Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Medicine Trail

I never used to be a runner.  In fact, when I first began running, I couldn't make one lap around a quarter-mile track without stopping to wheeze and catch my breath.  But as time went by, I kept trying.  I felt a lot of frustration with my life back in those days, and running was a way that I sought to improve myself.

My first race - the L.A. Chinatown Firecracker Run

While living in Old Pasadena back in 2007, I would drive out to the Rose Bowl and run around the 3.3 mile loop.  I remember saying to myself the first time I ran around it non-stop, "You know what that means, right?  You have to do this every time now!"  Once I moved back into my house on the Arroyo's edge, I almost always began my runs into the Arroyo from the John Crowley trail descending Salvia Cañon.  This became my medicine trail, the place where I came to work on my mind, body and spirit.


The Salvia Cañon trail, as I call it, was not always there.  Salvia Cañon was once just a steep road without a sidewalk or trail alongside it.  I remember walking that road as a child on my way to UCLA football games.  I remember my dad’s reaction as he noticed prickly pear cactus growing on it’s slope.  “Ah, nopales!” he exclaimed as he gathered the spiky pads.  My babysitter, Rosa, sauteed them for me with vegetables.  Now the canyon has a lovely trail which winds through beautiful native plantings.


Once I reach the trail, I begin to run.  I let myself go as I weave between the trees.  I loosen my body and focus on using only the muscles necessary to glide forward as my feet rotate below me.  Like water, I adjust to the trail, and take the path of least resistance.


Sometimes I run for pure joy.  Other times, though, I run because I don’t like some aspect of myself spiritually or physically.  Sometimes the problems of the world just seem insurmountable.  Whatever it is that’s bothering me, the pounding of my feet seems to beat it out of me.  The sweat from my efforts purifies both body and mind.


I run as a form of prayer.  This land is my home, and I wish to be a part of it - to become one with the landscape.  I mimic the deer as I skip down the steep, rocky slope.  I leap like the birds that dart through the air.  I feel a renewed sense of purpose and I am energized by the land.  I know that when I return home, tired and sweaty, I will feel better, and that things will be clearer.  Perhaps, in a small way, I am  reborn each time.

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