Thanks to Barend Tollenaar for his kind mention of my blog and website on the Winnipeg speed skating site! That made my day a few days ago…
But yesterday I was feeling pretty emotionally and physically down (again!!), inlining around the downtown streets of Ithaca, and trying to remind my body to remember how to skate on wheels and not ice… My balance point, & snap of leg extension were all wrong for inline. My trusty old Bonts boots & mogema frames felt not like the magic slippers of my memory, but clodhopper awkward. Being really fast in a sport is a good thing, but then when you are not that fast anymore, you remember that feeling, and it can make doing it again dispiriting, it was getting to me too. And then I came across the thick crowds of the 4-H duck run, and hundreds of people clustering around it…
This strange yet joyous Ithaca event consists of people spending $5 or so to buy one of over 3600 little plastic duckies that are dumped into the headwaters of Cascadilla creek. They float about a mile downstream, and the first duck across the finish line wins $500 for the people who put the $5 on that duck, place #2 was an ipod, and so forth down to place 405!
I found myself drawn to the weird drama of it all, seeing some ducks shooting right down the heart of the current like butter, and other ducks get stuck on rocks, eddys, or in the weeds on the bank, Like most of the crowd, I found myself rooting for the ducks, I found myself skating along the bank with the mass of people mirroring the mass of floating yellow duckies.
Then I stopped watching the ducks and really shifted my attentions to the crowd. How funny we are, cheering this on and finding it so engrossing. The mass of buzzing attention following the lead duck, the cheers for the hapless chase pack.
Drama as a submerged branch catches one little duck, he seems stuck, the crowd cheers, hoots & hollers, then the duck pops out and the cheers become clapping! Or the duck truly is stuck, and people’s attentions wander and move onward (at the end of the day, volunteers collect all the stuck ducks littering the creek edge.).
How many watchers swirl our selves into the duck eye view of the world, how does it feel for that lead duck? Or even a mid pack duck, swarming down the river, banging off rocks, jostling in the current, looking up to the cheering crowds, and the ghosts of huge fish below (the spawning is mostly over, and the remaining fish, mostly sexed out males, like diehards at the singles bar at closing time, were quite unimpressed by the ducks).
So yes, we are all ducks as we watch, the race means nothing, but it means everything, especially if you are a competitive duck, and dream of leading the way through the rapids, and get off on the cheering from the crowds…
Some dare the rapids, some watch and walk along the shore, some never leave their couches and the sucking eye of TV. I am a duck by nature, no different, plastic and tossed by rapids not of my own design, my body mostly not of my own design (hey, right ankle of mine, stop hurting, I need you healthy this year!!!)….
Do I have control? Yes, and that is where I am different than the helpless plastic ducks..or do I? Does fate and my genetically determined personality swirl me onward just like a plastic duck in a stream?
The crowd gathered at the finish line. Eager, a palpable buzz in the air, and of course, that gentle liberal vibe of happy goof that seems to be so common in Ithaca gatherings.
I swear the cheer that greeted the wining duck was 10 times bigger than the cheer that I got when I had my 12th place race at nationals, and the crowd was bigger too! (This was the race I trained my soul out for, the race I spent months away from home for, the race I have embedded in my heart like a furious ember, the race I am using to fan the flames of hard training with this year).
And it does not matter really in some ultimate sense, how I did at nationals last year –or will do at Olympic trials, who wins Westminster kennel club, what NFL team has the best record and wins the super bowl, or what duck shot the rapids of chance and floated across the finish line first…
I will skate fast or not, have kids or not, be a good father/husband/human being or not, and die for certain anyway, we all will, somehow the words of the end of blade runner comes to mind, as Roy is dying:
“i´ve seen things that you people wouldn´t believe, attack ships on fire off the shoulder of orion…all those moments…will be lost…in time…like tears in the rain”
This depressing strain is how my mind works sometimes; I always trace a web of associations to its core, but I do escape, I have a solid lifting workout scheduled for today, so it’s onto the bike to ride the vertical mile (really!!!) to my gym courtside and try to improve my duck plastic!
At the gym there was a woman in her early 50’s, either just coming out of a long hospital stay, or just emerging from a lifetime on the couch. She was struggling with the easiest machines, with no weight on them, but damm she was trying, shaking, gasping, working with a personal trainer, and doing her best! She inspired me, I looked at myself in the mirror, who the heck was I, looking how I do, with the talent I was born with and have nurtured through hard work! Who am I to mope about not being fast on my inlines today, to philo-paralyze my brain with the metaphor of plastic ducks!
I was at the squat rack, doing power cleans, my haze of earlier depression began to clear, then the lyrics of an Eminem song broke through the bump-thump-boom-boom of the gym speakers, Eminem said:
You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo!
The obscuring coils of higher brain functions melted away, the inner brain, stem and nub lit up like a dragster Christmas tree with neuron electricity. I threw some more weight on the bar, took a good grip, and just about fucking threw that bar and plates through the ceiling of the gym for rep after raging rep. Yeah!
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