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What are your (barefoot or not) options?

July 12, 2017

What are your options? (Googling this question brings up a gaggle of topics, from Arthritis treatment to costume ideas beginning with the letter “Z.” My favorite search result: “Securing Hadoop: What Are Your Options?“)).

(It made me unreasonably happy that a word like “Hadoop” exists and is somehow related to serious biz-ness.)

The idea of “options” has been on my mind since last week’s “movement”* class during which we spent 45 minutes exploring the options associated with . . . wait for it . . . rolling from side to front, side to back. (*Thus the ironic air quotes around the descriptor “movement.”)

So what made this a fabulous game-changer of a class session? The fact that we were challenging our brains to do something different, creative, novel: performing a “familiar” movement in slow, methodical — non-habitual — ways.

This is the beauty of Feldenkrais . . . it’s all about options, learning to do the “same old” stuff of life in novel ways, as movement/life coach Darcia Dexter reminds us most every week.

So it shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did, that I woke the next day, straightened my lower leg to help me roll over (just like we had done in class), and heard a phrase ring out in my crazy silent loud head: “We have options!”

Soon after that I stumbled upon the first chapter of Scott Berkun’s new book and was reminded that creativity (my current flavorite research topic) involves choosing weird options: “Being silly often leads to having fun, and having fun means you are more likely to try new things. How do you expect to be more creative if you’re not willing to try anything you haven’t done before? Not willing to try makes you a victim of the status quo, the greatest killer of potential since the dawn of humanity.” 

So the rest of the week, as I ran and pondered, everything jumped out as me as


When I hike and trail run, my options first of all revolve around my choice of footwear (or lack thereof).

However, during a volunteer stint last Saturday, I was confronted with trails not of my choosing, trails that had recently been weed-whacked to make them less impassable, a good intention but one that left weed stickers flung everywhere I stepped, transforming barefoot fun into OUCH!


What were my options? Continue in awkward pincushion pain, or slip on my Sockwas and enjoy the hills and heat and views.


. . . and the heat was made a bit more bearable by my nerd-u-listic hiking umbrella . . . 

To not be locked into my prideful mindset of “barefoot only” felt like a creative breakthrough. Can I please be done having to prove anything more to myself, and just be free to adapt to changing conditions without worrying what others might think of my barefoot street cred?

(Wise advice from a forgotten source: everyone’s too worried about their own shizz to give a shizz about your shizz.)

The next morning? That’s right: I had options.

Instead of going for a run on the same ol’ trails (which I LOVE and appreciate in all their seasonal beauty throughout the year, but the theme this week was options, dang it, and it was going to be another braid-wilting, heat-alert kind of day) . . . instead of driving 14 minutes to my nearest trailhead, I invested another 10 minutes behind the wheel and made it all the way to:


The Pacific Ocean, a terrible place to drive to on a weekday morning because of commuter traffic, and an even worse destination on a summer Sunday during a heat wave.

But I had options! How about leaving the house at 5:30 am, arriving just in time for a most non-habitual sunrise: (we’re usually socked in with fog at the coast)


With a 50-mile sandy race coming up (next year, but gotta start some time), I thought it might be wise to explore new training options, such as . . . deep sand plodding. Yikes.

Corona del Mar had plenty of sand, but the trash was bumming me out, as were all the childhood memories associated with the place (Where’s the old snack stand? Why is the beach so small? In what universe is it OK to leave so much trash behind after a day of beach fun?!)

Hmmm. Maybe I could ditch the complaining and come up with a creative solution (after picking up a few pieces of plastic and realizing it was too big of a job for a single memory-infested runner).

Options galore, just a few minutes up Pacific Coast Highway:


Lots more sand, both packed–near the water–and deeply loose–past the high tide mark.

I allowed myself the option of both walking and running, both down in/near the water, or up in the deep stuff . . . 

