Dragonfly Publishing

My Shadow

Today I ran nearly two miles after hitting the Gilnetter Pub last night and then not getting much sleep, and still getting up early to come to work. Something about drinking cold white ale with orange slices while sitting at the Gilnetter, with Morgan, overlooking the Fraser River and the stark Mount Baker behind it, just felt wonderful last night. I’m kind of dying today, but that’s the price to pay for those beautiful moments at the river last night. Patio seats are always in demand there, but we were lucky and got one.

While running today in the sun, I wasn’t as with it as usual, as you can imagine. I felt a little lost in thought and lost in space, if that makes any sense. Sometimes running is a motion that I get lost in. I’ve been writing some memoirs, which are for my family only, and remembered a time two years ago when we met in California, where my daughter and niece both now live. On our last full day there we went over to a Polynesian festival in San Clemente. I noticed that a nearby library had a book sale, so I mentioned to everyone I was going to go check it out, but it was just a weird fluke that nobody heard me. They kept walking, and I went to the library. As I made my way over there, amongst the wildest colors and large crowds of strangers, I felt that I had become invisible. My family had not heard me, or if they did, didn’t acknowledge it. They were now gone, and I was lost in a sea of faces I didn’t recognize. Wild colors, music, and vans with surfers surrounded me. I went into the cool confines of the library and actually found a hardcover Moby-Dick book for fifty cents. Beautiful deal! Coming back out into the festive sunshine, I saw nobody I recognized and it took some time to catch up with the rest. For a few moments I thought of the possibility of never finding my family again–or what if I just kept walking and never went back to them. I would never do that for real, but just for that fleeting moment I considered how that would feel. Maybe as a teenager I might have considered such a thing adventurous, but not now. It was not frightful, really, but awkward. What would I be without my dearest husband and rest of my family? I would be walking lost in a crowd in the universe–that’s where I’d be.

Today when running, I thought of that too. What if I just kept running and never came back? Kinda like Forrest Gump did? The answer is I could never just leave my life; there’s enough in life to get lost in the way it is, day in and day out, on small and large scales. Whether it’s sitting at a pub on the river, getting lost and letting your mind wander away from the table to the shiny white and purple soul of Mount Baker in the distance or getting lost in the future of our planet when thinking about the grand magnificence of the whole of the universe, with us tiny specks here today and gone tomorrow. That’s when footing is good, when grounding oneself in the familiarity of our commons–family, work, fun, nature, local regions–is required. I was never ever content to settle down until I became an older adult, so I had my years of wanderlust, drifting, exploring, and so on. I guess running while still mired in writing these memoirs has given me a lot of thought–how sometimes we run away and then we come back.

Today when running, while having these thoughts of such roaming, I heard the song “Tall, Tall Shadow” by Basia Bulat, and it is a slow, meaningful song that has enough of a lift to be a good running song. While listening to it I thought of my dad, who used to read us poetry. He was, at one point, an English major who wrote poetry until later becoming a math major (well-rounded guy!). He used to recite to us Robert Louis Stevenson’s “My Shadow”:

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an india-rubber ball,
And he sometimes gets so little that there’s none of him at all.

He hasn’t got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close beside me, he’s a coward you can see;
I’d think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!

One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

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