Sunday morning. The cats wake me earlier than usual, and for a moment I’m unsure if it’s night or day, but slowly my eyes adjust and I can see faint evidence of daylight’s impending arrival. The days are notably shorter now, and if I count the number of weeks until probable frost, it does not add up to very many. It has been a good summer so far, a proper one, hot and dry and full. I allow myself a few extra minutes in bed, the cats pacing, daylight advancing, listening for the mountain stream, the distant water-on-stone murmur I love so much. But it’s gone, low and quiet again in the absence of recent rain.
Later, after chores and breakfast and the assembling of the tools necessary to the day’s primary task, I run my usual out-and-back route. I run for 30 minutes and am passed by one tractor and one truck, and see one black bear. My iPod settles on Iggy Pop’s The Passenger, and I am reminded of a story I wrote a dozen or more years ago for Runner’s World about an ultrarunner named Dean Karnazes and his attempt to win a 135-mile race across Death Valley. To report the piece, I assisted on Dean’s race crew, and I remember pacing him through the night almost 100 miles in, me on a bicycle, Dean running doggedly, and that song on repeat blaring through the open windows of his support vehicle. Every so often, he’d stop to puke or piss or shit, then shake himself off and start running again. He won the race, though it didn’t stop me from wondering why people sometimes do the things they do.
My family is gone for a while, and I’m glad for the solitude, so rare in my life. Though of course at times it tips into loneliness. But even that’s ok. Besides, I have the animals – the cats and the cows and the clucking hens – and I have more tasks before me than I’m likely ever to finish, or at least that’s what it feels like. I have friends just down the road; last night we sat outside by a fire until late, solving the world’s problems until fatigue compelled us to part (besides, there were no more problems to solve, we’d fixed them all!), and I drove the mile home up the gravel road, windows down to the soft night air, feeling pretty good about things in general.
A few things to share:
This amazing interview with Robin Wall Kimmerer
Here’s the piece I wrote about Dean Karnazes
A beautiful essay by Donald Hall about solitude and loneliness
Oh, and Iggy Pop’s excellent song The Passenger