Running for the right reasons 2

Visiting West Virginia transports me back to Warren Wilson. The afternoon thunderstorms stir up familiar smells, and the forest is full of old friends, softly lullabying in the breeze. Cercis canadensis, Hamamelis virginiana, Quercus alba, Robinia Pseudoacacia: The back of my memory whispers the Latin names of the trees, though I can’t seem to recall the common names as easily. Perhaps I have forgotten them because they are less musical.

The pup and I went for a run this morning. Daazhraii chased the deer until they disappeared in the dense understory, then returned, and a few minutes later chased off after the next white tail, bounced back, flew off again. There was a good rhythm to our run.

As I struggled up one of the ridiculously steep hills on this gravel road, I heard the voice in my head saying “you can do it! Keep going! Your body is sometimes your only tool in an emergency, and you want it to be a damned good tool! Push!”

Now, if my inner voice hadn’t just instructed me to keep going, this would have stopped me in my tracks. I have never felt quite this thing quite so deeply. When I dug in and dug for strength, I found this voice in the bedrock of my resolve. What an awesome reason to run.

I am not serious about running or yoga or even skiing, which I love best of all. I am not consistent or skillful or strong, but I like to feel good about my strength and I like that there is now a voice in my head that speaks of the need for reliable power in case of trouble. The river trip up the Chandalar is coming, and winter adventures in ANWR after that. I want my body to be able to handle the things I’ll put it through, and I want enough on top of that to enjoy walking in the woods after the work is done.

DSC06161

I brought my dog home just in time to visit the place where I grew up. Mom and Dad may have finally sold the house!

It has been a good summer so far: Geoff and I went to a lovely graduation in Petersburg, and climbed Petersburg mountain with the pup. I got to see my dear, dear friends in Baltimore and Vermont, and visit a 5th grade classroom with Alaska stories and a sled dog for show and tell. Daazhraii ate a snow-cone on the national mall and met the ocean head-first off the dock in Belfast. I saw my best friend and my favorite kiddo and the kiddo called my dog “Cool Doggie!” We played games and went out in the boat with my family. We drove two days with no AC in a heat wave, dreaming of the arctic: I tied ice cubes into my bandana and fed more ice cubes to the snowpuppy and was completely insufferable to be around. Geoff and I cooled off in a pool, listening to sixties music and then watched a sudden mountain thunderstorm drench the towels we’d left hanging out to dry in the sun. I bought totally-for-sure-legal fireworks and made forty chocolate chip cookies, and tonight I’ll listen to the moths jitterbugging on the window screens until I get tired of reading and turn out the light.

DSC06157

The dog is still damp from diving into the harbor.

DSC06193

Three of the people closest to my heart out for a cruise in my hometown harbor

DSC06146

Geoff and Daazhraii in Petersburg after the pup’s first (terrifying) sip of ocean water.

DSC06177

Boat dog!

 

Revisiting Winslow Homer

Yesterday, Sean and I went to the MFA in Boston. I love art museums, (though I can distinctly remember being bored to tears by them as a kid) and I could have spent much, much longer exploring the maze of galleries and exhibitions.

DSC04873.JPG

Sean in 8’x12′, an awesome piece about personal space and sprawl and scale in Mumbai

I loved the Megacities Asia exhibition and the gallery of Chinese furniture and the model ships and the very peaceful Buddha in the temple.

We also took a tour of the Americas wing and there paid a visit to some of the paintings of Winslow Homer.  It was impossible, today, not to think of his paintings as we brought Islander down the Penobscot from Winterport in a drenching rain and pea soup fog.

DSC04882

“Look anonymous and heroic, Mom, I’m taking a Winslow Homer picture”

SC63316.jpg

The Fog Warning, 1885

As we ran out with the tide, sliding through water still but for the constant bulletholing of raindrops, soaking slowly in the heavy, warm rain, Dad described the grey landscape of fog and water and sky almost the way I have been known to describe the snow and sky and mountains: it’s a thousand shades of gray, dissolving sound and land and the boundaries between this world, the next, the sky and the sea.

