Posted in Sunday mornings, Writing

Notes on a Sunday

I mentioned yesterday that I want to incorporate running as much as possible back into my life, partly as a stress-reliever (few other activities relax me nearly as well and as completely as running does, and it adds so much more energy to my day to boot!), and partly as a health and fitness activity I actually enjoy and need more of as I get older and my body needs more movement than it used to just to function properly.

Well, today, I took the opposite direction and went hiking instead, and it absolutely counts! Living out here in the high desert region of the American West, I literally am less than a 10-mile drive from thousands of acres of fantastic hiking and cycling trails. This morning we took our senior pup, D-Dog, to a one-mile loop in a park that’s renowned for its preserved fossils and breathtaking rock formations. We weren’t sure he was going to be able to handle the sometimes-rocky terrain, but he was a trouper and enjoyed himself immensely. The topography is only slightly undulating, with a mostly level dirt trail that sometimes crossed ancient riverbeds, but it was a decent effort for all of us under a dazzling blue sky and lots and lots of sunshine.

Afterwards we stopped at our favorite coffee shop and picked up some fresh-baked scones and coffees. (Café au lait with whole milk for me, café au lait with oat milk for P.) Their scones are so popular that they usually sell out by 9am, but having learned my lesson too many times, I’ve taken to calling first thing in the morning and asking them to reserve a couple for us. This morning they had lavender scones, something called “blue basil” which I think is blueberry + basil, and a vegan lemon rosemary scone. We picked up 2 of the lavender and one each of the blue basil and vegan scone. And then we couldn’t resist adding a pumpkin muffin because the barista said it was literally fresh out of the oven, and I would have been mad to pass that up.

We came home, dropped off D-Dog, and then almost immediately turned around and headed to town to attend a new dog training class for our big dog, M. It’s the first session, and the trainer said it’s an orientation for the pet parents only, so this time M. stayed home, but will be attending all future sessions.

Although we’d worked with this trainer for almost a year now, all of her sessions to date had been at our home, but this time M. had “graduated” to an in-class session. We hadn’t ever been to the training facility, so when we pulled into the parking lot of their building, we were distracted and in awe of the location: right next to a nondescript government building housing an outpost of the US Department of Energy. It turns out to have been the site of a uranium mining and processing facility that was built to support the Manhattan Project. There are signs along the river behind the building telling visitors not to swim in the water nor consume any fish caught in it. Wow.

As it’s a Sunday, there was no one around the property other than the trainer, so the quiet and somewhat remote location lent an almost otherworldly atmosphere to the desert surrounding the buildings. We left there a little over an hour later vowing to return once Covid had opened up the facility to public visitors.

I just finished writing 761 words in my novel, so now I’m going to spend the rest of the day reading a new mystery novel I picked up at the library and basically just relaxing. The part of me that is obsessed with productivity and ambition wants to get up and start preparing for work tomorrow, but I have to remind myself that, no matter what stories I tell myself, burnout is real, and if I’m not careful, I’ll end up as frazzled and depleted as I found myself last week. It’s interesting that I have to will myself to relax, but I guess that’s the “-aholic” part of “workaholic”. And why I titled this blog My Inner French Girl: she’s a constant reminder to myself to enjoy life and indulge in all its pleasures. Including the pleasure of doing nothing.

Posted in Sunday mornings

Sunday mornings

I went for a run this morning after ~3 weeks (? – I don’t dare check exactly how many, just that it was sometime in early August that I last hit the pavement), and oh, why do I ever stop doing this? Running gives me life and energy, and especially on sunny mornings, cool or hot, humid or not, running is a joy and a release. It wasn’t as challenging as I thought it would be, in fact, it was remarkable even and smooth, and I finished just a few seconds short of my usual pace at my peak. I’m 48 and I’ll forever be a back-of-the-packer, but that’s where I like to hang out, in the anonymity of the crowd.

We had breakfast on the back patio: a slice of this Triple Chocolate Zucchini Bread, which I made last week after an especially abundant haul from our garden, and my usual café au lait, with unsweetened soymilk. The dogs let us relax for almost an hour before they started growing restless and barking at the slightest noise from the street. I love Sunday mornings like this and am determined to keep this tradition for as long as the weather will let me.

Today I’ve no plans other than to read and write, mayyyyyybe attempt to set up this MyCloud external storage drive that I’ve had for over two years and remains unwrapped and neglected in its box. Oh! It’s not an activity I’ve relished diving into — clearly, given its tenure in my storage closet despite a cross-country move — but I’ve been wary about losing data ever since ~200 pages of my war novel was sucked into oblivion when my MacBook crashed irrevocably during a business trip to Glasgow 3 years ago. So I am determined to triple-back up everything.

Oh! And I just remembered that the Cobalt Betty teapot that I’d ordered last weekend is scheduled to arrive today! After reading Anne Barone’s glowing review of it sometime ago, I decided to take the plunge and buy it. The 4-cup version is relatively inexpensive at about $30, plus I added an strainer — I’ve had trouble in the past with truly stainless and rustproof infusers so I thought I’d try a strainer this time — which brought the total to about $44, including shipping and taxes. I’ve found myself drinking a lot more tea in the afternoon, using a hefty, thick mug that I love and which is part of my employer’s swag for our enterprise customers, but now I want to be more deliberate about the accessories that I use when engaging in my now-regular afternoon ritual.

When I lived in Japan many years ago, the “office lady” (that’s really what they were called, although in hindsight I should have asked what exactly was printed on their business cards or what they wrote under “occupation” on their tax forms, because surely “office lady” isn’t a real title?) would go around mid-morning with tall, slender glasses of cold mugi-cha in the summer, and hot cups of green tea mid-afternoon throughout the year. Sometimes there would be a small pastry to accompany the drink — always in the afternoon, never in the morning — but more often than not we would just have the tea.

During my first few weeks I found the tea bitter and just barely palatable, mostly because the only tea I’d ever drunk in my life before then was Lipton, and even then that was rare. Tea was something other people drank. I drank water and Coke. But as the weeks and months and years went on, the daily ritual of mid-morning and mid-afternoon tea breaks, plus the occasional tea ceremonies — formal and informal — I’d take part in turned me on to the whole idea of tea as an experience, not merely a hot beverage. By the end of my two-year tenure in Japan I had an entire shelf full of different teas — fruit teas, herbal teas, varieties of green and black, who knew there could be so many different teas? — and 8 years later I found myself visiting a tea plantation in Darjeeling, where I spent a week backpacking. I love reading about different tea — and often coffee — rituals around the world, from India to England, even the fika tradition in Sweden, which is about coffee but to which tea is most welcome as well.

So today my Cobalt Betty will come, and I will baptize it with a cup of loose leaf lavender tea and slice of homemade banana bread. The Sunday could not be more perfect.