Corinna Wollf
Marathon in the Amygdala

With a ragged inhalation I can feel the plastic being sucked deeper into my
nostrils.  The bag forms a mask-like seal around my face and my skin is
beginning to sweat.  My struggled breath is loud and gasping and my ears are
ringing.  I am under my grandmother’s bed in the back bedroom of her trailer
and I am holding a plastic bag firmly over my head.  My mouth is dry and
stained with pomegranate juice.  Sugar granules, remnants from the candies
purchased earlier that day, scratch my eyes.  
It was a deal between my grandmother (aka Grams) and me.  I would pick up
her carton of cigarettes from the Lucky Dollar; in exchange I would use the
change and buy my favorite candies – sour keys, mojos, nerds, and candy
cigarettes.  Each week I would check to see if pomegranates were in season.  
They were my favorite and if I ate them seed by seed, savoring each seed as
it exploded in my mouth, I could extend my walk home to several hours.  It
was a weekly adventure; Grams would trust me with a ten dollar bill and a
handwritten note authorizing me to purchase cigs on her behalf.  At the time I
was living in a mobile home, on a crescent, in a small town, in the middle of
the Canadian prairies.  I would leave the trailer through the front door and cut
through the school yard, turn right at the Mennonite church on the corner,
and walk past the town arena and baseball diamond.  
The town is sandwiched between two fertilizer plants and the air constantly
smells of sulphur.  At the Lucky Dollar, I would carefully select my purchases,
right down to the last penny, and present Gram’s note to the store clerk.  
Dawdling all the way home, stopping at all my favorite places and eat my
treats.  There were the swings by the ball diamond and the playground at the
bottom of the steep hill in the school yard.  If I stood in just the right spot in
the middle of the teeter-taughter, I could balance it all by myself.  Sometimes
I would walk down the gravel road leading to the surrounding country-side.
There was a farm with horses down that way and a house I thought was
haunted.  Slowly working my way back to the trailer, I would pick leaves from
the trees and pods from the caragana bushes. I believed I could survive on
caragana pods and live in the haunted house, should I work up the courage to
run away. I occasionally stopped to search for a four-leaf clover or forage for
the tiny wild strawberries that sometimes grew in the ditches.    
Arriving back at the trailer, I would run quickly past the shack in the back
yard.  A beast lived there and I had to be careful not to wake it. On this day
the beast was waiting for me as I came running into the backyard.  Hours go
by and it is dark when I am released from the shack.  I stumble crying,
disheveled and hurt into the trailer. Stampede wrestling is blaring from the TV
in the front room and Grams has gone out in search of her little poodle who
has escaped again.  Leaving the cigarettes on the kitchen table and keeping
the empty bag for myself, I make my way down the hall of the trailer to the
back bedroom, close the door, and sink into the safe spot under Gram’s bed.
I am determined to die and my mind is racing – How long does it take? Will I
fall asleep?  Where will I go?  Will I be safe?  I am eight years old and I am
broken.
*******************************************
The child under her grandmother’s bed broke into hundreds of small parts that
day.   Each small part was a seed from which a demon grew.  Her spirit was
crushed to dirt, fertile ground from which many things sprung.  From one small
ear came Eustachi, the one who lives just inside my ear canal a plays of
continuous loop of hateful audio - stupid, ugly, bad.  From the other ear
sprang Adder, deaf to kind words and soothing sounds, she scrutinizes all
things heard in search of evil and ill intent.  The child’s soft grey eyes rolled
deep into the back of my brain where they play a continuous motion picture of
train bridge swan dives, exploding skulls, and cliché overdose scenes.  Her
lips entwined together and clamped shut upon her tongue to form the demon
Silen, who stands constant vigil at the back of my throat to ensure secrets do
not escape. Littlekey, the wisher, arose from her collarbone and dwells on my
shoulder to constantly view what others possess and wish those things for her
own.  The fiend Acer, with its pinched and bitter expression, was born in the
child’s nose where the smell of pomegranate and cigarette smoke coupled.
