Before the sun appears
It's 8:30 am and the sun is nowhere in sight. Such windy, grey, and harsh weather is hardly welcoming for running or any sort of outdoor activity.
The day isn't just unwelcoming, it's formidable and frightening. I sense a deep reluctance at being awake as I drag myself out of bed into my sportswear.
The 9 am runners, who congregate on the edge of the Gooi Meer (pronounced "hoy-yee-meer") in the Dutch village of Laren, huddle together in Frank's car. By 9:15 am, only five people have shown up. It's time to start running.
As usual, I fall behind in my steady pace. I don't mind. I've gotten used to being by myself, alone in my thoughts, cocooned from the Dutch conversations that I try in vain to understand. Before long, I am completely by myself, lost in the plains of this great nature reserve.
The wind pushes me ahead. For that I'm glad. My feet are beginning to hurt after 7 kilometers of nothingness. I look up at the heavy clouds, pregnant with rain and bad news. It could be a scene from Dracula or Frankenstein, a heaviness full of anticipation of the worst kind of predicament.
I see the trees blocking the plains. I should have bought a rope, then I could hang myself from the trees and get blown by the wind. I shudder at the thought of death. What is happening to me? Why can't I smile? Why can't I see the glass as half-full?
Finally, I see the restaurant. I have run far longer than usual. The other runners have already finished their first round of cappucino. Deep in their conversation, they wait for me to catch my breath.
"Where did you go?"
"I got lost."
One lady just had her 60th birthday. You wouldn't think she's one day past 40. Another lady drove here from Amsterdam just to be with other people. She's been running for more than 30 years, starting in her mid 20's. Everyone is smiling. What is there to smile about?
"You're so lucky. So talented. Your music. You're alive," reassured the 60-year old lady. "Every day is getting longer now. Soon it will be spring."
"But I'm still not ready to run a marathon," I cry. "I can't get used to this dark weather. I was born in the tropics."
"You can choose to be happy or sad," said the mid-50 year old tanned lady from Amsterdam. "You don't have to feel bad. Why are you afraid of this weather?"
"I don't know. I'm afraid I'd have to stop before I finish, that I can't make it to the end."
"Everyone needs to feel progress. Don't run for so long. Choose a shorter path."
At 11:30 am it is still dark and windy. Could I really choose how to feel? Could I really choose not to be affected by this weather? There is a reason why I become so easily affected.
I can allow myself to fall deeper into this hole where even a smile requires tremendous effort. At the bottom of this hole, I will be able to write my masterpiece. Or I can get out now and be normal like all other consumers in this world. The choice is mine, and mine alone.
8 January 2005 Saturday