The days have been inching by here in Bariloche, with the weather turning rainy and cold and fierce for a few weeks, and now, it seems, a little bit of second summer. Just this week I completed my first full week back in my sneakers! The walking boot is pushed to the back of the closet and I’m hoping I won’t have to take it out ever never ever again. I’m doing half hour walks each day, rotating using a crutch or both and not using any. Every small thing feels, somehow, like both a win and a signifier of the distance still to go. One of my favorite big steps forward is ditching the crutches and being able to use both my hands again! Below is the chalkboard I’ve been using to track my progress – I’m treating it with the same focus as training for a race.
Last week, I had an orientation at Casa Abierta, the volunteer site where I’ll be helping out this month. It’s a house-space funded by the city government where kids do homework, play, and work on specific projects. Kind of like a community-built boys and girls club. While I was there I met other volunteers and Ileana, the person who coordinates the program, we cleaned up (the space isn’t open in the summer), and afterwards they all taught me the proper etiquette for taking mate tea with a group of friends, which might just need to be its own post in the future. In any case we sat and shared a thermos of hot water poured over the tea and I tried to follow their Spanish conversation.
While I’ve been here, I’ve gotten to do a LOT of thinking. This isn’t exactly unusual for me, but the fact that it’s stationary thinking is. I wake up and write for three hours, then take a break for lunch and maybe a walk, and then I write again all afternoon, which is sometimes not actually writing but just thinking. Getting into town has turned out to be harder than I’d anticipated because it requires a walk to the bus stop, so I’ve experienced this weird thing where I’m reeling in my instincts and wants so that I don’t go crazy sitting in the yard, looking at the mountains, and not being able to run them or easily get to them. Often, I go there in my head, but it is really less often than one might imagine, because it’s almost as if I’m practicing some active repressing of what I actually want so that I don’t lose myself in all this temporary lack. I think that even as I write this I’m trying to distance myself from the full measure of what I feel to be a runner who’s not running.
A week or two ago, we woke up to a sunny, windy Saturday, and organized a cab to the park on the Llao Llao Peninsula. It felt weird to get a cab out to such a rugged landscape, but I thought I was going to go crazy if I didn’t somehow hike. We walked for an hour and a half, me with the crutches etc, and it was amazing. This particular spot, Llao Llao, is the place I’ve been dreaming about since we were last here. It is a magical, mythical place that smells like sweet wet earth and the light is always otherworldly and everywhere you can hear the trees knocking and brushing each other. It’s always a little damper than everywhere else and the trees are enormous. Some of them are 600+ years old. When I told my Dad that, he said: what a beautiful stopping place this planet is for all of us. I really like that idea.
While we were out there under the trees, soft soil at our feet, I started to realize that the true loss that accompanies a broken foot is not necessarily the inability to run but the disconnect from nature. At Llao Llao I wanted to put my fingers in the dirt and touch the bark of every tree and pick at leaves and listen to the breeze and not ever leave. The outing made me remember how important it is to go to the woods. When in doubt, go to the forest. A lot of the times, running is just a socially acceptable way of going off to play in the woods. I think it’s that freedom and feeling of home that I miss the most, and that I look forward to with the most persistent hope. I cannot wait to be alone in the woods again. And for now, here, Will and I and this foot of mine do what we can – this weekend we’re taking a boat to an island of even older trees. Pictured in the 2nd photo below, the Arrayanes Trees are truly golden.
Also, we have a new friend:
Happy Easter to everyone!