“it is a serious thing / just to be alive / on this fresh morning / in this broken world” – Mary Oliver
Bill and I went trail running with our friend Al last week.
Following social distancing rules, we set off from the visitor’s center of a local wildlife refuge on a gravel road, then quickly turned onto a single-track trail and climbed, climbed, climbed.
The guys seemed to have the energy of men half their age. They bounded effortlessly up the hill, while I plodded morosely along, struggling to keep up and taking frequent walk breaks.
I may have allowed some self-pity to creep into my consciousness.
When we finally reached the summit and paused to look at the vista, I had to admit, it was gorgeous.
The delicate green of the newly-leafed forest contrasted with a heartbreakingly blue sky and the lake at the center of the refuge shimmered in the distance.
I drew the clear morning air into my lungs as my heart rate slowed. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, it was impossible to maintain the impressive funk I was in the process of accumulating.
Overhead, I heard the thin wheeze of a black and white warbler. A slight breeze ruffled my hair.
I may have smiled, reluctantly.
That the world is broken these days is undeniable, but the spring mornings are still fresh.
The sap rises in the trees, the birds pause to devour insects on their way north to their nesting grounds, the sun rises higher in the sky each day, bathing the forest in lambent light, and a pity party is hard to sustain.
The virus with a crown of spikes may hold sway in this land but, for those of us still breathing, time is ours.
Time comes barreling at us, fresh every second. We will get swept away by time; we have no option. That was the deal made for us when we were born. It’s a train traveling solely in one direction.
Now is the thinnest skin separating the future from the past, but it’s all we have.
We get to choose how to spend it.
And that is everything. We get to choose how to spend our “now“.
Our choices are not unlimited – we can’t travel, we can’t gather with a large group of our friends, we can’t go out to a restaurant for dinner, we can’t hug family members we don’t live with – but restrictions on our choices were always present.
Even before the Coronavirus crisis, I couldn’t, for example, do a forward fold, I couldn’t solve Schrodinger’s Wave Equation, I couldn’t donate blood.
But I have learned slowly, over the course of my life, that I worship a God of “yes“, of abundance, of “can” and oh, what I can do!
I can go hiking with some of my grandchildren, exploring riverbanks, and climbing rocky ravines. I can video chat with another grandson, laughing at his silliness and marveling at his ingenuity and imagination.
I can visit each weekend with old friends (virtually, of course) and feel the comforting familiar rhythms that have developed over decades of togetherness.
I can solve crossword puzzles with my husband, laughing over obscure clues, both of us willing to cheat by Googling the answers that leave us stymied.
I can run on the roads around my small town and on the trails in the woods nearby. I can do yoga with an online instructor, feeling the stretch and release, the exertion followed by peace.
We can choose to be grateful, rather than sullen. We can choose to speak kindness, rather than spread hate. We can choose humility over arrogance. We can choose to celebrate our lighted days, rather than curse the darkness.
And we can choose to appreciate the ability to play in the woods on a beautiful day in May.
Which is what I (finally) did.
You can find the places I link up here.