I've decided that my blog should also be a place to record and analyze and chart my process as a writer. Right now I just throw stuff up here the way I pitch spaghetti noodles at the kitchen wall, hoping that they'll stick. But a writing life is often more complicated than cooking spaghetti.
Then again, my writing life is within my control, which means it's only ever as complicated as I make it. Today I grabbed the reigns again and spent some time in the saddle. I sprawled on my green rug with my current drafts, a pen, and my cat (who was hugely happy with my choice).
That's when it dawned on me. I'm writing, churning out this "art," but not until I pull back and look at it from above do I see the road I've taken with it. It's a long, meandering road. Sometimes aimless. Sometimes hopeless. But it keeps on moving even when I'm asleep at the wheel. A river of words.
It's a river I've known all my life. I've been pioneering on it, face first into the dark, blank part of the map. Now it's time to fill in that map. To pick a bearing. To move that way.
Today I went out to watch other people run the Oslo Marathon. It's a big event. In 2010 it attracted 16,000 runners, more than half of them women. People came from all over the world. It's a beautiful course, winding along the edge of the Oslofjord and then up into our sparkling city. Jonathan and I live about three blocks from the middle of the course, so we walked over to cheer the runners on.
Running is not second nature to me. It's not even natural. My gait isn't graceless or anything. I played sports for too many years to be clumsy when I run. It's just that my lungs, my heart, my mouth, my thighs, my calves, my feet, my knees, my arms, my hands, and my ponytail can't seem to find the appropriate harmony when I try to use them all at once.
Believe me, I've tried. Jonathan and I have completed the Disneyland Half Marathon twice, first in 2008 and then again in 2010. We also ran the Death Valley 30K together in a record rainstorm, and Jonathan had an injured knee that time, so we basically walked the last half of it. I've also done a sprint triathlon with the Mermaid organization in California, an event which required me to face my fear of sharks and swim out around a pier in Santa Cruz (and making excellent time, I might add, due to that fear). After the swim, I biked 11 miles and ran the final 2.5. I dragged myself over that finish line, my skin a vibrant shade of pink blotched with red. Throw in a couple of 5K races and the weekly timed miles in my high school P.E. class and you've got the grand total of my life as a runner.
But it all seems like so long ago. And unfortunately, being able to point back a year or two and say, "See? I ran that once. I went from here to there. Not very fast, mind you, but faster than if I'd walked it," well, it stops being satisfying after a while.
The start time for the Oslo 10K had been 9:40 a.m. When we arrived at the part of the course closest to our place, the stragglers from that race were huffing and puffing their way up Karl Johans Gate, the long pedestrianized street which runs from Oslo Central train station uphill to the grand, yellow royal palace. We watched people of all ages, all sizes, and all levels of skill as they rounded that turn.
Most were dragging their feet, sweat thick in their hair. Some were limping over muscles strained somewhere earlier on. These were the survivors. I knew they'd finish. Give them another hour or two and they'd barrel stiff-legged over the line. Victorious, but pained, haggard, battle-worn.
I've been there. If I were to attempt a half marathon now, having not run seriously in over a year, it's how I'd look and feel. That's a tough truth for someone who likes to think of herself as healthy.