Acer brings vomit into my mouth at reminiscent smells of the trailer.  From the
left hand sprang Dexter, sitting in judgment and exacting self-punishment.
From the right came Pathos, the one who seeks out temporary reliefs.  Over
the years the demons multiply and gained strength.  
Much of my childhood and teen years are blank, obliterated from memory.  I
move often but the demons always follow. Only small fragments of that child’s
soul remained in what had become a surrealistic landscape filled with terrifying
demons.  
***********************************************************
I am 17 and alone in the birthing suite of an inner city hospital.  It is one day
past my due date and the coldest night on record for November, minus 45
degrees Celsius with the wind chill.  I live in a relatively large city in the
middle of the Canadian prairies, my seventh home since leaving Gram’s trailer
at the age of nine.  My contractions started four hours ago, strong and
continuous, and I knew it would not be long.  He is coming quickly, as though
he is being careful to spare me pain.  
The white knight has arrived and he is glorious. He has a halo of white blond
hair and his eyes shine like steel; he is a 100 years old if he is a day. Upon
inspection of his toes, legs, fingers and arms, I can see that he is perfect in
every way and I love him with an intensity I have never known.  Looking into
his eyes, my path becomes clear.  He has been sent to me and it is my duty
to feed him, nurture him and give him everything I can.  I must distance myself
from my mental battlefield.  I must run to elude the demons that surround me
so they do not touch this perfect child.  In my mind, I start to run, slowly at
first, picking up momentum as the days and months go by.  The white knight
grows and flourishes, providing me with an incredible strength and
motivation.   The gap between me and the perusing darkness widens.  By
January, I am back in high school and by September I have started
University.  I believe, in my heart, that education is our way to a good life.
***********************************************************
The white knight is on the floor with his toys, engaging in a deep self-
dialogue of imaginative play.  We live in the heart of the inner city.  It is a
rough part of town, throbbing with violence, poverty and despair.  One of my
greatest sorrows is the stray dogs that run through the neighborhood, starved
and neglected. It is amazing how much suffering the sight of an animal in pain
can bring.  Our home is a nice, clean fourplex that we have qualified for
through a public housing initiative. It is a two level unit with the bedrooms and
bathroom in the basement and the combined kitchen, dining room, living room
and laundry room on the main floor.   The linoleum is bright blue and I have
found some nice furniture at the thrift store. I work hard to keep our home
bright and happy, keeping the darkness from the neighborhood and the
demons of my soul away.  
Each day we take the bus to the University, crossing the river and entering
into a different world.  As the bus moves further from the inner city, the whole
landscape changes.  The houses are large and well kept with gardens and
freshly mowed lawns. I cannot even imagine what it is like to live in one of
these houses. The City plants flowers on this side and the river is lined with
trees and paved trails follow the banks. Students walk to school with pride
and purpose.  It is a large and beautiful campus with historic limestone
buildings, libraries, theaters and art galleries.  It is a world of hope and
opportunity where people have dreams and the means to go after them.  I am
wracking up huge student loans to be here, I have no one to help me, and my
wasted teen years spend in suicidal depression did not reward me with
scholarships.   Sometimes when our bus crosses the bridge, my demons start
to rise.  Littlekey, the wisher, asks me from her perch on my shoulder “why do
they have everything and we have nothing” and the motion picture of a train
bridge swan dive flickers in the back of my head.   Looking at the white knight
as he watches the scenery wiz by the window, I run a little faster in my mind,
putting a safe distance between me and the pursuing demons.  
One particularly cold winter day and I am lying on the couch, exhausted,
worried and scared.  Our little two-level unit has just been broken into for the
third time.  They broke in through the white knight’s window and rummaged
through everything. The furniture is overturned and the cupboards ransacked.  
The little diamond ring my Grams had given me is gone and I mourn its loss.  
The thieves have taken what little we have, including a week’s worth of food
money.  On this day I sold my textbooks for groceries, which we have pulled
home in our orange toboggan from the grocery store ten blocks away, the
white knight riding amongst the milk and bread, bundled in his winter gear.  He
is a good boy and he holds onto a jar of pickles, his favorite, with all his
might while keeping a watchful eye for precious items falling overboard.   I am
exhausted and feel completely defeated.   
