Sunday, April 29, 2007

Three Shades: Poetry Thursday Homework!


Image by Leonie: Guitar Case fit for a Poetry Reading

Late last year one of the Poetry Thursday assignments was to go to a poetry reading. Leonie and I found a list of readings in Wellington, but with both of our schedules being rather hectic at the time we never got to any of them.

Well, tonight we finally handed in our homework! And with only two days left before half of the Welly 4 leave on their terribly big adventure, what a better way to spend one of our last evenings together.

The performers tonight were (excerpts taken from the programme):

Mika: A Samoan acoustic flamenco guitarist.

Lewis Scott: An African American jazz poet.

Lindsay Rabbitt: Described as the "Kiwi Irish poet", influenced in the 80s by the American minimalist poets. Reinvented himself as an arts journalist, essayist and mixed-media artist, and began writing poetry again 18 months ago after a 20 year break. Currently exploring the 'bardic/performance poetry tradition'.

Apirana Taylor: A Maori poet, playwright, short story writer, novelist, painter, actor and story teller.

I'm too tired now to comment too deeply, save to say it was a wonderful evening. I was left with a lot of impressions that I will elaborate on in more detail some time this week. The themes I would like to follow up on include:

  • "Travelling in cemeteries" - the ethics of tourism in countries that have seen warfare, and where, even in this country, can we travel without walking in blood? Is it possible to travel to such places with awareness?
  • Does talking about politics or activism really change anything? This is a theme already toyed with in Bright Room Called Day. So we sit around talking about Iraq and Bush and blah blah. Are we really making any difference? Are people of our generation, as John Smythe says, really so cynical about our ability to change anything? Is that why we form our communities online, plug into iPods, take mind altering substances? Do we choose to disconnect from that which is real because what is real has simply become too hard?
  • Do some of us, in contrast, clutch fast to this earth and plant our souls in the land, because that seems solid and understandable?
  • The art of performance itself. The choosing of a work, the speaking of it with a passion that connects you to the audience.
I will make one observation now though. It takes a huge amount of concentration to listen to poetry for two hours. As an exercise in mindfulness it was far more difficult for me than any breathing meditation. I missed delicious slices of poetry tonight because my mind decided it was suddenly more important to think about what I was going to eat for lunch tomorrow, or what I was going to wear to work. Full credit to the performers tonight for taking us on a journey with them that was worthwhile reining our grasshopper minds in for.

But that's another post!

NaPoWriMo 25: Blaze

For Catherine... an Australian poem!

Blaze
The sunset swelled
blood orange in the sky
tonight.

The weather man
provided the scientific
explanation. It had to
do with particles and
filtered light and
smoke and mirrors.

I prefer the fortune teller's
version. We are all frogs
in slowly boiling water.


Saturday, April 28, 2007

Multi-tasking

I ended up taking Tuesday and Wednesday off exercise completely, but by Thursday was feeling improved enough to spend 45 minutes on an exercycle. Duck was taking RPM next door, but I know myself well enough to know that if I'd gone into her class I would have worked too hard and aggravated my injury. Instead I read my way through two magazines and a bizarre music video of women doing aerobics in g-string leotards (lots of pelvic thrusting). I didn't feel like I'd worked that hard, but my exercise gear was still wet with sweat, so my heart rate must have gotten up at least a little. I focused really hard on not letting my hips drop with each downwards stroke, and felt okay afterwards.

On Thursday night Nic, Leonie and I went to the opening night of Hamish's play, A Bright Room Called Day. This is Hamish's most ambitious project to date, and I was really quite nervous for him. It didn't help that I was sitting next to a theatre reviewer either! Thankfully John continues to be one of Theatre Militia's biggest fans. In the end the performance was brilliant and played to a full house. The depth of the acting is quite remarkable, and if any Wellingtonians read this blog they should do what they can to make sure they see the play.

With the play not starting till 8.30 it was midnight before I got to bed. One broken night's sleep later and I was up at 5.40 for Leonie and Nic's last RPM class. Dee went straight from track one into Sunstroke, Leonie's favourite massive hill, and things kept getting harder from there. I didn't feel my energy levels were quite up to their normal levels, but given the injury status and lack of sleep that probably wasn't surprising. After 40 minutes, right on cue, during the last track, the endorphins finally kicked in enough to enable some tentative yelping and hooting.

We followed THAT up with bubbly and breakfast at Rise, with me looking out for any managerial types who might note my not insignificant breach of my code of conduct. Back at my desk it quickly became apparent I was not going to stay awake for the rest of the day without chemical stimulation. One can of V kept me buzzing right through the afternoon.

Last night I messed with my training nutrition by drinking two bottles of cider and eating a Chicken Turboloo curry. Hmm, I worry about dehydration and nausea during runs, so I eat taste-bud annihilatingly hot spicy food and drink alcohol the night before my Saturday training? Excellent Pip, great plan!

Sarah and I had been weather checking, and knew that this morning was forecast to be very wet, with Southerlies predicted this afternoon. I toyed with the idea of putting off our training until tomorrow, but although less rain was predicted, the Southerlies were supposed to be strong. Figuring we'd prefer to train in rain rather than wind, we agreed that we'd meet up at 8.30 this morning. That and Duck telling me to let her know how we went made me feel compelled to turn up.

That said, both Sarah and I ended up waking up on and off all night listening to the rain, which was indeed heavy, and nearly talking ourselves out of going. But I reasoned with myself that it wasn't actually that cold (which it wasn't), and the rain had abated by 8.00 (a false security - it increased again after that).

Unfortunately neither of us timed our training, nor took note of what time we set out. We think it was probably around 8.40am, but we're not sure. We left from Freyberg Pool, running around the Bays for what was supposed to be two kilometres, before turning around and returning to the pool. We ran steadily, but neither of us was at top pace. My Addidas running jacket proved its worth, keeping me dry but not being overly warm to wear.

On our return to Freyberg both of us agreed that the distance felt more like 5km than 4, and a woman standing next to us backed us up. Our transition was slow, because we had to unlock our bikes and I had to take my bike shoes out of the bag on my back and get changed. Sarah took off ahead of me, but I managed to catch her up as we reached the 5km turn-around. Stupidly I'd taken my jacket off before getting on the bike, and of course I froze. There was just enough of a Southerly to make riding without something on my arms unpleasant, and they were red and goosebumped by the time we made it back.

On the return Sarah and I leap-frogged each other. We passed the Jog Squadders on their first Saturday morning group run, and it was heaps of fun waving and yelling encouragement to them all. I cruised at a comfortable pace, and I think I will ride significantly faster on the day, when I have other riders to chase.

Another transition, and it was time to run another 2km. Unfortunately 2km isn't long enough to shake off the bike legs, so we both felt leaden the entire run. Still, it's also not long enough to really suffer, and was out of the way very quickly.

On our way back we were running with and overtaking Jog Squadders, and Duck passed us while we were stretching out at Freyberg. It was a great feeling to get back to the pool and to know that we'd hauled our asses out of bed on a grotty Saturday morning and actually done the thing. We don't know what our final time was. We know it was under an hour, but we don't know any more than that. Both of us are targeting under 50 minutes for the SPARC duathlon on Sunday May 6th (3.5km, 10km, 1.5km). Based on today's evidence Sarah may still have a slight edge on me, but only a minute or two at most. I will really need to pick the cycling up though, because I know she'll really be pushing the run.

I was absolutely drenched, so took the time to change into tracksuit pants and a polyprop before driving quickly home so Nic and Leonie could borrow the Mazda. Unfortunately there was only enough hot water for a very quick shower (our old water cylinder isn't really big enough for more than two showers in a row, and I was number three), so I climbed into my PJs and jumped into bed. Even so, it took over two hours for me to finally start to feel warm.

The aftermath? I'm a bit stiff, particularly my problematic right side. I'll have to get the tennis ball stuck into my right glute tomorrow if I'm to avoid a killing by the physio on Wednesday. I'm not going to be at Jog Squad on Monday night, so I'll try to run Monday lunchtime instead. I'm optomistic I can start training again and not damage myself, so long as I take things easy. I needed to do this today for my head, to stay in a multisport frame of mind. I'm feeling like an athlete again now.

NaPoWriMo 26: Glimpse


I've skipped past 'blaze' for now. Like some other bloggers I'm starting to feel a little poemed out. I wonder whether continuing to push out work just for the sake of it is actually damaging to creativity. However I suspect that after all of this is over my output will continue to be higher than it was prior to April, because I think of life in poetry terms now. I feel like a poet.

Uruwhenua
Wait until winter,
they say,
you won't like it
as much here then.

