This morning’s run began just before 6:00 a.m. At that hour, the sun has not risen and the streets are dark but for the shine of the next streetlight up the block. The sheen of early morning rain made it easy to detect each crack and tilt in the asphalt. So I ran with confidence until the streetlights ran out.
But even then, the streets were not entirely dark. Clouds pushing past on a southerly wind carried with them a faint yet consistent glow. This was light absorbed from the car dealerships a mile to the south.
Finally, I moved far enough north that this glow evaporated as well. Now the streets were truly dark. Yet having run on them often enough, I knew by memory where to trod. I ran up Hickory Lane, a township street that is largely free of traffic lights. Then came Deerpath Road, a winding, somewhat hilly road with homes tucked well back in the woods. It was wonderfully dark here. A quarter-mile ahead, a single fluorescent streetlight cast a pale circle on the spot where a residential loop makes its entrance to the larger road. I ran along with a clean cadence because Deerpath is a smooth and delightful road on which to run or ride.
Indeed, in several weeks when the weather moderates we’ll be humming along that stretch on our Specialized bikes. First I’ll take a few tours on the mountain bike to break in the quads and get used to outdoor riding again. Some dark mornings I’ll flick on the headlamp and taillight, wear reflective gear and pedal that stretch to make a loop around Dick Young Forest Preserve. There is a path through the prairie in the preserve that I run as well. Before the sun rises, all one can see out in the void is a dark mass of sullen grasses. Occasionally a small bird will chirp, usually a song sparrow in the late winter months.
I have always loved running before the sun is up. Then you can watch its first appearance, often just a crack in the eastern sky. It starts with a thin rail of red against the horizon. Then comes a burst of brightness a the roof of clouds illuminated.
We see the rising sun as a small circle on the horizon, Yet 93,000,000 miles away, the sun burns with a fury that someday will consume the earth and everything in it. We’re all just carbon forms winging through darkness anyway. It doesn’t matter all that much. Time is eternal except for these moments when we measure our steps through darkness, listening to the sound of each footfall, wondering if we’re going as fast as we did yesterday. Or ever will.
One needs these dark and trusty streets to consider such notions of movement and mortality. One can’t measure thoughts of the soul when the sun is bright and the movement of the day provides so many distractions. We have a spirit within us that needs darkness as well as light to find its balance.
To find its truth.
To find our way.