oct 19/RUN

4.1 miles
river road path, north/seabury and edmund, south
33 degrees

Saw a few flurries as I ran. More coming tomorrow. Up to 6 inches. What? A nice run above the gorge. I had a clear view of the river, but I don’t remember what it looked like. Too busy admiring the bare trees and thinking about how my chest hurt slightly. Not much, just a small, dull ache. Off and on for the past five days. Smelled the toast, always slightly over-toasted, at Longfellow Grill. Heard one dark barking below me on the Winchell Trail. Imagined it running gleefully through the leaves. Was it barking at a squirrel? A tree? A swirling leaf?

Right now I’m tracking this hardcore ultra marathon taking place in Bell Buckle, Tennessee called Big’s Backyard Ultra. The runners–they started with 14–run a loop of 4. 16 miles every hour for as long as they can. Once they can’t finish the loop in an hour, they’re out. Right now, there are 2 runners left and they have just completed 216.66 miles and 52 laps. I don’t usually pay attention to ultra marathons but last year I discovered Courtney Dauwalter and I started following her on Instagram. It’s fascinating to check every hour and see how she’s doing. I can’t imagine running for that long, but I can appreciate the strange other-worldly space it would put you in for the 48+ hours you’re moving or eating or trying to quickly rest before starting again. At what point do you start hallucinating? I think she’s talked about having strange visions before. I wonder how long they will be able to go? And when the second to last person drops out, will the last person standing stop or try to make it to 300 miles? Very hard core. At some point in the past, I might have judged something like this, but now I’m just fascinated–but not nearly enough to try something like this.

Just now I was scrolling through my various feeds, trying to find a poem to post. But then I remembered I already have so many poems posted on here that I love and haven’t spent enough time with. Here’s an excerpt from one of my favorite October poems:

October/ May Swenson

7

Now and then, a red leaf riding
the slow flow of gray water.
From the bridge, see far into
the woods, now that limbs are bare,
ground thick-littered. See,
along the scarcely gliding stream,
the blanched, diminished, ragged
swamp and woods the sun still
spills into. Stand still, stare
hard into bramble and tangle,
past leaning broken trunks,
sprawled roots exposed. Will
something move?—some vision
come to outline? Yes, there—
deep in—a dark bird hangs
in the thicket, stretches a wing.
Reversing his perch, he says one
“Chuck.” His shoulder-patch
that should be red looks gray.
This old redwing has decided to
stay, this year, not join the
strenuous migration. Better here,
in the familiar, to fade.

I want to memorize this excerpt today. Is there any way that I could use this bit as inspiration for my mood poem about acceptance, accommodation? I will try!

oct 18/RUN

3 miles
river road trail, south/42nd st/edmund, north/33rd st, west/43rd ave, south
31 degrees

Below freezing this morning. Sunny. Clear, uncrowded paths. A delightful view of the gorge. The wind has done a wonderful job of taking down most of the leaves so I could see the sparkling river and the bluff on the other side. I don’t think I will ever tire of that view, especially when the sun is shining through the few remaining leaves, making everything glow yellowish-orange. Running on Edmund, I admired an amazing, almost fully leaved tree. At first glance, it looked light orange to me, but gradually it looked more yellow. What color was it actually? Since I don’t have many cone cells left–the photoreceptor cells in the macula that enable us to see color–my colors are sometimes strange. Duller, off. You might see yellow when I see pink, gold when I see green. Recited a few Emily Dickinson poems as I moved. I need to start reciting poems again. How many of the poems I memorized this summer do I still remember?

The Precision of Pain and the Blurriness of Joy/ Yehuda Amichai

16
The precision of pain and the blurriness of joy. I’m thinking
how precise people are when they describe their pain in a doctor’s office.
Even those who haven’t learned to read and write are precise:
“This one’s a throbbing pain, that one’s a wrenching pain,
this one gnaws, that one burns, this is a sharp pain
and that––a dull one. Right here. Precisely here,
yes, yes.” Joy blurs everything, I’ve heard people say
after night of love and feasting, “It was great,
I was in seventh heaven.” Even the spaceman who floated
in outer space, tethered to a spaceship, could say only, “Great,
wonderful, I have no words.”
The blurriness of joy and the precision of pain––
I want to describe, with a sharp pain’s precision, happiness
and blurry joy. I learned to speak among the pains.

