In Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha spends some time as a captain of a ferry that crosses a river. He learns from the river that time and place are illusions, because the river is everywhere at once. You can’t see both the beginning and end of the river. Indeed, the beginning of a river is in the clouds before it rains. And the end of the river is in the ocean until the sun evaporates the water back into the clouds. The river is everywhere at once, but a person can only take in a part of the river. It is a travesty to call the part of the river that you can see the river.
Merlin in the movie Excalibur articulates a similar concept as he explains to a young Arthur that the entire world is One Dragon. And there is the snake head eating its own tail. And there is the Darwinian vision of Nature (red in tooth and claw) consuming and regenerating itself. And I like to add “Nature, black as night and deep as a hole.” And John Denver adds, “The shadow from the starlight is softer than a lullaby. Rocky Mountain high.” So, sometimes, nights aren’t that dark.
After my long run at the Y at Estes Park, I washed my clothes out in the sink. If I washed them with my other clothes, the Psalm that I have written in sharpie pen (59:16-17 I will sing of Your power, to You, oh my Strength, I will sing praises; For God is my defense, my rock, my salvation. My God is my mercy.) would bleed and stain them. So I just give it a quick rinse, a scrub with soft hand soap, and a triple rinse. On the first rinse, I could see the dust from the road come off the shirt and shorts. I thought of my baptism. I thought of my sins and the sweat of the workout that I was washing out of the clothes and down the drain. Where would the water go? Eventually it would find the sea, a river, a cloud, or someone’s cup. It would be recycled.
After his workouts, Meb Keflezighi sits in a mountain stream. That’s how he ices his legs. It sounds wonderful to me, a reset for the body after a workout. For a while I was icing my feet and Achilles in a recycling bucket full of ice water. I liked this very well, but it became a logistical challenge and a work place embarrassment. I wish I was an elite and could do anything I wanted as long as it improved and kept me running. But that is not my lot. I don’t get paid to run. I get paid to solve IT problems and look respectable from 8-5 most days.
When I take a shower at the gym, there are two curtains. I draw the first curtain and disrobe. I arrange my work clothes and sundry balms. I take a few pulls on my recovery drink and eat a square of dark chocolate and a couple of pretzels. Then I step into the shower and draw the second curtain.
I feel like I am in my own Holy of Holies. I turn on the water and I remember my baptism. I stretch. I lather, stretch, rinse, and stretch. I send my sweat, dirt, blood, and spit down the drain to the River, accompanied by a load of phosphates. After my shower, I open the first curtain and towel off. I put my towel down as a bath mat; sometimes I think of it as a prayer mat. It is my little (almost dry) place. It is the place I return to day after day after day. I thoroughly dry my toes with a hand towel. Sometimes I think about my dad who would stand on one foot and whip the towel around the other foot to dry them off, probably something he learned to do as a swimmer. I put on deodorant, finish my recovery drink, talc my toes, lotion and massage my calves, and put on my clothes. Sometimes the talc reminds me of my grandmother, who talced her feet, put on her socks, and then talced her shoes before cramming her feet into them with a shoe horn.
Finally, I open the second curtain. Ready to go to work. Ready to face the here and now. Ready to face the World.
“Take me to the river. (Dip me in the river.)
Wash me in the water – the water!” Talking Heads