Today I went for a run. I haven't gone since the end of November. I love to run but during the harsh cold winter I have to stop for fear of either slipping and causing serious injury or freezing the skin on my face. So finally the temperatures have gotten out of the "your skin will freeze in less than a minute" phase of winter to the more comfortable "hovering just below freezing" days that lead into spring.
I run a route that I often run. I live in a small town on the edge of rural south western Ontario. I walk to the end of my street and turn right and I'm immediately on a rural road embraced by the lush farm land that drives the local economy and is the backbone of this little town I now call home.
Except of course it's not so lush, though no less breathtaking. I run out into the middle of nowhere and immediately I fall into pace with my little dog happily trotting along beside me. I'm not in condition and I make sure to run slowly and carefully but while my body is a little out of shape from its winter hibernation my soul quickly familiarizes itself with these surroundings, recognising how refreshing and revitalising this exercise is to my spirit.
For me running isn't exercise, it's meditation. And as often happens when I run, I enter a state of complete and utter bliss as I trot along. I forget I'm exercising. My lungs strain but I'm almost oblivious to it as I notice the wonder of nature coming into focus as I take in my surroundings. The familiar path I've been down so many times takes on its usual wondrous quality. The trees, black and stark and still are picturesque against the grey-blue palette that is the sky. Clouds, stacked layer upon layer like so many blankets waiting to warm a cold body, sit in the distance, the earth itself their shelf. I run in wonder and, like so often happens when I am running things suddenly become more focused, colours are crisper, the edges of the trees are sharp like newly drawn pencil lines. I can imagine the entire scene unfolding before me on an artists easel, still, three dimensional, cold and perfect.
I often enter this state of clarity on my run. Usually though, this very same route is alive with activity. There is a golf course on the east side of my road and there are golfers there almost always during golfing season. Those closer to the road wave a friendly hello as I go by and I wave back. The air is ripe with the sound of birds chattering wordlessly to their neighbours and flying about with due diligence to feed their hungry offspring waiting in the nest. Further along a gaggle of Canada Geese swim in a canal and just past that, across a cement bridge, there is a farm of jersey cows, their large brown eyes glancing up at me with innocent wonder as I jog by. Once, after I passed the geese and crossed the bridge, the cattle started to run along beside me as I ran by. I had never seen cows run like that and I felt in that moment as if I were completely at one with them as we raced along the fence of the farm until they were stopped by an adjacent fence. They looked on at me with large eyes and sad faces that almost looked disappointed that they had to stop. It was a magical moment.
Today though, there was stillness as I ran. I noticed details that only the stillness can reveal. Tiny kernels of corn scattered helter-skelter amongst the gravel on the shoulder where I ran, a reminder of the fall harvest that had been dropped as corn was pulled along this rural route in large red trailers behind green John Deere tractors. Feed to get the cattle through the long winter ahead had been carefully pulled along my running trail spilling little golden nuggets along the way. I had run behind them inhaling the dust from their tires as they rattled along with their heavy loads the previous fall.
I see trees frozen in crystal ponds formed by the sudden mild weather of last week followed by a freeze. They are almost mystical, frozen in water, frozen in time. On the other side a flooded field almost begged to be skated on by mini Sidney Crosbys, an amalgam of Devils, Bruins, Canadiens and Leafs in size-small skating jerseys, clamber clumsily toward a makeshift goal aiming for the ultimate Canadian boys' dream, the NHL. "He shoots, he scores" I hear them shout in jubilation as little Sidney scores a goal. I imagine I can hear the scratch of the tiny blades on the ice as I run by the empty ice pond to my goal, the mailbox where I always turn around.
As I ponder the realisation that there is indeed beauty in the stillness of the winter that I hadn't dreamed existed in the golden-red runs of the previous autumn I become aware of a change. As I head back, I feel the wind on my face, a breeze I hadn't noticed gently on my back now stings my cheeks a little and plays with my breath as I am forced to work a little harder. A bird flies low over the field, one lonely bird, swooping low on the breeze across the barren field until he disappears into the bush in the distance. One little bird. I also see green interspersed with white on the golf course, a sign of the spring soon to come.
Not only is there beauty in the stillness, but there is something else, something even more precious than beauty. There is potential. The fields are there, waiting in quiet perfection for the seeds that will spring to life and feed my neighbours and I and give the farmer his livelihood. Grass waits beneath the muddy ground to spring forth from its dormant state to once again carpet the land with green. The buds in the trees hold the secret to leaves as yet unfolded and at the edge of the golf course a wild rose bush, empty now of blooms yet holding a treasure so filled with promise I can almost smell the fragrance of those blossoms of the future. I see them, lush and perfect. I see them, they are right there! My little dog is confused when I stop to look at the barren shrub and is happy when I once again pick up the pace. He does not see the roses and is happier lumbering along in his puppy-dog way.
I slow down to a walk as I get closer to my street and I feel the peace and joy that I always get from running in nature. I feel a renewed hope that even in the middle of a cool February day, right there, just below the surface is potential, the potential that is inside all of us waiting for the moment, the opportunity, permission if you will, to blossom. In the silence, in the stillness, in moments of quiet contemplation is where potential lies. It lies in you and it lies in me and it lies in a frost-blackened rose bush on the corner of a forlorn golf course.
I know it's there, I know for sure it's there. It's just waiting for sunshine, it's waiting for the rain, it's waiting. I know it is. I know because just earlier today I saw the roses.
Just remember, in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows, lies the seed, that with the sun's love, in the spring, becomes the rose