Today as I ran in the chilly forty-degree drizzle, thoughts of past times would come to me as momentary glimpses afforded me when the passing cars would allow. Knowing I had to be aware of my surroundings, I couldn’t just drift off into deep thought, so safety was of the essence and thought was only of consequence.
My training was an easy ten mile jaunt over hilly terrain along the main vein of travel that connected our countryside with the link to Hwy 421 and Siler City, known as McClaurin Road. I don’t like to run the route, which it is probably one of my least favorites of all the places I’ve run because of the traffic, but it’s easy and convenient. Its ease of access reminded me of one of my first routes; another country road back in Indiana.
The road back then was also paved, but rough from wear during the winter months of freezing, the ground being forced to and fro from the tumultuous upheavals of freezing and thawing. It was also one large loop that was almost exactly three miles in length, perfect for the beginning runner. The only problem with the course was the traffic, it too being a little narrow country road. Of course thirty years ago, traffic was much lighter than today, almost everywhere and especially out in the countryside of southern Indiana. There was one major hill on the road, one we called Oak Hill. I don’t know where it received its name, but it was quite possibly an island many eons ago when the world was in its infancy and that area was covered with water. However, towering above the fields of corn, it was in a sense an icon of sorts, standing tall above the sea of green below, one that would become golden when the tassels atop the corn would come into bloom. On those summer days, the smell of the tar on the road would mix with the smell of the endless rows of corn, one I can still remember even today. The air was so thick with the smell of corn you could almost taste it.
Here in this area of North Carolina fields of corn are rare.
So as I ran along watching and listening for the next car, my mind would search for the next trigger to take it off into another void of thought and recollection.
I passed the home of one of the local newspaper writer, Bob Wachs. Evidently some of the cars passing me had been some of that family that had just gathered on his front porch and were being greeted and welcomed in the door as I passed by. I wondered how many of them noticed me just then, or if they had no idea I even existed as they had reached their destination and the joyous family reunion was just beginning. I was the onlooker, like the cattle lying in the pasture nearby, watching the humans carry on as if in some big celebration of sorts that kept them inside and out of sight. The thought came to me, “I wonder what they’d do if I just ran up and invited myself in for dinner?” I began to drift off to Thanksgiving Dinner’s past when suddenly another car tore around the curve ahead forcing me off the road and quickly searching for safe footing as the blast of fury and wind passed.
I continued on, thankful that I wasn’t tied to any table and was free to immerse myself in the cold, fresh air of outdoors this dreary overcast day. It’s funny how days like today make you want to stay inside and hide from the raw embrace of the outside air, but once you step outside and take the plunge into the elements, you find it’s not all that bad; in fact it’s almost refreshing. However, as I neared the end of my run I noticed the wind changing direction and the temperature seemed to dip even farther. If I hadn’t already had a full steam of body heat created, I would’ve certainly found myself colder than I could already gladly entertain. Thankful to find myself trudging up the last big hill toward our farm, I watched as my own herd of cattle lay in repose, chewing their cuds and watching another being trot by, uncaring, unfazed by my presence. Their nonchalant attitude gave me comfort, for they were at peace, and with that knowing, so was I.
After I had reached my stopping point, I walked a bit and soon found myself in the rocker on the back porch with my shoes and socks off for a few brief moments. As I cooled down I thought of the times I would wade in the icy waters of the pool at my mom’s house in Florida the last time I was there for her funeral a couple Decembers ago. I thought of my pond down below the house and wondered how cold it might be today and if wading in it would also bring me back to that pool in Florida. My thought was broken by the hunter’s truck driving back down the hill, obviously taking a break for lunch as it had just passed noon after I returned home. The mist was heavier now and again, I was thankful to have the shelter of the porch upon which I sat to cover me as I sat resting in the rocking chair. The handrail of the porch gleamed proudly with the new coat of paint, another task completed, and another step closer to the sale of the farm.
There would be no turkey dinner for us today, but that’s okay.
Both of my children had oral surgery yesterday and both are on liquid diets. Their ordeal was precipitated by the fact that they wouldn’t miss school after the surgery if done during the Thanksgiving break. Meanwhile, my wife is sick with a head cold and I have to work tonight; fun I know. Yet even with all this, I know there is a purpose for what we do. There will be other Thanksgivings; there will be other dinner tables to gather around, all this I know and with that I can also take comfort.
Yes, today was a good day, and for that I was thankful.