april 2/RUN

4 miles
edmund, south/45th/edmund, north/32nd street, west/43rd ave, south
51 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 18 (MN)/ 5100+ (US)

Bracing for scarier weeks as the virus continues to spread in the U.S. Minnesota is supposed to reach the peak in late May/early June. Ordered groceries (including toilet paper) online to pick up. It will be ready on Saturday, April 11th. Glad we’re stocked until then. Such strange, unsettling, terrifying, exhausting times.

Ran the new route that Scott and I discovered yesterday. South on Edmund, on the grass after 42nd street, past Becketwood, back on Edmund, right on 45th street, Becketwood, grass, north on Edmund, right on 32nd street/left on 43rd ave. It was 4 miles. Not too bad. Encountered a few people on Edmund but that was it. A nice route. It would have been nicer if I hadn’t been running straight into a 14mph wind for a lot of it. What do I remember? Listening to my feet shuffle on the grit. Noticing the river through the trees as I ran at the highest point on Edmund, between 36th and 35th streets. It was cloudy so it wasn’t glowing and too far to see any detail, but it was beautiful. I think I heard some birds. Don’t remember any woodpeckers. Oh–I think I heard a wedge of geese honking high up in the sky. Heard some chainsaws. Some people talking. Another runner said hello but I wasn’t sure if it was to me or someone else. Felt pretty good running. Don’t remember what I thought about. I do remember, as I returned on Edmund starting to feel too warm. Took my pink jacket off and zipped it up while running, then put it around my waist. Quite the feat. I probably looked ridiculous.

Last night, during one of the many times I got up with restless legs, I started composing a variation to “Auto-lullaby,” one of the poems I like to recite while I’m running.

A Pandemic Lullaby/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

Think of a sheep
reciting a poem;
Think of a tree stump
that houses a gnome.

Think of your dog
asleep in a chair;
Think of that time
when you cut your own hair.

Think of a bird
that sings in your ear;
Try to resist
suffocating from fear.

Think of two babies on
a garage door;
Think of a run, and
count to four.

If you are anxious, then
take a deep breath.
The outcome most likely
is sickness not death.

For now, I’ll stick with this ending, but I’m not satisfied. I’ll keep working on it. Read it to Scott and he didn’t really like my original first stanza: Think of a sheep/ cooking your breakfast;/ think of that summer/ when you visited Texas. Partly because he didn’t think it rhymed, partly because I’ve never visited Texas in summer. I’m not sure; I like how breakfast and Texas work together, but I decided to switch it up and connect it more to what I like to think about in order to feel better.

While searching for “april” in poets.org, I came across this poem. It’s not about April–well, it could be talking about April in Minnesota.

Because You Asked about the Line Between Prose and Poetry/ Howard Nemerov – 1920-1991

Sparrows were feeding in a freezing drizzle
That while you watched turned to pieces of snow 
Riding a gradient invisible
From silver aslant to random, white, and slow.

There came a moment that you couldn’t tell.
And then they clearly flew instead of fell.

april 1/WALKBIKERUN

walk: 3.5 miles
edmund bvld, south/north
45 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 17 (MN)/ 4.749 (US)

bike: 26 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.2 miles
treadmill, basement

Scott and I took Delia the dog on a long walk this morning. We discovered that there is a trail that connects Edmund at 42nd with Edmund farther south. Hooray! I’m excited to try it out tomorrow. I should be able to run over 4 miles that way. As we walked near Becketwood, across from the double bridge, I noticed 2 big birds soaring above us. Bald eagles, we both decided. One was close, the other much higher in the sky, both circling. Riding a thermal? So cool.

In the afternoon, I biked in the basement to get my exercise minutes (a 72 minutes, 3.5 mile walked didn’t earn me a single minute of exercise on my apple watch). Watched more of the S Soundheim/Hal Prince documentary about the failed 1981 musical, Merrily We Roll Along. Finished by running 1.2 miles on the treadmill.

Starting off national poetry month with one of my favorite poets, Maggie Smith.

Rain, New Year’s Eve/ Maggie Smith (from Good Bones)

The rain is a broken piano,
playing the same note over and over.

My five-year-old said that.
Already she knows loving the world

means loving the wobbles
you can’t shim, the creaks you can’t

oil silent–the jerry-rigged parts,
MacGyvered with twine and chewing gum.

Let me love the cold rain’s plinking.
Let me love the world the way I love

my your son, not only when
he cups my face in his sticky hands,

but when, roughhousing,
he accidentally splits my lip.

Let me love the world like a mother.
Let me be tender when it lets me down.

Let me listen to the rain’s one note
and hear a beginner’s song.

march 31/RUN

3.5 miles
edmund bvld, south/north/32nd west/43rd south
46 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 12 (MN)/ 3,400 (US)

Trying not to read too much news about the virus. I am doing what I need to do: nothing. I haven’t left the house, except for my daily runs and walks since March 10th. This staying home all the time is not that different from my regular (pre-pandemic) schedule, except for the added fear about how bad it might get that hovers around me all the time.

After reading about how the virus can (in the right conditions) spread through the air and thinking about how much less fun it has been to run by the gorge, always trying to avoid people, I decided to run on Edmund Boulevard today. It is parallel to the river road, separated by a large stretch of grass, an occasional tree and some ancient boulders. From Edmund, you can’t ever see the river, but you can see the trail and the trees on the bluff and, in early spring, a few glimpses of the other side. Because it’s a road, there’s more room and more chances to stay farther away from other people. The only problem: the continuous stretch of it near me starts in the south at 42nd and ends in the north at 32nd. Even when you add in a few more streets to make a loop, it’s only a 5k. I’ll have to think about ways to make it longer without having to repeat.

Bright sun today. A few birds. Too many people walking around everywhere. Don’t remember what I thought about. Did I see anything interesting? No birds soaring above me. No Daily Walker. No shimmering river or welcoming oaks or spazzy squirrels. No kids playing at the playground. No roller skiers. No fat tires. No shadow following or leading me. Ran over some grit in the street and was able to listen to the shshshsh of my striking feet. Saw some dogs and their humans. A little kid on a bike. Two women taking over most of the road, keeping 6 feet of distance from each other. A runner pushing a kid in a jogging stroller. A man talking on the phone as he slowly walked on the grass.

an evening walk

Around 6pm yesterday, Scott, Delia the dog, and I took a walk around the neighborhood. Here are three things that I wanted to remember:

  1. Someone was playing saxophone outside. They were very good, so good that lots of people were walking on the street towards them. I was curious to see who and where they were, but Scott was freaked out by all the people, so we kept walking. I like hearing random instruments playing around the neighborhood.
  2. I found it! Finally, after seeing a cute little gnome-sized door at the bottom of a tree several years ago and then trying to locate it again with no luck, I found it! Well, Scott found it first. It’s near the corner of 33rd street and 48th avenue. Hidden behind some tall grass.
  3. We noticed some chairs set up at the end of a street, blocking it off. A woman was sitting in one of the chairs reading a book. Kids were biking up and down the street. Am I being too freaky to think that this might not be a good idea and that these kids aren’t staying far enough away from each other? I’m so glad my kids are older and that they are introverts who mostly like to text with their friends. It would be very hard to find ways to entertain a young kid who was super extroverted right now.

a poem, a page

Here are two poems I recently discovered that are about the relationship between a poem and a page.

POEM WHITE PAGE WHITE PAGE POEM/ from Muriel Rukeyser’s “The Gates”

Poem white page white page poem
something is streaming out of a body in waves
something is beginning to declare for my whole life
all the despair and the making music
something like wave after wave
that breaks on a beach
something like bringing the entire life
to this moment
the small waves bringing themselves to white paper
something like light stands up and is alive

Fool’s Gold/ Ted Mathys

This morning I love everyone, 
even Jerome, the neighbor I hate, 
and the sun. And the sun 

has pre-warmed my bucket seat  
for the drive up Arsenal Street  
with the hot car effect,  

a phenomenon climatologists 
use to explain global warming 
to senators and kids. 

I love the limited edition 
Swingline gold stapler 
in the oil change lounge 

which can, like a poem, 
affix anything to anything 
on paper. One sheet of paper, 

for instance, for that cloud of gnats, 
one for this lady’s pit mix 
wagging his tail so violently 

I fear he’ll hurt his hips.  
One sheet for glittered lip balm, 
for eye contact, Bitcoin extortion 

and the imperfect tense.  
Sheets for each unfulfilled wish 
I left in a penny in a mall fountain. 

Sun spills into the lounge  
through the window decal 
in geometric Tetris wedges. 

I have a sheet for Tetris, 
its random sequence of pieces 
falling toward me in this well 

like color coded aspects of the life 
I neglected to live, for the pleasure 
of making line after line 

disappear. The gold stapler 
has twenty-sheet capacity 
so I straighten my stack 

on the reception counter 
and staple the day together 
with an echoing chunk.

Wow. I love both of these poems and want to spend some more time with them. In Rukeyser’s poem, I love the idea of something streaming out of the body in waves of despair and music. I love the idea of something–what is that something? An urge? A soul? I love the different things you can imagine about that something. In Mathys’s poem, I love how the line break works in line 3: “and the sun. And the sun”. I love how the sun keeps returning. I love the gold stapler and how he links it with a poem: “like a poem,/ affix anything to anything/ on paper.” I love how each idea gets its own sheet of paper.

march 30/RUN

4.1 miles
river road, north/edmund bvld, south
39 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 10 (MN)/ 2,509 (US)

As expected, COVID-19 is getting much worse. Deaths in Minnesota almost doubled in one day. I just read an article about a choir rehearsal in Washington state in which 45 out of the 60 attending members were infected. Experts think it was spread through the air. Should I stop running by the gorge? Almost all of the time I’m able to keep a safe 6 feet+ distance, but not absolutely always. Today, for example, while running through the tunnel of trees I was only 3 or 4 feet away from some walkers. I almost twisted my ankle trying to stay as far away from them as possible. Maybe I should just run on the road through the neighborhood? As much as I usually love running beside the gorge, it has been more stressful than joyful lately.

