2.15 miles 2 trails (sort of)* 62 degrees / drizzly
*The “sort of” is because I started on the Winchell Trail, but when I heard a large school group up ahead, I turned around and went back up to the road.
Ugh. I caught a cold (I’ve tested twice and it was negative for covid) at the Twins game on Friday night and it’s been slowly moving through me: sore throat, then stuffed-up nose, now crud on my chest. I hate colds, and I hate not being able to breathe easily. I guess I’m a wimp about it. I thought about not including this sickness in my log, but I’m trying to document my actual life, not just the “running is wonderful” parts on this log, so I’m leaving my whining in.
Sometimes it was hard to breathe, sometimes it wasn’t, and there were stretches where it was wonderful to be moving my legs and admiring the orange and yellow and red leaves through the drizzly gloom.
Was it drizzling? Although I’m claiming that it was, I’m not sure. The water I was feeling could have been drips from last night’s steady rain, falling from the leaves as the wind passed through.
a moment: a few days ago, I was thinking about wind for the class I’m teaching. This morning, just after entering the Winchell Trail and before I encountered the kids, I felt and heard a gust of wind then a shimmering sound as water fell from the trees then a kerplunk as an acorn fell on the asphalt.
smells: I’m also thinking about smells for my class. I’m not very good with smells. Is it because of my sinuses and sensitivity to scents? Possibly. Anyway, I was trying to notice scents, but not having that much luck. I’m sure my cold wasn’t helping. Did I smell anything? Wet dirt. Wet leaves. Just remembered — my own sweat on the bill of my cap. Yuck!
sounds: water shimmering off of the trees, the sewer pipe almost gushing, kids calling out in delight, adults trying to wrangle them, my sharp cough as I tried to clear my throat, my shoes squeaking on the wet sidewalk, buzzing crickets.
As I wrote earlier in this entry, I’m not that good at noticing smells — bad sinuses, a lack of practice, a lack of language. I did a quick search online and found a list of descriptive words for smell. Here are some that I find useful:
5.5 miles marshall loop to Fry 62 degrees humidity: 90% / dew point: 61
Cool, sticky, thick air. Lots of sweating. For our weekly Marshall loop. Scott and I ran several more blocks (past Cretin, Cleveland, Prior, and Fairview) to Fry, then over to Summit and back down to the river. We heard the bells at St. Thomas chiming 2 or 3 different times — or more? Scott talked about the Peter Gabriel tour video he watched last night. What did I talk about? I can’t remember. Oh — at one point, I pointed out the light passing through a tree above Shadow Falls, making it glow. The beauty of September light! I also talked about Glück’s line about the light being over-rehearsed and how the bushes and flowers and trees looked worn, past their prime, over-rehearsed.
a line of dead leaves floating on the surface of the river, almost under the lake street bridge
slippery, squeaky leaves covering the sidewalks
between fairview and fry the sidewalk narrowed — Scott guessed that it might be as narrow as 4 ft (it’s supposed to be 6, but is often 5)
drops of water falling off some leaves, illuminated by the sun
ORANGE! several bright orange and burnt orange trees
lions, pineapples, bare-chested women with wings — lawn ornament on Summit
waffles, falafel, “mixed” popcorn, Thai, ice cream — restaurants/stores passed on the run
overheard: it’s hard to tell how well the Vikings will do — a biker to 2 other bikers
looking across from the east side to the west bank of the river, thinking I was seeing some sort of color — not BRIGHT color, but the idea of it: red instead of RED! Asked Scott and he said, Wow, that’s some RED! [how color works for me]
3 roller skiers on the bridge — no clicking and clacking because there wasn’t room for them to swing their poles
One of my favorite local poetry people (and one of my former teachers) posted this mushroom poem by Emily Dickinson. A nice contrast to another one of my favorite mushroom poems by Sylvia Plath:
The Mushroom is the Elf of Plants – At Evening, it is not At Morning, in a Truffled Hut It stop opon a Spot
As if it tarried always And yet it’s whole Career Is shorter than a Snake’s Delay – And fleeter than a Tare –
’Tis Vegetation’s Juggler – The Germ of Alibi – Doth like a Bubble antedate And like a Bubble, hie –
I feel as if the Grass was pleased To have it intermit – This surreptitious Scion Of Summer’s circumspect.
