august 31/RUN

3.1 miles
river road trail, south/edmund, north/little loop on river road*/47th ave, south/34th ave, west/44th ave, south
60 degrees
humidity: 89%

*little loop on river road = river road at 33rd st up to 32nd st and back

Running Route, 31 Aug

It was raining until about 9 am. Cool and cloudy, then sunny. I had the river road trail to myself running south. Awesome. Glanced down at the river above the 38th st stairs. Too much green to see more than a sliver of blueish silver. Lots of dripping water, hardly any debris on the trail or road. A nice run.

8 Things I Noticed on my Run this Morning

  1. Water dripping off of a tree, shimmering in the sun
  2. The quiet roar of water gushing out of a sewer pipe
  3. Running through dark green on Edmund, above the river road, and then reaching the bright sunlight as I ran down the hill
  4. Several deep puddles on the road near the curb
  5. Running into the wind as I headed north
  6. The open trail, stretching in front of me
  7. The cooler air on my skin
  8. The gentle hum of the crickets in the quiet, empty neighborhood

It’s difficult to run more than a 5k these days. Will this change as the weather gets cooler or is it mostly because of my fear of encountering other people?

face blindness

Working on my latest project–blind spots, going blind, and mood rings. I know I thought about it while I was running–I think I was just above the oak savanna–but I can’t quite remember what I thought. Something about how not all of the mood ring poems have to be about finding my blind spot, others could be about my moods around their effects. Another mood: uncertain, unsettled, uncomfortable.

Since my big decline (and when I got my diagnosis) in 2016, I have been trying to adjust to all the changes. Sometimes successfully: Because reading is harder, I’ve shifted mostly to audio books; when I don’t know what’s happening on a television show, I ask Scott; I don’t pretend to see things that I can’t; I ask others to check if there’s mold on my food; because driving is terrifying, I’ve stopped doing it.

Sometimes unsuccessfully. One of the biggest struggles I’m having with my vision loss is how to interact with others. I can’t see faces clearly. Often I can see some features but I can’t see when someone is looking at me or talking to me and even if I can tell they’re talking to me, there’s a good chance I won’t recognize them. I haven’t figured out how to deal with how unsettling and upsetting this is yet, so I try to avoid it. It’s much easier during this pandemic. What a relief to not have to try and interact with others! How much easier it is to not have to wonder if someone was talking to me or what they said or who they are! I like talking with people and I sometimes miss interesting conversations with new people, but mostly I’m content not talking with others, being left alone.

This morning, I read someone’s account of their face blindness and I could really relate. Face blindness is not my primary diagnosis; it’s just a byproduct of my vision loss and the big blind spot (or, what I’m calling, blind ring) in the center of my vision. There’s a lot I could highlight from this article–dreading encountering other moms that I can’t recognize, not being able to identify my kids, not seeing my husband walk past me in a store, only being able to recognize people by their distinctive quirks. I think I’ll spend some more time rereading this article and others on face blindness that I’ve found in the past.

august 30/RUN

3 miles
winding through the neighborhood*
62 degrees

*36th st, east/edmund, north/32nd st, west/river road, south/33rd st, east/edmund, north/32nd st, west/47th ave, south/34th st, east/edmund, south/37th st, west/a loop around Howe Elementary/44th ave, north/34th st, west/43rd ave, south

What beautiful weather! Sunny, shady, not too windy, not much humidity. Ran a winding route through the neighbor. Very pleased to see that they closed the river road down between 33rd and 32nd. I might start incorporating more some loops of it to add more distance. I wish I could run straight on the river road trail, but I’d rather keep my distance from others on less crowded paths. Here’s a screenshot of my route:

Running Route, 30 Aug

I can’t remember thinking about anything. Lots of bikers on the river road between 33rd and 32nd. Lots of runners on the trails. Didn’t hear any music coming from bike speakers or the clickity clacks of roller skiers. Running down Edmund, I heard a woman yell out and then a big dog running through the grass. The dog hadn’t escaped; she had let them off their leash to run free. Ran on the road, the sidewalk, a narrow dirt trail, the grass, over tree roots, up and down small rises where the sidewalk had buckled, into bright sunlight. I don’t remember hearing any birds or traffic. No distinctive smells.

Finished the run and made it home in time to watch a lot of stage 2 of the Tour de France. Alaphilippe! Alaphilippe!

august 29/RUN

3.05 miles
43rd ave, north/lake st, east/46th ave, south/32nd st, east/edmund, south/river road, north/hill
61 degrees

What a beautiful morning! Sunny and cool. Quiet, calm. As I started the run, I could hear the gentle hum of traffic from a far off freeway. Thought about my latest writing project on blind spots; I’m working on a poem about my feelings of wonder over discovering a way to see my blind spot. As I ran, I asked myself, should I try to convey a tone of wonder by asking lots of questions? (Probably not.)

Things I Remember

  • the strong smell of cologne as I ran on Edmund
  • two women running below in the tunnel of trees talking loudly
  • a couple of crows calling out to each other
  • being blinded by the sun as I ran east
  • the tree that usually glows a glorious yellow in late september has already changed colors; today it looks a mix of dull orange/red/brown

on metaphor and mood

Right now I’m in the phase of my writing project where I have ideas that I’m really excited about but that don’t quite work yet. I’m immersed in the project, thinking about it most of the time, but I can’t figure out my way forward. So far, I have decided I’d like to do a series of poems about my mood related to my growing blind spot that somehow incorporate my actual blind spot (the one that I was able to trace by staring at a blank sheet of paper, taped to a wall at eye level, and tracing the dark ring that I saw). Because my spot is not yet a spot but a thickening ring, I’m calling this series, Mood Rings. Now I’m wondering how to write about my moods–a literal description? metaphor? something else? A few days I encountered a writing prompt for mood ring poems:

(from Laura Deutsch Writing the Senses via Market Street Writers)

Pick an emotion—joy, anger, frustration, sadness, etc.—and complete your own poem.

When I feel [name emotion] __________________

It is the color _____________________ – like _____________________

I hear ___________________ – like _____________________________

I taste _______________ – like _________________________________

I smell _____________ – like __________________________________

I see ____________________ – like _____________________________

I feel ___________________ – like ______________________________

I want to ___________________ and ___________________________

But ___________________________.

I’m not sure I like this prompt or want to try it–maybe I will?–but it got me thinking about metaphor and how I might try to express my mood of wonder. Will metaphor enable me to get closer to expressing what I actually feel or further away from the IS/THIS of it? In a blog post for poetry foundation, Sabrina Orah Mark argues that metaphor, which means transport in Greek, reduces distance, bringing us closer to the feeling of what is being expressed. But, this transport only happens when the metaphor is encased within a world that supports it and its meaning. Metaphors fail when they don’t have a world, or that world no longer exists (does this fit with the failure of “doing something at a glacial pace” to work anymore now that glaciers are melting faster?). Does this fit with my own struggles to think about metaphor in my poem about wonder? I’m not sure, but I really liked this post and wanted to mention it here, especially this part:

But what if we can no longer tell if the world we are writing from is inside out or outside in? Up above or down below? The future or the past? What if the rules, like clouds, are becoming a rabbit, no an ambulance, no a dragon, no an unraveling spool of thread. What happens to our imagination when the unimaginable has imagined us up first? Is there an emergency hotline for metaphors?

Regardless of how much sense this discussion is making, it is helping me to come up with some more ideas. Now I’m thinking about ring as metaphor:

RING

  • ring of fire, burning a hole through my retina
  • tree rings, expanding, thickening like my blind spot as time passes and my vision deteriorates
  • boxing rings, brass rings, a ring of truth?

august 28/RUN

3 miles
turkey hollow loop
67 degrees
90% humidity

Keeping this log entry short because I sliced my left hand on glass yesterday afternoon–not enough to need stitches, but almost–and I am trying not to use my left hand so as not to split the just healing wound open again. A nice run. Cooler after the early morning rain. Ran above the river for 10 minutes. The trail wasn’t too crowded.

things I remember

  • A group of runners parallel to me on the grass between the river road and edmund, running almost the same speed, talking very loudly
  • Squirrels shaking acorns from a tree, their teeth clicking, the acorns plinking on the ground
  • Water rushing from the sewer pipe
  • No turkeys
  • Running by some huge logs–I ran by the crew cutting them down a few weeks ago–between Becketwood and 42nd st

Running on edmund, heading north, an idea came to me about my latest blind spot project. When I finished running, I spoke it into my phone:

Idea: Mood Rings

august 27/RUN

2.05 miles
river road trail, south/grass between river road and edmund, south/edmund, north
73 degrees
humidity: 89%
dew point: 70

Another hot day, another short run. I started on the river road trail but it was too crowded to stay. Crossed over to the dirt trail in the grass between the river road and edmund. Rutted and difficult to run on. Didn’t have a chance to see the river, too busy looking out for bikers and walkers.

