Tag Archives: the loop

Just Doing It

How to be your own personal trainer. I should be able to do this. Look at how I have taken to writing. First thing in the morning, before getting dressed, before going online or going anywhere, I write my Morning Pages. And while I hope to make more of a dent in the writing world than just being a disciple of Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way,” I find a certain comfort in that. What else would explain why I have practiced it for more than a dozen years?

Sitting each day for Morning Pages is my zazen.

Now I am hoping to bring about another practice in the form of physical exercise. The longer I live, the more connections I see between things. Walking, writing, they are the same. In writing and in walking I am making the same expression in different mediums.

“We live as we move,” writes Julia Cameron, “a step at a time, and there is something in gentle walking that reminds me of how I must live if I am to savor this life I have been given.”

I have started with walking the 4.3 miles of The Loop daily, no ifs, ands, or buts. https://alittleelbowroom.com/2013/04/03/the-loop/

At one time I had a personal trainer. Well, I hired a friend to walk with me. Not that I don’t love to walk, I do. But this was different. She was younger, thinner, more fit than I, and faster. Whereas I am basically a browser and overly interested in homes and gardens.

One of the first things she insisted on was that I leave my little dog at home. I felt bad about that, but there would be no sniffing around in the bushes or wandering off in the grass for us. We had to hightail it every step of the way.

There is nothing like the power of the knock on the door. A personal trainer comes to your place and there is nowhere to hide and no way out. Throw in the friendship factor, and I didn’t want to inconvenience her by canceling. So I never did. Whereas left to my own devices I can come up with a million reasons why I haven’t the time: the house needs cleaning, the garden needs weeding, the manuscript needs editing, or I can convince myself that what I really need is a nap.

Now my friend has moved and I am on my own again, trying to make it happen every day. My technique is to pretend that I am her, not me. I know all my tricks too well: the penchant for short-cuts, the stop-in-my-tracks gazing at view. In other words, I have to be her to push me. It’s still a joint effort.

Then, with The Loop under my belt, I find I go out of my way to add as many more miles as I can in the course of the day. As in, one good turn deserves another. Here I think like a NYC woman, or think environmentally, and walk everywhere I can. It helps to live in a city or live in a town, but that market may be closer than you realize.

Hoping I will become as addicted to my mileage stats as I am to my blog stats on the WordPress website, my tech savvy daughters have given me a fitbit to track myself each day. Again: walking, writing, it’s the same thing. I’m getting it, really I am.

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The Loop

Seattle_-_Queen_Anne_Boulevard_mapI walk because a little flower can bring me to my senses, turn the world right side up, and give balance. Just that, the perfect, or imperfect, little plant. With nature one just has to be there, to be very present.

Nature is my religion and walking pulls me along like prayer. Particularly in spring when the set changes so fast. The orchestration of bulbs pushing up, magnolia tree blossoms on high opening like a stretch and a yawn, and wild roses scrambling to position themselves alongside a fence. Whether we garden or not, spring is reward time. Daffodils double on their own, birds carry seeds, and things hop around by wind.

I live on a hilltop in the city of Seattle ringed by a historic four mile loop. “The loop,” as it’s called, is well treed, well tred, and many of us walk or run it faithfully. To walk the loop is to indulge in everything from close-up (plants and wildlife), to midrange (architecture), and most distant: spectacular views of the city skyline, Mt. Rainier, The Sound and Olympic Mountains on one side, Lake Union and The Cascades on the other. A painter’s paradise, as all of the waterscapes are backed by mountains, and from the vantage point of Queen Anne, Mt. Rainier looms like a backdrop over downtown. This was the view in the television series, “Frasier.”

Walking clears the head. What you can leave at home is immense. On this day: concern about my father’s lingering cough, discouragement that our efforts for gun control seem to be backfiring, fear of N. Korea’s blustery “state of war” declaration, and a blog to write—as if that is going to help anything.

Anyway, it’s a start. For I am walking away from all that and toward…. Well, we’ll see.

“As artists, we are like beachcombers,” Julia Cameron observes, “walking the tide line, pocketing the oddments washed ashore—some small stray thing will tell us a story to tell the world.” And story, as we know, is what moves life along and gives it meaning.

