A few nights ago on a clear, starlit, half-mooned Mackinac Island night, I zipped up my stained Roxy hoodie, laced up my shoes, put in my earphones, and went for a run.
Running through a place is my way of exploring it, and Michigan is still fascinating to me, as a Californian, who has ended up on this island in Lake Huron, during this readjustment phase after a decade in the South Island.
It is the tail end of the tourist season now in the American Midwest - a land of church steeples, flag poles and baseball fields - and the leaves are turning red and gold and falling all over the trails in the interior of the island, and people are telling me they think the first snow will descend before most of us leave.
In a few months the lake will freeze and the only way to get on or off of Mackinac will be by air or across on the natural ice bridge that begins to form after Christmas.
When I was young I ran because I wanted to be a certain kind of pretty; when I got older I ran because I loved how it made me feel like I was escaping.
Now I run simply because it makes me happy and its fun and, like kissing and dancing, it makes me feel beautiful and alive.
I like heading out at night because it makes me imagine I am faster than I am, and there is the sensation of being lost in darkness and music I can't get enough of (for the last two weeks I have had Young Fathers by the Portland band Typhoon on repeat).
And because I've never had a weird or dangerous encounter in all the potentially weird and dangerous places I have gone for night runs in, I keep doing it.
When I run under night skies in different places in the world, it feels like - as big as the sky is - I am only seeing it as an incomplete puzzle.
When I am in California, I go for runs at dusk down Happy Canyon Road, in the foot of the mountain range that I love, under oak trees that go dark and protective as the sun goes down.
When I am staying at my parents I will tend to slip out the door guiltily, running shoes behind my back, hiding this little habit of mine, aware that they worry a little bit for that hour and watch the clock.
My mom now only asks that I leave a note with a time, and write down which back road I plan to run down, and I do.
In the South Island I had favourite routes scattered everywhere. Along Lake Pukaki, feet crunching down the gravel road, the layered light bluish waters of glacial runoff - the same colours I've seen in pictures of the Gulf of Mexico - would be this crazy contrast under the moon to the icy peaks of Mount Cook in the distance as I ran, forgetting everything else.
On the beach at Kaka Point, I'd head toward the lighthouse barefoot, the waves at my ankles, then suddenly at my knees as I'd hit the mouth of a creek in the dark, my own marker to turn around and start back towards the surf club and my parked Starlet, where I'd get in and crank up the heat and go get a coffee.
So, back in Michigan, I was plodding along the other night, just beyond the lamplights that line the streets of Mackinac, and lost in a song and my thoughts when there was suddenly a flurry of fabric in my peripheral vision and I gasped as something ran past me. It was so fast it was like I was standing still.
It was an Amish woman running, I realised, as I stopped.
The layers of her dress, her cape and her apron were blowing around and behind her as she sprinted and I could hear how heavy that fabric was.
But I wouldn't have known it by the length of her stride. I couldn't even hear her breath. If there had been dust, I would have left standing in it.
As I watched her take off into the dark, two Amish men - when I told this story the next day someone suggested they were probably family members charged with escorting her - trailed behind her on their bikes as they chatted, keeping an eye on their cousin/sister/daughter. I wondered if this was a nightly routine for them.
I'm going to bet, that just like me, she had been waiting all day for that run that makes her feel beautiful and alive in the dark for an hour.
I get it.
- © Fairfax NZ News