At some point during the run I thought about the great book I’m reading (one of the few books I’m reading instead of listening to), Bonnie Tsui’s Why We Swim, and her chapter on flow.

Flow: the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter” (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi).

I was thinking, as I ran by Dowling Elementary, how difficult it is to experience flow during runs this spring and summer. It’s partly because there’s too much to worry about–hurricanes, pandemics, the refusal by leaders to do the difficult work of addressing racial injustice and dismantling institutions that create/perpetuate injustice, upcoming elections and the campaign to destroy “liberal cities”–and partly because the trails and sidewalks are too crowded to get lost. I know it still happens to me–running or writing, I can lose track of time–but I wish it could happen more.

Anything else I remember? Tons of acorn shells everywhere. The squirrels are busy. Does that mean we will have a tough winter? Don’t remember hearing cicadas or any birds, not too many cars, no roller skiers or rowers. No leaf blowers or horns honking. I did see an adult biking with a little kid. I love watching little kids biking, especially when they’re very little and very good at biking–so graceful and powerful.

state fair mannequins

In a non-pandemic world, the state fair would have started today. I miss many things about going to the fair. The food, the beer, the mutant vegetables and political crop art (there would have been some really good ones this year), but what I’m missing most today are the state fair mannequins. Every year I love seeing them looking so creepy and strange and almost human. Last year I started work on a project about eye contact and faces and the uncanny valley and state fair mannequins. Some day I will finish it. Here’s one of my favorite mannequins:

august 26/RUN

2 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, north/the hill
79 degrees
dew point: 66

Very hot today. 77 degrees at 7 in the morning. I decided to do a shorter run. Not too bad. Listened to a running playlist so didn’t notice any other sounds. No chirping birds or backing up beeps or roaring lawn mowers or plink-plonking acorns or zapping cicadas. Ran in a lot of shade, which was nice. Felt strong running up the hill on Edmund. Checked out my form a few times by looking at a shadow running beside me, then ahead. Encountered many more walkers than runners.

Didn’t get close enough to see the river. Forgot to check out the aspen eyes. I did notice how the tree on the corner of Edmund and 32nd, the one that usually glows a glorious yellow in the fall, was almost all goldish-brown. Is it dying? I hope not.

Had another pandemic dream last night–my second, I think, which isn’t too bad considering how long we’ve been in this mess. Same scenario, different setting. In a crowded place (first time it was a Justin Bieber?! concert, this time in a restaurant). Suddenly, I realize I’m around too many people, none of us socially distancing or wearing masks. What am I doing here? Why am I being so reckless? I freak out, then wake up. It’s unusual for me to have such literal dreams–of course, a bunch of other weird shit happened in the midst of this that I can’t remember now too, but the basic anxiety is my actual, literal anxiety. Usually, anxiety dreams are like the one I mentioned a week ago when I was late for a band concert and couldn’t find a black shirt. Or, it’s the last week of the semester and I haven’t shown up to class at all–either as the teacher or the student. Being late for a concert, forgetting to attend class are not things I have to worry about right now–and I’m not. What is it about this pandemic and my fears/worries about it that is making my dreams so boringly literal?

I think (I hope) I’ve discovered my new project. It’s a companion project to the Snellen charts. I’m tracing the blind spot in my central vision and then superimposing it on text about vision to create erasure poems. I’m still not sure how this will all work or how many of them I will do or whether or not I will only do erasures with found text or include my own text. Last night, while experimenting with this, I tried it out. This is not the actual erasure, just an experiment taking text about blind spots from Sight Unseen, staring at it until I can see my blind spot, then tracing that blind spot on top of the text.

Blind Spot Experiment

Not sure how to make this work yet. In the above experiment, I focused my eyes on the center of the page–the W I think–and then traced the blind spot I saw. I could try focusing on different spots. Should I create the blind spot tracing with every new experiment or create a template of my blind spot that I can easily place on different texts? Should the text be blacked out or just not there–an absence in white?

Scott suggested creating two poems out of it, one with the blind spot words removed–so a ring of white, and one with only the blind spot words. This makes me think of the amazing poems of Diana Khoi Nguyen in Of Ghost, especially Triptych.

august 25/RUN

3 miles
over the lake st bridge!
73 degrees
humidity: 87%
dew point: 69

Hot and humid this morning, but who cares? I ran over the lake street bridge and got my first satisfying view of the river in months, maybe since this whole pandemic started. What a view! What a beautiful river. No rowers or motor boats or paddle boats or canoes. Just smooth, shining blue water. I’ve been reluctant to run over the bridge for fear that it would be too crowded, but I didn’t encounter anyone–and even if I did, the path isn’t that narrow and it wouldn’t take me long to pass someone.

I ran east on 36th st, then north on 47th ave, past 7 oaks, through Minnehaha Academy parking lot, over to lake street, across the bridge, down the stairs to under the bridge, up the other side and over the bridge again, across the river road to the trail then over the edmund, and finishing by running down and back up the hill above the tunnel of trees. It’s nice to do a slightly different route. Maybe next time I’ll try crossing the bridge, then running up to Summit and back down again?

Things I Remember

  • Seeing the dock at the Minneapolis Rowing Club on the north side of the lake street bridge, empty
  • Not encountering any people on the bridge but passing by three scooters leaning against the railing
  • A lone roller skier preparing to ski up the hill
  • The bright yellow shirt of a runner exiting the stairs from the bridge
  • Checking to see if there was an eagle perched on the dead tree branch on the bridge (nope)
  • The socially distanced tables with umbrellas at Longfellow Grill, empty (I think?)
  • Passing a guy sitting on a boulder in the grass between edmund and the river road 3 times, first as I crossed over from edmund to the river road heading south, second as I ran down the hill on the river road, and third, as I ran back up the hill

blind spot

At the end of February, while reading Sight Unseen, I discovered how to see my blind spot. Everyone has a blind spot, but mine is in my central vision and it keeps getting bigger every year as more of my cones get scrambled. I stared at the center of a blank white wall for a few minutes and then suddenly a ring, white in the small center, grayish-black on the broader edges appeared. I drew it from memory in my notebook:

Plague Notebook, Vol 2

Yesterday afternoon, I decided to try finding my blind spot again. This time I took a sheet of white paper and taped it on the wall, at eye level. I closed my left eye and stared into it for a minute or two with my right eye until a grayish circle with a white center appeared. I quickly traced it, then colored it in, using blue for the grayish part:

Blind Spot, Right Eye

I wasn’t very precise with this method, but still, I think this gives a good sense of how much of my central vision might be left. I want to keep experimenting with this image–maybe make a concrete poem out of it or something? I haven’t figured it out yet, but this might be a second part to my Snellen Chart poems. I’m also thinking of using the Amsler grid with it and maybe the grid out of words instead of lines?

august 24/RUN

2.5 miles
44th ave, north/32nd st, east/river road, north/river road, south/edmund, south
77 degrees
dew point: 66

Ran just after noon. So hot and bright! Ran up 44th on sidewalks strewn with acorns, past Cooper Field with no shade in sight. Past the aspen eyes and the crowded parking lot. Under the Lake street bridge, up the hill, on the trail that winds above the Minneapolis Rowing Club. I turned around and ran back down the hill below the bridge, and up the other side, through the grass in front of Minnehaha Academy, up the hill on Edmund,

For the first time this year (I think), I saw the man in black! He wore a white shirt and black shorts today. So tall, such long legs.

I ran above the river for at least a mile of the run but I don’t remember seeing it. Was I distracted or was there too much green? Probably both.

Heard the beep beep beep of a truck backing up again. Also heard the machines (what kinds of machines?) at the construction site above the tunnel of trees. Heard cicadas and crickets. Don’t remember hearing any geese or cardinals or chickadees.

Noticed the bright glare of the sun on a few cars. Beautiful and annoying.

Ran on sidewalks covered in acorns, bumpy roads, uneven grass, narrowly rutted trails, a pock-marked parking lot, on the very edge of the bluff.

Today’s Wonder: Grackles

This morning, I encountered a tweet from a poetry person: “the grackles are here.” I knew grackles were birds but not much else. I assumed that the tweet was done in the tone of delight. Then I looked up grackles and realized my mistake. Here are a few things I learned about grackles this morning (main source):

  • They are a nuisance. The collective noun for grackles is sometimes “a nuisance of grackles” or “a plague of grackles”.
  • The congregate in the fall in big groups. Very big groups. According to the Mass Audubon site, up to a million grackles in a group.
  • Their short call sounds like a rusty gate.
  • They have yellow googley eyes and iridescent feathers.
  • They are a bigger threat to corn than crows.
  • They’re into “anting”–they let ants crawl all over them so the ants can secrete acid from their stings on their feathers to kill parasites.

