sept 30/RUN

2.5 miles
two trails
59 degrees

For some dumb reason, I thought that running a bit later (almost noon) when it was very windy (20+ mph) would result in less crowded paths. I even thought the lower trail would be empty. I was very wrong. I probably encountered the most people I ever have today. I got much closer than 6 feet several times and had to call out “excuse me.” Oh well. If I ever consider running on the Winchell trail again, I will have to make sure and wear a mask the entire time. The river road trail was crowded too. I did a lot of weaving. I’m pretty sure I had a few ridiculous performances, weaving out into the road to avoid people, then quickly stopping to tie my shoe, then starting up again, trying to avoid having to pass the walker I had just passed again.

It was beautiful down there on the Winchell Trail, below the road, with so many leaves swirling around and glowing and painting the trees in reds, yellows, oranges. And, o the river! Such a bright blue in the sun. And no thick leaves to block my view!

a moment to remember

Turning down at the 44th street parking lot to run on the Winchell Trail, two bikers were walking their bikes up the hill, framed by a few bright yellow trees and the wide, blue river. Suddenly a gust of wind caught them by surprise and one of the women yelled out, “Whoop!” –or “whoa” or something like that. I think I like “whoop” the best. One day, maybe I’ll manage to fit this moment into a poem.

Speaking of poems, I finished my fourth mood ring poem: Loneliness. It’s the first of my poems about my darker moods. These are harder for me to write because my inclination is not to dwell in the bad feelings. I am wondering if it is too dramatic in its darkness? The poem is inspired by Ada Limón’s “Instructions on Not Giving Up” and uses her first two sentences as a guide. (“More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s almost obscene display of cherry blossoms shoving their cotton-candy colored limbs to the slate sky of Spring rains, it is the greening of the trees that really gets to me. When the shock of white and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leaves the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath, the leaves come.”

MOOD: LONELINESS

More than the distorted letters that shift on the page, more than the bikes that appear without warning, it is the faded faces that really get to me. When the light is too bright, or not quite the right kind of light, or not bright enough, the features leave. Sometimes the outline of a nose, a mouth, ears, freckles remain, but the eyes, almost always, are dead. Lifeless. Lacking a spark. The pupils looking like black ballbearings. Othertimes, all that’s there is a dark blob, perched on the shoulders of my son, my daughter, my husband, a friend I have known for years. Aiming my eyes at a shoulder, I might catch a quick flash of an iris through my periphery. Mostly I rely on memory and recall the face I used to see. Imagine the flare of a nostril, the raising of an eyebrow. Wish for the reassurance that I am not alone, that someone else is here. Alien and alienating, an uncanny valley begins to form between me and and the rest of the world.

I’m still trying to figure out how to incorporate the rings–my ring scotoma–into or onto the poem. In theory, I’d love to do some poems within poems, but I’m not sure if it works. I’ll keep playing around with it. Now it’s time to work on some other dark moods: frustration, fatigue, feeling useless and old. I can’t remember if I wrote about this the other day, but I am struck by a mood I don’t have: anger (or rage). I am not angry about my failing vision. Is this because I had been living with it for so long, not knowing what it was, or even that anything was actually wrong with me–I blamed a weak will for any problems I seemed to have–and I was overwhelmingly relieved to finally know what it was?

Almost forgot to mention, but how could I?

Judith C. Puotinen: March 5th, 1942- September 30th, 2009

11 years ago today my mom died.

sept 29/RUN

3 miles
trestle turn around
50 degrees

What wonderful fall weather! Cooler, partly cloudy. I ran north on the river road trail and didn’t encounter too many people. Heard the rowers on the river, with the coxswain calling out instructions through their bullhorn. Saw the river, I think. Did I? I don’t remember noticing many brightly colored leaves.

Things I Remember

  • one roller skier skiing on the bike path, their poles clickity-clacking
  • a sudden shower of acorns–a whoosh then thump thump thump
  • a stroller right off the edge of the path, an adult and young kid under the lake street bridge, looking down at the river right by the edge of a chain link fence
  • running through the tunnel of trees, barely looking down, but noticing a few yellow trees

A good run, an opportunity to get lost and lose track of time.

And here’s the wonderful opening from Yi Lei’s Nature Aria. Very fitting for this windy, autumn day, when leaves are swirling and scattering:

Autumn wind chases in
From all directions
And a thousand chaste leaves
Give way.

sept 28/RUN

4.25 miles
river road trail, south/both sides of ford bridge/wabun park/turkey hollow/47th st/edund
51 degrees

Good-bye summer and hot, humid weather! Hello fall and winter and wonderful runs along the river! A good morning for a run, even if the wind was gusting and in my face for much of the second half. Heard geese honking in the sky and my shoes squeaking on the wet leaves. Dodged dropping acorns and swirling leaves. Every so often the sun came out–glorious. I think I remember the river occasionally glowing. Not too many people out on the trail. Running up the hill to the ford bridge, I saw a big turkey hanging out by a bench. I looked a couple of times to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing–was I? Who knows for sure. Ran over the ford bridge for the first time since February. Then ran under it and over it again on the other side, looking out at Locks and Dam #1. Took a walk break through turkey hollow (no turkeys there today). Almost forgot: heard some kids playing on the playing ground at Minnehaha Academy’s lower campus.

Here’s a beautiful opening to a poem by Carl Phillips, Wake Up:

The road down from everything even you had hardly dared
to hope for has its lonely stretches, yes, but it’s hard to feel alone
entirely: there’s a river that runs beside it the whole way down,
and there’s an over-song that keeps the river company: I’m leaves,
you’re the wind…

sept 27/RUN

5.25 miles
franklin loop
55 degrees

Decided to run the Franklin loop today. I’ve avoided it until now because I’ve been doing shorter runs more frequently and because of the pandemic and trying to avoid other people. The first half of it was fine, but by mile 3 I was doing a lot of weaving around to try and keep my 6ft of distance. There were only a few times when I got closer than that. What a beautiful morning for a run! Overcast and coolish, not too much wind. So many bright, intense colors.

Things I Remember

  • Honking geese! A ton of them under the lake street bridge. I couldn’t see them through all the green, but I could hear their honks
  • One goose honk sounded so forlorn or was it angry? Now I can’t remember the call but it was strange enough that I spent a few minutes wondering if it was a goose or some other bird. Decided it was a goose
  • A lone rower on the river with the water as smooth as glass
  • One of the dirt trails that leads down into the gorge, framed by yellow leaves looking mysterious and inviting and dangerous

At the start of my run, thought about more of my moods as I lose my central vision, particularly how I need to spend some time on my darker feelings. I remember having some thoughts about it, but now, writing this log entry, all I can remember is this: some of what makes me feel awe and wonderment–that the brain can mostly hide the worst effects of my failing vision–is what causes doubt and uncertainty–if i can still read some things and see color and notice birds in the sky, is my vision really that bad? Am I exaggerating it? I know I’ve written about this here a few times already.

Here’s a draft of my awe poem”

MOOD: AWE

[epitaph] Legend has it that before an execution, King Charles II of England closed one eye and aimed his blind spot on the head of the condemned man. This allowed Charles’ brain to decapitate the prisoner before the axe took its turn.

