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.
18 degrees/feels like 5
mississippi river road north/hennepin avenue bridge
Ran on the river road to downtown in the snow. My first time this winter running while it was snowing. Beautiful. It wasn’t too cold. The snow wasn’t too deep or annoying–except for when it felt like little knives hitting my face. There weren’t too many other people out on the path. I think I saw 3 or 4 runners. I was alone in the flats below the U. The steep hill almost to downtown was a bit tough so I walked it for a few minutes. Right at the base of the Hennepin Avenue bridge there was a zipline set up so people in town for the Super Bowl could zip across the river.
I loved this run today.
Heard the snow crunching again and noticed how the steady crunch sound traded off between my feet. The path today was a little more slippery and not packed down because it was steadily snowing. A few days ago I wrote a haiku about how the wet snow felt like running in the sand but I think that this dry, powdery, freshly-fallen snow felt more like running in the sand–especially the soft sand by the river.
Almost forgot to mention the birds. Running in the quiet snow, I kept hearing birds. Not geese or crows but something cooing or chirping. So odd to hear these calls which make me think of spring while running in the pure white solitude.
Here’s a poem about birds that I recently found and really like:
After all these years
I still don’t know the name
of the bird who has followed me
with his early-morning song
to all the places I’ve lived.
I’ve never asked
“Which bird is that, singing now?”
I remember hearing him first
on a spring morning in childhood
somewhere in the woods
behind our little house, his song clear
above the thousand little sounds
of grass and water and trees around us.
I’ve thought about the deaths I fear,
but only now do I know the death I want:
to let that song be the last thing I hear,
and not to mind at all that I never learned
the singer’s name.
Oh—and another thing about birds: After my run, and after meeting Scott at the coffee place, we walked by a tree, right in front of a spa/salon where they had thoughtfully placed half a dozen bird feeders. Little birds like to gather here. I know because I’ve walked by this tree before. As you approach the birds they flutter and fly, only briefly, away from the tree. It’s a beautiful thing to see.
And a few more lines about birds form a poem:
Snow melts into the earth and a gentle breeze
Loosens the damp gum wrappers, the stale leaves
Left over from autumn, and the dead brown grass.
The sky shakes itself out. And the invisible birds
Winter put away somewhere return…
(from The Late Wisconsin Spring/ John Koethe)
A good run. I went faster than I usually do and ran the whole thing without stopping–even the Franklin hill. Encountered a lot of puddles, wet spots, slick spots, messy spots. My socks and shoes didn’t get soaked but they did get wet. A few times I ended up running straight through some deep puddles. Yuck! I do not like when it gets warm in winter and the snow melts onto the sidewalk, making it wet during the day and icy at night. But, it didn’t bother me too much. Still had a great run, listening to my headphones and getting pumped up by Beck’s “I’m so Free.”
words to describe a path that is mostly clear but still slightly covered with puddles and patches of ice and an occasional chunk of snow:
franklin hill turn around
Yesterday’s warm temperatures melted some of the snow and ice which turned back into supper slick and slippery ice this morning. It looked scary but it wasn’t that bad. I had a decent run. I managed to run down and up the Franklin hill without stopping. The gorge was beautiful. So open and light and still. Yesterday I took Delia the dog down on the Winchell trail below the path. The sun was barely above the path making the walkers and runners on it glow. Speaking of the sun, this morning as I got up off the couch after drinking my coffee to wake my daughter I opened the curtains and was greeted by one of the most beautiful sunrises that I’ve seen in years. Neon orange and pink. Within 10 minutes it was gone and I wondered how many other sunrises I had missed without even knowing it. This illuminating moment came only minutes after I wrote a few words about the difficulty of getting older and finding it harder to wake up:
early morning sitting
on the couch waiting
to wake up
I hear noises
the staticky hum of my son’s computer
the roar of a distant plane
the traffic a mile away
the resigned sigh of my dog sleeping
next to me but wanting
to be chased
through the downstairs
the heat kicks in
a car drives by
I sip my coffee
and lose my words
and my will
and I wonder—
is this what it means to grow old?
to wake up every morning and really have to work at
wanting to do anything but go back to sleep or
sit and stare blankly at the wall as the light
slowly gradually almost imperceptibly
enters the room?
