February 27, 2014

Baby Steps to Bliss

Fog and Lace

"Night run. Cold rain. Wet leaves. Steaming shoulders. Rain-flecked eyelashes. Monstrous shadows. Quickened heart. Dimming lights. Closed eyes. Heavy breathing. Whiskey n' Cider. Good night."

"tunnel vision through shimmering trees, heart pounding in my ears, flurry of hundreds of wings across an unseen lake, hot cider and alcohol, and endless conversation. that's a damn good run, son."


Back in 2009, when I had mice in the rafters for company and self-forgiveness was a rare act of kindness, I ran the streets and trails of Kalamazoo daily, nightly, constantly. Back when my frozen breath hung in the air like a lover's lost whisper, when I gazed over silent snow-filled expanse and watched the sky fall and erase me, running meant more to me than perhaps most anything ever had. 

When I began to get sick, and each rattling breath shook the foundation of my love for running, there finally was nothing I could do but stand back and helplessly watch it erode. 

When I stepped back from running in January, I hardly meant it as a last kiss goodbye. Yet with the turning of winter, extra work hours, nagging knee pain, and this cough 

this cough 

this cough

                                             this cough                                  this cough

                                                                                     this cough 

this cough, I slipped further and further away from what had once coursed through my very veins.

Poetry Aid Station (Poets not pictured) *Photo: Alexis Vergalla
And then, today, was The Run of the Ancient Mariner. This was an off-site event held in conjunction with AWP, the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference, this year held in Seattle! Jeff put this event on to combine three of his favorite things: Running, Writers, and Beer. There was a poetry aid station and many wonderful people who came out to participate. I spent a great deal of the time running with a PhD student from Louisiana who indirectly nudged my memory. Later that night, headache firmly in place and starving after a long Tukwila Commission meeting, I found myself galloping through the frozen food aisle of our local grocery store. Perhaps it was partially fueled by my search (in vain) for Ben and Jerry's new "Core" ice cream (What? I ran 5 miles!), but more than that, it was that forgotten afterglow that I only get after a good, long run.

Sure, my lungs suffered the aftershocks walking up the hill to the car, arm-in-arm with my man, post-run. All of the usual symptoms flared to life. But that run was respite from my unquiet mind and this unease that has settled into me as a constant companion. 

Someone had responded to a previous post of mine that I had helped her recognize the "consistency of spirit" that makes us runners. I had said that back in 2009, when running was a primal drive, an imprint on my DNA. "Where was my consistency of spirit now that the going got tough?" I'd thought, troubled at this confrontation from the Self That Was in '09. 

And then a few hours ago I found out it was there all along. It just needed some writers to come help it out.

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