I was not feeling well that day. I did not have the sniffles, nor a cough. I was not overly tired or fatigued, but my head was not in the right place. A work life balance is essential. The thing that, for me, tips the balance the wrong way is lack of exercise. It had been months since I ran, or walked far, or swam, or cycled further than the local shop. This had eventually worn away at me and left a gloom over me. Cobwebs in the mind and maybe on the body too. The previous night the gloom had thickened to a grey cloud that made me want to run and run, I could fell the need to stretch tendons and muscle, squirming inside me. Exercise is essential medicine,  a tincture for my body and spirit. And so, I found myself  standing in the dark on the edge of a forest in the cold rain.

I ran. The place was dark and damp on either side of me. It was a wilderness for me. A wild-déor-ness, a place of “self willed”-animal-ness. My imagination could easily conjure up the Pan of the forest or the Antrim big cats. The reality was sleeping squirrels, mice, badgers and foxes. These were all still unreal to me, what was real was the dark silhouette of the leaf stripped trees and the fat drips of rain in a chorus.

the deep dark forest by Michael Heilemann

I ran. I drifted through the cold air as a stream surged winter blackness beside me. The rhythm was a bliss that calmed me. Then, for a split second, the path did not meet me. In one step I had found a void in the tarmac. Hidden by rotting leaves and mud I briefly entered it with my whole foot, whole ankle, then…. I was down, sliding and scraping along with my face only inches from the path and several feet along the trail. I then I was up, still moving, I must be ok, limbs are still rocking and the rhythm returned. My hand felt moist with mud? Or blood? They stung and hummed. My knee was damp and this I knew was blood as it got wetter as I kept running. Was this a disaster? No. I felt alive and the world had hit me hard (literally) but I was still running.

I was only a third through the run. I decided to turn my head torch on for the rest of the run. I had to fight through the numbing stiffness in my knee and keep the pace going. I felt the blood ooze again, this time in my thigh. The humming in my hands slipped away and was replaced by stinging stones deeply seated in my palms. The head torch was off again. This time to stop and stand under the beech trees. They were black and what they were in was a darker black, but I could smell them, and hear their dry tinsel foil leaves in the wind. I thought I probably had holes in both the fabric on me and the fabric of me, but my soul felt a little more whole.

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