The Runner’s Glance in Paris


the Louvre, flag at Half Staff

Things in Paris have changed since I wrote a few days ago, since the attacks of November 13th. Though Parisians and foreigners are once again out eating, shopping, working, going to school, and visiting tourist sites, there’s an undercurrent of tension. On the Metro, waiting to cross a busy street, sitting in cafes, one spots stunned, introspective looks; nervous glances; weepy eyes; and we all scope out one another’s hands and bags for anything threatening.

The day after the attacks, everyone was advised to stay inside, and other than a quick trip out for food, we hunkered down in the hotel watching the newsEiffelTower.jpg. On day 2, people began to venture out, and I decided it was time to take a run and get a feel for state of the city. I left the hotel and made an 8-mile lollipop loop from the Latin Quarter to the Eiffel Tower, along the Seine, and back down by the Luxembourg Gardens. It felt good to see other runners out there and to share that runner’s glance as we crossed paths.  Those of us who made it out that morning, offered nods of acknowledgement as we passed: Yup, I’m out here too–pretty friggin’ scary but it feels good!

Dogs.jpgOn Monday afternoon, I ventured out with my mother to visit the Louvre, which, after three days closed for mourning (and security) had opened its doors. We waited in line as police and military with machine guns, fingers on triggers, strolled back and forth around us. The lines were huge, and organized in a big snaking coral. We’d been advised not to linger in large crowds but decided to queue up anyway, and spent an hour among the hushed crowd, inching toward the door. After making our way through security, the grand Louvre opened up before us. We spent the entire afternoon wandering through the museum, starting with the seemingly endless halls of paintings, stopping to linger in front of favorites. I could have spent all day in front of Vermeer’s  Lacemaker of 1670; the piece is so perfect, it’s hard for the eyes to get enough of it. I was also struck by one of the temporary exhibits, A Brief History of the Future, a show based on Jacques Attali’s book of the same name. It’s claimed as a “pluridisciplinary” exhibit and is brilliantly curated by Dominique de Font-Réaulx, Jean de Loisy, and Sandra Adam-Couralet. The theme of the show was the glue, and the curators cohesively combined works as disparate as Sumerian cuneiform, Thomas Cole’s Course of Empire cycle, Raoul Hausmann’s Mechanical Head: Spirit of Our Time (one of my favorite dada assemblages), and Foundation, an installation by contemporary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, among many others. It’s a timely and poetic show, its concerns amplified by the events of November 13th and its tentatively hopeful message much needed.

Social media has been a source of love and strength during the last 4 days in Paris, and I’ve felt immense gratitude for the presence of my wide flung community of artists, runners, friends, and colleagues. It’s also been interesting to see the critical discourse emerging on the web. Though it’s heartening to see the engagement, I think it’s important to note that an expression of compassion for France does not, in my view, imply indifference to Beirut, and it certainly doesn’t indicate full alignment with the values expressed by the governments of the Western world or a lack of awareness of their complicity in the emergence of violent extremist ideologies in Syria. It also doesn’t mean that similar violence elsewhere is made invisible; actually, from where I sit, coverage of the French attacks seems to be shining a broader beam of light, which is thankfully beginning to illuminate the dark webs that link the global attacks, making clearer connections to the Syrian refugee crisis and to the role of climate change in the escalation of terror and war. I’d close with a note of thanks for those articulating the complex and difficult truths about the current state of the world and also to those sending messages of solidarity and compassion to France.

Posted in Art, Paris, Running, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Feeling Rakish


I arrived in Paris a few days ago, stepped out of my taxi onto the cobblestone street outside of the Hotel Henriette, and looked up to see Doug Ashford! Doug was an influential teacher and friend during my years in grad school at VCFA, and though we’ve stayed in touch over the years, we hadn’t seen each other face to face in a while. He and his partner, Alice, were staying at the same hotel, catching exhibits in Paris on route to Doug’s show at Wilfried Lentz in Rotterdam. What a great way to start my Paris adventure!

