The Emotional Landscape – A Short Story

The Dead but Alive Woman

She woke up every morning only seeing what was behind her. She sometimes would try to turn her head but could not. It was as if she was made of stone. So, she looked back. She remembered the many signs telling her not to go in that direction and how long the journey down the road had been. She cried remembering when she so terribly wanted shade and found only tree stumps. She was disgusted when she remembered going through the trash looking for something to eat and finding only rotting food, which she ate. She saw the snake and was scared all over again. She remembered the pain of the bite and the dizziness and fever she felt almost immediately afterward. She wondered if her eyes were fooling her because she didn’t remember the coyote being pink, though she did remember it howling as she fell in the hole. She didn’t want to look at the river at all, but couldn’t help it. It was where she drowned after she stumbled out of the hole.

The Woman in the Cabin

The woman in the cabin lived alone. The cabin was small but still had enough room to bring in strays that needed help. She had such a stray now. It was a dead but alive woman she had found in the river. The woman was dead but alive, a phenomenon she had seen many times before. There was no heartbeat, no breathing. She was cold but not hard. The woman in the cabin poured warm water over her and then laid a blanket of orange flowers on her naked body. She sprinkled grass on top of the blanket, then very fine pebbles on top of that. She left her alone and went to carve the rock.

The Indian with the Limp

At the edge of the plateau there lived an Indian with the limp who the woman in the cabin was friends with. She would tell him about her work carving the rock and he would sometimes help her move the broken stones to the waterfall so they could be washed away. He didn’t understand what she was carving but he enjoyed the sound of her hammering in the distance during the day. He sometimes brought her rabbit for dinner. She sometimes brought him corn for breakfast.

The indian with the limp asked her once what she was trying to do with the rock. All the woman in the cabin would say is she was working on creating a new face on the other side of it, facing the hills and mountains, similar but not exactly like the face facing the dry land. He didn’t see anything resembling a face  yet but it didn’t matter, he encouraged her anyway because he liked her. She knew he didn’t see it but she didn’t mind, because she liked him.

The Indian with the limp had collected the orange flowers and the pebbles and brought them to the woman in the cabin the day before, when she had a stray coyote with a twisted tail come in. But the tail had straightened itself out with just a little burnt crepe myrtle paste put on it so the flowers and pebbles weren’t needed. The Indian was happy about this because he knew they would be helpful to the dead but alive woman from the river.

The Indian with the limp loved to gather things for the woman in the cabin. It was a chance for him to explore and have a purpose. He didn’t know what jobs were but if he did he would have called it his job and he liked his job very much. He also liked that he was helping animals and people heal. His favorite thing was to collect the little pebbles from the river. He often thought about how he helped her throw the big rocks into the river after she chiseled them off the carving, then he would bring back little pebbles that were just those big rocks having been broken down. The Indian with the limp thought that was amusing and would smile as carried them back up to the plateau.

The Healing

The dead but alive woman took a long time to recover. She stayed at the woman in the cabin’s cabin for many months. She would sit in a chair and look back over the plateau to the dry land below and feel no better than the day before. The woman in the cabin saw what was happening and one morning moved the chair to the other side of the plateau. The dead but alive woman then was forced to look over the hills and mountains and to watch the woman in the cabin do her carving. She learned about the carving and would watch the woman in the cabin chisel every day as she sat in her chair. She met the Indian with the limp and thanked him for help the woman in the cabin get the supplies to make her better.  When she felt strong enough she asked if she could be of any help and the woman in the cabin told her it would be helpful if she would sing for her while she carved.  She she said she only knew 2 songs. The woman in the cabin told her not to worry, she would teach her many songs, which she did.

The dead but alive woman loved the new songs she learned and would sing them beautifully. The Indian with the limp started coming by each morning and would play along with a drum he had.  The coyote with the no longer twisted tail would even come close once in a while and howl in harmony. The woman in the cabin was able to work faster and longer with the beautiful music being sung and soon the new carving was almost finished.

