june 5/REST

I feel pretty good today. My strategic walk breaks must have helped me to get 30 miles for the week without being sore or tired. Yesterday I wrote a nonet poem about my morning routine. I liked the poem, but it functions more as an ideal, one that I sometimes realize, than an actual description of my daily habits. Plus, it doesn’t include the various disruptions that occur, especially during the school year. So I decided to add an additional version and rename the poem.

2 versions with descriptions that vary in how true they are: from almost true to mostly true to I wish they were true to too true to not true enough

Version 1

poetic form: nonet

Wake up at 6. Feed dog. Make coffee.
Write some while drinking the coffee.
Eat: cheerios, banana.
Wash face, brush teeth, comb hair.
Put on running clothes
and running shoes.
Go outside.
Walk some.
Run!

Version 2

Wake up at 6. Feed dog. Make coffee.

Get irritated at the dog because she wants to play and I’m too tired because I woke up several times in the middle of the night with restless legs or because I went to sleep too early and slept too long or because I woke up too early, then went back to sleep and had an intense, freaky dream or because I had the extra drink last night that I shouldn’t have had or because one unfortunate side effect of being 42 almost 43 is that I am no longer a “good morning!” person, but a “don’t talk to me (or lick me) until I’ve had my coffee and spent time sitting on the couch, slowly waking up” person or a “I feel regret or shame about some intangible thing that I didn’t actually do and this makes me uneasy until I’ve fully woken up and restored my sense of exuberance” person or because Delia has decided that she will not be ignored and that I will play with her, right now!

Write some while drinking the coffee.

This one usually works out, except for on the rare day when one of the kids gets up early and needs something…breakfast, advice, a hug, a performance of the “Let’s make Mom yell or cry or both” show.

Eat: cheerios, banana.

I also like walnuts, but it didn’t fit the number of syllables that I needed for the line, which was 8, so I left it out. In fact, walnuts are the key to this breakfast. When we run out of walnuts, I’ll still eat the cheerios and banana without them, but it’s just not the same.

Wash face, brush teeth, comb hair.

In a better world, one where dropping a deuce is not stigmatized as “impolite conversation” and where the coffee always does its job, I might replace any of the above with “go poop.” Sometimes I wash my face, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I wait to brush my teeth until after my run. Most of the time I don’t comb my hair, I just put it back in a ponytail. But I always poop. Pooping is an important bodily function and the failure to do it before a run can be bad. Very bad.

Put on running clothes

Remind one of the kids that “it’s time to get up!” in a sing-songy voice that usually irritates everyone, including me, but I can’t help doing. Remind them again and again and again until there are 10 minutes left before school starts. Luckily, this is not as big of a deal as it seems. It takes 5 minutes to walk to the school from our house. This leaves 5 minutes to get dressed, eat and get out, which can be done if the kid is properly motivated. Threatening to take away their phone is usually motivation enough.

and running shoes.

After the kids have left for school, comfort the dog for a minute because she’s freaked out by all of the yelling and crying and frantic scrambling that has just occurred.

Go outside.

Maybe stretch, maybe don’t. Always try to squeeze the glutes a few times, which probably looks funny, but helps prevent hip and hamstring injuries.

Walk some.

“Some” usually means 2-3 minutes. If I’m walking all the way to the river road, which is 4 blocks, “some” = 5 or 6 minutes. But there’s always some walking involved. For fun, Scott and I like to imagine a comical situation where you might get up out of bed, jump into your clothes, run down the stairs and out the door and immediately start your run. No stretching. No warm-up. No walking. Neither of us ever want to do this, but we saw a neighbor run out their door in their running clothes and continue down the sidewalk one time and we hoped that this was just what they were doing.

Run!

june 4/3.75 MILES

67 degrees
mississippi river road path, north

Still getting used to the heat. Otherwise the run went well. In the summer, I don’t have nearly as much stuff to put on before I go out for a run. No extra jackets or base layers or buffs or gloves or double socks. Just shorts, a shirt, socks and some shoes. Here’s a description of my running attire in the summer, in the form of an abecedarian poem:

Attire:

1. black shorts with white trim. Not black as
coal, they’ve faded in the sun. The
drawstring is gone too. It was a pretty bright blue. Now
elastic is all I have to keep the shorts from
falling down.
2. Green
headphones, if I’m listening to music, and
if I am, that music usually includes a
Justin or two: Bieber or Timberlake. My
kids wouldn’t
like me to admit that,
mostly because it embarrasses them. I say, here’s something to look forward to: when you’re 42, almost 43,
nothing embarrasses you!
Other favorites to listen to: Barry Manilow,
Prince. 3. A
quick-drying tank top, either in black or blue. I
really don’t care which.
Sometimes I wear a green tank-top, but it’s
thicker and not quick-drying, so only if the temperature is
under 70 degrees. Otherwise it’s
very uncomfortable.
4. White ankle socks, with an orange
x on the heel, at the end of the word, “Power Sox,” and mismatched trim that is
yellow on one foot and blueish green on the other. 5. Bright blue shoes with
zero swooshes, only coral swishes.

And here’s a poem describing my morning routine in the poetic form of nonet: 9 lines, first line has 9 syllabus, second has 8, and so on until ninth line has 1 syllable.

Morning Routine

Wake up at 6. Feed dog. Make coffee.
Write some while drinking the coffee.
Eat: cheerios, banana.
Wash face, brush teeth, comb hair.
Put on running clothes
and running shoes.
Go outside.
Walk some.
Run!

I wrote both of these poems because I was having some difficulty sorting out all of my ideas about ritual and repetition, habit as mundane or sacred (I also wrote about these in yesterday’s log). I decided the best place to start was to describe some of the mundane aspects of my run, like what I wear and what my pre-run routine is.

june 3/4 MILES

77 degrees
mississippi river road path, south

Another hot and sweaty run. Scott and I ran together today. We were both struggling because of the heat, although running through the sprinkles when we were almost done helped. We talked about one of my new favorite poets, Chen Chen, and his book When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities. We also talked about Scott’s Stravinsky project. And we were almost successful in avoiding talking about dictators and oppressive regimes.

Before and after running, I wrote two new things:

What’s the difference

between ritual and routine?
Superstition and belief?
When is it a prayer and when is it just proper form? Efficient breathing?
When does a habit become sacred?
Does it need:
a doctrine?
a theology?
hymns about souls and rejoicing and kingdoms and conquering and reigning?
chants about fathers and spirits and ghosts and sacrificing sons?
basement potlucks with seven layer dips?
uncomfortable pews?
getting up too early on a Sunday morning?
yes, it needs this.
Could it be that one defining characteristic of the sacred is
a refusal to stay in bed?

my purple toe

Have I told you about my purple toe? It’s on my right foot and it’s the second toe, the one that sticks out just a little bit farther than the others. Did you know, that this toe, the second one, turns purple? It’s not purple all of the time and maybe purple isn’t even the best way to describe it. Eggplant? I wish it were electric purple or purple mountain majesty or grape popsicle purple. Purple is my son’s favorite color. His computer case is purple. His clarinet case is purple. His suitcase is purple. His school binder, which he dissects and disembowels in new ways everyday—first removing the strap, then shredding the front pouch, then taking out the cardboard insert that helps keep it’s structure, then doing something to the 3 ring binders that I can’t quite figure out that makes them only barely close—is purple. The purple he prefers is royal purple. Not fuchsia or pearly purple or phlox.

