I haven't done a lot of writing or running this week until today. Since the race I have run only two miles. My body still hurts, my brain is living in doubt and my will is a little bit on the flaccid side. I think the last mile of the half-marathon really changed me. It hasn't shaken my commitment to attempting the marathon in any way, but it made me sad somehow, deflated and dim, the sheen of my inner explorer wiped clean and dull.
It just really hurt.
And looking back now, I actually understand what 26.2 miles means for my body. I believe some folks are more capable of this kind of work than others. I am not a born running person. While I still believe I can train my body to accomplish this feat and do so on July 25th, I understand this journey will not be solely about this setting a goal and attaining it. I understand now that the total at check-out is going to be more than I thought. While I have the cash saved up, it might cut into my emotional vacation fund.
First of all there is the training. I will start over in earnest with another two mile trot. Soon enough my body will rebound and within a week I should be at a five mile mark for regular training runs with my long weekend runs starting at eight miles and quickly climbing to ten, twelve, fifteen and such until I am out there for about four hours at a time. I know the new shoes will help. I assume that this sort of post-acheivement malaise will lift and other feelings will flood in. I have absolute faith that spots of joy will crop up, that positivity will rear it's freckled face and that in the end, I can do this thing.
But today, right now, I frankly don't want to. It's such a long road. My knees hurt. My hips hurt. My heels hurt and I have dandruff. The irony of it is that it is likely the time off from the endorphins and the exercise are contributing to my mind's stroll in this dark little neighborhood. Once the road work settles into a routine, the whole world changes, like the light keeps knocking around for longer. I get it. But just for today, it looks so very far away and I'm having a hard time getting it up for the roadside attractions.
HOWEVER... on a great note... I have a show at my alma mater this weekend. The Gauchos of UC Santa Barbara are welcoming Sister Spit and I'll be reading from the novel in progress and showing photographs. The show is in Campbell Hall, where I took freshman English with this amazing professor twenty whole years ago. He taught The Dark Knight and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. He had a thing about Heroic figures. He chain smoked on stage even after they told him he couldn't and then he'd go drink beer at the pub with students and talk about stories the way jocks get fired up about football. I wanted to write like that then, and I want to write like that now. Frank McConnell. He was a real handful, that guy. I wish I could've told him he mattered so much. But he was so beloved, maybe, just maybe, he took that with him.
Here's a tiny bit of the work from the new draft. I hope you like it.
There was no weather then. It was the time before we even had a word for weather. There was just the day and the night and a stray thunderbolt when Zeus threw a tantrum. Seasonal cold fronts and twisters and monsoons came later. This was before snow and draught and turmoil. Under a perfect sky we’d read about Orpheus in the bustling agora at the newsstand. He was just a small story then in a new zine these girls from Crete were putting out. While most of the newsstand remained awash in the latest scandals of Zeus and Hera, Persephone and I scoured the back of the stands for journals and obscure quarterlies among the paper-wrapped porn, vomitorium guides and fantastically popular Orgy Advisor. The glossy covers of Ambrosia This Week and Zeus’ self-promoting Rolling Thunder served to re-fix my thrill at my own godlessness. I wanted nothing to do with the roving clots of girls costumed in their various goddess wannabe uniforms. The Athenas had their strong points, to be sure, the home team in Athens with their very own temple to frequent. Ladies with their Aphordite poses were a flush of aesthetic bliss, but for me it was too much to strive for the impossible. And my inherent state of otherness didn’t allow for gang identification anyhow. Still so young at 128, I had at least learned that.
But I suppose if it had to be someone, for me it’d be Artemis. Her groupies had the best style, rippling arms and chests so muscular, their breasts seemed to vanish. They all went in a pack out to the forests at night like famished wolves, their shields at the ready, hauling quivers of hand tooled arrows strapped across their broad backs as if they weighed nothing. When the sun fell, the girls replaced their olive branch tiaras with hearty strips of leather they cut from a group kill, tying back the tresses they ignored during the day. The boldest of the pack hacked off their own pelts and roamed Greece in short hair that stood itself on end, a field of middle fingers toward Olympus, flipping Zeus off in his pursuit of any damsel, refusing to be any kind of woman a God would try to take in a solitary field of flowers.
It isn’t just her worshippers either. Artemis is always good to me in her visitations. She is patient, teaches me useful things for my strange life: tanning hides for long journeys into the tundra, moving through any landscape in relative silence, hand to hand combat, and of course, archery. She is never distracted by affairs of emotional entanglement, uses a pure focus on survival and duty, nothing like her twin Apollo. Yet she understands him implicitly. When they visit together, they never speak as though they are next to each other, but rather intuit the other’s language and come across as one voice. And Artemis never, NEVER, underestimates what a woman can accomplish. People say she’s a virgin, in fact the goddess of the virgin. Unlike the other lady Gods who come calling on me while I sleep, I figure she’s too busy for men. And growing up in the shadow of Zeus’ Olympus, why not? It’s always been difficult for me to understand what any woman sees in the humans who embody his example.
Persephone has her own following of girls, and like my best friend, they wear their togas too low, darken the rims of their eyes with the ash of burnt cedar, and stalk pleasure the way the Artemis girls stalk prey. These girls make batches of lavender and sandalwood oils and dab the scent on pulse points where absolutely no one should be sniffing girls their age. And they too, make their mothers nervous, provoke a feeling in the older women of fear and pride mingled in an anxiety cocktail. All mothers want their daughters to be beautiful, but not dangerous beautiful. Certainly not in a city like Athens. These girls forget that Persephone has no age, that she will remain forever at the perfection of a ripened peach. And when you live forever, the notion of consequence is a continually receding concept, always searching the sea in deeper waters.
But Persephone’s mother never treated her like a goddess, just like any other daughter. Any other bewitching, gorgeous, smoldering, perilous daughter. Demeter had, of course been around longer than her daughter, but in the Olympian culture, “longer” was so relative, it fell away within a few centuries. And while the time issue sloughed off like dry skin, the mother/daughter thing, that never budged. Demeter kept tabs on Persephone like a mortal. She always wanted to know where her daughter was going, with whom, and when she’d be home. She critiqued her outfits as too risque, knowing all the while that it would never matter what the girl wore, everyone would want her, no matter what. Persephone had found her ways of getting around it all. Lying was tried and true, stashing a whole wardrobe at Athena’s temple for adventures, and collecting lovers like chocolates across Greece. And what Persephone wanted that day, was Orpheus.