I haven’t run in years. Ever since my back and knees an even my brain throbbed after I finished my workout. I’ve always been intrigued at how it would do that, allow me to do the things I loved until after I had done them and then I would suffer the consequence. Too late to know to stop sooner… (would I have anyway?)
So when I kissed my almost sixteen year old on the top of the little purple beanie which hides her almost bald head and she asked “where are you going” I responded, “Walden. I’m running to Walden.”
And I thought of running too.
I know that I used to use running as a way to run away from life’s challenges. It wasn’t I would run and hide, more that I would run as a way to clear my brain, think a little differently about whatever the problem was, and come back refreshed and with new energy to deal with it. I wondered how I would ever be able to cope with life if I ever stopped running. I’ll never stop, I replied to myself without taking a breath. Easy.
But then my back “packed it in” and my brain started to throb even more fiercely, even if I walked too fast for too long, and eventually, I had to admit to myself, I could not longer rely on my legs to carry me away from my problems. Not even to a place where I saw them from a different angle.
It was then Walden became more a part of my life. I swam anyway, so I gradually replaced running (and cycling…another way to feel the air in my face, smarting my eyes and refreshing my vision of what was in front of me) with long distance swimming.
But not today. Not in January, or February, or even March, (though I have swum in April before now)…but not, I think, this year.
The pond is still layered like a wedding cake in a thick layer of frosted white.
The beach is finally brown pitted sand.
Walden was almost deserted, squatting under a sodden sky. I had almost (but not quite) run out my anguish at my daughter’s illness, cancer treatments snowballing into problems with nutrition and weight and strength, just as I had seen them do before, at having to live in my former spouse’s home in order to nurse her. My home could not accommodate us all, plus three cats and a dog, and so for convenience I had moved into his space, as difficult, I thought for him, as it was for me.
“God only gives you what you can handle,” I joked to my acupuncturist earlier in the week, before I added “and if He gives you more, then you learn how to handle it too!”
I walked fast, my boots grinding into the dirty sand, my breath heaving and my arms left behind by my fast movement along the beach. I tried not to think of anything, as anything caused small flares of anger to ignite inside. It is this way for me sometimes when life seems so out of my control. I ground my oversized boots into the sand again and again worrying about the things I could not run from, kicking at the sheets of ice, wanting them to break up so I could find the water beneath.
The pond refused to hear my hurry. She refused to move, remained still, a picture of snow and ice melting underneath. Puddles in her lap. Clear grey comfort above.
Only a tiny trickle of life dribbling into her from the shore. I walked the whole way round her today. Fast, then slower, and finally stopping at Ice Fort Cove to stand. And when I returned to the beach I stood still, watching water running into Walden.