The University is preparing to turn on the heat.  The black dust and browning leaves catch the backwind of monstrous coal trucks delivering their goods.  In the distance, surrounded by cornfields and cotton, two ominous smoke stacks relieve themselves of their ashen waste.

The sky has been dark all day.  As I run, I remember what these days felt like in Gloucester.  This is the kind of day that would get my mind going, set me out to explore every coastline of Cape Ann that might suggest big waves and foamy spray.  It was salt air I breathed in then, not coal-dust.  But sadly, I am not in Kansas anymore.

The trucks unload their potential energy into a block of land sectioned off for just this purpose.  This block is about the size, if not bigger, of the building I teach in.  Running around the track, I can see the tips of small dark mountains rising over the walls; I wonder if this running is maybe counter-productive.

Nonetheless, I will welcome the heat when it comes.  I have spent the last two weeks nestled in my sleeping bag because it’s the only thing that will keep me warm enough to function.  My toes are perpetually cold.  I cook to stay warm, standing over a dysfunctional gas stove, gulping down hot soup hoping the warmth will reach my feet.

Now it is night.  It’s not much different than how the rest of today felt.  My students and I huddled in our down jackets in class today, and while their classmates recited their midterm speeches, we all gazed out onto a dismal, gray Qufu.  If the wind had been still, I would have been depressed, but since it decided to take down all the leaves today, there is excitement in the air.  Excitement enough so that I want to run through it, be part of it, let it suggest to me the blustery Gloucester days, let myself reminisce and let nostalgia take over if it means I can feel a little bit more alive, a little more awake and in tune with what little nature there is around me.

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