In Birdland we are caught in the firm jaws of winter. The snow has encrusted, and the wind carries dust from the field to add a layer of soot to the once pristine drifts.
The furnace barrels on endlessly despite the fire I try to keep burning in the woodstove. The longest night of the year has just passed, but it’s still a long, hard journey until spring. The Winter Solstice is my favorite holiday. I always think it’s the darkest it can get. The sun has turned the corner of the year, and though it’s a long way off, Spring is on its way back.
I had been thinking about running again, thinking that this school break would be a good time to get back into an exercise routine. Ellis said he would be my trainer. My youngest's cross country experience means he knows all the stretches to avoid injury. The other night Ellis came to offer me a small square of a chocolate bar. As I took it, he said, "Now you have to run tomorrow." I agreed, and when he was up the ne
xt morning already dressed in his purple under armor, I knew he wouldn't let me off the hook. We did a slow jog to the mailboxes, then he showed me how to stretch. He said he was going to do two miles and I told him I'd just run as far as I could, hoping to make it to the grass waterway. I figured if I could make it there, then the next day I might make it to the pineys, and a bit further each day after that. With luck I'd make it around the corner and to the Benson timber within a week or so. Ellis took off, and Isis hung back with me, both of us bouncing along at our slow lope--two old ladies, my dog and I.
I always knew that running was a great way to de-stress, but I didn't realize that the rhythm of my breath and the pumping of my heart and the slow clop-clop-clop of my feet would act as a meditation of sorts. In the beginning my mind was running through troubling events, and before I knew it, I had passed the grass waterway, my original goal. I surprised myself and kept going. As I ran further, I began to pay less attention to my troubles and more attention to the various pulses in my body. I passed the piney woods and the cemetery, and felt no need to stop. I began to get curious about why I could keep running. Ellis was long ago out of sight, and I thought I might make it around the corner to the Benson timber. Sights and sounds and scents began to replace my troubles. I smelled the warm scent of my neighbor's horses, heard a high, warbling birdsong. I passed my uncle’s house and saw Ellis coming toward me on his way back from the one mile mark at the bridge. As he neared I called to him, "Can you see me?"
He slowed his pace a little, and as he approached, I made a long slow u-turn to run alongside him. He gave me an odd look. "Um...yeah," he said. "Why?"
"Well, I thought maybe I dropped dead on the road back there, and this was my ghost running. If you can see me, I'm probably not dead. High five!" At that moment I felt like I could run forever, and my ghost running while my body lay on the road behind made about as much sense as the idea that I could actually run as far as my uncle's house the first day of training.
Ellis gave me a high five, and I told him he didn't need to wait for me; I'd see him back at home. He picked up his pace and soon he was out of sight again. Isis and I followed with our slow clomp-clomp through the ice and snow.
Run in beauty; Absorb Peace; Blessed Be. Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She has decided on a goal to run five miles before her fiftieth birthday. She is interested in cycles and rhythms, celestial and earthly.