A Different Pace

Joe Grant’s essay about letting go of life’s weight to run.

By on April 11, 2019 | Comments

I wake up roughly an hour before sunrise. A box to my left, another to my right, with many more littering the floor of grandma’s home. The house is perfectly still. Dog whimpers excitedly, sensing me stir, to welcome the start of a new day. She licks my face, tail wagging, then fully stretches her body. It’s time to get up. I tiptoe around Deanne who’s already pulled my pillow over her face and drifted back to sleep. I let dog out in the yard. She scurries around following her nose, marking different spots as dogs do, before returning to inquire about breakfast. I wade through the sea of cardboard, and light the stove for coffee.

We’re here in Pawnee, Oklahoma to help Deanne’s grandmother move to a new place. Though her house is small, she’s managed to accumulate many things, most of which now crowd the living room and kitchen. Boxes, boxes, so many boxes… boxes of stuff, stories, memories, and junk. Some are filled with treasures, fodder for the wandering mind, while others are just dead weight, accoutrements we carry for no good reason.

There’s no reception at grandma’s house. I’d looked forward to having a week offline to disconnect, or re-connect I should say, with a slower pace, away from the hustle and bustle, and constant demands for immediacy of my life back in Boulder, Colorado.

Instead, I feel uneasy, sitting here staring at the display of clutter, insofar that the density of grandma’s possessions simply mirror my own. Their weight feels all the more palpable when strewn out across the floor like this–not hidden in closets, cupboards, dressers, or under beds.

I leave the mess dormant for now, and slip outside into the cool morning air for a run.

The crimson-stained sky floods the eastern horizon softly illuminating the path ahead.

At the end of the road, the stop sign reads in both Pawnee and English: SOOK SO <EE <IT – STOP. I take it as a suggestion to pause and admire the flowering pear tree, impearled with white flowers, that stands triumphantly next to the sign.

I resume my run, reaching a street junction, 1st and Denver, which seems to tease my bias to more jagged environs. Though I’m certainly partial to the Rockies, Oklahoma, land of bigger skies and gentler hills, is no less alluring to the distance runner.

I pass a dilapidated gas station on the street corner that choked up its last drop of oil a long time ago. An opossum is morbidly splattered in the road while a half-dozen vultures circle above.

These scenes are evocative of my own impermanence. The off-camber road causes my right upper quad to twinge, painfully adding to that awareness.

I cross the bridge over Bear Creek, heading north away from town. A lazy mocha flow, straight from Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, snakes its way east below me. A herd of antelope jump over yard fences, springing across the lawn carpeted with purple henbit flowers. A dense brume envelops Pawnee lake as I reach its placid shore.

I’m warmed up now, and it feels good to leave the asphalt for dirt. The tall grasses along the river banks are charred from a recent prescribed burn, but the place is no less alive. Heron, duck, geese, and a great many other birds sing, skawk, and splash, greeting the rising sun with zeal and gusto. Their energy is infectious. I swing my arms and legs more vigorously, opening up my stride to embrace the exhilarating sensation of unimpeded movement.

Though I’m only a few miles from grandma’s home, the clutter, the busyness, is but a distant memory. I’m here now, calves burning, lungs searing, rubbing up against the edge of discomfort. Here is where I feel most alive. I savor these fleeting moments of wholeness, and remind myself of the simple joy of traveling lightly through this world.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Does running allow you to let go of the weight and accoutrements of life?
  • Can you put words to how doing so makes you feel?

All photos: Joe Grant

Joe Grant
Joe Grant frequently adventures in wild places, both close to home (a frequently changing location) and very far afield. He inspires others by sharing his words and images that beautifully capture the intersection of the wilds, movement, and the individual at Alpine Works.