the sun settles down,
bites its lower lip
gnawing anxious apology.
Despite bare chest runs,
Icy crystals pelt flesh
before ducking back into forest.
Before Orion departs
the air is still, crystal.
One last fire
before smoked glass
before summer rushes back in
on the heels of chlorophyll
on the scent of cottonwood
and on fire
go to the mountains
follow the water
until it becomes small
and lifts up into the sky
At each upward glance
ducking around rock and limb
soft contour of arbutus red
brown green diffuse lit supple
and shaded in cove and crook
I thought of your skin and
the expectation of you on a bluff
as I steam through the plucked cliffs
over moss and dripping salt
finally seeing the subtle tonalities
of mountain shadowed shoulder
For once a guiltless infidelity
mistaking a tree for you
on the same trails other
poems were written onto
where an unsettled summer had to
die off into bleakest winter
to allow resurrection into clean new skin
paper curls of red flaking to the ground
lime green beneath
and time’s every etched groove
still palpable. grey branch bones
scattered, moss on rock, doug fir shade
rotting cliff killed deer
and camas pushing up from
we have a lot to explore there
you and I
we still have almost everything to learn
Running, surfing. A bit over two weeks ago I ran the Orcas Island 50k. Poorly trained and in brutal mud, but it was still fun and the dance party after was amazing. In a way this culminated a long stretch of training that began a year ago when I started preparing for the Siskiyou Out Back. After that race, my dilligence faltered, with some longer weeks and some shorter ones. Some good race results for me. But, overall, unsteady attention to training and subsequent loss of fitness. Hence, my Orcas time was about 30 minutes slower than I would have hoped for, I hardly slept the week before and woke that morning with a painful stomach.
Coming home in the deception pass 25 k
Then, we flew to Maui. Prior to to arrival, I’d thought about training runs there, hoped for long ascents of Haleakala, and fantasized about learning to deal with tropical heat and humidity. Then we arrived and the surf bug started to stir in me. Watching perfect and almost uncrowded waves peel through tropical, clear water had me turning to the nearest surf shop. By the end of our first day I’d rented a couple of boards and would go on to surf for 6 of the next 7 days. And once that switch flipped, my desire to run vanished. This has happened any time I’m deeply rooted in one or the other passion. There simply is no room in my mind or heart to do the other thing. Ultimately, I think surfing wins. It’s more playful. It’s got more thrill. It’s less zombie like.
So 10 days went by in Hawaii with only one short run. Granted, this was a recovery period from a very hard race, but I usually feel extra motivated post race and have to reign it in. This time… nothing. And, it was a relief. Being free of the endless chasing of “getting a run in” was relaxing in a way I hadn’t felt in a while. We just surfed (Liz was surfing too) and ate and napped and ate and surfed and snorkled and explored.
I imagine this would happen with skiing too. If I had backcountry touring in my life, then I’m sure the running would take a back seat. Surfing would fade from view, and travel in the mountains would consume me.
Now, I’m back home. And driving the highway through Goldstream park and all of its trails. Looking up at Mount Finlayson. Peering into the damp forest. It makes me want to run. No wetsuit to put on. Easy escape from the most pressing deadlines. That exalted feeling when done with a long climb or a long run that I’ve seen something and explored my environment a little bit. Essentially a whole other face. The surf is far away and imperfect and cold. The running is close. Spring is opening up the trees into blossoms and leaves. The skunk cabbage is almost out. The thrush is calling. It’s trail time (and I’ve got a 50 mile race coming up). And, one day some time later, it will be surf time again.
A midnight run up Mt. Tzouhalem. 500 m of climbing. Left the car at 11:30PM. Why? Why not just go to bed? It feels crazy. I can only do it because I have no kids and my girlfriend is asleep after a long 24 hours of midwifing. I do it thinking of her. I do it thinking of future runs and self worth and the simple pleasure of moving and for the long day spent in an office chair. Thinking of cougars lurking in the forest around me. The trail pierces upward through fog, into and out of forest and meadow and rocky ridgelines. My own bubble of head-light and glimpses of town lights growing more distant below. Until I reach the top. And look down on the Cowichan Valley and see the thin fog lit from below by mercury vapour and sodium arc and LED. An impressionistic patchwork of beautiful color below and sharp pin pricks of stars above and frost glinting in the grass around me. I feel triumphant and like I’ve seen something and that’s enough to send me back down the hill to my car happy and almost confident that I wont get cougared or stranded up there somehow.