“When the student is ready the teacher will appear.” ~ Buddhist proverb
In a blog post from last June titled “Thankfulness Journal: An Indigo Bunting of Happiness” I made a statement that I believed that when we are ready for something it will appear as long as we are open to noticing and accepting it. Then I go on to wonder what it is that I am missing in life because I am not open to it when it happens.
On the surface, the events of my life on Wednesday, October 10 seem like random everyday type occurrences. Looked at more closely though, there is a thread of meaning that I cannot overlook.
As usual I was traveling for work that day. I had just finished up my last meeting of the day at Southwestern Community College in Sylva, NC and on my way out of the main administration building I noticed a nature photography exhibit. Nature photography is a passion of mine and so I had to take a look. Included along with the beautiful pieces of photography, as is usually the case, was a short biography of the artist. The photographer, Andrea Minard, stated in her bio that she takes pictures to help people who go through life without taking the time to observe the things around them. She is hopeful that her pictures will inspire others to slow down enough to enjoy the things around them. I was intrigued enough to jot down her name so that I could look her up later. The significance of me finding this statement by Ms. Minard will not become clear until Part 2 of this series to be published in several days.
My stopping point for that night was Gatlinburg, Tennessee. I arrived in Gatlinburg excited because it was still early enough for an outdoor run and my hotel was only a quarter-mile from the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was not long after my arrival in town that I was burning up the Gatlinburg Trail that runs between the park entrance and the Sugarland Visitor Center inside the park. This trail twists along the banks of the west prong of the Little Pigeon River.
A little over a mile into the run, just after I had crested a hill, my left foot jammed into a rock concealed by fallen leaves on the path. I was running at a strong pace and the contact with this unforgiving object caused me to lurch forward with all my running momentum behind me. Completely off-balance and falling forward with my face only about two feet from the ground, for a split second I accepted in my mind that I was going to hit the ground in a full layout with arms outstretched in front of me to hopefully break my fall. I actually remember thinking in this split second about how much it was going to hurt – the cinder and stone scraping against my arms and the hard ground taking my breath away, my mind probably recalling some similar experience from my childhood. But instead, I managed to contort my body in just the right way and at just the right moment to keep upright. But my trouble was not over. While I had managed to stay upright, my feet had still not caught up with my body and I was teetering sharply to the left. As I assessed this new challenge, I quickly became aware of the sound of tumbling water to my left, and I realized suddenly that if I did not quickly manage to straighten my gate I was going to run off the path and over a high ridge that plunged into the river below. Fortunately, through another series of body contortions I did get straightened out and I was able to keep running.
Then I cursed – loudly and repeatedly. Angry at first that the rock was there, concealed, and in the way. Then angry at myself for not paying better attention; for not seeing the rock in time to avoid it. Annoyed, frustrated, and in a little discomfort from the foot contact with the rock as well as the body contortions, I continued on.
Once my adrenaline level returned to normal though I became very aware of how much worse things could have been. If I had tumbled over that cliff, would I have survived the fall? If I survived, how badly would I have been injured? Would anyone have found me? I was running alone and the daylight had started to dim. There were not many other people on the trail. And that is when the first wave of gratitude hit me. I was thankful that I was OK; thankful that when I hit that rock I snapped to attention in time to avoid any serious injury.
I continued on with a heightened attention to my surroundings. One that would allow me to be open to a very clear message later in my run.
**I will post the continuation of this story, “Stumbling My Way to a Major Realization: Part 2, The Clear Message” in a few days.
With peace and gratitude,
*All photos in this post were taken with my Motorola Droid X and were not taken during the run :).