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The fork in the forest

Don Rogers

The run means everything.This strip of asphalt slicing through forest I haven’t dared see yet, this is my son’s passage to adulthood.I feel good as I write, if feelings can be trusted as facts. The test is done now. Only word of his success or failure must travel to this lakeside cabin free of phone service, cell or archaic.It is settled. I await tire on gravel signaling his mother’s arrival and news. The American flag hangs limp above the lawn next to the lake – a burnished mirror this morning – anticipating breeze and thunderstorm surely coming as they have every afternoon since we arrived. Crows have stopped cawing for the moment, too.My world has stopped.The run means everything.He trained all summer. One day off every two weeks. Sometimes two runs a day, sometimes race pace, sometimes at whatever’s comfortable. But always prescribed. This type of run, this distance, this pace.His running friends noticed. The regimen, far beyond high school, rewarded as it demanded. Even through twisted ankles and a sore hip, among an assortment of runners’ ailments, he held to the schedule. Peers who once led or kept even now fell back when he ran with them.The kid’s muscles and will hardened as he aimed at the goal. The one goal.The run means everything.A year ago around this time, he met Phil Jackson who was in town to speak at a fundraiser for the Lakers coach’s Indian namesake Swift Eagle, a community group devoted to helping Eagle County locals through personal crises.The coach asked, as coaches always do, about the kid’s goals. No hesitation. Run for a college cross-country team.He saw high school as a prelude. Not the goal, only a step toward it. If his parents, as parents do, fixated on the grades as well as the races of the moment, there was a prescience about the kid. He seemed to know his time had not come yet.But now it is here. Actually, the make or break of the time trial came at 7 o’clock this morning. Only I don’t know the result. This is killing me, the newsie of the family.The run means everything.I see the flag begin to stir. In time, even the clueless, anxious father will know.Of course, intellectually I understand that the strip of asphalt through the forest that I don’t dare visit represents only a fork. An end to one dream awakens others. We may grieve, but new possibilities always creep in, and these will create our fate, these new dreams out of the ashes of the old, that can only come out of the ashes of the old. I’m mindful of this, as my life has been shaped by water and flame.His path is different, chosen with hard purpose rather than his father’s, drifting with the flow, igniting from sparks like a grassy slope in summer, skittering with nature’s gusts, direction as open as the sea.My son’s path depends on his own lungs, sinew and feet, where he points them, on solid land. The run means everything.This kid aims to sculpt his own fate. He’s plotted his course academically. Double major in history and anthropology, pick up his teaching credential while he’s at it, and eventually coach. He goes in as nearly a junior, thanks to Colorado Mountain College’s involvement with the high schools. He’s created space to achieve these ambitions. If he didn’t quite study to his parents’ satisfaction, he set his college foundation well, indeed. I’m impressed. And if he didn’t quite run to his parents’ sense of his true potential, he stepped it up on his own to put himself in position to realize his dream.If I didn’t believe before, I certainly do now.The run means everything.But it’s not the result that counts. It’s the guts of a decent high school athlete to dare to dream of running at the next level. And, more importantly, to put it all on the line. It’s the work leading up to this race toward adulthood – on his terms.It’s the metaphor, not the time trial itself, that means anything in the long run. Not that this sort of philosophizing would keep real tears from shedding.We don’t get everything we want, even if we’ve prepared our best for it. Luck, natural talent and, if you believe in such things, higher purpose have their fickle hands in this, too. Besides, it’s not the wanting, but the doing, that makes us. The flag is whipping now, the aspens quaking, and a bell at a nearby cabin tolls with the right gust. Soon, I’ll know. Anxiousness vies with my morning’s calm certainty. I confess I’ll be overjoyed not to see my son in the car with his mother and sister.The run means everything.Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 748-2920 or editor@vaildaily.com. Read his blog at http://www.vaildaily.com/section/BLOG.


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