A Walk to Valhalla

There’s a story in there about Tatiana, the pulled-tight pony-tail of a professor who chopped every sentence I had before I finished (but translated the whole thing accurately despite listening and speaking at the same time) and her interaction with the student Anastasia (that’s On-a-sta-zee’-a to you, bub), but suffice it to say that St Peterburg (I’ve seen it spelled both ways) is a city confused about itself on so many levels that this German city on the Donau (Danube), which I had been dreading as boring tin the extreme, comes across as positive relief.

Germany is the quintessence of order, Russia of messiness.  I salute those brave osteopaths trying to instill some spatial order into such an adaptively random culture.  Meantime I flew over Poland, trapped and tossed between the two.

On the way, the weather changed: it doesn’t hurt that Donaustauf is sunny, whereas Leningrad was as snowy and cold as Maine, in spite of my hopeful packing.  So now this tidy upper-Bavarian suburb, bathed in sun and aromatic air puts spring in my step, and I decide to take a walk to Valhalla.

Valhalla, of course, was the traditional home of the Norse gods – Loki, Odin, Thor, Freya, and the rest – a suitable name in Wagner’s Bavaria for a structure built by the first King Ludwig.  The joke is that this Valhalla is a full-scale recreation of the Parthenon.  Jutting out from a hill above the river, it is a bit of a walk; armed with water, I head out from my hotel.

(Side note: Carbonated water, gazzata.  At home I crave the still water from the well below our house.  All this trip I have been craving sparkling water; it feels as if it counters the effect of the petrochemical pollution, much worse in the European cities than at home [but not as bad as Asia]).

I am supposed to be using this trip to finish up some chapters for a book, but I am procrastinating and it’s the first day of spring – for crissake, give me a break! So I lope along through groomed parks and neighborhoods, feeling how the outer column of support (the calcaneus – cuboid – 4th & 5th metatarsal lateral arch springs up into the fibula and through the lateral portion of the tibial plateau and condyle of the femur, strengthened by the lateral collateral ligament and iliotibial band, capped by the greater trochanter) lifts me along the hillside.

Feel the exploration of the inner column, landing on the paw of my first three metatarsals and letting the heel eccentrically down, walking like an Indian, prehensilely through the wood.  From the talus to the tibia and up through the medial meniscus, emerging at the medial epicondyle, and splitting into the two great sweeps of fascia, one sail curling up between the vastus medialis and adductor longus – how wrong this whole individual and muscle group delusion is – these two muscle sheets are both tied into the septum, and more related to each other than to the other muscles of their group – hence vastus medialis is often too weak, and adductor longus too fixed, trying to stabilize this medial intermusclular septum from the inner knee to the hip joint, under the triangular sartorius cap.

And up and back up from between the adductors and the hamstrings, feeling this wall slide back and forth as I go uphill, digging in the outer heel to claw my way up, but reaching out with the vastus / longus septum, the inner line coming alive as I walk downhill.

These columns, much alive in my consciousness as I move these days, feeling how the two leg bones are stabilized by the peroneals (Lateral Line) controlling the two septa outside the fibula, while the Deep Front Line – the tibialis posterior, balanced moment-to-moment by the toe flexors – holds the inside line of the interosseous fascia.

On the thigh it is these two septa on either side of the adductors: longus up against the vastus medialis, and magnus up against the semitendinosus, again these are more related than thought of in the textbooks, being the two energetic tensors on either side of this membrane.

And the great fascial membrane as yet unsung in the Anatomy Trains, the division between the biceps femoris and the vastus lateralis, where the gluteus dives in between, sweeping around to stabilize the back of the leg in push off …

Such thoughts occupy me, stretching out from the cold contraction of Maine, Toronto, and St Petersburg as I pass under the stirring trees through the outskirts of the town and the climb through the gentle culled woods still rustling with last year’s leaves.

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Approached from below, the structure looks massive and very German,

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but when you get up beside it is of course very Greek, very Olympian.

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You know the Parthenon walls are curved in a special way so that they appear straight to the eye, special trick that I wonder how they managed in laying out these stone under the ancient Greek sun.

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Ours is a culture that gives lip service to its roots in Greece, but Aristotle gave way to Thomas Aquinas, and we really owe more to the Catholic church, and we have lost the airy light that was Archimedes, Diogenes, and Heraclitus.

We lost a lot when we sent them packing, the chance for the passion of the Western world to be expressed in philosophy rather than faith (I know I will take stick for this) and thus I am thinking as I look down on the Danube, with the strip of little allotments for the gardeners of Regensburg.

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I am so attracted to the light and air of Greece, to the romantic novels of Mary Renault, and to the healing tradition of Asklepios, and so untouched by the sacrifice of Jesus and all that fell out form that sad story of a little man in a little tribe of self-centered goatheards on the eastern Mediterranean who thought God’s sun rose and set with them.

I am sorry, Jews and Christians, but you have nothing that touches the pure air of Athenian philosophy and geometry, who knew the gods were multiple, and as capricious and silly as us.  Homer’s Odysseus has a more textured tale to tell then just being betrayed to the local authorities and nailed for blasphemy.  And even if the stone was rolled away, this is no excuse for turning away from the greatest light the world has even known – the light of pure reason, set on the wall by Socrates, lit by Plato, and reflected to shine all around the room of human knowledge by Aristotle, who educated Alexander before he did his great journey.

I don’t know enough about Chinese and Japanese history to compare Asian and Western civilization, and India is another trip altogether.  I am thoroughly a western soul, with a side order of Buddhism and a Taoist desert.  But in the western tradition, as much respect as I have for the monks of Ireland, in the Dark Ages and redoubts of scientific knowledge in 10th century Baghdad, and the wonderfully woeful humours of my New York Jewish friends, none of the children of Abraham really have it down, and to the extent that we walk with Jehovah or Allah, we walk away form the inheritance that was rightfully ours – that unique moment of the Greek democracy, the Athenian republic – may it light the world again.

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