The Inside Rail

The gym is packed. Fourteen machines, most in use, grind and groan like old cars on cold mornings. Old men, mostly, grind and groan with the machines. Knee braces and wrist bands, sore hips and new hips, cotton Polo shirts and 90’s Reebok sneakers, belly fat and gray heads.

Fox News rants from a corner TV, ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption rattles from another. The upcoming calcutta draw is discussed and diagrammed. Women with tennis rackets walk past the door, some smile as they look through the glass, a few pump their fists, others blush and shake their heads, most don’t notice at all.

“New Year’s resolutions…”

“F*****g New Year’s resolutions.”

I step onto the treadmill that faces the door, punch the quick start button, the digital clock begins, one hour of my life ticks down as I think of New Year’s resolutions.

F*****g New Year’s resolutions.

Ten pounds.

Write more. Write better.

Fewer gifts and more time. Your friends, your family, you…I…don’t want blue shirts, sea salts and candles for Christmas. We want your time, that’s all. Time for a drink, a run, a laugh, a dinner. Time for a chat. Time for interest. Time for commitment to a cause. My wife, Annie, and my son, Miles, they simply want my time. Find the time.

Run a marathon. From Nice to Cannes. From anywhere to somewhere.

Read more books. Read less Twitter.

Write more letters. Write fewer posts.

Call your mother. Call your kid. Call your friend.

Ten pounds.

Go to a John Prine concert. An art opening in D.C. And a Nationals games on a sunny summer afternoon.

Understand Shakespeare, memorize the 44 presidents in a row (yes, 44) and learn all the words to the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (those are for you, Miles).

Get a dog. Rescue a dog. Don’t be a dog.

Start the Running Club of Middleburg. One that meets every Saturday morning. One that inspires and includes. Start the Environment Club of Middleburg, working to eliminate one-use plastic. Start with straws, then grocery bags, then Styrofoam. Is there a Book Club in Middleburg? That would work, too.

Make more money. Save more money. Don’t worry about money.

Steward the land. Somehow, see eye to eye with those who differ on the stewardship of the land.

Ten pounds.

How about ending the government shutdown? There’s a resolution.

Be quick but don’t hurry.

Stickball at Welbourne.

Finish the book you’re writing. Good or bad, published or unpublished. Finish it.

Clean out the attic. Build an office. Fix the screen door. Renovate, finally.

Watch – help – the Middleburg Training Center flourish with fast horses, festive owners and fine horsemen. Toss Colonial Downs in there, too.

Ten pounds.

Go fishing with Doug Fout and Laird George. Shooting with the Bishops. Hunting with Robert, George and John. Golfing with Chris Ambrose. Hiking with Jack and Cynthia (the Appalachian Trail is right there). Singing with Jamie and Amy. Walking with my wife. Anybody else want to do something? Just call.

Open a business in town. Well, at least, support a business in town. Have you seen the empty spaces?

Support local, live music.

Build a stonewall. Plant a tree. Garden.

Turn off your phone during dinner.

Ten pounds.

Drink less. Dry January is a good start, I’m 23 days in. Eight to go.

Win races at the Gold Cup and Glenwood Park.

Take Miles to see Hamilton. Anything at the Kennedy Center. Skiing. The Globe Theatre. London. Paris. Greece. The Outer Banks with our Maryland friends. His cousin’s wedding in June. The Baseball Hall of Fame induction in Cooperstown. The Grand Canyon. Goose Creek on the last day of school. Saratoga in August.

Escape with Annie, somewhere for a day, a week, a weekend, an hour.

Make deadlines. Meet deadlines.

Ten pounds.

I look at the clock, still ticking. I wipe sweat from my brow. I read the plaque for Walter Woodson above the door.

Be the one who reaches out.

And, somehow, step off the treadmill.

• A version of this was originally published in Country Spirit Magazine.