The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. ~ Marcel Proust
I love time off. Time off from school, from running. I love sleeping in, swimming at the lake, and taking leisurely walks through the woods with the dogs. I love backyard barbecues, live music in outdoor venues, and having a cold beer in the hot summer sun.
But you know what else I love? Getting back to it.
Last weekend I finally got out on a long training run just for myself. I wasn’t pacing a friend on a tough hundred miler. I wasn’t going short and easy so the dogs could get some exercise but still keep up with me. I wasn’t forcing myself out for a quick 5 miles just to maintain some fitness. I really, really needed a good, long run.
After the realization that, yes, some of our favorite high-country trails are still(!) covered in snow, Jamie and I decided to cruise the Flume Trail and Tahoe Rim Trail for 26 miles. I think of the Flume trail as the most beautiful trail in Tahoe, but on this day, the TRT was queen of the pageant.
We’d both run this exact stretch of the TRT – between Tunnel Creek Road and Spooner Summit – as part of the TRT Endurance Runs two weeks prior. It was somewhat of a mystery to both of us then why, on this day, it was so much more incredible.
“The trail has changed so much in just two weeks,” Jamie declared as we ran along the ridge toward Snow Valley Peak, “and in a better way.
“Which I didn’t think was possible,” she added.
It dawned on me that despite my many miles on this trail, this could be the first time I’d ever seen the wildflowers at their peak. I thought I’d experienced wildflower peak up there many times. I must have been wrong. More color and variety than in mid-July, they dazzled me all day long. Perhaps the heavy winter snow pack had brought forth rare varieties? I had no idea. All I knew was that we were both loving it.
As we descended the other side of Snow Valley Peak, we deliberately slowed.
“I’m not ready for it to be over!” Jamie whined.
“Me neither,” I said slowly, wistfully. “This section is technical anyway,” I reasoned, “so we should probably just take it easy and enjoy the view.”
Distant peaks still wearing the remnants of winter stood out above the sparkling waters of Tahoe. Thunderheads billowed and grew closer, white mounds of marshmallow growing above their dark, rain-filled bellies. The breeze spoke of their arrival and brushed the summer heat from our shoulders. My legs felt strong, and happy to be back in use.
Dropping down into a more wooded section of trail, I prepared for the long downhill back to the car. I’ve heard this section of trail described as boring, endless, monotonous, and painful. Myself, I think of it as “brown.” But not this day.
“Where did those come from?” Jamie pointed in surprise at a stretch of wildflowers covering the forest floor in a carpet of yellow, red, and purple.
It seemed there was a new treat around every corner – more flowers, views I’d never noticed before, and the fact that this section of trail actually felt rather short.
This week has also seen a return to both teaching and writing for me, as I began teaching a series of writing workshops. Maybe it’s that I’m only teaching 3 hours a day, or maybe it’s that my sole subject is writing. Maybe it’s because my students are here by choice and love writing. Perhaps it’s because I’ve simply missed it all – the writing, the teaching, the kids. Whatever the reason, it’s good to be back.
This, of course, is why teachers and students have summer off. Fresh perspective. It’s why runners take time off. It’s not just physical recovery; it’s mental and emotional.
This past spring, in the heart of my training for Western States, I told myself I wasn’t going to run a 100-miler next year. Already I’m struggling to keep that promise. Why did I tell myself that again? I can’t remember.
I can’t remember because every race seems to call my name. There are trails begging to be run, friends waiting to be joined. I have stories waiting to be told, books even, waiting to be written. When I run, I am truly and honestly a better, kinder person. I’m happier, less irritable, more aligned with the universe. When I write, I can make sense of it all.
Time away is always good, because it gives one the perspective to appreciate that which we truly love.