Behold, the awesome power of sight! Not found in one destructive glance but in an accumulation of looks. Against the odds and in spite of damaged cones, misfiring signals, and incomplete data, these looks produce something resembling vision — an image, a feeling, a fuzzy form.  So much could go wrong, and often does. Yet, light, cells, the optic nerve, the visual cortex find a way. Through guesswork and improvisation, imagination and processes scientists still don’t understand, they ensure I see more than seems possible. O faithful cones! Dilligently delivering data despite dwindling numbers. Allowing me to see some color — greens and golds and pinks and blues. Enabling me to read slightly distorted letters. O clever, industrious brain! Tirelessly trying to make sense of scrambled signals. Conjuring images, filling in broken lines, concealing gaping holes and black rings. Making it possible for me to still exclaim, “oh my god look at that wedge of geese, high in the clean blue air!”

Listening to the Current as I write this and the new Janelle Monáe song came on, Turntables. I especially liked these lyrics:

There’s a boomerang boomin’ back, yeah
You laid the egg, now it’s ’bout to hatch, yeah
You gaslightin’, ’bout to meet your match, uh
You fuck up the kitchen, then you should do the dishes

One of my introductions to poetry was through song lyrics. I used to love listening to a song for the first time and reading the lyrics on the record sleeve, watching how the lyrics and rhythms worked together, often in surprising ways. Some day, I want to write song lyrics and collaborate with Scott on a song. So far, I haven’t been inspired.

sept 25/RUN

3 miles
turkey hollow
66 degrees

Before starting my run, I listened to a recording of my latest mood poem: awe. I was hoping to think about it as I ran but I quickly became distracted by the leaves and the effort and irritating bikers on the trail. I decided to run south on the trail. It wasn’t too crowded, but I did encounter several bikers, always biking too close to the dividing line between pedestrians and bikers. 2 bikers biking side by side were especially bad–one of them was way over the line, forcing me onto the makeshift dirt trail on the other side. I yelled, of course, Part of my anger over this is me being a crank, but a lot of it has to do with safety–with my vision, my reflexes are much slower and I wouldn’t be able to move out of the way fast enough if they were about to hit me–and how I see–my depth perception is off and it’s difficult to judge how close people are to me; I can’t alway see their edges and often it looks like they are deliberately trying to run into me.

Despite this annoyance, I enjoyed my run. I saw the river and many red, orange, and yellow trees. Heard some black-capped chickadees. Anything else? No turkeys in turkey hollow. Instead, I saw a kid running around in circles, enjoying the freedom and the breeze and maybe also making the leaves crunch as he ran. I did that last night while Scott, Delia, and I were on our walk. I love that sound!

This weather is a little too warm for running, but great for sitting in the backyard in my red chair under the crab apple tree. I think I’ll do that after I finish writing this entry.

Working on my third mood ring poem: awe

MOOD // AWE

Behold, the awesome power of sight! Not found in a single controlling, destructive glance but in the accumulation of looks made every moment that, against the odds and in spite of damaged cones, misfiring signals, and incomplete data produce something resembling sight—an image, a feeling, a fuzzy form.  So much could go wrong, and often does, yet the light and the cells and the optic nerve and the visual cortex find a way through guesswork and improvisation and imagination and processes that scientists still don’t understand to ensure that almost all of us see more than seems possible. O clever, industious brain! 

That’s all I have so far. I envision adding a few more sentences.

sept 24/RUN

1.2 miles
river road, north/south
62 degrees

3.1 miles
over lake street bridge and back
64 degrees

I was just about to leave for a run when my son asked if I could run with him for his online gym class. Of course! I wish he could learn to love running; I would worry much less about all the time he spends in front of his computer. We did a combination of running and walking. A beautiful fall morning. As we were walking I said to FWA, “It’s really fall now!” On cue, a swirl of leaves fell between us. (I looked up “collective noun for leaves” and got: pile and Autumn–really? An Autumn of leaves? Ugh. Decided on my own: swirl.)

After walking back home with him, I headed out again for my own run. Decided to run across the lake street bridge to check out the trees on the banks of the Mississippi. Big, bright slashes of red, orange, yellow! Not quite peak, but getting there. When I reached the east side of the river, I ran up the hill just past the steps and stopped at my favorite spot where the path is right on the edge of the bluff, above the tree-line, and you can see the blue water and the glowing trees on the other side. I stopped for a few minutes and admired an orange tree on the west side.

Yesterday I worked some more on my second mood ring poem. Happy to have figured out the story that I’m trying to tell: it wasn’t until my vision failed that I became very curious about how vision works and once I did, I learned all sorts of fascinating, delightful things. Here’s the text of the poem without the formatting:

MOOD // CURIOUS

All I remember from science class is the inscrutable image of an inverted tree, entering upright, then shrinking and flipping around. I don’t remember the retina or that it’s a thin layer of tissue lining the back of your eye or that at its center is the macula where some of the most important cells reside, waiting to convert light into signals that travel through the optic nerve to the visual cortex. I never thought about blind spots or tried to find mine or wondered about how much of what I saw was real or illusion. But when my brain could no longer hide the effects of diminishing cones I started paying attention. Now I’m learning about photoreceptors and the fovea and the number of cone cells in it and why they’re called cone cells and what the types of scotomas are and when the blind spot was first written about and how the brain guesses or makes up images when it lacks visual data and why some people, in the early stages of vision loss, hallucinate dragons and floating heads and little people dressed in costumes.

I have decided that each of these mood ring poems will be a block of text very similar in size and dimensions to the Amsler Grid, which is a grid you can use to check for macular degeneration. Each of the poems will have my blind ring on it in some way–lightly superimposed or darker, blocking the text, or maybe even creating an erasure poem. I’m still trying to figure it out. Here’s one possible version:

Originally, I made the “ring” text even lighter but I’ve been thinking I might want to make the ring become more difficult to see around as the poems continue–so the text would get lighter and lighter?

Here’s an amsler grid:

sept 22/RUN

3.25 miles
hill “sprints”*
67 degrees

* Warmed up by running north on 43rd ave, east on 32nd, south on Edmund. Jogged down the hill beside the Welcoming Oaks, then much faster, sometimes sprinting, up the hill 4 times.

Decided to try hill sprints for the first time today. I’ll call it a success because I set out to do 4, and I did 4. But it was difficult and I only ran hard all the way to the turn around on 2 out of the 4. I’m sure I’ll get better if I keep doing these. Listened to a playlist as I ran. Didn’t think about anything but getting to the top of the hill and then trying to slow my heart rate as I ran back down.

I ran through the neighborhood as a warm-up. So many beautiful leaves! Several bright red trees. One or two orange ones. A cluster of yellow. I could smell the dry mustiness of decay. Saw lots of acorns on the ground. Too many squirrels looked like they might dart out in front of me.

mood: curiosity

(I wrote this bit when I woke up this morning. It’s a very rough draft, but gives me some things to work with,\.) Before I was diagnosed with cone dystrophy, I never thought much about my vision. I never imagined that I would lose it. Even though I had been having problems for years seeing things—seeing the cursor on a computer or a ball being thrown at me or a bird in the sky—I never connected those problems with bad vision. I thought it was something else, maybe a weird quirk in my brain? Is this the wonder of the brain, its ability to work with limited resources, concealing how damaged our vision is?

