Thursday, December 31
Something about the passing of another year, or the way my joints creak these cold mornings, perhaps, lends itself so easily to quiet contemplation and reading, the small pondering of words: how they reflect as much upon our pasts as upon our futures! The nature of our twenties is largely transitory, she says, and I wonder only at what age perhaps it stops. I won't wonder too much, though, finding something of a future in change.
Hoarding change these past years, I've been a stock broker in transitions, and yet this past year trumped all previous renditions, at least in that regard, if not in many others. A year ago, I'd a steady job and talked of a house with friends, if not accepting than at least prepared for a few more years of Minnesota cold and flat; now, my company's another one-year gig, living by bike trailer and yurt, but back at home in the mountain northwest. A year ago I ran a 10k drunk, and after leading the first four miles, spent the next two being sick; this year I off and ran a post-college PR at the distance. A year ago, I still wondered at what I've since sworn off, and if the drinking's remained about the same, it's for better causes these days, by which I of course mean there's no longer a girl's name attached, and the choices are a better sort of poor. If I still cannot believe how easily so much of this old life's shaken off - two thousand miles, a proud bike, and clean clear mountain air will cure more evils than you'd ever suspect.
Or, if a year's been bought and sold in futures traded, even more so this past decade. Ten years ago, a millennium changing, crazy teen; running in circles just to run faster, and if that wasn't the worst of the season-ending hip injuries, it was the hardest to handle. It's been years since the deck of cards, push-ups and sit-ups to pass out with, and Green Day blaring on repeat; I'm glad for that change. It's been years since I've led a youth group bible study, much less volunteered for it or preached - and again, this is another change I'd call for the better. Sure, I did teach math for a few years, and was briefly a preacher; I did win a few small races - but nothing else my sixteen-year-old self saw coming ever actually came to pass.
I have yet to finish any of the graduate programs I've entered, nor have I found anything even remotely resembling a career. I learned to cook, and tried on all manners of foods - before moving somewhere where I have limited access to a kitchen. I taught yoga classes, then promptly remembered how best to ignore the practice. I coached track, then moved on to ultras. I still haven't done a tri, or been a member of a respectable effort at a band.
Not once in ten years did I make it out of North America, though I did live in six states, biked in five more, ran in another five or six besides. And if I lost the sweet, kind-hearted kid for an arrogant ass, well there's hope of finding that kid again, someday; a few strides forward for every sliding step back.
Ten years ago, I ran through the changing of the year, that being tradition at the time; last year, I'd passed out by eleven. This year I'm racing a 5k and going for a midnight ski. Things haven't always been good, but they sure look to be getting better. Who knows where I'll be in another decade?
Wednesday, December 16
Fuck the ankle. It'll never heal, not like this. Not the way we'll play and I'll prance. But there's so much powder, a foot yesterday, easy, and hours to fill with skiing; slippery roads to run, slopes to snowshoe. And with a week and a half of flatter, less snowy lands approaching, I'd best get my fill. Ibuprofen in the mornings, ice in the evenings, booze at night.
Saturday, December 12
Seems these nights begin and end much the same way, always a decision that sounds so great and glorious especially in its error. He and I, paired to write together, but four days without internet and the usual procrastination, and of course we won't start until the night before, and of course I'll be writing at the bar, and of course there will be a man with three teeth, and of course he'll keep bringing me beer and wanting to argue the philosophy of how his DNA is eternal and we're all remnants of former moments of the sun, and good god he's done far too much... well, name it, and well, if I'll get a bit tipsy and then drunk... The words will fly, and I'll lose track of it all, and then he'll finish it all up, wrapping up whatever errors I've sent his way. It'll be glorious, and sure the text will lengthen into the night til we've near a damn novel, but the story reaches its end, and on time even. A beauty it is, for sure. Some night, we say, we'll do it again, but we'll start in the same bar, and maybe even with a few more hours to spare.