When I saw the sunrise, I realized that I would never have appreciated its beauty when I was younger. So maybe appreciating a sunrise is also what it means to get older, which sounds cliché, but this morning it was true for me and it mattered to make note of it.
mississippi river road north/south
Hooray for warmer weather! Still below freezing but almost 30 degrees warmer than the last time I ran outside on Wednesday. Felt good, except for the Franklin hill. Ugh! Made it most of the way up but then decided to walk the last bit. Good decision because the last two miles felt great, especially mile 6. Looked at my favorite part of the gorge and marveled at its beauty. Dark brown branches framing the light blue river and white forest floor. I’d like to incorporate that image–or the suggestion of that image–in a redesign of this blog.
the path, some descriptions
The path was clear for big stretches then completely covered for others. With the slightly warmer temperature, when the path was covered it was both slick and wet. Snow that had been packed tight a few days ago was loose and gloppy and hard to slog through. I like snow that makes a satisfying crunch or crack when I run over it. This snow was quiet, dull, hard to run on.
50% snow covered
franklin hill turn around
It hasn’t snowed since Saturday so the paths have cleared up. I was actually able to run on some bare pavement for a while! Decided to run all the way down and back up the Franklin hill. At the bottom, the sun was shining not quite in my eyes, making the path glow. Ran most of the way up the hill but then walked for a minute (or 2?). Felt good. Ran the last mile much faster than the first 4 miles.
2 women passed me early on, running fast. I think one of them might have been the Olympic runner Carrie Tollefson. She runs by the river a lot.
A guy pushing a jogging stroller while running. As he passed me, I enjoyed watching the way his heels kicked up. Graceful. Swift.
A few fat tires.
A walker in a bright yellow vest who had turned into a runner by the time I encountered her again towards the end of my run.
7 miles on a beautiful morning. Next week it’s supposed to get much colder but not today. Great weather for running! As I neared the big Franklin hill I decided to mix up my running rhythm and create a chant in 6/8 time with triplets instead of 4/4 time with straight quarter notes. It was hard to quickly compose sentences with this rhythm so I went for 3 syllable words. After trying out:
My knee felt a little sore this morning so I almost skipped running today. But when I checked the weather for tomorrow and saw that it would be 23 mph wind, I decided I better run today. I’m glad. It was a good run. No headphones.
Admired the floodplain forest as I ran by and thought: Empty of green/ and filled with brown/leaves once above/now on the ground. Okay, not that thought exactly, but a version of it. I’m struck by how much I can see of the forest floor and the river and the tree trunks and their branches and the trail winding through the woods and the variations in browns–deep rich mocha, almost milk chocolate, creamy tan. For over half of the year, I mostly just see green. The only variations come in the different sounds that rise up from the river.
The run felt good. Coming up the hill that bottoms out below the Lake Street bridge, I encountered another runner, turning on to the path from the street. We ran alongside each other for a minute, then split off. She ran on the bike path that curved towards the road, I ran on the walking path that hugs the gorge and above the rowing club building. I tried not to pay attention to her but I wondered as the path began to come together whether we would still be going the same pace. We weren’t. I was slightly faster. Ran down and up the Franklin hill without stopping. A big victory! The past two times I’ve tried it I’ve had to walk the last bit of it. As I ran up the hill, I chanted: I am climbing up a hill now/I was running down a hill then.
Ran the hill again today. Ran down all of it and up most of it. Then walked for a few minutes to recover. Felt pretty good. Listened to music because I felt like I needed it but now I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to try running without headphones. Beautiful light this morning, especially filtered through the bare trees and across the gorge. The muted tans and browns and golds make me happy. My shadow led me today and I enjoyed watching her run. Sometimes I marveled at her form, other times I imagined she was my mom. She followed me on the way back, after I had warmed up and was feeling strong. Every so often, when I turned back to see if anyone was coming, I noticed her.
