Living on the 22nd floor was great, but I felt a need to get out of the house. I had not left the house in about three days. It had been warm in the apartment and the closest I had gotten to the blizzard was watching from my window. For the first time in a long while I did not have to shovel a sidewalk or spread salt. It was a wonderful feeling. I was even happier with my decision to sell my car last summer. The last few days were even better that classes had been cancelled and my pantry was stocked and prepared for a long stint inside. It was going to take a special event to get me out of the house.
The view from the 22nd floor was glorious. I sat in the front of the apartment and sipped my cocoa tea and enjoyed what I saw. The apartment was in the front of the building overlooking the street and across from my favorite park. It was a great place to live in the summer and I was about to find out how much fun winter could be. Well not really, I was here for the summer not the winter. I had thought my research would have been complete before the first snow but it was not even thanksgiving and a giant snow storm had already stalled the city. My hope for a short winter without much snow was already headed in the wrong direction. I was still hoping but not hopeful. The old timers were certain that it was going to be a cold snowy season. I should have followed my instincts and taken the assignment in South Florida. But the draw of the city was too much. I convinced myself that another year in the cold would be ok. Only 2 months in and all my assumptions had already been proven incorrect. I was hoping I was going to get at least one prediction correct. It was not looking good.
Well, I did get one thing correct. The stray cat I had adopted was still around. Kitty was with me at the window enjoying the view. She was curled up by the heater with her face against the glass. The glass was cold and the floor warm, so I was lost as to why she was in that position. She was a cat after all, there is no making sense with them. Maybe she just needed to make sure there was an actual barrier there. The window was a giant pane of glass, it was in fact the entire front wall of the apartment. We had a postcard view. We sat in silence for what seemed like forever until she suddenly jumped up unto my lap and demanded my attention. I was not fast enough for her it seems so she started to lick my face. I started to pet her but she was not satisfied. She jumped off my lap and was back at the window and looking down intently. I followed her gaze. She was looking into the park. I gazed into the park just as intently as she did, but all I saw was a blanket of snow covering my running track.
I got back into my comfy seat and tried to get back to my mug. That did not last. Kitty was back in my face showering me with saliva. I followed her to the window, she was trying to show me something I assumed. I still only saw snow. I backed up to my seat and as I was in the motion of setting I noticed some motion in the tree line beyond the 400 meter track. There was just enough movement, but I could not tell what was moving. It was not windy so something other than the wind was causing the movement. I would have ignored it, but the streets were empty and the track was covered in snow, no one should have been out there. So I decided to go investigate.
As the sun approached the horizon the sky turned a beautiful shade of orange with a generous spread of grey clouds. I was hoping that there would be no rain this evening. I had my camera and was looking forward to getting some great photographs but mostly I needed to complete my run. Running and photography were dear to me and I was never too far from doing either. I picked up the pace on the first leg of my evening 5k. As I passed the mile marker I heard the crack of thunder. I was startled but continued without missing a beat. I could hear the voice of my high school science teacher warning me to find shelter. I knew better but I picked up the pacing certain I could finish before it started to rain. Sweat was starting to bead over my forehead. It felt great to be out in the cool of the Florida fall. forgetting the threat of rain was easy as I lost myself in the energy of the music in my head. I returned to reality long enough for my phone to remind me that I was behind the pace of my last run.
As I increased the pace I could feel the increase in my heart rate and the comforting wetness in my shirt. Even the slight dryness in my mouth was reassuring. I swallowed just enough spit to moisten my throat. It was just enough to allow me to maintain my pace without excessive dryness. I continued at a good clip passing many the walkers and feeling great in my return to pace since I had had such a long lay off. I quickly was lost in rhythm of my heart beat and became singularly focused on the heart foot connection. I felt great. I no longer felt the pace. I was brought back to reality when my phone beeped alerting me that I had covered 2 kilometers and that my pace had exceeded my last run. It was a gratifying reminder. but I had felt the pace. Conformation was always welcomed but I lost focus and slowed for the next 4oo meters. Again my phone alerted me to pick up the pace. This is what I loved about technology. I had coded this app myself and had not shared it with anyone. It was my own private coach. We were doing a great job. I had given the app a personality and named her Shelly. It was a fitting place to be thinking of her. This is where we meet. Six months ago I had lost myself in my run and she was delivered to my memory in one long chain. I had been thinking of doing this for as long as I could think. It was a magical experience without any magic.