Had Nature any supple Face Or could she one contemn – Had Nature an Apostate – That Mushroom – it is Him!
Tarry is to delay or be tardy. The tareis the weight of a container when it’s empty. A scionis a young shoot or twig of a plant, especially one cut for grafting or rooting OR a descendent of a notable family.
Favorite lines today:
The Mushroom is the Elf of Plants – At Evening, it is not At Morning, in a Truffled Hut It stop opon a Spot
As if it tarried always And yet it’s whole Career Is shorter than a Snake’s Delay – And fleeter than a Tare –
a quick note before describing my run: For some reason, I felt compelled to rhyme things today. Most of it was unintentional, but a few times it was deliberate. Was I somehow inspired by a line from the song, “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)”? I watched a video of Gwen Verdon singing this song — and dancing too — last night. Here’s the line:
Hello, lamppost, what’cha knowin’? I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’ Ain’t’cha got no rhymes for me?
Sticky. Uncomfortable. Thick. Lots of sweating. Flushed face. Heavy legs. Dark with hazy, humid air. I had intended to cross over to the Winchell Trail, but it looked crowded near the river. So I just turned around and went back north on Edmund. A chance to check the house that posts poems in their front window. Was there a new one? Unfortunately, in this bad light and with my bad vision, I couldn’t tell. Oh well.
before the run
A few more stanzas from Forrest Gander’s “Circumambulation of Mt. Tamalpas”:
Cardiac Hill’s granite boulders appear freshly sheared Look, you say, I can see the Farallon Islands there to the south over those long-backed hills one behind another a crow honks
Running above the river on the paved trail it’s difficult, even in the winter, to see the terrain below — the limestone ledges, the steep slopes. Often, it’s all leaves (on the trees or the ground) and brambles and bushes.
Do crows honk?
the moon still up over Douglas firs on the climb to Rock Spring yellow jackets and Painted Lady butterflies settle on the path where some under- ground trickle moistens the soil
It doesn’t happen that often — because of my vision, pollution, the bright light during the day — but I like being able to see the faint outline of the moon in the morning or the middle of the day.
Throughout the gorge and on the Winchell Trail, there are springs and seeps. They are especially visible in the winter when they freeze over and turn into strangely shaped columns of ice.
A plan for the run? Not much of one: to take the Winchell Trail instead of the paved path.
during the run
Nope. I didn’t take the trail so no chance to get a view of the river or the bluff or any limestone ledges. Instead I listened to Taylor Swift and tried to keep my cadence steady and quick(er). Between 170 and 180.
10 Things I Noticed
kids laughter drifting over the fence of my neighbor’s yard — a birthday party for her 3 year-old
a big backhoe parked on the street — no digging today, hooray!
a plastic orange slide, spied through the slats of another neighbor’s fence
a dusty dirt trail, so dry it was slippery and uneven
yellow leaves all around
lots of red on the groundaa
a biker’s bright headlight over on the river road
a mountain bike — don’t think it had fat tires — on the dirt trail, approaching me
2 people in bright yellow construction vests, walking on Edmund
a biker stalking me — approaching from behind. Not really staking, just unable to pass me before we crossed an intersection
Don’t remember any birds or swirling leaves or bugs or roller skiers or music being blasted from car radios or leaf blowers or falling acorns.
after the run
I’ll have to think about Forrest Gander’s words some other day. For now, I’ll post something else I’d like to remember because I’m always looking for poems about erosion:
Gloomy, everything looking dark and mysterious. I like these overcast mornings, especially when running beside the gorge. All the colors feel more intense — dark greens, yellows, reds, oranges. Today I saw at least 3 different versions of orange: orange leaves pale and almost pink; then orange leaves like a neon crayola; finally the classic orange — what I call orange orange — of construction cones and a sidewalk closed sign.
Greeted Dave, the Daily Walker. Smiled at a dozen walkers and runners. Forgot to try and see the river. Heard some birds (more about that below), the clicking and clacking of ski poles from a roller skier, the irritating squish of a walker’s slides. Smelled tar. Noticed that the path was covered in green leaves.
