I had just turned down the Wellington Avenue bike path when I heard the tap of a car horn.
“Hey, Wyatt,” I heard a male voice yell, “are you crazy?”
I smiled toward the guy as I continued my jog.
“It’s raining!” he then exclaimed.
Without missing a step and without thinking I blurted back, “Just loving life.”
“You’re nuts!” he shouted with a laugh in his voice as he continued on his way.
It got me to thinking as the steady rain pelted my face and dinged the ground on the morn of the first day of winter while I continued toward Woodward Avenue.
If this is being nuts, then I’m one lucky guy.
Everyone says there is two ways to look at life — the cup is either half full or half empty.
I don’t get that. I’m alive so there’s no debate. I’ve got a full cup — period.
Eleven months ago I was fighting the urge to wallow in self-pity. A doctor thought I’d need major foot surgery. I immediately started thinking I’d go nuts given the extensive recovery period and the odds something could go wrong. But the biggest thing I was worrying about was gaining weight. To understand that I guess you’d have to have weighed 320 pounds at one time in your life. I figured if I couldn’t jog every day and hit exercise classes six to seven times a week I’d pack the pounds back on. But within two hours of getting the news, I decided I would start getting more serious about free weights and cut apart the top of a running shoe so I could accommodate my massive bunion the doctor was worried was infected and the hammertoe I had scrapped so raw that it was bloody much of the time so I could start jog-walking on the Tidewater Bikeway the next day. And to think I had gone to the doctor concerned about my first painful flare up of gout in seven years.
The doctor prescribed pain medicine and something for the inflammation. I took the pain pills twice and the stuff for the inflammation three times then stopped. I spent every free moment researching and reassessing where I was at. By the time a specialist three weeks later determined I was managing extremely well with what the doctor thought was a painful situation I was well on my way to becoming even crazier.
I added tart cherry juice that acts as a natural anti-inflammatory that research shows a fair number of people with gout have been able to use to keep it in check. I was back to my daily jogging and exercise class routine with an added mix of additional free weight work. And, more importantly, I kicked up pursuing my passion — hiking.
I started the year with a doctor doubting I’d do much hiking in 2015. I ended it with the most hiking I’ve ever done in a year — 36 days — including enough day trips to Yosemite that the rangers at the Big Oak Flat entrance station know me by sight (or I least by my Escape’s license plate that reads MANTEKA.) And those hikes included a healthy dose of rock scrambling and conquering the steep terrain of Glass Mountain littered with volcanic cinders to reach the 11,128-foot peak with a commanding view of the eastern Sierra and Mono Lake just a ways off Highway 120 east of its terminus in Benton.
The “I eat therefore I exercise” philosophy had driven me for much of the past 30 years after dropping down from 320 pounds. Along the way I got it through my thick skull it was about being healthy and in shape and not what the scales said although I still religiously weigh myself every day and mark the numbers on a calendar as I have done for the past 10,950 days. Then about five years ago the calmness that comes with exercising outdoors started registering with me. It has always helped relieve stress and help me think clearer. But it got to what some call a “spiritual experience” and others “communing with nature.” While those may not be the right terms, there is something about being outdoors jogging, walking, hiking or even bicycling that puts everything in perspective especially if you partake regardless of the circumstances — on pleasant days, on chilly days, on windy days, on sweltering days, on foggy days, on rainy days, and even occasionally in the snow.
Monday wasn’t wet and dreary. It was a beautiful day. You could smell Mother Nature cleaning the air with rain. You could see the moisture that eventually will spur yet another season of blooms and farm harvests puddling on the ground as most trees and shrubs shed their leaves to power down before rebirth just a little more than two months from now.
I use to think winter was beautiful because it was an essential precursor to spring. But by being out in it every day for at least 40 minutes on jogs and taking in the subtle changes of nature and even the heartbeat of Manteca, I now appreciate it for just being winter.
It’s ironic. Most of the time we’re too busy living life to enjoy it.
You don’t have to jet to Aspen, cruise to Tahiti, venture into to the Amazon, or climb Mt. Everest. Even if you just walk and take in the miracles of nature and what both nature and even man have forged you can learn to see things differently.
By simply being born, we’ve all been given an incredible gift.