Cathedral of the Quarter-mile


The school buses rattled  past the dogs and me this past week when we were out on our morning walk. Annoying traffic. Pooty little kids. I’ve been cranky. What’s wrong with me?  Oh yeah, maybe it’s because I was getting ready to birth a book. I’ve been pregnant for twelve months and I damned near had a blood clot in my leg from sitting for hours,  my butt boring a hole through the chair, staring at tracked changes for like the sixth time inside two weeks. Be careful what you ask for, right? 

Going to the track is what saved me. Always does. Sounds so healthy-life-choice, protein-enriched, amped-up impressive, right? “I’m going to the track,” which in some households signifies a qualifying round, in others, another round of bets. In this instance, “going to the track,” (like who is she trying to impress?) just means getting my head screwed on straight. If you could see me hobbling around the clay-colored, rubber-padded quarter-mile because of my screwed up knees and back,  you’d laugh. I hobble for the humbling. 

There are so few places here in the city, where I can actually experience the feeling of expansiveness. I can at the track. It is here that I can look up and get a slice of sky as big as a football field. It is here that the urban soundtrack plays like a never ending record — the rumble of trucks on the nearby highway, calling me back to last summer and the freedom run, imprinted forever in my memory. It is here stretching in the grass,  a dragonfly darts overhead, I brush the glistening, gold fringe of bangs out of my eyes, to note it’s blue-green incandescent hovering, as crickets sing their cannons from the choir loft of shrubs.  

And I am humbled. I’m too broke to even pay attention but I am so grateful that I got to fully experience summer again this year.  It is my favorite season. I get up to leave, grass itching the backs of my legs now, and I’m itching for another iPhone fix; the IV drip of  internet, texts, emails and voice mails, my God, how did I last a half hour without it? When my passion, the Missouri sandpipers who flock here for the marshy splendor of grid-iron grass, call me to look up –to pay attention to their aerial display, the grande finale to my crippled cardio boost. They sing and swirl, soaring high, and gliding low, low, low to the ground, they’re thrilling little teases to us mere humans, who can only look on with envy.

And I leave, grateful for their show,  just as a mother comes around the bend, with a “Hey, Katie, just one more lap,” she calls out to her little girl playing in the long-jump sand bed with a pale and shovel. Instantly I am back in North Carolina, where for years I took my two youngest kids to the “Par Course” track, (it was a great, half-mile sand track with a creek that ran through the middle of it, with balance beams and all kinds of cool stuff) where they’d sit on one of my mother’s quilts, with chocolate milk and  donuts (to this day they hold it against me, the donuts that is…) and coloring books and a battery-operated cassette deck listening to “Baby Beluga” under the deep blue sea, while I’d dope up on endorphins. 

Seeing that little girl reminded me of  how quickly time passes. I had just delivered my little girl and a truck full of furniture to Memphis a few days earlier to start a whole new chapter in her life. Lauren is a teacher in Teach for America and I could not be any more proud. It’s a passage — she’s been patted on the head and she’s out there in the world now, delivered, done. 


When did this happen? You mean, she’s leaving? Really? She’s moving to Memphis?


Off The Leash - A Woman and Her Dog Road Trip

You can judge this book by its cover. That’s okay with me.

And so is my book.  I am officially a published author of a book.

Off the Leash: A Woman, Her Dog and the Road Trip of a Lifetime is officially out there, on Amazon, for sale. I’ve birthed the baby, all 101,000 words of her and  I could not be more proud, or humbled, or grateful. Less cranky too.

Thank you to every single person who read my blog last summer. Thank you to every kind person who said, “keep driving” (well, except for that one lady on the Blue Ridge Parkway….)

Thank you to every single kind person who patted Libby on the head and every cute guy who patted me on the ass.  (Oh, if only it were true….)

It’s been the dream, dawg. And it just got realized. And I am happy.  

About Jean Ellen Whatley

Writer. Dreamer. Sometimes schemer. Journalist/memoirist/observer and sometimes constructive irritant. Prisoner of demon muses. Mother to four humans and two dogs. In my spare time, I delete phone numbers of former boyfriends.

Facebook | Twitter | eNewsletter | RSS | Subscribe to Blog by Email | Buy Off the Leash