nov 10/RUN

5.25 miles
franklin loop
44 degrees

Still lots of yellow in the gorge, but leaves are falling fast. Wind, rain, and the possibility of snow flurries this weekend. Overcast, windy, less humid. I ran north to franklin, over the bridge, south on the east side of the river until reaching another bridge, back over to the west side, then home.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The view down to the floodplain forest was clear; I could see the forest floor, or at least all the yellow leaves on the floor
  2. The view up to the road from the tunnel of trees was clear too; no hiding below the road until spring
  3. The river from the franklin bridge: cold, dark blue, the railroad trestle in the distance
  4. Running under the railroad trestle, I heard some voices, laughing. Looked down: at least 2 people walking up the limestone slab steps on the Winchell Trail
  5. Running under the railroad trestle, 2: a memorial for someone who died–a biker hit by a car? In addition to the hanging white bike, which is always there, a vase of flowers placed on the ledge
  6. Nearing the old stone steps, hearing the yippy bark of a dog slightly below, the sound moving up slowly — was the dog climbing the steps? Yes. When I reached them, there they were: black, tiny, skittering around
  7. The spray of water that hit me as I started my run–not sure what it was from. It happened as I ran by a neighbor’s house, where a loud machine that looked like a pump, attached to a hose, was set up. Was it an exploding sprinkler? Would I have been able to avoid this if I could see better?
  8. A shorter, older woman with white hair, slightly hunched, walking fast
  9. A taller, younger woman with a pony tail and jutting elbows, also walking fast
  10. After my run was finished, walking the last few blocks: wind chimes!

A great run. I’m working on a long, sequence poem about haunts, haunting, and haunted, and I had a few good thoughts, like the idea of haunting (frequenting, traveling on, slightly floating above) the path/trail as being (happily) out of touch. Disconnected. I thought about the image of a phone being off the hook and eavesdropping, to listen in, overhear, catch bits of someone else’s conversation. Everything an opportunity to be curious and imagine/guess what’s being said without needing to connect that imagination to reality. To fly, float, have freedom, be freed from concerns, worries, the need to be productive.

Yesterday, working on this poem, which is in the form of 3 syllable/2 syllable lines, I thought about Lorine Niedecker and the short, stubby form of her poems. I think she’s an inspiration. Here’s a bit from one of her longer poems, Wintergreen Ridge. (note: in addition to having short lines, this poem travels across the page, broken up into 3 lines, the first with no indentation, the second with one indent, the third with two, on repeat throughout the poem. Mary Oliver does something like this too. Did she take inspiration from Niedecker? Anyway, I’m being lazy or rushed, so I’m not doing the fiddly, extra formatting required (lots of  s) for spacing it.

Wintergreen Ridge/Lorine Niedecker

Life is natural
in the evolution
of matter

Nothing supra-rock
about it
simply

butterflies

***

(autumn?)

Sometimes it’s a pleasure
to grieve
or dump

the leaves most brilliant
as do trees
when they’ve no need

of an overload
of cellulose
for a cool while

Nobody, nothing
ever gave me
greater thing

than time
unless light
and silence

which if intense
makes sound
Unaffected

by man

I love Niedecker and her condensing ways!

nov 8/RUN

6 miles
ford loop
50 degrees

Another nice, late fall run. My cold is almost gone. Sun, not too much wind, lower humidity. I have decided that the ford loop is my favorite fall loop for 2021.

10+ Things I Noticed

  1. Sibilant sounds coming up from the ravine where Shadow Falls is located — possibly wind, but most likely falling water
  2. On the lake street bridge: a trail and some sort of disruption of the water. In my periphery, it always looked like something was there, but when I turned to use my central vision, nothing. Dead cones or faulty peripheral vision?
  3. The memorial plastic flowers leaning on the railing on the st. paul side are slowly falling apart
  4. The view down into the ravine by shadow falls is much clearer than before: a veil lifted. Looking down from the trail above, the gorge isn’t deep but wide and strangely shaped
  5. Also from the view above the ravine: the direction of the sun cast my shadow down in the ravine. As I ran above, she ran below next to the trickling water
  6. A small plaque on a random rock that I didn’t stop to read
  7. The tangy smell of decomposing leaves. Sometimes this smell is sweet, or almost too sweet, but today it was sharp and not quite salty — sour?
  8. At the last parking lot before reaching the ford bridge: an information sign with the history of the forming of the gorge. Some accounts claim the river warren arrived to carve the gorge starting 10,000 years, some 12,000 years, this sign: 13,000 years
  9. My aching toe! The toe box of my new shoe is rubbing against my big toe. It hurt whenever I ran downhill
  10. Crossing the ford bridge: small ripples on the very dark blue water caused by the wind, making a pattern I could see, a texture I could almost feel
  11. The stretch of the sky covered with a ripped veil of clouds

