[edit: Writing a daily public diary has its drawbacks. Typos, of course. But also other editorial problems. When I titled this post I thought I would mention listening to Krista Tippet’s interview with Katherine May for the On Being Podcast. As it turned out, my train of thought took another direction. “Winter’s Crucible” is Katherine May’s phrase.]

The first run in nearly three weeks. I haven’t taken this much time off the trail since I was forced to by a blood clot a few years ago. I know that exercise is supposed to help us deal with stress, but there comes a point – close to burn-out – where the body can’t handle the extra spike in cortisol. It doesn’t know the difference when that spike is caused by anxiety or by physical effort. Either way, it can be enough to push a body over the edge.

So I’ve been intentionally going soft. Walking carefully through these weeks of winter, wearing cleats and mittens. Thinking the mask is pretty comfortable when the temperature is below freezing. And I think I’ve made the right choice. Last week was too much and I needed the softness. One big cushion of slow, heavy surrender.

Today the trail was full of song. Birds, yes. Even people with their Sunday talk. But also the deep, resounding notes that the ice plays with the lake. I haven’t heard it these past few years of mild winters. It brings to mind mythical water creatures. Moaning monsters, and n√łkken. Last time I heard it was on a dark morning years ago. This afternoon the sun is shining. And it seems odd that it dares to be heard in this light. And then again, it doesn’t.

Take bedtime stories
into your dreams and wrestle
the demons and win
or lose – but know everything
is exactly everything

It is an odd project – to sit down in this little room every day and write. No matter what.

What comes, comes. Like dipping a bucket into a well and hoping you pull up a little container filled with clarity. Reflection.

That’s a shit metaphor. Sorry.

Some days nothing comes on its own. Some days my thoughts are taushetsbelagte, which (nearly) literally means shrouded in silence.

But what is gnawing at me usually finds a way out – indirectly. And it thrills me no end when I hear it speaks to other peoples’ experiences without speaking at all of a specific story. In some ways, it helps me remember the story itself is irrelevant – the (surely there is a good German word for it?)… the ambiance is part our shared human experience.

It helps me remember why I prefer poetry – or the poetry in a story that makes it more than a sequencing of events.

These aren’t the Drakes
you were looking for.

I ran this afternoon between classes, along the creek near the school. Two kilometres out, two in, a shower and back to class. It was on this little stretch of a green lung that I stumbled on a Mandarin duck I mistook for the wood drake I’d gone searching for on Saturday.

That’s how it happens. There’s no point in searching.

I just need to notice when the world turns towards me. And accept what beauty comes.

A Mandarin duck on a Monday afternoon between Theater Production and Theater History. Between a working session and a shower. Then a film version of The Glass Menagerie.

Not one of my students knew who the kjekkis John Malkovich is now. The young man is history.

Because the world is always turning towards us. Spinning under our feet imperceptibly. So stealthily we don’t even realize we are getting carried away with it. 1,000 miles an hour.

I suppose the truth of it would make us throw up.

John Malkovich isn’t relevant for my 2nd year students. Not for Being John Malkovich. But he is relevant enough as a good-looking young man who commands their attention to tell a story of what it is to be squeezed between what someone else wants from you and what you want for yourself.

That grasping –
experience
is always relevant.

My 3rd year students in that working session this morning? Some of them are working on a sequel to The Glass Menagerie. It’s interesting to watch their minds leaping like poetry. Finding what is relevant.

Sometimes it’s a very thin thread of experience. But there is always something…
there.