Tuesday, March 27, 2012


evocative |iˈväkətiv|
bringing strong images, memories, or feelings to mind 

Evocative.  It's a word that comes up frequently in therapy, rarely in a positive context.  I guess for this season the images, memories, and feelings being dredged up are bittersweet, like the clanging together of childhood happiness and the disappointment of adulthood.  It's in the way that the scent of Ultrathon bug spray reminds me of her, or the moist earthen smell that seems to only hang in the air this time of year, or the way the verdant forest canopy has already begun to blot out the sky, or the cool 40 degree air against my legs before the sun has broken the horizon.  Soon it will be the gauze-like haze of Summer hung from the stars, the humid air stealing my breath, the sting of the sun on my pale Irish skin, rainstorms my only reprieve, nights spent dreaming of what, I'm not sure.  No wish or will can stop the bastard days of Summer.

So what the fuck does any of this have to do with running?  I don't know.  Somewhere along the line my mental well being became inextricably tied to being alone in the woods.  It's a very real possibility that if one didn't exist then neither could the other.  So I guess there isn't a word that I've written in the last year or so that hasn't been about both running and the rusting tilt-a-whirl that is my head.

Safety Gate         5/7/2007       Brewster, NY

If you want the first drops of rain against the cedar shakes
If you want to let loose the scent of reason
Dried brush and electrical storms
Misery without boundary and a long low moan into the tactile summer air
Then, please, come inside

I am waiting 
Aquamarine eyes set on the doorway 
The scent of lust and petroleum 
Aged lumber and hob nails penetrating wanting flesh
I am breathing
Tachypnic, infection born, your trepidation
The ant climbing the peony, the rattle of the last breath
Please, come inside

This flush of trees, thick skinned and darker than the night sky
My winding thought, ink blot against the deep grey before me
Alternating currents and Parkinsonian rhythm
The tar and the stone and the work of the sun
(I am these quiet surroundings, the murderers lair, the insect vibration, 
the fresh cut grass, the broken branch scraping against the screen door)
Please, come inside.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Staying in the Mo...OH FUCK, NOT AGAIN!!!

I'm starting to think that there's some sort of rhythm to life that I never took the time to notice in the past. I'm still not buying that bullshit that everything happens for a reason (children dying? suicide? molestation? Jersey Shore?), but it seems odd to me that I've been thinking and writing about mindfullness and being in the moment (there has to be a better way to say that) and this morning, on a short run, I had a gentle reminder of the benefits of not drifting off while I tear through the woods. One minute I was upright and the next minute I had been body slammed to the ground...again. A momentary lapse in concentration on a nearly smooth piece of single track and I went down like a bag of wet cement. It's amazing how quickly I can go from standing up straight to laying on the ground with my fist bunched up under my ribs, although this time it was the right side instead of the left (I like to keep my fractures symmetrical). It happens so quickly that it almost feels like someone shoved you to the ground. It was still a hell of a fucking run and things are finally starting to click for me again.

Parabola  (Tool)

We barely remember who or what came before this precious moment,
We are Choosing to be here right now. Hold on, stay inside...
This holy reality, this holy experience. Choosing to be here in...

This body. This body holding me. Be my reminder here that I am not alone in
This body, this body holding me, feeling eternal all this pain is an illusion.


This holy reality, in this holy experience. Choosing to be here in...

This body. This body holding me. Be my reminder here that I am not alone in
This body, this body holding me, feeling eternal all this pain is an illusion...
Of what it means to be alive

Swirling round with this familiar parable.
Spinning, weaving round each new experience.
Recognize this as a holy gift and celebrate this 
chance to be alive and breathing
chance to be alive and breathing.

This body holding me reminds me of my own mortality. 
Embrace this moment. Remember. we are eternal.
all this pain is an illusion.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


She and I have spent the past few years talking about the middle ground in life, the space between extreme pleasure and extreme pain that the majority of the world lives in.  She understands that for me to feel anything at all my emotions have to redline, and that the minutiae of daily life bores me so greatly that I would rather feel incredible discomfort than feel nothing at all.  It's why I drift off in the middle of conversations about peoples food shopping or the yard work they did over the weekend, why I lose interest at work when things become too routine, why casual acquaintances seem superficial and useless.  None of those things even register on my pleasure/pain scale.  She and I both know that a life like this is unsustainable and will always have the potential to unravel quickly and with horrible results, so she's recommended that I practice mindfullness.  I know what she means, I understand the concept of being in the moment but my thought patterns are the equivalent of a car scraping down a guardrail.  To keep focused on one thought, one emotion, for even 30 seconds, is a Herculean task.  I know I have to have moments where I let the detritus of the past and expectations of the future fall away, but most times it seems as far beyond my reach as trying to hold the moon in my hands.


Yesterday it was 60 degrees out and sunny.  I cranked through my work so that I could head into the woods for an hour or so.  Looking dapper in my new Salomon short sleeve and Drymax socks (courtesy of my friend Stacy at Wilderness Running Company.  Did you get my email?) I headed out of the parking lot and into my Temple.  I tried to practice some of what she and I talked about on Wednesday; I listened to my breathing, felt the rocks and soft earth beneath my feet, but the more I tried to think about nothing the more I thought about thinking about nothing.  At some point I gave up and just let S. into my head, thought about thru-hiking the Appalachian trail, about doing some runs with a tent and sleeping bag to escape for a few days, thought about S. some more, and also let myself enjoy running on soft, dry trails for the first time in over a year.  It didn't feel at all like failure.  


