When I lived up here before, I lived 3 years in St. Joseph and 3 years in an Indiana town called Chesterton. It was here in February of 2003 that I took up running. Don’t ask me why I started running in February in Michigan, but I did. In fact, I lived on a road that had no sidewalk, and in the dark, I ran in the snow and slush before work. By the time we moved to Chesterton later that spring, I was running a 5k pretty easily.
I was lucky enough in Chesterton to be 10 minutes away from a National Lakeshore, and the Indiana Dunes State Park. It’s a beautiful place preserved in its natural state amid miles and miles of development leading into Chicago. I ran most of my runs in that area, and my favorite trail run was Trail #9 in the State Park. It is shaped like a noose, and the trail follows the top of many dunes with a gorgeous view of the Lake Michigan shoreline for about a mile. It was a challenging run, but the view was so breathtaking it was worth the extra work.
I had a little time off Friday afternoon, so I loaded up Ashok, and we drove the 50-minute drive to the State Park. It was covered in snow, and I brought my snowshoes just in case. The snow wasn’t deep enough for snowshoes, but I donned my “traction” devices on my boots, and Ashok and I took off for a 2-hour hike.
Except for the one runner we saw near the end, we had the trail to ourselves. Two deer stood and watched us from the beach when we were near the shoreline. Because I’m so used to southern beaches where it’s hot, it always strikes me as unusual that the sand mixes with the snow here. It is convenient since the sand provides traction in the slippery stuff, and even the cities here use sand instead of salt because there is so much available. We hiked across a frozen swamp, snowy trails, towering dunes and into a gorgeous snow-covered forest. It was just as beautiful as I remembered.
We had more lake effect snow last night. So, I woke up this morning to more snow to shovel. I shoveled yesterday, so I contacted a snow-removal guy to help me out today. I spent the day lazing around the house cooking chili and chatting with my friend Alisa on Facetime.
I went to the ice skating rink for Open Skate around 2 PM to get a little exercise. My lessons ended last week, and I bought my own skates. I was anxious to try them out. I’m better than I was in the beginning, but I still sort of plod along in a pseudo marching/gliding fashion. I was getting into a stride tonight when a little girl skated by me. “Miss, you have to glide,” she said.
“What,” I asked, confused that she was stating the obvious.
“You have to glide,” she repeated and she skated around me showing me how to glide. “Like that,” she added with a sly smile and skated away.
I don’t know if it was the fact that I was starting to feel more confident on my skates after six weeks of lessons, or maybe the fact that I’ve learned that falling is not as bad as I feared, but I decided to try it. I know my coach was trying to get us to glide, but for some reason I HEARD it in a different way from that little girl today. Something clicked in my head, and I knew what she meant when she said I had to glide. I tried it, and I tried it again. I didn’t glide the rest of the night, but I glided for minutes at a time. And when I was gliding, I felt much more stable. In fact, a couple of times I almost fell, and I glided to keep myself upright. I forgot about falling when I was gliding, and I enjoyed the ride.
Right foot push …. gliiiiidddddde …. left foot push … gliiiiiddddde... push ….. gliiiiddddde ….. wow….. this was ice skating. My little miniature coach skated by once, and I mentioned that I was getting it. She seemed to approve and urged me just to push. She, on the other hand, spent half of her time on the floor, but she was totally enjoying herself.
Remnants of summer past …..
After skating, I took Ashok out for a walk downtown. We walked down to Lake Michigan, down the bluff by the Christmas lights and finally down by the river. Huge icebergs are forming, but I couldn’t get any close-ups because my camera battery died. It was very cold. My hot chocolate was almost frozen by the time we finished as were my fingers. But I thought a lot about this little town and my move here. I thought about learning to snow shovel and ice skate and my attempts at building community. It can be overwhelming at times, learning a new culture. I have to admit that a real Michigan winter challenges my sensibilities.
This morning I walked Ashok in the deep snow, and I noticed families loading into their cars with hockey sticks and equipment. The rhythm of my day is slowed way down. It takes so much longer to do things because of the preparation for being outside. I’m carrying boots and dealing with wet slushy snow everywhere. I can’t even get out of my driveway some days without shoveling snow for 30 minutes. And I even have to get used to sliding on the roads. In so many ways, the earth is slippery beneath my feet. I keep working to get my balance and solid footing.
Miss, you have to glide. Maybe it’s not about being safe and rooted solidly in the ground. Perhaps she’s right. I have to glide.