Tuesday, 27 September 2011

A Comma


It's three weeks since the tractors and trailers stopped passing. All afternoon, into early evening and through the night, the silence on Rose Lane would be squeezed small by the frantic rumble of the speeding farm vehicles, transporting grain from the fields behind the house to the storage sheds on the corner. I'd wake in the small hours, glance at the clock's LED display and hear the far-away groan of the Combines still at work - a comforting sound - a reminder, like rain against the window or wind through leaves, that the world keeps turning even when you're playing no part.

And then, suddenly, it's gone. The harvest is in, August ends, and September arrives like a sigh.

It's 6am. I lean against the pavilion on the Spilsby playing fields and take off my shoes. A mist hangs low in an eerie layer over the football pitches, and, thinking of the words of Keats, I walk over the concrete walkway to the edge of the grass. 

September has always been my favourite month. If a year was a sentence, September would be a comma - a moment to breathe between finishing one thing and starting another. For a month, the year's on hold. Summer still lingers in the occasional glorious late-season sunshine, but the bite of winter is never far away. Days shorten, time slows slightly. Hard times are round the corner, but always just a way away.

It's dark, but I can make out the dew on the grass. It sparkles like glitter. I step off the concrete and begin to jog. It's been a while since I've been here in the morning, but I'm glad to be back.

An easy 3 mile run round the local playing fields before returning to work has been a staple of this year's routine. I've been down here most weekday mornings since Easter, and the absence of this small part of my day over the last month has left me wishing I was here when I've been elsewhere.

I think of a friend who's  recent question I couldn't answer at the time. 'What's the point of those 3 mile runs you do in the morning?' he'd asked. I'd tried to think of some clever justification, but, in the end, I'd just shrugged my shoulders and said, 'Dunno - they just feel right.'

September, I promised myself early on in the year, would be a comma in my running year too. After a summer of long runs, endless empty miles and satisfying achievements, I'd take a break. I'd rest for a month, recharge my body in preparation for the forthcoming cross-country season and the rigours of next year's big plan. I'd knock the morning runs on the head for a while - what use were they anyway? - and stick to easy running no more than 6 days a week.

The grass is cold under my bare feet - so cold that it's painful at first. I grimace, tread lightly, and gradually the pain subsides to an invigorating numbness. I've missed my morning runs and couldn't wait to start again. After months of running in minimal shoes, the thought of going barefoot excited me. I was reminded of summer days, 12 years old, when we'd jog the half-mile from the caravan to the beach. There, we'd walk along the wooden breakers to the very end, and after staring at the inky sea for what seemed like an age, we'd dive in and swim back to shore. An incredible feeling for so simple an activity. This - this barefoot running - it feels the same.

And now September's gone - its restful melancholy soon to be replaced by the harsher face of October. October will strip the leaves from the trees, bring down its cloak on the long days and steal the sunshine. It will pave the way for its wintry companions.

For a blissful while, we've paused - taken stock and smiled over summer memories and recent glories, Now, the sentence continues.

Eight laps of the field and I'm done. I find a step to sit on - all the best runs end with a step - and begin to brush the wet grass from the soles of my feet.

What's the reason for these morning runs I wonder. Why do I feel compelled to return to this place at the start of each day?

To increase my endurance? Granted, they add 15 miles to the week, but at the pace I run them, it's hardly going to make a difference?

To strengthen my feet? Improve my running form? Maybe - but no, that's not the reason.

I look over the field, and as the sun rises, it dawns on me what these runs are all about. They're the month of September, a pause before I walk into the hurricane of a new day. They're a comma before the words continue. We need the words, or where would we be, but without the punctuation, would those words make sense?

I've some busy hours ahead, but now I'm ready.

I'm grinning as I put on my shoes and run effortlessly into the rest of Today.

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The catalyst for these thoughts was 'September' by David Sylvian. Although an extremely brief composition, its aching beauty and sublime melancholy stay with you for much longer

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully said and as always, inspirational. Thanks for stopping by my blog to say hi! :)