Being outside is rejuvenating. It is an activity of peace cultivation, one that fills me up with calm and green light and open horizons. The weather has been extraordinarily cool lately, and I’ve been taking advantage of it as much as I can. Often that means going for a walk, having breakfast on the porch to soak up the breeze, or taking an hour to get lost in the woods with nothing but my running shoes and watch to keep me company.
I’ve always wanted to become a runner. I admit that I’ve been unfaithful to running as a permanent part of my life, but every time I get back into it and struggle past the first few tortuous weeks, I rediscover the pleasure that comes from rhythmic steps on a trail, the whoosh of air past my ears, the trickle of sweat down the back of my neck, and the satisfying ache of muscles exerted.
Last weekend I joined a friend for a three mile jog downtown, and followed up with a long and twisty trail run on the lake the next day. A couple miles here, a hike there, a half hour stroll in the woods on Sunday morning, and I’m feeling strong enough to start calling myself a runner again.
And autumn always does this to me. After a long, sticky summer of trying to want to be outside, I can finally say that I desire to be out of doors when the first chill hits. Then I want to move, to run and explore and soak up the colors and sounds of trees and undergrowth and thicket. For years I’ve tried to run on pavement and road, only to discover this year that I am a trail runner. That’s where I hit my stride, where I’m able to go for miles without thinking of being tired. I struggle up hills and furrows, pick my way down a rocky ditch and wade through brambles and puddles, with a smile on the whole way. It’s been nice to feel like I finally belong to an activity — or maybe I’m enjoying this so much because I feel like running belongs to me now, instead of it being someone else’s sport that I’m trying to adopt.
On the trails, in the woods, I belong. I’m content with who I am and where I am and how fast or slow I’m moving. It’s a good place to be.
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The title of this post comes from a poem by Leo Marks, called The Life That I Have. It’s one of my favorites, and one that often cycles through my head in cadence with my running steps:
The Life That I Have
The life that I have
Is all that I have
And the life that I have
The love that I have
Of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours.
A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have
Yet death will be but a pause
For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours.