“Just because my path is different, doesn’t mean I’m lost”
It had been a long week. Aren’t they all? Which is why it was now late on Sunday afternoon and I still hadn’t done my long run. I’d wasted my one and only day off procrastinating, rather than just getting it done. As I crouched to lace up my running shoes and waited, not so patiently, for my Garmin to lock on to a satellite, it’s fair to say I was beyond grumpy. Muttering something about never signing up for another race ever again, I slammed the front door behind me and set off to lament the unfairness of life.
I’d been running for a little over eight miles when the first disaster struck. Three ominous beeps, and the screen of my trusty forerunner went black. Diagnosis? Death by empty battery.
“Oh come on!” I panted at the magpie mocking me from the hedgerow of the quiet country road. Seething, and making a mental note to add this episode to the growing list of evidence that my persecution complex was more than just ‘an irrational feeling’ of collective hostility, I plodded on.
I would tell you when my anger and frustration turned to concern, but with no GPS, I no longer had any idea. I think it was the point at which I followed the road around a blind corner expecting to take the left hand fork, which never materialised, that I realised with a sinking feeling I must have gone wrong.
Still I ran on, breathing hard, exhausted and wishing that I’d thought to bring some water. The road went steadily uphill, steeper and steeper, relentless, until tears of frustration mingled with sweat, stinging my eyes. At the top of the hill, the road ended. How does a road just end? With absolutely no idea where I was, or where I was going, I started to pick my way through the shrubbery. It was starting to get dark and the only thing ahead of me was a forest of trees.
A rising sense of panic flooded through my chest. And with my heart pounding out a mixture of fear and effort, I finally stopped. Frantic thoughts rushed into my head. What were my options? I could turn around, but I wasn’t even confident I’d be able to find my way back. In my desperation to quell the panic from my breathing, I exhaled through pursed lips, long and slow. I was lost, it was getting dark, I just needed to think rationally. Surely I couldn’t be that far out of my way? Weighing up my next move, I stood up and looked around, and that’s when I saw him.
Seeing, it turns out, is very different to looking. I’d been looking around the entire time, but I hadn’t SEEN it. The forest wasn’t just any forest. It was a plantation of Christmas trees. Starting in front of me only a foot tall, then rising, taller and taller as far as I could see. On the floor, a carpet of purple heather stretched across the field to the point on the horizon where the sun was disappearing leaving the sky on fire and casting its final beam, like a spotlight.
I stood there, breathing in the serenity and wondering how this forest had ever looked intimidating. Have you ever felt the world lift from your shoulders? Let me tell you, it’s physical. The sense of lightness. And as I stood there, all of the earlier frustrations of the week forgotten, the most magical thing happened. No more than ten feet from me, a deer stood from where it had been lying amongst the heather. So close that I could see its eyelashes and the chip in its right antler. He studied me with his beautiful, almond shaped eyes, and for what felt like an eternity, we both stood perfectly still, benign and completely at peace.
Eventually the deer took one step towards me, then turned away, skipping delicately through the heather into the sunset. I watched in complete awe of his athleticism, something I could only ever aspire too. And in that moment, I realised, that although I still had no idea where I was, I wasn’t lost anymore. I was exploring.