Yesterday morning, I ran along the banks of Burke Lake. I followed a route that took me through the woods, over tree roots, and through a few cobwebs that had grown overnight. I jogged past the main marina, where young men in maroon shirts, hair tousled and shoes untied, set out canoes and rowboats for tourists and Fairfax County locals to rent throughout the slow Sunday. Just like the prior Sunday morning, notes from the Eagles “Take it Easy” rang out from a boom box, and I grinned at the old music and the rising sun. As I grinned, one of the maroon-clad kids grinned back at me, and bid me good morning.
“Great morning for a run!” He hurled a Frisbee through the air and a cool breeze caught it and sent it over flying overhead.
“It sure is!” I replied, slowing to a walk.
I reflected on the Frisbee and the music and the meaning of it all as I stopped at my water fountain, and yep, it is my water fountain as much as it is anyone else’s. It seems special to me, because it’s saved me from the heat and the pain of all the miles I run so many mornings, afternoons, and darkening twilights, but I share it with thousands of others and that makes me feel connected to untold strangers and a few friends too.
The same small black ants from last week and last year and the years long since passed crawled over the silver metal as I pushed the wide thick button and poured water into my yellow, plastic water bottle with the side compartment for my keys. They really aren’t the same ants but they look the same each time, and I wonder why generations of ants inhabit the same place, just like a new generation of young men catching Frisbees behind their backs listen to the music I first discovered on a sunny summer morning more than two decades ago. The mountain creek-cold water flows into my cup and I lean over and swallow water as fast as I can, and I pause to splash it on my face, which has turned pink from the exertion and from the extra pounds I am carrying on my middle-aged frame.
Before I keep running, I take a deep breath and try to inhale the moment, to capture it forever in my mind like a photograph that includes sound and smell and feel. It’s impossible to both live in this moment, already past, and to inhabit both past and future, but I try. The lake is blue, and the sunrise hails a glorious future, and the young men, so young, will grow older and one day, they will bring their own children to this place, and the Eagles will be playing from someone else’s radio, and a new generation of tiny black ants will crawl on the water fountain.
And who knows? Perhaps they will see a little old lady, clasping the hands of her boisterous grandchildren as they race toward the water, still blue, and they will remember the way they were. And then, with a sigh and a smile, they will nod at me and we’ll gaze into the stiller waters that reflect what we have, and still could, become. The circle of life has neither beginning nor end. Like each one of us, it is complete.