feb 28/BIKERUN

bike: 12 minutes
run: 1.5 miles
basement
outside: 31 degrees

It snowed about 1.5 inches this morning. Wet, sloppy, slightly slick snow. Pretty snow. Right after it stopped, I went outside and shoveled. So wet and heavy, but easy to shovel. And, after I was finished, the sun came out. Now, in the afternoon, much of the snow has melted. In past years, I might have run outside, but it’s harder to avoid people when much of the sidewalk and roads are covered in puddles. Unexpectedly, I haven’t minded running and biking inside. I don’t remember that much about my bike or my run. Oh, I remembered this: listening to the VS. podcast and their interview with Aracelis Girmay. One of the hosts, Danez Smith, asked Girmay about her focus on a fly in a poem she read:

Danez Smith: Can I ask what brings your attention to the fly? There is such a sense of like everywhere and everything having this safety and this love in your work. I love these poems because it feels like everything in the world gets its piece of love in these poems. I guess, how do you nurture that in yourself to see the fly in that way, right? And how … what is it, I guess, in your work that sort of stops your attention on something as small as a fly, I guess? How have you honed your looking to be that small and welcoming?

I love this question and the idea of learning how to see small things like flies and how they (Smith) ask about it: “How have you honed your looking to be that small and welcoming?” Yes, the idea of generous, loving looking. I also like the idea of stopping your attention, instead of paying attention or focusing attention. It makes me think about how we are all already in a constant state of attention. The key is to stop, to settle, to pick one, small thing to notice.

a moment of sound

feb 28, 2021

I forgot to record my moment of sound while I was shoveling, so I did it later, in the early evening at 6:19, 20 minutes after the sun had set. Very quiet. I hear a dog in the distance and the quiet hum of the city. I think I just barely hear the scratch scratch scratch of my neighbor’s scare rods spinning in the slight breeze.

feb 27/BIKERUN

bike: 15 minutes
run: 1.5 miles
treadmill
outside: 43 degrees

What a beautiful, feels-like-spring day! Scott and I took Delia the dog on a long walk by the river and around the neighborhood this morning in the bright sun. It felt much warmer than 40 degrees. Lots of runners and walkers and bikers on the river road trail, enjoying the warmth. Heard lots of birds, including the cardinal’s “pew pew pew” song. Some woodpeckers, crows, a few black-capped chickadees, and many others that I can’t identify by song. Maybe there were a charm of finches? (I found a great site for group names for birds) At some point during the walk, we heard some honking geese! Returning for the spring?

When we got back I decided to sit on the back deck, in the bright sun. I am looking forward to late spring and summer when I can do this every day. Sitting there quietly, listening to all of the birds, and not thinking about much of anything, a bright red cardinal flew just past me and landed in a tree at the edge of our deck. Usually I can’t see cardinals, but I noticed this one first as it moved across my peripheral, which helped my brain see it when it landed in my central vision. Very cool–and very strange how the brain helps me to see things.

Because it was getting late, and it was very wet and crowded outside today, I decided to bike and run in the basement. Watched a race while I biked, listened to a playlist while I ran. Didn’t think about much–what did I think about? I can’t remember, which isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes I like forgetting. This morning I memorized a Sara Teasdale poem that I have been intending to memorize for many months: Let It Be Forgotten. I’m hoping to use it as a spell or a charm or a mantra to chant when I want to stop thinking about something:

Let it be forgotten, as a flower is forgotten,
Forgotten as a fire, that once was singing gold,
Let it be forgotten, for ever and ever,
Time is a kind friend, he will make us old.

If anyone asks, say it was forgotten,
Long and long ago,
As a flower, as a fire, as a hushed footfall
In a long forgotten snow.

a moment of sound

Wow, the water rushing through the drain, and off the eaves, sounds very loud in this recording. You can barely hear the many birds, I recorded this moment while sitting on my deck is the glorious sun.

feb 27, 2021

feb 26/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
run: 2.3 miles
basement
outside: 40 degrees (wind: 30 mph gusts)

Warmish but windy. I think I’ll stay inside. Trying to unclench my jaw this morning; too much stress over the abrupt total re-opening of the high school with very little plan or convincing argument for how this is safe and good for most of the teachers and students. It took about 20 minutes on the bike to relax. Watching a Dickinson episode helped. In this one, “Fame is a fickle food,” Emily is not a recluse, like she was in the last episode. (And, her vision is completely fine now. No more discussion of that traumatic event, I guess). She wants to win (and does) the baking contest at the county fair and has no problem leaving her room to attend the crowded fair, or to walk through town with a newspaper editor the next day. I especially enjoyed the goofy moments when Emily and her siblings got excited about going to the county fair.

After I finished biking, I started listening to another podcast with Ross Gay about his work. This one is with Parker Palmer (I recall reading one of his books for my pedagogy class) and Carrie Newcomer. I chose it because I thought they might talk more about Gay’s work in relation to religion/spirituality, something which was completely absent in other interviews I heard with him. So far, they haven’t, but I’m enjoying their discussion about the importance of practice. Gay mentions how he partly wrote The Book of Delights because he deeply needed practice in studying delight, and attending to what he loved. Yes! This made me think (and not for the first or second time) about how much of what I’ve been doing is practicing/developing practices around attending to what I love (and need). A few minutes later Parker Palmer mentioned how important being able to experience delight is for resisting those things (systems, structures, leaders) that strip away our delight in order to weaken/demoralize/depress us. This made me think of Aimee Nezhukumatathil and her suggestion, “Always let the wonder win,” which has become a constant goal for me–to strive for remembering and noticing the wonder, even in the midst of anxiety and anger and sadness and uncertainty over all of the terrible shit happening in the U.S.

My morning routine lately has been to get up, feed the dog, make some coffee, check Facebook, and then poets.org for the poem of the day. Today’s poem was especially wonderful.

Skin Tight/ Ishmael Reed – 1938-

The internal organs were growling
According to them
They did all of the work while
Skin got all of the attention
He’s an organ just like us
They groused
Even the heart, which, a
Century ago, was the Queen
Of metaphors, but now
Was reduced to the greetings
Cards section of CVS,
Chimed in

They decided to call skin
On the carpet.
Skin arrived from Cannes
Where he’d been the subject
Of much fuss as actresses
Fed him luxurious skin
Food prepared by Max Factor
Estée Lauder, L’Oreal,
And Chanel
They
Caressed him daily
Sometimes for hours before
They made the red carpet
Shine

He was petted
And preened

Others
Pleaded with him
To erase wrinkles to
Make them look younger
To tighten their chins

Skin tried to appease the
Critics, greeting them with
His familiar “give me some skin”
But his gesture went unheeded

Brain did all the talking
Brain said, “Here’s the skinny
Why do you get
All of the press
Your color
Your texture discussed
Endlessly
Nicole Kidman never

Did an ad about us

Cole Porter never
Wrote a song about us
Nor were we mentioned
In a Thornton Wilder novel
You’ve given us no
Skin in the game”

“What about the nasty
Things they say about
Me,” skin replied
“What about skin deep
For superficiality
Or
Skin trade
To denote something
Unsavory

How would you
Like acne rashes
Eczema

Boils
Pellagra
Leprosy
And
Conditions
That astonish
Even dermatologists

I wear my blemishes
In public while you guys
Hide yours”

“Without me and heart
You’d be nothing,” the brain said
“That’s not true,” protested
The liver, “without me he’d
Be nothing”
“No,” the kidney said
“It’s me who keeps the
Body functioning”
The bladder and
The kidney began
To quarrel with
Gallbladder
The lung twins spoke
Up
“Without us
He couldn’t breathe”
Even the esophagus
And the thyroid
And the pancreas
Joined the outbreak
“What about us?”

The eyes said
“Without eyes you
Can’t see”

Their squabble distracted
Them
When they looked
Up from their dust up
Skin’s
Helicopter was up
He was scheduled to
Address a convention of
Plastic surgeons at
The Beverly Hills
Hotel
Escaping by the skin
Of his teeth
His opponents gave
Chase
But above the roar
Of the chopper
They heard him say
“Don’t worry fellas
I got you covered”

a moment of sound: dripping and blowing

feb 26, 2021

feb 25/RUN

5K
edmund loop, starting north
31 degrees
5% super-slick ice-patches

A great morning for a run! Sunny and not too windy. So many birds–I couldn’t see them; just heard them clicking and chirping and calling. The sidewalks and roads were almost completely clear except for a few patches of super slick ice. The ice is always slickest when the temperature is right on the edge of freezing and the ice has almost melted. I ran over at least one puddle that was water underneath with a thin layer of crispy ice on top. A few years ago, I recall describing this type of ice as creme brûlée. Very fun to step on, as long as you’re going fast enough to not get your foot wet in the water below, which I was.

