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Not a Run, Something Different

June 1, 2012

It’s an in-between stretch.

I’m in between fieldwork trips, finally catching up on sleep and my general sense of self and now preparing for New York (and, fingers crossed, for lots of pizza and long summer walks). My funny knee problem is almost over, I think, and I’m somewhere between cautious, restrained running and throwing myself into the wind for hours, mindless and with abandon.

The last between is harder to describe and has nothing to do with running, except that running reminds me that sometimes movement is better, and more possible, than making sense. As everyone in my communities (I prefer “families”) in Seattle and Chicago and Wisconsin knows, it has been at once a bright, brilliant spring and a dark, senseless time. I awoke to warm breezes and bird songs this past Monday; today it was 50 degrees and drizzly. And it’s not just weather, of course. There’s celebration and sadness and alarm everywhere, always, but my heart has been hung somewhere in the middle for the past few months, and I feel it. It is buoyant for those setting forth on new adventures to China or Senegal, to new jobs, to new life-long loves. And it is so, so heavy for those around me who feel sorrow and bitterness and the great smallness and vulnerability of loss. What have we lost? Health, safety, memories, ability, plans, friends, a brother.

I learned today that two of the people who were killed in Seattle this week were playing at the bar the night some of my dearest friends threw a surprise going-away party for my husband and me. I learned later that these friends had a running bet before I arrived about whether or not I would cry when I saw everyone. I still can’t believe anyone actually bet against this- of course I would cry. I remember looking around at the faces and stories I loved so fiercely and feeling very, very scared. I didn’t want to leave. Some days, I still don’t.

I looked around the table slowly, slowly, at so many different people from my different worlds, laughing and drinking beer and eating french fries and shouting at each other, and I thought the only thing I could think: “This music is so loud.” It bothered me at first- the music was clanging and garish and the musicians wore bright make-up and their presence seemed to only increase as the show continued. No longer could I look at my friends, so absorbed was I by the steadily ratcheting pulse and colors and bodies and costumes and instruments. In my memory, it all makes sense- an absurd collision of smiling people and music and beer in a place that otherwise signified a quiet, rainy, not-always-happy life. And now, some months later, in a month less a collision than it is a gap, I wish I had clapped a little louder, a little longer.

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