Jul 24

On a bright sunny cloudless day you expect to see your shadow. Just the one. It’s attached to you. We used to play shadow tiggy. If you’re it then you had to tag someone else by jumping on their shadow. It’s easy to twist and be your shadow to avoid being it.

At night you don’t have a shadow. Sometimes you may see one on a full moon if you happen to be late on a hike and you really want to get to the camping ground. You and your hiking buddy find yourselves strutting down a white sandy bush track with the moon behind you and a long shadow in front of you.

I live in the city, and when I walk home at night, I have lots of shadows. Tonight I noticed my shadows for the first time in years. Street lights line our streets, on main roads there’s lights on both sides. I have a shadow in front, one behind. As I walk the light behind me throws my shadow in front of me, as I walk further away from that light I get taller, well, the shadow does. It’s not long before I’m passing under the next street light and my shadow begins to grow again, the first one so long it stretches out of existence as it fades away.

The lights on the other side of the street cast a shadow to my right. These shadows also grow and shrink, and as I walk past fences and driveways they leap up or fall away.

As the traffic passes me multiple faint shadows quickly appear and disappear, so fleeting they’re barely noticed.

When I was a young lad, 45 years ago, I delivered newspapers in the morning. The Age and The Sun. I’d ride my bike around in the cold dark hours pulling a paper out of the banana box strapped to the carrier on the back of my bike. One handed I would fold the paper on my thigh, holding the handlebar with the other hand. I’d grab the paper in the middle, thump it on my leg to fold, then do the same to fold it once more. I was then able to insert the paper into the letter box and keep riding, so never really stopping. Of course there was no real care and often the front page would be torn when I scraped it on the top of the letter box.

There would be a little distance sometimes between the deliveries, and a game I would play was to get to the next letter box before my shadow disappeared. As the morning was dawning, and it was getting lighter, the street lights would switch off and the shadow would disappear.

It was that strange time pre-dawn when the lights have gone off that I would have no shadow.

That’s a magical time.

Image by Manfred Richter from Pixabay

Jul 23

The alarm goes off at 5.10a.m. In my early days, it was an alarm clock with bells. Then a clock radio with a buzzer or the radio. Now my alarm is a watch, strapped to my wrist that vibrates. I hit the off button. There’s no snooze. I lay there for a couple of minutes trying to go back to sleep. I can’t. I have to do this.

I throw my legs out from under the doona. I say throw, not glide effortlessly out of bed. My legs are stiff and not so cooperative. The hit the floor and I feel around in the dark for my grandpa slippers.

I have to run, I want to do a 5km run in a couple of weeks for a charity event. I’m out of shape as I tore my calf muscle a few weeks ago and have been getting treatment to help it recover.

David Thwaites from Complete Sports Care has been taking care of me. My time with him normally starts by me standing one-legged on my toes raising myself up and down, he muses and then asks me to lie on the table. He then does this extraordinary process of taking his thumb and sticking them deeply into my calf. I grimace. A lot.

It does the trick, the exercises that he sends me off with and the little jogging that I’ve been doing has prepared me for this mornings effort.

Today, for the first time in weeks, I’m going to run 30 minutes. I’ll jog 10 minutes, rest a minute and then repeat twice more.

It’s 9° outside. I step into the cool darkness and make my way to the running track.

Unlike this time at the other end of the day, when I’m consumed with the noise of a city winding down, it’s quiet.

I can hear my footfalls as I step onto the driveway, and as I walk towards the little track that runs along the creek, I can hear the magpies stirring in the trees, giving a little warble as they begin their day.

A quick-paced walk and the watch vibrates and I start the run.

The wind whistles past my ears, in the old days it’d ruffle my mullet. The next family of magpies begin to stir and I’m surrounded by the delightful sounds of warbles.

As I pass the little pond a thousand frogs ribbit at me and the first traffic noise I hear happens as I pass under the Warrigal Road bridge.

I do a self-diagnosis. The calf muscle is holding up. Heart isn’t jumping out of my chest, breathing within tolerance. A few more minutes and the first 10 are done. The watch vibrates and I walk for a minute.

As I’m walking along the path, a couple of cars pass along the back streets. The headlights glare at me and for all I know they’re driven by ghosts, it’s impossible to see inside to ascertain whether or not a real person is behind the wheel.

Then off again. Up the hill to the Alamein line, then at the top, I turn around and head back the way I came. I’ve made it halfway.

More vibrations, another check of my sore bits – all good – last jog.

Another light comes towards me. It’s dark out here, so joggers wear a head torch. We greet each other in the traditional way of pre-dawn joggers, a nod of the head and a ‘morn’ to each other.

I find myself tiring, looking at my watch, hoping it’s counting down. It is, but it persists on precision and won’t go faster than a second at a time.

One last look I think, 26 seconds. I start to count down in my head.

Finally, the last vibration. I stop and stroll home.

The sky is brightening, or it could be the city lights reflected on the clouds. I don’t know. It’s another hour until the sun actually appears.

Michael and I are running in support of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in a couple of weeks. That’s where I work. We’re raising money for the important work of helping people seeking asylum. Head over to our page and sling us a few dollars.

I make my way up the driveway, thinking that I’ll be ready for Run Melbourne in a couple of weeks.

All the way this morning, I’ve been accompanied by my own footfalls. A wonderful time of the day, the still and quiet. Nothing but my own steps fill my ears.

Jul 15

I used to be able to hear my footsteps when I walked. Now, as I step off the train I can hear the churnning of its motors and the beep-beep of the doors closing. Lots of whooshing as it pulls out of the station to the next stop.

I whip out my phone to check when the next bus is. Sixteen minutes. It’s only a twenty minute walk home, so I’ll do that.

As I start up High Street I become aware of the noise around me. It’s busy peak hour and I spend my walk listening to the sounds around me. The noise of the traffic is overwhelming. Squeaky brakes, noisy engines, motorbikes, truck, buses. All in a hurry to get home.

What a noisy environment we now live in.

I can’t hear the birds settling down for the night, or the kids talking across the road. No low hum of music coming from the houses or even the dribbling of a basketball. Just traffic.

I turn off the High Street and into the quiet little avenue that will take me home. The traffic noise fades into the background. A couple of cars drive past, a lot quieter now on the suburban street.

I hear the faint sound of shouting and the clack of hockey sticks as it hits the ball. As I walk closer to the hockey field and away from the main road the noise becomes more background. I hear the scuffing of shoes as a woman walks past with her dog, I notice that the sound of my own footfall is still inaudible, but the noise from the hockey fields now includes the blowing of whistles, the shuffling of feet and the sound of clapping.

Only a short walk up the driveway now. I hear my keys clink as I take them out of my pocket and a few metres from the door I hear my footsteps.

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