nov 17/BIKERUN

bike: 20 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.15 miles
treadmill, basement

It wasn’t too cold or too icy but I decided to take a break from an outdoor run this morning. Took a slightly longer walk with Delia instead. It was sunny and calm with wonderfully cold air. I loved breathing in it as I walked Delia around several blocks. Ah, winter air!

I biked and briefly ran in the afternoon. Listened to a “You’re Wrong About” podcast on the electoral college as I biked, Taylor Swift as I ran. I was inspired to listen to Taylor Swift after encountering a great twitter thread on rhetorical devices in Swift’s lyrics. Very cool and useful. Might have to try out some of these devices.

I liked exercising in the afternoon. It helps me feel less sleepy. Maybe I should try it some more?

nov 16/RUN

3.15 miles
river road trail, south/42nd st, west/edmund, north/32nd st, west/43rd ave, south
32 degrees

Noticed the river this morning. A grayish brown. The sky mostly gray with some sun coming through the clouds. I saw my shadow running ahead of me a few times. Encountered some other runners but everyone was keeping close to their side of the trail. A good run!

Sounds

  • A small wood chipper, sadly yet valiantly attempting to break down big branches in someone’s yard on Folwell
  • The cracking, crackling, creaking caw of a crow. Running right below it, it’s caw sounded loud and immediate and broken. Not sure if I’ve ever heard a scratchy caw like that before
  • The gentle hum and whirr of car wheels on the river road
  • My feet striking the cold pavement. A thud, or was it a thump or a thwack?
  • The sibilant shshshsh of my feet on some debris on the street
  • The clang of a dog collar, almost sounding like sleigh bells. Maybe it was a collar with bells?

Just remembered: Running on Edmund, suddenly the sun appeared, all bright and warm, and some birds began to sing, and my shadow joined me, and it felt like spring until I smelled smoke from someone’s chimney and then it felt like January or February.

Wrote in my journal this morning that I spent the first (almost) six months of the pandemic memorizing and reciting poems and the last (almost) three months writing poems. Now that I’m almost done with my mood ring series, I might return to memorizing poems. I think I will have a rough couple of days once this project is done–feeling lost and in need of something new.

Found a list of fun words to say on twitter. A few I especially like: dictaphone, defenestrate, oblong, windpipe, and asphalt. When my kids were young, as a joke, I told them it was butt-phalt instead of asphalt. Every so often RJP brings it up again. Other words I like? Hards gs: Gorge, gorgeous, gallant or hard cs: cantankerous, cacophony, caterwaul and ms: mystery, miasma, myopic or this word: epiglottis

nov 15/RUN

3.2 miles
river road trail, south/edmund, north
33 degrees/ feels like 20
wind: 17 mph (30 mph gusts)

Blustery this morning. Pale gray sky. Clear path. More people than I expected but not too many. Looking out for others, I forgot to check on the river. Was it blueish gray? Don’t remember hearing any birds or seeing any geese. No dogs or fat tires. I can’t remember thinking about anything except the wind and the random patches of ice on neighborhood sidewalks. Sitting here, writing this at my desk in the front room, I can hear the wind howling. Did I hear it while I was running? I’m not sure.

Thinking about the wind, decided to google “Emily Dickinson wind”. Here’s what I found:

Wind/ Emily Dickinson

Of all the sounds despatched abroad,
There’s not a charge to me
Like that old measure in the boughs,
That phraseless melody

The wind does, working like a hand
Whose fingers brush the sky,
Then quiver down, with tufts of tune
Permitted gods and me.

When winds go round and round in bands,
And thrum upon the door,
And birds take places overhead,
To bear them orchestra,

I crave him grace, of summer boughs,
If such an outcast be,
He never heard that fleshless chant
Rise solemn in the tree,

As if some caravan of sound
On deserts, in the sky,
Had broken rank,
Then knit, and passed
In seamless company.

I love her descriptions of the sound of wind as “old measure in the boughs,” “phraseless melody,” “tuftless tune,” and “fleshless chant.” I think fleshless chant is my favorite. Oh, and I really like the verb thrum. I need to use that in something.

mood: relentless

Working on my mood ring poem about the mood relentless, trying to figure out the last line for the inner ring/scotoma poem. Here’s what I have:

Ten thousand years ago water from melting glaciers began to wear down limestone to form a gorge. Thirty years ago cone cells in my macula began to malfunction to form a scotoma. I am both limestone and water. As I dissolve my slow steady flow carves out a new landscape.

Now I’m wondering if I should use “geography” instead of landscape? Landscape seems more visual than geography–and passive, with the land like a background. Yes, I think I like geography.

