In the last few years I have begun to do things that make me happy. Things that are just for me, that I do on my own. There is a running joke in my household, and the pun is intended. The joke is, “Sara likes to run alone in the rain so that people can’t see her cry.” While it is in fact a joke, there is some truth in it. I do prefer to run, alone, in the rain, and yes, there are times when I cry. Not for sadness, just with the overwhelming flow of emotions that I will otherwise hold down under the surface, so firmly that they can’t help but stay there, suspended, until the rain allows them to bubble up and break the surface tension, like little pockets of popped air coming from deep in the mud.
It doesn’t matter how hard it’s raining. I don’t care. Some days it’s a mist, some days it’s a downpour. Most days I head into the woods for trail runs. Those are my favorite runs. It’s springtime in Maine and when the sun isn’t shining the temps are rarely above 40 degrees. There’s’ no one else around.
The absence of people lets me hear the leaves rustle with the drizzling rain, the peeling paper birch trunks sway in the wind, bending under the pressure, they sound like the ropes on a sailboat stretching and creaking with the incoming tide. Wood frogs bark and complain to each other of my intrusion from their swampy puddles as I splash by. My sneakers and socks soaked through, I let the rain wash over me. I look at the sky through the breaks in the branches and listen as my toes “tap-tap-tap” on the leaf strewn path alongside the rhythm of the rain drops, letting the miles pass by.
So many thoughts run through my brain, as I listen to the sounds of birds, the flittering of a single determined leaf unable to let go from the previous year’s fall, whipping in the wind making a rapid tappity-tap sound. I watch whispers of silky illusions with droplets of shimmering beads trying to distract me, dancing in and out of view as the breeze blows past, not a sign of the web’s occupant around.
As a kid, I would roam the empty fields around our house or wander the ridges of our wooded property for hours discovering hidden overgrown apple trees and berry patches. Seeking out tracks of animals and being fascinated by the burrows and holes that they would make to conceal and protect themselves. In college I would wander the blueberry barrens by myself or sit solitarily for hours on the rocky coast watching the waves. Facts I had forgotten as the years have passed. And as those same years have passed, I have folded myself like origami to fit into a smaller space, to live in a city, to share a yard and a neighborhood with others. To smile and be polite and to be a contributing part of the community I live in.
Being outside, breathing the fresh air, hearing only the sounds of nature. No whining engines, no tossing laundry, no questions about where this or that might be found. Just peace and the “quiet” that comes with the absence of other humans. That’s’ where I go to heal and recover. My mind is lighter and so are my footsteps. The weight of my water soaked shoes is not on my mind.
When I get home I’ll peel off the sticky layers of wool and shed them in the entryway. More weight from my shoulders. I take the liners out of my shoes and prop them up to dry in front of the blower. They’ll be ready for the next run, light and dry. I climb into a warm shower and clean the mud from my calves, dry off and put on warm wool socks and clean clothes.