A little over a mile into the run, I stopped at the river to record a moment of sound. It’s mostly cars driving by and some wind, but I can hear some birds and a person’s footsteps as they walk north on the trail. Oh–and the loud hum of the city, which almost sounds like static.

feb 25, 2021

Running on Edmund, I looked over at the river near 42nd and noticed a bright reflection on the other side, over in St. Paul. Was it a rooftop? A car? Someone holding up a mirror? Not sure, but it was mesmerizing. Heard some kids playing at Dowling Elementary. Elementary schools are in-person full time now. They’re planning to open up the high schools full time after spring break, in April. One kid, the freshman, wants to stay online; the other, a senior, wants to go back. I don’t see how it’s going to work. The high school is old and has very few windows. It’s crowded, with narrow halls. How can this be safe? They won’t be doing hybrid learning, but full, 5 days a week. Ugh.

When I reached 42nd, I stopped to put in my headphones and listen to a playlist as I ran north on edmund. Smelled the fire at the same spot on Edmund that I always do, the one which always makes me wonder whether it’s coming from the gorge below, or someone’s fireplace. A few weeks ago I decided that the smoke was coming from the gorge, but today I changed my mind. I think it’s coming from a house. Encountered a few runners and walkers, no bikers or cross-country skiers or sledders.

feb 24/BIKERUN

bike: 15 minutes
run: 1.45 miles
basement
outside: 38 degrees

Very wet and sloppy outside. Went for a walk with Delia and my daughter and decided I’d rather run inside today. Finished the Dickinson episode I started yesterday, the one that briefly mentions her vision and features the poem, “Before I got my eye put out.” I recognize that it’s my own bias, but I wish there would have been more about her vision and how the loss of it affected her poetry. From what I’ve read–in a few articles and the book, These Fevered Days by Martha Ackmann, her vision loss was deeply disturbing, but in the show, she doesn’t care that much. I can’t remember the exact line, but when her father tells her not to write poetry because it will be bad for her eyes, her response is “I don’t need to see to write; I just need my soul!” I think this is the first episode of the second season and things are getting darker. War is coming and Emily is becoming much more of a recluse.

After I biked, I ran with a playlist. Didn’t think about much, but had fun running a little faster to Foo Fighter’s “Pretender.”

a moment of sound: melting!

feb 24, 2021

feb 23/BIKERUN

bike: 20 minutes
run: 3.25 miles
basement
outside: 38 degrees

Warm enough outside, but wet, and I ran outside Sunday and Monday. And I needed to take a break and bike some today. Watched the next episode of Dickinson, which featured one of my favorite poems:

Before I got my eye put out–
I liked as well to see
As other creatures, that have eyes–
And know no other way–

And it deals with her temporary vision loss when she was in her mid 30s in 1863 and 1864. I wonder how they’ll end this episode? I’ll find out next time. In this season, she’s becoming much more of a recluse, barely leaving her room.

After the bike, I ran and listened to my playlist. I don’t remember what I thought about, except: 1. how many songs do I need to listen to before I check the time?, 2. raising my head, working on my posture, 3. lifting my right hip, 4. is all this running good for me, or will it give me arthritis and weaken me so much when I’m almost 80 that I sometimes struggle to move (which is what is happening to my dad right now)?, 4. who is that walking upstairs, making such loud thumping noises? That’s all I remember–oh, and looking at the lightbulb, reflected in the far window, which is dark because it’s under the deck, and no longer thinking it looked like a moon with clouds above Lake Superior (which is what I thought it looked like last February).

Between biking and running, I managed to not go upstairs to pee. One step closer to breaking that habit (or at least making sure it doesn’t fully form). It’s pretty mundane, but since my work is on ethics and ways of breaking and re-making habits (undisciplining), I’m always interested in our daily practices and how they become solidified into necessary and automatic actions. Often, we don’t notice them forming until it becomes very difficult to change them.

Yesterday, I listened to some amazing podcasts. First, I finished up the Ross Gay interview on Between the Covers. After I finish writing this entry, I’m planning to transcribe parts of it because they haven’t posted the transcript yet. Then, I listened to another interview with Ross Gay on Franny Choi’s and Danez Smith’s amazing podcast, VS. And, finally, I listened to their interview with Ada Limón.

I really appreciate what Limón says about what poetry does for us–and who it does it for:

I do feel like there’s a lot of “the arts will save us.” You know, there’s a part of me that really believes that, right? I mean, I believe that poetry can heal us and help us. But, I mean, if I’m very honest, I think they can only do that for the poet. (LAUGHS) And then they may, if we’re lucky, help someone else or move someone else or inspire someone else or get them out of a rut. But I think it begins with like, I write my own poems to save myself. You know, then if, in, you know, some series, lucky series of events, a poem becomes larger than me and reaches someone else, that’s, that’s beautiful. But I don’t always know that that’s gonna happen, right? I have to start by how is this poem recommitting me to the world?

VS Podcast Interview

Yes! How is this poem recommitting me to the world? And, I write to save myself.

a moment of sound

Today’s sound is water. Dripping water, whooshing water. Water slowly, almost, but not quite, silently absorbing into the ground.

feb 23, 2021

feb 22/RUN

3.2 miles
edmund, heading south/river road trail, heading north
34 degrees
sidewalks: 80% snow-covered/ roads: 10%

Today it feels like spring! It’s too bright, but I’ll take the warm sun. Lots of birds and puddles. Was able to run on the river road trail on the way back north. Encountered 3 or 4 groups of people, but we all kept as much distance as we could. Saw the river. No cracks in the surface yet. Noticed someone walking below on the Winchell Trail. The roads were full of big puddles wile the sidewalks were almost all covered in uneven mushy snow. I wonder how sore my legs will be later today? Smelled some smoke in the same spot I always smell it–on Edmund. Heard a woodpecker. I don’t remember thinking about anything, except, occasionally: this is not easy, running over this uneven snow. Anything else? No fat tires or cross country skiers or black capped chickadees or daily walkers or packs of runners or music blasting from someone’s radio or laughing kids on the playground or overheard conversations. No chainsaws or trucks backing up or honking geese. Oh–I did encounter a group of 4 walkers taking over the whole road, but I didn’t care, because I was on the sidewalk. For most of the run, I listened to the neighborhood. For the last 1/2 mile, a playlist.

a moment of sound

feb 22, 2021

Standing in the backyard right after shoveling the deck and the sidewalks in back and front. Birds, car horns, a steady drip of melting snow.

feb 21/RUN

2.65 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, north/1 loop around Howe
27 degrees
50% sloppy snow-covered

Even though I was concerned that there might be too many people outside, I decided to go for a run. The first mile wasn’t too bad but when I got to Edmund there were more people. Distracted, I forgot to look for the river when I reached the top of the Edmund hill. Noticed a family sledding and several dogs with their humans. When I reached 37th, I stopped to record my moment of sound.

a moment of sound

Listen to those birds! Sounds like spring to me. So glad I went outside.

feb 21, 2021

After that, I turned on a playlist and tried not to slip on the mushy, uneven snow. Yuck! Then I ran around Howe school. Student (3rd-5th graders) are returning tomorrow.

The other day, I found this print, which would be really cool to get for under the glass on my desk, but I’m not sure I want to spend $30 on it.

Found this poem in a wonderful twitter thread about “how to” poems:

Instructions for Opening a Door/ Adriana Cloud

To open a door, you must want to leave.
A here, a there. You must want.
Stuff pink hyacinths in the dictionary
between “lie” and “lightning,”
the wet stem of spring curling the pages
until it is not a flower
but just the word for it. We all die
but the hope is to die of living.
Slam it hard enough
to make the sidewalk hum
the way your blood hummed
the first time you walked into the sea.
A door is just a question you have to ask
even when you are scared of the answer.
In San Sebastián they pour the txakoli
from high up until it foams in the glass.
Sea, grapes, the word for longing.
Use both hands and don’t look back.

Love the lines: “To open a door, you must want to leave./ A here, a there, You must want.” and “A door is just a question you have to ask/ even when you are scared of the answer.”

feb 20/BIKERUN

bike: 30 minutes
run: 3.25 miles
basement
outside: 19 degrees

Watched another episode of Dickinson while I biked. Then listened to a playlist while I ran. Decided today I would start to break my habit of having to pee between biking and running. I did it! I went straight from the bike to the treadmill. It was difficult for the first few minutes, then it was fine. Will I be able to not do it again? How many times do you have to not do something to break a habit? I’ll find out. While I was running I had the treadmill display covered. I decided that I would check the time after the 5th song. I waited until the 8th song. 29 minutes. I was surprised, thinking a lot less time had passed. It’s nice to learn how to get lost in time in the basement, and to not need the gorge to do it.

Before working out, I finished my incurable poem (well, I completed a polished draft at least). I’m pleased with it. I think it completes my mood ring collection. 3 sets of 3 moods: 1. Delighted, Curious, Awed; 2. Doubtful, Lonely, Bewildered; 3. Relentless, Resilient, Incurable.

