Thursday, September 30
Correspondences in dormancy these past few weeks, and it's there, so near sleeping, that perhaps I've finally learned a hold to bind this tongue. Still moving and yet silent, I answer no one but the sky and these distracted legs. Irresponsible it felt, admittedly, her neuroses - but it's discourteous to not reply within a day, I can hear her saying - having, in those years together, also become my own. Funny to me now, in hindsight realizing how many these adult behaviors I've picked up over the years from women I've loved, their families, our shared friends. Contexts and backstories and so on: we're all adaptable, always, aren't we? Save, of course, when we choose not to be, heels dug. Seems to me 'special sort of stupid's not so far from irredeemably obstinate, you know. But who am I to say what we may choose to be?
I'm writing more and saying less, it's true. Tact yet may be a thing I learn; already I've this realization I'm learning caution, having never before been the sort to wear a helmet if I could justify not. But, then, live with a seven-year-old: perspectives change, and I've some idea now what his eyes follow. Similarly, I've never before been the sort to turn from a bridge 'fore it flamed, but, then. Maybe now I am? If the aches of these joints most mornings (already!) will teach me nothing else, maybe age'll yet temper some of these impulses.
Busy likewise finding me more again these days, and this playtime's begun diminishing, but given the toe that's likely - for the time being, at least - for the better. Still, I'm appreciative this desert became the lush valley. Sometimes I think you're living only in metaphors and images, she said, but from four months of unemployment and touring uncertainty to three jobs taken and several more turned down and likely grad school again looming (a third go'll be different, right?)... well, it's true enough, I suspect. More transitions'll yet materialize, as always they do, behind and ahead.
And so it is that I've seventeen starred emails awaiting replies, those the ones I intend to get to, eventually, besides all the others I'm just ignoring. Four of the first six speak of tumult wrought and sought, and the others just wait and wait - impatiently, as if they'd lives their own. Silence I'll likely savor a little longer (obstinate, yes) - but at least I've finally learned to ask for time, or even to walk away before the burnt bridge'll turn me back. Maybe that's progress, perhaps it's not. Have I any reason to claim a knowledge of the difference?
I'd ask in earnest, but your answers aren't any better than mine.
Tuesday, September 28
We remain after everything's been washed away...
This computer'd crashed and I thought sure I'd lost it all again – was this to be a yearly ritual? – but I've it back now, all sorts still marred and perchance only temporarily among the living, but still another ghost from the grave, dead as I'd considered it, gone as I consider you. I've this idea these issues an offering forced by universe's sense of humor, a strange sort of penance I'll find in troubles found and lost. For what, you'd ask. But if you've not the code, never likely shall you; not a man of many regrets, I've at least this one, of time slipped past and over as soon as begun. I've some small pride, you know, the smallest bites often festering the most and too many bridges burning behind me to let this one in flames go by. Not the courage, you know; even with a toe perhaps broken (say it ain't so!), I've more flight in me than fight. So hobbled off I ride away, ignoring the scent of smoke on my skin, instead trying to remember the smells - vanilla and butterscotch! - of those pines I've loved near most, the thoughts the trees kept wisely for themselves.
...By the rain we will stand up right as we stand today
I'm writing more and saying less, I realize. You'd approve, maybe, except of these images, shadows and smoke and ghosts let slip through cold fingers, and the ways I've yet to learn to tell a story. Which is to say you'd not approve at all, if I've understood anything. So it is. No more can I tell you the things I dream; I've more songs yet to learn to play.
Monday, September 27
I've as many 'perhap's and 'maybe's as 'don't know's, and as the days go, I'll perchance yet learn to peace with these matters of pieces. Or, at the least - I say I will, even as I remember a surprising mirth I'd seen neither coming nor going. At any rate, spilt from the coquette's tongue, eyes aglow, coded phrases and late, late nights; at any rate, progress is a forward thing, at least in theory, so forward I'll go. Seems the things I say I'd prefer to forget most I'll remember easiest, and goddamn if this isn't a familiar drill. All these old habits I'm remembering, sleepless nights to run and ride and drink, repeat; now the drinking's less, and the miles likewise (damn toe!), but the riding's more, and I know well how even as we age our escape routes remain familiar.
