april 29/RUN

2.3 miles
river road path, south/edmund, north
44 degrees/ 17 mph wind
Deaths from COVID-19: 319 (MN)/ 58,529 (US)

A difficult run this morning. Straight into the wind on the way back. About 5 minutes in, my knee hurt. Stopped for a few seconds, then started again. Mostly fine while I was running, but decided to not run too much. Not crowded on the path. It’s getting greener. Looked over at the Oak Savanna and the Winchell Trail. I don’t remember much from this run except for worrying about my knee or feeling the wind. The stretch of grass between Becketwood and 42nd was muddy and wet.

At the very beginning of my run, I heard the bird call that Scott and I have been curious about lately. I’d like to figure out which bird makes this sound and why. Found it!

Male Black-capped Chickadee

The song Scott and I have been hearing comes from the male black-capped chickadee. It’s also called the “fee bee” call or, when it has three notes, the “hey, sweetie” call. The song is used to attract mates or defend territory.

Some facts I’d like to remember from this brief video: 1. This song signals spring is coming and 2. Males use it in singing battles.

Of course, this mention of singing battles reminds me of one of my favorite poems by Mary Oliver:

Invitation/ Mary Oliver

Oh do you have time
   to linger
      for just a while
         out of your busy

and important day
   for the goldfinches
      who have gathered
         in a field of thistles

for a musical battle
   to see who can sing
      the highest note
         or the lowest,

or the most expressive of mirth
   or the most tender?
      Their strong, blunt beaks
         drink the air

as they strive
   melodiously
      not for your sake
         and not for mine

and not for the sake of winning
   but for sheer delight and gratitude-
      believe us, they say
         it is a serious thing

just to be alive
   on this fresh morning
      in the broken world.
         I beg of you,

do not walk by
   without pausing
      to attend to this
         rather ridiculous performance.

It could mean something.
   It could mean everything.
      It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
         You must change your life.

My effort to notice and then figure out the bird song, reminds me of another poem that I encountered (and posted here a few years ago):

Bird Song/Rebecca Taksel

After all these years
I still don’t know the name
of the bird who has followed me
with his early-morning song
to all the places I’ve lived.

I’ve never asked
“Which bird is that, singing now?”
I remember hearing him first
on a spring morning in childhood
somewhere in the woods
behind our little house, his song clear
above the thousand little sounds
of grass and water and trees around us.

I’ve thought about the deaths I fear,
but only now do I know the death I want:
to let that song be the last thing I hear,
and not to mind at all that I never learned
the singer’s name.

I wonder, was she writing about the male black-capped chickadee?

Thinking about the purpose of the black capped chickadee’s call, I’m imagining more of the conversation:

I’m right/you’re wrong
Welcome/spring’s here
hello/goodbye
get lost/no way
Beatles/Elvis
gray duck/no, goose

april 28/BIKERUN

bike/bike stand: 30 minutes
run/treadmill: 1.5 miles
rain
Deaths from COVID-19: 301 (MN)/ 57,533 (US)

Rain all day. In a few days, everything green. Green green green. I like the green but it always comes too much too soon. Biked in the basement while watching more of the Agatha Christie movie. Enjoying it. Then, ran on the treadmill. Listened to a playlist, fell into a trance.

I didn’t recite my memorized poem today, but decided to recite and record it during my cool down, walking on the treadmill. Realized, before my workout, that I had not memorized the first stanza. Somehow I had left it off my log post. Oops. I’ll have to practice it a lot: “It has been so wet stones glaze in moss;/everything blooms coldly” “It has been so wet stones glaze in moss;/everything blooms coldly”

Dear One Absent This Long While, recorded 4/28

I stumbled over a few words, and it sounds like I said “pawny” instead of “pony” but I recited the whole thing. Nice. I don’t quite own these words yet, but I will soon.

use better words || use words better

Yesterday, while trying to figure out some succinct ways to describe the creative experiments I’m doing in my run project, I came up with this concept. I want to find and use better words–words that allow for new understandings, that more effectively communicate my experiences, that make me/others feel things, that foster curiosity. And, I want to use words better–to be more deliberate and precise and thoughtful in my choices so that my words generate movement and encourage others to think and be curious.