I was never curious about my vision or how it worked. The only thing I remember from learning about how we see was the image of the inverted tree, entering the eye upright, then shrinking and flipping around at the back of the eye. I knew the terms retina (I think), pupil, iris, but I didn’t know the retina was a thin layer of cells lining the back of your eye or that at its center was the macula and in a pit at its center was the fovea where some of the most important photoreceptor cells reside, waiting to convert light into nerve signals that travel through the optic nerve to the visual cortex. I don’t ever remember hearing about rods or cones until my eye doctor explained that my cones were scrambling. I didn’t think about blind spots or try to find mine or wonder too often about how much of what I saw was real or illusion. If I ever thought about the limits of my perception, it was in the abstract, after studying the empiricists in my Modern Philosophy course in college. And a blind spot was something you had in relation to your biased and limited world view.  

I suppose I should have been curious about these things, I should have wanted a basic understanding of vision, but it wasn’t until my brain was unable to hide the effects of my diminishing cones and I learned I was losing my central vision that I payed attention. Part of this is because I take my body for granted when it’s working. Why question or scrutinize it when its doing its job? Part of this is because I don’t want to know how it works because once I know, I might think too much about how easily it might not work. And part of this is because I struggle to remember or understand anything with scientific jargon. 

But now, I’m curious. And I’m finding joy in learning about ganglion cells and the optic chiasm and the fovea and how many cone cells are in it and why they’re called cone cells and how the brain handles a lack of visual data (recalling past images, making stuff up) and how optical illusions work and the different types of scotomas and how to use eccentric vision (EV) to compensate for a loss of central vision and when the blind spot was first written about (1668) and two different Charles’s: King Charles II who loved to execute people with his blind spot and Charles Bonnet who first described the trippy visual hallucinations some people experience as they’re losing their vision.

sept 21/RUN

3 miles
the loop that kept getting larger
67 degrees

Warmer this morning. 80s later this afternoon. Windy. Heard several crows–an especially loud one right after I started running, another when I reached Edmund, near the spot they’ve identified as containing poison ivy and that they’ve marked with big warning signs. Didn’t glance at the river even though I ran on the river road as part of each loop but I did see Dave the Daily Walker! We greeted each other and remarked on how long it had been since we’ve seen each other. Was raced by a young kid as I ran up a hill beside his house. So much energy and exuberance. Encountered some workers filling a pothole in the road–they were wearing masks. Ran past some beautifully yellow trees on 47th ave. Can’t remember if I saw any red ones.

moment of the morning

Before my run, I walked Delia the dog. Right by one of my favorite houses–the one with the cat that has deemed themselves queen of the block, sometimes escorting you down the sidewalk, and with the bright orange and pink and yellow zinnias, and with the big water bucket for dogs with a Bob Dylan quote on it, and with the “Any Functioning Adult, 2020” yard sign–I heard the gentle singing of the wind chimes and the wind through a pine tree and crows softly (yes, it sounded soft, not harsh) cawing, and a trickling fountain all at once. What a wonderful symphony of sounds!

wonder mood: curiosity

Also before my run, I read through some of my notes and did some free-writing about wonder and my vision. I have three types of wonder:

  1. delight (finding my blind spot)
  2. curiosity (questions, facts, information, anecdotes about scotomas and seeing/not seeing)
  3. awe (the magic/power of my sight, and sight/brain in general)

As I ran, I thought about curiosity. At first, I had the idea (after running down the hill on 33rd and turning left on the river road) of doing a series of questions that I wonder about–a mix of questions about the physical process of seeing and other questions, like the classic childhood hypothetical–“Would you rather lose your hearing or your vision?”. Then later (I can’t remember where I was running when this happened), I thought about a block of texts combining some of the most interesting/strange/unsettling/important facts about blind spots into a cento.

Here’s a strange anecdote I discovered: King Charles II of England liked to aim his blind spot at a prisoner’s head before they were decapitated. Googling this, all mentions of this story lead to the neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran and his mention of it in his popular articles about blind spots. Is this story true? After some more digging, I discovered this line from an abstract on an article about Faraday and his eyesight:

in the second volume of the Philosophical Transactions it is recorded that Mariotte demonstrated the blind spot ‘to the Royal Society before King Charles II in 1668.

Then I found Mariotte’s article from 1668 here. Pretty cool. In my brief search, I couldn’t find much else–no instances of King Charles II actually doing this, but I did learn that he helped create the Royal Society from which this paper comes and also a bit more about him and his reign (which I’m sure I learned back in 11th grade when I took AP European History). He was called The Merry Monarch, partly for the hedonism of his court–apparently, he was obsessed with sex–and partly because of how relieved/happy people were to be done with Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans. I also learned that in the 1660s, there was a lot of anti-Catholic hysteria with many Catholics being executed. Are these the prisoners that Charles II decapitated in his mind?

sept 20/RUN

2 miles
neighborhood + river road
59 degrees

Last day of the Tour de France. Decided to squeeze in a quick run before the bikers reached the Champs-Élyseés. Now, as I’m typing this, they’ve just reached Paris. A tougher run. Feeling tired and the left side of my lower back is a little sore. 2 miles was enough. More and more of the trees seem to be changing colors. I wonder when peak color will be? Running on Edmund, glancing over at the trail, I noticed lots of runners and bikers. No roller skiers. No noisy conversations. No music blasting from radios. No thoughts or worries or energy.

sept 19/RUN

3 miles
Hiawatha and Howe loop*
52 degrees

*36th st, east/edmund, south/42nd st, west/loop around Hiawatha Elementary/43rd ave, north/loop around Howe Elementary/44th ave, north

Ran the Hiawatha and Howe loop again. I have done this route for the past 3 weekends. A new routine? Running south on Edmund, I could tell it’s fall. Many of the trees on the rim of the bluff are changing colors–mostly yellows. Felt relaxed as I listened to George Michael songs on spotify: Careless Whisper, Faith, Freedom, Father Figure, Everything She Wants. Lots of people out walking, running, biking. I don’t remember seeing any roller skiers or turkeys or big groups of runners. Finished my run in time to watch the last hour of the second to last stage of the Tour de France. Pogačar–wow! This year’s tour has been a lot of fun to watch–so much drama and such cruel stages. The end of today’s time trial was a category 1 climb.