And over the days
as we pay $12 for
two corn fritters with
some salad and
$8 for a couple of
pieces of toast and
the blow flies swarm
in the kitchen and the
electric fence ticks
and the septic tank overflows
we catch a glimpse of
the grim reality
of paradise.

Sitting on the beach
at Totaranui the
sand makes us homesick
for Oriental Bay.
Yes we could live here,
we tell ourselves,
but not yet.
Too isolated.
Too much effort.

On the ferry we
sit in the sun and
raise a toast as
we pass Red Rocks
on our way
back home.


Footnote: Reading about Wellington Harbour for this poem I discovered that the Harbour's Maori name is Te Whanganui-a-Tara. Tara, of course, is also a Buddhist deity, and I have always felt White Tara to be my own personal deity. Perhaps that is why I feel comfortable here.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

NaPoWriMo 24: Sheen

When I thought of the word sheen I thought of the patina on a piece of furniture that has been polished by contact with countless humans. I also thought of sitting in the bath this week, my skin gleaming from bath oils and candles creating light and shadow in the room.

Pay Attention
Awareness is in the
patterns the tea-light
candle throws on
the bathroom wall,
the varnish on an antique
writing desk worn
to a sheen by the
caress of countless
coat sleeves.

Try not to miss the
cry of the blackbird
that signals a cat
strolling through the
courtyard or
the way the house
creaks when the wind
blows in just the right
South-Easterly direction.

Do not sleep as the
cicada sings from the
Puka tree or the skink
crawls out from the flax
and into the sun.
Do not miss the soft
thud before the clock
in the hallway begins
to chime.

Today everything is
seeking your focus,
demanding that you
exist now, here,
in this moment.
Pay attention!

NaPoWriMo 23: Pluck

Oh, if I wrote my poetry on paper there would be a whole wastepaper basket full of balled up failed attempts at this prompt in the corner of my room. I tried several different shades of the word's meaning, in several different contexts. In the end I admitted near-defeat. I needed to move on, so this is what I wrote:

Desire
Famished I pluck you
Peach sun-ripened skin swelling
Dew beaded on fruit.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Girl Interrupted

It seems that running for an hour on Sunday, a session with Duck on Monday morning and a forty minute run at lunchtime didn't exactly help my poor sacroiliac. The Duck session was primarily upper-body and core, but I don't think the bent over row helped my back at all, and the walking lunges and squats thrown in at the end probably finished things off. I was already hurting before the treadmill run and should have known better, but I ignored the pain that was forming in my knee because I was running five and a half minute kilometres with a degree of effortlessness and low heartrate that I was relishing too much to stop.

Which left me feeling distinctly limpy today, with a sore back and pain radiating from my right glute all the way down the IT band into the knee. I've been here before, and I know how this story goes...

Cue the physio, and I was really asking for trouble because my instructions were to crunch my back and get her elbow stuck into my butt. Which is exactly what I got - 15 or so minutes of writhing on the massage table in absolute agony.

It seems I'm developing some wisdom in my old age, because as much as I wanted to support Duck in RPM tonight I wanted to give my body a chance to recover even more. As much as the voices were screaming 'you're going to put on that weight again, you're going to lose that muscle and you're going to lose your run fitness', the 'you can't keep going because it'll only make your recovery longer' voices were screaming even louder. Not that I'm feeling entirely comfortable with having to take the night off, but I've been rewarded with a night at home on my own, a long bath, candles, insensce, an Age Pryor CD and a good book have gone a long way to compensate.

I'm sure getting back into the pool tomorrow, followed by Body Balance, will go some way to appeasing the exercise bunnies in my brain...

NapoWriMo 22: Misplaced

In the end when the
CDs were shared out and
the joint bank account
closed and emptied and
joint ownership of the
family pets agreed on it
was the little things that
continued to confuse her,
the way the shavings from
his electronic razor still
collected in the wash basin
and that the bedroom still
smelt of him sleeping
when the windows were kept
closed for too long.
Right up until she finally
left the house they
had bought together
after their honeymoon
it seemed like he wasn’t
really gone from her life,
rather that he was a piece of
matrimonial property she had
somehow been careless enough
to misplace.

Monday, April 23, 2007

NaPoWriMo 21: 10 items or less


So I had some fun with this one. I don't know if it really qualifies as a poem. I guess this qualifies as artistic license! That's me in the photo above, second from the left in the crocheted tank top (which, in all fairness, is actually a lovely piece of clothing). For our Christmas function our office dressed up as 'what we wanted to be when we grew up'. A bunch of us dressed up as 80s pop stars. Cheesy, but unexpectedly fun!

Staff Christmas Function in 10 Items or Less

Two free drinks vouchers: The number of vouchers she was entitled to at her staff Christmas party.
Six free drinks: The number she actually drank, after procuring more than her tax-payer funded entitlement by sneaky and nefarious means.
Two high-heel sandals from the Number 1 Shoe Warehouse: Finally rubbing after six hours’ continual use, taken off halfway down the pedestrian access way to her street and carried the rest of the way home in the pouring rain.
One diamante-studded denim mini-skirt: Borrowed from a colleague and now sopping wet.
Half a can of hairspray: Used to tease her hair into an 80s bouffant, now running down her nose in rivulets of chemical ooze.
One pair of black three-quarter length tights: For some reason back in fashion.
One uncontrollable fit of giggles: Halfway between her letter-box and her front door.
One giant hangover: Waiting for her the next morning, but thankfully shared by most of her office.
One lost hairbrush: Found a couple of weeks later by her husband, sticking up in the grass at the top of the garden.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

NaPoWriMo 20: Fishing Hole

Opanuku

When we were young it
was a place to go hunting
eels. Spike hook with
bloody meat, tug and haul.
The vanquished beasts would
tie themselves in knots and
try to crawl back to the
stream and it was left to our
poor father to grab an axe
and dispatch the poor creatures.

Poor Dad as well, it transpired he
had a mortal fear of eels. Lucky
for him we discovered it was far more
fun to stuff Mum's pantihose with
bread, rotten eggs, cooking oil and
dangle them in the water.
Dark shapes would emerge from
holes tunneled deep into the bank and
lured by the heady odour would
flow gracefully over river stones
and algae to sink small sharp teeth
into nylon. Oh the thrill and the
beauty of those creatures we once
clubbed with such repulsion. We
grew to feel ashamed of our past selves.

Well, I did it

Yep, I got up at 6.45am (not 6.30), told myself not to get worked up, managed to halve the number of trips to the bathroom (sorry if that's too much information), ate my usual breakfast, read a magazine, got in the car, drove one and a half hours to Levin, registered, sat in my car reading the paper, sipping on Gatorade and keeping warm, trotted around the reserve where the event was held a couple of times, joined the 10km runners at the startline, and ran 10km without feeling sick or hurling.

Yay!

This day was a success in a number of ways, and I think it will mark a turning point in my eventing. It wasn't that I ran a particularly fast time. In fact I still ran four minutes slower than I would have liked. But I finished in under an hour, and I ran the whole thing.

More than that though, it was the way I conducted myself that I think marks this as a significant day. I still woke around an hour before the alarm, but I didn't let myself lie there and fixate. I made myself think about something else, and managed to drift in and out of sleep until I needed to get up. I didn't let myself get overly nervous. I didn't worry about not being able to find the reserve where the event was located.

I'd already laid out my gear the night before, as always, and I followed my usual morning routine. I listened to the radio the whole way up, got to Levin, didn't freak out when the reserve turned out to be a good deal further away from State Highway 1 than I'd imagined, found the event without any real difficulty, parked and registered, all without any problems.

As I was approaching the event I passed a few 'runners' signs. I thought to myself 'hey, this isn't undulating - this is a hill', as I drove down to the start line. A few inquiries, and it turned out that the race actually carried on further down the road, not back up the hill I'd just driven down.

Gladstone Reserve turned out to be a scenic little spot beside the river, with a view out towards the Tararuas. As suspected, this was a very small event, put on by the local Harriers club. There was no half marathon event, just 5 and 10km walks and runs. It was so small that the 10km eventers weren't issued with race numbers.

A few people seemed to be warming up, so I jogged lightly around the reserve a couple of times. I think I'm going to have to be a little more proactive with my warmup in the future. I hadn't run since Monday, and I think that a little refresher in the art of running might well have helped me out a bit.

It was immediately obvious as we assembled at the start-line that the pack did not consist of too many beginners. The field consisted primarily of Levin Harriers members, with a few Lower Hutt marathon clinic participants for good measure. This was a good thing. I figured I could quite easily be tail end Charlie. That took a lot of pressure off me straight away. I wouldn't worry about trying to keep up with the field. No one there knew me and I could run my own race. This was a training run, nothing more.

