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Farewell to summer

1 Sep

Ah, yes … summertime.

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It looks a bit different from just shy of 10,000 feet, atop the Zugspitze.

Zugspitze?  That doesn’t sound Englishy, or Cameloty, or even Crumpety.  Ya, what can I say, I ran away across the chunnel once again for a holiday.  But making no promises (and therefore telling no lies) I’m expecting to run through months of crumpety fun stored in my photo archives.  All the way back to Loch Ness!  A chance to look at flowers and bees and precious British sunshine before we fall into darkness once again.  So pull on your ski caps and get ready for a look back on summer.

(But, just for safety’s sake, don’t hold your breath.)

Snapshot: CrossFit

11 Apr

Another quick peek into the CrossFit images which are becoming imprinted on my brain.  It is possible that the time I used to spend working on the blog I now spend on CrossFit.  Oh, dear.  I did get one nice post out of it, previously.  This one is going to be much shorter, so if you’re waiting around for more old churches or ancient stones, just be a little more patient.  I’m getting there.IMG_2442ed

I love my box, did I mention that?

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I’ve never actually used that hammer, but boy I can imagine it.  I would surely start singing about John Henry.
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Nanos are the shoes of CrossFit.  I don’t have any.  It’s my last hold-out to pretend that I’m not totally subsumed into all things CrossFit.  They look so ridiculous, those shoes.  I love ridiculous shoes.  It’s just a matter of time.IMG_2471ed

More Nanos.  And hand care.  It’s one of my CrossFit peeves, if such a thing exists, when people gleefully rip their palms.  Maybe it’s the mom in me; I think that’s nothing more than foolishness.  Also: ew.
IMG_2505edCrossFit is so colorful, so contrasting, so bright!

I recently competed in the CrossFit Open.  I didn’t set the world on fire, but I surprised myself.  So, I sort of set myself on fire, which is cool.  Even though I’m still relatively awful at everything, I’ve gotten relatively enormously better at everything, too.   Who would have thought.

 

And now for something completely different

26 Nov

If you’ve found this post because you googled ‘CrossFit’ and somehow ended up here, let me start by apologizing right now.  You probably spend your time kicking ass and visualizing that perfect butterfly pull-up.  When the WOD gets started you rip off your shirt because your abs can be seen from space and it’s a crime against humanity to keep them covered.  At least, I assume that’s why you rip off your shirts.  Don’t really know.  This blog is not for you.  (Except for maybe a recipe or two.)  Love you.  Now: Buh-bye.

The rest of you know me.  At least a bit.  You know I spend my time crumpeting around, falling into fantasy land, wringing my hands or gushing over being an American in the UK, going gaga over history, enjoying a good bakery, picturesque ruins, and a pretty close-up shot of a flower.  I never ever rip my shirt off.  The idea of me visualizing a perfect butterfly pull-up is as ludicrous as me attempting one.  Running in the mud has been as crazy as my midlife crisis has gone.

I’ve lost a lot of weight since my mother was diagnosed with cancer this last time.  The connection is not subtle.  She was diagnosed with lung cancer: I committed myself to eating healthy and losing weight.  There may have been an element of bargaining.  If I worked hard and ate clean, every day, maybe I could accrue extra health points which would magically transfer to her.  This did not work.  I don’t really want to talk about it.  Seventy pounds later, she’s passed away and I’m still here, wondering where to go next.

Where I go most often, these days — when I can tear myself away from gibbering at the dark and making my fireplace roar — is to CrossFit.  The idea that I belong there is nearly fantastical — forty-two, mother to three, two years ago barely able to finish walking 5k in an hour? And after so many months of hard work, still overweight and still slow and still weak?  Yet, somehow, through the alchemy of sweat, tears, and high-fives, my local affiliate is starting to feel like a home away from home.  And you know what I do when I like something.  I get in really close.  Closer.  Now look upside down at what you usually look at straight on.  And … take a picture.

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You didn’t know CrossFit was adorable, did you?  Kettlebells for the kids.  IMG_1032ed

And for the big kids.  Because so much of what happens here feels like reclaiming youth — at least to me.  When was the last time I did handstands for fun?  For any reason at all?  Oh right, it was today.  At CrossFit.IMG_1039ed

There’s a serpentine elegance to the stacks of weights.  I used to find them intimidating.  Now they’re just tools.  Tinkertoys for big girls and boys.IMG_1041ed

Again, they say.  And again.  And again.  Just keep moving.IMG_1043ed

Those wicked-whip jump ropes!  How is it possible to smack myself on the forearm … the calf … and the butt … all in one go?  My talent for imperfection is limitless.IMG_1046ed

Colorful rogues through a forest of steel.  You know I do love a cheeky rogue.IMG_1050ed

My favorite.  The ropes.  I suck at this, too, but I love it.  I’m Jack, going up the Beanstalk!  I’m a pirate!  I’m a monkey!  I’m anything I want to be!  Also, I’m falling, aieeeeeee!

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They seem so wholesome, don’t they?  They say: Come on, give us a good grip, see what might happen.IMG_1059ed

These bands.  This bar.  For me, it’s like staring into Khazad-dûm.  When I started, I used two green bands to do a pull-up.  Then a green and a blue.  Now a blue only.  One day maybe a free pull-up?  One day.  I may need a Balrog nipping at my heels to get all the way there.
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I don’t know what other people see when they see this.  I see something like a kitchen.  Beaters, mixers, ovens, all for pounding and folding and baking people into … improved versions of themselves.  Not morally, not that.  More resilient, maybe.  Tempered.  Well-leavened.IMG_1066ed

Reminders of the ‘fundamentals’.  Scaling options are pretty much where I live.IMG_1072ed

Who knew a tennis ball could be so amazing when placed just there by the shoulder?  Or pvc pipe could be the gateway to olympic movements?  IMG_1073ed

A cheerful sea of rage balls.  IMG_1076ed

Well, fairly cheerful.  Until you look up.  And the distance from here to where the ball needs to be is as far as the distance between life and death.  And you squat down, fix your eyes on the goal, and throw.

And keep throwing.

Snapshot: Northleach

20 Oct

Much to my dismay, I have hundreds of photos of the beautiful wool church in Northleach sitting — languishing — on my laptop.  I remember Northleach as the first place I dared to adventure on my own once the kids were in school, husband was at work, and I was on my own, with a car, with the whole of England waiting for me to gather up my courage and go out exploring.  I love the Northleach parish church, and have been back several times.  Something has kept me from pulling together all my photos and ideas about this beautiful place into a post.  So for now, be content with a tiny peek.

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A truly tiny peek.  To the side of the altar there is a locked wooden door.  One day I found I could not resist setting my camera into the keyhole to have a look inside.  I hope no one minds.

Next generation

3 Sep

My little pink elph has been with me all through our life in the UK thus far.  She fits in a backpack, a purse, a pocket, or hangs easily off the wrist.  I’ve dropped her in puddles, down stairs, off tables, and on my own head (surely the hardest thing out there).  She’s taken some lovely photos, from great heights to tiny closeups.  I’ve even taken her trail running.  And you can tell:

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Nicks, chips, dents, the frame is actually popped out on the sides, the shutter button fell off some time ago and the photo quality, sadly, is starting to go.  She could always do more than I understood, but she had a great run.  Now, it is time for a new companion on my travels.

20130828_133230My cat is super excited, you can tell.

I’m not sure how this fancy thing works.  Point. Click.  Hope for the best.  Meet the next generation.  I know it looks black, but I like to think her heart is pink.

In majesty of mud

28 Jan

I’m reaching that age in life where some people buy fast cars, dye their hair, wear age-inappropriate skirts, give up high-stress careers to weave baskets in Hawaii (is that an option?  feel free to send me leads) … and take their health more seriously.  Hey, I can’t spend all my time baking.  What does this crumpet do, when the tick of time beings to tock very loudly?

774843_4783409657292_610856118_oGet muddy.

It’s a great way to get to know England just a little bit better.  The camaraderie of a muddy trail run is hard to beat — even when you are at the back of the pack, like me.  (Back of the pack may be an exaggeration.  I’m more like a whole other pack, all my own, that trails behind the real pack like a lost asteroid.)

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A muddy lost asteroid.

All the fast people are well, well along ahead on this trail.  More mud left behind for me!

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See those logs right there?  I came up over these little hills and thought to myself: “I didn’t realize there were obstacles on this course.  Cool!”  And I clambered over a few of them … before I realized these were not obstacles.  These were permanent fixtures for horse jumping.  Because this is a horse field.  And I jumped over them because I am a moron.  But, hey, extra exercise, right?

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This particular hill was about five miles long.  (Okay, maybe 400 meters.)  And it took me seven years to get up it.  (Maybe four minutes.)  But look at the sunshine glinting off that snow!  Yup, I was definitely feeling alive.