I’m in France for two weeks with my mother, Alison H. Deming, doing research on my great, great grandmother, Louisa de Saint-Isle, and steeping ourselves in Parisian culture. Louisa and my great grandmother, Marie Bregny, were both dressmakers. In the late 19th century, Louisa worked for the Empress Eugenie, wife of Emperor Napoleon III, and Louisa’s narrative has some fascinating, mysterious twists and turns. With the help of Jen, a fabulous research assistant, we’re mapping out some of the details of that mystery. I’ll be using the visual narrative in drawings and my mother will be writing about the history in an upcoming book. On our visit to Notre Dame, My mother lit a candle in Louisa’s honor.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

I discovered a great little running loop around the Jardin du Luxembourg

I discovered a great little running loop around the Jardin du Luxembourg

As has become my pattern, when I travel, I explore by running, and I always check for races when I’m in a new city. When I arrived in Paris I discovered Les Bacchantes, a fundraiser for prostate cancer research, which would take place two days after my arrival. I decided to run up to the packet pick up at Planet Jogging to see if a late registration was possible. It was a longer trek than I’d realized, around 5 ½ miles, but after running up the Champs-Élysées and past the Arc de Triomphe, I found the store. The first few people I asked about the race spoke no English, but eventually I was directed to Karen Decter, an American living in Paris who is one of the organizers for International Triathalon Club. She raved about the race, mentioning that it’s still organized by the couple who founded it. Karen offered to help me through the process, starting with my medical release form. It turns out this is a requirement for every participant in European races. In the States, we simply sign a waiver–I’d never been asked for a medical form! Seeing the disappointment on my face, Karen suggested the possibility of running as a member of her Triathalon club, which would circumvent the need for the form! Done! There was one more obstacle: I needed cash for payment, which I didn’t have. Promising a quick return, I ran the 5 ½ miles back to the hotel, quickly changed, and took the Metro back to the store with cash in hand. I caught Karen just as she was walking out the door!

marchThe next morning, I got my jet-lagged self to the starting line by following orange shirts and painted mustaches through the streets. It was Armistice Day, and as I walked toward the park, military personnel marched in formation toward the Arc de Triomphe.

I eventually found the bag check, did a quick warm up, and then joined the sea of orange shirts. There was no indication of pace seeding, so I just squeezed into the crowd where I could. The crowd was hyped, chanting the White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army intro and other call and response shouts that I couldn’t make sense of. I took a quick video to capture the crowd!

Mustaches were a requirement for participation!

Mustaches were a requirement for participation!

When the race actually started, I couldn’t move for several minutes. When we did start “running” I was stuck in a thicket of runners and there was no way to pick up the pace beyond 9:30 min/miles. After the first ½ mile, the pack charged into the wooded trails of Parc du Bois, making the pack denser. There were slippery leaves underfoot, hidden roots, chain link fences that were hard to spot, and runners of all abilities trying to drop back or get ahead. Eventually, there was a slow acceleration, but it wasn’t until the 3rd mile that I could really take a full stride and was able to get my pace into the 7:45-7:50 range. I realized pretty quickly this was going to be a casual run and not a race!

Post race chocolate

Post race chocolate

Still, the spirit of the event was inspiring. Runners sang and chanted as we navigated the woods (mostly in French, though there was a vigorous version of the YMCA). The post-race feast included fruit, coffee, hot chocolate, soup, pastries, and heaps of dark chocolate! It was a fun day.

Many of the runners made it clear that they were participating in honor of family and friends who had struggled with prostate cancer. I was able to remember my Uncle Rodney,

running in honor of...

who died from the disease several years ago–to bring him into my mother’s and my Parisian exploration of the family history.