As I dissolve my slow steady flow carves out a new geography.

nov 14/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 2.4 miles

It wasn’t too cold, but it’s Saturday, which is more crowded, and it’s icy, which is more difficult when it’s crowded, so I decided to work out in the basement. Couldn’t find anything to watch while I biked so I started listening to a “You’re Wrong About” podcast episode. I need to find something like “Cheer” or “Selling Sunset” to watch. As I ran I listened to music. Tried to start with Schoolhouse Rock but I determined that multiplication rock is not that motivating when you’re running on a treadmill in the basement. Switched to my playlist and ran faster to “Eye of the Tiger” and “Black Wizard Wave.” Don’t remember thinking about much or noticing anything. I got lost in the steady striking of my feet. That’s cool.

This afternoon we (all five of us) took a drive. Near the end we drove on east river road, beside the path that I take for the ford loop. So beautiful with an amazing view! It makes me want to run this loop soon. I’m thinking I might stop at several of the overlooks. Maybe Monday?

Saw this poem on twitter. Oh, Marie Howe, I love you!

The Copper Beech/ MARIE HOWE

Immense, entirely itself, 
it wore that yard like a dress, 

with limbs low enough for me to enter it 
and climb the crooked ladder to where 

I could lean against the trunk and practice being alone. 

One day, I heard the sound before I saw it, rain fell 
darkening the sidewalk. 

Sitting close to the center, not very high in the branches, 
I heard it hitting the high leaves, and I was happy, 

watching it happen without it happening to me.

nov 13/RUN

2.6 miles
river road path, south/42nd st, west/edmund, north
19 degrees/ feels like 10
50-100% snow and ice covered

A bit of an ice rink out there today but I didn’t care. I didn’t slip or fall or twist anything. Felt great to breathe in fresh air and run with my shadow. Such wonderful sun! The river was glowing through the tall, bare trees. Encountered at least one fat tire, a few runners and walkers. No cross country skiers or squirrels or dogs. No geese in the sky or snow plows on the path. Was greeted with a “Good morning!” by a runner on the road.

As predicted, the virus is very bad. 7000 cases in Minnesota just yesterday. Mostly, I’m okay. Staying inside unless I’m out by the gorge for a run. I haven’t been in a store for 8 months and the only public buildings I’ve entered are a few rest areas. It’s strange how it feels both normal and not normal at the same time.

Just revisited one of my favorite November poems by Lucy Larcom. Love this verse:

This is the month of sunrise skies  
      Intense with molten mist and flame;  
Out of the purple deeps arrive  
      Colors no painter yet could name: 
Gold-lilies and the cardinal-flower  
Were pale against this gorgeous hour.

Yes! Yesterday I witnessed the most amazing sunrise. Opening the curtains, I exclaimed, “Oh!” as I encountered a bright pinky orange sky. It only lasted a minute or two but Wow! what a beautiful view.

nov 12/RUN

3.2 miles
river road path, north/river road, path, south/32nd st, west/43rd ave, south
29 degrees
5% snow-covered

Winter running! I love the cold air, the snowy gorge. Encountered a few irritating runners who refused to move over to the other side of the trail. Had to run in the snow to avoid them. Are they really comfortable running that close to someone else, especially as we enter another, even scarier phase of the pandemic? I don’t get it. But, these two runners were such a small part of the run. The rest was wonderful. The sky was grayish-white which made everything seem other-worldly or at least at a distance from this world. Quiet and calm and empty, uncluttered.

Things I Remember

  • The overpowering and mostly unwelcome smell of pork–bacon? sausage?–wafting down from the Longfellow Grill as I ran under the lake street bridge
  • Voices down in the gorge, near the rowing club. Were they rowing in the water? On the shore? I couldn’t tell
  • The crunch-cracking of feet striking hard shards of super packed and icy snow. The same sounds even louder as tires drove over the icy snow
  • A wedge of geese–4 or 5–flying high in the gray sky
  • Some yellowish-brown leaves still on a few of the branches in the tunnel of trees
  • So many cars on the river road

As I ran, I thought about my latest mood ring poem. Relentless. Some lines popped in my head: “I am not the river but the limestone…” and “I am not the limestone but the river” and “I am both the limestone and the river.” Thinking about how the relentlessness comes both from me as I try to make sense of my vision loss and write about it and from the erosion of cone cells as they continue to destroy my central vision.

Encountered a poem this morning that I liked a little with one reading, then liked a lot after reading the poet’s explanation of it.

