October 29, 2010

Touching Something Relevant


This week I reached down and touched the murky water of the Tennessee River. Where I stood, it so happens, was within eyesight of where a fierce tornado had touched down just the night before. But as I stood under the grey sky in this southern town, it wasn’t the weather I was thinking of.

Whenever I travel for work—which is a lot these days—I always try to make time to run. If I’m lucky I run to something. Nothing glamorous or famous. Just something relevant. Like a river, an ocean, a mountain, even an historic site. History and nature are all around us. They lay, I think, humbly and in waiting for us to notice them. History for sure, because history is only there for us when we want it to be.

It must be so, at least on this day, because as I leaned down to touch the river, I knew there was a story in it. But what was it? At that moment it didn’t matter, I was just enjoying being there while standing at its shore.

As I stood there I remembered visiting Gettysburg many years ago. The stories of what took place on that battlefield—gruesome stories—were difficult to hear. But there is one story I’ll never forget. It’s a story about how soldiers from both the Confederate Army and the Union Army, bloodied from the daily battles, some near death, would gather at night on opposite sides of a narrow creek, and they would wash their wounds, at peace with each other.

The place I was standing, it so happens, was part of one of the most critical battlefields of the civil war, the battle of Chattanooga. A battle that claimed more than 12,000 casualties and was the beginning of the end of the confederacy. I wonder, now, how many men could have washed their wounds on the shore where I stood?

Sometimes just touching the water can be relevant.

9 comments:

Suzanad said...

Did you know that about the river before you ran there, or did you research it afterwards?
I love that idea - running TO something :)

Will said...

Suzan...I knew there was a battle there, but not much more. I found some detail on it after the run.

Rachel said...

i'm excited to run the marine corps marathon around DC this weekend - it'll be like a history lesson on foot! great post : )

Molly said...

hey there, you were near my old stompin' grounds in Knoxville. The Tennessee River also runs through Knoxville (and right next to the UT football stadium - some people go to the football game by boat...the "Vol Navy"). And I've spent a fair amount of time boating, floating and swimming in that river. My sister lives in Chattanooga - not far from the river.

Will said...

Good luck Rachel in DC. Heard that is a great marathon to do. Molly, thanks for Vol unteering that.

whois domain find said...

Thank you for your article ... All the best

EricG said...

Cool post Will. Thanks. Peace EricG

Hone said...

Cool post. I like the idea of trying to see or learn something at every place visited.

Emz said...

How did I miss this post?!?! I love it.

well written. Glad I came back to stalk. ;)