I felt a sharp jolt to my right shoulder and immediately became weak and lost all control of my body. I fell to the ground and could not move. As I laid there, on my stomach, I felt like there were flames on my back. I could smell the fumes of burning polyester. The was a hot spot under my stomach, it was my phone. The heat was intense, but I was not able to move. I smelled the burning of flesh and tried to move, but no movement happened. In my head I was struggling to get up, but in reality I could not moved a muscle. It felt like a lifetime, but I finally recovered to pulled myself onto all fours. As I looked down I noticed the melted phone and my ripped running shorts.
As I removed my shirt it felt as if I had also pulled off a layer of skin. I could feel the stiffness in the remains of the shirt. As my shirt slipped over my head the swell of cauterized flesh became overwhelming. The resulting nausea was powerful and exhaustive and I vomited copious amounts of greenish fluid. On the ground it looked like mossy stagnant water and the back of my throat felt as bad as it looked. The pain moved from being sharp to an intense burning and the world around me faded to grayish-blackness. The next sounds I heard were the alarm bells of a hospital monitor.
Not many cities can boast the diversity in ecology that can be found the Jacksonville, Florida metropolis. I have had the pleasure of working in the downtown area for several week over the last several years and did not notice until recently. My recent experience has shown me a very different side of a wonderfully diverse city. If you love nature and love city living you would not go wrong considering Jacksonville.
The shear area of the city is without comparison and borders on sprawl with all its negative connotation. However, the city is redeemed by its access to the Atlantic and the surrounding marshes. The creative restoration and preservation of wildlife habitats along with the rescue and re-purposing of old railroad tracts has created a large, diverse and intricate network of trails. The accessibility provided is wonderful and shows what can be done when thought and energy is applied to the ecology we are blessed with.
On my last visit I ran several trails and had the opportunity to watch the sunset over the wonderful marshes. Never did I pay for access, but would have gladly. The paths were well-marked and maintained. From downtown to densely wooded areas was an easy drive, with most within 20-30 mile of downtown. The accessibility allowed me to work a full day and still make it out to enjoy nature before the sun went down. I took the opportunity and explored some of best trails.
If you are a runner and enjoy the natural environment you would love visiting the Jacksonville area. I suggest you take that trip sooner than later and enjoy what Jacksonville has to offer.
I did not get to all the trails that I planned to, but there is always next time. What are you waiting on?
The morning after an intense overnight Florida thunderstorm is always refreshing. In spite of the noise of nature I had a great night. Sleep came easily and was deep and refreshing. I woke just as my alarm was about to jolt me. I waited in bed until it started the low-rise and turned the alarm off so not to wake my princesses. The dogs, Marley and Bailey, were already up and awaiting their early morning walk.
As I listened I could hear the quiet of the early morning. No rain could be heard. The dogs were calling for me. I quickly dressed and meet Marley and Bailey and took off on our walk. This is arguably the best time of the day. Marley and Bailey were my eyes and ears and I got lost in the haze.
As I drifted along my pace quickened to a slow jog, then into a brisk effort to keep up with the dogs. I was brought back to reality by my timer chirping into my ear “first mile complete”. As my consciousness returned I looked up to see the yellowish moon disappearing from the sky. It was a beauty and reminded me that looking up is always worth it. Soon I was back in the haze of nothingness just feeling the air go in and out of my lungs. I felt as if I could run forever.
“Pop, Pop” My tranquility was interrupted by what sounded like fire works. I nearly ran over Marley as he had stopped and started to bark fiercely. I had never heard him so aggressive. He was standing his ground while Bailey was pulling in the opposite direction. As I scanned the area I noticed that a large alligator was running from the Lake in our direction. Instantly I felt the saliva evaporate from my mouth and I was parched and paralyzed. My legs felt like jello and I could not move. My palms where dripping and the world was going in slow motion. Bailey took off and Marley stood firm. There was a warm feeling in my pants and a heaviness on my hip. I could not move but that heaviness was my CZ 75B. I fumbled for what felt like a lifetime before setting it free of the holster. My brain had come back to reality and I acquired my target and fired until the slide locked back. Marley had quieted and I could hear sirens. Bailey was nowhere to be seen or heard. Marley and I sat on the curb and he licked my face as if to comfort me.