“To him who in the love of Nature holds Communion with her visible forms, she speaks a various language.” William Cullen Bryant

“America has always been a country of DDDDDD and ddddd behaviors.” Steven Almond

This post is the culmination of many influences. It started several days ago with a walk on a hot summer day. It’s been assaulted with intellectual thoughts brought by podcasts. The words were given their genesis in my upbringing. And finally, they represent a suffering to get them written. So here, goes…

David Goggins is a man who has served in the toughest branches of the military. He also is a badass when it comes to fitness. I’ve only recently been introduced to his particular philosophies regarding exercise, but I think his ideas about getting in shape are less about the physical and more about emotional/mental fitness. Goggins suggests that we experience “suffering” to understand what we are capable of. The suffering is a sign that we are strong, that we have the ability to persevere, and if we are able to survive those moments of dread, fear, or dropping confidence, we can achieve our personal greatness.

I share that because I am writing this post under those ideas. I am using Flowstate a program that forces the writer to keep going for if I take too long of a break between words, I will lose everything. I set the time for thirty-minutes, a time that I have never attempted. I will be suffering, I’m sure, but hopefully, the post reflects a true accounting of my walk the other day.

About the walk. I’ve been involved with sports and fitness my entire life, as an athlete, recreationally and professionally within the sports and fitness industry spectrum. Lately, and I am guessing over the last ten years, I have been less committed to working out and it shows. I’m taking on that middle-aged paunch and feeling the effects of a lack of exercise when I walk up the stairs around my office. I have fought the laze from time to time, but I’ve never been able to commit to keeping things regular.

The walk was day one.

I left my neighborhood with a goal of three to five miles at a comfortable pace. I plugged into a podcast featuring Jamelle Hill, an ESPN writer/commentator and hit the road. Ms. Hill is an exceptional writer. She is also a person who is unafraid to call things as she sees them. With her candor, she has been caught in some controversies that have not necessarily worked out in her favor, but they revolved around important issues, so she is okay with the consequences.

My walk took me through my modest middle-class condo neighborhood, up a hill into a higher middle-class single-family home neighborhood, through a fifty-five and older community that is spotted with plenty of Mercedes cars of various classes, and ultimately onto the main drag the leads from my small, socially confused town.

Standing at the intersection of the roads leading into and out of town, had me thinking about the path through affluence I had taken. It had me thinking about the marginal path of comfort I had lived. It got me thinking that not everyone had the same opportunities that I have been afforded simply due to the color of our skin at birth.

With that, I made a hard left onto Ways Lane to see if I could work my way up to five miles. The podcast was over and one of my favorite singers came on, Bruce Hornsby, The Way It Is, and as you are reading this you’re thinking, “no way,” but rest assured that’s how it went.

There are two buildings at the top of the long hill that is Ways Lane. On the right side in the Boy Scout’s hall. It looks like an old school or church. There are three large windows on each side, a sagging roof over the addition in the back, and one of the most industrial doors I had seen in some time. On the left is the stone Italian American Social Club. There is ample parking and fine picnic space behind with a covered porch and a cabana separated by nearly twenty-five picnic tables.

Curiously, I noticed that through a thin line of trees behind the cabana, there is a financial management company that is full of cash. They often contribute to causes they deem worthy, but the parking lot, with its high-end cars, did well to hide behind the trees for as I passed the first two buildings, the scenery began to change.

Next on the tour was a barely functioning tractor-trailer repair shop. On this day, all of the bays were closed and all of the junker tractors in the lot were open and rusting. Next was a hovel of old houses packed onto a clean lot. Some of the houses were adapted from old mushroom houses and the biggest house was in the greatest disrepair. Its glassed-in front porch sported cracks and missing panes, while the front door had cardboard tapped over its window.

Again, curiously, directly across the street was a new mushroom growing facility. The clean cinder block, shiny HVAC units, and giant electrical converters showed that this farm was state of the art and it seemed to me an insult to the people living in the ramshackle that was across the street.

Finally, I made it to the bottom of the hill and saw where all of the old mattresses and couches go when the sanitation companies won’t pick them up. They go on tracks that once brought people to my home town. Now, it’s just freight trains passing through.