Posted in Art, Paris, Running | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Focus on the Holes

Link and Sigve at Jack Shainman Gallery

Link and Sigve discussing The Beginning, oil and wax on canvas, 102″ x 124″, 2015

In 2012, I spent a week at the Anderson Ranch in Colorado, in an intensive workshop, which consisted of a week-long dialogue and critique with Enrique Martinez Celaya. This September, when I spent a month renting a studio space in Bushwick, I took great pleasure in being able to catch events and openings on a whim. I was surprised to discover that while I was there, Enrique would be having his first exhibition at the Jack Shainman Gallery in Chelsea. During the Colorado workshop, Celaya had shared that he was contemplating shifting his gallery representation in New York, and Empires: Sea and Land, a body of work spanning painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, and writing, was clearly the result of this move. The work in Empires was a thematic continuation of Celaya’s earlier work–each piece representing a location in a world that Celaya had been mapping for 10 years. On a busy September night in Chelsea, I had the pleasure of exploring that world with my son, Link, and his friend Sigve.

Mixed Media works by EMC

The opening of the show included an interview with Robin Cembalest, and as I sat listening, I was struck again by Enrique’s intentionality and presence. At one point in the interview, Enrique shared his goal of being a perpetual beginner and his related aversion to expertism. Staying open and hungry to learn is something I’ve thought about a lot, and have aspired to myself. Enrique made the point that one’s tendency when building a career is to be repetitious, covering holes with sand in order to appear more expert. His advice was to focus on the holes rather than covering them up. In the midst of my current nomadic season, where everything in my life seems in flux, I feel the value, challenge, and richness of this acutely. The conversation about expertism led to questions about the artist’s relationship to critical theory (questions about this have been abundant in recent social media feeds). As I see it, theory and theoretical discourse are just one way for an artist to become immersed in the conceptual worlds relevant to his or her artistic content. That’s it; there’s no one canon or lens that every artist needs to pack into his or her toolkit. And I agree that there are too many artists and artist-professors who use theory and jargon as a crutch—not as a way to zero in on the “holes” but as a way to cover them in sand.

Enrique is in a unique position. His well-publicized scientific background (BS in Applied & Engineering Physics at Cornell University; MS in Quantum Electronics at the University of California, Berkeley; MFA in Painting at University of California, Santa Barbara) gives him a rare kind of bedrock. During their dialogue, Robin Cembalest asked Celaya what that background has contributed to his life as an artist. He responded that it gives him a unique kind of freedom – he can take risks because he’s not worried about looking stupid. He added that, from his engagement with physics and math, he also knows that “If you understand something, you can say it simply.” I agree, with the one footnote. Historically, there are valid formal and conceptual reasons for dense, experimental writing. For example, Luce Irigaray and Julia Kristeva used such methods in order to disrupt patriarchal language, to invent a feminine ecriture through which they could claim female subjecthood outside the patriarchal order. That work doesn’t undercut the underlying point, that language shouldn’t be used as a place to hide.

A related piece of the interview was a discussion of the important role of enigma in Enrique’s artwork. He related the presence of artworks to that of people, describing how some individuals draw immediate attention but are revealed quickly, while others roll out with complexity and depth over time. In Celaya’s framework, art is a movement from familiarity to the unfamiliar; not art is the opposite–it is limited to the shock of the unfamiliar, which quickly becomes completely knowable. Linking formal strategies to the conceptual enigma in his work, Enrique noted how tension comes from the fact that the works barely hold together formally—they balance in a tricky state of becoming.


installation shot, The Innocent,oil and wax on canvas, 92″ x 118″, 2015


detail, The Innocent

Enrique’s work dives fully into the dangerous territory of sentiment, risking thin interpretation. But with time spent in front of it, the work pays off with formal and conceptual discoveries, and it’s exciting to discover those moments when the paintings do threaten to disassemble. There are beautiful passages that speak a truth of representation without falling into deadening allegiance to representational accuracy.  Enrique’s work seems to maintain a state of motion. In assessing the difficulties of making something that works, Celaya mentioned the problem of “too beautiful”–calling it an issue in every direction one might choose, from minimalism to the fetishistic. He stated that one must give up unity for some portion of truth. Much has been said about the “wink” in contemporary art, and it would be a mistake to read that into this work. I was interested to hear Enrique state emphatically that, “Great art never winks.”

