July 6, 2013
Maine was another idyllic run. Looking back on it now it’s almost too perfect a story, without a dramatic arc, to warrant a description. The perfection sounds made up. And yet I can’t stop from transporting myself back to that sunny morning in Maine. I was staying with my friend Larisa in coastal South Portland. We walked out her front door, ran past mansions and hopped on a cliff trail that looped a lighthouse. Larisa had alerted me that we would stop at a donut shop, The Cookie Jar, on our way home so I’d wadded up a few ones in my running pants. Bursting into the air-conditioned Cookie Jar at the end of that run was like arriving in Technicolor Oz. With the wonder of Dorothy but none of the trepidation, I gobbled up every crumbling, sticky pastry sample in sight. A caramel-colored iced-coffee dispenser beading with perspiration was a cool oasis. I took more than my share. After calculating my donut and pastry purchase to acquire as many goodies as I could with limited cash, I handed the clerk my bills damped with perspiration. He gave me a knowing look that I was a stranger in his land.
Reflecting on running in Maine makes me wonder if “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” is an apt comparison to 5Kin50 States. There’s the common instigator of being propelled into new territory. There’s the beautiful, haunting, diverse landscapes along the way. The Glinda the Good, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion in the kind companions who hosted and ran with me. There’s the antagonistic forces of the Wicked Witches. The Wicked Witch of the East, my fear of owning a running and writing project, squashed in the first quarter of the story. The Wicked Witch of the West, the opposing forces of time, inclement weather, limited funds, limited travel time and loss of direction. And don’t forget those ominous flying monkeys hovering like my hip pain and creaky knee that won’t stop squeaking. There’s also the common goal of “home.” Dorothy seeks home in a return to Kansas. I’m looking for a home I don’t yet know: running down this yellow brick road not hoping to get back to where I started, but with the fragile dream that somewhere I’ll run in a place that will show me where to go next. That some land, some person, some mileage point under 3.1 in any of our 50 states will have a clear sign of what’s next. Yet thus far it’s just like the movie. State after state, friend after friend, remind me that “it’s pleasant down that way too.” And so, maybe the all too obvious truth is that there is no place like home– the exact place I started from– which is Seattle, ironically nicknamed “The Emerald City.” If I ever meet a humbug of a wizard I hope I remember that he is like so many of us, thrust into a tricky situation, doing the best he can, trying to earn a little prestige before he can move on. With 35 states after Maine there are sure to be plenty more adventures.
Maine, thank you for showing me your magical beauty of beaches, lighthouses, lobsters and donuts. The journey to, from, and within you is a dream I cannot forget.