The Leaving

One morning, well before the sun rose, the woman in the cabin awoke the dead but alive woman and told her to get ready, she was going on a journey.  The dead but alive woman asked what sort of journey. The woman in the cabin said she wasn’t able to tell her what sort of journey or how long it would last. All she said about the journey was that the Indian with the limp would help her as she got on her way.

The woman in the cabin had packed a nice backpack full of food, clothing, and supplies for the dead but alive woman. The dead but alive woman wanted to take one last look around, to remember where she had been healed. The woman in the cabin let her do that, but would not let her go to the edge of the plateau and look back at the dry land below.

The Indian with the limp was waiting at the other edge of the plateau with a lantern to help them down to the hills below in the dark. The dead but alive woman hugged the woman in the cabin and said she would see her later.  The woman in the cabin said nothing, just smiled and gave her a kiss goodbye. The indian with the limp and the dead but alive woman hiked down the side of the plateau until they reached a trail going up the hills towards the mountains. They traveled over three sets of hills until mid-day. Then they took a break, sitting down for lunch. The Indian with the limp told her this was where he was going to leave her.

The Alive Woman

The dead but alive woman was about to ask why when she saw the carving in the distance. Up on the plateau, high and strong in the mid-day sun, was a beautiful face facing her. It was her face but it wasn’t. It was the face of an alive woman, not of a dead but alive woman. She forgot what she was going to ask the Indian with the limp and just stared.  Then she looked in the direction the face in the rock was looking. It was looking towards the mountains.

The alive woman said goodbye to the Indian with a limp and asked him to make sure the woman in the cabin knew how grateful she was for her love. The indian with the limp said he would. Then he said his goodbye and went back towards the plateau. The alive woman hiked the backpack up onto her back and set off.  As she walked she could hear the howl of the coyote with the no longer twisted tail. She started to sing along.

The End

Drawing and story © 2017 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com

Marathon Training – Week 9

Is Nothing Impossible?

You want to make a popular meme? Have it say ‘Nothing is impossible’. You will get a lot of people agreeing with you. But it’s a lie, many things are impossible. You can’t grow another foot taller if you are already grown up. You can’t eat 2 tons of food at one sitting. You can’t become a young child again once you are older. You can’t run 500 miles an hour.  Those things are impossible.

What that saying really means is this: things that you assume are impossible, but that are actually not impossible, can be accomplished if you set your mind to it. What or who decides it’s impossibility? You do. If you say it’s impossible, then it will be. But if you say it’s possible, then it may be.

I know this because I am a coach of long distance runners and a long distance runner myself. I started running when a new co-worker of mine turned out to be a casual runner. She would run at lunchtime and I decided to join her. At first I ran about 100 yards, then walked the rest of the way around the part of the river near where we worked. I was amazed she could run the whole 2.75 miles. It seemed impossible to me.  I eventually was able to run the entire way with her, but it probably took about 6 months or so.

Making the impossible possible takes time.

My first race, a 5k in 2008


Stretching Further

As you know I have been doing a lot of stretching, trying to get more limber and flexible. And it is working. I am able to move and stretch much farther than I ever have before. I never thought it was impossible, I just thought it was going to be difficult, and it has been. But I have stuck with it and am making progress.

Here is something that has made it more difficult than you may realize. When I was 18 years old I was burned on 70% of my body in a boat explosion. My back, the back of my arms and my legs were burned the worse, though much of my stomach and chest got it too. The reason I am telling you this is because of the scars. I have scars that travel the length of my arms all the way to the bottom of my back with no break. The resulting scars are very tight and that means my ability to stretch is limited by them. When I bend over and touch my toes (which I can do now!) it feels like I am one giant rubber band stretched to its limits and wants to snap back. Not letting it snap back can be painful. Not terribly, but painful nonetheless.