Thinking more about #5, my shadow down in the ravine. As I watched it below me, I thought about ghosts and shadows and faint traces of things not quite here. I imagined the shadow as a different version of me, having the chance to run below in the ravine. And I thought (again, because I’m sure I’ve thought this before) about these quick moments or flashes of something else — shadows, faint trails, breaks in the trees, a disembodied sound coming from somewhere un-locatable — as opportunities, possibilities, evidence of other ways of being or doing. Are these things real? That’s not the point. They’re suggestions or indications, other options.

Before I went out for my run, I skimmed through Mary Oliver’s The Leaf and the Cloud. I was trying to get myself primed for thinking about veils and lifting them. I settled on this bit at the end of a section titled, “Work”:

I will sing for the veil that never lifts.
I will sing for the veil that begins, once in a lifetime,
maybe, to lift.
I will sing for the rent in the veil.
I will sing for what is in front of the veil, the
floating light.
I will sing for what is behind the veil—
light, light, and more light.

This is the world, and this is the work of the world.

These are the lines that I read on the window of neighbor’s house that inspired to find this book and to devote a month to Mary Oliver.

Rent: to rend, or tear, split violently, break apart, wrest, pierce

One of the reasons I love late fall, after the leaves have fallen and before the snow comes, is because it is when I have the best view of the river, the gorge, the other side. The veil of leaves and excessive greenery has temporarily lifted. For a few years, I’ve been trying to understand why I like it so much, especially when it seems to be a time of sadness and loss and dread for so many other people. I think this lifting of the veil is a useful way for me to think about it: a better view, more space, a chance to breathe and stretch and connect with things usually hidden, covered, concealed. I like the idea of lifting much better than renting/rending. This lifting is not violent or destructive.

One (boring?) thing I’ve been noticing that I never see when the trees are choked with leaves: cars parked at parking lots on the other side of the river. Today I noticed a white car, glimmering in the sunlight, positioned amongst a line of bare tree trunks. Why do I find this interesting? Maybe because it helps to orient me in relation to the other side or because it’s evidence that more than trees are over there (usually a view of the other side seems the same: tree after tree after tree, and nothing else).

nov 7/RUN

3.15 miles
turkey hollow
50 degrees
humidity: 81%

Shorts weather. Overcast, everything a brassy yellow with brown and gray. A nice run in my new shoes. Cold update: almost gone. Just a thin layer of crud lining the throat, lungs, in the nose. Slighter harder to breathe when running.

Went to Gustavus Adolphus College for FWA’s first fall band concert yesterday. Very cool. I love that he’s attending the same school Scott and I did. It’s so great to go back and remember where my life began. Before the concert we walked around the arboretum/prairie, to a big sculpture of a bison on a small hill. As we walked the mowed grass trail, we saw a “river of birds” above our heads (love this phrase, river of birds, which is how a friend from band that we saw at the concert described it). Thousands of birds flying above us, their wings flapping like thunder. I think they might be starlings or swallows? An amazing thing to witness — the whole sky filled, looking like static. A few times, right above our heads, the birds would split up, with a mass of them flying left of us, another mass flying right.

