I ran today for the first time in a long time. When I run, I notice my surroundings but also pay heed to my inner voices. It’s a time for mental house cleaning. Often I consider what I might write about—the thoughts that have been lingering, churning and inviting or demanding a deeper examination. Other times I merely focus on the sensory feast—the cold air burning my lungs and whipping color into my cheeks, the stretch of my muscles, the thud thud thud of my feet hitting the pavement accompanied by the whooshing sound of my working breath.
Today I was optimistically looking for signs of spring as I ran. Instead, along the edge of the road I saw shards of red and amber glass, a wrinkled package of cigarettes, a broken branch stabbed into the earth, paw prints, a discarded beer bottle. At first I was discouraged by the trash, carelessly strewn along the dirty snowy berm and by the lack of any hint of impending spring. But then it struck me that within each piece of trash or debris resides a kernel of a story.
The branch. Perhaps it was javelined into the earth during the heart of a winter storm. Did someone lying awake one night hear its mighty crack and fall or did it jolt someone awake with a shot of adrenaline? Or was it unacknowledged, muffled by the falling snow and howl of the wind? The empty cigarette pack. Was it thoughtlessly discarded or perhaps flung out a car window with another desperate vow to stop smoking? The broken bits of automotive glass hint at yet another tale—someone driving in a hurry after an argument, or racing against curfew, on the brink of violation. Or maybe it was simply icy, bad luck or a visitor unfamiliar with winter driving. There are stories here, potential treasures to be found among the trash.
I continued running, putting one foot in front of the other, wind-whipped and weary, watching and thinking, finding stories along the side of the road.