The white knight sees the demons rising in my eyes, micro-expressions
flashing across my face – ephemeral but unmistakable.  He makes his way
over to me in his childish gait.  His eyes shine like steel. He is 1000 years old
if he is a day. He touches my head with his soft, little hand and I can see
hope in his eyes and it gives me the strength to keep running.
              **********************************************************
Enter the red knight.  His hair is long and wavy, brown with red undertones.   
His skin is soft and elastic and he has piercing blue eyes. He is tall, lean and
muscular.  He has struggled and his darkness is equal to mine, but his mind is
quiet.  When he was four, his father was taken-when he was eighteen, his
mother.  Middle child of three boys, he is the negotiator and peace maker.   I
need him and he needs me.  We are married one year later.  
His mother has left him her home, and we gratefully make it our own.  The red
knight has lived here since his father passed when he was four.  His mother’s
effects remain and we pack them with care together, he is ready to let go and
move on. There are relics of his life everywhere, army men buried in the
garden, doodles on the wall, and toys on the roof.  To me this level of
stability is without comprehension, I have moved around all my life and have
no ties.  I go to work planting my roots.  I have a huge garden full of flowers,
tomatoes, herbs and all sorts of vegetables.   Like everything I do, I take
gardening to the extreme.  The white knight loves the garden and I plant pole-
bean teepees, sunflowers and raspberries for him.  On summer mornings, he
goes outside to forage for his breakfast and in the afternoon he hoes the rows
of peas and carrots.  From where we have come, this is paradise.  There is no
violence or oppressive poverty surrounding us and I no longer need to keep
the darkness of the neighborhood at bay, just my inner secrets.  It is a small
home, but it carries love and history and we make it our own. It is one block
from the river and its paved trails, the gods I will soon be worshipping.  
              **********************************************************
When I am 24, they catch me.  I have graduated from University and my first
job pays $14,000 per year before taxes and the student loan collectors want
it all.  They are unrelenting and call me at work several times every day. My
demons echo the debt collectors’ judgment of my character – lazy, unworthy,
useless.  My mind is preoccupied with worry and guilt and I stop running. The
demons tackle me from behind and take back my body, feasting on my
intestines and tying my gut into knots. The demon Cyto, who hatched deep in
the little girl’s intestine, under the bed in the trailer, has awakened and is
feasting in a cannibalistic frenzy.   The twelve devils formed from her stomach
are driving their spears deep into the lining of my digestive system. Siddons
the tragic muse, product of the child’s ego, delights in the interest of the
doctors and appeals for further tests, interventions, and specialized care.  
Pathos, the right hand giver of temporary reliefs, grows strong from the
medications. The doctors call it Crohn’s disease and it possesses me for the
next three years. My body is attacking itself, a perfect physical manifestation
of my inner self loathing.  
My knights are worried.  My garden withers from neglect.  Many days I come
home from work and go immediately to bed.   Having a serious complication, I
am hospitalized for ten days.  On this day the white knight is at my bedside
playing with a stuffed ostrich from the gift shop.  He is glorious and his eyes
shine like steel.  He is 5000 years old if he is a day.  He smiles at me and I
know what I must do.  In my head I start to run, slowly at first, picking up
momentum as days and months go by.  I start to heal.  Even when I am sick, I
keep working hard and I am rewarded with better and better jobs.  I start to
tackle my mountain of educational debt.
              **********************************************************
Over the years I find places of escape.  There are places where I can find
bigger and better things than myself and my own mental marathon, I call them
thin places.   I take up kayaking and find that when I am paddling down the
river on a calm, sunny day, my demons retreat and my mind can stop
running.   I love the rhythmic and syncopated sound of the paddle cutting
through the water; the perfectly still surface with only the occasional eddy
pulling at my paddle to hint at the force of the currents below; the sun
warming my face and shoulders while the water transmits its coolness to me
through the bottom of the boat and skims my hands as I paddle.  I am at
peace and the animals along the banks notice me but do not run away.  The
river is life itself, provider of sustenance, connector of distance places, and
the cleanser of all things toxic.  The river is death itself, bringing destruction
and clearing the way for change and rebirth.  In my eyes, the river is a god, a
temporary respite from the darkness that awaits me on the shore.  I paddle
thousands of miles and find normality in those journeys.  
