As a child, I would play in the afternoon. There were no structured games; life was just a merry dance for us children for we were not even worried about the evening. Behind the old cottage where we lived, there was a garden full of wild flowers that acted like a buffer or rather a transition zone between the well-kept vegetable beds attached to the cottage and the woods beyond. Chasing butterflies in the garden was what life was all about.
As an adult, I often wondered if running was all about chasing rainbows. A fellow senior runner, a regular like myself, once told me that running is about being always fit enough to realize one’s dreams and, yes, if one falls down, it’s about being able to get up, limp a little if in pain, and then start running again.
Youth is that stage in life when all possibilities look real. I ran, and I ran after my dreams that looked so clear, three dimensional and concrete! Life moved on fast - forward, each day I ran with specific, measured, scientific dreams for money and power. My knees hurt but the dreams looked so real and close to a rainbow I could catch only if I ran a little faster. At the end of the day, I was tired but my eyes shone at the sight of brighter lights.
Each morning I ran like a man possessed - on beaches, hills, riversides, busy streets, highways and empty dirt tracks. I ran as a child runs after butterflies. And when the first signs of a slowing down appeared, I ran, chasing my youth that ran ahead of me, faster than me.
One day, tired and exhausted, I paused and heard a rumble behind me. I turned around and saw a storm on the horizon. It made me uneasy, anxious. It was a baffling storm, dark clouds, mingled with bright ones, there were demons and angels in it, there were flowers and thorns.
I was afraid of this storm. I started to run faster. The storm steadily approached me. I saw the senior runner and leveled up to him, running alongside. I told him about the approaching storm; he smiled. Was he not afraid? He said, “The storm has already overtaken me”. I asked again, “What is this storm called?” He smiled and told me, the storm is called “life”.
The storm hit me with a vengeance. Thrown off balance, I fell. I got up, walked a few steps and fell again; but stubborn as I am, I decided that come what may, I’ll run.
It was a foggy winter morning. As I ran up the hill, I saw the line of trees in the distance with the fog gently entangled in them. Effortlessly the sun rose in the horizon and the fog melted. The distant hills, the blue sky and the trees became clearer. The world opened out before me. The essence of the happening around me was effortless grace. The grace that comes with acceptance and giving, that very moment the understanding and healing in me had begun. In the light of the sun, I found my running become like the natural flow of water, all pain was lost and legs languidly followed the lie of the land. The morning sun lit up my face. The storm had overtaken me.
Now, as I run, I always see around me the garden full of flowers and butterflies. There is no youth running away from me in the distant horizon, nor anything following me.
All around me is the garden. I sometimes stand and, like a child, want to catch the butterflies but, somehow, just watching them is a dream come true.
And, yes! When the quiet of the morning knocks my slumber and when the world is asleep, I run. Quietly and at peace, I run.