I didn’t have a plan for this morning. Usually I go to bed with an idea of whether the dogs and I will go for a run the next morning, and where. We run three or four days each week, and go for a walk the other mornings. Walks require much less planning. Rarely, if the weather is foul, we might skip a morning outing altogether, but if we do we usually make up for it with an afternoon walk.
My stomach was in knots yesterday and most of last night. This happens when I’m feeling stressed. I knew that my stress was related to an appointment I had scheduled this afternoon. I had been asked to help a divorcing couple mediate their issues. I actually enjoy this sort of work, but it’s not free of stress. Negotiating the details of a split is always emotional and stressful for the couple. It’s impossible for me to not absorb some of that.
But this particular mediation had an extra layer of stress: how to conduct the session practicing social distancing and wearing masks? So much of how I work as a mediator is based on my ability to read the parties’ body language, their facial expressions in particular. Are they feeling hurt? Is that anger boiling under the surface? I need to catch these emotions quickly and prevent them from sidetracking the discussion. But with all of us wearing masks, would I be as effective?
Plus I couldn’t help but ask myself: is earning this money worth risking getting sick with COVID-19? As a runner and athlete, I’m especially cognizant of the long-term, even permanent damage the virus could do to my lungs should I come down with a serious case. Yet our small, rural community has been mostly spared, so maybe I’m overthinking this?
No wonder my stomach was upset.
Western meadowlarks love to usher in the dawn, singing loudly before the other songbirds who wait until sunrise. Dawn here in Idaho’s mountains is roughly 4:30 am right now, with daylight arriving around 6:30 am. The meadowlarks woke me at 4:30 and I was unable to fall back to sleep. I was expecting rain this morning, based on the forecast, and hadn’t planned a run. At daylight I was surprised to find it dry, although overcast.
The boys were eager for some time in the forest. (But then, they’re always eager.) I realized the best antidote for my anxious stomach was for all of us to go for a run, to go be in the forest, in the mountains and burn some energy.
So we did.
While running along single track dirt trails sometimes still covered in old snow in the north-facing areas, I found myself thinking about John Muir, the famous Scottish-American naturalist. I’d recently read a celebration of his birthday; he was born April 21, 1838 and died December 24, 1914.
I think John would understand my love of these Idaho mountains, my need to spend time in them most days, my naturalist bent.
Photo: John Muir, 1907.
So in honor of the 182nd anniversary of John’s birth, here are some of his quotes mixed with photos taken during this morning’s run in the mountains. I think my dogs knew I needed to loosen up and laugh a bit. Finn rolled happily on every patch of snow we found. (What do you get when you mix excited dogs and snow? Snorgasms!) The dogs were very entertaining, their antics successful – I laughed out loud, knowing no other human would hear me. In fact, that was perhaps the best part; I find clarity and strength in solitude. When it was time to do the mediation, I was relaxed.
Most people are on the world, not in it.John Muir
This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.John Muir
I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do.John Muir
Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.John Muir
Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another.John Muir
Going to the mountains is going home.John Muir
None of Nature’s landscapes are ugly so long as they are wild.John Muir
The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.John Muir
Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.John Muir
I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.John Muir
When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.John Muir
Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.John Muir
How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains.John Muir
And finally, this one, which I’ve found to be utterly, completely and profoundly true:
In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.John Muir