Or, I'll find myself nordic skiing and the tip o' the ski planted in a groove, somersaulting, ankle acrobatics extraordinaire, and if I can't put weight on it that'll hardly stop me from skiing again the next, the ankle of course no better, and then after lubricating it well with beverage, getting a run in. After all, if the ice won't break me, it may well loosen me up, and some things just crazy enough to somewhat work, the soreness in that joint finding itself changed from the less natural to the more familiar, stiff still sure, but so much improved. I won't recommend such cavalier moves to others, but sometimes crazy works.
And then there's this cold, as if I'd never left the midwest at all, only rarely in the double digits and more often subzero. Yurts hardly well-known for their insulation, especially these models, and if we don't run the space heater too, it's no wonder if I'll turn to my phone to check the time and find my breath frosting the face. Haven't found ice on bare cheek on a run yet, but that more a matter of air moisture than temperature, the cold here drier, but still... cold is cold. We've near all reached the point at which butter is it's own food group, so starved of our bodies for warmth that we'll all crave pure fat. Sure, the winter's just begun, but snow's an insulator, and we'll adapt, sure. At least there's hope.
The lake's nearly iced over, just small patches left open, and even if it's nowhere near ready for traffic yet, the mosaic's been laid, this beauty of white snowy blocks and open grey holes. Sunshine and it'll glow, brilliant; clouds and it'll all melt into one giant foggy maze. Beauty, always.
Another day, then: we'll dress as elves, merry with cheer, cheeks red, smiles wide with the suddenly warmer weather (highs in the twenties! we exclaim). Snowshoes lashed to our feet, the littlest giggly in the fresh flakes and the oldest relieved to see their siblings, sons, daughters, laughing and happy. Trek to the north pole, then, stop at the presents dropped as clues to recheck our bearings. And if Santa isn't there, at least he's left a note - thirteen days to Christmas yet to go, I'm busy you know, but follow your elven guides: for you, the way to me and good Christmas cheer they'll show.
Another one day event where the planning'll take longer than the doing, but no matter if smiles are had and laughter shared - and to see the littlest on snowshoes, three- and four-year-olds nearly in the splits, legs splayed so wide. Not laughing's impossible, really. Everything's iced over, everything's rimed over, crystalline beauty, and the sugar snow crackles beneath us even as white waves wash over us, a cool caress from the warmer skies. The white is beautiful.
Image: EMU, BARC Plant Sciences Institute
Monday, December 7
I dreamt about you the other night, and it made me wonder: Was everything I went through to get over you over this past year worth it if you’re still going to haunt my dreams?
But of course there's the truth that so rarely are you in my dreams these days, more often passing thoughts and wistful bits of memories, scattered. Across everything, sure, but a trace is not the same as the entire shadow, and telling the tale the other night I realized that finally it was becoming just that, a tale. One story of many, the way it all fell apart, and if it was bad, that, there was good, too, but no, it wasn't perfect, and really? Never was it going to be.
We lead our lives separate, having once crossed and then moved apart, and having accepted this, I can say I've no desire to see you, but harbor no rancor. Te quiero was never going to be the same as te amo, and getting over is not the same as moving on - in any case, I hope you've maybe found what you were looking for. Here's to another year, then: happy birthday, lost stranger.
After a year of telling myself that I’m over you, I finally realized that I’ll never really get over you. Oddly, that’s the only thing that’s made me feel better.
Excerpts: Dear Old Love
Saturday, December 5
Sleeping is giving in,
No matter what the time is.
Still the snow doesn't fall - not since Thanksgiving - and though the cold has lifted temporarily, the wind offers a clear replacement, white caps dotting the lake. Wolf lichen sways in the breeze; the mighty ponderosas continue to litter the icy snow with their needle bundles. Cloudless days and nights, bright moon and brighter sun, and if it's not warm, the days are still brilliant.