Running when it’s in the 50s is so much better than running in the mid 60s! It was a beautiful morning for a run. I felt strong and not too tired. I ran the first half without stopping, then took a brief walking break at the top of the hill and another one at some point during the run–I think? After spending a lot of time thinking/writing about the run to lake harriet and how it wanders beside the creek, I was struck by how straight the path to downtown is. While it occasionally strays from the biking path, they are usually right next to each other. And the path crosses under several bridges–Lake Street, the Railroad Trestle, Franklin Avenue, I-94, Washington Avenue, the biking/walking bridge to the East Bank of the U of M,10th Avenue and 35W–but not over them. You also don’t cross any roads. The biggest features of this route are the two hills: Franklin and 35W. And the river, the gorge, the views of the U of M campus and the Minneapolis skyline.
I picked up Mary Oliver’s collection of essays/poems, Long Life, from the library yesterday and started it after my run. I haven’t even made it through the forward and I’m already inspired!
Writing poems, for me but not necessarily for others, is a way of offering praise to the world. In this book you will find, set among the prose pieces, a few poems. Think of them that way, as little alleluias. They’re not trying to explain anything, as the prose does. They just sit there on the page, and breathe (xiv).
No Explanation Necessary
What a thing to do!
To sit and just breathe.
how different from what is expected.
Who needs an explanation
when there’s inspiration
And, here’s one of Oliver’s Alleluias:
Can you Imagine? by Mary Oliver
For example, what the trees do not only in lightening storms or the watery dark of a summer night or under the white nets of winter but now, and now, and now–whenever we’re not looking. Surely you can’t imagine they just stand there looking the way they look when we’re looking; surely you can’t imagine they don’t dance, from the root up, wishing to travel a little, not cramped so much as wanting a better view, or more sun, or just as avidly more shade–surely you can’t imagine they just stand there loving every minute of it, the birds or the emptiness, the dark rings of the years slowly and without a sound thickening, and nothing different unless the wind, and then only in its own mood, comes to visit, surely you can’t imagine patience, and happiness, like that.
I’ve just been editing a piece in which I reflect on what leaves on a tree are for and last month I pondered whether or not trees sigh and why. Now, I want to imagine more about what trees do when we’re not around. As I wrote this last line, I remembered by Modern Philosophy class from college and studying the empiricist George Berkeley and the classic question prompted by his suggestion that “The objects of sense exist only when they are perceived: the trees therefore are in the garden, or the chairs in the parlour, no longer than while there is some body by to perceive them”: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a sound?
Maybe I should play with this question? Here’s a link I found to how some people in the UK respond.
This run felt hard and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it. But I did, with the help of several walks. I’m surprised at how little it bothers me that I’m walking so much during these runs. Or that I’m going so slow. Have I given up or just become wiser and more measured in my approach? Or some thing else that I can’t quite figure out? Whatever it is, I’m continuing to train and survive and have moments that I deeply enjoy. I would like to work on pushing through some of the more difficult moments.
For the first half of the run, I listened to an old On Being episode with Mary Oliver. I love Mary Oliver. Here are a few lines that I particularly liked:
What is the meaning of life?
“have no answers but have some suggestions.” I was expecting her to end her line with: “have lots of questions.” I like that she didn’t and I like the idea that we can make suggestions instead of assertions or claims. These suggestions offer insight without definite answers. I’d like to do a writing experiment organized around the idea of having suggestions instead of answers.
writing while walking
They discuss how Oliver writes on her many walks through the woods. A notebook is mentioned. I’d like to know, in more detail, her process of walking and writing. A few months ago, I read about Jamie Quattro and how, if she got an idea while she was running for a story, she would stop and find a stick and then scratch some notes on her arm (or in her hand?). I’ve tried composing lines while running by speaking them into my voice memo app. But, how does Oliver do it? Maybe she writes about it somewhere?
