Tuesday, December 6, 2011

In Common

If I run long enough, my brain can cease its banter, and this is the main reason I believe I prefer running what some may consider ridiculously long distances. Though these days, marathon training is common. To be running long you must be doing ultras. Preferably in a desert, on a mountain populated with dangerous wild animals, naked, or perhaps all three.

This past weekend I took some time off. Not just in the sense of "I am not scheduled to work but I plan to cram in road trips, constant emailing, and/or messed up fits of sleep in a desperate state of hurry up because work starts again soon." Nope, this was a slow weekend, like summer in Wisconsin when the locusts buzz and it is so hot out the candles melt. Not that it ever gets anything like hot here, but it was like that. Easy going. This felt essential after the image and odor of maggots and bed bugs, the despair of drug and alcohol-ruined bodies, the pressing in of grief, and disease too far gone. I am referring to work, not a bad hotel at which I recently stayed nor an overly dramatic TV show.

A run, like today, in the woods, can quiet my mind. My daughter helped as my partner. I listened to her voice, her stories of German class (cooking Kartoffeln) and culinary class (making pastry for apple pizza). Come to think of it, there is a lot of cooking going on at school. We ran without speaking much of the time. As with a good friend, we can talk. Or not.

Beethoven can also quiet my mind. It doesn't have to be Beethoven but he does come to mind as I have been playing him in recent days. It could be Bach, Poulenc, Chopin or that ancient book of Christmas Carols with lovely settings of traditional and lesser known European music of the season that I inherited from my parents. Even listening to Handel's Messiah, which I am allowed to do from Dec 1-31 only (an unwritten law in my house) quiets my mind.

Making soup ceases the brain banter as well. I got so empty in my thoughts the other day that I nearly chopped off my thumb. It took 24 hours before it stopped oozing. Thankfully I noticed, and for a moment I just stared with mindful interest at the chunk of that useful digit so silently and painlessly missing. I may be exaggerating a little, but it will definitely leave a little scar to remind me. For the record, I did not contaminate the soup, and the soup got rave reviews. And I was so calm about the whole thing that my kid sitting across from me studying when it happened never even noticed. Though the fact is you could be standing there on fire and it could go unnoticed by your children. Love them.

A quiet mind. This is what long runs, Beethoven and making soup have in common.

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