Wandering to Williamsburg

After the most wonderful weekend its time to find my way back home and into the search for a way out I’m forced to acknowledge is my life at this stage. My usual method of managing this slow and dull crisis (to hike to somewhere or run so as to find an acceptably constructive way to tire myself without having to muster too much emotional courage) is out of reach for the moment. I am currently suffering from the slow burn and minimal swelling of bursitis. It is having an effect like the stipulations of a good acting exercise (but less therapeutic). I am forced to accept my circumstances but I cannot give my partner what he wants. I cannot run from my issues and into better headspace through athletic brain chemistry, I am now forced to deal. In this, like any good despair, there is great, elusive potential for benefit. 

I spent the weekend with a group of old friends, people from my college days. In many ways the people among whom I became a person. While living on a college campus and spending our days pushing each other aggressively into great feats of sensitivity and peeling the lining of our humanity, I learned with these people what it is to care. So spending a couple of days laughing and joking at ourselves and our mutual frustrations, talking about what they’re all up to and what their lives are like was beautiful. It was just what the doctor ordered, even if it wasn’t ice and rest. 

Every fall I get a pretty powerful attack of wanderlust, and perhaps that was the most important part of my experience. A solo drive with the weather starting to turn and the trees bowing in their newfound water weight to the road reminds me who I am. I suppose it is the impending here and now of the nowhere between destinations. No place I’ve been has ever held a lasting sense of home, so a weekend jaunt is often perfect to take the edge off my discomfort. But then I arrived and strolled around Williamsburg Virginia in the rain, its a very pretty little burg even in the haze of an October mist. It is in that melancholy moment when I begin to remember myself and build a new idea. Maybe it is not the feeling of gypsy-like creation that matters but the gypsies themselves, the spirit of long and wandering trips to places I do not know to make something I’ve yet to define. The possibility is intoxicating. 

Finally my friends arrive, I introduce myself to those I do not know, and it is not quite my usual case of evasive conversation. Somehow the rain opened me up, but they’re late so we hurry into the theatre to supportively endure a musical for former classmate and current mutual sufferer of our twenties. The show was awful, our friend did some admirable work, considering the situation. But this is how it goes when you’re young and unestablished and you must follow your work, living on a shoestring and a bit like a monk. In the spirit of this ethos, we spent the evening and late into the night sharing some drinks and stories and hopeful fears for the future. 

The next morning we all, (my two friends from college and two new friends I’d only met the night before) met for breakfast and a stroll around colonial Williamsburg. I took a few pictures, we talked about our lives a bit more. I spent that next evening and morning in much the same way in another city with a few different people. Now I’ve arrived back inside my life with a clear new sense of the way forward and a greater appreciation of how little there is to happiness. 


First Landing, First Time

Its been a while since my last genuine trail run. So the other day I took a trip out to Virginia Beach and the beautiful First Landing State Park.

This put me on the watch for R.O.U.S.es.
This put me on the watch for R.O.U.S.es.

Its a big place, a collection of trails cover 19 miles of swamp and dune. Its familiar, sandy, with white pines, and a salty smell. The hills are a bit shorter, and there are cyprus complete with two foot tall knees, and spider webs of fantasy-novel proportions. There are lots of my favorite birds out here in the giant estuary that is the tidewater, herons, egrets, kingfisher (I was recently astonished to see one on the north shore of long island where they’re pretty rare). I was pretty excited when I read about First Landing, so I got in my car and went over there.

The place has a feeling like a museum-park, or some of the beautifully manicured privately-maintained parks I’ve seen before. Under tall pine trees a large building labeled “Trail Center” stands next to a modest parking lot. Inside there are park staff manning an information desk, there are maps and pamphlets galore. This amount of pomp and circumstance is starting to unsettle me. But I quietly grab a trail map, and walk back out to my car to lace my shoes. It feels a bit more like I’ve come for a round of golf than out for a run, and I’m worried about the degree of solitude this place will provide. Still, its nice to have so much information before setting out into the woods somewhere I’ve never been before. I take a couple iPhone pictures of my map and plan a 6 mile loop. 

There is a strange feeling to the place, like some kind of Epcott of parkland, theme-park level planning and upkeep, but its just a bunch of trails through the woods. There is a main-drag, the longest trail in the park its flat and wide and perfect. There are benches every couple hundred yards and simple fitness equipment with signs explaining their use. I have been known to do pull-ups from tree branches, and this is getting a little bit homey. So I was very glad to see the name of the next trail on my planned loop on the bicycle-prohibiting fences that mark these smaller, hike-only trails. A hundred yards or so down this trail (The Kingfisher trail), I started to relax. It’s narrow, not quite single-track, but you’re in the woods. It’s not so flat, its not as well manicured, but it is still consistently marked by white blazes. I could get used to this.

Then the Kingfisher trail runs to a “T” at White Hill Lake trail, where there is a 6×6 signpost covered in square tiles marked with distances, and trail names. The tiles look almost as clean as my kitchen counters. This is amazing and bizarre to me. Gratefully I have only seen two other people since leaving the main trail about a mile ago. 

Two turns bends later, there’s an overlook, in one direction, reeds and swamp, and towering cyprus trees, a few hawks are circling. The salt hits the bottom of my tiring lungs and suddenly I’m home. But then I look west, and just over there across the creek, not 400 yards away, houses, all in a row. like they belonged there. I guess its not home yet. 

Still, its here, and I rounded out a long run among the trees and it brought me back to life that day. And for this I will not begrudge the Commonwealth of Virginia its state parks’ selection as the best in the land.