There are three things I never do when I run – plan the route, carry a phone or stop moving unless I absolutely have to.  This past run, I broke all three of these rules.  I can’t say why, but there was something within that nudged me to plan a route.  It was a path I had never heard of, let alone run.  The Beltline Trail, as it’s called, follows a defunct railway and cuts through the city in a way that surprised even me, someone born and raised here and who thinks he’s seen it all.

Once I passed the usual first 10 minutes of self-defeatist chatter and mental graffiti, I found myself heading through dense forest and uphill terrain.  I was alone much of the time, isolated, but still felt the city hugging me as I trotted through narrow passways and hidden courses.  I hit an uphill stretch and ended up at the front gates of a park.

Or I thought it was a park.

I eased into Mount Pleasant Cemetery – the city’s largest and storied resting ground.  Glenn Gould is buried here, as is Northrop Frye, amongst other luminaries in life.  I took in the muted beauty of the surroundings, balancing it with the graceful sadness that only a cemetery can muster up. As I turned the second bend – that is when I saw them.

The pinwheels.

The pinwheels were scattered, sprouting from the ground, steadied by purpose, standing on guard. Their colours spun swiftly from the cool spring breeze, like a rainbows caught on a wheels of spinning jenny’s. The cacophony of hues and sunny shades were not out of place.  Surrounding the pinwheels were other bright and vibrant objects.  Toy trucks.  Stuffed animals.  Princess dolls.  Flowers of every texture and size and contour.  Cars.  Figurines. Musical Instruments.

Children’s things.

The markers were laid out in a circle, with a simple piece of art centered within.  Like arms holding something out of sight.  The markers were laid out like a clock, keeping some cosmic time of sorts.  The wind shot through the many pinwheels, running them ragged, as if they were harnessing the very energy of the young spirits and focusing it all into the ground.  Recharging the soil and the souls.

I stopped to take this all in, disregarding my own stopwatch.  I took a picture with my phone to keep the memory fresh (I won’t reproduce those photos here).  I couldn’t stop staring at my phone days later, even though the image never left my mind.


I stepped away and continued my run.  I felt the Creator’s presence in me and around me as I moved my legs and focused on my breathing.  I felt an extra jolt in me as I moved through the sweeping arcs and curves of the path through the cemetery.  I noticed a bank of tombstones on my right.  For some reason I started looking at the dates.  All five or six I saw had the year of their deaths declared at 1937.  The same year that 12 step recovery was born in Akron, Ohio.  The program that saved my own life.

I continued to run, and soon my eye found a tombstone.  One tombstone in particular – amongst the 168,000 that Mount Pleasant holds – found my attention.  The words “A smile as wide as his stride” were carved into the tomb.  I stopped my run once again and moved closer. On the marker was a picture of a runner.  Draped over the marble were six or seven medals from various races and marathons.  I recognized one from one of the races that I am running in next week.  They were as carefully adorned on the cold stone as they would have been around his neck, on his warm skin. Beside the medals were a pair of young boy’s running shoes.  They were arranged with pine cones sticking out of them.

I took another look at the same marker.  The man’s last day on this earth was May 2, 2011.  I got sober May 4, 2011.  I wondered if part of his spirit’s spark rubbed against my own spirit as his ascended to his final resting spot and as I lay in a drunken slumber somewhere.


I thanked him for his inspiration and hustled along.  The rest of the route was long stretches of thin leaf- and twig-strewn ground, with bare trees reaching out towards the grey sky.  Remarkable in its pragmatic, forlorn way.  I wiped away tears at points, acknowledging just how grateful I was for being able to be where I was.  In love with the city and with the gentleness of nature and man. In the golden arms of something that cared enough about me to allow me to see this for myself.

I eventually got to the halfway point and got lost.  The trail had ended – my map had been incorrect.  I traipsed my way through assorted parks and main streets, unsure of my next turn but just allowing the wind to push me, like it pushed those pinwheels.  I allowed a great external, and internal, force push me and guide me where I needed to go.