I felt relaxed and dreamy at the beginning, sweaty and a little sore at the end.
before the run
More with Forrest Gander and his circumambulation. Today, the next few stanzas of Circumambulation of Mt. Tamalpas:
as we hike upward mist holds the butterscotch taste of Jeffrey pine to the air until we reach a serpentine barren, redbud lilac and open sky, a crust of frost on low-lying clumps of manzanita
mist holds/the butterscotch taste of Jeffrey pine I rarely think about (or remember if it happened) tasting the air. What might the air taste like on my run today?
Serpentine — another word for winding or twisting? Are there any parts of my running route that are serpentine? I’ll try to pay attention.
at Redwood Creek, two tandem runners cross a wooden bridge over the stream ahead of us the raspy check check check of a scrub jay
Looked up scrub jays. Also called California scrub jays. Like the blue jays here, which are just called blue jays (at least, that’s what I found in my minimal research), they are LOUD. Here’s what the Cornell Lab writes about their sounds:
California Scrub-Jays, like other jays, are extremely vocal. Behaviorists have described more than 20 separate types of calls for this and the closely related Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay. Examples include a weep uttered during flight, while carrying nesting material, or while taking cover from a flying predator; a bell-like shlenk used antagonistically, a quiet kuk exchanged between mates, and loud, rasping scolds for mobbing predators.
Scrub-jays often clack their bill mandibles together to make a sharp rapping. Their wings make a whooshing sound on takeoff, and they exaggerated this during altercations.
Gander’s rasping check check check must be the Cornell Lab’s rasping scolds. You can also hear the delightfully irritating clicking of the bill mandibles and the exaggerated flapping of their wings.
hewing to the Dipsea path while a plane’s slow groan diminishes bayward, my sweat-wet shirt going cool around my torso as another runner goes by, his cocked arms held too high
hew = adhere, conform…a plane’s slow groan — I’ve never heard a plane as groaning. Usually I write roar or buzz — a boom? I’ll have to listen for groaning planes today.
Yesterday when I was running, and it has too hot and sticky, I checked to see if my shirt was sticking to me. Nope. Not or long enough to have that happen. Does it ever happen? I sweat a lot, but rarely to the point where my shirt is soaked and stuck. With this brief description, I know that Gander’s circumambulation has been going on for a long time and that it is really HOT.
I like Gander’s last line about the cocked arms held too high. I often give attention to walkers’ and runners’ gaits and how they hold their arms. Some small part of it might be out of judgment, but primarily it’s about: admiring moving bodies, especially graceful ones; studying them to see what doesn’t feel right — this is a way to work through my vision limitations and to determine what I am actually seeing; and as a way to identify different movers out by the gorge. I can’t see faces clearly enough to recognize people (not even my husband or my kids), so I rely on other methods, like wide arm swings (that’s how I identify the Daily Walker) or gangly legs (the long- legged walker I call Daddy Long Legs).
Okay, so during my run today if I can, I’d like to think about/notice the following:
tasting the gorge
looking for serpentines
listening for blue jays and groaning planes
noticing how and where (and if) my sweat collects
making note of the different gaits of walkers and runners
during the run
I wasn’t sure how I would try to notice all of the things I wanted to — a taste, a twist, an irritating sound, where my sweat collects, and a distinctive gait — but as I ran, I just started collecting images. It became a game or a scavenger hunt. Here’s how I did it: First, I tried to be open to things on my list. Not searching too hard for them, but being ready if they appeared. Then I briefly stopped at the end of each mile (roughly), and recorded the images I collected — I described them on a voice memo app. I was able to collect all 5, with taste being the last to be found.
serpentinetwist: looking up, noticing the trees winding through the air, almost like a river reversed.
irritating bird: Heard the clicking of a bird and I’ve been wondering (for some time) what bird makes those clicking sounds and I think it might be the clicking of the bill mandibles of a blue jay!
