In The Running

by Maria Theresa Maggi on October 7, 2021

“Running with the Moon,” pastel sketch by Maria Theresa Maggi

When we head down our street toward the beach each morning there’s two ways we can get to the access. One is to turn left and the other is to go straight and into what looks like a dead end with a house facing the ocean before turning left and eventually ending up at the same downhill walk to the access. Though it’s a little shorter to take the first left, I always like to go straight, because it’s like walking into the sky over the ocean. I also like seeing how the rising sun behind me hits the house between us and the ocean.

I’ve recently thought a lot about this house. The people who bought it have totally renovated it, including putting new siding with several coats of protective paint over the siding. At first it was hard to tell what color the paint actually is; sometimes it looks very dark brown and other times it shines like metallic silver. It didn’t become clear to me that it was actually both until I was talking to one of my friends here who had met the people who live there and using the house as a point of reference, I asked, “you mean the silver one?” And she said, “No, it’s dark.”

This friend is an artist and she trusts her eyes to see color. The next morning as Cotton and I were heading toward the western horizon and the house, there it was, all lit up with silvery panels. It finally hit me: the house is silver in the early morning if the sun rising in the east is hitting it. It’s dark later in the afternoon when most people see it and the sun has moved southward across the sky and then behind it. On mornings when there’s no sunlight it’s also dark. So it’s both dark and silver –just not at exactly the same times.

For some reason I found this duality about the appearance of this house filling me with hope. It might be that I like discovering that opposites can co-exist rather than conflict, each taking their turn.

I’ve recently discovered an opposite turn in my own life that also fills me with hope and more than just a little glee.

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Once we get past this house and around the corner and down the hill, Cotton and I head down the stairs of our beach access to the sand. Early mornings are not very crowded and sometimes we are the only ones close by. It’s a great time to let Cotton off the leash so he can run, which he loves to do. If he gets to chase a seagull or a crow, so much the better. Usually I walk along as he charges ahead and then returns. His joy in running and chasing also makes me chuckle just a little bit. Usually I’m walking or if there are some, looking for shells and agates as I make my way across the sand. I don’t know what brought it on, but one morning, I simply started jogging. I went for as far as I could go, which wasn’t very far, but it was surprising to me that it was even possible, and even more surprising how great it felt afterwards. Since my foster grandbaby has been removed from our care and we are not allowed to have contact with them, as you know, I have been negotiating the sadness and heartbreak of that reality. So to find that I could jog for several yards and that I actually felt my spirit lifted afterwards was a pleasant surprise I could never have anticipated.

I was also surprised to find a visceral memory I had forgotten all about return quite vividly

Long long ago when I was 24 or 25, before I left Sacramento to pursue graduate studies, I had started to run there in McKinley Park. I don’t remember why or how I got started, but I do remember I rode my bike there, parked it and then ran around the dirt trail at the edge of this lovely place. I did it often enough that I went to buy some running shoes. I remember I went to a store for running shoes in an old house downtown and that the shoes I chose were rose colored. I can see and feel myself running around this track, past the beautiful duck pond and then the rose garden, pleased as can be that I was actually doing this. Now that I think of that time in my life, I realize that the running must have been giving me a powerful lift of spirit as I tried to navigate my way through recovering from an abusive relationship I had had to get out of the last year of college.

I decided to go to graduate school at UC Irvine, which meant leaving Sacramento. I don’t remember if I took those rose colored sneakers to Southern California or not or why I didn’t try to run once I was there. Nevertheless, the self that ran in McKinley Park came charging back across the decades, happy and breathless with possibility to cheer me along in my 65th year.

I started running a little every morning once I got onto a flat expanse of sand. The third day I wore a pair of old Nikes I have that are flyknit running shoes I used to walk all over Portland in when I lived there. I found them perfect for the beach. I told myself that I’d go a little further each day but not push it, and that maybe by next year I’d make it down to School House Creek, which is about a half mile from where I start.

I’m surprised at how good this makes me feel and how far I’ve made it. It might not take me nearly as long to run to the mouth of the creek—or even beyond it–as I initially estimated.

Kelly McGonigal, a neuropsychologist and movement expert being interviewed on Rich Roll’s podcast frames movement this way: when you go for a walk or run or exercise, on a very practical level we give ourselves an intravenous dose of hope. She also claims movement allows us to access the good in human nature.

