Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for Garden

Every Gate has a Message

Gates are a marvelous architectural element. They sometimes provide entrances, sometimes borders, and always a message. That message can be through a written announcement, but sometimes through tone, whether that be a welcoming walk or a flowering garden behind that gate.

Let’s take a stroll through a few.

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There are gates that entice you to step through to a shady spot on a warm summer’s day,

 

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There are gates that call us back to a nostalgic time when life appeared to be simpler and quieter.

There are gates that establish a sense of place, character and work. Both of the photos above tell us we are near the sea. The beach shingle style covering of the gate to a home in East Hampton, New York off the Atlantic Ocean doesn’t need a sign to tell us we are near the sea. The solid iron gate complete with anchor tells us we are in fishing territory, a place for hardy souls. Indeed, the gate is found in the West Fjords of Iceland not too far south of the Arctic Circle.

 

And then there are the gates where, along with the mood setting, signage or written direction is there to ensure that we know for certain we, or at least some, are not welcome. The beautifully designed gate in the Old Town of Tallinn, Estonia, may once have been welcoming, but now has an oversized lock and chain and a tow-away sign. The gate with a “tradesman” sign can be found on a London townhouse, once (and perhaps in some cases still) the indication that deliveries and work of tradespeople took place through this entrance rather than the formal main entrance. The additional two garden gates are from Holland Park in London and a private residence in Hampstead, each with a clear message.

I hope you have enjoyed your stroll through gates around the world. Just don’t park in front of that gate in Estonia.

via Daily Prompt: Gate

Congratulations Mother Earth on a Resilient 2016

In spite of everything we throw at her, Mother Earth finds a way to cope and thrive. Regardless of how disappointing we humans can be in our actions, getting outdoors never fails to regenerate hope. Here are a few examples that popped up before my eyes during 2016.

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January hikers on the Appalachian Trail (AT) enthralled with the view of morning mist over the farm fields below.

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A clear February sky over the iced Susquehanna River.

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A March day along the Capital Area Greenbelt with fresh buds on cherry trees.

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April brings the strains of jazz murmuring through the trees as the ensemble waits the arrival of the Capital 10-Miler runners along this wooded stretch of Greenbelt.

In June, the Rhinebeck Marathon included some miles on a heritage trail. On a smaller scale, the baby turtles began making their treks out of hiding along Wildwood Lake.

 

A July run down a country road brings into view a fisherman knee deep in waders. The stone building abutting the bubbling creek demonstrates its own resilience having stood strong for over a couple of centuries.

In August, nature brings us a spider web glistening in the morning sun. While the web may not be resilient, its creator is.  A run brought me to an ambling creek flowing by temporarily abandoned lawn chairs.

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A September view of the River Thames. Over the thousands of years it has flowed, the course has been altered by time and by humans.

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Not as old as the Thames, this grape vine growing at Hampton Court is more than 230 years old. Alas, I arrived too late in September to purchase jelly from its abundant crop.

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October took me to the banks of the Chicago River where it flows into Lake Michigan, a lake that was formed billions of years ago. It will outlast the concrete buildings and bridges surrounding it.

 

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A November breakfast at a café in the 540 million year old Laurentian Mountains was enjoyed on the warm side of this window.

What have I found to be resilient in December? That we have made it through a trying year with one day to go may be the best description of resilient. Mother Earth is still holding her own and so should we.

If you would like to see the perspective of other writers and photographers, take a look at these ideas on the meaning of resilient.

 

 

A Walk through London Parks

Sometimes you just need to walk away. A park is just the place to temporarily escape. If you can’t physically get up and take that walk, it helps to remember a favorite trail or an unexpected quiet place. I’m taking my mental walk through some enchanting parks found in London. Come along with me.

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Let’s start with Holland Park. Entering through the gates at Kensington High Street, first notice the remains of a 17th Century castle named Holland House. It was damaged during World War II and that is still evident.

The park has multiple areas for exercise and sports, but it is serenity we’re looking for and it can be found here amongst the English gardens,

the Kyoto Garden,

and a natural children’s play area that may make you wish you were still a child.

