By Francis Marion – April 9th, 2017
“Time is the fire in which we burn.” – Delmore Schwartz
Yesterday was the first day of spring training for me. I run all year, but only in the flats throughout the winter. December through March the hills are kind of treacherous. They are covered in a combination of slick, rotting leaves, mud and sometimes ice and snow. This year was especially bad for winter conditions. I spent almost the entire month of January on the treadmill in the basement because of a winter the likes of which we haven’t experienced in the PNW for many years.
But yesterday, as the sun finally came out and warmed up the air I knew it was time. My favorite trail to run with the kids is a ten-kilometer route with twelve to thirteen hundred feet in elevation gain. We jog most of it except where the grade is too steep, each time trying to shave more and more time off our previous attempt.
As I hopped up the first flight of stairs leading to the head of the trail I paused and looked back out over the valley. I thought back to my late teens and early twenties when my friends and I used to do trails like this at a steady run. We’d race to the top to see who could get there the quickest. I shook my head. Now I’m just happy to trot along at a solid pace and enjoy the view while trying to improve little by little each time we go.
I stood at the trail head stretching my legs and watched my daughter run up the stairs behind me with a small twenty-pound pack on her back. As she rounded the top to the landing I told her to take the bag off and give it to me.
“You don’t have to carry that dad,” she said to me with a smile. I considered it for a moment. I always carried the pack, even though the extra weight slowed me down because as ‘dad’ it was my job to do so. I smiled back at her and thought about it. It would be nice for someone else to do the heavy lifting for a change, especially on the steeper bits.
I’m beginning to recognize I am at a pivot point in my life. Things aren’t quite the same as they once were. I’m not as strong or as fast as I used to be and if I allow my health to slip, even a little, it manifests itself in ways it never did in the past. Recovery is more time consuming as well. An extra five pounds gained over the Christmas season is no longer shed in a couple of weeks. It takes months. And it hurts.
Everything is like this I suppose. Critters, people, forests, mountain ranges, societies and I guess even planets and stars. All of it has its time, its rise and its fall.
So I’ve quit worrying. I’m taking the old sages advice and giving up concern for lent.
“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power or our will. ”
Epictetus was right. Time sees to most things and we control very little of it. Our world, our societies especially, are like forests that have been neglected and grown old. They are in need of a fire in order to start over and regrow as no amount of pruning, cutting or planting can fix what we have done. They have had their moment.
Some will see this as a morbid point of view. But I see it simply as realistic. I ask, who are we that we believe we can stop what time has chosen for us? Do we think we are God?
Modern man thinks he is immortal. He no longer considers his death and our nations reflect that childishness. I was watching a video the other day, of a hunter stalking a Cape Buffalo in the Caprivi, and was struck by how much modern man is like Syncerus Caffer. Strong, confident and dangerous in numbers and unaware that the hunter, that time, stands nearby, rifle at the shoulder ready to claim its prize.
Hunting season and the high country are only a few short months away, so I took the pack from my daughter, shouldered it and tightened the straps. From the top of my own hill I can see the downward slope and so I carry the extra twenty pounds up the trail.
We, like the buffalo, go from grass to meat to grass and think little of it. Until it is too late. Time will do the same to me. But for now, I can still carry the pack. Less for the sake of extending something I cannot stop and more to simply improve the quality.
So it is, onward and upward I go.