Sunday, February 6, 2011

Late Bloom


At the time of my last post I was still battling a bad stomach virus, my second prolonged illness in the past few months. I seem to get sick a lot more often now that I am no longer a marathoner.  Let me rephrase that – I am still a marathoner, I just happen not to have run one in 9 months and not be in training for any future events, just as I still and will always consider myself a poet even if I haven’t written a new poem in a few years and have none in progress, and a photographer even if I just opened this post with an image taken months ago because I haven’t got any good new photos to share today. These things are who I am, even if I am not doing them at the moment.  When I was doing marathons, I had a perfect record of not dropping out of a single one of my 21 races, even though there were many that reduced me to deep fatigue, various pains and stupid tears of frustration somewhere along the way. Whatever happened in those middle miles, by the last few, I was running strong and overtaking people who had passed me and asked if I needed help hours before. Call me the Comeback Kid.

I will never know what it is in me that can be so weak and pathetic one second, a quitter, a loser, and so strong and motivated and indomitable the next.  The one thing I do know is that I need to write my way through such mysteries in order to try to understand them.  Last week, while still quite ill, for example, I ventured out into the heaps of snow to run some errands that were necessary, but face it, the world would not have ended if they had waited another day. I wanted to take a walk. I needed to take a walk, after too many days housebound with no exercise. I knew I probably wasn’t capable of this walk, but I did it anyway.  In my marathoning days, the only time I ever failed to finish a scheduled race was by not starting it at all if I was clearly too injured or untrained to complete it with any kind of satisfaction. But once I lined up at the starting line, there was no option but to finish, and so was the case with my walk.


I walked over a mile with rubber legs shaking the whole way, a spinning head, and a vigilant eye for  a railing to lean on, and the most convenient and secluded snowbank in which to vomit if need be. It never occurred to me to turn back. I was committed and I was going to finish this silly test of my strength. I made it to my destination and back, maybe 2 or 3 miles total. And for the first time at the end of that day, I slept well and was able to get up the next morning rested enough to get through a short workout, after which I felt dizzy but invigorated and with a clearer head and more stable emotions than I’d felt in a week. As often happens when I’m pedaling my indoor bike or out on a long walk, ideas were popping up in my head here and there, themes to explore, things to create. It was as if the bad toxins were being pushed out and the good chemistry was coming back into balance.

Do I secretly enjoy fighting back from the brink? Or am I just at the brink so often I have learned how to fight back from it?  Is it that I’ve never been “allowed” to be weak? And by whom? Those around me, or myself, trying to be as strong as I could for their sake? Or to live up to some standard too far removed now ever to figure out who exactly imposed it?  Or is it that I’m never taken seriously when I’m weak because I rally and cover my weakness like a wounded animal and then wonder why no one thinks I’m as bad off as I am? Surely my protestations of being at the mercy of a virus lost their credibility as I walked a brisk 3 miles over snow-packed sidewalks. I suppose we all want to be strong on the one hand and respected as such, and weak on the other hand and taken care of as such. Is this conflict exclusive to women? I do wonder if men just always tough it out regardless, because overt weakness is not an alternative under any conditions. At any rate, in spite of being worried I had fallen hopelessly behind by taking a week off to be sick, this past week I managed to have some very productive days, including completing the scarf for my father who received it in the mail yesterday. He and my mother love this scarf so much, I may have to make one for my mother too, to make sure the one meant for my Dad doesn’t end up in her closet!

But back to the notion of late blooming. The tulip whose image you see above is called the Queen of Night and it is my favorite flower. It’s the blackest one I’ve ever seen, but has a deep purple hue that comes to life in the afternoon sun. It is a late blooming variety, in its full glory when all the others are on the decline. In so many ways, in terms of my accomplishments in life, I am a late bloomer, hitting all the major milestones later than one is supposed to or the people around me seem to be managing. And yet, when I look at what I’ve accomplished so far I think I still haven’t hit full bloom yet! But I am also a late bloomer in the natural cycles of my energies and enthusiasms. I struggle for a long time it seems, after a slow unremarakble start. Things can get very very bad for a long time and reach the point of collapse, like a flower sleeping underground. And down under that ground I can hear all the other flowers out in the sun enjoying life, being admired, while I push and push against the hard darkness. Then something gives way, just when I am at my weakest, and I find that last shred of inner strength to push through. And there I am – Queen of the Night whose blackness turns to purple in the full sun.

I end this post by revealing a mystery. The Woolblade has arrived at its final destination, the arm of Monica Croese, a marvelous painter whose work inspired the design, and whose blog you can find here.  This post is dedicated to her, another lovely Dutch flower who knows how to break through the hard darkness into the light.


  1. this is a good way to see that ... the Queen of Night metaphor is beautiful and strong.

    You must to understand that you were born and raised in the 20th centure's north american culture.... that demands too much from every individuous and at the end makes everyone feels miserable . The concept created there of "loser and winer" , later sold to the rest of the world is in my opinion one of the biggest responsable to this epidemy of depression , sadness, drugs and cancer all over the world today.
    If you try to get free of it you will find much more satisfaction in yourself... and feel less ill .... don't put the blame on "lack of training" .... you have the right to do not traine for marathon if you don't want to . but feeling guilt about this makes little desieses appear start to believe that for not being a "winner" and sacrificing yourself you don't deserve health , happines or love .
    it is common for all of us today.
    and now you can pay me for this section, i am the cheapest cheesy psychologist of the world but my clients always get satisfied. hahahah!!!

    so good you talked about Monica....
    i love her too. a real beautiful Dutch flower.

    have a lovely healthy week Gabriella.

  2. Once again Gabriella a lovely post. You have no idea how much I enjoy reading your words. I am glad to know that you are feeling better. I think is important is to be able to know that you can overcome your weakness no matter what it is and be strong enough even to understand that at some point that weakness is where our strength comes from. I think you have understood that. Again, thank you for your inspiring comments. I am glad you have enjoyed my images.

  3. CAIO - I agree about the unnecessary pressures of our modern culture and how it weakens the body and spirit. It's a good thing I still have a lot of the "old world" philosophy and values from my ancestors or I'd be in REALLY bad shape! I've made my peace with the fact that my idea of being successful will never be the same as the rest of the world around me, especially in the U.S.A. But sometimes my beliefs get shaken a little and I need to write about that in order to make them steady and strong again! Many thanks for the free therapy! Have a good week, my friend.

    LUIS - I appreciate your words too, dear friend! I knew you would understand. All the best to you.

  4. Gabriella! I agree totally with what Caio said...

    ... I love Monica and his art too! She is a real artist in fact and charachter, she is great

  5. ps: it is so nice for me to see the italian origin in my friend here!

  6. LAURA - Yes, Monica is as you say, an artist in both her work and her soul! I am so happy that something I have made can bring her such happiness. It is wonderful to think of the Woolblade so far away fulfilling such a positive purpose! Thanks for stopping by, and have a beautiful week, my dear!

  7. From one late bloomer to another....I think you are no doubt an eternal bloomer...each day a little more, a little more! Nice to follow the path of the Woolblade too! Lovely post, G.!

  8. Patti, I like that! Eternal bloom! Great idea. Best to you.

  9. All my best and positive thinking coming from

    Wish that you got your strength quick back and
    be full of activity again..

  10. Monika - I hope the same for you! I know you are going through the same thing with your injury and the changes in your body! Having your body slow down is bad for everyone, but I think once you have been an athlete, it's much harder to accept! I can feel your positive vibes reaching me already! All the best to you, my dear!

  11. A beautiful post.

    I also do my best when pushed to the brink. Maybe that's the whole point. We lose our conditioning, our negative resolves - all resistance and what we have left are the seeds inside that clammer for growth.

  12. Thank you so much, Kass! I don't know why I still question the process, which is probably a lot more common and more natural than I give it credit for being, and maybe more appealing too. After all, whose story would we rather see? That of someone who never fails, falters or loses? Or that of the underdog who battles back and eventually wins the day in spite of all obstacles, setbacks and naysayers? Much to consider here...I'm glad you enjoyed the post! Best to you.

  13. Excellent post. Quite a lot to think about. I think all of us cycle differently, in that our highs and lows are different from each others'. To call that weak and pathetic, I think, is to do yourself an injustice. You still finished those races, overcoming those who passed you miles back - who is to say that your way of doing things is wrong, or that it's weak?

    Perhaps you react stronger to the chance of failure than others do, and so you let it push you further. There is no shame in that, that's just the path you've taken. :)

    And for the record - since every single man I know becomes a big fat baby when he's sick - I do not doubt that men go through similar cycles. ;)

  14. We can't have the good without the bad - the yin and the yang = balance. But the important thing is you keep going and doing - that's everything. Once again, I've enjoyed your photos and words.

  15. PHOENIX - thank you so much for reminding me what superior manifestations of the pathetic I have witnessed when some of the men in my life have been injured or ill! I'll remember that the next time I hold myself to too high a standard! Seriously, I may sound hard on myself in this post, and I guess I am, but it is just one of the many and varied voices/forces that drive me. I may find it unusual and at times hard to reconcile that I can live so comfortably at often contradictory extremes, but in general, I am okay with FEELING weak and yet knowing deep down that I am strong. There is a larger topic to explore here in terms of how we all fall into quick dismissive categorizations of ourselves and others - one act or feeling fully experienced or shared always presenting that risk that we will forever be associated with and defined by it, so we hold back, within ourselves, and with others, lest the thing we felt or did or said today be held over us everafter as WHO WE ARE, be it a negative thing we would like to move beyond, or a positive thing we worry we can't repeat, sustain or live up to. Care to tackle this? I know of few other people equal to the task. Thanks for your comment! Always love to see you here. Take care.

  16. TB - what you said! so simple, and so true, and yet always needing reaffirmation, it seems. In the end, here I am, and there you are, and we both keep going, and producing words and images that bring other people, near and far, some small pleasure, whatever else is going on in their lives. Not too shabby! Thanks for your comment.

  17. Hi G/TT - lots to think about again - i often read, reflect, come back. I have no idea what the internal drive to push hard is about - but I only expect it of myself not others! Things have changed a bit in recent times after a yoga class (I did one!) where I learned the mantra - no harm, no greed. At first it didn't click; but when explained - don't harm your body; don't be greedy to do more than others or you now I do the yard work sensibly and enjoy it more and last longer..who'd have thunk it?

    I like Patti's words - eternal bloomer. Perhaps we should start a Queen of the Night club for all us late bloomers!

  18. Dear Gabriella,

    oh i feel so honoured that you dedicated this wonderful post (again) to me. And i can relate so much to your story. I recognized so much i what you've written.
    The dualistic feelings; weak and pathetic one second, motivated and strong the next. It goes often this way with me too. perhaps all artists feel this way?
    Yes, I think sport is not only good for the body but for the soul as well. Keeping all in balance. That's why i want to do some fitness real soon (i keep pushing it away but i will do it) To clear the mind, make room for new creative thoughts.

    The black tulip (queen of the night) is also one of my favourite flowers (as all black flowers are) I love her name, for being a nightowl myself. For her colors which i can relate to. I wear black most of the time and as i wear color it's always purple or red. :-)

    I love your poetic words about the flowers, and the one sleeping under the ground waiting for her time to bloom. So beautifully written.

    It's great to see my photograph on such a great blog.
    Your photographs are awesome as ever! And i love the scarf for your father.

    Your woolblade makes me smile everyday and i feel blessed to have you as a friend.

    Hugs and kisses!

  19. FIONA - You give mea timely reminder that I need to resume my weekly yoga and meditation routines! Yoga for the peace of the body, and meditation for the peace of the soul. My mantra used to be "light my way" - and to me it signified not only a plea for illumination of my path ahead, but a declaration of the lack of heaviness I intended to carry along with me. It didn't take but a few sessions to see the results manifest in all areas of my life. So, thanks for this. I like your idea of the QofN club! It seems we will have a robust membership of quite formidable and talented ladies! Best to you, my dear.

  20. MONICA, dearest, what more can I say? This post was meant for you just as the Woolblade was - I knew you would see yourself in many of the feelings I expressed. For those of us who have such big highs and deep lows, fitness is so important - I can see how my spirit declines and soars as my body is less or more active. I am trying this year to slowly bring exercise back into my life - I am so much better for it! But this is not the same body I was working with a year ago, and I must be patient. I wish you all the best in finding the right level and intensity to get your body moving again (dancing is a great way to start!) but still respecting the limits of your energy. We will both bloom again! I feel blessed too to have you as a friend, so far away and always so near to my heart. All the best to you!

  21. Dear Gabriella, the Queen of night grows in my garden too, I planted it years ago because the rare colour and her name ;)
    And I suppose you can call me a late bloomer too. As a child I lived in my own world,it was beautiful there, birds and flowers, colours and tales,very caring parents, bit too protecting maybe, no danger or violence. I must have been 8 or 9 when I saw a film about the life of Henry VIII and I was so shocked I can still recall that evening clearly. I began to learn about the cruelty, injustice, about human's dark side....
    It made me feel sad and a kind of depressed but I didn't talk about it and I went back to my own 'good' world were it was safe. Art was part of that good world. Growing older I often felt as there was a window between me and everything else, I saw it,I wasn't invisible but I din't took really part, or it was not the real me who took part. But I wanted to understand, I wanted to know. I knew I had to become a lot stronger and wiser otherwise my life would be not good.
    Finding open minded people,friends ,looking at and making art were very important, reading, working in gardens, music, dancing etc. All this helped me to become a happy woman who learned to deal with the painfull side(emotional and fysical).The window has long gone :) As I look back I can clearly see how I became who I am now. Growing older, growing stronger and happier not hard or depressed. I'm glad I fought and kept looking for a kind of balance to deal with life.
    Thanks for the interesting post and cheers! here's one for many good times to come for all eternal bloomers xx

    Monica's art is beautiful, strong, like your Woolblade, now I can see the connection for sure.

  22. I have to tell you that I love tulips and the Queen of the Night is fabulous!!

    I so relate to you, G!! Are you tired of me saying this yet? lol. I have not run 21 marathons but I've done a few. One on a hurt hamstring. Yup....after the November Columbus Marathon which had temps of 32 degrees and snowed I hung up my marathoning!
    It's our crazy brains that push us when our bodies are screaming *no...don't do it*. I think we learn to be kinder to ourselves the older we get.... i think!!
    Btw....I do believe when we're sick a little exercise is good. It always helps me!!
    Oh....and I so enjoyed philosopher Caio's comments!! : ))

    Love, Monica!!!

  23. Preciosa entrada...El texto hermoso y las fotografías bellísimas. El tulipan negro directamente exótico! Lo has captado genial!

  24. A thought provoking post. In my opinion Men and Women have the same emotions its only their levels that differ. I feel women are more stronger as compared to men in all respects. I can relate to the late bloomers and Comeback Kid. I love reading your posts. Hope you are feeling better now. Take care.

  25. Dear Gaby:

    My words are silent, but still, you know, that words are not necessary, for express you my gratitude, for the miracle of your friendship, across miles and oceans, as close as and invencible that are able to go beond any frontier and obstacle. Thank you for be there, thank you for your voice, in a world that feels so empty.
    We will see us soon, and meanwhile, all the time I will be thinking and wishing, that your days may be glorious days.

    All the best, and then again, thanks,,for the most valuable: your friendship.

    Take care, and a warm warm hug.

  26. Alberto, there are ways to reach me, please stay in touch. It means so much that you give me what you can. The world is not empty. I understand what you are going through, but this is a public space. I hesitated to answer your comment here, it is so personal and heartfelt! because I would like to say things that I would not think proper for all eyes. Give me a sign and I will speak to you one on one. Be well, bright one!

  27. OLGA - Greetings! I am happy to see you here and that you like my words and images and the flower! I don't know you but I think you may also be una regina della notte! I will look for you, cara...mille grazie...

  28. NARAYAN - it is always good to hear a man acknowledge that the genders are more alike than different! Go well.

  29. MANON - I loves you grrrrl! and I am not going to commit to a public forum exactly how much it means to me that things I said here resonated...we know. You and I - I say it here - will complete a marathon together! I don't care if it is walking or running or any combo - is you in? mebbe we can get Bri in?

  30. Renilde, my distant dear - I did not want to post your comment at first, it seemed so personal but also so natural. As I said to Alberto, please feel free to reach me outside this public space. It makes me happy that my words touch you, but I am not so selfish that I do not see the consequences in the real people I only know as my followers - you are so much more to me than just a line of words!I send you love.

  31. I'm knee might not let me!! Yup....throw Brian in can push the adult beverage cart beside us!! LOL

  32. Okay - I'll see if there are any rules about wearing a beer hat for a hydration system!

  33. I will TOTALLY tackle that subject in a blog post - as soon as I wrap my head around it, heh!

  34. go girl, always out there pushing boundaries, and self.

    another great post gabriella, but does being strong mean that we are not vulnerable?

    Or is it an innate determination that we are just born with.


  35. PHOENIX - I knew you'd be up for it! Can't wait to see what you do with it!

    T - Funny you mention vulnerability - I was just about to check out that link you provided in your last post! There is a big difference between weakness and vulnerability, I think - and the latter seems a lot more compatible with strength! I'll have to remember next time I am not at my best to say "I'm feeling vulnerable today" instead of "I am weak." Just as one can have "failings" without being a "failure."

    This relates to the topic I was hoping Phoenix would tackle - how we are so worried that one expression or act or trait or instance will completely and forever define who we are. We are such complex beings, contradictory and inconsistent so much of the time, and we all understand that is what it is to be human, and yet we do still seek out quick easy characterizations and standards and impose them on ourselves and others....

    Thanks for stopping by, T!

  36. My body is totally treacherous at the moment (Multiple Sclerosis) so I do understand your frustrations. But I love your indomnitable spirit. Thankyou - and I wish you a speedy recovery and a life full of joy.

  37. Greetings, and welcome EC - I am sorry to hear about your MS. It makes my various ailments and complaints seem quite inconsequential indeed! I do understand the many betrayals of the body. Never wrote about it here, but back in the 90s I suffered from what was perhaps misdiagnosed as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Came on sudden and strong and took years to fully resolve itself, with some lingering symptoms still. Whatever it was, it forced me out of a job and kept me housebound and often bedbound for many months. That said, I did a lot of reading and writing and got many poems published during that time, taking my sense of myself as a creative individual to a new place of legitimacy - so it became a major stepping stone to where I now am! It was not pleasant, but apparently it was necessary! So, no regrets.

    I took a look at your new blog - congratulations and good luck on this new part of your journey! All the best to you!

  38. Great
    thank you for sharing

  39. SKIZO - Many thanks to you for your comment! Be well.

  40. Such tenacity. I could learn a little more, I believe. Somehow tenacity and Queen of the Night are perfectly matched. A wonderful metaphor, Gabriella.

    The photo of Monica was a wonderful surprise.


  41. ERIN - Tenacity is a strange thing - it can only be brought forth, tested and strengthened in extreme situations, some of which I would not wish upon anyone. After that it will always serve you well, under any circumstances, whether they are sought out intentionally or just befall you. So it's a good quality to have, but it does have its dark side as well. Thanks for stopping by!