The Grackle/ Ogden Nash

The grackle’s voice is less than mellow,
His heart is black, his eye is yellow,
He bullies more attractive birds
With hoodlum deeds and vulgar words,
And should a human interfere,
Attacks that human in the rear.
I cannot help but deem the grackle
An ornithological debacle.

Have I ever seen or heard a grackle? I’m not sure.

august 23/RUN

3.1 miles
another route where I avoid people*
72 degrees
dew point: 69

*36th st, east/edmund, north/river road trail, north/48th ave, northwest/minnehaha academy parking lot/32nd st, east/edmund, south/38th st, west/river road, north/the hill

Went out for my run a little earlier, but not early enough. Still crowded. Was planning to do the trestle turn around route but when I saw how many bikers and walkers there were, I decided to turn up towards lake street and loop around Minnehaha Academy. I am looking forward to when it is cooler and there are less people on the trails–will that happen this year?

Heard some birds this morning but I can’t remember what or how they were singing. Also heard some cicadas. No geese or woodpeckers or black-capped chickadees. Saw my shadow running ahead of me.

(added a few hours later) I almost forgot: running on Edmund, I felt a small acorn bounce off my bare shoulder as it fell to the ground. I don’t think I’ve ever had an acorn bounce off of my shoulder. I’m glad it was a small one–and also not a walnut!

Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout/ GARY SNYDER

Down valley a smoke haze
Three days heat, after five days rain   
Pitch glows on the fir-cones
Across rocks and meadows
Swarms of new flies.

I cannot remember things I once read   
A few friends, but they are in cities.   
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup   
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.

I like the simple form of this poem and how he describes the landscape in the first stanza. It’s like a deep breath or a little prayer or a moment of quiet rumination. I’d like to try a few poems in this form, using details from my log entries.

Is the line, “I cannot remember things I once read,” a reference to aging? I read another poem about aging this morning:

Vertigo/ LES MURRAY

Last time I fell in a shower room
I bled like a tumbril dandy
and the hotel longed to be rid of me.
Taken to the town clinic, I
described how I tripped on a steel rim
and found my head in the wardrobe.
Scalp-sewn and knotted and flagged
I thanked the Frau Doktor and fled,
wishing the grab-bar of age might
be bolted to all civilization
and thinking of Rome’s eighth hill
heaped up out of broken amphorae.

When, anytime after sixty,
or anytime before, you stumble
over two stairs and club your forehead
on rake or hoe, bricks or fuel-drums,
that’s the time to call the purveyor
of steel pipe and indoor railings,
and soon you’ll be grasping up landings
having left your balance in the car
from which please God you’ll never
see the launchway of tires off a brink.
Later comes the sunny day when
street detail whitens blindly to mauve

and people hurry you, or wait, quiet.

august 22/RUN

3 miles
running wherever there’s an uncluttered path*
69 degrees
humidity: 89%
dew point: 66

*Ran towards the river, was almost hit by 2 bikes (one was their fault, the other mine). The path was so crowded that I couldn’t avoid people so I crossed over to the grassy stretch between edmund and the river road. Too crowded. Ran on Edmund. Too crowded. Finally turned right on 42nd and ran through the neighborhood, west on 42nd st, north on 43rd ave, around Howe school, east on 37th st, north on 45th ave, west on 35th st.

Hot and too crowded. Oh well, still good to get out there. Woke up this morning from an anxiety dream: I needed to perform in a concert in a town an hour away. I couldn’t find a black shirt. Most of the dream consisted of me frantically searching through all my clothes, which had been carefully folded by my dead mom until I threw them all around the room. No black shirt. A messy mountain of clothes.

Listened to a playlist as I ran. It helped a little. Could still hear the crickets buzzing. It’s LOUD bug season. When I reached Howe, someone was racing a remote control car on the street. I’m glad I was running on the sidewalk! I never saw who was doing it. I imagined a young boy, but it could have been a man or a young girl, I guess.

Listening to Teenage Kicks on the Current radio station this morning as I write this entry. I like this line from Prince’s “Pop Life”: everybody needs a thrill/we all got a space to fill.

Found this bit of wisdom on twitter from Dana Levin the other day. I love the poetry people on twitter.

Hot tip: It’s great to mull the context that gives birth to a poem, but if you start revising based on this context rather than on the gifts (often unexpected) of the material—language, image, tone, etc—your poems will simply be recordings rather than revelations.

In this same thread, a John Ashbery passage from his poem flow chart is mentioned:

So one can lose a good idea
by not writing it down, yet by losing it one can have it: it nourishes other asides
it knows nothing of

This makes me think of same great advice Danez Smith gave in a poetry workshop I attended. They talked about the original idea for a poem as the bay leaf that seasons the poem but that you take out before serving.

I’m also thinking about something Mary Oliver said in her interview with Krista Tippet for On Being. Just as Dana Levin ends with “your poems will simply be recordings rather than revelations,” Oliver suggests that without empathy/feeling your poem is only reporting, a field guide. Too much context/explanation distracts (or detracts?) from feeling and experiencing the poem.

august 21/RUN

2.25 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, north/hill x 2
73 degrees

A warmer morning. Can’t remember anything that I thought about, which is nice. I like getting lost. Ran one of my new regular routes through the neighborhood, then closer to the river. No tunnel of trees today. I hope that when it gets colder, less people will run so I can run on the trail without worrying too much about getting too close to people.

sound of the morning

At the start of my run, on the sidewalk north on 43rd, I heard the beep beep beep beep beep of a truck backing up. At first I couldn’t tell where the truck was, then I noticed a U-Haul parking in front of a house. How many beeps? At least a dozen. I guess they were struggling to parallel park.

fall is coming!

Turning the corner from 32nd st to Edmund, I noticed it: one of the trees that glows yellow in the fall is changing already. The yellow is creeping in, slowly. I love tracking the changing colors in the fall!

I don’t remember hearing many birds or bugs. No music blasting from bike speakers or people talking on the phone. No clickity-clacks from roller skiers or bike bells dinging. I do remember hearing the distinctive plink plink of an acorn bouncing on the ground and the hum of at least one machine at the construction site above the tunnel of trees.

Currently I’m working on turning my work memorizing poems into writing exercises/memoir. And I’ve been thinking about how useful and wonderful it is to record myself reciting a poem and then listening back to the words, which are often correct but sometimes wrong in unexpected ways. I found a tweet yesterday, which doesn’t totally fit with this memorizing but connects:

transcriptions rly show how much of our talk is dirt & gravel, how clear thoughts have to be panned for like gold

yet all the human pleasure is in the gravel, in the second-guessing & laughter & short sighs, the repetitions & amens, the silences where thoughts turn & settle

One bit of “gravel” I find in my recitation recordings is when I struggle to remember a word or phrase or line. Such delight in hearing the moment of remembering and the struggle to achieve it! What would it look like to transcribe that into a poem, I wonder?

Finally, here’s another poem about listening that I discovered a few days ago.

Listening/ Elizabeth Hoover

When I am in a restaurant or bar, I watch
women listening. They listen to men talk
about unfinished basements, art projects,
or how the land is very rocky around Sudbury.
I admire how women are resourceful in making
themselves comfortable while listening. One
cradles her chin in her palm, her spine
a deep c-curve. Another woman sits
very upright and sips her martini
while following the zigzag of waiters.
The woman to my left appears to be using
the time to memorize how her hands look
in case they are lost or stolen and she needs
to describe them to the police while a man explains
that industrial strawberry farming has created
a monoculture. The woman with perfect posture
is receiving directions to a trailhead
in another country. The woman
with the swan-neck spine stealthily adjusts
her belt as a man informs her Lolita
is really an allegory about art-making. After all
these years of listening, I am so good at it that I can
even listen to the women’s listening. It sounds
like a wind over a great plain laid to waste
by a retreating army or the pages of a book
abandoned on the sand by a swimmer
whose strong arms have taken her beyond
where waves crash so she can float and listen
to the rush of her blood, the shriek of gulls.
She can hear the gulls’ ribs creak as they inhale
before each cry. She can hear the rustle
as urchins pass over the decay they feast on.
She can hear silver on the sides of fish
and the loneliness of an uncoupled eel. She listens
to her own sounds as well: the current
of her nerves slowing, her hair lifting
and floating away, the sacs in her lungs
reaching greedy mouths to the sky.

