So for a variety of reasons I have no desire to go into here, I went into my lunch hour feeling angry, frustrated, helpless, and more than a little depressed. I was planning on running after work, but decided I really couldn’t wait that long, not if I didn’t want to run the risk of throwing a student down a flight of stairs. Most days I tell people I love to run; these are the days I need to run. As therapies go, running is about the only thing that really helps settle me, especially with the frustrated and helpless bit: running is so simple and achievable and within my control. There are a lot of things I can’t do anything to affect or change (and the Buddhist in me is working really hard to accept that at all times, with varying degrees of success), but I can pull on a pair of Brooks Adrenaline and run three miles. And with blue skies and temperatures in the 40’s, there was no reason not to.
After being delayed by a gaggle of students all needing to print essays, I rushed out the door without a plan or route in mind, just a desire to run and a need to remind myself to keep it short — not so much for my ankles sake, but because the desire to just keep running and the fact I was teaching a class at 1:15 could be potentially disastrous. By habit, I started out over the McComb’s Dam towards Washington Heights, but then decided I didn’t want to just to an out-and-back run. I wanted both something new, and something un-routed, where I was not so much following a plan as following impulse.
I turned left into Harlem, knowing there were a number of bridges that connected back to the south Bronx, including the Third Avenue Bridge, which I pass over on long runs home, and the Willis Avenue Bridge, which is part of the Marathon Route. I ran south and east, keeping the Harlem River in view so I wouldn’t miss any bridge access. I had forgotten about the 145th street bridge, but I estimated that would bring me back to school in after about 2 miles, which was too short a distance. Seven blocks south and an avenue over was the Madison Avenue Bridge. Peering further down the river I could see the 3rd Avenue Bridge, but it seemed just far enough off that I thought it might take longer to get there than I wanted. Besides, the Madison Avenue Bridge is one of Manhattan bridges I needed to check off my list, so I crossed over the Harlem River back into the Bronx.
I took my camera long with me, but the limited frame of a picture fails to capture how beautiful the day was. Looking at them on a screen, where you can only see the area bounded by the edges of the photograph, they show a lot of urban concrete and steel, cars and on-ramps; they don’t convey the endless expanse of blue over-head, or how the sunlight danced on the water of a river that seems much wider in person, more natural than its cultivated and constricted canal-way would suggest.
Back across the river, I turned north to run parallel to Grand Concourse, the major traffic artery that runs up the western edge of the Bronx. Just before reaching 161st street, I cut into a park that I had often passed but never entered. It wasn’t much, but leaving the concrete to run across grass and up some exposed rock out-croppings and weave between a few trees felt wonderful, especially on such a brilliant day. Nature is where we find it and where we experience it, and I sometimes think that living in the city allows me to appreciate small examples of nature more intensely than when I’m surrounded by it constantly.
But the north edge of the park is the Federal Court House, which meant I was almost back to school. I ran a few more blocks, then slowed to a walk to stretch my legs and go buy myself lunch. It hadn’t been a long run, but things were in place again, and I could deal with — and possibly even enjoy parts of — the rest of the day.