Krista Tippet references Mary Oliver’s suggestion to “listen convivially” while walking. Where does Oliver say this? In a poem? Prose? An interview?
convivially: good company, joyful/agreeable attitude, greeting others/the world with delight
For me, listening in such an important part of the process of running and paying attention. I like the idea of being convivial as we listen. What are the subtle (and maybe not so subtle) differences between being convivial and generous or open?
attention without feeling is only a report
“You need empathy with it rather than just reporting. Reporting is for field guides. And they’re great. They’re helpful. But that’s what they are. But they’re not thought provokers. And they don’t go anywhere. And I say somewhere that attention is the beginning of devotion, which I do believe.” Attention/Devotion/Rumination/Engagement/Feeling the Force of Ideas and Experiences and Moments.
mystery is in that combination of discipline and the convivial listening
I’m really interested in how being disciplined and undisciplined combine to generate creativity and a more meaningful life. Limits, in the form of structure–Oliver discusses how one of her most famous poems, “Wild Geese,” began as a writing exercise in using end-stopped lines–and freedom, in the form of experimenting, taking risks, imagining new ways of writing, being, doing.
Such wonderful ideas! I can’t wait to read more.
Here are 2 of her poems that I found and want to spend more time with: Spring and What is it?
And here’s my attempt at playing around with Oliver’s idea of suggestions, not answers.
a suggestion on suggestions
I’ve never been good with answers,
giving them, that is.
I can handle accepting them,
as long as they aren’t final
lacking imagination and a wonder
that is necessary for joyful living.
I used to believe that this was a problem,
my refusal to give answers.
It certainly is for some people.
But, no longer for me.
Answers are overrated and too easy.
Even sometimes lazy.
I always want questions.
And now, having heard Mary Oliver utter it in an interview,
Possibilities to explore, entertain, use in our experiments.
Proposals that might fit the facts and feelings.
Things to consider
and ruminate over as I wander through the woods
or run on the path that stretches ahead of me for miles.
And, a poem inspired by Oliver’s exercise in combining end-stopped lines with enjambment and by Gros (Philosophy of Walking) and his use of Nietzsche and the question from The Gay Science about the value of a book or dance or musical composition: “Can they walk?”
How Does Your Writing Move?
With ideas that end when the line or the path does.
And ideas that wander, traveling over
the edge, maybe down
into the gorge, where mystery lives,
behind the green veil that covers the trees from mid-May to early October.
In forms that hold tight with elbows at a 90 degree angle.
And forms that sprawl
all over the place. Messy moments
transformed into words that spill across
the page, leaking energy (and black ink).
Using syntax that remains steady and even.
And syntax that starts. Stops. And starts again,
moving slowly through ideas and experiences and feelings and images.
Like jagged breathing during a tempo run.
60 degrees! I run so much better when the weather is cooler. Today was a very good run. I ran up and down both hills without stopping and felt strong and happy to be running.
I’m collecting fragments for (maybe?) a collage on bad air, which at this point I’m defining as humidity, heat and dew point. Here are two more things to add:
the effects of heat on my running
bright red face, an increase in coughing and
clearing my throat, a strong
desire to stop doing anything,
especially running, very
few happy thoughts
going through my
jagged breathing, no
kick in my stride,
rapidly evaporating while
sweat refuses to do the same,
too much moisture for that, so it pools
under my baseball cap and down to the
very tip of my ponytail, a
wick that collects the
(e)xtra water then drops it on my arm or leg or bright
yellow shirt, sometimes making
zigzag patterns on it.
Do point me to the pool or the lake or the air conditioning or anywhere that isn’t here, where the temperature is high, the heat index is higher and my desire to do anything but run is at its highest.
Hugh, mid tee or Hugh, mid t (shirt) or hew, mid tree?
3 loops: 3600 yards
My longest swim of the season. Great conditions for it. Overcast. No wind. Cooler. Felt good. On the way out of the water, I dropped and lost my nose plug. The first causality of the season. No big deal; nose plugs are under $10.
