It’s hard to map out a good running route just by using Google maps. Going South out of Christiansburg, most roads aren’t busy, but all roads fall off the plateau very quickly. I was trying to run a loop, but somehow missed a turnoff. It’s also possible that the map wasn’t accurate, since the roads in question were narrow dirt roads running through a valley. There’s another place in Christiansburg where Google is wrong and it always ruins the first mile on the GPS.

I had a bad feeling at the beginning about the amount of downhill, but figured it was inevitable. I was happier when the road turned to dirt and ran along a stream in the valley. I also thought that I was still on the right road, since two roads appeared to join for half a mile on the map. When I saw a sign that said “End State Maintenance”, I still hoped that the road would turn into a different road, but it became apparent that wasn’t the case and I’d come to a dead end. At the end of the road, I noticed a trailer with a handmade taxidermy sign.

You don’t have to watch many horror movies to know to avoid the taxidermy trailer. This is the part where the girl looks into the window and sees human heads mounted on the walls.

I also met a dog that looked like a shepherd/chow mix. More shepherd in front and more chow in back. I couldn’t remember how far the dead end was on the map, but I’d lost a lot of time poking around to see if the road really ended, and I decided that I’d hitch a ride back to my car when I could- not that a car was sure to come along from the end of a dead end dirt rural road. The first car was a pair of census takers, who assured me that they would take as long to get to the main road as I would, and nearly did so as I passed their stopped car several times. Finally a truck came by and I got in and observed that the ax on the floor would also contribute to a horror story. The man was very nice and said that he’d moved from Washington because it was too violent a city.

I have started packing books. I was doing well on Sunday, but have lost momentum. I also over-broiled a steak and set the fire alarm off. It occurred to me that since my neighbor’s house recently burned down, testing the fire alarm was probably a good idea anyway.


At the Smithville Methodist Church

It was supposed to be Arts & Crafts for a week,
but when she came home
with the “Jesus Saves” button, we knew what art
was up, what ancient craft.

She liked her little friends. She liked the songs
they sang when they weren’t
twisting and folding paper into dolls.
What could be so bad?

Jesus had been a good man, and putting faith
in good men was what
we had to do to stay this side of cynicism,
that other sadness.

OK, we said, One week. But when she came home
singing “Jesus loves me,
the Bible tells me so,” it was time to talk.
Could we say Jesus

doesn’t love you? Could I tell her the Bible
is a great book certain people use
to make you feel bad? We sent her back
without a word.

It had been so long since we believed, so long
since we needed Jesus
as our nemesis and friend, that we thought he was
sufficiently dead,

that our children would think of him like Lincoln
or Thomas Jefferson.
Soon it became clear to us: you can’t teach disbelief
to a child,

only wonderful stories, and we hadn’t a story
nearly as good.
On parents’ night there were the Arts & Crafts
all spread out

like appetizers. Then we took our seats
in the church
and the children sang a song about the Ark,
and Hallelujah

and one in which they had to jump up and down
for Jesus.
I can’t remember ever feeling so uncertain
about what’s comic, what’s serious.

Evolution is magical but devoid of heroes.
You can’t say to your child
“Evolution loves you.” The story stinks
of extinction and nothing

exciting happens for centuries. I didn’t have
a wonderful story for my child
and she was beaming. All the way home in the car
she sang the songs,

occasionally standing up for Jesus.
There was nothing to do
but drive, ride it out, sing along
in silence.

-Stephen Dunn

Two years ago, a student of mine wrote to me to tell me about the wonderful person that his friend had been. His name was Ryan Clark, and he tried to intervene in the early morning shootings and was killed himself. I’m sorry that I never had the chance to meet him.

In less serious but related news, the subject on yesterday’s run was whether it was ethical to race the memorial run. It isn’t.

