Thursday, March 21, 2013

Coming to My Senses

What I am daydreaming about most days
All my life I was never much of an athlete. I tried basketball, baseball, wrestling, golf...I was never much more than slightly below average. I was an art kid. Later in life, when Moira got sick and I was clearly sick as well, I found running as a vehicle for clawing my way to health. As it turns out, I found more fitness than I ever had as a kid. At 35 years old I am capable of running all day. I'm not too fast, but I can cover terrain under my own power that I never would have thought possible just a few years ago. 

I am an average runner, performance-wise, but even an average marathoner is still a marathoner. I need to tell myself that, I need to actively come to my senses, after every long run, half or full marathon, or ultra I finish.  These experiences require me to really reflect, because it still doesn't feel like me that is finishing. Sometimes it is almost an out-of-body experience for me. I don't look like a guy planning to run 50 miles this summer. I'm sturdy. I am clumsy with a golf club. That can't be me running all morning, it is someone else. I run the danger of not appreciating the hard work I have put in, the blessed experience of running all day.

I grew to love the outdoors when I was penned up in a cubicle for about 13 years.  I would daydream about fly fishing and camping with my dad. I spent 100 hours of daydreaming for every hour of actually being outside. Maybe if we were lucky, about 3 or 4 times a summer I could slip away up to Bay City and load up the pickup with him and get to the Rifle or AuSable Rivers of a day or two of "standing in a river waving a stick." Usually we rarely caught more than a few little Brookies or Rainbows.  Sometimes we got shutout. I didn't matter.  I love those memories.  Even as a grown man they were formative for me.  I can smell the campfire, hear the river flow, remember the feeling of a warm hug with my dad after a fish landed and released.  I remember those sensations.  I could always come to my senses.

Today I live around the corner from my dad and my mom. We picked up stakes last year and I no longer sit in a cubicle. My day job lets me get outside more than ever.  I am raising my own son to love the natural world as a young boy. Things are better than ever for family and friendships. Coming home to the Saginaw Valley, I have connection with the place I am living. Maybe though, I am not taking enough time to come to my senses. 

In the past year I have seen more wildlife and natural beauty than I had seen in my entire life to this point. I had a mink run right up to my boot tip silently, without even knowing I was there. I have seen elk, deer, frogs, snakes, turtles, otters, eagles and just about every nesting bird in Michigan. I am blessed. I know where to go to see nature. I am honored to work protecting nature. But I don't always take the time to appreciate nature like those years when I had to work so hard to come to my senses after living in a grey office for months on end.

I am going to reflect this year on coming to my senses...really feeling and enjoying the sensations I find so rewarding. Running all day when I used to be the kid picked last for kickball...exploring nature when I spent those years so removed from nature...these are important.  I get as caught up as the next runner in the split times and GPS records and heart rates, etc.  But what I should really be focusing on is my senses.  I am not going to take these experiences for granted.  

I ran a slow few miles today in the woods. The snow was up past my knee. I fell three times. I didn't accomplish much in my training. But I won't forget the smell of the forest, the call of the woodpeckers and owls, the clean, cold air of Michigan, or the feel of my pounding heart heading up the last hill.


Arc'Greg said...

Great post Zachary.

Ann Brennan said...

This is a great post. I am in my work life, the editor of Beyond Limits Magazine. Is there any chance you would like to share a modified version of this with our readers? I don't want to mess up your google ranking by just using the same article. I do believe this is right up our alley though. Let me know what you think.

Zak said...

Thank you, Arc'Greg! I love what you guys are doing. We should talk.

Zak said...

Ann, certainly! I would be happy to share. Email me at zacharybranigan @ hotmail . com and lets talk.