At first, I wasn’t planning to memorize this poem but now, re-reading it, I’m thinking I will. I love the descriptions of the women listening to the mansplaining–especially the woman examining her hands in case they are stolen–and the listening to women listening–especially the swimmer in the sea.

august 20/RUN

3.1 miles
neighborhood + trail*
73 degrees
78% humidity

*36th st, east/47th ave, north/32nd st, east/48th ave, south/edmund, north/32nd, east/river road trail, south/38th st, west/edmund, north/36th st, east/river road, south/bottom of hill/river road, north

Getting a bit burned out with the usual running routes. It’s difficult adjusting to the road being open again. So much time spent thinking/worrying about keeping distance from other people. Harder, also, because I’m getting to the stage of being over summer and heat and humidity and biting, extra itchy bugs. Poor Delia the dog is suffering from her annual August allergies. School, albeit online, is starting soon for the kids–the first year of high school and the last. Anxiousness is in the air.

Still glad I got out there and ran. I’m sure I glanced at the river at some point, but I can’t remember anything about it. Noticed the amphitheater of green air and the ancient boulder with 4 stones stacked on top. Encountered one walker in the tunnel of trees, but we were almost 6 feet apart and I passed her quickly. Had to bypass the Welcoming Oaks to avoid some dogs with their humans.

Recited “Babel” for the first mile, then “Writing a Poem” for some of the second. Too distracted for any reciting of “Push the Button, Hear the Sound.”

Gross Noise of the Day: running south on 47th ave, approaching 34th st, I heard a man vigorously coughing and hacking and clearing his throat in a house nearby. First reaction was yuck!, then, is he okay?

Great Noise of the Day: running north on Edmund, almost to the river, I heard Yes’s “Owner of a Lonely Heart” blasting out of a bike’s speakers. Nice!

Anything else? More acorns, lots of Monarch butterflies, at least one roller skier, dogs. No little kids on bikes or circling turkey vultures or honking geese or frantic squirrels. I’m sure I heard a leaf blower, a lawn mower, a roaring plane. No fragments of conversation to wonder about. 2 plugged up ears, making hearing hard.

loaded gun

Running down the hill, 2.5 miles into my run, I started thinking about COVID-19 and had these strange thoughts about how someone who was infected could decide to deliberately cough on me and how breath becomes deadly, our bodies become weapons. Then the phrase “loaded gun” popped into my head–our bodies as loaded guns–and I remembered the poem by Emily Dickinson:

My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun (764)/ EMILY DICKINSON

My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun –
In Corners – till a Day
The Owner passed – identified –
And carried Me away –

And now We roam in Sovreign Woods –
And now We hunt the Doe –
And every time I speak for Him
The Mountains straight reply –

And do I smile, such cordial light
Opon the Valley glow –
It is as a Vesuvian face
Had let it’s pleasure through –

And when at Night – Our good Day done –
I guard My Master’s Head –
’Tis better than the Eider Duck’s
Deep Pillow – to have shared –

To foe of His – I’m deadly foe –
None stir the second time –
On whom I lay a Yellow Eye –
Or an emphatic Thumb –

Though I than He – may longer live
He longer must – than I –
For I have but the power to kill,
Without – the power to die –

august 19/RUN

2.5 miles
43rd ave, south/32nd st, east/river road trail, south/winchell trail, south/river road trail, north/edmund, north
68 degrees

Another beautiful morning. Another good run, although I wish the road was still closed to cars. I’m managing to keep distance from other runners, but I’m encountering them more on the trail. I suppose it’s good for me to loosen up a little on my extreme avoidance of others? Ran north on 43rd, then right on 32nd. Passed the half-finished house on the corner of 32nd and 46th. Abandoned for almost a year now, I think. Such a big house; another one of the ugly beasts taking over the neighborhood. Out of scale and over-priced. I wonder how long it will be before someone finishes it.

Ran past the aspen eyes and the parking lot at Minnehaha Academy, now filled with cars. In-person school begins there in less than 2 weeks. Ran through the tunnel of trees–all clear! Forgot to check if there were stones stacked on the ancient boulder at the top of the hill. Also forgot to greet the Welcoming Oaks. Didn’t hear any water dripping off of the limestone ledge in the ravine. Remembered to look at the river. What a river! Was able to admire it on the river road path up above, then a little closer, down below on the Winchell trail. A glitter of glints. Gorgeous.

Today I decided to take my chances and run on the lower trail for a short, 1/2 mile stretch, between 38th and Folwell. Success! Didn’t encounter another runner, walker, stroller, or dog. Hooray! I love this trail and how it’s perched halfway down the hill (or bluff? or gorge?), farther from the road, closer to the river.

Noise of the Day: the steady, unrelenting drop drop drop of acorns from the oak trees. So many acorns! Thumping and thudding to the ground. How many of these acorns fell and how many of them were thrown by squirrels? I thought I remembered there being a lot of acorns dropping early last year, but when I searched through my log I didn’t find any mention of acorns until September. When I googled it, I found an MPR article about acorns dropping as early as June because tiny wasps were laying their eggs in them. The most likely cause of early acorns is that the tree is stressed–too hot or too cold, too much rain, not enough. These stressed, “aborted” acorns are green. Checking with Scott, the acorns falling around us this August are brown, which means they’re full grown.

Right after finishing my run, I recited “Writing a Poem.” I thought I did a great job reciting it–aside from the pauses when I felt self-conscious as I encountered other walkers–but listening back to the recording, I messed up several words. I think it’s such a useful practice to record myself reciting these poems and checking the lines. If I didn’t check I might never notice I’m getting it wrong. I’m fascinated by how I am sure I am thinking/saying one thing, when I’m actually saying something else.

Writing a poem, August 19

One line I’m still trying to figure out: “history’s dental chair”?

I like the rhyme: “frantic and still” with “until only spit oozes” and “spills over” and “fills cavities”.

august 18/RUN

3.1 miles
turkey hollow loop
62 degrees

Another nice morning for a run. Low 60s, not too much wind, sunny. Ran on the trail and spent a lot of time focused on avoiding other people. I remember looking down at the river near the steps at 38th st, but I don’t remember anything about it. With all the sun, it must have been sparkling. Didn’t hear any rowers on the river but I bet there were some somewhere. Maybe closer to the bridge? No turkeys in turkey hollow again today. No geese or ducks or woodpeckers. At some point, I heard a crow.

Most distinctive sound I remember hearing while running: the plink–or was it plunk?–of small acorns bouncing on the road.

Most distinctive sound I remember hearing while walking: the loud, uncovered sneeze of a woman inside a house somewhere on my block.

Recited the first part of Shirley Geok-lin Lim’s “Writing a Poem” as I ran. Thought about trying to write a poem while unable to block out an annoying noise as Bernadette Mayer’s exercise in “Please Add to this List”: Attempt writing in a state of mind that seems least congenial. There weren’t any annoying noises that I remember today. No leaf blowers or roaring planes or honking cars or zooming motorcycles or walkers whose voices cut through everything or slowly approaching runners or dog collars clanging or kids with high-pitched whistles that blow them over and over and over again.

Right after finishing my run, I took out my phone and recorded myself reciting it. Too many errors–heavy instead of giant machine, mixing up helpless and hopeless. Need more practice memorizing. Probably the most interesting thing about this recording is the cicada’s buzzing in the background. So loud! I don’t remember hearing them.

Writing a Poem, August 18

Let the Wonder Always Win

Last night, I attended a virtual book launch for Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s “World of Wonders.” I think she’s my favorite poet. Ross Gay (who is also amazing) was interviewing her. He asked about how she balances a love of wonder with sadness, grief, and rage. She said something about how she’s not happy or joyful all the time; she feels a lot of sadness and rage, but she always lets the wonder win. I love that line. It might be my new mantra.

Earlier in the talk, she also discussed how, as young kids, we are always exclaiming, excitedly calling out, Look! Look at the flower! or look at that cloud, shaped like a horse! Later on in life, we forget or are too self-conscious of that enthusiasm for wondering. We need to reclaim our love of exclaiming. Yes!

This makes me think of this poem (one of my favorites) by Maggie Smith:

Poem Beginning with a Retweet/ Maggie Smith

If you drive past horses and don’t say horses
you’re a psychopath. If you see an airplane
but don’t point it out. A rainbow,
a cardinal, a butterfly. If you don’t
whisper-shout albino squirrel! Deer!
Red fox! If you hear a woodpecker
and don’t shush everyone around you
into silence. If you find an unbroken
sand dollar in a tide pool. If you see
a dorsal fin breaking the water.
If you see the moon and don’t say
oh my god look at that moon. If you don’t smell
smoke and don’t search for fire.
If you feel yourself receding, receding,
and don’t tell anyone until you’re gone.

august 17/RUN

3.1 miles
turkey hollow loop
67 degrees

Ran south on the river road trail, right above the river. I glanced at it a few times but wasn’t able to see anything specific–I know I was looking at the river, framed by trees, but I can’t say what color it was or whether or not it was shimmering. No turkeys in turkey hollow today.