Mood: Incurable

Here’s the text for the three poems:

Poem 1 (entire grid):

No cure. A stubborn sentence that brings relief not despair. No expensive tests. No inconclusive results. No experimental treatments. No jammed waiting rooms. No needles pickling my eyes. No need for tears. No need for grief. No need for answers. Nothing to fix to make safe to store away for winter. Someday there will be a way to repopulate the vacant city of my macula. But not now. Now is for living and breathing and being outside above the gorge. For adapting and exploring and creating different forms of seeing. For wandering among the sprawling oak trees feeling the biting breeze admiring the view to the other side.

Poem 2 (inner circle, central vision that’s left)

safe
winter
will be
late

Poem 3 (blind ring)

Acceptance is not weakness but strength. Strength is not a hardening but a softening. Diminished vision is not a death sentence but a door into other worlds. Put back that sugar and salt. Pack away those preservatives. I do not need to be cured. 

I am very pleased with this poem. It was such a helpful way to work though my feelings about having an incurable eye disease–my acceptance of it and my frustration with others who can’t accept it or the idea that losing vision is not a tragedy.

After working out, Scott and I took Delia the dog on a walk. Today it is bright and beautiful and much warmer. At the end of the walk, I recorded a moment of sound in the backyard.

a moment of sound

Quiet. I can hear a few birds, the wind moving through the alley, some dripping. And a scratching sound that is Delia digging in the snow for crabapple trees the robins left behind.

feb 20, 2021

feb 19/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
run: 2.25 miles
basement
outside: 15 degrees

I started my bike by listening to Dr. Michael Osterholm’s podcast on COVID-19–he’s the infectious diseases expert/director at the University of Minnesota. He often gives worst case scenarios but his latest assessment tracks with another expert I check in with on twitter: Bob Wachter, the chair of the department of medicine at UCSF, who is a little more optimistic generally. Today’s episode of his podcast is titled Hurricane Warning and it’s about the likely category five hurricane of covid destruction that the B.1.1.7 variant (also known as the UK variant) could bring in the next month if we open up and let down our guard. While I don’t like hearing this news, I appreciate the reminder that my concerns about things opening up, including schools, are not unfounded. I’ve heard Osterholm say this several times: “Americans like to pump the brakes after the car is wrapped around the tree.” Meaning, we’re reckless and then try to be cautious after it’s too late. Looks like that’s what’s happening now. Numbers are down, people are tired of sheltering, so it’s time to open back up. This attitude makes me sad and concerned about our (U.S., the world) ability to make hard choices for our survival–not just with COVID but with the climate crisis. Most of the time I am an optimist, able to see past the bad to the good (in people, in situations), but the selfish, short-sighted way that many (at least those with the most power) have responded to crisis is chipping away at that optimism. Slowly, I’m letting the pessimistic “people suck” attitude creep in. I need to focus more on delight and people who are delighted and delightful.

Speaking of which, after biking I listened to a podcast with Ross “Book of Delights” Gay and his new book-length poem, Be Holding. Well, first I tried listening to my audio book Wintering but it was an extra dark chapter about insomnia that was bumming me out too much so I turned it off. Ross Gay is wonderful and his ideas about beholding as attending and looking with love, which reminded me of Maria Lugones’ idea of loving (as opposed to arrogant) perception, are very inspiring and help me restore my optimism. I look forward to when the transcript of the interview comes out–hopefully soon. In the part I listened to today, they were talking about looking and vision. The phrase “eyes of poetry” was used. It made me think about my relationship to vision and what I’m trying to do with my work (and my practices, and my strategies for coping with vision loss). Two things I’m doing:

First, a critical intervention in the privileging of vision/sight—an exploration of other ways of attending and other language for that attention. Not just seeing but listening and feeling. What might be some aural-centric words to counter vision, insight, focus? Thinking about this reminded me of a poem I memorized this summer: And Swept All Visible Signs Swept Away/ Carl Phillips

Easy enough, to say it’s dark now.
But what is the willow doing in the darkness?
I say it wants less for company than for compassion,

which can come from afar and faceless. What’s a face, to a willow?
If a willow had a face, it would be a song. I think.
I am stirred, I’m stir-able, I’m a wind-stirred thing.

Here, I’m thinking about listening and the expression of self through song, as opposed to through face and vision. The “visible signs” have been swept away by the wind, yet compassion and recognition (to beholden) are still possible.

Second, an expansion of what vision/seeing is—how do we see, what does it mean to see? what are others ways of seeing are possible? what are the different ways I do/can use my vision (e.g. peripheral instead of central)? This second project is inspired by Georgina Kleege’s book Sight Unseen and the descriptions of her own ways of seeing–even though she is legally blind, she likes to go to movies and art museums. She can still watch the movies and see the paintings, just in different ways.

So, the other thing I’m doing today (besides worrying about variant strains and high schools opening too soon, or loving looks and Ross Gay) is collecting definitions, expressions, descriptions of cure/curing as a method for preserving food. In my mood ring poem, I want to introduce this language subtly throughout the poem in order to create more impact with the final lines–which I’m thinking might be part of the inner blind ring. So much fun!

  • canned
  • jarred
  • jammed, jam-packed
  • pickled
  • expired, expiration date
  • spoiled
  • shelf-life, stored
  • shelved, put on the shelf
  • decay
  • needed in times of scarcity
  • embalm
  • preserve body for medical experiments
  • dried out, old
  • hardened, tough exterior, leathered, weathered
  • drawing moisture out
  • airtight, removing oxygen, sealing out air
  • inside, packed, put away

2 Habits formed, one bad, one good

Currently I am very aware of the forming of two habits through repeated practices. The first habit, which I see as good, is my daily moment of sound. I have recorded enough of them that it is a routine practice for me to step outside, no matter how cold, and listen for a moment. The second habit, which I see as mostly bad, is my need to pee every time I am done with biking inside and before I start running. I can feel the practice become entrenched, something I have to do every time. I know I could have tried harder to stop it, but instead I’ve been observing how it has been happening. Is it too late now to stop? I hope not, but I’m not too concerned. It’s fascinating to witness it forming. I just remembered how I had this same habit in high school during swim practice–I always had to pee after warm-up and before the main set.

a moment of sound

Today’s moment of sound happened right after I took the recycling out–around 7:30 in the morning. Birds!

feb 19, 2021

feb 18/RUN

3 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, north/2 loops around Howe
12 degrees/ feels like 12
100% snow-covered

Now this weather is more like it! I don’t mind 12 degrees at all. No part of me felt cold. No frozen fingers; by the 1/2 mile mark, they were warm and I had to take off my second pair of gloves (the hot pink ones with white stripes). Heard lots of birds. Chickadees, robins, cardinals, crows. I think I heard at least one woodpecker.

The road and the sidewalks were covered with about an inch of snow. Where people had shoveled, the path was firm and easy. Where they had not, it was loose and uneven and slippery–not making me slip, but making my legs work harder to lift my feet off of the ground. I probably should have worn my yaktrax but if I had, I wouldn’t have been able to hear the delightful 2 part creak of my feet striking the snow then lifting off of it. I love those sounds. Still, those sounds could only do so much to counter the difficulty of trudging through uneven snow that slips and shifts, providing no purchase. Was planning to run all the way to 42nd but Edmund had too many slippery, slushy ruts. So I turned early and headed for Howe Elementary. Around the school, the sidewalk was shoveled and nice to run on. So nice, I ran around the school twice.

Heard some adults–teachers? staff?–talking outside of the main entrance to Howe. 3rd-5th graders head back on Monday. Governor Walz announced yesterday that middle and high schools will be opening soon too–probably (hopefully not until) after spring break in mid-April. So sudden. Is it safe? I doubt it; I think people are just too tired of it all and can’t isolate anymore. I worry about the next few months–with so many variants, are we opening too soon? Yes, I think.

a moment of sound

When I came downstairs this morning with Delia the dog for our daily routine–she wakes me up, I feed her, then she goes outside to poop, I heard a black-capped chickadee calling out. Then a faint answer. I decided to make this my moment of sound. At the end, you can hear Delia rush in, then make her favorite sound (the one that almost always unsettles me): a vigorous shaking of her head.

feb 18, 2021

Yesterday, when I told Scott that the Dickinson episode I watched was about the total eclipse, he asked, “Was there an eclipse they could see in Amherst in the 1800s?” After explaining to him that some of what happens in the show is imagined, but most of it is based on some evidence, even if they play fast and loose with when things happened, I looked it up. No eclipse at the time in which the show is set–the 1850s, but Brain Pickings, with the help of data from NASA(!), determined one total eclipse did happen while Emily was alive, on September 29, 1875. Emily would have been a few months shy of 45. This viewing may have prompted this eclipse poem, which she included in a letter to her mentor, Thomas Wentworth Higginson:

It sounded as if the streets were running —
And then — the streets stood still —
Eclipse was all we could see at the Window
And Awe — was all we could feel.

