Where was I running? Why did I pause? Which pause led to a question? Which question had no immediate answer? What was the first book purchased because of a “pause point”? These were the questions that formed the basis for today’s internal conversation as I ran.
I started running as a release from some problems at work–daily behavior and conversations that lead to what I now know as psychological violence. The cool morning air veiled me in an hour of solitude that was the release, the escape, the magic carpet–the gift that would become part of my life. The first few weeks, maybe as many as eight or ten, the running was a mechanical release with only the barest knowledge–I was running about an hour. There was no more knowledge needed.
The mechanical curiosity of “Can I run a 10k?” came and went. I can look at the inside cover of the first running book to see when the questions about running started being answered. February 23, 1985 is the date of my first marathon. All questions now created by running revolved around pace and training. April 13th a few more questions, still centered on pace, some about heat and hydration were answered as I ran my second marathon. Three weeks later I was at the starting line of the Avenue of the Giants Marathon. A shift was about to happen.
I ran with eyes turned upward. I ran, almost pirouetting as I went, with no regard for pace. I don’t think I actually stopped while on the course. I can clearly recall slowing too much for some runners. It was the first marathon I felt was done with little conscious discipline. I turned where a race official said to, but other than that the “Giants”, those huge, majestic, and ancient trees took all my attention. The next day I walked amongst them. No answers were being sought. I just walked beneath those huge branches a hundred feet and more above me. That was enough–no questions seemed to call. I drove home.
As spring turned to summer, my running routes slowly became the trails I stumbled across. The quiet was there. The voices stilled. The running was less structured. The running library had competition from Edward Abbey and Aldo Leopold. The Monkey Wrench Gang competed with Catton’s Overshoot as my feet found Capitol Forest; a multiple-use forest a few miles west of Olympia. I also know that the different tree barks, needles, cones, and silhouettes were not yet asking me to stop and see what I was passing through.
A month free from pay-to-run runs let me think more about the where and what; that led to the ‘ologies—biology, geology, climatology, criminology, dendrology, ecology, meteorology, metrology, glaciology, lithology, nephology, orology, selenology…
The rocks at my feet or in the nearby Cascades needed to be seen. The wind that whispered or roared and pushed the rising and falling tides and moved the morning fog to where is should be begged of learning. The glacier was once over a mile thick here—that thought should cause you to stop and look up.
The ‘ologies came calling as the trails and seasons changed.
Scribbled notes were attached to the cobwebs of my mind. They were put there with no particular purpose. They come back with a simple, “Do you remember…” inserted into a conversation. I need to see more of what I pass through. I cannot do that when racing. What if I were out longer than a day? What if what I saw went from a few things to many and I did not keep notes?
They weren’t notes, not notes as we kept in school. They were notes made on the scratchpad in my mind from standing in front of a tree staring at the bark, at the leaves (even learning to see “needles” as leaves was a learning point). The forests detracts from the rocks, from the sky, from the trail. They demand. They command. A giant redwood on the Aptos No Creek Marathon stood at a switchback and its presence caused me to skid to a stop. The idea of a sub4-hour trail marathon vanished; gone. My eyes went upward. My neck craned. I paused to wonder… how old, how tall, how long have you waited. A book was needed.
That could be it. The redwoods hold a special place in my heart, but in the Pacific Northwest they have a surrogate, the Western Redcedar. The redwoods are two state lines south. The cedars are around me almost every run. Do I have more books about trees than books about other things?
No. In a totally invalid statistical study I removed (randomly) ten books from the shelves that are never completely organized. There are no books about trees to be seen in the stack–not a one. There are two books about running. There is a book about tides. Tides, as surely as trees, have caused many pauses.
Tides and ships and fog are part of our life on the island, but I did not live here when the running-driven book collection started. I looked at the books. The book about Death Valley was bought after one of our trips when we camped and ran there–a singleton. Unseen in the picture are the three books about ravens that were next to Matthiesssen and Hutto’s books.
It could easily have been ravens, or a single raven, that finally forced the needed learning, haphazard and random as it may be, to start. Birds are ever present. They are barely visible high above and clearly heard under the brush at my feet. Birds are large, small, skittish and quick to flight or bold and full of curiosity. They tell of seasons changing–with some luck and blind trust they can be used as a compass. Ravens or owls or all the birds I have seen or ever will encounter? Could one more book selection (randomness of the draw guaranteed) tell me?
No. The only clues offered from these six would be of the eclectic nature of the reading in this house. A last resort is to seek assistance from the local research center.
“Do you remember the first book I bought because of pausing on a run, or why?”
“Owls, you bought a book because of an owl in Capitol Forest–on the trail near Wedekind.”
Owls? Yes, that would work. We watch migrating birds high overhead. We see an eagle, seldom up close, and it often flies before we are through looking. Quail are skittish and gone to the bush before truly seen. Owls, thank goodness, are curious. They wait to see what you are doing. One watched me as I changed bottles one day. An owl can cause me to stop and sit–the sudden stillness on one or two occasions caused a slow descent on the branches as it watched me for sudden movement. They are large, medium, or small. The live in trees or in burrows. They are beautiful in the silence of their movement. Yes, an owl seen on a run could cause a pause that would pique the curiosity that would lead to buying a book not related to running.
It certainly wasn’t women…
———-Run gently out there———-