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    Last May, I ran a half-marathon. It was a dreadful experience, in ways I can’t, even four months later, fully articulate. I can tell you that I wasn’t jubilant when I crossed the finish line, I didn’t feel the lightness of spirit I had anticipated. Not at all. In fact, I was bitterly disappointed in myself because I hadn’t run the way I wanted to run and because in the months of training I’d done to prepare for the race, I’d lost all the things I value about running, sacrificed them to this goal of propelling myself 21.1 kilometres in tandem with thousands of strangers, in a specific and challenging amount of time.

    I’d made those sacrifices despite not being a joiner by nature because I’d somehow thought that the common experiences of physical suffering and emotional upheaval that characterise running long distances would make me feel in some way connected to the people I ran with, that it would be this big deep bountiful experience. But it wasn’t; it was completely the opposite: I felt trapped by all that humanity, occluded and impeded by it and deeply resentful of it — I’m not a joiner by nature, no, and I never ever run with other people because one of the great joys of running for me is that it allows me to find solitude, a beautiful, difficult, almost unbearable solitude, that I crave to find, always. Anyway, the more I ran, the more I felt hindered by all those people, and the more I felt that way, the more I ran badly, and the more I ran badly, the more my head was fucked and the more my head was fucked, the more I ran badly. By the time I crossed the finish line, I was crushed.

    It has taken me four months to be able to love running again, to regain some of what I gave away in preparing for that race. It has been lodged in my mind and my spine and my guts for months, the experience of that race, and I have written a lot of words about it — to a running friend or two and to myself — and lain awake at night, hauling the race out of the archives to pore over it in an effort to make sense of it. I have learned a lot from it, for sure, and some facet of the self that is me has been remade because of it. But that’s where I’m at with it now. At the time, I couldn’t find the good in it, or the joy, or the grace. There was only one aspect of it that gave me pleasure in the moment, one beautiful thing. And that was that was that after I’d finished I brushed my hand against my thigh and found it was completely covered in a fine grainy powder  — salt. That was a thing that shivered me up madly. Because … salt. So mystical. And all of me was gritty with it. I was enchanted by the garment of salt my body had made for itself. I was rapt at being enwrapped. Rapt and enwrapped and enchanted. Yes.

    I’m not sure where the power of salt resides — it’s not just a question of the thing itself, or the dietary truth of the body’s need for it. There’s something about the very idea of it. I am compelled and thrilled by the weird, perfect alpha and omega of the fact that we eat it up and then sweat it out; that closed loop of consume/excrete/consume/excrete is like a poem or a prayer that our bodies say or pray, every day and without ceasing. I love that idea very much, because I love poetry in every form I find it and also because I cannot pray the prayers of church so I have to find my solaces and sustenances elsewhere.

    The gift of the half-marathon was to discover the prayerful poem, the poemful prayer, of salt. That is what I think.

    by Mugison

    You know, she killed me
    Took me down to the sea
    And killed me

    Don’t know why it happened
    We used to go there
    Me and my mum, but she…

    Like when you light a match
    A click, and she was on fire

    We used to build castles
    Down there, whole empires
    We placed the crabs as guardians
    And tiny little birds come and visit

    She pulled my hair
    And dragged me in to the sea
    Don’t know why she did it

    While she did it she sang like a violin
    Like a violin…

    My name is Salt
    I’m the reason there is salt in the sea
    I’m the reason there is salt in your tears
    That’s how I come back, like boiling water
    Everything will evaporate
    Dissolve and disappear
    I’ll be there as a taste on your cheek
    So you can remember those that are gone

    I’m in love with the Morton salt girl
    by Richard Peabody

    I’m in love with the Morton salt girl.
    I want to pour salt in her hair and watch
    her dance. I want to walk her through the
    salt rain and pretend that it is water. I want to
    get lost in the Washington Cathedral and follow her
    salt trail to freedom.

    I want to discover her salt lick in the forests of Virginia.
    I want to stand in line for hours to see her walk on in
    the middle of a movie only to have the film break and watch salt
    pour out and flood the aisles. I want to sit in an empty theater
    up to my eyeballs in salt and dream of her.

    When I go home she will be waiting for me in her white dress
    and I will drink salt water and lose my bad dreams.
    I will seek the blindness of salt, salt down my wounds,
    hang like a side of ham over the curtain rod in the bathroom
    and let her pour salt directly on my body.

