I ran today up Quigley Canyon. The dirt road was completely paved in white snow, the hills and mountains dressed in naked veils of the stuff, the wide curving fields that lie between the opposing slopes turned to still rivers of crystal-studded alabaster. The aromatic sage I crushed in my hands at the end of summer now stands stiff and thin, the long-blown blooms poling up above the bush and all of it wearing capes of white. If I said, “Today the sky was blue,” I’d have to find a different word for blue, one that didn’t simply represent the color: that was how blue the sky was today. So blue, all other skies I’ve seen seem to have merely stood for the color like a word, whereas today the sky was the color itself, the signified free of representation. If only that could be said, somehow, without being a fallacy by nature.
I met my brother-in-law and the dog as they were coming down off a hill trail. Hanna, the dog, was wild with joy, snow caked between her pads and her russet fur shining. “I’m heading up the Canyon,” I said redundantly, since that was the only direction the road we were standing on led. Unless I wanted to wade up the frozen crest of the hill, which I did not. Off I ran, with the afternoon sun against my back.
Running on semi-packed snow is like running on sand. My ankles ached, I verged on losing my balance each moment. I hopped between the multiple tire-tracks on the road, trying to find a track that was packed enough to not give as I ran, with partial success. Most of the time, I left divots behind me instead of full prints, because I ran toes-first, finding purchase, leaping a little with each stride, since each stride was a bit like falling as the snow gave way under my weight.
I’ve been running at sea level for three months; I ran a mile or more above sea level today. Heart pounding, legs strong.
There were some prints along the silent fields beside the road. Animal or human, I couldn’t tell. My eyes wept in the cold, in the mild breeze, and I kept pressing the back of my mittened hand to them, to sop up the blurry tears. When I turned around on the road to head back, facing west and the lowering sun, I actually felt colder. The sweat that had risen through several layers of clothing and gathered like a fine, warm mist on the front of my fleece on the way out dissipated and cooled on the way back. I watched my feet more than the hills or sky on the return, wary of my footing.
Later this afternoon a seeming fog crept up the valley and obscured the sky. It’s not snowing, but it looks like it might.