The white knight delights in the river too.  From the age of ten, he paddles
twice a day every day.  From the outside, I cannot see what joy he finds on
the water that brings the serenity in his gaze and the perfect precision of his
stroke.  Watching him from the bank, I know that he has found his own
nirvana in the river.  If I escape to the river, he masters it.  He carefully
analyzes its currents and understands it geography and flows exactly.  Like
the river gods of ancient Greece, the Potami, he corrals the power of the
current to propel and amuse him.  The river makes him strong and confident
and gives him the health and physique of an athlete.  Like the river, he is
deep and mostly silent.  Our love for the river connects as two water
molecules in millions of gallons. We are one in the same. His strength is mine.
Another thin place can be found after an hour or so of hard running.   I started
running at 28, and it came quit naturally to me.  This is not really a surprise
given the amount of training taking place in my head.  When I first hit the trail,
my mind and body are running partners, side-by-side, pacing each other.  As
the run becomes long and hard, my mind starts to quiet, it is unfit to keep up
with my body.  This is when peace comes.  The trail along the river is a god
to me.  It offers beautiful sights, winter landscapes, and skies of fire, ice fog,
changing leaves, and a hundred shades of green.  One of my greatest joys is
the dogs that run the trails with their owners.  It is amazing how much
happiness a tail wager, awkward runner, or leash biter can bring.  When I run
each breath I take is deep and cleansing, reaching deep into my soul,
expelling a little bit of darkness with each exhalation.  In winter, I can see the
white puffs of breath and imagine that each contains one of the demons –
expelled forever.   I hope that if I can just run long and hard enough, all the
darkness will be out and each demon exiled.   
It is a false hope that I chase for eight years through fifty kilometers a week
and four marathons.  Even after a million kilometers and a billion exhalations,
the demons will start to rise several hours after I stop running.   That is the
tragic flaw; the body can only run for so long whereas the mind can run
forever.  It is the story of the tortoise and the hare, the mind is slow but it will
catch up once the body tires.      
Whereas I require marathon events and training schedules to motivate my
running interest, the white knight finds running no challenge whatsoever.  One
winter morning he goes out for a short run and comes home three hours later.  
He has just run a marathon distance, circling the bridges in our Canadian
prairie city four times.  He proclaims “you don’t need a race to run a
marathon”.  I am shocked and can think of nothing better to do than make
pancakes.  He doesn’t need a finisher’s medal; he finds no value in them.  
Sore from paddling and running, I stumble into my ultimate thin place, yoga.   
There is an old saying that “when the student is ready, the teacher will
arrive”.  True to the saying, my teacher arrives when I need her most. She has
practiced yoga for thirty years and has an ocean of knowledge to share.  
Over five years she teaches me the 300 postures and breathing techniques of
the Iyengar system.  She leads me to the eight paths and encourages me to
learn everything I can about anatomy, asana, breathing, meditation, discipline
and responsibility.  She can see there is a war raging between my mind and
body and she is offering me her treatise to peace. With diligent practice I
learn that my mind is mine to control, it can be stilled using the breath and the
alignment of my body.  As I had proven to myself with paddling and running,
the mind will give way to the body.  This experience arises after twenty
minutes in a perfectly executed headstand, once you have brought your head
to the floor and clasped you hands and feet in tortoise posture (kurmuasana),
and when you truly understand the meaning of corpse pose (savasana).  
Through my yoga practice, the doors of my creativity start to open, leading
me to my next sanctuary.   