. . . . and visiting both the local piers allowed me to notice/compare small differences (a major part of the Feldenkrais neuromuscular learning experience). By 9am I was out of there, long before the strand became the usual impassable summer weekend patchwork of towels/umbrellas/chairs/happy-frying-trash-flinging folks. (Did I mention I’m not a fan of crowds?)

Other options I’ve been opting in on lately: running with eyes open and closed, allowing the SMELLS of the landscape to captivate me as much as the summer-blooming wildflowers (who because of their dry-ground-defiance deserve extra appreciation).


A brilliant flower whose common name is “pink” even though it’s red (has to do with the fringed flower edges). 





Deer weed, a nitrogen-fixing plant whose flowers change color after pollination, which is happening as we speak.


Beware the datura (well, don’t freak out; its flowers smell delicious, but just don’t ingest any part of this plant unless you are looking for A) a vision quest, followed by B) liver damage/death (or at least a very scary trip to the ER)


Vinegar weed: yeah, it smells like its name, and yeah, it was a useful medicinal plant for People who knew what they were doing.

More cuckoo-bananas option-stuff: last week I ran a trail “backwards.” (Nope; not that kind of backwards. Do I look like I’m crazy? I just ran the loop counterclockwise for a change . . . change which is difficult to climb out of when the ruts have grown deep over time.)

Then I put on my running shorts one leg at a time (don’t we all?!) but I did it out of order–left foot first. Ever brushed your teeth with your non-dominant hand? Yeah, that’s an option 🙂

Here’s a “weird”* one: I plunged into memorizing the words/chords to a new-to-me song: Weird Al’s Star Wars parody of “American Pie.” (As rusty as my guitar skills are, my grandsons seemed to really get into singing along via Skype; there’s an option I never had with my grandparents . . . )

(* love me my air-quote puns)

Just because you limit your options to someone else’s melody doesn’t mean you can’t still be wildly creative, right, Weird Al? 


(not my own photo)

While Weird Al has all the music that’s ever been made as his parody-option-field, Bob Dylan–there’s an old-school wild creator–gives us only two options in this song that I heard on a recent road trip and have been growling to myself ever since:


One more optional idea that popped into my head during a recent dish-washing/pondering session: the practice of non-habitual acts of kindness . . . doing very little things (making coffee for a spouse even though you don’t touch the stuff, not screening your mom’s phone call, waving someone else ahead of you in line at the grocery store, you get the drift) that don’t cost much except the ability to respond to a tiny situation in a way that might bring much-needed joy to someone else.

This rambling post still needs a segue to transition to the boat-load of photos I’ve taken these last few days; hmmm . . . I got nothin’ . . . but here’s hoping some mental clothespins will appear and help you connect them to the wispy theme-thread of this blog post: so many options).


Atypical morning clouds along the So Cal coast


Big feet, tiny surfers (in left background)

Screen Shot 2017-07-09 at 11.36.34 AM

The place where my love for barefoot rock-hopping began about 50 years ago when I would try to run all the way to the end of this rock jetty without stopping. I still remember the feeling of exhilaration, but do not remember so much gull-poop . . . 


The (in)famous “Wedge” from afar. 


As a child of the 1960s, I remember watching endless episodes of Gilligan’s Island. This is the harbor mouth from which the ill-fated group left for their “three-hour tour.”


Crabs always seem to invite semi-vulgar captions; not goin’ there. 

One way I aim to add novel options to my running: balancing on whatever I can find. Here’s a “whatever I could find” along the short stretch of blacktop that links trails above and below Villa Park Dam.

Screen Shot 2017-07-11 at 1.23.24 PM

And here is some training for the rock-scrambling portions of an upcoming race. Rock fun! Another activity imprinted upon me at an early age out at Joshua Tree. Our rock-hopping antics seem to have scared our parents so much they never took us camping there again . . . 

Happy Rocky, Sandy, Counter-clockwise, Barefoot Trails! We have options!

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