It had been a long dry spell for Dallas, even for the summer. Little in the way of significant rainfall had happened since early June, and the ground was cracked and dry, the lakes and creeks fading. Until about a couple of weeks ago, that is, when storm clouds quietly moved into the sky with little of the drama that often accompanied past rains in this part of the country. The air filled slowly with grayness. After brooding silently for a while, like old actors preparing to perform on a long vacant stage, the clouds finally stepped forward and cleared their throats with a few barely perceptible gurgles, and it began to rain. And rain.
I did not wake up to meet my friend early Saturday morning for our regular run around nearby White Rock Lake—it was still raining steadily, and I had told him to go without me if I didn’t show up by 6:30. I took my time getting up, did a few errands, and by early afternoon the rain had finally slowed to a fine, intermittent mist. I couldn’t put it off any longer, so I headed toward the lake for a solo run.
As I got out of my car and stood facing the lake in my running clothes, I breathed the rain-washed freshness of the air. Squinting into the clouds of mist hanging over the lake’s suddenly lively surface, everything around me wet, gleaming, and dripping, I felt as if I stood at the cradle of something unfamiliar and primal—a newborn world, a scruffy child pushed squirming, wet, and steaming, from the cosmic womb. My mind turned to the biblical story of creation, which I had recently been rereading for the first time since beginning my Zen practice.
The oldest story in the Bible is of how the universe and man came to be, expressed in the ancient rhythms and evocative drama of the first two chapters of Genesis. It’s one of my favorite narratives, old or new, from any tradition, a masterpiece of the storyteller’s art that blends creation stories from different cultures and traditions. Much of its richness and poignancy can be diluted by some religious literalists, those bent on proclaiming Genesis as the definitive account of how it all got started. In reaction, others choose to simply dismiss it all as irrelevant ancient mythmaking. Each side is convinced that they know, they understand, they can explain. Certainty from any quarter makes me uneasy.
It took me a long time to start learning that there is a kind of peace in mystery, in surrendering to not knowing. I feel that sense of mystery every time I start out on a run, even a run down a familiar road or trail. It can be the same street or trail I have run down many times before, but it’s also different in a thousand subtle ways: the freshly fallen branch of a tree blocking the path, a new family of rabbits scattering in the dimness in front of me, a shifting of rose or orange in the dawn’s palette. The more aware I become, the newer it all seems, the deeper the mystery seems to go. Having run in many races, from five kilometers to over fifty miles, I find I still always prefer starting lines to finish lines—the open and seemingly limitless potential of a beginning, versus the dictatorial and often artificial finality of an end.
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