march 11/3.05 MILES

36 degrees
15% puddle covered
mississippi river road path, north/south

The day started out rough. Adjusting to daylight savings time. Being trapped indoors at the biggest, most crowded mall. Failing to find what we needed. Shifting knee-caps. But I got to run outside by the river and look over at St. Paul and the white slopes of the gorge. And I got to breathe in fresh cold air and listen to Beck sing about being free. So, who cares what happened before that? Any day I get to run is a great day!

march 10/4 MILES

30 degrees
5% snow covered
mississippi river road path, north/south

A great run! Faster. Freer. More flying less plodding. A lot of runners out on the path, doing their long runs. Not me. I’m taking it easy this week, making sure my right knee is happy.

The favorite part of my run: 3 miles in, at the top of the hill that dips under the lake street bridge. Finding my rhythm. Pumping my arms perfectly in time with my feet. Left arm right foot. Right arm left foot. Not having to remember to move my legs, almost like they’re moving on their own. Flying through space. No effort. No attention to form or mechanics. Magically moving for almost a mile.

march 8/3.5 MILES

21 degrees
15% snow-covered
mississippi river road, north/south

Low wind. Bright sun. Clear path. Great run. My knee hurt a little as I was walking to the river, but once I started, it felt better. Focused on my form–keeping my chest out and my arms closer to my sides. Listened to my headphones and smiled a lot. Occasionally glanced over at the river and down into the gorge. So beautiful! Blue-gray river with white slopes and dark brown branches. I like being able to see everything. In a few months, all I will see is green. As I was breathing in the crisp, cold air I realized that these winter runs will be ending soon. As much as I am ready for spring and summer, I will miss the cold and winter running.

march 6/3 MILES

33 degrees
70% snow-covered
mississippi river road, north/greenway/mississippi river road, south

It snowed yesterday. Almost 5 inches. Here in Minnesota, winter doesn’t end until April or May. The snow didn’t stop until early this morning. Of course, the awesome Minneapolis Parks and Rec had the path plowed in just a few hours. Being able to get outside in the winter makes all the difference. I’m still ready for spring, but I can endure the endless white and gray and cold and slippery sidewalks if I can run by the river. The snow today is heavy, dense and wet. When I walked on it, it didn’t make a sharp snap or a crackly crunch. It was more like a thick, heavy pressing down–what sound is that?–of the snow, the air, the moisture in the snow.

I only ran 3 miles because I’m trying to be gentle with my right knee. Lately, my kneecap likes to slide around and slip out just a little. So far these wanderings haven’t been a problem, except for some soreness. To keep it that way, I’m not running too much. The run felt good. Strong. My knee wasn’t perfect, but it also didn’t hurt and now, an hour after my run, I’m fine.

In the middle of the run, I felt dazed, transported somewhere else, almost blinded by the snow and the bright white, occasionally brilliant blue peeking through, sky. Pretty cool.

Walking back to my house after my run, the sky looked so heavy. A dull, dense grayish white–almost like the sky was a ceiling of snow looming, hovering. Not quite waiting to collapse. Weird.

march 3/4.5 MILES

40 degrees
18 mph wind/26 mph gusts
mississippi river road, north/franklin hill/washington bridge/franklin hill

Windy! Was planning to do 7 miles but made it to the Franklin Hill and thought that I better take it easy on my knee. It feels okay, but a little weird. So I stopped at 4.5 miles. The gorge was beautiful. Bright blue sky with white snow and bare trees. It was so windy that down in the flats the river had white caps! The path was wet but clear. Don’t remember much about the run except for the annoying runner who was slowly creeping on me. I could hear her feet crunching. She passed me on a hill and then stopped at the top, right in front of me. I kept going and she started running again. She passed me and then stopped again.

march 2/3 MILES

31 degrees
15% ice-covered
mississippi river road path, north/south

I ran today!
I ran outside today!
I ran outside today without my knee hurting!
I ran outside today without my right knee or my left thigh hurting!
I ran outside today without my right knee or my left thigh hurting in the sun!
I ran outside today without my right knee or my left thigh hurting in the sun and it felt good!

