A near silent hiss of granular snow had fallen overnight. This was a surprise to see as I opened the blinds to peek into the pre-morning gloom. “Huh, snow,” I muttered to myself.
Sue was already down in the exercise room riding her bike on the trainer. The sound of her wheels on the cylinder thrummed through the house. She was on the bike by 4:45 a.m. I was just rousing myself to the task of a half-hour run at 5:00 a.m.
My clothes were piled on a chair next to the dresser. This is the most important step of all for an early morning runner. Chasing down equipment is the greatest delay and the most difficult task in the early hours. For one thing, the cats come begging food if you dally too long. I also did not want to wake our newest house guest, the dog Chuck that has come to live with us while my daughter and her beau plan their next stage in life.
Sue’s kids are still with us another week. Their stirrings on the way to work usually do not start until 6:00 a.m. Some mornings there are vehicles to move so that everyone can get on their way on time. That always comes before my runs. The basic consideration of joint living.
With all that out of the way, I stepped into the morning air outside our house and felt the first draft of what the day would be like. By chance of availability in the running gear drawer, I was wearing my black balaclava hat. Despite this covering, the crisp kiss of blowing snow still reached my face.
It turned out to be the perfect solution on a brisk morning with a north wind pushing icy crystals of snow southward. The street was covered. Only one set of tire tracks circled round the cul de sac. That was the newspaper delivery truck. The track of the skidding paper slid up the driveway. Later I’d come back to find the thin tracks of mourning doves around our bird feeder, and the clean lines of the primary feathers of a bird that lifted off the ground when I approached.
Looking to the south, the sky was lit by the cluster of car dealerships down by Interstate 88. The car stores bleed light into the sky, the mark of eternal commerce.
I turned east and then north, straight into the wind and the snow. It flecked my eyes and bounced off my cheeks. Then it is forgotten somehow. The elements of the day are what they are. You can’t change them. So you run.
A half mile in the urge to pee comes over me. There is not a soul around, so I stop just past the reach of a streetlight and pull it out for a pee. When finished, I bend down and write in the snow. “Wee wee.”
I know, stupid, right? I can’t help myself. I like stupid stuff.
The hill up Hickory Lane goes by smooth enough. Then I’m on the flats of what my wife and I jokingly call the Penis Route. The three-mile loop goes out, makes a loop on Horsehoe lane and heads back home. On Strava, it looks like a dick. Or so we’re told by our pervert friends who love to tease us about it. We love that. Nothing wrong with some dick humor in this world.
On the way home my body is warmed up and I pick up the pace. This past Sunday I ran with a friend named Jeff Palmer. He’s a lanky guy in his late 40s who can still motor it. While Sue ran with his wife Max, I joined Jeff during the warmup phase of his 1:20 run. We dropped from 8:30 to 8:00 to 7:20 mile pace as we ran together. He threw in an interval or two but I kept trucking along. During the last half mile I shut the hell up and just ran. I could feel that I had about another 1.5 miles of that pace in me that morning. Then I’d have to shut it down.
But it gave Jeff someone to run with for a bit. That was my duty. I’m sort of a Sherpa runner these days. My training takes place by osmosis.
As I tooled back down the hill on Hickory Lane this morning a short burst of gratitude caught up with me. I thought about the fact that I’m sixty years old, have no ACL in my left leg and a torn meniscus poking out from the core of the same knee. Yet here I was trucking along in the dark on a crunchy snow street and fairly loving it. What’s not to like?
On the return trip I stopped where I’d taken a pee on the street and bent over to write the words Oui Oui in the snow below the dark pee patch and the words Wee Wee above it. I had to finish my work of art, you see.
Turning onto the bike path that leads toward home, I saw the tracks of a fox heading down the pure white path. There are coyotes here too, but they seem to come and go. That’s why the fox could move unmolested by his fellow canids.
I ran together with the fox tracks for 400 yards and reached our house. It felt good to be warmed up. Surely I could run another three miles, and probably should. The run cleared my head of any dark little thoughts rattling around my brain. That’s the purpose of some of these runs. To let the darkness and the snow and the north wind blow away the anxieties of real life.
Behind me, as I stepped up to our porch and the front door, the lights of the car dealerships blared behind into the morning sky. They were diffuse, so different than the illusory images of fluorescent lights reflected on the glass of my office window as I turned to leave work last night. Those were crisp and defiant against the darkening sky. This light thing is all a game. An illusion of self and perception.
On the drive home last evening the clouds to the south flickered with lightning as the last warm air of the week passed over. Those clouds were shedding rain and pulsing with lightning and thunder as they traveled. Perhaps the sky has its own share of dire little thoughts or worries it likes to shed from time to time. For some, this is the nature of being. Nothing tragic at work, nor habit of mind any longer. Just a part of existence and the daily transition from darkness to light.
Thanks for coming with me on a little run in the morning light and the falling show. May you find the light of meaning on your own today.