the Subway/Eat Fresh birds

A few days ago, inspired by 2 birds chatting, I imagined what they might be saying–including: bird 1: Subway/ bird 2: Eat Fresh. Scott was inspired by another similar bird conversation this morning. He recorded them, figured out what notes they were singing and then played around on his keyboard with them. Very cool.

birds singing in the rain, april 28
Birdsong in the rain, Room 34

I’m hoping we can collaborate on a sound/poetry project about these birds–probably one that doesn’t involve referring to the birds as Subway and Eat Fresh, but who knows? Anyway, as a starting point, I wrote down a list of 2 syllable calls and responses:

Be here
Not here
Beside
Be Safe
Deep Down
Lost Ones
Release
Slow down
Rethink
Listen
Sink in
Undo
Nothing
Delight
Been there
Terror
Old ways
New ways
Broke down
How to

Not there
Not there
Beyond
Steer clear
We knew
Stay gone
Forget
Down size
Reprise
Loosen
Retreat
Rebuild
To do
Sorrow
Done that
Wonder
Destroyed
Unfurl
Remade
Be now?

april 27/RUN

4.1 miles
river road, north/seabury, south/river road, south/edmund, south
53 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 286 (MN)/ 55,118 (US)

What a morning! Rained early, then Sun! Birds! A slight breeze! Trees barely budding, glowing a yellowy green!

In the name of the Trees—
And the Woodpecker—
And the Breeze—Amen!
(variation on Emily Dickinson)

It’s easier to bury deep the panic and thoughts about getting very sick or someone I love getting very sick when the weather is like this and the trails aren’t too crowded and it’s not too hot or too cold and there aren’t swarming gnats yet.

My run felt good this morning. I remember looking down at the river, but I don’t remember what I saw—wait, how could I forget? It was gorgeous! Not sparkling or shining, but a mirror reflecting the fluffy clouds. I imagined that the water was another world, doubled and reversed, like in May Swenson’s great poem, “Water Picture“: “In the pond in the park/ all things are doubled:/ Long buildings hang and/ wriggle gently. Chimneys/ are bent legs bouncing/ on clouds below.” Love how “In the pond in the park” bounces on my tongue. I kept glancing over at the water and admiring its smooth beauty and how it looked like a mirror. I started thinking about the Greek myth (which I couldn’t really remember) about the hunter who looked at his reflection. I looked it up just now–of course it was Narcissus. Here’s an interesting article I found that discusses him and the idea of mirrors in water–it even has a picture of Salvadore Dali looking into the water.

At some point during my run, a biker biked by, their radio blasting “Everybody Talks.” (Had to look it up, it’s by Neon Trees.) I haven’t heard this song in a few years; it was on one of my running playlists for a while. Mostly I listened to it while I ran around the track at the YWCA. Just looked and couldn’t find any mention of it in this log.

Reciting While Running: Dear One, Absent This Long While

Started reciting my poem for the week, Lisa Olstein’s Dear One Absent This Long While. Not too difficult to memorize, fun to say. I don’t remember much about the rhythms with my feet, but I do remember thinking more about the words. As I recited the line, “so even if spring continues to disappoint” I wondered, is it “spring” or “the spring”? I couldn’t remember and I tried to think about which fit better and whether or not a “the” was necessary. Also paused at the line, “She had the quiet ribs/ of a salamander crossing the old pony post road.” At first, I kept saying “has” but then I realized it made more sense to say “had.” Also, why is there a “the” in front of pony post road here, but not a “the” in front of spring? I find it helpful to think more about the choices poets make with their words. It’s fascinating and I think it can help me make a better poet who uses better words and words better–which is always my goal in writing.

I decided it would be fun to record myself reciting the poem right after finishing my run and then listening to it while looking at the poem–which words did I screw up, leave out, add? This experiment was fun, although I am still way too self-conscious speaking into my phone. I want to stop caring if people see me doing it and what they think about it. Here’s the recording:

Dear One Absent This Long While, recorded 4/27

I’d like to try recording myself saying it again tomorrow after my run. Maybe by the end of the week I won’t feel weird doing it.

