feb 28/RUN

4.25 miles
minnehaha falls and back
35 degrees
30% puddle-covered

Another wonderful, spring-like day, if you consider 35 degrees and white ground everywhere spring-like, which I do. When the sun is this warm, the sky this blue, the birds this chatty, how can you not think of spring? Everywhere, wet: drips, drops, wide puddles stretched across the trail soaking my socks.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. that same bird call that I’ve been hearing and wondering about happened again, right before I reached the river. I heard it, then hoped it would be followed by some drumming. It was! I’m calling it; this sound is a pileated woodpecker
  2. a distant goose, or geese?
  3. cawing crows
  4. cardinals, doing at least 3 or 4 of their 16 (is it 16?) songs
  5. black-capped chickadees
  6. my shadow: off to the side, then behind, then finally in front of me
  7. the shadow of the old-fashioned lamp posts on the trail. So big, they almost looked ,\like giant potholes to me
  8. the river slowly opening. Still white, but darkening and thinning
  9. a kid yelling at the playground. At first, I thought they were a siren — so high-pitched and insistent!
  10. a mixing of sounds: an airplane, a bobcat, a crow, a kid, all crying out

As I left for my run, I remembered something I didn’t want to forget. I’m pleased that I still remember what it was after my run. Scott and I watched the first episode of After Party last night. Very good. Anyway, this episode focused on Aniq. For much of the episode he looked ridiculous: someone/s had drawn cat whiskers and ears on his face, along with the word “nerd” in big letters. It’s very obvious and a crucial element in understanding who he is as a character. Because of my vision problems — my lack of cone cells, limited central vision — I did not see any of this on his face until someone, the detective, finally referenced it. Up to that point, about 40 minutes, it was all invisible to me. I could see his face (well, roughly, I guess) and mostly follow what was going on, but I had no idea anyone had drawn on him. He looked “normal” to me. I wanted to remember this as an example of how my vision works, or doesn’t work, how much I miss that I’m not aware of. It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but you miss out on a lot of what’s happening and how it’s being communicated when you can’t see certain things and don’t even realize you’re not seeing them (and no one else realizes you’re not seeing them either; they just think you’re not paying attention or being stupid, or that you don’t care).

Here are two poems featuring birds that I encountered today. Both wonderful, both about much more than birds.

Egrets/ Kevin Young

Some say beauty
may be the egret
in the field

who follows after
the cows
sensing slaughter—

but I believe
the soul is neither
air nor water, not

this winged thing
nor the cattle
who moan

to make themselves
known.
Instead, the horses

standing almost fifteen
hands high—
like regret they come

most the time
when called.
Hungry, the greys eat

from your palm,
tender-toothed—
their surprising

plum-dark tongues
flashing quick
& rough as a match—

striking your hand,
your arm, startled
into flame.

In her discussion of the poem for The Slowdown Show, Ada Limón discusses the soul:

The Portuguese writer José Saramago wrote: “Inside us there is something that has no name, that something is what we are.” This seems clear enough. The soul is the part of you that you cannot name. One of the reasons I love the obsession that writers have with the soul is that their interest is not confined to what happens to the soul after you die. Rather, writers seem to be interested in what the soul is doing right now. Can the soul have likes or dislikes, coffee or tea, can one soul connect to another in what is called a soul mate? Is our soul only alive in relation to others, in community with nature, with something larger?

And here’s the other poem. It’s about cardinals. I heard, but never saw, many cardinals this morning on my run.

Statement of Teaching Philosophy/ Keith Leonard

In February’s stillness, under fresh snow,
two bright red cardinals leaping 
inside a honeysuckle bush.
All day I’ve thought that would make
for a good image in a poem. 
Washing the dishes, I thought of cardinals.
Folding the laundry, cardinals.
Bright red cardinals while I drank hot cocoa.
But the poem would want something else.
Something unfortunate to balance it,
to make it honest. A recognition of death
maybe. Or hunger. Poems are hungry things.
It can’t just be dessert, says the adult in me.
It can’t just be joy. But the schools are closed
and despite the cold, the children are sledding.
The sound of boots tamping snow are the hinges 
of many doors being opened. The small flames 
of cardinals and their good talk in the honeysuckle.

Wow, do I love this line: “The sound of boots tamping snow are the hinges/of many doors being opened.”

One more thing. After my run was done, and I was home, I went outside on my back deck and sat in the sun. Then I recorded this moment of sound. I’m calling it, Spring coming, drip by drip. As I listen back to it, I’m disappointed that trucks are so much louder than the drips.

spring coming, drip by drip / 28 feb 2022

feb 27/RUN

5.85 miles
bottom of franklin hill and back
21 degrees
5% snow and ice covered

Today, 21 degrees felt like spring. So many birds! Such warm sun! It’s not here yet, but you know it’s coming. I will miss winter running, but I’m ready for less layers, warmer temperatures. The sidewalks and trail had some slick spots, but I didn’t fall. Greeted Dave, the Daily Walker at the beginning of the run. Stopped halfway back up the franklin hill, under the bridge, to slow my heart rate down and to put in my headphones.

I thought about wonder and how it can be a creative and critical tool. When we wonder, we can experience awe and delight, we can also be curious about the world — how it works, the different ways we inhabit it, the varied histories of the land — and we can think critically and deeply about how power works in these spaces. We can wonder about who has access to these spaces, who feels safe in them, and who doesn’t. Wonder as curiosity as attention can enable us to become connected to and invested in the things we start to notice, like birds or trees. We begin to care about them; we want them to continue to exist, continue to inspire wonder, continue to flourish.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. at the start of my run: the drumming of a woodpecker! The clear, crisp staccato sound of knocking on hollow wood
  2. right before the drumming, I heard the call I often hear that sounds sort of like a loon, at least to me. It seemed to be calling out, “you think I am a woodpecker? You’re right!”
  3. the path was mostly clear, dry in sometime parts, wet in others. The chunks of snow that I noticed two days ago were almost all gone, melted or kicked out of the way
  4. blue sky, with the quick flash of a white airplane moving through it
  5. at least 2 or 3 groups of runners — small groups, 3-5 runners
  6. a lone goose honking. This time, I looked up and tried to locate it. Almost. I could sense them in the sky, way up high, felt the idea of them, but never actually saw them
  7. the ice of the river is beginning to crack open near the bridges, big streaks of dark water
  8. a few people were hiking through the tunnel of trees on the part of walking trail that never gets plowed. How deep is the snow there?
  9. after I finished my run, walking back home, a squirrel dangling in a branch high above my head
  10. on my block I stopped to listen to spring slowly approaching: so many trilling cardinals, a few black-capped chickadees, dripping eaves!

