After the Fall

A strange two weeks. After I fell apart in the Blue Hills I was gripped with fear, the fear that I’d fall apart again, that I had somehow broken myself (finally). I ran and worked out tentatively, gently. We, the family, went off on a beach vacation, and I got some slow, short runs behind me.

You might have noticed that I have not been here, writing about all of it, and that’s because I decided to take a break. My head has been a mess. Maybe it still is.

Tomorrow I’m in Vermont on a 14-mile tramble with friends. Nominally, it’s a race. In real terms, I am just hoping to manage it, to run all the runnable parts and hike all the unrunnable parts, and to cross whatever finish line is there and find myself whole.

After blowing off most of my runs this week, I did finally go out this morning, for a last, slow shakeout before lacing up in Vermont tomorrow. Slow and short. Slow and short. Slow and short. I kept reminding myself.

Almost as soon as I started running, I heard a high-pitched screaming overhead, a red-tail hawk crying out as it floated across the bright sky. Distantly, I could hear another hawk, crying back.

I don’t believe in omens. I am not superstitious. But I spent a little time thinking about what the hawk might mean, were I so inclined. What I came up with is this: The hawk is an apex predator, eyes face front, talons sharp. It need not fear any other bird or animal, because it is among the strongest, certainly here in New England. When it screams like that, though, it’s calling a friend. It needs its friends. And so, the omen means that even if you think you’re strong, fit, capable, you need to ask for help. Because you’re also fallible and vulnerable and incapable of doing everything on your own.

Tomorrow will go fine. I’m either woefully undertrained, or fresh as a daisy. Possibly both. I’ll have friends with me, and they’ll tell me to slow down or speed up, and I’ll do the best I can.