feb 29/RUN

5 miles
to stone arch bridge
27 degrees
90% clear path

Was able to do a one way run to the Stone Arch bridge today. Felt warm and relaxed and strong. Walked for about 30 seconds on the final big hill. Did a lot of counting to four. Greeted Dave the Daily Walker at the beginning. Encountered several runners, some walkers, and three bikers biking up the franklin hill as I was running down it. Saw my shadow in front of me. Heard some honking geese flying overhead; tried to spot them but couldn’t. Saw some big bird flying high up in the sky and then the shadow of a bird fly over me–was it the same bird? An eagle? A turkey vulture? The river was open–was it brown or blue? I can’t remember. Noticed the ice on the limestone cliffs in the flats. Heard the gushing of the water at the bottom, between Annie Young Meadows and the turnoff for the U. Just before I reached the Washington bridge, the light rail rumbled overhead. Anything else I remember? I was overdressed and very warm. One too many shirts. I’m sure I thought about something but I left it on the trail, probably on the last hill. Ended on the bridge–so breezy. Glad I wasn’t running into that wind the whole time!

What a beautiful poem! I found it through Ours Poetica and Ashley C. Ford’s reading of it.

Unwished For/ Shira Erlichman

I’m standing in my town’s ice cream shop when I notice them: the white couple smiling at me. Blonde woman standing beside a mailbox, waiting patiently for news, husband reassuringly placing a hand on her shoulder. The flyer they’re on is pink: international color of positivity in the face of infertility. They are having a hard time, my couple. That’s why they’re here in my ice cream shop. But they have faith, they’re trying, haven’t quit wanting what they want, in spite of it all.

             Could you be the one?

I lick the crest of my cone slowly, examine their bullet-pointed criteria.

             21 to 42 years

It’s not conscious, but somewhere inside a voice says: “Check.”

             No criminal record.                                       “Check.”

            No history of mental illness.

I say, out loud to the paper, not caring if the teenager behind me churning into an icy chunk with a steady fist hears, I say: “I know this is different, Susan, Jim, but I would never wish Frida to not have been hit by that trolley. I would never look her in the face and say, ‘I choose to unmake you and your paintings and your horroring heart. I rob the woods of your little deer.’”

“It’s different,” Susan says, “you’re not Frida.”

“Plus,” adds Jim, “that was physical. A freak accident. Try another argument.”

What they don’t want of me lives. It sees through my eyes that they would prefer it dead. It knows better than to whimper, or show defeat. What they don’t want of me breathes.

“Eugenicists,” it says

The woman gasps, hand to chest.

It continues: “You want to spare yourselves. That’s not love.”

“We don’t want her to suffer,” they chime in unison. Oh—her? It was decided: A girl. Claire. Or, Vanessa. Or, Claire. She’d have red curls, love olives, sing in her sleep.

“She doesn’t want to suffer either,” I peel the words open slowly, “but she’d rather be alive, than not suffer.”

I am not talking to a piece of paper in Herrell’s Ice Cream Shop. I am not invoking Frida. I am not naming an unloved ghost Claire. I’m licking my wrist of a smudge of strawberry cream, listening to the terrible Top 40 hit blaring overhead. I’m staring at the words No history of mental illness, trying to move my feet, and leave the world where this is taped up, natural as the moon.

Will the Normal Rockwell of our time paint me standing here before it? In my jean cutoffs, finishing what’s left of a soggy cone, drugs in my blood, unwished for by strangers.


Oh this poem and Ford’s reading of it! I love how she imagines and then makes real with her words this painful encounter between the wishers and the unwished for in such a mundane, every day setting. And I love how she conjures up Claire with red curls, who sings herself to sleep and loves olives. Wow.

feb 28/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.5 miles
treadmill, basement

Wanted to watch more of The Ring and to not run too much so I worked out in the basement today. The Ring was still creepy–and fun to watch. Only a few scenes were too dark to see and it didn’t matter that I couldn’t read the words that were probably important; I’ve already seen this movie. Listened to my playlist while I ran. Got into a rhythm and felt like I was barely touching the belt. I’m getting used to running on the treadmill.

I was okay running inside because I had already gone for a walk earlier with Delia the dog. Brr. It felt cold outside. Walked around the neighborhood and finished the podcast I started yesterday with Victoria Chang. I’m looking forward to reading her book Obit. As I listened to her and the host Rachel Zucker discuss their grief over the loss of their mothers, my mind started wandering and I started thinking about my current project. I decided to record my thoughts:

So I’m thinking as I was walking–I’m thinking about how I’d like this workbook to kind of be some of the exercises I’ve already done and practiced (or am practicing) but also the ideas that I’ve put in that I’d like to try. Just make a list of all of those things and not worry so much about whether or not it can be done but whether I’d like to try it. The other thing I was thinking about was with listening to Victoria Chang about Obit and grief and thinking about how my mom’s death has changed me and how this project really comes out of that. Or does it come out of that? Where does it come from? Does it have a clear origin? Wanting to discuss what it’s origins are.

Speaking of Obit, here’s one of Chang’s poems from it. The book is a series of obituaries for all the things that died after her mom died. Such a powerful idea!

OBIT [Memory]/ Victoria Chang

Memory—died August 3, 2015.  The
death was not sudden but slowly over a
decade.  I wonder if, when people die,
they  hear  a  bell.   Or  if  they  taste
something sweet, or if they feel a knife
cutting them in half, dragging through
the flesh like sheet cake.  The caretaker
who witnessed my mother’s death quit. 
She holds the memory and images and
now they are gone.  For the rest of her
life, the memories are hers.  She said
my mother couldn’t breathe, then took
her last breath 20 seconds later.  The
way I have imagined a kiss with many
men I have never kissed.  My memory
of  my  mother’s  death  can’t  be  a
memory but is an imagination, each
time the wind blows, leaves unfurl
a little differently.

I woke up this morning thinking of the line about the knife dragging through flesh like sheet cake. Intense.

feb 27/RUN

3.2 miles
trestle turn around
26 degrees
100% clear!

Windy today. Not too crowded. Sunny. My legs felt weird for a mile or so–like they weren’t quite working. Heavy, plodding. Listened to a New Yorker poetry podcast with a poet I just discovered (Craig Morgan Teicher) and felt like I was in a dream. Barely on the path, floating, cocooned in layers, unable to hear birds or trickling water or striking feet. The river was open. Stopped and admired it by the trestle. Then turned on my new playlist. No Daily Walker but a few others walkers, at least one biker. Felt fast in the second half as I flew down the hill by the lake street bridge. Sprinted up the final hill. Don’t remember much from the run. What a wonderful thing it is to lose myself for 30 minutes!

Before I ran, I had a great morning. Started by listening to part of an episode with Victoria Change on Commonplace. At one point, they discuss their shifts in writing in first and third person which got me thinking about my own choice, in my latest project, to write in second person. Why am I using you? Who is you? Found some very interesting essays on second person online: Stuck on You: an ode the second person and the intimacy of writing in the second person in a bar. Then I started thinking about how Mary Oliver uses you, like in Wild Geese (You do not have to be good/you do not have to walk on your knees…). Finally I thought about who the I and the You are in my project. One answer: I = Teacher self and You = Student Self.

After all of that excellent thinking, I checked out twitter and found these lines from the poem Tomorrow and Tomorrow Again/Craig Morgan Teicher:

One cannot lock eyes with a bird,
its eyes vacant as ball bearings, but
mustn’t there be some recognition
in everything?

eyes vacant as black ball bearings? What a great line that reminds me of my own about not being able to see people’s pupils: “soul less black balls”. I looked Teicher up and found his poem, “Eye Contact”. I wondered, does he have macular degeneration or some other vision problem? Couldn’t find anything, but he sure does like referencing blindness. His poetry collection from 2012 is titled, To Keep Love Blurry and check out the titles he gave his NPR end of the year poetry reviews: “Keeping the Dark at Bay” and “In the Dark, The Eye Begins to See.” Hmm…I need to study his writing more. At this point, early on, I can’t decide what he’s doing with these references to blindness–is it signaling his own experiences/preoccupations with blindness or is it serving as metaphor, where blind = dark = bad = shame = grief = loss = death?

Tomorrow and Tomorrow Again/ Craig Morgan Teicher

Of course I don’t know what
happens to us: if we survive in the
hands of love; if Cal, if Simone
and all the trembling answers
those questions entail; whether
by time or by disease or by
an atom bomb right in the eye. Is it
possible death could be thrilling
and fun? And after could there be
something somewhere and what
will we do if we see each other
there? Will the same songs stay stuck
in our heads? Will medicine
succeed in making life so long
we will beg for medicine to end it?
One cannot lock eyes with a bird,
its eyes vacant as ball bearings, but
mustn’t there be some recognition
in everything? Some fury, some
questioning? If one phrase could echo
throughout eternity, would the ear
on the other side return
a word? But what am I asking?
Will I ever see a whale, and will his size
compared to mine be a true
form of knowledge? Loneliness
has depths writing fails to fathom.
I could be clearer, say more, but
it wouldn’t mean as much. Mother
will I ever find you again? Is fear
of spiders fair? Is a power
above minding the scales, be it
science or gods or the weather,
and can they be tipped toward
balance from here? Is beauty more
than another form of pleasure?
What, which, when, how is better?

