The Thing Is

October 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

Dear faithful followers,

First, thank you for continuing to read my blog, and probably visiting it every so often and not seeing any new posting.  I experienced a pretty serious case of post-marathon blues.  For the last six months, I have been planning for this event, thinking about it, and preparing for it on a daily basis.  It was a life goal to accomplish–perhaps the biggest accomplishment to date.  For a 24-hour period after I crossed the finish line, I was high.  And then, I went into a slump.  Now what?  What’s next?

I like to plan, and I’m good at it.  If you know me well, you know I am very impatient.  If I see something/someone I want, I usually go after it.  Sometimes I succeed, other times I fail, but it’s important for me to plan for a future thing.  At this point in my life, I have no future thing to plan for.  I have little things–parties with friends, potential vacations during the next year–but I’m not in grad school, I’m not in a relationship, I don’t have something in my life to go after.

I could if I wanted to.  I could go back to school, just to go back, but that’s not very wise.  I seem to be advancing at work, which is a great feeling, but to what end?  I am writing a book, which is a big project and that would be an enormous accomplishment if I ever finished, but it’s incredibly difficult thing to keep myself motivated.

I have recently read two poems that speak to me.  Maybe they might seem depressing, and I’m truly not depressed.  I have really good friends and things happening in my life these days, but I constantly want more.  Not more things, but I feel like I have the capacity to love more, to do more.  So here are two poems that I’ve resonated with, and while they are not my words, I wanted to share them here with you.

The Jobholder
by David Ignatow

I stand in the rain waiting for my bus
and in the bus I wait for my stop.
I get let off and go to work
where I wait for the day to end
and then go home, waiting for the bus,
of course, and my stop.

And at home I read and wait
for my hour to go to bed
and I wait for the day I can retire
and wait for my turn to die.

The Thing Is
by Ellen Bass

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.


Kafka, The Crow, and Myself

October 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

This is my review and reflection of reading Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami.  It took me a while to get around to reading this book, and now that I’ve finished it, I’ve got all sorts of musings.

At the outset, we are introduced to a fifteen-year-old boy named Kafka and to a boy named Crow.  We later learn that Kafka is Czech for Crow, and if crows are symbolic of the spirit of death, I wonder if Crow is Kafka but in another dimension?  Sorry, I’m getting in too deep, too fast.

We are also introduced to a story about a supernatural event that occurred some 60 years in the past in the forests of Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan.  A group of children went mushroom hunting on a school field trip.  They all temporarily passed out, and when they woke up, they remembered nothing of the incident.  Everything was back to normal except for one boy named Nakata whose mind was wiped clean.

In the story’s beginning, the boy Kafka decides he needs to leave his father, and search for his mother and sister who left him when he was four.  He hops a bus and heads west to Takamatsu and stumbles across a strange sort of library where he meets Oshima and Miss Saeki.  A few days after coming to the library day after day, Oshima offers Kafka room and board at the library.  Kafka is surprised by their kindness and generosity (and so I am), but Oshima only says, “It’s all based on a very simple principle.  I understand you, and Miss Saeki understands me.  I accept you, and she accepts me.  So even if you’re some unknown fifteen-year-old runaway, that’s not a problem.  So, what do you think?”

Simultaneously, the now-old man Nakata (who can talk to cats but can’t read) has just murdered Johnnie Walker with a steak knife.  Of course, it is not really Johnnie Walker, but rather Kafka’s father and when Nakata goes to confess he’s done it, there’s not a speck of blood on his clothes, and yet it’s Kafka who wakes up covered in blood.

This is the point in the book where I think: Wait a minute!  Mr. Haruki Murakami, what are you doing to me?  Everything in this book is all about metaphor, and suddenly I think I am like Kafka.  I am in my adolescence, searching for something and craving adventure, and so I pick up Kafka on the Shore with Murakami as my guide.  I meet all sorts of strange characters: a teenaged runaway, an old man who can talk to cats, a hermaphrodite, a surfer dude, a trucker, and even other cats who can talk.  Everyone pretty much goes accepts everyone else’s weirdness, and I feel as though Murakami is saying to me: I accept you and your strange ways, so just accept mine for a while too.

Nakata skips town too, and hitchhikes west.  The trucker takes a liking to Nakata and soon forgets about his job and decides to follow the old man’s journey which eventually leads them to the same strange library where Kafka works.  Nakata goes to talk with Miss Saeki because this is what he must do, although he cannot say why (which is how he rationalizes all of his actions).  Miss Saeki has asked him to burn all of her writings, and says, “The process of writing was important.  Even though the finished product is completely meaningless.”  Is this some hidden meaning about the book?  About writing in general?

