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Just the silent trees

Running twenty-four miles alone on dirt trails through a state park gives a writer a lot of time to think. Some of the thoughts are obvious – does that thunder mean I’ll get struck by lightning? And, if I get struck by lightning how will anyone find me, since I haven’t seen a soul (unless you count the disappearing white tail of a single white-tailed deer) in two hours?

Those aren’t the kind of thoughts a writer seeks, but just about any thought can come on a run this long. The most common thought strikes like a determined horsefly: Why the hell am I doing this? Along with the lightning thoughts and the accompanying trees fall when the wind gets too high thoughts, there come more literary thoughts. Times when a scene in one of my books works itself out. Then I have to pull out my iPhone and tell Siri to take a note and not worry when she mangles it, because all I need is the note and I’ll remember.

Those are good thoughts but they aren’t the best thoughts. The best thoughts are, actually, a single thought, and it has no words.

It is a living picture, fixed in my head. It was born in mid-December when I did my first distance run at Pocahontas State Park. Each time I train long distance the picture grows deeper. I believe the roots of the trees in my picture, the ones whose branches sketch bare fingers against the sky, are growing down into my soul.

In the picture, I’m alone and running. The woods are absolutely silent, because for some reason this big state park seems to have fewer birds chattering and squirrels scolding and hawks shrieking than the suburbanized woods around my home. The only sound is my feet (and the occasional roll of thunder) hitting the ground. The trees grow into me and the thought in my head has no words. My mind knows, and my heart and my legs and my often-sore feet know only that I will be running for a very long time.

Those are the times that bank peace in my soul. The times that come to me as a gift on an endless run in a forest. Nothing accomplished, nothing rewritten, no great insight or  aha about my writing or my work or my life.

Just the silent trees and my feet, pounding the ground.

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