I belong to a fitness club; one of those national brands where the facility is many floors and many rooms.  It’s so big you sometimes feel like you’ll get lost.

3 - consonance

For the most part I stick to the cardio area because I like the treadmills.  And here’s an interesting observation.  If you choose to work out towards the back of the room you are witness to more than a hundred other machines in front of you: treadmills, steppers, rowers, and cycles, all standing in neat rows and ready to use.  Late on a weekday afternoon when the place is at capacity we have the look and sound of a hive of bees hard at work, each with his or her own task.  We move in different ways and at different speeds, but it’s as if we are working in harmony towards a common goal.  We are in consonance.

Here’s another observation.  Watching others work out can be entertaining.  I am one of those who prefers to keep my eyes and ears open while I huff and puff.  I don’t wear ear buds nor do I bring an iPod.  I don’t get lost in the dozens of televisions (big screens on the wall or small screens on the machines).  Instead, I just observe those around me.  There is an endless variety of behaviors.  Last week I jogged next to a singer.  That was a first.  He was listening to something on his iPod and singing along without a care in the world.  Another day I noticed two women walking side-by-side on the treadmills, lost in conversation with each other.  They were practically turned toward each other as they talked, which made me wonder how they didn’t fall off and whether their mouths or their bodies were getting the better workout.

Invariably I see people staring straight ahead into their little televisions, headphones firmly in place, glazed look in their eyes, lost in some program or music video.  Like my singer friend, the room around them could be on fire and they probably wouldn’t notice.

Inevitably, someone will take a call on their cell phone during a workout.  I’ll give that person about thirty seconds before my body language starts to say “annoyed”.  Anything considered an emergency can be communicated in thirty seconds or less.  Anything that really is an emergency should have the person jumping off their machine and heading out the door.  But most cell phone talk in the gym is worthless, of course.  Do these people prolong their conversations just to make sure the listener knows they are at the gym?

Lastly there are those who simply overdo it.  You know the type.  The super-athlete who cranks up the treadmill so high his legs are a blur and he’s just short of flying off the belt.  The older guy whose breathing is so labored you wonder if he’s about to keel over.  The girl who dresses in bright colors, and you wonder if her slow, deliberate pace on the stair-climber is because she’s tired, or because she simply wants you to notice her.

It used to bother me if someone came to the gym and – like the examples above – showed some indication their workout was not necessarily their first priority.  Now I realize I’m just observing coping mechanisms.  There is a physical component and a mental component to working out, and yes there is sometimes even a social component.  Whatever the ingredients, the unintentional entertainment provided by my “coworkers” is enough to make my workouts faster and more enjoyable.  I thank them for that!


Last week I found myself in a cemetery.  That may sound a little ordinary to you, but my experience was anything but ordinary.  In fact, it was a little surreal.


To be clear, cemeteries are not a regular habit for me. In fact, I’ve only visited them a handful of times in my life and most have been the “historical” kind.  Last week’s visit was to a small cemetery overlooking the ocean in Pacific Grove, CA, just south of the Monterey area. It’s a beautiful spot: quiet, peaceful, and guarded by dozens of the area’s native cypress trees. I was there to visit the final resting place of my aunt and uncle, who spent several years living in nearby Carmel-by-the-Sea.

On the drive over, I made a mental list of the things you do when you visit a cemetery.  Flowers, words, a few prayers, some contemplation, maybe a photograph for a keepsake.  That’s my “left-brain” mindset in action, by the way.  I always have to take the logical approach instead of just going with the moment.  To further complicate things I’m not really comfortable with cemeteries.  Notice I use the words “final resting place” instead of “grave”.  Or “cemetery” instead of “graveyard”.  On this day I was even conscious of how I dressed.  Apparently I default to the formal, as if I’m visiting someone’s house for the first time.  Which I guess I am in a sense – it’s just a really tight neighborhood.

I stopped in Monterey for the flowers.  The drive then took me through the quaint central shopping area of Pacific Grove before the road rose up to the coastal bluffs to the southwest.  One final right turn and I had reached my destination.  Passing through the front gates I immediately slowed to the posted 5 mph speed limit, then navigated the loop road to where I thought my aunt and uncle were buried.  I parked and started walking, and I probably looked odd trying to find their plot.  I wandered here and there, up and down the rows, not really knowing what to look for or where to look.  I had to keep donning reading glasses to make out the inscriptions.

Finally I found them.  I was happy to see my aunt and uncle were buried side-by-side, off to the edge of the cemetery, in a quieter area and under the guard of one of those cypress trees.  Add in warm breezes, the afternoon sun, and a view of the ocean in the distance (photo) and it’s quite a place to call “home”.

I spent several minutes kneeling and recalling fond memories. It was peaceful, as there were only a few others on the property and the sounds of the nearby neighborhoods seemed appropriately hushed.  I said a final prayer and took a few photos and suddenly it was time to go.

Here is where my experience took an unexpected turn. As I put the car in gear I caught movement out of the corner of my eye.  Emerging from a nearby stand of trees, a single deer stood not ten yards from my car; motionless. He watched me for a few seconds, cocked his head, and walked very slowly across the road in front of me.  Several yards beyond the road, he paused, looked back once, then once again, before casually disappearing up and over a hill.  Gone, as if he had not even been there at all.  It was a moment – an encounter really – that my brain could not immediately process.

My first reaction was to look around and locate all of the other deer on the property (hello again left-brain).  But there were none, not even as I completed the drive around the loop road and exited the property entirely.  Now that I think about it, the people I saw when I entered the cemetery were gone.  Just me.  And a deer.  And my aunt and uncle.

My wife has shared several experiences where an animal makes an unexpected appearance after the loss of a loved one.  Since I’m all about explanations, I never accepted any otherworldly connection.  Now I’m not so sure. When I was talking to my father later about my visit, he asked “did you see any deer?” He went on to explain that deer are seen frequently in the Pacific Grove cemetery, only too happy to munch on all the flowers left behind by visitors.  But my deer was a lot more interested in me than flowers.  I think he was even trying to tell me something.

There are moments in life that go beyond the expected or the ordinary, and then there are moments that completely defy reason.  My moment was one of those – transcendent – even as I continue the search for a logical explanation.

Planed English

Have you ever listened to a friend or family member talk, and you realize you just enjoy listening to them regardless of what they’re talking about? Why does this happen? What gets the credit for your undivided attention? I would venture to say your friend or family member has a personal command of the English language. That is, you are drawn to this person’s unique subset of the hundreds of thousands of words available to them. He or she can string together words in a way that makes you smile or laugh, or even react the particular way they would want you to. They speak with fluency and aptness. They speak with eloquence.

Today’s generation does not speak with eloquence. Thanks to the convenience of email and text, in fact they hardly speak at all. My children have a habit of telling me “they spoke to so and so” and when pressed, I realize they’re referring to texting. The phone calls of my generation have become the texts of theirs. Even email is beginning to take a back seat to instant messaging.

Whatever the medium, today’s conversations have been reduced to a minimum of words, or not even words at all! Incomplete sentences. Acronyms (i.e. LOL). Emoticons. Hashtags. It might as well be its own language. Are we really intent on leaving “Queen’s” English in the rear-view mirror, for something not even qualifying as “plain” English?

Most of what we see and do and experience can be summed up in a few words. My endeavor with this blog is to bring a single, elegant word to the table, back it up with a meaningful moment or story in my life, and send you away thinking how you might use that word more often in your everyday conversations. We all have something to say. But can we say it in a way that captivates and inspires? Can we say it with eloquence?

Join me on this journey, won’t you? Let me show you life in a word.