Run with/without headphones, an experiment

Today, I’m trying a variation on this experiment:

Run on the two trails loop beside the gorge. Listen to music as you run south, up above near the road. Take out your headphones and listen to the gorge as you run north, down below on the Winchell trail. Think about how you experience running and breathing and paying attention differently when you listen to a playlist versus when you have no headphones in. Write about it.

It’s a variation because I didn’t run on the 2 trails. I ran north on the river road without headphones, and south on it and Edmund Boulevard with headphones.

without headphones

Sunny, bright, low wind. Looked down and admired the floodplain forest. So brown and airy. Felt like I was floating above it. Heard some birds–just a general sense of birds, can’t remember any specific ones. Don’t remember seeing too many cars on the road. A walker with his dog called out and asked how my run was going. I said, “Good. It’s a great day for a run!” Noticed a few patches of snow below me, near the Minneapolis Rowing Club. Noticed the Winchell Trail between the trestle and my turn around spot 1/2 mile later. Looking more clear and less muddy. Any other sounds? Some people talking. Can’t remember any other sounds. Counted to 4 a few times then tried chanting triple berries (strawberry/blueberry/raspberry–strawberry/blueberry/blackberry). Felt mostly relaxed and happy to be running but also on edge as I constantly thought about making sure I had enough distance from other people.

With Headphones, Listening to Playlist

More relaxed and happy to be listening to music: I’m So Free/Beck; Black Wizard Wave/Nur-d; Juice/Lizzo; Let’s Go Crazy/Prince. Had a big smile on my face and felt free and fast for a few minutes. Not worrying about viruses or annoying people who refused to move over or what would happen if I suddenly had a lot more trouble breathing. Often when I run without headphones, I feel more connected to the trail and my body. When I listen to music, I feel more like I’m floating, like I don’t have a body, like I’m not quite on the trail.

I really like listening to Beck’s “I’m So Free”. Thought I’d look up the lyrics:

excerpt from I’m So Free/ Beck

[Verse 1]
I’m on a tangent
Textbook ephemeral
Facts are confusing me
I’m so free now

I’m on a one-man waiting list
I’m bored again
I buried all my memories
I’m so free now

I see the silhouette of everything
I thought I ever knew
Turning into voodoo
I’m so free now

A panic cycle, sentimental
Feel it out until you know
It isn’t meant for you
I’m so free now

[Pre-Chorus]
I’m so free now
I’m so free now
And the way that I walk
Is up to me now
And if I breathe now
I could scream now
You can hear me
From Topeka to Belize now
I’m gonna freeze out
These enemies out
They never see what I got
No need to bend my knees down
Heaven forbid
I never cared
Time is running out
Nothing new under the sun
Better get down

[Chorus]
I’m so free
I’m so free-ee-ee
I’m so free
I’m so free-ee-ee
I’m so free (free)
From me, free from you-ou
I’m so free
I’m so free-ee-ee
Free-ee-ee
Yeah yeah yeah yeah
(I’m so free from you)
Yeah yeah yeah yeah
(I’m so free from you)

A horizontal aspiration
In the basement
With a thick and digital lust for life
I’m so free now

Looking over the lyrics, I always thought he said something about booking his ticket to Belize now, not “From Topeka to Belize now.” Whenever I listen to this song, I think of it as a feel-good anthem. Reading the lyrics, I’m realizing it’s much darker and angrier. Will that affect how I hear it in the future?

Later, during a deck do-nothing

This afternoon it is sunny and 58 degrees and the shadows don’t consume our deck until almost 3:00 so Scott and I decided to sit outside. Scott worked a little while I read a few chapters from 2 books and then soaked up the sun listening to the birds. A lot quieter today than last week. I had noticed that when I headed out for my run around 9:30 but forgot to mention it earlier in the entry. The bird that I heard last week, who keeps adding to their trill, was singing again. Scott told me it was a cardinal. Hopefully I can remember this. Decided to look up the cardinal and find out why they sing that way and why they might add syllables to their song. Found a great resource (TheCornellLab/All About Birds) and this information:

Scientists have described at least 16 different calls for the Northern Cardinal, but the one you’ll hear most commonly is a loud, metallic chip. Cardinals make this call when warning off intruders to their territory, when predators are near, as females approach their nests, and by both sexes as they carry food to the nest or when trying to get nestlings to leave the nest. When one member of a pair is about to feed the other, either bird may make a softer took note.

16 different songs! In another paragraph about the cardinal, it mentioned that their “syllables can sound like the bird is singing cheer cheer cheer or birdie, birdie, birdie.” Interesting. I’d like to listen to some more birds on the deck or out in the neighborhood and figure out my own words to match their syllables. Maybe the first step is to gather some recordings when I’m walking. Yes! Another experiment to add to my list!

I clicked on one the links at the bottom of the page and found a great video about how the Cardinal sings: with a paired structure located where the bronchial tubes from each lung come together, the syrinx. Fascinating! Cardinals are a strange bird for me because my damaged cones in my retina make them virtually impossible to see. I rarely can see red. But, I can hear it!

One more thing: I just remembered that I heard another bird that sounded much farther away. Who who who. Was it an owl in Seven Oaks? In looking for a link to Seven Oaks, I found this cool site about the history of Minneapolis Parks. Nice!

march 29/RUN

2.6 miles
river road, south/edmund bvld, north
39 degrees/ 18 mph wind
503 confirmed cases of COVID-19

Happy Birthday to my two children, born on the same day three years apart! It’s a crappy time to be having a birthday but they’re both handling it well. As I write this at 12:30 pm, they are both still sleeping. They have turned nocturnal while the schools are closed. Scott and I managed to stay up until midnight (no easy thing to do for us old folks) and blast The Beatles “Birthday” while I danced around clapping and singing loudly and looking foolish.

Wind

Windy this morning during my run. It was at my back heading south. I ran straight into it heading north. Speaking of the wind, I just added a writing prompt to my unabridged list of experiments:

What do you remember–other than how difficult it is–when you are running straight into the wind? Pick a windy day, run straight into the wind, write about it.

Often when I’m running into a strong wind, I think about the other people around me–the walkers, runners, drivers–and wonder if they’re feeling it too and what they think about me running straight into it. Do they think, how crazy is she to be running into this wind? As I passed some people about to cross the street, heading west instead of south, I wondered if they were feeling the wind too. I noticed how much less I felt it when I had my hood on. I almost didn’t notice it. I remember it making a loud rushing noise, every so often, as gusts came through. Sometimes I thought this noise was a car, but it never was. I felt the wind tug at my hat a few times. I don’t remember seeing any trees swaying or leaves swirling. Oh–I also remember hearing it rushing through the ravine at 42nd and wondering if it was gushing water or the wind–I guess I’m still not sure. I thought about the Boston Marathon and the Olympic Trials and the strong winds the runners had to run into and couldn’t imagine how they ran so fast for so long with such resistance. Yuck, no fun! Professional runners are such bad asses.

Here are two poems about wind:

Wind/ Florida Watts Smyth

What does wind stir in me
That stirs not in the tree?
It stirs a farther hope.
Trees stand, but I shall run
Beyond that slope,
Beyond the sun,
And see,
Wind-swept, the spaces of eternity.

Who Has Seen the Wind?/ CHRISTINA ROSSETTI

Who has seen the wind? 
Neither I nor you: 
But when the leaves hang trembling, 
The wind is passing through. 

Who has seen the wind? 
Neither you nor I: 
But when the trees bow down their heads, 
The wind is passing by.

march 28/WALKBIKERUN

walk: 1.5 miles
longfellow neighborhood
bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.3 miles
treadmill, basement
441 confirmed cases of COVID-19

Started the day with a walk around the neighborhood with Scott and Delia the dog. Lots of birds, hardly any people. We meandered, often turning when we saw people approaching. Ended up walking by one of my favorite garages–so awesomely weird.

We also walked by the creepy, completely shrouded in towering trees, house across from Sanford Middle School. Scott noticed a few windows on one side but they were concealed with thick awnings. Even the side entrance is fenced over, with the railing poking through fence boards. What happened here? I can’t believe my kids haven’t passed on any ghost stories from other Sanford kids about this place.

Later, after it began raining, I decided to workout in the basement. Started watching a documentary on Netflix about a failed Stephen Sondheim/Hal Prince musical, Merrily We Roll Along: The Best Worst Thing That Could Have Happened. So far, I’m enjoying it. I love musicals. Another version of me, in a different universe, would have loved to be in musicals. In this universe, I’ll just have to appreciate my niece Isabel and her amazing talent as an actor.

Finished off my workout with a short run. I’m growing to like these quick, fast-feeling treadmill runs. No 6 feet of distance needed! As much as I enjoy them occasionally, I hope we don’t get to a point where we can’t go outside and this is the only way I can run.


Right now, I’m working on creating an unabridged list of writing experiments (tried or to be tried), inspired by my runs beside the gorge. I’ve thought of turning some of them into an autobiographical poem. This poem is very different from what I imagine writing, but it’s helpful as an example–and so powerful.