The course was, as described, undulating. The road followed the river, and the kilometre or so before the turn-around was firmly packed metal. There was plenty of shade. After the first couple of hundred metres we ran up a small incline, and I remember thinking "there's the sprint for glory on the way home". I did the first kilometre in five and a half minutes. I thought "hmm, good pace - now try to maintain that".

After a short while I started to feel the stitch coming on. I glanced at my watch - 15 minutes. Right on queue. At least I'm predictable. The two and a half kilometre mark came and went, with a lovely woman offering water at a drink stop. I declined the water, and continued on. Water at 2.5km?

I wasn't feeling terribly strong, so I allowed myself myself to ease off a little. It was at that point that things got interesting. It's fair to say I battled for the next few kilometres. At one point a voice in my head told me quite firmly to quit. Not just this event, but all events. The strength of conviction in that voice scared me, badly. To my credit, the voice that reasoned that I'd feel worse if I stopped (and that recognised how important this event was for my self-belief) was stronger, and I kept going.

The last kilometre before the turn-around was up an incline. I was plodding by this point, but everyone on their way back was extremely encouraging. This was by far the friendliest event I've ever taken part in. The 'it's just around the next corner' reassurances were fantastic. I walked the short distance between the drink stop and the turn-around cone, then it was time to head back.

The long down-hill stretch after the turn-around was heaven. Looking at my watch I knew I wasn't going to be personal besting today, but I wasn't going to worry about that either. However something finally clicked into place as I approached the 40 minute mark. These are the two milestone times in my run - 15 and 40 minutes. If I'm going to feel bad, it will be at the former. If I'm suddenly going to feel good, it will be at the latter. It occurred to me that I could still run a sub-sixty (for goodness sake, I'm capable of much less than that). I flew down the hills, I attacked the uphill stretches. I ran the second five kilometres several minutes faster than the first.

I was overtaking walkers now, giving them encouragement and being encouraged in return. There was the 9km marker. Now was the time to push (as if I wasn't already). I was racing against my watch now. It was suddenly extremely important to do sub-sixty after all. I pushed it up the hill, and then there was that 'sprint for glory' I'd been anticipating. I was really watching my watch now. I knew I wasn't going to make it within my 'outer' target time, but I wasn't far off. In fact, I was only 15 seconds off.

I made it over the finish line, handed in my place tag, and walked slowly back to my car. Half way there it occurred to me that, despite my time, which was still slower than I'm capable of, this was a real achievement for me. The significance of the mental battle I won today can not be underestimated. I was so happy that I had to stop myself from tearing up, because I didn't want anyone to think I was distressed.

So that was it. I talked to one of the marathoners, who tried to convince me to head back to the Harriers clubrooms for the scheduled barbeque. I seriously contemplated it, but in the end my desire to just get home and shower won over. I flew the whole way back to Wellington, cheesy commercial music on the radio and a little less of my attention on the road than might have been prudent.

A shower, some lentil and vegetable soup, some fruit and a cider, and the rest of the afternoon will be spent in a leisurely fashion on the sofa. I guess I've earned it, and I've got a session with Duck at 7am to rest up for!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Dilemma

It's 9.35pm. I've had a week of very little exercise and terrible eating habits. I'm too scared to get on the scales, and I've lost touch with my fitness. I'm still injured.

This is my dilemma. There's a 10km run at 10.00 in Levin tomorrow morning. Do I do the race? I haven't followed good 'pre-race' practice today. There's been a couple of ciders, not enough water, a bit too much eating. To get there I have to get up really early on a Sunday morning and drive, on my own, for an hour and a half to a part of Levin I've never been to before. Then I have to try to run a 10km race on my own, in no way psychologically or physically prepared. If I burn again, what damage will that do to my psyche and my belief that I can do the Shoe Clinic half? What if I injure myself more badly? On the other hand, if I don't do this race there won't be any more opportunities to run an event before Shoe Clinic, and God knows I need the practice.

So what if I go out tomorrow and totally ace the event? What if I don't necessarily ace it, but still manage to finish under an hour and without wanting to hurl?

I'm not making any promises. I'm going to prepare my gear tonight, but there's still a reasonable chance I may wake up at 6.30am and go "NUP"!!

NaPoWriMo 19: Rooted


Rooted
This mother pine tree
is reached by tramping upstream
and scrambling up the river bank
for around 100 metres.

A Hihi male will trace your progress
calling his territory and
pausing on a low branch to
size up your intentions.

Trust pine needles cloaking the
forest floor to provide solidity underfoot
so that you not stumble into a pothole
and turn your booted ankle.

Here as you settle beneath
this pine tree the air seems
warmer. The sun filters through
and her arms shelter you.

Here a female Hihi feeds her
chicks, flitting between nestbox
and feeder, alighting briefly above you
to nibble at bark and to preen.

Here is old life and new life,
regeneration and healing
in a quiet corner where water
runs and cicadas sing.

All things here are rooted.
Sit here for a while and you too
will remember that once you
existed in symbiosis with this planet.




Not my finest work ever, but certainly one that reveals a little bit of me and why I do what I do.

Friday, April 20, 2007

A birthday gift, a poem shared

Leonie finally posed the question I had been avoiding. What did I want to do for my birthday? The real answer to that was 'go adventuring'. I wanted us all to spend a day somewhere like Kapiti Island, or perhaps Mt Bruce. I wanted us to go somewhere outdoors and get away from our urban lives for a few hours. However I didn't have time to take a day off work, and Nic and Leonie were going to be away both weekends either side of the big day itself.

In the end Nic picked up Chow takeaway, we pulled out the kitchen table, dressed it with a white table cloth, candles and linen table napkins, put on some music and the four of us ate and drank until late in the night.

Oh, and we read poetry. Thanks to Catherine for recommending Essential New Zealand Poems to Leonie, and for recommending in particular the poem I am about to share (thanks too to Leonie for the gift). I have walked, run, cycled and driven the road described on many occasions. On a night where we opened our book of poems at random, where every poem found held particular relevance, and was deeply and meaningfully about us, there, at that moment, this poem took hold of my spine and carried it a few kilometres West, till Leonie's voice carried me spinning down that narrow valley to the sea ...

Instructions for How to Get Ahead of Yourself While the Light Still Shines

If you have a bike, get on it at night
and go to the top of the Brooklyn Hill.

When you reach the top
start smiling - this is Happy Valley Road.

Pedal at first, then let the road take you down
into the dark as black as underground
broken by circles of yellow lowered by the street lights.

As you come to each light
you will notice a figure
racing up behind.
Don't be scared
this is you creeping up on yourself.
As you pass under the light
you will sail past yourself into the night.

(Jenny Bornholdt, originally from Moving House, University Press, 1989)

NaPoWriMo 18: Tick Tock

It took a little while for me to overcome my opposition to this prompt. I knew I didn't want to use the words themselves in the poem - too clunky. So that left the concept of time more generally. Then it occurred to me to write about the sound. This poem grew from there.

Waiting
Sitting here she can
hear his watch ticking,
the hush in this room
so intense that small
mechanical sounds
become theme songs.
The buzz of the florescent
light overhead, the
whine of the computer
at the reception desk.

He is flicking through
a magazine with
Brad and Jennifer on
the cover and pages
torn out where recipes
and the crossword have
been souvenired.
She finds herself staring
at an old scrapbook filled
with images from old
greeting cards cut out
and stuck to the pages.

They are waiting for the
man with the white coat
to tell them life can
return to normal,
that they can reclaim
the medical diagnosis
formerly known as their
son and climb into
their Toyota Starlet to
go back home where
tea comes from a
kettle instead of a
dispensing machine
and background music
comes in the form of
a child’s voice.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

NaPoWriMo 17: Glass

Glass
He thinks he knows her.
but in fact he has
never seen her
except through the
refraction
of glass.

Lesson for this week: sometimes when you turn a line over and over in your mind, trying to work out how to turn it into a poem, someone is waving their arms wildly in the corner of your vision trying to tell you that the work is already complete.

Why?

Very little running this week. I did a full on session with Duck on Monday morning, which led to can't walk, can't sit down levels of pain, lasting through to Wednesday night, when I finally climbed into the bath. When I climbed out I could at least walk, although sitting down does still cause the odd wince.

I saw my physio on Monday as well. I was honest and admitted that I was scared to go back to her, to the point when I almost went somewhere else. In the end she was actually pretty pleased with me. I've been doing what I told, and up till the 2.4km time trial had been using my glutes and running pain free. She did a little bit of spine cracking, checked out my range of motion, and booked me in for another appointment tomorrow. She gave me permission to do some light running, and actually recommended that I do some speed training.