My sweat is collecting on the side of my nose. I can sometimes see it through my peripheral vision. Now it’s dripping down my cheeks.
a gait: Passed a runner with very fast cadence — short, little steps. This inspired me to pick up my cadence.
right after recording these two images, I took a picture of my view, down on the Winchell Trail at a small overlook, perched above a sewer pipe:
taste: Bitter burnt toast coming from the tar they were using to cover the cracks near the trestle.
Bonus: a blue umbrella
A bright blue umbrella on a bench, looking strange and out of place. I noticed someone sitting next to the umbrella. I found this umbrella wonderful for the pop of color it brought to the gloomy gorge, for how unexpected it was, and for how it made me wonder about its companion: a person who likes to be prepared? who loves walking by the gorge so much that they’ll go even if it’s about to rain? who loves the rain? And, why did they leave the umbrella open — to give us all a gift of bright blue? they despise closing umbrellas? the umbrella is broken? Maybe if I was standing still, some of these questions would have been answered, but I like the mystery that moving made!
after the run
This “game” was a lot of fun, and I’d like to try doing it again. Would it work as well the next time? I’ll have to see. It made the run go by faster and helped me notice and remember things I might not have otherwise.
Also: I don’t taste a lot of things while I’m running. I should try and work on that by practicing and maybe reading more of other peoples’ words about tasting the world.
Another warm morning. Sunny, too. Not much wind. Almost a mile into the run my back on the right side, just under the shoulder blade, started to hurt. Enough that I needed to stop and walk for a few steps. When I started again, and ran more upright, it felt better, and didn’t hurt for the rest of the run. I wondered what it was, then suddenly realized: yesterday Scott and I cleaned out a lot of crap in the garage, some of it heavy; I must have pulled something.
Running south, I listened to cars, construction, kids arriving for school at Dowling Elementary, screeching blue jays, trickling water out of the sewer pipe. For the last mile, I put in my headphones and listened to more Olivia Rodrigo.
before the run
Thinking about Gary Snyder and circumambulation and Forrest Gander’s poem, “Circumambulation of Mt. Tamalpas.” I listened to him reading the first stanza:
maculas of light fallen weightless from pores in the canopy our senses part of the wheeling life around us and through an undergrowth stoked with the unseen go the reverberations of our steps
my notes: I was immediately drawn in with his use of maculas. I think a lot about maculas because the macula (in the center of the retina in the back of our eyes) is where all the cones reside in your central vision and my cones are almost all dead. I looked up macula and it can also mean, more generally, spot or blotch. Here I like how his use of macula and pores reminds me that the canopy is a living thing, and living in ways that are similar to humans. “the undergrowth stoked with the unseen” — I’m thinking of how thick the trees are beside the path, how much goes unseen — but always felt — above the gorge.
During my run, I want to think about and notice the maculas of light falling weightless, the pores in the canopy, wheeling life (cars? bikes?), the undergrowth, the unseen, and the reverberations of our steps. That’s a lot!
during the run
I did it! I thought about most of these things and it made the run more interesting and meaningful. At the 38th street steps, before I ascend to the river road trail, I stopped to record what I thought about and noticed:
transcript: September 21st, 2 miles into my run, at 38th street steps. Thinking about the Forest Gander poem and first, the idea of the maculas weightless. Then I was thinking of dappling light but the light today is not weightless, but thick. It must be humid, feels warm, and it’s pouring through, which makes me think of pores and difficult breathing. My nose, hard to breathe through my nose, and my back behind the rib cage, it hurt. And then I was thinking of the wheeling life and taking that literally: the wheeling of cars, whooshing off to work. And then I saw 2 different sets of bicycles: an adult on one bicycle, a young kid on the other, biking to school at Dowling. And then I was thinking of the wheeling life and the changing of seasons and transformations and the idea of life continuing to move, not necessarily forward (although it does that too), but also just a constant motion, even when you might want it to stand still for awhile. Then I was thinking of the wheeling life as the hamster wheel [I thought about the hamster because I heard the rustling of a squirrel or chipmunk in the dry brush] and repetitions and routines and continuing to do the same thing over and over again — the loops, the way it’s warm every year at this time in September: too hot, too humid, too sunny.
