“Moderate to Strenuous” (Mt. Sanitas, Round 1)

*Gasp-huff-gasp!*

My legs quaked as I braced my hands on my thighs to suck air. Panting, I raised my head to look at the trail.

And yet another rise that loomed in front of me.

Holy crap! Fuck this shit!

Sanitas 1

—–

Eight hours earlier….

It was late on a Saturday night, and I was already nervous at the prospect of trying something new, let alone meeting new people. But it was an innocuous enough label on the hike I was was considering signing up for the following morning. “Mt. Sanitas, Boulder. Moderate-to-strenuous,” it said. Well….

I’m in shape, I reasoned. I walk for 20 minutes a day, and hiking is just walking on a trail, right?

I also do yoga five days a week, plus strength training. Plus, the hike was nearby, in Boulder, so I wouldn’t have to drive that far, and the start-time was a reasonable 9 a.m. (not 6:30 a.m., like some of the other hikes). Out of excuses for a milisecond, I quickly clicked the button. No turning back now.

The next morning I woke up at my usual time, showered, and applied my makeup (taking extra time, to make it look like I’d barely taken any time with it). Then, due to a bad map on the hiking site, I arrived somewhere in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Not a trailhead in sight. Fortunately, the hike’s organizer had left his cell number on the website. “Oh yeah, the map on the site is wrong,” he apologized… and spent the next 10 minutes talking me through as I drove to the correct place. By the time I found parking and hoofed it several blocks to the trailhead the group was long gone. There was a sign posted at the trailhead warning people of recent mountain lion sightings.

I decided to do the hike on my own, anyway. (There were lots of other hikers out. Odds are the mountain lions would eat one of them first.)

I set out and quickly hit the first set of “stairs” — a series of two-foot high boulders set into the slope. Giant step up, giant step up, giant step up…. After about a hundred ungodly paces, the stairs evened out onto a steppe. Okay *breathe, breathe* that wasn’t so bad. I looked ahead to see that the trail went flat for about ten feet, then went up again. Okaaaayyy…..

—–

I was getting lapped by scores of other people: teenagers, other people “my age” (who were probably from Boulder — i.e. Hippie-Health Central), and even by senior citizens (evidently the altitude had affected their abilities to tell that they were too old for this).

And joggers.

Yes, I was being lapped by people who were running — uphill — and downhill — over the giant two-foot rocks and past me. Instead of Sanitas, I began to call the mountain Sandinistas; I could see Nicaraguan rebels using this as a training course.

Moderate to strenuous? Are you fucking kidding me?!? 

That was when I realized that “moderate to strenuous” for Colorado was different from “moderate to strenuous” for the rest of the U.S. And “moderate to strenuous” for Boulder was different from “moderate to strenuous” for the rest of Colorado. I’m in good shape compared to the rest of the country. I worked hard to get to where I am, and I wear a size 4. That’s skinny in the rest of the country.

It’s average in Colorado. I’m in average shape for Colorado.

But now, I wasn’t just in Colorado. I was in Boulder Country.

Gah!

After about five rounds of fuck this shit. in my head, I knew I wasn’t going to quit — had known it from the start — because that’s just not how I roll. But it made me feel better to give myself permission to dismiss the mountain.

Sanitas.

The Bitch.

And then finally, when I was ready to die, I reached another set of boulders that just had to be the top. There were others, who appeared to be part of a group, panting, too.

“Y’all don’t happen to be Boulder Social Hikers, do you?” I asked.

“Yes, we are.”

Hallelujah! I didn’t even care about the sweat trickling down my nose or how my ponytail had held up. I was just grateful to have caught up with the group. And to still be cognizant and upright.

Sanitas 2

Going down was the easy part. I caught my breath, chatted with some of the other hikers. It was nice. But I haven’t forgotten the way up. And I haven’t forgotten how that mountain almost got the best of me.

Almost.

Sanitas, I’m coming for a rematch. You won’t know when, but someday, when you least expect it, I’ll be at your base. (If you have expectations, that is. You’re a mountain, for pete’s sake.) Just you and me.

Be ready, bitch.

New Day

WP_001042I am the Dawn.

I am the Light

and

the Darkness.

I encompass both

and many nuances in-between.

Little miss Sunshine? Ha! Not quite.

That’s not my description.

(Chin up, Buttercup: you’ll make it through the black.)

You see me radiant,

and you want the light.

Always the light.

Only the light.

But to know me you must know both.

And to have me you must accept both.

For the darkness, though difficult, is equally rewarding –

a promise I do not make lightly.

Listen to the sounds of the night. Become one with them.

Embrace your own darkness

and you can begin to embrace me

and mine.

Only then can you truly see my blaze

and become one with it.

It is always darkest before the dawn.

But

I am the Dawn.

WP_001063

My Interview with Boulder Writers’ Workshop

I know I haven’t blogged in a while. Okay, in like almost 4 months. And I’m not gonna break it yet… but I want to share an interview I did for my writers’ group, Boulder Writers’ Workshop: http://www.boulderwritersworkshop.org/2014/05/11/member-spotlight-dawn-rinken/

A case of laziness or self-defense? You decide….