Prompts (for High School Teachers Who Write Poetry)/ Dante Di Stefano

Write about walking into the building
as a new teacher. Write yourself hopeful.
Write a row of empty desks. Write the face
of a student you’ve almost forgotten;
he’s worn a Derek Jeter jersey all year.
Do not conjecture about the adults
he goes home to, or the place he calls home. 
Write about how he came to you for help
each October morning his sophomore year.
Write about teaching Othello to him;
write Wherein of antres vast and deserts idle, 
rough quarries, rocks and hills whose heads touch heaven
Write about reading his obituary
five years after he graduated. Write
a poem containing the words “common”
“core,” “differentiate,” and “overdose.”
Write the names of the ones you will never
forget: “Jenna,” “Tiberious,” “Heaven,”
“Megan,” “Tanya,” “Kingsley” “Ashley,” “David.”
Write Mari with “Nobody’s Baby” tattooed
in cursive on her neck, spitting sixteen bars
in the backrow, as little white Mike beatboxed
“Candy Shop” and the whole class exploded.
Write about Zuly and Nely, sisters
from Guatemala, upon whom a thousand
strange new English words rained down on like hail
each period, and who wrote the story
of their long journey on la bestia
through Mexico, for you, in handwriting
made heavy by the aquís and ayers
ached in their knuckles, hidden by their smiles.
Write an ode to loose-leaf. Write elegies
on the nub nose of a pink eraser.
Carve your devotion from a no. 2
pencil. Write the uncounted hours you spent
fretting about the ones who cursed you out
for keeping order, who slammed classroom doors,
who screamed “you are not my father,” whose pain
unraveled and broke you, whose pain you knew.
Write how all this added up to a life.  

march 27/RUN

4.2 miles
river road, north/river road, south/32nd to Edmund Bvld
43 degrees
398 confirmed cases of COVID-19

Another beautiful day by the gorge! As the days get scarier, my hour outside in the morning (running, then walking Delia the dog) becomes more necessary and appreciated. Fresh air, warm sun, noisy birds! Early on in my run a group of walkers thanked me for moving over and giving them space. A simple gesture that enabled me to be open and generous to others I encountered. Not too crowded. Was able to greet Dave, the Daily Walker. Heard some geese, woodpeckers, a few dogs barking down below. Also heard the beeping alarm of an approaching train (I think?) as I ran under the trestle. Didn’t stop to see if a train would come. Ran by a lonely bench with a beautiful view of the other side. Didn’t stop to sit and take in the brown slopes and the blue river. Will I ever stop? Maybe someday. Running above the rowing club, admiring the bare tree trunks, I thought about what color brown they were. Maybe milk chocolate? I love the soothing colors of light blue and brown.

Bliss Point or What Can Best Be Achieved by Cheese/ Benjamin Garcia

A.k.a.

          the other gold. 

                    Now that’s the stuff, 

                               shredded or melted 

                                         or powdered 

                                                 or canned. 

                                                             Behold 

                                         the pinnacle of man 

                     in a cheeto puff! 

Now that’s the stuff 

                      you’ve been primed for: 

                                             fatty & salty & crunchy 

          and poof—gone. There’s the proof. 

Though your grandmother 

                        never even had one. You can’t 

                                    have just one. You 

                                              inhale them puff— 

                                                                     after puff— 

                                                                after puff— 

                               You’re a chain smoker. Tongue 

                      coated & coaxed 

but not saturated or satiated. 

                       It’s like pure flavor, 

                                   but sadder. Each pink ping 

                                                       in your pinball-mouth 

                                                                expertly played 

                             by the makers who have studied you, 

                               the human animal, and culled 

                    from the rind 

         your Eve in the shape 

                                 of a cheese curl. 

                                              Girl, 

                                come curl in the dim light of the TV. 

                           Veg out on the verge of no urge 

                  of anything. 

         Long ago we beached ourselves, 

                                 climbed up the trees then 

                                          down the trees, 

                                                knuckled across the dirt 

                               & grasses & thorns & Berber carpet. 

                                           Now is the age of sitting, 

                                   so sit. 

           And I must say, 

                       crouched on the couch like that, 

                             you resemble no animal. 

                                    Smug in your Snuggie and snug 

                                                     in your sloth, you look 

                                           nothing like a sloth. 

           And you are not an anteater, 

                                   an anteater eats ants 

                                                   without fear 

                                       of diabetes. Though breathing, 

                 one could say, resembles a chronic disease.  

                                                                                            What’s real 

                             cheese and what is cheese product? 

                              It’s difficult to say 

               but being alive today 

                                      is real- 

                                                real- 

                                                       really 

                                like a book you can’t put down, a stone 

                       that plummets from a great height. Life’s 

                      a “page-turner” alright. 

               But don’t worry 

                                      if you miss the finale 

                                                of your favorite show, you can 

                                                   catch in on queue. Make room 

                                      for me and I’ll binge on this, 

                                                            the final season with you.

The first time I read this poem, I didn’t like it. But after listening to the poet speak it (which you can on poets.org) and reading his blurb, it started to grow on me. I like the use of orange/cheese/cheese puff and what it references without directly saying. And I like his ideas about the form: “having the lines feel like eating cheese puffs—addictive, airy, crunchy, gone.”

march 26/RUN

4.15 miles
river road, north/river road, south/32nd to Edmund Bvld
35 degrees
346 confirmed cases of COVID-19

What a beautiful morning! Went out about 30 minutes earlier, wondering if that might mean less people on the trail. It did. Got a little closer than 6 feet when I was passing a few people, but was able to mostly keep a good distance. So many birds this morning! Geese honking. Woodpeckers pecking. Not sure of the others–probably some robins or cardinals, blackbirds. There are lots of finches near the gorge, so maybe some of those too? One day, I will be able to hear the difference and identify them.

The river was a beautiful light blueish gray. Greeted Dave the Daily Walker. Recited one of the poems I memorized last week (Auto-lullaby) a few times. Anything else? Noticed the chain was still up, blocking the stairs to the Winchell Trail past the trestle. Thought about how muddy it probably was halfway down. Enjoyed running above the rowing club on the part of the trail farthest from the road. I’m finding it difficult to pay attention to anything other than the people and how far away from me they are. Maybe this will change as it becomes warmer. I hope so.

Walked Delia the dog right after my run. So calm and sunny and spring-like outside! Hardly anyone walking through the neighborhood.

Small Kindnesses/ Danusha Laméris

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead—you first,” “I like your hat.”

march 25/RUN

3.25 miles
river road, south/edmund bvld, north/33rd street, west/43rd ave, south
45 degrees
287 confirmed cases of COVID-19

Felt warmer today. Wore shorts with tights underneath and my orange pullover. No gloves, no buff. Started on the path by the gorge, but it was crowded. At one point, three walkers were evenly spread out across the path. I had to temporarily cross the road and run in the grass. What is wrong with people? Still managed to keep my 6 feet of distance. Decided at the 44th street parking lot, to cross over to the grass on the other side and then run on the road at Edmund. Much better. If there are this many people out on the trail, and some of them refuse to honor a safe distance, I might have to start running on Edmund all the time. Not as nice as being right by the river, but still a nice view. And still outside. Took a left at 33rd and ran through the neighborhood on the edge of the road, mostly in the sandy grit. ShShShShShSh. Love that sound and the feeling of my feet slightly slipping. Why? Not sure. Was able to greet Dave the Daily Walker. I’m glad he’s doing okay.

birds! birds! birds!

Even as I recognize that chattering birds have been here all along, there is something different about hearing them in early spring. So loud today. Heard a few mourning doves and my favorite: the bird who does a rapid fire of sharp noises, almost like a laser gun from a 1970s sci-fi movie. Pu Pu Pu Pu Pu Pu. What is that bird? Also heard at least one woodpecker. Will I ever be able to recognize and remember bird sounds? I think it might take years.

LOVESONG OF THE SQUARE ROOT OF NEGATIVE ONE/ Richard Siken

I am the wind and the wind is invisible, all the leaves
tremble but I am invisible, bloom without flower, knot
without rope, song without throat in wingless flights, dark
boat in the dark night, pure velocity. As the hammer is
a hammer when it hits the nail, and the nail is a nail when
it meets the wood, and the invisible table begins to appear
out of mind, pure mind, out of nothing, pure thinking.
Through darkness, through silence, a vector, a violence,
I labor, I lumber, I fuel forward through the valley as
winter, as water, I mist and frost, flexible and elastic to
the task. I am the hand that lifts the rock, I am the mind
that strings the worm and throws the line and feels the tug,
the flex in the pole, and foot by foot I find the groove,
the trace in the thicket, the key in the lock, as root breaks
moving through the stations of the yardstick. I track,
I follow, I hinge and turn, frictionless and efficient as an
equal sign. I flip and fold, I superimpose, I become
location and you veer toward me, the eye to which you
are relative, magnetized for your revelation. Hook and bait,
polestar and checkmate, I am your arrival, there is no
refusal, we are here, you see, together, we are already here.

5 Things I Live About this Poem

  • The flow and effortless movement forward
  • Assonance: rope/throat/boat
  • through silence, a vector, a violence
  • I labor, I lumber, I fumble forward
  • I am the hand that lifts the rock, I am the mind/ that strings the worm and throws the line and feels the tug,/ the flex in the pole, and foot by foot I find the groove,/ the trace in the thicket, the key in the lock, as root breaks/ rock, from seed to flower to fruit to rot, a holy pilgrim/ moving through the stations of the yardstick.

I just remembered why this poet seems familiar–I just listened to an amazing podcast with him! Episode 52: Richard Siken–Commonplace Conversation with Poets (and other People)/ Rachel Zucker A great interview and really intense when he talks about how fucked up his father was.

What is the significance of the square root of negative one? After looking it up (because I have forgotten any high level math I might have had 25 years ago), I know it has to do with imaginary numbers. But, what does that mean here?

I want to memorize this poem.

march 24/RUN

4 miles
river road, south/up and across Ford Bridge/turn around/river road, north/Edmund Bvld
41 degrees
262 confirmed cases of COVID-19

Warmer this morning. Cloudy. Leaving my block I heard some chainsaws–Oh no! Looks like they might be cutting down the big, beautiful oak tree at the end of our alley. I love gazing up at the tree. My kids and I named it squirrel city a few years ago because it seemed to house so many squirrels. Bummer. A nice morning for a run. Very few people out by the river, which was nice. Was able to keep 6 feet distance with everyone, I think.

Things I remember:

  • Running on the Ford Bridge and looking out at the river. So beautifully blueish gray. Feeling like I was in a trance, as I looked through the spaces between the railing posts.
  • Running on the sandy grit and listening to it scratch and sh sh sh sh.
  • Hearing some people and a dog as I ran on the double bridge. Wondering if they were down near the river or over in the grass near the entrance to the Winchell Trail.
  • Seeing them in the grass and hearing one woman talking very loudly, shouting something about someone hiring a personal attorney. What was she talking about?
  • Running on the road, on Edmund Boulevard. Checking out the houses. Noticing the one with lots of windows and an awkward deck on the front was finally sold.

