Sunday, August 29, 2010
Since my injury I have found a new respect for distances. Before, going out for a 6-8 mile run was everyday, thought nothing of it. Neighborhoods explored, errands taken care of, distance conquered on foot. I took all of this for granted. My sense of freedom was very much the result of a belief that, no matter what, I can always outrun or out-walk any kind of sticky situation. Come to think of it, it's more like I can always run away, using my own devices, my own body.
A lot has changed in the past months: my devices now seem a lot weaker and a lot more unreliable that I'd thought. I'm not allowed to run or even to walk for longer than 4 miles and although repeatedly trying, it always proves to have consequences in the injury flaring up badly. So, I've been trying to bike to get the same sense of freedom, but the bike is fundamentally different. It's just simply not part of my body. Maybe it can become over time, but as a physical activity biking is not the same flavor as running. The kind of wonderful blend of focus and relaxation, effort and natural rhythm, exhaustion and exhilaration that I would always get from running does not exist on the bike.
My plan, coming here, was to explore the island on foot, by running like usual. Then, I got injured really bad... The island of Bornholm is sewn together by bike paths. Some more dedicated than others but all are generally very good and convenient, taking riders and commuters through the rolling landscape of fields, forests, and little towns.
Now, my only device for exploration is the bike. That's why I was so happy to spot a few runners this morning along the road among the fields. It turns out that there is an ultra/marathon today, with various distances of 100Km, 50Km and a marathon (42.2Km). The runners I caught up with were all men, mostly what seemed like, in their 40's and 50's, about 300-400m apart, going with a steady pace. Amazingly enough, it took me very long to catch up with them, which even though I'm not a serious pedaller, means that they were running at a pretty good pace 8:30-9min/Mile. In an ultra!
And talk about the loneliness of a distance runner! These guys were in the middle of the fields, running dozens of miles all alone; no cheering crowd, no course marshals, no support of any kind. Encountering them made me so happy! I was pedaling from one to the other yelling "great job!"-s left and right. I'm sure they though I was some kind of a nut! Through them, vicariously, I felt I was running too. And then, it started raining. For a while huge black clouds had been hanging around. Just before it started raining the sight across the fields was amazing! Sun pouring down trough some rips in the cloud cover, like pixie-dust settling on the farmland, making it glow and sparkle. Between cheering on the runners and the rain on my face, I finally had a sense of familiarity in my own body.
I was poring over these thoughts when a hare run right under my front wheel. I had to break pretty hard not to hit him. It was a proper hare, not a bunny rabbit, long legged and fast. For some distance after he kept running in front of me, bedazzled and confused. Listening to the Wind up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami all last night in the studio, I can almost believe in premonitions now. I'd love to think that the runners, the rain, and the rabbit do mean something... (...for one, they all begin with R).
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Two flights, two trains, one ferry and one car ride later Sandor and I arrived to Bornholm, Denmark, a lovely island in the middle of the Baltic Sea. It is actually closer to Sweden than to Denmark, and during its history has been taken over by the Swedes, Nazis, and Russians.
It is now a popular summer vacation spot. According to my hosts, Susanne, every child in Denmark comes here for summer camp at some point in her life. Former fishing industry is now in decline, but there is still a lot of farming: colorful patches of late summer fields everywhere and a faint smell of pigs. And the landscape! The southern side of the island is edged by silky white sand beaches, the rest is breathtaking, rocky shore. Everything is quiet, peaceful; only nature entertains us with much drama: For the past two days constant 50+mph winds made pedaling on our bikes quite a challenge.
I'm staying at the Mobelfabrikken in Nexo (I realize, I'm missing the proper characters to spell these right.) as one of the Artist in Residence for the European Ceramic Context, a biannual conference in ceramics (in alternating years it is in glass). This is the proud initiative of Bornholm, rich in artisan traditions of clay and glass. There are plenty of local artists and crafts people who are here because of the cheap property, (property prices differ hugely depending on whether it is a summer home or a year-round first home) tourist Euros, superb scenery and relaxed lifestyle.