My purple toe is purple from running. Technically, it’s my purple toenail, I suppose, but toe is much more pleasing to write and to hear and to imagine as purple than toenail. Anyone can have a purple toenail; just slap some nail polish on it and it’s purple. But a purple toe is special. A purple toe is a sign of a runner. Before I started running, I was unaware that this was a thing: your toe can turn purple. I read somewhere that it’s called runner’s toe or subungual hematoma. It’s also called black toe. I like purple toe, so that’s what I’ll call it, or “my purple toe” or “my perfectly purple, not painful at all, toe.” Is it the second toe for everyone? I don’t know.

Here’s how it usually works for me. After some random long/longish run, my second one, the toe that sticks out just a little bit farther, feels strange. It looks like it’s splitting. At first, it isn’t purple, but i know what’s coming: in a day or two, it will be purple. The toenail never falls off. It just grows back in freaky ways: twisted, bent, doubled. Maybe I should call it “my perfectly freaky purple, not painful at all, toe.” After the nail grows back, it usually returns to its normal color. That is, until the cycle begins again. The “purple toe effect” has been happening for at least five years now.

In the same online article where I read about “runner’s toe,” it was also referred to as a “runner’s badge of honor.” I’m not sure I’d say i’m honored to have my perfectly freaky purple, not painful at all, toe. More like delighted by how it grosses other people out. Or fascinated by its freakishness. Most of the time I forget about it. It’s just a toe that’s part of my right foot that enables me to run—and walk and skip and saunter—without much pain and hardly any injury. It sticks out farther than my other toes. And it just happens to be purple or, if you prefer, which I don’t, eggplant.

june 2/11 MILES

76 degrees
the lake nokomis loop, long

Hot! Sunny! Difficult! Today’s run was not pretty. Well, the path was pretty. The lake was pretty. The many bridges that I ran over were pretty. But my run was not. It was hard and hot and tiring. But I did it, with the help of several walk breaks.

I decided to do my long run today instead of tomorrow because it is my 6th anniversary of running. I started on June 2, 2011. I used the couch-to-5k program and ran/walked less than 2 miles. Today, 6 years later, 11 miles! My route today included the Minnehaha creek path, which is what I ran on in 2011.

I had grand visions of doing some cool poetry experiment with the run: maybe stopping every mile to compose a line. But, I was too distracted and uninspired by the heat. So, instead, I’ll mark the occasion by sharing something that I’ve been working on about the body electric. It’s inspired by Prince (“electric word life”), a pbs show about Ibex and the harrowing lengths they go to replenish their electrolytes (scaling seriously steep cliffs), Walt Whitman and “I sing the body electric,” the movie Fame and their version of “I sing the body electric.” Marilyn Nelson’s “is” and Marie Howe’s “the this,” Frédéric Gros’s philosophy of walking and my own wanderings on electricity and the beauty of machines, developed while running. I suppose there’s a dash of Emily Dickinson in here too.

the body electric

The body electric is not a metaphor. The body is electric. It contains electrolytes, that, when consumed, break up into positively and negatively charged ions that travel by water through the body, triggering electrical impulses in the nerves and muscles. Every body needs electrolytes to function properly. They’re found in sodium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphate.

The body is a machine.
Not the body as machine
or the body is like a machine
or the body is only a machine.
But, the body is a machine.
An efficient machine,
capturing energy, consuming minerals, converting air into breath.
The body is an intricate machine,
made up of muscles and tendons
and ligaments and joints and bones
and organs and arteries and veins
and fluids and systems
that work together in the complex process of locomotion.
The body is a marvelous machine,
containing strange creatures
with multiple heads and fantastical names.
The body is a beautiful machine,
composed of grace and exuberance and joy.
The body is a powerful machine,
able to endure intense pain and absorb tremendous force.
The body is a delicate and temperamental machine;
it can shut down from overuse, lack of use or repeated abuse.

This body, my body, is not any body and it is not the body. It is just a body, a somebody who is happily a nobody, running and flying and floating free, feeling the sizzle of the sand under my feet on the path and the howl of the wind rushing by my ears, passing under the shadows of the towering tree in the midst of other bodies, who are somebodies and nobodies as well but who feel the earth and the sky, just the same but differently too. Each of us an I. A self. A soul. A body. But also a we. Selves. Souls communing. Charged bodies with electrons flowing freely. The Body Electric.

june 1/REST

I’d love to run today because it’s so beautiful outside, but I won’t. It’s my day to rest. My right hip is a bit sore and needs a break. And tomorrow is my 6 year runniversary and I’m planning to do my long run to mark the occasion.

This morning I worked a bit more on my sonnet about attention. I tried to stay truer to the Shakespearean form by using 10 syllables in each line. In one or two lines, I failed. Not sure if it’s really in iambic pentameter either.

ATTENTION

is the beginning of a devotion
which can be a form of daily prayer
that you undertake while you’re in motion
running in and through the outside air.

A prayer given with lungs and feet
to inspire the trees and absorb the earth
a letting go to a steady beat
desiring nothing but the rebirth

of an earnest and a loving belief
that has the power to break you open
and to spill out the terrible grief
caused by a decreased sense of hope and

increased apathy, a monstrous twinning.
To end, attention is the beginning.

What I’m Fascinated by, a list
  • breathing/respiration as the process of inspiration (in) and expiration (out). I want to play with these some more.
  • absorption: energy absorption + how Frédérick Gros describes it The Philosophy of Walking: “But walking causes absorption. Walking interminably, taking in through your pores the height of the mountains when you are confronting them at length, breathing in the shape of the hills for hours at a time during a slow descent. The body becomes steeped in the earth it treads (85)”.
  • body prayer: how does the body pray? What is praying–the rituals and habits?
  • Simone Weil and attention as prayer.

may 31/6 MILES

62 degrees
the franklin hill turn around + extra

Today was a harder run than yesterday. My legs felt sore. I took it out too fast. And I was overdressed. Decided to walk a few times when I felt like I needed it, which was a good idea, not a failure, I’ve decided. Recorded two voice memos into my iPhone, one about attention as a salve against apathy and another about how bodies are machines.

Before the run, I started working on a series of wanderings around attention. I’ve given years of attention to attention in my ethical work on curiosity and a feminist ethics of care and now, in this running/writing project, it keeps coming up as a primary goal for me: to pay attention to my body, to my surroundings, to my voice, to authentic expression, to nagging injuries, to breathing, to joy, to staying upright, to resisting oppressive regimes.

