Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Running Into the Unknown

“Mistah Kurtz - he dead.”

This one was for Keir, my dedicated running partner who always keeps me going and Marianna, a generous colleague.

On today’s run, I felt like the protagonist of Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.” Like Marlow, I was heading into the unknown, the dark spooky jungle. I ran The Ridge alone this morning, for the first time. There’s a sense of foreboding when running The Ridge, because the entrance is lined with a gauntlet of monkeys. They set the tone for your attitude while on the run. If they’re gone, it’s a peaceful day in the woods. If they let you pass, you’re on edge and anxious. If they come at you...

Today, it was a successful negotiation of the monkey labyrinth and the accompanying anxiousness. After passing through the gauntlet, I entered the ridge forest. Questions immediately began flooding my mind. “Will I remember the turns?” “Will I get lost?” “Will I be attacked by wild beasts?”  I should have been enjoying the respite from the Delhi concrete, but instead I was overcome with doubt and fear of the unknown. I was watching each corner carefully, waiting for monkeys, cows or bandits to jump out at me and leave me like Kurtz. The fact that the ridge is a wild jungle-like setting didn’t help calm me down.

As I ran along thinking about Conrad, Kurtz, and Marlon Brando in “Apocalypse Now,” I started analyzing my fear. I had no reason to be afraid of The Ridge, but the very fact that it was unknown to me made me nervous and afraid. We tend to fear the unknown. Meditating on the fear of the unknown, with my annual departure from Delhi three days away, I started thinking of my previous trip out of Delhi. It was November and we were heading home to deliver the twins. We had no idea what was in store for us, but we were anxious. We knew it would be difficult. We knew it wouldn’t be easy. We knew we were coming up on the hardest times in our lives, but we had no idea what that would mean. Every day we headed further up the river, into the heart of the unknown but instead of finding a “hollow man,” we found ourselves. We made it through and out the other side. I wondered  what this next trip home would yield for us. I knew that the grieving process would begin anew, when we gathered with family and friends that we haven’t grieved with yet. I knew that returning to the lake with one fewer child than we had planned on the previous summer wouldn’t be easy. I ruminated on all of this while running the ridge alone. Every step brought me one step further and I found the right turns, avoided the imaginary demons in the bushes and made it out unscathed. I was sure the same could be said for a trip home to Minnesota.

The soundtrack for the day was intentionally the new John Denver tribute album, “The Music is You.” A nice country album for a run in the woods, I thought. Unintentional though, was the last song I heard as I emerged in one piece from The Ridge - “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” Indeed, I was leaving on a jet plane. A jet plane that would bring me and my family home and into the unknown yet again.

A video about the ridge - https://vimeo.com/110863559

Distance - 5 MilesTime - 42:42 
Soundtrack - Various Artists, The Music is You: A Tribute to John Denver

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