To be outdoors

by Kim on July 23, 2012 · 56 comments

On our second night in Zion a huge storm rolled in. Brian and I fell asleep to the rhythm of drizzle on the rain fly above our tent and awoke around four a.m. in the midst of a massive thunderstorm. Lightening lit the sky like an ethereal spotlight and thunder exploded and then echoed off the walls of Zion Canyon.

Sunset on the evening of the thunderstorm

In the morning it was clear that the rain wasn’t going anywhere. We’d wanted to hike The Narrows, a slender section of canyon that can be accessed by wading in the Virgin River, but the flash flood potential was high. With our hopes of hiking dashed we made the decision to pack up camp and relocate. We decided on Sedona, Arizona.

The drive to Sedona took a good chunk of the day and when we arrived I was itching to stretch my legs on a run. The sky was dark and threatening. When Brian pulled up the radar it was splattered with green, yellow and orange blotches which I think means “don’t go running” in layman’s terms. But there wasn’t much that could stop me, certainly not a bit of color on the radar. Brian agreed to go with me mostly because he feared for my life but also because we’d eaten a whole bag of cheddar Sun Chips in the car.

It was only sprinkling as we began our run but the rain fell harder and harder as time passed. Lightening and thunder were present in the distance. About a mile before we were safely back at our hotel the rain began dumping in heavy sheets that smacked us painfully. Lightening struck overhead. “This is kinda fun as long as we survive,” I said to Brian, but before he could reply a huge bolt of lightening lit the sky and thunder boomed an instant later.

I imagined the newspaper headline “Tourists killed while running in lightening storm” and how no one would feel sorry for us because it was such a stupid thing to do. I screamed “Oh God, what should we do?” and Brian yelled back through the pounding rain “JUST KEEP RUNNING!

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Some nights in Portland I would drive to my friend Wendy’s after work and we would run five to ten miles up and over Mt. Tabor in Portland’s southeast neighborhood. I loved everything about our runs: the scenery, the good conversation, and the time of day at which they happened.

I wasn’t normally outside during dusk. On a typical evening I’d be at home preparing for the following work day or planted on the couch unwinding from the current one. But during those runs I would remember what a magical time of day dusk is and how much I loved being a part of it. I loved the cool evening air and the warm light and the silent streets and the sounds of the insects chirping and buzzing.

I have dusk back now. Almost every day I am outside during that magical hour when evening turns to night. I have sunrise and mid-day heat and midnight thunderstorms too. I’m not watching the day unfold behind a window anymore. I’m outside participating in it.

I’m uncomfortable almost all of the time. I’m either sweaty or cold or soaked with rain. My shoes fill with dirt and mud and river water. I trip and scrape my knees on rocks. I get stung by bees and bitten by red ants.

I know more about the places that I’m at because I experience them outside. I know that the winds blow into Moab around 7pm and that it cools off considerably around three in the morning. I know that Marmots run wild in the Wyoming backcountry but that they sleep at night just like we do. I know what time the sun rises and what time it sets and where the mosquitoes are bad and how long it takes the alpine glow to disappear after the sun has dipped behind a mountain.

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Before I left Portland a friend of mine asked what I wanted out of all of this. When our trip is over, as it one day will be, what is my long-term goal? I told her that what I want is to be able to support myself as a writer so that I can do what I love as a profession and work when I feel most creative and run when the mood strikes and travel outside of the confines of vacation days.

Your answer supports my theory that what everyone wants is simply control over their own schedule,” she said. 

In the months since she made her proclamation I have tried to disprove her theory but I can’t do it. Because I do think that that is what we all want. We want to cook meals and garden and read. We want to spend time with our kids and our parents and our friends. We want to work hard, too, but not at the expense of the things and people we love. We want to sit outside in the evening, every evening if we want to, and watch the sun sink below the horizon. We want dusk back and we want the evening stars.

Sunset in Grand Teton National Park

Now more than ever I feel certain that I will fight like hell and work like crazy to ensure that I can continue to live my life this way.

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