Snowshoeing, he says, and they all say okay, so antsy are we all, anything to get out and about. And if I'd rather posthole given the pace, no matter, for we'll all fall and all slide and climb over frozen trees. I'll sink to my waist on the higher northern slope after getting stuck climbing the south face; I'll take the detours and they'll go direct and somehow we'll end up there about the same time, atop the rocks. The view goddamn amazing, of course, if not quite so white as we'd hoped and we're the cougar scanning the horizon, the raptor seeking out prey, the wolf calling to the pack. We're in the sun and in the snow; miles and miles of peaks, far the eye'll see, and this is wonder on a Friday afternoon, this is worth less than minimum wage and 'getting things done for America.' This is beauty and this is love and by god, the silence angelic and the cold wind not so much bitter as a blessing, insuring fewer visitors to this safe haven. Another unnamed point and goddamn if I don't prefer it that way, prefer this heaven as a great unknown. Safer that way, you know?
The snow will fall, eventually, and in a ski town that'll be for the better, businesses in need of all those Boise folks and the money they'll throw at fresh powder and all the trappings they'll take comfort in. Right up there with Colorado powder, they'll say, and I'll think, then stick to Colorado, will you, but niceties being what they are, I'll smile and nod and be thankful for my escape, thankful for my hidden heavens, yet unmarred. Untrammeled, maybe, but that an argument I'd rather not have. Silence and the sun and snow, and I'll not much mind the subzero morning runs so long this comes as an occasional reward. I'm alone, and I'm okay and this, this is beautiful.
And you think you have to want more than you need...
I hope you're not lonely without me.
Lyrics: Arcade Fire, Eddie Vedder
Tuesday, December 1
The snow'd nearly melted, small patches of white chipped ice scattered between the mighty ponderosas, when the forecast called in the first big storm of the season. Six to twelve inches, they exclaimed, and all our hearts a pitter-pattering went, less at the prospect of snow and more at the prospect of traveling in it. So the snow began falling, all of us at dinner, only thin sheets of wispy flakes drifting lazily down, and even that enough to make hearts race and palms sweat. Even that enough to make the mexican in our bellies rumble nervously, even that enough to make folks cuss. We got four inches, maybe.
So, then: nine hours in the car, and it's good the conversation is more often good than awkward. The payoff, of course, being Wenatchee, not sure it much matters; any price well worth it. Of course we'll speed, she the daughter of a race car driver, and of course we'll get there early - so I'll get in three hours of trails, and what a beauty it will be. Meeting the whole gang - sure, they'll tell you the littlest is cute, but precocious cannot count as much of a start here. And of course, hard not to feel at least a bit of inadequacy in the context of so much awesome.
We'll play, sure: I'm dragging you to my gym, she says, and sure enough, we go, and sure enough, I get my ass kicked; it's only Monday - three days of Wenatchee and already I've dropped a tire on my foot and run three hours of winding sagebrush trails. And if her loaner Prius doesn't have much in the way of clearance, it'll be a different route, but still, there's snow, and still there's miles to run in it, and still, the icicle river's gorgeous, maybe especially in the damp fog. Dog'll disappear on the thanksgiving hike, but it's an excuse to run and play - more trails! - and sure enough, I'll find him, and his fatigue greater than mine, that'll be reward enough. As if there weren't enough reasons to love the week, turns out the thanksgiving feast itself will be at the winery, and by god, how we eat, enough food to take the better part of the next three days as a respite from eating, and by god, the views! Words inadequate, I'll not begin to try.
Of course, there's this idea of family, and impossibly cute kids of ridiculous intelligence, and well... damn. Awesome is such a gross oversimplification; yet again, words fail. If you've not met them, my words fly errant besides; if you have, you know exactly what I mean. Suffice to say, some pockets of talent and charm were unevenly spread, and this crew's a certain benefactor, far more wonderful than most could ever hope to be.
Nine hours in the car, and it's good the conversations more often not than good, for we're tired, and I've been robbed a day of the awesome; she'll say I goaded her into early, but truth be, I'd rather not left at all. Everyone else glad to be back, but I'm less certain. Of course, we all have our reasons, so of course, beverages will be had, and if there's an extra bottle or two imbibed, I'll tell no secrets. We've all our reasons, and tired as I am, two hours all the skiing escape I'll garner. The soreness is wonderful.
Six days of fantastic's surely better than most could hope for. I'll always want more, of course, but still... life is good.