I do much of my more personally productive thinking on long trail runs. Today, as I reached the mountain’s snow line on my cold and wet solitary run, I discovered something in the footsteps on the snow. My discovery wasn’t something I necessarily hadn’t known, but the circumstances and surroundings affirmed a clarity to my desire—my need—for mountains and the trees. Despite the cold, the darkness, the lone footprints; despite what might ordinarily be deemed a typical Pacific Northwest gloomy day, my spirits were high. In that moment I made a cognitive connection with what I may instinctually know; my thoughts trend upward during my runs in the mountains, and they trend downward if I sit quietly reflecting on things.

As I sat this morning drinking coffee, fingering through genuine well-wishes and automated birthday emails from my insurance company, I noticed my thoughts were beginning to head toward the morning wormhole where I have often found myself. The over fertilized soil of past and future expectations where I toil in self doubt and ponder indecisively. I began reflecting on the past year, I began ruminating on what I need to accomplish in the coming year. In so doing, judging unfairly the lack of accomplishment during my forty-sixth year. Admittedly, I didn’t accomplish all I set out to achieve monetarily or with work, but I also accomplished more than I planned, personally. I believe I’ve become more tolerant of myself in the areas in which I don’t excel, and at least recognize sooner when I fall into negative self dialog, and recognizing situations that fuel and combat that negativity.

I now try to force myself to get out of my head in the mornings, whether engaging in a physical activity or more focused reading and writing. I try to head-off some of the rumination that results in much of my somber, and a bit darker, poetry. While these mornings of thinking can connect me with my creative side, and perhaps my most honest side, I recognize it isn’t often the healthiest and most productive way for me to start my day. The melancholy that can come from those sessions tends to set the tone for the day, a tone that can be difficult to reset.

To feel that melancholy come on is feeling stagnation set in. I feel the blood in my veins thicken and slow. I feel the fog begin to settle behind my furrowed brow. I know what to expect if I don’t preempt the coming storm. So I run in Nature’s storm. I feel the chilled wind and rain against my skin, I eagerly settle into the darkness under the canopy of soaked trees. Nature’s storm is physical, Nature’s storm is spiritual; the mind can be forgotten. Forgotten not because it has no place, but because it knows it’s place. In the moment—the now of the suffering or joy. The thoughts that do escape have a better perspective on things. Perhaps they are influenced by the endorphins that begin to move through me, perhaps the mind knows the trees and mountains hold no judgement, perhaps my spirit running free directs my mental pathway. The science, or spirituality, of the why doesn’t matter. What matters is recognizing I can influence my thoughts, control the direction my day takes, and pursue productive creativity through physical and active connection with Nature.