5 Sounds I Heard As I Ran

  1. The repeated thud, sometimes dull, sometimes sharp, of acorns hitting the pavement on Edmund.
  2. The far off buzzing of a leaf blower or lawn mower or some type of machine.
  3. The electric buzz of cicadas, growing louder then softer then louder again.
  4. The roaring of a chainsaw, then the crack of a big branch hitting the ground.
  5. A biker approaching from behind, blasting opera music from the speaker of their bike.

A noisy morning with lots of buzzing. In the above list, I wanted to give straight description without judgment. Here’s a list with judgment:

Ranking of Sounds Heard on Run, from Least to Most Annoying

  • Gently falling acorns onto the boulevard
  • A cicada serenade
  • Roaring chainsaws and cracking branches
  • Relentlessly droning leaf blowers, buzzing in my brain
  • Over-wrought opera singers ruining my calm, quiet mood

Speaking of buzzing, here is the first part of the new listen poem I started memorizing today:

Writing a Poem/ Shirley Geok-lin Lim

The air is buzzing. Some one near by
is operating a giant machine. He’s scrubbing
the just sold building with a high-
powered hose. None of us are listening,

although we are each hopeless before
the dizz-dizz-dizz. It it was a monstrous
radiated beetle, we couldn’t be more
helpless. It’s eating up the hours

as if they were the sweet nectar of day,
which they are. It is impossible
to think or write.

Noises While Running that I Feel Helpless to Avoid

  • leaf blowers, lawn mowers, chainsaws
  • howling wind
  • a walker talking loudly into their phone
  • a runner talking loudly to another runner
  • a biker talking loudly to another biker
  • a speeding motorcycle
  • the shuffling footsteps of a runner, approaching too slowly
  • a honking horn

Some days I want to listen more, other days I wish I could block out all of the noise.

Here’s a sound I’d like to identify. I heard this bird singing (or calling out) in my backyard yesterday afternoon. What is it?

What bird makes this sound?

august 16/RUN

1.8 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd, east/around Cooper school/32nd, east/edmund, north/36th st, west
70 degrees

A quick run through the neighborhood this morning. Decided to run around Cooper school once as part of the route to see how much distance it would add. Noticed how much shorter the east/west blocks seem compared to the north/south ones.

so loud!

Yesterday, running and reciting “Babel” I mentioned how quiet it was. Not today! So loud. Buzzing cicadas, humming crickets. Right before I started my run, I heard, in quick succession, a kid yelling, a man hocking a loogies, a women violently sneezing. Yuck! Glad they were all inside somewhere and that I was running away from them.

After I finished, went out on a walk with Scott and Delia the dog. Unintentionally, we walked the exact route I ran, minus the loop around Cooper. Right next to the Aspen eyes, on the edge of the Minnehaha Academy parking lot, we witnessed about half a dozen monarch butterflies fluttering by. Scott got some video:

august 15/RUN

3.3 miles
winding down to the river, pt 2*
62 degrees

*A slight variation on yesterday’s route: 43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/45th ave, south/36th st, east/47th ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, south/river road, north/bottom of hill/river road, south

What a nice morning for a run! Cooler and calm. Sunny. Relaxed. Ran through the neighborhood and ended by running up and down the hill near the Welcoming Oaks twice. Saw some bikers, runners, and walkers. Heard some music blasting from a bike’s speaker but couldn’t identify the song–the biker was going too fast and/or the doppler effect was distorting the music too much. Also heard the quiet, gentle hum of crickets. So many acorns littering the sidewalk! No spazzy squirrels in sight. Are they too busy up in the trees? No roller skiers or rowers. No Daily Walker or tall, old guy in short running shorts.

Recited “Babel” several times as I ran. Struggled with the word blustered in the line, “the trees/blustered to howls.” Throught about the order of this line: is it, “the tesla bees/whine loudly to the shocked air” or “the tesla bees/loudly whine to the shocked air”? Is the second not grammatically correct, or is it just preference? The first seems better, so why am I sometimes drawn to reciting the second? It felt strange to be reciting this poem, especially the first line, “My God, it’s loud down here,” when it isn’t loud at all this morning. It’s calm, peaceful, with only a quiet hum.

Thought about reciting the poem as I ran up the hill for the second time, but I wimped out. I should really try doing this sometime soon. Instead, I recited it a few seconds after I stopped running, as I walked home, still out of breath. Just like I had struggled with the word blustered as I ran, I couldn’t remember it now. I like how I captured this moment of forgetting and then remembering: blustered!–you can almost hear the exclamation point in my voice. I thought I knew this poem better than yesterday, but I still struggled with some wrong words and the flow seemed off. It feels like I can’t quite connect with this poem or the poet’s writing style. Will I ever? From where does this lack of connection come?

Babel, August 15

august 14/RUN

2.4 miles
winding down towards the river*
77 degrees
humidity: 88%
dew point: 70

*43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/47th ave, south/edmund, north/32nd st, east/river road trail, south (including tunnel of trees)/36th st, west

Inspired by Scott and his winding routes through the neighborhood, I decided to try one of own. It’s a nice change of pace to run on different streets after running the same way for so long. I’m surprised this route isn’t a bit longer.

When I reached the river, I noticed Dave the Daily Walker up ahead! I haven’t seen him for months–since April or May, I think. So glad he’s doing okay. I’ve wondered about him.

Ran through the tunnel of trees. Dark and thick and wonderful. Encountered one runner but we both moved over as far as we could–almost 6 feet apart, I think.

I’m pretty sure I glanced at the river quickly. I can’t remember if I heard the rowers today, or was it yesterday? Yesterday.

I recited “Babel” several times as I ran. I know it better today than yesterday. The most awkward lines:

the electrical bugs so loud
the air is stunned, windy the trees’
applause redoubled by the clapping wings
of magpies?

Windy the trees’ applause? That sounds strange to me. I tried to find some audio of Johnson reading the poem but I couldn’t. I don’t feel like I can properly deliver that line yet because the windy the tree part doesn’t quite make sense. Favorite bits? “the trees blustered to howls,” the “huckster cackle,” and “the air stupid with the shrieks of devils,–of angels,–“

I recorded myself reciting it when I returned home. I’m finding this poem to be awkward to read. Some of the lines, like the awkward one about windy the leaves’ applause, are very difficult to keep flowing. I struggle to keep the tone of a question throughout the long sentence. I’d like to try recording myself reciting this while I run and/or walk? Would it be flow better or worse?

Babel, August 14


august 13/RUN

3 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/river road trail, south/edmund, north
72 degrees
humidity: 87%
dew point: 69

Warmer today. Started slow and got faster each mile. Ran north on 43rd again, noticing more of the familiar houses. I run on the right side so I miss running by one of my other favorite 43rd avenue houses on the left side: the one with the 2 lion statues guarding their stoop, at the edge of the sidewalk. For every season, they wear different visors. Since the pandemic began, they’ve been wearing masks–or at least they have the last time I checked, which was a month ago. In the spring, they wear bunny ears, in July, spangled stars, at Christmas-time, reindeer antlers. I know they do something for Halloween too, but I can’t remember what.

Ran past the field at Cooper school, the Aspen eyes, the parking lot at Minnehaha Academy, filling up with cars. Decided to try running on the trail through the tunnel of trees again. No problem! Forget to check out the amphitheater of green air, but did notice the construction trailer–where they’re doing the sewer work–and how, on this side, it was heavily tagged with graffiti. I was moving too fast to read what it said, but it looked cool with the big, brightly colored block letters. Heard the voices of 2 women behind me somewhere. So loud! Was it the two runners I passed–and managed to get 6 feet of distance from because I ran up the side of a small hill–right before entering the tunnel of trees? Ran through the welcoming oaks and above the ravine. Wondered why I wasn’t hearing any water gushing through the pipe, over the limestone ledge, down to the river after all of the rain yesterday. Stayed on the trail until 42nd st when I turned around but was too busy looking out for other people to notice the river. It is often difficult for me to see when a person is ahead–most of the time I can, but I have to be extra careful for those times when I can’t. Haven’t run into anyone yet!

Tried reciting the poem I started memorizing this morning: “Babel” by Kimberly Johnson. I thought I had it memorized, but I got hopelessly stuck halfway through. I thought about briefly stopping and looking up the words on my phone but didn’t.

My God, it’s loud down there, so loud the air
is rattled. Who with the hissing of trees,
the insect chatter, can fix devotion

on holy things, the electrical bugs
so loud the air is stunned, windy the leaves’
applause redoubled by the clapping wings

of magpies? Who with their whispered psalm
can outvoice their huckster cackle, their huckster cackle, their huckster cackle!?

