I’m about to spin together running, the Olympics, cooking, and poetry. Hit it.
This past weekend I flew up to Seattle and then drove to Vancouver to run a half marathon. The course parades runners though downtown, glass-walled Vancouver and out to Stanley Park, tracing the entire length of the sea wall.
The run is breathtaking (and not from poor training.)
Really, the scenery is stunning. Evergreen trees meet mountains, meet harbor and sailboats, meet coastline. At the point when I usually start to question all my life intentions, around mile 7 or 8, this time, instead, I was caught up with this cheesy, wonderfully poignant thought: ‘be entirely here, right now.’
With that going through my head, everything became lighter. I was an observer, merely moving through space. The fatigue of my legs seemed secondary. The opportunity seemed profound.
I chalk up this entirely to endorphins. Bless those chemicals.
One of my favorite quotes is this by poet George Meredith:
My dear, these things are life: and life, some think, is worthy of the Muse.
Please do not think that I was thinking to poetry whilst running — I was more likely high-fiving the drag queens at a particular cheer station..
But, the quote I do love, because the pains, actually all things, the very best and the very worst, hardest are the things of life. The things most elevated — to be beloved — most inspirational.
When Usain Bolt won the 100M dash a few days ago he gave a post-race interview in which the interviewer asked a question along the lines of, “People sometimes say your are cocky. You dance around and joke before races. Are you cocky? Do you do it for the fun or for the competition?”
He answered (again, paraphrasing), “I do it for both. For me they are together. Inseparable, the joy and the competition. I do not want to have one with out the other. I work hard so I have joy.” I hope you read it in a Jamaican accent.
That word joy stuck with me. Because as I was running (MUCH SLOWER) last weekend that is what I was feeling too: joy, in combination with hard work.
So a joy in running. These things are life. The cadence of turning over legs. The soreness.
Irma Rombauer was a German American housewife, who turned to her kitchen after her husband committed suicide following a depression. She had no formal cooking training, and no publishing deal. She put together what is now the most recognizable american cookbook for one reason only — which is also its title — the Joy of Cooking.
My mom often reads cookbooks when she cannot sleep at night, which is at least one night a week. For her, it is a joy of the joy of cooking, a sort of meta, which is what all reading is, I suppose.
The Joy of Cooking illustrates the crucial sweet spot where joy and skill combine, where the perfect recipe meets the chef. Meets the kitchen and day. Meets the table and the appetites. That is the gold.
Evergreen trees meet mountains, meet harbor and sailboats, meet coastline.
Rombauer chose an odd epigraph for her cookbook, a quote from Goethe’s Faust:
“That which they fathers have bequeathed to thee, earn it anew if thou wouldst possess it.”
The things that we inherit, if we want to keep them, to take joy in them, we should earn. The recipes passed on to us, to become foods we love, we must cook. We easily find joy in the food, in the gold medal. We can find joy in the work — the cooking, the running.
Action becomes practiced and perfected, extremely precise, yet effortless and free.A soufflé is a 100 meter dash.
Bolt called it joy and competition. Joy and hard work. In other words, ‘the joy of cooking.’ The joy of the process, operation, anticipation, then the joy of the first bite.
Because I will probably (I never want to rule out a late-in-life obsession with curling) never win a gold medal, I want to think about it this way. A gold medal is a great date. It’s a perfect picture. (Which is just a picture that you love.) It’s a perfect-temperature coffee. It’s a great jog around the city. It’s a clever email. It’s a tight hug. It’s the smoothest shave of your legs (or, males, your face).
It’s easy to recognize the joy in the end thing. But it is these things, the actions, the -ing verb things, that produce, too, an overwhelming and stunningly simple joy.
We have all heard ‘do what you love’ and ‘love what you do.’
But what about, ‘Doing is love’? Consider.