Oh, I love this poem and the idea of finding more precise ways to describe/catalog joy. Makes me think of how I want to describe, in more specific words, the joy I feel when looking out at the gorge (and why). It also makes me think of Ross Gay and his book of delights and Eula Biss and her essay on the pain scale.

Even as I like this poem and the idea of precision, particularly in terms of giving attention to joy in the same way we do pain, I’m also thinking about precision as cutting, sharp, violent. Blurriness as soft, less harsh, spreading wider, gentle.

(a few hours later)

Wow, the poetry people on twitter are really delivering today. Here’s another great poem that I don’t (yet) understand, but I love the topic of the other side of the river:

Wrong Side of the River/ Stanley Plumly

I watched you on the wrong side
of the river, waving. You were trying
to tell me something. You used both hands
and sort of ran back and forth.
as if to say look behind you, look out
behind you
. I wanted to wave back.
But you began shouting and I didn’t
want you to think I understood.
So I did nothing but stand still,
thinking that’s what to do on the wrong side
of the river. After a while you did too.
We stood like that for a long time. Then
I raised a hand, as if to be called on,
and you raised a hand, as if to the same question. 

oct 17/RUN

3 miles
2 school loop
40 degrees

A little warmer. Sunnier. Too bright for me to see much. Had a few close encounters with people and while trying to avoid them ran out in front of a car. I didn’t hear any brakes squealing or drivers yelling so it must not have been too close. Need to be more careful next time. I don’t like running on the weekends as much anymore. Too crowded. Still, had some nice moments being outside, glancing over at the bare trees above the gorge. Running over leaves, feeling (but not hearing because I was listening to a playlist) them crunch.

This past summer I bought Richard Siken’s War of the Foxes which has one of my favorite poems in it, “Lovesong of the Square Root of Negative One.” Here’s another wonderful poem from that collection. Like Lovesong, it has the line about “the hammer as a hammer.” And, like Lovesong, there is much about it I don’t understand.

Logic/Richard Siken

A clock is a machine. A gear is a tool. There is rarely
any joy in a frictionless place, so find your inner viscosity.
The mind says viscosity is resistance to flow. The body
puts glue on a twig and catches a bird. Glue is a tool,
unless you are a bird. If you are a bird, then glue is
an inconvenience. A tool does work. A bird flies away
from danger and lands where it can. All thinking is
comparison. A bear is a weapon, a bear claw is a pastry.
A bear trap, if you are a bear, is an inconvenience.
Logic is boring because it works. Being unreasonable is
exciting. Machines have knobs you can turn if you
want to. A hammer is a hammer when it hits the nail.
A hammer is not a hammer when it is sleeping. I woke
up tired of being the hammer. There’s a dream in the
space between the hammer and the nail: the dream of
about-to-be-hit, which is a bad dream, but the nail will
take the hit if it gets to sleep inside the wood forever.
I taped a sword to my hand when I was younger. This
is an argument about goals.

Started work on a new mood ring poem. This one is about the mood of acceptance. Here’s what I have so far:

Instead of getting angry or searching for experimental cures or finding second opinions I’m listening harder. Memorizing the path. Mentally mapping the potholes the dips the cracks where it twists to the right too close to the road where it narrows on the left. I’m searching for better words to describe what is happening. I’m switching to the pithiness of poetry with sparser pages. More room to ruminate. Less effort on the eyes. Slowing down.  Breathing and accepting not knowing instantly. Letting go of what I won’t ever see on my favorite tv show. Avoiding commericals and memes. I’m finding more light brighter lightbulbs. Asking for help. Not pretending to see things that I don’t. Relying on imagination. Learning to love softer, fuzzier forms. Learning to accept constant uncertanty. Learning how to be when I cannot see. 