Next, we’ll move to Postman’s Park. Located in the City near St. Paul’s Cathedral, walk through the unassuming entrance under the shade of its trees. The traffic and tourist noise diminishes. We are now in good company. The park is dedicated to memorializing ordinary people who died to save others.

Read the poignant stories of those honored on the plaques, or simply sit quietly.

Here, the clatter of those telling us of their greatness can’t compare with the brave and spontaneous deeds of those who would not otherwise be remembered. Their names will not appear on the side of a building, but here in this tiny park they are remembered.

We’ll finish with a walk across the Hampstead Heath. The Heath is there to enjoy today because forward thinking Brits of the 19th century fought to keep it common land. The Heath is made up of forests, ponds and heath, large scrubby grass areas. While it provides wonderful views of London, if our purpose is to clear the mind, then keep your eyes on the beauty of open space.  Do some people watching. The area is so vast, we have the company of others but can still feel as though we are in a wilderness of sorts.

There, now. Doesn’t our park walk improve your outlook? With patience and perspective restored by the memory of those beautiful green places, I hope your are  ready to return with me to today’s reality.

Where do you go when the world gets to be too much? I’m  open to finding new destinations to recharge.

 

 

 

 

London Running – Take 2

It started out as a 9-miler. I hadn’t yet seen Regent’s Park on my London visit. Roughly gauging the distance, I was off on a sunny 60-degree morning. Skirting the edge of Hyde Park, then down Oxford Street winding around people headed for their office and appointments, seriously talking on their cell phones with apparently a heavier agenda than me. Me, I’m just running.

Taking a left off Oxford, I find my way through several zig-zaggy streets to an opening to the park. I plan to do a half-circle and return back to my flat. As I pass the London Zoo entrance, I see a towpath below with a few people biking and walking. Hmm, better check this out.

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View of towpath and canal near London Zoo entrance to Regents Park

Entering the towpath, I get a beautiful view of a few boats making their way down the canal.

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Zoo aviary from towpath view. Who can identify the birds?

Then, I hear some beautiful birdsong. Looking up, I see a netting and discover an aviary overhead, my free look into the London Zoo (a senior runner has to be frugal).

Continuing on I see a sign that reads “Cyclists Dismount” and the path becomes a series of permanently harbored boats on the canal side and a variety of seating and gardening plots on the wall side.

Here the path ends, so I exchange a few greetings with owners, puttering about their boats and gardens.

Returning down the path, I decide to check out the opposite end of the canal, you know, just to see where it goes. After roughly a mile, an arched metal bridge ends the path and what do I come upon: Camden Lock Market.

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Having told my traveling friend emphatically I wasn’t interested in seeing this market, here I am. And, it is a wonderful market. Pausing my Garmin, I make my way through the warren of hats, hand-made clothing, crafts, books and food. Oh, the food. Every ethnic cuisine you might want is here.

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Spotting a cook stirring a huge, beautiful pan of paella I knew it was time to leave. With at least of 5-mile return trip, I dared not indulge.

Back to the path into Regent’s Park, across the road is Primrose Hill which gives an extraordinary view of the park and surrounding sites in London.

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After a short but tough run up to take in the view and back down to the outer circle, this time I come across a side path to a beautiful track. Several casual runners are using it and I wouldn’t leave without doing at least one loop.

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Again back to the outer circle, I see I can give a short visit to the inner circle and the Queen Mary’s Garden, then cut across for my return. Here, the flowers are still brilliantly beautiful in this unusually warm London September. Residents at ease with this day are enjoying a morning coffee in lawn chairs.

Seriously now, it’s time to finish this run. Routing through Marylebone to the Marble Arch and Hyde Park, I stopped at the open air cafe near the Senior Playground (in this case senior is not limited to seniors like your author, but anyone who is not a child),  I chose an energy drink for the cooldown.

My 9-miler had grown to a 16-miler with every mile enjoyed. I walk mile 17 back and prepare for something more sedentary for the remainder of the day.

