dec 30/RUN

4.7 miles*
minnehaha falls and back
16 degrees / feels like 6
100% snow-covered

*2021 running goal accomplished: 850.5

Hooray for wonderful winter runs! I thought I might feel really cold out there this morning, but I didn’t. Was it the humidity (78%) that made me feel warmer? I wasn’t overheated, but I probably could have skipped one of my layers: the black zip-up. For much of the run, I was alone. On the way to the falls, I think I passed one or two walkers, and no bikers or other runners. There were at least a dozen people at the falls and many more walkers and runners on my way back home. It was never crowded, which was nice. I wore my Yak trax, which helped a lot. On the way back, I recited Longfellow’s “Snow-flake” a few times. Some of the lines were difficult to chant as I ran; they never quite matched my feet.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the river: completely covered in white snow
  2. a tree trunk far ahead of me on the river road trail: roughly covered in snow, as if a plow had come through and splattered snow on the tree
  3. the other side: some vague construction sounds driftng over the gorge from the st. paul side
  4. an approaching walker: at first, walking on the far side, then partly crossing over, then back again. As we neared each other, they muttered something and I wondered if it was a greeting, they were talking to themselves, or they were annoyed by me
  5. the falls: huge columns of grayish-white ice descending from the top. I could hear some water rushing, almost sizzling, and I think, when I stared hard enough, I could see some steam coming up from the water at the bottom
  6. minnehaha regional park: a family emerging from a park car, laughing and tromping through the snow, which is only 3 or 4 inches deep
  7. no coyotes or dogs or fat tires or birds
  8. my feet: the crunch of a spiked shoe is sharper and quicker than an unspiked shoe
  9. the walking trail: all of the walking trails were blocked at their entrances and exits by plowed snow
  10. grafitti: big bubble letters in orange (I think?) and some other color on the bike side of the double bridge

I’m thinking of turning my haunts poem into a digital chapbook, or animating it, and/or recording myself reading it. Lots of ideas. Time to figure out what’s actually possible to achieve.

dec 29/BIKERUN

bike: 15 minutes
bike stand, basement

3, feels like -10? No thanks. Before I could bike, I had to pump up my tire. Spent at least 5 minutes, which felt like an hour, trying to remember how to attach the pump to my annoying tires. I appreciate how people love bikes and maintaining them, but I don’t. Could I learn? More importantly, should I try?

run: 2.75 miles
treadmill

Listened to an old (2015?) “January” playlist while I ran. I don’t remember thinking about much, or noticing much in my dark, unfinished basement. Still, I enjoyed having the chance to move without having to go outside to run on the ice, in the cold wind, with the too bright sun. If I hadn’t run 5 miles outside yesterday, I might have liked being out there today. I bet it’s snot-freezing weather.

Last year I ran 1000 miles. This year I decided to take it easier, and focus more on swimming. My less ambitious running goal for the next few days is to reach 850 miles. With today’s run, I’m at 845.8. 2 more days, 4.2 miles. I should be able to do it.

Yesterday, I listened to an On Being episode with Jane Hirshfield. Excellent. Then I found this brief interview with her in which she answers a question about poets and civic responsibility. Here’s her answer:

I love in this question the word responsibility for its fundamental meaning of, “to respond”. When you’re asking what the role of a poet is in a society, in a culture, in a country, in a community, it is to respond in the way that only poetry can….
Poetry summoning is to transcend easy language, platitudinous language, slogans that make people stupid and that separate them from one another. And so part of the role of poetry and poets is, I think, to force ourselves past the common ways of looking at things by being more responsive and finding the uncommon, original, sidelong, nuanced, subtle, and not strive for the certainty which seems such a bane of our current discourse.

Jane Hirshfield Interview

Slogans that make us stupid and separate us. Yes. I think many people focus more on the stupid part of the problem, often feeling superior for believing they are smart, critical thinkers who don’t fall for the slogans. Thinking (and not being stupid) matters, but it needs to be considered alongside the questions: what can connect us, bring us together, open up space for seeing and being with each other in meaningful ways that relieve suffering, offer more resources, make the world less violent? Poetry can do things with words that enable us to think deeply and connect with each other (and recognize the ways in which we are always already connected/entangled).

I also love this idea of linking uncommon with sidelong and uncertainty (or not certainty), and looking for subtle, nuanced words/meanings.

dec 28/RUN

5 miles
franklin bridge turn around
14 degrees / feels like 3
85% snow-covered / snowing

Even though a lot of the sidewalks were bare on our block, I decided to wear my yak trax. Very good call. The trail was almost completely covered with snow from yesterday, and the quickly accumulating snow that was falling now. Having spikes helped a lot.

Lots of layers. I felt like a stuffed sausage: gray tank top for extra coverage on my stomach which is often red at the end of a cold run; green shirt, black 3/4 zip-up; pink jacket; black vest; 2 pairs of tights; 2 pairs of socks; 2 pairs of gloves; buff; hood; black cap. Once I got moving the layers didn’t bother me — not too cumbersome, not too hot.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The river was mostly white, with a few black streaks
  2. At least 2 tall people were sledding down the steep slope between edmund and the river road
  3. The walking path was mostly okay but had a few slick spots, hidden under the snow
  4. At least one fat tire
  5. Greeted Dave the Daily Walker, saw Daddy Long Legs
  6. Heard some hammering or nail-gunning or some sort of scraping at a fancy house on the other side of the river road
  7. Below the Franklin Bridge, the flats had disappeared in the falling snow
  8. After stopping to put in my headphones for the second half of the run, I felt like I was floating or flying, barely touching ground, finding that soft space between foot strikes
  9. Lots of walkers with dogs
  10. Snow flakes were flying into my eyes, some of them freezing on my eyelashes. At one point in the run, looking off to my left side, I saw something that looked almost like my faint shadow. Was it, or was I seeing some of my crusty eyelash, or my nose? I couldn’t decide.

Omicron update: read some twitter feeds this morning about it, which was probably a mistake? — not sure. Also following a facebook friend who is fully vaxed (2 doses + booster) but got it anyway. It’s a “mild” case, but sounds completely miserable — exhausting, painful. I don’t feel nearly as anxious about this as a did in 2020, but I’m still ready for this to be over (like everyone else). I wonder what will happen next week when RJP is back in high school.

Here’s a wonderful poem from Maggie Smith’s Goldenrod. I love her writing.

In the Grand Scheme of Things/ Maggie Smith

It sounds like someone wound up the wrens
and let them go, let them chatter across your lawn

like cheap toys, and from here an airplane
seems to fly only from one tree to another, barely

chalking a line between then. We say the naked eye
as if the eye could be clothed, as if it isn’t the world

that refuses to undress unless we turn our backs.
It shows us what it chooses, nothing more,

and it’s not waxing pastoral. There is too much
now at stake. The skeletal rattle you hear

at the window could be only the hellion roses
in the wind, their thorns etching the glass,

but it could be bones. The country we call ours
isn’t, and it’s full of them. Every year you dig

that goddamn rose bush from the bed, spoon it
from soil like a tumor, and every year it grows back

thick and wild. We say in the grand scheme of things
as if there were one. We say that’s not how

the world works as if the world works.

I had a rose bush at my old house that I tried to dig out every year. Like in this poem, it never worked. It always came back. It’s easy to read its reoccurrence as an annoying problem, but it could also be read as resilience, persistence, refusal to give into a world that doesn’t (seem to?) work. It feels like Smith allows for both of these readings.

dec 26/RUN

4.25 miles
minnehaha falls and back
27 degrees
0% snow-covered

All of the snow — well, all of the snow on the road + trail + sidewalk — melted while I was gone for Christmas. Even though we got back in the afternoon, and I was hungry, I decided I couldn’t not got out and take advantage of bare trails, something that happens so infrequently in the winter. I ran to the falls and tried to notice them as I ran by. I can’t remember hearing them, but I saw the water flowing freely.

Running above, I studied the Winchell Trail below. Between 28th and 42nd, it was covered in ice and empty of walkers. From 42nd to the southern start, there were several groups of people on it. I couldn’t see if it was clear or covered. Near the double-bridge, I heard a kid laughing somewhere nearby.

For Christmas, I got several books: Lydia Davis’ ESSAYS One; Alice Oswald’s Dart; Maggie Smith’s Goldenrod; and Arthur Sze’s The Glass Constellation. I’m trying to not get as many physical books these days because of my declining vision, unless I know I’ll read and refer back to them a lot. I’m very excited about all of these! Here’s a poem from Arthur Sze:

Eye Exam/ Arthur Sze

  E D F C Z P
his eyesight is tethered to shore —

  no sign of zebras
but spotted towhees repair their nest;

  before the ditch is cleared,
plum trees are blossoming along a riparian bank —

  he pauses at the gaps between letters,
notices how his mind has an urge to wander,

how it resists being tethered to question and quick reply —  
yellow daffodils are rising in the yard;

    behind his eyelids,
a surge of aquamarine water is breaking to shore:

  they are stretching,
they are contorting into bliss —

  and as the opthamologist
rotates lenses, “Is it clearer with 1 or 2?”

he sees how this moment is lens, mirror, spring,    
and how, “1,”

D E F P O T E C
sharpens his vision to this O, the earth

I have thought of writing a poem about this “better with 1 or 2” exam. So many questions, so hard to determine which is better, which is worse. For now, glasses still help a little with my non-cone dystrophy problem: near-sightedness. But standard eye exams seem almost pointless for me. I can read small things when I’m given as much time as I need. If I have to read it quickly, I can’t. Which lens, 1 or 2, makes my ability to focus fast better?

I want to spend some more time with this poem to reflect on its meaning. Are the zebras and towhees referencing letters in a way that I’m missing? This idea of sharpened vision tethering one to earth makes me think of how untethered I often feel out in the world, with everything unfocused, fuzzy, soft. Are there other ways to be tethered that don’t require clear vision? Yes, but they aren’t often recognized, represented. Are they in this poem?


dec 25/RUN

3.5 miles
around austin, mn
28 degrees
0% snow-covered

The return of a Christmas tradition: running with Scott around Austin on Christmas day. In past years, there has been snow on the ground, but not this year. Bare, brown, beautiful, at least to me. We ran alongside the cedar river, which was partly frozen in pale blue, and littered with geese or ducks or both. We also walked out on the dock by the old mill pond, which winds behind the library, the new fitness center, and the pool. The ice looked thin and barely frozen, but one person was walking across it, fishing. They didn’t fall in, at least while we were there. In Minneaplis, these docks are unmoored and left to float out into the middle of the lake. Here in Austin, they stay linked to land and accessible. It was very strange walking on the dock, over unmoving ice instead of water.

We started and ended the run at the parking lot by “skinner’s hill” and Scott told me, not for the first time, about sledding there in the winter. Scott: “This hill always seemed steeper when I was kid.” Me: “I bet it was a struggle walking back up that hill to the top!”