Eye Contact/ Craig Morgan Teicher

As if bees are known for their pride.
But what’s so great about horses? They’re stuck 
on the earth except when they jump,

but even then they’re not bees.
But is there anything we value so highly 
as streetlights, which, unlike bees,

watch over us with their swan-like
necks and open their eyes at the right time 
every night? The answer is lonely

and whoever among us is brave enough 
to find it will come home to a family 
that won’t even look us in the eyes.


2

But what’s so great about eye contact? 
As if a horse knows a newspaper 
when he sees it. Streetlights don’t live

in hives; they’re not more afraid
of us than we are, fortified by stingers and swarms. 
Bees don’t brighten the alleyways

in which we commit our most heinous crimes 
to keep things moving and fill 
the papers with news. Why don’t we have

a holiday to recognize the alleyways?
The answer is lonely and whoever
among us is brave will have nowhere to jump.


3

Why don’t we sing a song that makes 
the bees proud? What’s so great 
about desolate meadows? The answer

is lonely. Why don’t we come home 
and look at our family? Why don’t we 
designate an hour to brag about news?

What’s so great about the way the papers 
blow through alleyways in the evening 
like deflated rats? As if pride could

brighten the meadows at night. Whoever 
among us is brave enough to forgive
a family gets to make eyes with a lonely horse.


4

As if the answer is flowers. As if 
we could gather streetlights
in a bouquet from the alleyways

and brighten family after 
beekeeping family. But what’s so 
great about seeing the truth?

Beneath every meadow is the earth’s 
molten core, red and hot as an evil eye. 
Why don’t we blow through the streets

at night? The answer is lonely, even 
if a horse knows the way home. 
What’s so great about being brave?


freeze-thaw, a different perspective

added in a few hours after I first posted this entry: Scrolling through my twitter feed, I encountered this very helpful, perspective-shifting idea from Paul Huttner on MPR Weather:

Temperatures over the next week look perfect for gradually reducing snowpack across the Upper Midwest. Days above the thawing point will melt snow. Nights below freezing mean that snowmelt will gradually be released into area rivers.

This gradual release helps mitigate the early-spring threat of flooding. Wow! All this time, I’ve been cranking about how much I hate these freeze-thaw cycles. I’m glad to read that they’re helpful. I still might not like how dangerous they make the path, but now I can get over myself and think about how they help the river. What a nice opportunity to shift my perspective. And, as a bonus: it will be warmer during the day next week!

feb 26/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.5 miles
treadmill, basement

Decided to bike and run in the basement today even though it wasn’t too cold (20 degrees) and the path was clear. Always trying to make sure I’m not running too much. Watched The Ring while I was biking. I think this movie, which is about 17 years old, holds up. Creepy. Extra creepy when you watch it on an iPad with headphones in a dark unfinished basement. Listened to my new (Sara 2020) playlist while I ran: Nur-d, Beck, Prince. Nice combination! At one point, felt like I was in a trance, my feet barely touching the moving floor.

Right now I’m reading Georgina Kleege’s Sight Unseen about macular degeneration and being blind and the over privileging of vision. She has 3 chapters on the phenomenology of blindness, which she describes as “attempts to capture in words the visual experience of someone with severely impaired sight.” So helpful! I don’t have the exact same thing that she does (and not as severe…yet), but it is very similar: damaged macula, loss of central vision, still intact peripheral vision. In the chapter, “the mind’s eye,” she writes about the blind spot her damaged macula creates in the center of her visual field. She describes how she can, with effort, see it when she stares at a blank wall.

I decided to try finding my blind spot. I stood about a foot away from a bare white door and stared into the center of it. After a few minutes, a darkish (dark gray?) circle–or was it an oval?–appeared in front of me. In its center was another circle which was white. This inner circle was a little less than a quarter the size of the darker circle. This darker circle is my blind spot; the much smaller inner circle is what is left of my combined (left and right eyes) central vision. Pretty wild.

Found this great PBS video with Kleege.

feb 25/RUN

3.3 miles
ford bridge turn around
40 degrees

(Not sure about my dictation project. I don’t like doing the dictation inside and I’m already home. Maybe I should try it when it’s warmer outside?)

Another cycle of melting in the afternoon, re-freezing at night, frozen in the morning, melting in the afternoon. This sort of ice, just barely frozen, is the slickest and most dangerous. So I waited to run until after noon, when it had melted–12:13, to be exact (according to my apple watch). Had the wind at my back heading south, giving me a nice push. Kept thinking about how the wind would be in my face when I turned around. And it was, which made it harder. Noticed several new dips and cracks and holes in the path near 38th street. All the freezing and melting and re-freezing is hard on the asphalt. There was a deep puddle on the double-bridge, right where it bottoms out. Luckily I could climb on some snow to avoid it. Encountered a few walkers on the path. Saw an adult and a kid sitting on a bench, surrounded by snow. Heard, and briefly saw (I think) a runner below me on the Winchell trail. Noticed the river, open and flowing. The path right by the Ford bridge was terrible, almost completely covered in a thin, slick sheet of ice. When I turned around, I put in some headphones and listened to a new playlist. Heard, “Eye of the Tiger,” “Bad Guy,” “Juice,” “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution,” and “Let’s Go Crazy.”

Anything else I remember? I don’t remember hearing water gushing out of the sewer or kids at the school playground or music coming from a car or people talking loudly or geese honking or dogs barking. And I don’t remember having any deep thoughts or revelations. Did I?

Oh my god, this poem!

I want to read this book, and had requested it from the library, but I was unable to pick it up in time. I should request it again. I’m very glad that Our Poetica did a video of the text revealing itself as Diana Khoi Nguyen read it. So powerful!

Here’s another poem I found and copied into my green notebook on May 1st, 2019:

A Skull/ Dana Levin

is like a house
          with a brain inside. Another place
where eating
          and thinking
                     tango and spar—

At night
           you lean out, releasing
thought balloons.
           On the roof
                      someone stands ready

                      with a pin—

I’d like to put this poem and the idea of the skull as a house beside the two other poems with houses that I posted on feb 22.

feb 24/RUN

5.5 miles
franklin hill turn around
39 degrees
5% slick ice covered

Waited a little longer to go out running this morning. Needed to let the thin sheets of ice covering the puddles melt. A nice day for a run! Not too much wind, not too many people. Sun. Clear paths. I got my layers right today: 1 shirt, 1 vest, 1 pair of running tights, 1 headband, 1 pair of gloves, 1 pair of socks. It was warm enough today to smell the earth thawing–why does it smell like dog poop? I think I like the smell of death in the fall–the musty, mulching leaves–over the smell of life in the almost spring.

David Lee Roth is in town with KISS for a concert tonight. Scott read somewhere that he always brings his bike to Minneapolis and loves biking along the river. Today, I kept looking for him, hoping he’d bike by. No luck. Bummer.

Glanced down at the river a few times. Enjoyed hearing the sibilant sounds of my striking feet on the grit covered path. Ran hard up the hill, then stopped to a walk for a few minutes when I reached the bridge. Thought about the body that was found just north of this bridge early yesterday morning. Managed to mostly avoid the secret slippery spots where the water on the path was still frozen. Also managed to avoid getting soaked by cars rushing through big puddles on the road.

With less than a mile left, I had an idea about my current project and decided, even though I was running well, enjoying going faster, to stop and record my thoughts.

Uh oh.

Just tried to find and transcribe my voice memo, but it wasn’t there. I must have hit the wrong button when I was trying to record it. Here’s what I remember. For a few minutes before stopping, I was chanting. How to be/periphery, How to be/periphery. Then I realized: I need a (big) project to focus on, a project that involves structure and daily practice. A concrete project. This is the project I think I’m working on–and in many ways, it is what I’m working on–but, I’m also working on something else, off to the side, at the periphery, which is the real work I need/want to do. What a bummer. I feel like I can’t remember a key to my thought that helped it make sense. It connects with the article I read about how to be a procrastinator a few years ago, and with the idea of not approaching projects/thoughts/goals head on, but slant or sideways or sneakily (tricking your brain). Argh! I wish I hadn’t screwed up the recording.

My Weather/ Jane Hirshfield

Wakeful, sleepy, hungry, anxious,
restless, stunned, relieved.

Does a tree also?
A mountain?

A cup holds 
sugar, flour, three large rabbit-breaths of air.

I hold these.

What do I hold? Ever since I encountered the phrase, “inner and outer weather” (from a Frost poem about a tree at the window, via Edward Hirsch), I have been thinking about weather as metaphor for one’s mood/emotions/feelings. Love this poem and how it plays with this idea. And I love imagining how much air is 3 large rabbit-breaths worth. How big is this rabbit? And, in general, how big are rabbit breaths?

feb 23/RUN

3.1 miles
locks and dam #1 turn around
45 degrees
50% ice and puddle covered

note: no dictation today. Just as I started, Delia the dog ran in, barking and making lots of noise, which was fine because I wasn’t really feeling it anyway.