Attention, Wanderings

Wandering One

Mary Oliver from Upstream

“Attention is the beginning of devotion” (8).

Here’s my (first?) attempt at a sonnet, riffing off of Oliver’s line:

Attention is the beginning of devotion.
Devotion, the beginning of prayer.
Attention sets curiosity in motion.
Curiosity is a form of care.

Attention can lead us to question.
all that we’ve been taught.
Compelling us not to rest on
the assumptions we have wrought.

Attention promotes belief
belief breaks us open,
spilling out a grief
that comes from loss of hope and

apathy, a monstrous twinning.
Attention is the beginning.

Wandering Two

Marilyn Nelson, “Crows

“What if to taste and see, to notice things,
to stand each is up against emptiness
for a moment or an eternity—
images collected in consciousness
like a tree alone on the horizon—
is the main reason we’re on the planet….”

So many ways to connect this excerpt with my wanderings on the vertical yesterday! The tree. the horizon. The purpose of life.

This is makes me think of Krista Tippet’s interview with the poet Marie Howe. Howe has some thoughts about the is, which she calls the this, and how we struggle to “stand each is up against emptiness” (hover over the following quote to reveal the erasure poem):

It hurts to be present, though, you know. I ask my students every week to write 10 observations of the actual world. It’s very hard for them. Just tell me what you saw this morning like in two lines. You know I saw a water glass on a brown tablecloth. Uh, and the light came through it in three places. No metaphor. And to resist metaphor is very difficult because you have to actually endure the thing itself, which hurts us for some reason….We want to — we want to say it was like this. It was like that. We want to look away, and to be, to be with a glass of water or to be with anything. And then they say well there’s nothing important enough. And then it’s whole thing is that point.”
Attention

attend to:
witness
keep vigil
be devoted

have a long attention span:
don’t forget
keep noticing
pay attention

give attention:
care
care for
care about

be curious:
wonder
imagine
believe

receive:
breathe in the this and breathe out the that
slowly absorb the is through your skin

note: So many more variations to do, including one with Simone Weil.

may 30/5.25 MILES

55 degrees
the franklin loop

A good run. Forgot that they were doing construction (again!) on my side of the Franklin bridge so I had to wait for the light, which takes a few minutes, to cross over to the path on the other side. As I waited, I didn’t run in place, but I did keep moving my legs. I was a bit restless. How funny did I look to drivers?

In my log entry for Sunday, I mentioned how the leaves had filled in on the trees in the woods near the stone steps. Later that day, I found a poem that connects and have been wandering through it. Did I think about it during my run today? I’m not sure. Here are some of my wanderings:

VERTICAL, wanderings

The Starting Point: a poem by Linda Paston

Wandering One:

Vertical/Horizontal
Perhaps the purpose 
of life is to capture more energy than it takes to survive.
of leaves is photosynthesis
of animals is respiration: inspiration and expiration

Perhaps the purpose of leaves is
to create mystery and wonder: what’s in those woods?
to irritate and annoy: why can’t I see to the other side anymore?

Perhaps the purpose of leaves is to conceal
the gnarled limbs of trees, the textured trunks. Not frail, but tough. Ancient. Wise. 
the branches that stretch wide and far. Wandering. Interrupting hierarchies of sky and ground. Disrupting the seduction of the moon’s glow.

Perhaps the purpose of leaves is to conceal not the verticality, but the horizontality of trees which we notice in December as if for the first time: row after row of
twisted forms sprawling sideways.
weathered forms persisting stubbornly.
wise forms learning how to continue surviving.
ancient forms yearning upwards and spreading inwards and outwards.

Wandering Two: staying upright

“And since we will be
horizontal ourselves
for so long,
let us now honor
the gods
of the vertical…” (Paston)

“Sunday morning—23 degrees, both ponds frozen and glassy. Six miles. About an inch of ice on the trail—frozen snow-melt, frozen slush—but I managed to stay upright….What Wittgenstein wanted from philosophy in the second half of his career was a way to stay upright. ‘We have got onto slippery ice where there is no friction,’ he warned, turning his gaze away from perfection and trying to make out how people actually move and think and make connections…It’s the dailiness of these runs I like—” (Gardner, 54)

One goal of my running? Staying upright. Active. Moving. Grounded. Connected. In conversation with the world, with my body, with my breathing, with dreaming and wondering and real possibilities, rooted in the realities of my limits. Resisting restlessness.

Wandering Three: form

Parson’s poem is vertical in form. Long and lean, stretching upwards.

“…most experts agree that ideal running form starts by keeping your upper torso straight (with a slight forward lean)….” Some suggest that you should think tall and look to the horizon. Like a tree, your trunk should be vertical, but with a slight lean. The purpose of good form: to be efficient and to conserve energy, which is especially important for long-distance runners.

In an interview with Krista Tippet, Michael Longley recalled something that the poet Stanley Kunitz wrote in the preface to one of this collections about form and conserving energy: “form was a way of conserving energy. Isn’t that wonderful? He said the energy soon leaks out of an ill-made work of art.” What forms work best for conserving energy? Is form that conserves always efficient?

Mary Oliver on form in Upstream: “Form is certainty. All nature knows this, and we have no greater adviser. Clouds have forms, porous and shape-shifting, bumptious [what a great word! “self-assertive or proud to an irritating degree.”], fleecy. They are what clouds need to be, to be clouds. See a flock of them come, on the sled of the wind, all kneeling above the blue sea. And in the blue water, see the dolphin built to leap, the sea mouse skittering; see the ropy kelp with its air-filled bladders tugging it upward; seee the albatross floating day after day on its three-jointed wings. Each form sets a tone, enables a destiny, strikes a note in the universe unlike any other. How can we ever stop looking? How can we ever turn away” (Upstream, 21)?

may 28/4 MILES

61 degrees
mississippi river road path, north

Sunny. Peaceful, even with the wind blowing. A wonderful morning to go for a relaxed, recovery run. Much too nice for headphones. Heard lots of birds and the wind rushing past my ears. Anything else? I smelled a few lilac bushes, bacon and eggs at Longfellow Grill. Saw runners and bikers and speed skaters on roller blades. A few walkers too. Noticed that the small wood that I’ve been tracking all spring, near the stone steps and adjacent to the sandy beach, is now completely filled in with leaves. All I see is green, which I mostly appreciate because green is my favorite color, but also lament because of the loss of my view straight through the wood. Which looks more mysterious and inviting: a wall of green with no way to know what’s behind it or a group of bare trees where everything is almost visible–the browns and purples of the dead leaves on the gorge floor, the blues and grays of the mississippi river, the light brown of the sandy beach–but not quite?

A Stand of Trees?

Would “stand of trees” work in my above description of “a group of bare trees”? I’ve seen that phrase used and wondered about it. Wikipedia describes a stand in the forest as: “A forest stand is a contiguous community of trees sufficiently uniform in composition, structure, age and size class distribution, spatial arrangement, site quality, condition, or location to distinguish it from adjacent communities.” What are some other ways to describes groupings of trees? What would you call the area below the gorge, near the beach? It’s not a forest, but is it woods? I’ll have to do some research.

