I started this blog to write about my love of romance novels, and my love of reading. For as long as I can remember, books have been my inspiration. This morning, though, I was inspired by something else entirely, and this post just tumbled from my head. It’s surprising, isn’t it, when a new source of inspiration strikes, in a most unexpected way? I was surprised this morning. If you’ll allow me, I’ll share it with you.
6:00am. Wide awake for no reason at all. Occasionally this happens to me. Usually I turn over and try to will myself back to sleep. But not today. That never works anyway. My plan was to get up at 7 to run. I’m just a little ahead of schedule. I lace up my running shoes and head out. The city is still quiet as I walk the 3 blocks to the park. Three or four times a week I do this walk, sometimes delighting in it; sometimes dreading it. Because i know what comes at the end of it. My run. Much like writing, running is a fickle creature. Sometimes kind and agreeable. Sometimes cruel and unpleasant. Every day it’s a surprise.
Today, it’s the former. I can tell by the walk. I delight in the quiet rumblings of a street slowly shaking itself awake after a night of slumber. I notice - really notice - the familiar places and faces of the Upper West Side neighborhood that has been my home for some time now. Then I arrive.
6:30am. Central Park. I feel, as I often do when I enter the park for these early morning runs, transported to a different time and place. No longer am I in a big city filled with noise. No longer are my own thoughts crowded with the thoughts of 1.5 million others. For the next hour, I am alone with the morning runners. The hundreds of others making their way around the park loops. Enjoying the solitude of a quiet winter morning.
The first minute is painfully slow. It always is. I am still shaking off the fatigue from my unexpectedly early wake-up. But then something happens. Suddenly, I am not tired anymore. I feel like I could go for miles. I run my favored lower loop, eschewing music - as I often do on these early mornings - in favor of the sounds of sneakers pounding the pavement. Not just my own, but the pounding sneakers of this army of runners.
There is something magical about this early morning tradition. Like I am a part of a special club of people whose names I don’t even know, but whose faces are almost as familiar to me as my own. I see them every morning. Some days I wonder about their lives. Are they are as happy as I am? Do they have someone remarkable waiting at home for them, like I do?
Today I don’t wonder. Today, I am inspired. Inspired by these people. Inspired by my own strength. Inspired by the solitude of the park on a late-winter morning. The sky is gray. The tree branches are bare. I think it has never looked more beautiful. As I round the bottom of the park and start up the east side, I think how lucky I feel. How Central Park in the morning is an oasis in the middle of this loud and crazy city we call home. Later today the tourists will come with their cameras and their noise. But not now. Now it is just me. Me and the runners.
Up ahead is the turn that marks the final stretch of my run. Some mornings it feels like I’ll never get there. Today, it’s coming up fast. I will it to move a little farther away. Just a few extra quiet minutes before I face the day. Alas, I make the turn onto the transverse that leads to home.
Most mornings I go home right away to stretch, have coffee, and watch a few minutes of the morning news. But not today. Today I stay in the park to stretch. To hold on to this unexpected morning as long as I can.
As I leave the park and head towards home, the city is wide awake. What a difference an hour makes. People rushing to work. Kids heading to school. Coffee to drink. Lunch to make. E-mails to return. It’s a weekday on the Upper West Side. Before long I will be joining the rush. But not quite yet.
As a runner, as a writer, I learn to hold onto these moments. Tomorrow’s run might be harder. My thoughts might refuse to form into words on a blank page. But the memory of a morning like this is enough to sustain me. Through the bad runs. Through the terror of the blank page. As I await my next source of inspiration.
What inspires you?