Today it was sunny and warm and sloppy and not as much fun. I do not regret going out for this run–well maybe my wet socks and shoes do!–but I would rank these conditions as some of the worst. Overcrowded paths, narrow strips of dry pavement in-between little lakes of cold, sometimes icy water. Very slick. Instead of feeling open and joyful and generous to everyone I encountered, I felt hostile and threatened–would they push me off into a puddle or a slick spot? I do not like feeling this way and I do not want to give too much space to my grumpy thoughts. So I won’t. Instead, here’s something very cool that I saw on my run today:

The river was still mostly white but at one spot, I think it was between 38th and 42nd somewhere, I noticed a path of open water winding across from the minneapolis to the st. paul side. It reminded me of a slithering snake. I love the strange patterns that open water makes when the ice cracks open. And I love the contrast between the frozen white and the darker water–black on cloudy days, brown on sunny ones.

Another thing I saw today that I liked: my shadow! She ran in front of me on my way back from the locks and dam.

I liked wearing less layers: only one pair of running tights, one neon yellow shirt, one vest.

I liked the squish squish squish my shoes made after I ran straight through the deep puddle on the double bridge.

I liked talking to the couple after my run who asked me how I could run on the ice. I’ve been asked this several times and I always say: “It’s easier to run on it then to walk on it. It’s when I stop running that I slip!”


Yesterday, I posted May Parton’s poem, The Work of Happiness. In her first stanza, she writes:

But is creation itself like the growth of a tree.
No one has seen it happen, but inside the bark
Another circle is growing in the expanding ring.

Here are a few things that her tree ring/circle made me think about:

1

Reflecting on how she always feels like she’s 11, even though she’s 64, Sandra Cisneros tells Krista Tippett:

You know how you look at a tree, and there are some rings that had a lot of rain, and it gets really bigger, and they shrink? Well, we can think about our own years and what defined us or what happened to us in those years.

2

In her poem, “Can You Imagine?”, Mary Oliver imagines a tree’s irritation with the slow, soundless, boring passing of time represented in the thickening of the rings:

Can You Imagine?/ Mary Oliver

For example, what the trees do
Not only in lightening storms
or in the watery dark of a summer night
or the white nets of winter
but now, and now, and now–whenever
we’re not looking. Surely you can’t imagine
they just stand there, looking like they look
when we’re looking; surely you can’t imagine
they don’t dance, from the root up, wishing
to travel a little, not cramped so much as wanting
a better view, or more sun, or just as avidly
more shade—surely you can’t imagine they just
stand there loving every
minute of it, the birds or the emptiness, the dark rings
of the years slowly and without a sound
thickening, and nothing different unless the wind,
and then only in it’s own mood, comes
to visit, surely you can’t imagine
patience, and happiness, like that.

3

Did you know the modern science of tree-ring study is called dendrochronology? I didn’t, until I read this essay, Shared Dendrochronologies: Andrew Schelling on poetry, translation, & the aliveness of wor(l)ds.

4

And that the original dendrochronologist, William E. Douglass, created it to track how trees record climate change through their rings?

What a wonderful log entry this is! Through the process of writing it, I feel better–joyful and delighted with my run today.

feb 22/RUN

5 miles
franklin hill turn around
32 degrees
20% snow and ice covered

Recorded my self on the voice memo app today a few hours after my run.

Log, 2/22/20

Here is the transcript:

Today I ran 5 miles. It was sunny and above freezing. It felt warm and there were puddles and barely ice patches on the path. I saw my shadow in front of me as I was running towards Franklin. I ran down the Franklin hill and then turned around and ran up until I got to the bridge. Then I stopped and walked for a couple of minutes. I encountered a lot of runners. I was able to greet Dave the Daily Walker. He was in short sleeves and no coat–of course. I saw some fat tires and a vee of geese at some point. The sky was blue. I didn’t notice any clouds. Around the time I started, the river all looked white to me but by the time I got to the Franklin bridge it was brown and open. I heard some kids down by the ravine, probably playing in the ice cave. I slipped several times on the ice but didn’t fall. I heard some crunching. I saw some salt stains on the path. I didn’t think about much. I remember counting to four. I remember feeling strong and relaxed and thinking I wasn’t going that fast, which was good, I was trying to go slow. And I don’t remember that much else about the run. I sprinted up the final hill and it was hard. But I thought that if I sprinted up this hill and I could do this and keep going when it was hard, that when I’m in a race, when I’m getting to the very end, if I can keep going and even pick it up and know that I will survive. Did I think about anything else? I don’t remember smelling much. I think there were a lot of cars. There were groups of walkers, usually in pairs, and sometimes that was frustrating to try and navigate that. I didn’t hear a train. I didn’t do any triple berry chants. I think I heard a woodpecker and I think I saw a bird up in the sky but I’m not sure. I don’t remember looking down to my favorite part of the path, looking down to the floodplain forest. I think that’s all I remember. It was a good run.

It is definitely harder to speak than to write. It feels like my details are a bit boring and I’m having trouble remembering quickly as I try to speak without out umms or ands. Will this get better, or is this a bad approach to remembering the details of my run? I’ll try it a few more times before I decide.

One other think I forgot to mention in my recording was all the runners I encountered running the Franklin hill. At least 5 or 6 seemed to doing hill work–running up it until reaching the bridge, then turning around and running back down it again. I would like to try this sometime. Maybe a slow, easy run to the hill, then a few times running up and down it–a goal for spring.

The Work of Happiness/ May Sarton

I thought of happiness, how it is woven
Out of the silence in the empty house each day
And how it is not sudden and it is not given
But is creation itself like the growth of a tree.
No one has seen it happen, but inside the bark
Another circle is growing in the expanding ring.
No one has heard the root go deeper in the dark,
But the tree is lifted by this inward work
And its plumes shine, and its leaves are glittering.

So happiness is woven out of the peace of hours
And strikes its roots deep in the house alone:
The old chest in the corner, cool waxed floors,
White curtains softly and continually blown
As the free air moves quietly about the room;
A shelf of books, a table, and the white-washed wall—
These are the dear familiar gods of home,
And here the work of faith can best be done,
The growing tree is green and musical.

For what is happiness but growth in peace,
The timeless sense of time when furniture
Has stood a life’s span in a single place,
And as the air moves, so the old dreams stir
The shining leaves of present happiness?
No one has heard thought or listened to a mind,
But where people have lived in inwardness
The air is charged with blessing and does bless;
Windows look out on mountains and the walls are kind.

Something about the idea of inwardness and the stable, single place of the thinking/deepening self as a house reminded me of another poem (Ash/ Tracy K. Smith) I heard last year on a podcast. These are very different poems, but I’d like to put them beside each other and think about them for a while.

Ash/ Tracy K. Smith

Strange house we must keep and fill.

House that eats and pleads and kills.

House on legs. House on fire. House infested

With desire. Haunted house. Lonely house.

House of trick and suck and shrug.

Give-it-to-me house. I-need-you-baby house.

House whose rooms are pooled with blood.

House with hands. House of guilt. House

That other houses built. House of lies

And pride and bone. House afraid to be alone.

House like an engine that churns and stalls.

House with skin and hair for walls.

House the seasons singe and douse.

House that believes it is not a house.

I found the podcast with Smith’s poem–On Being with Krista Tippett–and read the transcript where Smith talks about the poem and how her understanding of it has been transformed by how others have read it:

I wrote that poem thinking about the body, thinking about what it means to be alive in this human form and how strange it is that it’s temporary, that we are not just the body, but something else. That’s the way I’ve read it the first many times that I read it, or, at least, what I heard myself saying. But there’s a lot of ambiguity in the poem, and so people have questions about it. Someone has told me it feels like a poem that, more than just being in the body, is about being a woman and that sense of vulnerability and also sheltering something. Then, because a lot of these poems in this book are thinking about nationhood and American history, I was really excited to hear it described as a poem that is about the country as a house, and taking us back even to Abraham Lincoln in the sense of “a house divided against itself.” I love that active readers can give you a good enough argument to re-hear and see what you’ve made yourself.

So many ways to think about the inner, inwardness, the self, the body.

feb 21/BIKERUN

bike: 12 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 2.5 miles
treadmill, basement

I’m recording this while I’m on the treadmill at the end of my workout down in the basement. I biked for about 12 minutes and then I ran 2 1/2 miles. It was warmer outside today but I couldn’t run any earlier and by the time I could it was starting to get cold and windy and there were lots of puddles on the ground so I decided to stay inside and do the treadmill in the basement. While I was biking I listened to Here I Am by Air Supply which really made me think of my sister Marji. I imagined singing it with her, like when we were kids or when we got really drunk at a minor league baseball game in Des Moines when I was 20. And it made me think of my best friend from high school, Jenny, and how we memorized the lyrics to Air Supply on the bus on some band trip. Then I got on the treadmill and I started listening to a random playlist and Carolina on my mind by James Taylor came on and it reminded me of living in North Carolina. I’m not sure if this actually happened or not but I have this memory of driving from the UP to North Carolina and listening to this song. I’m sure that didn’t happen but I have a really strong connection with it as a memory. Not much else happened. It was kind of a boring/not creative run but it felt really good to get moving fast.

note: I felt a lot more comfortable–and had a lot less errors/extra words–in my dictation recording today. Was it because I was moving? Maybe I should try to always do these while walking? I’m thinking of switching to the voice memo app because I would like a recording of my voice too. It will be a little more tedious having to transcribe myself but it also might be a good way to spend more time with my words and thoughts.

