Thursday, September 23, 2010

Facebook (1) | Andrew's photos

Facebook (1) Andrew's photos

Andrew's view of the world around him...

We got a gift this week from Andrew...his photos. My daughters decided to look at the memory card stored in Andrew's camera and found about 300 photos he had taken in the last year of his life.

The photos showed Andrew's work and projects and some of the scenery he so enjoyed being immersed in. He loved to hike and go off-road in his truck, and he skiied and surfed in the ocean nearby. He built things -- home improvement projects, his truck, a dog house, and he worked in his father's plastering business. Andrew was very proud of his patch jobs and his lathing and his straight, flat finished walls.

Looking through the photos, I naturally searched for some clues to what Andrew was thinking. He drove to the highest point he could on Cuesta Ridge and took pictures of all views: North, South, East and West. He went up the coast and took pictures north of Cayucos of the rocks and surf on the beach, showing Morro Rock, Montana de Oro and points north. He took pictures of the setting sun.

He also had pictures of his projects: his truck, the doghouse, a rock wall with the home address etched on it, and he took pictures of the pets at play. I think these dogs and a cat became his trusted companions when he no longer trusts the humans. He didn't read things into what the dogs did and he could say whatever he wanted to them without drawing strange looks back.

The hardest part is that everything looks so normal and, well, beautiful. The pictures are uplifting, not depressing. One wonders what he had been thinking, or if he went seeking peace and serenity and was trying not to think much at all.

My daughter had one of the pictures blown up and pressed on canvas like a painting. She made a place to hang it in the dining room and put up a stenciled saying, something about a miracle. It makes an really stunning display. The coolest part is knowing the point of view was Andrew's.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Getting strength through Andrew

I am always striving to get myself into shape. One thing I would like to accomplish is to run in a marathon, or at least a 5K. This is my 50th year; I will turn 51 in November, so I am feeling the pressure to get myself going on this goal.

So I started jogging at little about a month ago, just short stretches of 1 to 3 minutes at a time. I entered myself in a 5K Run / Walk event that is just 3 weeks away now. I don't really think my body is up for it, so I am taking it really slow. I walk during the major portions of my workouts and keep the jogging part to a minimum. Last week my pace for a 3 mile workout was 51 minutes one day, 48 the next; 16-17 minutes per mile average on the school track. I also mapped out a 3-mile walk around the neighborhood, and there is a boardwalk where I run that says the loop is 1-mile around. I did three loops in 33 minutes today--I don't think I was particularly fast, I just think the loop is less than 1 mile.

I have marked off my route on the boardwalk into halves. I walk half the loop and try to jog the second half. I vary the direction I go so sometimes I am walking through the lower, twisting part of the path and jogging along the top, straighter stretch. Then I will walk the straight part and jog the twisty part, which has a long downhill stretch that really helps buoy me along.

Today I walked to the boardwalk, which is about a half-mile from my house, so I was nice and warmed up by the time I reach the walk. I decided to go up the straight part first at a jog. I went about one minute and felt tired, so I walked a few paces for about 15 seconds, then resumed the jogging pace. I repeated this for three minutes until I reached the halfway marker at the highest point on the boardwalk.

Wow! I am tired today, I thought. That's not a good sign! I need to be getting better and stronger.

I turned around and headed back down the straight at a jog, intent on keeping going until I reach the starting point again. After about a minute, I walked a few paces and thought of Andrew. I often think of him when I am on this walk for some reason; I really feel his presence when I am out here looking over the Estuary. So I thought of him and asked him to help me find the strength to do this thing, this running thing.

I resumed my jog and it felt good--I felt energized and made my way down the boardwalk. I noted that my chest did not feel tight and I wasn't out of breath. My legs weren't hurting or tiring so much as I mentally thought about walking again, but I just willed my legs to keep moving at the jogging pace, one step after another. I got to the start point and turned to go down through the twisty path that meandered through the trees, slowing to a brisk walk.

I kept the quick walking pace all the way to the top of the loop at the halfway point, checking my stopwatch for time: 9:30 for the loop. That's a pretty fast pace for me; the loop has to be shorter than one mile. I rested at the top for about one minute, turned, and headed back down the twisty part at a fast jog. I gained momentum as I went along. Because I was feeling strong, I pushed myself to go as fast as was comfortable. Moving through the turns, I was running, actually running! It felt great! Thank you, Andrew, for running along with me, giving me strength! I feel you with me!

I checked my watch and was coming up on two minutes and I was almost to the point where I usually stopped to walk. Just a little farther...then, whoa! Turning a corner, I saw an elderly man who had moved over to the side and was protecting his little doggy from me, the approaching runner!

I screeched to a walk and said a quick "Hi" as I went past them. Since it killed my momentum, I didn't resume the jog...I was almost to my stopping spot. Had I kept the pace I would have reached it in way less time than three minutes; probably more like 2:20. That would have been my fastest time!

I continued a brisk walk all the way along the straight to the high point, then went another time around, finishing three loops in 33 minutes. I felt really good about that pace and the energy I felt while doing it. It had to be Andrew!

Since I was now technically finished with my workout, I had time to sit and rest. There was a little side path that took off the boardwalk at the high point that I had been meaning to explore, so I figured this was as good a time as any since I had no other agenda for the day. I turned down the path, expecting it to end shortly as there was a sign posted about a restoration area for the plants.

However, the trail turned and headed down the hill, deeper into the forest. Cool, I thought, an actual trail without the boardwalk. I liked it! It felt more natural, somehow. Soon the trail came to a ledge above the roadway and followed along for about 50 feet. Then it turned in again, toward some stands of oak. There were steps built into the trail, so I knew it was an established path.

Pretty soon I came to another oak grove and saw an entrance. The trees had grown in a sort of circle, creating sort of a little room underneath the trees. I entered, thinking how magical it all felt. I half expected to see Andrew sitting in there, waiting for me. It was kind of eerie in a non-scary way, because I was really looking around and sort of felt him there.

I have no idea if Andrew had ever been there, but he had lived in Los Osos for a year and explored the area. He liked to hike and bike and often went up to Montana de Oro. One day he told me about going on a run through the scrub brush area leading up to the MDO park. He said he ran for miles, kind of getting lost, but he kept running for a long time. He finally came out by the road and made his way down the hill and back to his house, but he was exhausted.

Anyway, knowing that story, I always feel like he might have been there some time and I sense a connection to him here in the Elfin Forest. I really felt him in that grove. It was cool.

As I often do, I took out my cell phone and used the camera to take several pictures. I upload them to my Facebook photo albums, one of which is about the Elfin Forest. So when I got back to the boardwalk, I sat on a bench and uploaded 20 photos I had just taken of the trail. When I got home and was editing the captions, I came to the ones of the grove and was started to see an image that resembled a human form. Looking closer, its a tree trunk, but the lighting gives it the abstract impression of a form. I think it was Andrew. I think he was with me today, encouraging me and giving me strength to reach my fitness goal.