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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Lost Lady

Currently I’m in the midst of a nightmare phase.  As a child, nightmares periodically plagued me.  As an adult, years (sometimes many) pass between nightmare phases.  This current time of nightmares has been hanging around for several months.  Sometimes they’re filled with fear, other times extreme anger.   This morning I dreamt that I came upon a stream and noticed a body sinking to the bottom.  I remember that he/she was draped (almost wrapped) in flowing white clothing.  I rushed to the water and reached beneath, urgently trying to lift the person out before he or she drowned.  I don’t recall anything else. 

Hubby notices my moods after nightmares and comments, “It was only a dream.”  And they are only dreams.  But they affect my mood.  When I wake angry or frightened I find it difficult to start the day off smiling.  This morning I woke for an early run, walked out to the living room and went straight to sleep on the couch.  I began my run 3 1/2 hours later than planned.

Today’s running goal was to get my legs used to a faster turnaround.  I run so many hills, that when I reach a flat,  I find I keep running in recovery mode.  My legs don’t pick up the pace.   Inadvertently, I’ve trained myself to run slowly. 

So, I went for a 15 mile flat run today.  I didn’t try and race it.  But when I glanced at my garmin, I purposely picked up my pace and tried to keep it up.   I ran down to the beach first, and hopped onto The Bike Path (which I call The River Walk) and ran it into San Juan Capistrano.  I ran like a trail runner, that is armed and with a pack, so I probably stuck out among the many walkers, runners and bikers making their way along San Juan Creek.  (By armed I mean, pepper spray in my pocket and a knife inconspicuously clipped to my pack). 

Picking up The Bike Path where San Juan Creek meets the Pacific Ocean:

Trabuco Creek just before connecting to San Juan Creek:

I love this bridge!:

I ran off The Bike Path and ran through the Los Rios District – a lovely historic neighborhood.  It was crowded with people eating in the diners, shopping the antique stores, perusing the adobe museums and even waiting for a train.   Memories of any nightmares had vanished as I ran on through, at one with the festiveness.

I caught Trabuco Trail after running through a long grassy park filled with tall trees turning autumn colors.  Trabuco Trail was empty.  I crossed Trabuco Creek, ran past orange groves.  Then I crossed beneath the road and ran to Arroyo Trabuco Trail where I turned around and headed back. 

I continued picking up my pace every time I glanced at my garmin.  And it looked like I was going to run a negative split for the first time in a long time. As I ran Trabuco Trail along the orange groves, my ear buds humming music in my ears, a man approached me.  He was yelling, but I couldn’t understand at first what he said.  “Help me, please!” he pleaded.  “I can’t find my wife.”  He seemed on the verge of tears.

Of course, my first reaction was caution.  I stepped back as he approached me, his hands out, his face full of fear.  Looking him over, I listened while assessing.  All the while, I watched for a lunge or any quick movement on his part.  It is after all, a common trick that killers use.  They pretend to need help before grabbing their victim.  I took quick glances around and noticed a couple people no more than a quarter mile off.  Not only that, I believed the man. 

Problem was.  He spoke Spanish and knew very little English.  I speak English and know very little Spanish.  He was frantic and spoke quickly.  We used a combination of gestures and broken-English/broken-Spanish to communicate.

I learned this:  His wife was on this trail not too long ago.  Now she was gone.  There was a white man standing where we were standing when this desperate man last saw his wife.  She had gone off to pick some oranges. 

“Could she have gone back to the car?” I ‘questioned.’ “Is that the elderly white-haired man there in the mustard field?”  “You go look in your car and ask the man, and I’ll look through the grove.”  I asked also what color she was wearing, he responded, “colorful.” 

He ran off turning back to me, “Please, please help me find her.  Don’t leave!”

I went into the grove where only a few trees still had oranges.  I concentrated on those trees with the oranges.  I looked for a mass of color at the bottom of those trees in case the woman had fallen or something like that. 

Assured that the woman was not in this orange field I took to the trail again and ran toward the equestrian parking lot hoping to learn that man had found his wife waiting for him there.  I found him running on the trail back toward me.  She was not at the car.

Oh, how hard it was for us to communicate!!  He kept saying, “Oh my God!  Oh my God!”  There was no way I could leave him without him finding his wife.  Using our gestures and broken-English/broken-Spanish, I learned her name, where he had last seen her, and that she was 65 years old. “Oh my God, I have to call my family,” he said.  Somehow we communicated that we would split up on our search. As I left him he was weeping on the phone, communicating to someone in Spanish.

I assured him that I would return and took off toward more orange groves, and more importantly, TRABUCO CREEK.  Though I never thought it outright, in the recesses of my brain, I feared the creek. 

I hollered out her name and listened closely for any responses.  I looked through the fields, focusing on the orange trees.  No one!  I continued on running toward the creek, when a gray-haired lady wearing a pink sweater, walked quite slowly over a small hill toward me. 

I called out her name.  She looked at me questioningly.  “Como se llama?” I said. 

The woman gave me a different name.  She had a peaceful, serene look on her face, as if she was enjoying her walk immensely.

She spoke only Spanish to me.  Confirming with gestures, I was able to determine that she was there with her husband who was waiting for her at the car.  “How old are you?” I asked in English.    “65,” she answered back in English.

“Come with me,” I said and held out my arm.  We began to walk, but oh so slowly.  I couldn’t stand the thought of her husband going through another second of pain, so I looked the woman in the eyes and said while pointing down to the ground, “You keep walking on this path!”  She smiled and nodded and continued walking in the same direction as I took off running to find her husband.  I found him within minutes running toward me.  When he saw his wife, he broke down weeping.  He thanked me over and over and hugged me.  He also apologized over and over again.  I told him, no need, everything’s okay.  I also told him that she gave me a different name.  He said that’s the name of her child.  And then again through gestures and broken-English he communicated to me that his wife had recently endured heart surgery.  Since then she has had bouts of dementia. 

The man was overly thankful for my aid and continued weeping as he spoke lovingly to his wife in Spanish.  He continued to put his arm around me, thanking me, apologizing, though I felt like I really didn’t do much.  I merely came upon his wife. 

I can still picture him perfectly, his pain and his joy.  I doubt I will ever forget him or his wife.  I took off running after the husband and wife reunion, and I didn’t even get his name.  I know her name, and her daughter’s name.  But I will probably never see the man again, and oddly, I feel like we are friends now after going through this today.

The remainder of the run was light, stress-free.  It was on my way back that I remembered my dream.  I’m certain it had nothing to do with today’s event.  HOWEVER, if I hadn’t started my run 3 1/2 hours late, I would not have come upon the man, we would have never met and become friends for about 20 minutes.

Some pictures from today’s run:

The Los Rios District:

Downtown San Juan Capistrano:

Headed toward Trabuco Trail:

Trabuco Trail:

Arroyo Trabuco:


  1. Great story, Lauren! Dave

    1. Thanks Dave. I feel fortunate that I could help, even as little as I did.

  2. So great that you could help that man! I hope your nightmares will stop now. Nice post and pics...love the train!

    1. Nightmares have quieted a bit. I think it's great too that I could help this man. Honestly, I was very reluctant at first. I had to use my gut feeling that he was telling me the truth. Thankfully he was, and more thankfully, husband and wife were reunited.

  3. Great story Lauren! I've lived here my whole life and the sad thing is I don't think I know enough Spanish to have helped.

    1. Glenn, I studied Spanish for FOUR years in high school. And I can barely speak it. You have to use it, or you lose it. I bet you would have been able to help. We communicated MUCH through gestures. He was very good with gestures.