Thursday thoughts

When I was much younger, I used to run a bit.  Since I was commuting by bike and working out at a gym, the running was more for sightseeing than anything.  It was San Francisco, it was the early ’90s, and the City was still in its pre-internet Bohemian glory.  My run, which I often shared with a good friend, usually took me up to the Presidio where I could run above the ocean, through the woods, along winding roads, and then back home.  As I’d climb the hill to the gate into the (then) army base, the first sensation was the smell of fallen, crushed eucalyptus leaves.  The grove inside the gate would collect the fog and drip it down with the sweat, medicinal scent.  Sometimes a foot would land on the star-inscribed seed pods littering the road, nearly turning an ankle, but who cared?  It was beautiful. Further on Monterey pines huddled against the wind giving way to tree-lined streets shading 19th century officers’ houses.  This wasn’t a workout; this was a tour, one that I appreciate more and more through the lens of years.

When I moved to Chicago, I would imagine that the fog bank on Lake Michigan was the marine layer over the Bay, hiding the brown-sloped hills of the Marin Headlands.  The fog would clear, leaving the icy blue lake to reflect sunlight from wave-tops and ice floes.  Beautiful, but not the same.

Here in Michigan, I’ve found beauty through running again.  My neighborhood is hilly (not San Francisco hilly, but pretty respectable).  In the early morning, the moon reflecting from the snow lights the streets in silver, silhouetting startled deer browsing on frozen lawns.  They hold remarkably still, allowing me to pass within a meter or two.

Running isn’t nearly physically unpleasant as I’d remembered, and even the Midwestern winter has its charms.  In the past when I’d tried running I never had a specific goal, nor did I have some of the awesome technology now available (in fact, there was no internet, no email, no cell phones to speak of).  Now, I have an app on my phone that uses GPS to track my route and help me challenge myself.  When I check online, I see the distances racking up and want to beat them.

I feel a bit less hypocritical recommending exercise to my patients, but more important, I feel good. Running is allowing me to maintain my health, and a connection to the natural environment that I thought I’d lost in the Rust Belt.


  1. Sonya Jordan

     /  December 15, 2011

    I suspect we might have both been at ?UCSF at the same time… Loved the Presidio when it was kind of a lingering, much-deserted relic of a base. Empty officer row houses hanging in the fog, the fenced-off medical center peeling lead paint, the stonework covered in dust and moss, the glimpses of the bridge… and overall the smell of eucaplyptus. I’m a bit odd, of course, also liked to wander through the cemeteries of Colma south SF “where the horizontal residents outnumber the vertical.” I left SF in 97 before the Presidio was turned into a park and developed, and haven’t been back even to visit.

  2. Sonya Jordan

     /  December 15, 2011

    I was there 91-97 and worked in the neuro ICU. My mini-me was born there on the 15th floor overlooking the city from that corner room on L&D. Master’s in neuro nursing 1997. In Portland OR now.

  3. Lisa Schwartzman

     /  December 15, 2011

    I completely agree! I guess I don’t have San Francisco (or even Chicago) as a point of comparison. But I appreciate the natural beauty of Michigan so much more when I’m running in it than when I feel trapped indoors, oppressed by the snow and cold (which often look far more menacing from inside). I also love how the snow reflects the moonlight (though my runs through darkness are in the evening).

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