While it was still dark, I awoke.
I wasn’t ready, but I awoke.
I slipped on my running shoes, grabbed my pack,
with its water and sugary snacks,
and streamed out the door.
The dawn whispered as I arrived at the trailhead.
My friend A started his GPS as we took off, running.
I wondered, could I do it?
Uncertain, I pressed my feet to the pathway,
and cast my eyes to the skies.
No one else was awake. No one else was on the trail;
It felt like we had found a well-kept magical secret,
located in a faraway land.
Still, my heart pounded; my lungs gasped for air.
A fifteen-mile run, could I do it?
Maybe I couldn’t, but my spirit soared
on this revelrous, rebellious run.
I slowed the pace, immediately.
I could not keep up, but neither could I give up.
I propelled onward, slow stride by slow stride.
How soon until it was over? Too soon to ask?
Still the path widened, the trees pressed in,
and the rising sun shattered the bleakness.
I became enamored with the movie screen
that was the morning, that was the outdoors,
that was the scene that unfolds before you
when you dare to give yourself to the woods.
Then I saw her: the lake,
sparkling like a brilliant blue gem.
Just us, the water and the whisper of dawn.
Our feet pounded the ground as we bounded
by majesty, by grandeur,
by the well-kept secret of a magical world
about which the animals
have been whispering for years.
We ran, but the rainwaters flooded the path.
The water soaked feet and streaked legs.
Our pace slowed. We found an outcrop
that jetted into the sapphire lake.
We doffed our shoes, drying them in the sun,
and filling ourselves with water and wonder.
Then, we were off, racing again,
beating our bodies into form.
Splashing again, until we quickly turned,
and into the woods we returned:
Suddenly: a castle of rocks, or Castle Point.
What a beauty. White rocks lined up to make
a perfect slant with a view of the Catskills.
The rocks loomed above, a work of art;
the view stretched below, breathtaking.
I pressed uphill, walking now,
as my quads refused the elevated climb;
Still, I would not turn back,
enthralled by this revelrous, rebellious run.
Up to the enchanting castle, then back down,
until we sprinted by an otherworldly lake,
a hidden lake,
obscured by the fog kissing the water
and rising through the pines.
I could only see half of the scene
until white cliffs, like stunning opals,
peaked out of the vista.
I felt like I had been transported
to a scene of the mystics, or of a mystery.
I tried to find words.
Which was the right one? Mystical, sublime,
magic beyond what my mind could conjure
as we stole time in the early hours
and plundered the beauty of the fantastic.
My friend turned to me, “It’s phantasmagorical.”
“Fantastic-gorical? Wow,” I replied,
“a perfect imaginary word to make up
for the scene unfolding before our eyes.”
My friend laughed, “It’s a real word.”
A real word for a real scene.
And so we drank up the phantasmagorical
lake with the lingering fog and opal cliffs
as we paused for one last break,
filling ourselves on food and fantasy.
Next the final leg, or my final legs?
Wearily, my feet ran on. Could they? Would they?
We rushed by a gushing waterfall,
the water barreling over the precipitous.
My legs wanted to rebel,
but my heart rebelled more fiercely.
How can you stop, give up,
when there is so much splendor to take in?
Almost there, my friend encouraged.
My legs like jello, my lungs like fire,
I ran on until, just like that, a road.
We crossed it, flying onto the final trail.
Downhill from here!
Any store of life left in my body
unfurled like a coil in a spring.
Nothing would stop me.
Nothing would hold me back.
I would. I could, and now adrenaline
coursed through my veins.
There were rocks and roots and sticks,
but still I flew, twisting and turning,
ducking and daring.
No turning back! No slowing down!
The water dashed down the pathway
until it became a small stream,
and I threw my feet into it,
one after the other,
on the tail of my friend.
Water splashed up and our bodies pressed on.
No turning back! No slowing down!
The car stood ahead and I would reach it
even if it took everything I had.
The water felt cool, like a mountain spring.
It filled my shoes
and awakened my mind.
Swish swash. Swish swash.
I ran with the creek water
careening in my shoe,
my adrenaline ebbing, the car far away,
until, at last, I emptied out upon it.
Every part of my being in rebellion.
Every part of my being fed.
Gloriously tired. Even more gloriously awake,
as I emerged from the well-kept secret
of a magical space in a not so distant land.
I drove off, changed into my street clothes,
and started my day, dreaming still of what I done,
on that revelrous, rebellious, phantasmagorical run.