Thursday, December 15, 2011


Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis. (Grant them eternal rest, Lord,
and let perpetual light shine on them.)
-Mozart requiem, Introit

Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.
-Chinese proverb

Winter running, no matter the clime, makes sunshine a rare prize for the working stiff. I mean sunshine in the literal sense, no matter if it is raining. I mean sunshine as opposed to darkness. Night shift offers a chance to emerge from dark into light, but night shift involves the deep pain of a shifting circadian rhythm.

I am trying to figure out how to run in the dark. The woods beckon, and I have  a candle of sorts, but just a few days ago a mountain lion was spotted on my trails. I actually was running at dusk that day, and kept having that slightly panicky feeling that something wasn't right, that same feeling that can come over you while sitting on a surfboard with your legs dangling into the shark-ridden waters. I try to tell myself that the mountain lions are always there, whether or not they are spotted. Why does being seen make them so much scarier? The thing about a mountain lion is they will not make any noise before they eat you up. They are experts at stealth. I miss my great big fierce border collie, who used to run for hours with me but now his joints can only handle an elderly trot for about 20 minutes. He made me feel safe in the dark.

Dogs and lions aside, I need to run in the dark, or I will most certainly turn into a big, fat, grouchy puddle of insanity. I leave my work in the evening: it is dark. I arise before work in the morning: it is dark. Darkness is sad and scary and it tempts a girl to carry pepper spray or to learn kick boxing.

Once I was running in the woods on a dark morning, dogless. Suddenly, about 20 minutes into my run, my headlamp failed. I stopped. I stood there with towering redwoods all around but completely invisible, because I am not a nocturnal animal. Humans are pathetic--we can practically kill ourselves walking to the bathroom at night in our familiar but dark bedrooms. But back to that one morning: I stood there, alone, in the dark. After a minute or two, outlines of trees and ferns and the path became visible. I looked up at the moon and the stars twinkling between the tree tops. The air was so crisp and the quiet so absolute. I felt very calm, and suddenly very alive.

Then I fixed my lamp, and ran on.

Today I ran into the sunset with my eldest child. We are avoiding the woods during prime hunting hours, so we chose the marsh. Due west the sun was a massive orange fireball. The ducks didn't seem to notice. Toward the end of our run, which we had agreed was to be low key, we found ourselves flying at a fairly crisp pace. Daughter turned to me and said, in a somewhat sassy tone, "I just would like to point out that you are the one running like a bat out of hell, not me."

I somehow never pictured one of my children including me in such a simile.

Kurt Vonnegut once said he dreaded the thought that the requiem proclamation of resting in eternal light might be true. Wouldn't it be better to rest in darkness? Who doesn't enjoy that moment of sleep, curled in bed, enveloped in darkness and silence, with the stars and moon a steady night light. Like the night on our honeymoon, camping in Maine in October, when we found our way to the rocky beach at midnight, and laid head to head all bundled in down coats and mittens, staring at the most spectacular night sky I have ever seen.

I think the headlamp is calling me. But it'll be at least a week before I can muster the courage to enter mountain lion central in the dark.


  1. Beautiful writing on so many levels! And thank you for getting me Beth Ables. I like her vigorous approach. I was so concerned about losing Alan - but I now think I am better off- will be healthier. Love Vera's comment: running like a bat out of hell.
    But do be careful! Iris

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  3. "Mountain Lion Central?!!" Makes the idea of that indoor track sound a lot more appealing.

    As for deleting the first comment: Where's auto-correct when you need it?