At some point during my run, I began counting in 3s and doing triple berry chants: strawberry/blueberry/raspberry — raspberry/blackberry/gooseberry. I added in mystery and later: ri/ver/road ri/ver/gorge run/ning/path thir/ty/eighth (for 38th street steps) tres/tle/bridge. I stuck mostly with the meter: stressed/unstressed/unstressed. I should remember what meter this is, but I always forget: is it iambic or anapest. I started chanting those two: an/a/pest — i/am/bic Sometimes An/a/pest, sometimes an/a/Pest I/am/bic i/am/Bic

Just looked it up:

anapest = unstressed unstressed stressed
iambic = stressed unstressed
dactyl = stressed unstressed unstressed

So, it was dactyls, not iambic or anapest. I KNOW I’ve written about this a few years ago, and I’ve reviewed it many times. Will I ever remember? I think I should print it out and put it under the glass on my desk, so I can look at it all the time.

Anyway, as I was thinking about meter and form, I decided that I’d like to use triples — with dactyls and anapests — as the meter (or form?) for another poem about haunting, with the theme of a faint trail, the trace, the worn dirt as path and evidence of others, the residue/remains as offering (poem, an alleluia on the page, Mary Oliver).

Here’s a poem that fits with this idea of what remains (or refuses to die/leave?, that persists, offers up something unexpected or not quite locatable):

Perennials/ Maggie Smith

Let us praise the ghost gardens
of Gary, Detroit, Toledo—abandoned
lots where perennials wake
in competent dirt & frame the absence
of a house. You can hear
the sound of wind, which isn’t
wind at all, but leaves touching.
Wind itself can’t speak. It needs another
fo chime against, knock around.
Again & again the wind finds its tongue,
but its tongue lives outside
of its rusted mouth. Forget the wind.
Let us instead praise meadow & ruin,
weeds & wildflowers seeding
years later. Let us praise the girl
who lives in what they call
a transitional neighborhood—
another way of saying not dead?
Or risen from it? Before running
full-speed through the sprinkler’s arc,
she tells her mother, who kneels
in the garden: Pretend I’m racing
someone else. Pretend I’m winning.

nov 6/RUN

3.1 miles
marshall loop
46 degrees

Ran with Scott up the Marshall hill and around Shadow Falls on the east side of the river. Stopped a little short. Warmer this morning. Still humid. We both greeted Dave the Daily Walker. I felt over-dressed a few minutes in. Tried out my new Saucony’s: black with light pink soles. Very nice. I’ve wanted black shoes for a couple of years now.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. River, 1: Running over the lake street bridge, the water was a few different shades of blue: dark blue near the bridge, then gradually lightening as it moved downstream
  2. River, 2: The white heat of water through a break in the trees. Mostly woods, with one sliver of the river
  3. River, 3: Sparkly, shiny, a cylinder of light traveling from one shore to the other
  4. Passing by a full black garbage bag on the bridge
  5. The clicking and clacking of roller skier approaching from behind
  6. At least 3 different small packs of runners on the east side of the river
  7. No rowers, no geese, no crows
  8. My shadow, off the side, her pony-tail swishing
  9. Passing lots of walkers on the bridge without worrying about covid
  10. Leaving the house, about the start the run, admiring our front tree on full display: brighter than gold

Yesterday, I started working on a poem (or a series of poems?) based on my October focus on ghosts and haunting. I’ve decided to use my rhythmic breathing pattern as the form: couplets with 1 three syllable line and 1 two syllable line (3/2). Here’s a bit that I like about going over the same trail, again and again that doesn’t fit in my current poem (and maybe doesn’t quite work?):

retread. Thread
needle

after need-
le stitch

stitch after
stitch use

the pattern
follow

directions
stay straight

but not quite
keeping

track losing
your place

untethered
let loose

nov 4/RUN

4.75 miles
Veteran’s Home Loop*
35 degrees
humidity: 84%

*a new loop: south on the river road trail to Minnehaha Regional Park, up the steps and over the falls. Follow the trail along the fence, past the John Stevens House. Take the bridge to the grounds of the Veteran’s Home. Go through a parking lot, up some steps, to the trail near the edge that leads down to Locks and Dam Number One. Rejoin the river road trail heading north until you reach the parking lot with the entrance to the Winchell Trail. Take the Winchell trail north to the Oak Savanna.

A good run. Cold update: It lingers. Still stuffed up, but continuing to feel better. A little harder to run because of the crud in my throat + a few raggedy coughs. Another sunny day with not much wind. So humid. I want my cold, crisp air!