After my run, went home and picked up Delia the dog for a walk. Walked by the house a block over with the over-the-top Christmas decorations and noticed that they had propped full length mirrors–2 or 3–up against the front of the house. To reflect the lights more? Does it work?

Only yesterday, I mentioned that the birds never left and have been around, making noise, all winter. Today, looking at an entry from December, I found proof: a recording. Just listen to those birds chattering!

water, 12-29-19

march 23/RUN

4.3 miles
top of franklin hill and back
35 degrees
5% slushy snow-covered
235 confirmed cases of COVID-19

Snowed last night. Only a dusting but enough to cover the deck. No snow on the sidewalk, only a little on the trail. Some people outside, doing a better job of keeping their distance. Very wet and drippy. The floodplain forest was the color of light brown sugar with a dusting of white sugar–I guess that sounds nice, but I prefer either brown or white, not both. A helpful run. I was able to forget about everything. Listened to headphones on the way back, after turning around at the top of the franklin hill. Ah, a few minutes of freedom.

the birds aren’t coming back, they never left

Had a thought while I was walking Delia the dog after my run about the birds. I’ve been reading/hearing people talk about how wonderful it is that the birds are back because spring is almost here. Perhaps this is (somewhat) true, but I’ve been hearing the birds all winter. Sure, some of them migrated and are now returning, but many of them were busy making a racket all through January and February, even when it was below 0. Most people stay inside with their windows shut tight when it’s cold outside so they wouldn’t be able to hear any birds. My (not so deep) thought: The birds aren’t coming back. They never left. It is you who is returning for spring.

some delightful sounds

When I hear dripping around my house, it stresses me out as I envision crumbling foundations and rotting boards. But, when I’m walking around the neighborhood, I love hearing the different drips and drops and trickles and gushes. Today I had to stop twice and record some sounds. Now I wish I would have recorded more!

1

Dripping in the gutters, 2 ways

2

water bubbling near a neighbor’s foundation

This was the poem of the day on poetry foundation. I have always found tolerance to be an awful word so I appreciate the condemning of it here. A favorite line: “neutral fellows/seers of every side” Love this reminder to be less ironic and distanced and more committed and passionate. I’m trying.

Goodbye to Tolerance/ Denise Levertov

Genial poets, pink-faced   
earnest wits—
you have given the world   
some choice morsels,
gobbets of language presented
as one presents T-bone steak
and Cherries Jubilee.   
Goodbye, goodbye,
                            I don’t care
if I never taste your fine food again,   
neutral fellows, seers of every side.   
Tolerance, what crimes
are committed in your name.

And you, good women, bakers of nicest bread,   
blood donors. Your crumbs
choke me, I would not want
a drop of your blood in me, it is pumped   
by weak hearts, perfect pulses that never   
falter: irresponsive
to nightmare reality.

It is my brothers, my sisters,
whose blood spurts out and stops
forever
because you choose to believe it is not your business.

Goodbye, goodbye,
your poems
shut their little mouths,   
your loaves grow moldy,   
a gulf has split
                     the ground between us,
and you won’t wave, you’re looking
another way.
We shan’t meet again—
unless you leap it, leaving   
behind you the cherished   
worms of your dispassion,   
your pallid ironies,
your jovial, murderous,   
wry-humored balanced judgment,
leap over, un-
balanced? … then
how our fanatic tears
would flow and mingle   
for joy …

march 22/BIKERUN

bike: 20 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.4 miles
treadmill, basement
169 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 1 death

It’s windy out there today. 20 mph wind. Plus, it’s Sunday so I imagine there are a lot more people on the trails. Decided to bike and run in the basement. Started the Joan Didion netflix documentary, “The center will not hold” while I biked. An interesting thing I learned: Didion’s family was part of the Donner Party but didn’t follow them when they made a wrong turn heading south. I read an excellent book about the Donner Party a few years ago (The Best Land Under Heaven) and remember reading about that moment when the party had to decide which way to go, and chose incorrectly. Listened to my playlist, Sara 2020, while I ran. Very glad we bought a treadmill last year.

I took Delia on a walk earlier today. It was quiet and windy and not too crowded. I don’t remember feeling the wind that much, but I could hear it rolling over my head. It wasn’t loud. No shrieks or howls or moans. But it was intense. A sudden rush of sibilance—-sssssssshhhhhhhhhsssssshhhhhhh. A crash without the boom. I encountered a few people, but we all managed to avoid getting too close. Reaching Edmund Bvld, just across from the river parkway, I heard and then saw 3 runners spread across the bike path. Talking so loudly! It’s amazing how one voice can spoil the silence. I can tell that I am going to have to try even harder to see the best in people. It’s too easy to be scared and irritated by noisy people who take up too much space and don’t seem to care about their impact on others. I want to focus on the people who pay attention and keep their distance–more of them exist, I believe.

Decided to cast a spell on the scary, awful word, pandemic. So I wrote it across the top of my notebook and listed as many words as I could think of using the letters p, a, n, d, e, m, i, c. Then I put some of the words together in little lines. My lines need more work before they become a poem, but here a few fun ones:

P A N D E M I C

A dime a dance

Nice denim!

Ma and Pa
made camp
pined-in

end pain
ice mice

Am I amped?

I am in Pac-Man pain

Damn, I can dance

Mince mead

A mad maid made ade

Me, panic?

End a nap, mend a cap
Cap a pen, ape amen

A pea, a pan
A man named Dan

Not sure if anything will come out of this wordplay, but it’s fun and pandemic doesn’t seem quite as scary as it did before.

march 21/RUN

3.4 miles
ford bridge and back
25 degrees
138 confirmed cases of COVID-19

Cold, sunny. Woke up feeling anxious again. Running and being outside always helps. Not too crowded on the trail. Still spent a lot of time focused on whether or not other people were near and how to be distanced from them. Even so, till managed to notice the noisy birds. Pretty sure I heard a woodpecker. Noticed the river too, glowing again. This time, it created a wide white path stretching from shore to shore. As I ran south, the white path moved with me. Almost stopped at a few of the benches overlooking the river but I never like to stop. When it gets a bit warmer, I should walk to one of them and sit and stare and breathe.

Immediately after finishing my run, I came home, got Delia the dog and took her for a walk. I could hear lots of birds, but it seemed quiet and calm. Hardly anyone out–many more people by the gorge than in the neighborhood. Walked by the kids’ old elementary school and felt nostalgic, a brief rush of sadness that they were almost grown up even as I’m glad that they’re older. Passed at least 2 houses with their delightfully tacky winter/christmas decorations still out. At one house, a grand old tree stump served as a table for several (4 or 5) plastic snowmen. In past summer’s this same stump has housed gnomes and trolls. At another house, lights, a make-shift archway, 2 fake christmas trees, and some garlands slumped sadly in the brown grass. Do they still turn on the crazy lights at night? Will I ever check? Not sure.

Such a strange, unreal time right now.

Yesterday, I finished a draft of my double abecedarian. The entire poem was crafted around using x-box for the Xs. Not sure if it is finished yet, but it was fun. I always love doing abecedarians, especially double ones. Every time I never believe I can come up with words that end in J or Q but I do.

Any Game Starting with Z/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

A
blank drab
claustrophobic
day. The kid
emits moans grunts an occasional whine
flails on the bed then falls off
grounded feeling
holed up with-
in this ennui
jailed in striped PJs
knee deep stuck
longing lacking all
meaning sucked from the room
nothing-to-do-ness raining down like a monsoon.
Oh cruel world too
pointless to want for more seconds pile up
quietly in a q
restlessness grows by the hour
spreads settles
travels right
up the walls like kudzu
vining hovers above like geese in a V
waiting wanting to break out. Meanwhile in the corner the not so new
x-box
yawns sputters chokes on its own dust imploring the kid to play something anything play
Zombie Apocalypse or Zombie Pinball or Zombie Death Drive. A plea: any game starting with Z.

Speaking of double abecedarians that begin and end with the same letter, here’s a list of words that begin and end with the same letter:

  • aqua
  • bib
  • caustic
  • dead
  • eye
  • fief or fluff
  • gig
  • hush
  • intermezzi (plural of intermezzo: brief piece of music between acts)
  • JJ (a name, or an abbreviation of judges or justices)
  • kink
  • lull (or lol)
  • Mom
  • northern
  • onto
  • plump
  • QQ (an instant messaging service in China)
  • rear
  • sass
  • tyrant
  • ubuntu (operating system for PCs)
  • verv (does this work?)
  • wow
  • xerox
  • yellowy (didn’t think this was a word, but it is!)
  • zzzzzzzz (when sleeping)

I only had to look a few of these up. Fascinating to learn new words, abbreviations, like JJ for judges.

march 20/RUN

3.3 miles
trestle turn around
29 degrees
115 confirmed cases of COVID-19*

*This number is mostly meaningless because very few people have access to tests. Governor Walz believes the number to be much higher.

Sun! Sun! Sun! So nice after yesterday’s gloom. Colder. Windier. More crowded on the trail. But nice. Needed. Found out today that even if they declare a shelter-in-place and we’re not allowed to leave the house (and this is mostly likely coming soon), we will still be able to go out for walks and runs. I’m glad. I was not looking forward to being trapped in this house for the next 3 months.

Earlier today, while out on a walk with Delia the dog, I noticed the river. Glowing below me. I was up on the hill above the parkway and there it was, a bright, beautiful light past the trees and beyond the fence. Wow! I had to stop and stare for a few minutes.

What else do I remember from my run? Difficult to run straight into the 15mph wind. Lots of walkers out there. I should try and find a better time to go for my runs. The earlier the better, I think. Don’t remember hearing geese or crows or woodpeckers or alarms or trains.