In addition to reciting this new poem, I also revisited Emily Dickinson’s “It’s all I have to bring today” and the second line. I tried running with the different rhythms that I figured out in yesterday’s log. “This, and my heart beside” I was struck by how the different rhythms also changed the emphasis. In the original, Dickinson is emphasizing, “This.” Some of my rhythms, like the triplet for “this and my”, put the emphasis on heart. It’s cool how much of a difference changing the rhythm can make on the meaning–not a deep insight, but it’s fun to find ways to actually understand poetry, especially those parts of it that seem so hard for me to get.

What else happened on my run?

  • Saw someone walking down the old stone steps
  • Later, saw a dog and its human crossing the path to also walk down the old stone steps
  • Greeted Dave, the Daily Walker with a “Hi Dave” and a wave and, “Beautiful morning!”
  • Greeted another biker on Seabury
  • Noticed the trestle as I ran by it
  • Inspected the progress of the leaves below the tunnel of trees in the floodplain forest. The green veil is coming–too soon!
  • A few rocks were stacked on the ancient boulder at the top of the path, near the sprawling oak and at the entrance to the tunnel of trees

Greeting the Welcoming Oaks

note: I’m adding this in later, but I had forgotten about it.

About 5 minutes into my run, as I passed near the overlook and through the Welcoming Oaks, I greeted every one of them. I didn’t count, but I’m guessing it was about 10 trees? “Good morning!” “Hello friend!” “Hello!” “Hi!”

april 26/RUN

3.75 miles
47th ave loop, shorter
50 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 272 (MN)/ 54,001 (US)

I wore shorts this morning on my run. Shorts! Very exciting. Ran south on the trail, right above the river. It had a dull, un-sparkly surface but it was still beautiful. Soft, subdued. So many birds chattering away. A few runners and walkers and bikers. I had to weave around the path several times, from one end–on the edge of the bluff, above the water–to the other–across the walking and biking paths and the road, over to the grass between the parkway and the boulevard– but it didn’t bother me. As long as I can run and keep my distance, I’m fine.

Recited Emily Dickinson’s poem again, “it’s all I have to bring today.” Played around with the rhythm in the second line: “This, and my heart beside—” So awkward when running. (note: I can’t actually remember what beats I did with this line while running, so I’m experimenting after the fact. Now, I want to try running with each of these. Which works best?)

This and my heart beside/ 123 4 5 6/ ♪♪♪ ♩ ♩ ♩
This and my heart beside/ 123 4 56 7/ ♪♪♪ ♩ ♫ rest

This and my heart beside/ 12 34 5 6/ ♫ ♫ ♩ ♩

This and my heart/ 1 2 3 4/ ♩ ♩ ♩ ♩
beside/ 1 2 3 4/ ♩ ♩ rest rest

I’m really fascinated by these rhythms and what they do to the word beside, particularly what gets stressed. BEside or beSIDE or BESIDE. Trochee or Iamb or Spondee (I think that’s right. I’m trying to learn and then remember these terms. Maybe one day they will be second-nature to me?)

The other day, I read a beautiful thread about the poet Ted Kooser. I liked the poems that were mentioned in the thread, but decided to read some more of his work online. Because I find soaring turkey vultures to be beautiful, I was drawn to this poem:

TURKEY VULTURES/ Ted Kooser

Circling above us, their wingtips fanned
like fingers, it is as if they were smoothing

one of those tissue-paper sewing patterns
over the pale blue fabric of the air,

touching the heavens with leisurely pleasure,
just a word or two called back and forth,

taking all the time in the world, even though
the sun is low and red in the west, and they

have fallen behind with the making of shrouds.

