This weekend’s race is the Shelter Island 10k, Shelter Island, New York. You can read about it here. This will be my 14th time doing this race (15 if you count last year, when I ran the course the day before). This is by far my favorite race. But it is also emotional because for so many years my parents were there at the Finish Line cheering.
Life is short. We know this. And yet we are reminded again and again. We always think there will be one more time. Another chance. We take for granted the small moments only realizing long after they’ve passed that they were actually really big moments. Moments that we play over and over in our heads like a scene from a really good movie that has completely captivated us.
June is a difficult month. There’s the wedding anniversary that is now just a reminder of how we lost our best selves. There is this weekend when Father’s Day, my late father’s birthday and the anniversary of my mother’s death collide. There is the end of the school year; which has, in my house, become traditionally a struggle in squeaking out passing grades (or not) and trying to move on.
Father’s Day weekend has become my time to run-away. My daughter used to come with me, although as she gets older she needs her own escape too. This weekend she went to a concert in Buffalo with an older, responsible, friend and they are going to Niagara Falls today. As much as I’d like us to be experiencing that together, I’m glad she is making spectacular memories and keeping her mind off another year without her dad.
This Father’s Day weekend I am by myself again. This year I’m also reflecting on the sudden death of a member of one of my running clubs. She was in a bicycle accident last week. She was someone in my age-group and around my speed that I had often found myself running along side in group runs, track workouts and races.
I packed my bags and headed out with a heavy heart and a need for another peaceful weekend of reflection. When I planned the weekend, I imagined that it would be a warm, sunny, typical June weekend and I could do the 3-hour drive to the East End with the top down (I honestly bought the convertible in February with this weekend in mind).
When I woke up yesterday morning it was cloudy and unseasonably cool. By the time I got to the last exit on the Long Island Expressway it was raining. This was not at all part of my plan! I needed sunshine! But I continued to more forward. It was still raining when I got to the Shelter Island ferry in Greenport. But through the raindrops on my window I could see the familiar sights that with or with out the sun’s glow warmed my soul.
I drove around the island in the rain for awhile. Reflecting on moments with my parents and with friends that made up my experiences on this island since I was 15. My original plan was to go for a hike in Mashomack Preserve (The Nature Conservancy has protected more than 2000 acres of Shelter Island for this gorgeous nature preserve, that I had not hiked since the early 90s). When it seemed like the rain wasn’t going to let up (and my Weather Channel app confirmed), I went to visit my parents grave.
I stood there and said a short prayer as the rain came down around me. I added, “And please make the rain stop so I can just go for my hike.” There was still about 2 hours to kill before I could pick up my race packet for the 10k. I brought lunch for a picnic in the cemetery. I’ve done this before, only this time I had to eat it in the car.
When I finished, I realized the rain had stopped. I left the cemetery and drove to Mashomack Preserve wondering if it was going to start up again. Figuring my time was limited and not wanting to get caught too far out when the rain came back, I followed the Red Trail. That trail was about a mile and a half which was fine given that I’m running a 10k this evening (there are longer trails of 3, 6, and 10 miles).
Along the way in the clearing, I saw two beautiful swans. A sign? The rain was still holding off. I would finish my hike without getting wet. Did my parents stop the rain? Where they represented in the swans? The cynic would say no, just a coincidence. Although sometimes, doesn’t it just feel good to believe in miracles? Don’t we need to believe sometimes?
I spent the night in Montauk. I drove from Shelter Island with the top down. As soon as I arrived, I took the long walk on the beach that I do every day I’m in Montauk. The rain that had been in the forecast for well into the evening disappeared when I was in the cemetery and never returned.
Isn’t life too short not to believe in miracles? Not to hold on to the signs that the people we once shared our lives and our runs with are still there pacing us, looking out for us, waiting patiently at the finish line cheering?
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North Ferry on a sunny day. Shelter Island, New York. June 2012.