It was a peaceful morning: the birds were chirping, the tractors were still snug in their sheds, and here and there, purple, white, and yellow fragments of color sprang from the mud.  

As I jogged the first half mile slope, I spied the village hunter, who I can always tell from far off because of his huge black mustache. He has a dog, spotted like an Appaloosa, with curly fur on her ears, and so sweetly tempered it makes you sad to think she’s involved in an activity that requires bloodshed.

The dog is not allowed to stop and socialize when they are training. She has to run behind him, and usually the hunter is in his tiny little car, kicking up dust along the country roads.

Today the hunter was on a bicycle, and when we passed, I slowed and reached out to pet the dog, for which, she was promptly scolded. She gave me a look of longing, as if she’d rather be running alongside me. 

I would steal her if I could get away with it.

The hunter is not a bad man. He is friendly and will chat with you (in English even) if he’s not preoccupied with killing something.

I realize the hunter has an important place in this village, where there are no predators to keep the animal populations in check.

Still, I can’t help but root for the animals.

Maybe it’s because when I run, I feel connected somehow to nature. When the sun is shining, and the valley is still, save for the birdsong, I feel part of something bigger than myself—I feel part of a grand design.

I love this countryside.

I’ve memorized the hills, the trails, the fields, the orchards. I know that any day now, I will reach the top of the big hill to see the white and pink blossoms in the orchard below.

Pink trees are things of wonder and worthy of a pause, even if it affects your overall time.

Because running isn’t only about getting faster or stronger or becoming less stressed; it’s about thanking God for where you are at that moment.

It’s about discovering your place in the grand scheme of things.

As I curved around the orchard and up the next hill, I made out the vague shape of deer, nearly indistinguishable from the dirt of the field.