Well, mostly good. Not fantastic. But not like I was doing anything bad to my knee. Listened to my headphones, so I didn’t hear much on the run. Near the Lake Street bridge, I was wishing I didn’t have my headphones on. I thought I heard some birds–maybe some geese–making a lot of noise. The river was open. I wonder when the rowers will be out there?

I recorded myself walking home at the end of the run. A very different crunching of my feet, coming from the grit–the salt or sand or whatever they use to treat the road and the path to make them less slippery–was rubbing on the bare, slightly wet ground. Occasionally I walked over some crusty snow. Not sure the recording picks it all up but there were lots of sounds today: a wind chime, wind, a car driving by, birds, water dripping off the roof, a car starting.

march 1/BIKE

70 degrees
front room, bike stand
30 minutes

It’s hard not running, but I want to make sure that I don’t get into another cycle of subluxations, so I’m not out by the gorge today. It makes it a little easier that the sidewalk is covered in sheer ice which will soon turn into a puddle than a pool than a river or a lake all hoping to enter my boot and soak my socks. I wonder what the mississippi river road path looks like right now? Yuck. I despise the Great Melt that happens every almost-spring. Thawing. Dripping. Soaking. Oozing. Pooling. Freezing. Thawing. Dripping. Soaking. Oozing. Pooling. Freezing. When will it end? Not anytime soon. It’s supposed to snow again on Saturday.

It was last March that I (re?) discovered poetry in my first class at the Loft. To honor that discovery, I’ve decided to work through Bernadette Mayer’s list of writing experiments–the same list we used in class last year. Some of these will involve being by the gorge, running or walking, some of them will not. Today’s did not.

The assignment: Pick a work or phrase at random, let mind play freely around it until a few ideas have come up, then seize on one and begin to write. Try this with a non-connotative word, like “so” etc.

I settled on the phrase on my coffee mug, “Let it Be.” Quickly into the exercise I wondered, what is IT in this phrase? I turned IT into an acronym: information technologist, impending tests, icky tacos, incanting toads, inky trails, infinite troubles…I made a list of 25 or 30 nouns that IT stood for. Then I wrote a poem using some of them:

Let it Be

Let ink trails be the secret way
into a world waiting to save us
from ignorant tyrants.
Let those trails lead us to intelligent trees–
the ones that know better than us
with our immovable theories and our
irritating tantrums.

We–
the inexplicable termites
possessing indefatigable troubles
wasting all the important tissues
on our indigo tears.
Why can’t we be more like those indifferent trapezoids–
not interested in even, parallel lines
not caring to reach infinitely upwards?

Let incanting toads be what finally
sings us to sleep
so we can dream better dreams
imagining terrains that believe in us.

Let invisible threads reveal themselves
so we may see how we belong
connected, tethered to each other–
vulnerable to violence yet
also to the inviting touch of another.

feb 28/SWIM

ywca pool
water: 82 degrees
1 mile

In 3 and a half months I get to swim across Lake Nokomis three times a week!, but for now I’m at the pool, which is fine. Not as exciting as the lake, but still great to do. I love swimming. I’m hoping to write more about it this summer. Today I decided to swim a mile without stopping. To make it less tedious, I varied my breathing. Here’s how I broke it down: 8 x 200 yds (1st 50, breathe every 3 strokes/2nd, every 4/3rd, every 5; 4th, every 6). What did I think about while I was swimming? Is my knee okay? Why were my goggles leaking? Will they start leaking again? Is my nose plug going to fall off? Is this 550 yards or 600? Am I going to swim the mile or 2 mile race this summer? How long have I been swimming? Would this be more interesting if I could listen to music while I was swimming?

 

feb 27/BIKE

70 degrees
front room, bike stand
25 minutes

With my knee hurting a little, I decided to do an easy bike ride in the front room this morning. I also managed to take Delia the dog on two walks. The first was early, when over half the sidewalk was covered in a thin layer of ice. The second was later, when most of the sidewalk was covered with deep puddles. Snow melting. Dripping off the eaves and gutters. At the end of the second walk, I sat on my back deck and recorded the dripping:

Listening closely with my headphones, I think I hear at least three different speeds of drips. Yuck! I love the snow. I love when it warms up. But I despise when big mounds of snow melt, dripping off the roof, pooling in the yard, transforming the sidewalk into a lake. I’m sure the path is a mess right now. I wish my knee and I weren’t having a fight so I could go check it out.

feb 26/4 MILES

26 degrees
85% snow-covered
mississippi river road path, north/south

A beautiful day for a run by the river. Not too cold with abundant sun. But I should have listened to my body, especially my knee, and not run today. The path was very difficult, with only one narrow strip of bare pavement, and my knee was already a little swollen from hiking through the snow yesterday. It was difficult walking home with a slight limp. I must take a break from running for a few days. It’s probably a good time to take a break with the weather getting warmer then colder. “Thaw, freeze, repeat” is how MPR describes it. Yuck!