By and by — the boldest stole out of his Covert
To see if Time was there —
Nature was in her Opal Apron —
Mixing fresher Air.

Source

Another interesting thing this quick research unearthed: Emily Dickinson’s first posthumous editor, the one that removed all of Emily’s dashes–wrote a book about eclipses, The Total Eclipse of the Sun. And this book was published the same year as she published the first volume of Emily Dickinson’s poetry. And, she was the long-time lover of Emily’s older brother Austin.

feb 17/BIKERUN

bike: 20 minutes
run: 2.25 miles
outside: 9 degrees/ feels like -1

Started the next episode of Dickinson. It’s about death, the eclipse and Emily’s growing affection for her father’s law clerk who is definitely going to die (looked up ED on wikipedia and yep, he dies of tuberculosis). I know a bit of her biography, but I hadn’t remember this guy. According to wikipedia he was a mentor but not likely a love interest. Oh and almost forgot to mention: in the last episode Louisa May Alcott comes over for Christmas dinner; she’s visiting another family and they bring her along to the dinner. The show depicts her as a badass hustler whose primary motivation for writing seems to be money and independence. And, she’s a runner! When she finds out Emily’s a writer, she invites her out for a run before dinner. I wondered if this were true, so I googled it. Yes, Alcott was a runner! Nice. Lousia and Emily ran through the fields holding up their skirts.

About 15 minutes into the episode, I got an alert that I needed to log back into my account to keep watching. Decided to stop and move onto running. Before I ran, I listened to myself reciting my latest poem. Another mood ring: incurable. Then, as I ran, I listened to a little more of Wintering and a playlist.

My mood ring poem, Incurable, is about how my eye disease does not have a cure and how I’m okay with that and it’s a response to my frustration with the well-meaning suggestions by others to go to more doctors and keep searching for a cure. My frustration is mostly irritation and annoyance: Both doctors I have talked to and all of the research I have done clearly states that there is currently no cure for cone dystrophy. Subjecting myself to more tests is exhausting and expensive without decent insurance. And, even if there were a cure it would be experimental and prohibitively expensive. Knowing myself and what I need (and what I can afford), this is not a good idea. Yet, when people refuse to believe me when I say there isn’t a cure and encourage me to keep looking, it plants the smallest seed of doubt–am I giving up? Not trying hard enough? I am not and I didn’t ask for advice. Instead of getting angry, I am writing this poem. Here’s my current draft of the main poem:

No cure. That firm sentence brings relief not despair. No terrible trips to countless doctors. No invasive treatments. No experimental implants. No big needles injected into eye balls. No difficult discussions about how much “good” vision is worth. No energy squandered. Everything devoted to adapting experimenting exploring new forms of delight. Someday there may be a way to repopulate the vacant city of my macula. But not now. Acceptance is not weakness but strength. Strength is not a hardening but a softening. And diminished vision is not a death sentence but a door into other worlds. Put back that sugar and salt. Pack away the preservatives. I do not need to be cured.

A few days ago, after the latest encounter with well-intention nudges from people who love me very much, I decided to free-write about my mood. I wrote down: “No cure. Cured, curing. Cured like bacon.” Yes! I started thinking about the different meanings of cure–to heal + preserve meat, fruit, vegetables + embalming/preserving the body. The word incurable came to me. Then I started thinking of fitting phrases, like “incurable optimist” and “incurable romantic.” And definitions: stubborn, irredeemable, incorrigible. And a passage I read in Georgina Kleege’s Sight Unseen about sighted people’s fear of blindess/vision loss:

The belief that human experience, both physical and mental, is essentially visual, and that any other type of experience is necessarily second rate, leads to the conclusion that not to see is not to experience, not to live, not to be. At best, the sighted imagine blindness as a state between life and death, an existence encased in darkness, an invisible coffin (30).

Incurable is my current mood. While I ran, I came up with an additional line (I do not need to be cured) that really helps the poem. This delighted me and made me happy to be able to write and to run and to use these activities to work through difficult moods.

a moment of sound

Went out into the backyard for my moment of sound. It’s snowing light fluffy flakes. Our crabapple tree is loaded with apples and birds–at least a dozen, at one point. I guess they’re too busy eating to sing. Silently, they feast on the fruit. Looked it up and I’m pretty sure they are robins. Also read that cedar waxwings and cardinals like to feast on crabapples in the winter. Notable sounds: crunching snow, a barking dog, a clanging fence, softly falling snow.

feb 17, 2021

feb 16/BIKERUN

bike: 32 minutes
run: 3.25 miles
basement
outside: 5 degrees/ feels like 5

Stayed on the bike to watch an entire episode of Dickinson. At one point, during their Christmas Eve celebration, Sue starts singing “In the Bleak Midwinter” and I was struck by the lyrics. Looked it up and it was originally a poem by Christina Rossetti. Gustav “the planets” Holst set it to music. Nice. Not sure I have heard this before. Looked it up on spotify and most of the versions were either instrumental or big choirs. So many versions; I guess because it’s a traditional Christmas song. I don’t really care for the whole poem but I love the first stanza. What a great description of midwinter:

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Speaking of descriptions of winter, Katherine May provides some excellent ones in the chapter I listened to as I ran (November). If I had the written version, I could look them up. But listening to it while I was running made it hard to hang onto the words. I also liked May’s discussion of Halloween and rituals around death. One thing I remember her saying that struck me was wanting to reread a ghost story that was eerie and not horrific. I like that distinction and thinking about ghost stories that are mysterious, strange, uneasy (eerie) instead of terrifying, shocking, dreadful (horror). As I write this, I am remembering a few of her descriptions of winter: each blade of grass separated and visible with frost; the clear, sharp edges of the leaves. This prompted by mind to wander. I thought about how I can’t ever see that amount of detail. Everything is always fuzzy, smudged, in italics. Winter branches are not sharp and hard and distinct, but fuzzy and soft, gently blending with the sky, especially at dusk. After that, my mind kept wandering and I had an idea, which I spoke into my phone:

notes while running, 16 feb 2021

The idea: check my blind spot again against the wall and retrace it. Assuming that it had changed, use this new shape for a new set of mood ring poems. I could keep doing this until the blind ring becomes a spot–whenever that is.

a moment of sound

A few hours after my run, I took Delia out for a walk on this warmer (9 degrees) day. I guess it felt a little warmer, but it was still very cold on my face.

feb 16, 2021

feb 15/RUN

2.75 miles
river road, south/edmund, north
-7 degrees/ feels like -10

Brr. Decided to go for it and run outside. Didn’t look too bad when I checked the forecast: low wind, bright sun. According to my watch, the wind is 2mph. I’m dubious. I felt a cold wind blowing in my face almost the entire run. It wasn’t a stiff wind, but it was more than a gentle breeze. Today felt uncomfortably cold, especially on my fingers. Still, it was nice to be out there. Was able to run right above the river. It’s all white, frozen, looking more like a snowy field than anything else.

Things I Remember Most

  • 2 different woodpeckers, with 2 different drumming sounds. 1. the sharp, rapid rat a tat tat on a hollow (or dead?) tree trunk and 2. a dull, slow thump thump thump on another tree.
  • The salt on the road kept tricking me–is it dried salt staining the road or tightly packed snow or slick ice? I don’t remember it ever being slippery but I do remember frequently mistaking salt for snow and snow for salt.
  • Only encountered 1 other runner the entire time, but saw a few walkers. I think every walker was with a dog.
  • I heard the trilling of a northern cardinal.
  • My eyes watered a lot, but didn’t freeze into icicles. Condensation froze on the inside of my sunglasses, making it hard to see my shadow ahead of me.
  • My toes weren’t froze but my fingers were; I had to ball up my hands inside of my gloves to warm them up. The empty fingers of my gloves flopped in the wind.

I wore many layers (from top to bottom):

  • a purplish-blueish-grayish hood*
  • an ugly black hat that fits/looks like a thick black swim cap*
  • a gray buff*
  • gray “sports dad” sunglasses
  • a olive-gray with lime green zippers outer jacket**
  • a purplish-blueish-grayish micro-fiber pullover (that has the hood) *
  • an orange thick running shirt
  • a lime sherbet green base layer shirt
  • 2 pairs of gloves: one black and designed for running, the other hot pink with white stripes, not designed for running or lasting–slowly one end is unraveling; I cut the loose thread every couple of runs
  • 2 pairs of black tights–one with pockets, one with zippers at the ankles and a drawstring**
  • a black running belt with a phone and my keys in it
  • 2 pairs of socks: one pair gray*, the other mis-matched–both white but one with a green logo and one with blue
  • gray (with a tinge of blue) running shoes

* running swag from a race
**inherited from Scott

Mostly, all of this kept me warm. The only parts of me that were really cold: my face (and my lungs?), and my fingers. My face stayed cold, but my fingers warmed up enough for me to take the hot pink gloves off.

a moment of sound

This very cold morning, while sitting in the front room at my desk, I could hear a low rumble. It rumbled and rumbled, rattling in the inside of my head, low and steady and unrelenting for at least 20 minutes. This sound was so low and quiet that I felt it more than I heard it. It was caused by a pick-up truck idling in front of a neighbor’s house two doors away and it was very irritating. I decided to open the front door and record the sound. My moment only lasted 16 seconds because it was too cold outside and because the truck was producing a lot of exhaust that was invading my lungs, making it hard to breathe.