Give me an answer, but please don't tell me the truth
Another playlist I've here, alone with these wandering lines, wondering at what'll make bravery cowardice and cowardice bravery, those things I've often as not wished interchanged. Don't you put yourself on the backburner, you're gonna bring yourself down, and I've no better way for saying so, so I'd rather not try. Bound for a place I could only reach alone, I've these nights still restless, and if the evening brought a dusk laced with the scents of long runs past, who was I to refuse the sort of soft September fall that lingers so? Too many memories, too many thoughts, too many hours in each night.
Faced with the dodo’s conundrum
I felt like I could just fly
A small bottle of this drink I'd preferred years before, rum and twenty-three flavors, I'd beside me, so a bike of lights I loaded and launched into the night and the moon swallowed me 'fore I realized I was even off. A bat with memories for sonar, I climbed into the darkness, asked it a question and let it swallow me up. Loops and loops of spinning tires and the lights shut off, I rode and rode, as full as only the emptiness'll allow. The air coolly drank me in and I sat atop the world and watched it sleep, before - as I began waking - the slow gold of a shadowy start accompanied me back down, returning to the tethers of this world once more.
Call on the fates, this'll take a second
While I fall on my face, like everyone else
All of which is to say: I'm not quite floundering. But neither have I much confidence in these bearings.
Saturday, September 25
"What becomes of us?"
"The world will decide. The world always decides."
By the age of six, I was convinced I'd an eternity of damnation ahead of me; tear-streaked afternoons I piled up, the realization I'd never stop sinning such a cold one. At age eight, my bigger concern with heaven was flying jumbo jets nearly there, for I was going to be the best airplane pilot ever born. By ten, I'd clearly demonstrated I was smarter than any of my teachers could ever hope to be - adults were so dumb! - and did my best to ensure they knew it. By twelve, I'd realized everyone hated me for it. At fourteen, I was a teenage mess: no one had ever been like me before; nor would there ever be anyone like me again; clearly, no one would ever understand me; god, how I couldn't wait to be an adult and run my own life. By age sixteen, I'd discovered running, and swore I'd be the first person to run the Boston Marathon in under two hours. It's likely for the better that I spent large portions of the next four years battling various injuries. When I was eighteen and newly discovering the world, among my finds was the DSM; immediately I suspected I'd spend at least part of my life institutionalized, because ohmygod I was most sorts of mentally unwell, the manual said so. By twenty, I'd fully embraced religion, was going to spend the rest of my life a married preacher, an Alexander Supertramp spreading the gospel and accordingly blessed. (Later I'd argue this was a far greater insanity than that of two years previous.) At age twenty-two I was sure I was well on my way to becoming the Next Great American Novelist. By twenty-four I'd fallen passionately enough in love with ultras to assume I was on my way to world class ultramarathons. At least in theory, twenty-six brought the realization that what I know best is just how little I do know. Next up will be twenty-eight, and I've no idea what even the next month will bring - only that I'll fall into it wholly prepared by not preparing at all. I'm probably more okay with this version of planning ahead than I should be.
Tuesday, September 21
Time runs in strange rivulets these days, not unlike sweat or muddy ribbons down the back of legs, regardless whether the memories spurring them on are fresh or well-worn. Run to remember, run to forget; ride to remember, ride to forget. A Hemingway quote I’d just once more stumbled upon the other day: you can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another. You’ve your definition the loneliest feeling; he, understanding me best, would likely claim another. My own definition I find myself rewriting each day, all the while wondering if I’ll ever again find the ability to stay still.
Gather up the lost in your soul
Gather up the painful
I’ve been told to give up the ghost
So many hours I’ve spent alone, being only with silence. I’ve preferred it so; running, biking, simple existence the company I’ll choose over most others. Yet it wasn’t until you two each suggested that I was lonely that I imagined I could be. Truth: hearing those words from anyone else, I’d always known they simply didn’t know me, had misinterpreted based on some random collection of snapshots, an errant sample size. When you leveled the charge? I wondered if I hadn’t misunderstood myself.
Perhaps we were all wrong. In more cynical pasts my retort to such a charge might have been akin “but I’ve company enough in these ghosts.” Of course, you’ve now joined that company, haven’t you?
