Lately I’ve been running to early morning boot camp. It’s not far. Maybe a 10 minute run each way, depending on if I take the 90-second shortcut through the woods (8 minutes) or stick to the sidewalk (11 minutes). This, in turn, depends on the extent to which I hear people discussing the potential for cougars in our neighbourhood. One morning I came across a deer in the dark December woods. I didn’t actually see it in the tight glow of my headlamp. But I heard the rustle and gallop close behind me. I hope I didn’t wake the neighbours with my instinctive perilous shriek.
In the 16 to 22 minutes of running I really notice things. It’s like the first inhale of cool morning air snaps my senses awake.
Head barely out the door, I listen and look for rain. Most times there is none, though its night visits leave tell-tale signs. The wet stairs. Dripping in the eaves-trough.
Then I listen for bushes rustling. One morning I opened the door at 5:50 to find two deer immediately on the door step nibbling our bushes. Once again, scared the sh*t out of me. They are everywhere.
Heading down our long driveway, it’s the stars. I glance up at them twinkling overhead, unfettered by any urban glow. They always seem bright and close. Like really close.
Then it’s leaves rustling in the wind. And on unusually windy mornings, if I’m lucky, I also hear the waves down on the Bay. Distant, vague crashing sounds of the ocean.
Into the second or third minute of the run, I notice the rhythmic beating of my heart and my exhales. Particularly on that dark road with no street lights where I can’t see much beyond the blackness. I keep my eyes locked on the single driveway light about 500 meters down the straight, dark road. It’s like a beacon, a lighthouse. I run down the middle of the road toward it. In the visual vacuum, I hear the tenor of my foot strike, the cadence of my breath, the swish of arms against my windbreaker. I hear myself through the dark.
Around the final bend, the well-lit intersection emerges. And the world opens up again. Just a minute to two to go. Asphalt glistening. The far off sounds of the main road.
Then on the way way home, it’s the brightening sky, now indigo behind the outline of the Douglas Firs. Just before I come down the hill, I stop to scan the horizon. These days, the peach glow of sunrise is coming up from behind the hills on the other side of the channel. Birds chirping. Sometimes the hoot of an owl. A barking dog. A car engine and a set of headlights.
And always, always…my own breath…regulating, slowing. The heat and damp of my skin. The tingling of work in my legs, as they walk me the last few minutes home.