They say a picture is worth a thousand words. The pelting snow, at times hard and fast and other times soft and furious, wasn’t conducive to the cutie camera that I own, so I left it at home, safe and dry in its case on my desk. Half-way through the run however, the urge struck me to record this run as though it were a picture. The only way I could do that was to create the thousand words that equaled the moment in time.
For the first time in weeks, I woke up and could not WAIT to get outside. The clock said 5:56 AM; this would give me plenty of time to get in an easy 4.5 miler before Bill left the house and I danced through the complicated (but predictable!) getting-two-kids-ready-for-school routine.
I tossed on shorts and a t-shirt, tied my hair into a ponytail, bounded downstairs to feed Kirby and froze. It was snowing. Yesterday the temp was 70 degrees at 7 AM when I stumbled into the kitchen. As Kirby got down to business with her breakfast, I quickly changed into my winter running gear and stuck the shorts back on the top of the pile, hopeful that I’d need them for Saturday’s ritual run with the ladies.
The snow was wet and heavy, though there wasn’t much accumulation on the ground yet. The grass and new buds on the trees were laden with white, and my shoes made a slapping noise on the deserted, wet pavement. I left my iPod at home, wanting my ears to be free to hear the sounds of morning.
The instantly white world had no affect on the chirping of the birds; they were loud and persistent with their calls. A gaggle of robins landed on the pavement in front of me as I started up the street; apparently this was a prime time to hunt worms for breakfast, and the moisture on the ground made conditions even better. They didn’t mind the onslaught of snow on their tiny bodies, which gave me hope that this sudden storm would be fast-moving.
The hard snow pelted my face and eyes, making me blink rapidly as the frozen water melted against my warm cornea, bathing it in water. I kept my gaze on the asphalt in front of me, sneaking looks at my surroundings and regretting it moments later when I was blinded by snow again.
My pace was easy, and I marveled how effortlessly my legs lifted and fell with each step. I felt the arch and slight heel of my running shoes, and paid attention to each footfall. My shoulders rotated freely but my sacrum felt tight, as though there wasn’t enough space for movement. My hands were in a relaxed position, not dangling from my wrists but loose and breezy all the same. My mouth was slightly open, just enough to get a little extra oxygen in the lungs that nose-breathing wouldn’t provide.
And so I went, up hills and across streets until I reached the paved trail behind the Louisville Elementary School. After each turn I expected the snow to stop pelting my face, and after each turn I was surprised to find that the angle of the snow had changed again. I was a magnet for the snow; no matter which way I turned, I was always heading into the wind.
Finally I succumbed to instinct and let my eyes close for several steps. My feet drifted to the left. After four or five steps my eyes opened to check that I wasn’t going over a bank, and then relaxed behind closed lids again. I played this game over the course of a half a mile, easing into rest and allowing other senses to guide my awareness of where I was in time and space. My body was not trying to get anywhere quickly, and I wallowed in the sensory delight of running through a spring snowstorm.
The melting water beat against my forehead, ran into my eyes and coursed in rivulets toward my open mouth. My skin no longer hurt from the prickling of pelting snow, and I wiped my eyes and nose with a gloved hand. I have not (willingly) stood in a rain or snowstorm since I was a child, but the sensation of cold water trickling down my face took me back to the place of my birth and where I spent the first three years of my life; Whidbey Island, a place known for its naval base, Pacific Northwest lushness and perpetual drizzle. As a toddler I ran in grass dampened by drizzle and played in cool afternoon showers. Today, I am entirely content to be soaking wet and completely warm while I run through the snow.
Pavement turned to gravel as I made my way toward Community Park. The creek was high, half-way up its banks and the long green grasses swayed in the pull of the current. This is what the Mississippi River would look like in flood, except that this water is clear and I can see across its banks and could probably wade across it… but that’s beside the point. Less than one hundred feet away a row of houses stand safe, as they’re a good ten feet higher than the creek and stand little (if any) chance of ever being flooded. A lone dog, wrinkled with age, was a silent sentry as I crunched my way past. He never even looked at me.
One more mile, up one last hill, down one more sidewalk, and I slow to a walk. My legs are happily alive, my breath is even, and there’s no reason to ever stop running, except that I am home. Under the protection of the porch I unlace my sneakers, remove my soaking rain jacket, hat and gloves, and step into the warm house. I am utterly, totally and thoroughly, content.