I’ve been told to give up the ghost
You are a specter in the cool mountain air, a ghost lost as easily to the brilliant woods as the charred canyon, as quickly come and gone as the drifting clouds. Peaks are less in the sun these days with the weather ever changing, more often seen shrouded, cloud-draped, that too’ll seem fitting, the mystery, rock ever shrouded. Up I’m always drawn, run or ride or hike, and inevitably there’ll be views and thoughts to rediscover. I’ll watch white blue skies fade to grey, clouds drift above and below and over and off, smell the still silence that’ll be broken only by the fluttering of leaves or grasses, punctuated by the smoky scent of a charred slope. I’ll wonder what you’d make of it, dream of skies dotted only by stars, ponder metaphors and allegories and the stories we learn as children only to later forget. Distance I’ve found, distance I’ll yet try to put on.
All the things you’ll love,
All the things that may hurt you,
All the things you shouldn’t do,
All the things you want to…
They’re calling your name… travel safely.
These shorts I’m rereading others found funny, but I’ll just find them sad, heavy and altogether far too true, a world I’d prefer weren’t, though it clearly is. Suspicions I’ll harbor that you’d love such a book, but I’ve a preference for the lived-in moment, not the tragedy of a worn-through history. Alas, I’ve more hours these days of looking back than ahead, and I’ve these suspicions that the narratives I’m reading may be far more true than the journeys of which I dream.
You’re finding your way, I know, and in some sense, I suppose so am I. Still. As he’d noted, some familiar tags – “there will be weather,” “shit happens,” “the only constant’s change” – are less than inspiring. A slick, solo two-step, I think, even as another friend jests the other day that ‘acquaintances’ are merely shorthand for attempted conquests. How little we understand each other, even he and I, brothers, I think, and yet how much less understanding we’ll find elsewhere. I’ve all these conversational fragments – yours, mine, his, theirs, lives past – that’ll ring hollow as these thoughts rewind. Again, again.
Let’s call me a Baptist, call this the drowning of the past
She’s there on the shoreline
Throwing stones at my back
Descending from the clouds, then an arc of exploration, sure, but more so to: where we’d been; where we’d started; where we’d parked. Through the thick and wet world of shadows, I’ll branch off, find mossy stacks on which to play. Chutes I’ll slide down, stacks I’ll scamper up; photos I’ll snap away. But, as always, there’s time behind me, and hurry I must to catch the others. It’s then I’ll knock the rocks loose, one of which’ll catch a toe. Immediately I’ll not be running a few days is the thought, yet two days later I’m atop another peak. Even coming down, as you well know, restraint’s never been my gift.
As long as you trust yourself, you wrote me once, you’re not lost. A counterpoint, then: these sorts of things are – at least as much as a matter of trust – a matter of direction. And even if our compasses were pointed the same, say 180 degrees south, we hadn’t ever accounted for declination and the earth’s shifting magnetic fields. As always, often as not, words are more a failing than a success, and so we find lines to read between. Unmet expectations and a wasted life, he said, and maybe that – fear, in the middle of it, the weight of it – is where we’re least alone, most like each other. What a sad thought.
Now the water’s taller than me
And the land is a marker line
All I am is a body adrift in water, salt and sky
Wednesday, September 15
Thing with couples is that there's no such thing as a spontaneous decision, no spur-of-the-moment just-felt-like-it sort of running away. There's always schedules to compare, coordinate, control. Disappearing into the open wild's a hell of a lot harder with the weight of another; even with friends this is true. But, perspectives: you've never understood how to be alone, just as I've never understood how to be (put) together.
Show me an angel
And I'll cast away the devil
But I won't trust
No I won't trust
Those wings of yours
We claimed a friendship, I remember, but I've my suspicions you've even less skill in that arena than I. [Friends] don't digress you from your goal... don't scatter you. Clearly this is just another thing fucked. Walls we've built, or clouds we've to veil the peaks, seas to drift on without glimpses of land - use whatever imagery sounds best today.
