After barely one mile, my left knee started to buckle. Blame it on a tight IT band, the 6 hours of yard work I did the day before, or last September’s shoddy surgery meant to get me running again (it didn’t). Whatever the case, all I could think about was failure.
I freaked out, a hitch in each step. I wasn’t as concerned about turning around and limping home as I was about the big picture. What if my knee says no? Merely glancing at this prospect devastates me.
I stopped on a wide and shady shoulder to reassess.
In my ultra running days, I learned that pain comes and goes. But sometimes it lingers long enough to cause concern. Fortunately, it rarely did more than temporarily slow me down.
But pain was a good lesson. It was always frustrating, but humbling too. Also, it often served as a diversion from whatever other mental gauntlet I might have otherwise been enduring. And there were plenty. But I learned how to breathe in a way that made the pain disappear. Yes, breathe. Fill the lungs from the bottom-up and offer an intention with each inhale. So that’s what I did yesterday. I breathed into my knee (yes, it’s possible). Within minutes, the pain was a memory and I was on my way.
The rest of the walk, however, seemed riddled by dark metaphor. Most of which reminded me that a walk of this nature, be it yesterday’s training distance or an attempt to cross the bloody continent, requires a ‘death’ of some sort. After all, most things that end up aside lonely roads are often gassed-out, spent, expired.
Which yesterday, included me, apparently.
So for 6 hours I considered my own mortality while the universe offered related breadcrumbs.
I noticed a private street named “Red Drum” which reminded me of The Shining. That scene when the kid mutters, “red rum, red rum,” knife in-hand, then writes his infamous mantra on the closet door.
Shortly thereafter I passed a tree loaded with vultures. They flapped their giant wings as I walked beneath them. Air pressing against their black feathers made a noise more easily felt than heard.
Then a pair of black leather boots with laces tied together, draped over a power line. I always believed that this was meant to honor a fallen soldier or gang member (or one’s virginity).
A tattered Polaroid photo captioned “MOMMY” laid askew beyond a broken Hefty bag of trash. Who tosses a photo of their mom?
A roadside shrine. Tall white cross adorned with a bow. Flowers marking the spot where the charred remains of murder victim, Daphne Forster, were found in 2013.
It was almost too much to take in.
“I get it, I get it!” I shouted to the road.
And then I found a playing card. The 8 of hearts. When I returned home I looked up the card’s meaning:
“Charisma galore!” the website said. “The person associated with an 8 of hearts is a natural charmer.”
“They have an innate ability to connect with the needy child in all of us and affirm our lovability.”
But then the kicker:
“People who encounter this card live to experience, and deeply interact with, the adventure of life—both in a literal and figurative manner.”
A dear friend summed it up for me. She wrote, “Yes, it’s all about infinity – immortality and love. Maybe you saw what you coded as death and those signs were really telling you to remember your essence and true nature. Love. That card is all about love, affirmation, and really seeing people. That’s one of your gifts. For sure.”
Yesterday, through images of death, I learned a little bit more about love. About life.
Thanks a bunch!