A Rogue Dream/ Melanie Figg

after Olivia Gatwood

I get ready for my first day as the new girl in high school
already knowing what not to wear. I dress perfectly
to stand out and disappear. I know how to put on
makeup, and I do it exactly right. My hair
looks awesome, of course! I step onto the bus,
pause by the driver, raise my arms like a superstar,
and meet the eyes of my adoring audience.
Three different beautiful girls punch
each other in the face to have me sit next to them.
I decline and the school’s most lovely, artsy boy
slides over to make room. He knows his feelings
and only goes too far
when he honestly misunderstands. He’s one of the safer ones.

I walk down the halls and no one makes fun of me.
I pass the section of lockers where her locker is, and
she is there, taking a book out of her backpack.
She’ll go running this weekend, as usual, and won’t
be followed. The man who won’t be following
her has already followed half a dozen women
to rape and kill and leave in the woods. But she won’t be
followed. She’ll survive her fate this time, and come back

to school on Monday, avoid the mean girls in the bathroom.
She’ll pick on the new girl, call her a virgin of all things.
She’ll limp her way through math, cheat a bit in science,
do pretty good in history and English. She’ll graduate,
and go to the state school on a track scholarship. She’ll
have two girls and keep them safe. She’ll almost forget

about this other ending: her in the woods near her house,
staring at the ground beneath her, wondering why.

This line! “Three different beautiful girls punch/each other in the face to have me sit next to them.” And the ending with the reimagining of the girl as not being followed. Wow.

nov 11/RUN

2.2 miles
river road trail, south/42nd st, west/43rd ave, north
32 degrees
50% snow-covered

We got about 5 inches of snow last night. Beautiful. As it fell, I opened the door and breathed in the cold, fresh air and absorbed the quiet calm. This morning, the trail by the river was cleared and bare, but there were people on the path who I couldn’t avoid unless I jumped in the snow banks. How much will I run outside this winter? Probably not as much as last year, unless I start running earlier in the morning.

A few things I remember

  • The river was not white but blue
  • The path was clear and so were many of the sidewalks. A few stretches were covered in powdery, soft, weightless white flakes, and a few others were studded with clumps of pressed down snow
  • Don’t remember hearing any crunching or compacting of snow
  • Ran under at least two snow-laden evergreen branches. Briefly wondered if they might decide to give me a shower (they didn’t)
  • Don’t remember hearing any birds. No geese or bluejays or cardinals or crows
  • Saw a fat tire biking in the snow-covered street
  • The streets were striped from where tires had pressed down the snow. No city plows yet. Not too bad to run on and it made a cool visual effect–strips of black pavement mixed with strips of white snow

mood ring: relentness

Working on another mood ring poem and thinking about repeated habits, the slow and gradual erosion of my central vision, the dissolving and/or reforming of the self in new ways, my persistence in finding better ways to make sense of and communicate my experiences, my unflagging desire to craft poetry out of how I try to be when I cannot see or when I see in new ways. I’ve decided the best word to describe this is relentless. I’m also thinking a compelling metaphor for it is the gorge and the slow (but not that slow, really) erosion of the limestone that created (and continues to create) it. Here’s some facts to remember and use:

carving of the gorge

12,000 years ago the falls were formed when glaciers melted. They were originally in St. Paul, but traveled upstream to downtown Minneapolis–traveling about 10 miles at a rate of 4 feet per year. 3,828 years ago the falls were near the railroad trestle. The falls stabilized/stopped moving in 1870.

Sources: NPS and FMR

I’d like to review my information on the current eroding of the gorge and think about that in relation to this mood too.

nov 10/RUN

3.2 miles
turkey hollow
31 degrees

Yes! Love this weather for running. Just around freezing, overcast, not too windy. Ran above the river on the trail. Why can’t I remember what the river looked like? Did I forgot to check? Not sure. I remember glancing at the oak savanna and the Winchell trail as it climbs just slightly up to 38th, changing from dirt to asphalt. I remember looking at the sky above the gorge and the other side as I ran by the inviting bench between Folwell and 42nd. I remember noticing how the steps down from 38th were already closed off and that the paved trail below was bare. But I don’t remember the river. It must have been grayish blue. Today we might get half a foot of snow. Will the river be covered in white tomorrow?

The turkeys were in the same yard that they had been in the last time I saw them, doing the same things: munching on something and performing a part run, part trot, part bob to get away from me as I neared. Nice. I love their awkward grace.

I don’t remember thinking about much, which is nice. The joy from last week’s election results has worn off as the refusal to concede continues. Social media doom scrolling returns and so does the need to be much more deliberate about managing anxiety and avoiding media. This week is all about distraction, I think. And shoveling and continuing to work on my mood ring poems and memorizing a few poems?

