philosophy

Running with the Lord

by Howard Hain

cezanne-bather-with-outstreched-arms-1878

Paul Cezanne, “Bather With Outstretched Arms”, 1878


Years ago when I was living in San Francisco, a group of us used to go hiking out in Marin County, just across the giant red expanse of the Golden Gate Bridge. We went often. A group of both men and women, mostly single, mostly without a care in the world. I think every one of us was under thirty, or thereabouts.

My favorite part was running down. Don’t get me wrong, the hike upward was terrific too, that’s when we discussed ideas and dreams and laughed almost all the while, breaking up into smaller groups of two or three or maybe even four, and then drifting back together—like a herd of elk, for they too have not a care in the world—only to once again drift apart, this time usually paired up with a different companion or combination thereof. None of it was planned or had any real intention of course, it just happened: laughter, ideas, silence, stops, gazes outward, waiting, speeding up, sipping water, laughter, drifting apart….it was divine.

Like the elk, it all seemed to be instinct.

But something special happened when we reached the top. After we reached the top. After we caught our breath, removed our backpacks, and viewed the scape. After we had eaten a little snack or a small sandwich, something light, usually along with an apple or granola bar, maybe even a small handful of assorted nuts and a few of those purple chips that all San Franciscans seem to love. It was time to descend.

My friends used to laugh and say that it was because I’m an Indian. They would go on and on about my “Cherokee” blood, and the fact that the first three letters of my first name spelled “how” only served as additional fodder. But there was some truth in it. Not only because I actually do have some American Indian blood, but more so because at that time I was very much a native. Primitive. Raw. Free.

That’s why I would run down.

I loved it. I would run as fast as I could go. Cutting back and forth, hopping over logs, propelling myself around turns by pivoting hard on the corner tree. I loved it. I loved the way I felt. I loved that my weight added to the speed, that what normally would slow me down, would normally make me huff and puff, now drove me forward, propelled me toward whence I came.

It was wonderful. I was free. I was free. I was free. It was the closest this man ever came to flying.

This morning, almost twenty years later, in urban New Jersey—just across the Hudson River from Manhattan—I went for a jog. They just opened a new circular path around the old reservoir resting slightly higher than its surrounding cities of Weehawken and Union City. It is very pleasant.

I wasn’t sure how far I’d be able to make it. And after a very short distance I thought to myself, “Oh boy, I’m gonna have to stop already.” But I didn’t. I thought about posture. I thought about positioning of hands. I thought about breath. I quickly realized that the Lord has taught me much.

The posture of prayer is important. How we position ourselves is powerful. And breathing is everything.

I made it around three times. I smiled almost all the way. My pace was pretty good. I did alright, not bad for a man I thought just a few minutes before was getting old. I think even the newly-minted goslings admired my gait. And even if they didn’t, it was nice to be in a place to think that maybe they did.

I walked a lap and then began to make my way back toward my home, my one bedroom apartment that I share with my most recent and till-death-do-us-part hiking companions: my beautiful, delicately strong bride of twelve years, and my precious little girl, who at six-and-a-half runs and laughs like the wind.

I was a few streets away, coming down 18th and crossing Summit, when it happened. I never really noticed it before. The next two blocks were a steady, fairly steep decline. I began to run.

I loved it. I ran as fast as I could go. Cutting back and forth, hopping over the cracks in the sidewalks, propelling myself around the turn by pivoting hard on the corner stop sign. I loved it. I loved the way I felt. I loved that my weight added to the speed, that what normally would slow me down, would normally make me huff and puff, now drove me forward, propelled me toward whence I came.

It was wonderful. I was free. I was free. I was free. It was the closest this man ever came to flying.

For a moment I thought I was on the outskirts of San Francisco.


 

(May/16)

 

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