The following and all of the other episodes to come are snapshots of what goes on in my head, now and in the past. There are times none of this will make sense. There will be times when I might get lucky and the blog I post will be well constructed and will flow like a mountain stream to an awaiting lake below. Other times it will seem like the ramblings of a madman and you’ll ask yourself, “What the……?”
You should probably get used to the latter.
EPISODE ONE HUNDRED FORTY SIX: THE WALKIN’ DUDE…
I live in a large city where it can be hard to breathe due to traffic and people, lots of people everywhere. For those that suffer from anxiety and depression, that type of atmosphere in large doses and in extended amounts of time can be absolutely paralyzing. The old adage ‘packed like sardines’ just doesn’t say enough. It’s not the tight spaces part of that, it’s being compacted with others you don’t know and don’t care about you. I drive home from work in the afternoon and drivers are switching lanes without signaling, cutting people off, driving too slow/fast, and driving me absolutely nuts. Even in the mornings when I head to work, when it’s not even four-thirty, the few people that are out, still find ways to cut me off or ride my butt. I’ve tried listening to ambient music on both drives to help me from screaming at people inside my own rolling sardine can. It doesn’t work as often as I like.
But there is a relief. Not just when I get home and shut the door and the rest of the world away. Not just when my wife (my better half) gets home. Not just when I get to see my daughter. And not just when I can clear my head long enough to write or read.
No. There is another time.
My wife and I took a walk at a park near Nashville called Radnor Lake State Park. It’s near Brentwood and is one of the most beautiful places in middle Tennessee. There are trails that don’t just go around the lake but into the woods. We have been a few times and even though it can get quite crowded at times and it’s hard to find a parking place, it can be very peaceful. Most people tend to stay on the trail that follows the lake but on this occasion, we decided to get off of the beaten track and got onto one of the side trails. As we walked and left the ‘regular’ world behind, I started to get a very weird feeling, even though my wife was with me and a few others passed us along this trail.
I felt… solitude.
All I heard was my breathing, the squirrels in the leaves, the occasional plane overhead, and my feet on the damp trail under me. I spread my arms and hands out to my sides as if I was claiming the space around me. What I didn’t realize until later is my wife took the above picture of me at that very moment. Pretty funny. But I was feeling that empty space around me and the small cool breeze that swirled through it. There was even a moment I closed my eyes losing myself in the forest.
I felt at peace. It’s not something that I get to feel (or allow myself to feel) very often. And it felt wonderful.
Later that day, I thought about when I ran. I would go to the trail down the road from our condo and run the mile trail. When the weather was nice, there were too many people about to feel any peace (or keep a good running pace). I would go out when the weather was wet or cold when nobody was crazy enough to get out there and feel some peace but I wouldn’t stay long due to nearly freeze my butt off. Those moments were limited. If I went to other trails and ran, it was the same thing. Cold or bad weather would allow me some peace but it wasn’t often enough.
So, it’s being a while since I felt that kind of peace.
Until this past Saturday out in the midst of the towering trees.
My wife and I came to a place where they had built a bridge over a small creek and we stood there imagining being rich enough to have a property like this and having a home built inside of its coppice, hidden from prying eyes, a place to call our own, our own little Tolkien shire.
And then the moment was spoiled by other people coming to destroy our little dream, hiking from deeper within the woods. They passed us without a smile or wave or any acknowledgment we were there. Just like when I drive those city roads.
Or maybe, for the minute it took them to pass us in their conversation about how nice Italy and Croatia is, maybe we weren’t there to be seen. Maybe we disappeared into our daydream of our own shire. They just passed a couple of empty places on the bridge.
That’s a nice thought.
But not likely. They just didn’t care to see us. Just like those drivers.
And that’s fine. I still had the peace of the woods. I looked all around me, even above me. I took in my environment to complete totality. I tried to absorb my environment as completely as possible. I knew I would need to carry it with me, lock it away inside my mind for when I need to ‘leave’ for a few minutes. I can use those thoughts until I can make it back again, if not to this particular real-life place but maybe another.
I enjoyed running when I did. As you might remember (if you keep up with my blog posts) that I stopped gradually because of depression. Plus the idea of not having some space to myself when I ran and having to deal with those that had no respect for another’s wellbeing started to whittle me down.
But walking and hiking might be my way back. Maybe the woods themselves might be my solution to help keep those feelings of anxiety and sadness at bay.
Maybe a cure?
It’s possible. I’ll need to keep walking to find out.
-Loyd Elmore Jr
April 5th, 2019
I’ve decided to keep a blog about how I’m dealing with depression. I’m going to consider this a form of therapy. It might not help anybody else but it might help me.