With that in mind I headed out with the Jog Squad for their first session on Monday night. We ended up down on the waterfront in dark and cold conditions, doing the Beep test. I decided I wasn't going to push it to get a good result when my hip was already wrecked from time trialling. In the end I made it to 6.4, but I should be capable of at least a high 8, given fresh legs, no injuries and the right psychology.

With Tuesday being my birthday I went out to lunch and had dinner at home with the rest of the Welly 4, so there was no exercise to be had. I got to bed around 1am, so there was no way I was getting up to do weights before work on Wednesday morning either. By Wednesday night I was hobbling, so no jogging then either.

Duck worked my upper body and core this morning, (four sets of full pressups with a 10kg weight on your back anyone?) and after work I went straight home. Why? I was aching again. As much as it was a perfect evening for running and I was harbouring fears of losing fitness (not to mention gaining weight), I was even more afraid of damaging my back even more, and of the injury spreading down into my knee. Could I possibly be developing some brain cells when it comes to listening to my body?

So that leaves me at home tonight with a blanket, keeping warm and resting. I AM going to do RPM in the morning, but I'll keep the spinning light and not do the jumps. My hip's still achy, and it's gone down into my quad/IT band a little. But I think that now the leg press pain has subsided the hip pain will reciprocate. I would still like to do the 10km race in Levin on the weekend. The weather forecast is good, the route perfect (undulating, with a mix of seal and unsealed surface, in the country). However I'm not doing to do it unless I'm confident I won't injure myself further. I'm seeing my physio again tomorrow, so I'll see what she says.

Which brings me to the big question. Why do I do this? When I first started running I wrote a poem voicing a question I was working through at the time. Was I running towards something or running away? I answered that question a long time ago.

Why do people participate in endurance sports? Obviously I can't speak for anyone other than myself, but for me, and I suspect for others as well, the answer relates to exploring their limits. The challenge of pushing their bodies to extremes, and reaching increasing heights of success. I run because I never thought I could. Am I trying to hide from something? The answer to that is an emphatic no! At the half-way mark, when the nausea's setting in, the legs are tiring and the mind is screaming that this is all too much effort, there is no way to hide. There is no way I could do this if I hadn't confronted my demons along the way. Or rather, if I don't continue to conquer my demons. I'm not going to achieve my goals until I sort out whatever dark sprite is causing me to crash every time I do an event. Endurance sports require a unique kind of honesty. Similar to the honesty writing requires.

Am I being selfish? Am I sacrificing my relationship, being unfair to Hamish, restricting my self-development in other areas? I guess you would have to ask Hamish that question. He hasn't seemed too unhappy the last few times we've talked about us (he's pretty fond of the abs). Am I putting off other things I would like to do to make time for training? Absolutely. I haven't been to a Buddhist centre in over a year. I haven't learned to paint. I regularly choose to have an early night to enable myself to run the next morning, rather than head out to a dance party.

But what have I gained? Health. Happiness. Self confidence and self belief. I realised a few weeks ago that my tmj problems have spontaneously resolved. I haven't had a panic attack in a long time. I no longer suffer from clinically measurable levels of generalised anxiety disorder. I have doing, achieving and sorting dreams now, not paranoid nightmares.

There's a whole heap more to 'me' than I ever dared imagine. That's why I run.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

NaPoWriMo16: Hunger

I got completely stumped on this one. I didn't want to write anything about the obvious - about ambition, striving for a goal, needing food or the general state of society that keeps people searching for something.

In the end this is what decided to come out.

Hunger
At the wedding he
tells her best friend
that he thinks he made
a mistake all those
years ago.

She is so delicious
today in cream silk and
mocha lace and at
home is the born-again
wife he met at McDonalds
and the Sunday School kids.

He imagines that she still
lives in the same universe,
that given the auction of a
ring and a lawyer's invoice
he could somehow render her
his again.

But his hunger is that of a
bird for the caterpillar with
the spiny hairs on its back or
a tiger shark for the puffer fish.
She will remain nothing more
than an admired still life study
of a ripe bowl of fruit.

Monday, April 16, 2007

NaPoWriMo 15: Pearl

Pearl barged her way into my poetry this week. The very word itself was a key to a larger than life, bossy creature akin to the two sisters in The Simpsons. My Pearl is a distinctly Kiwi creation - one of the many generous (both in size and spirit) women of small town New Zealand, or working-class, suburban cities. Pearl is an archetype wanting to be heard.

Pearl
She has to be someone’s aunt
with her black woollen leggings
and her synthetic loose-weave jumper
hanging down to just below
her generous buttocks.

Pearl, the name is uttered
so as to roll off the tongue,
but not to purr.

Pearl probably smokes.
Her voice carries a certain
gravel rash drawl that hints
of ashtrays on the bedside table,
and she’s almost certainly
not averse to a stiff gin either.

Pearl is a weekend netball matron
stalking the sidelines,
clutching a clipboard in
hands large enough to dwarf
a husband’s pencil legs.

Pearl is the grit with a
thin veneer of lustre,
Grandmother’s heirloom
and the dirt and sweat
of pioneering heritage.

She is the illusion of
compliant femininity,
applied with a makeup brush
over a force of nature.
You don’t mess
with Pearl.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Race Report

I haven't posted about my training for a while, partly because I've been busy writing poetry, but partly also because the training posts were getting a bit repetitive. It's not that training started to go badly. In fact, training has continued to go fabulously well. I'm still pushing myself harder, faster and further than I ever have before, and I'm still having great fun.

I've been alternating between hard weeks and easy weeks as needed, and progress continues steadily upwards, if not with the same dramatic swing earlier this year. My main worry now is that I now want to push myself to keep at this high level, and that in itself puts me under a lot of pressure. Pressure is the last thing I want. Enjoyment is the goal.

After running the 2.4km I injured my sacroiliac joint again. The same ache in the hip, the same pinch in the right buttock. The same IT band ache and the first hint of a pain in the knee. Oh we've been here before, and the physio is going to tear strips off me. I can imagine telling her that I'd done everything she told me to, that I'd built the running up slowly, that I'd worked on my technique, that I'd been running pain free... and that I'd only done one stupid little thing. As someone who sometimes lurks on this blog might say, "ARSE"!!

Not much running over the last week then. A 75 minute RPM on Monday, lower body weights and Balance on Tuesday (followed by Jog Squad shopping at Shoe Clinic that night), a half hour run on Wednesday, Duck's lunch time RPM at The Terrace on Thursday, and a half hour on a treadmill on Friday morning followed by some ab and upper body work and a lunch time Balance.

Then there was today. The Moonshine 10km, around Moonshine Park in Upper Hutt. I spent yesterday hydrating, ate Minestrone from the Moosewood Cookbook for dinner (some of my best runs have been fueled by Minestrone lunches), got an early night...

Woke up at 6am and spent the morning, as usual, running to the bathroom. With apologies to those with weaker sensibilities and a desire to avoid all knowledge about my digestive system, I don't get the runner's runs when running races, because I've already evacuated everything, as it were, beforehand. The nerves to it to me every time.

At 8.30 I was in Northland picking up Sarah, and we arrived in plenty of time to pick up our registration packs and prepare for the start. Both Ingrids (runner and walker) were there, as was the English Karen, gym staff-member Emma, and a couple of the newer Squaddies.

This was a smaller event, and not chip timed. The weather promised to be warm, despite the lateness of the season. We got stuck between a large group of walkers who had positioned themselves at the front of the startline (with mountain buggies even), and it took a little while to weave our way through the plodders.

The first part of the course weaved its way around the boundary of the park. Running on grass around the edge of sports playing fields reminded some of us a little too much of school cross-country. However we all agreed that we felt ok at this point. None of us felt like we went out too hard. We were running fast, but no faster than we'd pushed ourselves on our training runs.

After a kilometre or so the track dipped down onto a zigzagging bush trail. We all agreed this was the best part of the race. We were in the shade, running on a firm dirt track, and maintaining a good pace. We were starting to settle into a rhythm.

And if that's where the story ended, then this would be a happy tale. Unfortunately we eventually had to exit the bush and run back out into the sun. Things started to get nasty! The worst part of the race for me came around the 20 minute mark, where we had to run up onto a high stopbank. The stopbank continued on straight and flat for an eternity. Psychologically it was the equivalent of running through the Mt Vic tunnel. No sense of making any progress. To make it worse, it was hot. Extremely hot

By the time I made it to the drinks station (which was apparently just before the 5km mark) I was feeling a familiar nausea. I walked the drink stop to ensure I got the water down properly, then jogged on again. I knew my pace had slowed, and I had already given up trying for a personal best. I now just wanted to finish.

