Another nice run. Another beautiful fall morning. Glowing yellow. Sunny, not too much wind, not too warm. Greeted Dave, the Daily Walker twice. Ran past Daddy long legs. Noticed a roller skier. Encountered a clueless human and a small yippy dog, both taking up the very wide path on the franklin bridge, forcing an impatient biker to ring their bell and swerve around them. Some stones were stacked on the ancient boulder, the river was blue then, later, brown. No rowers (although STA and I saw them last night, rowing fast). The trees below the tunnel of trees were almost all gold. Soon: a view!
(The other day, I found a brochure online for the Winchell Trail. Reading through it again, I thought it was where I read about the plaque on a boulder about Newton Horace Winchell that was near the Franklin Bridge, but it’s not.) Having read about a plaque for Winchell somewhere near Franklin, I decided to look for it. When I couldn’t find it above the gorge, I turned and ran up the hill to the Franklin Bridge. There it was, the plaque! I’d never noticed it before.
Running on the east side of the river, between Franklin and the trestle, I thought I heard footsteps behind me, but when I looked back no one was there. I thought again about how ghosts and haunting involves more than visions and apparitions; it can come in the form of strange sounds, echoes, disembodied voices. Footsteps behind you or the rushing of wind past your ears or rustling leaves, amplified in the dry, deadness of fall. These sounds are both strange — hard to place, easy to confuse with other sounds, like beeping trucks that could be chirping birds, crying kids that sound like shrieking bluejays — and familiar. They conjure up memories, invoke the past.
A few days ago, I discovered Annie Dillard’s chapter in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek: Seeing. I have read some (all?) of this book years ago, but I didn’t remember there was a chapter titled “Seeing”! Excellent. I read it online, from a pdf. Yesterday, I found my copy, which isn’t really my copy but my dead mom’s copy that I inherited or, more likely, borrowed years before she died in 2009, on the bookshelf next to my desk. I opened it up and discovered a wonderful surprise: a sticker in the front that reads, “This book is the treasured possession of Judy Puotinen.” My mom has signed her name so neatly and clearly. I could stare for a long time at the pretty loops of her J and y; the confident backward slant of her P, almost looking like a person puffing out their chest; the t that looms larger than the other letters and stands like a cross (she was not very religious, or as she might have put it, “I’m spiritual, not religious”); and the errant dot of an i, charging ahead to dot the n instead. This signature, too, is a trace, a haunting, more than a memory. It is her, still speaking 12 years after she died. Such a powerful voice in that signature! For a few years after her death, I would encounter her signature on a box in the basement of my first house in Minneapolis. I had a lot of these boxes; they were care packages she sent almost once a month: a new tablecloth, a candle, a cookbook, baby clothes for my kids. It was difficult to see that signature then. It reminded me of how much I had lost: not just her but the care and love she constantly gave me and would have given to my kids. But now, to stumble across her in this way is wonderful. To spend time with her, delighting in remembering how much she loved books and how carefully and beautifully she wrote her name.
Page/ Jane Hirshfield
It waits now for snows to fall
upward, into a summer
whose green leaves
but back into branch, into sap, into rain.
It waits for the old
to grow young, fed and unfearful,
for freighters to carry their hold-held oil
back into unfractured ground,
for fires to return
their shoeboxes of photos and risen homes.
It unbuilds the power line’s towers
before the switch can be toggled,
puts the child, rock still in hand, back into his bed.
A single gesture of erasure
pours back into trucks and then river
the concrete wall,
unrivets the derrick,
replenishes whale stocks and corals.
And why not—it is easy—restore the lost nurse herds
of mammoths to grazing,
the hatched pterodactyl to flight?
Let each drowned and mud-silted ammonite once again swim?
One by one unspoken, greed’s syllables, grievance’s insult.
One by one unsewn, each insignia’s dividing stitch.
One by one unimagined,
unmanufactured: the bullet, the knife, the colors, the concept.
Reversal commands: undo this directional grammar of subject and object.
Reversal commands: unlearn the alphabet of bludgeon and blindness.
Reversal commands: revise, rephrase, reconsider.
And the ink, malleable, obedient, does what is asked.