10 Things I Noticed

  1. A haze in the air from the sun illuminating the humidity. Running above the oak savanna, everything was even softer, out of focus than (my) usual, filtered through the damp air
  2. Still above the Oak Savanna: I can see more of the mesa now that more leaves have left
  3. The river was glowing white with sunlight
  4. Not too many people on the trails — hardly any walkers or runner or bikers. Just 2 roller skiers
  5. Stopped at the spot on the Winchell Trail where the man had been using a hacksaw last week to check what he had done. Nothing, as far as I could tell
  6. At its start, just after the slabbed steps, the Winchell Trail, which had been covered in leaves last week, was clear. Minneapolis Parks must have cleared out the leaves sometime this week
  7. The bridge over to the Veteran’s Home, high above the trail below — the trail that follows the creek after it has fallen all the way to the Mississippi River — has a chainlink fence that makes it difficult to see below, especially when the sun is shining directly on it
  8. Running on the edge of the bluff, I heard the roaring of the water as it rushed over the dam at Locks and Dam Number One, then I saw it: a wall of white water
  9. A turkey crossing! Near turkey hollow, I encountered at least 5 turkeys, almost all the way across the road
  10. At the end of my run in the Oak Savanna, I heard a bird crying out. I stopped to locate it: a white-ish bird in a small nest in a nearby tree. I can’t remember the sound it made and have no idea what kind of bird it is — was it the mother, protecting her young? Do any birds nest in the fall?

Just looked it up and yes, some birds do nest in the fall. I didn’t know that. I’m thinking it might have been a mourning dove. They nest in the spring, but can lay eggs as late as October. Wow.

Prints/Tracks/Traces

The poem of the day on poetry foundation reminded me of part of a poem I read last month and then wrote about in a document titled, “October’s Apparitions.” I like the multiple meanings of the title. Prints, as in photographs, but also fingerprints. I thought about prints as tracks too — not yet a trail, but evidence of someone or something else there before you.

Prints/ Joseph Bruchac

Seeing photos
of ancestors
a century past

is like looking
at your own
fingerprints—

circles 
and lines
you can’t 
recognize

until someone else
with a stranger’s eye
looks close and says
that’s you.

Here’s the part of the poem that I posted/wrote about in October:

from Seven Types of Shadow / U A Fanthorpe

We carry our human ghosts around with us.
As we grow we face the mirrors, and see
The specter of a great-aunt, a vague look
Known only from sepia snapshots. The hands we’re used to —
Yes, these — their contours came by way of a long retinue
Of dust. We are photofits of the past,
And the future eyes us sideways as we eye ourselves.
We are the ghosts of great-aunts and grand-nephews.
We are ghosts of what is dead and not yet born. 

And here is what I wrote on oct 15th:

Who, from my family, do I look like? What characteristics of others do I have? Whose nose? I don’t know/remember too many of my relatives, so it’s difficult to imagine who I might look like…[pause to look at pictures of relatives] I couldn’t find much resemblance. I’m not sure who from the past is like me, but my daughter is like me in her posture — she swims like me, she walks like me, she has my shoulders and non-existent eyebrows. I like the idea of the traces of others within us — what we pass on, the gestures and the expressions — there is love in the passing on, even if or when there’s not much connection or love in the relationships. We are ghosts of what is dead and not yet born. I like this idea of all these different times mingling together.

Interesting…reduced to body parts — ghosts as that which we inherited…makes me think of the cone dystrophy — whose bad vision did I inherit? How many others have had it? And which side of the family? My sister has mentioned a grandmother who was blind—did she have cone dystrophy, or was it something else? Thinking about first talking with the doctor and the idea of how it skips generations, jumping around in families so you don’t know where it came from — a ghost not attached to anyone, unknown. So much unknown…

The comfort of a known ghost. To look at someone and see yourself in them or them in you. To know they are the ghost you are passing on. What do you do with not knowing? Is it necessary to know? Do you want to find out? What do you do about you kids? 

