10.7.18: Mile 22 Chicago Marathon

Letters

It is somewhat of a weird miracle how memories resurface.

How they are remembered, retold, rehashed.

How biking or walking or running or sitting in one place can have the kind of magic that lures and pulls you back to another time, another place, another person— a glimmer of Orion’s belt, the snap of a wine cork, a faint whiff of toasted hazelnut.

In French and Creole cultures, this kind of remembrance encapsulates the magic of déjà-vu— the sense that what you are experiencing au présent, you have already experienced au passé.

The sense that you are living in this shadowy yet glimmering place between past and present.

***

We use it sometimes in English: “Oh wow, that’s like, so déjà-vu.”

Flipping hair. Flicking through magazines.

But the deeper mysticism behind the term connotes more of a striking, swooping sensation:

Déjà-vu hits you.

Hits you hard.

Makes you inhale sharply.  

Makes your head swivel.

Makes you keel over in tears.

***

In New Orleans, this transportation struck me in random moments– the way the light sometimes hit the bark of trees, the particular scent of muddied water, the fleeting taste of beurre noisette.

In Chicago, it’s been in the smiles on people’s faces, the slight tilt of shoulders, in hands waving overhead, tiny fingers dancing across trumpets, in y’alls and how you doin’s and yasssses.

In New Orleans I missed places— missed the winding staircases of Lyon, the alien canyons of Utah, the piney scents of Maine.

But in Chicago, I find myself missing people— miss the sounds of familiar laughter, the pokes and prods of years-long jokes, the shoulders to fling my arms around or to nestle my head on.

***

There have been so many moments over the past almost-two-months in which I find myself talking to someone and something– a kind of spark– goes off in my mind– “Oh, they are like this person.”

They are like my friend who jumps up and down with the excitement of a 5 year-old, like a mentor whose speech calms the flutterings of my brain, like the person whose presence makes my heart start beating too quickly.

I almost blurt out, “YOU REMIND ME OF…” but quickly close that gate. Reel myself in.  Keep the words from coming out, afraid of saying too much, too soon.

Because truthfully, I’m still not entirely sure what to make of Chicago.  

I find myself trying to make comparisons– this is like this or like this or like this.

Try to weave together similarities of seemingly disparate things and people and groups and places.

Try to make sense of a city that is not yet my own.

Try to make comparisons all the while knowing that in making these comparisons, I am also setting myself up for a state of constant longing.

***

A week ago, I jumped into a sea of 40,000 runners and ran 13 miles of the Chicago Marathon with a friend from New Orleans.

And was struck, all over again, by this sense of déjà-vu the similarities between this place and the Eagles-green of the Broad Street Run, this place and the glitter of the 504k, this place and the ramblings of Lyon.

A few miles in, two friends from New Orleans magically popped out from the crowd:

“KAT! GO!!”

And it was one of those weird moments when past and present and future all collided at once and I found myself jumping up and down, waving my arms all over the place, and laughing and yelling and crying.

***

I stopped at Mile 22 last Sunday, gave my New Orleans friend a huge hug and joined 30 people in cheering– shouting, high-fiving, hugging, encouraging– everyone.

Three hours went by, and we formed a cheer tunnel, hands and arms and voices intertwined as runners glided by.

In my head, there was a soft ping, a deep knowing: this, among thousands of people, hands waving overhead, cheering till voices hoarse– is where I belong:

Alongside people. Laughing wholeheartedly. Celebrating everything.

And no, it’s not Philly or France or New Orleans or any of the other places where I’ve inadvertently left pieces of myself behind.

But y’all, Mile 22 of a marathon reminds you that sometimes “place” is really just where the people are that make you remember why the world has the capacity to glimmer and sparkle and shine. Déjà-vu or otherwise.

A Chicagoan’s Letter to Chicago

Letters

Today marks my one month “move-iversary” to Chicago.

As in, one month ago, I unloaded all of my books and tchotchkes and ate more pizza than my body could handle to call Chicago “home.”

Or whatever “home” really means these days. 

I have been thinking a lot about what this means and how to celebrate this– one month of making new friends! One month of attempting to understand public trans! One month of reading and talking and listening and reading some more!

But this has also made me acutely aware of how much work and understanding I still need to do to really–truly– call Chicago home.

Made me realize how much of this city I don’t know, don’t understand.

Bon Voyages and Beginnings

Letters

“So when do you think you’re going to start missing New Orleans?”

We’re in the car, riding on a high of McDonald’s french fries and almost 900 hours of summer camp. The music is pulsing, reverberating, through the bones of the car. Mississippi pine trees go by in a blur, the sun as well.  My fingers tap against the window, feet slung up onto the dashboard, head bopping from side to side. I’m humming along absentmindedly to some summer anthem, making up words, picking at my split-ends, dotting mosquito bites with my fingernails.

9 AM EST//Goucher Woods

Letters

To the Goucher College Woods:

If you’re here, meandering or sprinting or sleeping amidst these trees, hopefully you find the same sense of calm, the same sense of respite, the same sense of connection I found here, everyday, for four years.

I still come back, once every few years, tracing my fingers over the Heart Trees, feeling my legs tense up at the sight of Rocking Chair Hill, sensing myself calm down seeing the waves of buttercups laughing and bobbing in the breeze of the Back Jump Field.

7 PM//Streets of New Orleans

Letters

To the Krewe of the 504th:

This is how I feel when I get to run with y’all:

smiley

This is how I feel because of the impact you’ve had on my life–

each and every one of you crazy runners:

blessed

This is how I feel, knowing now the power running has to ignite change and to bridge the gap between different people, places, and communities:

pow

And this is how I feel leaving y’all after this final crew run before heading North for a while:

triste

 

Thank you thank you thank you for welcoming me into the BTG Familia and for somehow always *magically* sending out some crew love whenever I need it most.

See y’all in Chicago for Marathon Sunday!

❤ ❤ ❤ Kat

5:57 AM// Steamboat Natchez

Letters

Sometimes I wish I could take what I’m seeing– the exact curvature of the sky, the faint rippling of the water, the line of light casting shards and shadows– and be able to record it.

Not with a camera or binoculars or a video– but real time.

Exactly through my eyes.

Through the squinting of my pupils.

There are certain moments where I find myself pausing and thinking to myself, “Wow. Wouldn’t it be great if I could remember this moment, right now, for the rest of my life?”

Watching the sun rise over the Mississippi was one of those times.