Last night, scrolling through instagram, I found out that Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. I gasped, felt a moment of terror, and then decided not to freak Scott out by telling him. This morning, I am choosing not to give into despair or to imagine worst case scenarios with facist dictatorships, but to believe in the possibilities of people rising up, resisting, and enacting radically transformation. Here’s a great quotation that one of my former students posted on facebook:

Restorative justice activist Mariame Kaba put it thus: “I always tell people, for me, hope doesn’t preclude feeling sadness or frustration or anger or any other emotion that makes total sense. Hope isn’t an emotion, you know? Hope is not optimism.” And she has famously said hope is a discipline. It’s a commitment to the future that must manifest as action. That discipline matters most when it is hardest. And when the stakes are highest. This is such a moment, with much to lose, and much to win.

sept 18/RUN

3.15 miles
neighborhood/lake street bridge/river road trail
46 degrees

Wonderful fall weather! Sun, crisp air, changing leaves, uncrowded sidewalks/roads/paths! I ran over the lake street bridge again. A bit windy; I could feel one chunk of my hair coming out of my pony tail and flopping around just above my visor. How funny did it look to the drivers passing me? The river was a beautiful blue. No rowers on the water. No canoes or motor boats either. I don’t remember seeing any leaves changing on the tree-line along the river’s edge. Still all green. Soon, red, orange, yellow. Then my view comes back. Coming off the lake street bridge and heading south on the trail, I overheard some bikers talking about today’s stage of the Tour de France. Nice! Heard some geese honking overhead–high in the clean blue air.

I love this idea of yielding to a poem or an idea…or the gorge. I think of it in relation to being open and generous and willing to listen (and to hear and to notice).

mood: wonder

Another day of working on my writing project on vision loss and mood. This morning, while watching the Tour de France, I noticed a sign with an exclamation mark on it quickly flash across the screen and pointed it out to Scott who hadn’t noticed it. I wondered, how is it that I could see this sign (and while Scott couldn’t) but miss so much else when I’m watching tv? How does my vision work and not work?

I bring this up in the current draft of my wonder poem in 2 ways.

To witness the spot of my unseeing usually concealed behind the smoke and mirrors of softened forms and filled-in gaps is astonishing. What impossible magic enables me to see anything with this ring obscuring my view? I like staring at it until my eyes ache, my head hurts. Observing how it moves slightly when I shift my gaze. How it grows bigger when I cover my left eye, smaller when I cover my right. How it begins to pulse, then fade, then flare, a fiery black hoop burning through my thinning retina. What a strange feeling to watch this show and suddenly know it is more real than the illusions my brain offers as sight.

1. impossible magic

How can I still see as well as I can with so many of my cone cells gone? How does my brain make sense of the limited information it’s receiving from the few remaining cells? Most of the time when I am curious about this, it is with awe and astonishment. What an amazing organ the brain is! It’s fascinating to learn about how the brain/mind compensates for lack of information, how it guesses, how it fills in the gaps.

Last week, I learned about Charles Bonnet Syndrome which is a phenomenon that can happen to around 15% of people with macular degeneration. It’s named after the man who first described it, having noticed it in his aging grandfather. When the brain doesn’t receive visual data from the eyes it provides its own images, either making them up or recalling stored ones. This causes visual hallucinations. People with CBS usually experience these hallucinations when they wake up and they don’t last long. The favorite hallucinations I read about in this article were

  • people dressed in costume from an earlier time
  • imaginary creatures, like dragons

What? Somewhere else I read about how the hallucinations are smaller, so you see tiny people dressed up in costumes. Nice! Thankfully, when you experience this, you know it’s a hallucination. I don’t have this syndrome. Instead, my brain likes to fill in the gap with a background that matches the area surrounding the missing image. So, while someone with CBS has hallucinations and sees something that isn’t there, I have a different problem: what is there is hidden behind a background (like a blank, blue sky or more green trees or endless waving water–all 3 of these have happened to me) with no indication of its presence or my inability to see it. Is there an antonym for hallucination? It is not that I see things that aren’t there; it is that I don’t see things that are there and I have no idea that I’m not seeing them–until suddenly, without warning, I do, like a bike that wasn’t there appearing beside me in my peripheral vision. I think this happened to me a lot more right after my vision declined in 2016. Has my brain figured out how to compensate for it?

2. optical illusions

Much of the time, even for me with my increasingly bad vision, the brain’s tricks for filling in gaps and working with incomplete visual data are hidden. I might see things a little fuzzier but I still see them. Unless I concentrate, I can’t see the ring scotoma in my central vision. There is no dark black ring on the page when I’m reading. But it’s there and when I found it by staring intently at a blank wall, I was astonished and fascinated. I was also relieved. Here, with this ring, was evidence that my vision is declining, that I’m not making this bad vision thing up. Because my brain is so good at compensating and performing magic tricks, it can be easy for me to think my eyes are better than they are, that I’m seeing more than I am.

sept 7/RUN

4 miles
river road trail, south/wabun park/through turkey hollow/edmund, north
52 degrees

Cooler this morning and not too crowded! I ran on the river road trail all the way to the edge of Minneahaha Falls, then up to Wabun park and down the steep hill right up above the river and the Locks and Dam #1. Ran through the uneven grass across turkey hollow and then up edmund. Lots of hills today. I got closer than 6 feet to 1 or 2 walkers, but only for a second. When was the last time I ran 4 miles? I checked my running data: I ran 5 miles on July 31st. I’ve been running a lot during this pandemic–almost every day–but only 2-3 miles at a time.

Fall is here. Lots of color. One of my favorite trees–the one right before the double bridge on 44th–is a lime-ish yellow. I just checked my log; last year it was orange and turned much later, in October (oct 10, 2019). The leaves are early this year, like the acorns which were dropping last month. A week ago I read about La Nina on the Updraft blog for MPR. Paul Huttner suggested that with a La Nina watch being issued, we might have a “rigorous winter ahead.” I’ll take the snow but not the arctic hellscape temperatures. A strange time. So much to fear about the future–a second wave of the pandemic, former presidents starting civil wars because they don’t want to leave office and go to jail, bitterly cold winters, kids finally losing it about having to stay home all the time and not see their friends. Maybe none of this will happen. This is what I choose to believe.

is my vision really that bad?

A few times during my run, I thought about my writing project and my different moods around my vision loss. Today’s idea: There are many things I can still do, I can still see. I can still read. I mostly see where I’m going when I run or walk. If I were to take a vision test with the Snellen Chart, I would probably still do reasonably well. But, even though I can read, I read much slower and mostly I don’t read by looking at the words on a page, but by listening to audio books. When I do look at words on the page, I get tired quickly. I sometimes skip lines or repeat lines. I can’t read book titles or big letters, especially when they’re spaced out.

How bad is my vision? Part of my struggle right now is that I see much worse than a “normally” sighted person but not as poorly as someone who is legally blind. I am not yet blind. Even as I want to express my feelings about this in-between stage, I sometimes feel like an imposter or someone who might be exaggerating their bad vision. Then I remember how I can’t see faces or follow anything that happens on commercials. How I can’t tell if a walker on the sidewalk is heading towards me or away. How I seem to be needing brighter and brighter light to see words or the lines on the page of a notebook.

I thought about all of this as I ran, but in brief flashes and fragments.

How we See: the Photoreceptor Cells (rods & cones)

I’m trying to understand more of the technical (medical/science jargon) stuff with my vision so I’ve been reading up on diagrams of the eye and rods and cones. Here’s a useful site and diagram:

The eye, close-up on macula

You need cone cells to see fine details, read, recognize faces, and see color. Many of my cones don’t work anymore. Currently, I still have some central vision left–the very center. The blind ring I’ve been writing about in my mood ring projects is officially called a ring scotoma. Here’s an image–which is pretty accurate to what I see when I see my blind ring:

ring scotoma

The above image is from a site about macular degeneration. For comparison, here is the ring that I saw when I stared at a white sheet of paper:

my blind ring

Pretty close. A few interesting things mentioned in the description. This ring will most likely close up and:

Smaller print size may help as the individual will be able to see more of a word within the functioning area. 

