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