It was a nice Christmas. I wasn’t planning to, but I read a few of my poems from my new collection on ghosts to Scott’s parents. They really liked them. While some of their enthusiasm was just because they love me, I think some of it was also out of a genuine appreciation and connection with the words. Very cool.

dec 23/RUN

5.1 miles
minnehaha falls and back
29 degrees
paths: 80% snow-covered
roads: 10% snow-covered

Much warmer today. Sunny with lots of shadows. Ran south around, but not by, the falls. Stayed on the perimeter, took the bridge over to the VA home, then ran north on the lower trail until I reached Lock and Dam No. 1. Crossed over turkey hollow and ran the back half of the turkey hollow loop. Ran through puddles, over ice, slush, soft snow, on road, sidewalk, grass, dirt trails, cobblestone. Heard crows, geese, and a bird with tin-whistle chirp. Also heard some kids sledding down the big hill near the falls, yelling with delight. The river looked very textured today: mostly white with rough craters of black water. The path was difficult to run on–soft, slushy snow. I didn’t see any fat tires or skiers. No Santa Claus. I might have passed Mr. Morning! from behind, but because he didn’t see me, he didn’t greet me.

Woke up feeling the fatigue of a never-ending pandemic. The run helped me to forget it for awhile.

Ran by the house that always posts poems on their window. Stopped to check out the sign they post in their yard with the title: Obligations 2/ Layli Long Solider.

dec 21/RUN

5.75 miles
franklin hill turn around
14 degrees / feels like 3
100% snow-covered

A few hours before I went out, it started snowing, a dusting. Decided to wear my yak trak, which helped a lot. A little harder to breathe this morning with the cold. Everything else about the run was great. All white and quiet and soft. For the first 10 minutes of my run, I was all alone. Gradually, I began to notice others: a walker, a fat tire, a runner wearing a bright yellow shirt.

Today, I devoted a lot of attention to the river. For stretches, it was almost completely covered with snow, then half snow/ice, half open water. Under the bridges, the river opened up — a dark, gaping mouth. The contrast between the open water, which was almost black, and the white, iced-over water was striking.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The smell of toast and eggs, probably coming from Longfellow Grill
  2. The smell of pot, somewhere below me?
  3. There was a steady stream of cars on the river road
  4. Running under the bridges, the trucks and other big vehicles rumbled above
  5. The snow was flying into my face no matter which direction I turned
  6. Someone had stenciled “Can’t Wait! Hugz” in pink 4 or 5 times on the back of a west river parkway sign
  7. All but one of the sets of stairs leading down into the gorge was blocked off with a heavy chain. The only open one was at the final set of stairs before you reach franklin avenue
  8. A car passed, windows shut, blasting music with a booming, driving beat
  9. Cars were moving slowly, cautiously on the slick streets
  10. The fake flowers stuck in the remnant of a railing at the trestle are gone

It’s the solstice today. Here’s a poem posted on twitter:

Holiday Wish/ David Baker

No snow. A little fog. The afternoon
is a few short hours and evening falls.
But look how the sun hangs down
its old rope good for one more pull.

Look at the latticework of leaves
in the stricken ash, golden in the gray,
like coins in a purse or notes from some old hymn.
I hope my friends are warm this day.

I hope the ones I love, will always love—
the one gone far away, the two sweet
souls holding hands near the end,
humming through a feverish night,

the one whose needs I cannot guess
of have no needs this lucky day
on earth—I hope for them, for all of us,
a little peace, a touch of hope, another day

come round with steady light. So quiet now.
So still. A flake of snow, then two.
I hope you hear a bell from far away
begin to peal, a bell I pull for you.

dec 19/RUN

4.25 miles
river road trail, north/south
17 degrees / feels like 0
100% snow-covered

I think this is my coldest run so far this season. Running north, it was much warmer. Turning around, heading south, the wind whipped straight through me. Brr. Last night, I bought a new winter running hat at REI. It’s a black ball cap, with a visor and ear flaps and it’s lined with fleece. Excellent. So far this year, I’ve been using a free twins cap I got at a game when it was DQ day. At one time, it was black. It’s still black on the inside, but the outside is a brownish gray, bleached by the sun, stained by my salty sweat. Gross, I suppose, although it doesn’t bother me that much. Because I can’t see things that well, faded hats don’t bother me. I still care a little about how I look, but barely. Luckily, I mostly look fine, so who cares?

I had thought about wearing my yak trax, but because the neighborhood sidewalks were mostly bare, I decided not to. My run was fine, but I should have worn the yak trax. The trail was completely covered with about an inch of soft, uneven snow. I ran on the walking path most of the time because the snow plow had come through and pushed all the street snow up onto the biking path. Fun (not fun). I slipped a few times, but no danger of falling. I listened to my feet strike the snow and the crush crush rhythm of both feet. Thought about how the sound is much different when I’m moving slower and walking. Then, the sound of the snow still has the crush but it also has a slow grinding noise — the sound of one foot slowly lifting off the ground. So 2 sounds at once: crush creak crush creak. I wondered if I could fit this idea into one of my two beat poems? Maybe.

Speaking of my beat poems, I was looking for a different word for describing the beat as a discrete unit of time. I had written time’s sharp shutters but I wasn’t quite happy with it. While I was running, I thought of slicing. Then, after I was done: time’s sharp cuts. Now I need to figure out how to describe the space/time between beats. For now, I have a stutter, but I’m not sure if I like that.

There were lots of people out by the gorge. Runners and walkers. No bikers or skiers. One person pulling an empty sled. No Daily Walker, no Santa Clause, no Mr. Morning!. The river was open, with a few ice floes. It was a dark blue, not quite black. The sky was white.

dec 17/RUN

5 miles
minnehaha falls and back
14 degrees / feels like 3
10% ice and snow covered

I loved my run this morning. It didn’t feel too cold, and it wasn’t too windy. There was some ice on the path and I did slip a few times, but I never fell or twisted anything. Because of the warm temperatures on Wednesday, a lot of the snow melted, and the walking path was mostly clear. Nice!