DSC04892DSC04887DSC04894It’s beautiful out there, even on days when the horizon breaks down and water soaks into the sky.

A counterpoem from last week: Sleeping Inside

Tonight I slept
on the couch under the front window
and the rain blew in

I had taken my hammock in
Not wanting it to shred in the forecast winds
Not wanting to sleep light in dark rain

I woke up in the lightning night
With the rain soft and cool on my face, so glad
that the sky came to find me

I can’t seem to use a phone in the summer

I’ve been all over the place this summer, from Anchorage to Boston to Brattleboro to Midcoast Maine to Fox Hollow Farm, and if you’ve tried to get in touch with me, I’m so sorry. I’ve been awful at phone calls and emails and every other kind of contact. I miss the routine solitude of my life in the village.

Nicole, I am so bummed I missed you in Anchorage. My old phone was very dead around that time and by the time I replaced it and figured out how to check my voicemail on the new machine, you were long gone. Cathy, I’ll give you a call this week and we’ll set up a visit in Maine.

My struggle with communication is just one way I’ve been having trouble adjusting to summer. I was on the T the other day in Boston and I just couldn’t shake the thought: People do this every day. I can’t believe people do this every day.

I know I’m spoiled. In the village, I almost never have to sit on my butt just to get from place to place. I absolutely never have to sit on my butt in a dank-smelling, grubby metal tube full of  strangers.

I know the city has its perks: Sean has been taking sailing lessons, going to the art museum, and hosting ice cream socials (Margarita sorbet? Wasabi maple ice cream anyone?). There are restaurants, theaters, intriguing strangers and old friends.

Old friends are the best.

Boston is full of folks from college and from Arkansas. It’s so strange and wonderful to be surrounded by people I’ve known for such a long time.

Bethan gave an incredibly powerful and personal performance in Brattleboro after a year of circus training with NECCA. None of us remained dry-eyed.

I woke up a few days ago with Bre’s son crawling across my bed in the guest room. He has a great smile and sweet curls and a friendly nature, and he seems to be a fan of nori rolls (at least of smooshing them up and getting them all over people and things). Bre is the first of my close friends to have kids: I’ve never known a baby that I’m sure I’ll know forever. This is really something.

Tim inspired a really successful birthday gift. He and I are going backpacking before I head back to Alaska. Look out, wilderness, we’re back!

Now I’m in Ohio, and Jesse and Chelsea have filled their home with wonderful people, as usual. It’s busy and cheerful and warm and tasty and creative. I have my hammock in the woods for quiet space among the fireflies, and otherwise it’s all games and cooking and farm stuff and talk with important, beloved people.

Still, I miss the simplicity of life in the village.

DSC04817

Camped on the spit in Homer.

DSC04823

Dinner!

DSC04834

Mom in her garden, the climbing roses in bloom.

DSC04835

Rock On Spruce Spring Seat

DSC04838

Lobster!

DSC04840

The view from my hammock on the farm in Ohio.

 

Running for the right reasons

Last summer, I wrote this post about body image and exercise and multi-level discomfort. Ever since then I’ve been hoping to write the post I’m writing now.

This summer, I ran in the cemetery in my hometown most mornings with my dad. We talked and sweated and kept each other going, and some mornings it was hot and sticky and other mornings it was cool and misty but we were always there together, and that was awesome. He joked withe everyone that he and I ran in a field of hundreds and were always the fastest (y’know, ’cause everyone else was dead). I’m going to miss my dad something fierce this year, when I’m stuck walking alone because I have nobody to run with and I’m scared of being eaten by wolves if I go alone. We ran only about two miles, but it was hilly and the shade under the centuries-old trees sparkled on the moss. It was just right for us, and the company included a Dr. Nahum Monroe and someone named Zeruviah, both of which are pretty weird cool names. I got stronger, and I got to hang out with my pops. It meant a lot to me.