And I've got people to see
And places that I need to burn down
And secrets that I need to burn out of my head
Stories you say you want. But there's no story outside the miles and mountains and fatigues of these days; these tales of children and family are only entertaining when they're the bulk of your life, when they're your stories. There's no story in these hours spent around the house reading and writing and sitting, either recovering from what was last or waiting for whatever'll be next. Bumdom intermixed with these mild self-abuses hardly makes a treasure trove of tales.
I'm through with lonely conversations
And heartfelt contradictions
Give me grace
There are names you've used, as if titles were better than weak excuses, you know, but I hardly think they fit. More accurately, perhaps, you mistake self-centeredness and a narrow vision for some sort of spinster wisdom, where it'll have a knack for highlighting most our immaturities and insecurities. We're all just damn fools, you know. Still, I've this wish I'd called you on it earlier. So...?, said the kettle.
You made the ground unsteady
You made the ground unsteady for us
You dug the holes and you fell in
You dug the holes and I fell in
Fatigue you'd rather not hear of, but that doesn't change the tiredness twitching in my eyes. As usual, not sleeping unless I'm half-broken, or at the very least, broken in; otherwise I've the night awake; or, I'll catnap without meaning, hours into days disappearing away. I've time, hours and hours of it, always time. Time best for planning lessons, this being the school year, it being what I know. Time best for running or biking, a transition from summer tours to fall races, it being what I know. Instead, though, I've this. These quiet hours I don't talk about? They're silent because they're empty.
I'm gonna run this jealous heart to the ground
This jealous heart to the ground
The fight's gone right out of me, maybe. I've enough of these miles at all these varied elevations these last few weeks that my ears are still consistently full and even off now, over a month later; I've a sense of being both literally and figuratively trapped inside my head. I'd plans today of waking early, running to this nearest peak, and from that high vantage watching the sun greet the earth. Instead I slept straight through all three alarms. I planned to make phone calls and do research and write; instead I dozed straight through the hope of a re-discovered equilibrium.
I'll be fine
I'll be fine
As long as I
Shut this mouth of mine
So now it's mid-September and I'm still not planning lessons, alarmingly wrong as it feels. I've always been good at procrastination, but I've most the knack for putting off my future; maybe next year'll be the year for a proper teaching position? Maybe the year after that'll be the year I start growing up? As I told her, I've lived more my childhood in my twenties than I did in my teens, and I suspect the statement's mostly, sadly accurate, though I suppose that too'll depend on how you'll do the math. In theory I'm employed again; in practice, I've still yet to meet my students. More accurately, I suppose, they're not mine at all. But I never did much learn to share.
I'm over lonely picture-makers
Who scatter their hearts
Give me guts
I'm sick of neurotic picture-makers
And heady confrontation
Give me heart
I'm through with tragic picture-makers
And optimistic suckers
All lyrics Matson Jones
Monday, September 13
You biked across the country this summer - will biking ever replace your love of running?
A Sunday of escape and play: four hours; brunch and, at least in theory, rehydration, then two more hours on my feet. 'Bout time to once more mold feet to mountains, to ferret out a peak roundtripped entirely without wheels. Twice I'd planned to run the loop (what a day that'd be!), but, still. Distracted explorations of trails up high made it not so, but I've no regrets; nothing on my mind, these miles I'm an empty wanderer, surrounded by these vistas: more peaks, ominous clouds veiling just enough of the west and north as to make them as terrifying and intriguing as challenging and inviting; to the south, the ridge I'd run just a week and a half before; to the east, and far below, the Columbia a twisting silver ribbon. If there's any thought at all, it'll be of patience, of moderating damage, less a gauge of effort as of the rate of breakdown, where and what and how so.
Monday, then, a holiday and necessarily a follow-up: sixty-plus miles, and this business with the bike'll have me just as easily distracted from this intended recovery, wheels turning over and over and over. steady miles along the river, a climb here and a vista there, riverbend and crescent bar down below. Three hours on the bike hardly qualifies as a long day, but even shortened, it'll be representative. Some of these same satisfactions I'll enjoy on a long ride the same as on a long run: covering ground I'm physically connected to, these wide vistas and big skies, even the same accomplished sleep after (first night restless, second a dreamless coma), the same uneven tossing and turning the night before. I'll find the same delight in drawn out muscles, an unfamiliar lean figure facing me in the mirror (less vanity, this, than fascination with the body's potential). I've even the same curiosity in either sort of play, an inquisition of limits and capacity; so too I've the same idea of a separate awareness, of being outside the self and into the moment, this sense of an extra-dimensional connection to the world.
