Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Home Sweet Home

I returned, late, last night from a week vacation in Oregon. I stayed at my brother’s, in Hood River, with my parents. My goal was to get in as much skiing as I could, but I realized that skiing is addicting only when there are others to share it with. The one day I had no one to ski with, I only made it half day. The thrill of bombing down the steep slopes quickly diminished when there was no one to chase, or no one to follow. But the other two days were glorious—my best friend John drove up the first day, and the next day I tagged along with some of my brother’s friends.

This is how I know I’m getting older: the day after skiing with John, my back muscles were so sore I could hardly walk. Now, granted, John and I didn’t ski “light.” He’s a fantastic skier, and I’m competitive and like speed, so we did laps on the steepest runs, until we were so exhausted that a beer and chips sounded better than one final thigh-burning blaze down the mountain. It was wonderful to see him again. We’ve been friends since third grade, and ours is the sort that resumes as if no time at all has passed between visits.

I had been curious to check out Hood River and Mt. Hood; my brother and sister-in-law love it there, and I’ve read positive reviews about the trail systems there. So in addition to good skiing the area has good singletrack—that’s a recipe for a place I could live.
The timing for my visit was appropriate, as suddenly, my future is more open to possibilities. I’m no longer tied here by a relationship, and I just found out last week that the account I work on at my job is in review, meaning if we lose it, we lose a third of our business, so my job security may not be as bright as I had hoped. Anyways, I was curious to explore Hood to determine if it’s a place I could live.
It’s not.

It is lovely there. The mountains and orchards are stunning. There’s a whole mountain range that looks very similar to the San Luis Obispo mountains that I adore, and the town is clearly full of athletic, Subaru-driving folk. But it’s not North Carolina. Maybe I didn’t realize how deeply I love it here until I seriously entertained the thought of moving.

For one thing, Hood River doesn’t have much job potential. I could get a job there, but I wouldn’t make much, and I certainly couldn’t afford a home for a while. I love being able to afford a home here, even without a big income.

There’s something about this area of North Carolina that has a tight hold on me. I love how orderly it is, the cleanliness, the beautiful green, and my freedom here. I don’t live in the shadow of anyone, or any memories. I have made deep friendships. I have trails to run on, no traffic to contend with, and a routine that gives me peace. Even with my job security in question, there are other agencies around. And being across the country has taught me this: I’m more confident of what I can get through. I have been tested, and the events that I thought would flatten me have made me reach deeper. My family is far away, and I like the independence that comes with having to depend on myself when life gets wrinkly.
There are certainly advantages to living close to family, and if I had children, maybe I’d feel differently, but right now, a plane trip across the country a few times a year isn’t a bad thing. I’ve learned to be more resourceful without family support to lean on.

I don’t see myself staying in Winston-Salem long term, but I really love Greensboro, which is just a half-hour drive away (and, conveniently, home to the trails I run on), and Raleigh is a great town. Both possibilities have much more appeal than trying to move across the country again. Especially now that I actually own furniture.

So I feel very much at peace with the fact that I’ve seen Hood River and checked it off my list. It helped, of course, awaking here this morning to blossoming trees and white and pink buds replacing the grayness of the winter trees. Spring here is so indescribably beautiful that being outside temporarily washes away any doubts or hurts I may be carrying.
So no regrets. I’m so glad I moved here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Trail-ation

I haven’t done a solo trail run for a long time, so this past weekend’s run was especially satisfying. Typically on the weekends, I run with my dear friends Kelly and John—well, Kelly and I run together, John runs way ahead, but we figure out which trails we’re going to do, pile in the car, run, eat, drive home. It’s a good routine. So on Saturday, with them out of town, I drove out to the Greensboro trails for my own run.

I typically prefer group runs when I’m on the road. Road running is okay—I do it almost every evening, and I definitely enjoy it, and I’m, well, okay, addicted. So with great trails a 40-minute drive away, I settle for the convenience of the road and meet up with my running group after work. But for me, comparing road running to trail running is like comparing grape juice to wine. I like grape juice. It's sweet and healthy, but wine--wine--is literally and figuratively intoxicating. Trail running is my wine.

So given the opportunity, I’d run on trails every day.
Trail running and mountain biking are very similar: I prefer to be alone—usually. I listen to my music, I concentrate on the roots and twisty singletrack, and I let go.

So back to Saturday’s run. I was feeling quite, well, sprightly, so I filled my camelback with water, packed two energy bars, and set off for a three-hour run. I cannot describe the feeling of contentment that it gave me. I know to some it may seem odd that the highlight of my week is a three-hour run, but it was absolutely fantastic. I usually try to pick up the pace on the last third of the run, and this time, I felt like a kid playing in the trees. Just running, dodging branches, celebrating how good it feels to be physical.

I’m not training for anything right now, specifically, so I really don’t know why I feel compelled to put in so many weekend miles, except for the sheer reason that it’s good for my soul.
And that, I believe, is the best reason of all.