I decide to break away from my routine a bit and run in the other direction, and longer. Without my fearful dog, who pulls back and suddenly lunges at other dogs and men, or my daughter’s husky, which pulls forward and sideways and takes all my attention for training reinforcement. Free hands, an easy pace. I want to see how much farther I can go today, and what I can see. I focus on the branches bouncing by–fir, hawthorn, maple, willow, alder. Past a neighbor’s house where a deer is grazing. A male robin stands out against a cedar hedge along the mobile home park. I pass down into the gully in the park where a small bridge crosses a stream. I always stop here despite my workout goals, and face the oncoming flow of water, because I like the sound, sight, symbolism better in that direction. A few yards in, a great blue heron has been fishing and is now watching me. I stand still, but as I am unabashedly watching with my mammalian eyes, the heron cannot regain its equanimity. It looks side-on in my direction, tenses, steps, keeps looking, decides I might make a rush at it, or maybe that the rest of my pack is circling around quietly at the rear. And off it launches with lanky, pterodactyl grace.
The bare upper branches hold aloft a multitude of nests–various sizes, silhouetted against the morning sky. On one part of the trail, near a quiet street crossing and a stream, there are five or six in view of one another. Would I remember to look and listen for their tenants in the spring? Too big for the chickadees and juncos singing in the thickets, too high for the towhee, which nests on the ground. Maybe belonging to robins, crows, and varied thrushes.
I see humans. I always bid an impersonal “morning” as I pass, but am surprised when some humans go by without a word. What other mammal would do that? It’s a communication in itself, perhaps, but it feels bad, even to an introvert like me. Others smile, nod, make an extra acknowledgement of our common quest for breathing room, beauty, mind-clearing bipedal rhythms.
I noticed a few months ago that this was one of the 5K race routes, but was intimidated by the steep switchback trail at beginning. I am running in the reverse direction today, and see that it’s not so bad, but now I must climb a long hill and will surely lose my breath partway up. Which I do, but not so soon as I expected. Back through the neighborhood, I surprise a diurnal raccoon, which runs partway up a Douglas fir and watches warily as I jog by. Next is the zone of the feral rabbits, but none appear; might be in decline, discouraged by roving dogs.
And so on home for a shower and breakfast. Am I actually starting to enjoy running? The surge of energy and the gradual increase of endurance and strength, along with a little help with toning, have always been welcome, but for the past few years I really have to make myself go out every day, for the time outside, the health and psychological effects. I’ve heard of the runner’s high, and that it kicks in after 5K. I’m finally on the edge of that, so maybe this is the beginning of a new pleasure within the discipline. I could use that.