I find respite in the visual arts and start taking classes in drawing, painting and
art history.  When I paint or draw, I become completely focused and my
mental run can stop. Having landed a job at the University, I am now working
on the other side of the bridge and the world opens to me. I can take classes
at my leisure and I live in the world where I can have dreams and the means
to go after them.  I have arrived, but to my disappointment I still feel like an
outsider. I am different and I usually hide it well, but sometimes my demons
show. One day I am meeting with a student who has everything in the world
but is greedy and feels entitled, completely ungrateful for the wealth and love
she possesses.  She treats me as her underling and feels that I can not
possibly understand the stresses she is enduring as the result of a scheduling
delay. Littlekey, the wisher, screams from her perch on my shoulder.  The
demons rise in my eyes, micro-expressions flashing across my face –
ephemeral but unmistakable.  The student sees the change in my face, but
does not understand its depth.  To her it is only confirmation that I am
different, one of the others that does not belong here.  Moments like this
occur occasionally and I learn to more perfectly cover my true self.  There are
others here like me, I recognize their pain and can feel it in my soul.  We pass
each other like ghosts, not acknowledging each other, desperately trying to
enter this world we are wondering in.  
I am odd, but luckily the art department embraces oddity.  My poison seeps
onto the canvas and creates images that are critiqued as unique and alive.  I
have found another thin place in the studio.
I love these thin places and in their pursuit I become a kayaker, a marathon
runner, a yoga teacher, a dancer and an artist. I take all of these pursuits to
their extreme in search of real and lasting peace, my holy grail. I gain perfect
control of my body and my mind, but my soul remains broken.  I will soon
realize that I need all the pieces of my soul intact to live in this state of calm
when my body is at rest.  These activities built my strength and confidence,
both of which I will need when it is time for me to fight. For me, there needs
to be a war before there is peace.
      ***************************************************
The white night stands on the podium, he is just about 18 and he is glorious.  
His eyes shine like steel. He is 10,000 years old if he is a day.  He has just
come off the lake where he chased down his competitors to claim the gold
medal which hangs around his neck.  He finds little value in the medal itself,
but accepts it respectfully and acknowledges the worth of his competitors-
they are his friends.  He is fierce and he is strong. Water droplets cling to his
skin and his white hair.  Having excelled in paddling, he has travelled around
the world and experienced many things in his young life.    
The white knight makes his way over to me in his confident, mature stride and
he touches my shoulder with his masculine hand.  I can see hope in his eyes
and I know that it is time for me to take care of my unfinished business.  He is
safe and independent and I can stop running. I will turn around and face my
demons head-on, running backwards along the winding road I have travelled
these past eighteen years through the deepest recesses of my memory.  I will
fight and slay each and every demon in turn, reclaiming the piece of soul that
each possesses until I have collected all the parts of that child who broke
under her grandmother’s bed, in the trailer, on the crescent, in the small town,
in the in the middle of the Canadian prairie.  I will go back through my memory
to the place that broke me and make peace.  
Realizing what I need to do, a terror comes over me and I reach out and
touch the white knight’s shoulder – please do not leave me, I am scared, I am
tired and weak, I cannot do it.  I immediately recognize my selfishness and
fear that my touch will leave a dark imprint on him, one he will carry with him
always.  Shame and worry overcomes me. That darkness can seep right
through the skin and race straight to the heart where it grows and courses
through the body. It was my duty to keep the darkness from touching him.  
Looking into his eyes, I can see that there is no need for fear, his strength is
impenetrable.  His strength is mine.  We are two water molecules in millions of
gallons.  In my mind, I turn around and start to run, slowly at first, picking up
momentum as my demons draw near.  
      ***************************************************
Memory is a strange place.  All the features of the physical world are
represented in its landscape, if in a weird and discombobulated way.  Hills
blaze yellow like the sulphurs of hell. Feelings are reflected in bright colours
like purple for determination, deepest black for the depths of sorrow, and red
for victory.  Every fact, story and event we have experienced lives in this
landscape, manifesting itself when the right cue is stumbled upon.  My path
drops from a surreal sky and is well travelled by all the things I so deeply
fear.  This is the battlefield and I run full steam along the path.  
