Sunday, February 10, 2008

On Sport and Writing

I've never thought of myself as athletic, but there are certain sporting events that capture my imagination. No, not the rugby. I'm just not a true Kiwi in that regard - I have no interest whatsoever. But one event that usually has me checking the results is the annual Coast to Coast adventure race.

Over two days - or one, for the really ambitious - New Zealand's top adventure racers (and some from overseas) cycle, run, and paddle their way from one side of the South Island to the other, across the mountains and the plains to finish at Sumner Beach not far from here. Some are there to try to win, others just to say they did it.

There are usually a number of people I know among the competitors, often fellow members of my orienteering club. It's the sort of event I could imagine myself competing in - but only in my imagination, never in real life!

First, the attraction. I grew up spending a lot of time outside - climbing trees, swimming in the sea, clambering over rocks, making hideouts in the bushes. I think of myself as an outdoors person, but in a rather dreamy contemplative kind of way, not in terms of "further, higher, faster". When I think about the sports I find interesting, though, they are the ones that take place in natural settings - climbing, sea kayaking, adventure racing etc.

The hitch is, of course, the deadline. Those people who do the Coast to Coast just for the sake of doing it? They are still a whole lot faster than I'll ever be. If you don't finish the mountain run by a certain time, you are not allowed to complete the course. The fastest people in our orienteering club do courses more than twice as long as the ones I do, in less than half the time. The fastest ever runner of the Coast to Coast did it in ten hours or so. The slowest ever, twenty four hours. The maths doesn't stack up.

Do you believe that you can do anything you want to do? I don't. That is, I do believe that if I wanted to cross the island by foot, mountain bike and kayak, I could do it. Given a week or so. (But the safety infrastructure wouldn't be there at other times of the year, so I'd be unlikely to try it).

Given enough time, we can probably all do way more than we imagine. But some of us are always going to take longer than others. Fortunately, writing isn't a timed activity. Some poets write a poem a day (I did myself, for a month last April. Most of them were rubbish, but the experience was exhilarating). Other poets spend years perfecting each poem. In the end, it doesn't matter how many attempts and rewrites you make - what matters is the poem itself, the end result.

On the other hand, if you need to leap across a ravine, it has to be in one leap. If it takes you more than one, you're in trouble!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Readwritepoem: Clothing

For readwritepoem, where the prompt this week was clothing:

(Note: the original of this poem is laid out in a wave formation. I'm lacking the time to put all the tabs in. Might come back and do it later. I haven't written anything new for a while, so this is "one I prepared earlier")

Girl in a Ballgown

For your final school
ball you choose shot
satin, woven at cross-
purposes, the warp and weft
of it, purple of a ripe berry,
green of a new leaf.
I cut and pin and stitch
because this is one thing
I can do for you these
difficult years –
make you a skin that
fits. When you walk
you are sunshine on green
seas, you are purple cloud
shadows shifting on the waves.

You stand high-heeled on the table.
Your level-eyed father
pins the hem straight.
And suddenly you are fainting,
falling head first in a shimmer
of green waves, tumbling
ocean
ocean
ocean
until he,
playing Daedalus to your
Icarus, catches you just in time,
rewriting the old myths

Friday, February 01, 2008

Catching Up...

A whole month into the year, and when I review progress I find I haven't done much towards my goals. The one thing I have done is to increase my level of exercise. I figure that if I manage one thing each month, I will get there in the end.

This weekend, anyway, may be different. I plan on tackling the first chapter of the family history, and I may even tackle a poem for readwritepoem, for the first time in a while. Mostly, I've been using the summer weekends for lawn mowing and gardening. This weekend that's off the agenda, because I made a visit to the doctor, and I have stitches in my back, so no heavy lifting or pushing for a couple of weeks.

I visited the doctor a week or so ago for some asthma medication, and she noticed a suspicious spot on my back which was why I went back to have it removed. When I was a child, it was quite normal to spend all summer on the beach, wih regular doses of sunburn. I recall peeling great strips of skin off with great glee! So I always figured this was going to come sooner or later, and it doesn't appear to be too serious - she thinks it may be a BCC (basal cell carcinoma) which is very slow-growing, but still not something you invite to stay for a long visit.

The trip for the asthma medication was overdue too, but the ongoing saga of the waterbed prompted me to visit - I'll save that one for another post.

In the meantime, here are some photos of the walking track I discovered while orienteering last week. We had another event this week, which was quite different - among flat suburbs with waterways and wetlands interspersed - lots of reeds, waterbirds etc. These Wednesday evening events are a series we have every summer around local streets and parks, and then for the rest of the year we mostly have Sunday events when we get out into the country more.

The track passes the bottom of a garden:



The view from the top:



I have a fascination with roots and rocks: