Parkinson’s Law.

Tuesday mornings I have a late start at work, and when the alarm goes off at the usual time, and when E. isn’t here with his own obligations, I find myself negotiating with myself. My morning routine takes 2 and a half hours, and I start counting backwards to see if I can lie in bed another half hour.

The thing is, all this math wakes me up anyway but now I am in the wrong groove. It takes me a half hour to tie the bows on my running shoes. And because E. is offshore, I start my run from home and head to the lake: the first kilometer on the sidewalk, dogging sulky teenager, and mothers with their six-year-olds walking to school three-abreast, forcing me into the street.

It isn’t until I hit the trail that my breathing eases. It takes me even longer before I hear the birds. Even longer before I fall into a gentleness of spirit.

This morning I’ve been meditation on being less judgmental. “Haaaa”, I chant. And I imagine a storm in a teacup settling into a clear reflection of the real problem: my own thoughts in a teacup.


Everyone is talking about the documentary about the man and the octopus. But I spent the first hour focusing on how he managed to do all the filming himself, on the miracle of his having found this one octopus who lived an entire, heroically dramatic life cycle under his gaze. I started to wonder if anyone would know better had he pieced together footage of twenty octopuses to make a story. I wondered why the credits included two writers when the narrative film clips seem confessional.

I wondered why I am such a jerk.

Where is the middle way when it comes to questioning what we are told? Between unhelpful skepticism and unhelpful naivetè?

I suppose it is about the source from which the questions arise. Even knowing that I can sometimes be arbitrary for the sake of being arbitrary – looking for an opportunity to be oppositional – but that is still not the source of the impulse.

At this point in my life – self-analysis does little more than foster self-pity, self-loathing and shame… which sends me looking for a way to bolster my ego. Looking for the source of the need at this point seems like little more than justification and permissiveness. Fake spiritual work.

Maybe I need to come at it all from the other end. What – in the present tense – do I need to let go of?

Maybe all that matters is stopping to ask the question,
Is this helpful?

Or am I just throwing chum in the water to avoid my own discontent?


The blackbirds are singing in the driveway.
That should be enough for the next few minutes.
The sun is rising.

Or what I find in the forest; I’ve been trying to speak for myself only.

The pine smelled so sweet and sharp this morning. Somewhere near my solar plexus I felt a heaviness like guilt. I know it must smell this pronounced because the trees have been freshly cut. It’s not the smell of death – but of wounds. I’ve had wounds myself before that have wept, clear and sticky. I should have enough compassion for the trees not to be drawn to this smell. But I inhaled so deeply I had to stop running.

I exhale melancholy.

Someone had raked together all the long, dead branches and placed them around the bases of individual trees. E. told me that it’s a kind of slow fertilizing process. But I think the trees look as vulnerable as martyrs waiting for the flames.

I exhale anxiety.

My mind wanders on these forest runs and it isn’t always easy to sort what to take, and what to leave in the forest. Today I took home four fallen leaves home to make paste paper for chapbook covers. I took home a photo of an abandoned boot someone placed on a tree stump. I took home the reminder that this body is aging and mortal, that each day is made more precious with that knowledge.

I wonder what I leave after these runs? Footprints, certainly. Carbon dioxide.

I wonder if we shed dark matter in our wake, just as we shed bits of DNA.

I wonder if the blackbirds that overwinter here are disturbed by my having been present with them.


We talk about breath being life: inhaling, exhaling. But the pauses between – the effortless moments of waiting – without a glottal stop – are as integral to the flow of life, as death. Or is death, rather, is the hum of existence beyond this constellation of atoms.

These breathless, lifeless pauses are where we touch the dark matter of the universe – these are what is expressed in the leaps in our poetry.

The world is changed by your example, not your opinion.
PAUL COEHLO

With all the words of wisdom printed and spoken among us, it’s easy to forget that words are not wisdom – are not whole incantations. They are abstractions, shadows and lures.

We stand on ceremony. Recipes must be followed: eye of newt obtained and boiled.

Though I still long for an easy fix of magic words alone. No quest necessary.


How old were you when you realized that you and someone you love could be sharing time and space and still experiencing entirely different realities? I believe I learned this later than most.

I believe there is a communicative purpose in silence.
I believe words can be a distraction at best, and lies, all too often. Unintentional or not.

A heartbeat cannot lie. A touch sometimes reveals more than intended.

Tension in jaw, or the ease of intercostal movements with each breath – these things can be heard, read, understood. The rest is metaphor and presentation. And the words, oh, the words can be nonsense and music: a chattering that says “I’m here, I’m still here.”


I am able to run again. I wonder if the truth for everyone is “again”. Every morning is a confirmation that nothing follows effortlessly – that life is not a matter of momentum, but of obstacles and exertion. Struggle is optional.

A clean MRI and “normal” degeneration, because despite what we tell ourselves, life is not a straight line of growth, it is a curve – if we are lucky.

I am lucky. Life is more than I’ve expected.

In the mornings – now that autumn is close – I sweep dead petals out of the yoga space. I lay out the mat, light the candles, and finish my coffee staring at the clouds through a rain-stained glass.

The first forward bend reveals the dreams lodged in my joints. The arching of my back makes space for them to free themselves, and fall away.

Right leg back, and arms overhead in a crescent lunge: inhale again. Stay upright. Stay open. Acknowledge the bones of the neck, give them the space they need to speak their wisdom.

By the time I put on my running shoes, I am ready for the chatter.

It’s mild today, but the bridge was sure to be slick with ice, so we kept to the trail west of the lake.

E. got me up from the computer and out the door. And Leonard Edgar seems to finally have his mojo back, while I lagged behind taking pictures, effectively running intervals to keep up.

Hat off, gloves off.

Now yoga in the sunlight.

Then back to the computer.

towards the west coast of England. We’re running castle to castle again come February.
But still a long way to go before that.

The dog is staring at me. We’ve both grown soft on this side of summer and I believe he feels a similar ambivalence facing the prospect of leaving this warm little library and hitting the trail. In the dark. In the cold. It takes a special kind of faith to push against the nature of things.

But I’ll lace up my ugly red shoes, pull on some cheap gloves, and grab his lead.