There is Something about this Leatherman…

There is Something about this Leatherman…

Beauty

Earth and all forms of life embody beauty. The beauty of the Earth is food for the human spirit. It inspires human consciousness with wonder, joy, and creativity.

– from The ICRE Earth Charter

There is something about this Leatherman’s Loop that makes it different from any run that I know. How can I describe it? Perhaps it is more like a celebration than a race, more like a communion with nature than a challenge. In this run individual competition becomes collaborative effort: people help each other, they stay with each other, they cross streams together, they even carry each other sometimes. In this run I become ‘we,’ and we celebrate our connection, with each other, but also with this wonderful piece of land.

Winning is an interesting thing. It certainly means results but it also means relationships. If we get results – if we win – at the expense of feelings or pride, the results will simply separate. But if we get results that we all feel part of, even if there are different levels of participation, different kinds of contribution, then we’ve all truly won. But, how do we do this? How do we have a race where everyone wins.

Well, first there is nothing like a good story for bringing us together. The history of the Leatherman is a litte vague, based loosely on a real person, but added to over the years until it has become legend. When legend contradicts history, though, you have to believe the legend.  It happens all the time, when we recall stories of childhood or feats of youth. Why is this, I wonder? History becomes legend because we need it to: when a story reflects our common story it gets added to so that it can carry more for us: more hope, more of the dreams. Sometimes more failure too, more of the fears that dog us.

So, the anonymous homeless man who never spoke and worked only for food, refusing shelter or any other assistance, who lived in caves along his three hundred mile route which he walked around northern Westchester and Connecticut over a hundred years ago, becomes the heart-broken Frenchman who punished himself for his failure to win the hand of his love, by taking a vow of silence, and refusing all comfort on his lonely pilgrimage, because in this way he reflects our own journeys with their mistakes and disappointments, and our desire to make amends and live more fully and honestly. We canonize this saunterer – this saint de terre (the root of the word means ‘earth saint’, ‘holy man of the land’) – this life pilgrim, so that he carries not only his own cross, but ours too. With the sunken eyes and bearded face that we see in the old pictures, he becomes a home-spun Jesus-like figure.

And so, with him as our icon, we gather to honor the journey of life – our own lives – untrammeled by denomination or creed, expressed in the simplest of rituals. We make our pilgrimage – fast with slow, on two legs or one, young with old – no hierarchy. We celebrate our communion – all winners, no losers – no separation, no elitism.

Thus, we gather in the morning air, bless each other with our rough greetings, raise an encouraging cheer, and take off like a great herd of migrating wildebeest. We run through the mud of Spring, children of a new season, cross cold streams that touch deep into old, worn parts of ourselves and wash them in a kind of rebirth, climb out of the sand pit with legs trembling, as if we were recovering from a dark time, free fall down trails, soaring over roots and stones, not knowing where the path is taking us, and finally stagger up the final slope with leaden legs, carried by the gathered crowd that wills us to finish: refreshed, renewed, reborn.

In the great resurrection of Spring, the Leatherman’s Loop becomes our little liturgy of hope. In a world fragmented by fearful divisions, we find a kind of simple unity in this rough ritual. In the passing of our days, we need the spirit of the Leatherman’s Loop to keep us running strong.

Beauty before me when I run.
Beauty behind me when I run.
Beauty below me when I run.
Beauty above me when I run.
Beauty beside me when I run.
Beauty within me when I run.
 
I see Beauty all around.
In beauty may I walk.
In beauty may I see..
In beauty may we all be. 
                            -         adapted from a Navajo Chant
Note

The Leatherman’s Loop is a 10K Run, that attracts almost 1000 participants every year in the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation around this time. To join the wonderful Spring ritual or simply join in spirit with us, see: www.leathermansloop.org

Danny Martin

Daniel Martin
Cross River, NY
Earth Day, 2005