This morning was heavenly here in Illinois. It was warm and humid with the smell of phlox and honeysuckle in the air. I ran the first downhill mile of a trail that I’ve been training on since 1981 when the railroad bed was converted to a recreational path.
Catbirds were calling in the hedges as I ran past. The urgent ‘fitz-bew’ call of a willow flycatcher sounded overhead. Rufous-sided towhees were singing in the woods, “drink-your-teaaaahhheeaahhh.”
My pace was slow as the legs were tired from running ten miles two days ago. It takes longer to recover than it used to. I alternate training days with swimming, cycling and running to keep soreness at bay.
Out on the run the arc of trees shaded the limestone path. People were out walking and running, riding bikes and watching their shadows trail ahead of them.
That path goes on for seventeen miles out to Sycamore, Illinois. Today was a five-mile run, so I turned around just before Wasco and picked up the pace on the return trip. That’s how it always works these days. I start out really slow and wind up running a minute or two faster per mile on the way back. The days of bending over a few times and taking off at 6:00-7:00 pace are long gone. That’s okay.
The days that I do feel good on the run are not lost on me. The last weeks of May are particularly heavenly, especially after the cold February we had in Illinois with snows two feet deep. I even appreciate the struggle of getting going on the run, all the while knowing that eventually the pace will pick up. The struggle makes the good running seem so much more valuable.
If all we get to do in heaven is enjoy mornings like these May days, I’d be satisfied. I don’t think literally about such things, nor do I think we actually have any idea what “heaven” is like––or even if it actually exists in some way. We are free to indulge our imaginations. It seems harmless to think that our spirits might persist after our earthly bodies are gone. Some even believe we get an all-new version of a body in heaven.
What would that mean? What age might we be? Who determines whether we’re the age of 15 or 25, 35 or 55 when (and if) we reach heaven? Do they hold races in heaven? And if so, does everyone get a participation ribbon at the finish line?
Those of a conservative bent will likely hate heaven if that’s the case Some people aren’t happy unless someone claims the win and other people feel the sting of losing somehow. That attitude proves what Jean Paul Sartre set out to describe in his existential play No Exit, in which three people are locked in a room for eternity––and at any point in time, two of them don’t get along with the third. The conclusion to be drawn from that work of fiction is simple enough: “Hell is other people.”
All I know is that a day in May is just right for enjoying the moment for all that it is worth. The smell of purple and white phlox wafting across the path is perfection, even if it doesn’t last forever. I’ll take it in any case because to me, this is what heaven feels like.