Joe Grant ponders the concept of gratitude during a morning run.

By on February 28, 2017 | Comments

We have had a long mild stretch of unseasonably warm weather in Gold Hill, Colorado, allowing me to run much more than I typically would at this time of year. Most of the roads around town and the trails down in Boulder have been clear of snow and ice. I have been grateful for the clement conditions as some persistent nerve damage in my wrist has limited my physical activity primarily to running.

I sustained the injury during the Arizona Trail Race last April, a 750-mile mountain-bike race across Arizona. The severity of the pain has fluctuated from manageable, to nearly non-existent, to feeling as if my wrist was completely broken.

Joe Grant - Gratitude 1

About a month ago, I severely re-tweaked it for the nth time, which triggered a negative psychological response far greater than the physical discomfort. The issue, I felt, was close to being resolved, but then due to a silly mishap, I was back to square one.

For some reason, I found it particularly challenging to take my focus off of what I could not do, instead of being thankful for what my body actually could do. I could run, and really that should be enough. Yet, because of the season, I wanted to ski and climb to take a break from all the pounding. My focus was more on the activities rather than contentment with just being in the mountains.

When healthy, as fitness and ability improve, there is a tendency to become too goal-oriented and perhaps overlook some of the more essential reasons of why it is worth being outside in the first place. Nature is part of us and we are fully part of nature.

Joe Grant - Gratitude 2

Beyond stating the obvious, on a deeper level, this realization brings forth a sense of contentment, grounding, and humility–all of which are important ingredients to the healing process.  

As I set off on my run today, I go by the school where the kids are piling into the classroom. There is yelling and laughter, a mix of the excitement and innocence that comes to life every morning in the playground This is a good way to set the tone as I enter my own world of play.

The neighbor on the corner is smoking a pipe on his porch, easing into the day. I do not smoke, but enjoy the aroma of tobacco. There is also a real sense of tranquility in his process that I can appreciate. A couple of fox dart across the road, playfully teasing my dog. Bella is not sure what to do, to chase or flee? She stands frozen in place, the hair on her back raised. Before she has time to engage, they have vanished into the woods.

I love the fox–their whimsical character, that twinkle in their eye, always with an air of mischief. Much like the kids, their whole demeanor reminds me to stay lighthearted, to not take myself too seriously.

I plummet down the steep trail, opening up my stride, feeling loose, relaxed. I can hear dog’s bell, but lose sight of her. She takes a shortcut, appears out of the trees ahead, charging. We hop the creek in unison and begin to climb. She buries me with ease up the hill with her four little legs. Pausing, she looks back at the heavy-breathing ape, tail wagging. She is smiling, I swear.

Joe Grant - Gratitude 3

It is easy to get caught up in our own little worlds, to feel defeated by an injury or an obstacle and lose sight of the bigger picture. Instead of feeling bogged down by my limitations, I am deeply grateful for what I can do. With the right perspective there are no dead ends, only possibilities.  

As I reach the top of the climb, I stop at the overlook above town. The Indian Peaks line the horizon, with the broad, flat summit of Longs Peak capping the range to the northwest.

The mountains speak to a deeper place in my heart, rather than just feed my physical needs. We have so much to be thankful for.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • How often do you find yourself neglecting and then remembering the bigger picture of why our natural places exist and are important? Can you explain a time when this happened for you?
  • What moments during your day or your daily run help remind you of the gratitude you have for life, nature, and sport?
  • What other lessons does nature teach you?
Joe Grant
Joe Grant frequently adventures in wild places, both close to home (a frequently changing location) and very far afield. He inspires others by sharing his words and images that beautifully capture the intersection of the wilds, movement, and the individual at Alpine Works.