What Color is the Sand by the Mississippi River?

In my above description, I just wrote: “light brown.” How boring! It’s made from limestone and sandstone–is that all? I need to take a walk to this beach so that I can properly describe the sand. I’m sure that Delia (my dog) would enjoy it. Maybe I’ll see some rowers out on the water, while I’m there.

As I’ve been running this past year, I’ve spent so much time alongside the Mississippi River Gorge. I’d like to pay more attention to the details of the landscape.

Random Source

Doing the search, “stand of trees poetry meaning,” I encountered this dissertation: The Language of Trees. Looks really cool.

I Tried Out a New Cap

Early in the week, I posted a writing experiment about the baseball cap that I always wear when I run. Today, I tried out a different cap and it seemed to work! Well, it’s not that different. Like my green one, it’s a twins baseball cap that’s easily adjustable with a cloth strap in the back. But, it’s bright blue instead of sweaty green. Not quite as big. Doesn’t smell. Isn’t fraying at the top. Not road tested, until today. I wonder what color it will be after a summer of sweaty, grimy running?

may 27/10 MILES

63 degrees
lake nokomis loop, long

Such a beautiful morning! Such a hard run! It felt tough from the start as I adjusted to running while carrying water. My legs seemed heavy and sore. It was not fun. Most of it was mental, I’m sure. At one point, I allowed the uncertainty to creep in: How can I run a 1/2 marathon in 5 weeks when I’m struggling to run 10 miles today? But I kept going and I managed to move past my doubt. I finished strong and very happy to be done.

At the midway point I reached Lake Nokomis. It’s all set up for summer with boats on the beach and buoys marking the swimming areas. Just a few more weeks until my favorite season of the year: Open Swim Season! I will get to swim back and forth across the lake, from the little beach to the big beach, as many times I want for two hours on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays!

In honor of open swim and to keep a steady rhythm, I created a few running rhythms while I was running at the lake:

Open Swim
Open Swim
starts next month
starts next month

I will swim
I will swim
across the lake
across the lake

I will see
I will see
the orange buoy
the orange buoy

May 26/3.75 MILES

66 degrees
mississippi river road path, north

It’s amazing how 66 degrees can feel hot. My body needs to adjust to the warming temperatures. The run felt a bit harder, but it was okay. I can’t remember what I was thinking about as I ran. This is often the case. Thomas Gardiner refers to this feeling as “a bit like half sleep. when you’re awake, in a way, but aware of dreams passing in a kind of un-retraceable wandering” (7).  What do we do with these un-retraceable wanderings? Maybe nothing.

Right before running, I composed two acrostic poems. I had been reluctant to try this form because my only encounters with it were through reading the acrostic poems my kids created out of their names in second grade. It seemed like a form best suited for young kids. But, when I looked up the form on Academy of American Poets, I was intrigued by their description: “The intent of the acrostic is to reveal while attempting to conceal within the poem.” So I experimented with creating poems out of two words that I think about a lot when I’m running:

A Daily Reminder

How does it feel to face your limits, when you’re
unable to continue ignoring that
many others will always be faster, stronger,
in better shape,
live longer,
imagine wider, deeper?
This is not a tragedy.
Your liberation is found in this realization.

Can you Feel Them?

Electrons
live
everywhere.
Can you feel them?
Try.
Really try to
imagine what they feel like, where they are.
Count the
ions.
Try.
You can’t? They’re there, amplifying life and charging it with meaning.

During the run, I thought of another word I wanted to use. I wrote about it when I got back home:

Runner’s Kryptonite

Heavy and thick, feeling
Useless and lethargic
Moisture everywhere
Inside and out.
Don’t want to move. Running
Is hard, harder
Than usual
You have no idea how much I despise this.

So much fun! So far, I’ve experimented with the following forms in my poetry about running: abecedarian, acrostic, anaphora, cento, cinquain, erasure, limerick, terza rima, triolet. Yesterday, I wrote an anaphora poem for my description of the Franklin Loop and limericks for my description of a route I’m calling the Downtown loop, long.

Lake Street/Marshall Avenue Bridge
there is a long bridge with a name
that never does stay quite the same
You start out on Lake
but Marshall you take
if driving in St. Paul’s your aim

Franklin Hill
There once was girl who would run
up big hills ‘cause she thought it was fun
she never complained
although she was drained
Had she spent too much time in the sun?

Bohemian Flats
A place on the path is called Flats
the namer of this was quite bats
the more that you stare
the more you’re aware
the hills here outnumber the gnats!

Washington Avenue Bridge
The bridge that you next run under
makes noises that sound like thunder
if not a rain storm
beginning to form
could be the light rail, I wonder.

I-94 Bridge
A bridge here turns purple at night
in honor of Prince, a bright light
it guides your climb out
of perilous doubt
brought on by sore legs that feel tight.

The Guthrie
run down a short hill and you’ll see
a building that looks like a bee
well that’s not quite true
it’s not black, it is blue
but it sometimes looks black to me

Stone Arch
There once was a girl with gray hair
who ran anytime, anywhere.
She left for Stone Arch
the third day of March
as far as I know she’s still there.

Hennepin Avenue Bridge
there once was girl who would walk
her kid ‘cross this bridge quite a lot
she runs now instead
while her kid stays in bed
he’s grown and no longer a tot!

may 24/5.25 MILES

51 degrees
the franklin loop

I’ve run over 500 miles in 2017. That’s the most I’ve ever done by the end of May. Had a great run this morning. 51 degrees + not much wind + overcast = some of my favorite running conditions. Managed to hold onto some thoughts about Quatro’s ideas on running as prayer and its dis/connections with the runner’s high as a matter of endorphins. I recorded some notes into my voice memo app right before and after the run.

notes: before the run

experiments/wonder/curiosity/why are we curious?/for what purpose do we want to know?/what does it mean to know?/Sir Francis Bacon, exploiter of nature/the drive to know/to understand/to conquer/to control/to own/to use/to exploit/to scrutinize/to dissect/to name

notes: after the run

CONTROL/what about humility?/a curiosity motivated by the desire to feel, to experience, to engage/not to own and control and acquire

The Runner’s High

suddenly, without warning I am
exhilarated
euphoric
effervescent, bubbling over with feeling

sometimes I feel ecstatic
beside myself with joy
beside my shadow with delight
beside the world with reverence and awe
beside my mom with longing, regret, enduring love.

sometimes I feel enormous
capacious
if I stuck out my chest
and opened my mouth a bit wider
I could let in the whole world.

sometimes I feel electric
amplifying sounds
lighting up paths
nothing but pure energy,
a flow of electrons moving through the universe

how to explain these feelings?
are they chemically-induced delusions,
brought on by elevated levels of endorphins or endocannabinoids?
do we need to explain?
can we bear witness to their wonder,
be curious about their origins and impacts
write about them
study them
experiment with them
propose scientific theories about them
without knowing them?
naming and classifying them?
reducing them to chemicals?
claiming that we own the Truth?

