Friday, June 12, 2009

Water Renews a Dry Spirit

It did not feel at all long enough after finally drifting off when I rose from a sleep made too short by last night’s threatening storms that initially kept me awake. Expecting a crisp and clean blue sky after such a storm, I was disappointed as I stepped onto the front porch and found the clouds casting a blah khaki tinge to their surroundings. While the storms had cleared during the night, the morning skies remained swollen with low-hanging clouds and the air, usually somewhat pleasant at 6:30 a.m., was thick and heavy with moisture that couldn’t seem to escape due to the cumulus ceiling. Despite my ill feelings towards the atmospheric conditions, I was excitedly anticipating running Town Lake this morning as I knew the rain would have kept more people home (my running partner included).

In fact, I nearly had the place to myself. Good time to get lost in my own thoughts as the usual distractions of hundreds of other runners one typically encounters at this hub of physical activity were absent this morning. No paying attention to the whispers of their conversations I usually catch as they amble- or fly- past. No casting envious sideways glances at their flashy tech running garb. No setting my sights on the individual several yards ahead, telling myself I can and have to reel them in and then triumphantly put them behind me. No competition, just peace. It was a rarity that I welcomed eagerly as I usually select other routes seeking this type of experience. For the first time, I was able to enjoy Town Lake as a serene setting for forward motion rather than for the provision of pulsing energy driven by a community of pedestrians relying upon each other for motivation.

Within moments of setting out I predicted that by the end of my run I would, much to my chagrin, be soaking with sweat as there was no possibility of any evaporating from my body and into the fully saturated air. I felt nearly certain that if I looked hard enough I would be able to decipher droplets of moisture in a state of suspension all around me. Such oppressive humidity can tend to slow one down and threaten to even stop one in their tracks; however, the water, which seemed to be everywhere, had brought a life-force of its own. Although the skies were faded, the layer of remaining moisture made every surface of the trail reflect a deeper shade of green. Animate and inanimate objects alike seemed to snap to attention and make their presence known most distinctly by their smell. Intensified by the lingering water, that would not dissipate until mid-day sun and the vaporizing power of 100 degree heat, the organic matter emitted a cacophony of odors that were at once pleasant and soothing, acrid and pungent, and overtly sweet. Almost as if the underlying detritus of the plant kingdom, not having been disturbed in ages, was laying and wanting for this particular opportunity to announce its power with the ferocity and force of carrion.

But, this wasn’t the vile smell of death. This was the smell of earth returning to earth and the inescapable, evolving odors seemed to provide their own force for me to draw on. It pushed me forward and told me to keep moving; this place is alive. I will treasure today's run as an experience to escape in the power of oneself in relation to nature rather than the power afforded by one in a group of many with a similar goal; an event not often allowed here. Many days I run Town Lake and as the extremes of summer and winter settle in, dryness seems to sap the lifeblood from the surrounding natural system. Today was not such a day. Today, water brought life.