Ancient Wings

I once trained for a half marathon. It was only because we’d bought a treadmill, and I found that thirty minutes a day could grant me three miles and burn 300 calories, so I figured, why not?

I soon learned a huge mistake that many beginning runners make: running on a treadmill cannot properly prepare you for running 13.1 miles on city streets. The only way to train for running on roads is to run on roads.

Once I began running on roads, I immediately hated it (your muscles have to work much harder), and I almost immediately injured a tendon at the top of my foot.

After a visit to the doctor and an analysis of my gait and purchase of new running shoes, the experts advised that my training could ensue on my bike, and I should accept that I’d be walking the half marathon.

I was thrilled. When you run, if you haven’t been lately, it’s a heavy-breathed torture every time. I was literally running in circles in my neighborhood, going nowhere … slowly.

When you click into your pedals, you can feel distance build between you and an actual destination. You can push yourself up a steep hill and discover utter joy while gliding down the other side rather than sketchily searching for a safe place to land your foot.

Alas, by the time the half marathon day arrived, my foot had healed, and I did run it. It felt… like a denouement of minimal satisfaction, and ten years later, I’ve never really run again.

I spend a quarter of every day on my feet, though, putting in as many miles as time will allow. All because of my Pomapoo who forces me out of bed, whom I’ve trained to only poop on walks, who smiles back at me everywhere we go.

My Pomapoo who has an unparalleled love for hiking, scrambling up rocks, dashing ahead, whimpering to go as soon as he sees the backpack appear in the living room.

Since I have an endlessly jubilant companion and we both love hiking, I always have trail running shoes on hand because I despise hiking boots but I need good traction.

All of these things—the dog, the shoes, the stolen bike—came together during the past two days in this little city called Prescott.

It may be known for the university we came to visit where my daughter hopes to study aerospace engineering or for this gorgeous lake or for Whiskey Row which once had fifty saloons for blocks and blocks, but it holds another appeal to me: trails.

Miles and miles of completely empty hiking trails right within the city. Two trailheads are within walking distance of our Airbnb!

The first had a nice view of Thumb Butte, but less than a mile of trails.

The second I discovered while looking for a park. Prescott’s version of a park is a trail through rocks and trees surrounded by the houses that encroach upon everything that is perfect in our world.

Still. A silent, empty trail where my dog can run leash-free for what ended up being four miles? What are these people in these mansions doing at dawn rather than running this trail with me? It’s way too hot mid-day to even consider.

And I thought the flippant Google Review I saw where the guy said he couldn’t find the easy-to-spot, well-marked trailhead was just “off” by throwing in, without description, a picture of a giant boulder with what looked like petroglyphs on it. But when I got to the trailhead myself in the pre-dawn dark, my leash light lit up the map that led straight to Petroglyph Point. A goldmine of luck!

Haitz and I raced up the trail, me thinking it’d be less than a mile like the other. Dawn came and went and, running out of time before my class started, I had to run back.

Boy was I scared. So many rocks, gravel, sore muscles, fear of falling, no experience.

And, despite searching along the sketchy boulders at the peak, I never could find any petroglyphs, and I was beginning to think it was all a scam.

I made it back just in time to shower and pop open my computer for another fun day of remote learning, determined to return the next morning.

Rising at 5:00 today, I was under the dark sky for fully the first half of our adventure. Haitz stayed right at my heels, too nervous to take the lead without light.

Once the sun came up, he bolted ahead in his usual jubilant fashion, always searching for something that might be just around the bend. It will never cease to amaze me—the love and loyalty of a dog.

We jogged up, me slowing and speeding up depending on the size of the rocks, and made it to the peak once again. I scrambled to the top, flashlight ready in the early-morning light, searching every boulder for a sign of an ancient artist. It seemed like a fitting place, with the sun rising over the distant peaks, for someone to carve their message to catch the morning light.

But I still couldn’t find it. I scrambled back down, ready to give up, and circled back beneath the peak when, looking up, on a rock that seemed precariously placed and impossible to reach for human hands, I saw the carving.

Perhaps they wanted to catch the light of the sunset instead. Perhaps they wanted to send a message to their descendants about the animals they lived amongst during their time. Perhaps they were simply trying to relieve the stresses of the world with art as so many artists do.

There, in the aurora of September’s last day, before the sun beat down, before most people would crawl out of their slumber, I could feel the ancient hand of indigenous people who had painstakingly taken the time to create this everlasting masterpiece.

And even though I didn’t need to, I ran all the way home. I felt the need to run in a way I’d never felt—not when I pushed myself to run 9-minute miles on the treadmill, not when I wanted to run instead of walk my half marathon—just the pure joy of a carving on my soul, energy in my veins, and the wings of our ancestors bringing my feet to each perfect landing.

Coronatine, Day Thirty-eight

these organized shelves

ready to be fully stocked

with his last paychecks:

they represent us,

our Coronatine journal,

worry turned to work

work we’re still doing

with tiny pics on small screens

working for our kids

our creative kids

with a cat-house-building night

paw prints, love, and all

“new normal” softens

as we make the best of fate

on day thirty-eight

Coronatine, Day Twelve

let me rephrase this:

my students are scared to death

their families could die

they don’t need English

they don’t need online teaching

they need love from us

i wish they could see

the beauty of this sunset

and find hope in it

but like these cracked streets

they’ve lived nothing but cracked lives

(and now they’re trapped here)

here! land of the free!

opportunities waiting

for someone (not them)

yes, i’m a cynic

cause i know without faces

relationships die

Coronatine sucks

the life from all we’ve worked for

and how will it end?