I was going to write about my first two, never-saw-that-coming(!) weeks back in the workforce after fifteen and a half years of being a stay-at-home mom. But something else has wiggled its way in and needs to be blogged about first. It happened three days ago, on Thursday.

I was on my way home from work and made a quick pit-stop at the liquor store for a bottle of wine. Back outside, the neck of my paper-bagged bottle in one hand (which, the thought crossed my mind, made me look like a wino, but with better shoes), and my keys in the other, I was about to open my car door when a voice called out.

“Excuse me!”

I looked up to where the woman was standing, about twenty feet away, under the awning of the convenience-mart adjacent to the liquor store. From the distance, she looked about my age and was sensibly dressed, in pants and a winter jacket. But I felt myself get instantly wary… and then berated myself for going to the inner-suspicious place.  Maybe she’s just going to ask for the time, I reasoned. Nope.  

“Are you going this way?” she asked, pointing left, up the block.

This was, of course, the way I would have normally headed to go home, a mere mile and a half away. It was just after five, dusky-ish, and any warmth from the sunny, January day was quickly diminishing. I wouldn’t want to be outside in the cold if I didn’t have to be. Empathy for the woman began to push against my caution. I could hear the echo of my kids’ voices chanting “Stranger danger!” But the echo wrestled with my mother’s voice, saying things about “acts of charity” and helping others in need. My spider senses were tingling. Or were they? Maybe, I worried, I just being uncharitable and didn’t want to be bothered with the hassle of taking an extra five minutes out of my day to help a fellow human being. Historically, I’d always tried to make people happy and help them. I was a people-pleaser. And a conflict-avoider.  (The easiest way to avoid conflict with someone is to just say, “yes” and give them what they want.) 

Then again, I was still wary.

I felt my head shake and a “no” croaked out of my throat. The woman kept talking, as though she hadn’t heard me (which she probably hadn’t — I hadn’t spoken very loudly).

“I just need to get up there — it’s just by the middle school — and I don’t want to have to walk that far with my prosthetic leg.” 

Oh, great. Now, not only am I being uncharitable, but if she’s telling the truth, then I’m stranding a cripple! The middle school was a half-mile away. Not that far, but maybe it would seem like it if you had a prosthetic leg. The guilt of that thought, however, was accompanied by a Big Red Flag. What I mean by this is that I had the sensation — instinct? — that something was fishy about this whole scenario. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I could feel it. Something was off. I’ve learned to identify when I’m getting the Red Flag signal and to pay attention to it. Unfortunately, I’ve had too many times in my life where I’ve ignored these types of sensations. Always to my detriment. (People-pleaser!)

Suddenly, the words of my two self-defense instructors came into my head: “The best way to get out of a bad situation is not to be there.” Pay attention to the Flags and get out of the scenario before you get into a position where you can’t.

“I’m not going that way,” I said, clearing my throat.

“You’re going that way?” she exclaimed, her face lighting up. A brisk wind picked up, sending a shuddering preview of the rapidly dropping temp. My heart wavered at her hopefulness. Was I doing the right thing? Or just being cruel. Or even lazy. But I wouldn’t ignore the Flag, for whatever reason it had popped up. Yeah, something was off, here.

“No,” I said firmly, shaking my head again and opening the door of my nice, warm car. “Sorry. I’m not going that way.”

I got in and started the engine. Then, worried that the woman might be vindictive or mentally unstable, I actually went right instead of left. Because what if she saw me go left, and took down my license number and tracked down where I lived? Overkill on the paranoia? Probably. What should have been a three minute drive home took more like ten. I was resentful, too, that she’d put me in that position. And that I was too much of a coward to have made the left-hand turn. Then again, I’m around to tell the tale.

So: what would you have done?

Basic instincts: What drives us?

It is the deepest desire of the human heart to be known and loved.

This is something my spiritual adviser said to me a few months ago. I was struck by its profoundness, simplicity, and absolute truth. As soon as he said it, I felt the “click” — everything inside me went, “Yes, of course,” as though this thought had already existed in my soul and was just then being woken up.

Conversely, it followed that the deepest fear of the human heart would be to never be known or loved. That rang scarily true, too. What if…? *shudder* Well, maybe that’s too deep a glimpse into my darkest recesses….

In my ensuing ruminations on the quote, it occurred to me to add the following:

And, in being known, to be loved not in spite of who you are, but because of it.

These concepts have had immediate impact in my personal life, but I am eager to see how they will manifest with my characters, too. Eventually. When I’ve processed them more. ;)

it is the deepest desire

 

Fiction Relay – Part 51

Keeping one hand on Spence’s back, Blue reached her hand out and felt along the wall, trying not to stumble in the pitch black tunnel. Her fingers touched a cluster of long, dry reedy things that felt like withered roots. And if there were roots, she reasoned, even dry ones, they couldn’t be that far from the surface. But not close enough to punch a hole through and hope for some light.

Fiction Relay — Part 47 (by me)
Fiction Relay — Part 48 (by TRG)
Fiction Relay — Part 49 (by Joanne)
Fiction Relay — Part 50 (by KC)

Links to the entire story: Fiction Relay Homepage. (Or, the Reader’s Digest condensed version on the Fiction Relay Summary page.)

