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January 20, 2013: Wind and Stars

January 20, 2013

It’s finally cold.

I set out for my beloved Sunday morning run extra early today, delayed only by sleepiness and the time-consuming layering of socks, tights, pants, shirt, vest, jacket and mittens.

You can’t imagine the place we live. An hour-long run could go be described like this: beautiful old mansion, beautiful old mansion, Lake Michigan, university, beautiful old mansion, lighthouse. Except that this morning it was windy- windy, cold, and full of stars. In this girl’s heart, “windy, cold, and full of stars” is it.

I ran toward Lake Michigan, where I found myself parallel to and nearly in sync with a big golden dog scampering loose ahead of another runner. They traced the gravel outer path and I the inside. As our paths neared a point, the man shouted to his dog, “Get over here!” He was tall and dressed in heavy running pants and a red jacket. His face was covered by a scarf or ski mask, I couldn’t tell. Made breathless by wind and pace, I called out a quiet, “Good morning.”

“Good morning!” he said, his foot-falls clomping heavy and close. “We’re the only two people out here.”

“Yeah,” I replied. And without hesitation, I added, “It’s nice.”

He laughed. At least, I think he laughed: it was hard to tell from below my stocking-cap, and from under his scarf. We ran side by side, then he turned east as I continued north.

As the loud rhythm of his steps faded, my thoughts turned in. Take away the running. If I were to encounter a stranger who said that, and in the near-dark beside Lake Michigan’s icy waves, my eyes would flare, my heart fire, my feet race me away. Yet to rebuild the scene, to add in a lion of a dog, a mess of clashing, wicking, woolly running gear, my quick smile and his frank observation, it’s fine. It’s nice, even. It’s transformed from the frightening echo of warning I imagine myself running from to an unexpected affirmation, a welcome into a brief running partnership based on hardiness and craziness and all-out love of THIS, winter.


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  1. Thank you for sharing this. Millie the wonder dog and I ran in this morning’s cold. We, too, saw only one other person and he, too, had his yellow lab off leash. No lighthouses, though. Just trees.

    I love running early and don’t mind running in extreme cold. We have a tad fewer people here in Duluth but early means I can let Millie off leash and she can run safely without disturbing others. It’ll have to end in March when skunks and bears start waking up but all’s well in January.

    Cold is no problem. Lots of bulky layers so we go slow but that’s about it. The snow crunches. The eyelashes frost over. And only equally insane (I prefer to think daring) people are out. There’s a phrase I heard at Wolf Ridge ELC a few years back that’s stuck with me. “There is no bad weather. There is only bad clothing.”

    • I love it- especially the bit about bad clothing.
      You’re lucky that you can keep Millie off leash in the pre-skunk days of winter! Walden and I have managed some great leash-free running on a few trails north of Evanston, but I’m afraid the area mountain biking community will claim them come spring…

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