The List: Top Ten Destinations to Visit

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A few months ago, Aaron and I were inspired to create a list of where in the world (is Carmen San Diego?) we wanted to go – money and time not a hinderance. This project idea arose during an episode of Anthony Bourdian’s “Parts Unknown” – one of the only TV shows we watch.

Aaron crafted the rules: it had to be either a state, city. country, or specific location within one of those (basically, no continents but we did clarify that Australia would be considered a country for this exercise); could include up to five “Honorable Mentions”; and the top ten places needed to be in preference order.

As seriously as studying for final exams, Aaron and I mused, scratched out, and let out gasps of “Of course!” as we each independently selected our places. About 10 minutes later, we revealed our lists to one another.

First, my five honorable mentions:

New Zeland

Sweden

Vancouver, Canada

Japan

Mississippi Delta (ok, I know this isn’t a “country” or “city” but AT let it slide)

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And then, the big reveal: the top 10 places I selected on this random day that I want to see before I leave this world:

10) Spain

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9) Yellowstone National Park

8) Czech Republic

7) Glacier National Monument (Alaska)

6) Norway

5) Savannah, Georgia

4) Greece

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3) Germany

2) Hawaii

1) Ireland

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Aaron’s list had some similarities and a couple of ones from left field (Egypt!). Our overlaps were on Ireland, Hawaii, Greece, Alaska, and Spain.

Well, time to pack.

Finding the will

Sitting here this morning, I can hear the wind whipping outside, casting an ominous tone for the nine mile run marked on my calendar. Tis the season of marathon training once again. It “officially” kicked off last Sunday amid my carefully scheduled 16 week plan to tackle the hills of Knoxville in March.

As much as I enjoy the physical aspects of running, I can (and do) still struggle to clear the mental hurdles. With a headache scratching the surface of my brain, I have much stronger desires to crawl to the couch, flanked by cats, than hear the crunching of leaves underfoot

Alas, I’ll fight through this lack of motivation. Whether through guilt or grit, I’ll make it outside, knocking off this task like most others.

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Hark! I hear the call of the finish line

After an outward (and quite vocal) objection to ever running another marathon, I’m less than five months out from taking on another 26.2 mile journey.

Now that I have recovered from the initial race (over three years and counting), I feel that I’m in a better place emotionally and physically to run a second. With all transparency, I also feel that I have something to prove – to myself, mainly.

Looking back, I am so different from the person who ran the Rock ‘N Roll Marathon in Arizona (in some ways – the good ones, hopefully!). With a couple of years added to my age bracket registrations, an entirely different eating lifestyle, and a deeper and more in-tuned understanding of my body, I think this will be a healthy challenge that I plan to enjoy.

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I even bought some new kicks for the journey. The Brooks Ghost 7 series have been wonderful for me, but I did pick up a deeply discounted pair of Mizuno Wave Runner’s (pictured above) to serve as the yin to the yang of my well-worn Brooks.

Time. For me, it’s one of the biggest burdens of signing up for any major race. The sheer willingness to devote hours upon hours, logging miles on trails, streets, in the rain, in the dark, and up hills. In the past, I have trained predominantly in Durham, specifically on the American Tobacco Trail. However, the hilly course of Knoxville requires me to take the training to a similar landscape.

Hello, Raleigh.

I’ll be gleaning insight from some of Raleigh’s top runners (in my humble opinion) on best trails to build endurance for the cascading waves I shall face in March.

While training “officially” starts on November 30, I’m spending this month building my base. That means Pilates, yoga, and core work: oh my. I picked up another Groupon for Arrichion hot yoga classes. If I could afford a monthly subscription, I would purchase one in a heartbeat. I absolutely love these classes: 45 minutes of demands, depending on the class.

Plus. when it’s 40 degrees outside and dark, the ability to sweat in a tanktop and shorts sounds pretty blissful. No, really.

A man with no fingerprints

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For many years, this character has dwelled inside the dark recesses of my mind. An older gentleman, of no particular race, ethnicity, or origin. He sits upon a bench, wearied hands resting upon a cane, as he overlooks a worn green lake, home to a few mallards drifting in and out of their evolutionary routine.

Essentially, a scene beckoning not much more than a passing glance from a stranger. Only upon closer examination does one come to understand that this figure of normality is far from it. Who is born without fingerprints? When much of human identity remains tied to these unique sketchings on our metacarpals, can a person truly exist in society with smoothy, untainted pads?

The question of identity – clearly a favorite among most in the literary sphere – intrigues me on multiple levels. First, the idea of self-identify (what am I to me?) seems that it can only be answered by asking the question (what am I to them?) where them can refer to one’s family, one’s colleagues, one’s social circle. Second, what parts of our identify are projected by us and in what settings do we shift those elements to cater to (ourselves/others/a higher power/nature)? One can argue that our identities continue to shift and adapt as we age, encounter new settings, but on the flip side, there must be elements of ourselves that remain forever unchanged.

Lacking fingerprints, to me, does not seem to fall on the same level as missing an appendage, an organ, or a sense. Those certainly can speak to one’s identity, if one so chooses to make them part (or is it a choice?).

Not surprisingly, you can be born without fingerprints. It’s a genetic condition called adermatoglyphia (a great article from the Smithsonian covering this topic).

Perhaps it’s not quite as special as I think, not that I type this out. It’s simple another abstention from what is considered the social norm. Dozens of other characteristics could fit this same mold.

Regardless, I think I’ll write this story some day. The ever-pressing yearning to be more on the inside, even if we already know in our hearts that it’s not the place we truly want – or should – be.

So…now what?

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New job?
Check.

New house?
Check.

New relationship status?
Check.

The last few weekends, while despite still having much to do, have offered a change of pace compared to the previous 25+ of 2014: a sense of quiet and satisfaction. There is time now – or at least we have the time available – to enjoy our new home. We have yet to plant our first tree (and – at this point in the game – we might put this on the 2015 to-do list), but we have continued to build out our space in other means.

We’ve broken bread with several friends; connected with our neighbors; hung frames on our walls; and tidied up the bins where things have just lived since July.

I hope this new “free time” includes me making a concerted effort to delve back into the world of writing. Since I last left the blogging sphere, I joined a book club with folks from the area. Our first assignment and subsequent discussion was marvelous (we read Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, which I enjoyed – sci-fi meets religious overtone projection of a post-climate change apocalyptic western US coast). Getting back into literature from a pleasure standpoint (not to mention the other three books that I read during our Honeymoon: Hyperbole and a Half, Dark Places, and And the Mountains Echoed) also ignites the desire to create again. And, not merely the ramblings of “This was my day. It was nice. Maybe I ran?” but deeper, more meaningful (or perhaps how I define meaningful).

While the old flame of prose and pontification continues to burn, I’ll at least share a couple of photos from the day that forever changed my life: September 19.

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