Thought about my haunt poem and had an idea that should help me finish it and start (and maybe finish?) another one. Yes! I’ll take off the beginning and the end and make them into another poem. Then I’ll keep the middle and keep it as my beats poem. Thanks, run, for helping me out! Something I’m learning: sometimes when you think you need to add one more line or image, you might just need to get rid of something you already wrote.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The river was completely open and illuminated by the sun. Sometimes it looked almost bronze or brown. Other times, pewter and then silver in the spots where the sun was shining on it
  2. The ravine just past the double bridge was bare and open and easy to study. As I ran above it, I stared at the slope, trying to judge its steepness and whether or not I could scale it. Assessment: not easily
  3. The sidewalks criss-crossing near the John Stevens House were all clear. I had run this way on Monday, when it was all covered in snow. Looking at the sidewalks now, I’m pretty sure the trail I took on Monday wasn’t following them
  4. Some workers with chainsaws trimming trees near the John Stevens House
  5. Minnehaha Creek, the part the falls drops into, was almost roaring. I briefly stopped to look down at it and listen
  6. The falls were rushing. Some of the ice that had been forming in the cold melted from our almost 60 degree weather on Wednesday
  7. Cawing crows
  8. A greeting from Mr. Morning! and Santa Claus (at least, I think it was Santa Claus!?) Mr. Morning! was dressed for winter — snow pants, a winter park with hood, stocking cap, dark glasses
  9. One bike on the trail — couldn’t tell if it was a fat tire
  10. Someone walking down on the Winchell Trail

The poem of the day on Poetry Foundation was by Lisel Mueller. I always enjoy her poetry. Looked her up, and found 2 more that delight me:

Sometimes, When the Light/ Lisel Mueller

Sometimes, when the light strikes at odd angles
and pulls you back into childhood

and you are passing a crumbling mansion
completely hidden behind old willows

or an empty convent guarded by hemlocks
and giant firs standing hip to hip,

you know again that behind that wall,
under the uncut hair of the willows

something secret is going on,
so marvelous and dangerous

that if you crawled through and saw,
you would die, or be happy forever.

Things/ LISEL MUELLER

What happened is, we grew lonely
living among the things,
so we gave the clock a face,
the chair a back,
the table four stout legs
which will never suffer fatigue.

We fitted our shoes with tongues
as smooth as our own
and hung tongues inside bells
so we could listen
to their emotional language,

and because we loved graceful profiles
the pitcher received a lip,
the bottle a long, slender neck.

Even what was beyond us
was recast in our image;
we gave the country a heart,
the storm an eye,
the cave a mouth
so we could pass into safety.

dec 16/BIKERUN

bike: 24 minutes
bike stand
run: 1.25 miles
treadmill

Yesterday, the threat of a big storm — tornadoes, dangerously high wind, thunderstorms — never happened. At least not in Minneapolis. Today, it’s back to winter and more snow and cold air. I decided to stay inside and do a quick bike + run. Watched a video about some deeper meanings in Saturday Night Fever while I biked, listened to a playlist while I ran. Today exercise offered a good break from my work on my beats poem. It’s getting closer, but I’m not quite there with this one. Hopefully I’ll figure it out tomorrow. I’m trying to remember to not become to invested in any of my words or phrases.

dec 15/RUN

5.8 miles
franklin hill turn around
44 degrees / humidity: 99%
0% snow-covered

Strange outside this morning. Warm, humid, gray. White snow on the grass, white fog in the air. Everything wet, dripping. Too warm for ice or snow on the trail, just puddles. I overdressed and became overheated by the end of the first mile. I was distracted by a runner creeping up behind, (too) slowly passing me then, once she was ahead, going even slower. At least it seemed that way. I decided that whichever way she went when she reached the Franklin bridge, I’d go the other way. She turned to head up and over the bridge, so I went under it and down the hill straight into thick fog. Hard to see anything down in the flats but headlights. Very cool. The river was completely open and waving at me in the slight wind. Heading back up the hill, I ran 3/4 of it, only stopping to walk for the very last part. A warm, humid wind was hitting me in the face, tiring me out. Near the end of the run, I saw Dave the Daily Walker. He called out, “This fog is kind of cool” and I agreed.

Before I left the house, I was reviewing my notes and thinking about my latest haunts poem. This one focuses on rhythm, repetition, and beats (heart, striking feet, chiming clocks, dripping pipes/limestone). Last night, I came up with a few line to fit my 3/2 form:

I come to
the gorge
to find that
soft space
between beats
before
one foot strikes
after
the other
lifts off
when I float
through time’s
crisp borders
in a
moment so
brief it
registers
only
as shimmer.

Not sure I’m satisfied with the ending of this — shimmer? shiver? something else? Anyway, I was thinking about that moment, the soft space between beats, as I ran. There’s a point in the biomechanics of running when both feet are off of the ground. It’s often referred to as the float phase. It happens so quickly that it’s very easy to ignore it. Sometimes I do, but sometimes I try to focus on it. Today, I imagined my run as happening in that space as I tuned out the beat/foot strikes, and focused on the freeing feeling of moving through the air, hovering above the trail. I thought about how this space, while brief, can be big, expansive, opening you up, allowing for possibility and other ways to relate to space and time. One trick: stop noticing the beats — get a steady rhythm going so that you can ignore them. The beats are still there, in fact they’re necessary for making the float happen, but they’re not centered as the most important (or only) thing about running/moving. Another thing I thought about: taken in isolation, each moment is small/brief, but what if you imagined that the moment was continuous, only quickly interrupted by the beat? How might that transform our understanding of time and how it moves/works? I thought about all of this, and will work to condense it into a line or two for this poem.