At the bottom of the hill, under the lake street bridge, it was crowded with approaching pedestrians and an icy path. I glanced over my shoulder quickly just before crossing over to other side of the trail: a bike, right next to me. Good thing I checked! I wondered how long they had been there and if I had obliviously cut in front of them a minute before as I crossed over to avoid the pedestrians. When I saw that they were there, my body didn’t panic — no heart in my stomach or rush of blood to my head. Was this because my body knew there wasn’t a real risk of being hit by the bike, or because I was too absorbed in my effort and music to recognize the danger? I guess I should avoid listening to music on the weekends when the trails are crowded.

This was the poem-of-the-day. So wonderful:

The Sun, Mad Envious, Just Want the Moon/ Patricia Smith

out of the way. It knows that I tend to cling
to potential in the dark, that I am myself only
as I am beguiled by the moon’s lunatic luster,
when the streets are so bare they grow voices.
The sun has lost patience with my craving
for the night’s mass-produced romance, that
dog-eared story where every angle is exquisite,
and ghostly suitors, their sleek smells exploding,
queue up to ravish my waning. Bursting with
bluster, the sun backslaps the moon to reveal
me, splintered, kissing the boulevard face first,
clutching change for a jukebox that long ago
lost its hunger for quarters. It wounds the sun
to know how utterly I have slipped its gilded
clutch to become its most mapless lost cause.
Her eye bulging, she besieges me with bright.
So I remind her that everything dies. All the
brilliant bitch can do for me then is spit light
on the path while I search for a place to sleep.

feb 25/RUN

3.5 miles
trestle turn around
17 degrees / feels like 9
100% snow-covered

I was planning to do a short run on the treadmill today, but when I went out to shovel the 2 or 3 inches we got yesterday afternoon and felt the warm sun on my face, I knew I needed to run outside by the gorge. What a beautiful day! Clear sky, bright sun, chatty birds. No wind or frozen fingers. I ran north towards the trestle today, first listening to the gorge, then to an old playlist (songs I remember hearing: “Eye of the Tiger”, “I Knew You Were Trouble”).

10 Things I Noticed

  1. running above the tunnel of trees, on the plowed biking trail instead of unplowed walking path, there were big chunks, almost balls, of snow on the edge of the path. Some were bright white, others with a tinge of gray. I made sure to avoid them but wondered, are these chunks of snow soft or hard? If I hit one with my foot, would it crumble or would my toe?
  2. lots of birds singing, sounding like spring, mostly cardinals, I think. At least one black-capped chickadee doing their fee bee song
  3. ran by the porta-potty below the lake street bridge. The door was closed so I steered clear of it, imagining someone might quickly open it on me, if I was too close. Last week, I ran by it and it was wide open. Why?
  4. the path was completely covered in snow. Some of it was soft, like sand, and difficult to run on. Some of it, was packed down or scraped away by a plow. Will most of this melt in the sun?
  5. the smell of the sewer, near 28th street as I passed a crosswalk. Stinky and fishy and foul
  6. a car doing a 3 point road turn at the top of hill, just past lake street, near longfellow grill
  7. a man and his dog, hanging out near the trestle, just above the steps down to the winchell trail, which are closed for the winter
  8. 2 runners, one of them wearing a red coat, shuffling her feet
  9. looking back to check if a biker was coming, see my shadow following me
  10. running down the hill to under the bridge, feeling like I was flying, my arms and feet in sync, my breathing easy

No geese or woodpeckers or kids laughing or crying. No overheard conversations about war or winter. No smells of burnt toast or breakfast sausages. No good mornings to anyone. No run-ins with squirrels or lunging dogs. A great run in which I forgot about a lot of things, and synced up with time in such a way that we both seemed to get lost or disappear or dissolve into the clean, blue air.

While doing some research for a course proposal I’m working on, I found a great article, “Running, Thinking, and Writing.” Here’s a question that was asked to some writers who run, and their answers:

Do you have trouble remembering your creative ideas after you have finished your workout? If so, any strategies?

Aschwanden: “I don’t use a special trick to remember. If the ideas are any good, I’ll remember them. At times I’ll repeat the thing to myself a few times as I run to make sure I’ve instilled it.”

Epstein: “I have a ton of trouble remembering the ideas I come up with while running. Sometimes I’ll tell myself, ‘I must remember this,’ and then five minutes later it’s totally gone. So I’ve taken to doing my own modified version of a memory palace where I make a little story that contains the cues that will remind me. Occasionally I’ve made notes in my phone’s memo app.”

Magness: “Yes, I forget them. This is the biggest problem I have with running as a path to insight. I don’t carry a phone or pen with me, and I don’t have a perfect solution. I often forget my big ‘breakthrough’ and spend hours trying to remember the insight. I try to retain thoughts by repeating them over and over in my head, and tying them to a landmark on the run. For example, if I get an idea while crossing a bridge at mile 4, I’ll incorporate that fact into what I’m trying to remember.”

McDougall: “I don’t want to screw things up by stopping to write notes. I just let it flow and try to visualize the big ideas as movie scenes in my mind. It’s not the words or phrases that matter. You just need to retain the Big Picture, and that’s easier to retain as an image rather than some syntactical word sequence.”

Miller: “Sometimes, I’ll forget. I try to remember by repeating the thought over and over in my head. Or I’ll type a note into my phone.”

Pappas: “I will stop and type in my phone if I have an idea that needs to be actually remembered.” 

Switzer: “They are absolutely very difficult to remember. I choose three of the most important ideas, and repeat them like a mantra. I’ll forget others, but can generally hold onto three. I do have to write them down as soon as I get home. If I shower or even stretch first, they’re gone.”

Thompson: “Yes! I do forget. But if I remember something genuinely useful, I will jot it down in Evernote at my desk after the run.”

Here’s a poem I bookmarked last spring. It seems fitting as I think about how running (or just being) by the gorge and noticing more things, then making note of those things, and turning some of them into poems, helped me to endure the 2 years of the pandemic.