The trail continued in the sun. Just before the turnaround I saw Sarah running back towards me. She wasn't that far ahead, which, given how slowly I knew I was running, really surprised me. I walked the turnaround, and then, battling extreme nausea that was sitting somewhere in my chest, I walk-ran the rest of the race. Finally I ran back to the top of the stop bank, not knowing whether I still had to run the bush track or the perimeter of the playing field. Two lovely older lady marshals told me that the finish line was close - just across the two fields. In fact, the finish line was only around 500 metres away.

I made it across the finishline in just over an hour. So much for scoffing that I thought I would easily do it under an hour. I wanted to do it in 55, 52 in my wildest dreams. I jogged slowly to the finish, smiling broadly for the official photographer, then sat down on the ground, surrounded by jog squadders, and begged someone to find me some Gatorade. I badly needed to vomit, and the feeling did not subside for a good half hour. Even after that I continued to have intermittent nausea. I can still feel the burn in my chest.

Amazingly there was no Gatorade, and the bananas contain potassium and would have made me feel even worse. I needed sodium, and I needed it quick. The answer came in an unusual form - free cans of Red Bull offered by rent-a-chicks who were more than welcome to take my photo. I was quite happy to sell myself to the corporation if it meant a free drink! The other good news, I won a $10 petrol voucher spot prize.

On analysis, everyone ran around 8 minutes slower than they'd expected. I wasn't more than a minute or so behind Sarah, who wasn't that far behind Karen. Sarah had to walk as well. So what went so badly? Why do I do well in training, and not in events? Walker Ingrid had the answer for me.

The only thing different for me about race day compared to training day is the early morning bowel issues. Put simply, it's likely that I'm getting dehydrated on race day mornings, leading to the nausea. Of course, the Addison's makes the dehydration even more of an issue, leading to even more salt loss and even more nausea. It has just occurred to me that, although my nose was a little runny for the first few kilometres, that soon stopped, and I wasn't sweating either.

So, apart from a good dose of sports psychology to stop me getting nervous, thereby preventing the bowel issues in the first place, if it turns out that I MUST spent the morning running to the bathroom, I'm going to invest in a good electrolyte sports drink to compensate. And I'm going to run another 10km event as soon as I can. In fact, I'm going to run the 10.6km Newtown-Bays loop as soon as I can. All of us can run a good, hard 10km. For varying reasons today wasn't that day for any of us. Frustrating, but a fact of life.

I will beat my event day issues. I NEED to beat my event day issues, if I'm ever going to run the Shoe Clinic half, which is my ULTIMATE running demon....

Oh, the other thing that made this event hard? No splits. There were no distance markers and the turn-around point was at more like 6.5 or 7km, not 5. And not knowing the course (and the map wasn't very clear), we had no way of knowing once we reached the stop bank that we were so close to the finish. All of us would have pushed on much harder from the turn-around had we known we were almost home.

It makes me realise how much more seriously I take this running business than I used to, when I start complaining about not being able to track my splits!

Oh boy. I got the sexy Addidas running jacket (a photo will now have to follow). Now I need a Garmin forerunner. Who ever said this running business was cheap?

Oh, and congratulations to my amazingly fit and fabulous mother-in-law, who turned 60 last year and at 5.08am this morning finished walking 100km to raise money as a team-member in the Oxfam trailwalk in Taupo. I think they started at 8am, so she did amazingly well, and deserves a good rest!

NaPoWriMo 14: Plunge

Plunge
What was Superman thinking
the first time he discovered
he could fly?

When he jumped off that
tall building was he
in fact thinking that today
was a good day to die?

How inconvenient then to
find yourself souring
not plunging.

How was the connection
between super power and
the power for good
first forged?

Did the weight
of responsibility settle on
iron shoulders like
kryptonite?

Or did it pubescent hormones
reason that saving the girl
might mean getting it behind the
gymnasium later that
night?

And anyway,
does saving the cheerleader
really save the world?

(Ok, so I'm really stretching the bounds of credibility with this one. I'll try to take the next poem a bit more seriously, honest. It's just that it's the weekend, the mid-NaPoWriMo fidgets are setting in, and I nearly vomited during today's 10km race, so I have to be forgiven for a certain lack of brevity).

NaPoWriMo13: Bluff

You send me a
txt from Bluff.
It's cold here,
you tell me.

You spent the
night rocking
in the van.
Trying to
keep warm.

You are 784
kilometres away.
Sitting on
Bluff Hill
looking across
Faveaux Strait.

You have been
reading about
shipwrecks.

The Success
was most
emphatically not
when it sank
in 1845.

The Ocean Chief
was set alight so
its crew could
chase gold.

Chance lot it's
on the beach in
Bluff Harbour.

Did you know?
You ask me.
State Highway 1
starts here.
Journeys end.
Journeys begin.

You are full of
facts today.
18958 kms
to London.

Still no closer
to home.

Friday, April 13, 2007

NaPoWriMo 12: Celluloid

I went a slightly different direction with this one to my last. I let myself use words this time around! I googled 'celluloid' and came across a wonderful website about New York on film. That got me thinking about the experience of travel, and of being a stranger in a strange land.

I'm still finding NaPoWriMo to be an interesting discipline. It both reveals a writer's weaknesses (their crutches, their bad habits, their weakness of form), and pushes them out on new adventures. When you are under pressure to publish every day you can't keep doing what you've always done.

The last couple of poems I have written have been stories about imaginary people rather than poems about my own life, or poem-as-therapy. It's a divide I'm particularly happy to cross, as I didn't want it to look like I have no imagination. Believe me - I have a very healthy imaginary life!

Celluloid
You got the little town blues
so you thought you’d take on the world.
Now you’re small whitebait
on the wrong side of the shark net.
The skyscrapers seem bigger
with no gorilla hanging off them.
Te Awamutu never aspired
to anything so grandiose.

You queued for an hour
to be jostled for fifteen minutes
somewhere in the stomach
cavity of a national icon but
you were more impressed when you
ordered a quarter-pounder in a
country where imperial measures
still actually mean something.

New York cabbies aren’t really gabby
and whole blocks of traffic
don’t really stop on queue
when you run out in pursuit of
a blonde woman who for just
one second you thought might
perhaps be the one true love
of your life but she just flashed
the rock on her ring finger at
you and walked off down 5th Avenue.

You thought you could live this
city through the split frames of
celluloid but reality has a habit
of being dirty and hostile to
strangers, particularly ones that
sound Australian but don’t respond
to muggings by smiling and
pulling out a real knife.

So you’ve decided to go back
home to your small town,
with its one traffic light.
Where people smile at
sheep jokes and myths are
told about whales and pianos.
Eccentric poets become
national icons and a hobbit
rules the Kingdom
of Hollywood.





NaPoWriMo 11: Breathless

We've had a sudden cold snap here in Wellington. Overnight our late summer turned into mid-winter. It's been so long since we had any serious rain that the downpour and accompaning Southerly gales kept me awake all night. At around 4.30am a car alarm went off, causing me to then lay awake even longer, wondering whether our car had been broken into (again). Thankfully Piglet was intact when I eventually made my way up to the road the next morning. I can't say the same for my poor frozen hands...

Oh, and our central heating was turned on for the first time this year, blew hot air for a minute, then sputtered out and has not worked again since. Thankfully we have some back-up heaters!

In any case, the artic blast got me thinking about mid-winter Christmases, and then other mid-winter activities, such as mid-winter swims. This was initially a much wordier work. I tried to par it back a bit to its barer essentials (no pun overtly intended).

Mid-winter
We are sitting on
the window seat
at the beach house
in towelling robes,
drinking Milo.

Outside the day is
sharp and hard,
light bouncing
off shards of grass.

Surf breaks on
beach like the
edge of a glacier.

Round hairless
forms assemble
on the foreshore.
A gathering of
goose pimples.

With a bracing cry
the pack turns
imaginary ice picks
to the tide.

You watch the
launching of
shivering waka.
Something stirs.

You throw off
human attire,
run barefoot and
buttocks bared,
plunge into doused
Scorching Bay.

Later you tell me
the shock of
impulse and elements
left you
breathless.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

NaPoWriMo 10: Hollow

This one was fun! I was throwing around the words "Hollow man" but nothing was really appealing me, so I googled "hollow" and came across this Wiki entry on hollows, soul devouring ghosts comparable to the vetala of Hindu mythology. from the Manga cartoon "Bleach".

I decided to write a rhyming poem, for probably the first time since primary school. This one is meant to be read loudly and dramatically in front of a camp fire!

The Hollows

When the night is dark
And the moon is red
And furry creatures
Burrow deep in their nests
The hollows come creeping, creeping.