Feb 15, 2021

Perhaps you don’t even notice the rumble? Maybe you just hear the birds, who don’t seem to be bothered. O, to be a bird who can ignore rumbling trucks and the bitter cold, and keep singing like it’s spring!

feb 14/BIKERUN

bike: 27 minutes
run: 2.25 miles
basement
outside temp: -5 degrees/ feels like -21

Colder today than yesterday. More time in the basement, more watching Dickinson and listening to Wintering. The Dickinson episode was about her father’s election, entering a poetry competition, Austen digging up a dead body in the cemetery to make room for Sue to be buried next to him, and the circus. Perhaps my favorite part of the episode is when Lavinia and her “friends”/the popular girls are having a slumber party and sitting around knitting and discussing the election and the need to abolish slavery. At one point Lavinia praises the most popular girl, “You’re so woke!” What a fabulous fantasy.

Listened to some more of Wintering and recorded a few thoughts while I ran:

notes while running/ 14 feb 2021

I wonder if she will discuss the need to address and change some of the harmful structures/habits that demand our wintering? Yes, I think there will always be times in our lives when we need to retreat/winter. And some of feeling stressed and overwhelmed is a given part of work–natural? like the seasons. But not all of it is or should be inevitable. I’m assuming these questions will be addressed at some point. For now, I’m enjoying listening to it.

a moment of sound

14 feb 2021/ feels like -35

This is what feels like 35 below sounds like. Took this recording on my back deck at 9am. Lots of birds, the rumble of the garbage disposal inside, the scraping of a shovel on the icy deck, feet pressing down on crusty snow.

feb 13/BIKERUN

bike: 15 minutes
run: 3.25 miles
basement
outdoor temp: -5 degrees/feels like -19

Another arctic blast of a day. Looking at the dark sky weather app, it will be this cold for another week. Oh well. Finished the Dickinson episode I started yesterday. The poem she is trying to finish as she pretends to be sick is one of my favorites, and one of the first of hers that I memorized: “tell all the truth but tell it slant” Not sure how this poem fits with the episode. I enjoyed watching the second half today. After finding out she is going to die, both parents visit Emily’s room separately for confession. Her mom confesses that she never wanted to have children and Emily dying reinforces that belief: “no person should have to go through this, burying a child!” Then she collapses on the bed with such excess it made me laugh. Then her father confesses that he got drunk one night in college and slept with another women, even as he was engaged to her mom. I thought about how this version of Emily is the vision of the director and I wondered if she had lots of fantasies as a kid about how upset people would be if she died–“I’ll show you! You’ll be sorry when I’m gone!” I never had those fantasies but I know some others who have–I have a kid who does. I also thought about how, even as the director’s vision doesn’t resonate for me, I appreciate how fully and openly and unapologetically she embraces it. She’s not pretending it’s anything less than her highly particular vision.

While running, I listened to my latest audio book, which I’m really enjoying: Wintering by Katherine May. Here’s how she describes wintering:

There are gaps in the mesh of the everyday world and sometimes they open up and you fall through into somewhere else. Somewhere else runs at a different pace to the here and now where everyone else carries on. Somewhere else is where ghosts live, concealed from view and only glimpsed by people in the real world. Somewhere else exists at a delay so that you can’t quite keep pace. Perhaps I was already resting on the brink of somewhere else anyway, but now I fell through as simply and discretely as dust shifting through the floorboards. I was surprised to find I felt at home there. Winter had begun. Everybody winters at one time or another. Some winter over and over again. Wintering is a season in the cold. It is a fallow period in life when you’re cut off from the world, feeling rejected, side-lined, blocked from progress or cast into the role of an outsider.

About 3/4s of the way through my run, I had to stop listening (but kept running) to record some of my thoughts about the book so far. In sum: Even as she envisions wintering as something to embrace she understands winter as awful and unwelcome, a struggle with the miserable cold. But I love winter and the cold. I like the book but struggle to get past this point.

notes will running 13 feb/ heart rate: 160 bpm

I need to figure out an app to use that records the audio and transcribes it. I should do more of these.

a moment of sound

Sitting at my desk this morning, I started hearing an irritating sound. What was it? Where was it coming from? Realized it was someone’s car alarm in the alley. In the recording you can hear Scott taking–I didn’t warn him I was recording.

feb 13, 2021

After recording my notes, I turned on my Spotify playlist for the last few minutes. Heard “Teenage Dirtbag” again. Favorite line:

Man, I feel like mold
It’s prom night and I am lonely
Lo and behold
She’s walkin’ over to me
This must be fake
My lip starts to shake
How does she know who I am?
And why does she give a damn about me?
I’ve got two tickets to Iron Maiden, baby
Come with me Friday, don’t say maybe
I’m just a teenage dirtbag, baby, like you

I feel like mold? This line made me smile.

feb 12/BIKERUN

bike: 15 minutes
run: 3.25 miles
basement
outside temp: -5 degrees, feels like -21

Another cold day. I don’t mind the cold but I worry my sinuses might, so back to the basement. I don’t mind. I like watching Dickinson and I’m getting used to the treadmill. In today’s episode of Dickinson, which I’ve watched half of, Emily is pretending to be sick so that she can stay in her room and write. Her parents are extremely worried; yellow fever has been going around and many people are dying. In the last part I watched, the doctor, after examining Emily, tells her parents that she is dying. They are distraught. Emily is oblivious and just happy to jump on her bed, write at her desk, and sneak out of her room to steal more books. I do not like this storyline, or this version of Emily. Such selfish, bratty behavior. It’s difficult for me to believe that Emily, having witnessed so many of those close to her dying–friends, even–would be so flippant about illness and death. Yes, I realize that I am watching this from the perspective of an uptight parent.

One part of the episode I did like, was her description, to her father’s law clerk, of poetry:

If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only way I know it. Is there any other way?

Looking it up, Emily apparently does say this, but not to a law clerk and not when she was a teen. These lines are recounted by her long time friend/mentor, Thomas Higginson, to his wife in 1870 (2 sources: full quote + letter it came from).

Emily’s lines here remind me of Basho and his description of poetry:

Poetry is a fireplace in summer or a fan in winter.

But getting back to Emily and her bratty behavior as one reason I don’t like this version. Reading through an article about the historical accuracy of the show, I encountered this quote from the creator, Alena Smith: “Everyone’s free to invent their own Emily Dickinson, and this is mine. I don’t in any way say it’s the authoritative version.” Yes. It helped me to loosen up on my irritation with the show once I realized it was one person’s fantasy of her.

After I finished biking, I ran on the treadmill while I listened to a playlist. Very nice. Didn’t think about much. Used a lot of effort trying to not check the display on the treadmill; I was hoping to lose track of time. It worked.

a moment of sound

This morning I opened the door to our back deck and recorded the noisy bird conversation. Sure sounds like spring to me! Hard to believe it felt like 33 below.

feb 12, 2021

Is that a northern cardinal I am hearing? I think so. It was close, but I am rarely able to see red birds in trees because of my failing vision. Can you hear the other one calling back from far away?

feb 11/BIKERUN

bike: 30 minutes
run: 3.25 miles
basement
outside temp: -3 degrees/ feels like -11

Thought about running outside but decided that this extra cold air is probably not good for my sinus problems. Plus, I wanted to watch more Dickinson and listen to my latest playlist while I ran. Watched the 5th episode of Dickinson. Discovered that an episode is only 30 minutes–for some reason, I thought they were longer–so I stayed on the bike to finish it. The episode was about white propertied males’ control over others’ (everyone else who is not a white propertied male) bodies. 3 examples: 1. the Dickinson’s black servant Henry is afraid to go into town for fear of being mistaken for a slave and then kidnapped; 2. orphaned Sue (Emily’s bff) is being sexually abused by her boss–the father she nannies for in Boston (it never shows it, but it strongly indicates the abuse); and 3. instead of asking Emily, Emily’s admirer George negotiates with Emily’s father for her hand in marriage. These different types of control are not equated. At the end of the episode, Emily apologize to Henry for how he was being treated, saying, “I’m sorry Henry. Life shouldn’t be like this.” Henry responds: “What should it be like? You’re sitting here, eating cakes and reading Shakespeare, trying to say this isn’t what life should be like. But your life is easy Emily Dickinson. You’ll always have your father to keep you safe.” The episode ends with Emily composing one of her poems in her bedroom with a voice-over of her reading it and the words, in her distinctive cursive, flashing across the screen:

I am afraid to own a body/ Emily Dickinson

I am afraid to own a Body —
I am afraid to own a Soul —
Profound — precarious Property —
Possession, not optional —

Double Estate — entailed at pleasure
Upon an unsuspecting Heir —
Duke in a moment of Deathlessness
And God, for a Frontier.

