Marathon

I really, really hope it doesn’t snow in the morning.

Tomorrow is our local marathon/half/5K and bike tour. Sarah and I have been riding this for quite a few years now and except for the first year when we froze our toes off we have had decent weather. This year…..oy….not so sure; it was 32 this morning at my house. Add precipitation and wind chill to that and a ride would be tough.

But, this year especially, I want to ride. I need to participate.

My marathon running career ended a few years ago and now I run shorter distances and ride the longer ones. I’ve got to say….it’s much more fun to ride a marathon when you’re as slow a runner as me! But I don’t ride well in the cold and wet….Sarah and I were discussing this and she had the *brilliant* idea of switching to running the 5K. I knew there was a reason to send her to college!

Yesterday after work, in the hills above the city, I ran a few miles with Boston in my heart. Tomorrow we will do the same; offering sweat and effort and prayers for everyone affected by the horrific events of the last few days.

As I write this, the second suspect is in custody.

We all know there is plenty of badness out there; so be safe, be strong, be a force for good.

Run for Boston; run for all of us.

 

Signing the race banner that will be sent to the Boston Athletic Association

Signing the race banner that will be sent to the Boston Athletic Association

PippinTook

PippinTook is Gandalf’s little brother. Never mind that he is of a different species, he is the quirky, social butterfly younger sibling to Gandalf’s older, more sensible, kind of nerdy big brother. An odd couple by any definition, Pippin adds a certain flavor to our family; remember the movie Young Frankenstein and Marty Feldman’s character Igor the hunchback? When Dr. Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) asked Igor about the changing positions of his hump, Igor looked at him as if he was daft and replied “What hump?” Pippin is our own personal Igor:

Pippin and the mysterious foot

“What foot?”

Now that the snow is going Pippin has started accompanying Gandalf and me on walks. This began one dark night when we were not far from the house and I heard a cat meowing. Hmmmm…..sounded like a familiar meow and when I looked around I saw two glowing green marbles bouncing toward us. It’s quite difficult to juggle the camera and leash while honing in on a cat who moves more quickly than the shutter delay but this is what I came up with so you get the idea.

Pippin on his first walk

I was initially freaked out a bit about Pippin’s safety as we have a busy road not too far away but once I talked myself back from that ledge and thought about it, he grew up with a field of foxes, other dogs and a main road close to that house, too, and he managed OK. He has all of his claws and good sense. I have to trust that.

When he had to be an inside kitty at my apartment I put chicken wire on the balcony so he could at least go outside and I promised the furry kids I would get a place with a small yard so they could feel grass under their feet. The Universe presented us with just that and I have to honor my promise of an open-door policy. Keeping Pippin “safe” by keeping him inside made him sad and crazy, and helped me understand again that a life worth living is not without risk; therefore I have resumed my job as doorman for my critters and we are all happy.

The one downside in this arrangement is the way Pippin announces his desire to go outside. No sweet “meeeooowww” will do for him; he jumps onto a windowsill in one of the rooms and paws at the metal venetian blinds. The cacophony he creates can only be described as hellish and when he first did this several possible sources of this racket flashed through my mind in rapid succession. (A) every window in the house was simultaneously shattering, (B) a car was crashing through the wall in my kitchen or (C) a death-metal band had appeared and was tuning up in my living room. The noise is truly this epic. This could be pay-back for the chicken wire on the balcony, but then I remind him that a year of apartment living was a small price to pay for saving his life and he forgives me. But he continues to ask to go out by “playing” the blinds.

So our days roll on and are bookended by walks. As the winter wanes sometimes the air has a tantalizing softness to it and other days the wind comes right off the snowpack, lest we forget that spring is not for sissies. Every day I am beyond thankful for this life I never expected; and while generally I have to agree with the statement “If you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes”, in this instance, I think it doesn’t get much better than this!

When walking with the boys, I am not the lead dog!

Dark

 

I’m told the Eskimos have something like thirty-seven words for snow, and in the last eighteen months of walking with Gandalf I have come to realize that likewise there should be many more words for darkness. In our culture we only quantify not-light as “dark” or “dusk” but it is my theory that dark is actually more complex and therefore requires a more expansive vocabulary.

This is what I am talking about:

Semi-Dark (not quite light).

Kind of Dark (you could still see a white cat).

Almost Dark (in between dark and dusk).

Very Dark (can barely see a white cat).

Really Dark (white cat invisible).

Star-Dark (when the sky is so full of stars you are sure you could read by them but really you still need your flashlight. See above photo).

Snow-Dark (this is one of my favorite times to be outside….snow on the ground, low, thick clouds and porch and street lights reflect a hundred-fold off all the white. This creates a softly bright, slightly golden glow, by which you could read).

Freakin’ Dark and Holy-Cats-I-Can’t-See-My-Hands-Dark. (self-explanatory). These are quite similar and having two separate descriptors may be purely academic.

Gandalf is not fazed by any of this. I think his nose and ears shed their own “light” and he skips out the door with the same abandon regardless of the visibility. One night when it was Really Dark I heard an animal noise outside and when I let him out he charged through the doorway, did a Superman leap off the porch and his furry little behind disappeared from view. He trotted back a few minutes later with a satisfied look on his face and the rest of the night was quiet.

Since I lack Gandalf’s visual and auditory acuity I am quite happy to have my headlamp to light my way; I do not care for what I term “the Braille method” of getting around when I can’t see. This involves “reading” the terrain with my feet and way back in the heavy-flashlight-only olden days this was the technique that served me well until one night I misjudged a shadow and fell into a hole. For a long while after that I quit running at night but took it up again once headlamps became lighter and more affordable. And of course now, I have Gandalf the Fearless to share my jaunts.

On walks when it is Freakin’ Dark I rely on him for what is outside my vision and hearing and there have been times when he stops, looks into the black and gives a low growl. It is at this point that I immediately change tack and our route takes the opposite direction. Adding to the list of Questions For God After I Die are “What is out there and how does Gandalf know?” With my feeble human senses I have to wait until daylight….and there it is….a fresh pile of moose poo. Gandalf rocks!

Sometimes I wonder if he is pulling a “Far Side” on me. Remember the Gary Larson cartoon with the two dogs plotting to look at the closet door and growl in unison, just to shake up the humans sitting comfortably on the couch? Nah….he wouldn’t……would he?

Not-light has its own beauty and the paradox and contrast it provides adds richness and depth to my life. Metaphorically and literally, I have been in much darkness in recent years and have learned new appreciation for the interconnectedness of these seemingly contrary concepts.

Sarah took this photo of Michael this winter; the perfect analogy: without darkness we could not appreciate the light.

Snow globe and Michael