Fluid Flow

Autumn means fir needles everywhere, and as the trees disrobe the rains come, cutting channels through the clutter. On its way down the hill, the temporary stream makes art.

On To Napoleon

Traffic on a highway at night
© Adam36 | Dreamstime Stock Photos
I finished reading Karnow’s Vietnam: A History yesterday. I have the old hardback edition, picked up at a library sale somewhere or another, or maybe at the museum sale earlier this year. (I think it was this year.) Anyway, I did not find it “free of ideological bias,” since any work of history rests on bedrock assumptions that are culturally, well, biased. Like a worm in an apple–the worm eats, breathes, and shits apple, and thinks it’s air–so are historians, writers, singers, and all others in their culture. Ideology is an exhalation of culture, sometimes fragrant, more likely foul.

The next in line for serious reading–which includes reading in bed and taking notes in my zibaldone-slash-diary–is Brett-James’s The Hundred Days. I realized I have a shocking number of books on Napoleon, as an outgrowth of my quasi-obsession with the French Revolution, and it’s perhaps time I go through them. Especially the newer ones. There’s a fair amount of biographies of the man, but I’m more interested in him during the Revolution (when his “whiff of grapeshot” saves the day) and his invasion of (and subsequent retreat from) Russia. Of course, books that just scratch my little niche interests are few, and the urge to read more bracketing said interests in order to understand more deeply is overpowering.

I’m not complaining.

I have other thoughts on Karnow’s opus, but they have to sit and settle inside me before I can put them into anything resembling coherency. I’m just glad the flu is retreating so I can think in whole sentences again without each clause interrupted by a sneeze or a trip down the hall to blow my nose YET AGAIN. I got more exercise trekking for tissues than from a marathon. (That’s only slight hyperbole.)

Other than that, I finished a poncho knitted from this pattern. It’s green and stripy and lovely. The leftover yarn is going into a very long scarf instead of a hood. Stuck on a sentence? Knit a row. Watching a movie? Knit a few rows. Listening to a podcast? Knit many rows! Since the weather has turned, it’s all knitting all the time. I just don’t want to spend summer with a lapful of scratchy wool. I gorged on Fellini movies while knitting, feverish, and full of decongestant.

My dreams got awful interesting, when I could sleep.

And of course, today is for getting back on the serious wordcount horse. I’ve got that surrealist novel to prep for NaNo, and decisions to make about the next big project. I’m trying to only juggle two at a time. Trying. I think of juggling my usual four books at once and I get awful tired, which could just be the flu. I love my brain, it is a flexible and marvelous instrument, but sometimes I wish it wouldn’t eat itself quite so fiercely. I further wish my body would stop hosing off its internal surfaces with mucus and get back to the task at hand, but such is corporeal life. It’s ungrateful of me to be short-tempered with the physical frame that usually carries me so uncomplainingly.

Happy Monday, my friends.

Verticals

Walking with Miss B, I am always looking for the missed, the passed-over. Trash, forgotten spaces, detritus. I have a fondness for discarded things. I also have a fondness for things we take for granted. Like the sound-catching grooves on walls near freeways.

Look underfoot. Look in the forgotten spaces. Look at the ruined, the bent, the passed-by. Stories hide there, too.

Monday, Running

It’s been a while since I talked about running here, other than just noting mileage. Like any practice, it changes over time. When I go back and look at old posts about running, it’s both amusing and terrifying. I pushed myself pretty hard, initially. Of course, you guys know I have two speeds, and two only: full ahead and complete collapse.

This is perhaps not healthy, but oh well. Here’s a list of things about running, to start off this autumnal week.

Runkeeper. I used to log my mileage in paper running diaries like this one. Shifting to outside running with a smartphone drew me away and towards apps, and I tried a couple before settling on Runkeeper. One of the most recent updates included graduated training plans, which was a particular boon to me. When the infrastructure goes down, I’ll probably have to return to analog logging (try saying that a few times fast) but honestly, by then there will be so many other problems I won’t have time to miss my phone.

Shoes. I’m funny about my feet. I can’t stand to have anyone touch them, and I obsess over the fit and feel of my hooves with the fierceness of anyone who’s ever strapped on a pair of pointe shoes. Every brand of running shoes has slightly different sizing, and even in a single brand yearly designs can change to the point of unusability. The quest for running shoes is eternal. Shop for them late in the day when your feet are swollen, and don’t overlook your socks. It only takes one session without padded socks to rub right through foot-skin and bench you for days. Once you find a brand/size that fits, buy two pairs, and alternate wearing them. This gives the shoe interiors time to dry out and bounce back after each session, and lengthens the life of the cushioning.