Stuck. I knew the next line had something to do with trees but no matter how hard I concentrated, patiently waiting for the words to appear, they didn’t. When I got home, I checked and, of course!, the line is:

can outvoice their huckster cackle, the trees
blustered to howls while the tesla bees

whined loudly to the shocked air?

Yes! How could I have forgotten those howls or the tesla bees? Are tesla bees a thing? I looked it up and aside from a mention of Nikola Tesla’s idea that women would soon rule the world as “Queen Bees” and references to the “tesla of honey” on a beekeeping forum, I couldn’t find anything. I asked Scott and he wondered if it could be a reference to the buzzing sound a Tesla coil makes. When I looked up, “Tesla coil sound” I found an article about a band that gets the Tesla coil to “sing”. Wow.

Here’s the full poem:

Babel/ Kimberly Johnson

My God, it’s loud down here, so loud the air
is rattled. Who with the hissing of trees,
the insect chatter, can fix devotion

on holy things, the electrical bugs
so loud the air is stunned, windy the leaves’
applause redoubled by the clapping wings

of magpies? Who with their whispered psalm
can outvoice their huckster cackle, the trees
blustered to howls while the tesla bees

whine loudly to the shocked air? O who
can think of heaven in such squall, shrill wind
of trees, magpie wings, and throats in fracas,

the bluebottle static, the air stupid
with the shrieks of devils,— of angels,—
who in such squall can think of anything

but heaven?

I love this poem and all it’s chatter. I was thinking about it this morning as I drank my coffee, sitting in the chair I always sit in while drinking my coffee with all the windows open, listening to all the birds and the low insistent hum of the crickets. So much noise!

august 12/RUN

2 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, south/hill loop
71 degrees

Just updated to the latest version of WordPress (5.5) and they have changed the interface again. Initial reaction: why do we need this change? I’ll give it some time.

Writing this, an hour after my run, the sky is dark, foreboding. Looked at the radar on the weather app and bright yellow and orange and red are approaching. A heavy storm. Hopefully not too heavy.

Took a walk with Scott and Delia the dog first, then went for a shorter run. Listened to a playlist and don’t remember much. Noticed the house on 43rd that used to have the best Halloween decorations–a light/sound show with Toccata and Fugue, a coffin opening up to reveal a skeleton, a graveyard with bloody heads–until the cool people moved away. The new owners have a large cross hanging on their front door and have lined their path with cutesy flowers. Yes, I guess I am bitter.

The run was nice. Noticed lots of cars at Minnehaha Academy–looked it up, student are returning to campus on August 27th. Wow. Also looked up tuition for high schoolers: $23, 980 a year! Forgot to notice the Aspen eyes. Ran on the sidewalk past the trees that, in less than two months will be glowing yellow, and my favorite trio of some of the biggest cottonwood trees I’ve ever seen. Ran past the house that seemed abandoned for almost a year until suddenly it wasn’t and now they’ve been doing minor renovations all spring and summer. Switched over to other side of Edmund and ran right above where they’re working on the sewers. When I reached 36th I turned left onto the river road and ran down the hill until I reached the bottom. Turned around and ran back up it. Saw some bikers, runners, walker. Any roller skier? Don’t think so.

Before I run I noticed the quiet buzz of bugs. The buzz didn’t sound electric. Was it crickets? Speaking of electric buzz, I found another useful site about cicadas with this harsh and haunting description:

Nymph FoodRoot juices of pine and oak
Adult Food Adults do not eat. After mating they die.

When You Walk Over the Earth/ Katie Farris 

When you walk over
the earth, it asserts
itself: “Here. Here.

Here,” it says to your
feet. You must reckon
with the earth, though it enters

you less. The sky always
has its hand in you,
as if you were a puppet,

through your ears down
your throat into your
lungs—and with the tips

of its fingers there, it caresses
every capillary, every blood cell,
until they blush.

After initially posting this entry, I sat at my desk and listened to the gentle rain falling and decided I needed to add something more here. “A Short Story of Falling” by Alice Oswald is a favorite poem of mine–I should memorize it. A few years ago, I turned it into an homage poem about crunching snow.

A Short Story of Falling/ ALICE OSWALD

It is the story of the falling rain
to turn into a leaf and fall again

it is the secret of a summer shower
to steal the light and hide it in a flower

and every flower a tiny tributary
that from the ground flows green and momentary

is one of water’s wishes and this tale
hangs in a seed-head smaller than my thumbnail

if only I a passerby could pass
as clear as water through a plume of grass

to find the sunlight hidden at the tip
turning to seed a kind of lifting rain drip

then I might know like water how to balance
the weight of hope against the light of patience

water which is so raw so earthy-strong
and lurks in cast-iron tanks and leaks along

drawn under gravity towards my tongue
to cool and fill the pipe-work of this song

which is the story of the falling rain
that rises to the light and falls again

And here is a recording of the rain, just outside my window in the front room:

Falling Water, August 12


august 11/RUN

3.2 miles
turkey hollow loop
63 degrees

Beautiful morning! Calm, sunny, not too warm or crowded. Was able to run on the path above the river heading south. Encountered a few runners and bikers but was able to keep my distance. The river was glowing white, over half the sky green. Passed the tall old guy with the long legs made longer by old school running shorts and a torso made shorter by a tucked-in tank top–or should I call it a muscle shirt? The alliteration of tucked-in tank top sounds better. Passed the ridge above the oak savanna, the steps at 38th street, the bench near Folwell, the ancient boulder at 42nd. Crossed over by Becketwood to the paved trail on the other side of the road, then ran down the hill on Edmund to turkey hollow. No turkeys today. Ran up 47th, back to the river road, on the narrow grassy stretch between Becketwood and 42nd that Scott and I have named the gauntlet, and then back over to edmund.

Between 42nd and 36th, many of the houses on Edmund are modern and big–lots of huge windows and intensely colored doors (red, lime green) and inviting decks, funky chandeliers, and futura-fonted house numbers. From ages 5 to 9, I lived in a modern house in Hickory, North Carolina–2 1/2 levels, with open staircases you could hang from by your legs and that had hiding places behind them, several balconies, both inside on the top floor, and outside, above the private front patio, a stone fireplace you could walk behind, cubby holes, a screened-in porch off the kitchen on the second floor overlooking the neighbor’s pool, huge light fixtures that glowed like ghostly heads at night, awesomely 70’s zig zag wallpaper in the kitchen, a family room that could fit a 20 foot christmas tree. I loved that house and all of its quirks. I wonder, what quirks do the houses I ran by (and almost every day for the last 5 months) contain?

sound: buzzing bugs

Every August, there are still birds chirping and cooing and trilling, but they are harder to hear because of the relentless electric buzz of the bugs. Cicadas. There are 2 types of cicadas: those that appear every year (dog day) and those that emerge from underground in large numbers every 13-17 years (periodical). I just learned that in Minnesota we only ever get the dog day kind. And I am glad after reading about how many periodical cicadas can emerge, covering cars, sidewalks, and emitting obnoxious noises! I could hear their power line buzz as I ran. I don’t like the sound as much as the black capped chickadee’s call or the pew pew pew of the cardinal, but it doesn’t bother me. Whenever I think about cicadas, I remember my introduction to them: the 1986 movie, Lucas, which is set during a summer when a brood of periodical cicadas are emerging from the ground….Reading an article from the Smithsonian about how weird they are, I discovered zombie cicadas:

In recent years, researchers have unearthed peculiar and sometimes horrifying relationships between cicadas and fungi. Massospora fungi infect cicadas and hijack their bodies. The fungi can even synchronize to the cicada’s life cycle, staying dormant until the cicada is ready to emerge. Once active, they take over the bottom half of the cicada’s body while somehow keeping the cicada alive. The infected cicada flies away, spreading spores that infect future generations (Source).

Also, while early Americans despised cicadas, confusing them with plagues of locusts, the ancient Greeks loved cicadas, writing odes about them.

[the cry of the cicada]/ Matsuo Basho

The cry of the cicada
Gives us no sign
That presently it will die

august 10/RUN

3.1 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, south/33rd st, east/river road trail, south/42nd st, west/edmund, north
67 degrees
humidity: 80%

Non-stop thunder and lightening for most of the night. Wild. Unsettling to the dog, but no damage or power outages. This morning everything was wet and a darker (but not an ominous dark) green.

Ran north on 43rd until 32nd then turned right. I think this is my new usual route. Ran on 32nd to edmund, right before the river, and ran a block until crossing at 33rd to enter the trail. I decided today I would try to run the tunnel of trees and hope there weren’t too many people when I reached the narrowest parts. Success! Didn’t encounter anyone.

