When The Aging Magician Should Begin To Believe

January 25th, 2007

I woke up suddenly this morning, anxious with a thousand thoughts for the day ahead.

Illness, injury, and weather have kept me off my feet in the last thre months since the New York City Marathon. Something about this morning, though, said, “Now is the time.” So I got out of bed, and went for a run.

A light dusting of coarse snow blanketed everyting outside. The sun had not yet risen. The sky was smudged gray and brown. Everything was in monochrome: bare branches, bleached concrete, pedestrians.

The cobblestone sidewalk along the southern edge of the Natural History Museum was fenced off. The building’s great stone edifice was rapped in scaffolding.

My lungs burned from the cold as I strode into Central Park. The lake was frozen at the edges. The usual population of ducks squawked for their place in the center. West Drive was nearly empty.

Crossing Bow Bridge, I noticed a pile of wood chips the height of a small child. The adjacent ground was chewed by tractor treads. A few feet on, chain link broke the hillside where fresh landscaping had been layed.

‘Everything is under construction,’ I thought.

‘I’m under construction,’ I thought.

These days, my knees still ache from last fall’s injury. My body has grown soft around the periphery. My lungs heave after a few blocks, or a few flights of stairs. My muscles won’t carry me far.

These days, my mind is a constant buzz of planning, strategizing, and calendarizing. The Grammys, the engagement, the live recording, the vacation, the move, the live recording’s release, the job, the “Besides” project, the triathlon, the marathon, the documentary, the wedding, and everything in between: staying fit, staying well, staying sane.

These days, I too am under construction. I am cleaning out my closets. Everything must go. I am stretching my limbs, and strengthening my muscles. I am tearing down old institutions, and sketching blueprints for new ones. I am pouring a foundation for whatever lies ahead.

Most mornings, I think I can.

I seek the edges when I run, the corners of New York where most pedestrians fail to tread. This morning, as I descended the steps below Shakespeare’s Garden, and skirted the edge of the Great Lawn, the sun broke through the clouds over the East Side. And for a second — one of those infinate, fleeting moments of clarity where the sky lights up, the city is aglow, and everything is illuminated — I knew I could.