Out of Balance

How’s your equilibrium? About 10 blogs ago I wrote about “Balance and Goals”. Lately, often, I find my mind going back there. Balance is so important!…in so many ways.

Attending the Oscars, on my knee scooter.

A few months ago, I had foot surgery to correct several lifelong bone deformities. The massive event included sawing bone in several places, fusing bones, adding a titanium plate, long and short screws and several incisions. The surgeon took my foot apart and put it back together, better.

Normally I don’t dwell on health issues here. But health is a tricky concept. What does ‘healthy’ mean, for you?

For me, it always meant being able to do all the activities that feed my soul, that make me whole. Running. Biking. Hiking. Climbing. Walking/striding miles and miles…. I’ve been lucky that my life had never been interrupted by my body’s demands.

Until now.

If I knew how all this was going to end, I wouldn’t mind a few months of forced inactivity. A bit of vacation! But that’s the kicker — not knowing. Will I ever be able to walk normally again? Not a given. Will the titanium plate ever stop hurting? Will I ever run again, ever be able to squeeze my foot into a climbing shoe again, and depend on my toes to hold onto a tiny chip of rock to push me higher? Can’t even imagine it, right now.

There’s very little certainty in life. I know that. But not knowing if I’ll ever have my life back…that’s hard.

Have you ever been down with a long-term injury or illness? How do you deal with the not knowing? The interminable, unending waiting, and hoping? It’s been almost 6 months now. Getting hard to maintain hope….

Can’t wait to get back…!

Flag Day / Father’s Day

Happy flag day! Happy Father’s Day! – two holidays that have always blended together, for me.

My father was a Veteran of World War II. He, and all the other men I knew who had been in that war, never talked about it. He had lots of funny stories about the men he served with and some of their antics. About how beautiful Paris was. About the strange cultures he encountered in North Africa. But never about the war.

He was a patriot. He truly loved this country and what it represented everywhere he went. He proudly wore a red poppy

in his lapel each Memorial Day. He never missed the opportunity to vote. He studied our government and the people who work in it, closely and regularly. He talked about it with anyone who would let him. If you’d told him he was a patriot, he would have waved away your words and said something like, “I’m just a citizen.”

Being from a family of immigrants, he understood the underdog. Having grown up in Hell’s Kitchen, he knew poverty and under-privilege. And having served in the war in places so poor most of us here can’t imagine, he knew that the poorest immigrant in America can have a far better life than many ordinary people in other parts of the world.

He was a patriot – but not jingoistic. He would never have uttered the words “America first”, since he’d seen first-hand in Europe what can come of such thinking. He would have been appalled by some of the vitriol being spewed by politicians on television and on line. Disregard for facts or common sense or decency on the part of our leaders angered him.

Humility, compassion and intelligence were his guidelines, in politics as in life. If only we could bring those traits back to our political landscape!

For this Flag Day and Father’s Day, I hope that my father’s life’s guidelines – humility, compassion and intelligence – will once again guide our national discourse toward a future he would have been proud of.

The Loneliest Job, or Book Touring 101

When you sit alone in your house and write a book, you never know how it will be received. Writing is bizarre — you work on it completely alone, then you send it out to be read by the public. Two extremes. It’s hard to guess how someone you’ve never met will react to the words you labored over, so intimately, for so long.

A book tour makes it clear.

The Sharp End of Life,” my most recent book, was published by Mountaineers Books on May 2. For the last few weeks, I’ve been on a book tour — so I thought I’d share some highlights of the experience.

From Sacramento, I went to several bookstores in the Bay Area. Without exception, store personnel and audiences alike were friendly, open, helpful and very receptive. When I drove up to Tahoe City for an event at Alpenglow Sports, I had to drive both ways through the 7,000ft+ pass in blizzard conditions (yes, almost June!). Haven’t driven through that kind of thick, wild snow since I lived in New York!

At this store, Adventure 16 Sports, in L.A., the manager said they’d never seen an audience at any of their events so completely attentive and quiet, so riveted by the author’s story. I guess something about setting massive goals in your senior years, and accomplishing them, resonates with people who — if they’re lucky — are all heading toward their senior years.

Sometimes the signing of books takes place in a crowd scene (if you’re lucky!)… and sometimes a more intimate setting — both equally satisfying. I love chatting with the people who read my work and respond to my adventures with some of their own, either completed or simply dreamt about.

Sometimes there are surprises — like when I spoke at Books Inc., in Berkeley, and the narrator of my audio book, Ann M. Richardson, was in the audience! So lovely to meet her and chat about her craft and my book.

And sometimes, it takes you to the most gorgeous places! When I signed books at the North Face Store high up above Telluride, CO, at the Mountainfilm Festival, I got to ride this incredible three-part gondola about 2,000 feet up from Telluride (seen here far below) to Mountain Village. A breathtaking ride!

I hope you enjoyed your tour of my tour! I’ll leave you with some just plain pretty sights that I got to savor while I was on the road. Books are great, but I always try to stop and smell some roses, wherever I am.


Rose garden in Pasadena

Jacaranda tree in Glendale.