Wow, when I’m talking into the phone about my ideas mid-run, I have a lot of run-on sentences!
after the run
I love Forrest Gander’s poetry. And I love how packed with meaning his words are, like “wheeling life.”
the wheeling life: 10 things
car wheels, near the road — relentless, too fast, noisy
car wheels, below, on the winchell trail — a gentle hum, quiet, distant
bike wheels, approaching from behind very slowly — a little kid biking to school with his mom who had a carrier with another kid behind her seat
bike wheels, nearby, another kid and adult on the way to school
the wheel of life as a loop: a favorite route, running south, looping back north, first on edmund, then on the winchell trail
the wheel of life as transformation: red leaves decorate a tree halfway to the river
the wheel of life as cycles: not the end of the year, but the beginning — school time: kids at the elementary school
the wheel of life as constant motion: on the trail, below the road and above the river, everything is active: birds calling, squirrels rustling, wheels traveling, river flowing, feet moving, leaves and lungs breathing
the wheels of life as cycle: always in late september, hot and humid and too sunny
the wheels of life as transformation: thinning leaves, falling acorns, a small view of the river
3.6 miles trestle turn around (+ extra) 65 degrees / 72% humidity
Out near the gorge, everything is busy today — wheels whooshing, hammers pounding, bobcats speeding by. All the sounds felt electric. I’ve wondered this before (and looked it up, but forgot the answer): is the moisture in the air causing everything to sound different — louder, more intense?
Having just written something about triple berry chants for my class, I decided to do them today. Strawberry / raspberry / blueberry. I think I chanted them for at least a mile. They helped keep my cadence up. Did they do anything else?
10 Things I Noticed While Chanting Triple Berries
Dave the Daily Walker had on bright blue running shoes — nice!
a rollerblader passed me from behind — no clicking and clacking ski poles to alert me to their approach
minneapolis parks has trimmed back the bushes and wildflowers that were blocking part of the already narrow path that splits from the biking path and dips below the road
a runner, only a little faster than me, entered the path in front of me at 32nd. Very gradually, he inched away, then turned off the trail again
more yellow leaves, a few slashes of red, no orange
human voices and the clanging of a dog collar down below on the Winchell Trail
several openings in the otherwise thick trees — dirt trails descending to the Winchell Trail
a noisy runner with an awkward gait — did he swing his arms awkwardly too?
another runner, speeding fast. Almost a blur with feet thumping the ground
at least one loud thud as an acorn fell
Running north, I listened to feet striking the ground, an acorn falling, runners joking. I stopped at the turn around put it Olivia Rodrigo’s GUTS then ran south.
At the halfway point, I took this picture. The river and the gorge are behind those leaves. In a month, I’ll get to see them again!
Recorded the lecture for my class this morning, so I had to run in the afternoon, when it’s warmer. Hot! Sunny! Everything dry and dusty, thirsty — the dirt trail, the dead leaves, me.
Listened to a playlist until I reached the south entrance to the Winchell Trail, then to the gorge. Dripping pipes, striking feet, my breathing, falling acorns.
10 Peripheral Things — above, below, and beside
dirt flying up on my ankles as I ran on the dusty trail
brittle red leaves, crunching underfoot
the shadow of a bird flying overhead
frantic rustling in the bushes — I flinched in anticipation of a darting squirrel that never arrived
a walker moving over to the edge of the path for me to pass — thank you! / you’re welcome
a slash of red just below — a changing leaf
flashes of orange all around — construction signs
to my right and below: dribble dribble dribble — water falling down a limestone ledge in the ravine
shrill squeaking under the metal grate in the ravine as I crossed over it — a chipmunk?
is this peripheral? breaking through several spider webs on the winchell trail, about chest height
For the second week of my class, which starts this Wednesday!, I’m offering alliteration as one way into the words for describing/conjuring/communicating wonder (along with abecedarians and triple berry chants). This poem-of-the-day on poems.com (Poetry Daily), is a great example of what’s possible when you write only words starting with one letter — in this case, a:
Attempted avoiding abysses, assorted abrasions and apertures, abscesses.
At adolescence, acted absurd: acid, amphetamines. Amorously aching
after an arguably arbitrary Abigail, authored an awful aubade.
Am always arabesquing after Abigails. Am always afraid: an affliction?