Enrique’s personal narrative comes up frequently in press about him–his birth in Cuba and subsequent exile to Spain in 1972, and place and belonging are persistent themes in his work. Though his personal narrative is clearly a part of his public image, in the interview he discussed his desire to distance the work from immediate associations with his own exile; rather, his intention is to address, in his work and writing, the commonality of exile. He intends his work to be about more universal losses and exiles. Relatedly, he sees the work not as narrative but as functioning like a series of poems.

There was a Q-n-A after the interview, which had some funny moments–for example, the straight-out-of-central-casting New York psychologist who offered Enrique some alternative language for thinking about exile. I had a question as well, which had seemed a communicable nugget, but as the question tumbled out of my mouth, it became increasingly complex. Enrique has a well-developed brand as an artist, and for some well known artists, this leads to disengagement and distancing-–this is not the case with Enrique, who seems to listen with his full being. He focuses in, and you can see him gathering your words and sorting them as you speak. Since many of the questions and themes in Enrique’s work and writing echo my own (the animal other, place and placelessness, narrative and the enigmatic, language and identity, etc.), I have found him to be an important mentor. As he listened to my question, a flood related material came to mind.

During my stay in New York, I met many assistants to famous artists, many of whom had fascinating tales to tell about the methods of production they were involved with. In one case, the well-known artist had become a choreographer of others’ marks, moving through the studio conducting a team of assistants busy drawing according to his direction. As a side note, this is not the case with Enrique. My understanding is that he uses assistants to support the logistical aspects of his work, which are significant at his level of production. Seeing Enrique’s work and thinking about the stories I’d been hearing from big city artist assistants, I wanted to ask Enrique about the meaning of the authentic original mark in the contemporary art world: how had that meaning changed (since the Abstract Expressionist period, for example) and how did that affect his conception of his own process and work. I was unable to get the question across clearly, but in retrospect, the process of stumbling through my thoughts and experiencing a brain flood of related questions, was a great reminder of the importance of mentors in one’s life and work, and how they continue to work on us internally for years after the face-to-face discourse.

Untitled (Two Goats), oil and wax on canvas, 66" x 72", 2013

Untitled (Two Goats), oil and wax on canvas, 66″ x 72″, 2013

Posted in Art, Enrique Martinez Celaya | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments



detail, work in progress

detail, work in progress

After years of wanting to have a more extended, intentional stay in New York, I’ve rented a studio space in Bushwick for the month of September. Given the designated time and space, I’m finally making progress with a series of large-scale drawings that have been slow to arrive. Since I began exploring the intersection of art and running several years ago, first with the farm running and watershed work, then with the daily pattern grids, and now with a series of 4.5′ x 4.5′ mixed media drawings, the movement of my body around particular boundaries has been implicit in the linear marks on the page. My movements are echoed on the paper as I transcribe and translate GPS lines. The physicality is present in those marks, but as the work has moved away from figuration toward abstraction, I’ve been questioning the limited presence of the body, looking for its reemergence in a way that would maintain the enigmatic, not returning to the more direct narrative I’ve used in the past. As any artist or writer knows, having isolated the current “problem” in the work is a gift, and now that I’ve identified it, the work is progressing more quickly.

As these studio explorations continue, I’m adjusting to running in Brooklyn, finding that the persistent stoplights and rough pavement can make it hard to get into a rhythm. And there’s the tricky process of figuring out safety. What creates urban boundaries and how do I navigate them? How does a white, middle class, middle-aged woman do what she loves to do–run and explore–and do so with respect for the neighborhoods and communities that are rooted in this place? I did witness one incident of violence during my stay (a fatal shooting) and learned that the danger is in being in the wrong place at the wrong time–and that’s tough to predict. That experience was terrifying and will echo through me for a long time; still, in general, I have worried more about being disrespectful than about safety. Every day there seem to be more uber-hip, young, white, privileged men and women on the streets. Though that influx may be a sign of a neighborhood getting safer, it’s also the harbinger of less cultural, ethnic, and economic diversity and that’s also unsettling to witness.

