Monday. Despite my best efforts, I am sick. I tried all weekend to drown these unwelcome germs in echinacea tea, in soup full of garlic and ginger, I tried my best to stay healthy — but this time, the germs win. When I bike to work, up the hill, my head is so stuffed I can’t even blow snot rockets. Instead, I breathe through my mouth, tongue curled up against the roof of it to avoid sucking air directly against my tender throat. I go slowly; I trudge; I snuffle.
I’m surprised and, to be honest, a little offended that I actually got sick, even if it’s just a semi-hideous head cold. It’s been long enough since my last brush with disease that I sort of forgot what it’s like, that throat-clenching, head-stuffing, energy-sucking annoyingness of being ill. Regardless, it’s a good reminder. I am lucky. Overwhelmingly, I am healthy, and despite a hard ride to work I’m already feeling the return of my normal self when I bike back home. Like any setback, it’s a good reminder to appreciate what I so often, so invisibly enjoy.
Today. After a morning spent hunkered over my computer, staring at the dots and pixels of a project for my brother, I finally can’t take it anymore. The emerging sunshine calls, and I find myself on my bike, wearing my running shoes, heading to Forest Park.
Balch Creek flows full, dancing over the rocks and downed trees, tickling the ferns that lean precipitously over its surface. I run upstream and veer off onto the Wildwood Trail, the number of people trickling off the further I go. Despite some lingering stuffiness, I feel strong, healthy, my stride effortless; I run and run and run, each bend in the trail seducing me to go further, always the next turn, just a little more, see what’s beyond. This is how I disappear, I think, one bend to the next to the next until I’m so far away from where I started that it’s only a distant memory of somewhere I once was.
Finally, I turn around, relishing the quiet of the woods, the birdsong that even in the sunshine seems a little optimistic for this early January. When I get back to my bike, an hour and a half later, I am both ravenously hungry and wholly satisfied. This is what I want in my life; this, this being outside, this dissolving into the forest, this effortless movement, this is what I want.
At home on our sunshiny porch, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by how lucky I am. I grip the arms of my chair, trying hard to keep from spinning off into the atmosphere, rooting myself in my happiness instead of floating away in it.