Ran past the old stone steps, past the concrete wall/ overlook/ bench that Delia likes to jump on, past the four barriers (2 walls, 2 fences), past the amphitheater of green air (the spot where the trees open up slightly to create wide space surrounded by trees, blocking out the sky but still feeling uncrowded), past the spot on the trail where you can just see the top of the hill. Beautiful! I had forgotten how much I love this stretch of the trail. Above the forest, on the edge of a ridge, looking out at endless layers of green with no floor and no sky. Tucked below the road, hidden behind a wall and a fence. Dark and mysterious. Quiet. Enough time alone to gain some peace, not enough to feel afraid (of critters* or lurking humans).

*Speaking of critters, I have seen, earlier this year in March, a coyote run down into the tunnel of trees. I was not running, but walking and was across the road. And yesterday, a jogger reported seeing a black bear near the Summit Monument overlooking the river on the east side close to the trail that’s part of one of my frequent (in non-COVID times) routes: the Ford loop! One more, less scary one: at least twice, while walking around the neighborhood, Scott and I saw an albino squirrel.

After the tunnel of trees, I ran through the welcoming oaks and above the ravine. I was surprised to not hear any water rushing out of the sewer pipe. Ran past the oak savanna–too many leaves to see anything, past the steps at 38th street, past the bench on the dirt path that links two steep hills each winding back down to the Winchell trail. Encountered some bikers who didn’t even try to move over for me and when I moved off the edge of the path to give them room, they biked even closer. Did this happen, or did it seem like it did because of my bad vision and lack of depth perception? People always seem too close to me with my messed up macular.

As I ran, I tried to recite “Push the button, hear the sound” again. I made it through several lines, but became distracted as I tried to avoid other people. It’s hard to recite poems and get lost in the words when you’re having to look out for other runners. Thinking about the poem and it’s refrain, Listen and can you hear?, I thought about what I’d like others to listen to by the river and what I wonder if they can hear:

Listen to the gravel crunching on the trail.
Can you hear the electric buzz of the cicadas, relentless and rumbling under everything?
Can you hear the rowers on the river?
Listen to the roller skier’s ski poles striking the ground.
Can you hear the poles clickity-clack or do they just clack, or only click?
Listen to the doppler effect on the bike’s speakers.
Can you hear the talk radio host yelling through someone’s phone?
Listen to the pileated woodpecker laughing at us.
Can you hear that circle of light on the surface of river inviting you in?
Can you hear your shadow running beside you?
Listen to the oaks exhaling.
Can you hear your lost innocence?
Can you still hear your mom’s voice? Her laugh? The way she said your name?
Can you hear the asphalt buckling?
Listen to “Black Wizard Wave” by Nur-d.

Earlier this morning, before heading out for my run, I came across–and not for the first time–Walt Whitman’s wonderful “Song of the Open Road”:

from Song of the Open Road/ Walt Whitman

3
You air that serves me with breath to speak! 
You objects that call from diffusion my meanings and give them shape! 
You light that wraps me and all things in delicate equable showers! 
You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the roadsides! 
I believe you are latent with unseen existences, you are so dear to me. 

You flagg’d walks of the cities! you strong curbs at the edges! 
You ferries! you planks and posts of wharves! you timber-lined sides! you distant ships! 

You rows of houses! you window-pierc’d façades! you roofs! 
You porches and entrances! you copings and iron guards! 
You windows whose transparent shells might expose so much! 
You doors and ascending steps! you arches! 
You gray stones of interminable pavements! you trodden crossings! 
From all that has touch’d you I believe you have imparted to yourselves, and now would impart the same secretly to me, 
From the living and the dead you have peopled your impassive surfaces, and the spirits thereof would be evident and amicable with me. 

5
From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines, 
Going where I list, my own master total and absolute, 
Listening to others, considering well what they say, 
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, 
Gently,but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me. 
I inhale great draughts of space, 
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine. 

I am larger, better than I thought, 
I did not know I held so much goodness. 


august 9/RUN

3.1 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/river road, south/42nd st, west/edmund, north
77 degrees
humidity: 80%
dew point: 70

Much warmer this morning. Still managed a 5k without stopping. As I ran down 32nd toward the river I thought about how glad I was that they had closed the road for the sewer work at 32nd instead of 33rd–that way I can run on a long block of the river road without worrying about cars. Then, when I reached the river, I saw that they had moved the road closure ahead to 33rd. No more running on the river road. Bummer.

Was able to run on the trail above the river from 36th to 42nd! Heard some rowers, saw some shining water. Glanced at the empty benches. Don’t remember hearing any birds or crunching on any acorns–they’re covering many of the sidewalks in the neighborhood. No roller skiers or music blasting from bike speakers. No big groups of runners or bikers.

Recited “Push the Button” one time and thought about the constant refrain throughout the poem, “Listen to the…” “Can you hear the…?” I’m curious about how Mort decided which things she wanted us to listen to and which things she wondered if we could hear:

Listen to…

  • the lorikeet’s whistling song
  • the ground giddy with thirst
  • the dog shit on the lawns, murderous water boatmen skimming the green pond
  • the casual racists in the family pub
  • the house Shiraz I drink as if it’s something’s blood
  • my fear, blooming in my chest, and how I water it
  • the noisy penguins on the ice
  • my late night online purchases
  • your half-sister hissing to her friends at 2 am
  • the panic in their emojis
  • the utter indifference of the stars
  • “The Trout” by Schubert
  • the blackbird’s chirpy song
  • that waltz by Paganini
  • the stage as we walk clear off the front of it

Can you hear…?

  • the call of the mynah bird
  • flamingos in the water
  • your small heart next to mine and the house breathing as it holds us
  • the chainsaw start
  • the roses rioting on the trellis
  • the sleepless girls in Attercliffe
  • the aspirin of the sun dissolving
  • your grandfather’s lost childhood
  • the suburban library shutting, the door closing, the books still breathing
  • your father lighting his first cigarette
  • the foxes mating all the way to oblivion
  • me holding you, closer than my life

And two variations on “Can you hear…?”:

O, can you hear the budget tightening?
Can you hear that, Alfie?

I’ll have to study this list some more, I guess, to find a pattern, if there is one. What’s the difference between the command, “listen” and the question, “can you hear?”

Here’s a quick draft of my homage to Mort’s original poem:

Listen to the black capped chickadee’s 2 note song.
Can you hear him posing a question to the gorge?
Can you hear the honking geese overhead?
Can you hear your lungs grasping for air
and the green leaves thickening as they hold us?
Can you hear the chainsaw start, the tight weave
of the savanna’s oak unraveling?
It’s August, thick, crowded. Listen
to the path, cluttered with acorns. Listen
to the sewer stink near the ravine, the sex-crazed
gnats swarming the hill. Can you hear
the virus spreading through the neighborhood?
Can you make a noise like a panicked rabbit? There are
sounds your tweet lacks names for.

august 7/RUN

3 miles
trestle turn around
68 degrees
humidity: 83%/ dew point: 66

Decided to run to the trestle and back for the first time with the road open to traffic. Definitely not as relaxing. I had to get closer than 6 feet to 2 or 3 runners as I passed them. I don’t think I’ll be running above the river that much this late summer and fall. Oh well.

I got to see the river for awhile. Didn’t hear any rowers or see any roller skiers. I did smell the sewer above the rowing club and ran through a dark green stretch of the trail.

Tried reciting “Push the button” while I ran. Very difficult as I focused more on avoiding people and staying cool.

Heard some rustling below me as I ran above the river. Was it rushing water or wind through the trees? Decided on wind.

Don’t remember seeing any squirrels or changing leaves or acorns on the path. No Daily Walker. No black-capped chickadees or cardinals or pileated woodpeckers.

Heard at least 3 different people talking above me on the lake street bridge as I ran under it. Saw a mini peloton zooming by on the road.

Right after finishing, as I walked home, I recited the entire poem I’ve been working oA. I didn’t even care that there were a lot of people around who could see me talking into my phone.

Push the buttons, hear the sound/Helen Mort
August 7

august 6/RUN

2.3 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/river road, south/edmund, south/river road, north/river road, south
68 degrees

Took a walk with Scott and Delia the dog before heading out for a shorter run. During the walk, we could feel fall slowly coming. Cooler air, a red leaf peeking through the green on a neighbor’s fence:

As I ran north on 43rd, I started reciting “Push the button, hear the sound.” Ran past the abandoned house, growing a forest of new maples, past the house with the easter island head by the front door, past the house that used to have my favorite halloween decorations until it was sold:

Past Cooper School, past the aspen eyes, past the red leaf that Scott, Delia and I had walked by an hour before. Ran for a block on the river road and then turned back onto Edmund. It took me almost a mile and a half to finish reciting the poem.

Ran down and up the hill by the Welcoming Oaks twice. The second time, on my way up, I encountered a biker biking with no hands on the handlebars singing at the top of his lungs–not sure what song. About a month ago I encountered another biker doing this as he approached the hill. I had marveled at his effortlessness and how little he cared that he looked ridiculous. The biker today just looked ridiculous and out of control. I hope he didn’t crash into anyone as he biked down the hill.

