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.