I’m imagining this poem about repetition, rhythm, chanting as a prayer (or at least including a prayer). For inspiration, I looked up “prayer” on the poetry foundation site. This one came up. I’d like to study these words and how the poet uses the metaphor of making/baking a cake:

Prayer 48/ EVA SAULITIS

for Asja

In predawn dark, a rat falling from a rafter is a dollop,
wind a whir, and suddenly I’m remembering my mother 
teaching me to bake her hot water sponge cake.

How we whipped the egg whites with the electric mixer
until stiff peaks formed. How she warned me not to allow
a single thread of yolk to taint the white, or the cake

would fail. To fold white into yolk-sugar-flour was slow, 
patient. She let me carve a wedge with the rubber spatula,
drop it to the batter’s surface, then lift from the bowl’s bottom

up and over the dollop, turning it in. Warned me
never to beat or mix or even stir—the cake would fall. 
Once, dinking around, I stuck a wooden spoon into

the still-whirring beaters, bent the metal, splintered
the spoon into the batter. Once I cut her grandmother’s precious
lace for a doll’s clothes, and she cried, the savaged pieces

draped across her wrists. So many times I tried to shove
my peasant feet into her dainty pumps, hand into her evening
gloves. One spoon at a time, that first thin layer drawn across

the airy white forming a little hill. Folding only
just enough. The batter growing lighter by increments.
It was mostly space we folded in, taming down

the cloy. It was never so good as then, licked off
the finer, the cake itself, to me, disappointing, layers
smeared with homemade jam, topped with a stiff merengue.

Never so good as then, her instructing, trying to domesticate
my impertinence, teach me a little grace, me resisting,
the sweet on my tongue dissolving so easily

in that state of matter. Never so good as straight from 
the Pyrex bowl. Never so gentle as the slide of batter
into an angel food pan. The rest up to her, what she

created from the baked version, brown on top and bottom. 
Here I am, decades later sitting under the halogen
of a full moon, and that moment, which was many

folded into one, is so pure and specific, the sugar sharp
on my tongue, the spatula pushing as if through 
an undertow. My mother taught me to fold. Never so

sweet as now. We were incorporating lightness
into a deep bowl. As some bird—probably an owl
out hunting—chacks its was across the lawn,

sounding like a key chain, and now the garden sprinkler
comes on, so I know it’s 6:00 a.m. There’s the first hint
of dawn slow-dissolving one more night. This is a fifty-

year-old love. It’s heavy, so I fold in moonlight, the sound
of water spattered on leaves. Dim stars, bright moon—
our lives. The cake imperfect, but finished. 

dec 13/RUN

5.1 miles
minnehaha falls and back
29 degrees
65% snow-covered

Ran to the falls and discovered that they were still plowing the trails around the park this morning. Had to stop and walk a few times in the deepest, most uneven parts. Sunny, barely any wind. Soon into the run, I was warm, then hot.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. From a distance and through the tree trunks, the river was burning white
  2. Off to the side and just below, the river was flat and off-white with splotches of light brownish-green or greenish-brown
  3. I could hear the sound of rushing water at the falls, but all I could see was several big ice columns
  4. Near the longfellow fountain (which never has water, not even in the summer, but does have parts of “The Song of Hiawatha” etched on the low wall curving around it), at the edge of the bluff, the view to the falls was as clear as I’ve ever seen it. No leaves or stray branches getting in the way
  5. Childhood having fun at their school playground, yelling and laughing
  6. Several different wedges of geese honking
  7. Packed down snow from feet, skis, sleds criss-crossing the big open part of the park above the fall, near John Stevens House
  8. The elegant, pleased (it looked like it was smiling) curve of the retaining wall on the Winchell Trail near 42nd street
  9. Mr. Morning! and Santa Claus
  10. 2 older walkers on the trail, one of them pushing their walker through the snow

I’m still working on my haunting poems. I’m hoping to do one specifically about bells and clocks. As I ran I thought about rhythms and beats: the steady beat of my feet on the trail, the triple counts I was chanting (strawberry/blueberry/raspberry/river road/trestle bridge), and the lone geese honking repeatedly. I tried to match my feet to its honks, which didn’t work. Then I tried to count the beats between each honk. It was not steady. I wondered, why do geese honk when they’re flying? I looked it up: to keep the flock together and coordinated in the V. Visibility is low so the honks let them know where each other are. Are all the honks the same, or does each goose have a slightly different one? Why aren’t they in a steady rhythm — or, are they, and I just don’t hear it?

Here’s some more information about the Canadian Geese and their 13 different vocalizations: Canada Goose Vocalizations

Almost every time I hear a geese honk, I think of Mary Oliver’s geese and their harsh and exciting cries, but there are other wild geese poems. Here’s one I don’t think I’ve encountered before:

Something Told the Wild Geese / Rachel Field

Something told the wild geese
It was time to go.
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered,—‘Snow.’
Leaves were green and stirring,
Berries, luster-glossed,
But beneath warm feathers
Something cautioned,—‘Frost.’
All the sagging orchards
Steamed with amber spice,
But each wild breast stiffened
At remembered ice.
Something told the wild geese
It was time to fly,—
Summer sun was on their wings,
Winter in their cry.

