run a little slower.

One of my favorite things to do toward the end of my time in college was to take a long winter’s run on the weekend. I’ve always been athletic, but never the star of any of my teams, and certainly not the fastest. I’m tall… and take huge lumbering antelope-like strides. While having a running partner was always something I welcomed, I always tried to schedule time for a slow jaunt by myself. I probably never went further than two or three miles—just enough to get that itch in my calves.

I never ran outside with headphones (something that I do all the time in the gym). Listening to silence is an art; running hones my concentration and (ironically) my stillness. I’d go so far as to say that running alone is a “Sabbath” activity. Sometimes I feel like nothing can break my meditation… and other days I purposefully open my ears to the environment streaking by me. On my college runs, I frequently stopped in the middle of my run to watch an inning or two of a Little League game.

SO…

Today, after who knows how long, I went for a Saturday run. I couldn’t find running tights, and was reduced to wearing capris and soccer socks. I am nothing if not a fashion warrior on the trail (kidding).

After 10+ years of running in the same place, Saturday runs have become vehicles to discover hidden neighborhoods in suburbia connected by labyrinthine paths. I decided to start my run by heading to the lake nearby, which was much more of an adventure than I anticipated. The remaining detritus of the winter storm had turned to a substance reminiscent of sparkling concrete and rough glass. I slipped while vaulting up a mud and ice-laden hill, falling forward onto my hands. Sometimes it’s good to get your ass kicked by nature.

I had forgotten that running “without purpose” could be one of the most fulfilling things in my life. Perhaps Saturday runs are the best because they are elected weekend activities on typical days of sloth—you can’t help but wonder (and be entertained by) the other runners who cross your path—or maybe its because with each rhythmic pound of my foot I become one step closer to emptying myself… so I can be full again.

After my run, I found myself breathing deep and doing sun salutations on shaky legs with a smile on my face…reaching my palms to the sky as the winter wind bent the tops of the trees. In the immortal words of Forrest Gump, “I just felt like running.”

and… listen to this.

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Confessions of a book hoarder.

“He [the writer] is careful of what he reads, for it is what he will write. He is careful of what he learns, because that is what he will know.”- Annie Dillard, “The Writing Life”

As cabin fever started to set in, my mom and I decided that today would be the day for brief errands. In addition to getting the fixings for a yummy quiche for later this evening, we stopped by our favorite used bookstore (run by our local public library). My grandma, who is in nursing care, was in need of “new” large-print reading material.

Our neighborhood road is still not plowed in places, with wet gnarled branches littering the snow banks on the sides of the street. The bookstore parking lot was empty except for our Jeep, but the shop light miraculously flickered to life as we ambled out into the cold.

I should tell you… I’m a book junkie. I’d say I’ve read about a third of the books in my collection, and I’m constantly picking up new things wherever I go. The bookshelves in my family’s home are bowed in the middle, packed horizontally and vertically, and braced with other stacks packed in front of the original row. For those of you out there who love the smell of yellowing pages and soft-thumbed corners, you know that there is no greater paradise than a “good” used bookstore.

As my mom went in search of large-print Reader’s Digest collections, I headed for literary criticism (a shelf I usually never touch) and poetry. Before long, I ended up with a short stack of thin delights: T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” Dylan Thomas’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog,” Annie Dillard’s “The Writing Life,” and Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “A Far Rockaway of the Heart.”

Old books= new friends.

Old books have the potential to yield stories not printed on the page. I once found a perfectly preserved maple leaf in a 19th century grade school reader. I discovered extensive handwritten notes on loose-leaf paper wedged in the back of my Ezra Pound collection. For those of you who frequently seek out used books, how often are you tempted to investigate the previous owner? I once read a magazine article that featured a woman who made an argument against used books. In so many words, she said, “I don’t know where they’ve been.” Seriously?

Perhaps I just have an overactive imagination, fueled by fiction about books (“People of the Book” and “The Shadow of the Wind” ). I like to speculate on the shelf history of my reading material. A crazy cat lady owned my T.S. Eliot and a young hipster college student shoved Dylan Thomas in his back pocket on a long bus ride to New York…. Perhaps this is an unhealthy habit, but it hasn’t killed me yet.

God bless used bookstores. They make it easy for me to continue my literary binges.

Enjoy the weekend and Happy reading!