This isn't to say the two forms of exploration are without their differences. They've each particular qualities and quantities of quiet, each a particular body awareness, each their own emotional range and cycles, each their own peculiar sort of fatigue. On a long ride, the quiet rarely lasts long; even if, by chance, I've found a route that'll not carry much traffic, there's still usually enough ground behind my wheels that I've plenty of time for wildlife, the wind whistling across trees. On such rides, long silences stand out, oddly apocryphal, as if the world's peeled away but for me. On a long run, even if I've not been fortunate enough to find trails, I've still my quiet routes, miles passing slow. Silence is only intermittently broken, and when the stillness does bend away - with exception of wind, perhaps - it comes as a surprise.
Body awareness is likewise different: hours on the bike come detached and dreamlike, these two (or four, if towing the trailer) wheels simply an extension of myself, and I a mindless extension of the machine; running, especially these long days full with technical singletrack, requires a near-constant presence and attention to detail. As those miles pass, footfall after footfall after footfall, always there's something to monitor, the breakdown of each muscle and joint; carefully I note how the steps before linger in the sensation of each step this particular moment. Questions to ask: are these aches - hamstrings, calves, quads - what they should be for where I am, at this mileage, this slope, this time, this surface? Am I working too hard? Not hard enough? When to ease off and when to push on - this is the thin line between successful accomplishment and painful wreck on such a long run. Long rides, by comparison, are far more forgiving.
Emotionally, too, there's no comparison. As awful as some of the summer's rainy days may have been, and as exhilarating as those few great ones, neither crescendo nor diminuendo offering comparison to those of a long, long run. I've yet to find a thing that'll probe quite the way a long, long run will, have yet to find an experience that'll rip through to my most primal basic being like long runs consistently do. I've had few darker clouds than the worst long run moments, laying down in the middle of trails (voluntary or not, legs buckled, undone) convinced death'd be a better option than another step. My first fifty-miler, in a conversation I've no recollection of, I cussed my then-girlfriend out for not talking me out of such a wretched idea only moments before thanking her for being a supportive angel; this was either thirty or forty miles in, at which point each step mattered more than the sum of those before and I'd only a rudimentary understanding of anything beyond that left. Not all long runs are so demanding, it's true. But many of them are.
As a result, I escape from the task at hand very differently as well. On the bike I whittle hours away in unconsciously writing, long letters pulled from corners in which they'd long ago turned mostly over to dust, the places where memories die. Not uncommonly will I find myself pulled over beside the road, grabbing scrap paper and pen in an effort to jot enough notes to preserve some bits for later use. Amidst the fatigue, this is often a losing effort. Still. It's a marked contrast to these runs, where after the first few hours there are no thoughts, no stray lines to follow, even if I'd so cared. Instead, there's the steady drumbeat of footfalls slapping time against trail, rock, road. Instead there's the constant monitoring of damage done. There's no room for lost notebooks of script, though the blank slate is an equally necessary recharge.
Fatigue, as felt and expressed, is, at least at this juncture, the area of greatest difference, however. On the bike, I'm learning, it comes as a slow deadening, the thickening of sinew from waves to sea ever turning over, to cold molasses. I drift from free pirouettes to stiffly churning to simply stuck, bogged. Several times I've hit the wall at which there's no more, bonked hard and fallen off the bike as a result, but every time I've known it was coming, that I was out of fuel, undone. Fatigue on the bike is never a surprise; I'll feel it in heavy shoulders, in grit behind and under my eyes, a dull throb deep in a thick and fading awareness. When the effort becomes a ghastly weight, and these muscles give in to the ghost, I'll have known it was coming for some time.