The school had the day off, so I went with PDW and his friends to Devils Marbleyard. It’s like an opportunity to be back in college for one day. PDW is almost the only person I still stay in touch with from high school, and he is definitely the only person from there that I can talk to with complete honesty about our shared experiences. Sometimes I get upset when I think about all the things that have happened at RVCS, but when we talk about things that we remember, it’s just funny. Like the time that a teacher told us that the strong nuclear force was a result of Jesus holding the atom together AND backed it up with a Bible verse. I think that even his Christian friends think that our experiences were a bit over the top.

That group reminds me of the good parts of my own time at college. It was the first time I’d been to the top of the Marbleyard- there are three plateaus and I’d never been past the first. At the top, the rocks thinned out and there was a fire pit. After the hike, I hung around PDW’s place for a while and then we played Catan while his friends wandered in and out- which is also markedly like my life in college, only they had an expansion pack, so I had to learn a bunch of new rules. I may not exactly be the fast learner that I claim to be in my cover letter.

There are brief moments when I wish that my life could still be that way. It’s hard for me to tell whether the religious aspect changes things, or if things could be that way with any group of college aged friends. It does give people a sense of commonality that they might otherwise not have. It’s the sense of community that I miss, although I know that hanging around the college isn’t how I would regain it. I wonder if Christian youth ministry is the only subculture that actually excuses that sort of failure to move on. At some point though, friendship has to be based around something besides a few musty past memories, and it is true that PDW has more interesting things going on than just being from RVCS.

man on the moon

Hardly a feature in the evening sky
As yet—near the horizon the cold glow
Of rose and mauve which, as you look on high,
Deepens to Giotto’s dream of indigo.

Hardly a star as yet. And then that frail
Sliver of moon like a thin peel of soap
Gouged by a nail, or the paring of a nail:
Slender enough repository of hope.

There was no lack of hope when thirty-five
Full years ago they sent up the Apollo—
Two thirds of all the years I’ve been alive.
They let us out of school, so we could follow

The broadcast of that memorable scene,
Crouching in Mr Langshaw’s tiny flat,
The whole class huddled round the TV screen.
There’s not much chance, then, of forgetting that.

And for the first time ever I think now,
As though it were a memory, that you
Were in the world then and alive, and how
Down time’s long labyrinthine avenue

Eventually you’d bring yourself to me,
With no excessive haste and none too soon—
As memorable in my history
As that small step for man onto the moon.

How pitiful and inveterate the way
We view the paths by which our lives descended
From the far past down to the present day
And fancy those contingencies intended,

A secret destiny planned in advance
Where what is done is as it must be done
For us alone. When really it’s all chance
And the special one might have been anyone.

The paths that I imagined to have come
Together and for good have simply crossed
And carried on. And that delirium
We found is cold and sober now and lost.

The crescent moon, to quote myself, lies back,
A radiotelescope propped to receive
The signals of the circling zodiac.
I send my thoughts up, wishing to believe

That they might strike the moon and be transferred
To where you are and find or join your own.
Don’t smile. I know the notion is absurd,
And everything I think, I think alone.

-Stephen Edgar

I stopped blogging over the past several years because I had nothing more to say, or because I couldn’t say what I wanted, or because my audience had dissipated, or because blogging was passe, or because I didn’t have a steady flow of gossip and funny statements. Once upon a time, I wrote an entry that said- Randal, I’m dating your cousin, then skulked around waiting to be confronted. I am convinced that the internet used to be a smaller place. I doubt that there’s anything I could say now that would garner much reaction. I don’t miss the crazy very much or very often.

I have a story to write about my life, not because it’s interesting or because anyone else is going to read it, but because I like to remember. Today I want to remember that I went running with Jess and did hill repeats. I continued writing a third person account of my life with regards to religious involvement. I planned to work on my job search but put off messaging an actuarial contact. It was an absolutely average day. Sometimes when it’s sunny outside and I am running, I think that if my life ended at that moment, my existence would be justified by all the things I had seen in those last few seconds. It wasn’t sunny today.