 

Reaching her hand higher, she snapped part of a root off. Flicking her wrist she muttered, “Lumos!” Nothing happened. Fuck Harry Potter. She dropped the root, reached her hand back along the wall, and slid her other hand from Spence’s back to his shoulder, trailing down his arm to interlace their fingers.

“How do you know where we’re going?” she asked Spence.

“Uh, this was the only way out.”

“How do you know it leads out?”

“I don’t. But the hole in the wall appeared right after that old witch-lady threw that light-bomb at it. Right before she disappeared.”

“Oh, good. We’re following a hag-trail.” Blue grimaced and shook her head. “Crazy old voodoo-mama. Throwing light-bombs. Saying you dug out that space we landed in back there, You scoop this here hole outta you mama, boy!’ As if the mountain was your mother. A mountain-mama! What, did she think you were John Denver?”Blue gave a superior huff. “And calling us twins. Eeww! I would soooo not have hot monkey sex with my brother. Bat. shit. crazy. bitch.” She shuddered.

“Hot monkey sex? Mmmm….” She could hear the teasing grin in Spence’s voice, and he gave her hand an affectionate squeeze.

“I’m serious, Spence. Doesn’t it gross you out?”

“Relax, babe. We’re sure as hell not twins, because I’m two years older than you. And there’s no way we’re related because we have two completely different dads, and we do not have the same mom. Megan was eighteen when you were born, and even if she’d had another kid at sixteen, and forgot it like she forgot about you… Sorry,” he added as he felt Blue’s wince in his mind, “but even if she’d forgotten having another kid, either Sam or Ephraim would’ve remembered that. They were all together back then. We’re not related.”

Blue sighed, feeling relieved at his logic. Despite how weird her life had been, and how even more weird it had gotten lately, Spence’s words rang true. She could feel it. They weren’t related. At least not by blood. The ground beneath them rose on an incline. Spencer pulled her to the right as the tunnel began to curve. There were no more roots on the walls. They seemed to be headed deeper into the mountain.

“Plus, you remember your own mom,” she said. Spence didn’t respond. “Right?” she prodded.

“I’m not sure,” he finally answered. His voice sounded distant, sad. “I have memories of her — of my mother… of a mother — but now that I’m trying to remember her the memories don’t seem real. It’s like I’m remembering a story someone told me. I don’t know. I think something happened to me in that secret altar-room of Sanderson’s. Like I was finally seeing the truth about something, but I’m not sure what I’m seeing yet. I haven’t put the puzzle pieces together.”

A dim light shone far ahead. It seemed to be coming from around a corner. As they neared, though, they both suddenly stopped in their tracks. A half-human scream/howl echoed off the tunnel walls. The sound was followed by a crash.

Shit! Spencer whispered in Blue’s mind.

Don’t go into the light, Carol Anne, Blue murmured back mentally, her body trembling. She tugged Spence’s hand to go backward.

Yeah, Spence agreed, refusing to budge. Only problem is — can’t you feel it? That’s the way we have to go.

—–

Megan backed away, wondering if she could make it around the large room and to the door for her escape. She hated leaving Sam and Ephraim, especially in this place that was such a cruel replica of the lab they’d all been tortured in, but Sam was right: she had to get to Samantha. There were too many people too interested in their daughter, and if, as Jose had theorized, Samantha might have the power to beat Sanderson, then she was in danger. Megan and Sam’s daughter was walking around with a target on her back and had only limited time before she would be hunted. Megan couldn’t — wouldn’t — allow that to happen. She stepped over Ephraim’s unconscious form and held her breath. Maybe the thick clouds of smoke would shroud her.

Raj continued his transformation. Megan kept tabs on Melissa, noting that the woman seemed so distracted by Raj that she didn’t notice Megan making her way around the room’s perimeter.

Raj fell to the floor with a thud. He writhed, and a half-human scream discharged from his throat, echoing off the cavern walls in a barking howl. His legs thrashed out so violently that he kicked the stainless steel table free of the bolts that fastened it to the center of the floor. The heavy table skittered as though it were made of tin foil. Megan jumped backward, just before a corner of it lanced a section of wall that was right where Megan’s torso had been. The loud crash muffled her gasp, but she realized the commotion had probably already drawn attention to her position. And the fact that she was trying to escape. She looked up in alarm. Her fears were verified. Melissa was staring straight at her. 

“Oh, no you don’t, Meagan!” Melissa sneered. She side-stepped until she blocked the room’s only exit. Sam growled and lunged at Melissa. Just then Raj finished his transformation. He snarled and got his monster claws under him. Panting, he rose to his full height above the smoke, his jaws pulling into a hideous smile at Sam.

And that’s when Megan saw it. Through the haze, beneath Raj’s feet, in a spot the stainless steel table had once covered, there was a small, square outline in the floor. A trapdoor.

And suddenly Megan knew that beneath it she would find the box that Sanderson so desperately wanted.

—–

Okay, Bossman. It’s The Reclining Gentleman’s turn! :)