Wild Animals

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I don’t visit this space much anymore. I spend more time here. That is where the practical day-to-day rhythms of living out a dream get recorded and shared. I spent so long in the emotions of the dream, when I thought it would never be realized, that sometimes I feel the best way to honor the culmination of such a dream coming true is to live in it. To write about soil types and cabbages and seed starting.

But sometimes, I step back and feel the weight of it. I stand apart and look at the millions of details happening in the world around me and I just let it throb against my emotions. And it could be anything – the cardinals in our neighborhood bobbing their heads while they sing or the first signs of germination from a tomato seed. Driving through the city while the kids are getting on the bus. Sitting still for a few moments with my husband in our yard, on our land. And everything inside of me sings out:

I am happy.

I started running just under two months ago. I’ve had an on-off relationship with running ever since high school – I’d start running and then start hating it and give it up. I wanted to try to find a way to stick with it this time because it’s free, it’s good for my heart, and it gets me outside. Also, Jason is a seasoned runner and it would be nice to do that with him once in awhile. So, I found a schedule (used the Couch to 5K app, actually) and just went at it. When I started running, it was still very cold. One morning I ran when the temperatures were in the single digits and I had to wear a scarf over my nose just to breathe. One morning I ran in freezing rain. Most mornings, the temperatures were in the 20’s or 30’s and it was dark when I left the house.

Running on pavement was hurting my shins, so I switched it up and started running through the woods. Across the busy intersection, shuffling awkwardly over the railroad tracks, past the baseball fields. There are always wild animals in the morning – deer and opossum and squirrels and so many birds. Sometimes Jason has seen coyotes, but I haven’t ever seen them. Maybe they leave me alone. Maybe they smell me and think that I am fierce.

 And now I don’t run in the dark cold anymore. The sun comes up in the east and hits the wet grass and everything shimmers like a million diamonds. And there it is again, the throbbing, the beautiful ache.

I am happy.

I’ve never been strong enough to run more than a few minutes without needing to walk for a few minutes after that. I’d have these visions of me gliding along for miles and miles with the wind in my dreadlocks and my legs never getting tired, nor my lungs never feeling empty. I’d get discouraged because I thought I’d never be able to do that.

But this morning, well, I ran almost three miles (2.75, to be precise). Which is not a lot if you run marathons, but it’s a lot for me. This blows me away – I taught my body to do this. I made it strong. I learned to breathe and I learned to feel the strength in my legs. Most importantly, I learned to look at what’s happening around me – the deer quietly peeking at me through the dense trees, the little blackbirds gliding across the pond, the white trail of a jet flying high in the infinite blue above me, the steam rising off the woodchip piles.

My favorite thing to do when I run is listen to the soundtrack from this movie, and think about being a fierce child and staring the beasts down, to look at them in the eye and say, “you’re kind of my friend”.  Loving a community abandoned by the rest of the country. To celebrate and to endure. And sometimes, because I don’t want to forget that I am still really a child at heart, I throw my arms out and pretend that I am like the blackbirds swooping over the pond.

I am happy.

I see God at work in the spring, probably more so than any other season. It teaches me that renewal is sometimes a chaotic process. I remember driving along the parkway during the spring that I was engaged and being shocked at the violence of nature – the streams flooding their banks, the surreal perfection of the magnolias in bloom, the explosion of saturated color when the trees put out their buds. To come back to life is not a sweet, soft process; rather, one of upheaval and instability and finally, victory over death.

Life is not perfect, by any means. There are still days when the world gets rocked and I grasp at straws to steady it. And round about the time I come out and say just how happy I’ve been, something ugly rises up and defies it. But what I feel now is found in deeper places. Maybe that is what they mean by happiness being different than joy. Maybe what I am really feeling is joy.

 

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