Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Hunting and Running

For the last meal in 'The Omnivore's Dilemma' Michael Pollan cooks only what he has hunted or gathered. He has thus gone back to roots of our species, back further than 10,000 years of agriculture.

Although he only learnt to hunt to complete the structure of his book, once he was in the woods, tracking the wild pig, he became entranced and revelled in the sense of heightened awareness and attentiveness. As a modern metropolitan journalist he became almost embarrassed at the purple prose he wrote about his experience, yet he could not help it - he was recording what he felt.

The writer he relies on to support his attitude is Ortega y Gasset, whose 'Meditations on hunting' is a philosophical examination of the activity. In it he talks of the state of awareness of being fully part of nature and contrasts it with people who tramp through the landscape as tourists.

As a runner one of the places I feel most at home, find most pleasure, is in the woods. Although I have written about the attraction of this as feeling you are part of the landscape; on the Ortega y Gasset scale I must be counted as a tourist. The reason being that when running you can never give full attention to the world outside, there is always a part of you concentration on your breath, your legs, your ease, your effort. In some ways you blunder along, alerting all the wild animals to your presence with the noise you make.

Yet, and yet, I still think that all of us exerting ourselves on those trails are more than tourists. We are part of nature. We are using our legs in the way they were evolved to be used in woodland that has been here for who knows how long. Although we do not need the full attention of a hunter we need to be attentive to the path to avoid ruts, roots, slippy slopes and obstructions. We must be careful where we place our feet.

Sometimes the magical can happen. My favourite running moment has nothing to do with racing or achievement. It happened early one morning, when the mist was beginning to rise on what would be a fine day and I was running along a fairly broad grass pathway in the woods. To my left, ahead I saw a group of deer. I slowed and walked carefully as close as I could, stopped and then held the gaze of the deer for several seconds before it moved its head, turned around and loped off. For one moment there had been a connection and we had been two animals in the landscape.

When I am crashing about I might not be very agile or elegant but I am at least aware of being an animal, a participant in the woods not a spectator. Not really a tourist.

1 comment:

Joggerblogger said...

Thanks for the comments on my Blog :-) I'll link back to you asap.