I knew I could increase my flexibility if I worked to do so. I knew my muscles could be stretched further.  What I didn’t know is how far my scars would stretch. They are not like muscles or tendons. They are hard, fibrous scar tissue that does not want to stretch. How far can I stretch them? What is possible and what is impossible? There is only one way to find out, and that is to do the stretching.

Making the impossible possible is only found out in the doing.

Burn Scars – Left Arm, unstretched and stretched


Goals

I did a 14 miler this past Saturday. I did 2 miles with one of the half marathon groups, H2, and then turned around so I could be back at the store in time to lead Pathways. The fastest marathon group, M1, just happened to be passing us when I did the turn around so I joined them. Ok, I joined them for about a half a mile then I couldn’t keep up and had to slow down (they are wicked fast). But even with the slowing down I was still doing close to 9 minute miles back to the store. . At that point I still had over 10 miles to go, only 5 of which I would have company. Those 10 were at a very reasonable pace for me, but the fact I had pushed so hard at on an early mile or two really affected my abilities at the end.

What that taught me, which all runners learn again and again (because we are both a forgetful and optimistic bunch) is that going out too fast in a training run or a race will come back to bite you.

Making the impossible possible demands discipline.


As I write the temperatures have dropped 10-15º. A high of 85, though hot by some standards, feels like a cool ocean breeze when it hits Oklahoma in August. It will be interesting to see how my runs go with better temps and more overcast skies this week.  We have a 10k goal race for Pathways this coming Saturday. I will be running as a coach but also as a time trial to help me gauge my racing abilities. Wish me luck!

That’s it for now. Thanks for tuning in. Here is a link to the entire series.

Marty

You can read the entire series by choosing ‘marathon training’ from the series drop down menu on the right.

 

Love Can Find A Way

Available for purchase – Original Napkin or Print

Knowing the Future

How many of you know the future? I bet you are all right now are saying, ‘of course I don’t know the future!’.  But then, why do you act like you do? You are convinced you won’t find love, convinced you won’t get that job, convinced you won’t ever be happy or have money or be healthy or a million other things. Isn’t that a version of supposedly knowing the future?

My Headstone

I have already picked out what I want on my headstone. I want it to say ‘Life was much more unexpected…than I expected.’ It’s my favorite quote (I made it up too).  Why do I like it? Because it tells the truth for almost every single human on earth. Of course, in some areas of the globe there are fewer opportunities for a life to go in an unexpected direction than in other areas, but even in the most restricted part of the world you still can’t control the future. What will your child or children be like? When will you get sick? What will you end up being really good at? None of those things are known in advance, even if you live in North Korea.

Love Can Find You

Have you ever played hide and seek so well that you weren’t ever found? That isn’t much fun, is it? The idea is to make it hard, but not TOO hard, to be found. The same is true in love. If you want love to find you, you can’t hide so well that it gives up. You have to be out in the world where it is looking. I mean, don’t go standing on the street corner in short shorts. The wrong type of love will find you if you do that. But by all means let yourself be known, be seen, be heard.

If you do that, it doesn’t matter if you are surrounded by concrete or redwoods. Love will find you, just as grass finds its way through the most inhospitable of circumstances.


Drawing and commentary © 2017 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com

“If grass can grow through cement, then love can find you at every time of your life.” – Cher Sarkisian, 1946 – not dead yet, American singer and actress


 

Marathon Training – Week 8

The Joy of Group Running

This past Wednesday I ran a few miles before the group run in Broken Arrow. I passed these 4 kids selling lemonade with profits going to a children’s cancer charity. I told them to be ready because I was going to bring back a LOT of customers.  As we warmed up I told my group I had a little surprise for them along the route and off we went. The excitement the kids had in seeing all of us arrive was matched by the fun the runners had in having a ‘lemonade moment’ on a very hot summer’s eve.  This is why group running is so awesome!

We found a lemonade stand!


