Monday, June 21, 2010

Take a different path

In which I discuss running, writing, and goose attacks.

So I am training for this marathon, which is partially to blame for my lack of regular blogging. Friday, I set out for an 11 mile run. I charted myself a course along trails, down near the mighty Huron River. I had my little belt full of water bottles and my half a size too big shoes and yes, I was seriously dorkalicious.

At mile 5, the trail narrowed to about 6 feet wide as it ran between the river and a little pond. As I came around a bend, I heard the flapping and honking of Canada geese. I had scared a gaggle of about 20 of them (with my feather-light footsteps and delicate breathwork). They were heading from the pond to the river, so I jogged in place to let them by. Then they stopped. The babies sat down, right in the middle of the trail. I could not pass.

"Excuse me!" I called pleasantly and started jogging around them. The mama geese hissed and snapped at me. When I got closer, they tried to whap me with their wings.

"Okay, okay!" I called and ran back down the trail. I stood and watched them for a minute, sure they would move on. The babies put their heads down and the adults stood guard, watching me.

"Move!" I yelled. I hid behind the bushes and screamed, "Vroom! Vroom! Big truck coming!" I tossed small rocks and sticks at the trail just in front of the geese.

Nothing. No movement. And every time I got close, the mamas started hissing.

I stood there, like an idiot, waiting for someone smarter or braver to come along. Nobody came. I hunted for a side route around them. I tried to cut through the campus of a factory and got stuck behind a barbed wire fence. I circled back in front of the factory and ended up crossing a loading dock in front of 17 unloading truck drivers (again, remember the little belt with the water bottles and did I mention the pigtails?).

And here is where it relates to writing: I could have taken a different road. A road that could go anywhere in Ann Arbor was 300 yards away, but it would have lead me on a different route. So instead of turning around and taking it, I considered scaling a 20 foot high fence. I was so stuck on the idea of getting back to MY path, and so unable to stop thinking about the geese, that I wore myself out stubbornly trying to get back to the original plan. The original outline. Are you seeing the metaphor?

I admire perseverance and doggedness and effort. But sometimes the reason a scene or a chapter or a whole book is hard is simply because it's never going to work. We have to turn around and let the failure take us on a whole new path.

I finished my 11 miles and it was a lovely run, minus the geese. Sure, I was bummed to leave my pretty path through the woods and run on the pavement in the exhaust. But the real tragedy would have been if I'd never let it go and kept running.


cath c said...

uh-oh. i think you're dropping me a big ol hint.

but i don't run! but i do write,
and i have a whole flock of canadian geese in the way.

Ann Finkelstein said...

A long time ago, I was chased by a male mallard when I was running. At that time, I worked for the Regional Poultry Research Laboratory. See what I knew. Anyway, sometimes it’s hard to find that other path – whatever we’re doing.

Jacqui said...

cath, me too.
Ann, maybe he knew where you worked!

Anonymous said...

Great metaphor Jacqui. Thanks for sharing. What a run you had that day!

WordWrangler said...

I'm so proud of you! I want to train for a marathon - but that is several years away. Right now I'm training for my 2nd 5k (the first one was several years ago!)...but this time finish somewhere other than the bottom 3! :)

Have fun with those long runs. They rock!