Michael Szpakowski – Today’s Run, 26/12/2017


The intense depression and anxiety of the last year and a half, although it is slowly easing, pops up and ambushes me every so often. This morning I woke with its cold fingers on my stomach, heart and spine.

The sun was shining and the world was beautiful but – like Kafka’s ‘an infinity of hope but not for us’ – neither were for me. It’s not that I think bad things – it’s that the right things feel wrong.

At its worst it’s like my whole skin is composed of hair trigger nerve ends, and memories, feelings, which would otherwise be occasions for happy reflection, bring, in some act of complex and horrible mental misappropriation, dread, fear, melancholy.

Running every day wears it down, keeps it at bay. Now I’m about halfway round a longish one, out in the countryside above Gilston. The sky today has been particularly lovely – the palest blue eggshell backdrop plus white candy floss cloud-shreds and the sun is bright and the shadows marvellously sharp but, damn it, it hasn’t touched me anywhere.

Then I turn down the long dirt track which runs down to Gilston Church from Acton’s Farm. It’s flooded and I have to dance and run at the same time to avoid soaking my feet. The sun is directly ahead of me, intensely bright and just about as high as it will get today. It is slightly moderated by a sky whose various elements of white and blue and grey have now become blended and striated but it still gives rise to intense slivery reflections in the various puddles all the way down the mile or so of track ahead of me.

Beautiful it’s not in any conventional sense, closer perhaps to the sublime (and anything hinting at sublimity is generally an infallible trigger for the deepening glums for me) – it’s actually a bit terrifying.

But, quite wonderfully, something other happens. Firstly it is as if my body is made transparent, porous, and the fierce sun, fiercely, true, but kindly, fills me with its light and warmth. Then that ribbon, that river, that chain – oh none of these will do! – of silvery light ahead flickers, hovers between being some metaphor better than those three and its actual nature – a line of sun-shimmering muddy puddles down along a country track – oh! – and either or both will do very nicely thanks.

And I feel OK, well, more than OK, I feel, for now, strange and wonderful and enchanted and as if I have been given something back.]



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