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August 31, 2013: My friends, the mountains

August 31, 2013

I’m back in Seattle for a whole week, visiting beloved friends, touching base with my university home, breathing very, very deeply.

This trip, I’m staying at a favorite professor’s home in Ballard. The walls of my bedroom are painted a pale olive green and lined with colorful prints of hummingbirds, seascapes, an Elizabethan promenade, a market, a baby. There are old etched vessels on the window sills, overlapping patterned rugs on the floor, and shelves boasting of book after book on France and French cuisine. Why leave this room? I wonder.

But I did this morning, early.

Before I left for this trip, I sat with my husband as we ate dinner and made a list of everyone I couldn’t wait! to see in Seattle. It was a long list, seemingly longer than ever as more old friends have relocated – or re-relocated- to the Pacific Northwest. And at the bottom of the list: the Cascades. The Olympics. The Sound. How to explain a a friendship with things absolutely impervious to you, and so unswayed by your admiration?

I was out the door by 5:30 today, running up, up, up a long, straight hill north. I craned my head toward the space of sky where the colors had begun easing from clear blue to violet, from violet to grey rose, then to tangerine and gold, gold, gold. There were trees, though, and roof lines, and no matter how long I looked to the east, I just saw more color and more of the silhouetted neighborhood skyline. But then when I was high enough, and north enough, I crossed a road and stood very still: There you are, I thought, my heart tender.

I don’t run alone these days and haven’t for nearly 3 months; I now have a little sidekick who is due to be born in March. I can’t wait to tell this person that she or he was in the smallest of ways with me when I stayed there, in the middle of the street, staring out at the blue ridges of the Cascades on a Saturday morning.

I chastised myself for a long time after we moved to Chicago: What was my problem? Why was I so unhappy? Why couldn’t I adjust? But today, when I finally left that street and turned west and ran on a ridge overlooking the Puget Sound, so many tiny sailboats and cruise ships and tug boats below, the jagged edges of Mt. Constance and Warrior Peak far across the water, I wanted to laugh. To really laugh, to shed nearly two years of guilt and sorrow and say with gentleness: Are you kidding? Do you see this? Of course it was hard! And while I don’t want to move back to this magic, contradictory, absurd, wonderful -and often devastatingly rainy- place, I know for certain that it wasn’t crazy to love it so deeply and forgivingly.  And it wasn’t crazy to infuse my future in Chicago with a longing for the past; it may have made me feel crazy, but it was also natural. It was the sort of response that anyone who inhabits the profoundly insecure and surprising space of Life might cling to, but then slowly, it fades away and we stand quietly and blessedly in the present.

I breathe and run on.

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2 Comments
  1. Bethany permalink

    Michelle, I think I discovered your blog sometime during the summer after we met in Fayetteville through Consuelo. Every time I catch up on what you’ve written I’m reminded that I should tell you how much I enjoy reading this – your descriptions of place and your running insights. So finally, I’m saying just that, with an added wonderful congratulations on your little sidekick! So pleased for you!

  2. Thanks so much, Bethany! It’s great to hear from you, and I hope you and your family are doing well. 🙂

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