It is 4 am. I am awake, thinking how I would like to be outside. After coming back from vacation, my running has felt easy and strong – not effortless but full of energy, renewed in a way.
I have been keeping the mileage low this first week. Yesterday was going to be a little longer, with some trail hill repeats. It was cold, and the windchill had it feeling about 20 degrees colder, but the sun was out, bright and strong and inviting. A true spirit-lifting day amidst these weeks and weeks of winter grey.
I decided to head down to the Metropark. The paved path there is miles long, but there are trails as well, short off-shoots that run up hills or meander along the river. I managed an enjoyable 17 mile run the last time I was here, mixing pavement with horse trails, following fishermen to the water…it was a lovely run.
There is a trail hill not soon after I reach the park, only about a mile of asphalt away from the start. It is a good hill – steepish, with a couple of turns, some rocks, a deep carpet of leaves. I decided to go there.
The air was cold and the ground was icy cold. That side of the gorge was now getting the sun, however, and sections of the climb were softening into mud. The melt sunk into my shoes, and the bracing wetness on my feet contrasted with the warmth that was raining down on my head and shoulders from the sunshine. It felt really good, those two opposites.
As I was looking down, thinking about this little dichotomy of feeling and admiring the glint of ice on mud, I almost ran straight into a deer. I saw her at the last moment and stopped short, startled and perhaps hopping back a step. She was just before me, a little higher on the hill, seated in a circle of sunshine. She was, it was clear, lounging in this rare winter ray of warmth and enjoying her moment just as much as I.
We stared at each other. She rose to her feet, slowly. She was a big doe, and I had to raise my head to regard her.
I must have been a curious sight because she gazed at me, left ear twitching, with big black eyes that seemed to question, “What do I do with this human? It is supposed to be down there with the other humans, cycling or running on that black ribbon at the bottom, and yet, it is here, in the sunshine, smiling at me. Will it come closer? Move away? How curious!”
I did not move closer. This spot was hers, and the day was hers, to lounge and soak and absorb this rare gift of sun and blue sky and beauty…it was mine too, but not here, not here.
We stood together a moment, eyes locked, I believe, in a growing awareness that we were both here for the same reason. I smiled and told her to enjoy her day, then slowly backed down the hill before turning around to run again. I decided to choose another hill.
I hope she stayed.
What a beautiful moment it was.
Does a deer ever stop being so lovely? I don’t think so.
She is my “why” today.