Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I'm an award-winning writer.

I can't believe this. Talk about a shock. I wrote this letter to the editor months ago and heard absolutely nothing. I thought they hated it. Well, I guess they didn't. Funny-- when I was so depressed about my inability to do anything right correctly.

If you are interested, here is my original letter as well as information about the Silver Pen Award here.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The road not taken

Bristlecone Beach, a block from where I live on Tahoe's North shore on a (rare) clear day.


As I write this, the rain and snow continue to pour and trickle through the dark and gloomy forest. It has been a long, long winter. A brief moment of sun, however, came out in recent days and it was difficult not to be excited about the world again. And yet, this recent storm has turned my mind back to my foot, which is much, much better but not yet ready to handle the stress of 70-mile training weeks that I had been capable of doing. I had planned on racing this upcoming weekend, on May 2, in Reno, Nevada where my running career began. But now my mood resembles the rain and snow because I know I cannot race. Not yet.

Truthfully, I wanted to run this race less for a new PR than for redemption. So many members of the Reno running community don't believe in me anymore, and I wanted to show them that I am, still and always, a runner. I know it's a stupid reason to run a race, but there it is. And my disappointment, well, is less about not being able to run (I will) but founded on my inability to run NOW and to beat the pants off certain individuals who have been especially cruel.

I'm embarrassed to admit all this; I thought I was a "deeper" person than that. But maybe it's OK, once in a while, to know our motivations. And perhaps knowing mine (which are petty) will allow me to seriously compete in more important races in the future.

It is exhilarating and humbling to know the pursuit of a dream is less of a crowded street with onlookers clapping and cheering with streamers flying and cow bells sounding than it is like this trail I took a picture of. It's quietness, solitude-- of struggle beyond the public eye... and perhaps even of others thinking the worst about you when it might not be true at all.

I've discovered, on this gloomy day, that if I'm really to become a good writer and runner, I've got to let go of my dependence on those crowds and smiling (or frowning); that I have to let go of Reno, of things said, of expressions projected my way. I have to set my eyes forward, run and write with purpose. But most importantly: I have to do these things for myself and myself only.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Birth of a Vegan Pizza

Steve and I made a vegan pizza last night. It's one of our favorite meals-- and one of my favorites after a long run. Though my "long" run this week is a mere six miles (I'm still nursing that foot injury) I thought it bad form to deviate too much from tradition.  And so I thought I'd document the "birth" of the most delicious vegan pizza I've had from the assembly of ingredients, through the preparation which leads to the beautiful final project. I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I enjoyed the pizza. :)


Here are the "fresh" ingredients that are chopped, but that are placed on the pizza last (save for the lemon. That was for the pesto sauce.) I usually chop these first, just to have the task out of the way so I can move on to the more "demanding" steps which follow.

Here's the pesto sauce I make from scratch. In lieu of pine nuts (which are too expensive), I use walnuts from my dad's orchard in this pesto sauce. I also up the amounts of basil and garlic. The secret ingredient? A dash of cayenne pepper for a mild punch. Trust me: it's delish.

The cooked toppings. Tonight we used sliced mushrooms, chopped red bell pepper and elephant garlic that had been chopped then roasted for around 10 minutes in the oven before being added to this mixture.

Then we added spinach to the mix, for some extra iron and greens... 

...and sautéed until it wilted.

Here's our crust. It was actually made from scratch, but from a previous pizza (we made enough dough for two pizzas and saved half.) So Steve took the dough from the fridge, shaped it to the pan and baked  it for ten minutes to render this gorgeous crust ready for the toppings we'd prepared.

First, we put a hearty layer of pesto on the baked crust and put the pizza back in the oven for 5 - 10 minutes.

When the pesto is completely spread over the crust we put on the sautéed ingredients. Then, it's back in the oven for a few moments. We do this to keep the pizza from getting "mushy". 

I almost forgot. No pizza can be made without a glass of red wine. :)

Next, the pizza gets the "veggie shreds" (a vegetable-based cheese alternative) and the sliced black olives. Then, you guessed it, another foray in the oven for Ms. Pizza.

Here it is, completely baked and ready for the chopped tomato and basil. 

Here's the finished pizza close up....

far away...

...and on my plate. 

Friday, April 16, 2010

Rebecca Eckland: The Spin Monster

Me, during the 2009 "Tahoe Sierra Century" that covered 100 miles over Brockway Summit, Tahoe-Donner and Donner Summit (twice.) Though not as exhilarating as running, the Century allowed me to keep fit while I was unable to run due to injury.

