Quiet Day

Quiet Day

Quiet Day

It finally dawned on me a couple weeks ago. We need a Quiet Day, particularly in the summer when we spend so much time outdoors. Just this past June, there were Flag Day and Fathers’ Day. July has Independence Day and Bastille Day (celebrated with races in Fenton and Kansas City, Missouri, of all places). And, throughout the summer, someone, somewhere calls for Ozone Action Days.

Personally, each year I note “Bug Day” in my running log. It’s the summer day when the deer flies on the forest trails I prefer to run become unbearable, forcing me to take action—I wear a Tred-Not Deer Fly Patch, laundry dryer sheet, and yellow tee shirt (don’t ask; they seem to work). And, on my late fall runs, I usually mark “Ice Day,” when the first veneer of ice covers the nearby lake, and “First Snow Day. They, too, go into my training log.

Well, what’s one more “day?” Would a Quiet Day hurt?

Here’s what brought this on: Have you noticed how noisy we’ve become? Until recently, televisions, radios, CD players all blared, mostly by choice, of course. And much of this is inside our houses, where others are not likely to be bothered.

But now, we’ve become bombarded, involuntarily, particularly when we go outside, just to relax. What sparked all of this came on a recent Saturday in June. Karen and I were out in the yard, planting and transplanting, weeding, pruning, and generally cleaning up. All three grandchildren were with us, Michael and Ashley enjoying the trampoline and Cody lazing in his swingback chair, taking in all of this. Not a bad way to pass an afternoon—or so I thought. How wrong!

Not long into our efforts, one of my neighbors took three hours to mow his lawn. We’re not talking about acreage here and he must have one of the loudest tractors on earth. When I went to cut my own grass a little later, I could barely hear my own mower when another neighbor pulled out his leaf blower to clear his driveway. Follow that with the weed whacker. The airport couldn’t have been much louder. So much for my nice, quiet afternoon.

And when the lawn maintenance people visit the neighborhood, I might as well turn off the History Channel or that Les Miserables CD, even while in the house, for half an hour or forty-five minutes.

One of my favorite cross training activities is shoveling snow in the winter, with a real snow shovel! Years ago, occasionally my son Matt would get out there before me (on his own, a teenager yet!), but usually I’d catch him before he started working. Sometimes we’d shovel together, just chatting away., other times quietly doing our work. And more than once the grand finale was throwing snow at each other, necessitating a few more minutes of shoveling to reclear the driveway. Most often, though, I’d tell him I would do it alone (still a teen, he didn’t insist on helping).

I especially enjoy shoveling at night, in the dark. It’s a great workout, physically, mentally, and even spiritually. If I haven’t worked too hard, I might follow it up with a nice walk in the snowy evening.

More and more, though, before I’m done, someone has started up a snow blower. Even if there are only two or three inches of the white stuff, nice and fluffy, the peace and quiet are shattered. And so it goes….

Now, I’m not some 21st Century Luddite. (The Luddites were early 19th Century British workers who destroyed factory machinery.) And, as usual, Karen is right. People can work in their yards. I’m overly sensitive, I guess.

Yes, we have a power mower, a microwave, and much of the rest. But there’s something amiss when teenage neighbor kids have to use a loud leaf blower, instead of a broom, to clear the grass clippings off of their driveways.

I appreciate my running for lots of reasons. I love my weekend group long runs. Like many runners, sometimes we chat about some serious, personal things and sometimes we just laugh at our ridiculous jokes.

I enjoy training for specific races. There’s something fun about choosing a target race and then mapping out a training plan. The tough workouts are tiring and often hurt, but they are rewarding and satisfying in ways only athletes can appreciate.

As much as I eat, I should weigh 300 pounds. But the running miles help keep the weight more manageable.

Right near the top of my list of reasons for running is the quiet, the serenity it can bring. It’s always been like that for me.

When I became a runner, my first runs were on paths deep through the woods behind the apartments that Karen and I then called home. When I coached football and baseball and started a family, the only time I could run was before work. It’s pretty quiet out there at 5 AM.

Today, one of my favorite runs, as I noted, is in freshly fallen snow. With no traffic, the pristine flakes let me alone disturb the white blanket with my footprints.

Our first house was out in the then yet largely undeveloped northwest part of Oakland County. Often I would run for hours on back dirt roads without seeing a soul—or car or truck. When we moved back toward civilization, I was able to locate some quiet trails, now mostly gone, replaced by subdivisions of hundreds of new homes.

Fortunately, some years ago I discovered Proud Lake Recreation Area, with its soft, pine-needle carpeted trails. A ten-minute run from the house and I’m away from traffic, lawn mowers, and snow blowers. I am surrounded by quiet, occasionally interrupted by a scampering rabbit, squirrel, or even deer. Sometimes it’s the loud croaking of the bullfrogs that replaces the loud engines of the tractors.

Once in a while, I come across hikers, other runners, or, in the winter, cross country skiers. I’ve noticed that even when I run the trails with friends, talk is at a minimum.

As a bonus, the different seasons bring different scenery, almost making the trails look brand new. But the quiet remains regardless of winter, spring, summer, or fall.

Imagine my shock and dismay a couple years ago when, coming upon a couple of young walkers, deep in the woods, I saw they were engaged in conversation—each, separately, on cell phones! It ruined my run. I’m glad we never crossed paths out there again.

All right, so it’s not likely that I’ll get my “Quiet Day.” But at least I have my trail running. I hope nobody ever takes that away from me.