Today, I turned 43.
In honor of this occasion I want to do two things that are totally for me. First, I want to jog three miles. While this may not seem like much fun, those moments spent pounding the pavement are some of the few times that I can gather my thoughts, and my mind can have control of a body that would like to betray me on a daily basis.
I””m not a runner, just a jogger, and three miles is not much in runner’s terms, but the simple act of placing one foot in front of the other toward a goal that’s not as elusive as it was before is so satisfying. I start slow. My body and my mind become acclimated to the idea as I walk a couple of laps up and down my quarter-of-a-mile driveway. On the first lap, my step is hesitant as my body tells my mind, “”I can””t do this.”” On the second lap, my mind takes control and tells the body, “”Yes you can.””
At first my rhythm is awkward. Legs, lungs and mind are not in sync. Muscles are stiff and knees weak. I””m still aware of myself and still carry the weight of my world’s troubles. I am at my weakest and most vulnerable. But by mile two, muscles warm and feet become lighter as the brain reins the body in. Lungs are filled in smooth rhythmic cycles, and I become acutely aware of the wind I create as I jog through space and time.
By mile three, I am the wind. I am no longer aware of myself as a person composed of separate parts. Mind, body and soul have become one. The world falls away at my feet, and for a short while, I am free.
Today, I turned 43, and it’s been 18 days since Katrina cast her destruction across the Southeast. I’ve had difficulty grasping the horror of the visions played out on my television. It hardly seems real. I have great admiration for the Angel Flight pilots who have donated their time and their airplanes for this worthy cause. If Lester and I met the qualifications, we would be in the middle of the fray, but we don””t. Instead we’ve sent donations through Keely’s school, as well as shopped for the family that her class has adopted.
These people, my fellow Southerners, these Americans need our help, but more than anything they need our prayers, and this is where I have fallen short. The words fall from my lips, but they don””t reach my heart. It’s as if I fear that by opening my heart, it will make the idea of bodies floating in brackish waters and babies starving on cold hard streets real.
A few days before I turned 43, I turned off those unshakable images for the sake of my mental health and took myself to the airport. I had a desire, a hunger, to see and feel something beautiful that was not cloaked in images of destruction and death.
As I drove that way, the sun was rising with comforting familiarity in a glorious golden light that cast its brilliance on the clouds above it.
Lester was waiting, ever vigilant. When I departed, I headed north, not sure why, I just felt an urge to fly that way. It was smooth, cool morning air that awaited my pleasure. The sun had lost the golden glow of dawn, but now the sky was blue and the broken to scattered layer of crisp white clouds above me intensified its color.
I flew north, and after a while a vista opened before me that all but took my breath away. The mountains still clung to the deep green of late summer, and their peaks pierced the mantle of snowy white that backed into their valleys and hollows. In contrast, the new sun cast its shimmering glow through the white clouds above, creating shafts of light that danced on the earth below. It was so beautiful that for a moment I thought Lester and I had flown straight on to heaven. Here I finally prayed.
Lester and I were no longer of separate parts. Mind, body and soul became one as I prayed for my God to bring comfort to his people. My heart opened up and the words and feelings flowed. I was no longer aware of myself. The world fell away, and for a short while, I was free.
Today, I turned 43, and there are two things I want to do on this day that are just for me. I jogged this morning but later this evening, Lester and I want to go see if the Lord’s still abiding with the sun in the mountains of northern Georgia.