Mom and I are morning runners. I know that some runners have the afternoon or evening shift, but in my family the afternoon is for napping and the evening is for getting ready for bed so you can wake up early to run. So when the morning passed and Mom was still tapping on her laptop, I thought today was going to be a zero day. Imagine my surprise when we got in the car and drove a long way to a wagging road through the trees. All roads that go to the mailman stations, or the pet supermarket, or Friends’ houses point straight, so I knew that tall trees and a road that wagged from side to side could only mean one thing: a trail adventure!
I didn’t even wait to get out of the car to get excited. As soon as I figured out what was up, I climbed to my jump seat next to the driving chair and sang a squealing song while I searched for where to stop. When we finally did, I was so excited that I tried to go for zoomies, which didn’t work so great because Mom was on the other side of the leash being a real buzzkill. Moms are made of zoom-proof material.
There are magic forests sprinkled here and there all over my part of the world. They are more like something out of a magic fairy story than the world of mailman stations, and pet supermarkets, and office buildings. There are trees that are so tall and straight that they seem like someone played tug with them until they stretched out to twice as thin and three times as long as they were meant to be. There are other smooth trees that twist around themselves like the heart of a pretzel, and curly witch trees, and dead trees whose stumps sit in circles like conference rooms for goblins. The ground is soft like a bed, and everything is covered in the same soft fuzz that covers Oscar the Grouch. Best of all, the sun peeks through the holes, lighting splotches of woods with that same tasteful shine that the Trump family is so fond of in their decorating.
Instead of prickling through my fur and making my muscles tough and tight like the cold does, the warm air brushed my fur like a soft pat and softened me like a smile. I was smiling so wide that my whole face had cracked open and my tongue was almost dragging in the dirt. The warm air also made Mom goopy with sweat. “Ugh,” she said. “There’s something a little gross about running through the left-over warmth of the day. It feels stale like sitting on a warm toilet seat.”
I don’t use toilets, but I guessed that sitting on a nice warm toilet seat that someone had left for you would be nice, like a hug. “It’s a perfect day, isn’t it?!” I said. “Did you notice all the enchantment lying around? Like those ferns over there, there are definitely gnomes living in there. I’m going to go sniff for them, should we go together?”
“Running in the afternoon like this, in the redwoods… I don’t know, it reminds me of a different time in my life. A time when I wasn’t very happy,” Mom explained.”How could you live in an enchanted woodland kingdom and not be happy?” I asked, shocked. Mom thought for a long time. “You know, it’s not that I was so unhappy back then, but I was different than I am now. The air… these woods… running at this time of day… it feels like regression.””What’s regret-shun?” I asked.
“It’s when you go back to how you were before, but not in a good way.” “What’s wrong with being the person that you were before? That’s why everyone loves Hashtag Throwback Thursday,” I pointed out.
“Well, back then I didn’t understand what I do today. A lot of the time the way you learn things is by making mistakes, and mistakes are unpleasant. Maybe the woods remind me of making a big mistake I never want to make again.”
“I’m different now than when I was a puppy, and different from before I became a busy-ness dog who goes to an office every day. Like I’ve always been a runner, and I’ve always known you. It’s the things that never change that make me Oscar.” “Back before I met you, I’d never had a dog before. And before that, I used to be very afraid of dogs,” Mom told me, even though I already knew that. “When I saw a dog running toward me in the woods I would freeze and get very scared. I didn’t even know the difference between attack and fun.”
“That sounds like a horrible way to live! No wonder you don’t want to go back.” I said. “Look at all the neat-o places we’ve seen because of me!”
“Maybe that’s it,” Mom said. “When I used to run in these woods before, I was running because I wanted to be fast or because I wanted to eat more pizza.”
“No wonder you feel icky!” I said. “That sounds like a punishment for being weak! Gross! No one likes to feel like that!”
“The only things I noticed were the hills and the rocks in the trail because they were part of my workout. I never noticed the trees or the sky. If you had asked me back then I would have said that I liked the punishment, but now I see that I wasn’t having very much fun at all. I was just beating myself up.”
“Sometimes being a bully can be fun…” I told her, from experience.
Our inside-out run continued on the ribbon of flat dirt that clung tightly onto the side of the mountain and slithered through the trees. The more we ran, the dustier and less Trumpy the light got as there was more for the sun to hide behind. It was strange running toward the end of something rather than running straight into the day. But I guess not all runs need to be running into something unknown. Sometimes the thing to do is run away, toward the end of something instead.
Oscar the Pooch