My years spent outside of formal education will far outnumber those spent in the classroom, and yet autumn always feels like the next phase, a matriculation. It's hard not to let the season then, gorgeous! fragrant!, stir up anxiety. What's the curriculum this year? What's the plan? And eventually I get out of my own way and remember that you can't arrange for growth, it just happens to you. Imperceptibly, we are growing all the time, like when a friend declares your hair suddenly "long".
At this point in the season, I am still in in my own way, a squatter in my brain, but embarrassingly in love with everyone around me. The other night before bed Nick did a thing he has been warned against doing and I attempted to sleep on the couch on principle. And I lasted about ten minutes before remembering how quickly the days pass, how the indifferent universe could have all sorts of horrors in store for both of us and why would we not sleep in a bed together. I am quick to anger but quicker to forgive, or honestly, quick to lose track of what we were arguing about in the first place. Sometimes I become hotly angry and within the same sentence, annoyed by the conflict and I attempt to molt the entire fight that I, myself, started like it's last year's plumage. This is why I'm a real Chinese finger trap of a human and why I am glad to be able to run for hours outside by myself, safely removed from other people. I yearned for the peacefulness of long distance running years before I was able to do it, and I don't take it for granted.
I spent a perfect day in Athens, Ohio last weekend, a town which holds a lot of affection and angst for me. Sjanneke, Katie and I ran the perimeter of Dow Lake. This was my marathon taper run, carving into the muddy hillsides with the sides of my shoes, taking numerous tumbles over unseen roots. I chased the two of them for seven miles, as they moved with the lightness of baby deer, or faster human runners, or something. Pillars of white mid-day sunlight bore through the canopy, lighting my friends so brightly, they seemed for half a second to disappear. The rest of the day will sound boring because it shakes out to drinking in bars, basically. But I got to walk around in the clear night air with Sjannie, by the street where she and I used to live, and her little baby was there, too, and on the drive home we saw a shooting star.
When you train for a long distance race, you don't ever run the full distance until race day. I trained to 18 miles (most train to 20, I had an injury). I hope during those 8.2 yet-unknown miles to feel towed along by the memory of getting myself out the door to do those grueling, lonely training runs through the streets of my city, solely because I dared to believe myself capable of something exceptional. And at the end of it all I hope to sit very still, enjoy a good cry, and have pizza brought to my face.