DSC03518The other night, my last night in Maine, I was alone at Sean’s place on North Haven, waiting for him to finish working dinner and come home. I looked out the kitchen window and the sky was electric, so I pulled on my shoes and started running. It’s about a mile to Ames Point, where there’s this rocky knoll with a 360 degree view of the island and the water. A storm was just passing over the Camden Hills, and the rain curtains were swooping across the sunset. It felt good to be up there alone, saying goodbye to the salt water glitter and the craggy coast. It’s home and it’s okay to run away from it for a while: I know that I am made of granite bones and that my blood smells like the tide. My lungs are furred with sea lavender and if you press your ears to mine you’ll hear waves. I can no more leave the coast behind than I can leave my spine to bleach in the sun on the shore.

Later that night, we walked until we came away from the streetlights and watched the meteor shower, lying on our backs in the middle of a deserted road. I tried not to think that I wouldn’t see my friend or that deep and true night sky again for a while, but the thought drifted in and I wished it away, again and again.

I’m in Fairbanks now, getting ready to spend a small fortune on groceries for the next few months. I ran a while this morning, exploring the park and the trail by the Chena River. I don’t know how far or how fast or how long I went, but I don’t much care. I guess the point is that I’ve gotten to a place where I run because it’s a good way to see the world, and it makes my body feel good. It’s chilly here, and I relished the shiver when I stepped out this morning and the slow warming as my legs pounded heat out of the ground.

Did I ever resolve my discomfort with my motives? No, but the motives have changed and refocused. Now I run because it makes me feel good in the moment: I always start grinning like a fool after about a mile when the endorphins kick in, and I have to work to keep mosquitoes out of my teeth. I run because I’m proud of my strength of body and mind and I want to keep it. I run because it ties me to my dad or my friend or my place on the planet and splats me squarely wherever I am. Has my body changed? No, thanks to the raspberry turnovers and donut muffins from all the wonderful midcoast bakeries that I get to feel good about eating after a morning run with Dad. Has my body image changed? Yes. I feel like a badass.

I feel like I have more to say about this, but maybe this isn’t the time. There’s a lot to do, and it’s only 11:00 am, here, but my body is saying it’s midafternoon and I should probably get down to business.

Labor Day Week Photo Explosion!

According to Levi and Sizzy (who escaped today, to no one's surprise and everyone's exasperation) you haven't known true happiness until you've done this.

According to Levi and Sizzy (who escaped today, to no one’s surprise and everyone’s exasperation) you haven’t known true happiness until you’ve done this.

Mud is bliss.

Mud is bliss.

We spent the weekend in Texas with Sean's family.

We spent the weekend in Texas with Sean’s family.

Sean taught his nephews some porcine wisdom about the joy of getting dirty

Sean taught his nephews some porcine wisdom about the joy of getting dirty

We came home and had a Wednesday cookout at the lake.

We came home and had a Wednesday cookout at the lake.

There was even some paddling, (not the kind we have in schools), and a swim and float with eyes full of the cottonball sky.

There was even some paddling, (not the kind we have in schools), and a swim and float with eyes full of the cottonball sky.

Our meat chicks arrived today, and, after spending the afternoon at school with Mr. P, immediately soaked themselves in their water and began to shiver. We don't have a hair dryer (they're not environmentally friendly or useful to people with little hair) so we toweled them off as best we could and stuck them under the lamp.

Our meat chicks arrived today, and, after spending the day at school with Mr. P, immediately soaked themselves in their water and began to shiver. We don’t have a hair dryer (they’re not environmentally friendly or useful to people with little hair) so we toweled them off as best we could and stuck them under the lamp.

They're all fluffy again, and adorable. No sign of spraddle or gunkybutts yet.

They’re all fluffy again, and adorable. No sign of spraddle or gunkybutts yet. These birds are destined for plates all over the scintillating metropolis of Marianna, AR. We ordered extras so we could sell to our friends, and people seem into it!

Boople and I adored them from afar. Neither of our cats has ever posed a threat to our chicks, but we'll leave the little critters in the spare room with the door shut, just in case.

Boople and I adored them from afar. Neither of our cats has ever posed a threat to our chicks, but we’ll leave the little critters in the spare room with the door shut, just in case.

Who could believe this cutie is a skilled killer?

Really though, who could believe this cutie is a seasoned killer?