I’m thinking about poetry exercises and the body. Found a pdf of CAConrad’s (Some)tic poetry exercises. I first heard about CAConrad on a podcast last year: Poetry Ritual

CAConrad’s (SOMA)TIC POETRY EXERCISES

5.) Go to a bookstore. Go to the History Section. Close your eyes and randomly choose a book. Turn to page 108. Read that page and pull one word you like from it. Go to the Romance Section, repeat process. Then go to these other 7 sections and repeat process: Gardening, Religion, Biography, Children’s, Cookbooks, Law, Horror. After you’ve collected these 9 words sit in the store, even if you must sit on the floor, then write a poem which includes these 9 words. This poem must be immediate, and it must be written in the store where the 9 words were found on page 108 of 9 different books. I hope you show me your poem one day. Thank you ahead of time.

feb 20/RUN

4.2 miles
minnehaha falls and back
5 degrees/ feels like -5
10% snow and ice covered

Another dictation entry. I tried to more deliberate in my speaking today, but it’s still harder to speak these then to write them.

Ran south towards the Falls this morning. It is very cold. The path is clear, although there was some ice that was slippery. I paid attention to my favorite spot right after the Mesa curves down and opens up into the river. I noticed that the path was stained with salt. The river was mostly frozen over with a few gaps of open water. I ran towards the falls thinking that they would be completely frozen over by now but when I got to the park, I heard some water rushing and when I reach the falls, I noticed a bit of water falling over the edge. There were a few people there.

I don’t think I saw any other runners. The first person I encountered on my run was somebody on a fat tire and I remember thinking how cold they must be.

When I got to the Falls I stopped for a minute to take off my hood and to look at the water. Then I started again. I noticed as I was running that my shadow was right in front of me. So clear and sharp and fully present! Then I had a revelation: my shadow is who is writing my workbook. My shadow is talking to me and giving me advice on what to do. In my exercises, my shadow is the implied I and I am the you she’s talking to. Very exciting to figure this out.

On the run back, I was hot and sweating. I noticed how beautiful the ravine near the double bridge is at this time of year when all the leaves are off the trees and you can really see everything.

After I was done and had walked home, I took a recording right outside my front door of the birds. Speaking of birds, about 3 miles into my run, heading north, I heard a mourning dove crying out, sounding like the one in this recording:

Discovered this wonderful essay over at Poetry Foundation by Edward Hirsch on poetic language. Here are a few of my favorite bits:

Poetry charts the changes in language, but it never merely reproduces or recapitulates what it finds. The lyric poem defamiliarizes words, it wrenches them from familiar or habitual contexts, it puts a spell on them. 

As the eighteenth-century English poet Christopher Smart put it, freely translating from Horace’s Art of Poetry:

It is exceedingly well
To give a common word the spell
To greet you as intirely new.

The lyric poem separates and uproots words from the daily flux and flow of living speech but it also delivers them back—spelled, changed, charmed—to the domain of other people

feb 19/RUN

4.2 miles
trestle turn around plus extra
5° feels like 4 below
50% snow and ice covered

A only slightly edited transcript of my notes about the run, dictated into my notes app on my phone.

A lot of slippery spots. Very sunny this morning. It felt really cold. About a mile in greeted Dave the daily walker. Almost yelled out to him, “it’s cold today!” He is hard-core–no coat again but some gloves. Running right before I got to the trestle I heard a beep beep beep beep beep beep beep sound. I wondered if it was the train and then after I crossed under the trestle and was still heading towards downtown, I heard the rumbling of a train. It lasted a long time. I thought about turning around and running back so I could see the train but I decided against it because I wanted to keep going north. I listened to the rumble and I couldn’t quite tell if it was coming from Saint Paul over to Minneapolis or from Minneapolis over to Saint Paul. I experimented with chanting in threes when I turned around and headed south again. Uppercut/ bowling ball/ sweaty brow Then I started chanting in triple berries: raspberry/ blueberry/ red berry/ green berry pink berry/ orange berry/ blueberry/ raspberry/ gooseberry/ mulberry I chanted them over and over again to try and keep a steady rhythm. I saw a couple other runners, a few walkers. I thought I heard some kids yelling in the gorge but then I realized it was geese honking.

thoughts about dictating running notes

  • Not sure if I like the notes app for this. It was a bit awkward and I think (at least I hope) it added in some random words.
  • I write much better than I speak.
  • I need to stop feeling so self conscious doing this. I also need to be more deliberate and thoughtful in what I say.
  • I still have to add in periods and capitals, which is irritating.
  • This is a good exercise for me. I need to get used to doing something that someday might be necessary.

The Blink Reflex/ Rick Barot

I have this notion that if you live long enough,
there are three or four great stories that you will have in your life.

A story of a journey or a transformation.
A story of love, which will likely mean the loss of love, a story

of loss. And a story of spiritual illumination,
which, for many, will probably be the moment of death itself,

the story untellable, its beginning and middle
and end collapsing with its teller into a disappearing conclusion.

I have believed long enough in my notion
to know that it is a romantic notion, that it erodes each time

I realize that the shard and not the whole
comprises a life, the image and not the narrative. Otherwise,

there’s no reason why all I remember of the airplane
I took as a child from one country to another

is the moist towelette packet we were given with our meal,
the wonder and absurdity of it. Or that, in love,

high in a tree in the dark, and high, he and I sat in the rain-damp
branches and ate 7-Eleven donuts. Or this, this piece

of a story that isn’t even mine, that isn’t even a story
but a glance of an experience, of the friend who held the stray

dog after it was struck by a car. Not knowing whether the dog
was dead, my friend called a friend

who worked for a vet. Poke the dog in the eye, this friend said.
Because if the animal no longer has a blink reflex,

it probably means the animal is dead. Decades after
college, when you could do such a thing, I typed his name

into a search engine to find out what became of the 18-year-old
boy from the tree. Like dozens of old keys

in a drawer, so many of the wrong people with the right name.
The child dead from leukemia, with a school gym

named for him. The wrestler who had a perfectly square jaw,
like a cartoon police detective in a fedora.

When I arrived at a page that was certainly
about him, I no longer knew the face, but I recognized the life

that he had had. He had transferred to
another college, gone to film school, and become a producer

of TV documentaries. A film about fishermen, the harsh fishing
season in Alaska. A film about Abraham Lincoln

and a film about the last days of Adolf Hitler.
A film about the Sherpas who go up and down the Himalayas.

What a beautiful poem. I love the title and the way the stories/fragments are woven together and the sweet, soft rhyme of “and high, he and I” and the playing with the romantic notion that we each only have 3 or 4 great stories.

feb 18/BIKE

bike: 35 minutes
bike stand, basement

Snowed 2 super slippery inches last night. That, combined with my slightly sore ankle, meant I needed to bike in the basement today. No sun. No gorge. No birds chirping, although I can hear them outside of my window. Also, no wind. No frozen fingers. No falling on slick ice. Finished the last 20 minutes of the final episode of Cheer. Time to find another show.

Notes on Un-Apology/ Erin Slaughter

once I owned a wooden door
& a field of ice & I was big-hearted, gentle, prefaced
my friends’ names with sweet & kissed them
on the cheeks. once a man called me brilliant & all I wanted
was to be his little wife. for him to trap me
in a wooden home, to zip me up pretty, kiss
me in the kitchen while mushrooms screamed & withered
on the stove. I am beginning to think of the color green
as a last chance that has already passed & I’m sorry
to be so full of raining. but if I could carve a notch
into the lampposts of this city for every person who said home
like it was a promise. we are fools & monsters, all of us, cobweb-headed
& waiting for rupture. once I met a man & his words
unearthed a softness that only comes from loam, from tilling
gently at a gravesite. sometimes we talk about weather
& sometimes we talk about feelings. sometimes
I worry I’m not looking for love, that I’m looking
for a religion to have sex with. in my mouth lives a bitterness
that could draw blood, & I’m sorry but two years I searched
for the river & when I finally found it, it was dead with its palms up.
I dipped my hands in its broken jaw & called it sister. I haven’t spoken
to my sister in two years, a nurse in Texas
with a daughter & a cruelty that jingles
like silver on a charm bracelet. I want to tell you starfish, I want
to tell you dark orchids climbing the windowpane.
the moon would drown trying to drink up
all the things I want. I’m sorry you never learned
the recipe to my mornings. I still think of you when the sky shudders
& floorboards hush themselves to listen.

