27 August 2015
This is how I start
Tiny pieces hold
tight – now raise your hands, your face
and smile to the sky
then release – flutter
scatter and fall. They are gone.
You don’t need them now.
Your legs do the work,
so let them move left, then right.
This is how I start:
barefeet, skinned knees and laughing,
raise my hands, my face…
It’s funny how sometimes life momentarily slips backwards as you write the wrong day or year or spell of “uv”, like a three year old sounding it out. Funny this language of written words, unspoken thoughts, all that we don’t know how to process with the rest of the world, ending up inked on fibers, permanent only until they disintegrate.
I look out at the vista I have enjoyed for the past year noticing how this place is now home. The buzz of the ricks down below, a honk and occasional rumble, just the sounds of life. A white paper kite flies jerkily up and down, circumscribing an octagon in the air. Then it’s gone, vanished into the trees. It will rise again, or it won’t, stuck in some high branches until it, too, disintegrates.
Crumbling, breaking, being broken down into smaller and smaller bits that only the worms can see. Life dwells on disintegration the way we humans dwell on the meaning of life. Decomposed we start again, forming anew from what has passed.
The new year, by the Teacher’s Calendar, is almost one month old, and like the kite I can no longer see, it moves with staccato jumps, this direction, that direction, now we are losing speed, gaining momentum, repeat.
That is how I start: fits, pulses, lurching waves then calm.
This week I ran my first race in a long time, a beginning of its own sort. Only ten kilometers, I heard from inside my head, when in my current reality a 5K feels like a marathon. I had signed up on a whim, inspired by a new friend and the promise of a good sweat and free snacks if nothing else. The night before I laid out my clothes, same as I have done before every race I have ever run. I crumpled my bib – my bib! – in a practiced superstition left over from college cross country, only to then notice the DO NOT BEND tag on the back. I left the safety pins dangling through one corner, secured to my wallet lest I forget in early morning haste.
At the start line Megan and I chatted about races, 10k’s and half marathons, and about the cups of coffee we enjoyed before leaving our apartments. We stretched our quads and bounced on our toes in the dark, hoping aloud for rain to break the humidity. The crowd heaved forward then surged with the anticipatory momentum that precedes the slow, cramped shuffle of runners crossing the start line.
And just like that we had begun.
And we went, step by step, kilometer by kilometer. A man tripped and I held out my hand to catch him, Mom-stiff-arm-seatbelt-style, not knowing that later he would thank me for the help. A woman got chased, licked, and possibly nuzzled by a cow. I didn’t see it though I wish I had. When the front runners came through, I surprised myself, beaming and cheering in the heat, shouting encouragements the way I’ve always done. The only difference was this time I was running through a country where I refrain from drawing extra attention for any reason, but I couldn’t help it. I was home. By the end of the race it was no different, smiling and laughing as Megan grabbed my hand, and we crossed the finish line together, arms in the air like champions.
Later that day, showered, well-fed and rested, I wrote my finishing time on the back of my bib, like always, pinning it to the ribbon of the Finisher’s Medal, where it will stay, inked on fiber, permanent only until…
“Run and find out.”
Motto of the Mongoose Family, from Rudyard Kipling’s story of “Rikki Tikki Tavi” in The Jungle Book.
May you be happy and healthy,