My Saturday afternoon routine generally involves a midday run followed by herring on heavy dark bread that I make myself. Akvavit and/or beer aid the digestive process. I look forward to Saturdays. This little routine sets this day apart from others and the lunch serves as a nice crown to the jog. This last Saturday was one of those odd days when it was the run rather than the lunch that stuck out.
We had some snow this last week, and so my run meant negotiating sidewalks that haven’t been cleared, people walking their dogs, and folk forging forward in the direction I run. In more clement weather, these latter are no problem. I simply slide from sidewalk to lawn, or perhaps the street and sneak by without their knowing. When the lawns are full of snow, it isn’t so easy and so I try to slip around them while staying on the beaten path. This is more difficult than one would imagine, because people gravitate to the center of the sidewalk when they don’t see anyone coming toward them. There isn’t, then, much room for passing. As I slither past them, I give often give them a fright. Sometimes I try to make noise before I arrive, but that too shocks them. I feel bad about this. But this last Saturday it got me thinking.
When we walk, we tend to anticipate meeting people in front of us. It is as if we imagine the future before us, and the past behind us; and it is really the future we need to look out for. But my running reminds me that sometimes it is the past that sneaks up on us. We often imagine that the past is spent, but as Faulkner notes: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” (Requiem for a Nun) This invites us to walk differently. Treading softly we hear the ever present past; seeing peripherally we discern history’s advance; being aware we develop that sixth sense – the ways of the wise in our midst who have learned to anticipate the unexpected, to dance with a ghost.
But perhaps I have made too much of a jog. After all, all of this is but a trope. Yet tropes too have truck with truth. At the very least, it gave me something to chew on after lunch, which I washed down with a nice cup of black coffee, warming and fortifying me for an afternoon with books theological.