Every day as a wide field, every page/ NAOMI SHIHAB NYE

1

Standing outside
staring at a tree
gentles our eyes

We cheer
to see fireflies
winking again

Where have our friends been
all the long hours?
Minds stretching

beyond the field
become
their own skies

Windows   doors
grow more
important

Look through a word
swing that sentence
wide open

Kneeling outside
to find
sturdy green

glistening blossoms
under the breeze
that carries us silently

2

And there were so many more poems to read!
Countless friends to listen to.
We didn’t have to be in the same room—
the great modern magic.
Everywhere together now.
Even scared together now
from all points of the globe
which lessened it somehow.
Hopeful together too, exchanging
winks in the dark, the little lights blinking.
When your hope shrinks
you might feel the hope of
someone far away lifting you up.
Hope is the thing …
Hope was always the thing!
What else did we give each other
from such distances?
Breath of syllables,
sing to me from your balcony
please! Befriend me
in the deep space.
When you paused for a poem
it could reshape the day
you had just been living.

feb 24/RUN

4.6 miles
minnehaha falls and back
7 degrees / feels like -3
50% snow-covered

As promised, I made it outside for my run today. Bright, but overcast, the sun behind a veil of white. Not that much wind, not that many people either. Wore the right amount of layers: 2 shirts, 1 jacket, a vest + 2 pairs of running tights, a buff, a cap, a hood + 2 pairs of gloves and hand warmers. Probably didn’t need the Yaktrax but I didn’t mind wearing them.

Heard a bird singing that at one point I had convinced myself was a pileated woodpecker, but now I’m not so sure. I didn’t get a recording of it today, but I found an old recording from last March. The bird I heard is near the end, sounding almost like the loon call they play at Twins games. What is this bird?

from 17 march 2021

Also heard the mournful cry of a single goose. I suppose I should have looked up and tried to spot it, but I just listened to it and wondered where it was going and where it had been.

The falls were still frozen, and so was the creek. The river was covered, but I could see thin spots or, what I am imaging are thin spots: the sporadic splotches of slightly discolored snow, looking almost light brown. On the cobblestones, above the falls, some snow had melted and refrozen into a slick, shiny mirror.

The kids were out on the playground at Minnehaha Academy, laughing and yelling. Not too much enthusiasm. Was that because it’s COLD out here near the river?

Noticed a mini-plow/bobcat ahead of me, entering the biking side of the double-bridge. Nice! It needed to be plowed. On my way south, I had to trudge through the soft, uneven snow — 3 or 4 inches of it — on the path. Instead of following the mini-plow, I stopped and walked the walking path, noticing the ravine below. I wondered if there would be a mound of snow blocking my path at the end of the bridge. No.

Encountered a fat tire with a bright headlight, some walkers, a few dogs, a runner or two. No cross country skiers or groups of runners. No kids on sleds. No Santa Claus or Mr. Morning!

Glanced down at the savanna as I ran by and admired the white hill and the bare brown branches. Thought I saw someone hiking, but looked again and realized it was a tree.

There was a blue — was it a peacock blue or turquoise? — bag on the bench near the 38th street steps. What was in the bag? Was it plastic or cloth? Where was its owner? Would I have been able to answer some of these questions if my cone cells weren’t all almost gone?

Russia invaded Ukraine.

feb 23/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
run: 2.4 miles
basement
3 degrees / feels like -10
about 5 inches of snow

Brr. I thought about running outside (I almost always do), but the feels like temperature is -10 and the paths are covered in snow, which is probably hiding ice, so I went to the basement. Tomorrow it will be as cold as today, but I’ll go anyway.

Finished the rest of the Dickinson episode I was watching where Emily and her family take a “daycation” (Lavinia’s words) to an insane asylum. Emily’s dad does not commit her in order to become a trustee. Emily’s mom wants to stay, but isn’t allowed, so when they return home, she announces that she will be going upstairs to sleep. Confused and concerned, Lavinia asks, “For a short nap?” The elder Emily answers, “No. Wake me up when the war is over.” Meanwhile, Henry (a free Black man who used to work for the Dickinsons, abolitionist, married to Betty, who traveled South to fight for the Union) is teaching a group of free Black soldiers, or almost soldiers if the white men in charge would give them the rank and better uniforms and weapons and the pay they deserve, to read. Emily’s mentor, Higginson, is the main white man in charge and, although his intentions seem good, he patronizes and bullshits them. It’s an interesting juxtaposition: Higginson as both Emily’s mentor and a well-meaning but clueless white savior/liberal.

As the Dickinsons are leaving the asylum, Emily recites this poem (in her usual way on this show: voice-over, with the cursive words scrolling fleetingly across the screen):

A little Madness in the Spring (1356) / Emily Dickinson

A little Madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King,
But God be with the Clown – 
Who ponders this tremendous scene – 
This whole Experiment of Green – 
As if it were his own!

As I ran, I listened to Taylor Swift’s Reputation again. I tried to avoid looking at my watch, so the time would pass faster, or without notice. It mostly worked; it is still much harder to run for more than 20 minutes on the treadmill. Much easier outside. I didn’t think about anything as I ran — did I? I don’t plan to run on the treadmill much beyond February. I should try to experiment with ways to find delight, or be curious, or to track how words move as I do before March happens.

And here’s another poem that isn’t really about anything else I’ve mentioned here yet, but I wanted to remember it, especially the lines about the bird:

The Husband’s Answers/ Rebecca Hazelton


The images don’t explain a story. They are a counterpoint. 

It’s understandable to mistake them for metaphor, but still, a mistake. 

The trouble comes from thinking. I could stop there. The trouble comes from thinking an image is a story. 

This is how painting began. Little glimpses into little worlds. Little glimpses into the faces of the divine. 

But we know that the gods don’t really look like us. 

Yes, all Western art. 

I can’t speak to that. 

Berger says the image, disconnected from a fixed location, proliferates, and changes through new context, strange juxtapositions, reframing. 

What they do to us, yes. The stories they tell us, and how we accept those stories. 

He is less interested in the stories we bring. 

If I show you an image of a bird flying, you might think freedom, or graceful, or wings. You might remember your mother pointing to the sky, naming the bird starlingheroncrow. But all of that is yours. 

The bird is just the bird, flying, following the magnetic fields of the earth home. 

I did not say the trouble was a bad thing. I only said that it was trouble. 

feb 22/BIKERUN

bike: 22 minutes
run: 1.3 miles
6 degrees / feels like -9
snow (about 4 inches so far)

The snow and cold are here. And some wind too. Today, I’m inside. Started another Dickinson episode. In this one, the “girls” (the Emilys + Lavinia) accompany Edward to an insane asylum for women. The younger Emily is too curious and poetic for the warden; he deems her a lunatic and is trying to pressure Edward into committing her. Will he do it? I’ll have to find out in the next episode. The other Emily (mom), decides she wants to be committed so she can have some rest, while Lavinia starts crying uncontrollably with an inmate who is distraught over the death of her boyfriend/fiance in the war.

