running


24
Jun 22

Moving into the weekend

Two pictures of moving about. This one from a run!

And this one from a walk!

So it is a light end to a few busy weeks here. Next week might be light, too, who really knows? It’s the pace of summertime, and I hope yours is off to a lovely start.

Come back Monday, we’ll get a long overdue update on the kitties!


17
May 22

Let’s go back in time

Ten years ago I took this photograph, and published it on my Tumblr site. (Remember those?) This is the agapanthus, the African lily. From the Greek agape (love) + anthos (flower).

The plant is believed to have a hemolytic poison and can cause ulceration of the mouth. It does have other medicinal properties, however. There are about 10 species in the genus.

(Haven’t put anything on that Tumblr since November 2014. I wonder why? Probably just rightly remembered I should put everything here.)

Nine years ago I was at a baseball game, and the good guys won. We found our friend watching from a nearby parking deck.

(Happy times!)

Eight years ago we ran a triathlon in the morning, and watched a baseball game in the afternoon. (Good guys lost.) And I got Aubie to take a selfie on my camera.

(Happy times!)

Seven years ago we ran a 10K. I did it in brand new shoes.

This was a fundraiser in London, and on part of the route we ran around Wembley Stadium. The guy that won the race was an Egyptian Olympian. He lapped us. It was amazing to watch him run. He could not stick around to get his medal, they said, because he ran off to run another race. Long distance runners, man.

But look at this awesome bling!

(The next day we were in Paris. It was a whirlwind.)

Six years ago, plus one day …

I’ve never been able to eat watermelon without thinking about that. And I can’t eat watermelon without being a bit sad. Had some this morning, in fact.

Five years ago, boy, I was right about this one.

Four years ago, we were in Tuscany, specifically, Siena, and just one of the beautiful things we visited that day was the Duomo di Siena. In the 12th century the earliest version of this building starting hosting services, but there’d been a church on this spot for centuries by then. The oldest bell in the church was cast in 1149! These beautiful facades started appearing in the 1200s.

That was a grand trip. We’d do that one again, I’m sure.

Three years ago, the 17th was a Saturday, and we went on an easy bike ride.

Two years ago I apparently sat around and thought of little more than Covid. Remember the pandemic?

And last year at this time I was recovering from my first long drive in a year. We’d just come back from visiting my vaccinated family members. It had been my first drive out of the county in more than a year. It took a day or two to recover.

I did have a reason to re-use this gif, however.

The guy on the left is a sports director at a television station in Illinois now. The guy on the right is a 2L at a Washington D.C. law school. (We’re all going to work for one of them one day, I’m sure.)

So a bit of everything on this day in the last decade.


3
Jan 22

Remember, it is twenty … twenty-two now

I took last week off from writing here, and now I have to rebuild my audience. Four people must be convinced to return. It will take weeks to establish that sort of trust. But it was worth having a few days away from this particular never-closed tab in my browser.

I hope you took some time away from the routine, as well, even if it meant time away from this site. And I hope you never close this tab on your browser. Just click refresh once a day. You’ll usually be pleasantly surprised.

Anyway, let’s get caught up. How have you been since we were here together last? I hope you had a good Christmas, if you celebrate, and a lot of time with people you care about and doing things you wanted to do, no matter how you mark the 25th.

We woke up on the 24th in Connecticut, to a white Christmas Eve.

The in-laws drove us to the airport, where we said our goodbyes, and headed inside from the cold to a warmer airport. I left my belt at the TSA checkpoint. For a week I’ve been trying to understand how I just … left my belt in that gray tub.

Sorry belt. We had a good run. And, despite my abandoning you, I liked you a great deal. You were starting to show wear, though, and I would have only gotten four or five more years out of you anyway. And now I’ll have to buy another black belt. (Or use one of the other three I found in my bedroom since then.)

We flew into Nashville, which is good, because that was the immediate destination of the plane we boarded, and also the destination for which we’d purchased tickets, and furthermore, where my car was. Our friend Sally Ann picked us up at the airport. She was just as excited to see us as when we stayed with her a few days prior, or when we saw her earlier in the month. It makes me wonder when people feel like they’ve caught up with those they’ve had to carefully avoid for most of the last two years.

He said, just as it was becoming apparent we’re going back to avoiding our friends and loved ones.

But not before Christmas, because we avoided everyone last year and that stunk and this is measurably better. We have soaring Covid rates, but also vaccines! Thank you science, and Merry Christmas. And so there we were, on Christmas Eve, in Sally Ann and Spencer’s home, planning for the next leg of our holiday travels. We’d removed our masks and took our first at-home Covid tests.

We took those tests because, once the 15 minutes of suspense was over and we were negative, which is a positive, we turned the car to …

We spent the better part of the next week with my mother, taking new tests every day, enjoying her walls instead of our own.

