As the days grow shorter, the Parc de la Pepiniere (Park of the Little Trees) in Nancy, usually my go-to place for running, is locked up as night falls.  I’ve been extra busy at work which means I get home too late to be able to use the park for running, so I’ve been changing my routine and doing some long runs through the city and some of the surrounding neighborhoods.  Running in the dark on centuries old cobblestone streets is humbling in many ways: mainly for my ankles and my sense of history.  Running to me is so much more than physical exercise.  It has taken me too long to realize that a daily run is the best therapy for both my mental and physical constitution.  Sometimes under the most stress I have neglected to commit myself to the simple act of daily exercise, probably what I needed most.  My daily runs serve as a mental release from a day of hard work.  It’s meditative time to think, which is mainly what happens during these long runs on unknown streets past Boulageries I have neither smelled or seen before (keep in mind that in France there is a bakery on every corner).

I usually don’t listen to music when I run.  With some longer runs I have been doing over the past few weeks, I’ve taken to listening to music again.  Just in the last few days I have enjoyed some older favorites (just listened to Burial’s Untrue album and had just about forgotten how great it is) or some newer releases, such as albums from No Age (Everything In Between), Twin Shadow (Forget) and Cloud Nothings (Turning On).  Getting the most rotations on my runs is Kanye West’s new record My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.  I’m usually not into his thing, either on record or off, but this album is brilliant.  “All Of The Lights” is the absolute jam for me right now; there’s so many themes running through the record, but this song hits the hardest for me in premise and hook.  I can get with the fact that we all deserve a little forgiveness and redemption.

It’s been snowing here most of today.  I thoroughly enjoyed work because my Brazilian office mate (who’s in France as a visiting scientist) had never seen snow before.  He kept going to the window throughout the day to tell me how beautiful the falling snow was.  We went outside and he told me the snow wasn’t as cold as he thought it would be.  Makes you realize how you take something as simple as the falling snow for granted sometimes.  I’ll try to remember this the next time I am shoveling sidewalks.

I get asked a lot of questions from people living here in France, but probably the most common question asked is “What do you miss most about the United States?”  I never know how to answer this.  It’s always a different answer: Tortilla chips, peanut butter, pretzels… things they don’t have here.  It’s also funny because I usually don’t eat these things very often, just the simple fact of not being able to have something will make you want it even more.  The truth is: I really don’t miss any one thing.  What I miss are my family and friends.  I also have been so lucky to meet so many incredible people here who I truly consider friends.

So, because it’s Thanksgiving in the United States, I’m reflecting on what I am thankful for.  I’m thankful for family and friends, new beginnings and old endings, sounds and silence, redemption and forgiveness, and breaking routines and embracing them.  I’m also thankful for snow, cobblestone streets, and peanut butter.  Maybe someday soon I will eat peanut butter again, but for now, I am completely happy with the European equivalent (Nutella; not an endorsement, but oh so good).