Friday, April 29, 2011

Going Away Party

I moved away from my North Carolina home at the end of 2009. I left for the west, bound for my own love story in British Columbia with a man I thought was “the one.”

The fact that my friends threw me a romance-themed party didn’t seem as fitting at the time as it does now. After all, I was leaving in pursuit of love and romance.

At the time, it just seemed funny and topical. I had just given away hundreds of romance novels, but the gift did not stick. It came back to me so that I was forced to give them away again. The gist of the party was (per my friends who planned it) not only to see me off but also to give attendees romance novels as party favors.

The Saga of the Romance Novels

After my mom passed away, the cleaning began. I took on the sorting, the organizing and the purging. If not because I felt the most capable of my family members (and I am) but for fear that anyone else might be careless and discard something I valued. If any item seemed less than important to me but might have meaning to someone else it was my plan to vet the discard through the family committee before chucking it.

When I unearthed boxes and boxes and boxes of romance novels, I knew no one would miss them. They went first, and without me asking a soul.

I loaded them in my trunk and delivered them to the person I knew had a secret passion for romance novels; it was a “habit” she picked up courtesy of time spent on the middle school swim team. She received them with the excitement of a child on Christmas morning – opening boxes, giggling at the cover art, and browsing back covers. Despite talking smack about the content and the themes (Scottish Highland settings, the young bride, paranormal, and Westerns) the tremor in her voice exposed her elation with the gift. And, I felt proud. There’s nothing better than giving someone something they love, and she clearly loves romance novels.

Her girlfriend was less than pleased with the gift. And this I understand. Because when your loved one slips into a trance – an open-eyed comma where she appears alive to the world but can not be pulled into the moment of here-and-now – you begin to hate that thing that drives the distraction. You hate that book. You hate the fantasy your loved one is living. You hate being second-class to fictional characters. And so, Megan made Elizabeth return the books to me.

It was the best possible scenario. Megan got her girlfriend back. Elizabeth didn’t have to witness the books being “disposed of” unceremoniously at Goodwill before she finished with them, and they reasoned that I now had “party favors” to give my other friends who came to my going away party which was now dubbed a romantic affair.

They made an invitation to the party, complete with picture of a shirtless man with He-Man upper-body strength in an embrace with a woman, her shoulder exposed where her burgundy dress sleeve had slipped off. Her comment bubble reads: “Tapas, Darling, Not topless.” That is how the theme of my party was born.

My friends only ended up taking a third of the party favors I had available. (I’m pretty sure Elizabeth left with three parting gifts.) I schlepped the remaining ones to the used bookstore and was able to sell half of them there, gaining a $17 credit to Mr. K’s. The rest, the final third – undesired by friends and the used bookstore – were welcomed into the open arms of the collection bin at Goodwill. Good riddance.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Romance: Truth or Fiction

“My mom writes romance novels.”

Do you know how hard that is to say when you are in your early 20s?

People conjure up the hot and steamy sex scenes, and immediately you know they are thinking about you, your mom, and sex!

I often got asked if I read her work. Early on I had to answer yes. I had been trying to support her and provide feedback.

But I was not her ideal audience. I knew nothing about romance novels. I had never read any.

And, by the way, never read anything she wrote that made me do more than blush a bit.

As her confidence in her writing grew so did her connections to other romance writers. She developed a network of authors, editors, critics, and friends. They took over the role of supporting her in ways I had done as she just started out.

But, I heard story lines and character sketches, and knew when the plot took a new twist. I heard when she had a fresh idea for a new paranormal romance set in England. And I loved that she was writing. I was also glad she wasn’t reading the damned things as much. I gloried in the fact that she was using her creative energy; she’s a visual artist, too.

And if I swap between using present tense and past, it is because I do not know if she is here or not. She died in 2008. But I still feel her with me, and so sometimes it is hard to pull away enough to say “she was a visual artist” especially when I live in a museum filled with her vision. Landscapes of coasts and countryside. Birds, flowers, family portraits. A series examining the Civil War. Creation. A textile print. A sculpture of dancers.

Now I have an idea to share in her work, her vision and her creative energy. It's an idea to un-do the romance. Not to shatter her work but to shift its composition. A partnership between me, my mother, and our words.

What do you think of romance novels? Are the cliché? Formulaic? Dastardly? Uplifting? Do they offer truth or a saga?

Friday, April 22, 2011

What do you call it?

The centering that follows intense physical exertion can be gained by any means – Tae Bo, running, hiking, dancing, yoga. But the thing is, there’s no right or wrong way to reach the centering. One is not better than the other. One is not more pure than the others.

When I am glowing after a sweaty night of Contra dancing in a hall cramped with bodies, it’s as much the peace that follows the exertion as it is specifically the dance, the music or the communion with others.

By pushing myself physically, it releases the clamp on my own judgment of myself. For a brief, few minutes I’ve reached a quiet and accepting place. I am kind to myself and grateful for the world around me.

It’s the runner’s high, the yogi’s open heart, the hiker’s bliss, and the dancer’s glow. It can be called many things and reached in many ways.
I call it welcome.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Two Glasses of Water and a Run

I haven't run since the Greer Half-Marathon on April 9, and I figured that I'd best take advantage of the sun this afternoon since I thought I heard a forecast for rain.