I liked the complications and messiness of the episode even as I was irritated by Emily’s repeated displays of her naive privilege (which was finally addressed at the end with Henry’s words to her).

After biking, I ran to a playlist, which was great. After hearing it this morning on The Current’s coffee break, I added “Teenage Dirtbag” to my list. Really fun to run to! Midway through my run, I started thinking about my syllabi project. I decided that I’d like to add in Audre Lorde’s “The Uses of Erotic” with a unit on wonder and joy. Then I thought about using Simone Weil with a discussion of attention. I thought about some other related things that I can’t remember now–I should have pulled out my phone to make a note, but it seemed like too much of a hassle. Bummer.

a moment of sound

feb 11, 2021/ -2 and feels like -14

Noisy pants, crunching snow, plodding steps, at least one faint bird call, and wind chimes! Scott was miserably cold but I was totally fine as we walked Delia around the block in the late afternoon. I love the cold! My mask warmed my face. The only exposed part of me were my eyeballs and eyelashes. I noticed some of the falling flakes (it’s snowing a little) freezing on my lashes.

feb 10/BIKERUN

bike: 20 minutes
run: 1.75 miles
basement
outdoor temp: 8 degrees/ feels like -7

Finished the Dickinson episode I had been watching on feb 7. In my log for that day I asked: “I wonder if either Emily’s opinion (about marriage as bad for women) or Thoreau’s douchiness will change in the next 10 minutes, which is what I have left in the episode. And, will she be able to stop the railroad from being built in her backyard woods?” Well, Thoreau becomes even more douchey; Emily ends up calling him a dick and then storms out, leaving her copy of Walden behind. And, distraught, she falls asleep on George’s shoulder as they ride home on the train, which suggests she might be softening on him, if not on marriage. Finally, while sitting under her beloved oak tree her dad joins her and agrees to reroute the train tracks around the tree in order to save it. Emily is happy. My question: if the train is still running near the tree, will she want to visit it for solitude anymore? Will it be the same tree once it’s the tree by some noisy, air-polluting tracks? I guess Emily’s willing to compromise.

During my run, I listened to a Spotify playlist I had quickly made the other day. Excellent. It was fun to run much faster (at least a minute per mile faster) and listen to Britney Spear’s “Toxic”, Demi Lovato’s “Sorry not Sorry,” AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” and Justin Bieber’s “Beauty and the Beat.” While I ran, I don’t remember thinking about anything.

For the past few days, I’ve been thinking about creating a syllabus, or a few syllabi, out of the experiments on my running log. Right now, I’m thinking about 3 syllabi: 1 intro course, 1 intermediate course, and 1 advanced course all about movement and creativity and exploring how moving bodies influence creative expression in language (written and spoken). Mainly, I want to focus on moving = running and creative expression = poetry, but I’m also interested in walking/hiking, swimming, biking, and lyric essays. These 3 classes all fit within an interdisciplinary study of ethics/moral selfhood and the exploration of how to be an ethical, political, poetical, embodied self. What do I want to do with these syllabi? Not sure, yet. Maybe teach them. But maybe I see them more as imaginary/fictional syllabi that tell my story of running while writing/writing while running for the past 4 years.

Speaking of imaginary classes, I found this poem via twitter this morning. I love it.

What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade/ Brad Aaron Modlin

Mrs. Nelson explained how to stand still and listen
to the wind, how to find meaning in pumping gas,

how peeling potatoes can be a form of prayer. She took
questions on how not to feel lost in the dark

After lunch she distributed worksheets
that covered ways to remember your grandfather’s

voice. Then the class discussed falling asleep
without feeling you had forgotten to do something else—

something important—and how to believe
the house you wake in is your home. This prompted

Mrs. Nelson to draw a chalkboard diagram detailing
how to chant the Psalms during cigarette breaks,

and how not to squirm for sound when your own thoughts
are all you hear; also, that you have enough.

The English lesson was that I am
is a complete sentence.

And just before the afternoon bell, she made the math equation
look easy. The one that proves that hundreds of questions,

and feeling cold, and all those nights spent looking
for whatever it was you lost, and one person

add up to something.

What a class! The things listed here are impossible to teach, I suppose, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if our education gave more space for them to be considered? What if we took seriously the idea that the goal/purpose of education is to flourish and to learn how to be caring, responsible people in community with others instead of about individual success and competition and being better than anyone else?

a moment of sound

feb 10, 2021/ 3 degrees, feels like -9

I started this recording at the far end of my backyard. As I made my way to the back door up on the deck, I walked through 3 different versions of crusty snow: 1. about 3 inches of deeper, crusty snow, 2. 1 inch of partly shoveled, tamped down crusty snow, and 3. a thin layer of powdery, crusty snow on the surface of the deck. Each version makes a slightly different sound.

feb 9/RUN

3.15 miles
edmund loop, starting south
5 degrees/ feels like -9
90% snow-covered

Decided to go for it this morning and run outside. Yes! It didn’t feel like it was 9 below to me. My hands were slightly cold for a few minutes, but no frozen toes or legs that feel like concrete or brain freezes from cold air. I know I looked ridiculous with all of my layers. I asked Scott and his answer was not no but “who cares?” which means yes. I wore 2 pairs of running tights, 1 pair of socks, a green shirt, a thicker orange shirt, a lightweight pullover with a hood, a running jacket, a buff, a hat that almost looks like a swim cap, sunglasses, and yak trax on my shoes. The layers were good; I didn’t feel too warm or too cold.

Because it was so cold, I guessed that the river road trail would be empty. It was. Well, almost. I encountered 1 walker and a dog. Nice! I was able to run right above the gorge and check out how frozen the river was (very frozen). The only other thing I remember noticing was a few walkers (not together) walking below on the Winchell Trail. One of them was wearing a bright red jacket–or it might have been pink or orange. I wondered how deep the snow was down there. I crossed over to Edmund on the way back and heard lots of birds. When I heard a woodpecker drumming on a tree, I knew I needed to stop and record it for my moment of sound:

feb 9, 2021/ feels like -9

Love this sound! A few minutes later I heard at least one black-capped chickadee but I decided not to stop again. With the birds and the sun, it felt almost like spring, even in the cold. Maybe it felt more like the idea of spring. Actual spring hardly ever feels as great as the idea of it does. Here in Minnesota, spring is often wet and sloppy from melting snow–and smelly as the earth unthaws. Speaking of smelly, I smelled some fires at the same spot I usually do on Edmund. I’m still not sure but I think the smoke is coming from the gorge, not a house.

feb 8/BIKERUN

bike: 20 minutes
run: 2.3 miles
basement
outside temp: -2 degrees/ feels like -14

Took Delia the dog for her first walk in a few days. It’s cold, but there’s no wind. Briefly thought about running outside, then decided it was still cold and slippery. Another day in the basement. No Dickinson today; the episode wouldn’t load. Watched a few races instead. Listened to my audio book again while I ran. Running while listening to a book and at a slower pace really helps.

Forgot to mention yesterday: I ran with my shadow. I could see her dark shape on the towel I put on the treadmill to cover the display. We waved to each other. Saw her again today. There’s a lightbulb on the ceiling just above and behind me as I run which casts a shadow, sometimes on the towel, other times on a far wall. I like watching the shadow flicker n front of me, slightly off to my left side.

Found a useful quotation about paying attention and the attention economy via twitter this morning:

Attention is a limited resource, so pay attention to where you pay attention.

Howard Rheingold, read in Attention Shoppers

a moment of sound

When I took Delia out for a walk around noon, there were lots of birds chirping and calling:

Feb 8, 2021

feb 7/BIKERUN

bike: 20 minutes
run: 3.4 miles
basement
outside temp: -6 degrees/ feels like -19

Inside again today. I miss the gorge, but I’m not minding the basement. Hoping to build up endurance for longer runs/time outside in the spring. Not sure if my watch is completely accurate, but it said my average heart rate for the 33 minutes/ a little less than 10 min mile pace was 144 bpm! For someone who usually averages 170 bpm (but often gets up into the 180s), 144 is great–probably one of my lowest averages ever. Lower heart rate = more aerobic activity = less injuries (hopefully). I think it helped that I was listening to a good audio book (8 Perfect Murders) and that I covered the treadmill display with a towel so I couldn’t see the time. I only checked the time twice: first, when I got to the end of a chapter (almost 17 mins in) and then when I thought I might almost be done (33 mins in). Very nice to get lost in a book, and to listen to it instead of looking at it. Today is a bad eye day; it is more difficult to see as my eyes struggle to focus on letters. I think it’s hard because of how bright it is outside–so much blinding white!–and because I’ve been looking at a screen too much.