Grand Army Plaza at dawn

Grand Army Plaza at Dawn

Though the solitary running in Brooklyn has been interesting, I’ve missed running with my friends in Maine. With that in mind, I looked for a local club when I arrived and found the North Brooklyn Runners. The club has a weekly schedule of group runs and eager to join in, I set out one morning at dawn for Prospect Park, where the group was meeting for the Just South Wednesday Morning Run. At 6:30 on the button, 10 runners suddenly showed up. I was happy to see a low tech group (just a few watches and no ear buds). There was one other woman and the whole group looked fit and fast! As we took off onto the trails, the long line of runners quickly spread out and the front 6 or 7 disappeared into the woods. Four of us dropped behind, picking a more comfortable pace as the morning began to heat up. Lars, the group leader for the run, filled me in on the club and on Brooklyn running culture. He shares an interest in birds, so we took a few short breaks to seek out herons fishing for breakfast.

Bird Watching

Bird Watching Break

Black Crowned Night Heron

Black Crowned Night Heron






We finished in just under 5 miles, made tentative plans to join up for future runs, and scattered to jump into the day. I was happy to have my running world expand, and with my daily run complete by 7:30, I set off for Bushwick to get back to the drawings, my head filled with new maps and tales.

Posted in Art, Running | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Smart and Playful

Jing Ling Selfie

Selfie in Qiu Zhijie’s JingLing Chronicle Theater Project

This month I visited the Venice Biennale for the first time, traveling with my son, Ray. We took in as much art as we could find, got magnificently lost, feasted on fresh seafood and pizza, sipped spritz cocktails, and watched the theater of the street (art historians could be spotted in yellow patent leather shoes and ironic eyewear).

With nearly 140 artists from 53 countries and sites spread all over the city and beyond, the Venice Biennale is impossible to comprehensively take in. This was particularly true of the central pavilion at the Giardini. The curator of this year’s Biennale, Okwui Enwezor, organized the exhibition around a wide interpretation of the theme All the World’s Futures. A Marxist critique of capital was one through line in the show (with live readings of Das Kapital throughout the 7 months of the exhibition), and we were pleased to discover abundant work that engaged the theme without being heavy handed.

The most effective work in the Biennale was smart and playful; the work that fell flat was redundant and overly self-conscious. There were a few “experimental” video installations that filled galleries with irritating, repetitive image and sound. I will happily work for a rich viewing experience, but there are abrasive approaches to video which have been fully played out of the last 2 decades and aren’t worth the investment. I’ve reached a similar conclusion with work that engages the body in a way that’s redundant or empty. In the British pavilion, for example, I found Sarah Lucas’ installation of truncated figures with cigarettes sticking into various orifices to be tedious, signifying a thin rebellion against nothing. The walls of the pavilion were painted custard yellow, and in addition to the plaster cast figures, there were high gloss black and yellow sculptures made of resin–stretched and lumpy phalluses, balls, tits, and legs. I thought of Louise Bourgeois’ fabric sculptures of similar forms–powerful pieces that still make me uncomfortable, though I’ve seen them many times. Relative to that kind of power to create pause in a viewer, Lucas’ work seemed more like posing.

Canadian Pavilion 1Some of the installation work offered an assault of visual information without solid conceptual linkage, though the excessive mess of the Canadian pavilion was perfectly suited to its content. There was a playful sense of nostalgia and critique in the work, and we laughed as we made discoveries in each room. Ray said, “This is just like the Canadians,” and there was something particularly Canadian about that deadpan humor!

Swiss Pavilion 1The Swiss pavilion was an example of how brilliant an installation can be with only a few elements, in this case pervasive green light and large pool of rippling Caucasian-flesh-colored water. Pamela Rosenkranz’ piece, Our Product, was one of the strongest of the show, engaging with issues of colonialism, race, and environment without losing its visual poetry.