We had Christmas, of course, which is a thing we haven’t had a lot of in the last few years for a lot of reasons. But my mom picked up a bunch of silly little gifts for everyone and people unwrapped them and we laughed and it was different and fun. All of which, we came to find out, was just a setup for my being the recipient of a gag gift, which was clever and sweet and they’ll laugh about it for years because it’s now a part of the family lore.

We spent the weekend played dominoes with my grandfather, who you can see here performing trigonometry in his head.

He’s probably also there considering which dessert he should try, wondering about someone from his church, recalling a passing memory from his work life and thinking up the next sneakily hilarious thing he’ll say. He’s a smart fella, and dominoes aren’t the challenge for him that they are for me, is what I’m saying.

He won’t admit it, but he enjoys whipping me at dominoes. He’s not the sort that you’d think of us competitive, he’d much rather laugh at the moment than put up a big fuss about a game he’s playing. In the whole of my life the extent of his good-natured ribbing is “Goody goody!” But just as much as he likes to sit and visit and, as much as he was proud to teach me how to play dominoes, he also enjoys putting 45 points on the table while I’m drawing extra tiles.

But we play a lot of dominoes when we visit, now. It’s always my mother and grandfather versus me and The Yankee. And we’re getting better at it, at least a little. Occasionally we win a round or two. I am also experimenting with domino strategy, and counting dots on my fingers.

I will forever count dots on my fingers, even though my gag gift was a little calculator to go with my own set of dominos.

We had unseasonably warm weather, and we went for a few runs under some dramatic skies.

The whole time we were there the forecasts pointed at some bad weather coming later in the week, and we all tried to talk ourselves out of that eerie feeling you get this time of year when the barometer and the temperature are out of whack.

I seldom get to use that banner, but we ran over Wilson Dam again, so I’m going to use it here.

Water, as I have noted in this space before, is the predominant geographical feature of the area where all of my family live. The Tennessee River forms near Knoxville, Tennessee and flows to the southwest, into Alabama, before looping back up, helping form the Alabama-Mississippi-Tennessee borders and then heading on up to Kentucky. It created a topography that has defined all of the people that have ever lived there. (When we drove in on Christmas Eve we passed the “Entering the Tennessee River watershed” sign just as Christmas in Dixie came on the radio, like it was scripted to happen, and I was grateful for the darkness because it was a bit emotional in a nonsensical way.)

The Yuchi tribe, the Alibamu and the Coushatta, of the Muscogee Creek Confederacy, lived on this imposing body of water. They called it the Singing River. Alabama became a territory in 1817, white people moved in and it became a state in 1819. Some of my ancestors were among the first white people in the area, some even before the Native Americans were forcibly displaced by the federal government. From what I can glean, they were hardscrabble dirt farmers. Agriculture and water transit defined the era, but shipping was difficult. The shallow, turbulent water at Muscle Shoals was the problem, unlike this little man-made canal at Patton Island.

Then the Great War came.

There was a worry that the Imperial German Navy would cut off shipments of nitrates from South America, so the federal government decided to build their own nitrate plants, driven by hydroelectric power. Muscle Shoals was understood to have the greatest hydroelectric potential east of the Rockies.

So in 1918 they started building a dam, which became it’s own city, employing thousands. They had a school, barbershops, a hospital and more than a hundred miles of sewage lines. But the war ended before the construction did.

This is a view of Wilson Dam, completed in 1924 and named after President Woodrow Wilson.

It is a narrow, two-lane dam, always a bit intimidating when I was a kid. Back then, it was one of the last little bits of road on our two-hour trip to my grandparents’ home. My mom would tell me about how she learned how to drive on that dam, in the snow.

Well, I haven’t done that, but I have driven over it, jogged over it, biked over it in 2017, fished beneath it as a kid, marveled at the power of the spillways and the respect they commanded from people on the water, watched the ships pass through the locks, and dined above it. I didn’t grow up here, but the dam is omnipresent in my story because of the river it sits on and my family which lives in its orbit.

Wilson Dam has considerably less road traffic now, because of the almost-20-year-old Singing River Bridge, my vantage point for the above picture, which is a bit over a mile downstream. You can see the pylons of that bridge, here. I used to do news stories on the air about that bridge because, in the time around it opening, it was the most important thing happening in the area.

In 1933 the dam was handed over to the newly formed Tennessee Valley Authority, which also touches everyone and everything in the region. The dam was put on the historic registry in 1966, and boasts the highest single lift lock east of the Rocky Mountains.

I’m told they used to give tours. Sure, you could walk on that little sidewalk on the narrow dam, but why do that when you can walk through the dam?

As I said, they started building the dam in 1918. In 2016 we ran across the dam and saw a rainbow that was almost a century in the making.

Since they completed the thing in 1924, I now have two years to think up a good line and camp out on the dam until I see another century-old rainbow.

A word about those banners. The Spillway was a newspaper clipping from The Florence Times, the pre-merger ancestor of the modern Times Daily. The Spillway was one of those little social happenings sections of the daily paper The Northwest Alabamian is an old masthead from the still publishing paper of the same name. It’s been a twice-weekly community paper since 1965, tracing it’s own heritage back to 1911. The current publisher has been there since 1983. (He’s also now the county sheriff, and has worn a badge for 30 years, and was the agency’s public relations officer for some time. Small town papers, man.)

We stayed in north Alabama for most of the week, and have since returned to this.

Four days in a row so far, and three months until the reprieve that April will bring.

Hopefully the cats will forgive us for leaving them by then. They were demanding and cuddly over the long weekend.

And, now, for the first time in 2022, back to work.


23
Dec 21

Enjoying our time at the Christmas cottage

It’s always such a treat to be able to open our winter home on the Gold Coast. Though we learned that one of the neighbors is considering moving away. That would really be a shame.

Even on a cloudy day like yesterday, the Saugatuck and the Sound never fail to inspire.

We went out for a four-mile run, but I pulled the rip cord just a bit early when I slammed my heel into the road. Remember, it wasn’t my fault, it wasn’t my shoe’s fault, it was the asphalt.

I didn’t move quickly enough to catch the Canada geese, but I did get the heron from a distant, if only with my iPhone.

And of course, we ran by the old cemetery. You’ll love this marker.

1681- 1771

Families represented: Burns, Church, Gray, Hendricks, Shaw, in whose memory this tablet is dedicated by Compo Hill Chapter DAR and the Morris Park Association 1933.

In the American context of history the cemetery is getting up there in years — in the American context that plaque is aging nicely, too — one across the state is just a few decades older, and it is considered one of the oldest in New England. And if you start googling those names you begin to find the earliest English settlers in the region.

I believe there are just a handful of known graves in this cemetery, but I could be wrong. It sits beside a modern road, and in between is a walking path, and throughout you can enjoy some lovely birding and, just beyond, some decent fishing. Beyond that, you’re in a large city park that’s pretty quiet this time of year.

This evening, after she hanged her stockings by the chimney with care, I put the star on my in-laws’ Christmas tree.

It’s the little big things like that that make you understand you’re really a part of the family.

And how are your holiday festivities coming along? We’re opening a few presents this evening. And tomorrow I have to take on an entirely new role. It could be a hit! Or a miss!


20
Dec 21

Our journey continues

We were at a one-year-old’s birthday party on Saturday evening. A small family event and with Zoom for those that couldn’t be there. The birthday girl’s aunt made the cake and, at one point in the evening, surrounded by screaming children, we found ourselves talking about colors and aesthetics. There were too many artistically-minded people in that house is what I’m getting at. But look at this beautiful cake.

That’s homemade. The snowflakes are edible. The tablecloth was seen as both a conflicting and a complimenting color, depending on your shot composition. At some point, to keep the cake away from impulsive three-year-olds and adults, it was moved to a secret location. (The back deck.) This gave us some different, softer, lighting options.

And that’s what you talk about when grandparents are watching 3- and 7- year olds run through sugar highs.

It was a delicious cake. The cupcake was for the birthday girl, who is the calm in the storm. Even her smashed cupcake was dainty, dignified and not especially messy.

She’s wearing a hat The Yankee made. Her parents call her Hazelnut, and so now she has a hat made to look like a hazelnut. There are leaves on top, and everything, as you’ll soon see.

Yesterday, we went for a run before holiday festivities. It was an easy, and awfully chilly, four-miler. Here are The Yankee and my godsisters-in-law (just go with it) at the sign marking the highest point in Delaware.

And I also ran from Delaware into Pennsylvania. That’s at least the fourth state line I’ve run across, but it seems like there’s one or two more I am forgetting in that list.

And last night we had New Jersey Christmas. This is usually the last of our family Christmas parties, but this year it came first, because everything is upside down. We had a delightful evening, from the scrumptious appetizers to the hearty homemade lasagna, to the lovely company. Our hosts and my in-laws are lifelong friends. My mother-in-law and the hostess were in nursing school together. My father-in-law and our host have known one another since elementary school. Our hosts met at my in-laws’ wedding. They are each godparents for the other. And they more-or-less raised their kids together, too.

They open presents there by age. Meaning I’m closer to the end of the line than the beginning. I distract myself from that thought by paying close attention to the kids enjoying their new toys. I got a shirt and a nice jacket in a big box that was decorated with a classically whimsical Santa.

We also received a few neat ornaments, because you can never go wrong with thoughtful ornaments.

Oh, and here’s another shot of Hazel, wearing her Hazelnut hat, at her grandparents’ home. Note the leaves on top. Handmade with love, by her god-aunt.

This one is a little blurry, but look at the smile on that kid’s face.

Also, now that she’s one, she has quickly moved into self-taking mode.

At the end of the night we said our goodbyes and climbed into my in-laws car and continued our trip. Here we are on the Cuomo Bridge, crossing the Hudson River, and having just entered New York.

But that’s only a quick cut across the corner for us. Tonight, and for the next several days, we are in Connecticut — our sixth state since Thursday.