I turned and made the walk in reverse. I talked to my voice memo app with anger and the differences in the classes all over. I got angry thinking that this one street is marginalized because of the people who live there, because of the work they do, because of the location of their homes. My angst didn’t pass as I passed through the affluence back to my house.

It was a walk of suffering, a suffering of realizing that “me” is the prevailing attitude everywhere, yet, there are so many who don’t really have a chance for no reason other than they are able to get communion with the rest of nature.

We can do better.

Cold made its way into the morning. Finally. Two of us took to the roads in the dark. We talked training. We talked guy stuff. We shared our preferences for angrier music, the happy pop not fitting our slightly deranged view of the world. I found it comforting to know that I wasn’t the only one who still appreciated the Sex Pistols, although, my expertise paled in comparison to my running partner’s punk rock acumen. He did show his age, a few years ahead of my own, when he offered to let me borrow his copy of “Spunk.”

With that run done and the sun rising, we headed to the fields for a cross country-styled 5K organized by another friend and populated by a bunch of people we all mostly know. My plan was to chill, take it easy on the course, and simply enjoy the time. Like Goggins in Las Vegas and with “Anarchy” blaring on a loop in my head, I took off with a goal to catch the Mennonite woman running up ahead in their bonnets and dresses. Ego is a strange thing and mine was hooked to an adrenaline pump as I pushed harder than I have in many years. We caught the nattily clad runners and for the rest of the way, I ran scared of being passed from behind.

The community theme of the race was exhibited at the finish line. No egos, no trash talking, only the support for each runner as they finished. Times didn’t really matter. Places, either. Hanging with all my friends at the finish lines was awesome. The sun was out, the warmth everywhere, the angry music out of my head.

Thanks, y’all.

Seen in their natural habitats, animals exhibit their truest behaviors. They forget the responsibility for insuring the success of the herd and look only to protect themselves. Think of the teacher with closets full of supplies while the rest turn to funding sites to beg in a socially acceptable way for markers, erasers, paper, or scissors. Think of the teachers who see the classroom as their personal domain, as if it is an extension of their homes, so much so that they are put out when a transient is assigned to their classroom for a period or two.

Maybe it would be good if some kind of animal whisperer came into contact with these egocentrically inclined professionals. The trainer could show them the good of building strong relationships with other members of the pack. Their enlightened ways might help them share some of their resources or maybe even knock stressfulness down a level or two. Of course, the truest habits of an animal comes out in the most natural environments.

Old dogs, new tricks?

The mornings have lost the summer’s early rays. We ran through the humidity joking that the Suck Level was in full effect. Some in our group were out for the long haul, some going easy to protect against recurring injuries, and I was confused after a night of light sleep. Instead of sticking with the crew, I turned and headed off alone. The normal chatter that rages in my head must have stayed in bed because all I heard was the rhythm of my breathing, the softness of my feet hitting the ground, and the occasional walnut falling in the woods. The air was cool at the bottom of hills, a welcome relief from the humid mushroom soil infused air at the top of the hills.

I cruised letting gravity and friction cooperate to get me around the way. Every run should be so peaceful. Every day should have such a start.

They do.

The people make teaching fun:

Me: What was your dad’s name again?

James: Uh, James McDevitt. James McDevitt.

Me: Did he go to school here? A long time ago, I taught a James McDevitt.

James: Uh, no. He’s from Maryland. That was his cousin that went here.

Me: What was his cousin’s name?

James: Uh, James McDevitt.

Cody: Is everybody in your family named James?

James: Uh, only on the McDevitt side. Ever since the Civil War James has been a family name.

Me: So that makes you James the tenthish?

James: Uh, no, my grandfather’s name is Earl. He wasn’t named James because his brother was James. But he named my dad James. That makes him James McDevitt, Sr.

Me: The first…

James: Uh, yeah, so I’m James McDevitt, Jr. The second.

Me: Will you name your kid James?

James: Uh, if it’s a boy.

Me: If it’s a girl will you go with Jamie?

James: Beatrice.

Priceless. School is about people…