May 27, 2005


I've been an on-again, off-again runner. For the past two months, it's been on-again. It started when 15-year-old Stephen ("Samurai" from previous stories) joined the school track team, and showed up at my house wanting someone to run with him. So I said, sure, let's go run down Cornelius Avenue to the highway and back. He ran in the road, because he didn't want to get his new track shoes dirty; I ran on the dirt road that paralleled the main road, which the farmers use to access their rice fields, because dirt is easier on my knees. He got chased by a dog that ran out into the street; I did not. He made it back to the house in 15 minutes; I took 20.

Since then, I've tried to run at least once a week. Once a week is not much, I know, but it's better than nothing, and I have been able to notice a difference in my body. This is important. A lot of pastors I know get fat as they get older. It's one of the job hazards of being a minister. Too many church potlucks, I guess. I do not want this to happen to me.

I want to be as healthy as possible for my children and, perhaps one day, grandchildren. My own children don't get to see their grandparents (my in-laws) that often, even though they only live twenty minutes away, because whenever we call to find out if they're up for a visit, they usually aren't. They're too sick. Granted, this is not all their fault, and exercising even every day is no guarantee that one will not have health problems. But I'm going to do what I can, and hope for the best. There are also the teenagers who come to youth group, with whom I often find myself engaged in wrestling matches. I have to at least keep things competitive as long as I can. They're getting stronger, while I'm getting older, something which seems so unfair to me. [As a side note, two of those kids, Stephen and Pearse, are now wearing casts ---no, I didn't have anything to do with that--- so I probably don't have to worry about wrestling maches for a while.]

I went jogging again today, this time along the farming road that heads north along the railroad tracks, on the eastern edge of the rice fields. The weather was perfect this morning. A very slight breeze from the southeast. I went a mile and a half, under a comfortably warm sun, and then turned around.

A half mile from home, a farmer in a tractor called to me, and I stopped and waited for him to come over. "You're a pretty good runner," he said.

"Thank you," I replied, feeling a little uncomfortable, standing there with no shirt on (remember, it was warm), and wondering what he really wanted. Maybe, I thought, he's going to pull out his shotgun and shoot me for trespassing.

Instead, he smiled. "What are you training for?"

The question caught me by surprise, and at first I wasn't sure what he meant. I'm not training for anything, I thought to myself, but thanks for thinking that I'm in that good of shape. Boy, how easy it is to fool some people!

The longer I stood there, the more sincere and friendly he seemed, so I stopped worrying. "I'm not training for anything, I'm just, you know, trying to stay healthy, in shape."

"Well, I want you to know that these rice fields were just sprayed with incrediblytoxicherbicideofdeath [I can't remember the name of the herbicide he mentioned], something which is not safe; I shouldn't even be out here myself today. I don't want to be out here. Studies have shown that it [the incrediblytoxicherbicideofdeath] can get into your lungs, and affect your sperm count."

OK, having a farmer who is almost twice my age talk about my sperm count is a little strange; should I mention to him that after two kids, I see a lower sperm count as a benefit, not a hazard?

The truth is, he was very friendly, and said it was just fine that I use the road along the field [a "pad," he informed me] to jog. "Just wait about a week, OK?"

As I finished my run, I thought about how I grew up in the smoggy San Fernando Valley, in a house that was filled with the smoke of my mom's cigarettes. If my lungs survived that, they can survive this, right? I tried convincing myself of this, but being a slight hypochondriac, I found it difficult. I no longer live in the San Fernando Valley, and my mom no longer smokes; and yet, I now have the incrediblytoxicherbicideofdeath to contend with; and am I really any safer at my house, which is just across the street from rice fields?

I reassured myself that for most of my run, the field was to the west, and the wind was blowing from the southeast, so I probably didn't breathe too much of it. Nevertheless, as soon as I got home, before I even stretched, I took a nice long shower; and as I washed away the incrediblytoxicherbicideofdeath from my body, I decided that, from now on, I'm buying nothing but organic rice.


jo(e) said...

What an experience. Have you read Sandra Steingraber's book Living Downstream? She is an ecologist who studied and wrote about the effects of agricultural pesticides. Scary stuff.

Michael said...

Scary stuff.
Be careful.

Take Care