I have decided that I really like the couplet form–with its simple grace and interesting line breaks adding more meaning and movement.

april 25/WALK

walk: 4.75 miles
extended 47th ave loop
65 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 244 (MN)/ 53,070 (US)

Woke up feeling sore all over. I think it’s from the hours I’ve spent trying to scrape the paint off the deck railing. Decided to take a long walk with Scott and Delia the dog instead of running. Amazing spring weather. Bright, warm sun. Hardly any wind. Calm, gentle air. Lots of people walking, biking, and running out by the gorge this morning. Didn’t see any wild turkeys but did see a tiny baby rabbit. I said to Scott, “that’s the only time I think rabbits are cute.” I really don’t like rabbits. Also saw this super cool sculpture in someone’s front yard:

photo by room34

I want a front yard like this! No grass and an awesome sculpture. It’s fun walking by the gorge and then winding through longfellow neighborhood. People are delightfully quirky around here. Anything else? We talked about if the virus will ebb some in the summer and how terrible it must be for some kids now that they are closing down all the playgrounds and skate parks and removing the nets from basketball hoops and tennis courts. How will some kids entertain themselves? So tough.

When we got home, I sat on our warm deck in full sun and felt nostalgic for past springs and summers as a kid, when I would soak in the sun, still able to enjoy feeling hot because it was novel. Then I composed another version of Emily Dickinson’s “It’s all I have to bring today”:

It’s all I have to bring today—
This, and my knee, beside—
This, my knee, and all the gorge
And all the river wide—
Be sure to count—should I forget
Some one the Sum could tell—
This, and my knee, and every Tree
Bare-branched without its Veil—

I think I like this version better than my last.

After composing this poem and reciting it to my wonderful daughter who was willing to listen, I sat in my chair and heard the birds. I didn’t actually have a choice, they were insistent that I eavesdrop on their conversation. Repeating it over and over and over again. Of course, when I finally decided to record them, they weren’t as chatty. Still, I did manage to record a few lines. 2 syllables each. One bird started low, then went higher. The other responded higher, then went lower. I imagined them to be singing: “Up high/ Down low” What else could they be saying?

2 birds chatting

Subway/Eat fresh
Be nice/Fuck you
Hey there!/What’s up?
Mustard/Ketchup
Doughnut/Ice cream
Mad Men/Ozark
Mustache/Goatee
Pizza/Nachos
Dumb luck/Hard work
Winter/Summer

april 24/RUN

3.75 miles
47th ave loop
47 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 221 (MN)/ 50,031 (US)

Wow, what a glorious morning! Soft light, hardly any wind, singing birds, uncrowded paths. Everything felt calm, relaxed. I don’t remember looking at the river that often, but I do remember the sky over the gorge and the view on the bluff near Folwell. Beautiful.

Anything else I remember from my run? I’ve noticed–today and yesterday, at least–that the morning sun makes it hard for me to see people sometimes. It also makes it almost impossible for me to determine if people are coming towards me or are moving away from me–is that the cone dystrophy or my near-sightedness? Not sure.

I recited Emily Dickinson’s “It’s all I have to bring today” again and I’m liking it more. The second line with the anapest–“This, and my heart beside”–is still awkward, but I like running to “this, my heart, and all the fields/and all the meadows wide” and “this, and my heart, and all the bees, which in the clover dwell.”

When I got back from my run, I started thinking about changing the words of Dickinson’s poem to fit with my run:

It’s all I have to bring today—
This, and my knee beside—
This, my knee and all the trees—
And all the river wide
Be sure to count — should I forget
Some one the sum could tell —
This, and my knee, and all the Birds
whose songs can cast a Spell.

Not totally happy with my words, but I’ll work on it some more. I struggle to understand “some one the sum could tell.” It mostly makes sense, but it still trips me up.

more wild turkey sightings!

Yesterday on our walk, near the tree graveyard, we saw 2 more wild turkeys! Scott took some video and posted it on instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/p/B_WHkvilZON/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Finally, looking back through my log posts from 2018, I found this beautiful poem. It will be the next one that I memorize. So many lines I am looking forward to learning and keeping.

Dear One Absent This Long While/ Lisa Olstein 

It has been so wet stones glaze in moss;
everything blooms coldly.

I expect you. I thought one night it was you
at the base of the drive, you at the foot of the stairs,

you in a shiver of light, but each time
leaves in wind revealed themselves,

the retreating shadow of a fox, daybreak.
We expect you, cat and I, bluebirds and I, the stove.