My understanding is that geese fly south before it gets too cold and before the snow flies, just like the poem states. So why were there so many geese up in the sky today? Is it a result of the climate crisis, or something else? I found a National Geographic article but it’s behind a paywall. The little bit of it I could read was about how geese migration is complicated; geese are finding suburbs a pleasing place to stay year round. Another article I found mentioned that in the 1950s, fearing their extinction, wildlife agencies in some states introduced new flocks that were raised in captivity and never learned to migrate. They are still flocks of wild migrating geese, but also lots of “not wild” geese. Looks like this question has many different answers.

dec 12/RUN

3.4 miles
river road trail, north/south
28 degrees
100% snow-covered*

*At least half of the biking trail was a smooth, thin layer of packed snow. The other half was several inches of loose, uneven snow. In some of the packed down spots it was slick. Occasionally, there was a tall mound of snow where the plow had left the excess from its clearing of the road. The hardest part: running on the sidewalks on the way to the river, especially the ends of blocks when I had to navigate the unplowed parts of the road

On Friday afternoon into Saturday morning, it snowed. Here in southeast Minneapolis, we got about 10 inches of powdery, beautiful snow. Not too hard to shovel, fun to admire. There were more people on the trails than I would have thought. At least 2 groups of runners + lots of walkers. No fat tires or cross-country skiers. Across the way, on the hill from Edmund, a family was sledding. The parents were positioned at the bottom to block their kids from careening into the parkway.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The loud, resonant knocking of a woodpecker near the old stone steps. Its knock echoed through the gorge
  2. A wedge of honking geese up in the sky. I couldn’t see them because I was too busy looking down at the trail, trying to avoid and/or prepare for slick spots
  3. The river burning white through the trees
  4. In many spots, a short, mid-calf wall of snow separating me from the road
  5. The unpleasantly loud scraping noise of a plow on bare pavement
  6. The smell of the sewer
  7. A kid laughing and calling out, “uh oh”
  8. The uneven arm swing of a runner ahead of me. One arm was high and tight, the other low and loose
  9. 3 runners passing me. I heard one of them say “professor” — maybe they said “class” too?
  10. The floodplain forest all white and brown. Some of the tree trunks were painted white on one side

When I got back from my run, Scott asked, “How was it?” I said, “You wouldn’t have liked it. It was slick and snow-covered and crowded, but I loved it!”

dec 10/RUN

6 miles
franklin hill and back
29 degrees

A big snowstorm is coming later today. Not sure how much — 7 inches? A foot? Saw Dave the Daily Walker and he called out, “Trying to beat the snow?” I called back, “Yes!” because I was. The snow is supposed to start this afternoon. Also saw Mr. Morning! and Santa Claus. Santa was in a bright yellow jacket, Mr. Morning! in dark sunglasses and a stocking cap. The walking path was almost completely covered with snow and ice, the bike path was clear. The river had a layer of gray ice. All of the “official” entrances to the Winchell Trail are now blocked off with a thick orange chain. Noticed a blanket which may or may not have contained a sleeping person, up against the most sheltered side of the port-a-potty under the lake street bridge. Because I was in motion and my vision is bad, all I could see was the form of a dark blanket. The noise I remember hearing most was traffic: lots of trucks and cars crossing the bridges. Also heard some construction near the Franklin Bridge on the east side of the river.

I ran down Franklin hill and kept going until I reached 3 miles. Then I turned around and ran back up the hill. Ran the entire thing without stopping this morning. Tried to block out my thoughts by chanting triple berries, mostly: “strawberry, blueberry, raspberry.” I was hoping some other triple words would pop into my head, but they didn’t and I didn’t try to force it.

dec 8/RUN

4.1 miles
river road, north/south
14 degrees
99% snow-covered

Fully boosted! Scott, FWA, and I got our booster shots 2 weeks ago today. Very relieved. I wish RJP could get hers too.

A little warmer today with lots of sun and hardly any wind. The only part of me that was cold this morning were my fingers and only for the first mile. The path was covered mostly in smooth packed snow. Not slippery but still requiring more effort than on dry pavement to lift my feet off the ground. Was able to greet Dave the Daily Walker and a few other walkers that I might have seen before but I can’t remember. The floodplain forest below the tunnel of trees was quiet and wintery and beautiful. Running north, I was distracted by a runner ahead of me, traveling at my same pace. He was far enough ahead that he probably didn’t notice I was there. He was wearing black running tights, black shorts, and a bright blue jacket with some writing or images on the back that I couldn’t identify. The only time I remember noticing the river was when I was high up on edmund at my favorite viewing spot where the sun, when it’s out, makes the small sliver of river peeking through the trees glow white hot. Today, the river was covered with snow and looked flat and dull. No sparkle or glow.

A few words related to my restless poem popped into my head: unsatisfied/not or never satisfied, unsettled, collecting, gathering, assembling

Ilya Kaminsky is in charge of the poem-a-day at poets.org this month and he’s doing a great job. Here’s the one for today from another poet I admire:

Big Clock/ Li-Young Lee – 1957-

When the big clock at the train station stopped,
the leaves kept falling,
the trains kept running,
my mother’s hair kept growing longer and blacker,
and my father’s body kept filling up with time.

I can’t see the year on the station’s calendar.
We slept under the stopped hands of the clock
until morning, when a man entered carrying a ladder.
He climbed up to the clock’s face and opened it with a key.
No one but he knew what he saw.

Below him, the mortal faces went on passing
toward all compass points.
People went on crossing borders,
buying tickets in one time zone and setting foot in another.
Crossing thresholds: sleep to waking and back,
waiting room to moving train and back,
war zone to safe zone and back.

Crossing between gain and loss:
learning new words for the world and the things in it.
Forgetting old words for the heart and the things in it.
And collecting words in a different language
for those three primary colors:
staying, leaving, and returning.

And only the man at the top of the ladder
understood what he saw behind the face
which was neither smiling nor frowning.

And my father’s body went on filling up with death
until it reached the highest etched mark
of his eyes and spilled into mine.
And my mother’s hair goes on
never reaching the earth.

