Silver maples in the auburn sun, pirouetting light on leaves, the sun slowing setting beyond the woods like a disco ball disappearing into a memory … I was five, six, seven… I was running like the wind, I was chasing killdeer down a long driveway lined by huge pines, my hair blowing in the breeze, my favourite pink raincoat. I was tiny compared to the tall, tall trees. But I felt as big and fast and fierce and strong as a giant. Maybe other times I felt timid, small, and afraid, but in those moments of running through the woods, my imagination took me up and away …
Imagine. You’ve had a busy and emotionally draining few weeks. You need to get away from the world, and you are trying to make sense of things. Your heart is overwhelmed perhaps, or you’ve been around people way too much, or you can’t keep up with the craziness. Or there is so much heartache and grief in the world, and you can’t fix or lift any of the burdens. Or you are in the middle of the grief and you can’t seem to let it go. Or you are stressed beyond normal. You feel weighed down as if your mind and heart already carry the barbells you normally lift with your hands. Or you miss some people you love, or you feel so discontent and at odds with yourself and the world, but you just don’t know why. There are so many scenarios, I could go on and on. But the main question is:
where to let it all go?
And then you enter the woods to run the trail … and a magical door opens and closes behind you. You are in Narnia, Hobbiton, Peter Rabbit’s Garden, or so many magical places you never imagined you’d find yourself in. The greens are soft and breezy, the sky is barely visible but for the moments of diamonds of light around you like a tiara or crown, and the imaginary sword you carry on your belt chasing away the bad guys feels more real than ever before. You are brave. You are free. You are fast. Time does not matter here. You are a child, an adult, you are the future and the present. You are running.
My running spirit is everywhere — in me, beside me, around me.
You are a warrior. A child. A princess. A prince. A running deer. An ear-loping dog. An eagle leaving the nest and soaring. You are anything you want to be. You are flying. You are wonderful. You are free.I went trail running for the first time ever, two days ago, and I can’t stop thinking and dreaming about it. Everything in my life went away, and I was drawn to the present moment. The woods touched me with a drop of magic and are calling me back. I am going back. The swift ups and downs of the hills, the half-buried roots pushing me up with every tread like natural stairs, the soft sandy ground catching my feet as they land, leaves spinning by and birds singing all around me in the warbling woods.
When I hear the word chorus, I often think of nature. Now, even more so. Everything has a voice. Even the trilliums, the sunsetting light, the fallen leaves.
So many things in our lives threaten to weigh us down, break our hearts, not turn out as we wanted and hoped. We can feel held back by walls that are bigger than us. But inside these bright green woods, we are safe.
Trail running that night, I feel free. And lighter than I have felt in a long time. On every down I was letting go, and on every up, I wanted to whoop with joy and praise my running spirit for the wonder I felt everywhere. The way spring is a time of new birth and life, the way trees drop all the leaves and start fresh — I felt that. I felt amazed. And the light through the trees surrounded my eyes like natural glasses with a new way of seeing.
I was flying through a sea of green, and the waves kept moving me forward.
Annie Dillard, well-loved and brilliant nature writer, says this: “The trees have a curious relationship to the subject of the present moment. There are many created things in the universe that outlive us, that outlive the sun, even, but I can’t think about them. I live with trees.”
Now I understand her words even more.
I live with trees. I run with trees. I was one with the trees. With the creator of the trees. With the one who runs with me, the running spirit.
See you on the trails, the magical trails. And may you, too, be filled with wonder.