A few minutes after I returned home, I recited the poem into my phone. I remembered most of it but forget 2 lines. I guess I need to spend another day with this poem.

Push the Button, August 6

august 5/RUN

3 miles
turkey hollow loop
60 degrees

O, this morning! Cool and sunny and calm. Quiet and not too crowded. When I reached the river, I ran on the trail for a few minutes, past the oak savanna and the thick layer of trees. Before I had to cross over to the grassy boulevard because there were too many runners, I saw the beautiful river, glowing white. Also heard a very enthusiastic coxswain yelling out instructions to his crew. Ran past turkey hollow and forgot to check for turkeys–did I even glance over at the huge grassy stretch? I don’t think so. Heard some music coming out of a bike speaker–something pop-y–and obnoxious talk radio out of a runner’s smartphone. Noticed my shadow running beside me.

Memorized another chunk of my first “listen” poem and recited it while I ran. Had trouble with it during the first half of run; I was too busy trying not to twist my ankle on the uneven, rutted dirt path on the boulevard. Had better luck in the second half because I was running on the road. Thought about word choices and what she might be referencing (anything?) with “can you hear the sleepless girls of Attercliff?”

Here’s a recording of myself reciting it after I got home:

Push the button, hear the sound/ august 5

august 4/RUN

3.5 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st east/river road, south/edmund, south and turn around at 42nd st
60 degrees

Today they opened up the river road to cars again. Well, it was nice while it lasted–and it lasted much longer than I would have expected. I’m glad I ran the 2 loops yesterday. Today I ran north on 43rd to 32nd. Ran past the field at Cooper School, past the field at Minnehaha Upper Campus, past the aspen eyes, all the way to the river road. It’s still closed for the sewer work they’re doing above the tunnel of trees so I was able to run on one long block of it car-free. Turned back onto Edmund at 33rd then ran up the hill to the spot high above the river road where the river sometimes sparkles through the thick trees. Not today. Ran to 36th and turned left for a small loop past the Welcoming Oaks, down the hill beside the path above the tunnel of trees and then back up it again. At the top of the hill, kept going south on Edmund until I reached 42nd st, past Dowling Elementary School, past the house that has been posting poetry on their huge front windows, and past the huge 1980s house with the indoor pool and the extra lot that was for sale for over a year until someone finally bought the extra lot and built a super modern house on it. A strange juxtaposition. Encountered some strollers, bikers, walkers, runners, cars. Heard some Northern Cardinals and some gravel crunch crunch crunching on the side of the road. Saw my shadow.

Tried to stop thinking about how difficult this pandemic is and how to solve the problem of a daughter desperate to hang out with her friends while there’s a steep rise in cases here in Minnesota.

Began memorizing a new poem yesterday afternoon in my series on listening: Push the button, hear the sound/ Helen Mort. Recited the first third as I ran.

Listen to the lorikeet’s whistling song.
Can you hear the call of the mynah bird?
Can you hear the flamingos in the water?
Can you hear your small heart next to mine
and the house breathing as it holds us?
Can you hear the chainsaw start, the bones
of out neighbor’s Eucalyptus breaking?
It’s summer, high, emptied. Listen to the ground,
giddy with thirst. Listen to the dog shit
on the lawns, the murderous water boatman
skimming the green pond. Can you hear
the roses rioting on the trellis? Can you
make a noise like a cheeky monkey? There are
sounds your book lacks names for.

Confused by the line about the water boatmen so I looked it up. Water boatman is a type of insect that feeds off of scum on ponds. I made the mistake of reading more about them and the male’s “singing penis.” To attract a female, a male boatman makes a very loud (99.2 decibels) sound by rubbing his penis against his abdomen. Wow.

Recorded myself reciting the poem as I walked home after my run:

Push the Button, Hear the Sound/August 4

Geese!

Almost forgot to mention the vee of geese, high in the sky! On my post-run walk with Delia the dog, I heard them. A dozen geese flying high in the sky, an uproar of honks. Two nights ago, I heard them too. Fall is coming. Not for a while, but the signs are starting. Usually, I’m excited for these signs, but this year that excitement also carries a dread: how much longer will this pandemic last and what will it feel like in the cold and snow? How much harder will it be for others to endure when the weather isn’t nice? I’m not worried for myself, I love the winter cold, but for other members of my family who are already starting to lose it.

august 3/RUN

3.5 miles
2 loops (36th to 42nd)
62 degrees

Since they’re opening the road back up to cars any day now, I thought I would do 2 loops. Back when they closed the road in early May, I had visions of running loops all summer. I even created a loops page. But it didn’t take me long to realize that I don’t like running loops, or at least multiple loops at once. Halfway through the first loop, I start thinking about how I’m going to have to run another loop and then I think, “How am I going to do another loop?” and I usually stop early. I am often willing to stop something early when I don’t think it’s working. Sometimes this is a good thing–why torture yourself doing something you hate just because you said you’d do it? Sometimes it’s a bad thing–why is it so easy for me to stop when I don’t like it? Mostly I’m fine with my tendency to stop–probably because I usually find something to like about what I have to do so I get the things done I need to and because my willingness to stop early doesn’t reflect a lack of passion or commitment. I’m very committed to my writing and running and family and thinking/living/acting with critical awareness and care.

So–back to the point of this digression–I accept that I don’t like running loops and I don’t run them. But today, I thought I’d try something different. I ran one loop with no headphones, then one loop with a playlist.

loop one

The first loop was about a minute slower. I focused on birds (heard a black capped chickadee) and trees (especially the trees on the boulevard that lean in towards the river road offering more shade, listening in to check how heavily I was breathing) and the big boulders in the grass. I tried to stay relaxed and avoid thinking about how I was still just on the first loop and that I was planning to do another one. I checked out my shadow a few times. She was on my right side, slightly behind me. I decided the best shade was between 38th and 36th.

loop two

Before starting the second loop, I stopped to find a playlist–an older one titled, “august run.” First song: “Misery Business” by Paramore. I remember listening to this my first year of running, nine years ago. To match my foot strikes to the beat, I picked up my cadence. Didn’t think about anything or notice where I was as I ran. What a wonderful thing to get lost in the effort of moving! Lifting my knees, focusing more on driving my left leg. Swinging my arms evenly. Also listened to “Hurt Feelings” by Flight of the Concords and laughed at the lyrics, “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John and thought about how much I loved this song when I was kid.

I like this idea of running one loop listening to the gorge and one loop listening to music. It might be fun to try doing one loop reciting one poem and then another loop reciting a different poem. I think I’ve tried something like this already–have I (no, but after looking through old entries, I discovered I had proposed this very idea of may 22nd). I’m glad I found this entry because in it I posted a poem I’d like to memorize: Push the button, hear the sound I think I’d like to do a series of 4 or 5 poems on listening.

Listen, the long list

I’ll have to narrow this list down to 4.

august 2/RUN

4.1 miles
ford bridge and back again + extra
64 degrees

Cooler this morning! Cool enough to wear a short-sleeved shirt instead of a tank top. Overcast, windy. Ran south on the river road to the Ford Bridge and back. Glanced briefly at the river through the trees. Heard some talk radio coming out of a runner’s smartphone as I passed them. Was it MPR? I think so. Lots of bikers, walkers, runners around. Almost passed two bikers heading up the hill between Locks and Dam #1 and the double bridge at 44th because they were biking so slowly and I had picked up my pace. Looked for turkeys in turkey hollow but didn’t see even one. No roller skiers either. Didn’t recite any poems in my head. Tried counting to four for a while and then chanting triple berries: strawberry, blueberry, raspberry. Nothing stuck. I don’t remember much about my run. No deep thoughts, but also no worries about whether or not the US or the world will ever get this pandemic under control. A strange, difficult time.

Yesterday, I had my first break from running since July 9th. Scott and I took Delia the dog on a long walk instead. We ended up above the Franklin hill before turning around and heading back. So relaxing to watch all the runners and bikers and roller skiers moving below us. Lots of roller skiers! We watched 3 strong, graceful, badass women powering up the hill. I love watching graceful, confident bodies in motion.

TIME FOR SERENITY, ANYONE?/ William Stafford

I like to live in the sound of water,
in the feel of mountain air. A sharp
reminder hits me: this world still is alive;
it stretches out there shivering toward its own
creation, and I’m part of it. Even my breathing
enters into the elaborate give-and-take,
this bowing to sun and moon, day or night,
winter, summer, storm, still—this tranquil
chaos that seems to be going somewhere.
This wilderness with a great peacefulness in it.
This motionless turmoil, this everything dance.