Here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland it is very flat. This is very unlike Northern Virginia where, despite the fact that I lived in sprawling, traffic-laden suburbia, I could get to a trail in five minutes (20 for a more significant terrain changes). In my last year of graduate school I would claim my hikes “research” for the “project” that would become the manuscript (which I am now sending out to first book contests and open reading periods…). Thus the “field notes” of the earlier days of this blog. It became a regular component of my life. I felt I’d linked up with a long chain of walker/wanderer poets, channeling Ammons… tomorrow a new walk is a new walk… and Whitman… I swear the earth shall surely be complete to him or her who shall be complete… and, as always, Dickinson… I dwell in Possibility. These hikes were especially cleansing with the end to my degree in sight and no sense of where I’d land at the end of it all. The trial of the hike bent anxiety to reason. The flux felt positive at the end of those days.
I was fortunate to land in a new location quite ripe for the contemplative life. There is no need to seek out the solace that escaping to wilderness provided. Here walks are routine… to campus, to the coffee shop, to the waterfront… so movement makes a living. There is, instead, a need to push farther past one location and into another, to see more than sunshine, to feel more than what the breeze will bring me. I have no desire to drive my car, so I have to run.
I am not what you would call “a Runner” with a capital “R,” but here I have had the desire to traverse this flat landscape on foot and with speed. I follow the river for a while and turn away. I traverse the obstacle course of brick sidewalks upturned sharply by sprawling root systems from trees too close to pathways. One night on my run a deer ran up to the edge of the road and stopped. I stopped, too. We stared at each other for a while. Then we both kept on running.
As I turn toward my next project I wonder what these individual (or collective) instances of running will bring for my poetics, as distinguished from the simultaneously wild and carefully pruned, arduously built poems that followed those hikes. The air is different — I bring it to me on a run. The environment is not something I am enveloped in, it is something I traverse. I have an agency outside of determining or reaching the point of axis at the summit or around a ridge or crest or gorge. Will the poems, too, take on more action on the part of the “I”?
I think we cannot help but be informed by our surroundings, and our location in them, and our ability or desire to seek out new ways of experiencing a landscape. Perhaps I have some inherent compulsion to experience different landscapes in different ways. This is, perhaps, the flat way. The cornfield way. The river way.