Morning Meditation

My pre-dawn run leaves me bathed in peace, pleasure and inspiration. I started up with exercise again last Saturday with an hour’s run-walk on the Miossi Ranch and then yesterday morning with four laps around the track. The sense of self-neglect has been growing for months, along with intensifying bouts of anxiety and depression: body protesting to mind. Yesterday and today I woke up before the 5:30 alarm relieved to escape dreams of embarrassment, frustration and failure. There was no longer a choice, something led me to the tennis shoes in the closet, to the door, and down the steps under Venus and a crescent moon.

This, and preparing my Spring classes and selling tickets for the Sierra Club benefit are things I must do or face unthinkable consequences. Two thirds retired and financially secure there’s not that much demand, and yet it seems, the older I get, the lower my tolerance for uncompleted tasks. What a relief, passing the neighbor’s house across the street, not to be worried any more about postponing the party for the workers promised last summer. It finally took place last Friday–a couple of hours of beer and snacks that they attended out of obligation. That’s what life’s about, I mused, heading past the sleeping student houses up the block. You take on responsibility, you struggle fiercely to discharge it, and when you succeed it’s over: a blank repose. Henry and Lise have reached the goal. Job done. I’m on my way, as eager for the end of my laps as I was for theirs in the final years.

Approaching the track, I hear vigorous deep voices shouting command and response. Along with the ancient guy on the corner puttering in his garage, and a hunched up fellow walking his dog, the ROTC boys are also up before sunrise. Their silhouettes like riflery targets in unison, do jumping jacks in front of the lighted parking structure. I run with short steps and breaths, minimizing the impact on knees, trying to keep my abdominous traversus muscle flexed as the chiropracter told me, to avoid lower back pain. To dispel boredom I make myself think of the opposite, moments to remember and cherish. Sunday morning in bed, holding Ian’s hand on the way home from school (in between his episodes of surliness), back further: our trip with him to San Francisco, building the igloo with Ethan and Joe and Amy, the taste and colors of the red pepper soup with yogurt last night, the party of birds around the feeder in the back yard.

Midway through the third lap, I lengthen my steps, pushing off from the ball of the foot, and slow and deepen my breathing. I’m going faster, expending more energy. If I keep this up could I get back into real running. Peter B. is again preparing for a marathon, but he’s seven or eight years younger. Will it count if I’m doped by the three steroids I take daily to treat the unfelt asthma that was producing chronic sinus infections? Another lap and it’s hard to fully exhale. There’s that asthma. I’ve run my mile and worked up a sweat. I could force myself to continue, like those guys doing push-ups in the corner. But I’ll follow the lead that brought me here and now walk back home.

The best thing yesterday came in the morning. I asked Jan for permission to read four intimate love poems at tonight’s “Loverspeak” event featuring “Cal Poly Poets.” She thought about the question for a while, then said, “What the hell.”

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