feb 18/RUN

3.1 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
15 degrees
100% snow-covered

feels like: a path for snowshoes not running shoes, it’s much warmer than it is, spring is in the next room

Decided to wear my yaktrax because the path is still covered with snow and ice and I thought they might help. They did but my feet aren’t used to wearing them so I think I got some blisters. Blinding sun. Bright blue sky. Hard, crusty path. Saw my shadow running ahead of me for a while. Felt strong and sore and ready for the path to be clear again.

layers: green shirt, orange shirt, gray jacket, 2 pairs of running tights, 1 pair of socks, 1 pair of gloves, a buff and my mom’s teal hat with the hassles–the one she wore when she skied. After turning around and heading south, the gloves came off. So did the buff and the sunglasses, which had fogged up. How do people run with sunglasses on without having their sunglasses fog up?

My interest in inside and outside has me thinking about locating myself–what does it mean to be inside? outside? Inside of what? Outside of what? What does it mean when I’m running above the gorge? What does it mean when I can’t see the faces of the people I’m trying to talk with? Can “I” be outside, while I’m inside? So many ways to approach these fundamental questions–I’ve been posing and exploring them for 25 years, first as a student, then a teacher, now a writer/poet.

Speculations about “I”/Toi Derricotte

A certain doubleness, by which I can stand as remote from myself as from another.
— Henry David Thoreau

i

I didn’t choose the word — 
it came pouring out of my throat
like the water inside a drowned man.
I didn’t even push on my stomach.
I just lay there, dead (like he told me)

& “I” came out.
(I’m sorry, Father.
“I” wasn’t my fault.)

ii

(How did “I” feel?)

Felt almost alive
when I’d get in, like the Trojan horse.

I’d sit on the bench
(I didn’t look out of the eyeholes
so I wouldn’t see the carnage).

iii

(Is “I” speaking another language?)

I said, “I” is dangerous.
But at the time I couldn’t tell
which one of us was speaking.

iv

(Why “I”?)

“I” was the closest I could get to the
one I loved (who I believe was
smothered in her playpen).

Perhaps she gave birth
to “I” before she died.

v

I deny “I,”
& the closer
I get, the more
“I” keeps receding.

vi

I found “I”
in the bulrushes
raised by a dirtiness
beyond imagination.

I loved “I” like a stinky bed.

While I hid in a sentence
with a bunch of other words.

vii

(What is “I”?)

A transmission through space?
A dismemberment of the spirit?

More like opening the chest &
throwing the heart out with the gizzards.

viii

(Translation)

Years later “I” came back
wanting to be known.

Like the unspeakable
name of God, I tried

my 2 letters, leaving
the “O” for breath,

like in the Bible,
missing.

ix

I am not the “I”
in my poems. “I”
is the net I try to pull me in with.

x

I try to talk
with “I,” but “I” doesn’t trust
me. “I” says I am
slippery by nature.

xi

I made “I” do
what I wasn’t supposed to do,
what I didn’t want to do — 
defend me,
stand as an example,
stand in for what I was hiding.

I treated “I” as if
“I” wasn’t human.

xii

They say that what I write
belongs to me, that it is my true
experience. They think it validates
my endurance.
But why pretend?
“I” is a kind of terminal survival.

xiii

I didn’t promise
“I” anything & in that way
“I” is the one I was most
true to.

feb 17/RUN

3.2 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
26 degrees
50% loose snow, 35% packed snow, 15% ice

feels like: I might fall or my legs might give out or I might twist my ankle in the loose, uneven snow

The conditions on the path are pretty bad but I still enjoyed being outside, especially having spent my morning in too many stores. Heard tons of crows–probably hanging out in the flats. Saw the sun completely covered by grayish white clouds, making them glow as it tried to break through the gloom. Saw fat tires, several dogs, a few runners and some kids sledding down the hill. The favorite thing I saw happened after I was done running and was walking back. A man and woman were running with their dog. Their gaits were so graceful and rhythmic and effortless. I stopped and watched, mesmerized by how they gently bounced, their feet going up and down on the path. It hardly looked like they were touching the ground at all. So cool.

Here’s my poem for the day:

Spell to Practice Patience/Ann V. DeVilbiss

What burns will burn, what’s left

is brick and the soot marring the brick—

what’s left is the rebuilding.

Become small as the seed, which waits

without speaking. Settle as the cicada does,

humming faintly in its dark bed of earth.

Count the pearls in the heirloom necklace,

each a grain of sand gilded by decades,

made in the murks under an ocean’s weight.

Practice moving your fingers through the air

so gently, you can hold a feather

without it touching your hand.

Stare at ice so long, it becomes the same

as water. Stare at water so long, it is gone.

Stare at the mark made after.

Parse apart the slung syllables of every book

until your tongue is nimble iron, then

teach your tongue the strength in silence.

Bridle your desire, halter and harness until

it stands at attention, taut as the rope

that leads to the bell that waits to be struck.

