As the sun dipped, ushering in the next scene of the day, the fire on the mountainside looked all that more beautiful. Although I knew that this was destruction happening, that the slope would eventually look depressingly black and dry, I stopped my run for a minute to look at the small crackling flames making a ring around what looked like palm trees. I imagine that eventually, the scenery that we looked forward to, untouched as yet by human interaction, would be ashes and bare trees, by the end of the week. But this evening, the destruction was beautiful. I feel like a sinner saying this, but I have made discoveries over the last two weeks that put all of this into perspective. Now I could look on and feel a sense of peace.
This week I feel a further sense of well-being. I have been reading Richard Dawkins’ Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist and suddenly a paragraph – not a particularly outstanding one in any way for I tried to locate it once more but failed – made me feel the sense of an expanded universe. I read on, the excitement building, thoughts moving from running to nationhood to identities to Nature.
This week I focus on my runs. I must admit to an addiction to running but on second thoughts, it is more of an addiction to sweat and the highs that accompany exercise in general. I loop back to the initial motivation for these thought processes.
Last Sunday, I ran the Caura Dash, an event for which I had been training last year and suffered an injury which required two months of no running. This year however, determined not to miss the event, I did the opposite – little training and a mindset of "I will deal with the consequences afterwards". There was no one to say to me that I couldn’t do this. My running mates simply believed. And so, without anyone imposing doubts on the success or failure of this parade, and with the blessings of a partner who would more than likely support me doing an Everest climb without training as long as I was happy doing it, I ran.
Our route: St Mary’s Anglican Church, Tacarigua to the Caura Community Centre. As one friend put it, "you all put your bodies through that willingly? As in, nothing was chasing you? You all just decided you wanted to run 10 kilometers uphill?" He shot me a look that implied "crazy lady".
I started the trek. Pretty soon my lungs felt like they were on fire. I knew that my breathing would soon settle into a rhythm. The pre-entry into the rhythm however, was to be endured until my lungs and brain had made an amicable agreement to support each other. Perhaps my friend was right, running that 10K was a touch of madness. In my head however I was running for fun, not the competition. It was motivated by the power of the group. We are a collection of people who ran for the joy of it and also because we go stir crazy inside our homes and enjoy the outdoors and the euphoria of breathlessness and sweat.
As I continue to think about our spaces, I consider the running group, a safe space, a space in which we all gather without judgment, a space where competitions mean camaraderie. We each have personal goals but they are just that, personal. No one imposes on the other any notions of "supposed to be this way or that." We are here to run, to walk, to commune with the environment in whichever way we choose. We discover things about ourselves in an environment of support and easy fun. We discover nature itself, the similarities between the hills and us.
As I stopped my run to look at a portion of the hill burning last Wednesday in Caura, I felt a sense of satisfaction and hope. Though destroyed now, in time nature would replenish itself. I was told that some seeds can only open and blossom when the fire destroys the trees. I didn’t know this before. It made me stop and take stock. We never have a full view, even when we think we do, even when we think we are open-minded. Our perspective at times can be one-dimensional. We are sometimes in danger of generalizations – race, politics, religion – a tendency to categorize and homogenize which robs us of the ability to see the layers that exist. Fire is cleansing. This is an alternative thought and so our attitude shifts with this knowledge. There is always room for expansion of thought. What we can do is allow ourselves the space to accommodate and adjust.