Wow. I remember reading this poem a year ago and really liking the last line: “& floorboards hush themselves to listen.” Why didn’t I post it? Reading it again a year later, I love it even more. “sometimes we talk about weather & sometimes we talk about feelings.” I think I want to make that a title for a poem. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about inner and outer weather and the dis/connections between the weather I’m running in and my mood.

feb 17/RUN

4 miles
trestle turn around
33°
85% clear 15% ice covered

Note: Today, I’m trying something new. Usually I type up these log entries directly into wordpress. Today I tried dictating the entry into my notes app, then editing it slightly. It was difficult to speak my thoughts, partly because I felt self-conscious with other people in the house and partly because I find it easier to write my thoughts. But I need to learn how to do this because looking at a computer screen is getting more difficult and more tiring on my eyes. Maybe I’ll always be able to use the computer and see the letters, but I’d like to experiment with different ways to speak and write and think that don’t rely on vision. I was thinking of trying this dictation method for a month–maybe even trying to dictate the notes directly after my run, at the gorge.

This entry was slightly edited, with extra words and redundant phrases taken out.

The wind was coming from the south which meant that as I was running north it was at my back. Much easier running towards the trestle. I knew that it would be hard on the way back and it was. It was slightly sunny but not super sunny and at one point I saw my shadow. Not clear like it usually was; it looked more like a ghost, faint. I heard some kids down in the gorge. Probably by the ravine, maybe hiking around the exposed sewer pipe or the ice cave that is created in the winter by the seeps and the dripping water. Felt fast running north. I didn’t feel the wind at my back but knew that it was easier. Encountered a few runners, some walkers. One walker, an older white man, wore a fluorescent yellow vest. I saw him twice. I heard the grit under my feet. I don’t think I heard any geese but I did hear some crows cawing as I started. The river was partly frozen over but mostly open and it looked beautiful and still and desolate. The run back was difficult, the wind right in my face. I sprinted up the final hill and felt very tired and hot and sweaty. Overdressed. I chanted triplets. I started with Sycamore Cottonwood one lone Oak but that didn’t do it for me so then I chanted Gooseberry Mulberry raspberry raspberry mulberry goose berry raspberry blueberry blackberry raspberry blueberry blackberry and that helped me keep a steady pace.

lateral malleolus = all a sell out realm

On Saturday, I slightly rolled my ankle as I was moving down from the walking to the biking path. It is a little sore, but not painful. I am pretty sure it will be fine but I’ve been reading up on the ankle and foot to prepare myself. New fact/word: the bony knob on the outside of your ankle is called the medial malleolus. The knob on the inside is called the lateral malleolus. Tried turning lateral malleolus into an anagram. The first phrase that I could come up with that sort of made sense: All a sell out realm

feb 16/RUN

3.35 miles
river road, south/north
19 degrees/feels like 11
15% ice-covered

Ahhhhhh!! Winter running! Not too cold but cold enough to be able to breathe in fresh, cold, crisp air. A mostly clear path. Not too much wind. Not too many people. Everything quiet, still. Saw at least three people walking their dogs down on the Winchell trail. Encountered a fat tire biking alongside a runner. A few pairs of walkers. One or two other runners. Don’t remember hearing any birds cawing or chirping or honking. Not much traffic noise. Thought I heard some sloshing or dripping water at one point. Marveled at my new favorite view just past the oak savanna. One problem: I don’t remember there being so many bare trunks here between me and the river. Am I remembering the wrong spot? I love how the flat hill at the savanna–we call it the mesa–curves down to reveal the river.

triple berry chants

Did some triplet chants again: all berries. Without thinking, briefly chanted blueberry/ blackberry/ red berry. Then wondered why a raspberry is called a raspberry and not a red berry and why blueberries are called blueberries and not something else. Found a buzzfeed article that was a little helpful: The Delicious Origins of Summer Fruit Names

Here’s what is written about raspberries:

Like the strawberry, the raspberry isn’t a true berry in the biological sense of the word. And also like the word strawberry, we don’t know what its rasp- is about.

The word raspberry is found relatively late in English, attested in the early 1600s. An earlier form, raspis-berry, might give clues to its origins. In Middle English, raspise was a sweet, pink wine, possibly from the Anglo-Latin vinum raspeys. But this raspeys remains unexplained. Suggestions include the French rasper, “to scrape,” referring to the fruit’s rough appearance, and an Old Walloon word for “thicket.”

The listicle also mentions gooseberries and mulberries. And further down, it happens to mention the tree, sycamore. Another satisfying triplet. Maybe I’ll chant: gooseberry/raspberry/mulberry and then some trees: sycamore/cottonwood/? Need to think more about a third triplet tree.

to float, to haunt

At some point, thought about the article I read earlier this morning about the biomechanics of the run and the “double float” phase, which is when both feet are off of the ground. I usually think of this as flying but is also cool to think of it as a floating. What else floats: clouds, hot air balloons, ghosts, bodies in water, buoys, bubbles. I like the idea of being a ghost, floating and haunting the trail that I’ve traveled so many times in the last five years. Haunt is such a wonderfully rich word: to frequent, visit often; to continually seek the company of; to trouble; to reappear continually in; to visit or inhabit as a ghost; to stay around or persist, to linger; a place habitually frequented

feb 15/RUN

4 miles
river road, north/south
32 degrees
99% clear path

I forgot to save my log entry before clicking out of it and lost it. Bummer. Here’s the abbreviated version: Greeted Dave the Daily Walker on the run and he called out, “What a beautiful day!” Yes, it is. Warmer. Some sun. Clear path. Strong legs. A mostly frozen river. Wind in my face heading north, wind at my back returning south. Final sprint up the hill. Encountered dogs, walkers, runners, fat tires. Don’t remember any smells or sharp sounds. Felt very warm with a flushed cheeks and a sweaty forehead.

feb 14/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.25 miles
treadmill, basement

Slightly warmer. Only felt like -26, not -29. But the wind was blowing. So blustery! Tomorrow it should be much warmer. In the 20s, I think. Decided to workout in the basement again. Watched almost all of the final episode of Cheer. I can’t believe I made it to the end without the ending being spoiled. I can’t imagine competing under such pressure. I have never enjoyed the intensity of performing when it counts or the high you might get from putting yourself under such pressure and then achieving greatness. Is this a bad thing? Do I fail to push myself enough? Are there other ways to understand how we might push and stretch and challenge ourselves outside of this model of performed greatness? Do these questions make any sense?

I listened to my playlist again as I ran. At one point, I stared at the reflection of a big round lightbulb in a dark window. Last month I mentioned that it looked like the moon on lake superior. Today I noticed something at the top of the reflected globe of light that looked like clouds. Then I thought about how I usually imagine or see clouds at the bottom of the moon, not the top. Is that accurate? Suddenly, I imagined that the moon was upside down, or the world in the window was right side up and the world in the basement, on the treadmill, was upside down. Strange. Even stranger while running in place on a treadmill matching my foot strikes to the beat of the music.

What Kindergarten and Partial Hospitalization Have in Common/ IZZY CASEY

Assigned: seats, affirmations, adults with anorexia nervosa.

Breakfast, supervised.

Crying all day long because small things feel like big things.

Drumming drums in a circle, droning, “don’t be so hard on yourself,” disappearing the ability to desire.

Every body’s invited, every “cloud” has a silver “lining.”

Flushing a chocolate chip cookie down the toilet and taking a huge dump on it, fear of growing.

Growing

Hairs in weird places.

“I’m telling on you.”

“Just let someone know if you go to the bathroom. Don’t go alone.”

Knowing there’s a chance you’ll need to come back and do it all over.

Lunch, supervised.

Mental math, milk monitors, mindfulness of breath.

Nurse Eye Patch haunts your wake.

Ordering onion rings at the Olive Garden Field Trip, since the overseers claim opera cake isn’t in budget.

Perishing into fits over whether you get your second cookie, third, or fourth.

“Quit running, quit shouting ‘where are the fucking cups,’ question your definition of ‘friend.’”

Refusing to get up off the floor and participate in Dance Circle with the other girls and boy.

Singing “Let It Be” with the boy during music hour, then all together.

Taking turns: with the triangle, talking with your mouth full.

Unaccompanied dinner.

Validation that you are one of the biggest losers.

Withholding from weeping in public on the long walk home.

Xeroxed handouts of Dr. Phil’s “On Choosing Forgiveness” equals confetti.

“You’re the child not the parent.”

Zookeeper’s Nightmare.

I love Abecedarians and this is a great one. Powerful in this form. Abecedarians are fun to write. My only problem: the dreaded x. There are only so many x words to use. Maybe I should make a list or find a list. Just searched, “good x words for abecedarian poems” and this was the first entry: What About X? Writing the Abecedarian. Yes!

feb 13/BIKERUN

bike: 30 min
bike stand, basement
run: 1.5 miles
treadmill, basement

Hello Arctic Hellscape! This morning it is 12 below, feels like 29 below. Not quite as cold as the end of January last year (-49), but still cold enough to stay inside. I was tempted momentarily to go to the gorge, just to see if I could tough it out or so I could say that I ran when it was almost 30 below, but I didn’t. Instead I worked out in the basement, watching Cheer while I biked, listening to Nur-D and others on my running playlist while I ran. I have one episode of Cheer left to watch. What am I going to watch while I bike when it is over? Back to race replays?

