Kili Karuna #5

Howdy from St. John’s,

I sit to write once again with a heavy and saddened heart. My friend and colleague, Frank Butler, passed away suddenly this week. He was well loved by so many of his students and colleagues. He leaves a legacy of sport and recreation leadership that few can ever hope to duplicate. I will miss him asking about my outdoor classes, catching up on his latest cabin exploits, and having him challenge me to always become a better teacher. It was Frank who showed me my first iceberg which I think, clinched the deal to bring me to Newfoundland and what a thirteen years it’s been!

As I did my long run this morning in a freezing drizzle, I spent some time reflecting on the past two months during which six people in my circle of family and friends have died suddenly. I started out before sunrise when the black and icy streets reflected only the dimmest light and ran until those same streets were filled (albeit temporarily) with a golden bath of a fresh day’s arrival. Like the street, I felt my heart transform over the course of my run. I’ve noticed of late that it would be easy to shut down to the pain and the grief and to harden my heart like tempered steel. Very tempting. Fortunately though, my Buddhist path has trained me to notice that hardening and move back towards compassion and softening. Using gentleness to cultivate a tender heart.

I did the final copy edit on my book this week and read it cover to cover for the first time in a few months. I was struck by this quote I chose to lead one of the chapters with:

The bruise on the heart which at first feels incredibly tender to the slightest touch eventually turns all the shades of the rainbow and stops aching. –Erica Jong

So with all of the loss and grief that has touched me of late, I feel like my heart is bruised but I know the pain will dull and move out of my chest at some point. I take solace in what my friend Georgina said to me, “When you love, a lot you hurt a lot.”

It was also week four of my first Kilimanjaro training cycle. Week four is always filled with fatigue, leaden legs, and the temptation to throw in the towel. It’s like the final carry on a mountain. The romanticism is gone, you’ve seen the trail before, and it is just time to put your head down and put in the work. Phil noticed that I wasn’t my usual energetic self on Friday during our training session so he cut me a little slack until I dug a bit deeper to find the heart to jump on the bosu a few more times.

After tonight’s multiple ascent of Signal Hill with the Kili group, it’s a rest week and that’s a good thing. During the rest week, I will complete only 3 cardio sessions and play hockey. I use the freed up hours to catch my breath, sleep in, and eat lots! I’ve noticed a significant increase in appetite again now that I’m training hard.

Speaking of the Kili group, it was an exciting time for us this week. We noticed that airfares had suddenly started to skyrocket because of the end of the low season and sent out an alert to the team that it was time to grab the wildebeest by the horns and buy a ticket to Africa! It was fantastic–folks rose to the challenge and committed themselves to the adventure of a lifetime. There are currently eight of us on the team with a few more women sitting on the fence making their decisions. For me, a climb always becomes much more real once I have paid the deposit and purchased a plane ticket. I’m heading over on May 29 and we’ll likely begin the climb on June 2nd.

So a week of highs and lows, excitement and grief, the full gamut of the human experience. I am taking all of the loss of late as a continual reminder of the preciousness of this human life I’ve got and plan to continue using it to good ends.

Have a good week,


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