Rector's Ramblings July 15, 2020
May was the best running month I’ve had in years for both mileage and pace. I managed to run 55 miles and saw a good decrease in both average and max heart rates over the course of the month. I also managed to increase my cadence (a long term goal of mine to ward off injury). I was feeling pretty good about things going into June. But then I ran less than half of May’s miles by the end of the month. July? Today is the first day I have run this month. So what happened?
First, it was that rainy stretch we had. My regular running time seemed to be preempted by thunderstorms over and over again. There was also an allergy problem and a minor illness in the mix. Vacation didn’t help much, although I put in a couple of good, strenuous hikes and rides, so maybe they should count as runs. But, more than anything else, I suspect it was the arrival of the real heat and humidity after a beautiful longer-than-normal spring on the Island. There is no good time of day to avoid such things. Temps are lower in the morning, but humidity is higher. A lot of days they trade extremes in the afternoons. I’m not sure which is worse for a successful run.
Today, for example, on my solo July run, humidity was the kicker. It was one of those mornings where I was soaked in minutes, but not in a cooling way. The humidity won’t let sweat do its job. It feels like the air is literally thick, like when you have to walk through water or run in snow, although not as difficult, of course. Because it makes me literally run hotter, it drives up my heart rate, which in turn makes me run slower (I’ve begun pacing myself by my heart rate these days, not by how my muscles feel). It’s annoying and frustrating, and it takes some of the fun out of running.
Humidity is something we joke about down here, although it’s a serious problem. In the parish hall building, for example, we’re chasing down a serious moisture problem in four of our classrooms. We have professionals in this week cleaning up the mold that sprouted, and no one is quite sure what happened. Our HVAC folks have a theory, but given that we’ve never had this problem before, I don’t put much stock in their theory. One thing that has changed, is that we replaced our windows in the building. Maybe we’ve locked in moisture that used to be able to get out, or we’re now letting in moisture we used to keep out? We’re on it, either way. We’ll figure it out one way or another, but literally, that humidity can be destructive. It can really overwhelm folks who spend time out in it, too. It does make things harder and raises the physical stress levels on the body.
2020 feels like a year of mental, physical, and spiritual humidity. I can name some things that contribute to this feeling, but at the same time, it’s hard to see. It’s just part of moving around in the world right now and breathing the air in breath after breath, day after day. It might be imperceptible most of the time on a small scale, but as this period continues, its cumulative, and maybe we’re starting to feel it. Putting aside all of the instability and conflict, and just looking at the stress of the pandemic, we’re finding that this is more of a marathon event than we might have anticipated a few months ago.
Young families are stressed out by decisions around what to do as school starts up next month. Older folks are growing ever weary of limiting their activity and group events, especially now, with our local outbreak. Isolation is getting harder with time, not easier. Not being able to engage in our regular communal spiritual practices is hard for those of us whose lives were structured with that foundational pacing of weekly worship and prayer with others. My great fear is that some of us will simply sit out of life a bit as a result; that we won’t run the race that we had been running at all, if we can’t run it the way we want to.
One blessing that we carry with us is the promise of our faith, even when everything is harder than it used to be, and even when we can’t express it in our normal ways. This week I’m being reminded about the important role of dehumidifiers (separate from our mold issue, another part of the parish hall building needs replacement dehumidifiers) that take unwanted excess moisture out of the air, making it less destructive and also providing noticeable comfort and refuge from the heat and humidity that assaults us every time we open the door. Our refuge from these days, the source of what makes them less weighty and damaging, is God. Yep, I just compared God to a dehumidifier, but there it is.
It turns out God is an HVAC specialist: human vitality and care, perhaps. God is a practiced pro when it comes to providing respite to the weary. And God makes house calls. Even while we can’t get to “God’s house”. We’re being reminded that God doesn’t really have just one home. Humans have needed reminding of this on and off through the eons, and now it’s our turn. Keep up that prayer life however you can right now. Letting that connection to God go can have some real consequences over time, just like a when a dehumidifier goes out. So, keep it cranked up, especially during this season. Some have even called this practice, “prayer conditioning!”
Keep praying. Keep running. Keep living your life as best you can. It’s going to keep feeling like a slog for a bit, but we do have ways to lessen those burdens. Jesus reminded us that there is a standing offer to take our burdens, and in weather like this, I recommend you take him up on the offer. Now, if we can figure out how to dehumidify my runs, I’ll be in business.
Gracious God, as the heat and humidity of this season intensifies, we pray for those without air conditioning, dehumidifiers, electricity, clean water, health care, or other essentials that we tend to take for granted. We pray for our neighbors in “survival mode;” give them the communities and resources to not only survive, but to thrive this summer. Above all, God, remind us to give a drink of cool water when we see you thirsty, for when we serve the least of these, we serve you. Amen.
Adapted from a prayer that appeared on the Sojourners website.