I recently saw a post from a friend on social with a picture of a woman running in a hoodie (this caught my interested eye), but then the caption read, “Starting your day off with a morning run is a great way to make sure your day doesn’t get any worse than it started.” Like the house that is both dark and shiny silver, I can think of a time when I would have laughed along with this. But now I’m living in a turn of time that makes me sad to think of it this way, because my little morning run is a high point from which to navigate my day, not a low one. I feel triumphant going into breakfast, not defeated.

And here’s another possible miracle: separated from my foster grandbaby, I spent some of those first weeks collecting shells and stones for a little altar full of light I keep for them. As the ocean covered up all the agates and shells for now, I began to run on the smooth, flat surface it leaves. And after a while, in addition to the memory of myself as a young woman running in McKinley Park, came the realization that my foster grandbaby’s birth mom has also taken up running. One of the last bits of information she shared with us is that she received a jogging stroller. So somewhere not so very far away in Portland, perhaps at the same time of day, they are running with their birth mom, and I’m running here. In each place, I believe there is momentary happiness for all of us. In each heart, I tell myself we feel the love we share.

And finally yet another miracle, the one this blog was initially named for: every time I tighten up my diet and return to the whole food basics of fruit, vegetables, legumes and grains, I find a new miracle of movement or ease I thought might be beyond my reach. If someone had told me 7 years ago I’d be living at the beach on the Oregon Coast I would have been stunned and incredulous. And if someone told me I’d be running on that beach and looking forward to it. . .well, I don’t think I could have believed it. And always, over the years, the same emotional trajectory: I think I’m done improving. I might even have an accident (like I did with getting stuck in the quicksand on the beach a few years ago) and believe now I’ve done it, I’m not going to bounce back from this—and then I do. This time the pandemic and the isolation and the extra baking and the intensity of the situation with my foster grandbaby had me eating more flour based products daily, however low fat and “healthy,” and I gained enough weight that my clothes started get a little too tight. When in April I decided to course correct and go back to the very low fat whole food basics, I knew I wanted to be stronger for all the change that was coming. But I never ever thought that change and that becoming stronger or more resilient would result in me running any distance at all on the beach.

And one more “finally,” a funny one: sometime last winter I gave away a pair of trail running shoes that hurt my feet due to an aggregation of corn-like callouses on the bottom and edges of my feet. I said to myself, “be realistic, You’re 65, you’ve hurt your knees, your feet are the way they are, you’re just not going to wear these anymore.” And then just weeks after I stepped up my whole plant food eating plan, the corn/callouses just started to peel off in layers, and become much less painful. I love when I have to laugh at myself. I’m like Charlie Brown falling for kicking the football Lucy holds, only I’m playing all the parts: I think I’m never going to be able to kick the football again, so I pull it away, and then, all of a sudden, there I am, obviously kicking the football successfully. I’ve pulled it away from myself but somehow the universe puts it back in place. It’s good to laugh at my “passion play” at such a sad time. And it does give me hope that life can still surprise me. And so can eating whole plant foods.

Maria (moonwatcher)

 

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nicole October 7, 2021 at 9:47 pm

I love you! I loved this hope and lightness in the midst of too much sorrow. xoxo Nicole

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2 Maria Theresa Maggi October 8, 2021 at 9:51 am

Ooh Nicole, thank you! I love you too! You made my morning. xoxo

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3 Margaret Evans October 8, 2021 at 12:29 pm

so happy for you

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4 Sarah October 8, 2021 at 2:27 pm

Wow. Such an inspiration-spreading hope, strength and gentleness to us all.

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5 Maria Theresa Maggi October 8, 2021 at 2:49 pm

Thank you so much, Sarah!

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6 Maria Theresa Maggi October 8, 2021 at 2:49 pm

Thanks Marge xoxo

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7 Veronica October 11, 2021 at 10:02 am

Your perspective on things always amazes me! Thank you for sharing your hurt, your hope, and your resilience. Movement is a blessing, and though I giggle at that running meme, it is true that the ability to jog and experience beautiful mornings should be cherished. I’m working on changing my view on these things – if we take care of our bodies and minds, they’ll take care of us. It’s a privilege to be able to eat well and move our bodies. I’m so happy to hear about your new morning ritual, and I’m cheering you on! I know grandbaby is, too. xoxo

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8 Maria Theresa Maggi October 11, 2021 at 11:56 am

Dear Veronica, thank you so much for these kind and supportive words! And yes, I do believe if we take care of our bodies and minds they take care of us. Easier said than done sometimes, but always worth the effort. Thanks for cheering me on and your faith that foster grandbaby is too–it means the world. xoxo

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