pages document/ oct 15, 2021

Re-reading this, I’m thinking more about how invisible, or at least very difficult to see, cone dystrophy is. It’s rare and has such a wide range of symptoms, presenting differently even in the same families. And, it skips generations and moves around families: a great-aunt might have it, but not a grandparent or parent. I’m not sure when it was first discovered — even now in 2021, so much is not known about it and the diagnosis of it falls under the vague, blanket term, “cone dystrophy,” which stands in for all sorts of cone-related vision problems. If it existed in families a generation or two ago, it was very likely it was not discovered. No understanding or diagnosis. No treatment. No prints (no evidence revealed in photos or through a doctor’s diagnosis). Instead, only faint tracks or trails: a story about someone having bad vision when they got older, knitting even though they couldn’t see what they were doing. My dad’s family, poor and living in rural upper peninsula Michigan, and before that, rural Finland, most likely had very little or no access to an ophthalmologist that would look for or understand cone dystrophy.

Cone dystrophy is inherited, most likely an autosomal recessive inheritance (AR). If I understand it correctly, I have a 50% chance of passing it on to my kids, but they only carry it if both Scott and I have it, and they only have a 25% chance of being affected by it (and, even if they are affected by it, their symptoms might be very mild or hard to detect). [source: Cone/Cone-rod dystrophy for patients] My experience of it, with most of my cones in my central vision gone and a good chance of becoming legally blind, is rare. So, I’m not too worried about my kids. Instead, I am fascinated by where it came from and the strange, unlikely path it has taken to get to me. What ghosts have passed it on unknowingly? To this I’ll add: I’m not sure if I need to know who it is from, or get an accurate map of how it’s traveled; I am more interested in the idea that it’s hard to track and what it means to live with unknown/unnamed ghosts.

Taking this idea of what our ghosts pass on to us in a different direction, I’m reminded of something I read in Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth a few years ago about the diseases we carry in us unknowingly, maybe from birth, maybe not:

Franny’s father, Fix, says, “People are scared of the wrong things… We go around thinking that what’s going to get us is waiting on the other side of the door: it’s outside, it’s in the closet, but it isn’t like that. . . For the vast majority of the people on this planet, the thing that’s going to kill them is already on the inside.” 

Ann Patchett/ Commonwealth

Does this make sense? Will it be useful to future Sara?

I began working on the tracks/prints part of this entry before my run. The last thing I thought about before I left flowed from it: What are the connections between my vision loss and running by the gorge? Some of it is directly related; I’m gathering words, images, metaphors about my vision while I run. Some of it is more a matter of them happening at the same time.

nov 3/RUN

5.25 miles
franklin loop
34 degrees
humidity: 70%

A bright, sunny late fall day. Not gray but golden. I over-dressed; tricked by a feels like temperature that was below freezing. One shirt too many. Ran north on the west river road, over the franklin bridge, south on the east river road, then over the lake street bridge. Breathing was more difficult today, mainly because I have entered a new phase of my cold: the stuffed-up, crudded-up phase. It bothers me, but not too much. I’m happy to be past the last phase, which made me anxious: the feeling of something sitting in my throat, always almost about to turn into cement in my chest. It never did, but throughout the day I imagined a future of not breathing, ventilators, the ICU. Ridiculous, of course. The fear of covid has really messed me up. I used to be an “easy” sick person — at least, I think I was? — but now, I’m a bit of a wimp about it all. Always looking to the future, worrying what my sickness could become.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. 4 stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  2. A view of the glowing white river through the bare trees near the floodplain forest
  3. Near Meeker Dam, on the St. Paul side: a mix of bare limbs, with yellow and green leaves
  4. So many views through the trees lining the bluffs: a smear of yellow or red, then open space with trails winding down to the river
  5. A little kid near the trail with an adult. The adult saying something about having a good run. The kid calling out at least 3 times, “Bye” “Bye” “Bye”
  6. An enthusiastic and friendly walker: “Good morning!” or was it just “Morning”? I’ve noticed that usually others say “morning” to me. I always respond, “Good morning.” Is it a regional difference? A east coast or southern thing to say both words, or is it just me?
  7. On the St. Paul side, somewhere up the hill just past Meeker Dam, someone has removed one of the black iron fence panels. The spot where it’s missing doesn’t lead anywhere. It’s been this way for a few weeks. Who did it and why? Will it be replaced sometime soon?
  8. Starting my run, heading north, the air was calm, everything quiet, until a car came by blasting music quickly distorted by the doppler effect. Instead of bothering me, this disruption enabled me to notice and appreciate how quiet it was when the car was no longer there
  9. The faintest trace of my shadow in front of me as I ran north at the beginning of my run
  10. Honking geese — only 2 or 3 honks + 1 chickadee calling out, “chick-a-dee-dee-dee”

