On a brisk October morning, as I run down the dirt road near my home, I hone my concentration first on my footsteps, then suss out any muscle tightness, and sort out my joints’ compliance with my morning run. I am grateful for the ability and drive to run at the age of 61. Every time I step onto the road to run I still remember my first days of running as a 13 year old girl. Running along the sidewalks of my suburban childhood, the morning streets quiet and tidy. And sometimes, the seemingly wild trails of the nearby Southern California foothills. Sidewalks giving way to gravel, dry creek beds, clusters of sagebrush, abandoned vineyards, and olive groves, the occasional rattlesnake or rabbit.
The quietness around me, interrupted only by the sound of my breathing, took me to another place. A place that thrived inside my mind and the visual experience of moving through my environment. Peering at the sidewalk or path that lay ahead, trying to navigate the brush around me. Split-second decisions for my next step or turn — looking around and anticipating what lay ahead. Sometimes reveling at a trail that disappeared, leaving me lost, forcing me to find my way back. A minor accomplishment by any measure, it gave me an opportunity to feel confident in my ability to ‘save’ myself.
On this particular morning I am struck by the lack of summer vegetaion and the clarity granted to my surroundings. I can see through the trees. Hanging vines, tree stumps covered with half moons of buff-colored mushrooms, trees of all sizes and ages flank the road on either side. Their red and yellow leaves thinned but still bright and vibrant. The clarity is surprising and simple. Of course, summer vegetation that provided a lush, green backdrop a few months ago is now dormant and what remains are the trees in sharp focus.
I realize that this is what 61 feels like. This age, this era of my life — I have been granted clarity. The kind of clarity that assures my next footstep will be less fraught, less mysterious because I can see what surrounds me, lays behind me, and stretches out ahead. Clarity I could never have imagined at 21, or 31, or 41. Clarity and a measure of gratitude that I am here, on this road, moving through this world one step at a time.