Saturday, May 7, 2011

Walk Across America

When I was a kid, my Dad walked a lot. This was good, because he had his first heart attack at age 43 or so. Good, because diet and exercise really are the best medicine. So, he kept a notebook in his pocket recording his walks, and he kept a map of the USA. And he walked across the country, yet never left our neighborhood. Each day he just logged his miles, dog Brandy at his side, then traced the route on his map.

Hagen Road was once lined with Dutch Elms, forming a tunnel of trees. On hot days, walking or running  along Hagen Rd, shade was a refuge and the neighbors' sprinklers life-saving. Branching out beyond, like onto the Ridge and bluffs, meant long treeless stretches. Dad would leave jugs of water along my path on the long runs on the ridge. The cows studied me. The grass smelled like summer.

Now, the cooling pacific winds keep those hot summer runs just a memory. Tree tunnels have been replaced by a towering redwood cathedral, with creepy, creaky music on windy days. The bottom fields near the ocean still hold studious cows, but the scents I've come to love mingle Eucalyptus and salty sea air. Friends bike by me on weekend afternoons. I used to run in silence, but my fellow marathoner E. inspired me to run in step to a playlist, a strange mix of my 1980's childhood and my husband's cooler, hipper generation of rock and roll.

I run like Dad walked. For being outside. For keeping a record of where I've been and where I'm headed. For cows. For my "espresso love" energy gels. For jugs of water on Irish Hill on a hot summer day and beach sand in my running shoes and prehistoric redwood forest ferns and trillium. For my health. For Dad and for Mom.

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