When it sucks. And it's glorious.
Forty-four degrees and clear in my driveway had turned into 38 and foggy when I reached the trailhead. The layering pieces that had been just-right-to-warm now were barely enough. But the dog was way under-exercised; he had to go, and I did too.
We know this trail so well: every slushy spot, hidden gravelly island, and firm rain-proof lane. But today, after unceasing winter rains, all bets were off. Everything gave underfoot. The high spots I typically tiptoed rapidly across were no refuge from the squish.
I’ve always known that horses use this portion of the trail. The seepy points along it are almost always chewed up with hoofprints from margin to margin, leaving no good footing. But I still got mad when I found the trail in exactly that condition. On a flat section where trail was now stream, I cursed horses, out loud, steadily, loudly.
The icy breeze chilled the sweat on my head and chest, my fancy gear utterly failing to wick away anything, except maybe heat. My legs felt heavy and uninspired after a long run two days before. Fog insinuated itself into everything, including my mood. At the turnaround, after the dog belly-flopped in the stream, we headed back through the slog.
Then — at the flat section where on the way out I had cursed all equines forever — I heard the noise. Spring peepers. Tremulous, tentative, yet hopeful, the high-pitched calls of Pseudacris crucifer (anybody else think ‘Pseudacris’ sounds like a rapper’s name?) instantly changed my mood.
Joy is not too strong a term for the emotion that overthrew the prevailing grumpiness. Those marshy messengers of spring transformed the simple statement that had been this run into a compound sentence.
But the cool thing was, the sentence wasn’t “This sucks, but it’s glorious.” Nope. The sentence was “This sucks, and it’s glorious.” It’s a crucial distinction because it emphasizes that the two feelings are bound together. That it’s not glorious in spite of; it’s glorious along with. That this particular thing only happens when you combine the two in this way.
F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” First-rate or not, I see no way not to feel both ways about being out here today. It does suck, and it is glorious.
By now I’m feeling sorry for people who’ve never felt this way. It’s an experience I’m really glad and grateful to have had. And I almost missed it, yelling about horses.