Pursuing the Vision

I really wanted to capture the blaze of iris yellow with the blue flax behind it, but I can’t get the picture to come out right.

Yet again I can’t seem to capture in an image what my eye sees. My lack of photography skill or equipment. Perhaps the human eye still trumps all else. The neurophysiologist in me likes that idea.

I’ll keep working at it.

Every morning we take Zip for a walk and every other morning I run the distance. I do the Bill Phillips thing of pulsing my speed so I work up from slow walking to fast walking to slow running to fast running. Sometimes David jogs along with me, but his legs are so much longer than mine that he can pretty much stride along to all but my fastest jog. Which is clearly not very fast.

I try not to let this be a humiliating thing.

Frankly, I’m happy to be running at all, since I am most decidedly NOT athletic girl. Never have been. One of my friends has a son graduating from high school who, despite his startlingly good academic record, might be held back for failing a gym class. I can totally sympathize with this. In fact, all her writing friends chimed in and agreed that we all loathed gym. Why there aren’t more evil gym-teacher villains in books I really don’t know. Maybe we’re all still afraid they’ll make us do push-ups or something.

They even gave me the Greek body/mind ideal lecture in school, about how I should be wanting to build physical abilities as much as my mental ones.

Yeah, that didn’t fly, either.

The thing is, people who love gym simply don’t understand those of us who hate it. I even have an essay in Wyoming Trucks that delves heavily into hiding in the girls’ bathroom during gym. When one of my recently reconnected high school boyfriends read my book, he commented that it really opened his eyes to what school is like for others, especially for his adolescent daughter. It had never occurred to him that not everyone loved bombardment. (A particularly cruel form of dodgeball.)

But now I run. Not by choice so much, but because Mother Nature pulled the nasty trick of swapping the slim little body I could stuff anything into for one that converts muscle to fat if I’m not actively working to prevent it.

(Hit me with a potato famine, though – I’ll be all over it!)

Running, lifting weights, it’s something I hate while I’m doing it. I take no joy in the moment like those naturally athletic people do. All the pleasure comes when I’m done, when I finish that last minute of sprinting, out of breath and blood pumping. That’s when I feel a sense of accomplishment.

Writing can be like that, too. Sometimes the process of it is so grueling that it can feel like you’re out of breath, with half the hill still to go. You long to stop, to walk, to turn back. But if you push through, sometimes you hit the exhilaration. There you are, flying down the hill, the sun on your skin and wind in your hair. You become the vision of the true athlete, the Greek ideal of beauty, fitness and artistry.

I suppose that’s why we pursue visions. Their lure keeps us going, working ourselves so we don’t grow old, fat and complacent.

I’ll keep working at it.

If You’re Happy and You Know It…Or Do You?

I once asked my martial arts teacher a question about emotions. This isn’t as odd as it sounds, because it was a kung-fu school and we spent a lot of time talking about chi (life energy) and how emotional energy is the battery for everything we do.

So, I told him how, when I’d lived alone in grad school, I’d sometimes go a whole day or two without seeing anyone. Especially if I was holed up in my apartment on the weekends. This was before all the connectedness of email and Facebook. The world reached me only via my landline, the tv (which I never turned on) and the radio (and I only listened to music). What I’d found was that I wouldn’t notice I was in any particular emotional state, unless I happened to make contact with another person. Then I would discover I was irritable or depressed or happy, by the way I interacted with them.

His answer was that I “downloaded” the other person’s emotions. That I absorbed what they were feeling and that I had to learn to differentiate my emotions from theirs. This led into one of his typical rants about how this was yet another reason for us to shun the world at large and stay away from the contamination of the mass mind.

Obviously, I don’t completely agree. About so many things. Which is neither here nor there.

I think there is something to this, sure. I do think you can pick up on what other people are feeling. If the energetic thing is too woo-woo for you, then suffice to say that we’re really good at picking up subconscious cues from each other. Our pets perceive our feelings and intentions. David knows what state of mind I’m in from the moment I walk in the door. If you’re a reasonably empathetic person who pays attention, you’ll pick up on what the people around you are feeling.

But I don’t think that’s what I experienced in my living-alone days. I think it has something more to do with context. That it’s hard to define something without a point of reference. For example, our visual system works through edge-detection. The receptors in our eyes and the neurons that connect with them respond to the contrast between one color and the next, or one shade and the next. Our visual cortex assembles images from all the lines and edges, then fills in the middle.

Maybe emotional states are like this, too. I might drift through a day or a weekend in an undefined dream. (Okay, yeah, this may be particular to me, being kind of a dreamy gal.) When I encounter someone else, I’m no longer just a wash of being — now there’s someone else and there’s a line between us, created by our differences, slight or great. Suddenly I have a point of reference.

The rest is just filling in the middle.