I was 12 years old when I started running. I don't even remember what made me start doing it. I had already been swimming for two years and bicycling, in and out of the hills around our house in Portugal. By the time we moved to Switzerland (when I was 15), I was swimming, running, biking and soon I would be ice skating, skiing and, eventually, dancing. All that excercise is good for you but when you are not careful, you can damage yourself. By the time I was 39, I had a torn meniscus in one knee, tendonitis in both shoulders, arthritis in my spine and all the regular aches and pains. Today, I still have a torn meniscus in one knee, tendonitis in both shoulders, regular aches and pains AND a permanently broken foot. So what. Because of these ailments (most specifically, the meniscus, the doctors commanded that I stop running and do low impact cardio like the stationary bike and the eliptical machine. I love any excercise but, for a person used to running outside with the sun and the wind and the trees, this was a little death.
As I entered Central Park this morning, I exhaled a sigh of relief of such enormity as to make my mouth break into a big grin, a laugh issuing forth. At that same moment, my diaphragm spasmed as a gutteral cry echoed in the air, tears rolling to the corners of my eyes. The sun was just coming up. I had run from 49th street, up 9th avenue, passing AJ's house at 52nd; I turned on 55th and ran by Laurelle's place and, turning on 8th, I saw the home of the Rouse Watsons, as I headed up 8th avenue to the park. Ahead of me, the lights of the fountain in Columbus Circle illuminated the water, flying high into the air, high into the rising sun. There it was: the doorway to the Park, the wardrobe to my Narnia. I looked up into the trees and heard them say "welcome home".
And for the next hour I was consumed with my six loves.
1) Excercise. I told my teacher, my trainer, my guru, that I was saddened that my clients don't always take their workouts as seriously as I do. He told me "you can't expect other people to love this the way you do" and it dawned on me that I am a fanatic. No great surprise, as I have been fanatical about many things in my life. I just think that excercise is something that I was born to. I have loved (almost) every form of working out I have tried (tennis still evades me, to this day). I worship the way the human body works, the effort exerted, the sweat. It makes me feel alive. Especially, though, I love these outdoor activities. It's something spiritual for me; particularly at sunrise, the city empty of most other people - only those early morning workers and that little club of early morning work outers are around to enjoy that start of a new day. A thrill, this morning, to be back on the road with absolutely no sign of the arthritis (the doctor tells me I am in remission) or the torn meniscus (they say that, once torn, this never heals - yet I feel no, no, no pain). The tendonitis is there, like an old friend, and we have learned to work together; and the broken foot will be never be fully repaired but it works, maybe not the way the other one does but it does. Sweat all over my face and body, I smiled the smile of the truly content.
2) New York City. Even with my Ipod on, I could hear the thump, thump, thump of my feet as they trod the streets of this city that I, still, am so very much in love with. Everywhere I turn I see sights I love (even trash in the streets) and smell smells that I love (even trash in the streets) because, to me, they say "New York". The buildings, the trees, the pavement, the grass, the streetlamps, the lake, the sun, the sky (both of which look different over Manhattan), the landmarks. The Essex Hotel, The Boat House, Bethesda Fountain, The Dakota, Strawberry Fields, Poet Walk, The Band Shell, Columbus Circle, The Plaza, Circle In The Square, The Baseball Diamond, The Metropolitan Museum of Art... it is everywhere, the heart of the city, and it beats under my feet. Running through this park, my favourite place in Manhattan, I see my own life everywhere. AJ and I used to run here. There is where I did my shoot with David Campbell and over there, Eden Espinosa. Marci and I were out for a walk and I stopped there to chant. We had a fourth of July picnic there with Leslie Alexander, Alfred Boe and his wife, Sarah and Mark Ramsay. Brady and I made snow angels in that baseball field. Nancy LaMott sang there. I did a picture of Vince Gatton sitting on that fence and Donna Murphy and here family on that rock. I was walking right there when the Twin Towers were hit. The city is a patchwork quilt of my life.
3) Music. Without it my life would be, much, affected. I have a new 160 gig Ipod to accomodate all my musical tastes. I have playlists that permit me to soundtrack my life and today's playlist was instrumental music from movie soundtracks. The music lifts me up and spurs me on. The playlist has been, newly, converted to alphabetical order so all the Barbra Streisand soundtracks were right up front: how apropos that I was running the streets of New York while listening to soundtracks from The Mirror Has Two Faces, Nuts, The Prince of Tides and The Way We Were, all of which were shot in New York! (I thought of placing a photo of Barbra Streisand here for emphasis but 1) that's just too gay, even for me, and 2) I have never taken a photo of Barbra Streisand, which hurts, it hurts, it hurts, and that's too gay, even for me. Nevertheless, the music is always a big part of the journey and as the Streisand soundtracks wrapped up I got to run to Chocolat, Beautiful Thing, Terms of Endearment and my favourite (or at least one of them) Dragon. It was the music from Dragon that soared in my ears and head as I turned the corner into my own street and headed for home. Heavenly.
4) Being naked in public. Ok, I know that's a little odd. But there it is. I think couture is wonderful; for me, less clothing is always better. I like the sun and the wind on my skin. I also like being looked at. I was ugly for a long time and I worked hard to not be. That's why I am, so often, in a state of undress. I don't mean to say that I am a flasher or a perv. I just mean, no sleeves, no blousy clothing, shorts instead of pants, sometimes no shirt, sometimes something very clingy and revealing. I worked hard for this body and I want to show it off and have it admired. My close friends and anyone who reads me knows that I have body issues based on my past (Pat teases me about my dismorphia); this morning when I whipped my sweatshirt off while running, I thought how little I care if people see that I am not perfect. I have issues with my obliques (love handles to the layperson) and wish and pray that they would stop moving around like Jello when I walk and run. Too bad, though. The do, for now, and when they stop I will pat them on the back. In the meantime, I had to admit to myself that (even though not perfect) I have made myself into a walking work of art and it's time for me to admire the artwork. I say these things with a perfect balance of modesty and vanity, which is every human being's right. Thank you, very much.
Aside from the more personal nature of being proud of one's body, there is a little question of an inherent exhibitionism that my mind houses. There. It's been said; and that's the end of that.
5) There is, now, a little matter of someone I like to call OB1. I do not subscribe to an organized religion. I call myself a pantheist. I listen when people talk; I learn what I can about the faiths that are out there and if I find something that applies to me, something in which I believe, I attach it to my way of faith. So I don't pray to Jesus Christ or Buddah or Allah or any of the other conventional dieties to which people pray; I don't know who is up there - though I know they are there - and so I call God Obi Wan Kenobi (OB1) and we are in constant contact all day, all night. Every minute of every day is a conversation with OB1. Sometimes they are quiet conversations and others, very in tune; they are strongest when I am out in nature. What could be more proof of a higher power than to look up through trees and see the light coming through while, all around, life is moving and growing. What could be more proof of a higher power than sixty minutes running around the city passing the homes of people you know and love and being given a chance to be reminded of all of your family? What could be more proof of a higher power than learning to love yourself and respect your body? I had breakfast with God this morning and we feasted on life. Yum.
6) And then there is my sixth love. Coming home to Two A and....
It is a new day that dawns, my darlings. I urge you to go out and enjoy it and love every minute.