I did take a brief (15 or 20 minutes) walk at 11 this morning. It didn’t feel that cold. Sunny. Bright. Not too much wind. Then I turned a corner and felt the full force of the arctic chill on my face and got a brain freeze. The kind you get when you eat ice cream too fast. In college in Southern Minnesota in the 90s, out on the tundra, I would usually get one of these cold weather induced brain freezes every winter. Fun. It’s strange to have a familiar sensation (the brain freeze) but out of context (not from eating ice cream). Is there a name for that phenomenon? The other example that I often think about is the few times I’ve been in earthquakes, when it feels like turbulence but you’re not on a plane. It feels familiar even when it isn’t. I tried searching for this. No luck. I tried “a familiar sensation felt strangely” and got a lot of hits for deja vu. For the first time ever, I tweeted at Merriam Webster and asked them: “Is there a word for feeling familiar sensation but out of normal context, like feeling brain freeze but from cold wind, not eating ice cream too fast? You know the feeling but experience it strangely.”

What a nice surprise to randomly find this little poem:

Five Flights Up/ Elizabeth Bishop

Still dark.
The unknown bird sits on his usual branch.
The little dog next door barks in his sleep
inquiringly, just once.
Perhaps in his sleep, too, the bird inquires
once or twice, quavering.
Questions—if that is what they are—
answered directly, simply,
by day itself.

Enormous morning, ponderous, meticulous;
gray light streaking each bare branch,
each single twig, along one side,
making another tree, of glassy veins . . .
The bird still sits there. Now he seems to yawn.

The little black dog runs in his yard.
His owner’s voice arises, stern,
“You ought to be ashamed!”
What has he done?
He bounces cheerfully up and down;
he rushes in circles in the fallen leaves.

Obviously, he has no sense of shame.
He and the bird know everything is answered,
all taken care of,
no need to ask again.
—Yesterday brought to today so lightly!
(A yesterday I find almost impossible to lift.)

The dog barking in its sleep–only once; questions being answered simply by day itself; the enormous, ponderous, meticulous morning; the dog and bird feeling no sense of shame; “yesterday brought to today so lightly!”. Such lovely lines.

feb 12/RUN

3.2 miles
ford bridge turn around
32 degrees
10% snow-covered

A gray day. A little wind. Warmer weather. Decided to turn right at the river instead of left. Wanting to see my new favorite view: the spot at the edge of the oak savanna when the river is revealed. This view is not possible in the spring and summer, when the leaves are back on the trees. Today, I barely saw it because of the 3 or 4 walkers passing by right at the same time I was approaching it. Boo. The run felt hard on sore legs. Did my triplet chant again: raspberry/ blueberry/ blackberry. Passed a hiker climbing out of the gorge near 42nd street. Heard another one still down on the lower trail. Saw a dog or two. At least one other runner. No fat tires.

I have been thinking about erosion for the past few days as I’ve been wondering about openness and openings and the gorge and its many seeps and leaks and fissures and cracks. Yesterday I wrote in my notes: erosion creates more room/ wearing down faulty foundations/ carving out new spaces I’m trying to figure out what to do with the idea of erosion and its positive and negative connections with unlearning/ becoming undone. Scrolling through my twitter feed, I found out about Terry Tempest Williams’ new book, Erosion: Essays of Undoing. Yes! I must check this out.

While reading an interview with Williams, I encountered this quotation by David Orr from his commencement speech, “What is an Education For?“:

The plain fact is that the planet does not need more “successful” people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every shape and form. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these needs have little to do with success as our culture has defined it.

feb 11/RUN

5 miles
stone arch bridge, one way
25 degrees
50% snow-covered

After noticing how pretty it looked in the (bohemian) flats yesterday afternoon, decided to run north on the river road to stone arch bridge today. Scott had a meeting downtown, so he could drive me home. One way runs are great. Yesterday afternoon the path looked clear and dry but it must have snowed a little last night because a lot of it was covered in soft, slippery, energy sapping snow. And, there was a blustery wind too. Still a great run. Still very glad to have done it.

Greeted Dave the Daily Walker as I ran up from under the lake street bridge. Admired the curved wall and fence on the Winchell Trail between the trestle and franklin bridge. Noticed the river flowing quickly. Not looking slush slow today. Reaching the bottom of the hill, running past Annie Young Meadow, I heard water gushing through the limestone cliff, close to where a mudslide had closed the road for almost 2 years. At the top of the hill near the turn off to Wilson Library at the U, the sun came out and so did my shadow. Hello friend! Then I noticed the river was no longer brown but blue. Not steel blue but blustery blue. Beautiful. Attempted to run up the steep hill with the I-35 bridge. Made it about halfway, then walked a few minutes. Ran again all the way to the stone arch bridge and watched the roaring, choppy, churning water of St. Anthony Falls.

Had some thoughts about my How to Be project and the ways running fits into it but cannot remember them now. Right before heading outside for the run, I thought about the importance of surrender. Paying attention by letting go. Not trying to control but to breathe.

Speaking of breathing, I just remembered something about my run. To regulate my pace and breathing, I chanted. Strawberry/ Blueberry/ Raspberry. Over and over again. One foot strike for every syllable. As I ran down the franklin hill I decided that blackberry fit better than strawberry and chanted that: Raspberry/ Blueberry/ Blackberry. I chanted this mostly in my head. A few times, I mouthed it and at least once, I whispered it. Very helpful in keeping me steady and in a dream-like state. Considered switching in other 3 syllable words but never did.

Triplet Words/Rhythms/Dactyl Meter

  • Beautiful
  • Terrible
  • Wonderful
  • Mystery
  • Decadent
  • Diffident
  • Dental Care
  • Vision Quest
  • Telephone
  • Underwear
  • Prototype
  • Punching bag
  • Summer time
  • Radical
  • Reticent
  • Waterfall
  • Avalanche
  • Certainly
  • Understood
  • Icy cold
  • Ignorant
  • Buttercream
  • Factual

Interesting note found in my research about dactyls: “Strawberry (as the word is pronounced in East Tennessee—elsewhere it’s two longs and a short).” So East Tennesseans say it the British way, I think. Speaking of East Tennessee, I was just listening to an episode of Dolly Parton’s America and learned that East Tennessee was originally a part of the Union during the Civil War. Maybe I knew that at one point, but I had forgotten.

feb 10/RUN

5.5 miles
Annie Young Meadow and back
17 degrees/ feels like 7
99% snow-covered

It snowed 5 or 6 inches yesterday so that path was covered in mostly packed snow. A beautiful morning for a run. Bright sun. Not too much wind. Blue sky. White everywhere. Saw someone walking down near my favorite part of the path, just above the forest on the rim of the gorge. Heading towards the franklin bridge I took deep breaths of the cold, pure air and tried to stay open and relaxed. Heading down the hill, I marveled at the clouds high in the light blue sky. I’m not good at identifying clouds. Possibly cirrus because they were so feathery but also maybe cirrostratus because they were thin and covered the whole sky. Regardless of what you would call them, they were beautiful. Faint, barely white. It looked like someone had raked their fingers through fluff. The river was slush thick and moving. Cold. After climbing back up the hill, and stopping for a short walk break, I looked up and saw the beautiful wingspan of a big bird, circling high in the sky. An eagle? A hawk? A turkey vulture?

So this Jane Fonda Workout for beginners from the 1980s popped up on my youtube feed this morning. Wow.

So much bouncing. Thinking of trying to get my 13 year old daughter to try it out with me. If this is beginning level, I’m scared to see intermediate.

Speaking of Jane Fonda, she was featured in the most recent podcast of Dolly Parton’s America that I listened to: Dollitics. Wow, I am loving listening to these episodes.

feb 8/RUN

3.5 miles
trestle turn around
15 degrees/feels like 5
100% clear

Ran a little later today because Scott and I had to take our daughter to the Mall of America this morning. After a month of begging us, we finally caved. That place is the opposite of the gorge. Tight, confined. Too many people moving too slow and too fast. Too bright. Too many big words everywhere. Too much consumption. Too many sickly sweet, overpowering smells. Energy zapping. Water sapping. Soul sucking. I’ve never really liked shopping but now that my vision is bad, it’s very difficult, especially at the mall. Draining. Today’s trip was one of the better ones. Probably because we only stayed for an hour. There was a moment, near the Rotunda. A dance performance, accompanied by a recording of some cheesy, sappy piano music (some popp-y thing that I should remember but can’t). Passing near the roller coaster, listening to the overly loud, overly sentimental music, watching Scott and my daughter walk ahead, I felt this dreamy, detached sense of joy. Why? Of course, after that happy moment, I had my most disturbing one in Pac Sun: a brand called John Galt is selling a Brave New World t-shirt. Wow.

Felt good to run this afternoon in the sun. Colder today so I wore more layers, including a buff, a hood, and a black cap. Too much. The path was clear and not too crowded with walkers or bikers or runners. Admired the river several times. My best view was about 30 seconds south of the trestle. High up on the bluff, the trees opened up and I had such an open, broad, beautiful view of the river and the floodplain forest and the east side of the river, which at this point, between lake and franklin, is in Minneapolis and not St. Paul. Can’t remember much else about the run. Felt tired at the end, but still sprinted up the final hill. Noticed a dog and its human hiking on the snow-packed path near the 2 fences and 2 walls that I’ve written about. Heard some kids. My feet shuffling on gravel. Some spring-y birds, trilling and chirping. Running out from under lake street bridge, I sensed the shadow of a runner up above on the bridge, traveling across the railing. A cool visual effect. Noticed my shadow ahead of me as I ran north. When I stopped briefly at the turn around, I noticed her hiking on the Winchell trail in the gorge below. Heard some geese, honking away. Couldn’t tell if they were hanging out under the bridge or flying above me in the air.

