As I ran, I listened to songs on my mp3 player and spent some time reflecting on how different it is to run to music. As Pam said on The Office about her new ipod, “This’ll really change the way I work out.”
Back when Alan and I trained for the marathon, logging incredible numbers of hours on the “Laugh More” trail (it’s the Lafayette-Moraga trail, which I reduced to its first syllables to make it seem more friendly), we did not have mp3 players. We had been discouraged by running with CD players because they always skip, even the ones that promise no skipping. Moreover, they’re huge. So we would chat and then sometimes just go long periods without saying anything.
And while I ran, I daydreamed. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gold-medaled in Olympic events I’ve never even tried. Or worked with Rick Springfield to design the house whose floorplans I drew back in junior high, with the custom-built “kissing room.” Or saved someone’s life by quick-thinking. Or befriended an elderly person who unbeknownst to me turned out to be incredibly rich and without children or other heirs.
Or I’d think about story plots and reason out dialogue. The rhythm of my breathing and my footfalls became part of my trance, and sometimes I’d experience floating above my shoes, as if my body had been reduced to nothing but my hovering lungs. I get nostalgic thinking about that. It was fairly meditative.
Now, fast-forward to me enveloped in music. I feel that running is so much easier, so much quickly dispensed-with. But in the spaces between songs… oy. All of a sudden I hear my labored breathing and my clunky sounds on the pavement. But then the next song starts again and I’m blissfully unaware that I’m working hard.
So… I’m of two minds. I’ve lost a lovely, in-touch-with-my-body, meditative activity – but in return I’ve found a way to jam through my exercise hardly aware of it.
After my run, I went up and down the stairs of the Cleveland Cascade (pictured) twice, just to push myself a little harder. I walked it, drinking from the water bottle I’d grabbed from my car after I finished.
And the third element of my exercise was mental. I stood on the grass near my car and contemplated the trees, looking up at how the sky shone through the foliage. All through my run, I had been drizzled on by the light rain, and the sky was a very pale grey.
[Someone just sent around an email of great first lines of novels, and one read something like, “The sky was the color of television, when you’re on a dead station.” I thought of that line while I looked.]
The point is, I did the thing that I did a post or two ago, where I try to make the tree recede and the sky come forward, exchanging the foreground and the background. I love doing that.
And I had just assigned it to my critical thinking students. There’s a great essay called “The Innocent Eye” by artist Dorr Bothwell in our textbook Thinking for Yourself, about watching the spaces between dancers, hearing the silence between notes of music. Didn’t Miles Davis say it’s the space between the notes that counts? And I think the book Shoeless Joe talked about watching the patterns in the outfield when players shifted to negotiate with a hit.
Anyway, I had asked my students to just keep their eyes open over the next few days and jot down a few instances of exchanging positive and negative space. And I thought it was important for me to keep doing it too.
So I looked at that tree and looked and let it look back.
Next time, I’m going to run without the player, but in case you’re interested in my playlist today:
1. “Daria” by Cake
2. “Like Humans Do,” by David Byrne
3. “Fire Coming out of the Mountain,” by Gorillaz
4. “Crippled Inside” by John Lennon
5. “Distance = Rate” by the Pixies
6. “I Feel For You,” Prince’s remake
7. “Cannonball” by the Breeders
8. “I believe in a thing called love” by The Darkness
9. “Do the Dog” by the Specials
10. “Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith
A bit more about my player. It’s a Rio sport 530 (pictured). It doesn’t hold much music, and I’ve dropped it so many times the fast forward/backward buttons don’t work, which means I have to listen to every song (which means I’m deleting the John Lennon and Gorillaz songs because they were not good to run to), and dropping it also means the little device that lets it attach to your waistband is also broken….
but! I saw it in an exhibit called Blobjects and Beyond: the New Fluidity of Design at the San Jose Museum of Art. And since I love thinking I am sweating all over a museum piece, I will keep this baby going until it begs me to shoot it.
Important footnote: I’m actually over Rick Springfield, although my interest was piqued again when friends of mine said they just met him at a trade show in L.A. last week and he gave them an autographed photo.