By Daven Oskvig
In a world that seems on the brink of collapse with nearly every headline, many of us seek escape and solace among the trails with the canopy of woods closing us off from the chaos. Though we cannot there avoid being haunted by present realities or past mistakes, with fellow competitors and tireless volunteers the hope for the future somehow is restored while our bodies are broken down.
Perhaps no place is this more of a stark reality than at the Oil Creek 100 in Titusville, Pennsylvania. Once the sight of incredible prosperity with the original oil boom, now a region suffering among economic hardship, past and present intersect in reminders in the largely-reclaimed woods of our use and abuse of nature. We see the lasting consequences, present realities, but more than either of those we envision future possibilities.
Maybe that’s the point of all this. Just to know… know what we individually are capable of, to know the goodness of humankind, to know the rhythms of nature. Here in the wake of it, emotionally and physically raw and stripped to our core, we know this truth so deeply that words fail to convey. That is the value we have taken. Hope has been restored.
Sure, there are the buckles, new distances reached, PRs achieved along with the bruises, blisters, chafing, scars, and missing toe nails. Even those who failed to reach the conclusion they wanted though, share in the true achievement. It is the lasting memory, the shared experience, the restoration of the human spirit.
We do it to “find faith again in tomorrow and its makers,” as Hal Borland wrote. The soreness will abate, bruises will heal, blisters will make way for new skin, toe nails grow back, and awards get placed upon the shelf. The headlines will all too soon be screaming back at us. And though we can’t close it out, we will take to the trails to know… and live what the old Navajo prayer song says:
Beauty before me, I return.
Beauty above me, I return.
Beauty below me, I return.
Beauty all around me, with it I return.