I don’t go to church much anymore. I think that’s kind of sad. I grew up going every Sunday with my family, attended CCD classes and checked out in high school. There were times when I was in awe and times when I was excited about it. A lot of it was really interesting, but a lot of what I see now as the benefits of debt was lost to me when I was young.
For confirmation, we had to search and locate a saint with whom we shared something, and assume his identity as our confirmation name. In retrospect, it was a really introspective process, or at least it probably should have been. Anyway, I chose St. Andrew. On top of Scotland and many other people, places, and things, Saint Andrew was known as the patron saint of fishing. As a young teenager, I thought this was a very deep choice. Because, more than when I was sitting next to my brothers and my father in a solid wooden bench, under ornate stained-glass in an old building in the middle of the city, I always fantasized about weighing good and bad and having the best conversations with God while I was alone fishing by the lake under the sky.
Two years later, when it was time for another, more secular rite of passage, I chose to revisit this theory in my university essay. So I wrote about fishing. No one really knows what exactly it is up to in terms of whether or not you have been accepted into any particular college, but given my current career path, I would like to think that I wrote a beautiful poetry essay and the person who got accepted into Marist College was impressed with what Sufficient to grant admission to a strong B-Student.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Or, the date until last Monday morning when I went out for a run with the goal of hitting six miles and ended up running up to 10.
Because, that’s the thing that may or may not confuse 15-year-old Mike Walsh. I don’t fish much either. Honestly, I’m not sure I really did.
But, at some point during the long run on Monday, with less than two weeks on the Steel Railroad Half Marathon on May 22nd, I got a little bit in my head and given the idea of downloading any idea of God or the karmic universe quickly on how things are going.
It’s pretty hard to disconnect these days, whether you’re on the toilet browsing Instagram reels, clicking popup ads on an iPad recipes website while eating dinner, or answering work emails, somehow after the quote goes without a quote.
But, if you choose to spend a few miles going commando (without earphones), it can become a lot easier.
About two miles into my long walk, the sights and sounds of downtown Pittsfield faded into my subconscious. Walk button to push here, smiling mother pushing stroller next to Dottie’s there. Mostly, it was the sunshine and warmth, the rhythmic puffing and puffing, and the quick steps of those brand new cloud-like Brooks Ghost 14s I bought last week at the Berkshire Running Center.
I thought about the good stuff – I almost finished this forever book, and E has his grandparents helping out all week long he would love it. And I got carried away with the not-so-good stuff—I was stupid for that maniac kid in third grade for Mrs. Nas, and should I do more in response to this Supreme Court stance?
As I stood stretched out at the boat ramp on Lake Onota, 5 miles away from the run, I prayed. Or, at least what goes through prayer these days with a Catholic downfall.
I had this great Aunt Mary, I think I mentioned it before. She passed away late last year and on my own went to Cape Cod on Tuesday night for her funeral Wednesday. I got up in a hotel room in Hyannis, threw a few layers and ran until I found the harbor so I could stare at some water and thank Mary for everything she did for me and my family. I got lost on the way back to the Marriott and was late getting to church for mass. I like to think she found that funny.
I thought about that December day on a Monday as I grabbed my toes and stretched my right calf. There is a great deal of comfort in believing and believing in a higher power. There is also comfort in connecting with nature when you give your body and mind nothing to focus on but itself.
I didn’t have a specific path for that long. I knew I wanted to get into the water – the part of me that wants to claim “Walden” and “Siddhartha” are my favorite books (when “It” is really Stephen King or, currently “The Pout-Pout Fish”) is still pretty strong. But from Onota, I worked my way to Lakeway Drive and headed south on Onota Street until I felt like heading back toward downtown. I laughed to my old self, thinking I was delving into the meaning of life as a teenager who hadn’t experienced a small part of life yet.
So this is, an actual recreation of my college essay and affirmation of reasoning, CTRL-F Catch and Replace it with Running.
While covering a track meet Monday in Great Barrington, I met longtime Cookie and Chocolate Bowl race director Gary Miller who joked that instead of age categories for prizes at races, there should be life situation categories. Single section, married section, parent section for young children, etc. Brilliantly humorous idea, I think.
If I’m only sure after another 10 years I might look at this column and this experience and laugh again at how immature I am now and how little my experience is.
I hope I do. I hope to be able to go out for a long time and let my mind melt and laugh with whatever deity I like at that point.