I couldn’t stop thinking of where I had travelled.  I saw it all in a go.  The children’s table of the cemetery, so to speak – a riot of colours and action and vivacity.  A reminder of the day my mother – after collecting me from the police station, fresh from my DUI in which my child was a passenger – told me that she could have been burying a son and a grandson that day.  A pinwheel for my son there could have been.

Passing by the reminders of my recovery – a grim tale of those who have passed, and will continue to pass from the horrible addictions that have plagued mankind.  And the runner – a new direction, a new pace, a new smiling stride.


All in collusion with this collision of emotional imprints and landmarks of my own personal journey.

I checked my phone and saw my wife texted to remind me that we had to pick the kids up from school.  I wouldn’t make it on time if I ran home.  So I stopped for the final time and bought something to drink.  I dug a transit token from my pocket and jumped onto the subway. As the train rocked and swayed, the new Belt Line in many ways, I cast my thoughts back to my path that day.

I thought of the pinwheels – gently flaunting their causes, calling attention to their markers, their unseen keepers in this dimension.  Begging to tell their stories.  I felt their spirit and the spirit of the Universe surround me, calling to me, enrobing me.  I saw the time line of my own life reflected in the cut stone and bold spirits of those laid out before me.  I caught the wind catching my own wheel, pushing me and guiding me.  As it has always been.

And always will.

The pinwheels will continue to spin.

As long as there is breath…they will spin.


49 Comments Add yours

  1. runningonsober says:

    Beautifully written, Paul. I hope the experience will stay fresh in your mind for your upcoming race. Best wishes and enjoy your taper week, Christy

    1. Thank you Christy. It was a breathtaking experience, and yes, I know it will sit with me for a while. Such is the majesty of life sometimes.

      And for tapering – hell ya! I didn’t ride my bike in today (I ride daily), as my legs are a touch sore, so I want to rest them before I do my final run today or tomorrow. Short one. Then it’s chill time. Nervous!

      Thanks for all your support 🙂
      Hope you’re doing well.


  2. Mrs D says:

    Beautifully written indeed. So great to picture you running.. pushing yourself and breathing heavily and deeply. Lovely and very poetic. I hope all your writing endeavors are going well because you do have such a gift. Here’s to you.. raising a nice cup of herbal tea in your direction from down in my corner of the world in New Zealand (and I see from your visitors counter that you have had 190 from my fair shores!!) .. xxxx

    1. Thank you, Mrs. D. I have my coffee right now, so I am saluting you back. You’re such a wonderful woman and so glad you’re here with us all. You make us better folks 🙂

      Paul, from Canada 🙂

  3. primrosep says:

    beautiful and inspiring. thank you.

    1. Thank you…glad it resonate with you 🙂

      Have a blessed day,my friend!! 180 is almost there…


  4. mishedup says:

    just gorgeous Paul….
    perfectly written and very evocative.
    sipping my tea with mrs.d and enjoying this before sleep…
    very grateful to be on this journey with you

    1. Thank you, M. I am very, VERY grateful to be on this journey with you as well. You have taught me much, even through this interweb thing we do. You really have. Grace under pressure, for sure. I need more of that.

      Be well, my dear friend 🙂


  5. What an extraordinary and lovely tale. I feel a little haunted by it. In a good way 🙂 xx

    1. Thanks MTM! I am glad you enjoyed. It was a beautiful thing to experience. I too am haunted by it. Good and bad. But almost all good. It’s the kind of thing that shows me that there is some cosmic energy and guidance out there. Not everyone’s cup of tea, I am sure, but it’s the right English Breakfast for me 🙂


  6. This is just beautiful Paul! Your words describe it so eloquently–I felt like I was there.
    Actually, I WISHED that I could have been there. Those serendipitous discovery runs provide memories that last a lifetime.
    The very first photo underneath the rail bridge was also striking to me and reminds me of a run I took waaaay back in high school–the associated memories make me smile huge on this Monday morning 🙂

    1. Thank you Michelle for the kind comments. Yeah, that rail bridge trail was pretty cool, I have to say. Learned a little bit more about my own city…and myself, obviously. That’s the joy of being in such a great city here is that I have never ever run the same course twice. Always new directions and places to visit.

