De-Feeted, but Not Defeated. (Yeah, that just happened.)

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I was flying high on Christmas Day.

I’d just graduated a client to open a ton of free time heading into prime hiking season. My 3-1-3 plan (three days work, one day service, three days play) was within reach.

On Christmas, I flew up Camelback mountain, joked with Camelback Santa and his elves, and helped him haul his stuff down the mountain after his shift. Winter was all set to rock.

And then… Crunch.

On a light hike with two guys and a 7-year-old the next day, I mis-stepped and badly sprained my ankle. The next morning, I woke up with a cold I wouldn’t shake for two weeks.

The ankle sprain – which is still with me – threw me for a loop. I was ready to live big. Big hikes. Big trips. Big everything.

Suddenly, a Winter of playing in the desert transformed into weeks watching TV on my arse. I’d never watched so much college football in my life. Boohoo…

We met our service requirement by collecting $1500 and 2000 clothing items for Tempe teens at the Neighborhood Olympics.

Then football season ended.

Then a two-week minimalism project ended.

Then I got my taxes done. In January.

Then, de-feeted, I became defeated. (See what I did there?)

Finally, I realized that I was like way too attached to my ankle – not just physically, obvi, but emotionally too. My well-being was tied to walking and I needed options for when walking wasn’t one.

A Wasted Winter.

The injury came right around New Year’s Eve – a time for reflection, and anticipation, and making bullshit promises to ourselves. I’ve never been one for big hairy audacious resolutions.

I prefer to set intentions for incremental progress.

My injury forced me to do just that. I needed to fill three days of play with activities that didn’t require good weather, interesting landscapes, and a healthy body – none of which are guaranteed to us. Here’s what I came up with:

1. Work that core, ladies!

My calves are always lookin’ good thanks to Camelback, but my body is a little too soft for shirtless hiking selfies. Now, I’m working out nearly daily with weights or in yoga. Even if it’s just a half-hour, I stay active to stay happy and to defend against early onset dadbod.

2. Books, Jerry. Books.

I used to run at Tempe Town Lake or work at Cartel just to get out of the house. With a bad ankle and a light workload, I’ve discovered books as an excuse to be among humans. It turns out you can read in coffee shops and parks!

I’ve still got silly Game of Thrones for bedtime and a stack of spiritual books for the morning. Now, I’ve committed to a meatier read for times I need to get my body into public or into my hammock.

3. Do this more.

I was once asked in a job interview how many words I’d written. My answer: Most of them? In 15 years as a professional, I’ve never written so little for my job. I’m picking up the slack with more journaling, more blogging here, and more professional posting to The DRIVE and to Medium.

Side note: The blogging isn’t always easy. I’ve been working on this post for three months and I’m still not happy with it. Thanks for sticking with it!

Waste Not, Want Not.

These are not resolutions. They’re not measurable goals. I’m not setting out to lose 10 pounds, read a book a month, or sign a publishing deal. (Unless you know a publisher…?)

They’re just intentions.

I salvaged a wasted Winter by laying the groundwork for good things to happen. I dusted off my free weights and found a yoga studio. I picked up a few meatier reads at Bookmans – starting with 1984 in honor of you know who.

When I sprained my ankle, I didn’t know what to do to stay sane. Now, I know when, where, and how to do the good stuff when the need for good stuff arises.

Winter ended last week with PHX Startup Week and the Oscar ceremony.

Sitting on my patio, I think how excited I am for Spring.

The garden is producing. The sunsets are rockin’. My calendar is filled with staycations downtown plus weekend trips to hike Chiricahua National Monument, kayak the Colorado River, and backpack across Catalina Island.

That last one should be especially epic. I just hope my ankle is ready to haul around a forty-pound pack for four days.

If not, thanks to an un-wasted Winter, I’ve got fallback options now.

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On his only hike of the season, the male of the species spots two females approaching on the horizon, sucks in his gut, and prepares his opening line. Thus, the mating ritual of Hominidae Meanderus begins.

Sink your roots in the granite-filled crevice you’re given

Olmstead Point is a scenic stop along the Tioga Road, which cuts across the Sierra Nevada high country north of Yosemite Valley. The view south is marked by long, smooth sheets of granite shaped thousands of years ago by glacier flows. Beyond the glacier fields, one is offered a clear view of Half Dome and snow-tipped Cloud’s Rest.

Jeffrey pine at Olmstead Point

This Jeffrey pine has a front-row seat to Half Dome. Not too shabby.

It’s a beautiful view. It’s also darn near inhospitable. The weather at 8,500 feet is unforgiving. And, clearly, plants can’t set down roots in solid granite.

But, to quote Dr. Ian Malcolm, life finds a way.

Across the granite fields, there are occasional cracks filled with just enough crunchy granite and other bits and particles of loose soil to give life a chance. Think about the cracks between slabs of sidewalk.

Tough, leathery little flowers and scraggly Jeffrey pines take advantage. They sink their roots into the smallest cracks and stand in defiance of a meager foundation and harsh surroundings. And they grow – tall, proud, beautiful.

I feel a connection to these trees, just as I feel a connection to the tough shrubs and cactuses that cling to the sides of Camelback and Piestewa in Phoenix.

I didn’t start with the strongest spiritual foundation. This is not a complaint. In fact, I’m grateful for it. I received a clean palette on which to explore and improvise.

Some people are born into the Nile Delta of spiritual soil and grow their beautiful tree from there.

I sunk my roots in the granite-filled crevice I was given. I weathered frigid winters. I grew tough bark and a sturdy trunk. I stretched resilient branches toward the sun. With the help of others, I turned a meager spiritual foundation and harsh surroundings (of my own making) into a fertile little patch of soil with a front-row seat to Half Dome and the Yosemite Valley.

Given the view, how could I possibly question the foundation I was given? I know the scrappy little Jeffrey pines do not.


Note: I dedicate this post to Christine Thomas, my yoga teacher who I thought of often while in Yosemite. She’d love it here! And, yes, I had to resist taking a selfie in tree pose for this post.

Another note: As always, you can see a photo per day of my Meander here: