The Corner Bench Chronicles: Story I


Scattered rain, low clouds, and a pot of tea are keeping me in a corner bench today at Durango’s second best coffee shop, according to the Herald’s Reader’s Choice awards this year. I think it’s the best though so I like coming here over the number one pick. The baristas are the sweetest, and the corner bench is top real estate. If you time it right and score this spot, you might as well never leave.

Next to the front window, all activity is visible, both in the shop and along Main Avenue. And like the golden retriever leashed to a tree on the sidewalk, my head unwittingly tilts at the tourists, couples, babies, skateboarders, and the melange of people that make up Durango, Colorado. They’re so distracting and a great inspiration to do what I came here to do: write something.

But within twenty minutes, I’m out of Word and into looking up plane tickets to India. And then of course the sun breaks so I decide I should go for a run. Computer packed up and the nearly full teapot placed in the collecting bin, I head for the door, walking smack dab into my tall, handsome husband. I could feel the shame in my grin. I was bailing on work, and he knew it.

So I pulled the still-warm teapot out of the bin, and we sat back down in the corner bench for a good chat about how perfect the weather is for holing up at home with movies and the big red blanket. He doesn’t want to go back to work, and I comment at least he’s contributing to society. He smiles and tells me to write about it.

And that’s why two hours later, I’m still sitting here. The golden retriever’s gone, and a hundred people have passed since I wrote the first sentence. I checked plane tickets again and edited some photos (see below). But I’ve mostly been trying to write. I need a good working title and something that will hold me accountable. So I’m officially starting The Corner Bench Chronicles today.

Nick on the train to Cheng Du, China - 2012

Nick on the train to Cheng Du, China – 2012

Smiles in Ghana, Africa - 2006 - like nothing else in the world!

Smiles in Ghana, Africa – 2006 – like nothing else in the world!

Emily near the Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem, Israel - 2007

Emily near the Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem, Israel – 2007


“You don’t stop running because you get old – you get old because you stop running.” – Christopher McDougall, Born to Run

THE VOICE IN MY HEAD: Running is all I do these days, proverbially and literally. I run from being a writer, and I run so I have a better chance of finishing that stupid 50-mile ultra coming up in a month. Hopefully, I’ll always have the option to go for a run, whether it’s 50-miles or five. But I’m tired of running from the former. No more running from writing… today, at least. Must write. Must sit here and bloody write something – anything.

Checking the map on a run up Sunset Peak in Hong Kong - 2012

Checking the map on a run up Sunset Peak in Hong Kong – 2012

I live in a place where outdoor recreation is king, where it’s impossible to find a flat trail to run, and where an active but not-so-famous girl like me runs side-by-side with elite ultra marathon stars like Eric Skaggs and Jenn Shelton (maybe not side-by-side, but we’re on the same trails…). Basically, I live in a mountain town, where it’s entirely normal to participate passionately in masochistic hobbies like running.

On Friday, for instance, Braz and I ran 20-miles on the Colorado Trail from Kennebec Pass to Junction Creek. It was glorious. Mostly downhill, with a total loss of 4,700 feet in elevation and only 1,400 feet of elevation gain, which hurt. After three hours and 45-minutes, our quads were crushed, so we found respite in the shallow waters of Junction Creek at the trail’s end before indulging in some chilled chocolate milk. Twas a grand day!

The following morning, Braz was working the first annual Durango Sports Club 5k that started at 10am. I had a piece of toast and decided why not, drove to the event at 9:40am, registered, pinned on number 24 (only 28 people signed up), and lined up with the runners. Participants ranged from a toe-headed two-year-old to a flat-footed 79-year-old; from bearded men to blonde women; from aggressive, athletic types to loose-skinned, wizened types; from a super fit 13-year-old girl who ran like a defensive lineman to an older gentleman who broke his neck a few years ago and was just happy to move. The mood was casual and we chatted at the starting line while waiting for the announcer to yell “GO!”

And go we did. On a relatively hilly course (the only kind of run available in Durango), we charged. For the first time in my life, I was lead woman in the pack and remained as such till I crossed the finish line after 20 minutes and one second, painfully close to breaking an unspoken self-induced goal. Oh well. I won a $60 gift certificate to Brown’s Running Store, a pair of socks from Pine Needle, and got a free cookie from Bread.

But like all professional athletes, I too must find work in the real world to support my mountain town lifestyle. Even Eric Skaggs is a teacher and Jen Venzara, one of our pro mountain biker friends, just got her nursing license. So I’ll keep running towards this goal of being a writer, for the same reason I’ll keep running: because I think I can.

Suns out again… Funny I don’t feel like going for a panicked run any more. Till the next Corner Bench Chronicle, this is Joy Martin, signing off as a happy, energetic, anxious artist. Peace!


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