While Nakata is at the library, Kafka has gone into the forest and discovered a world through the “entrance stone” where time doesn’t exist.  Is it yet another dimension between life and death?  Is it a dreamworld?  Is it another layer of consciousness? Kafka meets the fifteen-year-old Miss Saeki there, and asks her lots of questions about the place and then asks, “Am I asking too many questions?”  And she replies, “Not at all.  I only wish I could explain things better.”  This is exactly the thing that drove me crazy throughout the book.  Is Murakami copping out by saying that all of the strange things he wrote cannot be explained?

I realize I’m leaving a lot of holes in explaining the plot, but I think the story lies in the philosophy of time and memory. At first, I was disappointed by the ending, feeling like nothing got explained.  What happened to Nakata in the woods that day?  Who really killed Kafka’s father?  What was that disgusting thing that came out of Nakata’s corpse?  (Side note: There were two scenes in this book that were so grotesque, I felt myself looking away and wanted to throw up.  A mark of a good writer when they can do that to a reader!)  And, did Kafka actually sleep with his mother and sister?  Perhaps a true Oedipal story after all.

While I don’t get any hard answers, I am chilled by the ending.  Kafka decides to go back to school, and gets on the bus to go home (or at least his new home).  Kafka wonders, “Did I do the right thing?  ‘You did the right thing,’ the boy named Crow says. ‘…you’re the toughest fifteen-year-old in the world.’  ‘But I still don’t know anything about life,’ I protest….The boy named Crow says, ‘When you wake up, you’ll be part of a brand-new world.’ ”  And then, magically, Murakami switches to second-person: “You finally fall asleep.  And when you wake up, it’s true.  You are part of a brand-new world.”

I am Kafka after all. ABSURD!

26.2, Done and Done

October 4, 2010 § 1 Comment

The marathon is over!  I am glad to have ran it, and I’m glad that it’s over.

I woke up at 6am to my sister shaking me, “You’re alarm is going off!”  Apparently, my ear plugs worked better than great!  I roused myself, took a shower, dressed in my color coordinating outfit, and ate oatmeal, a hard-boiled egg and half of a banana.  My friend Shannon picked me up, and we met my running group at the metrodome, but I still wasn’t feeling too nervous.  Shannon and I decided to start at the very back of the pack so that we could pass lots of people.  The gun went off, and I got the jitters and I had to pee.  After about 2 miles, we made a portapotty stop. That took 5 minutes, so now we were really in the back!  There weren’t too many people behind us, and I was starting to feel frantic.  We picked up our pace, but I could hear my coaches and friends in my head saying, “Don’t start out too fast!”  For about five miles, I was stressed out about being in the back, not being with a pace group, and also for going too fast.  My friend took off, and around mile six, I settled into a pace a little slower than a 10 minute mile.  I saw my friend Tseganesh, and fellow running partner, at mile 6, my family cheered me on at mile 8.5, my coach Ryan at mile 11, a co-worker Scott at about 14, then my family again at mile 17.  This stretch in the middle went pretty quickly.  Also, it helped that there were so many people cheering on the side lines (I’m glad I wrote RUTH in marker on my arm), and there was lots of loud music and live bands that made me dance and pick up the pace.  Love love LOVED all of the music.

I crossed the Franklin bridge ready for the hills.  Bring ’em on!  I was ready to get into the zone.  I did pretty good going up the hills, but by the time I got to the top, I was beat.  We were at about mile 22 here, and I wanted to book it on home, but I slowed down a bit.  But not for long.  Mile 24, I did a quick stretch and got into a good zone or runner’s high.  Mile 25, I picked it up a bit more.  With a half mile to go, I started sprinting.  I thought I might get emotional, but I didn’t cry.  I sprinting, and pumped my fists in the air, and made motions for the crowds to cheer.  Come on, people, bring me home!  I was ready to be done with this thing, but felt exuberant.  I waved at my family one more time, and crossed the finish line in exactly 4:34:52, with an overall pace of 10:21.  My Garmin said I ran 26.55 miles, not 26.2, but oh well.  I’m still really happy with my time.

My first goal was to finish.  My second goal was to enjoy myself.  My third goal was to not walk.  My fourth goal was to finish in 4:45.  My fifth, and very ambitious goal was to run it in 4:30.  Considering I spent about 5 minutes in the bathroom, I consider that I actually ran it in about 4:30.  I’m happy to say I met all of my goals, even if I didn’t enjoy every minute of it.

Will I do this again?  I don’t know.  It was an intense summer of training, but I met some cool, new people.  I feel like I’m in great shape, although I didn’t lose a lot of weight.  I accomplished a huge goal–something I thought I’d never do–and consider it my greatest accomplishment to date.  Ask me again in three months.

Thanks to everyone for your encouragement along the way, and all of your cheers.


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