By Jon Berry
THE GEORGE HARRISON LYRIC GOT THIS year right: Little Darling, it has been a long, cold, lonely winter. More snow. More bone-chilling days. More people I know going through pain, loss, hardship, and harrowing near-misses that there-but-for-the-grace-of-God could have been worse, than any winter I can remember.
But in nature there is more sun – almost two hours more a day than the first of the year. The thaw has begun. As always, it’s not fast enough for me -- nature’s version of the 12-step world’s most sweetly humbling three words, “in God’s time.”
A day in the 60s, then snow. A spring-like downpour beats away patches of ice; I look earthward with expectation (a.k.a. a “premeditated resentment,” another great 12-step turn of phrase). Any crocuses? No. The next day, cold blows in; the puddles are frozen again.
It’s natural in this in-between season for a mind to drift forward, then back. After all, Nature is going back-and-forth. Maybe the trick is to follow Nature’s lead: Bring a bit more light into our interior lives each day. Force Spring into our hearts, like the forsythia and quince on the kitchen counter (thanks, Robin). Get outdoors when we can, but keep the stocking-hats and gloves handy.
I sometimes feel a bit old to call myself a runner. My PRs are likely long gone. But there’s a new season to look forward to. A friend, Stuart, called from the city this morning to report he’d just finished a couple loops of the reservoir in Central Park, and, yeah, it was icy, but it felt good. “When are you getting out?” “Now.” “Go to it.” "Right."
Leatherman’s Loop, a 10k rite of spring at the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Katonah, NY, is two months away. It’s is romp of a run, coursing through streams, hills, woods, and a mud flat that last year almost pulled my shoes off, then more hills, winding up at the “splashdown,” a water crossing that, depending on recent rainfall, can be shin-to-chest deep. You finish soaked, muddy, happy, dizzy with gratitude. What’s better than that?
A blessing is given every year before the race. It’s a sublime moment. The thousand runners pawing at the starting line fall silent all at once, and Danny Martin, the Irish-born retired priest who is the Leatherman’s spiritual counselor (he calls the race “a communion more than a competition”), gives the following prayer, a goosebumpily wonderful reminder of the grace of waking up to the world, perfect for this regrounding time of year:
Beauty before me when I run.
Beauty behind me when I run.
Beauty below me when I run.
Beauty above me when I run.
Beauty beside me when I run.
Beauty within me when I run.
I see Beauty all around.
In beauty may I walk.
In beauty may I see.
In beauty may we all be.
For more on the Leatherman’s Loop, including photos, stories, and information on signing up for future years’ races (sorry, 2011 was booked up long ago), go to the race’s web site. The blessing is in the FAQ section. Click here for more.
To see how much more sun we’re getting each day, search the Internet for “sunrise sunset.” Or click here.
I didn’t realize it until researching this piece, but “Here Comes the Sun” actually did come out of a tough winter for George Harrison. The details are on the Wikipedia entry for the song. Or just go out and buy Abbey Road. It has one of the two best sides of a rock album that I know.
Last, for the full text of ee cummings' "In-Just Spring," go to the Poetry Foundation website (click here) and search by the poem's title.