My walking companion, the young friend I’ve hired as a personal trainer, shared stories of her eight year old daughter, Eleanor. I don’t need to tell you that for parents, these were some of the best years of our lives. And out of the blue, as her stories evolved, there came an explosion of wonderfully old fashioned names for girls, all friends of Eleanor’s, an old fashioned name as well. A world of classmates and girlfriends by the names of Penelope, Hazel, Clementine, Scarlett, Beatrice, Isabella and Madeline!

Don’t tell me I’m alone in finding this delightful?

You have to know, the older I get the more I feel I belong to that world, and it is of course eroding under my feet…. In many ways I am but a polar bear on an ice floe. But if there are three things I can do they are: to worship nature, to walk, and to write.

Forget the NRA. Forget Kim Jong Un. Today’s walk was suddenly worth it for this, the pleasure of these wonderfully old fashioned names. There’s a story there and I will write it.

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Working with Friends

An article came across my screen which I printed, highlighted, dog-eared, pinned up, and have lived with these last few days. “Ten Things I Have Learned: Milton Glaser” was part of a talk he gave in London at AIGA, the professional association for design. I wish I could say I was there.

1. You Can Only Work For People You Like

This is a curious rule and it took me a long time to learn because at the beginning of my practice I felt the opposite. Professionalism required that you didn’t particularly like the people that you worked for or at least maintained an arms length relationship to them, which meant that I never had lunch with a client or saw them socially. Then some years ago I realized that the opposite was true. I discovered that all the work I had done that was meaningful and significant came out of an affectionate relationship with a client. And I am not talking about professionalism; I am talking about affection. I am talking about a client and you sharing some common ground. That in fact your view of life is in someway congruent with the client, otherwise it is a bitter and hopeless struggle. 

We’re not all name architects like Milton Glaser, or name anything, but this gave me pause and made me want to throw out everything I had ever heard about working with friends, namely that it would hurt the friendship. With that in mind, I asked around, “What experiences have you had working with friends?” And the response was nothing but positive.

One of my sisters in Boston has hired friends on a number of occasions for assistance in organization, interior design, and dance, as well as piano instruction. “It’s a chance to further develop our relationship, appreciate their work self, and I don’t feel taken advantage of financially. Overall I love and respect their work and it’s much more fun,” she notes.

A friend in Laguna Beach called on a close friend, a landscape architect, to redesign her grounds, and “the contractor we hired to remodel our house was a friend, as was one of the other contractors we asked to bid. I was pretty nervous about asking someone we knew socially to bid, but both of them were so highly recommended by so many people, we had to…. One of the hardest  parts was telling the contractor we didn’t hire that we chose a different contractor. Harder because he was a friend. I got him a gift certificate, apologized, etc. But also ended up recommending them both for a huge job which he ended up getting.” So it all worked.

My sister-in-law in The Bay Area sees her friendships and working relations as one giant crossword puzzle. Former employees have become close friends. At one time she worked for her closest friend for several years, as did other friends. “I would hire and work with them again,” she says. “I think they would agree to work with me,” or in one case, “I would work for her.”

Back in Boston, my sister adds that she “loves supporting (in all ways) and learning about my friends at work.” If anything, “there have certainly been times I’ve had to remind myself not to discuss other things. I deal with my urges by asking if they have time when we’re done or if they’re free to get together later.” Her advice: be selective and look for the most “competent, focused and professional so it’s easy.”

Where I live on Queen Anne in Seattle there exists a culture of “walking the loop,” a four mile route around the top of the hill. Passing under canopies of majestic oaks, walnut, and chestnut trees, overlooking Lake Union and Cascade Mountain Range to the east, Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains on the west side of the hill, many of us aim to do it every day for our souls as well as our bodies. But there’s walking and there’s strolling, so one of our oh-so-fit friends works as a personal trainer for a couple of her friends. She knows to leave her little dog at home, look fabulous in workout clothes, get all wired up with ear buds and music, turn her cap backward and go like a train. Anyone who sees her out walking knows better than to stop and talk; a quick wave will have to do. And now some of us are going with her, including me.

Among those asked, the experiences shared of working with friends were both relationship building and community building. In fact, that was all I heard. To Milton Glaser’s suggestion that you only work for people you like, I would add: and only hire those you like.

And imagine what a different world it would be.

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