Turn. Again.

IMG_4458Pictured here to the left is the Turnagain Arm of the Cook Inlet (of the Pacific Ocean.) It was so-named because on his last journey, Captain Cook tried to navigate it in search of the elusive Northwest Passage, but was confounded by the tides and shallow depth. Which caused his explorers to turn, and turn, and turn yet again before finally realizing they probably weren’t getting to the Atlantic that way anytime soon. Hence the name. Turnagain.

I’ve hiked some portion of the mountains on the north side of the arm (the photo is taken looking west.) And at one point, I stopped and stood in the sunshine, three thousand feet above the arm, and imagined an 18th century mariner’s disappointment at what he saw before making one last accursed turn. It’s a useful metaphor for optimism (imagine what we’ll find!), pessimism (why bother?), or pragmatism (might as well try and see what happens), depending on your bent. I’m in the latter camp, if you wondered.

Somewhere way to the right of my photo, far beyond the frame, is Japan. And to be honest, I’m not sure what awaits. I have an idea of the stories that I’ll write as a result of the trip. But it’s a struggle for me to quantify why, exactly, it’s important enough for me to leave my family, my job, and a lot of unfinished everythings to go write about a disaster that occurred seven years ago. But I suppose the best answer I can come up with is this:

I had to.

The stories I’m going to write have burned a hole in me for months, and in one case, years. Look, I get a lot of ideas about things I think I want to write about. Thankfully, I can most of them because they’re crappy ideas. But others stick around until it feels like I might actually go to pieces if I don’t get them down on paper. Sure, I’m deeply connected to the tsunami. And while I respect that personal experience of a thing is more than enough to justify artistic engagement with it, this time I need to do something besides rely on my own memories, read books, and research online. I need to see, to touch, and most of all, to feel the effects of the tsunami in order to feel like I’m doing what happened in 2011 any justice.

And so, I will turn from what it’s in front of me to that which is behind, around, and within; I’ll turn. Again. And I’m going to look as hard as I can for answers I maybe didn’t even know existed. We’ll see what happens.

Do Work

Oh Well (2) by Lydia Komatsu

“Oh Well (2)” courtesy of Lydia Komatsu

Sometimes, you read a publication and think that’s where I want to be. The first time I read Meter Magazine, I knew I’d found an aesthetic that matched mine. It was writing focused, which is to say that of course all magazines feature writing, but that doesn’t make the writing worth reading. And when it comes to writing about running, the last thing I want to read is another 250 words on how to train for a marathon on 10 miles a week.

The heritage of the running is so rich, so ancient, for crying out loud, that I’ve wondered why writing about it has gotten so damned boring. Anybody remember The Runner’s Literary Companion? My goodness, there was some incredible work in there. Sure, we had to put up with AE Housman (groan) but we also got  some killer writing by Whitman, Sillitoe, and Joyce Carol Oates. And of course, no discussion about running writing is complete without mention John L. Parker, Jr. and my favorite sleeper, Haruki Murakami.

Reading Meter, I knew I’d found a publication that believed running was worth art. Immediately, I started thinking about how to write for the magazine. The magazine is published by Tracksmith, a new running apparel company out of Wellesley, MA. My initial queries to customer service didn’t get too far, nor did I expect them to jump at that chance to publish someone untested when they could get Toni Reavis or Chris Lear on board. Regardless, I started drafting something about a very cold run I took one winter day in Alaska.

When the time was right, I pitched the editor on the piece, which had morphed into something I didn’t foresee when I began. It started as a pretty straightforward exploration of what it takes to run in the Alaskan winter. But as I added context through layers of scene, I realized there was something else about running I wanted to get across. How it has been there for me through a lifetime of war, a common thread even. And how sometimes it has felt like running has gotten me through difficulties along the way.

In other words, it grew legs. Took on a life of its own.

“42 Below” ran on the Studio Tracksmith page a week ago, and I’ve had some very nice feedback since then. Which is nice, but not really the point of this blog post. The point is that when you believe in a project, you find a way to make it happen. Do the work required to make the project come to life. Write and edit and write some more. Go exploring and use social media to establish connections. Exercise patience with the knowledge that time tends to make all writing better.

Hopefully, you’ll see me in the pages of Meter some day soon. But until that day, this little victory is going to keep my hope meter at least half full.



Christmas Music…The Gift That Keeps on Giving.

Well, it’s the 26th of December. Like many of you, I woke up knowing it was time to burn some of the eggnog, smoked salmon, tamales, and God knows whatever else delicious food we’ve devoured over the past two days of non-stop noshing. Oh, and beer.

It finally warmed up a bit here in AK, so I didn’t have to get too nuts with the apparel, which was nice. I harnessed up Bonnaroo, threw on the studded Adidas Adizero XTs, and rolled out the door. As I’ve mentioned before, we live conveniently close to the Anchorage trail system. The city grooms the main trails in the winter for cross-country skiing, but the trails are considered multi-use. Normally, trying to run on cross country trails isn’t really my cup of tea, but the trails here are quickly packed down by a multitude of dogs, walkers, hikers, cyclists, fat-bikers, and runners. Conditions this morning were downright pleasant. The trails were nice and firm, temps around 10F, and I waited until around 9:30 so I wouldn’t have to run with my headlamp.

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