I’m thinking that the seemingly positive aspects of acceptance will be in the main poem and then in the scotoma/blind spot part of the poem, I’ll focus on my doubts about accepting as giving up or giving in.

oct 16/RUN

3 miles
turkey hollow
36 degrees

Sitting in my office in the front room this morning, working on my mood ring poems, I looked out the window and thought I saw a flurry. Not possible. Must have been a small leaf. About 10 minutes later I looked out the window again. Snowing. Big fluffy flurried flakes. I don’t mind. Went out for a run about 20 minutes later. Wonderfully uncrowded. If it clears the paths and keeps more people inside, bring on the bad weather! I can handle the wind and snow and ice and cold much better than having to constantly weave around to avoid people. And I want to run above the river, to admire the gorge and the other side–the St. Paul side.

Today the gorge was beautiful. I need a better word than beautiful. Too generic and frequently used. What do I mean by beautiful? Alluring? Calming? Handsome, dazzling, delightful, fine, resplendent? The word beautiful is not the problem. The problem is my lack of specificity. Why was it beautiful? I think it was beautiful today because there was a clear, open view with pleasing, recognizable, calming forms: tall, almost leafless brown trunks with a few slashes of red or yellow; blue-gray water winding like a serpent towards the falls; a mass of fuzzy treetops, greenish-orangish-reddish-yellow, across the way on the other bank. Looking up definitions of beautiful in the online OED, there was frequent mentioning of perfection. I didn’t find the gorge or the forms I saw to be perfect. Maybe they were splendid or gorgeous instead?

While looking up synonyms for beautiful I found pulchritudinous (beautiful, attractive) which seems to me to be a rather ugly word for describing something beautiful. Is there a term for a word that sounds the opposite of what it’s intending to convey? The opposite of onomatopoeia? Somebody asked this exact question on reddit 3 years ago and received one somewhat helpful, somewhat overly jargon-y response which you can read for yourself if you’d like.

I want to continue to push myself to express why the open view of the gorge moves (pleases, satisfies, amazes, delights) me so much. Maybe this expression won’t come in specific words but in images and feelings? A project for late fall and early winter?

Speaking of words, I’ve been meaning to post this from the New Yorker’s Shouts and Murmurs’ “Lexicon for a Pandemic”:

Someday, Noneday, Whoseday?, Whensday?, Blursday, Whyday?, Doesn’tmatterday: Days of the week

Today’s October Surprise

Like most of the October Surprise’s, this one happened yesterday afternoon. Scott, RJP and I took Delia the dog to Lake Minnewashta Regional Park. Wow! So much open space and views of waving water and wide wooded trails and grassy knolls with picnic shelters and steep wooden stairs winding down to leaf-covered trails closer to the water. What a delightful surprise to find this space perfect for solitude and breathing and being! There’s one image that I will try to return to when I need to calm down and feel more hopeful: Walking down the steep wooden stairs, each step offering a leafless view of the blue lake stretching wide. Behind: a hidden field with only a few trees and benches and a small picnic shelter and some still green grass for company. Above: blue sky. Below: a leaf-covered trail, lined with trees, some still bearing yellowing leaves.

Scott took many pictures, but not any of my favorite spot.

But RJP did! This is the view from halfway down the stairs.

oct 15/RUN

3 miles
1.5 loops on closed river road + neighborhood
38 degrees

Brrr. Colder today. I overdressed in (almost) full winter gear: tights under shorts + long sleeved shirt + orange sweat shirt + vest + bright pink headband + black gloves + orange and pink buff. Ran the closed section of the river road while I still can. Was planning to do another loop, but some trucks were parked at the bottom of the hill–they must be doing more work. I wonder when they will be done and when the road will open again? Sunny, bright, difficult to see. A few trees remain with colorful leaves. My favorites are the orange ones. There are 2 of them on the grass between Edmund and the river road. The river was sparkling. Lots of ripples for sunlight to dance on in this wind. Listened to a playlist and tried to ignore my runny nose. I can’t wait for this round of sinus troubles to be over. I’m tired of feeling stuffed up and having a slight tightness? soreness? in my chest. I’m grateful that when I’m running I don’t feel any congestion or tightness. O, if only it were possible to run non-stop until this pandemic was over! Of course I could never do this. 30-40 minutes a day is all I can manage.