Yes! Large print is very difficult for me to read. I tried checking a large print book out of the library and it was impossible to read. I like small print much better, which seemed confusing to me, especially when all the advice (even from my eye doctor) was to magnify the print. Now, finally, it makes sense!

sept 16/RUN

3 miles
the loop that kept getting larger*
63 degrees

*36th st to north on edmund
small loop: 33rd st, east/river road, north/32nd st, west/48th ave, south/33rd st, west
medium: river road, north/32nd st, west/47th ave, south/33rd st, west
large: river road, north/32nd st, west/46th ave, south/33rd st, west
edmund, south/36th st, west

Running Route, 16 Sept

Love the image this running route makes. Would it be fun to try running routes that make pictures or spell words?

A nice run this morning. It was fun to try a different route by making the loop bigger each time. Didn’t have any problems running too close to others. It was sunny and cool–I almost forgot about the wind. It felt like I was running into it for much of the time. I remember hearing a few birds but I don’t think I recognized their call. I heard the buzz of at least one big lawnmower. No geese. No turkey sightings. Running on the river road, I was able to glance down at the river. In-between thick green, slashes of pale blue. Anything else? Surfaces I ran over: gritty street, cracked sidewalk, rutted dirt trail, soft green grass.

Holmes Lake/ Jessica Poli 

I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be wanted
the way the Labrador near me wants the stick

his owner throws for him, his body crashing
into the water before pausing, mouth clapped tightly

around the wet bark, to stand turned awestruck
toward the setting sun. On the shore, a father

holds his daughter and twirls a piece of long grass
between his fingers as they watch the hills turn glassy

and bright. I sit beneath a tree and watch them all—
dog and owner, man and daughter—and I feel

far away. And it’s here that I often see a fisherman
anchored to one particular spot, ice chest and gear

beside him, his blue windbreaker puffed
from air coming off the water as he eats spoonfuls

of beans from a can, pulls hard on a cigarette,
and adjusts his lines. On those days, I wonder

if he wonders what I’m writing the way I wonder
what he does with the fish he catches—who

he shares them with, if anyone, and whether it’s him
who picks the bones clean from the flesh, him

who warms the skillet and lays the fish gently
in the crackling oil. Today, though, the girl’s mother

stands in the fisherman’s usual spot, her phone
poised, snapping a photo every time the light shifts

a little more to darken the clouds gathering
like flies along the fur of the horizon.

I’m reminded of the horse I used to care for
and how, a month before he died, I found him

standing in the round pen behind the barn
with his head raised, eyes turned toward the sun rising

across the valley while the starlings in the hedgerow
gathered in sound before bursting from the trees

all at once, the air suddenly swarming, the horse
tilting his head to watch their departure much like

the Labrador now watches the sun across the lake.
And I knew a dairy farmer once who, when a cow

was to be put down, would turn her out into the pasture
one last time to watch the sun set. I wonder

if all these animals look at the sky and see something
that I never will. I think I could spend

my whole life trying to find it.

What an amazing first sentence! I think I’d like to memorize this poem so I can spend some more time with it. I really appreciate her description of the scene, providing so many details and managing to do more than merely report what she saw.

The idea of reporting, reminds me of the On Being episode with Mary Oliver:

Tippett: I’d like to talk about attention, which is another real theme that runs through your work, both the word and the practice. I know people associate you with that word. But I was interested to read that you began to learn that attention without feeling is only a report. That there is more to attention than for it to matter in the way you want it to matter. Say something about that learning.

Oliver: You need empathy with it rather than just reporting. Reporting is for field guides. And they’re great. They’re helpful. But that’s what they are. They’re not thought provokers. They don’t go anywhere. And I say somewhere that attention is the beginning of devotion, which I do believe. But that’s it. A lot of these things are said but can’t be explained.

sept 14/RUN

3 miles
lake street bridge loop*
67 degrees

*edmund, north, river road trail, north/lake street bridge, north and south/47th ave, south/32nd st, east/river road, south/edmund, south

Ran on the lake street bridge today so I was able to see the river! Beautiful. Was briefly on the other side, the east side in St. Paul, when I took the steps down to the river. Some day soon, I’ll do the Franklin loop–maybe the end of this week? I think I saw the man in black–not in black today–crossing the river road near the lake street bridge. I’m not sure it was him–I identify him by his height, especially his legs–so long! so tall! Heard some roller skiers. Saw a group of about 10 bikers biking on the trail. Ran through the Minnehaha Academy parking lot. Packed with cars.

When I got home, Scott asked if it was hard to breathe when I was running. (It wasn’t.) He said he could tell that we had some of the smoke from the wildfires in the west up in the atmosphere. Wow. I can’t imagine how terrible and scary it is out on the west coast. It’s so strange and disturbing, yet not surprising, how disconnected you can feel from the suffering of others when that suffering is at an easily ignored or abstracted distance.

Encountered a passage from Gerard Manley Hopkins’ diary on twitter today. Hopkins’ “Spring and Fall” is the first poem I remember wanting to memorize and inhabit. Oh, the beauty of Margaret are you grieving/over goldengrove unleaving! I love his wordplay in this entry:

Doing a bit more research, I found his diary online: The Journals and Papers of Gerard Manley Hopkins

sept 13/RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/42nd st, west/around Hiawatha Elementary/43rd ave, north
56 degrees

Another good morning for running. I don’t remember much. Too busy looking out for other people. Started on the trail but it was too crowded so I moved over to Edmund and then ran up 42nd. Didn’t see the river or hear any memorable birds. No dropping acorns or honking geese. No clickity-clacking roller skiers or bikes blasting Jimmy Buffet songs. Saw a runner I’ve seen at least once before on the trail who annoyingly takes over the entire path and doesn’t move over. He has a strange, bouncy stride. Heard some yipping, spazzy dogs at the Hiawatha playground. Smelled some cigarette smoke and wondered if it was coming from the walker ahead of me. Ran by the door that my kids used to come out when they were done with school. All the students would bunch around the teacher trying to point out their parents so they could leave. I remember waiting forever because my kids (like me) weren’t aggressive enough to get the teacher’s attention. I was very happy when they got older and I didn’t have to wait for them near that door anymore.

Blind (r) ing

I haven’t been memorizing poems for a few weeks now. I’ve moved into working on my mood ring project. Yesterday I did some more research and found out a few things I’d like to play around with:

A blind spot in the central vision is also called a scotoma. Here’s a longer definition from Enhanced Vision:

A central scotoma is a blind spot that occurs in the center of one’s vision.  It can appear in several different ways.  It may look like a black or gray spot for some and for others it may be a blurred smudge or a distorted view in one’s straight ahead vision.  Scotomas may start out as a small nuisance and then get larger or there may be several blind spots or scotomas that block one’s field of vision. 