Even though I’m (only a little) worried about my knee and whether or not I’m entering another round of subluxations and swelling and even though there’s so much snow on the ground and covering the path and blocking the sidewalks, it’s hard not to think of spring with the warm sun shining on my face and the birds!! chirping. I recorded a little bit of it when I was almost home:

Birds!!

At some point in the year, I might take the birds for granted, hearing them only as background noise, but I couldn’t today. Such a glorious sound!

feb 24/5.5 MILES

22 degrees
20% snow-covered
mississippi river road, north/stone arch bridge

Thursday night we got 5 inches of snow. By Friday the path was already plowed. Minneapolis Parks are awesome! It’s supposed to snow another 5-8 inches this afternoon so I ran this morning while the path was still clear. Another great run. Steady and not too fast. I managed to run the entire steep hill near downtown without stopping to walk! In about a month, I’ll be running it again in a race.

The river was flowing–no ice or snow left. Will it freeze again or will I be seeing rowers on it soon?

Yesterday I finished a draft of a poem I’ve been working on for a few weeks. It’s an homage poem based on Alice Oswald’s beautiful “A Short Story of Falling Water.” Mine is about snow and my current fascination with the crunching noises it makes as I walk and run by the river.

A Short Story of Fallen Snow, audio

A Short Story of Fallen Snow
after Alice Oswald

It is the story of the fallen snow
to turn sharp and slick and force us to slow

it is the wonder of a winter storm
to start out as snowflakes but soon change form

from tiny puffed up pillows that cover the path
to crystals compressed, their size reduced by half

or to a smooth shining surface polished like glass
hidden in plain sight near the edge by the grass

if only you while heading to the river could make
the moment go numb and freeze like a snowflake

to absorb every sound in a blanket of air
releasing when pressed a kind of noisy prayer

then you might learn like snow how to balance
the light of attention against the weight of silence

snow which when cold is so brittle so strong
cracking and crunching a sharp steady song

compacted by cold, yielding to moving feet
compelling you to pause and listen to it creak

which is the story of the fallen snow
whose changing forms makes us slow.

feb 22/5.85 MILES

23 degrees
75% snow-covered
the ford loop

This run felt really great. I didn’t go too fast, but went faster than I thought for how relaxed I felt. I needed this run after having another stressful morning trying to get the girl to go to school. Listened to my running playlist and tried to block out the world. It worked! Almost 60 minutes of somewhere else.

Decided to try out the ford loop before the snow hits again and the path becomes impassable. Even though I enjoyed my run, deciding to do this loop was a big mistake. Tons of super slick ice and rough, clumpy snow made it very treacherous. I slipped several times and landed wrong on my foot at least twice.  Still, I did it. Even the steep short hill by Summit! Running across the Lake Street bridge, back to St. Paul was rough–ice and chunky snow.

It’s supposed to start snowing in a few hours. Maybe up to 5 inches. Then another round on Saturday. Possibly double digit totals. Will it actually come? Do I want it to?

I’ve been writing poem fragments every morning when I wake up about winter. Here’s one that I wrote shortly after we didn’t get the snow that was predicted:

another storm
narrowly avoided
early forecasts had predicted
5-8 inches of snow
sub zero temps
lots of wind
well—
it’s 20 degrees colder than yesterday and
I can hear the wind blow but
where’s that snow?
a no show as usual
I should be relieved and
I am but still
I wouldn’t mind watching
some big fluffy flakes floating
down from the sky
delivering little crystal bursts of joy
or at least distraction
as I sit on the couch
waiting for a girl to get ready
to go to school

feb 21/4.25 MILES

8 degrees/feels like -3
99% snow-covered
mississippi river road path, north/south

Bright blue sky. Blinding sun. Cold air. Slippery path. Fogged-up glasses. Crunchy path. I was struck by how the 2 crunching sounds of my feet highlighted the differences between walking and running. When I was walking, the slower, steadier crunch lasted longer, as my foot went from the initial heel strike to the final toe-off. How many bones came into contact with the crunchy snow? When I was running, that second crunch was quicker, with less grinding. I’d like to capture some sound of me running on crunching snow, but that seems hard.