Today’s October Surprise

There was so much wind yesterday and last night (almost 30 mph), that I was convinced that every leaf would be off of every tree by the gorge today, but when Scott and I took Delia on a walk there this morning, we saw a few trees that managed to stay dressed. Orange leaves are my favorite.

oct 15/RUN

5 miles
franklin loop
50 degrees

Felt colder than 50 degrees with the wind and the occasional brief downpour. A beautiful fall morning. Because of the wind and rain, there weren’t too many people out on the trail. Running above the river was wonderful–so much more of a view as the leaves leave. I love late fall. More of a view, winter and winter running are coming, less people will be on the trail which means less fear and distraction over keeping a safe distance.

Things I Remember

  • The sun just barely glowing through the clouds behind me, enough to enable my shadow to make a faint appearance in front of me. Hello friend!
  • So much wind on the Lake Street bridge that I was blown across the sidewalk and had to hold onto my hat for several minutes
  • The river! Every year I forgot how wonderful the view is, having not seen it since May. Open, airy, a chance to breathe, to stare at the water as it winds down the gorge!
  • Glancing down at the floodplain forest from the tunnel of trees and admiring the soft glow of yellow leaves
  • Noticing the dog park at Meeker Island is open
  • The curve of the black wrought iron fence at an overlook on the Winchell Trail not too far from Franklin
  • Being able to see the entire trestle, stretching to the other side, wondering when/if a train would cross it
  • Running at least 10-12 feet from some walkers and smelling the perfume of one of them, being reminded of how far someone’s presence/scent/air can travel, wondering if I should be wearing a mask when I run

Today’s October Surprise

Last night, walking through the neighborhood, Scott and I heard a dog barking–I think it was a french bulldog or a boxer?–whose bark sounded like they were yelling out the word bark. “Bark! Bark! Bark!” It made me giggle. Some day I would like to have a dog that I named Bob Barker.

Working on my fourth mood ring poem today. As I ran, I reflected on a line about what, in a face, indicates life–a glimmer in the eye? the raising of an eyebrow? a slight head nod? the curve of a mouth?

Speaking of head nods, I have been intending to post this poem for several months. It seems fitting today as I think about how people connect through gestures:

Ode to the Head Nod/ Elizabeth Acevedo

the slight angling up of the forehead
neck extension quick jut of chin

meeting the strangers’ eyes
a gilded curtsy to the sunfill in another

in yourself tithe of respect
in an early version the copy editor deleted

the word “head” from the title
the copy editor says it’s implied

the copy editor means well
the copy editor means

she is only fluent in one language of gestures
i do not explain i feel sad for her

limited understanding of greetings & maybe
this is why my acknowledgements are so long;

didn’t we learn this early?
to look at white spaces

thank god o thank god for

you

are here

oct 14/RUN

3.45 miles
extended hill, 3 times
54 degrees

Yesterday while walking Delia up above on Edmund, I noticed that all of the trucks at the construction site just above the tunnel of trees were gone. Oh no! They’re going to open up this stretch of the river road again–the last stretch still closed, the stretch where I had just started doing hill workouts. Bummer. Oh well, I’ll find somewhere else to run. As of this morning, it’s still closed but now, because the trucks are gone, I can run the entire stretch of it, from the top of the hill at 36th to another (slight) rise at 32nd. Nice. I almost had the road to myself; only a runner or two and the street sweeping truck. Very windy this morning. 28 mph gusts. Lots of leaves on the ground and in the air. The dominant leaf color: yellow. Such a gorgeous fall color season. I noticed the river glowing below me. As I ran on the river road–and when I walked on it yesterday afternoon–I couldn’t see the river or into the gorge because I was too far away from it, but I could tell it was there. I could feel the openness, the gap, the abundance of air.

Today’s October Surprise

Wild grass of some sort, with a dark purple stalk and cream colored feathers–maybe Purple Fountain Grass?–in a neighbor’s yard. I love ornamental grasses, especially the ones with fluffy tops. Whenever I walk by them, I always want to run my fingers through the top. When is the best time to plant these grasses? I would love some for next year. I will try to remember to get a picture of this grass on our walk this afternoon.

