As I run downhill into the great wide green park, a Tom Petty song pours through my earbuds:
I got someone who loves me tonight
I got over $1,000 in a bank, and I’m all right
Look deep in the eyes of love
And find out what you were looking for
I got a room at the top of the world tonight
And I ain’t comin’ down
My running takes me past a couple chatting by a pond, parents pushing little ones in strollers, a woman laying out picnic fixings. I’m pulled by the sights before me and the sounds playing in my head. The body obeys my will, legs pumping, lungs huffing, skin sweating. A minor miracle that I am still running after all these years. My knees should be gone by now, or my wind, or my will. But someone ran before me, showing me the way.
Running under the mighty maple and oak trees of the park, I feel sheltered by their roof of leaves and their ancient strength. I always run underneath them in an invisible path known only to me.
My iPod summons “He’s Gone Away,” a lovely instrumental by Pat Metheny and Charlie Haden, just as I am passing by a picnic table in a tree-sheltered glade. I know I must stop and sit here. This is the tune we played at my father’s memorial service as soundtrack to a slideshow of his life. My sister chose it because it was this album, “Beyond the Missouri Sky,” that gave her comfort night after night following Mom and Dad’s passing.
I first sit, then lie on the rough wooden table, looking up through the canopy of leaves at the sky above. Patches of bright blue are flecked with soft white clouds blowing by from north to south. Here, the sky speaks to my mind.
I love this sky because Dad taught me to; I adore these mighty trees because he fought forest fires as a young man; rest from my running because he circled the track every day between classes at MSU. I love listening to this song because mom played “Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey?” and “Moonlight on Vermont” on the baby grand piano she inherited from grandma, who played ragtime at the New Year’s Eve parties.
The sun starts to glow behind a cloud, then breaks clear into open sky, gloriously, blinking through the roof of leaves overhead. I weep because this is the heart they gave me, easily moved by the mystery of the world and the emotions welling deep inside.
All these feelings, gifts, inclinations, wonderings, came from them, to me. And all of it came from God, through Mom and Dad, through me, to my children, to all my loved ones.
Why do I say it all comes from God? Because I choose to. It is one of the few decisions over which I have any say, and I say it every day.
My iPod summons U2, and I know I must lie a moment longer.
I was speeding on the subway
Through the stations of the cross
Every eye looking every other way
Counting down till the pain will stop
At the moment of surrender
Of vision over visibility
I did not notice the passers by
And they did not notice me
The breeze dries my tears and cools my sweat. I sit up. No one passing by. It is time to run again.
So run I do. It’s what I was made for.