Monday, February 25, 2013

No Name And A Place All Our Own

"What is his name?" 
Me, directly, "I have no idea?"
Pause. "Excuse me?"
"Yeah, no clue, Michelle literally brought it home probably a year ago and said....."

     After awaking to a faint, jumbled traffic report rousing my senses, I roll over and decide that my active day starts now. 

     Before long I am moving swiftly amongst the downstairs dwelling, picking up clothes piles and scanning them for a technical tee, my favorite technical tee.

     Auburn Running Company, ahh, there it is! Wait, do I actually even need it? Yeah, what the hell. Who do I think I am? Ok, what else do I have here? Watch. Shoes. Shorts. Socks? Wait, do I have socks? Yes, I'll wear what are on my feet, the ones I slept in. Towel. Canvas bag. Ok.

     Oh wait, food. 

    Ok, a couple of tangerines and chocolate chip cookies should be enough sugar right? 

    A well-thought pause.


    My heart rate rises as I realize that this day I awoke. As extra credit I realize also that I feel refreshed, ready to take on a challenge. This has been a rarity since March of 2012. Since early spring of 2012 life, in its simplest form,  has for myself been a challenge. Today I move fast. Challenges can be lazy, futile in their attempts to challenge our wits, our prowess. Today, this is true. 

     As I pass the coat rack a hanging plastic bag catches my eye. Two more quick strides and I feel only the polished steel of the front door between me and my bottled energies. 

    Wait. Wait.

    I drop the bags making sure I don't miss the rug, their cushion preventing a  broken, crumbled chocolate chip cookie, rendering it worthless.

    After a deep-controlled breath I mumble, "Why not?"

    We are making good time as I nearly miss the turn off on Idaho Road. Cutting across 3 lanes of traffic and through the gore area I break the first of possibly multiple state(federal?) laws for the day. I seem more focused though today as if the day was hand made prior specifically for me. Made, In America I might add, on some television show hosted by some well-liked wholesome character of yesteryear. 

    The sandy parking lot is empty but for one vehicle as I roll off Interstate 88. A lone seashell on an otherwise picture perfect pink sand beach. I feel indifferent as I open the door and feel the elements. The wind immediately grabs me, clipping at my heels and fingertips. I shut the door.

"What am I doing?" I mutter to myself staring ahead.

    The bags containing my running items are roused about the seat and floorboards. Tangerines lie where they should on the dirty base, resting against a box of weathered tie-downs. One shoe, caked in crackled mud, is nestled neatly in the door panel like a steaming Thermos full of coffee.

    There, lonesome, and sitting where I placed it, gently, a plastic bag. Sternly and stout it stares back at me.

    "All I know is his wife said he wanted his ashes to be spread up in the mountains somewhere. So I said 'yeah, give 'em to me. Logan is always out there.' "

    So here I was. No name. No story. Just a bag and a wish.

    I realize that I have no way of transporting his cremains into his preferred place of rest. I have a handheld water bottle with a small zippered pocket big enough to hold a bite size Snickers on a good day. A pair of running shorts, no pockets, and my tech tee. I calculate the numbers. The ounces. The days. The wives. The children. The wars. The weight. The weight. He was a simple man. He will make the trip with me, I will make it happen. We will make it happen.

    I grab the now empty brown paper bag that concealed my pre-run snacks and delicately tear off a large enough swatch of paper to transport his remains securely. I am ashamed. 

    Without thinking my cupped dry palm dives into the bag. I feel my fingers surprisingly dig in deep with relative ease, reaching for life, a life. I only want to make one swipe so I tense and tighten my cradled hand knowing that it is important which part of this man will make this trip and which will stay behind, working, watching the children, the grandchildren, watching his life pass on until the money stacks up and the clouds and the roads open and once again beg to be explored.

   That's enough. I clench even harder and pull my arm from the bag. Before long I am on the trail with surprisingly heavy legs. I gain the first ridge above Bulldog Canyon to the south and finally open up my legs on the flat buttery path. I cruise the singletrack following my petrified footprints from the week prior and can think of no other place in this world I would want to be. I hope he feels the same.

    The winds from the north rip through the canyons leaving the flora dancing like wildfire. I am determined this day to make the trip. I feel I will know when I get to the right spot. The wind is a side note.

    For a year he begged. He was patient as my health improved and failed over and over again and this was my way of repaying him for his fortitude. Life in this moment, these moments, cannot be taken away. It is yours, maybe only for a moment.

    My legs loosened up on the flat terrain and the landscape painted itself in front of me trying to catch up to my churning, pulsating legs. I pass a group on horseback, maybe a dozen horses in all, not one nodding in my direction. Large eyes four times the size of a humans suddenly catch my eye. I move on down the trail, across the streams.

    I wonder to myself, "Was he a nature lover?" 
    "Did he ever trade tracks, footprints, with the wild animals of this world in the wild mountains of this world?"

    "Was he a wild animal?"

    "Did his faults destroy him? His family?"

    "Was he an athlete?"

    "Am I an athlete?"

    At the 6 mile mark I knew it was time. I knew because he told me. I knew it was time because the heavens sucked the circling clouds from above like a straw and hushed the surrounding winds that had rented the space inside the broad sweeping mesa to a halt.

    When my lungs returned I paused and for a moment scanned the land. A wind, after its brief pause, grew in size and strength from the northwest. It swept over the surrounding cliffs 500 yards out and gained power and force. I fumbled for the zipper. It was in my hand in an instant, the brown bag, folded like a small brown packet of sugar bulging at the center.

    The zippered pocket was opened, and, void of his cremains was covered in fragments, in dust, that had seeped through the package and coated the inner compartment. I let him down. 

    A gust of wind rips through the canyon like a blade reminding me of my mission and in an instant my arm shoots to the skies and I feel the release of a weight, a substance, an existence, which quickly dissolves into the backdrop of colors and sky and sweeps quickly down the mountainside enriching its worth. 

    The mountainside calms to a silence. A sea of clouds accompany a flock of sparrows that float above, heading east, dotting the ground in dancing shadows.

    Time may stand still. But for now, time, life, has moved on.

    My bottle is empty. I turn and head back the way I had come.