I’m spending some time at our family summer place. The house sits in the middle of a rural village, surrounded by woods with paths for logging and horseback riding. In years past the trail has been one of my favorite places to go running. It crosses a babbling stream at several places, and even on sunny days, the air is cool.
I headed out onto the trail for a jog last week for the first time this summer. My straining muscles and breathing reminded me that I haven’t been moving my body as often as it prefers. As a downhill slope shifted into a long uphill climb, my appreciation for the beauty around me quickly turned into discouragement.
As I reach the crest out of breath, I receive a gift from my old self. A pile of small stones lays on a stump beside the trail. For years I’ve placed one there every time I run past, a small ritual that has never made sense, but always felt right.
During harsh winters the pile often scatters, but I always start it again. Yet on this day, last year’s pile greets my spirit, if not my body, with messages of encouragement:
You can do this because you’ve already done it.
You’re good at starting over.
Things can be hard and beautiful at the same time.
You need to make it home anyway, so you may as well keep going.
I stopped and looked around for a stone and added it to the pile, grateful for whatever force it was that moved me to start the pile all those years ago.
If your old self could send you a message of encouragement, what would you want it to tell you?
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