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Pancakes in the distance

Look! Pancakes in the distance!

No, really. Pancakes permeate the world around us: on the horizon, up in a tree, directly beneath your shoes. Pancakes wherever you like, wherever you look, all the time.

That puddle that turns all glint and rainbow at just the right angle? Pancake.

That puppy you periodically pass in the park? Pancake.

Those clouds that look like a submarine or a sandwich, an airplane or an albatross? Pancakes, all.

I can’t take credit for all these pancakes. My AP Psychology teacher used the phrase as a mnemonic to remind us that our eyeballs’ lenses flatten when we look farther away. So I guess, the pancakes truly do abide in the eyes of the beholders.

One person’s rainy day is another person’s pancake.

One person’s flock of geese (or traffic cones)… You get the idea.

But the true wonder of these worldly pancakes lies in their magnificent mundanity. Simple splendors abound in multitudes.

To find these small marvels, one need only explore. But looking up is hard, harder still in quarantine.

In the age of distance learning and stay-at-home orders, mobile devices became our last threads of connection. Social media, our handheld link to the people from whom we are now so distant. Detaching from a constant feed of information, wrenching away from ceaseless communication and news and entertainment, feels impossible.

But for at least an hour or so every day, I have to get off my computer, get away from my phone, and get out of the house to go for a run. For me, running remains my emotional recharge, a pick-me-up in the middle of a stressful study session, my “reset button” after a long day. More than that, running demands a singular presence of mind that supplies me moments of clarity otherwise unreachable.

Certainly, on some days running feels like a slog more than anything else. Days where the only thought racing through my head is “Are we there yet?” One foot in front of the other. Seconds crawling into years, hours to eons. Away and back again.

And as quarantine dragged on, long miles which once lent themselves to reflection grew lonelier. Local routes grew monotonous; each day promising only repetition along familiar streets.

This rapid decline into tedium baffled me. When did the line between anticipation and dread begin to blur? Rather than watch running become a humdrum routine, I started searching. Looking high and low for reasons, instants that would spark some notion of distinction.

A bridge (in light or darkness).

The mud patches on the ERHS field filling in green.

Trying to count all the colors of the sky.

At first, this was just to differentiate between my runs. A way to distinguish the days, as has become so difficult in quarantine. But somewhere along the line, I realized that there was something special in learning to look for the little things. Something rare and mystical.

Running may not be for everyone, but it’s not just running that creates these mini magic moments. Just doing something outdoors — walking, jogging, running, rolling, skipping, biking, meandering, sitting, whatever you like — detaches us from the digital universe and taps us into the natural one.

That’s how you find your pancakes.

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