My next watershed run covered a 4.5 mile stretch were the Sebago to Sea trail turns away from the lake and begins to meander along the Presumpscot River toward Casco Bay. I ran an out and back–a total of 9 miles on a paved trail that runs alongside an old rail bed.
I get a bit jittery about hunters when I’m running in the fall, and though this stretch of trail abuts farmhouses and soccer fields, I did hear a few shots in the distance–target practice, I assume, since it’s still archery season in Maine. At one point, I realized that although I had on a fave highlighter yellow Brooks running vest, I was also wearing a white baseball cap. Thinking my bobbing cap could be mistaken for the butt of a white tailed deer, I stuffed it in my pocket and let the rain soak my head.
The most surprising moment of the run came with two boys careening around a corner on their bikes, fishing poles balanced straight out over handlebars like jousting lances. I jumped to the side to avoid being pierced, and gave them a little wave. I’d only seen the river at the start of the trail, but I knew the Presumpscot was coursing through the woods nearby, and the boys were a sign that it must be close.
Throughout the running/drawing watershed project, I’ve come to realize that both the presence and absence of water capture my imagination–in terms of a personal, tactile experience of the land (and the related process of collecting images and ideas about water/landscape as an artistic subject) and in considering the human relationship to water on a larger scale.
Each run has deepened my understanding of how we relate–and often fail to relate–to the water around us. I’m increasingly conscious of where water comes from (before the faucet) and where it goes (after the drain). In this case, as I ran over wet pavement, I envisioned water running off the paved trail into the woods, seeping down into the soil, running into the Presumpscot River and down to Casco Bay. Having learned recently about green infrastructure, I find myself distrustful of anything paved. I scan parking lots for bio-retention plant beds and porous pavement, knowing that our habit of skimming the land with buildings and tar stops the natural process by which soil cleans and cools the water. Disrupting this natural step, by diverting water directly to pipes, is dangerous and expensive, leaving more polluted water for our waterworks companies to treat and often overwhelming the systems that exist in most water treatment facilities.
When I return to the studio after each run, these facts fade to context and the echoes of the experience in my body move to the foreground. For me, the experience of running is a process of reduction, a process through which being present in the moment supersedes other more cluttered ways of being. In the drawings that are emerging from the watershed runs, the marks reflect the feeling of being Lucinda, just another animal running through the landscape.
What a beautiful stretch of trail to run!
As the season gets colder and icier, I imagine your distrust of the paved will deepen to an outright revulsion. I resonate with your sense of being an animal making your way through across the land.