I went for a pretty solitary hike yesterday in Cleveland’s Metroparks. I usually go to a particular place in the park. It’s where I run. But I can’t run right now, I’m still healing a long-term injury. I thought I might be able to handle a hike. Hell, I needed it. Mentally and physically.
So I went somewhere else.
The park system is so vast, there are parts that would remain unexplored by me if I went to a different place every week the rest of my life. I stopped my car when the landscape made me. I didn’t even know where I was.
It was quite close to a small pond that was covered with ice, snow and footprints. I thought about walking out there on that ice, to test it. Tapping my foot on it, and what that might feel like. I figured it was shallow enough, and certainly cold enough, it must be frozen. Then I thought of bringing my son down there, and how he weighs a lot less, and how he would think it was ok to test it if I did.
Then, I did not test it.
I realized if I wouldn’t have my son do it, I probably shouldn’t either. I was alone, and nobody knew where I was. Even people who know where I often go to run on Sundays wouldn’t know, because I wasn’t at that place. This is how you think, as a parent. How it changes you. You can take chances and live your life and do what you want, but there’s a small part of your body that doesn’t belong to you anymore. It exists in this other person that’s walking around somewhere, who needs you to come back.
But someone else was into testing it, just a mile or so from where I was, at the place I usually run. They tested the ice, and were wrong. And died. So there again, I was lucky in a way I didn’t realize it.
I’ve said before I’m not a lucky person. But really, to be alive today means I am lucky in a lot of ways, and it’s easy to lose sight of that. To feel and see and touch the sky. And man, it was wide open on Sunday. I never saw the beauty of the snow and the winter until last winter, when I made myself go out in it every week and run. And I mean MADE. It was hard. When you walk outside and your body shrinks from the cold, the last thing you think is gee, it might be fun to take off some of my clothes and run around. But that’s just what I think now.
The things I saw on my hike surprised me. Once I had hiked for a mile, which I know from running is the amount of time it takes my poor cardiovascular system to really wake up and work properly, my hands were no longer cold in their thin gloves, and I could walk, unburdened, and just LOOK at everything.
I wanted everyone to see what I was seeing, it was so fantastic. And yet I wanted it to be all for me, my secret. The handful of people I came upon with their dogs felt like intruders. We all kept to ourselves, like what we were seeing was just for us, and that was ok.
The sound of nature is just loud enough to drown out my tinnitus, so my head doesn’t feel it is screaming at me.
I went so many different directions, and thought I would remember this turn and that hill to get back to my car, but then at the end when I was close, I wasn’t sure. And my legs were starting to sing as it had been four miles, and my foot injury was starting to hurt, and I really hoped the car was up around the next bend. It was.
I pointed out to my son last week how now, when I pick him up, the sky is no longer black. That we have one more minute of light every day, and that will continue to gain as we return to the light – and, eventually, the warmth it can bring. But these are hunkering down days. Chili and pierogi and stew days. Fish fry days soon, and corned beef and cabbage days with hearty beers and sharp mustard.
I will get a brief break from it this week, a metal bird taking me far away into my past, my present and my future all at once. And then I will be back here, to continue watching the light change, and to see my life unfolding.