I ran in the heat of the day, 90-degrees and the humidity so thick you’d swear you could feel its weight on your shoulders. From the get-go, I could feel the heaviness in my legs, too; this was nothing like the mountain run I wrote of last, when I felt so strong and sure of myself, and I thought again of all the ways in which extended physical exertion reminds me of writing and by extension life itself, how it can be nearly effortless one day, and excruciating the next. And how, if you can just get past your own absurdist expectations and just sit with whatever it is, this is actually pretty damn cool.
I plodded along my usual route, to the Dead End sign and a just a little farther to where the road actually ends. And then just a little farther than that, down onto the snowmobile trail where on the 4th of this month I’d ambled past two teenage boys extracting a small hitch of firewood with an old, hoodless lawn tractor. It was not even 10:00 a.m. and they rode the tractor with open beers in hand. We nodded the curt nods rural men tend to offer in greeting, and then wished each other a good 4th, and I was glad for the meeting, it made me happy in a way I can’t quite explain. Maybe because when I was their age, I would have loved to be in their shoes.
On my way to the turn around, I’d stepped quick over a road-kill grouse, and on my way back, near the spot where the small, shattered body lay along the road’s shoulder, I came across a clutch of young grouse, chattering and nervous, darting this way and that, and I realized that the dead bird was probably their mother. I figured the young would probably be ok. They looked big enough to make it on their own, once they calmed down a bit.
From the roadside, I’d already gleaned a styrofoam coffee cup (16-ounces, Dart brand), a grease-stained paper plate, a Kit Kat wrapper (king size, no less), and an empty quart container that had once held organic chocolate milk from a local creamery. The lattermost delighted me for it’s inherent incongruity, for who, exactly, litters local, organic food packaging? And so I passed a goodly portion of my run determining the container’s path to its resting spot: Surely it had taken flight from the interior of a seafoam blue Prius, with its inevitable “Feel the Bern” and Euro-style NPR bumper stickers. Surely the driver was listening to mealy-mouthed neo-folk. Surely it was a he, if only because I find it difficult to consider a female litterer. And then came the lightning bolt realization that of course the container had come from the Prius’s rear seat, hurled by an insolent child too young to realize the wretchedness of his action, the parent too distracted from trying to make out numb-lipped lyrics to notice the exiting plastic.
The container’s story thus determined, I carried on, legs still heavy and slow, shirt sweated through, hands full of roadside detritus. Glad to be almost home.