Sunday, March 18, 2012

the zen of moraine running

After two and a half years of this stay-in-one-place experiment thing, I still don't entirely feel like I belong yet. I have yet to learn the rhythm of life here, to enter the circles that other people have created who have lived here for ten, twenty, years and beyond. I still sometimes feel like the girl who loves mountains more than people, who will pick up and leave soon so there is no use in getting entwined in the fabric of a small town.

But something is different here. I am starting to care about the people here in a way I never let myself before. After all, when you know you are moving on soon, it is too hard to drop down the walls. Missing those you have left behind makes such a deep groove in your heart that I learned over time to avoid it as much as I could.

That is not to say that in the other places I lived that there weren't people I loved. My marathon training friends, a merry trio who suffered through horizontal rain on our twenty-milers. C, my confidante of the trails, who listened to heartbreak and secrets and never told. The Swamp Babes, sassy women who could drive swamp buggies and dig fireline better than any guy ever could. R, my buddy who pushed me to the fastest mile and a half ever. The Boys of Mackinac. Just to name a few. But while I kept those people close to my heart, the towns themselves were a mystery, the interlaced lives. They were just brief stopping places along the way, places to resupply. I wasn't part of those towns and they weren't part of me.

The other day I looked glumly out of the window at the mud season, a seesaw of a time when it can be sixty degrees one day and dumping snow the next. I thought of all the places I could be instead. Hawaii. Mexico. Then I did what I always do when I want to fall in love with this place all over again: I headed for the moraine.

You can't run fast on the moraine, at least not in the beginning. Rocks litter the small path, slowing progress to an eleven minute mile, probably slower. Much slower. The zen of moraine running is that you don't take a Garmin and you don't take music. You don't worry about pace. You are forced to slow down, in some places even (gasp) walk. The moraine teaches you patience. It shows you that you can't force things. At first this frustrated me. I worried that this run wouldn't count somehow, that it was too slow. But eventually the moraine worked its magic. It really didn't matter that I was slow. It didn't matter if I had to walk. All that counted on the moraine was its essence, running on top of the world, in a place whose history stretched back generations. Always, I slow down to moraine time.

I don't know if I will ever become part of this place's history, a fraction as much as one of the icons who passed away yesterday, leaving people in tears as they heard the news. I don't think so--I've come here so late, too late to make an imprint on the seasons and the hearts of those who call this place home. At the same time I wouldn't take back my fifteen years of traveling. I lived more in those years than anybody has a right to. But as great as traveling was, it was ultimately solitary, a girl in a car heading somewhere. Now I want to be more like the moraine. Part of something bigger.

I'm staying. Maybe I will end up being part of the stories that define and mark our boundaries to this place. Maybe not. In the end, it doesn't much matter. It's time and patience and learning to slow to the pace of something else that matters to me.


  1. I've moved around a lot and feel the same way about other places I've lived too. Kinda sucks, but it makes leaving a little easier. I'm going on 1.5 years in the same place. Usually about 2 years in one place, I start doing my escape dance, where I feel antsy for the next adventure.

  2. Life is a glorious journey. If lucky, we each have our shot at it. But as we age, and again if we are lucky, we tend to be happy and satified with the life we have liven! I know I am... John

  3. lovely post, mary. love that seesaw of time.

  4. Love it Mary!

    As I was hiking this weekend with the Boy Scouts I often found myself thinking of you and your trail running. I would stumbled over a rock and think "Mary can do this running, why I can't I do it walking?"

    I think as time progresses you will ease right into your place in that town. You are in it for the long haul this time. Keep reaching out and making those friendly connections.


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