Since I'm nursing a minor injury, I've been spending my days (and some nights) on the spin bike at my local gym. I use the spin bike because it reminds me of road biking (I can't stand the traditional fitness bikes in gyms with their big cushy seats and large displays. It feels to much like a couch and I can't MOVE with all that crap-- the screen, the water bottle holders, the bulky pedals and the aforementioned seat in my way.) So, when I can't run, I'm on the spin bike.

Therefore, "choreographing" my own workouts is nothing new to me. Generally, my spins consist of an interval-esque session of 2 x 10' efforts with 2' recoveries followed by 3 x 8' efforts with 2' recoveries and then 6 x 6' efforts with 1' recoveries. But since I want to make sure my foot heals fully before running again, I've taken this week to re-discover cycling, and you know, I like what I've found.

One of my favorite discoveries is the "spin endurance" class on Saturdays at my gym. Instead of the typical one-hour class, this one goes for two hours! What a joy! From these long sessions with an instructor, my knowledge of various methods of increasing one's heart rate on a spin bike have grown. There aren't just "intervals" but also sprints, hills, aerobic recoveries, etc. And all of this is done to upbeat music that just won't let you stop.

And so, yours truly did a little research and found a spin instructor certification course nearby. One day only, the entire course is 9-hours and requires an online exam taken at home to pass. I mentioned my enthusiasm to the woman who owns the gym, and she was ecstatic enough about it to give me a shot at leading my own impromtu spin session next Monday.


All this brings back memories of 2009, when I was off my feet due to multiple injuries. When I could cycle again (yes, there was even a time when I couldn't do that), I signed up for a century (or 100-mile) ride in Tahoe. Though cycling fails to give me the same "high" running does, it's nonetheless an accomplishment to ride 100 miles over mountain summits in a little over 6 hours. Despite my inability to run, I was proud of myself that day.

And proud now, too, because I'm turning my time away from running into something positive. I'd love to lead spin sessions -- not for the money-- but as a way to promote physical fitness in a fun manner and to keep myself injury-free in the future (they say cross training is very important for us runners.) Plus, how can this NOT be a fun part-time position when I get to come up with playlists that include songs by Journey, Lady Gaga and Right Said Fred?


Why I love Roger Bannister.

I don't usually talk about what I'm reading on this blog, but this book bears mention. The Four Minute Mile by Roger Bannister is an autobiographical account of the first man to run a mile faster than 4 minutes. First published in 1955, the text has a notable British lilt to it, as though Bannister himself is sitting next to me, recounting his amazing running career. Funny: as a kid, he always had a desire to run, and "being good at nothing else" (or so he claims), Bannister began racing in his early teens. By 20, he was able to run the mile in 4:12, with no more than THREE training days each week.

The following passage caught my eye, in part, because there are so many blogs (take, for instance, this one) and websites and books about running: how to train for it, how to be the best, etc. There are training plans that require one to know exact miles or pace; others that request minute readings of the palpitations of one's heart. Bannister, however, claims that none of these are really what is important, which is why I have grown to love him so much. It is, he insists, the desire to run that makes a runner great. PRs and races won come from an individual's ability to push themselves. Fancy gadgets, data and even coaches, he claims, distract one from the necessary drive it takes to be a successful runner. In lieu of paraphrase, however, I want to quote a the paragraphs that caught my eye, made me smile and re-examine many of the notions I've developed about what it really takes to be elite.

"There is no established technique for running. It was thousands of years from the time when cavemen attempted to draw running movements, before the cinema camera accurately analyzed the relation of arms and legs in motion. But this in itself has produced no great improvement in running, The human body is centuries in advance of the physiologist, and can perform an integration of heart, lungs and muscles which is too complex for the scientists to analyze.

Improvement in running depends on continuous self-discipline by the athlete himself, on acute observation of his reactions to races and training, and above all on judgment, which he must learn for himself. The runner has to make his own decisions on the track-- he has no coach there to help him. If a man coaches himself then he has only himself to blame when he is beaten.

My ideal athlete was first and foremost a human being who ran his sport and did not allow it to run him. He was not a racehorse nor a professional strongman. He drank beer, he might smoke, and he listened to coaches when he felt inclined. With so many other interests and activities there was no danger of mental staleness. The man who mumbled about his weight chart and his pulse ratio was left to the tender merits of his fellow fanatics. All this may be wrong: but it had already produced twelve Olympic champions [in England] -- men whose personality and determination were sufficient to enable them to achieve balanced lives" (Bannister 49-50).

