Pacing The Tease Of Spring

On the morning of Saturday, February 12, my neighborhood run started late. The keyboard on my laptop had a hold on me. It wouldn’t let go as I searched for words in what’s left of my old brain.

When I did leave the house around 7:30, the temperature was forty five degrees. Not bad for a February morning, but there was a brisk breeze out of the south, so I wasn’t running in shorts and a t-shirt.

Since Wednesday, spring had been teasing us. Afternoon temperatures had been in the sixties, with lots of blue sky and sunshine. Later on this pretty Saturday, we could hit seventy degrees.

But don’t get excited, on Sunday our projected high temperature is thirty nine degrees, with a cold rain changing over to snow.

I took my 3/28/11 route through the neighborhood. When I came to my right turn off Baldwin Road on to Westham Parkway, I saw something unusual—a pack of runners, with a longer strand of runners behind them.

Usually, I’m about the only fool out here. I slugged across Westham Parkway, so that I would be facing traffic as I ran. The runners were polite, young, and of course, many were attired in shorts and t-shirts.

One asked how I was doing, and I responded, “old.”

What I really wanted to say was slow down. Take a good look at me. This might be you in a few years as that spry heart zipped by me.

Up where Westham splits, in the median was a water stop. Several of the runners paused for some hydration.

The polite passing continued up Westham.

Some were involved in road chatter. Others were silent. It was a diverse group of men and women. All ages. Shapes and sizes. Fast, slow, and in between. I admired their commitment of time and investment in their health.

And somewhere in that investment, there is an appreciative shoe company, and maybe an orthopedic surgeon dreaming of a faster car or a bigger beach house.


On my loop back down Westham, I was curious. At the water station, I asked the gentleman in charge about the training targets for this group. He told me the runners were a mix of half and full marathoners, and some were prepping for the Boston Marathon.

Back on January 31, I bought a new pair of running shoes. By expert standards, I was long overdue.

The young man who waited on me was impressed when I removed the insole from my old pair of shoes, and I showed him the neatly printed date of my last shoe purchase.

The salesperson listened to my whines about my current shoe, and I could see he was contemplating his inventory. I learned he was in graduate school, a physics major, with a goal to eventually earn his doctorate in physics. I told him I was impressed with his brains.

I informed him that I had a budget, and of course the two pairs of shoes he brought out for me to try were not in my budget.

I asked him if he was married, his was answer was no. Then I suggested to him, if I purchased either of your recommendations, in couple of days, you’ll be reading my obituary. He laughed.

But, I made the out of budget purchase. The salesperson had properly fitted my old feet. The shoes felt right.

During my post-purchase days, my conscience was really working on me. But, that came to an end.

My wife and our youngest daughter countered my second guessing with this wisdom—you supported a local business, and at your old, old age your feet deserved it.

And then I reasoned to myself, if I were to croak while out for a run, at least my feet died happy.

On that Saturday morning run, I noticed the back of a t-shirt on one of the runners who whizzed by me. Printed on the back of the shirt was the word—“pacer.” In that particular road race, this gentleman gave of his running expertise to help pace a group of runners.

Life is a race.

Yet, as I race through life, I rarely think about my pace.

My guess is you probably don’t think of your life pace either.

Out of all our seasons, our slog from winter to spring might be the most challenging. Maybe getting through winter is about pace— our ability to adapt.

I never was one to get caught up in the hoopla over Groundhog Day.

Winter is winter. Winter knows its pace.

But, I love that scene in the movie Groundhog Day, when Phil portrayed by Bill Murray, tells the groundhog driving in a stolen pickup truck, “don’t drive angry, don’t drive angry.”

That is good advice to the groundhog, and for me too.

In our two plus years of dealing with this pandemic, we have attempted to pace ourselves with its ups and downs. But, one thing is clear to me—we are still driving angry.

Despite my quibbles with winter, I admire one of its peaceful traits.

Winter allows us to see the whole tree free of its foliage.

Winter allows us to peer deep into the landscape of a stand of silent trees along a Virginia byway.

Winter wetlands, along the banks of the James River/Huguenot Bridge Richmond, Virginia photo Bill Pike

I wonder if winter is trying to tell us something about our vision, our sight, and our capacity to see.

Is winter reaching out to a worn and weary country?

Is winter nudging us to look beyond our own stark, bareness, and to peer deeper into our hearts?

I’m not sure.

But, I do know this—we can’t continue to drive angry.

Somewhere out there, Spring is pacing its arrival.

With or without us, Spring will show up.

But, I think Spring is hoping that our pace, our driving through life is less angry with each other.

And that makes me wonder, why is it so hard for me to live the wisdom in 1 John Chapter 4 verses 19-21:

 We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

Perhaps, my difficulty to follow this wisdom is grounded in my inability to consistently follow the real Pacer in life.

Love must replace my angry driving into spring.

I hope love can become my pacer.

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