Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Intersecting Egg McMuffins

I spent much of geometry class at McDonalds, full disclosure. The classroom was located next to the student parking lot and I had a friend that thought highly of Egg McMuffins.

Let's put that out there as we measure a theory in existential geometry: I am likely wrong. But here goes anyway. Two lines intersect at a point. I'm thinking that any given person/individual is a unique collection of points--the intersections of various lines. These lines not only meet at points, but these points actually create us.

Lines come from everywhere. Our parents are two lines. Where you grow up is at least one line. Family members, friends, teachers, what books you read, what sports you play, imbibing a memorable sunrise on the river or in the mountains--all the various experiences we have are all lines, intersecting at you/me.

Each person is a different collection of points, of intersecting lines. And the funny thing is, in as much as we are a collection of these lines, these points, we are interconnected and not individuals alone.

William Carlos Williams busts this line/thought out in Paterson, pulling the disparate together to clarify/ and compress.

To think of that pulling the disparate together as the role of the artist or poet is spot on. But I also think each of our existences is the same concept--the pulling together of the disparate lines, which meet in points, which points are us. Intersecting Egg McMuffins.

* Sculpture is "Tracks," by Gene Kangas, 1983.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"I got the trees on my mirror"

The smell was from one of the earlier haunted houses. The one that was at the old Idlewild school. I must have been in elementary school. I don't like the abuse/bastardization of the word epic, but those haunted houses were. There were illusions, hydraulic floors, swinging bridges, chainsaws, then flame-throwers. All volunteer, put on by the Kiwanis Club, work done in the evenings. They were community events, and scarier than any haunted houses I've seen since.

The smell was from the room my father's crew haunted, set up like a swamp, with brush and cattail cuttings, or the one next door, which was a woods scene. It was something that had been cut. But the smell this time wasn't from elementary school, or Idlewild, but this past Sunday, during a run along Rails to Trails. It was instant recognition as the same smell, it conjured it up precisely, to the sea creature mask my dad wore.

My wife has mentioned a smell--something like honeysuckle maybe, but I can't recall--that she knows as her grandfather. Something that was in his house. When she smells it, she knows it is him saying hello.

I am sight-oriented. For learning, for memorizing, I have always been a visual person. Smell would probably rank among my least go-to senses. Which made the haunted house flashback, while out for a 5-mile rise up run Sunday morning, stand out more.

It's a season of smells. The smell of Thanksgiving in Butler, Pa., and the smell of a soon-to-be-cut Christmas tree in the living room. It's likely my nose getting ready. Nose in training. Amping up performance for the evergreen smell that smells like childhood.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Running with Axl

I don't think Axl Rose is much of a runner. At least not back in his Appetite for Destruction and Lies days. But I've been hearing the song "Patience" in my head a good bit lately, particularly while running.

Patience is one of those songs that has forever stamped its tune on the word/concept of patience for me. I can't hear or think the word without seeing the video or hearing the melody. And patience is a virtue I've been lacking on runs since easing my way back into things post-ankle injury.

I used to be able to settle into whatever distance run and know I was going to be out there for a while, what my pace should be, and just drop into a groove. At this point of the comeback, my runs are three to five miles and I feel out of sorts. Not resigned to a distance and running without rhythm.

And that's generally when Axl chimes in. Ah yes, patience. Funny how no running at all for almost a half a year will set you back. Throw you off.

But I'm running without pain. Endurance is coming back. Speed is inching up. No distance or pace is taken for granted. It's a beginner's mind mentality. It's a gift. Like patience.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

As the bush shakes; I'm shaking it, boss

Early fall's rented orange has begun its move to brown. Brown holds the hue, but can't keep the space, lets go and, relieved of the weight, branches shake in the wind.

"I'm shaking it, boss!"

We track the leaves, our arcs are the same, dropping to the grass, leaves, bushes. It's not the real estate we picked out, but here we are. Now what?

"I'm shaking it, boss!"

Keep shaking. Don't know what else to do. We're not ready, don't want the barrel delivery at the end, that comes when we go still.

No, not still--we're shaking it, boss. Every day, when still prevails, we shake the bush, we show we're here, accounted for. We're here, boss...

all of a piece, alone
in a wind that does not move the others--
in that way: a way to spend
a Sunday afternoon while the green bush shakes.

* italics from "Cool Hand Luke" and William Carlos Williams's "Paterson"

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Three Bridges

The river was dry at that point. The foot bridge no longer necessary, but cool. It used to shush trains across, through town, now the girls like to bike to it. A new job, a new life, re-imagined.

Not like the bridge at lunch, which never stops vomiting cars across. Near that bridge, the waterfowl is primarily helicopters and commercial jets, which you can't shoot at. There are no duck blinds along the river. No one works the water, except to give tours.

Near both these bridges, a third, but not geographically. In Paterson, N.J., but in this case held in the mind, lit there by the pages of Williams' words. I've never seen it, but, sitting next to the lunch bridge,  the sound of Paterson's falls drowns out the whup-whup-whup call of the bird about to touch down and the one taking off.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"Refined by the fire"

Three lines have stuck with me. They are renting space in my mind, probably deeper. The first is from John Harbaugh during a Sunday night press conference.

"That's what being refined by the fire is all about," he said it about wide receiver Torrey Smith, who dropped a game-winning touchdown before catching the game-winner a couple plays later to beat the Steelers. Refined by the fire, learning and being changed by doing it, real-time, on the stage. The bigger the stage, the bigger the fire, the greater the refining.

The second line is from TV on the Radio and pumped through my headphones while on a four-mile run last week, the longest so far of my return to running.

"There is hardly a method you know," which I thought about in terms of getting back to something. It's not about method, or technique, it's about the attempt. It's about getting out there and learning. And the going changes you. It refines you by action.

Sport isn't just about form, or study, or preparation, though all those things are a part. It's about being on the playing field. In that context, for me it's about getting out the door and running, or in the gym, or on the rock climbing wall.

I've also been diving back into William Carlos Williams, who supplies the third line for us.

"There are no ideas, but in things," from his epic and awesome Paterson, which is a constant source of inspiration and motivation for me. Tied into the first two lines, the first two ideas, you don't have "perseverance" as an abstract concept, you have Torrey Smith catching a game-winning touchdown after making a couple mistakes earlier in the game. You don't have "endurance" as an idea apart from the runner pushing him/herself beyond their limits into that reserve. You don't have "art" aside from the painting or poem or play.

Three lines, over the course of the week, each of which has stuck to me. A post-game press conference, a lyric heard during a run, a heady, memorable line from Williams. But even the lines don't exist in the abstract, they are tied to people and particular points in time. Maybe they point somewhere. Maybe it's back to the sources.