Whirlwind Wedding Days in Montreal

How often does the opportunity present itself to enjoy a number of the most fulfilling things in life in a single weekend? Things like family, friends, flowers, food, travel, music, and, of course, running. All this was wound around wedding activities of my godson and his beautiful bride in the vibrant city of Montréal.

Wedding at La Toundra

Wedding at La Toundra

If Montréal is not on your “cities I must visit” list, please consider adding it. And since the wedding couple shared a few favorite restaurants and other locales during their Wedding Week, I will in turn share them with you.

Nil Bleu – An Ethiopian restaurant with beautifully presented food and a soft ambience.

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The pre-wedding day dinner was relaxed as we casually worked our way from the appetizer tray to many other courses that followed. The details of each course escape me now as I was enjoying seeing old friends and meeting new. Never fear, though. This recent review in MontrealResto captures the ambience of Nil Bleu, as well as the aroma and flavor of the food.

La Toundra was the locations of the lovely afternoon wedding  surrounded by blooming gardens and a Grand Prix race course (we arrive not in a Formula 1 but in a taxi).

After a beautiful ceremony and reception, we called it a day and returned to Hotel de Paris, Unknown-1our charming, historic lodging. It’s a great location, modern amenities in each one-of-a-kind guest room, and close to all of the wedding venues. Should you be adventuresome enough to decide on something more interesting than what the major chain hotels can offer, this is a good choice. But, come in good shape on the off-chance (ahem) you are assigned a 3rd floor walk-up room.

Le Passé Composé A post-wedding day brunch was arranged at this wonderful corner bistro with art-covered walls, large windows, old wood flooring, and of course wonderful food. IMG_0916It was a casual morning crowd and an inviting menu. IMG_0905I stayed with the traditional tête a tête, eggs and bacon with rich brown toast and fruit on the side. My husband chose a salmon omelette. Both choices were fresh and wonderful. If I have an opportunity to return, I will try le crêpe encrusted with panko. 

As the post-wedding day finale, the party planned to meet later for potine in the parc. Lafontaine Park  has a great location

Bike share locations dotted throughout the city.

Bike share stations like this at edge  of La fontaine Park dotted throughout the city.

and offers playgrounds and ponds, as well as walking and cycling paths. I opted out of the potine, but instead (yes, you guessed it)  spent my park time squeezing in an 8-mile run. The locale offered interesting views since most of the park perimeter is surrounded by colorful residential areas and small shops.

On an overcast day, Montrealers relax in the parc

On an overcast day, Montréalers relax in the park

 

And not to overlook the opportunity for music, the evening took the mother of the groom, my husband and I for a stroll down rue Sherbrooke to McGill’s Pollack Hall (where by the way the bride and groom had spent many a day studying and practicing). An evening of string quartet performances rounded out our stay. 

And as quickly as we arrived, we were again crossing Montréal’s bridges, seeing signs of an early autumn as we passed through the Adirondacks  – and home again.

Seriously, consider visiting Montréal. We can compare notes.

 

 

 

Lost in Amsterdam

To avoid the Capital 10-Miler post-race wrap-up chores, I’m indulging in wanderlust. Helped along in that quest by Cirsten’s blog, My Writers Block, where she explores the history of Amsterdam’s residents and buildings, my memories wander to my own brief exploration.

After my sister and I finished a river cruise through Belgium and The Netherlands, we took an extra day or two to explore Friesland

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Heeg Harbor, Friesland

and spend a night on dry land. An option for our last day was to stop in the Van Gogh Museum or the Rijksmuseum down the street from our hotel in Amsterdam. 

I had only managed a couple of brief runs during our cruise (unless you’re counting my many laps around the ship’s upper deck).

Is this the track?

Is this the track?

While my sister enjoyed an early cup of coffee, I opted for the outdoors, letting her know I’d be returning in an hour or so. The front desk directed me down the street to Vondelpark.

Entering the park through a beautiful gate, I ran under an overhead walking bridge and took a look back to identify landmarks for my return. The park path appeared to be a circle, a circle of beautiful old residences, inviting outdoor restaurants, people walking dogs, more people riding bicycles.  Bicycles loaded with children on the handlebars and on extra seats, bicycles with business riders – briefcases stashed in their pannier, bicycles with spandexed riders.