Listened to Taylor Swift’s Reputation while I ran on the treadmill. This album isn’t very original, but the beats in it match my foot strikes well. It helped me to feel like I was flying or floating or slightly untethered for a few minutes.

Nothing interesting to notice in the basement today. No spiders or sara-shadows or unpleasant smells wafting down from the kitchen.

Found this poem while scrolling through a journal I’m submitting some poems to:

Hum/ Yvonne Zipter

For longer than memory, we thought giraffes
silent, their thirteen-foot windpipes too great
a climb for the air pushed from the bellows
of their lungs to quiver the cords of their voice boxes.

The truth is, they hum under cover of night,
and given the long tube of their tracheas,
I imagined they sound like didgeridoos,
and it seems that’s so—low and throbbing,

a lullaby for a gangly baby—though in fact
we don’t yet know why they hum. Perhaps
it’s merely for the pleasure of it, like my wife
who can barely breathe without also singing.

Did she always sing like this? I queried
my mother-in-law. Yes, she said. She hummed
constantly. It drove me crazy!
But I like the way
song waves move through her, use her,

as if she were the soundtrack to her own life,
a movie made for joy. Of course, it’s possible
giraffes simply convey giraffish data with their
rumbling vibrations. But I prefer to believe

they’re humming from a sense of safety,
knowing they can let their guard down,
that they’re among their own kind, humming
through the dark hours on a swell of happiness.

feb 21/RUN

4.45 miles
minnehaha falls and back
22 degrees / feels like 10
wind: 17 mph
less than 5% ice-covered

Windy, overcast. You can tell snow is moving in soon. A winter storm warning beginning this evening: 4-8 inches through Tuesday evening. It smelled like snow and cold and winter.

A wonderful run. Not over-dressed: green long-sleeved shirt, pink jacket, black vest, 2 pairs of black running tights, gray socks, a gray buff, black cap, pink hood, 2 pairs of gloves — one black, one pink with white stripes. Today I am coordinated, which is more by accident than design.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. very light gray sky, almost white
  2. the river was covered over; the snow/ice was mostly white with some stained spots that were a faint grayish-brown. Is that where the ice is thinning?
  3. the falls were completely frozen over. No roar, or dribble, or drip
  4. the creek below the falls was frozen over too, everything still, stopped
  5. as I approached the falls, I heard a lot of kids yelling and laughing. I wondered if it was a field trip and if they’d be near the falls overlook, taking over the path. They weren’t. They were at the playground instead
  6. running on the sidewalk through the neighborhood, the ice sometimes shimmered when the light was brighter. On the trail above the gorge, the ice was dull and flat and slightly brown. None of it was too slick
  7. on the outer rim of the Minnehaha Regional Park, near the road, I heard a loud boom: something being dropped into a big truck at a construction site
  8. someone was hiking with a dog down below on the snow-covered winchell trail
  9. every time I run by a trashcan that’s across the parking lot near the oak savanna, I think it’s a person. Mistaking trashcans for people happens a lot to me
  10. a group of much faster runners passed me on the double bridge. I watched as the distance between us became greater, then they turned up by the locks and dam no. 1 to cross the ford bridge and I didn’t see them again
  11. bonus: greeted Santa Claus! Our method for greeting: raising our right hands to each other

No “good mornings” offered, no birds heard (or remembered being heard), no cross-country skiers, no annoying path-hogging pedestrians, no open water, no shadows, no squirrels, no music, no park crews trimming trees, no black-capped chickadees or cardinals or turkeys.

Yesterday, I found an interview with the great poet, Ada Limón. Here are a few things she said that I’d like to remember:

ongoingness: the world is going to go on. And the world is going to go on without me, and without you. And the trees are going to keep living, and when they die, there will be more trees that are going to come. And that ongoingness of the world was really, in some ways, a relief.

How does her definition of ongoingness fit/not fit with Sarah Manguso’s in her book Ongoingness? I need to find my old notes to answer this….Found Manguso’s book instead. Here’s something she writes early in the book:

I wanted to comprehend my own position in time so I could use my evolving self as completely and as usefully as possible. I didn’t want to go lurching around, half-awake, unaware of the work I owed the world, work I didn’t want to live without doing.

Ongoingness/ Sarah Manguso

This quotation, especially her use of work here, reminds me of Mary Oliver and my study of her understanding of work on this log last April. Maybe time to explore that again?

When I say the word “surrender,” I mean giving into that timelessness. Time is real, yes, and it’s also a cycle. Surrender means not clinging to my own identity, to my own attachments, but finding some way to release my grip on the world. And of course when you release your grip you notice what you’re attached to, you notice the things you miss, and the things you love.

We have to live in a world where we have to protect ourselves all the time. Now even more so. We wear layers. We add a mask to it, we add isolation to it. There are so many ways we protect ourselves, even from ourselves. And I think it’s important to recognize that the self underneath the self needs witnessing.

One of the things the walk did for me was to decenter the self. At a certain point the mind opens and you start to watch, you get to witness, you get to listen, you get to receive the world instead of putting yourself into the world. I think I am someone who is inherently selfish, and I can turn anything into something about me. I think most people can. The more I walk, the more I can dissolve. The process of dissolving and being receptive to the world is where the poetry comes from. Sometimes it takes a lot of miles for that to happen.

feb 20/RUN

2.6 miles
river road, south/north
36! degrees

Wow, it feels like spring this morning! Warmer air, bright sun, melting snow, chirping birds — cardinals and chickadees. Lots of walkers and runners and bikers on the trails, but no one was taking over the path. Saw someone running in shorts, someone walking with their winter coat draped over their arm. Heard some people hiking the winchell trail. The path was mostly clear, with a few narrow sheets of ice. The river was still covered with snow and ice.

Before I went out for my run, I was listening to Lulu Miller’s story, “The 11th Word,” on Radiolab. (It was originally published in 2020 in the Paris Review). In it, she considers language and how the ability to name might shape us in negative ways. She discusses how we use language to name things, and while that give us order, and some sort of control, it also strips us of our ability to live in and with uncertainty. I kept thinking, as I listened, about poetry and how it often attempts to make words and language uncertain again. There are ways to use/play with/invoke language that aren’t about Knowing or controlling or getting rid of the uncertainty. I wondered if I would think more about this as I ran, I didn’t. I don’t remember thinking about anything but how it felt like spring and I was over-dressed and wishing I’d worn a few less layers.