Swiss Pavilion 2

French pavilion

Céleste Boursier-Mougenot’s French pavilion was another one of our favorites. Revolutions  included 3 trees, “machine-nature hybrids,” moving slowly around on mobile root balls inside the pavilion and on the patio outside. They moved in time with their own metabolism, which was echoed by a sound environment; both were based on the flow of the trees’ sap and their sensitivity to light and French Pavilion 3shade.  Inside, we were surprised to find an amphitheater of seats that appeared to be granite but were actually spongey, and after laughing at the discovery, it was a pleasure to relax on the cushions and spend some time with the installation.

Russian Pavilion 1
Chinese Pavilion 1

The Russian pavilion featured a complex series of works by Irina Nakhova, referencing Venetian architecture and water, as well as Russian history. Among other things, the viewer was visually immersed in the history of Venice, in particular the city’s rich and complex relationship between water and the built environment.

Chiharu Shiota’s The Key in the Hand hummed with energy in the Chinese pavilion. Wooden boats filled the space, and each boat was obsessively strung up with red thread and keys. I had the thought that the piece was too obvious, but I was ultimately seduced; it’s a dynamite installation.

In the U.S. pavilion, Joan Jonas’ installation, They Come to Us Without a Word, takes the form of drawings, videos, and commissioned objects. The piece won us over slowly, as the narrative of the work built from room to room. Jonas managed to create a visual and conceptual logic where casual work of the hand (gestural drawings of bees, for example), masterworks of design (Murano chandeliers, among other objects), and narrative videos (children engaged in theatrical exercises, etc.) made sense–each element seemed increasingly necessary to the whole as more of the work came into view.

United States Pavilion 1


Experiencing Herman de Vries’ from earth:  everywhere in the Dutch pavilion, was like walking into an architectural scale artist/naturalist’s sketchbook. Carefully selected data samples were installed around the expanse of the room, evoking work by Richard Long, among other earthworks artists.

Dutch pavilion 1

Dutch pavilion 2


There were many high points in the Arsenale galleries as well, and, as in the Giardini, contemporary work was successfully featured alongside key historical works. In the first room, we encountered Adel Abdessemed’s installation work, in the form of machete bushes, with Bruce Nauman’s classic 1983 neon, Human Nature/ Life Death/Knows Doesn’t Know. 
Melvin Edwards

The first hallway of the Arsenale was populated by Melvin Edwards’ powerful sculptures, which read simultaneously as masks, weapons, and agricultural tools–perfectly suited for the venue, considering its history.


One of Ray’s favorite discoveries was the hallway of drawings by Abu Bakarr Mansaray, the self taught Sierra Leone artist. I was elated to share the experience of the Biennial with Ray, and I saw the work differently because of his fresh insights.


Katharina Grosse’s Untitled Trumpet installation was low tech immersive. As we took in the room, I spotted a lizard darting into a hole in a mound of spray painted dirt and rock–a great viewing moment!

Theaster Gates installation Gone Are the Days of Shelter and Martyr is clean, concise, and hauntingly seductive. The piece at first appears to consist of slate wall/roof and a huge steel bell, yet one hears faint sound from behind the wall, and if courageous, the viewer braves edging around the bell (touching the art) to discover  a hidden room with a video installation. The materials for the piece were relocated from Chicago–derelict scraps that found life reworked as art in Venice.

Gates 1

Gates 2

There are many other artists and works that deserve to be mentioned, including some excellent, relevant paintings. I will most likely revisit some of that work in future posts (as well as covering some running adventures!). Sitting on my couch back in Maine, it occurs to me that I’ve been reading about the Biennale for years, yet I could never picture how the the pavilions, main exhibitions, satellite shows, and rogue exhibits all fit together. Hopefully I’ll make it back to Venice, but in the meantime my understanding of how the work is installed in that magical city gives me a much greater ability to read and understand analysis from afar. And I have a week’s worth of time spent with my youngest son to reflect back on, which is the ultimate treasure!