Amen, brother!

I think if the internet had been around in Bannister's time, he might have well produced something like Miles and Pages. In reading (and re-reading) this passage, I'm comforted by the notion that hard work might really be what it takes to be a great athlete-- hard work, not perfection. There have been so many moments, especially following minor injuries and setbacks, when I tend to question my actions, looking for every fault in my mind and body.

Yet, perhaps I'm going about this injury business the wrong way: after all, Bannister's "ideal" athlete is no "ideal" at all. He drinks, he smokes and gives any coach a flippant shrug instead of hanging on his every word. Banniter's runner, in other words, is a human being. It's an idea I like a lot and one I want to strive to become, especially in coming months when I'll be at St. Mary's College as a full time grad and a full-time runner. I anticipate stress: but perhaps I should also anticipate happiness. While there, I'll get to read great literature with great people. I'll get to run in a beautiful setting and act as assistant coach to a running program in its promising infancy.

I get to be a writer AND a runner, in other words, which is what the Miles and Pages project is all about.

It's funny that Bannister had this all figured out in the 1950s and even wrote a book about it, and yet there is this tendency among athletes to be one-sided, especially today. I wonder what the world would be like if there wasn't such a desire to be just one thing. Isn't that part of post-modern theory: that the individual is not one thing, but instead a multiplicity of various things? Or perhaps we're no longer post-modern.

In any case, Bannister's words have made me a far happier runner. Each time I'm able to step outside my door and slip into a peaceful cadence of miles, I'm grateful. Grateful for my ability to run, to live and breathe in this wonderful place. And that, my friends, is what it's all about.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Musings on balance

It had to come eventually, I knew it. That ache in the foot and ankle area that just won't go away with a good night's rest, the tell-tale sign of INJURY. Yes, I admit, I'm injured. What's odd about this one is that I can't pinpoint a moment in my training when I'd gone overboard. I've been relatively conservative this training cycle, increasing no aspect of my training more than 10% each week-- or not increasing at all if I feel like crap. And yet, here it is: the bum left ankle.

I've replayed the last week in my mind countless times. There were the nine miles run at an easy pace on the treadmill on Monday, followed by a 20-miler on Tuesday. And then, the tightness, the swelling and the realization come Wednesday morn that "all systems are not go for take off." And so, I hopped on the spinning bike and thought "OK. One day off my feet. No biggie."

Yet, Thursday I woke, put on my shoes and set out to do hill sprints. I didn't feel all that great (Steve and I had a big fight the night before about... well, what all fights between people who care about each other entail, or in other words, nothing worth fighting about) and so I attributed my fatigue and lack of "spunk" in my legs to my emotional state, not anything physical. Looking back, I regret that decision a lot.

I'm sure you know the rest of the story. Friday: ABSOLUTELY no go. I tried to run, but barely made it to town which is 1.78 miles from my house. I was limping. I felt pain shooting from my left foot, up my ankle and into my knee. I took Steve's truck home to grab my gym bag and then returned to town, determined to get some exercise in. I ended up spinning for 1:40'.

Saturday, I decided to attend my first spinning class of 2010 at the gym I belong to in Tahoe City. As we began our musical journey into strenuous aerobic activity, the instructor (a nice man named Rich) mentioned this was not the usual one-hour class, but instead an hour and forty minute class devoted to extending the spinner's endurance ability. I couldn't have been happier. At least, not until I recalled I was supposed to race on Sunday in Sacramento (I was hoping to FINALLY break 40 minutes for a 10k) and here I was, confined to a stationary spin bike.

I won't lie: I was disappointed. But what shocked me was the calm way I told myself I needed to heal. There's no point in running if it's only going to leave me limping. Or, to quote my coach, it doesn't matter how fit you are if you can't make it to the starting line. And so, I didn't race Sunday. Actually, I didn't do anything. Steve and I went to Sacramento anyway and enjoyed the change of scenery. We watched "How to Train Your Dragon" in 3D (which was a totally cute movie) and then discovered one of the best vegetarian restaurants I've ever eaten at. We also stopped by Fleet Feet in Sac, where I (to quote Steve) glowed and jumped around at the prospect of buying new shoes. Which I did, by the way. I'm going to try Acics neutral cushioning shoe (ironically, what I used when I first started running and which kept me relatively injury free but that I opted not to keep using because my toes kept breaking through the sides of the shoes) as well as a racing flat made by Brooks called "Green Silence" which is made from recycled/reused materials. They look pretty darn cool, too, which also influenced my purchase. :)

