Whew, summer did indeed start this week. It got to that miserable level of humidity where when you go outside it’s not much different from that feeling of opening an oven to get out a heavy casserole dish that you’ve got to really work with to keep from burning yourself or spilling casserole all over the inside of the stove. The whole time, you’re thinking of how bad you want this task to be done, wondering if some part of you is about to combust.
Though it was not very pleasant to be outside this week, I realized that a lot of it has to do with my conditioning. If you think it is miserable outside, just remember that for the most of the last 10 years, it’s been in the upper 90s and 100s this time of the year. We’re still just topping out in low 90s right now. Just a couple of years ago, I spent most of my day outdoors in this sweltering heat, walking several miles each day, running and playing, and just getting back and forth. I don’t remember feeling like I feel know except when it got into serious 100s. I began to worry that I’ve gone soft since becoming a city boy and sought to bring some exercise back into my life.
The timing of the exercise is also important because the 13th annual Mark Wiggins soccer classic is next weekend. More on that in this blogpost from a year ago (I also talk about summer heat, go figure). Dying from a heat stroke in a game memorializing my friend Mark, I don’t think is the way we should be reunited. So, to get in shape for the game and adjust to the summer heat, I started running again, out on Murray State’s soccer field. It was pretty hot, instantly inducing sweat, and there’s typically not another soul out there these days, partially because of college being out and partially because no one here wants to go outside to even get in their car, much less set foot on a soccer field. While making laps, a Murray State employee doing work in the field house passed by, and we exchanged headnods. On my next lap, he emerged from a storage room with a bottle of water, jogged with me to keep from slowing me down, and passed the water off to me.
It’s interesting what a simple act of thoughtfulness can do to your general outlook for a day. The heat didn’t seem so miserable any more. I had friends who would help me through my pathetic attempts to run during on the hottest point of one of the longest days of the year.
When I went to check on the pigeon nest at work, the eggs had hatched and mother pigeon was keeping the baby birds tucked under her breast and on top of her big wormy looking feet. Right now they just look like greasy balls of yellow fluff, hardly like a full-grown pigeon. I don’t know much about bird life cycles, so I don’t know how long it will take to raise them. I wonder if I will step by as they are learning to fly and watch them take off from the 8th floor, braving this big huge world that up until now has just been the sheltered ledge of a building at a small college.
I finished up my week of punishing, physical exertion in difficult heat by doing a 3 day backpacking trip in Land Between the Lakes. I hiked the Southern half of the North/South trail, covering about 30 miles in 2.5 days. My good friend James joined me the second day. You need 3 days on a trip like this to really get the good stuff out of it. The first day, I felt myself get cranky a lot. I complained to myself about muddy spots, about poorly marked trails, about mosquitoes. I took most of the first day to get back into the rhythm of the woods and not worry about tasks and goals. Just to enjoy the sites and sounds, to have a sense of wonder, to get in sync with the world around me instead of trying to make it work for me. If you just do an overnight trip, but the time your body hits these rhythms, it’s time to go back.
To really know something, to decide if its for you, you often have to experience it multiple times, give yourself some time to know it, to let it change your tastebuds. We often have to learn how to appreciate things, because they don’t always seem very appealing at first. The second day of my run, it was more humid and an even tougher run than the first day. But, the same guy came out to the field house and passed me a water again. I don’t know what I did to bring that kind of luck on myself twice. But, when my oldest friend James and I had set up hour hammocks after nearly 15 miles of hiking on Saturday, as the longest day of the year closed, I wasn’t thinking about luck or plans or evaluations. I was just in love with the peace, looking up into the trees, hearing the cicadas, knowing there was water nearby, a breeze coming at nightfall, and friends both clear and hiding.