Reading The Snow Poems by AR Amons which is, disappointingly, not all about snow. But, there are some snow poems, like this one:

here a month of snow,
mere January than
February, intervenes
during which
I wrote
nothing. it is
the winter-deep, the
annual sink:
leave it unwritten,
as snow unwrites
the landscape

feb 20/4.05 MILES

20 degrees
100% snow-covered
mississippi river road path, north/south

We got about an inch of wet snow yesterday/last night so the path was covered…and crunchy. Mostly fine to run on, although a few spots were softer, causing my foot to sink down. A beautiful morning. Grayish-white. Calm. Quiet. Not much wind, not much noise. Tried to catch up to the runner ahead of me after I turned around but couldn’t. Was she going fast, or was I going slow–or were we going the same pace so I couldn’t gain any distance on her? Saw the Daily Walker twice! Both times, from behind, so I didn’t get to say “good morning” to him.

Recorded the sound of my crunching feet on the sidewalk, after I finished my run:

2 distinct sounds. One, a steady grinding, like gears with small teeth turning rhythmically, constantly, The Other, one quick thrust, like a small shovel being thrust into sand or small pebbles. I think that the sounds trade off between my moving feet. But how? I need to go out and walk in the snow some more to figure it out!

Discovered a few great lines in Snow in America:

‘In prose,’ the Mexican poet Octavio Paz writes, ‘the word tends to be identified with one of its possible meanings at the expense of others…the poet, on the other hand, never assaults the ambiguity of the word.’ Poetry is to snow what prose is to rain, says Howard Nemerov, because ‘it flew instead of fell.’

feb 18/2.25 MILES

43 degrees
puddles!
mississippi river road path, south/north

Decided to fit in a quick run since it is so warm today and will be so cold/icy/snowy tomorrow. It was windy and wet but not too bad. I managed to avoid most of the big puddles.

February

Following
Every
Bright, sunny, above freezing day the cold and gloom
Returns having only briefly hidden
Under the promise of spring’s early
Arrival. Always
Retracted revoked replaced with more cold—-O how I
Yearn for warmer air!

feb 17/6.2 MILES

30 degrees
5% snow-covered
mississippi river road path, south/minnehaha falls/minnehaha creek/lake nokomis

Very slippery. Almost fell a few times on the way to the river. Ran to the falls, on the creek path, then over to Lake Nokomis. I haven’t run this route since late July, right before my injury. It’s funny how it feels longer than running north on the path. The creek was all open water. The lake was covered with snow but on the bridge I could see slushy, almost open water. As I ran by the little beach, I imagined the summer and swimming across the lake.

I’ve been thinking about snow and ice lately. Hardly any snow on the path today, but lots of ice. Patches of black ice–clear, almost hidden, blending into the path. Patches of thick opaque ice, with an ugly yellowish greenish tint. Strips of jagged ice, the result of snow melting, puddling on the path then refreezing at night. Slick spots under the dusting of snow that happened a few hours before I ran that was mostly melted in the almost above freezing air.

feb 16/2 MILES

ywca track
65 degrees

Ran a quick 2 miles at the track. People I saw at the y:

A woman, about my build, my hair color, my age, wearing an orange tank top similar to one that I wear. Scott almost called out to her, thinking she was me.

A short runner in a bright blue shirt, running much faster than me but only running a lap. Is it wrong that I felt some satisfaction when I passed them, still running, while they were walking?

A couple I’ve seen for years, both at the y and on the Mississippi River Road near the lock and dam by the falls, running and jump roping and pulling sleds or lifting heavy weights. Today one of them was pushing a sled by the wall, while the other was doing some leg exercises, then they both walked around the track carrying huge weights above their heads. One time, last summer, I saw them jump roping! up a steep hill.