I see wonder in the chemicals
their poetic names
their purposes
their possibilities
but only when our theories about them
don’t foreclose
other explanations
other ways of feeling and being.

may 23/6 MILES

54 degrees
75% humidity
the franklin hill turn around + a little extra

Today I woke up tired and discombobulated. Decided that my playlist was definitely needed for blocking out the world. It worked. It was a good run. I felt disconnected, almost in a trance. Especially while running up the hill. As I made my way up it, I stared at the bridge at the top, only seeing it as a hulking shape. Quick flashes of movement entered by peripheral vision as bikers whizzed by. So cool.

Several miles later the trance-like feeling was replaced by a euphoria. Was it endorphins kicking in? Maybe. Does it matter if it can be explained chemically, scientifically? There is still something magical or mystical or sacred that can happen in those moments.

In an op-ed for The New York Times a few years ago the runner/author Jaime Quatro suggests that the high that runner’s get from running has three layers. Layer one is the conventional runner’s high, the sense of euphoria. Layer two is a feeling of invincibility; you can do anything! save all the starving children! garner massive applause from adoring crowds! Today, I felt like I could almost outrun the cars. If you’re lucky, which I was not, you can reach layer three:

a state of prayerlike consciousness. Past the feel-good vibes, past the delusions, my attention moves outward: I’m intensely aware of the cadence of a bird’s song, cherry blossoms weighted-down after a rain. Things light up and I experience an interior stillness that somehow syncs me more profoundly with the exterior world. It’s a paradox: only when I’m fully present in my body do I begin to experience the absence of myself.

As we move outward, we stop thinking so much about ourselves and start paying attention to the world. So much to say about this! About care, curiosity, Weil’s idea of attention. But I have to sort it out first. Maybe I’ll try to do that on my run tomorrow.

may 22/REST

Still thinking about breathing today.

On Breathing, 25 Versions

1

in out

2

in 2 3
out 2
in 2 3
out 2

3

take in oxygen
release carbon dioxide
respiration.

4

take in the world
take in
the sensations,
the sounds,
the colors: the greens and browns of the gorge floor, the greys of the sky on a cloudy day, the electric blue of the yarn bomb on the railroad bridge, the bright yellow-green of the runner’s shirt, the orange of the traffic cone, the red of the stop sign, the purple of the lilac bush, the pink of my jacket, the silvery-white of the river as the sun dances on its surface.
breathe in and accept what the world is offering: energy. life.
inspiration.

5

release worries and doubts
expel that which is toxic
breathe out and offer up what you don’t need.
expiration.

6

What you might say to your kid when she’s freaking out: why don’t you try to calm down and take some deep breaths? It will make you feel better or Breathe!
What she might say in return: ha! don’t hold your breath!
What, in retailiation, she might do: Turn blue.

7

the song that has made it onto several of my running playlists: Breathe (2 am)/Anna Nawlick

8

what you need for breathing: lungs, intercostal muscles, a diaphragm, comfortable pants

9

my most reliable method for stopping hiccups: holding my breath, not by pinching my nose but my just not breathing. Does anyone else do it this way?

10

Favorite reason for holding my breath, kid version: completing 10 back flips in a row under water at the neighborhood pool.

11

A haunting description of breathing, from a poem written shortly after 9/11 by Juliana Spahr in This Connection of Everyone with Lungs:

as everyone with lungs breathes the space between the hands and the space around the hands and the space of the room and the space of the building that surrounds the room and the space of the neighborhoods nearby and the space of the cities and the space of the regions and the space of the nations and the space of the continents and islands and the space of the oceans and the space of the troposphere and the space of the stratosphere and the space of the mesosphere in and out.

12

My interpretation of Judith Butler’s ethics in Ethical Ambivalence:

Having space and ROOM to breathe is an ethical imperative for the livable life.
Having access to good air that encourages effective inspiration and aspiration is an ethical imperative for the valued and valuable life.
A life that is livable is only possible when you can breathe.
A life that is valued and valuable is only possible when you breathe more good air in and more bad air out.

13

How Judith Butler discusses air in her caution against reducing ethics to an oppressive moralism: “I’ve worried that the return to ethics…has meant a certain heightening of moralism and this has made me cry out, as Nietzsche cried out about Hegel, “Bad air! Bad air!” I suppose that looking for a space in which to breathe is not the highest ethical aspiration, but it is there, etymologically embedded in aspiration itself, and does seem to constitute something of a precondition for any viable, that is livable, ethical reflection (15-16).

14

What Nietzsche writes about bad air in On the Genealogy of Morals
“What is it exactly that I find so totally unbearable? Something which I cannot deal with on my own, which makes me choke and feel faint? Bad air! Bad air! It’s when something which has failed comes close to me, when I have to smell the entrails of a failed soul!”

15

Smells I’ve smelled while breathing during a run:
Fresh donuts from Mel-o-Glaze Donuts
Bacon from Longfellow Grill
Smoke from a fire, below me, somewhere deep in the gorge
Skunk
Rotting leaves
Too much perfume on the runner I passed
Chemicals after the rain
A lilac bush
Honey-suckle
Pot
the Sewer
freshly cut grass
The inside rim of my super nasty baseball cap that I’ve been wearing, and have never! washed, for almost every run and almost every race for the past 5 years.
my own breath when I wear a buff around my face in the winter
Haven’t smelled the entrails of a failed soul….yet.

16

Types of Breathing
jagged
too shallow
deeeeeeeeeeeep
fast
slow
even, 4 in/4 out or 3 in/3 out
odd, 3 in/2 out or 2 in/1 out

17

What breathes: noses/mouths/skin/living things

18

What doesn’t breathe: that annoying race t-shirt/my mom, not since September 30, 2009.

19

Reasons why we breathe:
so we don’t die
to embrace the world
to take in oxygen
to calm down
to walk
to run
to fly
we don’t need a reason, our body will do it anyway.

20

I despise breathing in bugs when I’m running. Most of the time they’re tiny, so it’s not a big deal, just annoying. One time, I swallowed a really big bug. I could feel it inside me, still alive. As it crawled around the back of my throat, I choked. Yuck! Kept running though.

21

Breathing in winter is _________.

  1. difficult, my lungs are burning!
  2. fun when it’s so cold that the snot in my nose freezes up. No, really, it is. I’m not being sarcastic.
  3. the best. I love the cold, pure air.

22

Breathing in summer is __________.

  1. dangerous. Watch out for the bugs!
  2. incredibly difficult after an open swim.
  3. so thick! I fucking hate humidity.

23

how to breathe:
use your lungs:
breathe in deeply
through your nose and mouth,
with your diaphragm.
as your abdomen extends,
so does your invitation to the world
to enter and fill you
with wonder and gratitude.

