Eeyore shook himself, and asked somebody to explain to Piglet what happened when you had been inside a river for quite a long time.
It’s been an extraordinary spring. I use the word to mean neither wonderful nor ghastly, but simply beyond ordinary.
At the beginning of the year I had two simple personal goals: to see my first book published in May and to run an ultramarathon in Iceland in July. My book was published, and people seem to be enjoying it, which was my primary hope.
Then we bought a new house, unexpectedly. Doing such a thing had been part of a multi-year plan, which suddenly telescoped into immediacy. This necessitated quickly selling the place we already had, with all the attendant fuss and stress.
Finally, although it seemed the day would never arrive, last week we left the home we had lived in for 21 years and moved to a large, tree-covered property a couple of hours from Toronto, on the banks of a river. Watching the water flow past our back door is energizing, mesmerizing, and restful at the same time. The local running and cycling will be terrific and in the back of my mind I am wondering if I can use the river as a sort of Endless Pool to get my swimming back into shape.
In early May I was well into training for the trail race in Iceland – a spectacular event that I had chosen to celebrate turning 65, which would test me as much as any Ironman ever did – when I slipped and fell, badly damaging my right hamstring. The rug was pulled out from under my meticulously constructed Iceland training plan.
For two weeks I could barely walk. I didn’t run for another four. The Vikings would probably just have gone out and run anyway, chopping the bad leg off to reduce drag. My Gaelic ancestors would have holed up somewhere with a supply of Scotch.
The other day I went out and ran for twenty minutes, some of them uncomfortable; I took each step as if I were being chased by a Zamboni, frightened of slipping and reinjuring myself. Yesterday I ran a bit farther, with a bit less discomfort and a bit more joy, and today I made it even farther. If I can keep moving forward like this, I hope to get myself to a place where I feel like a runner again.
You see, this is what it means to ask so much of my body: it doesn’t always do what I want it to, but if I’m lucky, it doesn’t completely quit on me, but revives. Stirring dull roots with the spring rain.
At the beginning of the year, I had no immediate plans to buy a house and move away, and no plans to suffer one of my most debilitating injuries ever. Extraordinary changes have flowed over my world like a river in spring flood. If my athletic life has taught me nothing else, it is that plans change without notice, and that I must be prepared for quick course changes or simply give up.
The river I step in is not the river I stand in. Dreams flow past and are lost. New ones are made and new plans are drawn up to achieve them. As John Lennon sang, there’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be. I am here and nowhere else, and happy to be so. We’ll see what happens around the next turning.