Today is the shortest day of the year, with the least amount of sun. I loved running—and still love walking—very early in the morning, just as the sun comes up. The moon might still be in the sky, and I can even see the morning star on clear days. I feel wide awake, my eyes taking in the scenery, the dog walkers, and the other walkers or runners. I can almost taste the weather, and it seems as if the coming day belongs to me alone.
I’m a big fan of Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency novels, and especially of the kind and wise detective herself, Precious Ramotswe. In The Double Comfort Safari Club, Precious travels to safari country to solve a case and is immediately struck by the look in the eyes of the professional guides:
“It was something to do with being a game spotter, she imagined. [T]hese people were used to gazing out into the distance, picking up the tiniest clue to an animal’s behavior. . . . Looking for such things perhaps explained this quality in their eyes—the brightness, the quick movements.”
I for one don’t stalk wild animals for a living, so I have to take my opportunities for looking and seeing where I find them. During the winter months, sometimes it’s just too cold or snowy to be outdoors, so I have to fall back on the treadmill for exercise. After that, I spend a lot of time working at a computer screen—not exactly ideal for “gazing out into the distance.” And when I run errands, I’m usually so intent on getting everything done that I find myself staring at the sidewalk and thinking about the next thing on my list. How does all that make me feel? I feel anxious, closed in, and resentful of the pressure the outside world seems to be imposing on me. I’m frowning and wondering why my breath seems so short.
That’s my cue to look up, even if I can see only a few blocks away. I don’t have to worry about anything more dangerous than whether I’ll get to the next store before it closes. I realize that I’m the one imposing pressure on myself! Almost right away I can feel myself growing taller and more upright. My breath comes more easily, even if I’m carrying a lot of packages. My eyes seem to widen as my facial muscles let go. And most important—my mood lightens up too, even if the evening is coming on or it’s about to rain or snow.
The next time you go for a run, I invite you to consider how you use your eyes—your most important assets. If you don’t give them enough attention, it can change your mood for the worse. But if you allow them to really see—behind you as well as in front of you—notice how bright your own eyes can be.
Remember, even if your winter is cold, the days will start getting longer tomorrow! I wish you the very best for the many holidays that we humans celebrate in December, and I wish you happy running!