Animals augur an avalanche. Animals apprehend abattoirs. Am, as an animal,
anxious. Appendages always aflutter, am an amazing accident: alive.
Attired as an apprentice aerialist, addressed acrophobic audiences.
Aspiring, as an adult, after applause, attracted an angelic acolyte.
After an affirming affair, an abortion. After an asinine affair, Avowed Agnostic approached, alone, an abbey’s altarpiece,
asking Alleged Almighty about afterlife. Ambled, adagio, around an arena. Admired an ancient aqueduct. Ate aspic. Adored and ate assorted animals. Ascended an alp. Affected an accent. Acquired an accountant, an abacus, assets. Attempted atonal arpeggios
There’s also an essay about how Dumanis wrote this poem, which I haven’t had time to read yet. Very excited to check it out! Okay, I just skimmed it. Here are some resources from the end that I might want to explore:
A few terrific examples of letter-constraint-based contemporary poems include Phillip B. Williams’s tour de force “Mush-mouf’s Maybe Crown,” where all the words begin with M (or, occasionally, “em” or “im”); Izzy Casey’s univocalic “I’m Piss Witch”; several terrific single-vowel lyrics in Cathy Park Hong’s collection Engine Empire including “Ballad in A”; Harryette Mullen’s linguistic experiments, such as “Any Lit,” in her collection Sleeping with the Dictionary, and, of course, Christian Bök’s virtuosic book-length project Eunoia, in which, among other idiosyncratic constraints, every chapter can only use a single vowel. All such projects derive at least some of their inspiration from the mid-20th century French avant-garde collective Oulipo, or Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, a “workshop of potential literature,” which encouraged systematic, sometimes arbitrary, language-based constraint in the composition of texts. For my Oulipian autobiography, it was especially important to me that every individual narrative moment made clear semantic sense despite the constraint, that the alliteration did not overly affect the speaker’s syntax or natural cadence, that taken together they told the story of a life.
Ran all the way up Marshall to Fairview this morning. Slowly, Scott and I are building up distance for our 10k race next month. What a wonderful morning to be outside! Running up the hill, Scott talked about REM and their first performance on Letterman — how shy Michael Stipe sat at the edge of the stage and wasn’t part of the interview. Then we discussed the big houses on Marshall, wondering how many of them were duplexes. We ended the run wondering why people were stealing the wires out of the street lamps on the bridge — was it out of desperation? If so, how much money could they actually get for selling these wires?
people gathered outside the church, talking — was a service about the begin?
crossing the lake street bridge, part 1: admiring the fog hanging low on the water
crossing the lake street bridge, part 2: saying to Scott — this view looks like a fogged up window that needs to be wiped! Everything smudged, fuzzy
a pileated woodpecker, laughing
a whiff — the smell of up north, at my family’s farm in UP Michigan. What plant triggers that memory?
running past a grand old building. Scott guessed that it used to be a school and that the big windows on the top floor were for an old gym
Woodpecker castanets! A double clicking sound as a woodpecker drummed into a tree above our heads
the house on the Summit that almost always has the sprinklers going during our Saturday run. This time they were shooting out from under the low bushes near the edge of the path. I felt a soft, cold spray as I ran by
a runner ahead of us, running with 2 big golden retrievers. Their steps were so in sync that initially I thought there was only one dog — this could have also been because of my bad vision
crossing the lake street bridge, part 3: returning to Minneapolis 40 minutes later, the fog had lifted. The river was empty and blue
Yesterday we buried Scott’s dad in Austin. No big service, just family at the cemetery. 11 months ago we were here to bury his mom. Then it was colder and overcast, today sunny and 70. As the pastor led some prayers, I noticed 2 squirrels leaping across the lawn behind her. My first thought: Scott’s mom loved squirrels and would have enjoyed watching these two. My second thought: life continues to happen around us, indifferent to us and our pain. For me, this indifference is not upsetting, but brings comfort.
3.5 miles past the trestle turn around 63 degrees / dripping
Unexpected rain this morning. Waited until 11 to go out for a run. Everything wet. Added 1/2 of distance to one of my classic routes: the trestle turn around. Felt pretty good. A few minutes in, after I reached the river, I started chanting in triple berries: raspberry / strawberry / blueberry. Then I tried to move beyond berries to other triples — mystery, history — but I got stuck.
