The Story of a Path

7:00 on a Tuesday night.  We won the basketball game 43 to 40.  I flung open the gym door, and the roar of a hundred conversations flickered, as if blown by the cool dusk air.  With a slam, the noise was snuffed out, and I slowly began to notice the rising and fading rush of passing cars.  I pulled up the hood of my sweatshirt and disappeared onto the trail.  For a brief time, social obligations dissolved into the sky’s deepening blue.  Venus was hanging on the edge of the transition, winking confirmation that my homework would wait for me, even if I were late shuffling home.  With a deep breath and a sigh, I realized I had the whole bike trail to myself.

From the bustling hub of school life, a 2-minute car ride along my city’s central vein brings me to my neighborhood’s quiescent congregation.  I prefer the 5-minute transit by foot.  Between two distinct worlds, the bike trail runs parallel to a modest woods, which offers me a cut-across.  Its boundary is a bridge, not a divider; its memories intermingle both worlds.

8:00 on a Saturday morning.  With sleep encrusted in the corner of my wide eyes, I tried to wrap my mind around 8 miles of running.  If this practice murders me, you will be my witness, I promised Jon under my breath, then tried to readjust my air gulping to our trail pace.  We were out where the paved Mopac turned to gravel and exited the city.  Huffing past old grain elevators and open fields, my conversation spark died to fatigue and left us each with our own morning thoughts.  Part of my mind was doing fractions (2nd mile post = ¼ of the way done).  Another part was synchronizing the tempo of my breathing with an encouraging song.  My internal dialogue was arguing about pseudo-psychology or philosophy, trying to hash out teachers’ actions, friends’ actions, their motives, and how I should handle them.  All the while, I was trying to ignore the part of my mind pitying my aching calves and cramping side.

As the path travels away from the heart of my daily activities, so it also encourages my mind to diverge.  Free from taskmasters and critical peers, free from the grind of merely responding, I open up to observe and reflect.  Of course, with an outside view, I turn habitually to look back into the heart.  But it was with new eyes and spirit that I perform the biopsy.   

9:00 on a Sunday night.  I ventured out from my home in a night storm, beckoned by the raindrops as they rapped like a harbinger on my front door.  My mom and I followed the runoff water down our sloping street to the Mopac Trail, turned, and set off leisurely towards a silently flickering wall of clouds.  Like explosions in space, the enormity of the distant lights reverberated beneath sound.  I was captivated, then awestruck.  The strobe flashed again, not pure white, or cold blue, or electric purple, but Christmas-light red.  What! Did you see that?   Our voices spun in the outdoor hallway, empty, between branched shadows, and again the trail lit up, this time in complimentary green. There was no danger of oncoming bikers at that hour; my mom and I were alone with the trail.  You are my witness if dad doesn’t believe me, I either whispered or shouted to the glowing dark of her grinning face. As we left the trail heading back for home, the images were etched into that heavily traveled, winding progression in our minds.