Signs of Spring

It’s 7:15, and I head out for a long run.  The sun is bright, warming my face, although the air is quite cool.  I still wear winter running tights, the ones that are wind-resistant on the outside, and lined with polar fleece.  I wear light gloves, too, which I know I will tuck into my pocket once I warm up, probably around mile 3.

I lope along Old Garden Road, looking at the gardens in the front yards I pass.  Tiny green shoots push up through the still damp earth, promising daffodils, johnny-jump-ups, crocus, and iris blossoms soon.  I pass the ramp to Old Garden Beach, where driftwood, seaweed, and flotsam have washed up almost to the edge of the street.  Construction workers’ trucks and vans line the road.  Now that the storm has passed, roofs and gutters are being assessed and repaired en mass; most of the homes along the ocean’s edge have suffered wind and rain damage.  The men milling around their trucks have already removed their overcoats and sweatshirts.  It’s early yet, but glorious spring is making a strong impression on us already.

I press up the hill to Marmion Way and turn left, easing down the hill and looking back out to Andrew’s Point, where waves still ride high and crash the rocky shoreline, white froth rising up and spanking the rocks there like a punishment for blocking their path.  I approach Straitsmouth Cove, which our family refers to as Mermaid Cove, because the floats in that tiny inlet become beckoning water sirens on moonlit evenings in summer.  The sea is high here, too, the waves lit by the sun in such a way that they are pale green and translucent.  The water rolls in and pulls back, moving smooth, round stones closer to the shore and to the street that grazes the edge of that shore.

Uphill again, to the end of Marmion and my body is tired today, begging me to slow down.  I acquiesce, easing up on the turn onto South Street.  I rest as I run, knowing I can make the distance planned, even if I slow down for a while.  I take the time to smell spring— the horse farm to my left on Whale Cove Road reminds me of my hometown, a country town then, with a chicken farm, and lots of green fields with farm houses nestled back from the road.   Tall trees were planted close to the houses for shade, the fields ripe with manure and new spring plantings.  I smell the dampness of the leaves along the wooded parts of the road, the sweet salt of the ocean air mingling in, adding a freshness to the morning.

I bear left at the fork and pick up speed on the long hill headed to Cape Hedge Beach, and as usual, take the sharp, steep turn onto Penzance Road and along Pebble Beach.  The road has been cleared; yesterday I dodged between two enormous backhoes, waving to the operators both to greet them and to make my presence known so I would not get backed over, or scooped up and deposited along with the massive piles of sand they were moving to the side of the road.  Nature has taken the liberty of exposing the underling world of the beach.  Black boulders of granite poke their heads and shoulders above the sand, and the waves, as they were earlier at Mermaid Cove, glow green and froth white, rolling in and then pulling back hard to reveal even more rock.   There is no sand left on the beach by this last storm; only the black wet rocks were strong enough to hold their ground.  The sunlight is blinding; I remove my sunglasses and wipe the sea spray from them as I dodge what the machinery has missed on the road.  I am tempted to stop and pick up these perfectly round stones— to stuff my pockets with them and carry them home to pile into a cairn on my front porch.  I keep going, promising myself a trip back with my car and camera.  Maybe I will return later this afternoon or tomorrow.

More red-winged blackbirds play chase in the marshes.   I watch them perform their balancing acts on the tall grasses.  I hear their calls,  shrill enough to penetrate the music pumping beats through my ear buds.Two swans glide in the swollen pond on the right, and then I’m sprinting by Loblolly Cove and up the hill to Eden Road.

There is no wind today, but the water-filled ruts and holes that make up this road force me to run as if I am on an army obstacle course.  I forget to look at Thatcher Island the the Twin Lights; I am trying to stay on my feet and not twist an ankle on this crazy patchwork surface.  I round the bend and the road reverts to normal pavement.  I smile with relief.  I glance up at the tree with the hollow.  The little owl has not yet returned to the tree by my friends’ house, and I wonder how he weathered the last two storms— if his nest is still intact, or if he has had to move on to a more sheltered spot.  I turn back onto South Street and redo the loop I took out, back along Marmion Way.  I pass my house and check my time.  Not bad, a little over 8 min/mi.  I decide to go with the initial plan for today, and head downtown.

I add another 3 1/2 miles, settling into the rhythm of the long run, focusing on the music and the easy breath that comes with surrender.  I loop around Front and Back Beach, turn onto Granite Street, then down King.  Rockport’s new Shalin Liu Performance Center, perhaps the largest structure in town, is in the mid-phase of construction, and as I come up the street, I watch a crane swinging about four stories high over the middle of the street.  It is loaded with what look like bricks, or something equally as heavy, which makes me feel anxious, so I turn up Jewett Street and then onto Broadway.  I up my speed, sprinting the last half mile.  The last 400 yards are brutal today.  Uphill on Atlantic, almost home, I stop at the peak of the hill, turn off the Nike+iPod, and walk around my front garden for a few minutes to cool down.

The red twig dogwood’s stems are dark, rich burgundy, and the new little yew I planted last fall is bright yellow, announcing its survival of the winter and street salt and heavy downpours of the last weeks.  There are little green shoots all over my yard, too, and I bend to see what is pushing up beneath the beds I have left unraked.  Rhubarb, roses, Lamb’s Ears, Sedum, tiny Grape Hyacinth compete with last year’s detritus for their rightful place in spring.  I ease myself down on a fat slab of granite ledge that is like a misplaced a whale’s hump in the center of the yard.  On my back, I feel the rough stone through my clothes and the cool dampness of my skin against the sun-baked rock.  Spring, I think, as I stretch out and rest.

Today’s run:  10 miles.  1’20”.

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4 Comments on “Signs of Spring”

  1. Robin Says:

    Red wing black birds are back?? How lovely is that…

  2. Sarah Says:

    Wow. Very evocative of this place & season – you remind me to be very happy that I live here…

  3. Pat Says:

    another nice piece….I felt as if I were running with you…


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