A Landscape of Memory

I would have preferred a sunny day, but the rain was where I wanted to go when I wanted to be there, so I shared my walk with the raindrops.  It did not rain the whole time, anyway, and it stopped just about the time I got back to my car.

Walking in the rain confers some benefits.  You are much more likely to have privacy on the path when it is raining, and the rain provides a soothing soundtrack as it falls into the woods.  It also makes everything glimmer a little.  Rain is not something always to be a avoided.

I wanted to walk along my old running trail.  While at Madison, 1977-81, I ran on that trail hundreds, maybe thousands of times.  I used to run a lot. Started at the old red gym, I ran out to picnic point. It took around twenty minutes. Sometimes I ran all the way back too, but most of the time I stopped about half way and enjoyed the walk.  It was good to run along that trail because there were lots of other runners and if you ran to slowly they implicitly “lazy shamed” you.  I never chose to race anybody who passed me, but I tried to keep a pace sufficiently fast that few people did.  I ran in all weather, except when snow and ice covered the trails. In Wisconsin that is a lot of time, but rather less than you might expect, since the university plowed the paved parts of the trail.

My favorite trail surface is the dirt and gravel that you see in the picture on top.  It is a dubious assumption that the relatively softer but uneven surface is better for your legs than the harder but smooth asphalt.  What I liked was the texture and the sound of my feet hitting that dirt and then the sound of my own breathing. By the time I got to the dirt, my body was in energy saving mode, and I would take deep and comfortable breaths.  I know it is silly, but I felt part of the nature doing that. I would never run on tracks.

My time in Madison before I met Chrissy was the loneliness of my life.  Paradoxically, it was also the time when I had the greatest number of friends.  I resolve that paradox by recalling that most of my friendships at that time were ephemeral and episodic.  I was often alone in the crowd. One of my problems is that I just do not love sports the way many guys do.  I would watch the games more out of duty than pleasure.  I did (and do) like to watch the Green Bay Packers, but even there I lack the enthusiasm of the real fan.

I spent most of my life in and between Memorial Library, the Red Gym, the Student Union (Ratskeller) and my running trails. I did not spend much time at home, since for most of my student days the places I rented were not attractive.  One year, I shared what had been a bigger room with another guy.  We had a wall made of cardboard boxes, probably a fire hazard.  The year after that, I did not have a room at all.  I used the couch when it was cold and the back porch when it was warmer.  I paid something like $35 a month rent that year – saved the big bucks.

Still and all, I look back on my Madison days with great fondness.  It was my formative time, when I came to understand what I liked and did not like, and I could contemplate the type of life I wanted, even if the details were foggy.  That is why I still like to haunt some of the same of places.  It is a landscape of memory that still has meaning for me.

Top two pictures show the running trail. Second one is a nice oak savanna.  Next is the student union, followed by the red gym and the library.  That church across the street is new.  It is kind of medieval. That used to be the Catholic Center.  Guess they owned the land.