Coming to the top of a blazing yellow hill, I find Littlekey, the wisher.  This
demon was the closest to me and spent many years as my companion from
her perch on my shoulder.  In a twisted way, she is my friend and I slay her
with a heavy heart.  I reclaim the child’s collarbone from which Littlekey was
formed and place it in a sack I am carrying on my shoulder.  With Littlekey’s
demise, I am released from coveting what others have and I can be content
with the life I have made for myself. Not much further along the path I hunt
Eustachi and Adder, the fiends who have distorted all things heard and
reinforced all my negative beliefs. They too are smote, and the child’s small
ears are placed in my shoulder sack.  I am free from the constant stream of
hateful audio playing in my mind and I can know hear positive things about
myself.  Stupid, ugly, and bad are replaced with creative, smart and kind – I
can see the beauty that I possess. I find Loki, the demon pieced together from
scattered regions of the child’s brain, running in its disorganized circles in a
whirlwind of chaos and disorder.  With the furor of a warrior, I slam Loki into
the ground, and collect the pieces of the child’s brain that roll like pearls from
a broken necklace.  As I leave the Land of the Blazing Yellow Hills, the yellow
no longer represents the sulphurs of hell. The hills behind me are bright
symbols of comradery and friendship, a new land to me, previously
unexplored.  
Feeling strong and determined now, I enter the Land of the Purple Hills. My
pace has become rhythmic and steady. I search out Silen, Acer, Dexter and
Pathos. In a great conflagration the demons are cast into flames. From the
ashes I collect the child’s mouth and tongue, nose and hands.  There are no
more secrets and vomit will no longer fill my mouth when a memory of the
shack replays.  Repatriation of the child’s hands frees my mind from harsh
self-judgment passed down by Dexter and eliminates the need for the
temporary relief’s dolled out by Pathos. With a similar furor, the demons that
live deep in my intestines are exorcised.  Cyto and the 12 Devils are impaled
on stakes and left to line the trail that cuts through the Land of the Purple
Hills, the child’s intestines and stomach torn out and placed in my shoulder
sack.  There will be no more illness caused by the things residing here.  No
fewer than 50 demons are hunted and slain in the Land of the Purple Hills.  
With each part of the child I place in my sack, the stronger my resolve
comes.  
I run deeper into the Amygdala and enter the Land of my Ancestors where all
of my inherited memories reside. This land vibrates with the sound of fiddles
and prayer. A red river alive with pike, rainbow trout, and pickerel rages
through the center of the landscape.  Herds of deer, antelope and buffalo
graze on the prairie grasses.  Deeper in the distance I can hear the sound of
drums beating and wagons racing to the Promised Land. I am a Metis woman
on my mother’s side and a Mennonite woman on my father’s.  My birthright is
a rich tapestry of knowledge and pain.  All the wounds of persecution from
both sides are remembered here, passed to me through the memories of my
ancestors.  
My mothers have left me with an innate knowledge of the land and plants
including milk thistle, berries, chamomile, morning glory and purple cone
flower.  In this land, all of the plants dance together in the beautiful designs
my mothers captured in beaded patterns and intricately worked Mennonite
quilts.  The earth and the water are the gods of this land.  I can take comfort
here and rest in the arms of my mothers. Cradled in one of my grandmother’s
hand-sewn quilts, I regain my strength to complete my journey.  I see the
child’s soft grey eyes floating in the red river.  I scoop them out and release
them of the suicidal visions they have played for so many years. I gently
place the eyes in my shoulder sack. I collect 50 fine hairs from the plants
around me to serve as the child’s eyelashes so I will always see the world
through the wisdom of my ancestors.  I place these hairs in my sack and start
on the last and most difficult kilometer in my marathon.