    When she is done I will lick her salty lips with my tongue
    and walk her down the stairs into the rain, wishing that I
    could grow gills and bathe in her vast salt seas.

    Labyrinth: Izumi's House, Hiroshima, by Motoi Yamamoto, 2007, via motoi.biz
    Salt, Bolivia, by Scarlett Hooft Graafland, 2004, www.scarletthooft.com
    Salt on Mina Mina by Dorothy Napangardi, via www.aboriginalartstore.com.au
    Salt Book for Jack by Jared Tolla, via jaredtolla.com
    Salt Period by Agathe Snow, 2007, via 303gallery.com
    Sakura by Motoi Yamamoto, 2008, via www.motoi.biz
    First edition cover of The Price of Saltby Patricia Highsmith writing as Claire Morgan, 1951, via en.wikipedia.org
    Sakura, detail, by Motoi Yamamoto, 2008, via www.motoi.biz
    Bonneville Salt Flats as seen from a rest area along Interstate 80, via solarnavigator.net
    Red Cord Jarby Kirsty Hall, via flickr.com/photos/fragiletender
    Last Lives by Claire Harvey, via storegallery.co.uk
    Winter geisha with umbrella and lantern, Meiji-era studio view, salt print
    Via Okinawa Soba's photostream on flickr
    Salt Set 5,727,472 by Kelly Mark, 1997, via www.ireallyshould.com
    Sphere by Irini Brzeski, 2003, via artel.org.uk
    Piles of salt, Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, by Luca Galuzzi, 2006, via commons.wikimedia.org
    Salty skin, via barnism's photostream on flickr
    Salt-glazed stoneware jug by Richard Riemershmid, 1902
    Via beccafromportland' s photostream on flickr
    Salt encrusted rocks at the edge of Lake Gairdner, Lake Gairdner National park, South Australia
    Via flickr/photos/liamjon-d
    Salt packet by Joseph Barillari, via en.wikipedia.org
    Salt Landscape by Jared Tolla, via jaredtolla.com
    Salt Cellar by Irina Brzeski, via artel.org.uk
    Red Cord Jarby Kirsty Hall, via flickr.com/photos/fragiletender
    Body of Salt by Irina Brzeski, 2002, via artel.org.uk
    Two sweating sweethearts, Bolivia, 2004, by Scarlett Hooft Graafland, via www.scarletthooft.com
    Labyrinth: Izumi's House, Hiroshima, by Motoi Yamamoto, 2007, via motoi.biz
    Jan Haluszka Chamber, Wielczka Salt Mine, Wielczka, Poland, via kopalnia.pl

    way back when, around the time I was 20, I did two art shows with my paintings, one was with my mom, and another was a group art show, and right after that I went off to San Francisco for art school… after that I didn’t paint for years and years. those experiences sucked the joy out of what I was doing. Everyong had an opinion of my work, and no one really asked me what I thought, what I was thinking, what they meant to me. I was judged, graded and evaluated mostly because people just did not like what I had painted, so I thought.

    I’m not a joiner, a colaborator, either. I really just want everyone to leave me alone.

    artistamuerta added these words on Sep 15 09 at 10:45 am

    Isn’t it good to know that you don’t like the running-as-crowd-organism thing? Now you can do your night-time solitary running thing in peace and not feel pressured to have that group high experience. I know you anticipated that race very much; I’m glad you did it and I’m hoping you’re glad you don’t have to do it again.

    jaylynn milstein added these words on Sep 15 09 at 8:22 pm

    Was thinking along the same lines as Jaylynn. Like, what a blessing it is to know that about yourself now. Or to be reminded of what you knew already but had somehow forgotten.

    Sue added these words on Sep 17 09 at 1:07 am

    Salt. I was working too hard recently and had the brush-the-salt-off-my-face experience. White circles where my braids were dripping onto my black t-shirt. I was amazed and stunned at first. Then it morphed into a strong feeling of how organic I am. I think I could feel my vigorous 40-year old body starting to decompose. I’ll be one of those piles of salt before you know it.

    Laura Brady added these words on Sep 18 09 at 7:00 am

    Oh, fucking yes. I hear the great saline!!

    feather added these words on Dec 08 09 at 11:53 pm

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