Earlier this week, I sucked up the remnant warmth of Summer, as Fall starts to turn rainy and colder. I went for a longish run on the Korkki Ski Trails, reveling in the ankle-deep leaves that made for a surprisingly-loud run. Quite simply, I was in heaven, from the smells of pine needles to my views of the beaver dam. In the last few years, a good trail run has been enough to sustain me through days of no sleep, personality conflicts, and general world weirdness. Me lurrrrve me trail runs.
But I fear, to look at me from the outside, that might not have been apparent the other day. If I had been followed by a "Trail Cam," the footage, when reviewed later over a Summit Bitter Ale, would have revealed a shrieking and hopping runner, someone who seemed distressed more than blissed out. No, it had nothing to do with shrew corpses, faithful readers. Rather, at one point, as I concentrated on the exposed tree roots and the upcoming whopper of a hill, I felt a raking across the back of my leg. And it hurt.
Oh, lawsy, a badger had just clawed the back of my calf, leaving deep, bloody cuts that would later scar up impressively. And badgers must have really dirty claws, right? Which meant that I was probably infected with badger.coli and would eventually need a kidney transplant.
Of all this, I was certain.
But after I gave my best eeeeek and then turned to spy the wiley beast, I discovered only a downed tree branch, which I had stepped on, causing it to rear up and scrape my leg.
At this point, the Trail Cam should have faded to black, but if it had continued, it would have seen me, mere minutes later, gasping and clutching my chest as I narrowly missed bisecting a garter snake on the path (I had to take a quick moment to assure myself that there are no asps in Northern Minnesota, so my fate and Cleopatra's would not be parallel) with my shoe.
Thereafter, Trail Cam kept filming, only to see me inhaling rapidly and sucking desperately for unencumbered air as I fought off an enormous gnat/mosquito/dragonfly thingy that decided to offer itself up as a sacrifice to my mouth. I had to stop in the middle of my "patoohies" and actually scrape it off of my tongue--and this was a three-finger jobbie, the thing was so huge.
At this juncture, the Trail Cam holder would be thinking to himself, "Man, do I have a lot of fine footage to edit together and send in to 'America's Funniest Home Videos'!"Other observers might be thinking, "Why, again, is trail running 'fun'?"
All I know is that it's worth it. If a badger had attacked my leg, that would be the cocktail party story to end all cocktail party stories, and if I had bisected that garter snake, I could have informed my snake-fearing mother that there was one less slitherdude on the planet to scare her, along with having good reason to finally clean my crudified running shoes. And as for the bug, well, heck, I was really, really hungry right then, almost getting bonky, so his protein offering helped me get back to the car. Or would have, if I'd swallowed it.
More philosophically, though, I have to say that yesterday's trail run restored me as all such runs do: they afford me at least one hour every day when my feet are literally in touch with dirt (the Earth, if you will), and in an age where most people go through their days perching their soles solely upon human-made surfaces, touching dirt is a gift. It's a daily sustenance, to have my feet not on linoleum or carpet or wood or asphalt for at least that hour. I get back to something more raw and less processed--I mean, really, everything our feet touch in a day is representative of someone else's intentions, right? Someone else proclaimed, "This dirt should be covered over for this reason, in this way!"
I like my feet touching something more fundamental, at least for a brief time each day. I can see how doing that affects my mental state and puts a big case of the happies on me. Then I look at our neighbor, a dour, angry woman whose marriage is strained and who lives either at work or in the mall, and I see her carefully making her way from her concrete driveway, up the paved sidewalk, into her plush carpeting, her pumps actively avoiding the grass on her lawn, and I realize: there's a reason she's like she is. She oughtta get dirty.
Attack if you will, badgers of the world. I'm there for you.
Trail Cam: out.