Thinking about uncertainty and bewilderment in poetry today. Yesterday I encountered–not the for the first time–Keat’s description of negative capabilities to his brother in a letter from 1917:

capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason

So many interesting parallels with my idea of staying in trouble as virtue–staying in a space of (somewhat) uncomfortable, unsettling unknowingness. It makes so much sense to me that I’m really getting into poetry. I like how poetry takes this space of trouble/unknowingness/uncertainty and infuses it with joy and wonder.

This poem! I love Maggie Smith.

Threshold/ Maggie Smith

You want a door you can be
            on both sides of at once.

                       You want to be
           on both sides of here

and there, now and then,
            together and—(what

                       did we call the life
            we would wish back?

The old life? The before?)
            alone. But any open

                       space may be
            a threshold, an arch

of entering and leaving.
            Crossing a field, wading

                       through nothing
            but timothy grass,

imagine yourself passing from
            and into. Passing through

                       doorway after
            doorway after doorway.

Love the line, “any open/space may be/a threshold, an arch/of entering and leaving.” For some time now, I’ve been thinking about the river road/running path as such a threshold, where threshold = beside/s space.

feb 8/BIKERUN

bike: 30 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.2 miles
treadmill, basement

Decided to do a workout in the basement today. Partly because of the dusting of snow we got last night, partly because I wanted to watch more Cheer, which I did while I biked. Then, while I ran, I listened to Jad Abumrad’s podcast about Dolly Parton called Dolly Parton’s America. So good. Right now, I’m listening to episode 4–or is it 5? I have loved Dolly Parton ever since she yelled at her boss in 9 to 5, calling him “evil to the core.” I loved that movie when I was kid. I even taught it in the spring of 2007 in my Pop Culture Women course.

A Study in Eventuality/ Cristina Correa

Funny, isn’t it, how hard to describe
a good man? In the shower, I let
the water run hot as my blood filtering
a mirror of loss. The messenger arrived
flustered as feathers falling to the place
where feathers go to find each other. Who
is the man who makes you remark, “I have
been lucky”? How does the faucet instruct
forgiveness? Our voices spiral to meet
with too much space between. My cuticles
shine like chrome under the moment’s remains.
A demand for nakedness pools somewhere
down the drain. For what we’ve been able to
let go, and know it happens to us all.

I was struggling to understand this poem until I read her description, which really helped (find it on the poets.org link). “How does the faucet instruct forgiveness?” What a line!

feb 6/RUN

4 miles
river road, north/south
27 degrees
100% clear

1

Sun! Sun! Sun! Didn’t realize how much I was missing the sun until it came back and I was able to see shadows everywhere.

2

Heard the birds as I was heading to the river and thought about how clichéd it seems to mention chirping birds and then that I still like mentioning them and then how I wish I could identify birds better or had better words for describing their sound and then that the simple word, “bird” and the sound description “chirp” still give me a thrill so I’m fine not searching for fancier words right now. I’ll spend my time enjoying the sound of birds chirping. Of course, now that I have made this declaration I had to look up synonyms for chirp: cheep, peep, trill, warble, and purl. Purl fascinates me. So many definitions and room for synonyms! I always thought of it in terms of knitting, but it also can be defined as:

  1. a purling, swirling stream or rill (a gentle brook)
  2. a gentle murmur or movement (purling water)
  3. to make the soft, murmuring sound like that of a purling stream

3

Greeted Dave the Daily Walker. Admired the floodplain forest. No snow on the trees today, just carpeting the floor. The river had a few ice floes but was mostly open. Ran into the wind. It felt hard. Heard my breathing and my feet shuffling on the grit. Stopped for a almost a minute to put my headphones in at the turn around. Ran back a little faster. Sprinted up the final hill. Did I look foolish to the drivers? Why do I care? Forgot to look down at the ravine at the end of my run.

4

Trying to remember some deep and helpful thought I had as I was starting out. I remember thinking, “Oh, that’s good. I should remember that.” Now I can’t remember it.

5

Last night, driving on the river road in the winter dark of early evening, I noticed runners on the path, some running in packs, others alone. Some with headlamps, others with super bright reflective shirts. I said to Scott and my daughter, “I always say I would never want to run at night, that it would be miserable, but I also used to say that about cold winter running and I love it now. Maybe if I tried running at night, I’d love it too?” Then, Scott said, “But how can you run in the dark with your vision?” And my daughter added, “and because you’re a woman?” Sigh. A sad truth. My failing vision is a bummer, but I see my fear as a woman running in the dark by herself as much more of a burden/hindrance.

6

Randomly found this poem and I love it. I was drawn to the title, wondering what the hell it meant. Then the first stanza sucked me in.

I Heart Your Dog’s Head/ Erin Belieu

I’m watching football, which is odd as
I hate football
in a hyperbolic and clinically revealing way,
but I hate Bill Parcells more,
because he is the illuminated manuscript
of cruel, successful men, those with the slitty eyes of ancient reptiles,
who wear their smugness like a tight white turtleneck,
and revel in their lack of empathy
for any living thing.
So I’m watching football, staying up late to watch football,
hoping to witness (as I think of it)
The Humiliation of the Tuna
(as he is called),
which is rightly Parcells’s first time back in the Meadowlands
since taking up with the Cowboys,
who are, as we all know,
thugs, even by the NFL’s standards. The reasons

I hate football are clear and complicated and were born,
as I was, in Nebraska,
where football is to life what sleep deprivation is
to Amnesty International, that is,
the best researched and most effective method
of breaking a soul. Yes,
there’s the glorification of violence, the weird nexus
knitting the homo, both phobic and erotic,
but also, and worse, my parents in 1971, drunk as
Australian parrots in a bottlebush, screeching
WE’RE #1, WE’RE #1!
when the Huskers finally clinched the Orange Bowl,
the two of them
bouncing up and down crazily on the couch, their index
fingers jutting holes through the ubiquitous trail of smoke rings
that was the weather in our house,
until the whole deranged mess that was them,
my parents, the couch, their lit cigarettes,
flipped over backward onto my brother and me. My husband
thinks that’s a funny story and, in an effort to be a “good sport,”
I say I think it is, too.

Which leads me to recall the three Chihuahuas
who’ve spent the fullness of their agitated lives penned
in the back of my neighbor’s yard.
Today they barked continuously for 12 minutes (I timed it) as
the UPS guy made his daily round.
They bark so piercingly, they tremble with such exquisite outrage,
that I’ve begun to root for them, though it’s fashionable
to hate them and increasingly dark threats
against their tiny persons move between the houses on our block.
But isn’t that what’s wrong with this version of America:
the jittering, small-skulled, inbred-by-no-choice-
of-their-own are despised? And Bill Parcells—
the truth is he’ll win
this game. I know it and you know it and, sadly,
did it ever seem there was another possible outcome?

It’s a small deposit,
but I’m putting my faith in reincarnation. I need to believe
in the sweetness of one righteous image,
in Bill Parcells trapped in the body of a teacup poodle,
as any despised thing,
forced to yap away his next life staked to
a clothesline pole or doing hard time on a rich old matron’s lap,
dyed lilac to match her outfit.

I love the way the final stanza brings it all together. And I love the small deposit of faith and “doing hard time on a rich old matron’s lap, dyed lilac to match her outfit” and “But isn’t that what’s wrong with this version of America:/ jittering, small-mulled, inbred-by-no-choice-/ of-their-own are despised?”

feb 5/RUN

3.3 miles
below ford bridge and back
33 degrees
100% clear path

Ran to the right and in the afternoon today. Straight into the wind which made it seem colder than 33 degrees. This winter I’m enjoying running this direction and checking out the oak savanna and the moment when it meets the river and the river looks like an enormous empty crater. Didn’t encounter too many people, mostly walkers. One or two runners. One biker. Noticed some super fat squirrels. Admired the curve of the retaining wall above the ravine. Wondered about a white path that led straight down to the river just after the double bridge. Heading back up the hill between locks and dam #1 and the double bridge, I heard the tornado siren doing its monthly test. I flinched both times it started. So loud! Saw my shadow. Also saw the shadow of some trees on the path. At first I thought it was dark ice but then realized, shadows! Spring is getting closer. The sky was an intense blue, especially through the lenses of my “dad sport” sunglasses–which is how my daughter describes them.

Anything else? Yes. Towards the end of my run I remembered to stand taller, straighten my back, and open up my chest to try and inhale as much of the beautiful blue-domed gorge as I could. What a day for a run! Walking back home, I felt the joy even more. Signs of spring: sun, shadows, melting snow, chirping birds, warmer air.

One more thing: as I ran, I tried to regulate my breathing. First, I counted to four. Then I chanted: I am running/by the river/I am running/into wind

I continue to work on my latest creative project, how to be. Had an idea about form today (an idea which I’ve had repeatedly but it never seems to stick): A book of exercises for building various qualities of character. Maybe, a narrative with background on my reasons for doing/creating the exercise + steps on how to do the exercise + an example of the exercise + a corresponding poem or fragments of poem/s.

