Through the wonder of social media, I was reminded that it was exactly three years ago this week I was introduced to Ashland. Completing the final installment of a three-part Continuing Medical Education course in Pediatric Biodynamic Osteopathy, I was initially irritated with a change in course location that resulted in additional travel time and cost to reach this tiny town in Southern Oregon. Soothed by the opportunity to reconvene with my classmates for inspiration in study and encouraged by glowing reports of the city from colleagues who had visited previously, I embarked on the journey…only to be delayed by a snowstorm limiting travel from O’Hare.
I debated cancelling the trip entirely – to miss nearly a third of the course and spend an equal amount of time in transit as present at the destination seemed a bit ridiculous, but nonrefundable it was and onward I pressed. Arriving in the midst of a lab, in an unfamiliar location, I felt frustrated and doubted I could gain much from the course. My perspective quickly changed as I was swept into the powerful current of healing created by the collective – I am challenged to find equal comparison to the energy generated by a group of osteopaths teaching, treating and learning together. Renewed by the course and energized by the stark contrast in weather – the Chicago blizzard was replaced by sunshine, the bluest of skies and February temperatures more likely in Southern California than Oregon – I was ready to savor a few solo days while my husband graciously held down the fort with our sons back in snowy Michigan.
There were delicious dinners, quaint shops, fireside chats with friends and the unique moment of a solo night at the movie theater but the turning point of that trip, and ultimately the future of our family, happened on a run. Any runner will tell you that the best way to truly see a new place is via bipedal transport, following the recommended path of a native or simply exploring – so many minutes or miles out and then back, perhaps following an alternate return course. And so it was, on 11 February 2013, I set off on a run – monumental at onset simply for wardrobe – I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt while still hovering near the 45th parallel in the middle of winter!
I had explored the famed Lithia Park earlier in my visit and felt the burn of legs and lungs that only uphill mountain running can induce. Seeking opportunity (and satisfying ego as the pace would be recorded in my training logs) to “run easy,” I made the quick trip through town to the bike path…and just kept running. Reveling in the day, reflecting on the course and rationalizing a reasonable workout, I continued to extend the turn-around of the run. Eventually I settled on, what from the onset was an obvious target, running eleven miles to match the date. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had just taken 16,000(ish) steps toward a new future.
Exactly three years later, I find myself sitting in a park nestled in the valley between the Siskiyou and Cascade mountains, looking over a community garden and at a playground where the sounds of construction mean a new swingset will soon be ready to embrace biggest, middlest and littlest as they pump legs with a fury and reach for the sky. It is 63 degrees and sunny with the gentlest of breezes and I have tucked myself into a shady spot under the slide, sitting to write after a picnic lunch shared with middlest and one of his dear classmates as littlest snoozes at home with daddy. I honor the moment for all that is beautiful – the location, the weather, the companionship and the presence. I marvel that I am not on vacation – this is home and today is not a rare day off but a regular part of my new routine.
I think back often to those eleven miles and how appropriate it is that this life transition began on a run. The seeds of change sewn subtly into my soul through simple steps taken to strengthen legs and lungs, something I had done countless times in many locations. Of course an endeavor so natural, such an intrinsic part of me, was the source of initiation – but while the run could take me far along the path, it could not bridge the gap from contemplation to action. My feet would have to leave the ground much longer than the length of a stride.
The library of my past year was filled with inspirational and motivational works, challenging personal development and risk-taking in the context of passionate pursuit. I have dared greatly, buzzed on a badass frequency and finally found the courage to take leaps outside the realm of my typical character, bounding toward long held dreams. In the early hours of my first day in our new hometown, thousands of miles and multiple time zones from all I had ever known, unable to achieve the same easy slumber of the other four of my quintet, I was overcome by the apprehension of uncertainty. The panic ebbed eventually and with the restoration of sleep was replaced with a sense of ease – we had landed – the anxiety I had felt was simply a misinterpretation of the exhilaration found only at the apex of the arc of a most massive jump.
Having abandoned field events many years ago, the sensation was unfamiliar. As it settled, I was left breathless but rather than in the exhausted fashion that often followed a run, it felt light – a mix of relief and accomplishment that can only accompany survival of atypical risk. While the run will always be my foundation, I am encouraged to cross-train and even compete in exotic events, pushing myself to break boundaries and expand experience through the occasional jump.
May the familiarity of our foundation serve as both sturdy platform and powerful springboard from which we are encouraged to leap toward our dreams.