There is so much I love about this poem, for right now I’ll pick: “And collecting words in a different language/for those three primary colors:/staying, leaving, and returning.”

dec 7/RUN

5.1 miles
minnehaha falls and back
10 degrees / feels like 1
light snow / 100% snow-covered

Winter! Snow, (almost) empty trails, fresh cold air, not too much wind. What a wonderful run. I ran slow and steady. The trails were completely covered and, if I didn’t know the paths so well, I might have had trouble seeing where to go but, I’ve run here so many times, I was fine. Everything was white, even the river.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. 2 types of crunching as my foot touched the ground, then lifted up: a slow creeaakk then a quick snap. Longer when walking, shorter as I ran. Both happening at same time, with the touching foot creaking and the lifting off foot snapping
  2. Snow brushed on one side of the tree trunk, looking like confectioners sugar
  3. the curved retaining wall, above the ravine, was easy to see, no longer hidden behind leaves
  4. Graffitti all over the wall of the biking half of the double bridge
  5. the falls were gushing at the bottom, iced at the top
  6. most of the trail was not slippery, but a few spots of ice or crusty snow hidden under fresh snow, were slick
  7. a few trucks and some workers parked near the John Stevens House, calling out to each other in loud voices
  8. the fake/recorded bell from the light rail train dinging for at least 10 seconds
  9. someone running much faster than me wearing a bright yellow vest
  10. lots of cars on the river road, most had their full lights on, at least one only had their parking lights on, a few had no lights on

Found this series of poems by Victoria Chang this morning, from her upcoming collection, The Trees Witness Everything:

The Wild Geese/ Victoria Chang

They are not wisdom
or freedom or history.
They are not what’s lost.
They are nothing but wild geese.
I can hear them everywhere,
wings pushing down metaphor.

Here’s what she writes in her “about the poem” section:

“These are a group of small poems that are a part of my forthcoming book, The Trees Witness Everything (Copper Canyon Press, 2022). They are all written in various syllabic forms and the titles are all W.S. Merwin poem titles.”

This one is almost a tanka (5/7/5/7/7), with one extra 7 syllable line at the end. In Obit Chang wrote a tanka that I really like:

My children, children,
there’s applesauce everywhere
but it’s not for you.
It is strange to help someone
grow while helping someone die.

I love how effectively and efficiently she captures the difficulty of being a parent while your parent is dying. The applesauce does so much here, conjuring up little kids and their snacks, and old people at retirement homes eating softer foods. It makes me reflect on the similarities and differences between the very young and the very old, both needing help, but having different futures.

dec 6/BIKERUN

bike: 20 minutes
bike on stand
run: 3 miles
treadmill
outside temp: 9 / feels like -11

Welcome winter. I would have run outside but that wind, wow. 22 mph with 30+mph gusts. Decided I’d stay inside. Watched an old cross-country race while I biked, listened to a playlist while I ran. No amazing epiphanies, but it felt good to move.

I continue to work on my haunts/haunting/haunted poem sequence. One about restlessness is giving me some trouble. Restless as pacing, returning to loop/orbit around the river repeatedly, in constant motion, searching for a view + a way in (to connection, understanding, joy, better words). Constant motion as being blurred, fuzzy, unfinished, fizzing out (or leaking out?), released from form, not following straight, efficient lines (of a road) but a meandering trail that travels with the terrain, remembers/mingles with the past (thinking of Wendell Berry’s difference between a road and a trail / october’s apparitions). I want to end it with something about never leaving loud conclusions (better word?) but quiet records with my feet (referencing Girmay’s snail). I need at least one more day with this one, I think.

Here’s another great ghost poem I encountered the other day on twitter:

Ghosting/ Andrea Cohen

How cavalier
people are—

with language
and with silence.

Any ghost will
tell you—

the last thing
we mean

to do
is leave you.

dec 4/RUN

3.75 miles
turkey hollow
33 degrees

A nice morning for a run. Not too cold. Not too windy. Not too crowded. Ran on the dirt trail between Edmund and the River Road heading north, then on the road, heading back south. The dirt was very hard and made no sound. Not as fun as when it’s warmer and the dirt is softer and makes a pleasing shshshsh sound as I strike it. All I remember from my run is thinking about how running on uneven ground can be good for my muscles, making them work more to find balance and stability. Is that really it? I noticed a few other runners, a lot of cars. Oh, I stopped at the house that post poems on their window. Finally, a new one! I couldn’t read it on the window — too bright, too far away — but I got the author, Layli Long Soldier. She’s great. I’ll have to check back to see the title. I’m pretty sure it was from Whereas, but I have no idea which part. All I glimpsed was “window poem” which I thought was the title, but wasn’t.

Rereading the bit above about the dirt trail being good for muscles, a phrase from Wittgenstein popped into my head: rough ground. The need for rough ground you can feel and dig into, as opposed to smooth ice that you slide across with no traction. I have written about this before on this log — about the ice, that is. What can I do with it?

We have got on to slippery ice where there is no friction and so in a certain sense the conditions are ideal, but also, just because of that, we are unable to walk. We want to walk: so we need friction. Back to the rough ground!

from Philosophical Investigations

dec 3/RUN

6 miles
franklin loop
37 degrees

Writing this entry almost an hour after my run, it’s sunny, but when I was out by the gorge it was overcast, with some mist or fog or some kind of moisture hanging in the air. Barely any wind. Calm, quiet, peaceful. I thought about the haunting poems I’m working on, and tried to forget Omicron. Just a few days ago, I wasn’t too concerned about this new variant. Without enough data, it’s too early for that. But, even though intellectually and emotionally (at least, I thought) I wasn’t stressed about it, my body has decided to have a mild sinus flair-up. Some pressure in my face/cheeks, a ticklish, scratchy throat. It’s not debilitating, just uncomfortable and distracting. Is this caused by anxiety over this new variant? Possibly. I’m trying to avoid twitter, facebook, and any online news in the hopes that it will calm me down.

Back to the poems I’m working on. Before heading out the door, I gave myself 2 questions to ponder: Who are the ghosts, the dead or the living? Does it depend on how you see (understand, think about, imagine) it? These questions were partly inspired by some lines from Ed Bok Lee in “Halos” that I’m using as an epigraph:

How else, when blinded by life,
would I remember:

to the dead, we’re the ghosts.