Not so on the run. Having monitored, I'll know my legs are getting thick like tree stumps, that every step further'll take yet more in tax, but when the first wall topples me down, unlikely it is I'll have known it was beside me. Legs may quite well physically buckle without clear explanation, save they've decided they're done. A strange war'll take hold, body and mind and mind and body, endorphins flitting and fluttering across unevenly drawn battle lines, chemical warfare across weary bone and desperate sinew, and I'll drift entirely on a strange sense of dreaming. A second wind'll bear me aloft, running hard and light as the breeze across alpine meadows, only to hit another wall, and this one'll always be worse than the first. Each successive lift and each successive fall knows new heights and depths; every moment is more acutely experienced - spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically - than the succession of those that came before. Havoc it certainly is, but rollercoasters have their appeal.
Could biking ever replace running? That's not the question, though. For it's not the act in either case that I love, but the experience of that act, the stage it sets before me, all the world indeed. And if it's about the experience of the act, rather than the act itself? I've no idea. There's only miles and hours and hours and miles, and compromises, too, like Friday's doing: fourteen hours of putting it all together, biking and running and scrambling and climbing and swimming and running and biking, of exhaustion and the sweet fatigue of completely forgetting the possibility of moderation. Amidst all that, what need have I of any sort of replacing?
Ask me anything.
Sunday, September 5
Seems often as not these words we've bartered are at least half, if not more, apologies, and matters of space and distance and lacking communication are most often our discourse still. The further we grow apart, the more I realize how we resemble the caricatures we were then, not much more than the children we left behind. So it goes.
But, the requisite apology: I never did get back to you. Your last night in the states, and I once again shirked those near-familial duties; as if to spite you, never gave you the satisfaction of that full conversation we'd hinted at near a month. I could, of course, take another tack: call it fate; call it a conversation that'll happen in the reality of one location, not in static crinkling across satellites and space; call it fodder for coffee and a meal, a long walk, even the course of several days. Excuses, yes. We've years of making up to cover over now, you realize, and the deficit continues to grow; these divergent and parallel lives we're leading are as much pretending at a maturity we still haven't found as slinking away from old immaturities in pursuit of new ones.
Another battery these stories run on: I've no good words - and strangely, thought to ask you - for whatever it is that occurs to thoughts (which may have budded towards that sun we'll sometimes call love) when they're obscured by transitions, fogged up in the space of stop-start conversations that are as often aflame with misunderstandings as aglow with comprehension and the eerie ability to sink perfectly into the tracing of another's shadow. I don't know much of these things - an ignorance I'll admit easily - only that I often find myself mistaking one thing for another, never having been much good with which one of these things is not like the other? Plenty of things I did properly pick up in kindergarten, but if this was supposed to be one of them, chalk it up as yet another failing. Not the least of many, I realize, as guiltily fallible as ever. I was a good Lutheran boy once, you remember.
Of course you've your own issues - embarked as you are upon such treacherous adventure, be it for love or a resolution to loneliness or self-identity or whatever we'll call it, I wish you well - but. I've questions. For instance: how is it we've maintained this tenuous grasp on each other even as we've each found ways to unravel damn near every other sinew in each our bodies (especially the important ones, like the ones that keep us from flinching at a stranger's touch), even as we've burnt far more bridges than ever we'd known to cross? You're a bitch, I'm an asshole - and these are familiar refrains, even as, it seems, we'll take some pride in them. Looking back, I was obviously mostly terrible to you; looking ahead, I've hopes I'd do better, substantially better (remember the two princesses?), but, well. Hopes and dreams and the stuffs of fairytales, perhaps. Similarities have some predictive value, I'd think, and we've both this skill; damn fine we are at talking ourselves right out the backdoor. I remember you being good at it, anyway. I know I certainly still am; what's a welcome if not worn?
Choices, then. I've these interviews falling together when I've resolved myself most to want options least, to follow the land as it'll lay, these mixed metaphors woven unquestioning. You know the drill. Always escapes we're looking for least that we'll stumble into first. Defined however we'd prefer, we're still each as much a mess when pulled together as when pulled apart.
Not a chance this carries much in the way of clarity, time better at the moment for erosion than filtration. Just words after all, and even that'll likely be lost in the void of all these miles and the months of silence that came before. Still, I've a hope, that someday we'll learn to build bridges, and not to burn them. If not, there's always this bridge. That has to count for something, right?