Women’s Montrail Bajada Size 6

In the afternoon, I run the canyon. I hurdle over the back fence of my rented adobe under the vigilant eyes of the dogs, who seem suspicious of my freedom. I walk five steps and then start running, just like I do when I am with her.

I jog, pigeon-toed and on the balls of my feet. I focus my gaze on the copper sand of the road. Today, I see her prints. Women’s Montrail Bajada. Size 6. Toes pointed straight ahead.

Two years ago we ran together in the Rocky Mountains. We were training for a marathon on Father’s Day. In the half-lit winter forest, we chattered our way through miles of rocky trail.

In April, she went to North Carolina to run a relay race with friends. I stayed behind and trudged out a 16 mile run. It was a Saturday. We texted back and forth: It was her first relay race, and she really liked it. I ran into a big group of female elk. She was in a van with her team.

I finished my run around the same time they did. Later that day, her friend posted pictures of her on Facebook. Her hair was in pigtails.

That same afternoon, her husband died in an avalanche, and my mom called to tell me my dad had terminal cancer.

For reasons that are blurry and foggy and unexplainable, I was the first one that could get ahold of her.

I told her that he died.

Five weeks later, my dad died too.

After that, we ran together. She wore her Montrails. Sometimes we cried. Sometimes we pounded our ankles onto the ground. We used running to try to get ahead of our emotions, and we knew it. Some days it worked, and some days it didn’t. A part of me believed that if I could control running, I would also be able to control cancer and avalanches and Social Security Disability.

We’ve both moved to temporary places. She is in Santa Cruz. I am in Moab. Most of our possessions are in storage units near the Rocky Mountains. We text back and forth.

The footprints aren’t really hers, but they connect me to her. They reassure me in ways that she can’t say and I can’t ask that we are learning to incorporate the wounds.

She’d enjoy the way the sand on the rim feels like marshmallows. She’d be wearing shorts and tease me for wearing tights and long-sleeves. Like me, she would be enchanted with the way the afternoon light makes the colors of the sage and juniper pop against the sandstone walls and endless blue sky.

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Children Without Screen Run Wild

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I stood quietly behind Sand Dunes Arch, listening to the impending arrival of a brood of children. The pounding of their feet could be felt rather than seen, the fine grain sand softening the frantic blows their legs threw blindly to the earth.

“Where can I put this?” the oldest boy called to himself as he appeared underneath the arch, running directly towards the only Do Not Enter sign in the area. He scurried ahead a few steps, then backtracked to his mother.

“Can you hold this?” he asked as he thrust his jacket upon her. In the five-minute walk from the parking lot to the arch she had become a living coat rack, holding three jackets and a couple of two-liter canteens.

Free from the weight of his jacket, the boy joined his younger brothers and baby sister in a race through the arch. The boys were dressed in matching button-down shirts and slacks. The little girl wore a purple ankle length dress that matched her mother’s. The children were red-faced and gasping for breath.

The father appeared last, the sound of his discipline nipping at their heels. The children exited the arch as quickly as they entered. Dutifully, the father waited to walk with the mother, though he could not help but pull ahead to make sure the children could hear his lasso.

~Arches National Park, Moab, UT