Overheard one woman say to another woman: “And they’re closed for 3 months, but she’s in Washington where it’s really bad!” Her friend seemed shocked that whatever was closing was closing for so long and I thought, “it will all be closed that long here too!”

Double Abecedarians

I love constraints and the challenge they offer. Double Abecedarians are especially fun. As far as I know, the classic double abecedarian has 26 lines and either starts each line working its way up the alphabet (a, b, c . . .) and ends working its way down (z, y, x . . .) or vice versa. After noticing how “x-box” both started and ended with the same letter–the dreaded letter x, I decided to try a double abecedarian where each line began and ended with the same letter (so, first line begins with a, ends with a, and so on). So much fun! And such a great way to distract you from pandemics!

Here are a few resources:

march 19/RUN

2.65 miles
two trails
39 degrees
light drizzle
89 confirmed cases of COVID-19

Checked the weather and thought it wasn’t supposed to start raining again for an hour, but a few minutes into my run, it started. Didn’t notice it that much, with my baseball cap and jacket on. Everything was gloomy and wet, dripping. There were a handful of people out by the gorge. Most were trying to keep their distance. Ran to the 44th street parking lot and then looped around. Thought about heading down to the Winchell Trail here but I had noticed a few people walking on it so I stayed up above until I was past them. Entered the lower trail at Folwell. Only encountered one person. She was wearing a rain poncho. I heard her sniff as I quickly ran by. Don’t remember much about the run except for looking out for others and making sure I stayed clear of them.

such loud birds!

The thing I remember most about my run was the birds. So loud! Right after I started running, while I was still in the neighborhood, so many different chirps and trills and coos and warbles and caws. Wow. Thought about stopping to get a recording but I decided I could do it when I finished. Of course, I forgot.

Came across so many wonderful poems today–which one should I choose?

Slam, Dunk, & Hook/ Yusef Komunyakaa

Fast breaks. Lay ups. With Mercury’s
Insignia on our sneakers,
We outmaneuvered the footwork
Of bad angels. Nothing but a hot
Swish of strings like silk
Ten feet out. In the roundhouse
Labyrinth our bodies
Created, we could almost
Last forever, poised in midair
Like storybook sea monsters.
A high note hung there
A long second. Off
The rim. We’d corkscrew
Up & dunk balls that exploded
The skullcap of hope & good
Intention. Lanky, all hands
& feet…sprung rhythm.
We were metaphysical when girls
Cheered on the sidelines.
Tangled up in a falling,
Muscles were a bright motor
Double-flashing to the metal hoop
Nailed to our oak.
When Sonny Boy’s mama died
He played nonstop all day, so hard
Our backboard splintered.
Glistening with sweat,
We rolled the ball off
Our fingertips. Trouble
Was there slapping a blackjack
Against an open palm.
Dribble, drive to the inside,
& glide like a sparrow hawk.
Lay ups. Fast breaks.
We had moves we didn’t know
We had. Our bodies spun
On swivels of bone & faith,
Through a lyric slipknot
Of joy, & we knew we were
Beautiful & dangerous.

I love the energy and the line breaks in this poem. And so much movement and momentum. And the assonance! “Dribble, drive to the inside,/ & glide like a sparrow hawk” The alliteration: “Nothing but a hot/ Swish of strings like silk” I also love how you can read this poem backwards or take it one line at a time and still is a poem.

a writing prompt from Sundress Publications

Sundress Publications is posting a writing prompt each day for the next two months to keep people writing. Here’s one from yesterday:

Choose two letters of the alphabet. Select a source material and collect 10-12 nouns or verbs starting with each letter. Use the words as a bank for a new poem.

march 18/RUN

4.25 miles
top of franklin hill and back
38 degrees
77 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in MN

Another day, another great run by the gorge. Overcast. Earlier on my walk, it was drizzling but I think it stopped by the time I ran. Encountered lots of walkers, a few runners, some bikers. Many people are trying to keep their 6 feet of distance, others are not. If they can’t be bothered to move over when it’s recommended to help lessen the spread of a pandemic, I guess there’s no hope that they ever will. Felt pretty good running, even if I was a little warm and my nose was a bit runny–tried to avoid touching my face but it’s hard when you’re dripping sweat and snot (is that too gross?). I looked down at my favorite spot above the floodplain forest–so open and soft and light brown. Only a few patches of snow. Also looked at the river. Blue and beautiful. Running north towards downtown, I listened to the gorge and recited “Auto Lullaby” and “Tell all the truth but tell it slant” a few times. Heard at least one goose honking, some people talking, a few feet shuffling. Stopped just above the Franklin hill and put in my headphones, then headed south. Running under the trestle I heard a beeping, buzzing noise. Was it the alert for an approaching train? I looked around, but couldn’t see any train. Decided not to stop and wait. Anything else I remember? Greeted Dave, the Daily Walker. Felt dreamy and dazed. Glad to forget everything else for 40 minutes.

the woodpecker

Earlier today, walking with Delia the dog, I heard a woodpecker. It might be the same one I heard a few days ago, around the same time and same place. So loud! Almost like a little jackhammer. Usually, any woodpecker pecking is loud, but not this loud. How irritating it must be for the people with houses nearby. When I was 8 or 9 and living in North Carolina in a house with cedar shakes, we had a woodpecker who liked to peck on the cedar. I don’t remember hearing it, I just remember how irritated it made my dad. Did he do anything about it? I don’t remember that either.


After memorizing one Emily Dickinson poem, I want to memorize some more. I’ll start with some shorter ones, like this, which seems appropriate right now:

“Faith” is fine invention (202)/ Emily Dickinson

Faith” is a fine invention
For Gentlemen who see!
But Microscopes are prudent
In an Emergency!


corona virus update

Yesterday all the schools were closed. So were the restaurants and bars. Thankfully, we can still leave our house. I went to bed yesterday accepting that this would probably end by June, woke up to Pence’s announcement that it would last until July. When I mentioned this to Scott, he said he’d read, early fall. It’s definitely going to get a lot worse for the next month at least. Trying to keep Scott’s penchant for worst case scenarios in check, the theme for our house is: “Let’s dial back the Apocalypse.”

march 17/RUN

4.35 miles
minnehaha falls and back
35 degrees
60 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in MN

Decided to turn to the right at the river today. More people on the trail. Lots of moving way over to the right to keep a safe distance. Ran to the falls and stopped to watch it tumble over the cliff, then ran, taking the lower, Winchell Trail when it began just past 44th street.

1

Added one more part of the walking trail today: the steep, uneven trail that dips down right after the double bridge and then rises up again. Up until last year this was an extra spur with the regular walking path up above right next to the biking path, a solid white line separating them. But when they repainted the lines, they added an arrow directing walkers to follow this spur instead of staying above. A mistake by the painters? Possibly. Probably. Initially, I was mad because this spur is steep, narrow, and full of ruts, but I’ve grown to like the challenge of trying to stay upright on it and dipping below the road and into some trees.

2

Oh, the lower trail was beautiful today! Nothing between me and the river but a wrought iron fence and a steep cliff (or ledge? or bluff?). At its edges, the river was brown but in the middle, blue. It looked much warmer than it was.

3

At one point on the lower trail, as it hugged the edge, it looked like if I kept running straight, I could run off the bluff and fly over the water.

4

So much wonderful sun! Lots of dead, yellowed leaves covering the trail. It felt like fall in Virginia, when I was twelve. Will I never not be nostalgic for fall?

5

Said “Good morning Dave” to the Daily Walker. Smiled at a few other runners. Raised my right hand in a wave to a few others. Wasn’t always able to keep a safe 6 feet of distance, but I tried.

march 16/RUN

4.25 miles
top of the franklin hill and back
35 degrees
snow, big fluffy flakes

Feeling a bit better today. Wonderful and strange to be outside, trying to avoid encounters with others while breathing in the beautiful fresh air. Dark and gloomy. It started snowing just after I got outside. At first, very light. Then, big fluffy flakes flying right into my face–I should have worn my baseball cap or visor to block them out. Oh well. The snow didn’t bother me too much although I wondered if it was the best idea to be outside with a cold or sinus infection in this weather. I think it’s fine. It feels important to get out by the gorge as much as I can.

Was able to do all the walking trails, including the one through the tunnel of trees which is not a tunnel right now but a bunch of bare branches and trunks. The floodplain forest was a beautiful, fuzzy brown. I know I glanced at the river but I don’t remember what color it was or how it looked. I think that’s because of all the snow flying in my face. The gorge was a misty, blurry white. Encountered a few walkers, one or two runners, and Dave the Daily Walker, back in uniform! I’m glad he’s feeling better.

I remember admiring the railroad trestle as I ran by it, noticing the river below. Also, glancing at the Winchell Trail, close to Franklin. The trail looked like a muddy mess.

Memorized a new poem for today’s run:

Tell all the truth but tell it slant/ Emily Dickinson

Tell all the truth but tell it slant—
Success in Circuit lie
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightening to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind—

It was fun to recite this over and over again as I ran. I really love Emily Dickinson’s poetry–her phrasing, the rhymes, the rhythm, the ideas. I think (I don’t know that much about Emily Dickinson right now–maybe I should learn?) this is one of her more famous poems, especially the idea of telling the truth slant. I like it because of how it fits with my vision. I read that Dickinson became blind temporarily for a few years and that she wrote about it in her poetry. With my cone dystrophy, I rely much more on my peripheral (sideways, slantways?) vision to see. And, while I need bright light to see and read things, if the light is too bright it makes it almost impossible to see. Also, my unfocused, fuzzy vision is softer and less harsh, which sometimes results in kinder, more gentle visions–things that might look ugly in sharp edges and lines, appear beautiful in the soft, fuzzy, absence of detail (one example: gnarled, bare branches in the winter).

march 15/WALKBIKE

Decided to take a break from running today and do some more walking and indoor biking. Walked with Scott and Delia the dog this morning and experienced the delight of the day: walking high up on the grassy hill between edmund boulevard and west river parkway, we saw an animal running across the grass below us. I thought it was probably a dog, so I looked for its owner. Scott could see it was a coyote. Before it crossed the river road, it looked both ways. Smart! It’s not uncommon to see coyotes near the river but I’ve never seen one and I bet it’s unusual to see them in the middle of the morning (10:00 am) and in the midst of so many people and cars.