Speaking of my mood ring poems, I’ve noticed that I used certainty/uncertainty (too?) often. What are some other words I could use?

  • stable/destabilized
  • faith/doubt
  • convinced/unconvinced
  • known/unknown
  • indisputable/in doubt, questionable
  • assuredly/without assurance
  • clear/unclear
  • definite/indeterminate
  • sure/unsure

As I write this at my front desk, the snow has started. This snow seems like it might stick around. Will the grass stay gone? Here’s one of my favorite poems about eagerly anticipating winter. I’ve posted it several times on this log but I always like remembering it:

Fall, leaves, fall/ EMILY BRONTË

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.

As I’ve said before, I don’t like misery and dreary days. Just leafless trees, bare branches, crunching snow, and cold clear air.

nov 9/RUN

3.2 miles
river road trail, south/edmund, north/32nd st, west
64 degrees

Very gray this morning, which didn’t bother me. Everything looked solemn, calm, expectant. Rain coming in a few hours then a big drop in the temperature. Maybe a few inches of snow tomorrow. Goodbye unusually mild fall weather, hello winter. Yes! Wore shorts and a short-sleeved shirt and was still warm. I could feel that my face was bright red. Heading south straight into the wind at the beginning of my run, I admired the river. Such a nice blueish gray. Saw something flying in the air–was it a small bird or a leaf? I couldn’t tell. Too many cars on the river road but not too many people.

[added in several hours later] I almost forgot. I saw a dead animal on the road, right on the edge. No blood, no mangled body. It looked like it was sleeping. Running, I noticed something unusual in the road. I turned to look back at it, almost veering into the fence on the edge of the gorge. I think it was raccoon.

[added in even later] Forgot this too: Scott and I watching all the seasons of Community (again). This morning I had this song in my head:

“Come on I’m Dean/and my hands are so clean/at this moment/I am stapling”

I chanted it several times as I ran until I forgot about it.

Thinking about bewilderment as I work on a mood ring poem. Really appreciate this passage from Fanny Howe:

There is a muslim prayer that says, “Lord, increase my bewilderment,” and this prayer is also mine and the strange Whoever who goes under the name of “I” in my poems–and under multiple names in my fiction–where error, errancy and bewilderment are the main forces that signal a story. 

error, errancy, and bewilderment

I also like this passage:

In the Dictionary, to bewilder is “to cause to lose one’s sense of where one is.”
The wilderness as metaphor is in this case not evocative enough because causing a complete failure in the magnet, the compass, the scale, the stars and the movement of the rivers is more than getting lost in the woods.  
Bewilderment is an enchantment that follows a complete collapse of reference and reconcilability.  
It cracks open the dialectic and sees myriads all at once.

nov 8/RUN

3 miles
around the neighborhood
58 degrees

BIDEN DEFEATS TRUMP! Such a wonderful, needed headline. Sitting upstairs at my desk, working on my poem in the late morning yesterday, Scott called out, “He did it” or “It’s over” or “He won,” I can’t remember which. I started walking down the stairs, stopped, then began to cry. So much relief and joy. It will take weeks for all the fear and despair to leak out, I think. I recognize this is not the end of all that, just the beginning of a renewed hope in the world and the belief that we can avoid the darkest timeline.

Very windy and warm this morning. Noticed my shadow a few times. She’s very excited about Biden and Harris (Harris!) winning too–I could see it in how she held her frame as she ran. Listened to a playlist and felt happy to be outside moving. I wore shorts. I might be able to do that again tomorrow, but after that it’s running tights. We might get snow on Tuesday.

Admired the sparkling river as I ran above on Edmund. I can’t wait until I can run by the river again without worrying about getting too close to people. Next spring?

Scrolling through twitter, one of my favorite poetry people just tweeted: An open gate. Love it! Possibility…not guaranteed, but a chance to enter a new world, a new era, somewhere other than where we’ve been for the past 4 years. Reminds me of a poem I memorized this summer (and have already almost forgotten, sadly…I’ll have to review it a few times):

The Gate/ MARIE HOWE

I had no idea that the gate I would step through
to finally enter this world

would be the space my brother’s body made. He was
a little taller than me: a young man

but grown, himself by then,
done at twenty-eight, having folded every sheet,

rinsed every glass he would ever rinse under the cold
and running water.

This is what you have been waiting for, he used to say to me.
And I’d say, What?

And he’d say, This—holding up my cheese and mustard sandwich.
And I’d say, What?