Right now, I think my scotoma is somewhere between a blurred smudge and a distorted view. At the end of the brief article, they offer a few tips, including:

Find and use your preferred retinal locus.  A person looks slightly to the side so that the blind spot or scotoma is not in their central field of vision. One author describes it as “not looking at what you want to see.”

Not looking at what you want to see.

So much I want to do with this idea of not looking at what you want to see. Thinking about Dickinson and “tell all the truth but tell it slant” and the periphery and soft attention. I’m also thinking about how sometimes when I’m talking to Scott and I can’t see his face, I will look just a little to the side, over his shoulder. Then I can see his features. He says this looks strange. I bet.

Another useful term/idea is filling in: The manner in which the brain deals with inexplicable gaps in the retinal image. When an object enters your blind spot and disappears, instead of seeing a shadow or dark spot, the absence is filled in with the background color. So you can’t see that you’re not seeing. Because my blind spot is larger and in my central vision, I experience this a lot more than “normally” sighted people. Sometimes I wonder how often I’m not seeing without knowing.

At the end of an article about filling in and the various experiments you can do to see it, the authors conclude:

These experiments show how little information the brain actually takes in while you inspect the world and how much is supplied by your brain. The richness of our individual experience is largely illusory; we actually “see” very little and rely on educated guesswork to do the rest.

I love this idea of how limited everyone’s vision is and the incorrect assumptions many have when thinking about what it means to “see.” I’m not sure I would have spent much time thinking about any of this if I hadn’t lost my central vision. The last line about educated guesswork reminds me of Aldous Huxley’s book The Art of Seeing and his writing about Dr. W.H. Bates’ visual education method.

In the preface, Aldous writes:

Ever since ophthalmology became a science, its practitioners have been obsessively preoccupied with only one aspect of the total, complex process of seeing—the physiological. They have paid attention exclusively to eyes, not at all to the mind which makes use of the eyes to see with.

Bates’ method pays attention to the “mental side of seeing.”

And here’s another great definition of filling in from this helpful article:

What is filling-in? It is the phenomenon in which an empty region of visual space appears to be filled with the color, brightness or texture of its surround. The brain is capable of filling-in the blind spot, borders, surfaces and objects.

Okay, I’ll stop here for now.

sept 12/RUN

2.25 miles
edmund, north/32nd st, west/47th ave, south/edmund, south/37th st, west/around Howe School/44th ave, north
59 degrees
humidity: 93%

Running Route, 12 Sept

I love the picture this route makes.

A slighter shorter run this morning with headphones on. Didn’t think about much, just enjoyed listening to music and getting lost in the sounds and motion. So humid it felt like it was still drizzling. Was it? Not sure. Didn’t encounter that many people. Hardly any bikers or runners. No roller skiers. As I listened to Lizzo, I decided that I should make a playlist for my hill sprint workout. A fun, fast song for each sprint.

Les Étiquettes Jaunes/ Frank O’Hara

I picked up a leaf
today from the sidewalk.
This seems childish.

Leaf! you are so big!
How can you change your
color, then just fall!
As if there were no
such thing as integrity!

You are too relaxed
to answer me.  I am too
frightened to insist.

Leaf! don’t be neurotic
like the small chameleon.

sept 11/RUN

3.1 miles
neighborhood + river road + trails*
49 degrees

*43rd ave, north/31st st, east/44th ave, north/lake street/46th ave, south/32nd st, east/river road, south/river road trail, south/winchell trail, north/38th st, west/edmund, north/47th ave, north/35th st, west

Such great weather! Was able to wear shorts and a sweatshirt. Felt a little warm by the end, but mostly fine. Ran through the neighborhood, on lake street, by Minnehaha Academy and the aspen eyes, through the tunnel of trees, past the welcoming oaks. Smelled the stink above the ravine, glanced at the inviting, mysterious trail winding through the small wood near the oak savanna, admired the river, turned down near Folwell and ran back on the Winchell Trail. Encountered 3 runners and got closer than 6ft, but only for a second or two. Tried to start the run by thinking about my writing project, but quickly got distracted or lost in other thoughts or no thoughts. Noticed a few more trees starting to change color.

I am currently deep into my project about going blind, blind spots, mood rings. Thinking about faces and feeling isolated/disconnected today. I’m thinking I’d like to put two visual poems/diagrams about faces. One, a face blurred out. The other, a state fair mannequin with pupils as soulless black balls. I need to think about it some more. It’s hard to do any other poetry/writing when I am thinking so much about this project.

Here’s a wonderful quotation I found on twitter about what poetry does:

Also, discovered someone else’s Snellen Chart poem from 2006!

Sun Yu Pai, Optometrist

sept 10/RUN

3.1 miles
1.5 mile warm-up/the hill x 2*
42 degrees

*1.5 miles = 36th st, east/edmund, north/33rd st, east/river road, north/32nd st, west/47th ave, south/34th st, east/edmund, north/36th st, east
the hill = .45 miles, above the tunnel of trees on the road closed for construction

Even colder today. Foggy. Had to wear running tights, almost gloves. Too early for this weather. I like running in it, but don’t like turning on the heat this soon or feeling freezing taking Delia the dog for a walk. I’d like to have a few more weeks of sitting in the sun on the deck or in my red chair under the crabapple tree.

I saw my breath this morning–or was it fog? Encountered some roller skiers and runners and bikers. A squirrel almost ran in front of me. Many of the trees look like they’re about to change from green to red or yellow or orange. I like orange the best. Didn’t see the river or think about much. Do I remember anything I thought about? No distinctive sounds. No ridiculous performances (except for maybe me sprinting up the hill). No Daily Walker or Man in Black. If I had ran closer to the ravine would I have heard water gushing from the sewer? Saw a stack of stones on the ancient boulder.

LEAF HUTS AND SNOW HOUSES/Olav Hauge

These poems don’t amount
to much, just
some words thrown together
at random.
And still
to me
there’s something good
in making them, it’s
as if I have in them for a little
while a house.
I think of playhouses
made of branches we built
when we were children:
to crawl into them, sit
listening to the rain,
in a wild place alone,
feel the drops of rain on your nose
and in your hair—
or snowhouses at Christmas,
crawl in and close it after
with a sack,
light a candle, be there
through the long chill evenings. 

I love this idea of poems creating a space to crawl into–a playhouse or a snow fort. It makes me think of secret hiding spaces and my favorite children’s book, Oh, What a Busy Day!:

sept 9/RUN

3.3 miles
trestle turn around
48 degrees

What wonderful weather for running! Cool but not too cool. Calm, quiet, overcast, uncrowded. Ran on the river road trail all the way to the trestle and back. Didn’t run through the welcoming oaks or the tunnel of trees but on Edmund and the river road. Glanced down at the river. Heard some strange rustling in the thicket just below the trail. Didn’t notice any new orange or yellow or red leaves.