The Open Ocean

A typical marathon training season is between 16-20 weeks. Mine is 19, so I am right smack dab in the middle of it about now. These middle weeks are when you have left the port and can no longer see it over the stern and you also can not yet see the port you are headed towards over the bow. You are on the open sea, at the mercy of the elements but without the ease of turning back or the excitement of knowing the next port of call is there on the horizon. It can be a time of creeping doubt, not sure whether you are headed in the right direction, even if the instruments say you are. I feel like I am best at avoiding falling prey to this problem when I stop looking at the horizon and look down at the water right in front of me. The other element that can have you worried is the state of your boat. It might be taking on more water than you want, or a sail might be ripped in a storm.

Hills just SEEM like they last forever, but they don’t.


Aches and Pains

Ok, enough with the analogy, Marty. What that really means is I just need to do each run as it comes. I know what my pacing and distances should be, I know what sort of tempo, hill or progression runs I should be doing, and I know when I should rest. If I stick with that plan, then the future should take care of itself. it also means, while I need to pay attention to various aches and pains, I don’t have to freak out about them and say the world is ending. It’s not. When you run marathon training miles you are going to have all sorts of random aches and pains. Some last for one run, some come the next day. Some last for a week then disappear, others seem to hang on forever. I have that happening in my elbow right now (did a wonky push up or 20 a few weeks ago) I have it in my side as well (did a wonky sit up or 20). They bug me a little bit, but they are annoyances, not injuries that are going to stop me. I am doing my best to take care of them (no push ups or sit ups lately) but overall I expect them to take a while to disappear, after all I am pretty old and at my age these things take a lot more time to heal than when I was 30 years younger. Of course, 30 years ago I was a lazy bum who never exercised so I didn’t have these issues to compare anyway!

About to hit the water stop!


Adaptability

Last week was even hotter than the week before, with 3 days over 100º.  Luckily only one of those days coincided with an afternoon/evening run, which we cut down in distance and pace so all would be safe. That is the thing about having such a long season, any specific planned run can be changed if circumstances warrant and you aren’t going to damage your training. You have plenty of time to either make up the workout if you really feel like it, or just skip it. The only real problem will come if skipping that one workout leads to skipping more. That can sometimes turn into an avalanche that ends with you saying ‘I am too far behind, I am going to quit the season.’

Leading warm up at 98º in downtown Tulsa!


Now, there are times when one has to do that. Life does happen and that can sometimes means weeks on end of family obligations, or an injury that puts you out for months. In that case you do need to reconsider and adapt, maybe to a new distance or maybe to a new race farther in the future. But most of the time that is not what is happening. Most of the time all you need to do is get back on your plan, even if you missed a few workouts, and all will be fine.

Details

As I mentioned last week I am trying to get in some morning runs. This is so I can get my miles in without having to do them all in the brutal heat of the afternoons in Oklahoma. I ran one last week of about 4 miles (ok, EXACTLY 4 miles) and it felt really good, with the sun barely up and the air much cooler, even if it still was quite humid.  I was able to get 32 miles in last week with a long run of 10 miles. My average pace for the week (approx. 9:45 per mile) has slowed a bit, due to heat and longer mileage. That is ok because I need to work on endurance and that means slower pace. Next week I hope to do a few more morning runs and get in a few miles before whatever run I am scheduled to coach.

Sunrise as I ran


That’s it for now. Let me know if you have any questions or insights.  Oh, and our 15k fall program starts the 3rd week of August. If you are interested, let me know!

You can read the entire Marathon Training Series HERE

See you running,

Marty

 

 

Medusa Running Into a Fierce Dog

Adventures of Medusa #4

Medusa is a runner. She only runs 3/4 marathons. She always runs alone and never carries any mace, pepper spray, knife or gun. She was running in the wilds of Colorado the other day and a dog jumped out of a whole in the ground and tried to attack her.  It didn’t end well for the dog.

The End


Drawing © Marty Coleman | napkindad.com


 

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