Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Running With My Ancestors

"Listen To The Wind,  For It Carries The Wisdom Of Our Ancestors On It's Back"

Fitness has always been important to my father.  Jogging on the beach, along the Oregon Coast, and swimming at our local pool were always "non-negotiables" to him.  We knew the harder it rained, the longer he'd be gone.  He loves running in the rain.  He always says he feels it "cleanses" him.  He would come home dripping wet, with a big smile on his face.  No words were needed.  His batteries had been re-charged.  He was able to give to his family again.

Post 2014 "Shamrock Run," Portland, OR.

The elements, so harsh and cold on the Oregon Coast, are what chiseled him, like the rocks that line the sea shore.  Dark, jagged, and resilient. The Pacific Ocean, and the abrasive landscape it shapes, are what he draws strength from.

I remember the day he left home to spread his mother's ashes, along her favorite stretch of beach she ran.  Like his mother before him, un-hospitable landscapes are where they chose to derive their stoic nature from.  Raising 4 children on a houseboat in Alaska is something that seasoned my Grandma. A hardy woman, who braved Alaskan winters, got her bush pilot's license, and shot dinner for her children.  

My Dad is adamant that his Alaskan roots, and mother's influence are what solidifed the foundation for hard work in his life.  "Train the body, train the mind" are at the core of his life.  Hard work breeds good results.  Sweat equity yields excellence.

Dad Enjoying The View From "Pilot Butte"

He lives that to this day.  He insists he can run and lift weights 5-6 days a week, "because I swim."  He's a big fan of swimming.  "It's a sport you can age with.  You'll never find fault with a pool."  He states his balance, coordination, clear thinking and level-headedness "come from the water."

One day, I will spread my father's ashes along his favorite stretch of beach, just like he did his mother's.  I will run along the shore, and  know that my love of fitness is a gift from him, like his mother bestowed to her son.  I will feel the cold wind on my face, hear my feet touch the sand with rhythm, and know my ancestors are running with me...as I do my best to carry their wisdom on my back.

Handstands On Christmas Morning, At Home In Newport, OR.


I am a jury trial lawyer.  My work is intense and pressure-laden.  Stress and responsibility are my daily grist.  I have worked out 5-6 days a week since 1971. Why?  Maybe it was the vision of my mother jogging down the beach when I was home from college, rain or shine.  Maybe because it’s a natural stress reducer and helps me sleep, or maybe it’s just because I enjoy pushing myself.  When I work out alone I also gain the private time necessary to sort out my day and life’s challenges.  I do know I’m 66 and enjoy great enthusiasm, health, and optimism. 

There’s a communion that occurs during and after a good sweat.   When my daughters were young, I took them jogging on the beach.  While we no longer take beach runs, working on our fitness together allows me to connect and share with all three of my kids.  I enjoy playing tennis with Almine’s older sister and basketball with her younger brother.  These days when I get together with Almine, we share a workout at the gym and pool, followed up by a salad.  

From L--R: Dad, Me, Brent & Monique, 2014 "Shamrock Run"

We’ve also taken some exciting trips and have hiked the Inca trail and rafted rivers in Croatia.  I look forward to more adventures.

Last year my daughters and I planned the first of what will hopefully be many father-daughter weekends centered around shared physical activities like hiking, swimming, tennis, and yes, hanging out.  We workout, get massages and eat right.  These weekends are intended build our relationships and are a wonderful opportunity to share, vent, revisit and rewrite history.

*Dad & His Girls*

A lot of people are very good at many of life’s tasks, including their jobs, but neglect taking care of themselves.  This catches up with them; I know as I look around at my peers.   I think of my workouts as the best investment I can make in myself, and it’s obviously something nobody else can do for us.

When people don’t take good care of themselves they marginalize a central aspect of their lives.  It’s easy to take one’s health for granted, especially when you’re young.  Regularly working out isn’t convenient or easy, and not every workout’s a pleasure, but good health is certainly one of our most important personal assets.

Do running and the outdoors in some mythical way connect Almine to the grandmother she barely knew?  Maybe.  I believe working out is a glue that bonds me to my mother, and in turn to my three children.  When my mother died I spread her ashes on the beach where she used to jog.

Dad (with my pup, Anok) Surveying The Land He Purchased To Be Left As A "Green Space" For Future Generations

My advice to parents is to find an activity you can share with your children, and remember, each child is different.  Find something they like, and then build on it.  It all starts with them, life will answer where it ends. 

"Love Your Parents.  We Are So Busy Growing Up, That We Often Forget They Are Getting Old."