Critters I’ve seen near the river

  • duck
  • goose
  • mouse
  • squirrel
  • heron and/or white crane
  • bald eagle
  • turkey vulture
  • crow (or raven?)
  • woodpecker
  • possum
  • beaver
  • raccoon
  • chipmunk
  • wild turkey
  • rabbit
  • muskrat
  • deer
  • fox
  • coyote

I’m probably missing a few. And, of course, there are many more birds that I’m not mentioning. This might not seem like a big list, but I think it’s a lot considering the gorge is right in the middle of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

more songs for washing hands

The theme song from Alice:

Early to rise, early to bed
In and between I cooked and cleaned and went out of my head.
Going through life with blinders on it’s tough to see.
I had to get up, get out from under and look for me.
There’s a new girl in town.

The theme song from Dukes of Hazard (which is a little slow, but it’s worth washing your hands a little longer to finish it, I think):

Just the good old boys
never meaning no harm
Beats all you ever saw
been in trouble with the law
since the day they were born.

Flattening the hills
straightening the curve
someday the mountain might get them
but the law never will

march 14/RUN

2.4 miles
two trails
26 degrees

Colder today. Such wonderful fresh air! Took Delia the dog out for a walk and decided I needed to do a short run too. Beautiful beside the gorge. Here are some highlights:

1

Running south towards the falls, I encountered a group of 10+ male runners. I think they were on a team–not sure if it was high school or college or even older. They were all very fit and lean. Watching their legs strike down and lift off in unison, they looked like horse legs. A trot of runners! Such a strange and cool sight–perhaps it looked stranger and cooler to me, with my dreamy, unfocused vision?

2

The river was a beautiful blue with hints of white. Not gray or grayish blue but blue.

3

I was able to add another path that is closed all winter: the Winchell Trail! Because I didn’t want to run as much today, I decided to do one of my favorite summer routes: the two trails. I ran to the 44th street parking lot, right before the double bridge, and then turned down towards the river to the entrance of the Winchell Trail. Beautiful and clear! Only a few slick spots between Folwell and 38th. Loved running this and imagining it warmer and less pandemic-y. I didn’t encounter anyone else on this trail, not even a dog or a squirrel. Wait–I do remember noticing a big bird flying overhead, not too high off of the ground. An eagle? A hawk? I’m rarely sure.

4

Heard a slow trickle from the first sewer pipe, near some old stone steps that lead up to the 44th street parking lot. Running above it earlier this week, I didn’t notice it.

5

The sun was behind the cloud covered grayish white sky, but I could see it was trying to pierce through. It glowed a dull, muted white in the sky. I was happy to have it hidden and not hurting my eyes.

6

Crowded today. Lots of walkers and runners. I think there was at least one biker. No roller skiers yet.


Still feeling sick and learning to manage the stress of not quite knowing what it is and feeling uncomfortable with the pressure in my head and a tight jaw. Maybe a sinus infection or a strange cold or a bacterial infection? [Googling it.] A sinus infection, I think. Nothing to do now but wait for it to be over. I don’t get sick that often and I’m realizing that I don’t handle it very well–especially sicknesses where I can’t breathe quite as easily because of the pressure in my head and cheeks and jaw and where I feel trapped in my body. This unfortunate truth is getting magnified by a present that is uncertain and a future that will get better but not before it gets worse. Usually, I either try to avoid difficult confrontations (with people, with pain, with situations of suffering) or get out of them as quickly as I can with the power of distraction or avoidance or positive spin. These strategies will not work now. I guess I need to confront it, live through it, and allow myself to be transformed by it. And, what all do I mean by it–maybe I’ll try to shape that into a poem? (note: Normally, I leave these sorts of emotions out of this log–they often seem ridiculous or overwrought or too exposing. But, I’m writing this log for future Saras who will read this tomorrow or next week or next year and I want them to know that I was feeling more than just joy at the beauty of the river and delight at the sight of a group of runners looking as graceful and strong as galloping horses.)


how to count to 20 while washing your hands

I stopped looking at twitter a few days ago, when I couldn’t handle reading about how bad the situation in Italy is and how bad it might get here, but before I stopped I enjoyed seeing the tweets about what to sing while you wash your hands for 20 seconds. I love the creativity–so much better than just counting to 20 or singing Happy Birthday twice! I’ve been experimenting with my own playlist of songs to sing. Only 2 so far. I started with “Eye of the Tiger” and a verse and the first line of the chorus “It’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the thrill of the fight…” Then, today, I thought about the 1971 Oompa Loompa song for Veruca:

Who do you blame
when your kid is a brat,
pampered and spoiled
like a Siamese cat?

Blaming the kid
is a lie and a shame.
You know exactly
who’s to blame

The Mother and the Father!

Next up is the Mike Teevee version!

What do you get
from a glut of TV–
a pain in the neck
and an IQ of 3?

Why don’t you simply
try reading a book,
or could you just not bear to look?

You’ll get no
You’ll get no
You’ll get no commercials.

Oompa Loompa

march 13/RUN

3.25 miles
trestle turn around
32 degrees

A beautiful day for a run! A cloudless blue sky and a clear path. It feels so important to be outside, breathing fresh air. I’ve been struggling with a minor cold (which is almost definitely not corona virus) and being sick during this pandemic is causing uncomfortable waves of anxiety. A throat that wants to close up, a clenched jaw, the need for deep breaths, a rush of tingling heat on the back of my head, and even more restlessness–lots of pacing around the house yesterday. Running seems to help. I feel okay when I run, relaxed.

Added another clear walking path to my route–my favorite trail that dips below the road and winds above the floodplain forest! I didn’t run it on the way out, only on the way back. So wonderful to have it clear. I’ll have to check my old log entries, but I probably haven’t run this trail since sometime in November (I checked and my last day was Nov 26th).

When I reached the trestle, I took a short break and admired the clear, open river. Oh, the river! So wonderful. Brown, I think. When the sun hit it, it was sparkling silver or was it white gold? Marveled at it several times: above the rowing club, near the double bridge, above the forest. Running south through my favorite trail, the river glowed through the bare trees.

When I finished, I walked to the overlook and breathed it all in: the bare, brown branches, the wide open gorge, the brown river with the wide sparkling stripe of sun. Then I looked down at the ravine, noticing how exposed it was and how slick and icy the trail heading up the hill looked.

Greeted Dave the Daily Walker. At first I didn’t recognize him because he wasn’t walking fast and swinging his arm and he was wearing a coat. He said, “I’m not in my uniform today; I have a bad cold and I’m just out here trying to get some fresh air.” I hope he’s okay and doesn’t have the corona virus. Dave is one of my favorite people.

possible exercise: an acrostic poem that casts a spell?

When I searched for “fun spell-like poems” (of course, I didn’t find any), several of the results were about acrostic poems. Yes! Acrostic poems spell words. I wondered, can you create an acrostic poem that casts a spell of some sort? What would that look like? I’m not sure yet, but I wanted to make note of it to try out later today or this week or sometime.

march 12/RUN

4.25 miles
minnehaha falls and back
42 degrees
light drizzle

Didn’t check the weather to see if it was planning to rain before I left the house, but the minute I got outside I could tell it was coming. I went running anyway. Turned right at the river, heading towards the falls. I love the quiet, gray gloom. It would have been even better if there had been fog. Recited the poem “Auto-lullaby” most of the time.

Some Things I Remember

  • Heard some kids at a school playground, yelling and having fun
  • Not too much snow at the oak savanna. From the parking lot at 36th street, the hill down to the Winchell Trail looks so bare and exposed
  • Forgot to check out my favorite spot–where the mesa curves down to reveal the river
  • I’m not sure when it started raining, but I’m pretty sure it was before I turned around at the falls
  • Was able to run on at least 2 more walking trails that were no longer covered in snow: the trail that curves around the back of the double bridge parking lot and the small, steep hill, just past the double bridge
  • the falls were gushing. I saw two other people there, admiring it
  • minnehaha creek, at the part just before it flows over the edge, was a beautiful gray blue, mostly open with a small shelf of ice and snow
  • Running under the Ford Bridge I encountered another runner on the other side of the wide trail. He called out something that I couldn’t quite hear. At first I thought he said, “I’m running for the corona virus” then “I’m running with the corona virus.” But after talking to Scott, I’m pretty sure he jokingly said, “I’m running from the corona virus.”
  • Running north, into the wind and the rain I wondered, is it good to be out here in this? Actually, I didn’t mind it–I like running in the rain. I just don’t want to get sick(er)
  • No woodpeckers or geese (although I did hear some geese earlier in the morning). No squirrels or bikers or dogs

Yesterday I was thinking about how you cast a shadow and cast a spell and how fun it would be to play around with that and the word cast and then I remembered a poem I read last year.

TO CAST/ Yesenia Montilla

I.
The question is always posed at a party
            If you were a cast away on a deserted island
                        who would  you want to          hold?

