Running on Location: Dragonflies, Moose and Bears - Oh My!
I am in Alaska for the first time in over 6 years, visiting a dear friend and testifying in a trial. A trial that turns my stomach, makes a non-cryer breakdown and sob. It is a necessity to be here and I feel privileged to be able to. But it is heart-wrenching.
I loved Alaska when I lived here for nearly ten years. She expects a lot from those that stay here with her. I needed more heat in the summer, the winters felt grueling and long, but ultimately it was the desire for my children to grow up knowing our extended family that drove me away. But I miss it here.
I am going for a 6-mile run. Runners are a unique group. Instantly feeling camaraderie when we meet and feeling at peace in unfamiliar surroundings when we lace up and take off. I have, in my opinion, an endearing habit of getting lost even in familiar territory. It used to frustrate me, but as I grew older I embraced it and found that unknown surroundings were a chance at a new adventure. I still continuously get lost. My friend, Kellie told me how to run down the street and jump onto a trailhead that would take me easily in a 6-mile loop. She smiled when she said it. With me there is no "easily". I will most likely get lost.
I found the trail just like she said, but as is with life there were constantly forks in the road. As is a habit for me on the way out, I always veer right so when turning around I know to always veer left. It's a typical Alaskan summer day - 60* and raining. The trail is breathtaking. In many places, it became a glorified goat path which for a trial runner just adds to its appeal. Slippery rocks are hidden in vegetation, logs to jump over, puddles, lots of mud, piles of moose poop... Beautiful! Moose poop? I thought... Hmmm.... Can only mean one thing... More appeal!
From that point on, however, I kept chanting "Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!" But obviously, that wouldn't work... There are bears for sure, moose poop and dragonflies everywhere some as half as large as my hand. "Dragonflies, Moose and Bears OH MY!" As I nearly army crawled under a particularly low hanging tree, I landed myself in the middle of a very large, very muddy puddle. Already soaked through in less than a mile I did what any sane, normal human being would do... Giggled, yelled "WOO-HOO!! This is awesome!!" and kept right on running.
I began to notice something I've noticed many times before. I was losing weight. The weight of stress, nervousness about the upcoming trial, the tension in my body, apprehension of my ability to do my best. I was beginning to feel weightless. Relaxed. Happy. Blessed. As is nearly always the case, I somehow got off the beaten path and ended up in a subdivision. Bummer. Since I had already backtracked some of the trails, I decided to listen to the voice in my head and veer off the road less traveled. The streets were deserted, the houses spread far apart as is the Alaskan way. The streets are barely wide enough for two passing cars.
Again, I did what any normal runner would do. I ran down the middle of the road. Still smiling I passed a penny. Seeing it and wondering if I would have luck I realized it was tails side up. I turned it over, smiling more, thinking of the next person to pass it's way, pick it up smiling at its promise to be lucky. As I finished out my mileage and got ready to turn around I was overwhelmed at how lucky I always feel. All the times I looked back at the path, watching for signs of where to go I pondered as runners often do. What are the signs of my life? Do I pay attention to them? I have very few regrets in my over 40 years which makes me happy.
I found the trailhead again with no problem and although I stayed to the left, I did veer off down trails that were just too tempting to pass by. I looked forward to the puddle, army crawl under the tree and was excited when I saw it looming ahead of me. I did end up popping right back out where I started and trekked down Kellie's street to the house. When I saw her van in the driveway I thought "Heads or tails, today IS my lucky day."
And as runners do even when in new places, I felt like I was coming home.