When I first read these lines, I was confused by them. I still am, but they seem to fit with how my sequence of poems on haunts/haunting/haunted play around with who is being haunted and who is doing the haunting. I like the idea of not resolving this question and letting both answers be possible at any given time, or at specific times. Sometimes the living are the ghosts, sometimes it’s the dead. I also like the idea of not spelling out what that means, but presenting images that complicate it. Running on the east side of the river, with a gray, mostly sunless sky, I encountered such an image: a pale, still river reflecting a fully formed, clear inverted trestle bridge in the water. Marveling at it, I wondered, which bridge is real, the one that’s right side up or the one upside down? As I continued to look at the water, I noticed fully formed trees, the lake street bridge, and clouds also reflected in the water. Very cool.

This images reminds me of May Swenson’s wonderful poem, Water Picture. Here’s an excerpt:

In the pond in the park
all things are doubled:
Long buildings hang and
wriggle gently. Chimneys
are bent legs bouncing
on clouds below. A flag
wags like a fishhook
down there in the sky.

The arched stone bridge
is an eye, with underlid
in the water. In its lens
dip crinkled heads with hats
that don’t fall off. Dogs go by,
barking on their backs.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. 4 stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  2. the clicking and clacking of ski poles as a roller skier approached from somewhere I couldn’t see
  3. running past the old stone steps: a clear, beautiful view of the forest floor and the trail that winds through bare tree trunks to reach the river
  4. the dark brown dirt of the Winchell Trail below me as I neared Franklin
  5. the folding table set up at the White Sands Beach far below me
  6. puddles on the franklin bridge — no ice, only standing water
  7. the ancient boulder on the east side of the river never has any stones stacked on it. Is that because its top isn’t flat enough?
  8. the fence panel that was removed a month or so ago, has been replaced and now, it’s hard to remember (or easy to forget) that it was ever missing
  9. looking down at the the part of the winchell trail that goes under the lake street bridge: the dirt is not a dark brown, but lighter, more yellow, almost like spicy brown mustard
  10. running north on the west side of the river road: car headlights approaching me through the trees

One more thing: I was able to greet both Dave, the Daily Walker and Mr. Morning! — that’s the name I came up with right now for the walker I’ve been seeing lately who likes to greet me with an enthusiastic, “morning!” I think he wears a darker blue coat, a stocking cap, and sunglasses. Mr. Morning! I love it.

I love how poets.org has an “about this poem” for each poem of the day. The one for today’s poem (from “The Book of Absence”) is very fitting for what I’m working on with my haunting poems:

About this Poem:

This is not poetry. This is a reading of the moment. Read it in the moment and pass on. Do not linger. Go. We don’t go to places. We go from places. We are dedicated to going, not staying. In going, we fade away. Consider my poetry as if you are walking down a road. Someone calls your name. You turn your head. There is nobody around. The road is deserted. Empty. You tell yourself somebody must have been there. But there is no one. Consider my poetry like that moment.”
—Alireza Roshan, translated by Erfan Mojib and Gary Gach

source

dec 1/RUN

6 miles
ford loop
38 degrees
humidity: 91%

It might reach the mid 50s today, but I couldn’t wait for that warmer weather to run. 38 is fine with me. I’d prefer less humidity, but I didn’t mind the gray sky and the cool mist on the river that it created. Not too many people out there. I did wave to Santa Claus — the tall, lean, older white male runner with a long-ish white beard — and “good mornied” the exuberant walker who always greets me with great enthusiasm.

Working on another of my haunt poems and started the run looking for a better word for the ending of it. Yes! Within 10 minutes, it came to me: lodged. What a wonderful thing moving and being outside is for my writing!

10 Things I Noticed

  1. Clear views of forest floors, the gorge, the other side
  2. Running up above on the lake street bridge: 2 people walking on the part of the winchell trail that winds under the bridge. Up here they looked like tiny black specks
  3. Below the lake st bridge on the st paul side: a crew in bright yellow jackets in a boat or some sort of floating dock — were they repairing something or looking for someone who fell in the river? Both are possible
  4. The stairs descending to the trail from the bridge: closed
  5. Empty bench after bench, each with a wide and clear view of the river and the west bank of the river
  6. A white dog pooping in the grass. It’s human bending over to pick up the poop
  7. People working on the 3.25 million dollar house being built by the east river road
  8. A leaf blower, the sound of its buzzing undulating as the person holding it squeezed and then released the grip
  9. Sirens and flashing cuts lights: an ambulance turning into Becketwood
  10. Shadow Falls: water trickling + patches of ice everywhere

I’m not sure what December’s theme will be yet. Maybe snow? Or the fragile, fleeting nature of everything? (This would be a contrast to October and November, in which I focused more on ghosts, as that which endure, remains, never fully leaves).

First Snow/ Arthur Sze

A rabbit has stopped on the gravel driveway:

           imbibing the silence,
           you stare at spruce needles:

                                 there’s no sound of a leaf blower,
                                 no sign of a black bear;

a few weeks ago, a buck scraped his rack
           against an aspen trunk;
           a carpenter scribed a plank along a curved stone wall.    

                      You only spot the rabbit’s ears and tail:

when it moves, you locate it against speckled gravel,
but when it stops, it blends in again;

           the world of being is like this gravel:

                      you think you own a car, a house,
                      this blue-zigzagged shirt, but you just borrow these things.    

Yesterday, you constructed an aqueduct of dreams
                      and stood at Gibraltar,
                                            but you possess nothing.

Snow melts into a pool of clear water;
           and, in this stillness,

                      starlight behind daylight wherever you gaze.