& the penny is hurled in the air
we are for eternity torn between a face                       & a tail —

& we fall into one of two categories
            those who cast spells               & those that cast things aside

love may not be discarded       but shipwrecked          yes

& so on —

II.
I’ve only been fly fishing once             it is something quite stunning
            the way the string dances above your head like wild imaginings
the striking of nylon against the pebbled water

the lure with its many colors dangling just above the wake
glistening like booty    & the fish come           if you’re silent

knee deep in Oshun’s river :: rubber against the skin :: lips slack from trying

III.
                        I want to hold              you —
If tomorrow the lush green of an island were my only dress
It’d be                                                  you —

IV.
Every four years I cast a                                  vote
                        & I might die anyway
                                                regardless of the outcome —

1. to throw or hurl, fling :: to throw off or away :: to direct (the eye, a glance, etc), especially in cursory manner :: to cause to fall upon something or in certain directions; send forth :: to draw, as in telling fortunes :: to throw out (a fishing line, net, bait, etc.) :: to fish in (a stream, an area, etc.) :; to throw down or bring to the ground 

I love this line:

& we fall into one of two categories
those who cast spells & those that cast things aside

march 11/RUN

4.25 miles
river road, north/south
36 degrees

Gray and calm outside. Nice to get some fresh air. Almost all the paths are clear. Thought about trying to run on the path that dips below the road and winds through the trees, but decided it would still have too much ice. I was right. Greeted Dave the Daily Walker just after running up the hill from under the lake street bridge. I know I saw the river but I don’t remember what it looked like. Did I ever really look at it? Heard a woodpecker pecking away. I wonder, is it a yellow bellied sapsucker? Listened to some of its sounds, like drum #1 and mew call and drums, and it might be. Later, when I was almost done with my run, I heard another woodpecker, not sure if it was the same kind. Sounded like a small jackhammer, which made me start thinking about my fascination with how machines mimic animals (for example, airplanes always remind me of sharks).

This morning, after I got up, I decided to memorize a poem to make myself feel better. I have a cold or allegories or something and my throat is tightening up, which is making me extra uncomfortable and worried as I read about people testing positively for the corona virus here. It’s amazing how memorizing a poem can make me feel better. Today, I re-memorized one of my classics: Auto-lullaby by Franz Wright.

Auto-lullaby/ Franz Wright

Think of a sheep
knitting a sweater;
think of your life

getting better and better.

Think of your cat
asleep in a tree;
think of that spot
where you once skinned your knee.

Think of a bird
that stands in your palm.
Try to remember
the Twenty-First Psalm.

Think of a big pink horse
galloping south;
think of fly, and
close your mouth.

If you are thirsty, then
drink from a cup.
The birds will keep singing
until they wake up.

Oh, I love this poem. It was a fun (and sometimes challenging) one to recite in my head as a ran. It was interesting to see how the meter worked differently and how I recited it to make it fit with my cadence. It helps to pick poems with rhymes–I have also memorized/recited Shel Silverstein’s “Sick.” How hard would it be to recite a poem with no rhyme or meter? Would I force it into a meter? Maybe I should try that.

possible exercise: reciting while running

Step One || Pick a poem.

Start with an “easier” poem–one that rhymes and isn’t too long, like a kid’s poem. Later, try a “harder’ poem that doesn’t have a meter or rhymes or is longer.

Step Two || Memorize it.

A few hours before running, spend some time memorizing it.

Step Three || Recite it while running.

Once you’ve warmed up, begin reciting the poem in your head (or, if you feel comfortable enough, out loud). At first, just focus on trying to recite it without stopping or without screwing up too much. Later, when you’ve mastered that, start paying attention to how the words do or don’t match up with cadence. If you are trying to sync it up with your steps and breathing, how does this affect the poem–it’s meaning? how it sounds? how it moves (or doesn’t move)?

Step Four || Take notes.

After your run, take some notes about the experience of reciting while running. What effects did reciting have on your running? Running on your reciting?

march 10/RUN

4 miles
minnehaha falls and back
33 degrees

According to my weather app, the wind was 1 mph. Nice! Turned right when I reached the river and was able to run on the walking path the whole way even when it separated from the biking path. I’m trying to finish an audio book (Pachinko) before the loan ends later today, so I listened to that instead of the gorge. Noticed the river. Open and beautiful. Can’t remember if it was sparkling. The falls were gushing. Not too many people on the path. Below me, the Winchell trail looked mostly clear. The oak savanna looked bare and open–they’ve trimmed back and removed a lot of the trees down there. I remember hearing the chainsaws this past fall. Anything else? Feel like I have a slight cold so it was a little more difficult to run.

Feeling slightly stressed out about the corona virus, unsure whether I’m worrying too much or not enough. I’m appreciating Lynda Barry’s instagram posts about it, like this one:

View this post on Instagram

March 9, 2020

A post shared by Lynda Barry (@thenearsightedmonkey) on

And this one:

march 9/RUN

5.4 miles
franklin loop
35 degrees

Overcast and cooler today. Gray. Was able to run by the Welcoming Oaks and greet them because the walking path that splits off from the bike path just past the ravine and then winds through the oaks was open! Was grateful to be outside on a clear, dry path and not inside worrying about this week and how bad it might get as COVID-19 hits the US.

Not too many people crowding the path, which was nice. The river was beautiful from the Franklin and Lake Street bridges. Did a lot of triple berry chants, mostly: strawberry, blueberry, blackberry. Thought about how I draw the straw and blue out but don’t do that with black–that’s probably why I like putting it at the end of the chant. The east side of the river, first in Minneapolis, then St. Paul, was clear. Favorite part of that side is right before Meeker Island dam: everything seems more brown and there’s a lovely view of the river through the trees. Today the river was blueish gray. Favorite part on the west side lately: the part of the walking trail that winds above the Minneapolis Rowing Club. What a view! And, it’s nice to be fer away from the road.

Anything else I remember? I greeted Dave the Daily Walker as I was running faster up the final hill. Seeing him approach I wondered how out of breath I might sound when I said hi. It wasn’t too bad.

moment of the day

My moment of the day didn’t happen during my run but while I was walking Delia the dog around the neighborhood. Looking up, I noticed a huge bird circling in the sky. What a wing span! It looked white or light gray to me but that could have been because it was up so high. What kind of bird was it? Most likely a bald eagle, I think. I stopped and looked up for a few minutes, watching it make big loops. At first, the loops were almost above me, but soon they were farther away. I wondered why birds circle like this so I looked it up and discovered that it was because of thermals:

Thermals are updrafts of warm air that rise from the ground into the sky. By flying a spiraling circular path within these columns of rising air, birds are able to “ride” the air currents and climb to higher altitudes while expending very little energy in the process. Solitary birds like eagles and hawks often take advantage of thermals to extend their flight time as they search for food. Social birds that fly in large flocks also use thermals to gain altitude and extend their range during migration. The sight of dozens or hundreds of birds riding a thermal has been said to resemble the water boiling in a kettle, so the terms kettle or boil are sometimes used as a nickname for a flock of birds circling in a thermal updraft. The benefits of thermals are not limited to the animal world either as glider pilots often take advantage of them to gain altitude as well.

I want to see hundreds of birds riding a thermal and looking like water boiling in a kettle! Mostly so I can see them doing it but also so I can write about the boil of birds I just saw.

Thinking about a bird soaring and circling in the sky reminds me of a Mary Oliver (yes, I love Mary Oliver!) poem:

The Real Prayers Are Not the Words,
But the Attention that Comes First
/ Mary Oliver

The little hawk leaned sideways and, tilted,
rode the wind. Its eye at this distance looked
like green glass; its feet were the color
of butter. Speed, obviously, was joy. But
then, so was the sudden, slow circle it carved
into the slightly silvery air, and the
squaring of its shoulders, and the pulling into
itself the long, sharp-edged wings, and the
fall into the grass where it tussled a moment,
like a bundle of brown leaves, and then, again,
lifted itself into the air, that butter-color
clenched in order to hold a small, still
body, and it flew off as my mind sang out oh
all that loose, blue rink of sky, where does
it go to, and why?

There is no way I could write in such detail about the bird I saw today. It was too far up to see it’s eyes or shoulders or anything it might be carrying. And, even if the bird had been closer, I wouldn’t have been able to see such fine detail anyway.

march 8/RUN

3.25 miles
trestle turn around
50 degrees
15 mph wind/ 31 mph gusts

Sunny and warm today. Been running in the cold for so long now that I forgot what to wear when it gets a little warmer. So windy! Greeted Dave the Daily Walker near the beginning. Ran up the hill from under the lake street bridge, enjoying the sound and feel of the scratching grit. Was able to run on more of the walking path. Saw my shadow. Heard a woodpecker. Marveled at the sparkling water–couldn’t tell if it was blue or gray or brown, it only looked sparkly white. At the halfway point I took off my orange sweatshirt and ran south in a short sleeved shirt. The feeling of spring! Anything else I remember? Lots of runners in shorts.

Favorite part of the run: running south along the rim, above the rowing club. So beautiful hovering above the open water. Seeing a small motorboat speeding below, making the water ripple.

School

A few days ago, waking up in the middle of the night, I thought about Mary Oliver and some poem she had written about the sea as her classroom. What a great idea, I thought, I’ll remember it tomorrow when I get up. Forgot it, of course. But then, while walking with Scott, remembered it again. Was able to find the poem:

Breakage/ Mary Oliver

I go down to the edge of the sea. 
How everything shines in the morning light! 
The cusp of the whelk, 
the broken cupboard of the clam, 
the opened, blue mussels, 
moon snails, pale pink and barnacle scarred— 
and nothing at all whole or shut, but tattered, split, 
dropped by the gulls onto the gray rocks and all the moisture gone. 
It’s like a schoolhouse 
of little words, 
thousands of words. 
First you figure out what each one means by itself, 
the jingle, the periwinkle, the scallop 
       full of moonlight. 

Then you begin, slowly, to read the whole story.

Love the line, “nothing at all whole or shut, but tattered, split” and “the opened” and “a schoolhouse of little words”. Looked up whelk and it’s a large marine snail.

Thinking about the idea of the gorge as a classroom–if so, who is the teacher?

Here’s another school related poem from Mary Oliver, who hated school as a child. I read in her memoir, Upstream, that the only thing she was good at doing in school was being truant.

Just As The Calendar Began to Say Summer/ Mary Oliver (Long Life)

I went out of the schoolhouse fast
and through the gardens and to the woods,
and spent all summer forgetting what I’d been taught–

two times two, and diligence, and so forth,
how to be modest and useful, and how to succeed and so forth,
machines and oil and plastic and money and so forth.

By fall I had healed somewhat, but was summoned back
to the chalky rooms and the desks, to sit and remember

the way the river kept rolling its pebbles,
the way the wild wrens sang though they hadn’t a penny in the bank,
the way the flowers were dressed in nothing but light.

