march 21/RUN

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

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

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

Such a strange, unreal time right now.

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

Any Game Starting with Z/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

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

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

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

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

march 20/RUN

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

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

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

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

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

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

Double Abecedarians

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

Here are a few resources:

march 19/RUN

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

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

such loud birds!

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

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

Slam, Dunk, & Hook/ Yusef Komunyakaa

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

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

a writing prompt from Sundress Publications

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

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

march 18/RUN

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

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

the woodpecker

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

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

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

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

corona virus update

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

march 17/RUN

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

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


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


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


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


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


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

march 16/RUN

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

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

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

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

Memorized a new poem for today’s run:

Tell all the truth but tell it slant/ Emily Dickinson

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

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

march 15/WALKBIKE

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

Critters I’ve seen near the river

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

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

more songs for washing hands

The theme song from Alice:

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

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

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

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

march 14/RUN

2.4 miles
two trails
26 degrees

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

how to count to 20 while washing your hands

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

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

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

The Mother and the Father!

Next up is the Mike Teevee version!

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

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

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

Oompa Loompa

march 13/RUN

3.25 miles
trestle turn around
32 degrees

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

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

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

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

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

possible exercise: an acrostic poem that casts a spell?

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

march 12/RUN

4.25 miles
minnehaha falls and back
42 degrees
light drizzle

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

Some Things I Remember

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

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

TO CAST/ Yesenia Montilla

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

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

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

love may not be discarded       but shipwrecked          yes

& so on —

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love this line:

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