Also before I went out for a run, I listened to about 20 minutes of Tommy Pico reading his amazing book-length poem, IRL. Wow! Here’s an excerpt of an excerpt from it. I’m blown away by Pico’s voice (the writing, and his audio).

excerpt of an excerpt IRL/ Tommy Pico

Just what is so scary abt
the cave? I… I can hear
my heart beating in there
and I don’t like it.
In an effort to connect,
fingers will click open
more and more tabs.
People say there are three
Muses or nine sometimes
six or eight but
we’re friends now,
Imma crack open
the mythology for u—
Really there are four
states of Muse:
Solitude
Intimacy
Anonymity
Reserve
Solitude carries a deck
of cards. Intimacy brought
lube. Anonymity is here
I think. Reserve gives gift
certificates. Obviously.
The influence of Muse
is not unlike being under
the influence, the way a poem
is spontaneously drunk
on Robert Graves. The
implications of Muse pop
fizz in all directions: photography,
printing press,
telephone, flash fry, cave etc.
The temple of Muse
is all around you. Don’t patronize
me, tradition
is a cage Conflict constant The
argument to post will take
more on and more alluring
forms. Muse must be chased!
Vigilance is all that stands btwn
us and a police state Tell me
as I switch between lenses—
which is clearer: A… or B. One
more time? Okay, A… or B.
I can’t ever see
where I stand in the lineage
of art, but I find being alone
maxes out my HP really
makes me kinder: Gap
btwn talking to mom vs
talking to mom
Muse used to mean
purpose in being
alone—Muse is romanticized
by the idea of possession and lord
knows I can’t live unoccupied.

I want to do something with their mention of switching between lenses and whether it is better in A or B. Very cool. Yes, the idea of being better with A or B (or 1 or 2), makes me think about this in-between state I’m in with my vision right now, both how well I can and cannot see, but also which world is better or preferable or more true, whatever that means — the world I was in where I could see mostly normally, or the world I’m slowly entering now where my central vision is almost gone or totally gone. I always struggle with either/or choices and the binaries they create. I want to do some more research on this vision test — what it’s called, who developed it and for what reason, why it’s used and if there are alternatives test to measure the same thing.

feb 19/RUN

4 miles
to lake nokomis
8 degrees / feels like -5
5% snow-covered

The first time in a long time: a one-way run! Scott picked me up at Lake Nokomis. I was able to run past the falls, on the parkway, to the creek path, almost to Lake Hiawatha, and then end at Lake Nokomis. It was cold, but the wind was mostly at my back, and there was the shining Sun. The path was clear of ice and people. Excellent. I woke up feeling stuffed up — another sinus infection or something worse? I’m assuming that it’s a sinus thing since I was able to run without a problem.

I don’t remember looking at the river even once. In fact, I don’t remember looking at much, or hearing or smelling many things. I guess I got lost. Let me try to list 10 things I noticed.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. 2 runners spread out on the path ahead of me, staying a constant distance away. We must have been running at about the same speed
  2. Thin sheets of ice lining the sides of the path, near the creek, by the river
  3. My shadow, somewhere
  4. the 2 runners turning off by Becketwood, taking the paved path that turns back into the neighborhood
  5. the annoying, insistent, whining buzz or ringing near the DQ of some sort of construction equipment
  6. no clear trail on the walking path (or, what some older woman called it as we tried to carefully pass her on our bikes about 7 or 8 years ago: “the people path”) that passes by the golden grove of trees and the duck bridge
  7. sprinting across the street as the light turned yellow (and making it safely, with plenty of time). Hearing a horn honk at the pickup truck first in line at the light — had they not noticed the light had turned because they were distracted by me running by a few seconds before?
  8. the lake was completely covered in snow, no open spots
  9. mostly the wind was at my back, but sometimes it pushed me from the side
  10. being passed by 2 runners near the falls, one of them called out “morning” as they passed. I called out, as usual, “good morning” — not sure why I always add the good to my morning when everyone else always says, “morning”?

Okay, I managed to think of 10 things. No bikes, no birds, no laughing kids, or big groups of runners, no sound of water, no shimmery light reflecting off the river, no music blasting from a car or a bike, no smell of pot or burnt toast, no overheard conversations.

Here’s a poem I found through twitter last week. The title is a form of poetry that I’ve never heard of before.

epithalamion: a poem written specifically for the bride on the way to her marital chamber.

Epitalamion/ Rebecca Lehmann

When I was a girl in Wisconsin, I dreamed I ’d marry
a man from Michigan. Then I did. When I was a man
from Michigan, I dreamed I ’d marry a begonia,
flowers choked with pollen. When I was a flower
from Michigan, I dreamed I ’d marry a comet
swooping around Jupiter, warming as it
hurtled toward Mars, growing a slick ice tail.
Remember Roethke’s boyhood in Michigan,
all the bogs and swamps and German ladies
pruning roses in hothouses while Midwestern
snows settled on dormant backyards?
When I was the snows of Michigan,
I dreamed I married a hothouse.
Remember the snap of the branch
in the dark fecund hothouse.
I used to smoke so many cigarettes.
When I was a cigarette in Michigan, I dreamed
I  ’d marry the sidewalk. When I was the sidewalk,
I dreamed I ’d marry Milwaukee. When I was Milwaukee,
I dreamed I ’d marry Lake Michigan.
All around me, photos document my heteronormativity.
When I was Lake Michigan, I dreamed I  ’d marry
a sea lamprey. When I was a sea lamprey,
I dreamed I ’d marry the side of a trout
darting through algae. When I was an algal bloom,
I dreamed I ’d marry a farmer. Quit listening.
Say no to who I am. When I was a farmer,
I dreamed I married the government.
When I was the government, I dreamed I married
every gnarly bluff east of the Mississippi.
There’s the Mississippi, Old Man River,
the Big Muddy, etc., etc. When I was a muddy
old river, I dreamed I married a pumpkin patch.
When I was a girl in Wisconsin, I arranged pumpkins
in my front yard to sell to tourists from Chicago.
When I was a tourist from Chicago,
I dreamed I married a pastoral fantasy.
I cracked open a rock and it was loaded
with crystals. When I was a crystal, I dreamed
I ’d marry the sky. When I was the sky, I dreamed
I ’d marry a girl from Wisconsin. When I was pregnant,
I dreamed I married my fetus. A muddy river
separated us. I woke up hungry, narrating
an epic poem. The Odyssey did not foretell my marriage.
When I was Odysseus, I dreamed I married
all of Penelope’s hanged maids, even though
I hanged them. Their dangling feet twitched
across our wedding night. When I was
a hanged maid, I dreamed I married the law.
But there was no law. When I was
lawlessness, I dreamed I married a chorus.
Their song split open Lake Michigan.
At its bottom, a baby gulped the new air.