      Way back in high school – so what, about 8 years ago? 😉

      Have a wonderful day, my friend.


    1. Thanks for that – means a lot!


  7. Twindaddy says:

    Beautiful post, Paul.

    1. Thank you, TD. Glad it resonated on some level.

      Have a great one.

  8. Most wonderful, Paul. What beautiful run. When we look and observe, we see the most amazing things the world has to offer.

    1. Thank you my friend. It is true that the world does open up to us…we just have to be watching for it 🙂

      Glad you’re here 🙂


      1. I didn’t realize I wasn’t getting notifications and then remedied that 🙂

  9. momma bee says:

    sounds wonderful~ can’t wait for your big race!

    1. Me too – nervous though! Stopped riding my bike for the next few days as well. Gonna rest for real now. One more run and then that will be it. Short one at that. I imagine it will be crowded, but fun nonetheless. 20K is still 20K, alone or in a crowd, I guess 🙂

      Thanks for being here!


      1. momma bee says:

        I can’t wait to hear…… One mile at a time! You trained and followed your plan, don’t change a thing!!! You will do great!!!

        1. I have a plan??? lol

          Are we supposed to have one? Mine is “don’t die”. ha ha.

  10. Wow. It’s an amazing gift to be shown so much by the universe but it’s also a credit to your connectedness that you were open to the messages. It gives me goosebumps!

    1. Still gives me the goosebumps too, Karen! It is quite amazing how the cosmos will open up and reveal itself in tiny drib drabs that still have the power to blow us away. It was just one of those times, you know? Every day has one little thing like that…it’s almost like I take it for granted. But in the end, I know that there is that Universal Mind that is out there…and bestowing grace and joy to us all.

      Thank you for being here 🙂


  11. Laurie G.F. says:

    Very nice reminder that we are one with the universe. Namaste. 🙂

    1. Namaste to you too, Laurie.

      It’s amazing what the universe will put out to us and show us if we are lucky enough to be open to it 🙂


  12. jrj1701 says:

    Wowzer, this is one I will be thinking on for a bit, thanks Paul for sharing this bit of your self.

    1. JR – thank you, kind and gentle sir. Yeah, it will stay with me for a while too. As Christy said in the first comment, I plan to have this stick with me while I do the race. Added incentive.

      Have a glorious day 🙂


  13. NotAPunkRocker says:

    Amazingly powerful post, Paul.

    1. Thank you Sheena. Means a lot to hear you say that 🙂


  14. Somewhere upcoming in my process is physical exercise. Running seems a good choice. I haven’t intentionally done physical exercise in a long time, but I remember from way back that it feels good. Nice post. Connecting with the dead has impact on the living.

    1. Hey Eric – nice to see ya here! You know, my dad ran for my entire life. I wasn’t interested at all. I had no interest in the least until this past September. I don’t know why, but all of a sudden running captured my imagination. I did the couch-to-5K thing (Google it) and off I went. It was just one of those right-thing at the right-time deals. I know many in recovery run. But also a lot who don’t. I think we all find something within us that speaks to us. I feel that it’s important in recovery to be moving our bodies in one way or another – going to the gym, yoga, walking…whatever it is. I strongly believe in the mind-body-spirit connection.

