Sunday, February 1, 2009

Walking with the big dogs

I had a fantastic revelation while eating lunch. I hate football. No that isn’t the revelation. But since about 95.6% (give or take) of the U.S. population would be enjoying the Super Bowl game – or at least the commercials, I would go to the gym. It was brilliant.

I loaded some lectures onto my rarely used mp3 player and prepared to listen to Madeleine L’Engle or Tony Campolo or Don Miller while trying out the 3-in-1 cardio machine.

Got in my car, put on my retired Mizuno running shoes and prepared to put my fabulous idea into practice. Only one problem. I got to the gym half an hour before it would close for the day. Who knew they closed at 6 on Sundays.

Determined not to waste my cardio energy, I decided to park at the trail head and get a good walk in.

While listening to Madeleine talk about fantasy (read more about this on my non-running blog at, I set out on my familiar trail.
About a mile and a half out -- past all the office buildings and the Italian restaurant –- I see a rather large dog next to the trail. As I saw no person with the dog, this gave me pause. It begins to cross the road, and I follow it with my gaze. Another dog. They seem to be headed away from the trail, so I keep walking. Then I see it. Something too big to be a dog following behind. That’s when it hits me –- these aren’t dogs, they are deer. My this point, I’m less than a quarter mile away and still walking -– more slowly now -– toward them. A fourth deer stops before reaching the road and looks at me.

I pause Madeleine, amazed by the scene before me. The four make it across the road about the time I reach the place they had been standing on the trail. Then I hear it. To my left, in the little wilderness area by the trail, are at least three more deer (it’s dark at this point, and we are far enough away from the streetlamps that I can’t tell the still deer from the rest of the landscape). A couple are still moving around, and one – the biggest – studies me. I stop moving and look back. We both stood there for a moment or two; both curious and perhaps cautious. I hear a clicking noise, and they all run back in the forest.

And I realize: this is not something that happens in a gym. BUT, since I’m listening (or at least was until I paused) to a talk on fantasy, I had to picture running on a treadmill while a herd (or flock or gaggle, whatever) of deer frolic by in front of me. As fun as that would be –- I think the outdoors have got something magical!

So, all you football fans, keep your game and your commercials. I’ll keep walking with the deer.