When men venture out
On quests unwise
And souls cry out
To the empty skies
The hollows go feeding, feeding.

Beware the mask
That seeks to eat
That devours itself
With an empty need
The hollows won’t cease
No matter how you scream
Until your soul stops bleeding.

So if you go out
If journey you must
Be sure you travel
With a mortal you trust
And carry a sword
In case a fatal thrust
Is needed to send a hollow earthward

For all creatures that eat
Only in the night
Can never hope
Of earthly delights
And death will come
As blessed release
To those whose hearts are empty.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

NaPoWriMo 9: At First Blush

Ooh, this was fun. How to avoid the obvious temptation to descend into some soft love-obsessed whimsy. Some gentle ode to young infatuation perhaps? It made me want to write something hard and cynical instead!

In the end here is what presented itself to me this afternoon at my computer. I'm not going to say that I'm obsessed with human self-destruction or anything, but ....


Containment Failure

At first blush of
bacterium on skin
medical practitioners
gathered around to
palpitate and
speculate and
poke and prod and
puzzle.

When later the
blush became a
tomato tide of
multi-system
shut down a
doctor’s rounds of
contagion had already
sewn destruction through
every ward.

Sunday afternoon
visitors carried the
barest hint of
colour with them to
church meetings,
family dinners and
sports games.
By the time the
story was leaked
to the news there
was no one left
to tell it.

People in apartment
buildings carried
disease between floors.
Couriers made
deliveries across
city blocks and
airliners flew
contagion across
continents.

In the end the
human race was
felled not by
flood or
quake or
global warming
But by microbic
pestilence fuelled by
high density living
and the global
economy.

In 1000 years a
small tribe living
in a remote
river valley in the
Amazon will advance
sufficiently to
go out into the
wilderness.
They will discover
abandoned high rises
and empty tarmac,
the Easter Island
relics of modern
society and
someone will
ponder on
recursive patterns
and the history
of progress.

NaPoWriMo 8: Leather


Oops - blame Easter, or friends, or good times. Or perhaps there's no need to have an excuse for enjoying life rather than faithfully recording it onto paper. Besides, it wasn't that I hadn't written this poem, it's just that it was still in that wonderful amorphous state floating around in my head rather than sitting somewhere in written form. Whatever the angle, I don't feel I've been unfaithful to the NaPoWriMo concept - yet. When things get tough the tough perservere, so we will post a couple of catch-up poems.

The post today once again sent me wandering in wonderful directions (including a brief mental excursion back to my days of Hard House parties in sweaty gay nightclubs). However in the end I went with written memory. Not leather exactly, but suede.

My grandmother died when I was 13. I'm told I was a lot like her, but I was only just reaching an age where I might have been able to know her as a real person, so I'm relying on other's opinion. When I was 23 her husband, my grandfather, also passed away. Thereafter followed a horrid process of divying up the family posessions. Items of my grandmother's that I might otherwise have loved to have taken for myself disappeared into the hands of others.

Once everything was gone my mother and I stumbled upon Nana's jacket, somehow overlooked in the melee. I've worn it faithfully ever since, then though it's quite obvious from the photo above that it's falling apart and well beyond any hope of restoration.

Owning Memory
In my grandmother’s room
there was an oak dressing table.
possessed by the fragrance
of White Lilies eau de toilette.

In the centre drawer there was a
small round jewellery box that
played a lullaby when opened.
Next to the jewellery box there was
a round jar containing fat English
glass beads no longer strung.
A gold hat pin in the shape
of a rose sat on top.

In her lingerie drawer my grandmother
kept a leather bound diary of her
first trip to Sydney in the 1980s,
where she and my grandfather
watched a blue movie in their
hotel room.

When my grandmother died my
sister was given the jewellery box,
and my mother claimed the hat pin.
My aunt took the diary and
gave the beads to my cousin who
had them restrung and wore them
to my grandfather’s funeral
a full ten years later.

When the room was finally
empty of my grandmother’s
small amusements
I opened the door to the
wardrobe in the corner.

There between the polyester
house dresses and knitted
cardigans hung a brown
suede jacket bought on that
same trip to Sydney now
fashionable and still smelling
of White Lilies.





Monday, April 09, 2007

Magical Mystery Tour

Last night Nic and Leonie prepared a picnic, loaded us in the car, and took us off on a mystery adventure. I'm not going to tell you where we ended up, because it's our secret. Let's just say that we ended up somewhere very high, with an amazing view of the airport and coast.

We arrived about half an hour before sunset and drank bubbly and wine while watching the planes fly in and out in the twilight.

Lesson number one - it's extremely difficult to photograph a plane when it's taking off. They move very quickly.

Once again the beautiful Wellington evening prevailed. We live in one of the most beautiful cities on this planet, I'm sure.

It will be interesting to come back here some time when there's more of a wind and the planes are coming in from the South. Today the flying conditions must have been perfect. What a great day to be a pilot.


Thanks to Nic and Leonie for finding us such a stunning spot. I hope I will remember for a long time this as one of the most perfect evenings ever.

Easter Sunday Photos

As promised, some photos of our expedition to Hawkins Hill Radar Station. The photo above is taken at the top of a steep ascent, about 500 metres below the station. I'm sitting on an old power pole that at some point came loose from its rusty supports and topped down to fracture and hang over the edge of the hill. It was an absolutely stunning day. I'm not sure how often it is possible to sit at that elevation and feel not a breathe of wind. We were certainly extremely fortunate.

The city seemed minute below us, and as Nic commented, deceptively flat. All things are relative when you're this high up I guess.


The bulbous globe of the Radar Station behind us. I'm guessing the big concrete walls are there to protect the structure from the huge winds that must at times blow through here. Apparently the radar is used for airport safety systems. A woman walking past read the notice advising of this, and commented loudly: "Yeah right, spy satellites for use in the war against Iraq more like it". A cynic amongst us then...
The ostrich. I think this one had a particular fondness for Leonie. It followed her up and down the fenceline flapping its wings energetically.

Ostrich burgers for dinner?

The castle - encircled by huge high, ugly barbed wire fences. No landscaping whatsoever, and completely shut up when we were there. Two large dogs barked at us as we walked past, the only sign of life other than the odd goat (and the ostrich). I'm sure the views from inside are stunning, and I guess the structure will withstand any storm, but why build something so barren and ugly?

What did we do before photography? Probably spend more time enjoying the view I guess...

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: In the News

Until a couple of years ago my parents lived in a house in West Auckland that had unfortunately been built on a flood plain. When they moved there flooding was supposed to be a 50 year event, but climate change and subdivision upstream lead to floods being a much more frequent event.

Many years ago now I was 23, still living at home and dating Hamish, who lived with his own parents in Mt Eden. My much-loved Mini had just been written off by an insurance company after I was rear-ended in town. I had replaced it with a little banana-yellow Mitsubishi with brown velvet velour on the dashboard.

I spent the evening with Hamish, but around mid-night I decided it was time to go home. There was a huge storm over Auckland, and I drove home on roads covered with surface water. Once home I considered leaving my car up on the road, which had always been above the level of previous floods. However my new Mitsubushi leaked, so I decided instead to park it in the garage under the house.

The inevitable happened, and I woke at 2am to the sound of dirty brown stream water running past my bedroom window. Mum and Dad got out of bed and went outside to rescue the cars while I put my contact lenses in (without which I was blind). By the time I could see anything the water had risen to the point where Mum had clambered onto the roof of the Mitsubishi to avoid being washed away. Dad had somehow (and we still don't know how) managed to tie a rope around the car's bumper, attaching the other end to the fence. Without that the car, with Mum onboard, would have been washed away.

I called Civil Defense, my sister called emergency services. By the time the fire service arrived so had the news media. The next night Mum was the star of national television news. There she was, dressed in nothing more than a wet, thin cotton nighty. She was stuck on the roof of the car, the water washing up the windscreen. The camera showed a middle-aged and paunchy fireman dressed only in skimpy Jockey's underwear. He made his way through the flood. tied another rope between the car and the road, helped my mother down and escorted her to safety.

Drama over, I prepared to go back to bed. However the rescuing was not over. Despite my most fervant protests I too was escorted into the freezing water, and taken to 'safety' roadside.

Poor Mum. She was interviewed from the front passenger seat of a neighbour's car, cold, shaking and in shock, and trying to protect her modesty. And that wasn't the end of it. A year or so later we were watching one of those reality television disaster shows, and there she was again. No one had bothered to contact us to let us know they would be reusing the footage.