      Thanks for the comments, and so glad you’re here, my friend. And welcome back to the continent 🙂


  15. How inspiring I found this post to be, Paul. It’s amazing how our sobriety leads us towards so many inclinations and findings we never thought would be possible to embark upon. From colors and pinwheels to years written and embedded in tombstones, it seems like the Creator is flooding you with milestones and messages from deep within your own soul… almost as if the connection between Him and you are becoming more and more heightened with every step you take along the life He created for you. This is what He has wanted all along, my friend. For us to watch and observe.. breath nature and our surroundings in and then exhale them into an eternity of memories and gratitude. We would have never been able to embrace these precious moments and gifts if we had stayed on the same paths of destruction and chaos. Now is our time and so it will be in the days we have left to enjoy this Earth and all of the magnificent things and people it has to offer.
    I love running outside and connecting with all of the beauty and vastness whatever place I find myself in. God lives in everything and he dwells always within our heart. This is why there are signs everywhere that he is near us; waiting and watching.. walking by our side.
    My mother also had a recent confirmation God was with her last week at Church. When she felt herself questioning something she needed Him to confirm, He answered her doubts by sending a ray of light through the Church window, right into her face. She looked around at the others who were surrounding her and there were no other rays of light coming through the thirty-some other windows… just one window and one woman.. my light, my inspiration, my mother. She’s been sober for almost four years now. I’m so proud of us all!

    1. I love that light in the face moment and visual concerning your mother, Gina. I dig when things like that happen! It’s gotten to a point where I almost expect and live off of those moments…big and small. I sometimes don’t even bother asking why or how…I just know that these things happen and they happen for a reason and just leave it be and chalk it up to the power of God in our lives. I need not dig more than that.

      I think you are bang on when you say this is what we are being asked to do – to take in His majesty and just enjoy it. Pass it on to others (like you do in your own writing, blogging and living). Like you, I enjoy running outside as opposed to a treadmill or track…I get to see and take in things I wouldn’t see otherwise. What a wonderful way to experience His world.

      Thank you for the wonderful and poignant comments as usual, my friend. You are a shining light out here 🙂


  16. stacilys says:

    Wow. Beautiful imagery, as always.

    1. Thank you Staci. It was quite the imagery. I don’t think I did it justice. Even the pictures I took don’t do it justice. It’s just one of those “you had to be there” kind of thing. But it was majestic. Glad you’re here 🙂


  17. lifecorked says:

    Absolutely beautiful Paul. So moving, yet so simple. Amazing what we see when we stop to look.

    1. Thanks Chenoa. It is pretty groovy and joyous when we see these things that would have normally been imperceivable for us…off the radar, so to speak. Just being open to it all is a gift.

      Nice to see you 🙂

      Love and light, my friend


  18. DB says:

    I literally good see, feel and touch everything on this run….I didn’t want it to end.

    1. Awww, thanks DB. I wish it hadn’t ended either! Thanks for the lovely comments 🙂

  19. byebyebeer says:

    Powerful, beautiful post, Paul. A humbling reminder of how it used to be and what might have been had things gone just a little differently. Great photos too, especially of the pinwheels.

    1. thanks Kristen! The pics were on my run…but the pinwheels one was from my friend Google Images…ha ha. It was a good one, wasn’t it?

      But as you said, very humbling in terms of how things may have been. I don’t often think that way much, but it does come up. I like keeping it in the present, or at least positive. A great difference from the old ways – rehashing the past, fearing the future and negative as possible.

      Hope you ‘re doing well 🙂


  20. So beautifully written. You gave me goosebumps!
    And an Akron shout-out to boot! 😉

    1. Thanks 🙂
      And I love the Akron shout out! It must have some vibe down there – must visit one of these days 🙂

      1. If you do, hit me up! We’ve got meetings galore. 🙂

  21. And now I have goosebumps again. What a gift you have for storytelling! You want to hear a weird connection? I am, typically, an extremely unobservant person. You know I run a meeting on Mondays, but I drive by the club house from which I run it many times a week. The other day I was driving by, and I glanced over. At the base of the sign for the club house are about a dozen pinwheels, planted in the ground like flowers. And I thought, “I wonder who put them there, and why?”

    Connections with us, they certainly abound!

    Thanks, as always, for sharing your thoughts, and for doing so in such a beautiful way.

Whatcha Thinkin' ?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s