I downed two glasses of water, grabbed my camera and set out to capture sights that caught my eye.

From Run 2011, Apr20
I ran in to this guy at the top of my driveway.

From Run 2011, Apr20
The dogwoods in bloom I encountered on my way down my road lit up the dark curve in the road.

From Run 2011, Apr20
I thought I glimpsed a squirrel in the tree at first, but it didn't move enough. Upon a closer look, I saw it was a kitty in a pine.

From Run 2011, Apr20
The pastoral residents I most frequently talk to on my runs.

From Run 2011, Apr20
Pink dogwoods!

From Run 2011, Apr20
Main Street Mars Hill and Mars Hill Baptist Church.

From Run 2011, Apr20
I recently discovered this road and added it to my running route. It's beautiful along these Fields of Hope - an initiative by Mars Hill Baptist Church to organize volunteers to grow food for hungry people in Western North Carolina. In 2009 they harvested 42,000 pounds of vegetables!

From Run 2011, Apr20
Near the end of my run I was tired and struggling, but I was lucky to be coming off steep hill from Bailey on to Bruce Rd. when I spotted a brigade of young men from Mars Hill college running toward me. With about a half-mile to go and knowing they might continue on Bruce instead of turn on Bailey, I kept up my pace and pushed towards my "finish line" at my road. They overtook me in front of Carr's farm, but for a little while, at least, I was in the lead. I even got a "good job, girl" from the least shy of the group.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Moment of Clarity

This space around me
but outside it moves the wind chimes
clink, ting, ting, ting
and here I am out of the elements
Here I am “protected” and “safe”
Here I am shielded from Nature’s
true grit.
Here I am anesthetized
Here I am
Blue chair
Black pen

Here I am khaki, quick dry pants
Here I am pulling the power of Ganesh from
my shirt into my heart
Here I am filling pages
with words I may never review again
Here I am breathing solidly
without difficulty
Here I am healthy, strong
Here I am with straight hair
Here I am against the clock
Here I am searcher of truth
Here I am divine feminine
Here I am goddess, queen
Here I am fabulous and lucky
Here I am adorable
Here I am ready to love and be loved
Here I am forgiving
Here I am sharp – brain and style
(as Papaw Bud would say Sharp Chicken)
Here I am blue eyes and freckles
Here I am painted toenails
Here I am full of mango, yogurt, granola
and coffee
Here I am content for this moment
Here I am smiling
Here I am thoughtful
Here I am checking the time to
end on a high note. While it is still
natural to know who I am and where I am right now.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cooper River Bridge Run 10K

I ran this race almost ten years ago. Then, the race went over one of the two rickety bridges that spanned the river before this modern, sturdy, concrete bridge replaced it. The old bridge swayed with the movement of all the bodies. And we swayed with it, moved in concert by the shudder of the structure. With only 14,000 runners in the 2002 race, it felt different from the run this year.

It was smaller and more humble then. This year, with over 40,000 participants, it was a rumble. Staged in waves, the masses of humans were released in five-minute increments least there be accidents of fast runners trampling walkers. Even still, as we took off, as we gained the crest of the bridge, as we careened down the other side, and swept the off ramp toward the flat straight-aways in town, it felt like I was in a herd – an animalistic drive toward something greater. It was as if I were in a spring migration with my fellow animals – going, pushing, toward an instinctual purpose that my rational mind could never grasp.

Fast, furious. Elbows flying. Labored, gasping breaths. Parents holding hands of children. Words of encouragement among friends. Exasperation as running slowed to walking, as the excitement and exuberance of the starting line energy waned in inverse proportion to the angle of the road. I saw this. I heard this. I felt grand. I felt part of something bigger than myself. I felt the tightness in my calves at the start. I felt the energy building in my stomach. I felt the power in my movements shift into an openness that allowed my resistance to fade into a more fluid movement of my body. I bobbed. I weaved. I dodged in and among runners and walkers like race car drivers (or animals in migration) might do. I threaded between friends, took inside corners (along with everyone else, it seems), and barely gave a thought to water stations.

Even at the end of the race it was crowded. I wonder if I’ve ever crossed the finish line with 20 others at the same time. In that way, it was not at all an individual’s run. It was a group experience. It was a communal exercise in how we feel when we push our bodies, exert our energy, breath fresh air, live outside the box of our homes, our televisions, and our computers.

In the chaos of the finish area, the animal instincts continued. We were on to foraging and grazing – seeking out the copious amounts of fresh fruit, water, ice cream, and pulled pork sandwiches. That’s right…pulled pork sandwiches!!! (ugh, I couldn’t even stomach the thought of that after the race and I love my pork…) The bustle of the run morphed into the bustle of post-race survival – the fulfillment of those basic needs, food and water.

These were some of the musings that kept me occupied during and after the race. I finished in record time – 57:40 – my personal best in a crowded race that both irritated and excited me.

This Saturday I’ll run 13 miles with 291 others for the Greer Earth Day Half-Marathon. It’s a far cry from the 40,000 in Charleston. I look forward as I look back, to humble beginnings, and hope for as good a run.