Our family has had ongoing brushes with the media over the years. My sister featured when she sold a rare 5c piece on auction site Trademe. I appeared on several occasions in the local community paper whilst at school. However Mum is the true star of the family, however much she wishes she weren't. It raises some interesting questions about consent, questions that have certainly been debated in New Zealand. One couple, filmed after a crash caused because one of them had been drinking, took the media company that had used the footage to court. The couple lost the case, with public interest being deemed to be of greater importance than their own perceived right to privacy. It's an interesting issue, and I'm not coming down on either side. However I do think it's telling that no one ever asked Mum whether she wanted to be on television in her nightie.

Recipe for an Easter Sunday

First off, while the weather is still grey and muggy, lie in bed with a good book. In this case I recommend Lance Armstrong's highly inspirational autobiography. Never has an autobiography provoked such an extreme range of emotions - from tension to tears, to laughter, tears and exhileration.

When the rumbling stomach over-rides the desire to stay in bed, assemble a fry-up of eggs, bacon, bread, grilled tomatoes, hash browns and kransky sausages. Add hot cross buns if desired.

By this time the weather will have turned into a warm, still autumn "Wellington on a good... " day. Abandon your plans to check out the new Dowse. Instead bribe husbands with promises of icecream, drive up to the Brooklyn wind turbine, and then walk all the way to the Hawkins radar station. Stop on the way to photograph a curious ostrich and abizarre castle, and to bark back at big, not so scarey dogs. Be genuinely freaked out by the unworldliness of the radar station itself. Lust after mountain bike trails leading off into places unknown. Wish you'd remembered to bring bubbly, admire the flat piece of land above the radar station and picture it as a dance party location. Cast longing gazes at the jewel of the South Island rising majestically in the not-so-far-away distance.

When all you have done all of that, return to the car. Stop off at the dairy for icecream. Then go home and prepare for an evening of secret adventures, courtesy of Nic and Leonie.

Photos and further adventure updates to come...

Saturday, April 07, 2007

NaPoWriMo 7: Kneel

A few years ago a colleague and I were invited to another colleague's wedding. We knew this young woman was a devout Christian. She made no secret of her faith and had once prayed for me at work (something I found very disconcerting). However we did not realise the true extent of her Evangelical faith. We found ourselves in a huge auditorium, with all the latest AV gear. The guests all sang and waved their arms in the air. The ceremony itself did not seem to be about wedding a young couple, but about committing them to God. Even worse, there was an overwhelming consumerist edge to the faith. If you pledge yourself to God then God will give you money. That was about the extent of it. And hundreds of young, white, wealthy suburban people found the message irresistable.

I find this particular vein of religion repugnant. My colleague and I didn't, as in this poem, leave the ceremony early, but we sure as heck got out of there as quickly as we could. Our relationship with our workmate was never quite the same!

In the House of the Lord
The bride is swaying on
stage next to her groom
but the good Lord
is standing between them.
In the audience the guests
are wailing and singing and
raising their hands in
ecstatic salutation.
Amen, for God is good
and they close their eyes
and offer opened chests
so that the Lord might
reach over and turn their
sinners’ hearts to
gold (or possibly salt,
for who can predict
salvation at a time
like this)?

The other blonde and I
exchange glances.
We heathens stand
as if to be cut down,
stricken by the rude devotion
of a woman whom
we have known only
as a colleague with a
pastel demeanour.
Now her fervour
drips before us artery
red as she marries herself
to man and religion.

They kneel before
the man and wife.
and God watches two
disbelievers shuffling
hurriedly for the exit.
Turn left for eternity
right for normality.
The devil is in
the choice.


NaPoWriMo 6: Unspoken

Soon after I started posting to Poetry Thursday one of the prompts involved writing about things we could never say. I considered posting the poem I wrote at that time for this NaPoWriMo prompt. However it is still too personal, still has the potential to hurt some people close to me, and besides that, is overly concerned with declaration and not concerned enough with quality. Not that lack of quality worries me in respect to that particular poem. It was more about 'getting stuff out' than setting the poetry community alight with the skill of my composition!

So today I instead decided to rediscover the love of Haiku I had in primary school. I'd forgotten how much I loved the economy of words, the simplicity of counting syllables. Wiki says that traditional Japanese Haiku contains one complete statement, and also tends to refer to the seasons. Nature is creeping into my poetry again, and today is no different. I'm continuing the theme I picked up in Yield. Here's something I thew together quickly, on this gorgeous sunny Easter weekend Saturday...

Unspoken
Autumn creeps southward.
Summer desire unspoken
Withers into earth.

Friday, April 06, 2007

NaPoWriMo5: Broken Thread

It has been a beautiful autumn day here in Wellington. Nic, Leonie and I took our bikes out for a very short, but extremely pleasant cruise around the Miramar Peninsula. I followed that up with a walk around the Southern Coast to Red Rocks and back. There was a party going on at one of the baches, and men in four wheel drives loaded up with beer were powering along the gravel road. Three young boys on mountain bikes raced down gravel hillsides, falling off, dusting themselves off, and getting back up again. In a quiet little outcropping of rocks I loaded my arms full of paua shells to keep in the bathroom.

I needed some quiet time to play with the theme of broken threads in my mind. There were so many directions to take this prompt, and it was difficult to decide where to go. It took a little solitude to find my way. There's a real art to finding somewhere to sit on the coast. Do I choose the rock where the water grows still and dark in its depth, or do I sit somewhere where the tide surges in, washing great growths of kelp that may hide seals in their midst?

As I walked today's poem slowly wrote itself. I stirred it around while watching the Bluebridge, an Interislander and a freight ship passing by. I stopped at the place where psytrance parties are held each summer, and where last year a body washed up with its hands removed.

The Southern Coast was a bustling place today, full of vehicles, cyclists, runners, divers and walkers. However I was still able to find a fullness of peace on the edge of the surging tides, and I returned home renewed.

Broken Thread
The spider's web
outside the kitchen
window caught the
worst of last night's
Southerly Storm.
Drops of rain still
cling to torn strands
as frantic rescue
operations are
initiated.

You are still in bed,
your back turned to
me this morning in
symbollic admonition.
The broken threads
of our own web
still hanging limply
in the palour of
dawn.

And as always
I will act the spider,
effect repairs,
spin what is now
unwoven.





Thursday, April 05, 2007

I need to travel more

I don't count standing at the door of the airplane looking out at Egypt as having visited there...



create your own visited country map

Endurance

This week I've been learning about listening to my body, and trying to determine the subtle difference between stopping because I need to, and stopping because I can't be bothered.

Following Saturday's lacklustre effort I had pretty much decided that this should be an easy week of training. My session with Duck on Monday morning confirmed that decision for me. Once again I experienced that sensation that the energy levels just weren't quite where they should be.

Having said that, Duck did make me work pretty hard. We started off by four rounds of a circuit she set up in a corner of the weights floor of Xtreme. This is what she had me do:

  • 30 seconds of full pressups
  • 30 seconds of chest press
  • 30 seconds of bentover row
  • 30 seconds of shoulder raises
  • 30 seconds of tricep dips
  • 30 seconds of bicep curls
During each circuit I had to go straight from one exercise to the next without a break. I'm used to this kind of session, and I usually enjoy them, but by the end of the first round I was already feeling the pain. Duck commented that she'd expected me to have more muscle endurance, and I had to agree. This was harder than it should have been.

Nevertheless, we continued with the next three rounds, taking a slightly longer rest between each, and dropping down to a lighter weight for the chest press and shoulder raises when the first weight started to get too much.

Halfway through I asked Duck what weight I was using for the bentover row, and she told me it was 20kg. Now, 20kg isn't excessive, but this looked like a much heavier barbell than that, and it was more difficult to lift than I would have expected as well. It was only afterwards, when Duck was putting the weights away, that she realised she'd picked up 27.5kg by mistake. Now that explained a few things!

Next it was upstairs, where I had to do a series of sprints across the floor, dropping to do an increasing number of pressups at each end of the room. After stopping to allow my hot cross bun breakfast to move back down into my stomach (it's a four floor sprint down the stairs to the bathroom if I need to vomit), we followed that up with another set of sprints, this time dropping to do knee drives. As I lay there on my back at the end of the exercise, gasping for breath and grimacing in pain, I reflected that this may well have just proven to be the most difficult thing Duck had ever asked me to do.

Just enough time to catch my breath, and then I was up and sprinting again, this time dropping to a hover. Now things are really bad when you end up relieved to be dropping to a hover!

Monday night's run wasn't the joyeous pushing-of-the-boundaries my runs of the last couple of weeks have been either. We ran up Taranaki Street, down Buckle, around the Basin and into the Mt Victoria tunnel. As we ran through the tunnel the speedies pulled slightly ahead, and I didn't fight to keep up. Mt Victoria was horrific - hot, stuffy, smelly and noisy. Halfway through I had to fight down the claustrophobia, look forward and focus on getting the heck out of there.