Came across a few great lines about poetry from Basho this morning:

The secret of poetry lies in treading the middle path between the reality and the vacuity of the world.

Poetry is a fireplace in summer or a fan in winter

feb 4/RUN

4 miles
trestle turn around
10 degrees/ feels like 3
100% clear path!

Sun. Some wind. A clear path. Hardly anyone out in the cold, which is how I like it. The river was brown. The path was partly white, stained from salt. The sky, blue. I saw my shadow running ahead of me. Greeted Dave the Daily Walker twice. Felt a bit sluggish in the first half–my legs are tired and sore from last night’s run. Heard some crows, a skein of geese, some other type of chirping spring-sounding bird. Don’t remember counting my breaths or chanting any fun, random phrases. Thought a trashcan was an approaching walker. Not just in a quick mistaken glance, but for several minutes as I slowly approached the object.

Happy to be out by the gorge unclenching my jaw from a slightly stressful morning of waiting to get a girl to go to school. No big problems getting her to go, just delay and irritation. So glad running helps.

Read through my old doctoral exams and thought about redefining and reclaiming space and time. bell hooks and radical openness on the margins, Trinh T. Minh-ha and storytelling time as not linear but cyclical and not shaped by past, present, and future. I’m thinking about how these ideas are influencing how I understand and experience my beside/s space by the gorge and my running time. The gorge on the edge of “wilderness”/the river/ city limits between St. Paul and Minneapolis/ threshold between forest and neighborhood + running time as not easily measured, not a line from beginning to end but a dripping present (if that makes sense?).

Speaking of influences, I wrote another one of my exams on feminist theory and writing style, including difficult writing style as a way to force people to not easily consume ideas–when you can’t easily or quickly understand what you are reading, you are forced to stop and think more about it which might lead to being more critical of what you are merely supposed to accept and believe. I have always like the idea of rumination and ideas that are “chewy bagels” (must be chewed up, can’t quickly be swallowed and accepted). The main goal? Slow down. Read carefully. Really think about what the author is saying and how it makes you feel. Queer feminist thinkers like Judith Butler have framed this in terms of using languages to forcibly disrupt–we are no longer able to make sense of what we are reading, it is too complicated and confusing. Today, I read an interview with Arthur Sze and I like how he describes how poetry enables us to slow down, not by force but by helping/encouraging us to listen to the sounds of words, the rhythm of language. It’s a invitation, not a demand. Does this make sense? Not sure. I’m trying to figure out why poetry matters to me.

Interview with Arthur Sze

Poetry has a crucial role to play in our lives, society, and the world. It helps us slow down, hear clearly, see deeply, and envision what matters most in our lives. When one reads a poem, one has to pay attention to the sounds of words, to the rhythm of language, experience the dance and tension between sound and silence. A good poem communicates viscerally in the body before it’s fully understood in the mind, and, in that experience, complexities of feeling and thought can sometimes only be conveyed through poetry. I forget which Zen monk wrote,

what comes from brightness, I strike with brightness;
what comes from darkness, I strike with darkness

but here’s an example of emotional and imaginative insight, and how to proceed in the world, compressed into a few words, where each word matters. [The quote comes from 9th century Chinese master Linji Yixuan (Jp. Rinzai).] Prose can explain and lengthily articulate the meaning in those two lines, but only poetry, I think, can capture and embody the experience.

Our world today is built on various assumptions—“time is money,” for example—and we live in an age that although globally connected is not necessarily humanly connected. People work endless hours buying and selling stocks and bonds—“buy silk, sell steel”—for instance. Poetry stands in resistance to this commercial culture. It is not about acquiring material wealth; instead, it’s about human insight, genuine human connectivity, and promotes mindfulness and awakening. In that way, poetry is priceless. And, in that way, I have devoted my life to poetry for over 50 years. Poetry, for me, is about discovery, renewal, awakening, and affirming a way of living that is profound, humbling, and meaningful.

feb 3/RUN

3.3 miles
trestle turn around
32 degrees

Yesterday it was sunny and 42 degrees. I do not like winter days like these. The snow melts and puddles on the path, then refreezes at night and becomes an icy mess the next day. Not sure if I’d call it an icy mess this morning but it was treacherous. Super slick, barely frozen sheets of ice all over the path. I slipped several times but never fell.

Still had a good run. Greeted the Daily Walker. Noticed the river, brown and flowing. Heard some honking geese then watched them fly across the gray sky. Sprinted up the final hill. Worked on trying to drive my left hip higher.

2.5 miles
us bank stadium

Only a few more stadium run opportunities left. Ran tonight with Scott–well, not with him but at the same time and in the same place. The concrete concourse is so hard on my legs! Felt awkward running the first mile, then my legs ached for hours after. Happy to get to run in warm, dry, ice-free conditions, but not happy to run on hard concrete.

Brian Age Seven/ Mark Doty

Grateful for their tour
of the pharmacy,
the first-grade class
has drawn these pictures,
each self-portrait taped
to the window-glass,
faces wide to the street,
round and available,
with parallel lines for hair.

I like this one best: Brian,
whose attenuated name
fills a quarter of the frame,
stretched beside impossible
legs descending from the ball
of his torso, two long arms
springing from that same
central sphere. He breathes here,

on his page. It isn’t craft
that makes this figure come alive;
Brian draws just balls and lines,
in wobbly crayon strokes.
Why do some marks
seem to thrill with life,
possess a portion
of the nervous energy
in their maker’s hand?

That big curve of a smile
reaches nearly to the rim
of his face; he holds
a towering ice cream,
brown spheres teetering
on their cone,
a soda fountain gift
half the length of him
—as if it were the flag

of his own country held high
by the unadorned black line
of his arm. Such naked support
for so much delight! Artless boy,
he’s found a system of beauty:
he shows us pleasure
and what pleasure resists.
The ice cream is delicious.
He’s frail beside his relentless standard.

feb 2/BIKEDANCE

bike: 30 minutes
bike stand, basement
dance with daughter: an hour?
family wedding

Biked this morning while watching more Cheer. Fascinated by Coach Monica’s simultaneous declaration of her “old school conservative” values/beliefs and her passionate, unshakeable love and support for her gay cheerleaders. I would have enjoyed teaching episodes of this in one of my queer theory or feminist debates classes.

Later in the afternoon, went to a family wedding and convinced my teenage daughter to dance with me at the reception. Even though I am not the greatest dancer it was so much fun. My parents-in-law even joined us at one point. Amazing, especially since Scott’s mom was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer last year.

Because my grief was a tree/ Nicky Beer

It forgave the dog that pissed on it
It moderated quarrels between the stones
It had a few knots that looked like a weeping face
It had a few knots that looked like a laughing face
It never stopped grasping the earth
It was badly tuned by the wind
It grew inedible fruit
It grew fruit that fed the worms magnificently
It held a yellow newspaper on its head for seven months
It felt the rumba in a squirrel’s chest pressing against it
It wore a gash from when my friend was drunk and stupid
It looked up at the geese in their lofty arrows
It looked up at the geese in their trombone-heavy operettas
It stretched its arms wider every year
It waves its dozens of dark hats over the grass

feb 1/RUN

3.2 miles
trestle turn around
33 degrees
some icy sidewalks, clear path

Sun! Saw my shadow and waved to her. Hello friend! Haven’t seen you in a month. Scott told me that January 2020 was the grayest, most sunless, cloudiest month in recorded history (since 1963) in Minneapolis. Wow. Did it bother me, having so much gray? Not sure, I don’t think so. Still, I’m glad to have my shadow back and the sun. I only looked at the river once–through the trees in the floodplain forest. At that point, it just looked brown. If I had looked at it somewhere else, would I have noticed it sparkling? Probably. Now I wish I would have crossed the bridge and admired it from the overlook at the midway point.

Do I remember anything else about the run? Encountered some walkers and runners, a few fat tires, some dogs. Heard some geese and chanted in my head, “geese are honking/geese are honking.” No squirrels. No cross country skiers. No Daily Walker. Heard some people by the old stone steps, either about to climb out of the floodplain forest, or descend into it. A few minutes later, 3 runners were stopped in the middle of the path, talking. One said, “Congratulations” to the others. For what, I wonder? Did they recently win a race, get engaged, find a new job? About to run under the lake street bridge, I heard a kid laughing or crying out in delight or complaining or something. Where were they? On the bridge? Down by the water? I couldn’t tell.

Successfully composed a blurb for my new creative project. I’m thinking I might want to start by making it into a workbook with exercises/activities. Here’s the blurb:

Currently, I am gathering tools, methods, theories, and ideas from my intellectual past and experimenting with putting them beside my creative writing, running, and losing my central vision present. Tentatively, I am calling this project, whose form has yet to be fully determined, How to Be. It is a project in the unmaking and remaking of the Self.

One exercise I thought about this morning could be called, What Do You Think About When…? and would be about paying attention to your thoughts when you run or walk or bike or swim and then analyzing and experimenting with the different ways you think when you move differently. Still thinking about it…

Lost/ David Wagoner

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.