Here’s the last bit of a poem that I posted on this log in November of 2019:

from November/ Lucy Larcom

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

Still lovelier when athwart the east 
      The level beam of sunset falls:
The tints of wild-flowers long deceased  
       Glow then upon the horizon walls;  
Shades of the rose and violet
Close to their dear world lingering yet.  

What idleness, to moan and fret  
       For any season fair, gone by!  
Life’s secret is not guessed at yet; 
       Veil under veil its wonders lie.  
Through grief and loss made glorious  
The soul of past joy lives in us.  

More welcome than voluptous gales  
       This keen, crisp air, as conscience clear:  
November breathes no flattering tales;—  
       The plain truth-teller of the year,  
Who wins her heart, and he alone,  
Knows she has sweetness all her own.

Love the idea of “veil under veil its wonders lie” with the description of November as “the plain truth-teller of the year”

nov 1/RUN

4.25 miles
marshal loop + extra*
36 degrees/ feels like 30

*the extra was running back from st. paul over the other side of the bridge, which dumps out on the west river road at the top of a hill, instead of its bottom

Last week when FWA was home from college, he had a cold. Not covid, but a cold. He gave it to RJP, who had it late last week, who then gave it to me this weekend. The cycle for all of us seems to be the same: 1. a scratchy throat which blooms into a sore throat over night; 2. sore throat, some fatigue, then feeling fine except for the sore throat; 3. a little more fatigue and lots of mucous (sniffing, clearing throat, coughing); and 4. losing your voice. Today, I’m in stage 3. Felt tired and unmotivated this morning, but decided that is was too nice of a morning not to go run. Besides, I always feel better when I’m running, especially when I’m sick. Strange as it seems to me, when I’m sick, which isn’t that often, I always forget about it when I’m running. I’m surprised that having a cold isn’t stressing me out. It feels very different than my usual stuffed up/sinus infections, and makes me wonder how much those are triggered by anxiety. The body is a freaky, strange thing.

I ran north on the river road to the lake street bridge. Then over it and up the marshall hill. Right on Cretin, back over to the river, down the hill above shadow falls, under the lake street bridge, up the stairs on the far side, over the bridge and back to minneapolis. Down the hill, up the other side, beside the old stone steps, through the tunnel of tree, past the ravine.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The Welcoming Oaks were bare
  2. 3 stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  3. More leaves have fallen in the floodplain forest. Almost a view to the river
  4. The river looked cold and slate blue, clear, from the bridge
  5. The sky was overcast and gray, which makes everything even fuzzier with my vision
  6. Between 32nd and lake street, the Winchell Trail, far below the river road trail, was visible. No more leaves concealing it and generating more mystery
  7. Running above shadow falls, I saw a truck on the other side of the ravine now that limbs are bare, which enabled me to see how the trail and road curve sharply around the wide gulch made by the river jutting in
  8. The railroad trestle, from the other side of lake street bridge
  9. A runner in an orange sweatshirt and orange stocking cap, running smoothly with a steady, high cadence, looking relaxed
  10. The wind rushing by my covered ears on the bridge

I love October, and I love November almost as much. I am not sad about the falling leaves and the coming snow. I’m excited about what it brings: winter running, better views, bare branches, mysteries solved, fresher air. Here’s a poem I post almost every year. This year, I want to take 5 minutes to memorize it (finally):

Fall, leaves, fall/ EMILY BRONTË

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

This poem is the first for my November theme: lifting the veil. I plan to explore poems and ideas about this liminal time when the leaves are gone, and the snow has not yet arrived.