The horizon is leaning forward.

  • Sunday, December 27, 2020
  • 0

 Hey Knobs this is dedicated to you 

 my Shamwari 

and my Oak

the pebbles between my toes. 

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
(William Butler Yeats)

I haven't been able to write so I'm just going to let words fall on the screen, a waterfall of bouncing thoughts or game of pick up sticks, a higgledy piggledy and untidy jumble that will hopefully have some merit or sense or at the very least be mildly entertaining. I don't expect it to be great.

Life is strange and frustrating. there is always something falling, dropping or snagging. I dropped an empty wine glass yesterday, today I got my shirt caught on a door handle. Tomorrow I may block the drain with a sock. It is a roulette wheel of the random that we are never in control of, capricious and mischievous and occasionally laced with malicious intent.  

It does have joyful moments, homecomings and smiles caught across the room, running and pausing by the pond to talk to the ducks and other interesting people, feeling the warp of warm, weathered planks under my arse and sending the girl with rainbows in her eyes photographs of my mud streaked legs through space, time and the internet. She just laughs and unplugs me.

I wish I was Clint Eastwood. I want a face that looks like it's been scrubbed by the ages and chiselled from rock. I want flinty are you feeling lucky punk eyes and a voice like a smouldering cigar. Mostly I want to stare down those twin imposters triumph and tragedy with equal measure because It's been a hellish year and it deserves a hellish response. It deserves no compromise and an honest look. It's contained more snags than smiles, more confusion and loss of hope than the balance that we are promised. It has been quite specific in it's maliciousness.

Life over the last 18 months has been a rollercoaster in hell. Terrifying and disorientating, any upward movement has only shifted the tones from dark to grey and allowed through the odd swirl of light and clarity whilst the wind, that doubting Thomas, cut ribbons across my face. I wonder when I went and how I got there. I became absent, slipping away into the deep recesses of my internal landscape where I was trapped and lost. Sleep became survival. The carefree days of running disappeared, that spiritual instinct of life wrapped in the cloak of physical exertion and natures healing embrace and was replaced by hard breathing, a sore body and unhappy grind.

I have examined myself naked in the Chernobyl half light of December, tracing my physical scars and burns and as yet unable to examine the invisible internal stains that I carry as heavy as rocks. Where did the voices in my head come from telling me to put ropes around my throat and drink on the roof? What happened to me and what has happened? I have no answer and very little detailed memory just the dark residues of mental health breakdown and all the pain, disorientation and loss that it brings with it.


I'm not writing about Covid, that deserves it's own essay although it is the lens through which the last year must inevitably be framed. I lost myself regardless, it is not Covids fault and I suspect it would have happened anyway. I've mostly forgotten who I am and what the constituent parts of my personality are. Maya Angelou spoke of the horizon leaning forward offering space to place new steps of change and I am very much a believer in keeping the horizon before me, yet It is very hard to look forward when you lose sight of who you are, what you believe and what you dream.

I am healing but I may never be the same again.

Running remains. Running is the frame of my life, the exoskeleton that keeps me upright and breathes life into me. It is the tree in the distance, standing alone on the dusky horizon. The branches a filigree catching and holding the ochre light of the setting sun before letting it slip away, the sky becoming the colour of bruised plums, dark and purple and with a faint milky sheen of reflected light from the hidden heaven far beyond the grasp of human imagination. 

Running opens the cracks in that heaven allowing the enlightenment that comes from stolen moments that are least expected or sought, the mind not striving for meaning and shut off from the distractions of normality. It is the unshackling of inhibition, the embrace of space, it is returning to my garden and my fourth child, the appointed one sitting hunched over in the sun, whittling a long stick into a crude spear with the intention of spearing one of his brothers. It requires that I do not intervene.

And running is a winter morning hunched in the early chill, watching the child whose face eclipses the sun walk away from me. At the last moment before he disappears he turns with his coat billowing like bat wings and throws a wave over his shoulder, the streetlamp flashes against his glasses and I can see his easy grin and then he is gone. I go then, fresh from this small death and concentrated on the accumulation of more lonely miles. Maybe I am Clint Eastwood after all.
It is the soaring birds that have always tugged my heart upwards, as long as I can remember, as a boy straining my eyes to the heavens transfixed by the eagles, hawks and buzzards languid upon the thermals, holding their flight with my eyes until black spots began to dance and I stumbled away physically blind and dizzy but spiritually inspired, uplifted and with a new and cherished freedom in my spirit. I shot a bird on the wing once, it was an impulse, raising my gun to the sudden shadow over my head and pulling the trigger. I'll never forget it, the smack of the impact and the split second frozen in time, a moment of mutual regret between the bird and I, silent and still before the translation of effortless beauty into broken grace. When we hurt ourselves so thoughtlessly we often never heal. 
Running allows me to see signs everywhere, evidence that God, The Universe or Higher Power is speaking to us.
It is, as Rich Roll said, being willing to have faith and invest in those little signals that are so faint and yet potentially life altering and meaningful.
It is lying shirtless in the sun, slowly pushing barbells above my head and stopping to do deep breathing and meditation. It is listening with intention to the nearby crow with its funeral suit and pickpocket eye mocking me from a tall tree with brash and derisive tones and hearing the new and unidentified song of an unseen bird, it's warble transmitted across the clear air of a new day.
I run to find my calm place in an anxious soul bewildered by anxious times. Normally I run long distances as a panacea, it is how I fly, the moment I drop away from myself and enter into a space that is still and harmonious with silence and where I am not inflamed and troubled. I do not want to be earthbound, unable to think, read or be, moving restlessly from room to room or falling into the sort of heavy oppressive sleep that leaves you just as tired when you wake up. Running allows me to love people as they pass by, ferociously engaged in their lives as if aware of the sands passing through the timer and prophetically as it turns out. It is living deliberately because we never know what this fickle life is going to deliver.
As the final days of 2020 play out I am standing on another edge. There have been so many. I'm on the edge of another new year and I'm on the cliff edge of another renewal. I refuse to surrender hope.
I have seen hell, it's a place that our traitorous minds lead us to and it is not a place for the faint hearted. It is not a fun destination and it is not where we should accept as a destination. Hell is the death caused by a mental health breakdown.
Ezekiel tells the story of the valley of dry bones. God tells him to speak to the bones and tell them that he is going to put breath into them, put muscles onto them and cover them with skin. He tells them that he will put life into them. Ezekiel does as he is told and there is a great rattling sound across the valley as the bones begin to come together, form muscles and sinew and stand upright. They still have no breath but God says, "Speak a prophetic message to the winds, Ezekiel and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’'
Ezekiel does this and breath comes into the bodies.
God speaks to Ezekiel again, “Son, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones, all hope is gone.’ Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again.
I have spoken to myself. I am still speaking. I will climb from the grave of my exile. I have hope and I can see the rainbow. The horizon is leaning forward. I am not blind to the significance of the dry bones being located in a valley, always look up is one of my mantras and that implies climbing too. Our dreams require action to become reality. I am speaking to my dry bones, they are rattling and I will be running.
I believe that just as our minds can betray us and take us to hell they can also help us chart our way out again. It requires hope and it needs a dream.

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