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Journal Cover Collage by Chris

A not uncommon conversation for me over the years:  What are you going to do with your journals when you die, or before you die?  What instructions will you leave for whether or not they can be read, by whom, when, what can be shared?  Or will you destroy them all at some point?

A poet friend records current events and notable weather in her journals, because she plans to leave them to be read and she figures that’s what people will want to know about — what was happening in the world, not in her head.

Which is what my journals are full of.  There’s some recounting of events, but much of it is I’m anxious, I’m worried, I’m upset. . . blah, blah, blah.  Another poet friend admits the same.  “My journals are blah, blah, blah over and over.”  Not that the blah isn’t important, it is to us, that’s why we’re writing it.  But it probably would be boring to most other people, and would paint a false picture, anyway.

When my mood is mostly even and good I don’t journal much, I do it when I’m confused, when something is upsetting me and I need to figure it out.  I write in my journal when I’m anxious because the act of getting worrisome thoughts on paper loosens their uncomfortable grip a bit.  I’m honest in my journals about all the ways I’m quirky and irritable and over think the shit out of way too much.

So do I want anyone to read all of that?  Would anyone want to?  I’m talking serious numbers of journals — 82, including my blue plastic bound Ponytail Dear Diary with a brass lock (key long gone) from grade school.

Jon brought me three of Chris’s journals last week.  He wondered if I wanted to read them. He doesn’t want to right now, though he wants to keep the journals.  Do I want to read them?  Should I?  I’ve peeked in to them and so far haven’t read anything that I didn’t hear Chris talk about or haven’t read in her essays.  Chris didn’t hide her feelings and worries and struggles.  I loved that about her, her honesty about all of life, the joy and the hard road of living with metastatic cancer.

Chris took journaling classes in her last years, and in one she made a cover for the journal she was using.  It’s beautiful.  Right now it’s at the top of the journal stack on the side of my desk.  I love looking at it.  I don’t know if I’ll read it.


Extreme Running, Extraordinary Man

Eddie Izzard

On Sunday I ran the NYC Half Marathon.  I was delighted with my finish — 1:57:46, more than four minutes to spare to make my goal of 2:02, because that’s the time I needed to qualify to run again next year, or to run the NYC Marathon.  But I’m pretty certain I’m not going to do another marathon.  All along I said the marathon I did was just to have done one, to cross something off my bucket list (it’s really the only thing I’ve put on my bucket list).  But I got such a high from it, especially when I came off the Queensboro Bridge and turned up 1st Avenue, the waves of people running as far as I could see in front of me, the crowds along the sides of the road cheering, the soaring, beat-heavy pop music pulsing through my ear buds.  Maybe I’d do it again?

Nope.  Sunday’s half marathon was just as fun, gave me just as much of a high, and was only half as hard.  So I think I’ll be sticking with halfs.

But how about 43 marathons in 51 days?  Or 27 in 27?   Do you know Eddie Izzard? He’s a very funny man and amazingly determined and he’s done that many marathons.  “A 54-year-old cross-dressing comedian with a middle-aged paunch, who smokes and drinks, Eddie Izzard is hardly what you’d call an athlete,” as the Daily Mail says.

David and I saw Eddie Izzard perform when we were in London last month.  He was wrapping up a three-year tour with shows in his hometown.  Even though we could only understand about half of what he said — he talked fast and with a serious British accent — we laughed almost nonstop and are still repeating lines and schticks from the show and cracking ourselves up.

It was reading more about Izzard after that show that we learned he had run 43 marathons in 51 days in 2009, running across the UK to raise money for Sport Relief, a charity that supports vulnerable populations in the UK and poor countries around the world.  To get ready for those marathons (not actual races, but running 26.2 miles each day), Izzard did only five weeks of training.

Sunday, when I ran the NYC Half, Izzard had just finished running 27 marathons in 27 days across South Africa, this time in honor of Nelson Mandela but also to again raise money for Sport Relief — over £1.35 million in fact.  This time his training consisted of a few runs of 10 to 15 miles.

How does he do it?  He credits coming out as a cross dresser, which boosted rather than decreased his fan base, with giving him the determination he needs to do difficult things. ‘”Walking out of the door wearing heels and make-up was so hard. But it prepared me for everything else difficult I’ve ever done,” he said.  Izzard calls himself an “action transvestite.”

And physically he didn’t try to run the marathons too fast, at a 12 to 13 minute mile pace, using a lot of slow jogging and steady walking to minimize the impact on his body.  Every night he spent an hour in an ice bath and he kept his toenails cut to the quick so they wouldn’t bang up against his shoes (those of you who’ve run marathons or halfs will understand that — my toenails hurt more than anything else after the marathon I ran).

Still, 707 miles in 27 days?  Oh, and he missed a day because he was sick and had to go to the hospital.  I missed a day of my training for this half marathon because I was sick and just let my long run for that week go.  What did Eddie do?  He did a double marathon on his last day — 52.4 miles.  In a day!  What a man.

The Question




The Question

Hands raised palms out.
Hands clutched around a cupboard key.
Hands raised in anger, trembling.
Hands holding hands.
Hands raised in triumph at the end of a race.
Hands stirring a pot of stew.
Hands raised in surrender after a long argument.
Hands washed in a kitchen sink.
Hands raised in greeting to a stranger on the porch.
Hands resting on a crocheted afghan.
Hands raised to throw a whiffle ball to a child.
Hands balled to fists behind a back.
Hands raised to shoot the last bullet from the last gun.
Hands folding a tea towel.
Hands raised to catch a tossed packet of biscuits.
Hands open, up, fingers wide.
Hands raised in answer.

The Power of Ten


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What is it about the years divisible by ten?  All the milestone birthdays are in increments of ten — people especially note turning 30 or 40, 50 or 60.  Money rolls out in increments of ten.  We celebrate anniversaries of major events in tens — marriages, assassinations, great scientific achievements, disasters.  Pretty much everything would be counted in tens if we used the metric system like the rest of the world.  Ten means starting again, because that second digit comes in, the need to go back to the first finger to continue keeping track.

I’m thinking about this because in May it will be ten years since Eric died, and right now it’s ten years since Eric began to be really sick, though we didn’t realize yet that he was dying.

Dawn has crept further and further into the night and now I’m waking up many mornings with light already in the sky, after months of being up for hours in the dark.  Birdsong comes along with the light, the beginning chatter of birds awakening to the next season, starting to build nests and call to each other to mate and start the whole cycle of birth and death again.  The rise in morning birdsong is burned into my psyche as signifying the rise in Eric’s cancer.  Birdsong = Impending Death.

Not very spring-like.  But there it is, the twittering of purple finches and melodic call of a robin and the chink of red-winged blackbirds.  I wrote a poem about it this morning, one of many in a long line of poems about what spring birdsong means to me now (like the first poem in The Truth About Death, which I posted here around this time last year).

But there’s a twist this year.  I also made a collage.  Does that have anything to do with the tenth anniversary of Eric’s illness and death?  Or is it simply the process of aging and getting better at giving myself permission to do things because I want to, because I have an urge to create in a different way, because I care less and less what it means and just want to do it.

I’m  signing up for a drawing class.  Maybe next I’ll draw the birds.