feb 18/BIKERUN

bike: 24 minutes
run: 2.2 miles
basement
28 degrees
light snow

As usual, I thought about running outside, but when I took Delia the dog for a walk, I noticed how much ice was on the sidewalk — smooth, flat, slick ice. It was on the road too. So, even though it wasn’t that cold, and the birds were chirping like it was spring, I decided being inside was safer. I suppose it helped that I knew I could watch more of the episode of Dickinson that I started yesterday while I biked. I checked and I have 5 more episodes after this one in the entire series. Bummer. I’d like to finish it this winter, before I start always running outside.

After I biked, I listened to a playlist titled, Summer 2014, while I ran. This title was not accurate; I’m pretty sure I hadn’t heard Lizzo’s “Good as Hell” in 2014 (it didn’t exist yet, right?), but it was on this playlist. I have a habit of deleting and adding songs whenever I want. I suppose my playlists are ships of Theseus. I wonder, do I have any playlists that don’t have any of the original songs on them? Possibly.

Totally unrelated to my run or bike, but I’d like to remember this: Last night, or early this morning, my mom appeared in my dream, and she was not sick but healthy and happy. Still now, 11.5 years after she died, if she appears in my dreams, it’s often the sick and dying version of her. What a gift to get this healthy version of her today!

Decided to look up ship of Theseus on poetry foundation to find my poem of the day:

The Ships of Theseus/ STEVE GEHRKE

The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians    …    for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their place, insomuch that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same.
— Plutarch, Vita Thesel

The answer of course is that the ship
doesn’t exist, that “ship”
is an abstraction, a conception,
an imaginary tarp thrown
across the garden of the real.
The answer is that the cheap
peasantry of things toils all day
in the kingdom of  language,
every ship like a casket
of words: bulkhead, transom,
mast steps
. The answer
is to wake again to the banality
of things, to wade toward
the light inside the plasma
of ideas. But each plank
is woven from your mother’s
hair. The blade of each oar
contains the shadow of
a horse. The answer
is that the self is the glue between
the boards, the cartilage
that holds a world together,
that self is the wax in
the stenographer’s ears,
that there is nothing the mind
won’t sacrifice, each item
another goat tossed into
the lava of our needs.
The answer is that this is just
another poem about divorce,
about untombing the mattress
from the sofa, your body
laid out on the bones of the
double-jointed frame, about
separation, rebuilding, about
your daughter’s missing
teeth. Each time you visit
now you find her partially
replaced, more sturdily
jointed, the weathered joists
of   her childhood being stripped 
away. New voice. New hair.
The answer is to stand there
redrawing the constellation
of   the word daughter in
your brain while she tries
to understand exactly who
you are, and breathes out
girl after girl into the entry-
way, a fog of   strangers that
almost evaporates when
you say each other’s
names. Almost, but not quite.
Let it be enough. Already,
a third ship moves
quietly toward you in the night.

I love this line: “and breathes out/girl after girl into the entry-/
way, a fog of strangers that/almost evaporates when/you say each other’s/names.”

feb 17/BIKERUN

bike: 22 minutes
run: 3.1 miles
basement
2 degrees / feels like -10

Very cold and icy outside. It looks warm, with the bright sun, but it’s not. Finished another episode of Dickinson. On the advice of Higginson, Emily reads Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and has some wild fantasy about meeting him in New York City at a hospital, where he’s a nurse. Louisa May Alcott’s there too. As she pretends to be a dying soldier’s sister, and then gets drunk at a bar with Whitman, Emily reflects on the need for connecting with the world in order to write about it. These experiences are seductive but also excessive (and reckless?), suggesting that living life fully (feeling all its pain, all of its pleasure — Billy Eichner as Walt Whitman says) has its problems too. When I finished that episode, I started the next. So far, this one includes: Lavinia taking a vow of silence in solidarity with all the dead soldiers; the whole family, except for Austin, attending a local quilt show (with “Quilted” by Shiloh Rafe playing in the background), with Emily’s mom donating then demanding back her mother’s (or grandmother’s?) quilt; Emily receiving an affirming letter from Higginson reassuring her that her poetry was not dead, but alive; and the beginnings of a plan for celebrating Edward’s birthday: an old-fashioned family sing-a-long. I wonder what will happen next?

Listened to a playlist (Lizzo, Harry Styles, Ke$ha, Justin Timberlake) a I ran on the treadmill. I can’t remember exactly what I thought about, just that I was happy. About 10 or so minutes in, I glanced down to my right, and noticed something hanging off the bar of the treadmill. A spider? It looked like a spider to me but, with my vision, and the low light, and the fact that I was moving, I couldn’t tell. I didn’t stop to check. Instead, I tried keep an eye on it and stick closer to the other side of the treadmill. I had some irrational fear that it might jump on me. I tried to convince myself that this was a friendly spider that was joining me on my run. And I thought I should find a spider poem to post on here once I finished my run. When I stopped, I checked. No spider; a small bit of fuzz and a hairball dangling down from the bar. Of course.

When I thought about posting a spider poem, I thought about 2 things: first, a Virginia Woolf (very) short story I had read for a class a few years ago that I thought was about a spider — it wasn’t; it’s about a moth, The Death of the Moth. And, second, a poem by Robert Frost. I’m almost positive that this was the first poem I ever memorized and recited in an english class (actually, one of the only that I ever recited in a class). I can’t remember if it was in elementary or middle school.

Design/ Robert Frost

I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth–
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth–
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?–
If design govern in a thing so small.

The line that made me certain that this was the poem I had memorized was the one with the heal-all in it. I remember the awkwardness of that word and not knowing what a heal-all was. Pretty sure I didn’t look it up. I did today: (from wikipedia) “Prunella vulgaris, the common self-healheal-all, woundwort, heart-of-the-earthcarpenter’s herbbrownwort or blue curls, is a herbaceous plant in the mint family Lamiaceae.” It’s invasive, and very hard to get out of your backyard once it takes root. Of course, “looking it up” back in 1986 or so wouldn’t have involved google or wikipedia but the library and a librarian.

