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brave old world

October 10, 2011

So, yesterday I woke up to the heretofore unfamiliar cadence of rain pounding on our bedroom windows.  Trees scraped the roof, lightning kindled the sky, and I said my morning prayer of thanks with perhaps a little more gusto than usual. 

One rainfall won’t solve Texas’ worst drought in sixty years, of course, but one rainfall brings the trees one step closer to green.

After a cup of coffee, I tied on my running shoes and headed outside into the delicious, otherworldly gray.

Image by angee09 via flickr

I just love running in the rain (okay, I guess I should rephrase that:  I just love running in non-freezing, non-torrential rain… I’ve run in the kind of rain so hard it feels like your back is bruising, and that ain’t for me). I love steady, puddle-making rain, and the second I got outside I realized I’d been as thirsty for it as the landscape had.

Just last night, finally, I finished Christopher McDougall’s compelling book Born to Run.  Though I never got over the temptation to bellow “TRAMPS LIKE US… BABY, WE WERE BORN TO RUUUUUUN!” at the top of my lungs every time I picked it up, I was captivated by its rich characters, its mystery, and its message.  In a wee nutshell, it is about the reclusive Tarahumara tribe in Mexico’s Copper Canyons who run with phenomenal skill and joy.  It is about pushing the human body beyond expectation, and it is about the place of running in human evolution.

view from a Tarahumara house by Nathan Laurell via flickr

Not only was I unable to put this book down, I was unable to stop talking about it.

Saturday night, at a celebration for my teenaged niece, I started sharing some of McDougall’s statistics on running over the lifespan.  I rambled on to the table of six, preaching McDougall’s lessons of muscle atrophy and stride length, before finding pretty much every eye in attendance completely glazed over.  I’m 99% sure my niece was surreptitiously texting from her lap.  I promptly — well, perhaps not promptly enough — shut up.

Considering this on my run yesterday, I was reminded of my childhood visits to my great-aunt Eleanor in Memphis.  Eleanor was brilliant and accomplished, a scholar who never married or had children of her own.  She was my father’s favorite aunt.  She had traveled all over the world, blazed trails in education in an era when women were relegated to the home, and (most interesting to me as a preteen) was the principal of Elvis Presley’s high school (“a nice boy,” she’d called him).

Still, whenever we visited her high-rise apartment building, Eleanor talked about one subject and one subject only:  genealogy.  It was her thing.  It lit her fire.  And it bored me to tears.  As a kid, I would always wonder, “Why should the accomplishments of my long-dead relatives make me feel better about myself?  How is the accident of having been born related to someone who did something pride-worthy?”  But genealogy was Eleanor’s great love, no matter how mind-numbingly boring I found it to be.

At the dinner table Saturday night?   I was Eleanor, jabbering away feverishly about a subject that lit me up and left everyone else numb.  Funny how things revolve, isn’t it?

I’m fortunate to have a husband who shares my passion for running, McDougall’s book, and countless subjects that leave others cold.  Eleanor had sisters who loved genealogy as much as she did, so I’m confident she enjoyed the camaraderie I do.  They, like Eleanor, passed away years ago.

In her memory, and in honor of every person on fire with a zeal that leaves the rest of us scratching our heads, I will pursue the study of genealogy as part of my History Chasing Maybes category.  I’ll let you know how it goes, of course, and I look forward to what emerges.  Who knows?  At the next social gathering I attend, I might bore a new audience with the tale of my great-great-great-grandfather’s invention of the lampshade.  Or something.

Today, I hope you don’t let anybody’s rain put out your fire.  Thanks, always, for showing up.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Aunt Sissy permalink
    October 10, 2011 4:06 pm

    You weren’t boring & never will be. You are beautiful & fit and I enjoyed seeing you, your family, and new home more than you .

  2. aimee permalink
    October 10, 2011 5:15 pm

    Uh, you’re weird! We all enjoyed the conversation, even though I still call bs on 64 being a runners peak age! 🙂

    • October 10, 2011 5:42 pm

      ha ha. well, it is good to know that I am not quite as boring as I think I am! i will, however, admit to being weird.
      okay, here’s the actual quote from born to run, p. 239:
      “What we found is that starting at age nineteen, runners get faster until they hit their peak at twenty-seven. After twenty-seven, they start to decline. So here’s the question — how old are you when you’re back to running the same speed you did at nineteen?”
      (the answer: 64).
      so, not exactly what I said, but… still impressive. 🙂

  3. October 11, 2011 8:39 pm

    Your Great Aunt Eleanor reminds me of a cross between a few of my relatives and, particularly, my Great Aunt Sally (sister to an Eleanor – my grandmother)… she was a world-traveler, unmarried, educator with a lot of education under her belt when that was a rarity, too. (My Aunt Ellen is the genealogy buff, however.) Aunt Sally has been gone for almost 20 years now, but has always been extremely inspiring to me and it’s good to remember that, for me (so thank you for reminding me!)… because lately, outside of my kids, I’ve been looking for a fire… I’m glad that life, time, and my kids have mellowed me a bit, but sometimes I wonder about that fire… I’m glad you’ve got something to get you going – listening to someone else get all excited about something is inspiring all on its own. Your writing make me think a lot about things that I let fly out of my head too quickly so often (just because, you know, life is happening)… and if not, I can at least get some good ol’ Jersey 80s music stuck in my head…

    • October 12, 2011 6:09 am

      thanks for sharing your memories, Jade. I find your creativity inspiring — love seeing what you are up to on your blog. oh, and sorry about the springsteen. it’s catchy, for sure.

  4. October 12, 2011 10:11 am

    “TRAMPS LIKE US… BABY, WE WERE BORN TO RUUUUUUN!”

    Oh WONDERFUL. Now I will be singing this all day long, too! 🙂

    I think we all have our Thing – the thing that lights us up and that we pursue with passion. That’s nothing at all to be ashamed of – it’s something to be celebrated. Good for you and good for Aunt Eleanor!

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