Running through the tunnel of trees I listened to my shoes squeaking on the wet leaves. squeak squeak I heard the squeak behind me and looked back: no one, just my own echo.
A few minutes later, thunk! — an acorn falling from a tree, landing hard and intact on the pavement.
no stones stacked on the ancient boulder
lots of dirt and mud kicked up on the edge of the path — maybe from park vehicles’ wheels or from the rain
a smell — something pleasant — green, almost like cilantro, fresh
pale yellow leaves
a coxswain’s voice (female) from below
the only view of the river I had was when I ran under the lake street bridge between the posts
a walker holding a blue umbrella, from a distance I couldn’t tell that they were holding an umbrella. It looked like they were missing a head
the ravine by 35th street overlook: the water was glittering, you could hear it falling out of the sewer pipe, moving down the limestone ledge
more earthy smells — fresh, not sweet
the Welcoming Oaks are turning from green to gold
Gary Snyder and Circumambulation
A few months ago, I came across a reference to Snyder and circumambulation. Now, since I’m studying Snyder and his work for the second half of September, I get the chance to think about it some more. Very cool.
Snyder explained, “The main thing is to pay your regards, to play, to engage, to stop and pay attention. It’s just a way of stopping and looking — at yourself too.” In graduate school at UC Davis in the late 1990s, I studied poetry with Snyder. I learned from him the importance of noticing and naming where I am and what is around me, the concept of bioregionalism.
bioregionalism: noticing and naming where I am and what is around me
I recall encountering the term “bioregionalism” for the first time in Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing. I searched my files and yes!, I found some notes I took:
2 parts: disengage from attention economy engage in/from specific place: rootedness, bioregionalism
rooted in a place + in time (as in past, present, future…not always linear) time/historical and space/ecological (who and what live/d here)
bioregionalism = an awareness of inhabitants AND how they/we are all connected (entangled?), identify as citizens of a bioregion as much as or more than the State
my notes, june 2021
circumambulation: the act of walking in a circle around a object of veneration.
On the morning of October 22, 1965, the Beat Generation poets Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg and Philip Whalen stood near this spot [in Muir Woods National Monument, on the Marin Peninsula north of San Francisco] and chanted the Heart Sutra before setting out to consecrate the mountain through ritual circumambulation. That historic walk would be enshrined in Snyder’s poem “The Circumambulation of Mt. Tamalpais”
He would later explain his motivation for pioneering the ritual walk: “I felt it was time to take not just another hike on Mt. Tam, the guardian peak for the Bay and for the City — as I had done so many times — but to do it with the intent of circling it, going over it, and doing it with the formality and respect I had seen mountain walks given in Asia.” Starting at Redwood Creek in Muir Woods, the three Beat poets walked clockwise around the mountain, stopping to chant at 10 “stations” — notable spots along the route that were selected spontaneously for what the poets considered their special power — before closing the loop back at the creek.
Without exception, everyone commented on the value of ritual. Lisa Kadyk, a geneticist, said, “I’m not religious, but I do like rituals and recognition of spirituality in a big sense.” Visual artist and environmental field educator Kerri Rosenstein put it this way: “I like the nature of practice. To do something over and over. To train. It requires patience and discipline. I trust that each time offers something new. That we evolve by repeating the same walk as we awaken both to what becomes familiar and to what becomes revealed.” Gifford Hartman had throughout the day played the important role of “sweep,” following us to make certain no one took a wrong turn or needed help. “A ritual is returning to a place,” said Hartman, an English as a second language instructor. “Rituals also reinforce the seasonal cycles of life.”
I’ve decided to print out Snyder’s poem about the circumambulation and put it on my desk, under the glass, to study. I did this with Schuyler’s poem, “Hymn to Life” last year and it was very useful and fun.
