I went for a jog around 7:30pm. Instead of taking my usual route up and down 13th Street, I headed West into a bright, brassy sunset. Despite trying to shake things up, I wound up taking another well worn route toward Meridian Hill Park. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a side street I didn’t recognize. So I made a quick right turn down Fuller Street.
Immediately past a busy cross street, the noise dropped, the air grew calm, and the breeze became a whisper. I had stumbled into one of those sanctuaries in the city.
For the next 10 minutes I meandered through hushed, leafy streets, winding up on the back side of the Zoo. At one point, I was completely alone in the damp shadow of the trees. I could hear my breath and the rhythm of my feet hitting the pavement. The air smelled wet and dark. For a few brief minutes, I felt a solitude within. It was short lived though. At the bottom of the hill I had nowhere to go but to slog uphill, reaching the top short of breath and back to the real world of 16th Street traffic.
I don’t know about you, but that rare combination of outer and inner aloneness is mysterious. Even stranger, sometimes in the very middle of the city the horizon seems to shrink down to my very thoughts and breath. In the midst of a crowd, I feel absolutely alone. Not lonely, but alone. At times I reflect. At other times I feel disconnected and discomforted. Sometimes I pray. I’m not sure what or how I pray, or even if it’s prayer at all. But I try to be open in that moment, present to what feels like a deeper reality that is as big as the sky and as intimate as the well within, as vast as the ragtag mix of people at the Columbia Heights Target and as singular as my own heart beat.
It was just a jog. But for a few moments, at least, it was also something more.