Social Distancing. Day Three.

Building the garden and cleaning up the yard. Such simple goals for three weeks off, no travel, no Starbucks, no restaurants.

Staying home with four teenagers who want to do nothing other than mope and defy. “Why can’t we see our friends? Why can’t we get a Frappucino? Why can’t there be school? Why was my musical canceled? Why do I have to spend time with my family?”

And so the doors shut. The chores get left unattended. The no-phone-for-twenty-four-hours rule gets enforced for three out of four children, spiraling me further into the “I HATE you” zone.

Building the garden and cleaning up the yard, I tell myself.

It is a sunny day, as always, and I begin to rake out last year’s overtaking of sunflower plants, the dried grasses, the remnants of onions, to load them into the compost bin.

I rake the soil to see how soft it remains after seven months of resting under snowfall and sun, freezing temps, whispers of fog, violent gusts of wind. It is supple, loose enough to filter through the tongs of the metal rake, to easily sift through with seeds.

I listen to my audiobook as I rake, listen until it’s done. Each child comes to the door to see what I’m doing, but none of them will agree to help (gardening is not on their chore list).

I begin to lay out the soaker hose, a necessity in this dry state, and realize it’s broken in too many places to fully function.

And here is where coronavirus has followed me, on a day when I, too, decided to put down the phone, the endless scrolling, research, reading every article ever written about this disease, the daily cases, the daily death tolls, reading the ever-present news that details how our country is nowhere near able to handle this pandemic.

I cannot continue my garden, my laying out of black snake-like coils, without going to the store. How dare I go to the store for such a non-essential thing as a soaker hose, exposing myself and everyone there (because who knows which of us has it)?

But I have three weeks, at the very minimum, in this house, in this empty, bitter house, and if I don’t plant this spinach today, it will be too late.

And so I risk it. I pack dishwashing gloves and put them on in the parking lot. I am careful about what I touch. About staying six feet away from everyone. I overhear dark conversations. “Why are you here today?” “Well I sure as hell ain’t workin’. The government shut down everything, all the restaurants.” “Did you see my application?” “Yes, but we just can’t be hiring people right now. This coronavirus is taking everything down. Normally I’d be hiring ten people.” “Do you have any bleach?” “We haven’t had bleach for days.”

I take the gloves off before touching my car door and soak them in bleach when I get home. And I take my new hoses and configure them four times before they’re perfect, before I feel confident that they are coiled in a way to keep my garden going all summer.

I look at my two spinach and one radish seed packets. They are so light in my hands, so inadequate, and remorse floods my mouth like vomit. “Plant your spinach every ten days throughout early spring in order to have a continuous crop,” the packet instructions inform me.

Any other year, this wouldn’t matter. But now all the shelves of every frozen vegetable in every grocery store are completely empty, and I am. SCARED. Soon it will be fresh vegetables gone. Soon it will be milk. Soon it will be us.

And I only have two packets, and spinach can’t sustain us.

I decide to use just one, setting an alarm on my phone for ten days later so that at least we’ll have two weeks of “a continuous crop.”

Building the garden and cleaning up the yard. Every year I do this, bit by bit, in between working and skiing, throughout the spring. Now I have three weeks, three glorious weeks, to distribute this massive undertaking each day. I even made a list this morning of which tasks to do each day: mowing the lawn, cutting back old plants, spreading mulch, trimming trees, picking up dog shit.

Now I have three weeks, three sleepless weeks, to discover what will prevent me from continuing. To argue with my teens and husband about stranger danger (friend danger just doesn’t sound as good). To sift through social media and see all the creative suggestions people have for what they can do with their kids, everything from learning about new topics through books and documentaries to vast art and Lego projects, and I can’t even build my garden, get through day three, without having a panic attack about visiting a store, without feeling like every moment of every day for however long this lasts, I will fail them.

My fifteen-year-old refused to play Monopoly last night, refuses to go to the dog park today. The dog park! The chillest, friendliest hike known to legs. “I don’t want to spend any time with any of you!”

“Even if it means losing your phone for another day?”

“I am NOT going. I don’t want to be near anyone.”

“Spend time enjoying your families,” my principal writes in an email. “Get to know each other on a deeper level.”

And I wanted this post to be about the beauty of my garden. About how it represents renewal, rebirth, about how, in six weeks, I’ll fill my bowl with spinach, and maybe this will all be over?

But it won’t be over because my husband had already been laid off before this even happened, and what now? What are we supposed to do now?

We are supposed to make a list of what yardwork we can accomplish while trapped at home.

To be proud that said-fifteen-year-old finally finished the leaf pile of this forsaken puzzle three months and three quarantined days after we started.

To snap pictures of this my-kids-are-all-teens-now-so-i’m-getting-a-puppy face as he happily bolts through the dog park.

To start again, to try again, tomorrow.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll build a garden. Maybe I’ll clean up the yard. Maybe I’ll get my kids to come out of their rooms.

And maybe I’ll get through another day.