june 11/RUN

5k
2 trails + 7 oaks
81 degrees
dew point: 68

How many days have we been above 90 now? Just checked my log, since at least June 4th. Tomorrow the high is only 86. Summer running is not my favorite, although I am learning to endure it more. 55-65 degrees is what I’d like to have for these early morning runs.

I ran south on the river road trail and passed lots of bikes, but not too many runners. All the green made it difficult to see the river. At 42nd, I encountered a roller skier in the grass taking a break. Can it still be my good omen if I don’t hear the clickity-clacks? Entering the Winchell Trail at the southern start, it was dark and quiet and thick with heat. No noise, not even a single dribble from the sewer pipe. A few days ago, STA and I were discussing the grossness of the word “dribble”–it’s a failure to flow or function properly. You dribble drool or pee. It’s like a weaker form of leaking.

Parts of the Winchell trail were a blur. I don’t remember running down the hill to the little bridge with the raised lip of the trail that I have to look out for so I don’t trip on it, or running up the mini hill just before the steeper climb at Folwell. After ascending at Folwell, then descending on the other side, back down a little closer to the river, I realized I was more than half way done with this hot run, and it felt easier because of this realization.

For the last 1/2 mile, I started reciting “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” in my head. I got as far as the verse, “The Sun came up upon the left/out of the sea came he/And he shone bright/and to the right went down into the sea.”

Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha

Lorine Niedecker’s work is inspiring me to think in deeper ways about the place I run–the Mississippi River Gorge, Minnehaha Falls, Lake Nokomis. Part of this involves thinking more about the rock and stone–the physical geography, and part of it involves reflecting on the haunting trace of dishonest treaties, stolen land, buried stories and traditions, and who controls the stories we encounter/remember/pass on about the river, the gorge, and the falls (St. Anthony and Minnehaha).

Yesterday, I decided to read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha” It’s in the public domain so I was able to download the entire thing for free on iBooks–all 400+ pages of it! 22 chapters?! Wow. I had no idea it was so long. I wonder what part of it is etched on the stone at Minnehaha Falls? I’ll have to check next time I bike or run over there. Not sure I’ll be reading the entire thing, but it’s interesting to skim it and think about how much of where I live takes names from this poem: Now I live in Longfellow neighborhood, I used to live in Nokomis east. My kids went to Hiawatha Elementary School and spent their summers in camp a few miles away at Lake Hiawatha.. I regularly run to Minnehaha Falls and beside Minnehaha Creek. I do open swim at Lake Nokomis.

The only part of “The Song of Hiawatha” that I remember, is the brief bit that my grandma Ines would recite when we visited her at the family farm in the upper peninsula of Michigan:

By the shore of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water

Gitche Gumee is another name of Lake Superior. So many connections. In “Lake Superior” Lorine Niedecker never mentions Longfellow or his poem, but she does reference Schoolcraft–the explorer whose notes and book Longfellow relied on for his epic poem. Another thing I just learned about Schoolcraft: he “discovered” and named Lake Itasca. It’s not a variation on an indigenous name, but the mashing up of the latin phrase for true/head source: verITAS CAput

Last night, I checked out a little bit of the final chapter (ch 22): “Hiawatha’s Departure” and I cringed when I got to the description of the white missionary being welcomed by Hiawatha with delight:

From the distant land of Wabun*,
From the farthest realms of morning
Came the Black-Robe chief, the Prophet,
He the Priest of Prayer, the Pale-face,
With his guides and his companions.

And the noble Hiawatha,
With his hands aloft extended,
Held aloft in sign of welcome,
Waited, full of exultation,
Till the birch canoe with paddles
Grated on the shining pebbles,
Stranded on the sandy margin,
Till the Black-Robe chief, the Pale-face,
With the cross upon his bosom,
Landed on the sandy margin.

Then the joyous Hiawatha
Cried aloud and spake in this wise:
“Beautiful is the sun, O strangers,
When you come so far to see us!
All our town in peace awaits you,
All our doors stand open for you;
You shall enter all our wigwams,
For the heart’s right hand we give you.”

“Never bloomed the earth so gayly,
Never shone the sun so brightly,
As to-day they shine and blossom
When you come so far to see us!

*Wabun is also the name of a park near Minnehaha Falls that I sometimes run through and that has a wonderful wading pool that I used to take my kids to when they were younger. I never knew what Wabun meant; it’s sunrise (from the¬†Anishinaabe language).

But, back to Schoolcraft and Niedecker’s poem “Lake Superior.” Here’s an excerpt from the poem that uses details from Schoolcraft’s accounts of reaching Lake Itasca and the source of the Mississippi River. Interesting to note something I just found out: Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha” takes place in UP Michigan by the pictured rocks on Lake Superior, near Munsing. Niedecker references Pictured Rocks in this excerpt (“Wave-cut Cambrian rock/painted by soluble mineral oxides”:

Schoolcraft left the Soo–canoes
US pennants, masts, sails
chanting canoemen, barge
soldiers–for Minnesota

Their South Shore journey
as if Life’s—
The Chocolate River
The Laughing Fish
and The River of the Dead

Passed peaks of volcanic thrust
Hornblende in massed granite
Wave-cut Cambrian rock
painted by soluble mineral oxides
wave-washed and the rains
did their work and a green
running as from copper

Sea-roaring caverns—
Chippewas threw deermeat
to the savage maws
Voyaheurs crossed themselves
tossed a twist of tobacco in”

Inland then
beside the great grainite
gneiss and the schists

to the redolent pondy lakes’
lilies, flag and Indian reed
“through which we successfully
passed”

The smooth black stone
I picked up in true source park
the leaf beside it
once was stone

true source park = true source = lake itasca

I love how a poem like this requires some work from the reader. So many references, some might be obvious to those who know, but not to those of who don’t. So, we have to look things up, and it’s not too hard now with so much information online. How did people read these poems in the past? Did you spend your entire day at the library, hunting down sources? That might be fun. I like giving the reader work and some of the responsibility. For too many years I was told, as the writer, it is my sole responsibility to make my writing clear to others. If they can’t understand it, it is my failure. Poetry refuses this obligation and invites the reader to put in some effort to understand.

Chocolate River: I was thinking this was about the color of the river, but after more searching I found a reference to it in an account by Schoolcraft about the discovery of the sources of the Mississippi River: “on the coasts of the lake between Gitchi Sebing (Great River), called by the French, Chocolate River.” In some more searching, I haven’t found any more about a chocolate river. In the process of looking this up, I found a very cool page, What Color is the Mississippi River?–I recall asking this question not too long ago on this log.