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.
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
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.
mississippi river road north/hennepin bridge/stone arch bridge/mississippi river road south
Scott and I ran together this morning. A tough run. Why? Not sure. Maybe it was the hills: the Franklin hill and the I-35W hill. Or maybe it was the temperature. Warmer with more sun. My body hasn’t adjusted to it being warmer yet. Had a few moments on the run where I wanted to stop and probably would have if Scott hadn’t been there to encourage me to keep going. My legs felt so tired. Not injured, just tired. Favorite part of the route was running downtown. Scott stopped at the halfway point to take this photo on the Hennepin Avenue bridge:
Wow! Another beautiful morning. Can it be like this all year? Wasn’t planning to, but as I ran towards the Franklin hill I started composing a poem in my head. Is it a poem? Or just a rhythm to repeat in order to create a steady cadence? Whatever it is, it was fun and it worked. My running felt strong and steady. And the chant helped me to slow down my heart rate after the tough hill. Because I didn’t want to forget it, as I was running, I recorded myself reciting it into my voice memo app.
There’s a path
there’s a path
there’s a path
that was closed
that was closed
late last fall
late last fall
there’s a path
that was closed
late last fall
there’s a path
that was closed
late last fall
then they opened it back up
then they opened it back up
to the runners thump thump
and the bikers thump thump
and the walkers thump thump
and the drivers thump thump
on the path
on the path
there is a hill
there is a hill
a steep, long hill
a steep, long hill
as you turn back up the hill
you’ll see a bridge at the top
look at it, look at it
never stop, never stop
As I ran, I tried to keep thinking about poets, intense feelings, whether or not living “like an engine with the governor off” is a good thing and how this relates to running. I couldn’t. Not because I don’t have any thoughts about these issues, but because I was distracted by an impulse to monitor my pace, heart rate and running form. And preoccupied with thoughts of leg injuries and how I probably need to strengthen my core.
What else do I remember? There was wind in my face as I ran north and at my back, helpfully pushing me along, as I turned around and went south. The Franklin hill wasn’t too bad. My pulse seemed to go slower as I went faster. The trees at my favorite part of the gorge are covered in leaves, making it hard to see the floor of the gorge. I think I encountered 4 or 5 dogs and about 15 humans, some walking the dogs, some walking alone, some running and some biking. I smiled at several of them, but didn’t speak. Neither did they. I don’t remember hearing a single bird or the wind rustling or the gravel crunching or traffic moving.
Even if I don’t remember thinking about poetry and intense feelings, I’m sure I did, at least fleetingly. And, even if I didn’t think about it consciously, the ideas were there, hovering around me as I ran, inspired by the discussion I started about George Sheehan in my log entry yesterday.
Sheehan argues that we should try to be poets, “responding to everything around us and inside us as well,” like engines with the governor off. Then he adds: “The best most of us can do is be a poet an hour a day.” And laments: “There are times, more often than the good times, when I fail. I never do pierce the shield. I return with a shopping list of things to do tomorrow. The miraculous has gone unseen. The message has gone unheard.” His words got me thinking and inspired me to create:
A 60-minute Poet
George Sheehan claims that,
for an hour a day,
while we’re running,
we can try to be poets.
Feeling everything intensely and without restrictions.
Like an engine with its governor off.
We can try.
But we’ll frequently fail
A thick smog of obligations, worries and regrets
makes it harder to breathe.
And to see.
And to feel.
And to remember to let go and let in
more of the world.
A Deep Core Workout for 60-minute-a-day Poets?
60 minutes a day of intense feelings seems like a lot.
How can we train ourselves to feel deeply for that long?
What sort of strength and stretching exercises do we need to build up our “deep core” feelings?
To prevent hyper-awareness related injuries brought on by overuse or improper form?
To help us stretch our imagination?
Limber up our ideas, so we can bend, twist, contort them?
Strengthen our resolve against the worries and regrets that distract us?
