I awoke this morning to another greyish day in a mostly unfamiliar little rural town where my parents live. It was warmish enough outside that I decided to don my running shoes and go explore the neighbourhood for a spell.
Running is cool not so much because of its possible health benefits, or the excuse to wear tight black spandex shorts, but because it’s the most effective meditative experience I’ve ever engaged in.
Once I start my feet moving, and a simple rhythm takes hold, it’s easy to get lost in sea of thought. At that point, one of several things happen:
- Issues that need to be dealt with get dealt with. For whatever reason, when I’m running, I tend to find unconsidered solutions to whatever’s weighing heavy on my mind – solutions that work. A body in motion seems to inspire the mind to get moving as well.
- After sorting out whatever needs to get sorted out, quieting the mind becomes much easier to do. The new thoughts that arise don’t seem to command the energy they do at other times during the day. They can be observed and let go without too much fuss.
- Focus increases. At the end of a longer run, this comes naturally, since the only thought being considered is survival. Vomiting, collapsing, and shitting oneself become secondary concerns. When you learn to focus your life in one area, you begin doing it instinctively in others.
To me, running is also always on some level about adventure – anything and everything awaits around the next corner! This morning, after I passed an old guy who wished me a cheery hello, I saw a little parkette with a tennis court and soccer net that seemed to bound the furthest southern edge of this town. I decided to check it out. Soaking my feet in the long and unkempt fall grass, I reached a little creek that bordered a farmer’s field that ran off unseen into the distance. Huge willows overhung the slow trickling water and muddy banks. Just seconds earlier, I could have mistaken my reality for any suburban neighbourhood in North America. But with one massive leap across the 7 foot creek, I would have entered an entirely foreign world of corn, wheat, low rolling hills, and whatever else awaited.
This was a moment to reflect on a few things.
First, at my brother’s house the day before, I had a chance to spend 10 minutes wearing a virtual reality headset that belonged to his kids. The only words I can use to adequately describe my experience are as follows: Holy Flying Fuck!! My expectations were beyond anything I imagined. Well, not true. It was unexpected because it was so eerily similar to another reality I am familiar with – the lucid dream dimension. There I was, engaged in the physical world, and engaged in a mind-blowing virtual world – and you know what went through my head? The Earth reality is no more real than the computer one. Sure, it’s a lot more complex and interactive, but I have a sneaking suspicion that when our consciousness chooses to focus elsewhere after our bodysuits die, we will probably look back on this life as just another dream – a weird dream no doubt, but fleeting nonetheless.
The second thing I reflected upon was a memory of my childhood backyard. A massive weeping willow stood between our garage and the neighbour’s house. My brother and I used to play Tarzan swinging from the branches. My cousins from Rochester used to visit us there every holiday and special occasion we had a name for. The massive family gatherings at my grandmother’s house were legendary, and my brother and I always looked forward to those events with excitement and anticipation.
On Saturday I attended the funeral of my Uncle Walter. He died on Tuesday at 93 years of age. I haven’t seen my cousins or most of my dad’s family in 20 plus years, and I almost decided not to attend, feeling apprehensive about answering questions for my prolonged absence. My self-imposed grief was nonsensical. Every aunt, uncle, cousin, or face I couldn’t quite place, greeted me with open arms. There were no admonishments for being invisible or out of touch for decades – there was only love present.
So back to Thanksgiving morning. There I was, overlooking a little river and debating whether the overhanging branches of the weeping willows would support my weight as I yelled out a ridiculous Tarzan cry while swinging to the other side. If I had a photographic device on my person to document the moment, I don’t think I would have hesitated. Instead, I envisioned broken branches, soaked feet, and a sprained ankle to hobble home on.
I didn’t make that jump, but I did make a more profound leap on my run back home…
I am not a supporter of any holiday rife with propaganda to hide the massive genocide of an indigenous people, but I will share with you some things that give me pause for thanks and gratitude.
I am honoured to have a body healthy enough to allow the possibility of roaming unexplored lands.
I am honoured to have a mind silly enough to consider swinging on tree branches for fun.
I am thankful for the smile that crossed my face because of some weirdo who decided it would be a good idea to weld a dragon from old car parts and mount the monstrosity on his front lawn for local passerbys to see.
I am thankful to run past that old guy I mentioned earlier to say hi a second time, and appreciate his ritual of waking at the crack of dawn to power-walk the streets for the sole purpose of embracing each remaining day gifted to him.
I am grateful for passing a big pile of red leaves that I chose not to jump into because I didn’t have a photographic device at my disposal to document my stupidity.
I am grateful for passing a big pile of red leaves that I did jump into despite not having a photographic device at my disposal to document my stupidity.
I am humbled for one more chance to embrace family and friends, no matter how stupid and ridiculous I’ve acted over the years, and I am humbled for the limited skills in my repertoire to put a smile on their faces.
I’m going to exercise one of those skills now.
I just gave my mother the day off. The rest of my afternoon involves peeling potatoes, slicing carrots, mixing salads, and figuring out what spices make tofurkey taste like real food.
My thanks to the universe for each chance I get to become something better than I was.
Happy Pumpkin Day!