I recently began a vacation by visiting friends at their lakeside “camp,” a quaint building set back from the west side of the lake atop a grassy slope. The back deck affords a beautiful view of the lake, and facing east, gets a warm wake up as the sun peaks up over the rolling hills to east side of the lake.
While this particular piece of property had not previously been owned by either of my host’s families, there are several other family properties on other parts of the lake, and that is one of the reasons why my hosts had choosen this area to have a retreat.
The camp was a building which has evolved over time, adding rooms and amenities as previous owners had occupied it and grown. From a small, one room shack, several bedrooms had been tacked on. The plumbing was modernized (moved indoors!) and a dining room added. Later, a living area and finally, the grand deck. Each piece of the whole is different, yet the sum is comfortable and cohesive.
On this particular holiday weekend, a gathering of my host’s family was held at the camp. I’ve know the hosts for many years, and over time had also met many members of the family at different times. What set this occasion apart was the confluence of several of the family members on this visit. The guests were multi-generational, from a very young infant, to a great grandmother.
As the guests mingled and became re-acquainted with one another, filling in gaps created by time and distance, I roamed about–not having the benefit of a deep family history, listening and watching.
On one end of the deck, an elderly aunt was seated in a chaise lounge. She was being interviewed by one of her nieces. The younger woman seated next to her was interested in the family genealogy, and was using several on-line web sites to construct a family tree. I quietly listened as the matronly aunt recalled her parents to the inquisitive niece.
“My father, Joseph, was born in 1914, or so.”
Click, click, click. “1914 in Columbus, Ohio, according to the census data,” the interviewer replied, after some typing and then pointing to her laptop. Young techno-savvy meets elder memory.
“Yes. Well, I believe he and mom got married in 1935.” The aunt looks up–expecting confirmation–she learns quickly. The young woman nods, looking up. The story continues, “She was married in her mother’s dress, a formal white wedding dress from the turn of the century. I was later married in the same dress.” The listener sets her computer aside. “When I was born in 1937, I was the second child. My younger brother, James, did not survive.” Pause. “That was quite common then.” The biographer is quickly becoming rapt in the tale.
I quietly turned away. As I walked along the deck, in that slow, party mingle gait, I could hear the story continue. I felt somehow glad that there was a bond forming between the two family members–a bonding which would be more than the sterile data on the computer screen, but a true sharing of the family lore from one generation to another.
On another part of the deck, I happened upon two brothers, deep in conversation. I know enough of the family history to know that they had been estranged for some time. I had met each on different occasions. I did not know the cause or the particulars of the rift–I had only heard it discussed in passing. They looked up from their conversation, acknowledging me and smiling. After a quite greeting, they turned back to one another and continued to talk. I moved on, sensing that this was a vital conversation, best left to run its course.
At the far end of the deck, I came upon the new mother, with the small, delicate package of her newborn son cradled in her arms. She too had a young niece in tow, the youngest child of her older sister. They were not speaking of past history however, the young teenager was more interested in the baby and the process of childbirth.
Here too, lore and learning were being passed on. Much like the pastiche of the house, different members of the family had come together, engaged as one, some local and some from miles away. But the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. History was being learned; rifts being mended; new generations were creating history. The house, and more importantly, the family, stands.
On June 24, I participated in the New England Tough Mudder, 2017. I was part of a team of friends called “What would Joe Do?” This team is named after a family member who was an avid “Mudder” but was sadly taken too early. The team keeps on the tradition–I felt fortunate to be allowed to join them.
For those of you who might not know, a #toughmudder is a 10 mile course with numerous obstacles along the way. This particular one was held at Mt. Snow, VT, near Burlington. So not only was it a ten mile run/jog/walk, it was a lot of up and down. My sore calves and gracilii for the next few days after the race were a testament to that.
We had an early start, and first thing was splash through a mud puddle.
Almost immediately we started going up. After a 1 mile climb and a warmup obstacle, we came to the next: your basic wall climb.
This was a good obstacle to start with, especially for this virgin mudder. Of course, we were already ‘mudder’ish. I also had just gotten a new Olympus “tough” TG5 camera, for use in my next great adventure. It is a great little device which I am looking forward to learning and using. It is waterproof to 50 feet and went on this course through every obstacle.
A lot of up muddy slopes and down, slogging through mud and crawling under barbed wire–this was all in a days work. Some of the obstacles required brawn and others, brains and teamwork.
Earlier this year, I signed up for a training program at my local gym to run in a half-marathon. I had never run anywhere near this distance (13.1 miles), and certainly didn’t think I would be able to actually run this distance.
But, I joined and was assigned to a group of 8 individuals, several of which were experienced runners. I’m a big fan of group training, and I thought that at least I would get some good running in.
Over the course of the ensuing weeks, I trained using the guide which was provided, and met my team on Wednesday nights for the team runs. We gradually trained, adding miles–For the first time, I ran 7, then 8, 9 and 10. Finally, a few weeks before the event, I ran 12.54 miles at a 2 hour 15 minute pace–faster and farther than I ever thought I could run.
May 6th came, and at 7:40 a.m. I was off! Two hours, 8 minutes and 47 seconds later, I crossed the finish line! I had run the entire course, including a lap of the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway (I had 1 stop for a biobreak–42 seconds). I had planned on a 10 minute average pace, which would have been 2:11:00, but I beat that.
I was very happy, and when I reflect on this, I realize I’ve been building the last few years on my burgeoning yoga practice. Indeed, as I run, I breath deep and send the breath to all parts of my body, thanking each for it’s contribution.
And now, the bug has bitten. I love distance running…
A friend of mine (fellow yogi) posted on Facebook about going to visit Tulum.
Tulum is on the Mayan Riviera–the east coast of the Yucatán peninsula. You can find Google as quick as I can if you want to know more about this area.
I had been here years ago when visiting Cancun. Well, I’d been to the ruins which are at the north end of the “strip.”
In fact, there are many ruins in this area, including the famous Chichen Itzen. The Mayan culture flourished here about 800 years ago–they were one of the first Mesoamerican cultures to encounter the Europeans and one of the first to be negatively impacted.
The Tulum area is located about 1 1/2 hours drive south of Cancun. Cancun and its environs directly south are highly commercialized and house many of the mega hotel chains.
The “hotel zone” in Tulum is free of this commercialization (though this is changing) and seems almost rural, with warm ocean and white sand!
I knew that there was a large yogi community here. But it was more than I thought it would be.
The focus here is health, healing, and spirituality (and hippies). Yoga practices of many styles are readily available. I practiced Ashtanga, Hatha and Vinyasa styles; others were available. There are many advertised studios with convenient schedules.
Apart from the physical yoga, the colony exudes yoga spirituality. From the signage on the roads to the abundance of vendors selling healthy food and drink. There are many small, literally road-side stands and secluded enclaves selling smoothies concocted from goodness and vegan/vegetarian dishes made from local ingredients.
One of the things that we did was a Mayan sweat bath, or temazcal. This penitent and healing ceremony is led by a trained shaman in a mortar and stone temple heated by rocks which have been in a ritual fire. Herbs and water are used to heat the space to over 100 degrees (F).
Riding back to the airport, I noticed the gradual return to routine surroundings, at least what we’re accustomed to thinking of as routine surroundings. As we came off of the beach road and neared Highway 307 and turned north towards Cancun, the familiar white and green signs, a convenience store and other vestigaes of “civilization.” Continuing north, the signs of familiar retailers appeared. Alas, my first sojourn was ending–I will be back!