I am still reading Teilhard de Chardin’s The Divine Milieu and Jon Meacham’s The Soul of America on my 30-day (what was I thinking?) quest to rediscover a sliver of hope connecting my spirit to my country. And I promise to write about that soon, but I just got home from my neighborhood jog and I feel like writing this.
I lost my husband almost six years ago. Just typing that sentence brings tears to my eyes. And I feel a stab almost every day of my life when I remember his intelligence, sense of humor, faith in God and pride in our sons. I have done all the usual things since he passed away. I saw a counselor, talked to friends, spent time with my kids, gained weight, got sick and have made some pretty strong efforts to get healthy again. Part of that last bit has been re-learning how to run. I used to run, years ago, back when there was actually a race called the Cascade Run Off.
But over the years, I gave it up. My husband didn’t. He was a runner the whole time I knew him. He ran in marathons. Got up at 4 a.m. every morning to do yoga, lift weights and swim laps before he’d come home at 6:30 a.m. with a tall, nonfat latte, for his wife, who almost always was still in bed.
Anyway, after he died, I took a class at my gym and got back into running. Actually, it’s jogging. And in my more cynical moments, I think of it as wogging -- walking for a minute between lengthening intervals of running. I am so slow that my sister-in-law has been known to push a baby carriage and still keep pace with me.
Over the years, I’ve found the flattest two blocks in my neighborhood and I run around them repeatedly. My trainer has urged me to run a race, and occasionally, I run around two different city blocks or even the whole distance to the grocery store or library, but mostly it’s those two blocks. I know them well enough now that I don’t need to watch for uneven pavement, so my mind wanders as I take in the trees, the flowers, the puddles, the ice, the for-sale signs and the remodeling projects as I jog by.
And often, I think of my husband, who somehow managed to run even in that last year when he was sick. I remember one day, after eight months of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant that he told his doctor he’d started running again. His medical team was pretty impressed. And I remember his last day, when we weren’t sure that he was still aware of the boys and I sitting with him, that a nurse came into the room and asked if he had been a runner.
Yes, we all said together. And she nodded and said, “I thought as much. His heart is so strong.”
When I am running and thinking of him, I often come across something that makes me stop and pick it up. I have a shelf in my kitchen devoted to him, covered with dry leaves, pine cones, wisps of cedar, ragged pieces of birch bark, blue bird feathers, acorns, even rocks. But this morning, something caught my eye, on a new piece of pavement. I took a moment to take a picture. When I stood up, my heart and spirit rose. And now there’s no way that I’ll ever change my running route again.