Sound, Sight, Smell

  • Running on the river road, hearing a Daft Punk song–Lose Yourself to Dance, I think–from a bike’s speakers
  • Running through darker, more covered stretches of the trail, looking straight ahead, noticing how blurry my central vision seems. Difficult to make out details, only able to determine forms
  • Running up the hill on Edmund between 33rd and 34th, the smell of gas was so bad–maybe from the construction site or the tree trimmers on the corner of 33rd–that I had to pull up my buff and cover my nose for a few minutes. Yuck

An Old-Fashioned Song/ John Hollander – 1929-2013

No more walks in the wood:
The trees have all been cut
Down, and where once they stood
Not even a wagon rut
Appears along the path
Low brush is taking over.

No more walks in the wood;
This is the aftermath
Of afternoons in the clover
Fields where we once made love
Then wandered home together
Where the trees arched above,
Where we made our own weather
When branches were the sky.
Now they are gone for good,
And you, for ill, and I
Am only a passer-by.

We and the trees and the way
Back from the fields of play
Lasted as long as we could.
No more walks in the wood.

On the poets.org site, you can listen to the poet read this haunting poem. Such beautiful rhythm and rhyming. I love the lines, “Where we make our own weather/When branches were the sky.”

sept 8/RUN

3.15 miles
turkey hollow
47 degrees

About 2.5 miles into my run a woman on the other side of the road called out, “Nice running weather” and I called back, “Yes, great!” It was wonderful running weather. Not too much wind or sun. Cool. Uncrowded. I felt strong and relaxed. Thought a little about my kids–a freshman and senior–who were starting school this morning. All online. Not as fun for them as in-person school, but safer and less stressful.

things I remember

  1. The river was a blueish gray, mostly concealed by thick green
  2. A flash of bright red leaves on a tree lower down on the Winchell Trail
  3. A few walkers discussing squirrels, taking up a lot of the parking lot above the oak savanna
  4. The loud crack of an acorn falling to the ground
  5. Muddy trails on the narrow stretch of grass between 42nd and 44th–what Scott calls “the gauntlet”
  6. Down near the turkey hollow the road had strips of dirt or mud or something that had fallen from the trees. I ran over it and it was soft–not like dirt, more like tree debris
  7. Being greeted by a runner as we passed each other–I think we were more than 6 feet apart
  8. Sort of racing someone running on the river road trail while I ran on Edmund. Did he notice that I was there like I noticed him?
  9. Lots of cars rushing by on the river road, feeling like a normal fall workday morning
  10. Looking for the turkeys (none spotted) and wondering how far they travel from their home in a day and whether they move their home and what their home consists of

With the kids both in school and Labor Day having passed and the air feeling so cool (46 degrees!), it is fall. So strange. What happened to August? The summer?

Found this awesome letter poem by Aracelis Girmay on twitter:

ODE TO THE LETTER B / Aracelis Girmay

B, you symmetry, you, under0bouse,
half butterfly, two teeth,
sideways: a bird meets the horizon.

To say you, B,
out loud I must
suck in my lips, almost smiling,
top lip kiss bottom lip.
then push the whole mouth out
‘B’

B is like a set of lips.

BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBB
BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBB
BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBB

In three rows, B is like tire tracks,
the heels of shoes, horse’s hooves exactly
side by side.

B,

without you, Blouses would be louses,
& Blow would be low,
Bird, ird,
& the song would go A, then C.

Without you, what could I, would I
ever use?
To end the word ‘VERB’?
To begin words like:

Beso
Besos
Because
Bodies Bloom

?

Girmay also has an Ode to R. Nice! I love the creativity–an inspiration to keep pushing myself.

sept 7/RUN

3.15 miles
lake nokomis
55 degrees

Scott and I decided to drive over near Lake Nokomis and run (in opposite directions) around the lake. We parked on Nokomis Avenue and ran together on the creek trail, then under 28th ave on the part of the path they just built this year, over by Lake Hiawatha, up the hill to Lake Nokomis Community Center, and then down to Lake Nokomis where we split up. I turned left, he turned right. So wonderful to be running by water and around the lake. This is the first time I’ve run here since last November 14.

Ran by the little beach first. The buoys are still up. Will I try swimming once this season? I’m not sure. Had to run on the grass a lot to avoid people. Noticed how many changes they’ve made: plastic fences up to protect the shoreline, some trees missing. As I ran over the big bridge, I looked down at the water and the wide strip of shimmering light on the surface. Luckily Scott took a picture of it when he ran over the bridge.

Thought briefly about open swim as I ran by the big beach. I checked to see if anyone was swimming this morning. I don’t think so. Saw at least one kayak but no rowing shells or sailboats. I’m sure they’ll be there later today. I miss being by the water. I miss not being slightly terrified all of the time.

blind spots and mood rings

Still thinking about my latest writing project on blind spots and mood rings. I think I’ve finished the text for the mood 1: wonder. I haven’t quite figured out the visuals behind it. How to show the ring? How to show my vision loss? I’ve been researching concrete/visual poetry and found this cool eye poem by Lauren Holden:

further & further & further

I really like how this looks and its effect. And I like the repetition of the words/phrase. Maybe I want to do this too? As part of a ring chapbook? I’m thinking that each of my mood rings would involve 2 poems:

  1. A justified block of text with my blind ring superimposed on the text
  2. A visual poem similar to the one above made up of 2-4 words describing the mood repeated and making the shape/effect of my blind ring.

sept 5/RUN

3 miles
school loops*
57 degrees

*Ran by both elementary schools that the kids attended: 36th st, east/edmund, south/42nd st, west/loop around Hiawatha Elementary/43rd ave, north/1.5 loops around Howe Elementary/44th ave, north/35th st, west/43rd ave, south

For a few months, Scott has been doing loops around the schools. I finally decided to try it. Nice. Had some memories as I ran by the schools, especially Hiawatha (K-2). My last kid left there 6 years ago. Now she’s starting high school on Tuesday. I feel like the distance was wrong–a little short. Was it? According to my watch, my last mile was a lot slower than my first two but I don’t remember slowing down. Either the distance is wrong or I really need to take a break. I’ll have to try running it again and see if I get the same distance–or maybe I just shouldn’t worry about times or distance?

Don’t remember thinking about much. Didn’t see the river or any roller skiers or Dave, the Daily Walker. Encountered some bikes, runners, walkers. Can’t remember if I heard any acorns falling. I do remember hearing a few crows noisily cawing as I started my run.

Speaking of birds, a few hours after my run, Scott and I took Delia the dog on a long walk to turkey hollow. 13 turkeys, including a young one. Nice!

View this post on Instagram

13 Turkeys. (Sequel to 12 Monkeys.)

A post shared by Scott Anderson 📎 (@room34) on

sept 4/RUN

2.25 miles
43rd ave, north/lake st, east/47th ave, south/32nd st, east/edmund, south/the hill
66 degrees

Feeling like fall these days. Ran north on 43rd to Lake Street then over to 47th through the parking lot at Minnehaha Academy. Completely packed with cars. In-person school. I can’t imagine being a teacher and having to teach in classroom during this pandemic. Ran down to Edmund. Too crowded, especially on the stretch between 34th and 36th. I had thought about doing the tunnel of trees; it was probably empty. Anything I noticed? Lake Street was empty, even the bridge. More acorns on the sidewalk. No squirrels. No more changing leaves…yet. Right as I started, I heard a chainsaw far off, felling a big tree–at least it sounded big. Lots of bikes heading down the hill near the tunnel of trees. One biker was going very fast, trying to pass the slower bikes in front of me before the path narrowed near the construction. I heard him call out, “On your left” and wondered if he would make it in time. At the very end of my run, right after I stopped, I saw a runner wearing the same race shirt I was (the 2020 1 mile). After he passed, I imagined what he might have done if I had called out, “nice shirt!”

