On being human

IMG_6949It is only on a winter’s day today where the shades of white, grey and black blend together to create a landscape void of color, of life of warmth that I retreat to thoughts of a different season . . .

I inhale the warm summer air and my eyes meet the sun’s glow just above the horizon. This is my invitation to start my day. Dressed in running clothes, my tights and long sleeved shirt cling to my body inducing and overall warmth.  Pray, connect and learn; it’s simple and easy as running

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

Stretching my body gives me an appreciation for the mechanic’s work in tandem. I walk, arms swinging in rhythm to my footwork. A slow start enables me to feel my surroundings and be open to new thoughts, readying myself to accept what might be coming my way – a start to a meditation. Deeper breaths, my resting heart picks up speed. Even the asphalt feels hard and unforgiving under foot, but I don’t look down; I look up. I sense my neighbors and anticipate the breaking of early morning silence. The slow beginning also jumpstarts my heart, pushing blood through the course of my veins, delivering oxygen to where it is needed. My breathing is deep. I focus on my body as it adjusts to the exercise I am commanding it to perform

“I’ve begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it. It has a quality and a dimension all its own,” said Chaim Potok, American author and rabbi.

My body is heated. The morning breezes slide by, cooling me. My spirit is awakened.

In full gait now, I turn on a narrow footpath through the forest preserve where I am welcomed by an oasis of gifts. Dampness readies my sense of smell. The leftover skunk’s scent dominates, wrinkling my nose. I am startled into a faster pace by the thought of a black, furry varmint defined by its wide white stripe down its back it may cross my path. I smile at the unexpected. In the dimness, around a curve, the open meadow rolls in bumps and divots where long grass blades stand at attention, welcoming the morning warmth as it shakes off the dew born from night. Two tan does, frolicking like children in the distance, first unaware of my presence then tilt their heads perhaps catching my scent. I am back in the shadows.

The overpass appears ahead of me, a challenge in stamina to legs and heart. Slowing to the top, I have slipped into the mainstream of the morning’s rush. The jolting honk of a horn and the humming din of traffic pass underneath me. The sun’s rays flash shadows at me through open space in the railing. Back into the woods, birds flutter and swoop, busy with their morning food finds; the whistling and chirping is a conversation among all the species. Chipmunks and squirrels scampering play remain silent until their burrowing begins or a scramble up the peeling bark of an old tree sustains their footing. Sweat pops on my head. My cheeks become flushed.

My turnaround point. Another overpass, this one over a small stream from the North Branch of the Chicago River. I stop to embrace the moment while water gently flows below but becomes amplified as I hone in on the music’s flow, reverberating in my ears. Ducks glide calmly downstream, leaving ripples in the water to identify themselves. I marvel at the blended colors of nature’s palate, from muddied water to dried ashen earth, to the black of tree trunks. I stretch my body, feeling strong as I am reminded that I am just a small part of a larger domain.

On my return trek, my route winds in tandem with the stream. A large tan crane standing alone on the bank catches my eye. As many times as I have covered this route, I have never seen this exotic-looking bird, perhaps five feet tall, with long stick legs, a duck’s body and long bill. Its head is neither too small nor too large for its body. It starts to walk, then takes flight, skimming the water. I lose sight of it. I will look for it another day.

I follow the S-curve on the path, exiting with a left turn to the street. I am reminded of the physical world’s pace as cars race to meet morning start times. I cross the street; I near home. The sweat tickling my skin and my heart pounding with every breath are signs to me in confirmation of living in the present. The calls of nature along my route remind me I am not alone.

I learn from the Earth, the weather, and other living creatures and in meditation I feel connected with my place. The qualities of my surroundings merge physically and spiritually. My morning run bears witness to my sense of place, aligning my spirit and my landscape. Learning to be open to my spiritual guidance is to be patient for what I have asked for and to be tolerant of what I have not.

I am obligated in thankfulness. I believe we create our own experiences, cradling our stories where a theme is shared or life lesson is learned by all in the Universe. It is the richness of being human—like breathing.

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