nov 7/RUN

6.2 miles
Hidden Falls loop*
33 degrees

*south on river road trail/under ford bridge/up to Wabun/over ford bridge/continue south on the east river road trail/above Hidden Falls/cross over to the Highland Bridge (the old ford plant site)/north on trail/cross back over to east river trail/under Ford bridge/across Ford bridge/north on west river road

A 10k without stopping. Hooray! Completing a loop I’ve wanted to try for a few weeks. Double hooray!! Today it wasn’t bright blue, or gray, but sepia-toned. Subdued, weathered. Lots of light brown and brownish-orange leaves on the trees and the ground. Colder. I wore some of my winter layers: pink-hooded jacket, winter running tights, black winter vest, gloves. I felt good. My left kneecap shifted a bit about 5 minutes into the run. Maybe not as much? After the run, it’s a little stiff, but not too bad. A great run. I love this colder weather.

Before heading out for my run, I wrote the following:

The theme for November is gray, inspired by Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem “The Crazy Woman” and the line, And sing a song of gray. I came across a reference to gray hair and getting rid of it this morning and it immediately made me think of a commercial I remember watching as a kid. In 1980, I was six.

I’m pretty sure I heard this commercial way before the original song from the musical South Pacific, “I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Out of My Hair.” Also, when looking up this commercial on YouTube, I found three versions, 1980 (above), 1983, and 1985. It’s fascinating to see the evolution to working girl/power woman.

For the record, I like my gray hair. I have a lot of it. And I don’t want to get rid of it. I don’t mind being old. Okay, not totally true. I mind the aches and pains, the witnessing of more loved ones dying, the gradual breaking down of my body. I’m not sure if I always embraced old age, but I know that a passage from Bernice Johnson Reagon’s “Coalition Politics: Turning the Century,” has had a huge impact on me. I love this essay. I devoted a whole chapter of my dissertation to her concepts of home and coalition, and I taught her words many times in my feminist theory classes. Here’s the passage that I’m thinking about in terms of old age and survival:

None of this matters at all very much is you die tomorrow—that wouldn’t even be cute. It only matters if you make a commitment to be around for another fifty more years. There are some grey haired women I see running around occasionally, and we have to talk to those folks about how come they didn’t commit suicide forty years ago. Don’t take everything they say because some of the stuff they gave up to stay around ain’t worth considering. But be sure you get on your agenda some old people and try to figure out what it will be like if you are raging radical fifty years from today.

Think about yourself that way. What would you be like if you had white hair and had not give up your principles?

Coalition Politics: Turning the Century” / Bernice Johnson Reagon, and here’s an easier-for-me-to-read pdf of the essay.

These words above, the whole essay actually, are important to read and digest as I anticipate tomorrow’s midterm elections. They could be bad.

I thought about grey hair (I like spelling it grey too, which is more common outside of the US. Why? Not sure. I also like writing European 7s) and getting older and being able to endure and survive. Suddenly I understood Brooks’ poem in a different way. I’ve always been drawn to it because I love November and gray, colder, barer days. I imagined this crazy woman as literally singing in November, which is what I like to do (and terribly too — as Brooks’ line continues in the next verse). But, Brooks is talking about an old woman who has gray hair, and her song of gray is the song of a woman who has managed to survive to old age. Duh. This interpretation seems obvious to me now, but I was hung up on the gray, early winter days of November and my love of them. Managing to still be around when you’re old is not easy. Both my mom and Scott’s mom weren’t able to do it — my mom dead at 67, Scott’s at 74. That’s too young. And to be able to sing about it? To me, that feels like a real accomplishment. To live to your 80s is a lot about luck and managing to avoid cancer or car accidents or any number of calamities. But some of it, I hope, is about how you take care of yourself and whether or not you embrace a longer view. When I think about what my goals are for running, this is a big one: I want to be running in my 70s. That’s my long view. I want to do what it takes to keep me healthy and able to run for several more decades. And, if I can’t run, at least walking along the gorge.

As I ran back across the Ford bridge, I was still thinking about old age and running and how completing a long run might serve as a metaphor for living a long life. In the past, I’ve thought about this in terms of enduring and pushing through pain and bad thoughts (I can’t do this, it’s too hard, I want to stop) by keeping moving, putting one foot in front of the other. Whatever bad thoughts/feelings I’m having almost always pass within a few minutes. Today, I thought about it in terms of a phrase I heard several times when I watched the Ironman World Championships a few weeks ago: burning a match. One woman was going out too fast and burning a match. Another woman looked like she was feeling good and had to decide if she wanted to burn a match now and probably pay for it later. And yet another woman — Daniela Ryf, maybe the GOAT of Ironman — was burning several matches to catch up to other racers. Not sure what to do with this phrase, but it popped into my head as I ran.

an aside: 2 other running phrases I often encounter: the wheels come off (when your race falls apart, when your body stops working) and go out there and rip it (run as fast as you can).

The idea of burning a match and endurance and old age makes me think of 2 poems: Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into the Dark Night” and Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “First Fig.”

Here’s the first verse from the Dylan Thomas:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And here’s the entire Millay poem:

First Fig/ Edna St. Vincent Millay

My candle burns at both ends;
    It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
    It gives a lovely light!

I don’t like the Dylan Thomas poem, and I can’t relate to the Milay’s candle burning at both ends. I should say more about what I mean, but that would take more time than I have right now. Maybe in a vague way, my dislike of both of these poems has something to do with my love of gray?

one more thing: I just realized that Dylan Thomas’ poem is in villanelle form, which I was just writing about in my reconstructed post for November 1st. I need to spend some time reviewing poetic forms!