I posted this poem last September (25 Sept 2019), but it’s worth posting again and spending some time with:

To the Light of September/ W. S. MERWIN

When you are already here 
you appear to be only 
a name that tells of you 
whether you are present or not 

and for now it seems as though 
you are still summer 
still the high familiar 
endless summer 
yet with a glint 
of bronze in the chill mornings 
and the late yellow petals 
of the mullein fluttering 
on the stalks that lean 
over their broken 
shadows across the cracked ground 

but they all know 
that you have come 
the seed heads of the sage 
the whispering birds 
with nowhere to hide you 
to keep you for later 

you 
who fly with them 

you who are neither 
before nor after 
you who arrive 
with blue plums 
that have fallen through the night 

perfect in the dew

I will memorize this poem, along with September First Again.

Continue to work on my mood ring poems. The first one is Wonder. Here’s a draft with a quick, crude sketching in of my blind spot/ring. I haven’t figured out how I want it to be yet: white space where the ring is? Dark space? A ring superimposed?

Version 1
Version 2

Do I want to try and rework it so that the center part is another poem? Is that too much? I like the challenge of it, but I don’t want it to be overly clever.

sept 3/RUN

2.3 miles
experimenting with loops*
62 degrees
wind: 14 mph/24 mph gusts

*36th st, east/edmund, north/2 loops (33rd st, east/river road, north/32nd ave, west/47th ave, south/33rd st, east)/ edmund, south/36th st, west

Running Route, 3 Sept

This summer I had planned to run loops but couldn’t motive myself to do them. Now, without any planning or expectations, I have started running loops. It’s funny how that works. Will I continue? Who knows. I enjoyed adding more distance to the loops I started yesterday–doubling them, from .25 to .5 miles. I liked running this route because it wasn’t crowded and the loop had variety: a flat stretch closer to the river, a short hill beside the aspen eyes, another flat stretch through the neighborhood, and then down the hill.

Wasn’t bothered by the wind this morning even though it was gusting. I used to struggle with it so much. Lots of entries from my first year of writing on this log in which I complain about all of the wind. Encountered a group of roller skiers, a few other runners, some cars. Noticed acorns flying off the trees as the wind picked up. Glad one didn’t hit me. Fall is almost here. School starts next Tuesday. Low temperatures in the 40s next week. Where are the geese? Haven’t heard/seen any more vees in the sky.

a conspiracy of ravens

Wind in the Grass/ Mark Van Doren

Are you so weary? Come to the window;
Lean, and look at this—
Something swift runs under the grass
With a little hiss…

Now you see it ripping off,
Reckless, under the fence.
Are you so tired? Unfasten your mind,
And follow it hence

I love sweet little rhyming poems about the wind. Here is another poem that I posted in March of this year:

Who Has Seen the Wind?/ CHRISTINA ROSSETTI

Who has seen the wind? 
Neither I nor you: 
But when the leaves hang trembling, 
The wind is passing through. 

Who has seen the wind? 
Neither you nor I: 
But when the trees bow down their heads, 
The wind is passing by.

And, of course, some of my favorite lines from Richard Siken:

I am the wind and the wind is invisible, all the leaves tremble but I am invisible…

sept 2/RUN

3 miles
another looping route avoiding people*
63 degrees

*36th st, east/edmund, north/3 loops (32nd st, east/river road, south/33th st, west/edmund, north)/32nd st, west/47th ave, south/edmund, south/37th st, west/loop around Howe Elementary/44th ave, north/35th st, west/43rd ave, south

Running Route, 2 Sept

Another day of great weather. I wish I could run on the river road trail and do the franklin loop or run down in the flats but I’ve decided it’s less stressful to find routes where I can avoid people. Also, I’m keeping my runs to less than a 5k so I can continue my streak (almost a month now). Today’s run was a lot of loops. I wanted to see how much distance a loop from 32nd to 33rd is–.25 miles–so I did 3 loops of it. Not too bad. I might trying adding a few more blocks next time: start at 33rd heading west, turn right on 47th until 32nd, turn right again, run down the hill until the river road and run south. I wonder how much more distance that would be? The most crowded part of the run is on Edmund.

I’m surprised that the loops didn’t bother me too much. Don’t remember thinking about much this morning as I ran. Tried to think about my latest project–my failing vision and wonder–but couldn’t hang onto any ideas. I remember passing the same 2 women walking on the grass between Edmund and the river road at least twice. It looked like they were just looping back and forth too. Encountered near Howe Elementary–at a safe distance, thankfully–a kid pushing their own stroller, singing and laughing and weaving from side to side on the sidewalk. Anything else? Don’t remember hearing any birds or smelling any intense smells or seeing any squirrels or roller skiers or spazzes on bikes. Successfully avoided clusters of people and speeding cars.

THIS IS WHAT YOU SHALL DO/Walt Whitman
preface to Leaves of Grass

“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”

Such advice! I might have to print this out and add it to the poems/quotes I have on my desk.

sept 1/RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/edmund, south/edmund, north/the hill
62 degrees

Another nice morning for a run. Started on the trail but it was too crowded. Had a moment when there were 2 runners and 2 bikers approaching me at the same time. I had to fit through the small sliver in-between them. Ugh. I’m tired of having to focus so much attention on avoiding people. It would be nice if I could figure out the best time to run when no one else was. Does that exist? Oh well, it’s still not too bad and I am happy to get out for a run almost every day. I have a streak of almost a month straight going–my last day off was August 8th. I might try to keep going until I reach a month. I think I’m able to do it because I’m not running too much–only about 4-5K a day (2.5-3.1 miles).

I listened to a playlist so I don’t remember much of the run. Anything? Can’t remember if I could see the river. Don’t think I saw any roller skiers. Was it sunny or cloudy? I can’t remember that either. I know it was cool-ish and that I had to run into the wind for a bit. That’s all.

September First Again/Phillis Levin

Blighted light at the tip
Of a branch, why so early
Do you turn?—leaf
Dipped in vermillion,
Close to the end, you point
To a sidewalk wet
Once with names
Signed in cement to seal,
For all time, a vow
Uttered by two
Standing under the crown
Of a tree you cleave to still,
For now: solitary witness
Standing alone, limbs
Crisscrossing in shadows
Beginning to scrawl
Lines to a world hell-
Bent (with or without intent)
On obscuring
Whatever they meant.
Blighted light
At the topmost bough,
Little flag hailing
Another day, do not go
So early to ruin, green,
Do not turn so soon.

Found this wonderful poem on my instagram feed this morning. Unlike the poet, I am not lamenting the turning of the leaves. Begone gluttonous green! I’m ready for my views of the river and the other side again. I’m thinking that I should memorize another series of poems to recite while running about changing leaves, early fall, and the end of green?