Sunday, January 23, 2011

Frozen Friends

 Dom, AK, Vallian, Lori, and Wood Frog pose after a rousting frigid run at Tuckahoe State Park

Noisy silence prevailed as the sound of a diesel truck rolled on the distant highway, the trickling of the unfrozen brook made splashing sounds, and the forest gave up her indistinguishable rustlings. I was standing, listening for them; my ears uncovered in the 15 degree, early January morning darkness.

“Any time, now,” I thought as I reflected on how only a friend waiting for his friends would do something as odd as travel through a graveyard past the open crypt on a frigid morning before sunrise and wait for his friends to pop out of the forest.  They would have run close to five miles in the dark when they arrived to an awaiting me and warm, running Julius with a spread of aid station treats.

“What was that noise? Not, them,” I thought, “Perhaps they came through another way; I’d better return to Julius.”  As I took my first step of back-tracking toward the car I broke a twig with my foot.  The sound of it scared a large deer (it might as well been an elephant) within 30 feet of me, which, in turn, scared the be-jeez-zus out of me.  I wouldn’t be able to hear my four friends coming if I had to with the pounding sound of my heartbeat in my ears.

Tuckerman with frost on his beard. No, it's not gray.

After making it out of the woods to the open at the end of Tuckahoe Valley Trail, I soon heard some familiar “whoops” which could only have been made by my friends.  Dominic and AK were first to cross the bridge which led the trail to where I was standing.  Soon to follow were Lori and Michael, aka Tuckerman.  They were frosted; collars, chests, beards, and eyelashes; and breathing heavily, exuding the heat only a runner can produce.  The day was just starting to show signs of light. Tuckerman had been lighting the trail for the others (later recounted that this was one of the darkest runs on record), but after meeting up with me, he tended to forget that he had a blaring light on his head until we reminded him it was no longer needed.

The Julius Aid Station at Mile 5, graveyard.

They helped themselves (and raved appropriately) to the refreshments laid out as the Beatles belted out “Help” on my Ipod.  The next thing I knew we were jaunting down Cliffside Creek Trail in low light.  The ground was hard and bumpy which made for some mildly rough going on the feet and ankles.  But, there we were, five friends trekking though the Tuckahoe woods, catching up with each other (it had been a long time since I’d run with any of them, maybe at least a year), enjoying the morning silence, and simply steaming through the Eastern Shore air.

Mike in the frost.

Our traditional river crossing was made remarkable in only that what ever got wet was board-frozen within two minutes.  Valliant ran with shorts that rubbed like cardboard, and I now had stiff bell bottoms on the cuff of my pants.  Lori was smart in removing her outer pants and slipping them back on after the crossing.  By the time we got up on the upper elevations of the Little Florida Trail, the morning was lighting the frost on all the briars making a beautiful display of patterns.
Lori zooming in the frosty morning. That is frost on her jacket, yikes.

Little Florida led into Pee Wee’s, and then out onto the back road to Tuckahoe Lake and bridge.  There would be no dilly dallying for us as we snapped a group picture then piled into Michael’s car.
Old St. Joseph's Church

They dropped me at the graveyard where Julius awaited.  At one point while changing into my church clothes I found myself naked…yes, in a graveyard.  I thought, “Only in the country would I get away with this.  I really hope no one comes to visit any relatives right now.”

Full view of Old St. Joseph's Church. Check out the additions.  The house part is the original church.

Mass was underway when I arrived at the Old St. Joseph’s Church in Cordova.  Unfortunately, I had just missed Fr. Olsen’s homily.  Fr. Olsen is a true gift to our community, and my whole family has been enjoying his work here.  After Mass I further enjoyed connecting with several old friends.  Old St. Joe’s stands alone in the middle of a field.  Originally, disguised to look like a house, the church served the early Catholics on the Eastern Shore.  The more modern addition (circa 1901) gives it a more church appeal.  It is the church that I took my bride, Carita.
Today was about friends.  Whether waiting for their arrival in the dark on a lonely trail in the middle of the forest or knowing they would be waiting for me on the other side of the church’s centuries old doors, I’ve come to rely and love my friends.  Live, love, and serve ~ Michael