Friday, November 22, 2013

The Discovery Park Loop

Just got back from a walk around the Loop Trail at Discovery (please don't call it "Disco") Park, including the side trip to North Beach and around the lighthouse.

Four years ago, almost exactly, I did the same thing on a clear sunny day a lot like today.  On that particular walk, I made one of the biggest decisions of my life (and definitely of the last ten years) - to upend my whole existence by quitting my career track and shifting the focus of my life away from religion.  At the time I didn't know what my new focus was going to be.  At this point I'd say that it's health, but I'm not actually interested in writing about that decision, so that's neither here nor there.  What I'm writing about, I think, is the way that those kinds of experiences - where places become associated with important events - create a sense of home.

My walk at Discovery today brought the topic to mind, but I've been thinking about it a bit lately for other reasons.  Not least is that Salomon Running posted the video at the end of this post about Anna Frost, an ultra runner from New Zealand, reflecting on the importance of her home, Dunedin - a place that also felt like home for me at one point in life, and a place where Angel and I will be returning to visit for a few days in the spring.  The scenery in the video is almost all of places we went - hiking or living - and it brings back memories of two of the better years of my life.  
I've also been aware across the last few years that our connection with trail running has made the Pacific Northwest feel a lot more like home than it did previously.  In part that's because we've become a part of a community through running, but I actually think it's a part of the nature of the experience.  There's something essentially human about moving through nature on your feet, and for whatever reason, I've found that running (and walking) on trails has made me feel connected and grounded in the place.  The Just-so Story that I tell myself to explain why is that it's part of a biological reward system in place to encourage people to continue doing things like moving quickly through nature.  It's harder work than sitting on a couch finally getting caught up on Breaking Bad, but we've had to do it in order to survive for millions of years, so we've evolved into creatures that feel at home when we're on our feet.  It's also because, I think, some of the most meaningful experiences I've had during the last four years have been on the trails - completing a first 50k at Yakima Skyline Rim, completing a 50 mile race at White River, completing a 100 mile run at Cascade Crest.  There's a lot of place associated with those experiences, both in training and on the runs themselves.

And I also got back from Ohio a few weeks ago, where I spent the first 18 years of my life, and which always feels kind of surreal.  The experience that made me feel viscerally connected again was a short trail run in Germantown, near my parents house and the town where I lived.  

One thing I've lost through moving around a bit is a sense of having any one home.  One thing I've gained through running (and more accurately, moving through my environment on my feet) is the sense that being home is as much about experience as it is about place.


3 comments:

Martin Criminale said...

"Maybe home is just a collection of memories." Nice. As was your post Tim. Good to read.

I experienced a similar evolution to yours while running and now that I can't it's been pretty rough watching myself de-evolve to some extent.

One problem I have is once you have certain experiences, it's hard to feel like your life is complete without the ability to replicate them. Being at peace with whatever you can do is NOT easy. Hopefully I can continue to learn.

"Running is just running." I'm not there yet.

Anonymous said...

Tim,
Thanks for sharing hope you enjoyed OH, hope to reconnect with you and Angela soon on a run.
Happy Trails
Navy John

Anonymous said...

Nice post (and blog). I am new to the seattle running community. I moved from Argentina three months ago and since then did some trail runs and lots of urban runs in seattle.
I feel that running connects me to this region and to its people (both runners and non runners).
But regarding the "feeling of home", maybe from a evolutionary perspective there is no such thing. For most of our history we have been nomads...constantly moving, searching.
so while running/walking, the "biological system" rewards us, not by making us feel at home, but by making us feel connected to ourselves and everything else, including the land we are in at that time and its people...it rewards us by making us feel alive and making us enjoy life.

Anyways, the video is beautiful. I also lived in south island new zealand, so enjoyed it a lot.
Cheers,
Guillermo