I can’t imagine I understood this poem at all as I memorized and then recited it. I have a vague memory that I picked it because it was the shortest option. Did my teacher tell me anything about the poem? Now I can tell it’s a sonnet with a classic sonnet rhyme scheme in the first 8 lines (ABBAABBA), then a variation in the last 6 (ACAACC). Supposedly it’s in iambic pentameter — I say supposedly because I always struggle to hear meter. Here’s a recording of the poem.

feb 15/RUN

5.5 miles
bottom of franklin and back
21 degree / feels like 10

At first, I was planning to bike and run in the basement this morning, but I decided outside was better. And it was. The paths were slick in spots, but I was fine. Yesterday when I went running at around this time, late morning, I was hungry. I thought I’d be fine, but halfway through the run, I felt very tired. Again today, I was hungry, but I ate a cookie before I left and it made all the difference. (The cookie was a snickerdoodle from a batch I baked yesterday for Valentine’s Day.) I had energy for the whole run.

More cardinals today, no black-capped chickadees. The sun was out, then not, streaks of blue sky in the cracks of the clouds. I could see my shadow. She was not sharp, but soft, a little more than the idea of her there, a little less than her solid presence. The gorge was still white, and so was the river, except for some cracks in the ice, especially near the bridges — lake and franklin. On the way down to the flats, I cross under the I-94 bridge. Someone painted graffitied letters in lime green a few months ago and now, in the dreary dregs of winter, right above the dark gray water, they look sad and tired.

I don’t remembering noticing any critters, although I do recall hearing some rustling in the brush across the road as I entered the flats. I looked, but couldn’t see anyone or anything. Smelled a strong wave of pot. Encountered several runners and walkers. Near the end of my run, I passed a runner stopped by the side of the trail, waiting while her dog pooped in the snow.

Anything else? I think I devoted a lot of energy to watching the trail, and making sure I was avoiding ice, especially the big, concrete-like chunks that blend into the white background. At least, for me — do they for people with normal vision? One of the bigger chunks could do some serious damage to my foot.

Almost forgot: As I was finishing up, running on the sidewalks, trying to avoid the sheets of ice stretching across parts of the path, I thought about how I can usually see the ice. It’s because my peripheral vision is fine, and that’s where I spot the ice. And, to see ice — that is, “warning! ice ahead, watch out!” — doesn’t require a highly focused, precise image. Ice is often a blob or a discoloration on the path. I don’t need cone cells to see that. And, the way I, and probably a lot of other people, detect ice is by noticing how the light reflects off of it differently than the bare sidewalk. The sun on ice shimmers and sparkles more. Gray-ish light on ice is duller, flatter.

I think I finished my mannequins poem, I’m titling it, “Praise Improbable Things,” after lucille clifton’s poem, Praises, and its refrain, “Praise impossible things.” I’m barely halfway done with the month, so I have time to explore other meanings of WYSIWYG. I’m thinking of sticking with the mannequins, but exploring alt-text for them.

Here are some sources for alt-text that I want to use/refer back to:

feb 14/RUN

3.5 miles
ford bridge and back
13 degrees / feels like 3
100% snow-covered, both loose and packed

Got an inch or so of snow last night, so the trails were covered. No problem with my Yaktrax. I wore too many layers and felt overheated. Today, even with the below freezing temperatures and all of the snow, it feels almost like spring. As I drank my coffee this morning, I heard a cardinal. While I ran, it was a black-capped chickadee. The sky was clear and blue, the sun was bright. February is almost half over. Hooray. Being out by the gorge was great, but my run was hard. I think I was hungry or tired from so many running days in a row. I stopped to walk a few times. Even with my struggles, I’m glad I went for a run.

It’s funny that I mentioned that it almost felt like spring, because, with all of the snow and the bright blue skies, it looked like a winter wonderland. I remember glancing down at the river, but I can’t remember what it looked like. I’m sure it was all white. Heard some kids at the playground. Encountered some walkers taking over the entire path. No fat tires or skiers, a few other runners.

Anything else? I don’t remember much of the run, which is cool. I was able to get lost.

feb 13/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
run: 1.3 miles
basement
4 degrees / feels like -5

Finished one episode, started another of Dickinson while I biked. Some celebrity appearances: Sojourner Truth and Walt Whitman (played by Billie Eichner!), plus the introduction of one of Dickinson’s key mentors: Thomas Wentworth Higginson, when he reads the letter Emily sends to him about her poetry. After I finished biking, I listened to a playlist while I did a short run to reach my weekly goal of 20 miles. Excellent.

Last night, Scott, RJP, and I went to Gustavus for FWA’s home concert. Amazing. I never would have guessed how much it would mean to me to have FWA attend Gustavus — to see him thriving, and to reconnect with the place where my life began.

I continue to work on my mannequin poem. It’s getting closer, now just down to picking a few new words to make it better. This part is a lot of fun, much less stressful than the part with the blank page. I listened to a recording of myself reading my latest draft as I cooled down on the treadmill. Thought about changing some words to fit better with my new name for the mannequins, not Queens but Crones. When they were queens, I described them as surveying the kingdom, as Crones, should they survey the forest? Also, queens are adorned in hats, what is the best word for how Crones are dressed?

Thinking about Crones and old women and wondering what poems have been written about them. Here’s one I especially liked:

Old Woman in a Housecoat/ GEORGIANA COHEN

An old woman in
a floor-length housecoat
had become sunset
to me, west-facing.
Turquoise, sage, or rose,
she leans out of her
second floor window,
chin slumped in her palm,
and gazes at the
fenced property line
between us, the cars
beached in the driveway,
the creeping slide of
light across shingles.
When the window shuts,
dusk becomes blush and
bruises, projected
on vinyl siding.
Housecoats breathe across
the sky like frail clouds.

feb 12/RUN

3.5 miles
river road, north/south
1 degree / feels like -9
90% snow and ice covered

Brrr. Not much wind this morning, but it was cold. Used hand warmers, still my fingers were freezing for a few minutes. My circulation to my fingers and toes is not the greatest. Why not? The paths were icy, but with Yaktrax, I didn’t slip at all. Maybe it was too cold to be slick? Heard a bird chirping. Saw my shadow, faint and fleeting. Noticed the alarm under the trestle again. Not too many walkers or runners, no fat tires. Early on, I saw another runner, running below on the unplowed walking path. The river was covered in white. The road was crowded with cars whizzing by. Smelled some pot, but didn’t see who was smoking it, or where. Listened to the crunching snow for the first half, then a playlist for the second.

