Quick side though: My first draft of this blog post started “When I’m writing, I have a horrible sense of direction and context.” So that’s something for future reflection…
When I’m driving, I have a horrible sense of direction and context. I totally get from Point A to Point B, but the space in between is just roads to get to the destination. I might get to look around at a stop light to see the homes nearby or people on the sidewalks. In general though, its eyes looking forward and a song on the radio to bop my head along to.
After several years living in Portland, it was running that finally gave me a sense of this city. An understanding of how different neighborhoods fit together and a sense of how far things were when you were not stuck in traffic. For example, I can run from my home to downtown Portland in less than an hour. I spend most of the journey on Burnside, a main street that divides the city between north and south. After a loop around the Waterfront, I come back on a different road for a more residential feel with houses lining the streets and trees blocking views of long hills ahead.
Being literally on the streets of my city lets me know not just the geography better, but the people too. Including learning how much I don’t know.
There are sometimes people living in tents on the sidewalks in Portland, with people inside that cannot afford a safe home and are trying their best to survive. Running past in the early morning, I try to step softly, imagining people asleep as I wish I was. Tents with different bright colors, items scattered around that might be treasure or trash, and smells that I sometimes hold my breath to avoid. There are a few facts I can gather going past these spaces, and so much more I can only begin to imagine.
Under some bushes in a front last is another home. Much smaller and a better fit for fairies that people. Sparkling shells, plastic dinosaurs, and sideways furniture are the leftovers of a game that ended at dinnertime. I learn from muddy fingerprints and footsteps how much activity occurred, but little else. Was this the beginning of a game or an end? Am I allowed to bring my own guests to the party or is it exclusive to invisible ones? In other lawns there are posted poems and stories or toys forever changed in the rain. At 7:30 on a Saturday morning, no one is outside to play or read yet.
But I’m there, running alongside these and other unknown stories. Somewhere in between my own corner of the world and the end of this day’s challenge. Someone looking outside their window might be wondering what’s next in my story.