From there it was past the Velodrome, and in the cool air I began to slowly catch up with the speedies. However it took me forever to cross the road, and they disappeared off ahead of me, not to be seen again. Rachel, another of the Les Mills staff, caught up with me and we raced each other all of the way back to Courtney Place.

The climb up over the hill to Newtown was, as always, horrid, but from there I managed to get into a good, steady pace. Now the speedies were gone I decided to focus on maintaining the sort of speed I would usually have to use to run with them, but on my own. This called for both physical and mental endurance, on a day when I already felt there was slightly less than usual in the tank. However I'm pleased to say I managed it, even on the climb up Ellis Street and the rollercoaster along Austin. I kept up the momentum all the way back to the gym, and although it was frustrating to return behind the others, I felt satisfied with my personal effort.

On Tuesday I took some time out to go to Body Balance, and then the Welly massive turned up enmasse for Duck's first Tuesday RPM class. There was a reasonable amount of noise, a lot of sweat, and some very good instruction by the new instructoress. Even better, there were burgers to follow. Poor Hamish wasn't quite sure what had hit him, and I'm not sure whether he's coming back, but the rest of us had a blast.

Autumn finally decided to arrive on Wednesday. Sarah and I spent the day emailing backwards and forwards, whining about the rain and the cold, and having to run 2.4km in the rain and the cold. My body went into hybernation mode, and I wanted nothing more than to be tucked up under a blanket on the sofa with a good book. However, knowing that the latest Jog Squadders have proven to be rain phobics, and wanting to prove outselves hardcore, Sarah and I headed up to Xtreme as scheduled. A bit of girly dress-trying-on enroute helped out.

Those of us hard core squadders jogged off to the fitness test of doom. It was cool, but the rain had stopped and the wind was non-existent. We amused ourselves by jumping in puddles and complaining about our running shoes getting wet. And then things went odd in Pip world.

It wasn't that I couldnt' run 2.4km. It was more that I got to the quarter turnaround point, and realised that I didn't WANT to run 2.4km. So I got to the end of the first lap in under 5 minutes, with Duck and Emma screaming at me that I was doing well and to keep going, and I just stopped. They continued screaming, and I continued to calmly refuse to go any further.

Of course I kicked myself afterwards, but that didn't stop me from pulling out when the rest of the squad headed off towards Hawker Street. I headed back to the gym, got on a bus, and headed home. So what was up? Was I being lazy, or did I genuinely need the break? My knees were a little achy, my legs were sore, I had pushed it hard for the last couple of weeks, but did I really need to stop?

The question will remain unanswered. However the question of whether I could increase my 2.4km time did not remain unanswered. I went to bed knowing I was going to get up today and run. All morning at work the goal was there at the front of my mind. And at lunchtime I left work, got changed, jogged gently around the waterfront, and cut another 30 seconds off my 2.4km time. 30 seconds improvement in under a month. From 12.36 minutes a year ago to 10.34 today.

Which isn't to say that it was easy, or that it was pretty. I stopped for a few minutes at the startline, trying to calm my breath, and trying to psyche myself up. Young girls on their Easter break watched me quizzically. Suddenly I got up the nerve, pressed go, and floored it past Frank Kitts.

I went out hard. By the time I reached the turnaround on the first lap I was already fighting the urge to stop. It was all so tempting to just pull out and write it off as a sore leg day, or a stitch day, or just an 'I don't actually need to do this' day. But I knew I'd feel even worse if I stopped. I knew I'd feel like a quitter. So I kept going. And I made it to the 1.2km mark in 4.52.

I know I slowed after that, but I also know I managed to keep a hold on the mental dialogue and to keep putting one foot in front of the other. By the time I made it onto the bridge between the wharf and Frank Kitts I could see from my stop watch that I could make it to the finish in under 11 minutes. I didn't care how much under 11, I just wanted to break that barrier.

I can honestly say that there was no extra sprint to the finish, because I was already sprinting at full tilt, and there was no more to give. I crossed the finish in 10.34 and, despite knowing I needed to walk it out, I instead sat as quickly as possible down on the concrete beside the harbour. It took absolutely forever to get my breath back, and it was a good couple of minutes before I could drink from the fountain next to me. My chest and throat were burning, and continued to burn for at least ten minutes. I spent the rest of the afternoon coughing, then my nose started to itch. I'm fighting off something that I think wants to be a headcold. I obviously pushed my body to its absolute limit today, and my immune system is holding up its hands in surrender.

But I can still improve. If I can hold my pace for longer I can improve my time over the second lap. I think I can still knock perhaps another 15 seconds off before I start to hit my maximum capacity. It's something to work on, in any case.

So let's pause for a moment and look at where I'm at. I haven't jumped on the scales this week, but my clothes are all pre-half marathon loose again. However the biggest difference over the last month has been in the amount of muscle I've gained. My legs are remarkably hard to the touch. I'm developing pecs that are giving the false impression of a bust again. I have shoulders. My butt is a solid mass of muscle. And, as I discovered this week, all this ab work has led to me developing a visible V of muscle in the Iliac Crest area. Could I possibly end up being ripped?

I'm stronger, I'm faster, I have endurance. I'm really looking foward to running the 10km event in just over a week, and I'm looking forward to half marathon training. Let's make the most of this week's easy training schedule, because it'll be straight into half marathon prep after that, and the constant leg pain situation isn't going to get any better any time soon!

NaPoWriMo 4: Yield

Four days in and I'm starting to think about poetic form. I think that in the next few days I might experiment with a few different ways of writing, rather than doing what I've always done. All the same, I quite like today's effort, even if it is similar in style to others I have written before. It's autumn here, and I've been thinking about the new chill in the air, and about how the warmth of human skin becomes even more desirable when the temperatures cool. I have also been thinking about love and longing, and this poem reflects all of these themes.

Yield
Yield to me.
Outside the leaves of
English trees far from
home are shrivelling and
journeying to the ground.
Look once in my direction,
soften those limbs so
tired from combat and
let them wind around
my welcoming skin.
You have run so far
and found no shelter.
Now it is autumn in
this place of hill and
scrub and it is time
for you to surrender.
Give in to those of
us who have waited
while you struggled,
who have whispered
words of love into
ears that would listen
only to cries in battle.
It is time to stop chasing
after strength and glory.
Instead choose quiet
softness and warm
affection and the
embrace of the
one who knows that
the brash defiance of
summer must end.



Wednesday, April 04, 2007

NaPoWriMo 3: Perennial

Three poems into NaPoWriMo, and a prompt a day is turning out to be an interesting discipline. It's hard to find enough time to write a poem every day. I find myself composing at my desk, when I should be working. Plus I find that, with the need to meet a daily deadline, that quality is being sacrificed for consistency. Still, I think that in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. There's are benefits in being forced to write every day, and once the wheat is sorted from the chaff something worthwhile may well surface.

Today's prompt was especially difficult. I thought about writing about my garden and the complicated relationship we share, but I have written quite a bit about the earth around this home of mine, and I wanted to take a different approach.

The tsunami in the Solomons has been in the media here a bit, and other recent events in my life have reminded me that nothing is certain, and nothing can be taken for granted. I ended up using the prompt, not in its botanical sense, but in the sense of everything being continuous and ongoing. I don't think this is a particularly good poem, but I wanted to try something a little more different, a little more in the form of prose, and a bit stream-of-consciousish.

Perennial
A man visiting his elderly parents on a remote Pacific Island for the first time in 18 years has died,
swept away by a tsunami.
Another man is knocked off his bike on his way to work and is seriously injured, future prognosis unknown.
His wife is expecting their second child.
But everyone thinks they are perennial.
We go on talking about that about one day in the future
when we have a family of our own,
when we own our first home,
when we find our dream job,
when we lose those three kilos,
when we have enough time,
when we have more money.
Perhaps everyone should follow the example
of Buddhists and
meditate on the end of things (whether near or far in the future)
instead.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

NaPoWriMo 2: Spiral


Spiral
The ponga tree outside my
bedroom window has
given birth to a new frond.
When uncurled its new
skin is emerald green and
edged with soft brown fur.
From today I will watch
this tiny soft promise of
life unfurl, extend its
fingers to the light.
Its backbone will grow
strong enough to support
leaves cut out like
chains of paper snowflakes.
It will block the sun
through my window as it
arches towards the sky.
This tiny spiral I reach
up to and cup in my hand
contains larger beginnings
and endings in its tightly
wound and supple limb.
Its greatness can not
be measured by
assessment of its
outer circle alone.