I’ve been calling myself a writer for less than a month now. To tell the truth, I feel more like a poser than a writer. Just say you’re a writer, and POOF, you’re a writer? Surely it’s not that simple, though I suppose other people have found acceptance anointing themselves with labels much more controversial than “writer.” To give myself a better sense of belonging, I have attempted to participate in activities with other writers, the kind who actually publish works, earn money, provide instruction, and the like.
Today, hoping to feel more a part of the writing community, I participated in Automattic’s online “wwwp5k.” This worldwide event is taking place this week, October 26th through November 1st with writers and other creative types charting their own courses then blogging and sharing photos of their experiences. Here’s mine:
I had originally planned to stage my personal 5K at the beach this weekend, but the combination of an altered work schedule and a soggy forecast convinced me to take advantage of today’s amazing fall weather closer to home. I decided to take my usual route at a local jogging track. I walk there sometimes, rarely thinking much about what I see or hear, but today was different. Today I needed to see through the eyes of others, listen with the ears of others who wouldn’t be present themselves.
The mile markers at this track are a collection of boulders mounted in concrete with metal plaques to label the type of rock and the distance from the starting point. I’m not sure how this idea came about, but I imagine a local geology professor with these enormous specimens in his garage. Then I imagine his wife, less fond of the rocks than he is. Maybe he chose to donate them to share his knowledge and passion and to make peace at home. Maybe not, but it’s a good story.
Like many tracks, this one surrounds playing fields for various sports: soccer, baseball, softball, even ultimate Frisbee. It’s fall now, however, and this is Texas, which can mean only one thing: football! The stands are filling with parents, grandparents, and siblings who have come to cheer on these tiny NFL hopefuls. Loud music blasts from the speakers, but even so I hear the coach bark into the huddle, “Gentlemen, I will not tolerate losing today! Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir!” they respond in unison. I feel intimidated, threatened even, but they seem to take it as just another part of the game. I continue my walk wondering how I might have responded to that kind of “encouragement” at age 8. I’m pretty sure I would have cried.
On the far side of the football field, toddlers play on the “Big Toy.” They spin, slide, and swing showing off their physical prowess to proud parents who stand at the ready just in case. A man passes by with his German shepherd on his way to the dog park. Walkers, runners, and joggers approach me from behind, pass, and are gone. On most days I keep up a little better, but today I am busy capturing images on my phone and in my mind.
I meet a friend walking the opposite way on the track. Normally we would stop briefly and chat, but today she is talking on the phone, so we just wave. I stop to check on the community garden. Flowers bloom, and vegetable plants are laden with peppers and cucumbers.
I take the fork in the track that circles a pond where I stop to watch a stack of turtles lounging on a wooden platform. They seem oblivious until I take their picture. Once they notice me, they leave their perch, one by one, diving into the murky water. I feel bad for disturbing them. The last part of the track leads me across a small bridge then past the statue honoring a hometown hero.
This hometown isn’t mine. I consider myself a visitor here. On this day, however, while trying to make my way into one community, it seems I have found my place in another.
As I approach my “finish line,” the sun has begun to set behind me. My shadow is long and narrow, two words that would not normally describe me. In the distance I hear the football announcer. The home team has scored a touchdown and the extra point. There is more loud music and plenty of cow bell. Everyone is happy. Except maybe the turtles.