This morning I ran the same loop after work.  I tried once again to quiet the chatter, to focus on nothing but my breathing and the next footstep, but had little success.  I believe part of the reason that I have such a difficult time being in the moment is because of something I mentioned in my last post.  I use my time out there to sift through all of the insane thoughts and feelings I've stored up for the week.  They run through my mind in a dizzying stream of conscience until I've exhausted them.  The best part of thinking about these things while I'm running is that I don't have the ability to make sense of them and remain upright at the same time. I suppose when I start running long again I'll be able to quiet my mind and practice some of the mindfullness techniques I've learned over the years, but for now I'll just let my thoughts spill like mercury across a marble floor and be satisfied with that.  This doesn't feel at all like failure.

The above photo is of me tempting the gods of thunder and lightning.  You might be able to make out the metal baton I'm holding skyward, but what you can't see is the massive lightning storm racing across the Hudson in my direction.  The gods blinked first.

"And I'll burn, like a roman fucking candle
 Burn, like a chasm in the night
 Burn, for a miniscule duration
Ecstatic immolation, incorrigible delight."  

Bad Religion-Turn On The Light 


Sunday, March 11, 2012


"In the middle of life it happens that death comes and measures man.  The visit is forgotten and life continues, but the suit is made, quietly" Tomas Transtromer.

Nothing should mean this much, not S., not running, nothing. Nothing should mean this much because sometimes the hinge gives way and the bottom has no bottom. I haven't taken a shower in three days, haven't changed my clothes since I left work Friday afternoon. I've left the house twice since then, both times for work. I worked 6:30 to 10:30 am yesterday and today, completely alone, the quiet hum of ventilation echoing down the bare walls of the hospital. I craved my bed and closed shades the way a junkie craves dope, and I was thankful that AMC has put season 1 of The Killing on Video On Demand. It offers 11 hours of solace. There are lessons to be learned on weekends like this, some less pleasant than others. If there is one lesson S. taught me, though, is that nothing lasts, nothing survives the barely visible fractures that this life inflicts upon us. Not relationships, not the flesh and bone that give shape to our bodies; nothing survives this life. So what's behind this spiral? How does the armor so quickly get stripped away? There is always, of course, the haunting, the bleach of our lives spilled into standing water. When I slow down, the haunting speeds up. Other than the haunting, it is a matter of anatomy and physiology, of a fucked up left foot that has left me running less than 20 miles in the last few weeks. The one thing that makes me feel so fucking alive is gone for now, and it's amazing how quickly the lie of invincibility comes undone. Nothing should matter this much.

 There are obvious reasons why running long distances makes me feel indomitable; the Endorphins, the pain as pleasure principle, the punk rock streak in me that says "I ran in the woods for 8 hours this weekend, what the fuck did you do?". These are all what we call in medicine incidental findings. They're not what I was looking for in the woods, but I stumbled upon them anyway. So what is it that I crave like a junkie? I found the answer while reading an article that ultramarathon runner Anton Krupicka wrote for Running Times magazine. He tried to find a way to answer the question "what do you think about when you're out there for so many hours?" and what he came up with was so simple and yet so profound. He said he didn't think, he listened. That simple statement explained to me so elegantly why I attempt to amass so many hours and miles alone in the woods every weekend. It is a time to let me listen through the chaos of my psyche, to shutter away the outside world and just breathe. It's a time for me to listen rather than speak, to give voice to what scares me, what makes me happy, what makes me so fucking sad sometimes, and allows me to heal from the pedestrian disappointments and sorrows of life as well as from the traumas of a life poorly lived. What's amazing is that the thoughts can't be corralled, can't be sorted or prioritized. When I stand in their way they reroute, like a river around a fallen tree. All I can do is let it flow, and it does. Sometimes sorting through the trash heap in my head takes a few minutes, sometimes a few hours, and other times the run ends before the excavating does. No matter the time it takes, it's a way to bring some sense of order to the chaos, to safely wrap and file away the wounds for another week, and on those transcendent days when I'm able to run for even a few minutes with a clear mind, it's the closest I'll ever come to finding god. Nothing should mean this much.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


It feels as if there is something that needs to be written today, some thought or phrase standing watch wordlessly outside this door.  There are sentences lined up like soldiers to describe physical acts; of snow, mud, mountains, and there are words, ever more difficult to grasp, that speak of endorphins, of sweeping floorboards, of marching toward the screaming voice that is begging me to stop.  Somewhere in this swirling chaos is a concise thought, but for today I'll embrace the chaos  and just let it be.  

Looking through the photographs I've taken over the last year I was struck by just how many of them were of the sky.  On each weekend run I like to hold the camera at my waist, point it upward, and snap.  That view of the world, in all of it's impracticality, speaks of possibility, of a life far greater than the one I have lived, and will forever bewilder and inspire me.  I don't know the names or locations of the constellations, don't know where the planets might be found, but I can't imagine ever looking skyward, night time or day, and not standing in awe of how expansive it is, and how insignificant I am.