And so, what of balance? Something happened to injure me. Perhaps it was those hill sprints, finally, that did me in. I tipped the scale too far over to one side-- trying too hard and overloading the tendons and connective tissues in my foot. And so, now the scale has to tip a bit the other way. I have to rest, cross train and recover. A year ago, I would have thought of this as a "bad" thing. Now, however, I see the necessity of allowing myself to heal. Besides, there are benefits to other forms of exercise as well. Just today, for instance, a very fit woman ("Lisa" let's call her) at the gym commented that she was impressed by my mental fortitude to put myself through a strenuous 2-hour and 10-minute spin workout by myself. "You have so much mental toughness," she'd said. And of course, I'd smiled. Maybe cycling won't make me physiologically stronger, but it will increase my ability to mentally endure, which is also vitally important for distance runners (and dare I say, us writers as well?)

And you know, it was really nice to just visit a town with Steve and not have that burden of a race hanging over me. On Sunday, we woke slowly. I drank my tea and he, his coffee and leisurely found our way to breakfast through streets already lined with green lawns and blooming flowers. There is a beauty in that, too. Plus, I know when my foot is pain-free and I'm out running again, a deeper appreciation of the sport will come to me. Despite pain and setbacks, I know I will not give up. And that, too, is beautiful.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Best Sort of News.

Even though St. Mary's College gave me an $8,000.00 scholarship, that still leaves quite a financial burden for me to pay. Part of me-- a large part-- is more than willing to pay this. Yet, there's another part of me that requires I look into every avenue before shrugging my shoulders and saying: "Oh well, I guess I'll just take out student loans."

In this spirit, I organized a job search of sorts, in which I apply to all the "dream jobs I might not quite be qualified for" first, and the "Safeway checker"-type jobs later. The first two on my list were a full time instructor for a French-immersion school in Lafayette which wanted native speakers to teach students (ages 2-12) the ins and outs of French. The second? An assistant coach position at St. Mary's itself.

I say I'm unqualified for each because I really lack the essential for both jobs. I'm not a native speaker of French (but rather, a "near-native" speaker with an MA) and for the coaching position, I have no coaching credential to my name, but instead loads of experience running and training as well as a year as a "volunteer coach" with the University of Nevada's cross country team. And so, I sent applications to both these entities, expecting nothing.

But then, not 5 hours later, I heard back from St. Mary's head cross country coach.


I don't usually yell on my blog, but even after 24 hours, I'm still in happy-shock. I can't believe this. How perfect would this be? I could run AND write and be paid, essentially, for both?? Wow.

Steve says I've worked hard the past three years for this and I know in a way, he is right. And yet there is an element of, well, "do I deserve this? Am I good enough?"

I know in the deep recesses of me that, yes, I'm worthy and capable. My body (perhaps sensing this) ran 20 miles today in a pace 11-seconds faster PER MILE than I've been able to run the distance, without pain. I'm improving-- I have to keep the vision in my mind in which I see myself running with young athletes and writing furiously by night. It's what I've always wanted-- and what I've been striving for in both my academics and athletics.

Yes, it's my time. Time to run, time to write and time to -- finally -- live the life I've always wanted and deserved.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Week 15 training and notes.

I can't believe I've been at this for 15 weeks now. If this were a "conventional" marathon training plan (the sort one does at first), I'd be "ready" to run a marathon next week. (I say this because most training programs are 16-weeks long.) Yet, I couldn't feel less ready. I have so much work yet to do; and yet, I'm amazed at the progress I've made so far. Tempo runs once "scared" me almost to the point of not being able to do them, whereas this week I was able to complete an 8-mile tempo at a 6:46 pace-- a feat I haven't been capable of doing for well over a year. It feels so wonderful to return to "running shape."

I've learned, however, to keep my mouth shut in regards to the weather. Last week was beautiful and I wrote as much in my blog. This week, however, has been a nightmare. As you can see by my picture with Jacques C. (taken on Easter), Tahoe has once again become a landscape of clean white with no patches of hopeful brown. My parents in Reno told me they have tulips coming up-- the only thing we have "sprouting" up here is a slight malaise by everyone who wants spring to come (whether they admit to it or not.)

