I run in the early morning, three times a week. My alarm goes off at 4am. I snuggle closer to Christy. Finally I rouse my resolve and crawl out of bed, stumble to the door, and start running before I have time to think. I am barefoot (that's another story) shivering, and suddenly exhilarated.
Running barefoot is a primal and refreshingly wild tonic for my reeling, endlessly pummeled medical student's brain. The simplicity relaxes me, and soon my peace is complete. I enjoy the cool of night even as the energy of approaching day infuses each second accelerating towards the sunrise. My senses come alive with the world, my feet feeling each stride, the sights and sounds all around me, and the smells.
Oh yes, that's right, the smells. Nothing bad, of course, but all smell, any smell period, reminds me of the skunks. Some days I take on every attribute of a hyper-alert, hunted animal. My peripheral vision becomes super human, my nose more sensitive than the finest wine-taster's. Skunks in Loma Linda, you must understand, are aggressive predators.
Just the other day, I was running innocently down a deserted lane when a cat crossed my intended trajectory about 100 feet ahead. At least, I told myself it was a cat, with a really big busy tail. I didn't have long to rest in this comforting fable, however, for within seconds, the harmless cat was a skunk, pausing in mid stride, looking straight at me. I stopped. Surely, the skunk would continue on its way? But no, it turned towards me and began to run, purposefully, menacingly. I fled. Then, less than five minutes later, another skunk. This time, it was running up the street I was running down. I slowed my pace. Surely my last experience was a fluke and this skunk would see me and flee? Nay! The skunk saw me, but did not change course. Instead, its casual amble became an uncompromising, all-out charge. I fled once again.
Oddly enough, those two nervy skunks did not ruin my run. I actually chuckled most of the way home. Two stinky striped creatures had changed my run from a sublime revere into a farcical comedy. On the way back, I actually checked both ways as I crossed a street, not for cars (at 4am) but for skunks!
I couldn't wait to tell Christy my silly tale, but after regaling her with the full story, a serious and important thought occurred to me: We have real life passing us by each day, by turns dramatic, romantic, exciting, or just downright hilarious, but too often, we don't even notice. We have become so busy, so overstimulated, so over-entertained, that our sensitivity to real experience is pathetically dull.
We should simplify life at least enough to notice it, preferably enough to appreciate it, and hopefully enough to revel in it. I'm no saint of simplicity, but if the smells of sleepy Loma Linda suddenly can remind me of stinky skunks, then hopefully this little story will put my mind onto a far better scent--the smell of simplicity.