In May we dreamed of wreaths burning on bonfires
over which young men and women leapt.

June efforts quietly.
I’ve planted vegetables along each garden wall

so even if spring continues to disappoint
we can say at least the lettuce loved the rain.

I have new gloves and a new hoe.
I practice eulogies. He was a hawk

with white feathered legs. She had the quiet ribs
of a salamander crossing the old pony post road.

Yours is the name the leaves chatter
at the edge of the unrabbited woods.

april 23/RUN

4.2 miles
river road path, north/seabury, south/edmund, south
40 degrees
Deaths from COVID-19: 200 (MN)/ 46,859 (US)

Such a strange, scary time. For now, managing to keep the terror at a low simmer. Relieved that the governor announced today that schools are closed for the rest of the year. It’s awful, but necessary. Not sure if it’s all my training in being present on the path and paying attention to everyday delights in the midst of mess, but I’m doing okay. I know, without any doubt, that the gorge–being able to run and walk near it every day–is making all of this bearable. What a gift this river and trails and trees and ancient boulders are!

A beautiful morning! Started at 8:25 and there was hardly anyone out yet. For the first time in several weeks, I was able to run through the tunnel of trees, above the floodplain forest! The bare brown trees had a low soft glow and the dirt path winding through to the river looked quiet and lonely. Thought about how nice it would be to take Delia the dog on that trail but then I remembered how narrow the old stone steps are–difficult to keep 6ft of distance on them. Kept running north, glancing down at the river every few minutes. Mostly pale blue with a few spots of shining, sparkly brightness, almost white, or would you call it silver? Heard lots of birds, the low rumble of fast moving cars on a far away freeway, some music coming out of a bike radio. Enjoyed feeling and hearing the scratch scratch scratch of my feet striking the grit on the road.

Recited the Emily Dickinson poem, “It’s all I have to bring today,” a few times. It’s a beautiful poem, but not satisfying to recite. Why? Not sure. I’m thinking I should try memorizing and reciting “Before I got my eye put out” next. How will that poem move, I wonder?

Listened to Danez Smith’s Homie yesterday. Beautiful and uncomfortable, which is good and necessary. Heard this poem and felt it, having lived in California and longed for Minnesota:

I’m Going Back to Minnesota Where Sadness Makes Sense/ Danez Smith

O California, don’t you know the sun is only a god
if you learn to starve for him? I’m bored with the ocean

I stood at the lip of it, dressed in down, praying for snow
I know, I’m strange, too much light makes me nervous

at least in this land where the trees always bear green.
I know something that doesn’t die can’t be beautiful.

Have you ever stood on a frozen lake, California?
The sun above you, the snow & stalled sea—a field of mirror

all demanding to be the sun too, everything around you
is light & it’s gorgeous & if you stay too long it will kill you

& it’s so sad, you know? You’re the only warm thing for miles
& the only thing that can’t shine.

Love the line, “I know something that doesn’t die can’t be beautiful.” And the description of standing on a frozen lake, the stalled sea, the field of mirror all demanding to be the sun. What a beautiful poem!

april 22/WALK

walk: 5 miles
longfellow neighborhood + gorge
65 degrees

note: I am posting this one day late, so I don’t have the stats for deaths from COVID-19.

Took a break from running because my right knee was sore. A shorter walk in the morning with Delia the dog, a much longer one in the afternoon with Scott and Delia the dog. On my first walk, I traveled through the neighborhood before ending up on Edmund, then crossing over to the river road trail and the overlook, just past the welcoming oaks. While high (or higher, nothing’s too high here) on a hill on Edmund, looking down at the tunnel of trees, the forest, and the river, I recorded what I heard: birds, leaf blowers, a walker approaching, my own rustling, the wind.

sounds above the gorge

At the overlook, admiring how the sun looked on the surface of the river, I noticed several painted rocks on the ledge. I love how people leave these gifts for others.

Later, in the afternoon, Scott and I walked with Delia the dog in the grassy strip between Edmund and the parkway, watching all the bikers and runners and walkers and cars. We talked about how important this grassy space and the gorge is for us as we struggle to endure this pandemic.