1.5 loops lake nokomis main beach 79 degrees windy choppy
So glad I wore my wetsuit! Also glad that I’m an excellent swimmer who doesn’t panic easily. That was a tough swim. And that was some rough water. Normally in an open swim, even one where I’ve picked up the pace or am swimming for more than an hour, my heart rate stays between 120 and 130. In today’s swim, my heart rate was 158. Wow.
seagulls, part 1: more than a dozen, floating in the water
seagulls, part 2: flying furiously, stirred up by a little kid chasing them from shore
before my swim: an almost empty beach, the sand had been tamped down by a park vehicle’s wheels
after my swim: 3 sunbathers and one guy in jammers (men’s swim shorts that look like bike shorts) about to swim
swam over a few ghost vines reaching up from the bottom
the giant swans are still in the water, tethered together by a dock
only one sailboat with a white sail out in the water
cloudy, murky water, impossible to even see my hand in front of me below the surface
before the swim: a motorcycle pulling into the parking lot, blasting “Love Shack” — you’re what? tin roof … rusted
an unexpected ramble about libraries and unfamiliar places and my vision struggles
Picked up my first physical (non ebook) at the library yesterday. Last time I’ve been inside the library was sometime in early 2020, before the pandemic, and before the library suffered heavy fire damage during the George Floyd uprising, when white supremacists tried to burn it down.
There are lots of reasons I haven’t made it back to the library since then — I mostly read ebooks which you check out online because the light from the screen is always bright enough for me, while I often have to read physical books outside in direct sun to see the words. During and after the pandemic, I’ve been less willing to go into public spaces. I can’t drive anymore and the library is too close for a bus, but too far for an easy/quick walk.
Maybe the biggest reason: I’ve been scared. Walking into a building, I can’t read the signs that tell me where to go or notify me of something, like a new policy. What if I can’t find where to go? What if they’ve changed how to pick up holds, where to check them out? Of course, I could ask and I have been willing to do so, but it’s hard. Even if I ask, first I have to endure that moment of unknowing and confusion, when I enter a building and can’t see people’s faces, read signs, orient myself quickly.* This is Emily Dickinson’s moment in “We Grow Accustomed to the Dark” — A Moment — We uncertain step/For newness of the night –. Also, even though I’ve been working on it, it’s still hard to ask for help — to take the time, to bother someone, to not know how to do something. I’m hoping asking will get easier and I’ll care less and less about having to do it. For now, I have a different solution: Scott (or my kids or a friend) can come with me to a new place the first time, to help with any confusion I might have. Once I know how it works, I can come back on my own.
* To add to this: it’s not just that I’m uncertain, confused. Sometimes, my brain makes very bad guesses — often the exact opposite of what is actually there — and I overconfidently act on them. The more wrong I am, the more likely I am to boldly act. This is embarrassing — I look stupid or sound crazy/ridiculous, but it is also dangerous. Scott has witnessed this enough times to verify my assessment. I believe this is related to my failing vision, but I don’t know how. So strange and frustrating because I don’t seem to have any control over it, and I like to have control.
Gary Snyder’s Riprap
The book I had requested and picked up is one I’ve wanted to read for several years now: Gary Snyder’s Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems. I read/skimmed through it yesterday afternoon, and there are several poems that I’d like to read closely and study. I think they might help me with my series of Haunts poems. I like his sparse, matter-of-fact approach. I also like his love for walking/hiking. I think that I’ll devote the second half of September to his work! I just requested a few more books from the library.
Here’s a poem I’d like to start with:
Above Pate Valley/ Gary Snyder
We finished clearing the last Section of trail by noon, High on the ridge-side Two thousand feet above the creek Reached the pass, went on Beyond the white pine groves, Granite shoulders, to a small Green meadow watered by the snow, Edged with Aspen—sun Straight high and blazing But the air was cool. Ate a cold fried trout in the Trembling shadows. I spied A glitter, and found a flake black volcanic glass—obsidian— By a flower. Hands and knees Pushing the Bear grass, thousands Of arrowhead leavings over a Hundred yards. Not one good Head, just razor flakes On a hill snowed all but summer deer, They came to camp. On their Own trails. I followed my own Trail here. Picked up the cold-drill, Pick, singlejack, and sack Of dynamite Ten thousand years.
I want to spend more time with this. After the 3rd or 4th reading: love the line breaks and how they keep it moving. Also how some of the lines have new meaning when read alone: