Tuesday, March 8, 2011


There are less than two weeks until the Los Angeles Marathon, so it's the Season of the Long Run.  Apart from the physical discomfort of 15+ mile runs, the main challenge is the boredom.  Ear buds and ear phones hurt my ears after an hour or so, so music and audiobooks are out.  The best way to pass the miles - and to keep one's mind off one's aching feet, knees, thighs, and hips - is to drift into a fugue state.

My mind always turns first - and again and again - to work.  I'm planning numerous huge and unwieldy projects with too little time, staff, and funding, which is rather like trying to wrestle large, angry Krakens into small burlap sacks.  Thinking about these projects is not restful, but the resulting adrenalin is good for my weary legs - and sometimes I even figure out a way to stuff another tentacled arm into the sack.

Much more enjoyable is the topic of character analysis via children's books, which can occupy my mind for many a mile.

First, I turn to Winnie the Pooh.  Which character would I be?  (uneasy combination of Piglet and Rabbit)  What about my family, my friends, my coworkers?  Everyone in the world can be classified according to the world of the 100 Acre Wood.  Haven't you worked with an Eeyore, lived with a Tigger, or gone to school with an Owl?  One of my daughters is definitely a Pooh.  (side note: when I was a little girl, I was in love with Christopher Robin, the kindest, smartest, most mature boy in the whole world)

My 19-year-old explained to me recently that her generation plays this game not with Winnie the Pooh but with Harry Potter.  Frankly, though, I don't think there are enough options.  Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, and Slytherin?  That's only four, and since no one would ever consider himself a Slytherin (because Rowling painted those folks with such a broad and evil brush), it's really only three choices.  I'm not brave enough to be in Gryffindor, but I'm equally drawn to Hufflepuff (for those "patient," "true," and "unafraid of toil") and Ravenclaw (for "those of wit and learning").  The Sorting Hat will have to decide for me.

My 16-year-old and I have had many conversations about the daemons of the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman.  Like most people, we find the idea of these daemons enchanting, but also worrisome in how much of your inner self is revealed by the permanent form one's daemon eventually takes.  One can't help but speculate what one's own daemon would be.  A kind of bird, or a small furry mammal, or a fierce type of feline?  Mine would undoubtedly be some kind of solitary prey animal - a hamster, perhaps, or a hedgehog (though if it were all about one's appearance, my daemon would be a stork or some other gawky, long-legged bird).  My husband's daemon would absolutely be a badger - industrious and gruff, yet also fuzzy.

Then all the questions begin to arise.  What if one's daemon was huge - an elephant, say?  That would make social engagements rather awkward.  And are there any water-based daemons?  Would you have to spend your life on a boat on a lake or ocean?  Or maybe drag a portable tank behind you?  Does Pullman address this at any point?  And why are all servants' daemons dogs - because that's the only kind of animal that would be obedient?  Time to re-read the series, clearly.

By the time my mind has thoroughly chewed on all these vital and engrossing issues, I'm usually nearing the end of my run and can let my various aches and pains rise back up into my consciousness.  And my reward for running all those long and lonely miles?  For a little while, I feel valiant and accomplished - a Gryffindor through and through.


  1. Rowling was once quoted as saying how surprised she was that so many administrators of fan sites had sorted themselves in Slytherin.

    What an inspiring post... I should start running again.

  2. You know, I now recognize the image as the Sorting Hat, but at first glance I thought it was a big soft serve chocolate ice cream or yogurt, which you probably need after all that running!!

  3. I imagine that folks who aren't BAD, but are really driven and ambitious and even a bit ruthless, might be Slytherins. Wouldn't have thought fan site administrators would self-identify that way!
    Thinking about chocolate ice cream during a run would truly do me in...

  4. I'm late to the party (catching up on my feed reader!), but I wanted to chime in anyway. :) The idea of water-based daemons does come up in passing in _Golden Compass_; there's a story about an old sailor who could never go ashore because his daemon was a dolphin.

  5. Ah - thanks, Beth! I am definitely going to re-read that series...