Gero-Punk Practice: The Early Bird Catches the Worm

The early bird catches the worm!

I was up this morning at 5:30. Isobel has a big debate tournament today and I had to get her going and drop her off at the car-pool location by 6:45 a.m.  I’m coming off of several days in a row of intense work, so you can imagine the difficultly I experienced facing my week-day wake up call on a Saturday. But I figured I would come home and crawl back in to bed for awhile and hold off until later to go for a run.  As I was driving back home after dropping Izzy, dawn was breaking. I could see the waning but still robust moon in the western sky and though there wasn’t any indication of impending sun rise in the east, the surrounding darkness seemed less thick than it had only minutes before. At that moment I decided that rather than crawl back into bed I’d go for my run with Happy.

For me there are few things as sublime as witnessing chrono-liminality – day winding down into night, night slowly waking into day, creatures settling in or stirring. And there are few things as glorious as being able to experience my body in motion.

Here is who we saw and what happened on our run in our park:

Mile one—I didn’t stop to count, but there were at least thirty widgeons tromping around looking for worms in the soggy grass alongside the casting pond. (I heard them before I saw them, as usual.)  The ubiquitous Canada geese and mallards but also some little buffleheads were floating on the pond. I heard a few cars in the distance, some song birds waking up, and, though I wasn’t yet certain, kingfisher. I kept my eyes open for blue heron, who Simeon and I spied last Sunday perching on one leg at the very top of a tree. I was surprised by a nutria standing on the shore of the stream; nutria looked upon us calmly, Happy chomped at the bit.

Mile two—During mile one, the sun crested the eastern horizon, so on mile two I was better able to see the creatures out and about. Happy was more interested in stopping to sniff the invisible secret messages left behind by other dogs than he was in running, so I ran in place periodically, which gave me a great opportunity to suss how my body was feeling and also see what was what with the feathered creatures. I looked for the swan couple but I didn’t see them, but I did see the wood duck couple, and I confirmed that kingfisher was indeed somewhere in the vicinity. Oh, and look, there’s nutria again! Still as calm and composed as ever.

(If you don’t mind, let me take a moment to offer a brief aside about my embodiment.  When I am grumpy with my body I say that it is problematic and unreliable; most of the time I just say that my embodiment is challenging.  On a run recently, at the end of a two week period of a flare up of my intestinal condition, I had to stop to use the park restroom three times – one time per mile.  On some of my scheduled running days I can’t run because my intestines aren’t settled enough to do so. When that’s the case, I walk instead of run.  Sometimes – but very rarely — I can’t even walk without pain. I also need to monitor the various locations of my body where I’ve had injuries which have left me with particular vulnerabilities. Almost all of the spots happen to be on the left side, so that simplifies my body scan: left Achilles tendon (ruptured in a skateboarding accident); left knee (broken twice); left hip (bursitis).  When I am running, at the end of each mile I place my awareness on three things: How’s my heart rate and breathing? How are my vulnerable locations feeling? And how are my guts doing? I always want to be able to go father and faster than my body will allow; it is an ongoing struggle for me to accept and even rejoice in what my body is able to do at any given time, a really intense struggle which can sometimes be overwhelming. But here’s where perspective saves me: Two weeks ago, I couldn’t even eat; today I ran four miles. Hooray!)

Mile three—To keep things interesting, on each mile I changed up which bridge we crossed or which direction we took around each pond. As Happy and I made our way around the duck pond starting from the west side, I caught sight of the juvenile swan pair, who I had thought ditched us for good. I also saw a male coot, a common merganser pair, and witnessed kingfisher’s latest performance. For such a little being he sure has a big attitude! Dig kingfisher!

Mile four—Lately I’ve been stopping my run after three miles, to be on the safe side of my body, but today I was feeling warm and loose and my pace was good. Though I was starting to feel a little pull in my left Achilles tendon, I decided to at least start a fourth mile, knowing I could stop and walk if I needed to.  Nutria was nowhere to be seen this time; I heard sweet hummingbird twittering in the distance, and rowdy kingfisher yelling.  This time Happy and I traveled up the east side of the duck pond, and I saw wood duck hiding under the cover of shoreline bushes.  A short while later as we ran south on the west side of the pond my attention was arrested suddenly by a Canada goose with seriously messed up wings. Goose’s left wing was leaning too far to the right side of its body, and the right wing was bent in such a way that the tip was pointed up and there was an odd angle to it. I stopped running and watched goose, wondering what to do and worrying that it won’t be flying anytime soon.  I felt the pull to help goose and I wondered if its wings throbbed in pain the way my left leg sometimes does.

After that, I decided Happy and I should walk the rest of the way home.





About Jenny Sasser, Ph.D.

I am a freelance educational gerontologist, writer, community activist and facilitator. I am former Chair of the Department of Human Sciences and Director of Gerontology at Marylhurst University. I joined the faculty as an adjunct member of the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program in 1997 and since that time, I've been involved in designing many on-campus and web-based courses and programs for adult learners, including in Gerontology. As an undergraduate I attended Willamette University, graduating Cum Laude in Psychology and Music; my interdisciplinary graduate studies at University of Oregon and Oregon State University focused on the Human Sciences, with specialization areas in adult development and aging, women’s studies, and critical social theory and alternative research methodologies. My dissertation became part of a book published in 1996 and co-authored with Dr. Janet Lee--Blood Stories: Menarche and the Politics of the Female Body in Contemporary US Society. Over the past twenty (or more!) years I have been involved in inquiry in the areas of creativity in later life; older women's embodiment; sexuality and aging; critical Gerontological theory; transformational adult learning practices; and inter-generational friendships and cross-generational collaborative inquiry. I am co-author, with Dr. Harry R. Moody of Aging: Concepts and Controversies (now in its 10th edition!) and first author, also with Moody, of the recently published Gerontology: The Basics, as well as author/co-author of several book chapters, articles and essays. I am on the Portland Community College Gerontology Program faculty.
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2 Responses to Gero-Punk Practice: The Early Bird Catches the Worm

  1. Roger says:

    You took my brain along on your early a.m. run.
    Now, after my virtual run with you and Happy, I can take a virtual nap. Thanks.

  2. Lorie Bailey says:

    Hey, there. This is a beautiful and engaging story (like Roger, I very much enjoyed my virtual early morning run with you and Happy and waterfowl galore). I especially liked the ending with the goose – sad but that’s a piece of reality, and to bear witness is a powerful act in itself. Your story was also a reminder to me – to get out of my head and to pay attention to both my physical presence and the physical presences of the Others sharing my environment. I’ll keep that in mind on my next run.
    As always, thanks for sharing your brilliant writing!

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