For most of my life I have felt stuck at the age of 17, roughly. Before I was teenager, I often acted far more mature than my age, yet with a mix of childlike enthusiasm, optimism, and naivety. Once I passed the actual age of 17, I was still mature, maybe, but also still mixed with enthusiasm, optimism, and naivety. In my 30s I seemed to have begun to age and lose some of those qualities. I am probably more like a 23 year old just out of college. In recent years, I've found myself thinking a little too much. Especially things like: can I jump across those rocks? should I climb that? What is my point? This weekend I may have regressed a bit, thankfully. I had almost a perfect day Saturday. I won't bore you with the details of the entire day, just the most significant, my regression.
After pacing one of my high school girls to big personal best in a 5k that morning, I got back into my “Wild Specialist” truck and headed to the mountains for a run. A quick detour on the way turned into my unexpected regression. I stopped at Rob and Stacey's house to drop some things off for Stacey. Stacey and I talked a bit which is always good, but... As I was really preparing to head off for my mountain run, their kids, Harper and Isaac, asked me to come down into the woods to see the fort they were building. Fortunately, I had learned long ago to not hastily overlook the invitations of kids just to get on with our overly important tasks. They had already gone down as I finished talking to Stacey. I could tell they were surprised that I showed up as I had told them I'd come down before I left. They had piled sticks and hunks of bark around an old fallen tree. There was a wind flag up as the 20 mph winds kept it flapping. An old tire found in the woods was hang overhead in a tree along with a piece of concrete tile. Isaac had hidden light sabers in notches along the old stump. It was quite the fort. I began helping gather sticks and adding them to the fort. I helped pack leaves in between the sticks to insulate, then adding more sticks. We worked out a piece of the stump and dug out more to increase the room inside. Isaac wanted to show me an old airplane he had found in the woods. As he showed me the pieces and described how they would have fit together, he said it probably wasn't a real airplane. I said that didn't matter, it's good to see more than what is actually there sometimes.
We returned to the house briefly and I went to my truck to add a hat and gloves. Stacey had sent her kids out to play in the woods in 30 degree weather with a howling wind. Sounds like good parenting to me. I had also gotten an old blanket with a couple of mouse chewed holes which worked perfectly to hang it as the door. We each took a turn inside, it's a one person fort, and talked of more building ideas. I had probably been fort building for an hour, an hour and a half. I don't know as I never looked at my watch. Finally, Stacey came down to inspect the fort additions and announce it was time for lunch. Stacey asked if I wanted a sandwich too. Of course my answer was yes. Somewhere in here I must have totally forgotten my age, as I asked Stacey if I could have some hot chocolate too. Soon after eating Rob returned and asked Stacey if she had fed the kids. Then looked at me, but asked her, “All of them?” I told Rob, “I consider that a compliment.” I'm glad I have friends who appreciate a 39 year old playing with their kids in the woods. All three of us turn 40 this year, at least in human time.
I soon left and ran the 6 miles through Stone Mountain Park to the top of the mountain where it was 20s and 30 mph winds with a little snow. Then the 6 mile tumble back down. It was a great day. That is one of the things I love about trail running. The opportunity to still play as an adult. Jumping rocks, logs, and stumps, then sometimes jump on and off them as well. Splashing through cold creeks, sliding through snow. Playing a game of king of the mountain, only 6 mile style. I hope the trails continue to keep me young of mind and body for many more years. In the woods, I told Harper, who is 10, “Don't ever grow up too much, so you no longer build forts in the woods.” She gave me a strange face that said what a silly comment. Which if you know Harper, you know which face I'm talking of. Then still with that bewildered look, she said, “I won't.”
As I told Alison later, “Sometimes I forget that I'm not 39.” My tendency to misspeak things was probably more accurate than if I'd said it right.