When I last wrote I was bound for New York City to run the marathon, packing running shoes and a lot of misgiving. An hour after I arrived in Brooklyn, they made the announcement that the race had been cancelled. It was the right and obvious call to focus the City’s resources on the suffering multitudes and not on a run. Finish line ponchos went to people freezing without power, New York Road Runners collected and donated millions of dollars, and runners staged a donation-based marathon around Central Park. I got to help a tiny bit with CityMeals, delivering some meals to elderly New Yorkers. And without the subway to zip around visiting various friends and places of interest like I normally would, I stayed much more local. (I ran across town to visit a friend and my favorite donut shop.) One night I wandered down to the water and found a haunting Lower Manhattan still without power. Even the Statue of Liberty was in darkness. I walked along the river, up to and across the Brooklyn Bridge.
**Edit: I feel like most of this post is what I was thinking about this event pre-Sandy. With our developing understanding of just how devastating this storm was, and continues to be, I feel like the tone and focus doesn’t quite work. After a day of contemplating not going at all, feeling abashed about the race’s demand on vital City resources, and reading a number of articles and reports from NY, I’ve decided to go still. I’ll help Citymeals deliver food on Saturday, I feel good about having helped raise lots of money for them, and I’ll hope that the marathon can be a symbol of New York’s resiliency and resolve. Please consider giving to Citymeals, not for me or a run, but for the folks in special need right now.
I love running. When I was a chubby little kid I didn’t love running, but in first grade when we could choose to run either the one mile or the two mile, I chose the two as some kind of offering to Jesus or something. I know I was the last to finish, and I don’t know for sure what my time was but it felt like it was probably around 2 days and 900 minutes.
Now I’m days away from running the New York City Marathon. There’s a chance I’ll do it faster than I ran 2 miles as a doughy lad.
After elementary school I got my growth spurt and all that baby fat stretched out and running was suddenly fun. I’ve gotten to run all sorts of ways in all sorts of places ever since: tear-assing around a track; loping out into the woods solo or in great packs; all bundled up in the rain; all naked in the rain; climbing mountains; crashing down mountains; on trail, street, sand, snow; and most favoritely, finishing into some great wild body of water.
Running 26.2 miles through the 5 boroughs, with 130 bands and 2 million people cheering and 47,000 other runners is going to be some kind of brand new awesome.
It’s also awesome that I get to run for a great charity, Citymeals. This organization delivers food to wonderful New Yorkers in need. They’ve been working overtime during this disaster, making sure folks were stocked up before Sandy hit, and even running out in the midst of it when needed (an elderly man got out of the hospital and returned home where he had nothing, so Citymeals rushed food right over to him in the midst of cyclone winds and streets becoming rivers). With power still out, they’ve been climbing hundreds of flights of stairs to bring folks food in the dark.
I’m raising $3000 for them, and with 3 days until the race we have $800 to go! I would love your help, I need your help! These sweet elderly and disabled New Yorkers need your help too. Your donation goes straight to making them meals, and it’s tax-deductible to boot. Here’s where you can give:
Thanks for reading, thanks for your support. I’ll see you on the other side of Sunday!
It’s a given that going anywhere in this town, and by town I mean Portland proper, its minor burghs, its places of river front industry, and its great area of green-banked river channels, you’re going to be bombarded by birds of the best caliber. We’re lousy with bald eagles, osprey, and herons. And then of course you have a jambalaya of other players, all sorts of bush tits and flickers and warblers and prancers and dashers. Ask Crash, he’s a bird nerd, he’ll tell you.
So it was with an eye on the skies that we set out paddling. What we didn’t expect was to find this little guy washed up on the beach!
He was a painted box turtle, and he was supposed to be in the mellow backwaters of the island we were on. Somehow he’d gotten himself into maelstrom of Columbia. We gave him a little rest and warmth and set him back on the beach.
He charged back in to get hopelessly thrown about.
