Alone is a funny thing, it isn’t always the same. I’ve never had a problem with being alone, I’m at peace with myself and it is what it is. With that type of alone you can just head out into the woods and experience the comfort of nature, or you can head across the street to the bar where there are other people who are alone and then you aren’t alone anymore. More than likely there will be someone to get into a conversation with and if you need to kill a couple of hours, a couple beers and some strangers will do the trick. This is one step up from alone and destitute, where you are cold and hungry, existing completely outside the comfort and shelter of normal society and in actual danger of not surviving, someone who has no close friends or relatives and has gone homeless for example.

A third kind of alone is not as easy, it is the alone that you experience when you are with people you know but don’t have a close relationship. For example, casual friends from church or work but not a spouse, parents, siblings or girl or boyfriend. Many times, when you are with those type of people they are with someone who they are in a close relationship and have invited you along to join them in a dinner or event of some kind. This too can alleviate the most intense feelings of loneliness for a time, but even though you are with people you know there is the feeling that you are an outsider and you can’t really shake that knowledge. So in many ways, being alone alone and alone with other people at the bar who are alone is better than this alone with acquaintances feeling.

Over the holiday weekend I discovered a fourth kind of alone, in addition to the first three levels of alone. I had plenty of invites for Thanksgiving dinner so there was no danger of spending the day alone alone at the bar, or hungry and destitute alone in fear for my life. I have to say however, it was the most intense feeling of alone I have ever experienced. The kind of alone that makes it easy to understand how the holidays have become the most prevalent time of year for suicides. It is an involuntary alone, an alone that comes with a longing to be with someone but for some reason circumstances have prevented it. I call this one exiled alone, an alone where you have been shoved aside or left behind. For example, the death of a loved one, insurmountable distance, divorce, rejection even perhaps the time or distance put out of reach by a demanding job. This kind of alone can be intensified by sadness, anger, bitterness and jealousy. It is the worst kind of alone of all, an alone accompanied by a crushing, suffocating and unrelenting pain in the chest, pain that no worldly comfort seems to be able to relieve. At least with destitute alone there may be a church or shelter available to give you food and blankets, but with exiled alone no one can help, there are no words to make it better, no one can say or do anything to comfort this level of alone save maybe God Himself. With this type of alone, for someone without strong faith in his Savior, alone all too often results in another sad holiday statistic.

For anyone who may be reading this, I have these words of comfort from the words of God to the prophet Isaiah “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”. In these times remember the promise of our Savior “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”. Even in the times when we are most alone, we are never truly alone because the One who is forever is always at our side, in good times and bad, poverty and prosperity, when times are easy and when times are hard.

Change Afoot

Well, here I am, up again at 4:00 a.m. unable to sleep for all the thoughts swirling through my mind. I am thinking this entire phase of my life is coming to and end and something completely new is afoot. I had not planned to spend another winter in this town. When Tricia passed last spring I began a purge of the life we had together with the intention of getting out of this town and this area by Halloween. Halloween is when the weather really turns ugly up here at 9,000 feet. Moving though was not my only goal for the summer and I got kind of busy with my photography and an unexpected friendship and the moving got put on the back burner.

But now the stark reality of winter and the long hours of darkness have enveloped Ute Pass, my new friend was forced to relocate out of the area and I am reminded of why I wanted so badly to be out of here by now. Winters are long, cold and lonely here in the high country and there is really nothing to do in this town. Rarely is there enough snow to go snowshoeing, while at the same time the trails can be icy and dangerous for regular hiking and many roads into the back country are impassable. The peak is in the dark and the whole area is just kind of ugly as far as picture taking goes. There are no jobs to speak of and there aren’t enough people here to sustain any kind of meaningful business. Year after year many businesses come and go, hoping in vain to make a living outside the rat race of the city at the bottom of the pass.

The only other choice for people who live here is to commute to the city, but the drive down the pass in the winter is long, often dangerous and certainly not guaranteed which puts a real damper on having a job that requires you to be there every day. So anyway, to the point, Yesterday was Sunday morning and for some reason the grim reality of the winter ahead really hit home. I was kind of throwing up my hands crying out to God and asking “What am I supposed to do now?” Immediately a verse from the bible came to me. The prophet Elijah, coming off a huge victory over the prophets of Bale was fleeing the city and Queen Jezebel who was less than appreciative over the loss of 400 of her so called prophets and was seeking to kill him. And God who was looking down on his plight found him a place to rest for a while:

1 Kings 17:2 And the word of the Lord came unto him, saying,
3 Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.
4 And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.
5 So he went and did according unto the word of the Lord: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.
6 And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook.
7 And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land.

So for a while, God sustained Elijah by the brook using the ravens to bring him food. But it was never God’s plan for him to retire there, only for him to rest for a season before moving on to his next task.

So it is with us today as well. Humans have a tendency to want to settle down, build the homestead and establish roots. But just as often, God’s plans are not our plans and if we refuse to let Him lead we may never realize our full potential. Elijah had more work to do and God forced him to move on by drying up the brook so that he could no longer be sustained in that place.

