This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice, and be glad in it.
“I’m not that sporty,” I said one day long ago, walking around Greenlake with a friend.
“You didn’t do sports in high school?”
“No, I did. I ran cross country for three years. I didn’t really like the running.”
“So why did you do it?” he asked, incredulous.
“I liked being outside, in the fall. Running through the forest, you see more than walking. It was a good excuse to be in the forest, running with friends, safe. It was really beautiful. That’s what I loved.”
It’s this conversation I’m remembering today, foggy Sunday afternoon, when I cinch the laces of my hiking boots and head out into the snowy forest. I’ve always exercised for social or aesthetic reasons. I’ll play a game inside with people I like, or I’ll run outside alone. The best scenario is enjoying nature with others; the worst running hamster-like on a machine, trapped in a too-warm room, inevitably with too few windows.
Here in Germany, this has meant that my running routes–a capillary network of trails that provide almost infinite options–depend on the weather and time of day more than anything else. Clear days, I’ll climb to some vista to see the view. If it’s late afternoon, I’ll make sure I’m running west into the setting sun, drinking in as much orange light as I can. If it’s cold and rainy here in Kandern, I’ll run up into the hills, searching for snow at higher altitudes.
Today it’s too foggy for views anywhere, so I head into the forest. The Black Forest–mysterious, deciduous–is a place of magic in the winter, unexpectedly bright and barren. Since an ice storm last night rendered all the paths too slippery for running shoes, in hiking boots I’m traveling slower than usual, seeing more. I look up at slender trees, zebra-striped with snow, their lacy tops disappearing into the cloud. Lower down, the forest is breathlessly still, only the terra-cotta orange of unfallen leaves interrupting the monochrome scene.
And the forest lures me into metaphor, as it has so many times before. I think of my decision to abandon the high hills today, since their expansive views are shrouded in grey. I think of how much there is to see up close, when I’m moving slowly enough to look for it.
I think of how often I’m so busy looking for views of the future–either for events to look forward to or possible disasters to worry about–that I miss being present today. Lovelier than even this winter forest, this present life is rich with the gifts of people I love deeply, a place that restores and a vocation that challenges and delights me daily.
The broad views are exciting–days when we daydream of how it could be, someday–but it’s foggy days that remind me to slow down, thanking God for this day he’s made, not just a stepping stone to the future but truly a gift in itself.