Stonehenge(s)

When I get to the tower at the top of the hill, I always tap the big iron ring that hangs from the door so it knocks against the wood audibly. I imagine someone inside stirring, maybe a giant, putting down whatever they’re doing and coming to answer the door.

The hills here are dotted with water towers, a vestige of a time when there were fewer of us, and water infrastructure was much more local than regional. If you get to a high point and you look out in any direction, you’ll see them peeking out of the trees, marking out the hills steep enough to offer gravity as a means of moving H2O where it might have needed to go. I call these towers Stonehenge, because they tend to be the places that attract me. They’re almost always on the hills most worth running up, and so getting to them exacts a sort of sacrifice, a ritual even, that purifies the soul.

And the graffiti is always good and growing, like a slowly evolving art exhibit.

This morning I decided to run hill repeats right here in our neighborhood. The Stonehenge closest to me (see above) is a rare example of architectural effort in the water storing genre. It sits at the top of a long stretch of pavement that cyclists and runners use specifically for hill work. I chose a half mile loop down and up and did six loops, and unlike yesterday when I didn’t know how my feet worked and/or what my heart and lungs were really up to, this morning I was absolutely floating.

The steep section will normally leave you at the ragged end of your breath, shuffling to keep your feet moving. Today I just ran, my heartrate barely cresting what seems like my middle range.

There are two other Stonehenges in the nearby woods, and sometimes we run them in a six-mile loop I call the Two Towers run, or we focus on the larger of the two and work the switchbacks that lead to the top over and over, a masochistic ritual to an indifferent and arbitrary god.

In my religion of no religion, the ad hoc principles I embrace and let go as better ideas occur, these are the holy places, whose origins are mostly opaque, whose use seems to have passed, and whose future is probably abandonment. What I love most is that there is no real reason to visit these spots. They’re only destinations because of the raw physical gravity of the structures. Otherwise, they’re inert, just canvases for rattle can artists and places to spill out of the woods momentarily, a way to know you’ve reached the top.

I daydream about those moments sometimes when I’m working, like the water towers are friends of mine, waiting for me among the trees, the last kid to show up for the game. And I think crazy things like, “this time I’m gonna do 10 laps,” as if Stonehenge cares what the Druids are doing, capering about in its shadow.

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