The Gown and the Hood

This Friday is graduation day and my gown and hood are hanging up in my room as I work on my thesis. My dear friend Laura, who is graduating next month in Seattle posted the other day that ordering her cap and gown before her thesis is finished feels like "the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen." How true.

I've been spending my days reading through and editing all that I've written over the last 2 years. This morning as I limped to the eliptical machine and set the timer, I thought of a paragraph I wrote about my pre- accident morning runs... My how things change. Here it is:

Before the accident, my usual morning routine went something like this:

I wake up and slip into my running clothes before I am too awake to protest. It’s still cool outside and, like me, the sun is barely up. I slide on my running shoes and kneel to lace them. I pull my hair back into a ponytail and avoid the mirror. Untangling my headphones while still half asleep always takes time. Once in place, I tune my iPod to the most peppy, “you can do it” play list and I’m out the door. It’s three miles, just me, the sidewalk, and music by The Weepies, Sandra McCracken, John Mayer, and Matt Kearney to name a few.

This is Pasadena, California. Home of the Rose Parade. I live four blocks from the house where “Father of the Bride” was filmed and down the block “Mad Men” is currently filming. In spring the Jacaranda trees bloom and flutter their purple flowers all over the sidewalks, it’s basically a purple mess and no matter how much time and energy the city spends blowing and sweeping the sidewalks, the purple persists, a flamboyant protest to conformity. I take a right on California Street and then a left at Marengo as my muscles warm up and find their full stride. I run past porch lights turning off and garage doors creaking open, spitting out reluctant carpoolers. I pass newspapers drenched by the thoughtlessness of preprogrammed sprinklers and pedigree dogs dragging their hapless humans for a quick jaunt around the block. Most weekdays there’s a movie crew settling in and taking over the neighborhood. One morning I accidentally ran right through the set of “House”. Only in Los Angeles is this normal.

Ironically, Magnolia Avenue is lined with Oak trees and lush green lawns. The sidewalk is lumpy on account of the ancient tree roots. I nearly trip every time. Another right turn at Fillmore, past the really big mansions. I always want to get a glimpse of the interiors. I secretly hope they have tacky art or no taste in window coverings so that I can feel a little smug and say to myself, “What a waste. I would do a much better job if all this were mine.” So far, no one has invited me inside.

The halfway point is upon me and I want the finish line so bad I can taste it. No, wait. That’s sweat. But, yes, I still want the finish line. No amount of picket fences overflowing with antique rose bushes can distract me. I concentrate on my breathing, my racing heart beat. I listen to the song playing and wish I had enough breath to sing along with The Weepies… All this beauty, You just might have to close your eyes… I make a left at Lake Avenue and quickly reenter the city. I smell it before I see it. Starbucks coffee, Winchell’s donuts, loud leaf blowers, and thick car exhaust from the coming rush hour.

Euclid Avenue finally comes. The elderly Asian lady that lives across the courtyard from me waves good morning as she sweeps her front stoop. My roommate is still asleep. I stretch my calves on the porch steps and do the funny one where you stand on one leg and pull your other ankle up behind you. Finishing always feels so much better than starting.