Before I ran, I biked. Watched most of the 4th episode of Dickinson. This one is about Emily and her efforts to protect her beloved oak tree from being cut down to make way for progress/a railroad. She travels with George (the student editor of the Amherst College paper who is in love with her) to Concord to enlist Thoreau’s help. She was in Thoreau’s cabin–having been escorted there by his mother who was collecting his laundry to wash–asking him for help when I finished my bike workout. This show’s take on Thoreau: he’s a douchey, over-privileged poser who is pampered by the women in his life: his mother does his laundry, his sister is always baking him his favorite cookies. Earlier in the episode, as Emily and George travel to Concord by train, they discuss marriage. Emily’s take: marriage sucks for women but is great for men. Their wives do all the work–taking care of the house, the kids, while they get to do “whatever their heart’s desire.” I wonder if either Emily’s opinion or Thoreau’s douchiness will change in the next 10 minutes, which is what I have left in the episode. And, will she be able to stop the railroad from being built in her backyard woods? I’ll see tomorrow.

At the beginning of the episode, Emily recites one of my favorite poems of hers:

In the name of the Bee –
And of the Butterfly –
And of the Breeze – Amen!

Then she reads Walden by Thoreau. I’ve read bits of it, but maybe I should read the entire book?

a moment of sound

This is what -4 degrees/ feels like -14 at 6:05 PM on my back deck sounds like:

feb 7, 2021

Aside from my coat rustling a few times, all I hear is cold. I’m glad I didn’t have to be out here too long, but for the 5 minutes I was–taking out the trash, then standing on the deck, recording–I enjoyed breathing in the cold, fresh air. So quiet and glowing blue in the twilight.

feb 6/BIKERUN

bike: 13 minutes
run: 3.25
basement
outside temp: 0 degrees/ feels like -18

A windy arctic hellscape out there. You don’t even have to feel the air to know it’s cold, you can just look at how bright it is. In Minnesota in the winter: super bright = super cold. It is supposed to be this cold for the next 10 days. Maybe if/when it’s not so bright or windy, I will venture out there.

I did go outside briefly to record my moment of sound:

Feb 6, 2021

This is how crunching, cracking, creaking snow sounds when it -1, feels like -19.

Did a short bike ride while I finished the 3rd, “house party” episode of Dickinson. Slowly, I am appreciating it more and understanding my reactions to it. Here’s a scene that I like and don’t like at the same time:

After their parents leave for an overnight trip to Boston, Emily tells her younger sister Lavinia and older brother Austin: “We need to throw one of our classic Dickinson house parties!”

Austin: This is going to be a disaster.
Emily: Parties are supposed to be disasters Austin. Parties are like shipwrecks. You should emerge from them soaking wet. Out of breath. And helplessly disoriented.

This scene made me laugh. After that, my reaction: no thanks to shipwrecks and getting soaked. I don’t mind the disorientation, but not when it’s the result of such tumult and destruction. Part of me worries I’m too much of a square (while another part of me doesn’t care if I am a square), but more of me is tired of this narrow definition of exuberant passion as reckless, destructive abandon–destructive to self and others. I want to see other ways of being exuberant that aren’t tragic. Not sure that makes sense, but it’s enough for now.

After the bike, I ran while listening to my latest audio book: 8 Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson. It’s good. At one point, the narrator (who may or may not be a murderer) reflects on his love for making lists, asking, “Why does everything need to be a list? What compels us to do that?” His answer: lists fill a void, give us meaning. This answer makes me think of Umberto Eco’s interview: We Like Lists Because We Don’t Want to Die. It’s funny that this list discussion came up in the book because right before heading downstairs to work out, I was thinking about lists and why I like them–why do I like them? Here are 3 reasons I quickly wrote in my plague notebook:

Why I Like Lists

  • Easier for me to see (with my fading central vision)
  • Open-ended, always room for another addition to the list
  • They led me back to poetry: I took my first ever poetry class in 2017, even though I was scared of poetry and didn’t think I was really into it, because the title of the class was: Please Add to this List. I loved the class and discovered I loved and needed poetry.

Today (and yesterday) have been fun, creative days. I’m starting to think about connections in my work and how to possibly return to a project I put away right as trimp (which is what I call him now) was beginning his efforts to destroy everything. I have some more ideas about the Undisciplined Dossier and my haunting question: Am I Still a Teacher. More thoughts soon…

feb 5
bike: 32 minutes

Since I didn’t run yesterday, I didn’t do a log entry. Still, I biked and watched Dickinson–the end of episode 2, beginning of episode 3. I also did my hip strengthning exercises, which I’m hoping will help with my weaker left hip. And I recorded my moment of sound.

feb 5, 2021

This is how it sounds when it feels like it is -6. Brr.

feb 4/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
run: 1.5 miles
basement

2 or 3 inches of snow + wind + 3 5k runs in a row + wanting to watch more of Dickinson while I biked = basement workout. Finished the first episode of Dickinson then started the second one while I biked. It’s growing on me, but I am still not sold on it. I don’t really like this version of Dickinson as quirky, eccentrically cool, selfish, and bratty. I keep intending to write more about what I don’t like, but get stuck. Maybe I can figure it out by the end of the 3rd episode? Or maybe by then I’ll be fine with not having to figure it out. Then I ran while listening to a spotify playlist: Justin Bieber’s “Beauty and the Beat”, Harry Style’s “Canyon Moon”, and Justin Timberlake’s “What Goes Around.” Nice.

After I was done, I took my shoes off and when I stood up I could feel my right kneecap slip out of the groove. No big deal; I pushed it back in place. It’s fine and I am used to it (mostly), but it is still unsettling and almost always unexpected. No warning. No particular movement that causes it. To be safe, I iced my knee for 15 minutes after I was done. Oh, the body. I have put in a lot of physical and mental work these last five years learning to adjust to a body very slowly falling apart. Some of this adjustment involves resignation, but more of it involves admiration as my body continues to work, despite its limits. After writing this last paragraph, I paused to recite (still from memory) Rita Dove’s wonderful poem, Ode to My Right Knee: O, obstreperous one!

Earlier today as I did the dishes, I listened to the latest On Being: an interview with ornithologist Drew Lanham. So wonderful! I was particularly struck by this part of the conversation:

The birds know who they are. They don’t need you to tell them…“ Yes!

[Orinthologist Drew Lanham responding to Krista Tippet’s confession that she doesn’t know the names of birds and is ashamed of not knowing] 

Well, it’s not a problem. There’s no shame in not knowing the name of a bird. If it’s a redbird to you, it’s a redbird to you. At some point, as a scientist, it’s important for me to be able to identify birds by accepted common names and Latin names and those things. But then I revert frequently to what my grandmother taught me, because, I say, the birds know who they are. They don’t need you to tell them that.

But over time, when we relax into a thing and maybe just being with a bird, then your brain kind of relaxes, it loosens, and things soak in. And I think that’s the key with a lot of learning. But not getting the name right immediately does not in any way diminish their ability to appreciate “the pretty,” as Aldo Leopold talks about. And so seeing that bird and saying, “Oh my God, what is that? Look at it,” and you’re looking at it, and you can see all of these hues, and you can watch its behavior, and you may hear it sing — well, in that moment, it’s a beautiful thing, no matter what its name is.

Sometimes, what I try to get people to do is to disconnect for a moment from that absolute need to list and name, and just see the bird. Just see that bird. And you begin to absorb it, in a way, in a part of your brain that I don’t know the name of, but I think it’s a part of your brain that’s also got some heart in it. And then, guess what? The name, when you do learn it, it sticks in a different way.

take a moment to not know and just see the bird, be with the bird. I love this idea and I think I’d like to turn it into an assignment. I agree with Lanham about a lot here. Right now, I’m thinking about the idea of relaxing and not trying to immediately know the bird but slowly let it sink in through a new form of knowing that involves a “a part of your brain that’s also got some heart in it.” To me, this shifts away from the drive to know (to conquer, to possess) and towards a desire to feel and connect. Knowing is not about mastering, but becoming acquainted with, getting to know.

Continuing this discussion, Lanham discusses the power and violence of naming and classifying:

…thinking about who gets to tell the story and the names — and so I’m intensely interested in language and what different people call things, and these names and what names mean. So that Indigenous and First Nations people, who have all of these languages, and who a raven is to one nation versus who the raven is to another nation or people within that nation. So all of that is important, I think, for us to pay attention to, and all of those are different ornithologies.

In Western science, we boil down to Latin binomial and to genotype and phenotype; and all of that is critical, and it’s important in what we do as scientists. But I think, again, broadening the scope of vision so that we see the big picture — we need to understand who birds are to others, what land is to others; that if my ancestors were forced into nature and hung from trees, I might not have the same interest in going out into the forest and naming the trees.