And that was the word for me on Sunday. The brook here has dried up and it is time to move on. Standing in the way of that move is one last pile of unneeded stuff that needs to be discarded somehow. It is the stuff that I wasn’t quite ready to get rid of and thought, “I may want this later”. It has been months now and I have had no interest in even reviewing what might be in there. I’m now sure I don’t need it and it can just go. After that I don’t know how or where the next phase of my life will begin, but at this time I really don’t need to know. I may be leaving here soon, or I may be just laying the ground work for something unknown. It doesn’t matter, God knows and as He often does, only one instruction at a time is given. Sometimes the only thing we know is that He has said, “get up and prepare for a journey” to see if we will take the first step in faith. It’s going to be a busy and difficult week, but I know it will be worth it in the end. For some time now I have been thinking of getting closer to Rocky Mountain National Park, or perhaps Yellowstone or maybe even the eastern slopes of the Sierra. Come what may.

Healing is Painful

An update on Rachel’s journey to healing!

Radical Road

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 It was around this time last year that I  started intensive treatment for Lyme disease. I had to travel to a medical center in another city, a few hours away from my home, and stay there for a month. I knew that the treatment might make me sicker before it made me better and I was willing to do whatever it took to get better!!! Little did I know just how painful the treatment would be. Sometimes in life healing isn’t all warm and fuzzy. I’m not just referring to physical healing but also to emotional, mental, and spiritual healing. Sometimes healing is painful! Even when the process of healing is painful it is totally worth it when we finally come out of it healed.

 In my case, the Lyme disease had gotten so bad I was unable to control my hands or my legs. I had to be…

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The Modern World

Yesterday was quite an adventure, started the day out in one of the biggest blizzards to hit the mountains in quite some time. Snow piling up so high and so fast that it overwhelmed my little chimney, knocking out the pilot light on the furnace several times throughout the night and into the morning. Which of course gives me the unenviable task of climbing the ladder to the roof with a shovel in my hand to rectify the situation.

To make matters worse, I had failed to notice how low on minutes my old flip phone was getting and I was in danger of suffering voice contact isolation in the throws of the storm. So I grabbed the snow shovel and headed for the driveway, determined to acquire the all important “minutes”. My Tracfone has served me well for many years and it was a pretty good deal when it was used only as an emergency device. Minutes could just lie around on it as the phone stood by in the event of trouble. However once people actually started calling me the minutes would disappear all too quickly.

I’ve been watching with envy the people snapping pictures and swiping through the day’s communications with a whisk of the finger and sending lightning fast texts using an actual keyboard. Texts are quite an undertaking on a standard telephone keypad and some of the aging keys are starting to stick a bit.

After a couple of hours of digging I had finally made a suitable path to the road and down the hill I went in quest of a new phone with a better plan for the number of minutes I am now using every month. By the time I was  done messing with the tire chains I was soaking wet and covered with mud, but heck this is the mountains, you can go places like that and nobody thinks anything of it.

Finally found the right phone and plan and back home I went to try to actually get the thing to work. First step, create an account on the internet and feed the plan card to the hungry phone minutes beast hiding in the etherworld. Then, to put the phone together and hope for the best. First a moment of total panic, where was the sim card? For about a half hour I frantically looked for it in the packaging to no avail. Finally I removed the battery to take a look inside and there it was in position. All it needed was a little coaxing to lock it in the slot.

Now to turn it on. One button on the side, that must be it. Soon I was hearing the satisfying sound of beeps and chimes and a picture appeared. A few choices to make about names and wifi options, and some oddball stuff about screen locks. Fortunately I was paying attention to some of these responses because the instructions told me to turn off the phone and turn it back on. When it came back on I was unable to get it to do anything. There was a red phone on the front and I suppose I could have called 911, but I doubt they would have appreciated my predicament much. About the time I was ready to put the device in the trash compactor a chance wrong number gave me confidence that the thing was actually activated and functioning. Two hours of searching the internet and reading “Android forums” later, I finally chanced upon the right combination and placing of finger taps to open my new gateway to the airwaves, and with some additional fiddling my first text was sent to the first person in the new “phone book”.

So today finds me a member of the modern world, fully equipped with the ability to sit in a coffee shop with all the other modern people quickly and efficiently swiping away all the things I’m not interested in. Of course according to Murphy’s Law, now that I have the ability to make and send unlimited calls and texts, people will stop calling and texting and I will be left only with the things I’m not interested in, but at least I will look like a high tech wizard as I ignore the never ending stream of useless information available to us denizens of this modern high tech existence.

Holidays BT

Have been struggling to come to grips with the first holiday season I will be spending without Trica in 27 years. Last year Tricia was in the wheelchair not able to do any cooking but my sweet friend and awesome gourmet cook, Heike, invited us over to her and Pat’s house for a wonderful day of turkey and excellent old world German cooking. I have been dreading the holidays for a few weeks now, unsure of what it is going to be like to be alone when everyone else is enjoying their families. Now obviously I could just go back to Iowa and have Thanksgiving with my huge beautiful family there if it weren’t for the wreckage of life after cancer and death that I am dealing with here in Colorado at the time. On the other hand after the loss of a life partner you feel alone no matter how many people you surround yourself with.

