Friday, January 13, 2012

Lead Horses and Lions

As I ran today I came across this sign: "Lead Horses Across Bridge", which got me thinking about perception. The first thing that came to mind was that the fastest horses were to be found on the other side of the bridge. Then I pictured a gallery of horse statues made from lead, with this sign alerting passersby so they wouldn't miss the art. Finally, I concluded this most likely was a kind reminder to horse owners to get off of the horse and hold their reins while walking across the bridge. I wondered then if horses got spooked by this particular bridge or if the sign just indicates good horse etiquette?

Of course, this seemingly straightforward yet potentially complicated signage is only the tip of the iceberg. Life is fraught with dangerous assumptions and blind men describing elephants. Doctors are taught to hear hoof beats and predict horses as the culprit instead of zebras. But the wise doctor keeps that zebra possibility in her back pocket because:
1. You might save someone's life if you figure out a rare diagnosis.
2. If you don't save their life, you will at the very least look super cool.
3. Number 2 must be clarified: you will look very cool to other geeks like yourself.

The Olympic marathon trials air tomorrow. Only 3 men and 3 women get to be on the team. The favorites are well known, but the marathon can be deceptive, surprising, merciless. Like the guy who won in 1996 despite projectile vomiting in the last few miles. For women, I am voting for the fastest qualifier who is, nonetheless, considered an underdog, Desi Davila. If you believe the signs, Ryan Hall will win for men. I think he is great (see my last post where he is used to demo running form extraordinaire). But I kind of love Meb. And Dathan Ritzenhein deserves credit for bringing himself back after a year off from running (due to injury) to run a steaming fast 5K. The perceptions of these elite runners might be right, more or less, but ultimately what really matters is how fast they run on race day. Self-perception may be even more powerful. One can only be a lead horse if one believes one can be a lead horse.

Now having exhausted horses, zebras and an elephant being groped by a blind man, I need to mention lions. The usual picture we all have when this word appears is the African plains, and the King of animals. It also may produce an image of Aslan, or the logo for MGM. But the lion to whom I refer is the mountain lion, the catamount, the panther, the puma, the cougar. He may have other names as well, but these are just off the top of my head. I have been avoiding dawn and dusk runs in the woods, as the lions prefer these times to hunt. But the other night, the lion creeped into my dream. It went like this:

A lion kept trying to get into my house. I kept trying to protect my family and my dogs from said lion. It finally got in. Twas not pretty. The end.

What does this dream signify? And why do I have to keep worrying about lions?

Possible answers to these extremely important questions:
This dream occurred right after I completed 10 hospital shifts where I saw everything from the gruesome to the tragic. The dream occurred after a particularly large hunk of intense dark chocolate right before bed. The dream occurred after walking my skittish poodle (whom I've renamed "Fiercy McPoof") in the dark, near the woods. The dream occurred as I drifted off to sleep, anxiously wondering  "what my life and my children's lives may be."

I'm going with "all of the above."

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