So I’m running again. After the marathon in October of 2009, I told myself I should really take two weeks off from all running to let my body recover. After two weeks, I told myself, “Well, probably a month would be better than two weeks.” As I rolled into December, eating and drinking whatever I wanted, and sitting on the couch I figured I might want to start thinking about possibly cranking the exercise engine up again. But then again, naw! It’s the holidays, right?
2009 became 2010. 188 lbs became 198 lbs.
So I’m running again. I’m not training for anything, just running, trying to beat that “You’re going to gain 1 pound for every year after college” average. I started with 1.5 miles every other day, worked up to 3 miles every other day, and now I’m doing 5. I usually run up Sherman St., across to Logan and out to I-25 for my 5-mile run, and this morning was no exception. On the way back, instead of taking Sherman, I took Grant Street. I don’t know why. I never take Grant Street, but today I did, and I saw something that forced me to sit down and write this blog, even though I’m late for my dentist’s appointment. Even though that will, in turn, make me late for work.
Lara and I have been telling ourselves that we were going to get out of the city for years now. We bought our house, intending to keep it for three years, sell it and get out of Dodge, get back to our roots. Both of us grew up in small towns, and we relish the notion of life in the “countryside”. Our 3 years turned to 5. 5 years turned to 7. We meant to leave, but there has always been a reason to stay, or not a big enough reason to go.
My best friend and his wife had the same plan, back when we all arrived in Denver, and our two families were on the same track: Squeeze some money out of the city, then go spend it on living in the country. Their family left two years ago and have been living in the country ever since. Lara and I are still here, still hemming and hawing about where we ought to go, still trying to find the ‘perfect’ place. Still trying to build up ‘enough’ money. Still trying to leave. “Oh no, the housing economy is soft, we have to wait until it gets better to sell the house.” “Oh no, I just got promoted! Let’s build up some of that money and have a bigger cushion.” “Oh no, we just bought a new car. We need to pay it down a little before we leave.” It’s always something. Time and again.
I think about this a lot on my runs. Running, for me, is “of the country”, not “of the city”, and it reminds me of running across Florida Mesa when I was young. It reminds me –just a little bit- of nature.
About four years ago, right about the time we were supposed to sell the house and leave, I saw a fox during my run. I saw him in a residential neighborhood near I-25. I was astounded. I’d never seen a fox that close before. Two queer things happened at that moment. One, the fox wasn’t afraid of me. Now, I realize that city foxes are much more comfortable with people around, so I could’ve let that pass. But I had a 75-pound hunting dog with me, and the fox didn’t care about that, either. On top of it, Lancelot (the aforementioned dog) didn’t seem to see the fox at all. He made no indication that it was even there. The second queer thing was when I passed the fox and ran on, he followed me at a respectful, non-threatening distance. He did this for three blocks, then sat, watched me, and let me go.
It was cool on a number of levels, and I’ve always been fond of foxes. For one, it’s what my name means in old English. Secondly, when we were all having fun picking animal totems in college, the fox was, of course, my totem. So I came to view this fox as a sign that I needed to get out of the city. This wild creature showed up in the middle of Denver, as if to say, “Hey, you and me, we’re both country creatures. We don’t belong here. Let’s get out.”
I’ve seen foxes every now and then on my runs since then, over the last four years. I’ve seen as many as three at one time, and I love them. They’re beautiful, sleek, so quiet and graceful. It always elicits that same response. “What am I doing here? I promised myself I would get out, and I’m lingering. What am I doing?” Every time they show up, I think about leaving, but then I finish my run, and I go back to my life. I’ve seen so many now that the effect is fading. Now when I see them, I only have a passing thought about nature, and I smile that there are foxes in Denver. And I think that maybe I belong in the city. Maybe this is where I’m supposed to end up, that I should just get over this crazy notion.
So on my run today, I went down Grant street, where I never go, and I slowed, then stopped at a quiet, back-street intersection. Laying near the gutter was a dead fox. My fox. Perfect red fur and bushy tail, and not moving. And he would never move again.
Are there signs? Does the Universe really say things without words? I wish I knew for certain.
I know that my heart hurts, and there is a voice in the back of my head that keeps whispering.
Get me out. Get me out of the city.