Writing and Running

The Vancouver Sun Run is next Sunday, and I feel trained for it already but, as with any race, I try to take it easy beforehand. Over last weekend I had to work at an open house, and my colleague was measuring her (our) amount of walking over the course of two days. It amounted to just over a half-marathon. I considered that enough exercise, as my legs were sorer than usual. So when it was over I plopped into the hammock with a super big glass of La Fin Del Monde and stared at the cedars and pines touching a perfect blue sky. I have two short runs this week, however, before the race, and one of those days I am taking off in lieu of my overtime, so I’m looking forward to a rainforest run and doing some planting, finally!

In a recent blog post I mentioned interviewing two authors, and these interviews are now up: one with Jeff VandeerMeer and one with poet Lorna Croizer. I also got the chance to meet author Claudia Casper at her book launch last week at Pat’s Pub. She was very nice, actually. All three authors are wonderful influences. I really like Jeff’s newest trilogy, Southern Reach, and am now into reading as much weird fiction as possible–also exploring Lorna’s ideas of the wild in us as it pertains to the non-separation of nature and culture.

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Anyway, I always thought that running brings out something that doesn’t exist day to day. I have often felt “tall” or as if I’m flying. There is a feeling of abandonment, of letting go. Of shaking things off. Of feeling wilder, like not me. In the novel I mentioned that I’m writing, I’m tying this feeling into the subject of wild horses, which are of course still in the West, having been reintroduced by Spaniards. They are wild. There are many of them, and they have to share land with cattle ranchers, which is an industry, so usually wins. So then they are either killed or put into adoption training centers, where they are domesticated so they can be adopted. The runner starts to feel the mustang when on the trail, but when inside at work is all about culture and expectations.

I thought I’d excerpt some rough draft ideas that are from my growing novel:

The horses are nervous. I watch their faces, which are distorted in the muggy night, almost anamorphic with fear. Their instinct is to flee from the storm, but there is nowhere to go unless they kick down fences. They want to gallop. I wonder if I have connected to that same wild, the wild in me that I feel when on the trail. Movement away and toward nothing–just the thrill of movement, the self-propelled onward motion. The term “Elena-powered” runs through my brain and I picture clones of me tied to a carriage and being whipped into fright. A pale white mustang is prancing in one of the corrals, and it looks lost. It bucks around and settles, while its nostrils flare and eyes feel me up as if to say who are you. Then it runs away to the field.

I enter one of the barns through its corral and walk toward the stalls area; only a few horses are here, one of them pregnant and worried. I wipe her face with a gloved hand and fiddle with her hay. She makes a few noises at me; she must be one of the more trained horses. Unlike her brothers and sisters, she is content to relax in her stall. I wish I had a treat, something to let her know I am her friend. She is dark, mysterious. As I am exiting her stall to fill the troughs, I see a shadowy figure in the corral where I just came from. There are no lights, so I’m relying on the cone-shaped ray of my flashlight, and the shadow stops.

I say, “Josh? Tomas?” Nothing. I remember the footsteps following me earlier. Who in the… Nobody else should be here. Technically, they could be, for other people came to the farm, but we would have known if someone else was staying on the weekend. Weekends are when Tomas works at the ranch; it is the only time he takes shelter outside the res. Until Josh came along. Evidently, he is  bunking here too. But no answer means it is not one of them. And who else would venture out in this weather just to stand ominously in the middle of the barn’s corral?  I cautiously turn the flashlight directly on the man–I think it is a man–it is taller than a woman, huskier. He stands very still.

“Hello?” My voice is pretty shaky. The figure turns away and slinks out the side door. Slink is the only verb I can think of. He’s like a cat, almost not even walking but floating. I don’t know what else to do other than to finish my duties here and tell the guys later. And watch my back. It wouldn’t be too surprising for a cattle rancher to come out and start trouble–but they were usually okay with us. There are fundamental disagreements between the pro-wild-horse folks and the beef and dairy industry, but these are usually ideological, fought in courts and in the media.