Monday, September 27, 2010

On building Castles in the Air.

Thoreau once wrote dreaming is like building castles in the air. Dreams are ethereal, yet solid things. The challenge, then, is finding the way to connect the clouds with the ground. The method? I'm working on that as you read....


Well, friends: here it is Monday night and for the first time in weeks, I'm not panicking about getting work done. In fact, I completed all my course work done for this week and then some and it's still light out. I would go for a run, but the temperature outside is well into the high nineties, at least and I'm trying to keep some recent ankle pain under wraps. And so: here I am, blogging with ice on my ankle. At last. I apologize for my absence.

This week has been a good one in terms of training. I did a ten-mile tempo and averaged 6:41 pace. Though far from the required pace I'll need to sustain in December at CIM, the effort represents a HUGE leap in my fitness level. The last time I did a ten-mile tempo, my average pace was around 7-minute miles. Though I need to run 6:18s (not 6:40s), I'm nonetheless getting there. And that makes me happy. This effort was followed by a medium-long run of 13.5 miles at 6:54 pace which felt, while not exactly easy, easier than the tempo effort I did before. I have two-mile repeats tomorrow, of which I have optimistic expectations.

And how is this balance between maniacal running and writing? Well-- I won't lie. It's been tough. I've been crying on the phone to Steve more than once. I miss him. I miss certain aspects of my Tahoe life (mostly, the absolute lack of accountability to keep up a steady reading/responding/writing routine) but being here forces all of that to happen each and every day. There are some parts of the program that certainly make me grumble: the two evenings that last until 9pm are a definite thorn in my side as well as the many moments I'd like to say something in class but cannot due to the gift of gab many of my fellow MFA'rs possess (and I do not.) But these are, in the grand scheme of things, small complaints.

I have to admit, however, I am looking forward to next semester. I've been told many times the workload is lighter and the possibility of my obtaining a part time job might actually be a viable option. I'll also have CIM "out of the way"-- and though I full intend on trying to qualify in another (fall) marathon if I fail to do so this December, it will nonetheless be a relief to have a race over with that I've been worrying about since last January.

I also really (oddly) want to compete in a 10k race on a track. I don't know where this fixation on the 10k distance comes from, but I'd like to see what I can do if I focus on a shorter, faster race. Maybe I could surprise myself? That would be lovely. I wonder at my lack of the opposite compulsion: I (oddly) have no interest in running anything longer than a marathon (or at least, not yet.) Maybe this points to a degree of laziness on my part (though I would still like, eventually, to do an Ironman.) Like my love of chocolate and red wine, these are best enjoyed in moderation; so too, it might be (for me) with running. 5k (and one square of the dark aphrodisiac) is too little; while 30 miles and the entire bar/bottle are waaaay too much.

In any case, I love where I'm at. Each day I honestly feel as though I learn something new: some element of craft, a key component of training or some silent and little-observed personal quirk. I'm so grateful for this opportunity to be here, in this moment, in this place, at this precise moment.

If any of you ever have to choose between normality and experiencing something completely new and foreign, I say: go for it. Adventures are precious in their ability to open our eyes to the very things that have been before our eyes but that we-- oddly-- could neither see nor fully appreciate.

In closing, I offer words from a recent (re)reading of Thoreau's Walden which speaks, I believe, to this very topic:

"I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws will be expanded..... and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them" (253).

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