Sunday, February 27, 2011

Getting Off the Bike Path

A few years ago, I was jogging for my health. This meditation grew out of one morning on a local bike path.

“Come aside and rest for a while,” Jesus invited the disciples in the Gospels. And well he might; they’d been sent out on a preaching tour and were exhilarated and exhausted by their solo efforts. (The text doesn’t say what Jesus did after he sent out the Seventy; perhaps enjoyed some rest and solitude of his own?)
            Those words were in my mind on the paved bike path this morning, where I’d gone to walk and jog because yesterday’s rain had made the ground too muddy. I can sum up in one word the problem with the bike path: bikes. They go entirely too fast, powered by earnest or cheerful people. And I knew that I looked like a poster child for all that I’ve held against joggers and runners—that grim “do or die” expression on my face. When a cheerful man on a bike passed and cheerily called “Good morning,” I let out “Hi” in a tone so grim it was clear I begrudged him the oxygen that the greeting required.
            A warning, then, that grim tone, and one I was eager to heed. I was beginning to have greater empathy for large dogs suffering from hip dysplasia, wondering about a knee brace. Time to get off the well-traveled bike path and explore a side path into the glen that I’d not noticed before.
            My pace slowed as I walked on mulched paths, drier than I’d expected. Finally I dropped my arms to my side and gave up aerobic movement for the time being. I loved moving into the forest with my familiar slower rhythms, enchanted to notice the clusters of white fungus rosettes blooming on a fallen dead tree trunk. The touch-me-nots were still tightly in bud, but so profuse as to narrow the path.
            Come aside and rest. We are all too busy, enslaved to our fast pace, whether on a bike path or at a computer. I can in seconds receive my work in e-files that used to require copying and mailing; naturally it follows thatdeadlines become more constricted, too. I am, as someone put it, living too fast.
            The path continued to be relatively dry and very interesting. I’d thought I’d known all of the ways to enter the glen, but here was either a new or a forgotten one to explore. I followed it until it started down into the gorge (which I knew would mean the exertion of climbing back up out of the gorge), and then walked back toward the car. On the way, I passed a welcome sign that reminded me “Go softly. We are guests here.” I took it as a challenge—rest, go softly. Don’t become trapped by the ever-faster quest for efficiency and productivity. You are more than what you do.

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