Ruts are everywhere this time of year. As the snow fades and the sun warms the freshly bare ground, ruts abound. The dirt roads we traverse are soft and swollen with the mud of the warming season. The pavement of the city of our employ is strewn with the pockmarks of failing asphalt. The roads have given way to the battering plows of winter and the harsh claws of snow and ice. The hand of the winter blues has also loosened its grip upon my home. The warm sun has finally made its presence felt through our windows. And it is out those windows that the mud calls and the road beckons.
As a younger man, I used to believe that the difference between a rut and grave was about six inches. I used to believe that meant that each obstacle had to be met head on at full speed. I thought it meant that your reflexes needed to be quick and your senses alive to navigate the world at warp speed. I would ride the rutted trails without a care, smiling and howling at the speed. The blessed ignorance of youth, the fearlessness of a body that heals quickly and does not feel the miles it rapidly accumulates. To slow down would not be living, to falter would not clear the rut, to sleep would be death.
But the miles pile up quickly and an older body pays the price of youth. The dull aches and pains, the stiffness of the years, begin to stay the hand that guides the throttle. To see the scenery, to smell the wind in the pines, to meet the sun as it rises fresh from bed (instead of telling it "good night" as it peaks from the horizon), to slow the pace in order to enjoy this life becomes more important. Yet there are still ruts. I navigate them more slowly now so as to preserve the body and soften the blows. I have also come to find new meaning in old words. The six inches I so fear are the ones that keep us in the rut and eventually keep us from living. It is these six inches that one must conquer to escape the routine, the tedium, the monotony. To climb out of the rut, see the sun and explore the world again, all one must do is hurdle six inches.
Life will always have potholes, obstacles, hurdles. Life will always have routines, jobs, ruts. It is how one handles them that makes the difference. To choose to stay stuck, to lay down and accept the routine, to stoically shrug one's shoulders and shuffle on, or to climb the six inches and catch the sun. Nowadays I do sleep but I also wake up and feel the wind. It just takes me a little while longer to get there.