Thursday, August 21, 2014

Back Road Peace, Dark Wood and Rebirth

Runners are creatures of habit. For the past 10 years, I have had known running routes mapped out in my head. When I walk out the front door, I know specific routes from two miles to 20 miles and everything in between. I know where to turn around for a 10 mile route. I've tread many of them many times.

Saturday I ran a new route, on a new road. It's a road I've driven and been driven on since before kindergarten, with friends that have lived down it. But I had never run it. Back roads, tree-lined, almost full shade. During a 6-mile run, two cars and a tractor passed. Some deer. The tail end of a fox making scarce. I went without music; the roads are narrow and I didn't want to end up an unwitting hood ornament.

There is a peace on running a back country road that exists nowhere else. Most of my road miles have been run on Oxford Road or St. Michaels Road, with cars and trucks whirring past. Or through Easton with small town hustle all around.

Saturday was a reset button. A new route. Solace. Back road peace.

Dark Wood. Tree-lined roads lead my mind to Dante. After studying the Inferno in college, Dante's dark wood has stuck with me.

Midway in the journey of our life
I came to myself in a dark wood,
for the straight way was lost.
Ah, how hard it is to tell
the nature of that wood, savage, dense and harsh --
the very thought of it renews my fear!
It is so bitter death is hardly more so.
But to set forth the good I found
I will recount the other things I saw.
How I came there I cannot really tell,
I was so full of sleep
when I forsook the one true way.

Dante gives us the perfect losing our way metaphor. The opening lines to the most poetic mid-life crisis in history. I have a framed print of Dante and his guide Virgil navigating the dark wood together.

I frequently have those dark wood moments. I wonder if I am on the right path; I wonder if I am lost or have wandered astray; I wonder; I wander. My paths are more meandering than direct. Rather than the one true path, I often feel like mine is a singletrack trail or a country back road. Where do back roads lead?

Rebirth. Spring gets all the credit for new life and rebirth. It's the easy sell. But fall has always been my season for rebirth. Each fall is a new school year. A new grade for the girls, the clock turned back to zero, on top of the foundations they have built in the past years. New teachers. And new students for teachers.

Cooler weather, sloughing off the tired heat of summer. Needing to pull on a sweatshirt or sweater in the evening. Stout beer salivating. My energy usually resets in the fall as well. Fall races for our running peeps. Field hockey for the girls. Football taking over Sunday televisions.

For me, fall is about rebirth. It's about new running routes. It's about reconnecting and navigating the dark wood in the journey of our life. Dante will tell you about it. But nobody named a football team after the Divine Comedy.

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