24

reminder: when running, you don’t fly with your arms, you fly with your feet. And you don’t embrace the world with a hug but with a breath.

25

in and out
in…and out
in……and out
in………and out

may 21/8 MILES

49 degrees
the lake nokomis loop, short

Another day of rain. Like yesterday, it was only a drizzle, so it didn’t bother me. Tried to work on my breathing today. Recently I read an article about using breathing to prevent injury: Running on Air. It’s a form of rhythmic breathing, where you inhale for 3 steps and exhale for 2. The idea is that as you exhale your core destabilizes, which puts extra strain on the striking foot and that side of the body. If you trade off which foot you land on when you exhale you can distribute the strain more evenly between your left and right sides. Will it work for me? Not sure, but I’ll try it. I’d like to prevent injury and I’m interested in breathing rhythms. And thinking about and experimenting with breathing in general.

Did you know that the process of breathing in is also known as inspiration? Here’s something that I found on Merriam-Webster online:

“Inspiration has an unusual history in that its figurative sense appears to predate its literal one. It comes from the Latin inspiratus (the past participle of inspirare, “to breathe into, inspire”) and in English has had the meaning “the drawing of air into the lungs” since the middle of the 16th century. This breathing sense is still in common use among doctors, as is expiration (“the act or process of releasing air from the lungs”). However, before inspiration was used to refer to breath it had a distinctly theological meaning in English, referring to a divine influence upon a person, from a divine entity; this sense dates back to the early 14th century. The sense of inspiration often found today (“someone or something that inspires”) is considerably newer than either of these two senses, dating from the 19th century.”

Combine this with the first definition that I found when I googled “inspiration definition”: “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.”

I love these connections between breathing, being creatively stimulated and the sacred!

may 20/5 MILES

46 degrees
mississippi river road path south/mississippi river road path north/greenway

Almost a repeat of Monday, except I ran with Scott and we ran south first. For most of the run it was raining, although it was a soft rain and I was sweating, so it was hard to tell. I greeted lots of other runners with a perky “good morning!,” partly to be friendly but mostly to check my effort level. As long as I could get out the full phrase and not sound like I was dying, I wasn’t running too fast. The last time Scott and I ran together, I suggested that we should come up with a longer phrase that we could use to check how hard we were running. I can’t remember his suggestion, but I know it involved speaking with an Irish brogue. (I just read this part to him and he told me that it was “Top o’ the morning to you.”) Maybe I should come up with some poetic line? Or what about a koan/unanswerable question?

After we got back, as I was eating my favorite breakfast–cheerios, bananas, walnuts–I started reading one of the books I just picked up from the library, Flanuese: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London by Lauren Elkin. On page 2, she writes:

women came to the city…to pass unnoticed, but also to be free and to do what they liked, as they liked.

Then she describes “the key problem of the urban experience”:

are we individuals or are we part of the crowds? Do we want to stand out or blend in? Is that even possible? How do we–no matter what our gender–want to be seen in public? Do we want want to attract or escape the gaze? Be independent or invisible? Remarkable or unremarked-upon?

My immediate reactions to these passages include:

  • Yes! want to go unnoticed so that I can do what I like, as I like!
  • You mean other people feel that way too? I’m not the only one?
  • Being able to go unnoticed requires a lot of privilege. Who can choose to be invisible (as opposed to being rendered invisible) and who is always hyper-visible?
  • Wow, I’m only on page 2 and this book already has me thinking about so many things.
  • I want to write about this in my log entry because one aspect of running that I’ve barely addressed but that certainly subtly shapes my experiences, is being a woman running in public.

Question

  • What does it mean to be a woman running in public?
  • What does it mean to be this woman running in public?
  • What does it mean to be this white woman running in public?
  • What does it mean to be this white, middle-class woman running in public?
  • What does it mean to be this white, middle-class, healthy-looking woman running in public?
  • What does it mean to be this white, middle-class, healthy-looking woman running in public spaces that are well-maintained and safe?
  • What does it mean to be this white, middle-class, healthy-looking woman running in public spaces that are well-maintained and fairly safe, but still seem haunted, perhaps only slightly, by the threat of an unwanted encounter or assault?

In thinking about running in public l want to link my experience to the larger history of women in running (less than 100 years ago, a woman wasn’t supposed to run for fear that her uterus would fall out! Kathryn Switzer was attacked by the race director while running in the Boston Marathon in 1967. The woman’s marathon wasn’t in the olympics until 1984.) and women in public, including: women and safety and women and sexual harassment/assault. Of course, you also can’t leave out exploring an intersectional history of who is allowed to occupy public space and how running bodies get read by others–are they seen as exercising or running from a crime, for example. Both of those are heavily shaped by race. And, what about the types of public spaces runners have access to–dedicated paths? busy sidewalks? In what parts of the city do they exist?

Scroll over the first paragraph to reveal the hidden poem.

may 19/6 MILES

47 degrees
the franklin hill turn around

It was cooler today but I didn’t mind. I like running when it’s cooler. Lately I’ve been thinking about the biomechanics of walking and running and how they differ. After looking at a few online sources, including this, I tried the following Please Add to This List experiment: “in a poem, list what you know” (20). I’m not sure if mine is a poem, but I like it.

DID YOU KNOW

that the main difference between running and walking is that in walking you always have one foot on the ground and in running both feet are in the air at the same time mid stride? So in walking you’re always grounded, in running you get to fly.

that the flying occurs just before the foot makes “initial contact” with the ground, either via the heel, midfoot or forefoot? I usually strike midfoot.

that the flying is referred to as the “float phase”? I’d prefer the “flying phase” or the “who needs the ground? Not my feet!” phase.

that the flying happens so quickly that you don’t even notice it? I bet your body and soul do. Or should I say “does”? In “I Sing the Body Electric” Walt Whitman believes that the body is the soul.

that when I wrote the preceding “fact” about Walt Whitman, I mistyped his name as Walk Whitman? He did love walking and wrote many poems about it, including Song of the Open Road. Would you mind if I referred to him, from now on, as Walt “the Walk” Whitman? Or, is Walt “the Walker” Whitman better?

that after flying you do a “controlled landing” and enter the “brake absorption” phase? I’m starting to feel like a plane. I don’t like planes or flying in them. The only flying I like is the kind that I do when I’m running.

that USA Track and Field officially defines race walking as: “a progression of steps so taken that the walker makes contact with the ground so that no visible (to the human eye) loss of contact occurs”? Have you ever tried race walking? I have, sort of. I went on a training walk with my best friend who was planning to race walk a marathon, which she eventually did a few months later. It was hard preventing my body from flying. And hard to walk that fast. She was fast!

that I like running because it lets me fly and, at least for a millisecond, allows me to lose contact?

that I like walking because it keeps me grounded and tethers me to the world so I don’t just fly (or float) away?

that I often feel like I’ve failed if I stop and walk during a run or a race? I’m working to change this attitude. Walking is not failing; it’s still moving.

that in his running memoir, Haruki Murakami, wrote that his tombstone should say: “At least he didn’t walk”? I wonder if now, many years later, he still feels that way.

that I have tendency to wander, physically and mentally? Sometimes this is helpful, sometimes it is not. Walking, especially at a slow pace and with no destination in mind, encourages it. While running, which enforces limits—my body can only run so far and for so long, discourages it. When I want to wander, I walk. When I don’t, I run.

that I have almost too much energy? Sometimes this energy is physical, sometimes it’s mental. If I don’t use it up, I become restless. Walking is more likely to wear out my brain, running, my body.