Posted in Art, Travel, Venice Biennale | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

High Road/Low Road

High Road/Low Road

I’m on Grand Manan this week, isolating myself from the chaos of house construction at home and holding off the distractions of daily tasks so that I can finish reading thesis papers and work on a large-scale drawing that’s been slow to evolve. I’m also taking time to get out and run every day.


The Whistle


Dark Harbour

I’ve explored a catalogue of favorite runs: from the cottage in Castalia to the Whistle and back, from the cottage to Swallow Tail light and back, from the cottage to Castalia marsh and back, the hilly loop beginning with the coastal Anchorage boardwalk, and finally, yesterday, the trail run from Southwest Head Light to Hay Point and back–extending the run for the first time to Bradford Cove.

Southwest Head

The terrain on the Hay Point run varies dramatically, from dirt roads to steep, rocky hills, to barely perceptible trails cramped by scrappy pines.

Trail to Hay Point


Trail toward Bradbury

On this trip, I was out for an hour and 40 minutes. It was a slow run due to abundant scenic vistas, but also due to wet bogs, pond-sized puddles, mud, roots, upended trees, and threatening spears of dead pine.


from the Southwest Head trail

From Hay Point

From Hay Point 2

After an hour or so of running, I entered that zone where my body seems more permeable and aware. This often happens on a long run. Everything becomes more sensory. My skin feels the air in a different way, and smells are intense–in this case, the blasts of warm pine and ocean salt. Sometimes when I’m running in the woods, I get a whiff of animal (something like oily fur) or human (traces of smoke and food). These faint traces startle me, not out of fear, but out of the surprise of smelling them at all. It’s a hyper-awareness that only happens when I’m running. I’m not suggesting a mystical union with the animal world, though the idea of becoming animal resonates (with a nod to Deleuze and Guattari). In that permeable state of motion, I experience a hint of freedom, a wonderful stripping away of identity, a departure from normal thinking patterns.

I’m also reading H is for Hawk, a memoir by Helen Macdonald, which explores the author’s experience of personal loss as it intersects with her work in falconry. Throughout the book, she trains Mabel, a young goshawk, and she describes periods of being in a semi-feral state of identification with her hawk and her own wildness, and then her re-emergence into community and into her life in the academic world. Macdonald does a brilliant job of describing those moments of splintering and reassembling identity and the mysterious longings that accompany both.

Movement has always felt right to me, as has a complex framing of identity—motion rather than stasis feels accurate in some inner register, if not always direct and easy to get my head (and life) around. In the meantime, running seems to be a reliable way to get at something that feels true…

Bogs Toward Deep Cove


Posted in Running, Trail Running | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Unexpected Sensuous Pleasures

Hamilton LookoutIt’s been a great few weeks of running, including my first week of covering more than 40 miles. I didn’t take on the extra miles intentionally; they just seemed to add up. Though I’m tired and sore (good tired and sore) at the end of most days, I don’t feel as if I’m beating up my body or overtraining; I’m simply enjoying being out there longer. After 5 years of slowly building up strength, I suddenly seem able to take on more distance, and I recover more quickly. I’m not sure if this growth will translate into better performance in races–the coming month will tell–but the true benefit is that my running takes me further and I can explore more territory.

One morning last week, I took a mellow 9-mile run, starting at a friend’s house in West Bath, then diverting onto the winding, wooded paths of the Hamilton Audubon Sanctuary. At one point on the trail, I was startled to hear loud clanking noises from the nearby cove (Back Cove). Through scattered pines, I spotted early morning clammers dropping their catch into metal buckets. They had etched dark meandering lines into the wet sand of low tide. I chuckled, realizing that this is exactly the kind of unexpected sensuous pleasure that running has brought into my day-to-day life.

Posted in Running | Tagged , | Leave a comment