mount daniel, oct 2014, j. yotz
Mountain people, meet Jill. Jill is alternately a wolf on skis and on feet in the mountains. We often spend time together in the morning run series in the quiet, dark, and early hours. She communicates astutely with mountain animals--human and furry--while seeking answers from the lessons nature offers.
I hope you enjoy what she has shared below about her experiences on our morning runs. Please join us for a jaunt!
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. You
have a right to be here.
The frequent chatter of my mind isn’t awake yet when I arrive at our pre-determined meeting place, a mountain trailhead lit only by the Wednesday predawn light. Kindred spirits gather this morning, tiny orbs of light bobbing in the A.M. blackness. I register the murmur of soft greetings and then we run. Single-file on the singletrack, some of us run to seek, some of us to escape. Some run this morning for companionship or to commune with nature. I am running for joy and connection, an inner state of being that seems to spring eternal, and a recent discovery from these morning moving meditations. Sometimes the voices in my head wake up early - Did I reply to her email? Should I go on that date? Can I fuel myself better? Why am I already tired/sore/fatigued/afraid? At these times, tapping into the joy beneath all the chatter feels like an impossible task, but I press on.
The “joy” I’m referring to is not interchangeable with the fleeting emotion we call “happiness”, but the steady state of being that remains once all emotional layers, societal labels, and self-inflicted placeholders are peeled away from the beings we are. Joy is what we are when most connected to ourselves, when most connected to God*. From this state I can become the curious observer: fatigue and pain are just sources of information when there is no place for fear. The nettles that sting my ankles are sharp caresses reminding me that I am alive, I am in this body, I am as wild and natural as the forest in which we run.
These Wednesday runs teach me to be in awe of my body. Without any prompting from science or reason, each muscle in the quadriceps activates as needed, the heart pumps vitality to all corners of this body, the skeletal structure adjusts with every footfall to protect from injury. I am learning to trust how my body harnesses its physical rhythms to most efficiently, strongly commune with the trails. I admire how its own ebbs and flows reflect the cyclical nature of days and seasons, and how it has synchronized its own tides with the phases of the moon. The minute my mind gets out of the way, my body can revel in the joy of doing what it’s meant to do. The difficulty of the moment doesn’t disappear, but the burning lungs and aching legs become pieces to inform the whole. The critic in my head who asks “Why am I so out of shape? Who am I to deserve to run for joy?” becomes a curious anomaly in this perfect body, this unique interpretation of Creation.
the dizzy dark, Cougar
Joy shows me what it is to be a wolf, loping through the forest with the breeze rippling through my fur. I can taste the air’s damp deadness as fall transitions into winter, tongue lolling in a Mona Lisa smile. Joy is belonging and remembering. Every paw strike brings me closer to the collective consciousness of my pack; brings me closer to embodying the knowledge that I am a child of the universe: I came from a wild place and joy will bring me back. My body will carry me there; my teachers and friends will run beside me.
Joy is curiosity. Observing without judgment, the wolf as runner teaches me to let go of pre-conceived limitations, and the members of my running group grow beyond gasping, bobbing bubbles of light ahead and behind me on a dark trail. To run as wolf is to run as Joy incarnate: in the moment, in togetherness, in wildness, in remembrance of a shared legacy. The animal nations are my teachers: running with wolves, bounding with bunnies, galloping with a herd, flying low with sparrows... When I am most connected with my self, they offer their medicine and let me see through their eyes. They show me that I am unique and that I belong, for I am a fellow being who inhabits a body made to run, to seek, to explore. As my God-self, I tap into the wellspring that is shared with every other creature of this earth. This is Joy, mined from my Wednesday runs and carried the rest of the week as a gem in my heart for when the critics return or I forget...
Until the next Wednesday morning, when I wake, stretch, and rejoin my pack.
*Creator/Goddess, or whatever language you prefer to use.
Note: Opening quote by Max Ehrmann, from Desiderata: A Poem for a Way of Life