The woods turn golden this year, a fierceness in their leaves. The wind has changed its rhythm along the familiar path. I set out over the stream, across the roots of the ancient trees, weathering the season with them.
I often wish I was more than I am.
I pound down the first path around the smaller pond. It is always muddied by couples trying to find the gravity to keep them together in a midnight walk or the cross-country team training for the weekend. I pass no one in the afternoon, and my feet are angry against the earth. I feel them praying resistance to God even though I pray out loud for a heart that can hear, a listening heart. Our whole bodies pray, don’t they. Mine prays at war, angry and confused, patient and devoted. It is an out of rhythm prayer. The sweat clings to the back of my neck and I dart among the corners of the path, chasing myself, or God, or running from both.
I often wish I was more than I am. The old lie, that there is an other we might be, better than what was first made and called good, cuts the air from my lungs.
The path widens and I hear behind me another runner and his dog. The dog bounds up beside me – a beautiful lab, her fur the color of wheat in summer, deep-set eyes and a lightness to her running. She touches my leg with her wet nose. I look down, smile, but ignore her as I run ahead. The dog hangs back, but only for a moment, and then she races forward to tag me again, a bark to get my attention. We go on in the game, running ahead only to be caught. We stop together at the opening to the pond, where the wind is, and the dog dashes into the water and begins to play.
“She likes to run with the head of the pack,” the runner explains as he catches up to us. I smile slightly. “She’s beautiful,” I say. Another moment, watching her chase down a shimmer of sunlight, and I keep running. I wonder about the dog playing tag with me on such an ordinary day.
We often choose to wish we were more than we are.
“Thank you, for the dog,” I hesitate – could God be pleased with that? Was that even prayer, to be thankful for a dog while out running in the woods alone?
There was a poem that a friend gave me, about geese that turn into light. About how we were not leaving, but arriving. About an indescribable wedge of freedom in the heart. You know this poem, I pray – David Whyte, The Journey, a poem that changes you, clings to you like the leaves piled high in the silent woods.
has to be
so you can find
the one line
The one line, the one about freedom, the one about the golden fall and the leaves that cling like fire to the trees, the one that captures, just for a moment, the certainty of the presence of God?
“Thank you,” I whisper, over and over, tears falling, as I turn left up the steep hill to go home. “Thank you, for the dog.”
I wish for nothing but to draw nearer.