I fished him out, asked if he was sure, and set him down again.
And again he skittered into the thrash. If you want I’ll tell you that he was probably washed into some calmer waters and is happily sunning himself on a log right now.
Crash has a way with winged creatures besides birds it seems.
Speaking of birds.
How exquisite to possess a form based entirely on the principle of flight. And flair. Where you are a signifier of grace as others observe you, and an active perceiver of the miraculous yourself.
Next time On the River Trail: Flotsam and Jetsam
It’s high summer in the Pacific Northwest. Tomatoes hang heavy, rivers run low, and the heat is a golden delectable light. But the sun is well on its way south, leading the geese; the shadows steal warmth, and getting out into the shortening days has a sense of urgency.
Heeding the call, my buddy Crash MacClanahan and I took to the Lewis River for a bit of paddling, a bit of sipping beers on the water’s face in defiance of the coming cold, a bit of marveling at this great cerulean wilderness. Our course would takes us under a railroad bridge, down the Lewis River, across the mighty Columbia to the lighthouse beach at Sauvie Island, back across the Columbia and up Lake River, and at last back down and then up the ol’ Lewis.
This was our noble craft, belonging to Crash and his wife J Motzingham.
The paddle down the Lewis was tranquil as the day was warm, the river bottom at times a mere couple feet below us. After a mile or so we met the Columbia, where the lazy flow of our Lewis collided with the vast heave of history surging for the sea. We dipped into the chop and hauled ourselves across to Sauvie Island. There we landed on empty beach, our seamans legs unused to solid ground. But we managed to hike sandwiches and beers to investigate the light house point. Ahoy Crash, what do you see?
The Columbia is a major shipping channel. Especially exhilarating are the giant box tankers that charge up and down the river, delivering shiny new cars to massive port lots. I was hoping to see one approaching, and challenge it to a race. Unfortunately they were too cowardly, but Crash did spy a barge and its accompanying tug approaching from downriver. Life jackets on, stow the Newman O’s, back into the drink!
The race was on! We paddled pell mell, laughing uproariously into the spray, visions of being keel-hauled dancing in our heads. Just when I thought it was going to be a razor’s edge finish, the bastard angled for deeper water and allowed us to escape disappointingly death-defiant free. Crash remains vigilant.
Mainly for birds, but also for danger!
Coming up in Part II: Fellow mariners we salute you.
I thirst and drink and dream of water still. Blessed with an Oregon sky full of water, the rains are a regular reminder of the sacred dance. Rivers are wonderful and flow through mind and heart, inexorable drives that satisfy while they imbue, reflect, reinforce yearning for what they are flowing toward. Nothing washes over me like the ocean. So that is where we go to hike in wind and rain, to sit quietly at great window, to run out on brand new beach and dive into the surge of salt and cold that grip the body and cleanse it electrically alive.
This morning I came back to being by degrees, I was the sound of wheels on gravel, I was thin light, I was eyes wondering toward sky and I was finally remembering a body. I made it real with food and want and plans, I moved out into a day unlike any other. I looked for you but you weren’t there and then I forgot I was looking and the sorrow went down below words. I was only real in motion, so I trained my body to move with breath, to give itself to being both root and reach toward sky. I demanded ground and made my furious stance amid the ruin of a time like no other. I gave up into air, my hands touching atmosphere and what peers at us from the bend of was and becoming.
Meet me at that crossing, where an island gives in to the sea, where water paints itself into clouds, where clouds watch night fall and stretch out toward stars.
Someone came down to the river to pile stones, and the stones, already dense with stories of fire, took on more meaning, became both doorway and messenger. Someone saw them at the edge of a furious river and was still for a very long time, listening to the stones’ old stories. Someone stood drinking in all the light and all the water and changed the river and accepted the change that came in return. Someone let go and moved downstream, like something gone, or something coming. Someone rested by the water awhile and when someone else came, told their own stories of fire in the dark and the light.