I just stepped inside from the back porch of this amazing beach house. A thunderstorm is brewing, and the streaks of lightning through the massive cloud shelves compete with the steady lights of the shrimp boats on the horizon. As the breeze cooled my sun burnt back, I thought about the highlights of this vacation.
I ran every day. I never really thought about myself as a runner, until this trip. I started running three years ago, when I realized that my body would no longer be immune to my daily tortures and consumption, and I desperately needed a healthy mind-altering state. As I ran on the three mile stretch of private beach, littered with shells and bordered by state parks, I thought of all the other places I ran over the last three years. I compared. This place took the cake.
The marshes that lie directly adjacent to the beach are sea turtle and bird sanctuaries, so it is not uncommon to see long-necked egrets standing in the grass, chains of pelicans diving into the ocean to feast on a school of fish, and seagulls wading among the oyster beds - fat and happy. The birds far outnumber the humans, of which there are rarely more than five or six. Mike's Aunt Esta informed me that the beaches, this week, are overcrowded.
I didn't see a turtle, but on the first day, Esta took Sicily and I on a golf cart tour of her beach, and she pointed to some turtle tracks that she and her husband John had seen on turtle patrol that morning. They found an egg - a rare but golden find, and it was buried and marked with a wooden stick flagged in bright orange. Sicily was disappointed that she couldn't see the egg, but she chose an exquisite glass baby loggerhead emerging from an egg as her serpentarium gift shop reward for behaving, so all was well. I wondered aloud how many turtles had emerged from the ocean to create this at least two foot span turtle track leading to the covered mound. Esta smiled knowingly - she and John have lived here for three years. "Just one."
Running along this private stretch of beach was a little difficult because of all the visual distractions - beautiful sea shells, giant horseshoe crabs, and man-o-wars. I was so excited to see the whale carcass that Ike's cousin Michael's wife Tara told me had been there for months; unfortunately it had been removed a few weeks prior to our visit. We hosted dinner for 12 last night. Ike's Uncle John pointed to two giant rib bones I hadn't noticed on the floor under a coffee table covered with seashells, anemones, and crabs. "Those are from the whale carcass. They sawed it apart and distributed the bones."
I ran morning, noon, and evening - so I was able to see the changes in the tide, which was more striking in distance than I might have imagined. My favorite run was this evening after dinner - the sun was setting and even though the wind had picked up, making it difficult on the way back, I delighted in reminiscing about college with all the Beastie Boys albums I gathered recently from my brother. Who knew that the Beastie Boys were such great running music? I've only ever partied to them.
As I ran, I thought of all the other times I have run over the past three years. Running leaves an indelible stamp on an experience - similar to art, music, and books. I thought back to my anniversary trip to Eureka - where I ran the last three miles of an 11 mile hike through the forest, feeling timeless. There, my distractions consisted of giant snail shells and fat black and yellow millipedes. I decided the snail shells were an impossible anomaly of our overly wet Arkansas spring. I also thought of all the treadmills I have graced at the pathology conferences I have attended - Chicago, Monterey, San Diego.
I started to run in residency because of my two best friends of that time period - Mel and Trishie. Both runners. Last week I called Mel to wish her a happy birthday. I reminded her of a phone conversation we had long ago, where she told me that she ran at home in her underwear and sports bra. I was studying the possibility of running in my head, and collected that information for future use. She laughed at the memory. "We should create a market. Rundies."
So that weekend, when I emerged from the basement in sports bra and underwear, sweaty and flushed, John and Sicily stared at me suspiciously. Sicily said, "Mommy, why do you run in your underpants?"
I adopted my best Wonder Woman pose (Oh I wanted to be her so bad when I was little), and said in a loud, commanding superhero voice, "These aren't my underpants! They're my RUN-DERPANTS!" Now I'm regretting it. They loved it so much, it has become a daily joke. One I miss, on occasion. But they remind me. Children have the memory of elephants.