On Tuesday morning last, I awoke at 5:45 AM, drank coffee, changed into a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, laced up my running shoes and went for my now-regular twice-a-week 3.4 mile-loop of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. (I accompany an old friend, a far more serious runner than me, on the days he does his ‘easy runs.’)
After we had finished our run, I was sweaty, and suffused with the endorphin-saturated glow that runners like to term ‘the runner’s high.’ My way home lay along a small cluster of sporting fields: tennis courts, football fields, baseball diamonds. As I walked back, slowly, along the wire-mesh fences that marked off the boundaries and edges of these zones of recreation from the walkways and parking lots of the offices of the Park Authority, the summer sun’s rays, already finely honed to a warm sharpness by 730AM, shone through their grills, drawing diffraction patterns on me and all that lay around me. I was primed to regard this little urban oasis’ landscape with a benevolent and appreciative eye; this early in the day, as other residents of the city scrambled to prepare for their work and school days, I had already acquired the virtuous distinction of having performed service for both body and soul. And I had spent time with a friend, talking about matters cultural and political and emotional. Conversation with friends; physical endeavor; quiet meditative time; there seemed to be a Epictetan aura around my simple doings that morning.
At one end of the baseball diamond, a father and son pair appeared engaged in a distinctive summertime occupation: batting practice. The young lad adorned himself with his helmet, and twirled his bat in anticipation; his father, away on the pitcher’s mound, behind the practice L-screen, reached, again and again, into a sack full of baseballs, picked out one, and threw it over at varying speeds and trajectories; the batter in training swung or let go, trusting his judgment of balls and strikes; sometimes balls thudded into the fences behind which I now stood, my progress home temporarily halted, gazing on at this spirited attempt to acquire competence in a difficult sporting task; sometimes lusty contact was made and the baseball departed to sundry corners of the field, awaiting retrieval once the sack of spares had been depleted. Here was sport, here was family, here was physical aspiration.
I could not stay too long; my day’s responsibilities awaited me; I had to get home in time to aid my wife in her departure for work by taking my daughter to day-care; and then, I would have to turn to my writing, my syllabus preparation, and unfortunately, my perennial states of distraction. All too soon, I would be possessed by anxiety and self-doubt about my intellectual abilities, my suitability for the task of writing; I would fret and fume by all that I would leave undone as the day drew on. So this little morning-time instruction in that oldest of lessons, about the cost-free nature of simple pleasures, acquired in retrospect, as many of life’s experiences often do, some of the hue the summer sun had afforded to my treed and shaded surroundings on my walk back home from a run around the park.
Note: In an older post, I had regretted my inability to run regularly thanks to an old ankle injury; this latest bout of running marks a return of sorts to a much beloved activity of mine. I do not intend to risk injury and only run twice a week.