PUBLISHERS NOTEBOOK: Mindless run turns into mindful quest
Tuesday, December 10, 2013 10:25 AM
It's not often you can spend well over an hour on the Root River Trail and never see another person. Subzero wind chills tend to clear out people from the normally popular trail.
Since I had heard snow was coming Sunday, I decided to go for a run on the Root River Trail before it became covered, making it harder to navigate without boots or skis. Lanesboro became my targeted destination after I had taken my photographs of Santa visiting Wykoff and was on my way back from fixing network problems in our Rushford office Saturday morning, which started with a temperature of 6 below zero and didn't warm up much above zero the entire day.
A run is always a good way to unwind for me, although the subzero environment did interrupt the serenity of the journey from Lanesboro to Whalan and back. It wasn't the temperatures that bothered me, just thoughts that questioned my sanity.
I know I can go well over an hour in brutal cold while running so I didn't give it a thought about being out in the cold for an extended time. I wear warm fabrics that wick the moisture away from my body.
However, as I traveled through some isolated areas, the thought finally did occur to me that I was putting myself at risk if I had an injury or medical emergency because I was so far away from civilization, something in more humane temperatures I would welcome.
My way to keep warm is to just keep moving and I already knew I can keep going for hours in all types of weather. Saturday, it was enjoyable in the bright sunshine, which masked the brutal cold. That brutal cold also meant that if I had to stop, I would probably last mere minutes alone and exposed to the elements.
I put the thoughts out of my head and continued on the nine-mile journey, taking in the sights and sounds that I had all to myself. I never saw another person except right in Lanesboro and didn't see many mammals other than squirrels, but there were plenty of birds out.
Some of them were quite colorful, such as a woodpecker with a red head, perhaps a red-bellied woodpecker as it had a black and white pattern on its feathers that didn't mimic the red-headed woodpecker. Another bird was very blue on the back with white underneath. I knew it wasn't a bluebird with a more orange breast since they aren't around in winter and I'm sure it wasn't a blue jay because I am familiar with those.
I had to look up the birds I saw after I finished my run to even take a guess at their identity. That realization also pushed me to reverse my ignorance of nature.
After all, if I am going to be outdoors, I should at least know my environment well enough to identify the other living inhabitants that share the space with me.
The same goes for our civilized environment. Often times, some common markers of our world just don't register.
I recall last summer hearing a talk by a farmer who lived just outside one of the small towns in our area. After his wife died, he started dating and commented that he was surprised how little his dates knew about farm life. He'd take a drive with them, pointing out certain items, such as anhydrous tanks along the road, and many women didn't have a clue about their purpose.
These weren't women from the big city. They lived in the small town near where he farmed.
I can't say I'm any better. I pass certain things every day that I become oblivious to over time because they are so common.
That realization also pushes me to learn more about the world that I share with other people. I also need to be more mindful of our human environment.
The practice of mindfulness, or practicing awareness, is popular now. For some it is a spiritual quest, for others just a way to reduce stress, become healthier and get more in tune with the world.
Modern society, with all its distractions, allows us to remain in a state of habitual mindlessness that allows us to drift through the world without really knowing it. Not only do we have trouble identifying components of our world, but also lack understanding of how they fit together or what they mean.
Author Dan Brown has said "to live in the world without becoming aware of the meaning of the world is like wandering about in a great library without touching the books."
I hope to become more mindful, or aware, in my life. It won't necessarily happen always when I run because sometimes running is an escape into a type of mindlessness, or meditation, that takes you inside yourself.
My goal isn't necessarily to prevent me from embarking on risky journeys in the dead of winter without thinking them through because mindfulness is a whole lot more than just developing common sense.
Instead, I hope to become more mindful so I can better connect with the environment - both natural and manmade - that helps shape who I am. We live in a magnificent area and I want to become more aware of the meaning that is right in front of us - to really touch the "books" all around us.