A View From the Top

Transitions in Time


By Gordon Cherr


It is pitch black out and the rain is just starting to fall as I head down the driveway this morning. There already is an almost unbearable heaviness about this run, even before it begins. Perhaps the early hour and worsening weather accentuate the emotions, but this has been going on now for a good long while. This year has been a tough one to take. Four friends dead from cancer since July, a troubled young woman’s suicide recently, auto accidents have claimed at least two more. My oldest and best friend from high school calling last week from Cape Coral to tell me that his father had finally succumbed to lung cancer.

The dark streets are deserted and absolutely silent this morning. We had hoped to go to Virginia for Thanksgiving to see Dara and Jeremy (our daughter and son in law, respectively), but with Sharri’s mother going into hospice, Sharri flew instead to California to be with her mom and dad, and to bravely wait with them whatever may come. Her younger four brothers and sisters joined her, streaming in from all corners of the country, all lending their love and support. Corey and his wife and daughter were there already, Dara and husband have made their plans to fly there next week. If there is anything more difficult than a grandchild saying goodbye to a grandparent, then I don’t know what that is. And I don’t want to know what it is, either.

I am running towards the still nighttime western sky now and the rain is beating down hard on me. It is relentless. Relentless like time is relentless in the toll it exacts from each of us. It takes what it wants from us, when it wants to. We are powerless and feeble in the face of time. Ultimately, we are all dust. An all too close flash of lightning and a nearly simultaneous thunderclap should send me ducking for cover, and fast, but instead I find myself having an open ended monologue with God, trying to strike a bargain. I am scared now from all the misery I see around me. Please, make sure I die before my children do, I can’t stand the thought of living my life otherwise. I am begging, what do I have to do? I’ll do anything. But there isn’t any response, for what do I have to bargain with? I turn to the south and head uphill towards the golf course, and the lightning continues to dance ominously across the sky overhead.

Suddenly it is two days earlier and I am running down a cool, shaded dirt trail in the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, towards the Pinhook River, with Gary Griffin. It is an absolutely gorgeous morning. The cloudless sky is that unique blue color that only happens here in the late fall and early winter and at no other time. Have you ever noticed? The long leaf pine remain a verdant green against that blue sky, but the leaves of the sugar maple have turned a resonant red, the sweet gum are a deep purple, and the bald cypress are a rusty, fiery orange. Is it a shared runner’s high, but the colors are simply glowing. Gary comments that the cypress trees might look dead to us, but that next spring, if we take the time to look and notice, that they will have come back to their rich, bright green foliage. All that we need to do is trust that it will happen and it will. I am thinking to myself, yes, that is just the way things are, that is the way things have always been and that is the way they will always be. In transition, always moving, ever changing. Never really standing still. Everyone and everything is running. Time is running too, for all of us. All of the time.

I fast forward back to the present moment and make the turn to the east, off of the pavement and onto the grassy fairway. The sky here is beginning to show the first hint of the dawn, the dark gray thunderclouds are racing across the horizon but are backlit by the coming sun. Is it that simple? Can I trust that in due time the sun will rise? Another transition? I think so. Amid all of the chaos of the year, a wonderful grand daughter was born to us and our family. Just three weeks ago, I had the honor to perform my daughter’s marriage ceremony and a new son joined us. The bonds of my family have grown stronger and have continued to mature. Not insignificantly, I have been able to run many miles with my friends. Running is a celebration of movement, therefore it is a celebration of LIFE.

The rain has slowed down now to a light drizzle and the thunderclaps are further away and fading in the distance. Amid the dark clouds, soft patches of blue are now apparent and the contrast between the dark clouds and the ever brightening blue sky is stunning. I realize that in the here and now I have been splashing through ankle deep puddles for the last two miles, I hadn’t noticed that before. Exactly where have I been these past few miles, much less these past few months? Perhaps deep in despair over my plight and especially the plight of others dear to me. Missing those far away. Deeply missing those who I will never see or speak to or smile and laugh with again. These are heavy, depressing thoughts and feelings. We have no choice but to experience them.

Yet, thankfully, we have the time to start to recognize and then appreciate the good that has also happened, amid the less than good. I must believe that this the way it is for all of us. That this the way it has always been. That this the way it always will be. Our time is surely running, but time will never run out. We must always transition into the future. In the midst of bad times, try to remember to search for and see the good that is there, as well.

Keep on running, don’t get left behind.