Some days, exercise is a pleasure. I feel as though I could go on forever. The temperature is perfect, there’s a light breeze, I’m able to ignore all thoughts of what I need to do when I get back home. But other days, I have to admit, it takes an act of the will to keep going for the time or distance I’ve set out to cover.
Here’s where straight lines and circles come in. Geometry matters. Long lines are better than short ones, and big circles are better than small ones.
I have always pretty much lived in the country. (I know I lived in Aubrey, but as you could sneeze while driving through and miss the whole town, it does not negate the preceding statement.) Living in rural areas is not a bad thing, but if you run or walk for exercise, a lot of the time you end up running in straight lines instead of circles. You choose a point, put one foot in front of the other until you get there, and then turn around and go back to the starting point. This works well for relatively short distances. If you can force yourself to the mid-point, you have no choice but to complete the distance if you want to get back home.
Now, if you want to do some long distance running, you can stick with the same route and just repeat it a few times, but believe me, unless you have lots of will power, it doesn’t work. Every time you return to the starting point, which is usually your own driveway, a little devil on your left shoulder reminds you that you could quit RIGHT NOW. I think it would be the same for me to try to do long distance running on a track—with every loop I’d be fighting the urge to quit. Short lines and small circles just don’t work for me.
Back when I was doing some long distance running, I’d often have my husband drive me a certain distance from the house and let me out. Then I had no choice but to run all the way home, one long straight line. It was planning versus will power.
Last year, for the first time in my life, I lived in a city—Oxford, Mississippi, a beautiful place for walkers and joggers. While there, I ran circles. I’d step out the front door, choose a direction, and make a huge somewhat-circle, a different one almost every day. Up and down hills, around the courthouse square, past City Grocery, by Bottletree Bakery. Down Lamar, past the huge gothic-looking house that was the inspiration for Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily,” and on by his home, Rowan Oak. Through tree-lined streets, admiring the leaves in the fall, the azaleas in the spring, the beautiful old houses on every side. Up the steps at the Ford Center, through the Grove, past the library, by the big fountain.
Many days, because it was just across the street from where I lived, I’d begin with a jog through the hills of St. Peter’s Cemetery, where Faulkner is buried. Early one morning, after making it to the top of the hill, I saw three really big guys standing ahead of me on the paved cemetery path, blocking the exit, looking like they were waiting for me. I was a little wary, but I slowed down when they said, “Excuse me, ma’am. Do you know where William Faulkner is?” I smiled, directed them to the bottom of the hill and a few yards to their right, and continued along my circular way.