In the deepest province of the amygdala, I enter the Land of the Deepest
Sorrow.  As I enter this god forsaken place, I am engulfed in an overwhelming
darkness which tricks my eyes and instills fear in my heart.  I am swift-footed
and bold, absorbing the darkness as a source of strength. The memories that
reside here are those I have stuffed down into my unconscious mind, caged
and guarded.  So deceptive is the enclosure that I have built to contain these
memories, I can scarcely navigate my way through this land. The sound of
insults, slurs, and ridiculing laughter fill the air with a hateful hiss.  I run down
a black hill toward that small town in the middle of the Canadian prairies. The
smell of rot rises from things better left dead to pierce my nose and sting my
lungs. I know I am descending into the deepest pits of the depression that has
followed me for so long. Stray dogs run beside me on the trail, growling and
biting at my heels.  I find the one dog-like demon, Odin, who stole the child’s
heart and pulsates rage through my body.  I rip its heart out and place it in my
sack and the growling of the dogs stops.
The creatures that prey on the weak and vulnerable prowl in this dark
landscape and I hear their sounds coming from the edges of the trail.  I face
each one who exploited and hurt me and take back any piece of myself they
have taken away, tucking it away in the sack on my shoulder. I charge past
the grain elevator that marks the entrance to the small town in the middle of
the Canadian prairie. Even the grain elevator is distorted and threatening in
this land. Each morsel of grain it holds represents a misdeed, hurtful moment,
ill spoken word, or regretful action.  The elevator runneth over and I go
through every grain.  When I have absolved myself of each wrongful action, I
run down the main street past the small school house and turn left at the
corner church, rounding the crescent to arrive at my grandmother’s trailer.  
I stop and stand, beholding my greatest fear.  Every aspect of the Land of the
Deepest Sorrows is distorted except for this place.  The brown and white
trailer, with its front bay window and sheer yellow curtains, stands just behind
and overgrown lilac bush. It always amazed me that someone’s ancestor loved
that lilac bush so much, they nurtured a young sapling and brought it all the
way to this new world from France. The grass in the yard is patchy from dog
urine and the weathered red lawn furniture remains.  The front door bangs
against the deck with the plastic green roof, I must have left it open when I
left for the store. I can see the dark shadow of the shack in the back yard. A
plastic bag drifts in the air overhead and the smell of cigarette smoke and
pomegranate juice stings my nose.  I can hear the faint buzz of the TV from
inside the trailer.  My shoulder sack is full and heavy and I have work to do.
There will be two funeral rites in the Land of the Deepest Sorrow today.  The
shack in the back of Gram’s trailer becomes a funeral pier for the beast that
lived within. The shack is old and rickety and I am strong.  I look inside and
see the beast for what it really is, pathetic and weak. I smash the shack to
pieces with Gram’s garden shovel taken from its usual place in the back yard.
I douse the rubble of the shack with gasoline and light it aflame.  Deep black
smoke billows into the black sky and over the black hills and valleys of this
forsaken land.  
I make my way over to Gram’s garden where she grew peas, carrots, onions
and potatoes. It is a small plot that she tended with skill and pride.  This is
where my small bundle will rest.  Still holding Grams’ garden shovel, I dig a
deep hole in the center of the garden.  I open my shoulder sack and neatly
arrange the disarticulated mass of bones and parts, making peace with each.  
The funeral pier rages behind me, all of its evil dissipating into the black sky
which is opening to show beautiful red streaks reminiscent of the northern
lights.  Through the opening in the sky, I can hear the faint sound of fiddles
and my mothers’ praying in the distance.   I carefully tie the small bundle and
place it in the hole I have dug and cover it with the soil that nurtured my
grandmother’s plants.  I place Gram’s garden shovel back in its usual place,
so it will be persevered there in my memory forever. With the timelessness of
a dream, the sky is now completely red and the land of sorrow has morphed in
my memory to the land of victory.  On the burial spot, I plant morning glory
and purple cone flower which will perpetually grow in Gram’s garden, behind
her trailer, on a crescent, in a small town, on the Canadian prairie, deep
within the amygdala.  My marathon is complete.  
      ***************************************************
It is a warm, sunny Saturday and I come into the house after my morning run.  
My eyes adjust to the relative darkness of the kitchen and I can see the white
knight surrounded by the halo of the fridge light.  He has a jar of pickles in his
hand, his favorite.  His eyes shine like steel. He is 100,000 years old if he is
a day.  He smiles at me.  I am blessed and my mind is quiet.