Alternate Routes

While my car has been away on an extended health retreat, recovering its ability to recognize its own key, I haven’t been able to drive to the nearby state park where I like to run the trails, so I’ve been running on a dirt road along the Rio Grande instead. It has a flatter terrain, a harder surface, and not as much wildlife, but it offers a view of the river and of T or C’s magnificent landmark, the sleeping turtle formation atop Turtleback Mountain. For a second choice, it’s not bad.

On an unfamiliar route, though, I don’t know where all the lumps and soft spot and other hazards are, and I can get distracted by the scenery—and yet it totally surprised me that I tripped and found myself scraping my knees and elbows in the dirt and gravel before I’d even gone half a mile.

I jogged back home, cleaned up, bandaged my gashes, and decided to take a walk rather than sit around getting stiff from the fall or frustrated about not running. The route I chose took me to the highest point in town, the hill crowned by the water tank, where you can see to the edge of town in all directions. The tank features one of the town’s best murals, an image of Apaches on horseback coming to their traditional healing place, the hot springs along the Rio Grande. When I descended to downtown, I continued on to Ralph Edwards Park, one of our two riverfront parks. On the opposite bank, in the wild area across the river, a mule deer stood with her feet planted on the steep slope, her head lowered to the water, drinking in a position that would have caused a human to flop head first. She sustained her balance at such an angle it was like getting aerial view, revealing the subtle brown stripe on her back, a marking I’d never been able to see on a deer before. Four legs and hooves, I thought. It would be nice to have hooves. Her fine pointy feet enabled her to turn on a camber in a tight little clearing and angle herself uphill to browse the shrubs without a stumble. If my big ol’ size nines hadn’t stumbled, though, I wouldn’t have seen her. I’d have been somewhere else.

If my personal training business in Santa Fe hadn’t crashed, I wouldn’t have taken a job as health educator at a fitness center in Northeastern North Carolina. While I was working there, they needed a yoga teacher and none was available, but I had decades of yoga practice and offered to go to teacher training. It changed my life as well as serving their needs. Teaching has deepened my yoga practice profoundly and brought me in contact with some of my most valued friends. I found the setting for The Calling in that North Carolina town, and met the young woman who inspired the character of Mae Martin. If I’d stayed in Santa Fe, where there’s an excess rather than a shortage of yoga teachers, none of this would have happened. I can’t regret the alternate route. It was better than the one I’d planned on.

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