Shaken, not stirred.

A dear friend going through a life transition has been staying with me in Lowell for a while. She had reached out months earlier, and I told her she was welcome here. I hoped that my home could be a haven for her during a time of intense reflection and meditation on life, love, and identity.

She is a dedicated, passionate runner. She runs miles each day. We began working on a song when she first arrived, and the story line was one about running up a mountain where she lives in Alaska. Running is sacred. It is something she does for herself and a way to prove to herself what she is capable of.

It is inspiring to hear her speak of running and to be witness to the determination and rigor involved in preparing for a long race. She ran in a twenty-mile race across New England state lines not too long ago, and I was so very proud of her.

With such a spiritual connection to this athletic pastime, it seemed perfectly reasonable for her to express a desire to travel into Boston to cheer on runners in the annual Boston marathon.

We drank our morning coffee together, and she headed for the train station. Had I not been completely immersed in all things dissertation, I would have likely joined her. I used to be a runner, and I admire the will of body and mind that join together to allow an individual accomplish such an intense feat.

Hours later, I received a text from her.

“Explosions at the finish line!!! Race shut down. Total chaos, but I’m safe.”

“I feel like I’m in a movie,” she wrote a few minutes later.

I couldn’t believe it. It was so very surreal.

I am not sure it has hit me yet, though we have spent hours talking about her experience. She was right near the finish line and felt the vibration from the explosion in her body.

I admit that I have never felt that Lowell was a very safe place, but I was so relieved when she returned home, seriously shaken but safe and in one piece.

I write now to try to channel the unsettled feeling that insists on rattling my insides a day after this tragedy.

I continue to admire my friend. She is determined to run in the Anchorage marathon, which is a qualifier for Boston.

“I was running this afternoon,” she told me, “and I kept thinking, I want to run this race next year. I need to run this race.”

We spoke of the desire to honor the people who were injured or killed and to demonstrate that we will transcend fear and continue to live with intention and love.

Life is a blessing.

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