Saturday, December 4, 2010

fluttering and dancing in the breeze*

Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Writing prompt courtesy of Jeffrey Davis)

Will anyone be surprised if this post is about the trail?

I was talking with a friend recently who was extolling the benefits of a personal trainer. Her trainer, she told me, had taught her to maximize her time at the gym: by doing a combination of squats, push-ups, cardio, and the like, she could achieve the desired result—toned arms and legs—in the minimum amount of time. “You don’t really need to do that much cardio,” she assured me.

To be honest, I, too, can be somewhat obsessive about maintaining a certain level of fitness, and can occasionally be seen doing dips on the kitchen chair while my kids are playing in the next room, or on the floor doing crunches while watching “The Office.”

But running, for me, is not about the fulfillment of a fitness quota. It’s not about the minimum amount of cardio for the maximum benefit. It’s the call of the trail that beckons me from my slumber at 5:15 on a Tuesday morning. Negotiating the rocks and roots at Sleeping Giant in the pre-sunrise mist is exhilarating—a test of mental and physical agility.

This morning, Mount Sanford was aglow as we approached. My leap across the stream fell short, and I emerged with a soaked right foot. On the next ascent, a red-tailed hawk soared overhead. Last week, it was a Great Blue Heron, in almost the very same spot. Once, in Anchorage, it was a moose, who charged and then veered off again, leaving me in a trembling heap in the brush, dumbstruck by my slim escape .

You can set your program to “cross country skiing” on the elliptical; you can flip through a nature magazine on the treadmill in your living room, but you won’t see a red fox, or a snow-covered spruce, or a crunchy carpet of red and gold leaves, at your local gym.

And the pleasure increases tenfold when I see a rainbow or a fiery sunset through the eyes of my kids. Last spring, we met up with three other families at Gouveia Vineyards in Wallingford, and had a dinner picnic on their gorgeous lawn, adjacent to the expansive fields of grapes. For a few precious seconds, as the grown-ups finished dessert and sipped red wine, the kids—all eight of them—were rapt, standing or sitting in silence as the orange-red sun set over the hills. It was holy. After the spell had been broken, we jokingly imagined their conversation: “Hey, man, we don’t need toys, eh?” “No way, dude. This is it. Right here.”

A fantasy, yes. And yet, a summer evening at the vineyard, or a late afternoon at Brooksvale Park, brings Dylan and Lexi much more joy than the thrill of acing the slolem course on Wii ski. The wonder is in their laughter, and in the sound of their deep breathing after a long dirty day of play. And I cultivate this wonder—in my kids, and also in myself—when I come home on a Saturday morning with my legs caked in mud and my eyes and soul radiant from an hour in the woods. Yeah, this is it. Right here.

*William Wordsworth

This post is part of a daily writing project called Reverb 10. For more information, click here:


Christine Holley said...

That was a nice read-I am enjoying the fresh cold air of December but it's something I don't tell people because they are lamenting the coming of winter. To me it feels so good.

tricia said...

Christine: I know what you mean! BTW, I was thinking about you this morning. We run at Wadsworth every other Tuesday, and I was remembering the time we went letter-boxing there. We really should get together some time soon.