God on the Trail

I read all of L.L. Barkat’s “God in the Yard” in one day — yesterday. It was on my dad’s reading table, and I snuck it and read it whole.


In the middle of the book, I went for a run at Lady Bird Lake, which was known as Town Lake until it was renamed after the death of first lady Lady Bird Johnson (who is a bona fide Texas saint).


If Austin, Texas has a temple, it is the Hike & Bike trail around this lake. The entire trail is a 10-mile loop, but it’s not a straight loop. It has lots of entrance and exit points, different bridges to cross, and there are always detours due to construction. Sometimes you have to turn to go straight.


I learned my way around a good part of the trail the final week of 2009, when I stayed with my parents instead of going skiing in Colorado with my family. I was there to help my mom in her cancer and my dad in his caregiving. To help myself, I hit the trail each morning at 7 a.m., just as it got light, when the temperature was in the high 20s. Steam rose off the lake, since it was considerably warmer than the air. There were lots of ducks. I was never alone or afraid in those early mornings. I saw every variety of male, female, color, ethnicity, and race (and that was just the dogs). It’s the great Austin melting pot.


The next time I ran the trail was just over two months later, in early March, the day before my mom’s funeral. My husband and I went down together to Lady Bird Lake, but we ran separately because he was going to do the whole loop, and I planned to do about half of it. Since we were staying with his brother, in order to give my dad some space, we entered the trail from a totally different section that I had not explored before.


It was a glorious morning. The first redbuds were blooming white. And every school in the Big 12 was out there for a rowing competition. If you were mesmerized by the scenes of rowing crew in the movie “The Social Network,” well, seeing it in person is something else entirely. I had a profound sense of peace that day, even though I got lost on the trail. It was fine. My husband and I found each other again.


My next time to run the trail was yesterday, exactly one year and four months later.


It’s July. We’re in a horrible drought. I hit the trail at 5:45 a.m., just before sun-up, determined to touch the parts of the trail I traveled while my mom was still sick and the parts I traveled just after she died. It took me almost two hours to complete that task, and my clothes were completely soaked with sweat, but I had a playlist full of songs from “Phineas & Ferb” and “Glee,” and I was content. God was on the trail with me, just as He had been every time before.


If it were legal, at the end of the trail I would have popped the cork on a bottle of champagne to celebrate. Instead, I drove home and ate the last brownie.