I love this idea of spending all summer trying to forget the lessons taught in school and the rest of the year trying to remember the river! It reminds me of my process of undisciplining/unmaking and remaking myself.

And, one more:

Mindful/mary oliver

Every day
I see or hear
something
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light. 
It is what I was born for–
to look, to listen, 

to lose myself
inside this soft world–
to instruct

myself
inside this soft world–
over and over

in joy, 
and acclamation.
nor am I talking
about the exceptional, 

the fearful, 
the very extravagant–
but of the ordinary, 
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar, 
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these–
the untrimmable light,

the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

Oh good scholar! Love this line and love the idea of being a student out by the gorge and a teacher who instructs myself.

march 6/RUN

3.2 miles
trestle turn around
37 degrees

Sunny. Spring-y. Birds chirping. Hardly any wind. A few highlights: I was able to run on the walking path that curves away from the road and the biking path and follows the rim of the gorge just above the Minneapolis Rowing club! Still a few tricky snow-covered spots, but mostly clear. Enjoyed running up the hill from under the lake street bridge, listening to my feet sh sh sh on the grit–I liked the feel of it too, easier than bare asphalt. Anything else? No Dave the Daily Walker. No geese. Looked briefly at the river. It was open–no ice. I noticed a few stones stacked on the smaller of the two boulders just above the trail winding down through the tunnel of trees.

Before starting my run, I listened to two versions of my January Joy poem, one with the parts about running, one without. I’d like to keep the running stuff in and I love the line about adequate knees and functioning feet but I’m leaning more towards the version without it. Maybe I can use those lines in another poem?

January Joy, Version 1

To see the river
the open river
brown, a thin skin of pale blue

To be alone with the river
the uncrowded river
nothing between us but bare branches

To be as empty as the river
the bare white river
a blank page waiting for words

To be as spacious as the river
the boundless river
stretching wide, able to hold multitudes

To be nothing next to the river
the ancient river
small and new and insignificant

O to be the space
above the river
between tree top and sky
illuminated by the sun!

The sun!
glowing up the gray gloom
warming my cold face
flashing through tall, slender tree trunks

How wonderful it is to be alive and outside!

O great runs!
O clear paths!
O strong legs
and adequate knees
and functioning feet!

How wonderful it is to be
moving, breathing, feeling free
on this winter-perfect day!

January Joy, Version 2 (preferred)

To see the river
the open river
brown, a thin skin of pale blue

To be alone with the river
the uncrowded river
nothing between us but bare branches

To be as empty as the river
the bare white river
a blank page waiting for words

To be as spacious as the river
the boundless river
stretching wide, able to hold multitudes

To be nothing next to the river
the ancient river
small and new and insignificant

O to be the space
above the river
between tree top and sky
illuminated by sun!

The sun!
Glowing up the gray gloom
warming my cold face
flashing through tall, slender tree trunks

How wonderful it is to be
alive and outside
on this winter-perfect day!


I am really looking forward to Victoria Chang’s Obit, which comes out next month. Here’s something interesting she said in an interview about writing the poems for the collection:

The old self dies all the time, and it’s quite miraculous. Yet, I asked the man who runs these residencies in Marfa on the way in, what it’s like to be 77. He said, “I feel exactly the same.” How can this be? The tension between what remains and what is discarded in the self was really interesting to me. I always find it odd thinking about how we spend our whole lives learning and all that experience and knowledge accumulates, and then we die. Who designed this thing?

I feel this sense of old selves dying very strongly. I see myself as a series of Saras, not one Sara lasting through time. Sometimes the selves are associated with an age: like Sara age 8. Sometimes with a location: Hickory, North Carolina Sara. Sometimes with a tragic event: Sara whose mom is alive, Sara whose mom is dead. Looking again at Chang’s words I wonder, what have I kept (knowledge, memories, perspectives, understandings) that links all of my Saras together? What have I discarded/forgotten?

march 5/RUN

3.25 miles
ford bridge and back
37 degrees
sleet/rain mix

Today my mom would have turned 78. She died over ten years ago in 2009. When I headed out for my run, I wasn’t thinking about this fact or wishing she were on the run with me. I was thinking about how beautiful the gorge looked in the gloomy gray–so calm and wet and exposed. Even though it was windy and drizzling, I knew I needed to be out there beside it. Then, after I finished, feeling flushed and happy, I remembered that it was her birthday and I began to believe that getting me outside to the gorge, able to see all the way to other side of the river, to smell the smoke from some distant fire, to absorb the brown tree trunks and blue water, to breathe in the coming spring, to feel joy and delight and astonishment at the beauty surrounding me, was a present from her. She taught me to love being outside, to notice and wonder about the natural world, and to make life sacred through honoring daily routines. (I’m not sure I’m saying this quite right, maybe I’ll spend some more time today trying to figure it out?)

I looked back in this log, and I did runs on her birthday in 2017 and 2019–why not 2018? I looked at the entries near the 5th in 2018; it was snowing that day and my right kneecap was sliding around a lot.

I liked today’s run. The path was clear with only a few puddles. The gorge and the river were totally exposed. I could see all the hills and ravines and trails that are usually hidden by leaves or too much snow. I liked glancing down at my jacket and watching as little snowflakes bounced off the shiny black fabric. I could tell it was snowing and raining but I couldn’t feel it. Sleeves covered my arms, a baseball cap my face.

I encountered an annoying pedestrian who refused to move as I ran towards him. As I neared, I noticed he was wearing a surgical mask. Not sure what to say about this; just wanted to make a note of it. How strange and stressful and overwhelming it all is–between terrible presidents and failed parties and hoarding toilet paper and melting glaciers and possible pandemics.

After my run, walking home, I thought about how difficult it is to be (and stay) joyful in the face of so much fear and hate and fucked-up values. It is hard work you must do daily. In my own way, I’m trying to do that work through running by the gorge and writing about it. These thoughts were partly inspired by this twitter thread I read this morning.

Before leaving for my run, I recorded myself reciting 2 slightly different versions of the latest draft of my January Joy poem. Here’s my preferred one. It’s a lot different than the first draft I posted a few days ago. It is still not finished, I think.

January Joy/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

To see the river! 
The open river!
Brown, a thin skin of pale blue

To be alone with the river!
The uncrowded river!
Nothing between us but bare branches

To be as empty as the river!
The bare white river!
A blank page waiting for words 

To be as spacious as the river!
The boundless river!
Stretching, opening, able to hold multitudes

To be nothing next to the river!
The ancient river!
Small and new and insignificant

To be the space above the river
floating over the river
between tree top and sky, illuminated by sun!

The sun!
Glowing up the gray gloom!
Warming my cold face!
Flashing through tall, thin tree trunks!

How wonderful it is to be alive and outside!

O great runs! O clear paths!
O strong legs and adequate knees and functioning feet!

How wonderful it is to be 
moving 
breathing 
feeling free 
on this winter-perfect day,
white and woodsy and blueish gray.

march 4/RUN

5.5 miles
franklin loop
36 degrees

Felt warmer than 36 degrees this morning. So warm that I was surprised to encounter ice on the path near the Welcoming Oaks. Sunny. Not too windy, but windier than I thought it would be.

I yelled at a biker as I crossed 46th, a block from the river. They didn’t stop at the stop sign and weaved around barely missing running into me. I thought I heard them yell something but realized too late it was a voice from the radio they were blasting. I yelled, “you have a stop sign!” I stewed over my outburst for a few minutes, feeling hostile towards everyone I encountered–the other runners approaching me, not wanting to move over and make room for me until the last minute, the clueless walker who didn’t move at all. I worked hard to remember how wonderful it is to be outside by the river with a clear path. Then I encountered another runner, who was thoughtfully on the other side, and smiled.

Every time I started to think about my irritation and regret over yelling, I forced the thoughts out of my head. I looked at the river, open and flowing. I listened to the shuffling grit under my feet. I felt the strength in my legs. Then I saw the shadow of a bird above me and I thought about how I love shadows and the strange feeling of something being there but only in shadow form–like a ghost or a trace or something else. And, as I was finding delight in this I realized that this quick flash was it, my moment for the day. Such a small moment, but enough for me. Why? Not sure if I can put it into words yet.

Some other things I remember:

  • Slowly catching up to and passing a runner just before the franklin bridge. Their gait was slow and relaxed.
  • Thinking about the january joy poem I’m working on and how wonderful poetry is for giving me a reason to spend more time with the river.
  • Dodging and hurtling over slabs of frozen earth on the walking path, probably unearthed by the plows last month.
  • Wondering if any of the cars would drive through a puddle and soak me (they didn’t).
  • Noticing that the Meeker Island dog park was open.
  • Seeing a few people standing at the top of the stairs leading up to the marshall/lake street bridge and wondering why they were there.
  • Hearing water rushing through the sewer on the street.
  • Thinking about how much taller the trestle is on the east side of the river.
  • Running on the bridge and hearing someone approaching from behind. It took them forever to pass! Is that how the runner I passed earlier in the run felt?
  • Hearing my zipper pull banging against my chest, sometimes thinking the sound was another runner approaching (it wasn’t).

As I made the above list, I suddenly remembered another moment of delight, equally as mundane and strange as my bird shadow. Running near Meeker Island on the St. Paul side, everything became brown. No snow, no green grass, no leaves. Just a rich brown, made deeper by the sun. Mostly mulched leaves and bare tree trunks, a little ground. It made me think of my childhood and exploring wooded trails in Virginia. It made me think of driving through the Keweenaw Peninsula in late fall. It made me think of spring coming. It made me feel a deep, warm, glowing joy.

Before I started my run, I recorded myself reciting Heather Christle’s poem, The Spider (posted on jan 6), and Susan Stewart’s, Pine (posted on jan 18). Then I listened to them in my headphones just before I started my run. I didn’t think about Christle’s poem but I do think Stewart and the different ways she played with the word pine, inspired my thoughts about loving poetry and its invitation to spend time experimenting with words and ideas and images .