Running with Ghosts – The Legacy of the Sacred in the Common

Published: December 7th, 2015

I find renewal running through forest trails; feeling the memory of a landscape with every step, and changing course to accommodate past events. Tatlock loop, a short trail run on a ridge near my house, is shaped by its history. I find myself skirting around a little ditch that was dug out by spring flooding years ago, only to then leap broad swaths of exposed roots that cling to the soil like crowfeet. When I think of trees, I feel their strength straining towards the sun as their roots press searchingly into the dark soil, coiling around iceberg-like rocks; defiantly anchored against external forces.

To the right, a hay field sways in the summer breeze; a whispering ocean of green stalks. In early mornings, it becomes an expanse of glittering webs pearled with morning dew. What secrets do they guard? I’ve spoken to people with different beliefs. I have run with them on these same trails, skirting old stonewall foundations that sink slowly into the fragrant decay of old leaves, a forgotten shell disappearing under sand. People who knew different hardships once built hopes, stone by stone, along this same trail in the late 1700s, living and loving and leaving. Before that, the Algonquain language rang out in this place, a watchful legacy unforgotten. The ancient maple trees stand in monument. I have friends who share one or both of these histories; every running step a continuation of glittering spider-thread silk that weaves amongst trees; new hope woven through time in a shared space. Some believe that there are natural energies we can draw on, that landscapes have living memory, and that spirits still wander among us. Others see the beauty and utility of the natural world as the physical manifestation of an invisible God. Everyone knows that land is somehow sacred. There is comfort in hearing origin stories; a friend’s compass that is not mine to scrutinize, but to love.

In the fall, Tatlock loop becomes a cathedral- vaulting branches offering dyed and dying leaves to the dappled autumnal light. This is where I learned the meaning of reverence; deep reds and solemn yellows juxtaposed against the brown, curling leaf edges and lingering green. Passing the stonewall foundations, draped in the stark colors of an impending winter- one remembers there was sadness here. Tatlock Loop is a trail running through the memory of interrupted lives. There has been unimaginable loss here that echoes in the hollowness of dry leaves breaking against iceberg rocks.

As I push against the long, winding hill, where partridge burst out from thickets of wild blackberries, I realize I know nothing. Except that spring snowmelt will turn my trail into a stream, and more crowfeet roots will be exposed holding what I love in place. I am thankful for the monumental strength of trees.

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About The Donella Meadows Project

The mission of the Donella Meadows Project is to preserve Donella (Dana) H. Meadows’s legacy as an inspiring leader, scholar, writer, and teacher; to manage the intellectual property rights related to Dana’s published work; to provide and maintain a comprehensive and easily accessible archive of her work online, including articles, columns, and letters; to develop new resources and programs that apply her ideas to current issues and make them available to an ever-larger network of students, practitioners, and leaders in social change.  Read More

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