The Runner

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Runner

I have a good friend whose alarm clock rings at five thirty each and every morning of the year. Though I myself consider this to be a most ungodly hour, she, without hesitation, springs out of bed, grabs her Jack Russell terrier, and the two of them embark on a daily pre-dawn run along the neighbourhood streets. No sort of weather deters her, be it rain or snow or summer humidity. She runs, and wins, marathons and has the body of a whippet.
Now, Jack Russells are marvelous companions for runners. Sheepdogs, not so much. Although The Songwriter and I often run with Edward and Apple across grassy fields and down forest pathways, it would be a mistake to classify any of us as “runners”. And if you asked The Songwriter how fast he can run, he would, no doubt, give you a most average answer. But so often our greatest talents are hidden, even from ourselves - ignored and buried deep in our consciousness.
So it was on a sunny October day in London when The Songwriter made the surprising discovery that he was, indeed, a runner.

The taxi had just dropped us off in front of the Sir John Soane museum. The cabbie sailed away in the ocean of morning traffic, and we’d turned to go up the stone stairs when I heard a strangled sound just behind me. “My camera!”..... “I left my camera in the cab!”. Before I could respond, or even turn my head, he was off. A green-brown blur of turtleneck and tweed, he sprinted down Lincoln’s Inn Fields, bobbing and weaving between sidewalk pedestrians like a capeless superhero on a rescue mission of the most high importance. The cab drivers in the street were witness to his plight and all began to roll down their windows and cheer him on - horns sounding, arms waving. A sea of people began to part before him, everyone clapping and shouting, “Go! Go!”. I simply stood on the stairs, stunned into silence. We could all see his quarry, sitting at the red traffic light at a curve in the road, blithely unaware of the frantic fellow in fast pursuit. The encouraging shouts reached a crescendo. Would our hero make it in time? Never slowing a fraction, The Songwriter reached that black cab just as the light turned green, threw open the back door, grabbed his camera and held it aloft to the cheers of the crowd. Philippides at the finish line! Huzzah!
Now yes, he returned at a much slower pace. And yes, he required a few minutes rest before we continued on our tour. But really, who knew he had it in him? Who knew he could run like the wind?

How much is out there for us all, never tried or experienced because we simply don’t think that we can? Since returning from my February trip to London, so many people have said to me... “You went by yourself?? Oh, how fabulous. But, that’s something I could never do!”
Really? Why not?
What an indulgent treat they are missing.
I have a new friend who is expecting her first baby daughter this summer. On Saturday I gave her a lavender sun hat I knitted myself in cotton and silk, with a tiny green velvet ribbon woven through eyelets and tied in a bow. If I do say so myself, it was a lovely little hat for a little girl soon to be named after Emily Bronte. Two years ago, I could never have knitted that sun hat. Two years ago, knitting patterns made as much sense to me as cave paintings. But I decided to learn. So, I did. Maybe it’s the fevers of Spring, but I now find myself hungry to learn something new - to stretch myself and challenge the limits of my imagination.

It’s a cliche, I know, but our time on this planet is so much shorter than we all realized when we were children. There really is a limit; a cut-off point from which our chances for discovery and exploration will be done, leaving us with only memories. I don’t know about you, but I wish for the sort of memories that will tell me my hours here on earth were well spent, my days were not wasted nor frittered away in indifference. I wish for memories that clearly show I was a friend of curiosity and a stranger to fear.
At the end of my life, I want to close my eyes and see daffodils on foreign hillsides.
I want to recall the way the sea spray felt on my skin as I rode a horse through the surf, or remember how I danced, or sang, or ran like the wind down a London street.
I wish to remember the delight on the faces of those who received a gift that was made from my own hands, or read words that once sprang from the depths of my imagination.
I want to call forth mental pictures of the gardens I tended or the meals I cooked or the journeys I’ve taken.

I’m not yet certain just what I might do next.
But like The Songwriter on that morning in London, who knows what I’m capable of?