Thursday, March 06, 2008

Unexpected Heaven

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!--
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.*

Maybe it was the endorphins talking. I don't know. But things looked different at the end of running off the bike this morning.

I was surprised that Memorial Park emptied out the way that it did. The pre-dawn weather was perfect. The air was cool and fresh, like breaking open a huge head of lettuce on ice, putting it to your face and breathing in until your lungs won't hold any more air. There was just the slightest breeze, and the hum of early commuters from I-10 was just pleasant white noise behind the whispering pines and the birds. Near the end of the ride, the suddenness of dawn broke. Nature turned the lights on while the streetlights blinked out, one by one. The cool breeze warmed gently and pleasantly while the asphalt continued to whisper by underneath my wheels.

Apparently unaware of the weather conditions, the rest of the city must have overslept. The bike route and the running trail were only sparsely used. And, surprisingly, the park emptied out well before the sun came over the horizon and business hours approached.

The light was grey when I transitioned from my bike to run what was scheduled to be a 30 minute tempo session to finish out the brick. I decided to pay attention to the breeze on my face rather than the customary sluggishness and rebellion of my bike legs refusing to run. Through the breeze, I pulled my heart rate up and my pace down until the world eventually moved by under my feet the same way the asphalt had so recently shooshed by under under my wheels.

The last 5 minutes I did an ez cool down--out and back--first with the newly-risen sun on my shoulders and then, turning, on my face. In that last 2 minutes, when I turned toward the sun, I saw it.

Looking at last to the light, the empty park was bathed in 24 karat liquid gold--dew on blades of grass with the smell and song of dogwoods and rebuds newly bloomed. Cotton candy laced with jewels coated the sky, and in an instant, the bare clouds that were there let fall two medium hand fulls of shimmering coins -- not pennies from heaven but ingots of precious metal.

As soon as it happened, it was over. In that instant of present, which disappeared into past as soon as I noticed it, the sun rose too high to provide the refraction and the sprinkling raindrops stopped. I wondered, are we few the only ones who see these riches? The lemmings on I-10 in their cars and buses, what of them? I used to get in a car inside my garage, ride to the garage across from my office, walk in a tunnel to my desk, and reverse course in the evening to reach a television screen by the appointed hour. Would I have seen these riches then?

I believe in heaven, but I also think that sometimes the veil is lifted, and heaven happens right here. Heaven can kind of sneak up on you sometimes, and if you aren't looking, you'll drive right by. If you do, who's to say you're not already dead?

*Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, A Psalm of Life


stronger said...

Ahhh, good post. I see heaven every day but my landscape isn't a busy freeway or tunnel into the office. It's why I feel so alive where I live. But I lived in HI and I didn't see heaven there- at least not on a daily or even weekly basis. So it must be contingent on a state of mind, an awareness, and acceptance. Thanks for sharing your glimpse this morning.

Curly Su said...

really nice; thank you!

21stCenturyMom said...

That is a lovely thing you saw and it was lovely of you to share but let's not be too, too hard on the 'lemmings'. Not everyone has choices in their lives - some people are forced to live far from work, work specific hours and just scrabble along for subsistance. Knowing that should make your vision all the sweeter, non?

Kim said...

you have a fantastically delicious way with words my friend.

Kim said...
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CoachLiz said...

My heaven today was the perfume of the damp grass and the azaleas that are blooming in our neighborhood as I took off on my 30 minute tempo run after a two hour session on the bike this afternoon.

The heavy rains had not started yet and the breeze was lightly blowing the grey clouds across the sky and providing a cool comfort from the exertion.

Houston is a beautiful city to live and train in.

Thanks for sharing.

MisheleK said...

I don't believe there's as much of a veil to be lifted off the world as a veil to be lifted off the viewer. Nice post.

Fe-lady said...

Oh the things mere mortals miss if they don't stop to look and appreciate them...
thanks for sharing.

Bolder said...

i'm amazed at how present you are in your second season.


Supalinds said...