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A shoe full of icy water put a giant smile on my face.  Even seeing my closest ‘competitor’ shrinking in the distance didn’t take away the joy of splashing in puddles, sucking in fresh air, and enjoying the challenge of putting foot in front of foot until your mind says stop.

(Yes, I did pause my run to take photos for my blog.  Because I’m that kind of crazy.  I probably lost two minutes altogether taking these photos, but it was such a lovely day, I didn’t mind a bit.)

I had such a great time on this particular run, and was so pleased with the organization and the cheerful encouragement of the race marshals, that I want to give a proper shout out to F3Events, who organized this series of trail runs.  Check ’em out for a 5k, a 10k, or even a duathalon or triathalon.  Whoo-hoo!

Now don’t get too excited about me running marathons or triathalons or nonsense like that.  I’m happy to be ‘running’ 5 kilometers.  (More like walk/run a la Jeff Galloway.)  I’m thrilled to be seeing more of England through a variety of smaller running events.  It’s been great to feel the welcome from more experienced runners who could care less about country of origin or anything at all besides the willingness to get out there and go.  And if you’re looking for a muddy run … http://www.muddyrace.co.uk or http://www.mudrunner.co.uk might give you some ideas.  While you’re out, if you happen to see a roly-poly woman who smells like muffins and is laughing in the mud, give her a high-five.  She’s splashing through Camelot.

NaNoWriMo and the Ghost Story

4 Nov

Last year in November I joined NaBloPoMo (not a bad word), November’s month-long challenge to post a daily blog piece.  Because I am a driven, crazy, person, I eagerly posted all month long, through holiday, through illness, through moving house — really kicking off this blog and meeting some great fellow-bloggers who have been enriching my online life ever since.

In 2009 I participated in NaNoWriMo (also not a bad word), a similar month-long challenge to write 50,000 words — one novella — in the month of November.  Because I am a driven, crazy, person, I wrote madly all month long, through childhood firsts, through illness, through school holidays — and in the end I squeaked by with 51,000 words and a novella about motherhood, secrets, assassination, and making the perfect clafoutis.

The two experiences were very different.  In blogging, you receive nearly-instant feedback.  Comments, followers, site statistics making a climb in cute bar-graphs (thank you, WordPress analytics).  In writing, the exercise was almost entirely private.  I didn’t share my novella with anyone (except the recipes), but I was just as addicted to seeing the word count rise and in finding stories everywhere.  In both exercises I learned new things about the discipline of writing.  (Like, I can be a good editor for someone else, but I am a terrible self-editor.)  (And I can’t stop using dashes — dashes — and dots … )  I have a soft spot for melodrama and the absurd, which makes it hard for me to take myself seriously.

Anyway, this year, because I am a driven, crazy person, I am going to give NaNoWriMo another try.  I don’t expect that to take away any time from blogging, to be honest — more likely, the overflowing spill of words to the NaNoWriMo page will simply flow over into blogging.  We’ll see.  This year, inspired by my fear of the days of darkness, I’m writing a series of ghost stories.  You know, graveyards, dark hallways, psychiatrists offices, the usual.   Melodrama?  Check.

Living in England makes finding ghost stories easy.  We walked past this watery stair just yesterday, in Wales at Raglan Castle (or let’s call it, more romantically, Castell Rhaglan).  The stairs are at the base of a Great Tower, which sits inside an interior moat — yes, that right:  The Castle fortification sits on top of a hill, and inside the castle walls there is a moat which encircles another, small castle.  It’s like those Russian dolls, but with castles and towers inside, smaller and smaller.  We had to wonder — was the inner castle there to provide a last bastion of safety from exterior attack — or did the castle surround the inner Tower so it could lock in something horrible?  A monster, perhaps?  One who liked to creep down wet and dark stairs and hook fish from the moat with clawed fingers (since it couldn’t reach anything bigger)?  Or maybe a princess in a tower?  One who, oh, let’s see, has beautiful long hair and a mysterious past, maybe some inherent magic which could either save or destroy her kingdom?  I was reminded of the legends of Melusine, and ran home to add a short conversation to my ongoing franken-story:

You must be a woman for me, my love, for I must love you as a man.  As a man I will be king, and as a king I will rule. 

Then come to me as a man, my love, and I will love you as a woman.  And as you are a man, I will be a woman; and as you are a king, I will be a queen.  And when kingdom, rule, and man have fallen away and decayed, I will love you still, as myself, Melusine, lady of the waters.

Wish me luck!