After admiring some of the wildlife in the park,

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Blue Heron enjoying breakfast in Vondelpark

I noticed I was seeing the lovely homes and inviting outdoor restaurants a second time. How had I passed my landmark exit with the beautiful gate?  I turned around, backtracking. How does one get lost on a circular path? One more time around and still no gate in view.

O.K. Now the panic begins.  Is my sister looking at her watch wondering why I haven’t returned? Will I find my way out of this beautiful but perplexing piece of land in time to make our flight? Am I feeling a little panicked? Do I pick an exit and hop in a cab back to the hotel?

I spotted a park diagram posted nearby. While trying to identify my exit, an Amsterdam native out for a run and speaking fluent English asked if I needed help. Oh yes, I need help. Please point me to the ornate gate with the park name. We jogged together back to that somehow hidden gate, comparing running histories, families and travel.

Why hadn’t I seen the overhead walkway or the gate? Well, my entrance was not  actually on the circle, but was a dog leg leading to the circle.images

Waiving good bye to the kind stranger, I returned, once again passing under the overhead walking bridge and through those beautiful gates. I returned to find my sister packed up and dressed, relaxed, reading a magazine with no idea that my outing had been a bit adventurous. She looked so calm, it would have been unkind to share.

If you must get lost, Vondelpark is a beautiful place to carry it out. I had eaten up extra time for a museum visit, but sometimes running in a beautiful

Vondelpark gate

Vondelpark gate

park, even in a state of panic, trumps a museum.

The Case of the Disappearing Road Races

As I look out my window at another mid-February snow, I’m wondering what plants will survive the ice storms and return anew in the Spring.  Was this the last year to enjoy some percentage of them that will now simply become memories?

The Colon Cancer Prevision 5K will not be returning in 2014 - my first 2013 race after 3 months off from injury

A favorite, the  Colon Cancer Prevention 5K will not be returning in 2014

I wonder the same about some of my favorite road races, which leads me to muse. Do road races have a timed-out life expectancy? What happens that well organized races with strong race directors and a loyal following disappear from the current year’s race listings? Is there anything that runners can do to keep their favorites alive?

This year, at least two of my favorite local 5K’s drawing 400 – 600 runners, a good number for our small city area, will not be returning to the race list.

The same is true of two marathons where winter brings news that their doors have closed.

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Mile 1 of the former Gansett Marathon

January 24th, the Gansett Marathon race director announced the dreaded news on Facebook. There would not be a 2014 race.  I wrote a post earlier about this wonderful marathon located in Narragansett, Rhode Island. This was a niche race, no fundraising entries, and requiring previous marathon times 5 minutes over the required Boston Marathon times.

I loved this marathon for the fresh sea air, wildlife spottings and beautiful neighborhoods with only a small section through a business/industrial area. Gansett had a loyal following, but apparently not large enough in number meeting the challenge of the required entry times. 

Another winter announcement came from the Mother Road Marathon. An email came to my inbox alerting me to its demise. The MRM website now reads:

We regret to inform you that the Mother Road Marathon has been cancelled indefinitely. The decision was made by the Joplin City Council due to registration declining consistently since the inaugural year. The City of Joplin is the primary funding source for MRM. We have truly enjoyed our runners over the past four years and we thank you for supporting our race.

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Galena KS on the route of the former MRM and the original Route 66.

With both Boston and New York on my race list for 2014, I’m thinking my 2015 plans will include a registration and support of some out-of-the-way marathons with a local flare. There are so many beautiful and interesting corners of this country and the world, I want to explore them on foot, and preferably on the run.

I’m thankful I had the opportunity to experience the Mother Road and Gansett Marathons before their cycles of life ended.

IMG_1538I wonder how many other local races are quietly closing their doors and mysteriously disappearing from the upcoming race lists. I’m hoping my shrubbery and all of our remaining favorite races will survive the ravages of winter and time. If you have favorite races that have recently disappeared, let’s hear about them.