A Path Well Travelled

The simplest questions/ are the most profound./ Where were you born? Where is your home?/ Where are you going?/ What are you doing?/ Think about these/ once in a while, and/ watch your answers/ change.”
Richard Bach: Illusions, The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Ripples of blue-green water kiss the underside of the pier jutting out from the shore. Lake Mendota is swollen from the week’s long unrelenting rain, but the sun has finally fought through the clouds to run with me this Sunday morning as I make my way along the lake shore path.

I have come here frequently over the past 15 years: To train, visit friends, enjoy college reunions, or just escape for a few days. I almost always find a way to put on running shoes and wind my way to the union terrace.  The path starts there and winds along the shore to the west side of campus. The irony that during my four years of college I rarely found myself out this way is not lost on me. Since then, I am probably closing in on a hundred runs out here.

The edges of the paved path intermittently have stretches of soft gravel that I make sure to advantage. They are a bit easier on my aging knees, but I also enjoy the rhythmic sound of crunching rocks under my shoes. A mantra to focus on and turn inward.

This path over the years has been a refuge. A place to process the challenges that have been front and center in my life. To reminisce, find solace or obtain peace of mind. I run this path often with a heavy heart, the weight of responsibility and struggling with angst of so many unknowns. But usually somewhere along these miles I find clarity and strength to move forward.

Today is different.

There is no anchor weighing me down. My shoes are barely tethered to this earth. feel a levity at the start of my run instead of the finish. I come to this path today not as a lost wayward soul in search of answers, but as an old friend enjoying familiar company.

I have often written here on my blog Balance in vague (and not so vague) ways about the challenges I have faced, particularly with my family. For so long now, there has been a somewhat cyclical nature behind them with an often changing yet familiar rhythm and tempo. But maybe now my family is writing an entirely new composition.

The impressively large Porter Boat house, home to the UW Crew team comes up on my left, blocking my view of Slichter hall which lies just behind. I was unaware of its existence some 30 odd years ago when I went to school here. Now it holds special import to me as it’s my daughter’s dorm. Her first month at school has been good, adjusting as she should. But she’s not my only child to leave the house. We moved my son into his apartment on the east side of campus at the same time.  He has navigated this change in relatively undramatic fashion as well.

I continue down the lakeshore path to the entrance of picnic point, a nearly mile-long peninsula off the south shore of Lake Mendota.  Pavement gives way to an earthy trail. Shadows and light alternate in staccato fashion while I keep pushing forward, the sun flickering through the branches. I make my way to the tip of the peninsula where the trail loops around back on itself. The trees open up and give way to a view of campus from this unique vantage point that is stunning. I am able in one view to see both the west side of campus, where my son now resides, and the lakeshore dorms, home base for my daughter. Bracketed in-between is this amazing world that they now live their days. I feel the echoes of my time here stir inside.

Two years ago, as my family celebrated Thanksgiving, thousands of miles apart, I could have written a thousand different stories of possible predictions of where my family would be. Today is a nice reminder that life can still throw surprises at you that don’t have to hurt.

I run back on the trail to where it meets with the lake shore path, this time heading back towards campus. As I again pass Slichter Hall heading towards the union I can’t help smiling knowing my daughter travels this same path most days. A treasured connection during a time when she is testing her new independence.

I have made my way to the Union and start to walk. At this hour I have my choice of chairs to sit on. I catch up on the notifications on my phone. I scroll through some “snaps” that my son has sent from the night before.  A picture of my bike lock, still attached to my old balcony after 25 years, just a few houses away from where he lives now. Pics from the pier by the Edgewater hotel where I dove off to swim on many summer days. Snapshots of his current life are mixing with my own memories.

I turn to the water and look out toward the horizon. I have gazed out upon this lake over the last few years often looking for answers. But not today.

Today, I just let my heart soar…

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