Last Sunday, I went for my weekly long run. The ‘long run’ is one of my favorite parts of the week and something I look forward to all week long. Sometimes I’ll go early in the morning, other times during the middle of the day, but it usually happens either on Saturday or Sunday depending on what other events and activities are on our calendar that weekend.
On the last day of January, it was cold and rainy. Mid-40s. Everything soaked and wet. A typical winter day in middle Georgia. It was also the family gathering to celebrate my brother Larry’s birthday. We had the fire going in the living room at my parents house. My other brother, Will, cooked a big ol’ pancake breakfast for everyone. A dash of cinnamon and vanilla added to the homemade batter. Maple syrup drizzled over the stack. Since our book club is reading Braiding Sweetgrass, I must confess that the glass bottle of maple syrup on the table holds my attention and respect in a completely different way than ever before.
After the dishes were put away and the breakfast plates cleared from the table only to be replaced with the morning board game selection, I put on my rain jacket and ventured outside with my dad to the garden. He has a beautiful, big garden...a place he has tended to and expanded upon for as long as I can remember. It’s where he spends much of his time and energy throughout the year especially in the summer.
As he went to grab a few cabbages from the back corner by the chicken coop for my sister and her boyfriend to take with them back to Atlanta, I walked over to the long row of collard greens. At least fifteen big stalky plants stood proudly and strong in the steady rain. The color of the dark green on the fan shaped leaves was only enhanced by the contrast of the huge water droplets they hold. While trimming off the largest leaves on the exterior of a few of the plants, I turned one over and examined the veins running from the center stem out to the edges of the leaf in all directions. It’s remarkably similar to the veins that carry the blood and oxygen throughout my body when I’m running. We both have basic needs — nutrients, air, water, and space — in order to live and grow. The collards are thriving here in the rich soil and earth in my fathers garden. With plenty of space to thrive and water to sustain them, these collards will in turn sustain us as sautéed greens mixed in with scrambled eggs, soups, or stand alone dishes with a dash of red pepper flakes and lemon juice squeeze on top. I’m grateful for the lessons and blessings that come from the garden, the kitchen, and space in between. These are sacred spaces and transactions, full of hope & nourishment.
Running is another place we turn to for clarity and subsistence. Some of the most important decisions I’ve made have been during a run. Eyes focused on the horizon, lungs burning, blood pumping through my veins carrying oxygen to power my legs, arms, heart and mind.
The long run was relaxed and peaceful. I was able to run with my sister Elizabeth and her boyfriend Kyle. It’s such a gift to be able to run with other people. We bundled up in rain jackets, hats, and tights and set out together. Three bodies moving through a misty, wintery day.
Near the turnaround point on a dirt road not far from my parents farm, we stopped to walk and stretch for a few minutes. I glanced to the right as I held my arms over my head, stretching out my right shoulder. Through the woods about fifty feet off the road, I spotted a patch of daffodil stems. There were probably twenty or so slim green blades standing out sharply from among the fallen leaf debris and brown earthy forest bottom. But what really caught my attention was the single bloom on the far right side of the patch - the first daffodil I have seen this season! It felt like such a gift and little wink from the universe on this rainy, cold afternoon. You certainly had to be paying attention to see it. And I’m not sure I would have noticed it if I’d been driving down that same road. But that’s the thing about running, or any ritual or contemplative practice. It helps us slow down enough to see and hear the important things - like the first daffodil bloom. Like a little lighthouse on a cliff, that single daffodil flower seemed to be a messenger and beacon of hope. In its bright yellow pop of color and bloom, a visual reminder that spring is just on the horizon.
During February, the shortest month of the year, we encourage you to take some time to reflect on this idea of ‘hope in darkness.’ Spring is coming, but it’s not quite here. As evident in the tiny green stems surrounding that single daffodil bloom, energy is building. Take some time here at the start of this new month to tune in however it feels authentic and true to you. Whether it’s running or walking, listening or writing, gardening or cooking, rituals such as these become the tiny links in a long chain of reactions bringing us closer to the transformation of a lifetime. Seeking hope in the darkness and sharing that light with others... This is what we believe a good life is built on.
Megan, Gaëlle, & Katherine