When you ring, ring loud, exactly when you need to,

bright note pitched as the phoenix hatches

and you burn and burn and burn and burn.

Such a lovely poem. I love the idea of poems as spells. If I had more time and energy right now, I’d like to add a stanza about the patience involved in standing and watching the runners and their graceful gaits.

feb 16/RUN

1.75 miles
downtown loop
11 degrees
100% uneven, slippery, awful snow

feels like: misery, uncertainty (will I fall? injure myself on this uneven snow?), no fun

It’s rare to have a bad run in the winter, but today I did. Not because of the company–I got to run with Scott–but because of the path. So uneven and snow-covered. And it felt colder than 11 degrees. Oh well, no more runs on this loop until more snow is cleared.

The other day, I decided to tag all of the log entries on here that have other people’s poems in them. There are 31. Only 31 for 508 posts. I have been reading lots of poetry, I guess i just haven’t been putting it in my log entries. Not cool. So for the next month (at least), I’d like to put in a different poem for each entry. Or, if not an entire poem, a line or stanza or more. Today’s poem is only 2 lines because this poem is very long.

from Hymn to Life/James Schuyler

The world is filled with music, and in between the music, silence   
And varying the silence all sorts of sounds, natural and man made

I think I’d like to use these lines as an epigraph for a poem or a series of poems about sounds. As I mentioned this poem is long. You can listen to the author reading it and it’s over 30 minutes! I would like to spend more time with it, though. Strange and captivating and clever.

Here’s a few more lines:

Change in everything yet none so great as the changes in   
Oneself, which, short of sickness, go unobserved. Why watch   
Yourself? You know you’re here, and where tomorrow you will probably   
Be.

feb 14/RUN

3.3 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
23 degrees
99% snow-covered

Ran with a playlist today so I didn’t hear anything but Beck, Lizzo, Ke$ha, Queen and Justin Timberlake. The path continues to be covered with snow and is slick. Very tiring on the legs. Not much traction. The wind was blowing in my face as I ran north so I knew it would be at my back running south, which made me smile. It was almost too bright when I started but by halfway, a few clouds had moved in and it was overcast. With quick glances, I noticed: the trail of open water in the Mississippi and the snow-laden branches of the oaks and maples and cottonwood in the floodplain forest. Anything else? I can’t remember.

Yesterday I started reading Linda Barry’s What It Is. I was struck by her mention of inside and outside. “Images are found in by through the action between inside and outside. I’ve been thinking a lot about inside and outside lately. What is inside? What is outside? What is it that separates them? Skin? The self? The body? Layers of clothing? A window? Door? The gorge? The leaves of the trees?

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bt4EshJh-2h/

Inner and Outer Weather

Ever since encountering Edward Hirsch’s great line about inner and outer weather–“Wandering, reading, writing–these three adventures are for me intimately linked. They are all ways of observing both the inner and outer weather, of being carried away, of getting lost and returning.”–I’ve been thinking about weather and the relationship between things like wind or humidity and my thoughts, feelings, writing. I’ve been thinking about making it the focus of another chapbook. The phrase, “inner and outer weather” was originally in a Robert Frost poem.

Tree at My Window

Tree at my window, window tree,
My sash is lowered when night comes on;
But let there never be curtain drawn
Between you and me.

Vague dream-head lifted out of the ground,
And thing next most diffuse to cloud,
Not all your light tongues talking aloud
Could be profound.

But, tree, I have seen you taken and tossed,
And if you have seen me when I slept,
You have seen me when I was taken and swept
And all but lost.

That day she put our heads together,
Fate had her imagination about her,
Your head so much concerned with outer,
Mine with inner, weather.

Robert Frost, West-Running Brook (1928).

feb 13/RUN

4.4 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
9 degrees/feels like 1
100% snow-covered

feels like: chunky, slick, crunchy, hard

I didn’t intend to, but I got to practice some hurdles today. Snow hurdles. I ran before the plows had returned to clear the mini snow walls they made when they plowed the crosswalks. Got to greet the Daily Walker. Saw a few fat tires, some other runners. No dogs or skiers. A few minneapolis parks trucks. My friendly shadow. The sun was too bright. Half the river was open, the other half covered in snow. Spent a lot of time paying attention to the path, trying to avoid ice/snow chunks. At times, the path was difficult to run on–too slick and uneven. Tried to not think about anything. I’m sure I didn’t for much of the run. Spent some time thinking about my form and wondering about my knees. Imagined running the marathon. Thought about my body and how little I noticed it when I was younger and didn’t have any aches or pains or problems. Now I notice it and think about what it is and how it’s me and not me. I wish I didn’t ache or have problems with my knees, but I like having a reason to think about my body–so many interesting questions to explore, so many new things to learn about joints and muscles and chemical processes!

