April 22, 2011

someone needs to water the plants.

my coffee tastes like soap. i never do quite get all the suds out of the pot.

despite my scattered thoughts i feel like writing. i've spent two nights at home in the last two weeks. it's this "unsettled" life that brings peace, settlement to my soul. it's what works for me. i wouldn't have it any other way.

coming to rochester was supposed to be my chance to live a normal life, to do normal things and pay my loans off in a normal environment, under normal circumstances. i tried. i have failed, and it's been exquisite.

you look at me and say free-spirit, hippie-sort, earth day every day. it's easy to say those things, isn't it. we don't like to call it this, but we judge. how often it is that we take one glance and write a soul a mind a being before asking any sort of question that would probe a response that might reveal something, anything that might contradict or complicate the person we created. i do it. none of this is new. what's new is this:
i don't notice the way i am perceived anymore.
i spent last weekend at a monastery in the catskills. on the second day i sat in a room with a circle of writers. i missed lunch because of the need to appease a pressing urge to run. post run: i brought a plastic coffee container of hard-boiled eggs with me. after an hour or so in the same stale chair my legs began to itch for movement. i took to the floor, bringing my eggs with me. i cracked my eggs on the table in front of me, letting the shells drop back into the green container. thinking nothing of this i continued to join in the conversation, only to notice the strangest expressions coming from a few of the gathered. it made me aware. i zoomed out, looking down on the scene from a place beyond the stained white ceiling, and chuckled.

when a date becomes wandering through undiscovered forests, pointing out new buds and greens and talking about things i can't remember, i am good. when silence doesn't creep or hang but is assumed and appreciated, i have gotten somewhere.

i'm beautiful. did you know that? the things that make me different aren't done to be different, they're done to be me. i'm realizing that right now that's all i know how to be. my issues are still alive, but i'm more at rest than i've ever been before. i've accepted myself. there isn't a soul i'd rather be. there's no spirit i'd rather have. i want to change and grow and become, but i'm doing all those things.

gosh it feels good to let go. hah!

April 4, 2011

Ode to Shoes


After 9 months, 1,139 recorded miles and probably at least another 230 or so unrecorded miles, I have retired my recent running shoes. (Trust me, this is blog-worthy.)

This time last year I challenged myself to run 12 miles in the Appalachian Mountains outside Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. It turned out the trail was only 9, so I ran the 9 and then challenged myself to run 12 in Lorton, Virginia 6 weeks later. I did it, solo, feeling incredibly accomplished. Two days later I ran a 5:53 mile for a fitness test. Two days after that my knee gave out and while in Louisiana for 6 weeks, I didn't run a step.

Up until this point running had been an escape. When I didn't want to see people, didn't want to be interrupted, when I had too many thoughts and feelings to know what to do with, I ran. In Lorton I often woke up before anyone else and ran 4 or 5 miles before work, worked all day pulling junk out of the woods in the sun, and then ran another 6 to 8 at night. I avoided dinner with my team a number of nights. I escaped the morning breakfast rush, opting rather to do these things on my own, in quiet. My soul was raging and my spirit was confused. Very little made sense to me at this point in my life, so I ran. When I was running I felt quiet. My thoughts made sense, and though I ended in the same place I started, I knew I had gotten somewhere.

One of my first runs after my 6 week haitus in Louisiana was a "Technical Trail Race" in Pennsylvania. For 6.2 miles I ascended and descended a mountain of rough, rugged terrain.

Exhausted. Depleted.

I was hooked.

The following 6 weeks I woke up almost every morning and ran to the Camden waterfront or into Philadelphia. Crossing the Ben Franklin Bridge I had this intense sense of touching down on ground that held knowledge of things I would never know or understand no matter how long I lived there.

What I was experiencing in Camden brought a rush of audacity to everything I did, including running. Was it smart to run alone at 6am through the streets of the most dangerous city in the US? No. It wasn't. But I did it. Without a phone, without a knife, without pepper spray. Early morning was the only time Camden felt quiet, but even in the quiet it never felt calm. There was always something stirring, an eeriness to the quiet for me on those mornings that I would step off my porch onto the street, say goodmorning to the man who was always sitting on the porch across the street. He didn't have legs. Every morning he said to me "go go go! run!" And I ran. Strange as it is, the thing that brought me the most peace on those runs was running past the homeless asleep on the benches by the river. It was their world. Did I exist?

I didn't run for a week after returning to Maryland. I spent the majority of every day for a week in bed, sick for no logical reason other than that for the second time in my life, a city had wrecked me, leaving my happy healthy world in shards.

And then I met The Guys.

The guys who released me into the world of adventure running. We met outside building 9H at 7pm and returned 14 miles later, well past dark. I couldn't sleep that night. Or the next after yet another night of running into the darkness, pausing along the water, running roads I had never run into towns I didn't know existed. They ran to explore, to discover, to be together and alone, to be a part of something and untouchable. After three days of this we met the "Trail Dogs" in Delaware at 6am and I ran my first marathon, trails. This would be an entirely separate entry. Suffice it to say I hit a state of bliss, a place of flow, that changed me as both a person and a runner. 3 hours in I knew this was something I was made to do.

26.2 miles later, soaked, mud-covered, spent and beaming, I was officially a Ratty One.

I spent the next two months running to explore, running to enjoy the company of another person, running to find lakes and rivers, running to breath the air, running to arrive. I ran to the ocean, along the ocean, to see the sun rise and feel it set. I ran to be alive. One day we ran 18 miles in pursuit of a lake we knew had to exist.. no power bars, electrolyte drinks or energy gels. No water. We just ran.

The body is an incredible thing. When you let it go.

These days I'm learning to run by feel. I don't have a number of miles I want to run in a week. I'm not training for anything in particular. But every time I run something happens in me. I don't have friends to run with right now, but I'm not bored, and I don't feel alone. Sometimes I find new roads, a trail I didn't see the last time.

But the most incredible thing is when I hit that point.. the one I barely recognize because it happens in a state of unawares.. but I hit a point of flow, a point where nothing exists but my breathe, my heart beating, the air around me, in me, and the stirrings of my spirit. Sometimes I find myself whispering in a language only God knows. I am an agent of change in a world I don't belong to, a passerby believing life isn't something we make but rather something we find when we finally, finally let go.

To the places I ran through, the people I ran with, the faces that smiled and the hands that waved. To the rivers I crossed, the sand my feet printed, the birds that sang to me, and the roads that truly do live in my memory. To the girl I was, the girl I've become, the girl I'm becoming. And to the shoes that shared it all.

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