Arguably, the highlight of my local trail system is a long, narrow, wooden bridge through a marsh absolutely exploding with wildflowers, insects and birds. In summertime the cattails grow tall, attracting Monarch butterflies. The sun blares to the tune of cicada buzz, and the ground water finds its way, thickly, into the air you breathe as you dance through as delicately as you can.
The bridge is in some state of decomposition along its entire length, due to the intensity of light and heat, and constantly being wet. I try to run off center, closer to the struts where the cross ties are nailed, to limit my impact, and also, ostensibly, to keep from putting my foot through a rotten board, and my face into the splintery mess in front of me. In my mind, I can even hear the sound the boards make as I stride along.
There’s a message there, I think, and it’s that things go better if you don’t put yourself right in the middle all the time, that you can’t get too preoccupied with the sound of your own thoughts.
I’ve just wrapped up this month long trail running project, and if I have any regret about it, it’s that I let it dominate too much of my family’s time. I talked about it too much, let it affect my mood too much, and generally allowed it to sit in the middle of the kitchen like a loud house guest. The project was important to me, but it’s easy with a thing like that to let your ego run amok and make your priority into someone else’s priority.
Obviously, balance is a hard thing. It’s what we all strive for in our lives and work, and none of us ever achieves it. I won’t get there either. But maybe, if I just try to run off center a little, I can keep from falling on my face completely.