and so I ran into the woods despite the water streaming from the sky. it was bright, and green, and shimmering in the rain. only the missing lab and the bouncing cell on my hip were unusual. slow at first and then too fast, as I got anxious about being out too far when they called. over the second covered bridge, past the cows, through the canopy of wet, green leaves, I ran. "he'll be okay. he'll be okay," I repeated, each time I missed his sprite, wet, happiness racing ahead. "he'll be okay."
"is he ready for surgery yet," I asked, as I made a brief stop at my car? instead, another 90 minutes to explore my former home. the 5K-loop was the natural next choice. it used to be my usual route, just steps out my front door. running it again for the first time in two years, it felt exactly the same. that slight Jefferson hill caused the same frustrating windedness, closely followed by the same thought that such a small hill shouldn't feel this tough, which was followed by the thought that I always have the same thought every time I run up this tiny hill!
and so I ran. around the corner, I approached my former backyard and began my usual examination of what had changed. I still couldn't understand why they built that big shed right in the middle of the yard. the home above came into view. it was still yellow, but the white shutters were a nice addition. looked like somebody was living upstairs, too. they must have finished remodeling it. I wondered what it looked like inside.
and so I ran. the predicatable stiff wind hit my face, as I headed past the house and down the hill. I was flooded with memories and emotions my former home triggered. I loved that house. I loved this little town. the number of memories was so intense I wondered if I had made a stupid decision running this route just one hour before my dog underwent major surgery. I reached the bottom of the hill and turned left. the memory ticker tape whirred.
and so I ran, spending a moment with each memory as it ticked into consciousness. the anxiety of the buying process, bidding on a home we desperately wanted but weren't sure we could afford, settled in my stomach. the elation of winning the bid, and the moment walking through the door--it was our first home--buzzed in my head. I recalled the pride of possessing a home only owned once before. The original owners, both deceased, built and lived in that home for 45 years, and their pride revealed itself in every door knob, window, and floor board.
behind the school I ran, ticking through moments, happy and sad, bitter and sweet, as the rain continued clearing my path. first home together became first home alone when my spouse walked out the door. I was suddenly as aware of that pain, disappointment, and confusion as I was the puddles beneath my feet. joy, heartache and gratitude flushed quickly into my gut when I recalled our beloved German Shepard, her slow decline, and the final moments of her life. we were able to lovingly and comfortably end her life in our backyard because our small-town vet willingly came to the house.
I ran past the post-office. difficult memories, pain, and regret swooped in. the resentment caused by depression which stole my spouse, my job, my finances, and my joy at home stung my soul. loneliness and pain knifed through me when I flashed back to drinking alone. I was sad and pathetic sitting with my bottles in the living room I had once so proudly created. suicide... and then, in an instant, warmth and respect replaced the stinging. the raindrops became warm tears of grace, gratitude and dignity. that home and this community carried me when I could not carry myself, when I could not care less.
and so I ran, over the covered bridge and back into the park. my heart swelled, as I splashed and remembered the local police who became familiar with my illness, yet never regarded me with shame or disrespect. my neighbor, a Mayo MD no less, he anonymously remodeled my front entryway after the ambulance crew smashed through the old, oak, triple-locked door and splintered the door jam. if I hadn't been told weeks later, his act would have remained selflessly unknown. the pharmacist, and I smiled when I thought of him, today reminds me that homes are for sale in town and wonders when I plan to move back. I missed that sense of belonging. despite myself, I was part of this community. the warmth of belonging enveloped me, and I smiled shyly as I slowed to a walk.
and so I stopped running. I arrived at my car and looked at my watch. it was time. anxiety stirred in the pit of my stomach just a bit. but it was okay. I trusted it was going to be okay. I was eerily, strangely, warmly calm. the past 10 years of life had just ticked by. I spent moments with feelings I didn't like. I had memories I regretted. I had loss, after loss, after loss tumble past. Yet, here I was, trusting everything was going to be alright. here I was, soaking wet but feeling warm, embraced, and peaceful. it was as if the rain had flushed me from the inside out. I was splattered with mud, but inside I was cleaned. I was clean. he was going to be okay. I was going to be okay. I could love this town again. everything was going to be alright.
I needed that.