Wednesday, December 3, 2014

(Not) Only the Lonely

I ran probably 10 of the 13.1 miles of the Chester River Challenge with a girl I'd never met and will likely never see again. About three miles into the race, a group of us settled into a comfortable pace and pushed along as a pack. Running face first into a 30-40 mph headwind on the second half of the course, this girl in blue and I pushed ahead of the pack.

I've run with a number of folks, but I don't think any of them have had the same foot strike pace that I do. Blue girl did. You only heard one set of feet pounding pavement. We didn't talk much. But at one point, we turned out of the wind down a stretch of hilly, country road, were off mostly on our own, and the thought of running that road, in that weather, as a training run was in my mind, since the rest of my body hurt.

"Sometimes this whole running thing is a bleak, solitary pursuit," I said.

"Yeah, it is," she laughed.

But for those miles, for the couple shared comments, for those common footfalls it wasn't.

Human loneliness seem to be the basic condition for two of my life loves: running and writing. Both have solitude as a building block. Both require you to turn inside, to see what is there and to do something with it. And maybe in the end, both are an answer to this condition of loneliness.

The medium of poetry isn't language, really: it's human loneliness, a loneliness that poets, having received it themselves from earlier poets, transfer to their readers. Like bees in a honeycomb, writers and readers experience isolation and solitude communally and collaboratively. - Dan Chiasson, The New Yorker, reviewing Olena Kalytiak Davis's new book.

Maybe writing, especially writing as personal as poetry, is the writer saying, "Hey, this fu**ing sucks. Anyone else?" And the act of writing, the reaching out, if we stumble across some universal feeling or nerve, or at least one other nerve in one other person, the loneliness might abate.

Music can probably be included as a means of combating the lonely. I am not a musician, but I hear it in Delta blues. And I hear it in Sturgill Simpson. Simpson seems to be connecting with a number of folks, Rolling Stone Magazine called his "Metamodern Sounds in Country Music" one of the 50 best albums in 2014.

I dig the way Rolling Stone blurbs it along with some Simpson lyrics:

"Marijuana, LSD, psilocybin, DMT, they all changed the way I see / But love's the only thing that ever saved my life," sings Simpson. The Kentucky-born singer-songwriter's breakthrough album features plenty more folk wisdom, delivered in a singular barrel-aged baritone.

Since a friend shoved me in Simpson's direction, I have been listening a lot, and he seems to fit any mood, from cleaning the house, to happy hour, to morning coffee, or sipping whiskey under the stars.

Running, writing, and music all seem to be born out of an elemental loneliness. They all feel like ways for the runner, writer, musician to bridge a perceived gap, to connect with something, or someone else. And, lucky us, the act of doing, or reading, or listening, can sometimes let us know that someone else out there gets it. Gets us.

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