Pants. It is a fact universally known that once you find a good pair of running pants, they will be discontinued, and this shall be true lo unto the breaking of the world or at least the demise of capitalism. I don’t like running shorts, so even in the dead heat of summer I’ll be out in full-length togs–your preferences will no doubt vary. Buy cheap until you know what you like–there’s not much as awful as investing in expensive gear that chafes in all the wrong spots. I loved a particular kind of Prana pants until they went out of stock, and I’ve had good luck with Title Nine bottoms. Once you start reliably breaking 5km, it’s time to invest in good pants. Especially if you’re chubby like me, which brings us to a related issue…

Chafing. There’s just no way around it. A lot of people swear by paper-backed medical tape; I manage to avoid a lot of blisters with really tough pant material and padded socks. When you’re buying running pants, look at the inside of the thighs. Rubbing there can get particularly painful, and when pants wear out there, well, sewing thigh-patches is not how I want to spend a Saturday morning. (YMMV.) Once you’ve got a raw spot, the problem becomes ameliorating discomfort and keeping it protected enough to heal. I like cocoanut oil for mild rawness, but when I’ve pushed myself and worn away more layers of skin, Aquaphor is my go-to. I’ve found that flexible fabric sticking-plasters stand up the best to repeated rubbing. Again, find what works for you.

Mental Tricks. “Eh, I’ll just run for twenty minutes, and if I REALLY feel like stopping, then I can.” Or, “It’s going to feel so good when I finally hit my goal…and stop.” And the ever-popular, “[X fictional character] wouldn’t stop now, so I won’t.” Figuring out how to game yourself is probably the most useful life skill possible, right after learning how to not give very many fucks about random internet opinions.

Safety. It can be something as simple as taping one earbud to your jacket while you wear the other–that way you can listen to music and still be aware of your surroundings. I run to be alone, despite knowing that I’m safer in a group. Nevertheless, if something happens to you while running, you are not to blame. The onus is on the asshole driver who wasn’t watching where they were going, or the asshole attacker/harasser who thinks they’re entitled to your attention/body/whatever. Take appropriate cautions, and know that you’re not responsible for all the jackasses in the world.

Tiny Increments. When I first started, I couldn’t even run for thirty seconds without my heart feeling like it was going to explode. I’ve had injuries, and had to take weeks off at a time. Playing the long game, in running as well as writing, is all about increments. Two hundred words on a bad writing day is still two hundred more than you had before, and being able to run for ninety seconds was more that you had before. Walk-run-walk intervals are okay, and if you never graduate past them, you’re still a runner. If you need someone to validate that you can do it, that you’re a runner, I’m validating. Small, tiny, concrete gains build on each other, and one day you might find yourself running for some ungodly length of time, finishing an ungodly number of kilometers or miles, and thinking, wow, that wasn’t so bad. That, my friends, is a fucking great feeling, and one I love to share.

I’m off for a run. See you around.

photo by: fabbio

Glass Apples

I love glass apples. One can find them in the oddest places. Sitting in my office window, they catch the morning sun at certain times of year, and seeing them glow fills me with a deep wordless contentment.

Joy is precious. Find it where you can.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

It’s back to school time. The Little Prince (who is not so little, anymore, being fully as tall as me) has his schedule, his supplies, and today was the last piece of the puzzle–clothes. Schedule flexibility is a working writer’s friend–I can only imagine the zoo the stores must have been the last weekend day before OMG FIRST DAY OF EDUMACATION.

This year the Prince is in high school, and right glad to be out of middle school. Both he and the Princess firmly consider middle school the very worst, though I’ve cautioned the Prince not to decide until both are over. Still, I am hoping the thought that the worst is behind him will ease the transition.

So this week is about adjusting to school hours again, though I don’t have to drag my weary self from bed to drive him like I did for elementary. (Like, when his school actually BURNED DOWN, omg.) It’s bittersweet, the little markers of your kids growing up. Like the liberation that happens when you can say, “Get in the car and put on your seat belt,” and there’s no monkeying about with carseat, booster seat, or anything else. Just a check to make sure they’re buckled, and away you go.

This is the first year I won’t have to get up when the kids do at all. I’m not sure quite what to do with myself, really. Technically I suppose I could go back to my night-bird schedule, which is what my body’s really built for. I’m happiest when I resurrect a little after noon, settle to work around 2pm, and go to bed around 3am-ish. It’s been decades of working against my biorhythms, and I used to long for the day of freedom.

Unfortunately, the dogs are on a set schedule too. So…yeah. Probably not ever going to be able to sleep when my body really wants to.

So. Both kids have smartphones, and their own lives. After so many years of guarding every breath they take, it leaves one a bit at sea. The only help is that the process is gradual, it doesn’t hit you all at once. Or, after a long sea change, you look up and notice they’re…if not adult, then damn close, and the shape of the person they always were and the one they are going to become have gradually overlapped. Wonder of wonders, they actually seem to like hanging out with their mother, even when it’s not the obligatory evening dinner. That’s the best thing of all, when your children can stand you.

I’m sure I’ll cry on the first day of school. I always do. Don’t tell anyone, though. I have a reputation to maintain.

photo by: Alan Smythee

Feathery Pinhole Shadows

Tree shadows, acting like pinhole cameras during the solar eclipse. The kids went down to a local athletic field with eclipse glasses to see the totality, and came back afterward so I could use the glasses. Man, science is amazing.

The birds and squirrels are still not quite sure what the fuck, but I suspect they’ll be making their normal racket soon.