Here’s the picture:

Still working on my mood ring poems. I have the first two done and I’m pleased with the results. Yesterday’s mood was curiosity. I started with a table in a pages document and laboriously filled in the letters for the main poem, making many mistakes and having to delete a lot of letters in individual boxes.

Main Poem

Then, I inserted the shorter, ring poem into the empty spaces. Lots of counting boxes and characters and rethinking words.

Inner, ring poem

And here’s the completed poem, in 2 parts. The left highlights the main poem, the right the secondary, ring poem.

oct 11/RUN

2.5 miles
river road trail, south/edmund, north
49 degrees

Ran south on the river road trail to the 44th st parking lot, then down to the grassy overlook. Such a wonderful view of the river, shining in the morning sun! Windy today. How many leaves will be off of the trees by tomorrow? Tried to pay attention to my breath, to be grateful to be out on the trail this morning, and to think in triples (mostly dactyls):

  • full of grief
  • filled with joy
  • suffering
  • bountiful
  • troublesome
  • lacking life
  • falling leaves
  • swirling wind
  • river view
  • running path
  • moving feet
  • dripping nose
  • breathe in deep

Still working on my mood ring poems. I think I’ve finally figured out the form–so tedious! I had to create a table with separate boxes for each letter. I think it was worth the extra time and I’m pleased that I could do the entire thing on my own, without any help from Scott.

oct 10/RUN

3 miles
2 schools loop
50 degrees

Another beautiful fall morning. I thought about doing a longer run, crossing the ford bridge, running up the east side of the river, but I knew it would be annoyingly crowded on a Saturday morning. So I did what I often do on the weekends, ran around the kids old elementary schools: Hiawatha (K-2) and Howe (3-5). Started on the river road trail but soon crossed over to edmund. I don’t remember the view, only the multiple times I had to stutter step to avoid streaking squirrels. Inspired by a podcast I listened to yesterday, I tried to focus on my breathing and striking feet. I chanted triples. At first, it was difficult. I kept repeating “strawberry/blueberry/raspberry” but eventually I expanded my list:

  • delightful
  • bemusement
  • mystery
  • logical
  • circular
  • wonderful
  • difficult
  • diffident
  • caterwaul
  • symphony
  • musical
  • deduction
  • induction

I am a little out of practice with these. I haven’t spent much time chanting; I’m too busy trying keep my distance.

Today’s October Surprise

First: Watching the original 101 Dalmatians with Scott last night. I love the jazzy, be-spotted opening credits. I couldn’t read all the text (not even close) but I still enjoyed it. Interesting fact from Scott and Mental Floss: 30% of all Dalmatians are deaf:

Around 30 percent of all Dalmatians are inflicted with deafness as a result of their spotted markings. Breeding dogs with this coat can lead to a lack of mature melanocytes (melanin producing cells) in the inner ear. Without these, dogs can become hard of hearing. Dogs with larger patches of black are less likely to be deaf. 

Second: Running around Howe School, I noticed a quick white flash up in the clear blue sky. Was it the moon or a plane? Even though the upper regions of my central vision are all dark, I was able to tilt my head and see that it was a plane. Such a small thing, but the more I learn about my vision, the more astonished I am when I see anything that small in such a broad field of blue!

oct 9/RUN

2 miles
45th ave, north/32nd st, east/tunnel of trees, south/edmund, south/37th st, west
69 degrees

Warm this morning! We might hit 83 today. No thanks. Still, it was beautiful running through the neighborhood and by the river. Glanced at the water a few times and it was glowing in the sun. The tunnel of trees was glowing too: marigold. I love that color. I didn’t encounter a single runner on the narrow trail winding up to the ancient boulder. No stones stacked on top of it. I forgot to greet the welcoming oaks or check if they were a goldengrove unleaving.

Today’s October Surprise

This surprise comes from our long walk last night, all the way to turkey hollow and back. Walking round the neighborhood, Scott and I encountered bright, beautiful wildflowers still blooming. Light purples, dark purples, oranges, yellows, hot pinks. And halfway up a cedar fence, a trail of flaming red leaves. I noticed them first in my peripheral, the feeling of a bright color. Then, looking at them straight, I could see the red. Scott took a picture, after I asked him to, of some funky purple flowers: