27 November 2009

Unexpected Gifts

My family, like millions of others, gathered around obscene piles of calories yesterday to pay note to, but not truly appreciate, the overabundance that surrounds us. I, like millions of other runners, knew that meant but one thing: I’d better get out there the next morning and burn it off. And with that came the best kind of gift, the unexpected one.

We love to complain about things, we rarely take note of that which falls into our laps in the positive column. And we are poorer for that lacking.

Last week my family participated in the annual Thanksgiving interfaith service held in an area church. We were there mostly because both my church band (we call ourselves the CME, or “Contemporary Music Ensemble”) and one of my daughters’ choirs (this one, made up of CME kids who help us out setting up and tearing down each week and are therefore known as the “CME Roadies”) were performing. One of the pastors who spoke brought up a study where, to over simplify, it was found that people who say thank you are happier than those that don’t. They, in short, appreciate the gifts that come their way. And they are richer for it.

Gifts don’t have to be big to be important. Sometimes the small ones have a big impact.

The weather forecast for this morning was horrible. Cold rain, probably windy, ugly and uncomfortable. With a mere 7 hours till morning, the radar map showed a large patch of unpleasantness that simply wasn’t moving and wasn’t predicted to do so. Setting the clock to rise ahead of the rest of the houseful to venture forth into that expectation wasn’t a highlight of my evening. Listening to the rain spatter off the windows as I drifted off emphasized the gumption that I’d need into the morning to avoid rolling over for another hour.

But this morning I awoke to silence (other than that pesky clock). No wind. No rain. And it looked bright outside. Twenty minutes later I was outside in brilliant dawn sunshine. Blue skies. Entirely calm. Cold, but pleasantly so. In short, a complete surprise. An unexpected gift.

I headed north from sis’s house into the hills I’d seen on the maps but had never run (or driven) before. While mayhem ruled at the malls far away on Black Friday, I labored up Veterans Hill, chalking up some serious elevation gain over the course of a few miles, not a car to be seen. Just perfect solitude on a perfect morning, with the valley below filled with fog banks and stillness.

A turn onto a tiny dirt road I’d seen on the map and again, delightful solitude. A few rustlings in the woods that sounded big enough to be deer reminded me that it was a good idea to be wearing my day-glow jacket. I was thinking traffic and dusk when I packed it, I’d forgotten about hunters. But I had it, all good. The only other sound, a flock of turkeys flushed from a field fled airborne across the road ahead. All good. No, all perfect.

Over four miles without a single car. On a perfect morning.

By the end of the eight miler, my legs were rubberizing, victims of yesterday’s turkey day race and the nearly three week break leading up to it due to that nasty tendon injury, which I have decided was indeed a tendon injury, which – with another check in the gift column – seems to be healed and a thing of the past. A last push up the hill back to sis’s house.

The day started right with a perfect morning, an unexpected gift. Notice these, and be happy.

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