Ooops, blog post running of the tracks again. So anyway I have been thinking about this a lot lately and last night I dreamed I was running the Mile High Turkey Trot four mile race with a dear friend from what seems like a previous lifetime. When I awoke thinking about the dream it started to come back to me that for quite a few years running the race WAS the way I celebrated Thanksgiving. As far as I was concerned it was the way TO celebrate Thanksgiving. Up at sunrise, pin on the number and head out into a cold blast of November morning air in your shorts and t-shirt. No turkey to buy, no mess to clean up, no relatives to bicker with. Food, no problem… only a runner can appreciate the joy of drinking a cold beer at 10:00 a.m. in your sweaty running clothes in frigid temperatures surrounded by hundreds or even thousands of like minded people. It doesn’t get any better than that 🙂 If the post race snack and libations aren’t enough, someone is always having a Thanksgiving brunch, and a gourmet champagne breakfast is probably cheaper than having to buy a turkey with all the trimmings.

So anyway, that was how Thanksgiving was done before Tricia, or BT as I now call it. Tricia, however had a different idea of how Thanksgiving was supposed to be run and come to think of it, the race was a great source of friction when we first got married. She was mad that I was never there to help start cooking the huge meal that I didn’t want. So year after year the fighting continued until I eventually wore down and gave up the race. Years went by and the Thanksgiving race faded from memory completely, until last night.

So anyway, as I continue down this road back to my life that once was, I remember that I was 30 when we met. I had my own life, my own way of doing things and my own ideas of how things were supposed to be. Little by little it is coming back and I am realizing how much I have missed the freedom of life BT! Well, better get going, this blog has given me an idea for an Examiner Article! Time to write about all the Turkey Trots going on in the Front Range on the Turkey Day! Turkey Day? Who knows, maybe I’ll run the race! It has been a long time but I think if I can claw my way to the top of the Manitou Inline I can probably jog a few miles for a breakfast beer at the finish line in Wash Park 🙂

Four Thousand

Last March three thousand images in my iStock / Getty was my goal for 2015. I was hoping I could make it to the whitewater festival in Salida and maybe even the Garden of the Gods 10 mile run. Much to my surprise my summer was far more fruitful than that. There were sports events, trails to explore, fourteeners to climb, and road trips to make that I had not even imagined would be possible and over seven thousand images are the fruit of that bounty.


Manitou Incline

It took no time at all to upload the couple hundred images I needed for my goal of three thousand and much to my surprise autumn found me just shy of an amazing four thousand images in my portfolio. With tons of images to work on I knew I would make that goal this year too. With summer coming to an end and the peak behind the shadows until spring, I decided to take a break from shooting and concentrate on the uploads and the four thousand mark.

Finally towards the end of the week I uploaded the batch that would put me over the top. It turned out that number four thousand was a capture of the Manitou Incline, which I climbed for the first time last summer. It seemed appropriate to celebrate by making another climb to the top of the mountain stairway, so yesterday I loaded up my gear and pointed the car towards Manitou. Better prepared and better educated on the pitfalls of the 3,500 foot climb, I began my trudge to the top. About half way up I was taking a rest from nearly spitting out my lungs when a young lady churned past me using a technique that looked worth a try, half steps. One foot up, next foot up to the same step with a half second rest or so before putting the alternate foot up to the next step. With a half second rest on each step, the rest of the climb went without the need for oxygen stops. Soon I was hearing the cheers of the crowd at the top so I broke concentration and took a look up at the action. Much to my surprise I was already at the top none the worse for the wear.

Snapped a few pictures of the town and the snow on the old railway bed and headed for the Barr Trail. With proper running clothes on the easy downhill trail was just a little bit too tempting to run down, something I haven’t done in quite a while. Time to the top was 1:12 and my total round trip time back down the Barr Trail was 2:20 or so, I forgot to shut off my watch.

Where to go from here, guess I’ll take a break and do some meditating. It appears as though some of the efforts made by iStock and Getty to win back customers are beginning to pay off. Sales have begun to pick up dramatically so I’ll be watching to see what is selling and what isn’t The Pikes Peak Road Runners Fall Series is coming to an end this weekend, so maybe I’ll run up and see how that turns out so I can write the final report for the Examiner. Need to brainstorm on how to capitalize on my new status as “Denver Exercise and Fitness Examiner” as well. Recent workouts on the treadmill and the run down the Barr Trail have me wondering if some trail runs might be in my future as well! It has been a long time and I have missed the runs and the companionship with other runners terribly.

I don’t really have any more goals for this place at the base of Pikes Peak. There are one or two trails in Cheyenne Canyon that I didn’t get to, but the reason I didn’t get to them was because I wasn’t that motivated to do so. Would like to move further north, all the action I’m interested in is either in Boulder or up in Rocky Mountain National Park. Sports and wildlife in the SOCO are sparse and I’m not looking forward to the long hours of winter boredom. I had hoped to be out of here by winter but it looks like I’ll be braving the cold at 9,000 feet yet again. Oh well, as always I’ll make the best of it.