An impatient woman in the locker room who became even more impatient waiting for one of two pool lanes–the others were filled with older women in an aquablast class–to open up.

The track wasn’t too crowded. The run wasn’t that memorable. Oh–I thought I packed a pair of socks, but actually only packed one, so I ran without socks. No blisters…yet.

feb 14/2.2 MILES

25 degrees
5% snow-covered
mississippi river road path, south/north

After biking in the front room on the stand for 25 minutes, I decided to go out an do a quick run. What a beautiful morning! It’s amazing how 25 degrees can feel warm and spring-like. Ran south, towards the falls and looked across the gorge to St. Paul. Because they don’t plow the walking path in the winter, I usually only run on the biking path, but I noticed that the walking path had a few bare patches so on my way back, I took the snow-covered trail. A few treacherous ice patches, but not too bad. What’s happening to me? I’m choosing to run on snow instead of bare pavement?!

Walking back home, after finishing my run, I stopped to record the noisy birds. I had noticed them earlier, when I was running, chirping and cooing and trilling. Spring won’t be here for another month or two (hopefully not three!), but it’s coming. As much as I love winter running, I’m fine with that.

Sounds Like Spring

In addition to the bird sounds, this audio clip features some delightful (or irritating, depending on your perspective) crunching noises. As I was walking and listening to the sounds, I started thinking about the many different ways a path can crunch: shattering snow crystals, friction from dry snow grains rubbing against each other and/or my foot, salt or sand scratching on the pavement, the treads of my shoes loaded with little pebbles scuffing against the ground.

A few other things to note from this recording:

  • For most of the audio, I’m walking on a sidewalk that has a lot of bare pavement, mixed with crusty snow and ice. Occasionally, I’m walking on just snow. I can tell that it’s warmer and that the snow will be melting soon because the sound is heavier and more muffled.
  • There are lots of birds, but underneath them is a constant hum of the city–I think it’s the freeway or a highway a few miles away.
  • As I continued to walk home, still recording this audio, I noticed my shadow in the snow, joining me. I almost stopped to take a picture.

Sure snow crunches but
it also sizzles and
cracks and
scratches and
scuffs and
squeaks on the sidewalk.
It amplifies and muffles
absorbs and reflects
slumbers in silence and
remains awake alert active.

Wrote a pantoum about the path for my poetry class (ah! so many pleasing p’s!)

The Soundtrack for my Run (first draft)

In the winter, above the Mississippi River Gorge
I take up an ongoing conversation
I’m having with the running path.
Mostly I listen.

I absorb with ears and feet
its voices and textures
hearing crystals cracking or feeling soft snow
settling unevenly around my ankles.

These sounds and surfaces
energize and exhaust
speaking steadily into my ear
becoming a soundtrack for my run.

The cracking crystals make me buzz, the soft snow saps my strength.
Cracking, crunching, snapping, sinking, slipping
are the soundtrack for my run
in the winter, above the Mississippi River Gorge.

feb 13/4 MILES

13 degrees/feels like 5
10% snow-covered
mississippi river road path, south/minneahaha falls/north

Slightly warmer. Gray. Damp. Occasional gusts of wind. Even though I have a cold, I’m glad I ran outside this morning. Ran around the falls. Still frozen. Thick snow on the creek bank. Just as I was wondering if minnehaha creek was frozen over, I noticed some slushy spots on the surface. Tomorrow it’s supposed to get a lot warmer–over 40 degrees. How much of a melty mess will it be?

feb 12/5.3 MILES

3 degrees/feels like -10
5% snow-covered
franklin loop

Cold. Calm. Hardly any wind. The path was mostly clear. My fingers were cold for the first mile, but then felt warm. Heard lots of birds and imagined spring coming soon. Saw only 1 or 2 runners the entire time. In the last mile, saw the daily walker. The gorge was beautiful. The river, which a few days earlier had been open, was now frozen. I wonder how thick the ice is? Not thick enough! Speaking of thin ice, randomly encountered a National Geographic article about Nordic skating–also known as wild ice or Black ice skating. Scary.

A few days ago, I recorded my walk. If you listen closely and can tune out my crunching footsteps,\ there are some birds singing. I heard these birds today during my run.