Wow. Such an important discussion and reminder when thinking about what harm knowing and naming can do. Speaking of naming, here is a map of Minneapolis-St. Paul in Dakota and Ojibwe

a moment of sound

On the back deck, as the wind picks up and the cold moves in. Some people talking in the alley, the scare rods spinning, a few cars rushing by.

feb 4, 2021

feb 3/RUN

3.2 miles
edmund loop, starting south
20 degrees/ feels like 14 degrees
95% clear sidewalks and streets

Hooray for wonderful winter runs! Today was an especially good one. Sunny, clear, lots of birds. Before I left, I couldn’t decided which way to run: turn right and do the north loop or turn left and do the south one. Asked my son to pick one, left or right. He said left. Excellent choice. Stepping outside of my house, this was what I heard:

Feb 3, 2021

The black-capped chickadees were really chatting this morning. Hard to believe it’s February and 20 degrees, with several inches of snow on the ground. These birds and the sun made it feel like spring.

I thought about sound a lot this morning as I ran. Right before I left, I had been rereading my January experiment, especially the poem by Steve Healey: 2 Mississippi. In it, he writes about recording the sound of the river “in an attempt to represent that sound more accurately” than his previous words could. Then the poem plays around with at least 5 different versions of the sound of the river: 1. the sound as described by his words, “shhh”, 2. the recording he makes of the sound as he stands next to the river, 3. the sound of the river as he hears it, while listening to it and his recording of the sound at the same time, 4. the recording of the sound of the river when he is home and at “a safe distance from the river” and 5. the sound of the river, independent of his hearing of it. Very cool to think about all of these different version of sound and layers of listening, which I did as I ran near the river, but not close enough to hear it. I want to spend some time with this poem, and more time thinking about my recordings and listening and the difference between sounds first heard, sounds never or not yet heard, and sounds heard later in a recording.

So many random thoughts occurred to me as I ran, most of which are lost. I recall thinking it might be cool to compare sounds for different seasons: (how) can you tell the difference between bird sounds in the winter versus the spring? Also thought about how often I’m trying to find the balance between knowing things and not needing to know things, and between attention and distraction–when is it good to be distracted? when is it good to give attention? In terms of the knowing/not knowing balance, I was just thinking: knowing just enough to make it (or keep it?) interesting. I also remember thinking, as I quickly looked down at the river through the trees from high up on the edmund hill, that when the river is completely iced over–and covered with snow–it does not shimmer or sparkle or reflect. It’s flat and matte. And, while it can still be blindingly white, it’s dull, not dazzling.

What else? So many cars at Minnehaha Academy; they were spilling out the parking lot and onto the side streets. Heard 2 runners on the river road talking as they ran, but couldn’t hear any of what they said. A work crew at a big house on edmund with one guy high up in a bucket, just about to trim (or cut down?) a tree. The wind in my face heading south, at my back returning north. Don’t remember seeing any dogs or fat tires or cross country skiers or big groups of walkers or runners. Didn’t hear the river—but I did hear a siren from the other side, the sound traveling across the gorge. Also heard a woodpecker drumming on some dead wood and a few robins, sounding like rusty tin whistles. Ran by Cooper Elementary but forgot to look out at the field–I was distracted because I was slowly passing a runner who was on the other side of the street. Heard a big nail gun clicking away as workers re-roofed a house.

feb 2/BIKERUN

bike: 22 minutes
run: 3.25 miles
basement

Stayed inside today. Not that cold (about 20 degrees) or snow-covered, just wanted to stay inside. Finally started watching Emily Dickinson on Apple+. So far, I don’t like it and I was planning to ramble on in this log about it as I tried to figure out what bothers me. But, I deleted what I wrote. I’m planning to give the show a few more chances and watch at least 2 more episodes. If, after that, I still don’t like it, I might write something more. I’m glad that, after wanting to watch it for over a year, I finally am. Thinking about this episode and trying to figure out what I didn’t like about it has taken up almost 2 hours of my time–with nothing to show for it.

After I biked, I ran on the treadmill for about 30 minutes as I listened to an audio book: Agatha Christie’s By the Pricking of My Thumbs. Nice. I didn’t think about anything but what I was listening to–this book features my favorite sleuths, Tommy and Tuppence.

Earlier today, someone tweeted about retinal detachments. I was curious so I looked it up. Signs: you see floaters (like spiders) or flashes of light. I’ve been seeing flashes of light for about 6 months now–not sure how many each day. I don’t think I have a retinal detachment. I think my thinning retina is thinning even more, and might be tearing. This is not unexpected. Luckily it’s not painful, just part of the process of losing my central vision. Every so often, it can feel strange–I’ve been known to call out, “woah, trippy”–but not scary. My first thought: I am so glad that I already know what is happening to me and that I have had 4+ years to adjust to my inevitable vision loss. If these flashes were the first things I noticed and then I looked up retinal detachment, I would be freaking out right now. Instead, it’s good to know what these flashes most likely indicate.

I want to give attention to this flash of light, so I can describe what it looks/feels like to me. Next time it happens, I’ll try to write down some thoughts.

a moment of sound

I recorded today’s moment of sound while out on a walk with Delia. I would have liked to stop so I could record the birds better, but Delia wouldn’t let me. As a result, you can hear Delia’s collar, my footsteps, and my noisy pants. It’s funny how when I was listening, as I was recording, all I could hear were the birds. My brain had completely tuned out the collar and my footsteps/pants. Finally, you can hear the chirping birds and some cawing crows. So many loud crows lately!

Feb 2, 2021

feb 1/RUN

5k
edmund loop, starting north*
26 degrees
5% snow and ice covered

* I’ve been calling this route different things, but I’ll try to stick with this one: edmund loop. Heading north is: 43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, south/turn around at 42nd st/edmund, north. For the past few runs, I did the reverse; I’ll call that edmund loop, starting south

Only a few patches of ice on the sidewalks and roads. Not too cold, not too windy. A great morning for a run. Turning right onto 32nd st, I heard some wonderful wind chimes. I thought about stopping to record the sound, but I didn’t want to stop running and I thought the people who lived in the wind chime house might find it strange to see me holding my phone up and recording something right outside their house. My concern about what other people think too often seems to deter me from recording–whether it be a moment of sound or myself reciting a poem from memory. I’m working on getting over that.

Noticed several cars turning into Minnehaha Academy as I ran by it. Open for business, I guess. Next week, Minneapolis elementary school kids (preK-2nd) will be going back full time. 2 weeks after that: 3rd-5th. As I understand it, the teachers’ union is strongly opposed to this; the order comes from the governor (which is being pressured by the asshole Republicans in charge) and it completely upends the careful 5 phase plan Minneapolis Public Schools put in place this year. Many of the teachers have yet to receive a first dose of the vaccine. Ugh! How difficult for the teachers, especially now with new, more contagious variants! I thought more about elementary schools going back as I ran by Dowling Elementary on Edmund. How crowded will this road be next week? Also: how will they work out bussing for all of these kids?

At 42nd st, I crossed over to the river, trudged through some snow, and recorded a moment of sound. It’s a new month and I’m thinking about variations on the basic assignment of recording a moment outside. Should I only record moments during my outside runs for February? Maybe. I also thought about this: record a moment in the same spot every day. I’m not sure yet. Anyway, here’s the moment:

feb 1, 2021

I can hear my feet breaking through the crusty snow; cars rushing by on the river road; some wind; a cluster of dead leaves on a tree, rustling. It was windy at this spot, but I managed to shield the phone speaker with my hand for most of it.

The river was all whiteish gray and frozen. Cold. Desolate. Beautiful. I’m glad I stopped to look at it.

Running back on edmund, I put in my headphones and listened to an old playlist. I ran faster, which felt good. Nearing a t-intersection, I noticed a walker rapidly approaching, about to cross. I wondered if they would stop for me and I was irritated when it looked like they wouldn’t. I sped up. Right as I ran past them, but too late to say anything, I realized it was the Daily Walker! Bummer. I didn’t see that it was him. I’m still not totally sure it was him; I can’t recognize people’s faces, but I’m pretty sure I saw the tell-tale swing of his arm. I have a feeling that after so many years of encountering him, he might realize that I have vision problems and won’t think I was being rude.

Poetry twitter did not disappoint this morning! So many great sources and ideas and poems! Here’s one by Heather Christle that I especially like. Writing this, I was thinking about her last name, Christle, which my computer likes to auto-correct to Christie, and wondering if it’s pronounced like gristle. Right after that unfortunate thought, I looked at her twitter profile and saw this: “pronounced ‘Crystal'”. Much better. Anyway, I really like her writing.

Perfect Song/ Heather Christle

I remember walking through the morning
after a night of heavy snow and drink
with headphones on and they played
me the most perfect song: no one
was awake and I was hungover
young as clean as a piano
I thought and at any moment
someone might fall in love with me I was
that woven into the electric
cold bright air and for weeks
after I went through the album
in search of the song but could not
find it and later much later I saw
that what I had taken to be the song
was in fact the joyous concordance of
a moment that would not come again

favorite line today: I was/ that woven into the electric/ cold bright air