Yet, mere snow can't keep me from running. I'll happily treadmill train, if that's what it takes, to get me back into race shape.

Speaking of which, I have a race this coming week: April 11th in South Sacramento. I hope to better the time I got in Davis nearly two months ago. I have a feeling I will, but I've learned to have a certain respect for the sport: you can never really know what will happen in any given race. I know my training has gone well and that I'm (knock on wood) still not injured. So, it seems fair to hope for a PR performance. We'll see, however.


Monday, 3/29: 16 miles @ 7:46 pace. Windy with a headwind both ways. I also had a major "bonk" at mile 13/14. If I'd kept going strong, I might have bettered my pace (the last time I did it, I ran that distance in 7:41 x mile pace.)

Tuesday, 3/30: 6.75 miles in the AM oiutside in the snowy ,cold world. I ran around the streets of the neighborhood on Dollar Hill. Visibility was so bad I could hear the lake next to me, but could not see it. 7.75 miles in the PM on the treadmill in TC because I felt bad about not running very "fast" this morning.

Wednesday, 3/31: 8 miles on the treadmill in TC.

Thursday, 4/1: 10 miles on the treadmill in TC which included my first "timed runs" workout. I would have much rather done this workout outside... but-- sigh-- the snow. The snow. The workout consisted of: 8 x 4' reps then 4 x 10" hills. Pace for the four-minute efforts were (all with a 1.5% grade): 7', 6:58, 6:58, 6:53, 6:53, 6:44, 6:44, 6:39.

Friday, 4/2: 10 miles in Reno before the crazy storm. Average: 7:37 x mile pace which felt easy save for moments when the wind blustered. Both shins hurt after but my shoes felt really tight the entire time and once I got them off my feet, the pain subsided.

Saturday, 4/3: 9.5 miles total; 8-mile tempo run along the Truckee River path in Reno. Average pace: 6:46 pace. I was so happy-- this is by far my most successful tempo run yet.

Sunday, 4/4: 7 miles on the treadmill in Tahoe City. Easy @ 7.6 mph (7:53 pace with 1.5% grade.) Abs after. Overall, I feel good-- no, great-- about my work this week.

Weekly total: 75 miles

Week 14 training and notes.

What a beautiful week! The sun has been out nearly everyday and so the shoulders along Hwy 28 and 89 are wide enough so that I feel "safe" running outside, even up here. What a treat! I took advantage of this newfound landscape and ran outside every day I could.

This is also the first week of my new training plan. From now on, every two weeks will be counted as a training cycle in which I will complete five critical workouts in 14 days. I'm both excited and nervous for this change but really, only good things can come from it (increased fitness and strength) as well as a sense of "courage" that I'm trying something entirely new.

As you've probably gathered, I've also decided to change another very large aspect of my life: by August, I'll be moving to Moraga, CA to attend the MFA program at St. Mary's College there. This was a hard decision for me and I almost didn't go. However, with their offer of a scholarship and my discovery (helped by my coach) that I will not give up running, I've decided to give it a go. There are worse things than failure, as they say: it would be worse to not try at all.

And so, I dedicate this week's training to new horizons. May they be beautiful and may I run across, over and beyond them.


Monday, 3/22: 20 miles on the ditch trail in Reno. 2:44 total time; 8:14 pace. 5 seconds faster than the last time I did a long-long run. I felt fantastic aside from the bug which stung me repeatedly on the ankle (it was caught in my sock) and the trail “construction” which forced me to alter the route quite a bit.

Tuesday, 3/23: 8 miles outside along the shoulder of Hwy 28 on the North shore of Lake Tahoe.

Wednesday, 3/24: 8 miles along Hwy 89 down the West shore of Lake Tahoe.

Thursday, 3/25: 13.6 miles with hill workout: 10 x 60’ . OUCH! Minute-long sprints HURT. I think this was by far the most difficult workout of this training “cycle.” I felt myself get more efficient, though, which is awesome. Despite my fatigue, my last rep was the fastest.

Friday, 3/26: 7.6 miles on the treadmill in TC. I felt better than I thought I would (usually treadmill running feels awful after being outside for a few days. But this was not the case, thankfully.)

Saturday, 3/27: 8.02 miles in 1:01 down North shore. Avg: 7:40 and it felt effortless. Fastest pace so far at elevation-- my spirits are in the clouds; it was difficult not to smile the entire time.