layers: (too many!) green shirt, orange shirt, black jacket with hood, vest, 2 pairs of running tights, 1 pair of socks, a buff, visor, gloves. During the second half of the run, I was dripping sweat.

other layers: dirt, a thin hard sheen of ice, dusting of powdery snow, small clumps of snow, loose 1/2 inch of rough snow (the path); a woodpecker pecking, a truck backing-up, a car with a loose part rattling, a plow approaching, the fabric on my vest and jacket rustling, the quick crunch of my striking feet, a plane rumbling overhead (sound)

feb 11/RUN

4.25 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
22 degrees
100% snow-covered

feels like: a different world, one emptied of others; someone drained the color out of the landscape; running in soft sand

The snow was sloppy and loose. Even so, I smiled a lot and enjoyed my run. Greeted the Daily Walker. Didn’t slip on any of the ice patches, hidden beneath the snow. Felt strong and relaxed and empty of thoughts. After not thinking for a while, I had a thought: How glorious it is to be running and not thinking about anything! Then of course, I had another thought about time, wondering if I was even noticing it pass at all. I ran for 40 minutes but it felt like 5. Heard some disembodied voices coming from some place I couldn’t see. There was so much snow–and it was so white. Hard to distinguish between the sharp crusty snow, the soft slushy snow, the mini piles of snow or the big hard chunks of icy snow. No contrast. My bad vision needs contrast. Can someone with good vision tell the difference between these snows? The sky was all gray. But not gloomy, at least not to me. Just peaceful and quiet and removed from everything. Noticed the river had some open water. Saw a few walkers and bikers. Again, no skiers. Will I ever see another cross country skier while I’m running by the river? With all the snow on the ground and in the trees, I suddenly remembered cross country skiing with my mom up in the upper peninsula of Michigan–in Houghton–on these amazing groomed trails a mile from her house. I always loved going there with her, when she was in her late 50s and I was in my mid 20s. So much snow everywhere. And so many beautiful trees–aspens (I think) and firs. There was one stretch that I especially liked where you skied through a forest. I called it the cathedral of trees. Today I didn’t run through a forest, but I felt that same sort of delight and reverence as I ran by the welcoming oaks, their branches loaded with snow. What a wonderful gift to be able to conjure up that memory and think about a time before my mom was sick.

layers: less layers today. Green shirt, orange shirt, black vest, 2 pairs of running tights, a buff, a visor, 1 pair of socks, 1 pair of gloves. Felt fine. The gloves didn’t come off, but I folded them over. Maybe if I had run for another mile I would have removed them?

feb 9/RUN

1 mile
mississippi river road path, south/north
8 degrees/feels like -5
100% snow-covered

feels like: my face is burning off, the wind is coming from every direction, more snow might be coming, colder than it is

Ran a mile with Scott this afternoon. It felt colder out there this afternoon than it did yesterday. Was it because it was later in the day? No sun? More wind? I’m glad we did it. It felt easy, like we could have run a few more miles. Noticed the river. Running south, I see more of the river than running north. Scott suggested that it’s because further north, there’s more land between the top of the gorge and the riverbank. I agree. Everything was white and gray and cold-looking. A little winter wonderland. Nice to be in it instead of just watching it through the window. Windows I watched it through today/what I watched: the writing desk in my bedroom/the snow-covered branch of the tree in my front yard; living room/snowy back yard; car window/river road, minnehaha parkway, south Minneapolis; the 3 story huge picture windows at Minneapolis Institute of Arts/Stevens Square Park.

feb 8/RUN

3.4 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
0/feels like -15
100% snow-covered

feels like: victory, the inside of an ice cube

Wow, that sky. The brightest blue. Noticed it when I saw a bird flying in my peripheral vision and tried to track it in my central vision. So sunny and white. Thick slabs of snow on the side of the path. The trees coming up from the floodplain forest had snow slabs too. Bare brown branches, outlined in white, holding up the sky. Amazing. It was cold, I guess. Didn’t really bother me. My fingers were warm because I wore a pair of gloves and mittens. My toes were cold for the first mile. I think my butt was cold at some point too. Everything else was warm. Saw one other runner, a few walkers, no bikers, no skiers. Ran under the lake street bridge at the same time as the plows. The first plow hit a bump–such a loud noise. I flinched. Listened to my feet striking the snow. A constant, sharp crunch. Much quicker than when I walk.

layers: 2 pairs of running tights, a green shirt, orange shirt, black jacket, gray jacket, buff, balaclava, hood, sunglasses, 2 pairs of socks, 1 pair of mittens, 1 pair of gloves

Why do I like running in this weather? I like being (almost) the only one on the path. I like testing the limits of how cold is too cold. Mostly, though, I like running in the cold. Being out in the snow. Hearing it crunch. Admiring how it decorates the trees and the forest floor. Breathing in the winter air. I think I also like how there’s no pressure to run fast when it feels like 15 below. Just being outside is an accomplishment.