Yesterday the moving truck arrived at my home to haul the large furniture items from my house of 20 years to our new place. We’ve already moved two households of boxed goods. My process began two months ago, clearing out things that were no longer needed.
It’s been a long time since I moved, but it’s always a familiar sensation once you’ve done it before. The smell and feel of cardboard boxes. The rip of tape over folded box sleeves. The thump of once box over another.
There’s also a fair amount of potential sentiment tied up in moving. Whether you’ve lived in one place a long time or been transient through any number of transitions in life; college or grad school, marriage, work moves, divorce, death in the family or any number of other scenarios in which we haul up and move, we packed a certain store of memories in those boxes and try to carry the rest around in our heads.
It’s a funny thing that we mimic this process in the sport of triathlon. We pack our stuff into bags and wheel our bikes to the starting line. Then we unpack it all and arrange it in our little “home” amongst many other little homes in the transition area. Then we go out and swim and come back. Then we bike and come back. Then we run and cross the finish line unattached to any of that other stuff until we come humping back to gather it all up and plan for another day.
It’s no coincidence that the long course triathlete typically needs some assistance in all that. An Ironman race is an exercise in logistics as much as it is in endurance. There is gear to consider, for sure. But also nutrition and even “special needs” bags to assemble. The same goes for a stage race in cycling. All those vehicles tailing pro cycling are basically satellites from the home front carrying food, water bottles, spare tires, even spare bikes should the need arise.
On the road again
Some people love to participate in stage running events such as RAGNAR as well. 8 or 10 people pile into a van to jump in and out and run legs over distances in the hundreds of miles. There is nothing like a van to make you feel a bit utilitarian about your existence in any endeavor. Vans are built for two things: To haul people and to haul goods. Even with the seats in place, a van is never a glamorous existence. You can dress it up any way you want and it’s still just butts in seats. And when you’re trying to grab a dose of sleep along the way, it’s not uncommon to contort the human body into positions one would never assume if one were not desperate for rest.
But that’s the fun of it, isn’t it? Living like a complete hobo for hours with 8 or 10 other crazy running nuts can be painful and difficult. The legs cry for help as the leg of each journey comes to a close. Yet when it’s done, and you clamber back into the van covered in sweat and smelling like hell, that slap of hands from your teammates when you jump back in the van makes it all worth it. You’re travelers together in this compressed world of going one place to another. Of running shoes and sweat socks. Of towels and drinks and food if you like. You sleep together and see each other half naked and it doesn’t matter one damn bit. It’s all just flesh on the move. Male and female and all points in between. One flesh. Moving through this crazy life. You’re packing it up but you’re not packing it in.
And so it goes in many walks of life. I’ve moved many times in life, and this one feels right. Our new home overlooks a running path and a greenway. The first day we visited the home, I was standing in the backyard behind the house when a red-tailed hawk swept toward the cottonwood trees against a clear blue sky. At the sight of the hawk, I cried. During my college years, I’d found a red-tail freshly killed beside a highway. I was involved in taxidermy student in college bioloty at the time, and extracted a couple hawk claws from the foot of the bird. That was illegal of course, but in my petulant youth I ignored many rules from trespassing to underage drinking. So I took the hawk claw to a jeweler and had it set in a silver clasp to hang on a silver chain. And I wore that during my senior year in college when my entire being was consumed in running above all other things; my art and writing in particular. That hawk claw was a signal to myself that I would get back to those other loves when the intense running was over.
Yet that link to a hawk also signified the freedom in life I so longed for and desired. So wearing that hawk claw also inspired me, and I helped lead our team to second place in the nation in college cross country. For much of that season I ran second man on the team after languishing from 5th to 7th man in previous years. I was a young hawk that grew into a hawk in full flight.
Even eagles need a home
Yet during any given year year, even a freewheeling hawk or eagle is bound to its nest. That is a lesson learned from many years of observing them. Even that symbol of freedom, the bald eagle, has to have that homing instinct. Eagles build giant nests, often in abandoned trees. The young take months to fledge, and that is part of nature’s plan. The young return for food and support from the parents. It’s their job to make sure the young figure out all they need to know in order to survive.
This week a set of three sandhill cranes has been feeding close to the roads in the harvested fields near our new home. The parents will guide the young birds south for the
first year of migration. They are largely inseperable along the way. As I watched the cranes feeding, one bird kept watch while the others gleaned seed from the fields. Then from some invisible clue the parents began to dance together as if they were courting in spring. Their elegance is stunning. These big birds with long legs pirouette with wings raised. It absolutely lifts the spirit to see them engaged in the dance.
I have been witness to the consummation of such dances. At a forest preserve near our new home, I stood on an observation platform one March morning as the sun rose. Two sandhill cranes were dancing in together on a section of flattened grasses. They jumped and twirled in their places. Then the female bowed and the male rose above her with wings raised and illuminated. They mated, and then bowed and raised their heads together. The pair bond is strong in all of nature, and whether we make our homes in one place or travel together these ties that bind are a good thing. Friends. Family. Training partners.
Yet we must keep moving in one way or another. I’m excited for the new living situation but also eager to push forward in my career. I’ve been packing it up in terms of belongings and such, but not packing it in.
It has been interesting to sort through samples of my writing and art and design deciding what to keep and what has meaning. And yet for all I’ve accomplished in life, I feel at the height of my creative powers these days, and eager to do new things. I’ve had solo art shows this year and collaborated on projects with other artists and business leaders. In no way am I ready to retire, or even thinking about it. Life is too exciting with the work I’m doing, and that includes the running, swimming and riding every day.