Lengthen our vision to extend farther, beyond our myopic preoccupations?
Quicken our reflexes for faster responsiveness?
Attune our senses to the too-often invisible or ignored encounters?
I’m thinking about “core” workouts lately because so many things that I’ve been reading recommend core exercises for preventing injuries. A strong core stabilizes your bones, joints, muscles and internal organs. I’m terrible with scientific/medical terminology–I can’t seem to retain the information that I read or hear–but I’m fascinated by the names and some the descriptions of the “deep core” muscles, especially the multifidus.
The multifidus pronounced: mull tiff a dus
The muscle consisting of a number of fleshy not flashy or flesh-eating or flesh-colored or thin, but plump and succulent and tendinous sounds like tenderness or tendon-less, even though it means “consisting of tendons” fasciculi, pronounced: fa sick you lee or fa sick you lie, depending on if you want to rhyme it with an old oak tree or a key lime pie
which fill up the groove the groove in the dirt trail, winding through the gorge? the groove of a Funkadelic album? what you’re in when it’s going well?
on either side of the spinous processes of the vertebrae, not a process but a bony protrusion where the muscle attaches to the vertebrae
from the sacrum pronounced: say crum, as in, “say crumb, why don’t you hop into my mouth?”
to the axis aka C-2, aka epistropheus. Contains a bony protuberance, another fun word to say, on which the C-1 vertebrae rotates.
Another great morning for running. Intended to ruminate on the differences between running and walking in terms of how I think and generate ideas for the entire 46 minute run. It didn’t happen. I can’t really remember much of anything that I thought about. Devoted most of my attention to my running form and keeping my pulse steady.
Keep it slow
don’t start fast
Keep it steady
find your rhythm
Breathe i n
Breathe o u t
Check your pulse
Lift, lift, lift the knees
squeeze the glutes, squeeze the glutes
breathe in, 2, 3
out, 2, 3
drop your shoulders
lead with your chest
relax your arms
loosen your hands
roll an imaginary pencil between your thumb and fingers l e a n forward
lift, lift, lift, lift, lift, lift the knees
raise your eyes, stare blankly at the top of the bridge
check your pulse
keep it steady
don’t lose your rhythm
breathe in, 2, 3
out, 2, 3
lift, lift, lift, lift the knees
slow it down
squeeze the glutes, squeeze the glutes
relax your arms
drop your shoulders
breathe in, 2, 3
out 2, 3
check your pulse
breathe in out in out
breathe in out in out
in out in out
in out in out in out
FLY l e a n lift
breathe i n
breathe o u t
relax your arms
slow your pace
A beautiful morning. The run started and ended well. Somewhere in the middle, after running up and then down a steep hill by Lock and Dam #1 and Wabun Park, my right thigh started to bother me again. It never really hurt, it just became harder to lift. Then, when it became harder to lift, my right calf tightened up too. For 2 or 3 minutes, it was a struggle as I tried very deliberately to lift my right leg, focusing on my glutes and hips. By the last mile, I felt better and was running much faster than I had at the beginning of the run. Strange.
When do you take aches and pains seriously? When should you rest? Tough questions. I’m extremely cautious with my running; I’ve never tried to push myself too hard. It took me two years to build up to running 10ks, 4 years for a 1/2 marathon and now, 6 for a marathon. I have only had one substantial injury.
The Injury, first version
My first big injury happened exactly a year ago in April 2016. I had been struggling with running all winter. Had even taken half of February off–about 2 weeks without running, the longest I had gone since starting in June of 2011. March was okay. But then on April 2, while doing a flip turn at the pool, something suddenly hurt. When I got out of the pool, I was limping. Within a few days, I couldn’t bend my right knee. It was so strange. I forgot how to walk. My leg and my brain couldn’t get the motion right. The most I could manage was shuffling for a block or two. It sucked.