I was trying to think about walking and running during my run today. I did, for a a few miles. But then the Franklin hill appeared and I needed to craft some new “running rhythms” to chant as I ran up.

as I ran up the hill

I am climbing up a hill

rhythm: I am climbing (4 eighth notes) + up a hill (3 eighth notes) = 7 steps/1 per eighth note

I
am
climb
ing
up
a
hill

rhythm: 7 quarter notes = 14 steps/2 per quarter note

to get my heart rate down

I need to go slower
so that my pulse will lower

rhythm: I (quarter note) + need to (2 eighth notes) + go (quarter note) + slower (2 eighth notes) = 8 steps/2 per quarter + 1 per eighth
So (quarter note) + that my pulse will lower (6 eighth notes) = 8 steps/2 per quarter + 1 per eighth

to celebrate running

I am flying,
I am free
I am where
I want to be

rhythm: 4 eighth notes per line = 4 steps/1 per eighth

After composing and  reciting the rhythms several times as I ran, I made a recording while I continued running:

These small chants are fun to compose and help a lot with my running.

may 18/REST

Technically I’m supposed to be cross-training today, but I probably won’t really start cross training until open swim season begins in a month (only a month!). Just came across this really cool project (via Runner’s World) about an artist/illustrator who does a sketch inspired by something she sees on each of the training runs. Her one rule: the drawing has to be done in the same amount of time as the training run.

Here’s one of her sketches for three miles:

and another one for 12 miles:

I love this idea!

A few sources:

may 17/5 MILES

64 degrees
humidity 86%/light rain
mississippi river road path north/south/north/south

Severe thunderstorms? 80% chance of rain? I risked it and ran anyway. No thunderstorms and only a light drizzle. Take that faulty forecast! Just in case it started to rain really hard, I altered my route so that I could end it sooner if I needed. I ran one mile north, turned around and ran back to the start, then ran one mile south, turned around and ran back to the start, then ran 1/2 mile north and turned around again. It worked out well. I like running in the rain when it’s a light drizzle. I didn’t feel wet, just refreshed.

I’m entering in a new phase of my training: training for the 1/2 marathon in July. I need to work on conditioning my body to run (or just move, with an elevated heart rate) for longer periods of time. I need to get used to running on sore legs and moving for 2 hours without stopping. I wonder how this will affect my creative thinking and experimenting? 

I’ve decided to give myself running advice in different poetic forms. The last time I did this, I used terza rima to remind myself to go slow. Now, I’m using 2 different versions of the cinquain and a triolet to tell myself to stop thinking about pace or miles and start thinking about duration. I think I’d like to try at least one other form.

Cinquain

Variation One
5 lines
rhyme scheme: abaab

Up until now, I’ve mostly been building up a base
of miles, strengthening my legs and working on my aerobic fitness.
My focus was on maintaining a very slow pace.
But now marathon training must start. Such a long race
requires building up the time spent running, more than the distance.

Variation Two
5 lines
created by Adelaide Crapsey (what a name!), usually about nature
no rhyme
22 syllables in total: 2/4/6/8/2

It’s May
and time to start
training for duration
more than pace or number of miles.
Do it!

Triolet

8 lines
Line 1 repeats on lines 4 and 7.
Line 2 repeats on line 8.
Only two rhymes used throughout.

I need to train
to move longer
be mentally stronger.
I need to train
to run when drained
when legs are strained.
I need to train
to move longer.

may 16/3.3 MILES

64 degrees
muggy and windy
mississippi river road north

Was able to get in a quick run between thunderstorms. It’s funny how the winter weather didn’t prevent me from running outside, but these spring thunderstorms are. So humid. At one point during the run, when the walking path dips down and follows alongside the wooded gorge, everything looked weird, almost like I was seeing it through a filter. I wondered if it was my vision then I realized it was steam, trapped in the trees! Yuck.

Before and after the run I worked on having more fun with medical terms. Specifically, more fun with the biomechanics of walking. So much fun! When I started it, I had no idea where it would lead me. This is the unexpected result:

It starts with a step, versions and variations

Version One:

“Where does it start? Muscles tense. One leg a pillar, holding the body upright between the earth and sky. The other a pendulum, swinging from behind. Heel touches down. The whole weight of the body rolls forward onto the ball of the foot. The big toes pushes off, and the delicately balanced weight of the body shifts again. The legs reverse position. It starts with a step and then another step and then another that add up like taps on a drum to a rhythm, the rhythm of walking (Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust).”

variation
It starts with a step:
heel touches down
weight rolls forward
onto ball of foot
big toe pushes off
body shifts
legs reverse
step + step + step + step + step + step + step = walking

Version Two:

The biomechanics of a step: The Stance Phase in 5 parts

  1. Heel strike/the heel first touches ground
  2. Early flatfoot/from when the foot is flat until body’s center of gravity passes over foot, here the foot is loose and floppy
  3. Late flatfoot/body past center of gravity, heel beginning to lift, foot is rigid
  4. Heel rise/the heel rises off the ground
  5. Toe off/the toe lifts off the ground.

variation
the heel strikes
on the ground,
not out at the plate or
because of unjust working conditions.

early flatfoot
a police officer with a morning shift.

late flatfoot
another officer, working the night shift.

heel rise
apparently I was wrong about why the heel was striking.
It is because of unjust working conditions.
She and other foot workers are refusing to lift anything off the ground until their demands are met, namely adequate health care.
They are rising up!

toe off
Management is becoming increasingly irritated by the peaceful strikers.
All mechanical operations have been shut down.
How can the toe be lifted off the ground when the heel won’t do her job?
The early and late flatfoots, who have both finished their shifts, are called in to force the heel and her compatriots to submit.
Neither of them are happy about it.
They’re tired and want to go to bed.
Besides, they agree with the heel and are angry with management.

Version Three:

The biomechanics of a step: The Muscles

During the heel strike/early flat foot phase the anterior compartment muscles work to gently lower the foot onto the ground. The anterior compartment muscles are the tibialis anterior muscle, the extensor hallicus longus, and the extensor digitorum longus. .

During the late flatfoot to heel rise phase the posterior compartment muscles control the body so it doesn’t fall forward. The posterior compartment muslces are the gastrocnemius, the soleum and the plantaris.

variation
During the strike, the heel is confronted by some well-meaning but naive co-workers who are urging her to reconsider her tactics. “Why not ask nicely?” the tibialis anterior muscle suggests. “Yes!” agree the extensor hallicus longus and the extensor digitorum longus, “if we take a gentle approach and try to reason with them, management is sure to see that we deserve better!”

