I often joke to my students about where Inspiration finds me. I call her poem faerie, long-walk faerie, shower faerie, I-just-submerged-myself-nose-deep-in-potting-soil faerie, middle-of-the-lake faerie. Because of poem-faerie's perverse sense of humour, I try to carry a journal with me almost everywhere, to tempt her, or to tease her. Go ahead. Think you can find me unprepared here?
I am also frequently visited by Inspiration's backhanded friend, Goading. Goading peers out at me from other people's writings, from bookstores, from the clean expanse of freshly changed blue floral sheets, from the antique writing desk in my mother's living room. Goading works in tandem with Inspiration, but more often he conjures up a gossamer-thin ghost-image of Inspiration, which disguises the real nature of the beast: Work.
In the literal, though slightly archaic, etymological sense, thus:
(a) to take into the lungs in breathing; inhale
(b) to infuse (breath, life, etc.) by breathing
Even in this instance, it's problematic. Either I'm doing the breathing, or someone else is. Did someone inspire me, and now I'm duty-bound to pay it forward, to breathe life into paper, into ink?
One place I am generally incapable of writing is while running. My father finds this inexplicable; he drafts entire sermons in his head while circling the cinder track. Not me. When I'm running, that's all I'm doing. It takes all of my concentration to run--not so I won't fall over, but so I won't stop. And what stops me when I'm running, if I'm not concentrating, is not my legs. It's my lungs. Most people don't like to be out of breath, and I'm no exception. I spent a good deal of my allergic childhood and asthmatic adolescence this way, and now I do this three to four times a week? On purpose? Madness.
Running, for me, has two purposes. The first, which can possibly be only understood by other long-distance runners, is to get rid of the little men who bounce around my thigh muscles. The second, simply, is to breathe. To inspire, and to expire. Literally, every time I run, it is life and death. I breathe in, I live. I breathe out, I die.
Where do I find this life, this inspiration? I don't know. I've never seen the wind. But I know that without it I will stop breathing.