This morning I awoke early, thinking of a moment from the evening before. I’d fed the still-unnamed calf his afternoon bottle, then stood watching at the gate as he cavorted, running circles around the perimeter of his small, fenced-in world, kicking and twisting and stumbling on spindly legs, full of that particular new-to-this-world glee.
I tend to sleep soundly but am often restless at the half-lit hour of rising, and in recalling the calf I decided to run into the woods. Once upon a time I ran frequently, six or seven or even eight miles without pause, and I still remember the deep thrum of oxygenated blood, that muscle-bone-and-air way of being, and better still the strange, almost ethereal comingling of exhaustion and exultation. Runner’s high, I guess it’s called, but that always seemed to me like too crude a definition.
But all of this was long ago, and my strides this morning felt like a repeating cycle of stumbles and just-in-time-recoveries. There was none of the calf’s apparent glee, none of the effortless grace I once knew when I ran. I pushed on, shoulders tilted into the slope and, I imagined, the engrained inertia of body and mind. My lungs felt raw and scraped; my legs were weak and quivery, as if questioning their fealty to the task, and who could blame them. I’d not asked such in many years.
I earned the height of the land, then turned westward to traverse the sugarbush. The sun had risen by now but only just, and the light filtering through the canopy had that fluid, transitory quality I love so much. And now I was pleased to feel my body becoming fluid like the light, not completely, not perfectly, but enough that I sensed my mind unsticking, too.
I thought about many things, among them circumstance (or what passes for circumstance in our logic-driven brains), and then a comment someone left about the futility of trying to be a better writer, and whether that might be true, and what is the difference between good writing and bad, anyway? And who best to decide, writer or reader? Because sometimes I post things here that I think are halfway decent, and no one seems to give half a shit, and sometimes I post things that I think are pretty weak, at least in hindsight, and people seem to love it. And then I thought about the emails I’d recently exchanged with someone about our respective paths with writing (and life, yeah, that too), a continuation of a conversation I referenced here not long ago. It was a good conversation. They were good emails.
But mostly, I thought of habits I’ve held for too long, and particularly my tendency to resist doing some of the things I want to do (or claim to want to do), purportedly for lack of time or energy or money or any combination of the three. Of course, there are kernels of truth in all of these excuses, which is precisely what makes them so effective, and isn’t that always the case?
I ran a little farther, reached the stream where it crosses onto this land, and turned to follow it home. Not really running now, more of a stilted trot, the forest floor too choppy and the trees too tight for speed. I crossed over the stream and then back again, stepping quick and careful on the water-slick rocks. Now thinking of nothing but balance and dry feet and the stream sounds, and glad for it.
Then I was home, and it was light enough for chores. I could see the calf at the paddock gate, and I knew that he was hungry, so I gathered up the milk bucket and his bottle and set about my day.