Listening in on their conversation, early flatfoot rolls her eyes and can be heard to mutter dismissively to late flatfoot, “yeah right.”

Heel refuses to listen to the anterior compartment muscles. “We will strike!” she declares. She is joined by many others, including the posterior compartment muscles. The gastrocnemius and the soleum help by reassuring the crowd of striking workers and the plantaris delivers the strikers’ demands to management.

Version Four:

The biomechanics of a step: The Swing Phase in Three Parts

  1. early swing/after toe is off the ground, just until it is next to opposite foot
  2. midswing/the swinging foot passes by the opposite foot
  3. late swing/lasts from end of midswing until heel strike

variation
The striking heel, along with the toe and the ball of the foot, soon realize that their tactics are not working. Management is refusing to consider their demands. They reluctantly determine that their only option is to walk out. To do this, they need the help of the other foot. The dorsiflexors of the ankle joint are enlisted to initiate the swing phase so that the toe can try to convince the workers in the opposite foot to collaborate on the direct action. The big toe is successful with her negotiations. So successful that not only does the opposite foot agree to the plan, but so do early and late flatfoots. Slowly and steadily the feet trade off steps. One heel strikes, one foot is flat, one toe lifts off. The other heel strikes, the other foot is flat, the other toe lifts off. Step. Step. Step. Step. Step. Step.

note: The technical information for the versions comes from these sources:

I had not intended to write about the heel striking, but I’m glad I did. At some point, pretty far into the process, I realized that the management was me. And the workers were going on strike because I wasn’t taking care of myself properly. This version of the biomechanics is very different from Solnit’s romantic understanding of walking. I think I went in the direction that I did because I associate learning/being curious about the technical aspects of walking with injury. Why else would I want to dissect the process and learn the specific names of muscles, bones and joints?

may 14/4.2 MILES

60 degrees
mississippi river road path north

I didn’t have time to post my log entry yesterday so I’m posting it now. A decent run. My legs were pretty sore after running for over 90 minutes on Saturday. Having heard Britney Spear’s “Toxic” on the radio and remembering how I had put it on a playlist from 2012, I decided to add it to a playlist I’m using now. As usual, I put the music on shuffle and here’s what came up:

I Sing the Body Electric/Fame
The Jeffersons/Ja’net Dubois
Landslide/Fleetwood Mac
Love Song/Sara Bareilles
Let’s Go Crazy/Prince
Body Count/Justin Timberlake
Cheap Thrills/Sia
Sorry/Justin Bieber
The Flesh Failures (Let the Sunshine In)/Hair
Toxic/Britney Spears
She’s A Bad Mama Jama/Carl Carlton
Renegade/Styx

Last week I mentioned listening to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.” Looking up the lyrics for it, I’m struck by how few of them I had ever actually understood or paid attention to. I never realized he sang, “search for the purple banana” or “We’re all excited/But we don’t know why/Maybe it’s cause/We’re all gonna die.” At the beginning of the song he speaks: “Electric word, life” which makes me think of the first song I heard during my run: “I Sing the Body Electric.” This song is from the movie Fame and takes its title, I assume, and nothing else from the Walt Whitman poem of the same name.

I like this idea of the body as electric. As something charged with meaning and energy, exciting, alive. To be celebrated. To be used. To be used to experience and express joy. I’ve been working on a poem the past few days that speaks to this celebration of the body electric, although I haven’t been framing it that way. Maybe I should. Something doesn’t seem quite right about the poem so far:

The Joy of Running

The joy of running is not
reckless abandon
an all out sprint,
arms flailing,
feet fleeing
from the imaginary monsters on the playground.
And it’s not focused aggression
lungs burning
muscles aching
mind calculating 
better splits and faster races.
The joy of running is
the confident grace
of a body that knows its value
and celebrates movement’s magic
gliding easily through the world.
One foot striking the ground and then the other
feeling the grit on the path
but not the mechanics of the motion.

This poem is a reaction to, and perhaps rejection of, the idea that to run joyfully is to run like you did as kid: a total spaz. It’s inspired by my deep appreciation for confident, graceful bodies moving fluidly and with little effort. And it’s an attempt to put into words my thoughts, started in this entry, about magic and the mechanics of walking.

I like Leaves of Grass–the parts of it that I’ve read. I should really read the whole thing carefully. Just now, I read “I Sing the Body Electric.” Intense, especially the section on the bodies of slaves at the auction. He concludes the poem with this celebration of various body parts:

excerpt from I Sing the Body Electric

Head, neck, hair, ears, drop and tympan of the ears,
Eyes, eye-fringes, iris of the eye, eyebrows, and the waking or sleeping of the lids,
Mouth, tongue, lips, teeth, roof of the mouth, jaws, and the jaw-hinges,
Nose, nostrils of the nose, and the partition,
Cheeks, temples, forehead, chin, throat, back of the neck, neck-slue,
Strong shoulders, manly beard, scapula, hind-shoulders, and the ample side-round of the chest,
Upper-arm, armpit, elbow-socket, lower-arm, arm-sinews, arm-bones,
Wrist and wrist-joints, hand, palm, knuckles, thumb, forefinger, finger-joints, finger-nails,
Broad breast-front, curling hair of the breast, breast-bone, breast-side,
Ribs, belly, backbone, joints of the backbone,
Hips, hip-sockets, hip-strength, inward and outward round, man-balls, man-root,
Strong set of thighs, well carrying the trunk above,
Leg fibres, knee, knee-pan, upper-leg, under-leg,
Ankles, instep, foot-ball, toes, toe-joints, the heel;
All attitudes, all the shapeliness, all the belongings of my or your body or of any one’s body, male or female,
The lung-sponges, the stomach-sac, the bowels sweet and clean,
The brain in its folds inside the skull-frame,
Sympathies, heart-valves, palate-valves, sexuality, maternity,
Womanhood, and all that is a woman, and the man that comes from woman,
The womb, the teats, nipples, breast-milk, tears, laughter, weeping, love-looks, love-perturbations and risings,
The voice, articulation, language, whispering, shouting aloud,
Food, drink, pulse, digestion, sweat, sleep, walking, swimming,
Poise on the hips, leaping, reclining, embracing, arm-curving and tightening,
The continual changes of the flex of the mouth, and around the eyes,
The skin, the sunburnt shade, freckles, hair,
The curious sympathy one feels when feeling with the hand the naked meat of the body,
The circling rivers the breath, and breathing it in and out,
The beauty of the waist, and thence of the hips, and thence downward toward the knees,
The thin red jellies within you or within me, the bones and the marrow in the bones,
The exquisite realization of health;
O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of the soul,
O I say now these are the soul!
——–

The body electric as the soul. I want to think about that some more.