Sunday, 3/28: 7 miles down West shore. It seemed as though I ran into the wind both out and back-- needless to say, I ran slowly.

Weekly total mileage: 72.22

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Night Watching

As an athlete, I’m immediately excluded from being a “creature of the night”-- those who regularly see and stride past the midnight hour. Yet, as March’s last snow storm erupted across the Tahoe Basin, I found myself in a peculiar setting: wide awake at 3:30 am.

The world is not the same when the sun sets. The colors that normally populate the landscape-- all the greens, reds, whites, tans, and browns disappear, and become gradations of blue in the moonlight. Trees turn to black silhouettes; the snow, a pale shade of cerulean. The world is black and blue, in other words, like a bruise in motion.

The wind rushed through the trees, sounding like the crashing waves of an angry ocean’s tide. This, at first, is what I noticed when I opened my eyes to the dark world. No motion in the world existed, but that ocean-wind. The cats, nowhere to be seen, rested quietly. Steve slept through the tide which coursed over our house. I forced myself to close my eyes again, but there was no denying it: I was awake with all the awake-like thoughts that come to the sleepless mind.

Do I take St. Mary’s offer? I asked myself. Or do I stay here, work various jobs and wait until next year? I mentally paced around those two thoughts, imagining futures growing from each decision made, each opportunity not taken.

Finally, the bed was too much of a hindrance for my body which was an unusual sensation because I usually love to linger in bed, especially on cold mornings as this one was. But my body-- (has it been all the running, I wonder?) required I get up and move around. To pace, perhaps. And so, I made my way into the living room where I stood in the center of the room and stared out the windows. Yes, I stared.

The branches swayed erratically, as though possessed, all the while invisible snow particles fell across the ground, occasionally grazing the window pane. The forest appeared, despite the dancing, quiet and unlighted.

My eyes scanned the woods for a trace of an answer. I’m not sure what I was looking for, exactly, but I sought out objects that distinguished themselves from the swirling movement in the darkness.

Nothing but the wind.

I moved to the couch and lay down, and closed my eyes again. Immediately, the questions returned to my mind. And then, an image: of me laying on a couch perched on an ocean cliff with the surf roaring below me. Even in my tired state, I realized what an accurate image it was: the choice before me was as monumental as that cliff. If I go or choose to stay, whatever follows (good or bad) will be vastly different. I’m perched, in other words, at a crossroads.

Then another memory came: prior to running the Sacramento International Marathon, I got into the habit of reciting lines of Robert Frost’s poetry on long runs in lieu of listening to music. My favorite, at the time, had been the oft-recited “The Road Not Taken.” The line I try to remember, laying in the dark, speaks to a regret (or is it jubilation?) of having chosen one path over another. Of course, there are always such choices in life (paper or plastic? Jim or Bob? Beer or wine?) but this choice seemed heightened somehow, as though this really would make me a different person no matter what I chose to do.

I wandered, slowly, back to the bed and closed my eyes, granting myself a few furtive hours of sleep. After a morning cup of tea and the discovery the world was not a moving bruise, but instead completely erased-- white-- I decided to do the only thing I know how to when I’m upset or feeling lost.

I went running.

I didn’t go along the shoulder of the highway (much too dangerous in these conditions) but instead ran along the tangled streets of the neighborhood on Dollar Hill. I crested the hill and ran down the other side to a road called “Edgewood.” With the wind at my back, I had to slow myself down for fear of slipping on the snowy ground beneath my feet. The world, indeed, was white. So white. I ran to the road’s end and turned. At that same instant, the wind blustered, picking up tiny snow shards, throwing them into my eyes. I bent my head low and was grateful to have my own footprints to lead me back from this place.

I looked from side to side, but there was only white. I could hear the lapping of the lake to my left and the mechanical beeping of a snow plow in the distance to my right but I could see nothing. I could only navigate by my rapidly fading footsteps. And yet, I wasn’t afraid.

And so, in an odd and roundabout way, this is why I will go to St. Mary’s, despite the financial risk and danger of “failure”: to navigate successfully, one does not always have sight. Sometimes-- perhaps more often than not-- we have to look inward and use another kind of sense that tells us what is right and what is wrong.

And perhaps that is what night-watching reminds us of. When sleep refuses to come and the world is dark, we should stand and face the darkness which keeps us from “seeing” what lies before us. Such blindness reminds us to look within; to read what’s written across our inner selves and no matter what comes, we’ll have done the best we can.