrying a walkman while running. Now why they did not name this the "runman" I do not know. And why it has to be a man, not a person or a woman or an ambulator not otherwise specified, well, this is mysterious to me. What I can say is they were cumbersome and often skipped if you ran over a bump. The fact that I can turn on my playlist on my iPhone and just run for miles and miles without a glitch is a gosh darn miracle!

My running playlists vary. Some days I truly do not want any music at all. Or books, because the other thing I enjoy is which is the iPhone version of books on tape. This is nice for a 3 hour long run. Advertisements show Ryan Hall listening to the Odyssey on his long runs, but let's face it: Ryan Hall is so fast that the Odyssey would still be in the introduction and he would already be showering and eating his pancakes.

I do not listen to music when running with my dog, Miles. I like to be in tune to what he is needing and to talk to him along the way. Like, "Hey buddy! Almost home!" or "Boy, you sure showed those seagulls", or "C'Mon Miles, this hill is nothing. We OWN this hill. You are king of the hill, my friend."

Usually, he just looks at me quizzically. He is not disturbed by hills. And he does enjoy torturing the beach birds. Sometimes he does fall behind, usually at the end of a long run. But if a cute labrador retriever comes running by, he suddenly is Mr. Speed and Strength. I know when he is F.O.S. but I never call him on it. I love him so.

Before track meets as a high school kid, I liked this song. When I hear this song, I still automatically recall the smell of Icy-Hot. And that feeling of anticipation before a 1600 meter run on a track, where there was nowhere to hide.

I have running playlists dating back a few years now, to when such a thing was first possible for me, device-wise. I have been strongly influenced by my friend Martha and my daughter Vera. And her friends, on the road during the Portland to Coast high school challenge. Each of them would request a song to hear blasting as we drove by them, maybe at 2am, maybe in the middle of a hot, sunny day. I have been influenced by a musical education, alas a degree in music as it turns out. I have been influenced by my brother and my husband and my checking out what the great runners of today listen to. I turns out I am often shocked by the language in the songs the great runners of today listen to, but they are usually in their 20's and I am…..not.

Sometimes the music takes away the pain. It is an interesting thing, as a scientist of the physiological being, to consider that there is power in something so benign as music. Maybe the greatest marathoners could've broken 2 hours by now if they could've run with music.

Run. Play music. Listen to music. This is my ideal job description. Is anyone hiring? Hellllooooo out there?????

Here's a great one. A helluva great one.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Day of the Dead, Day of the Alive

"The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated".
-Mark Twain

The whale on the beach where I ran last night was most certainly dead. In fact, its skull stared me in the face, but parts of its flesh still clinged to its body. A flipper and some vertebrae were present. Down a bit further, some more of said whale. Certainly more existed elsewhere, perhaps washed up on some other beach for some other runner to stumble upon. Miles, a poodle through and through, was skeptical and a little disgusted. I, a nerd and a philosopher through and through, was intrigued.

Whale, Nov 1, 2014

I have observed death several times. Mostly in patients: I have been present for many deaths and pronounced many others. I am a good doctor, really. But people die, and I want to be there for them in that moment too, so, there it is. I have seen the gruesome, the serene, and the personal. Watched my Dad die, and he seriously cracked a joke as his final words. My Mom? I sat vigil for days, but she waited till everyone went down to the stupid hospital cafeteria. She, apparently, was not interested in spectators. Death is mystical, physical, inevitable, sad and not all that pretty. It is almost impossible, in my experience, to make peoples eyes close after they die. Death on television is much cleaner.

I used to read this book to my kids about Day of the Dead. We have often celebrated it, in the blunted American sense. Our departed are not found in local graves, and my sense of mysticism has not been adopted by my children. But somewhere in their brains is planted this idea about death as a part of the journey, and the departed as part of us all.

The Mission District, San Francisco, November

Until we die though, I think we should live. I have 3 teenagers, and they are very set in their ways. If they would believe a thing I said, I would want them to believe this:

Life is full of beauty. Notice it. 

I ran in the woods this evening, with my dog. We set the clocks back last night, and the sunset came hard and fast at 5:30pm. So Miles and I, we ran in the dusk. I breathed the crisp air of fall, and reveled in the soft redwood carpet below me. Miles hung close to me, and we were solidly planted in the moment. Once my phone rang: the hospital, about a patient. I breathed, and responded. Miles cocked his head at me, wondering when we would resume running. But even he was not bothered. 

How can one be bothered, under the canopy of a redwood forest, on a fall evening, with the crisp air caressing skin and the clean air of the north coast filling the lungs? 

Please, please, when I die: visit my grave with marigolds and sweet pan de muertos. 

Until then, notice the beating of your heart and how it bids you to be alive. Yeats says it best:

      WHEN you are old and gray and full of sleep,
    And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
    And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
    Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
    How many loved your moments of glad grace,
    And loved your beauty with love false or true,
    But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
    And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
    And bending down beside the glowing bars,
    Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
    And paced upon the mountains overhead
    And hid his face among a crowd of stars.