I didn’t know what was wrong with my leg, just that it was not good. Googling medical and sports websites convinced me that I had a meniscus tear (don’t know what is? don’t google it; blissful ignorance is underrated). I went to a sports medicine doctor to verify this diagnosis and discovered that I had a much less catastrophic injury: a bone spur in my knee. A jagged little knob on the inside of my knee. The bone spur wasn’t directly causing my problem; it was the tendon that, after repeatedly rubbing over the spur, had become inflamed. The area around my knee had swollen and I couldn’t bend it properly. The solution: lots of ibuprofen (9 pills a day), lots of ice (3 xs @20 minutes a day) and physical therapy for about 6 weeks. No running, barely any walking. I was able to swim and bike some. I can’t quite remember when I was able to run again–early May? I do know that my first 5K was on my fifth runniversary, June 2, 2016.
A few months after all of this transpired, a friend, who also runs, asked: “Will the bone spur go away?” I didn’t ask, I said. I was so freaked out about the injury and spend so little time in doctor’s offices that I didn’t think to ask. I’ve looked it up online and still am not quite sure. Sometimes spurs dissolve and sometimes they don’t. It hasn’t bothered me since.
This is the first version of an account of my injury. In working to express how it feels to run, I’d like to develop this account to more effectively express my emotions surrounding this injury. Right now, it’s pretty boring and lifeless. That might be partly because I don’t like thinking about injuries–it’s my biggest fear. It might also be because I’m uncomfortable describing my experiences, which seem so trivial and ordinary compared to the physical struggles of other people I know.
Where to start on pushing this version?
Expand on “it sucked.” So many feelings crammed into those two words! Fear, frustration, anger, resolution and more. Push at these emotions.
What does it mean to forget how to walk? What does that feel like?
Say more about this: “The solution: lots of ibuprofen (9 pills a day), lots of ice (3 xs @20 minutes a day) and physical therapy for about 6 weeks. No running, barely any walking. I was able to swim and bike some.” Maybe write a list of what I know about running injuries?
Write some more questions and answers in response to this: Will the bone spur go away?
Update: After reading this post, I decided to experiment a bit with thinking/writing about injury. The experiment I did today was all about trying to lose some of the fear that haunts my thinking about injury.
A great run. Took it a little faster than I probably should have, with my fastest mile being up the Franklin hill! Stopped and walked to lower my pulse for about 20 seconds midway through mile 4. That was a good idea. Finished strong with hardly any hamstring pain.
Had a lot of great thoughts about the runner’s high and the piece of writing that I had started working on right before my run. I’m including it below. Versions 1-5 were written before my run. Versions 6 and 7 were written right after returning from the run.
The Runner’s High, 7 Versions
Sometimes when I run
I breathe in deeply.
As my chest rises
so does my heart
and my head
and my shoulders.
I feel vast
I am open
I want to spread my arms wide
and embrace the world.
But I don’t.
It takes up too much space
and would alter my gait.
Instead, I shape my feelings into a smile
that spreads across my face
and extends all the way to my toes.
Sometimes when my run is going well, a sense of euphoria spreads through my body. As it extends to the tips of my fingers and to the pit of my stomach, I feel an urge to spread my arms wide, throw back my head and run without fear.
Sometimes when I run, I am transformed into someone who feels joy first, not fear. Who is open, not closed. Who wants to spread their arms wide, embracing the world. When I feel like this, I smile to myself. A smile so deep that it reaches all the way to my toes.
What does the runner’s high feel like? It feels like Love. Joy. Generosity. Possibility. An open door. A vulnerable body, stretching out and dissolving into the vastness of the world.
The runner’s high. Feelings of love, joy, generosity and possibility that transform vulnerability into openness, enabling the body to stretch out and dissolve into the vastness of the universe.
I want to spread my arms wide and embrace the world. But I don’t. It takes up too much space. It would alter my gait. Besides, 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.
To be combined with Version One.
Other times when I run
I breathe in deeply
I fill my lungs with the world
while rhythmically pumping my arms.
I feel strong
I am flying
over the path
above the world
under the dazzling blue sky.
I take in everything and become nothing
as I breathe in and out .