My big toenail is falling off.

Possibly the second one on my left foot as well.

I have runner’s feet again. They make me happy even though it is a bit unseemly.

Reengaging in the fine art of toenail loss means my feet have returned to doing something they love. Running. And racing long distances.

Somebody told me that I would come out of Saturday’s race a transformed woman. That’s a bit of a tall order. Especially since the best transformations don’t happen in the blink of an eye but are a gradual collection of tiny moments, mosaic emotions, and felt experiences, that when pooled together make you wake up one day and realize you don’t know exactly when it happened, but you know without a doubt you could not go back and fit the skins of yesterday.

They have been shed and you are no longer who you once were.

Instead one finds themselves standing there, Forever Changed.

This is what I was acutely aware of Saturday. All the shed skins of the past few years and how much has transformed for me since I last ran distance like this. It’s been about 2 and 3/4 years, and not coincidentally I think, the last time my feet ran so hard was also in Oregon.

I could tell you about the collection of tiny (and not so tiny) moments of yesterdays that created the stuff of transformation since that space in time. I write about those things all the time, actually. But what I cannot tell you is exactly how they combined into the particular chemical reaction that created the current element of Forever Changed .

I just know they did.

And that Dog was the final ingredient. Or at least a very significant one.

Though I’ve yet to decipher their alchemy, I had a lot of time to reflect on what Forever Changed means for me.

It means wide, gracious spaces and an uncluttered heart that has stayed open to Life, despite the times life has closed my heart.

It means a gentle acceptance of the things that have come to pass, which in no way were what I thought they would be, but in every way are probably exactly what my soul required when I opened myself up to the skies a few years back and said I wanted to walk the Path of Authenticity and Love.

It means I am no longer running away, as my wild heart and restless feet were forever doing a few years back. Once I stopped and sorted out life, I realized there is now nothing to run from. Now I’m running towards.

And it means that as hard as it has been to let go, and as much as a tiny part of me feels like she could stay in a depression and state of grief over the loss of her Best Friend, the wiser part of me knows there is a lesson in Love to be learned from this.

My job is to decide whether or not I wish to receive it.

Receiving it means letting go of what was, to accept something greater in, what is.

What is, is a massive recognition that you can remove the material and earthly realm of a relationship, but you cannot touch that which we hold in the heart.

I believe this to be Love in it’s purest, most divine form.

Just because you can no longer see it’s physical manifestation, doesn’t mean it’s not there.

And if you can grasp that concept, truly grab onto it letting it envelop you with an unalloyed truth that burns through all but that which is REAL, then you realize even though everything has changed, absolutely nothing has changed.

Love lives on.

These are the things I thought about in my Forever Changed as I ran on Saturday.

Through woods and single track trails. In the pouring rain that baptized me with cleansing water, I tipped my head back and laughed with delight at one point. Through the miles and miles of mud that had the bottom half of me looking like I’d been hanging out with Pigpen for the last 5 years. Under waterfalls, by streams, across the creek I waded through.

Up slippery rock and a solid mile of stairs. Down hills greasy with caked wet dirt. During a short hailstorm, and then a short sun burst before the misty rain returned. On my ascent of Nutcracker Hill (there is nothing like getting to mile 25 and finding out the last mile is straight up). The hard pound and I feel like I’m about to throw up of the finish.

I thought about all these things as my big toe struck the front of my shoe with each descent, starting that old familiar throbbing which means I am running fast and hard and sure to lose a nail.

I thought about how the ground I am now standing on, as I ran those trails in Oregon, is very different than the ground I was standing on 2 and 3/4 years ago when I racing on her land. How my ground is different now than it was 6 months ago when I started training. How it’s even different than it was a week and 1/2 ago, before Dog.

New ground. New territory. New legs to stand.

Forever changed.

Maybe my friend was right and tall order or not, I did come out of this race a transformed woman. It’s just not at all how I expected. This transformation has very little to do with pride in hard work, the reclamation of running, or a sense of accomplishment over racing so hard, as nice as all that feels.

The transformation, this particular alchemy of Forever Changed, is Love.

Funny how no matter where your feet take you, they will always bring you back to Love.

So I am almost down a toenail, it’s wiggling and loosened, simply a matter of time before it’s gone. But I am up in Love. So filled that I cannot remember what it is to be lonely in this moment, I can only feel this grateful heart overflowing with all it holds.

I fully intend to keep running. I’ve got a 40 mile date with some Oregon trails this coming April that will ensure I have many more disgusting toenails to come.

But now I run towards.

Towards new possibilities, a new chapter, an unwritten future.

But mostly towards love.

Funny how no matter where your feet take you. They will always bring you back to Love.