Last night, we watched snowboarding on the Olympics. It was very exciting to see Nick Baumgartner from Iron River, MI (just miles from the family farm) win gold in the relay. The most exciting thing was hearing the announcers say Iron River and UP several times. How often do you hear that on national television?

I continue to work on my mannequin poem. It’s fascinating to witness how this poem is transforming from an initial spark of wanting to write about how I relate to and delight in the mannequins, to an imagining of a space where they are valued and able to be strange and out-of-touch or out-of-step or on the outside.

feb 11/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
run: 1.3 miles
21 degrees
wind + ice + snow

Watched most of the next episode of Dickinson. Emily is trying to help everyone, yet is failing to help anyone. She’s torn between Sue and her mother and sister, Austin and her father. She wants to lock herself in her room and write, believing that her poems are the only/best way to help others — her family and the nation, both divided, and the dying soldiers. A key question comes up a few times: what can poetry do? (and, is poetry ever more than just words?) I haven’t quite finished the episode, but this answer seems to be the most compelling, offered by the local seamstress, an African American woman named Betty:

Emily: So what if I can’t fix all the messy relationships in my family? The best thing I can do for the world, is to lock myself in my room and write my poetry.

Betty: But what good are your poems going to be if you do that? If you can’t handle the mess of the world, why should anyone need to hear what you have to say? Writing that shuts real life out is as good as dead.

Right before I started running, I listened to a recording of myself reading my mannequin poem. I have too many details, but I like the direction it’s going. Lots of editing needed. Here’s the beginning:

At the far edge of the fair
behind Merchandise Mart
in a red brick building
squeezed into an enormous glass case
are the mannequins.
Surrounded by
a glorious mess
of mismatched
textures textiles techniques
and adorned in handmade
hats and sweaters and coats
these legless armless women
preside over
a celebration
of an art form
both timeless and timed out.

Listening to the recording before I ran didn’t help me solve any of my poetry problems. Instead, I focused on my playlist as I ran.

It’s windy and white, with ice and snow covering the sidewalks. A blah day. February in its dreariest. Speaking of which, a poetry person posted this awesome news segment about February:

The idea about the trees revealing the truth, telling it like it is, seems like another version of, “What you see is what you get.” It’s funny because I have the opposite reaction to bare branches; I love the view they offer, and the gnarled truths they reveal. This could be another “WYSIWYG” poem.

feb 10/RUN

4.4 miles
minnehaha falls and back
18 degrees / feels like 8
less than 5% snow-covered!

Over the past couple of years, I’ve listened to several running podcasts. On one of them, the host ends the show by asking the guest to give listeners one reason to go out for a run today. More than half of the time, the answer they give is: because you’ll feel better and never regret it. For me, this is true. I’m better after every run and I’m glad I made it outside (or to the basement). Today included. It was colder than I expected, and I felt more sluggish than I’d like, but running for 40 minutes above the gorge and around the falls was an excellent way to occupy the late morning.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the drumming of a woodpecker on a tree just above the oak savanna
  2. the river, white and flat and quiet
  3. 2 or 3 park vehicles in turkey hollow — are they trimming some trees, or what?
  4. the falls, frozen and still
  5. clearest view of the river: between folwell and 38th, beside a split rail fence
  6. best view of the falls: on the opposite end, near Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha” etched on top of a low stone wall. I stopped and stood on some packed down snow — a clear, straight shot of the falls, the creek, and the bluffs around it
  7. the paths were almost completely clear except for a few spots where ice spread across one side (the result of snow that melted in the warm temps on Monday refroze)
  8. kids yelling and laughing at the playground at Minnehaha Academy
  9. a car pulling into one of the parking lots at the falls, then looping around quickly and leaving
  10. About 10 people at the falls, walking above, admiring the view

I’m still working on thinking about “what you see is what you get” and the state fair mannequins, but I’m struggling. Is it possible for me to write about them in a meaningful way? Not sure. This morning, I was thinking more about form. I thought about how I imagine my poem as one of praise for the mannequins, and the improbability that they continue to exist. Then I thought about hymns and how Emily Dickinson wrote in common meter/hymn form. Quatrains: 8/6/8/6, mostly iambic tetrameter/iambic trimeter ABAB rhyme scheme (with lots of slant rhymes) (Common Questions on Emily Dickinson). This sounds exciting and promising, but do I have words to fit this form? Unsure. I also thought about one structure Mary Oliver uses in her poems of praise: First, a detailed description of the delightful thing; then a display of wonder/astonishment, possibly the posing of a question; and, finally, a revelation. I want to try these different approaches with some sort of praise poems, but I’m not sure they work for the mannequins.

One approach to the poem could be to provide more detail and development of the “as-is” mannequins’ location in the creative activities building at the Minnesota State Fair: encased in glass, jammed with sweaters and ponchos, dresses, hats, mittens, aprons. Close to the quilts, the rugs, the weavings. Across from the jars of jellies and jams and pickled beans, pickled peppers, pickled cucumbers. Cookies, breads, cakes, honey. And, for a few years, melted crayon art. The domestic arts. The enemy of convenience, the ready-made, the instant, the quick. Homemade, not store-bought, requiring slow, patient effort, “traditional” techniques. The point of this effort is not to sell (or buy) more of anything, but to pass on these practices, different forms of knowledge (and to win a ribbon). Things in this building are not typically recognized as artistic or possessing Beauty (as a form), but as functional, useful, necessary for survival. Women’s work. How much of this to put in this poem? And, how do I connect that with another important aspect of the mannequins: my kinship with them as strange not quite human aliens who almost look real — almost — but lack that extra something, like the spark in the eye, the direct eye contact. Not sure how (or if) I’ll do this yet.

Here are 2 praise poem that offer some good inspiration as I continue to push through how to write my poem:

Praise the Rain/ JOY HARJO

Praise the rain; the seagull dive
The curl of plant, the raven talk—
Praise the hurt, the house slack
The stand of trees, the dignity—
Praise the dark, the moon cradle
The sky fall, the bear sleep—
Praise the mist, the warrior name
The earth eclipse, the fired leap—
Praise the backwards, upward sky
The baby cry, the spirit food—
Praise canoe, the fish rush
The hole for frog, the upside-down—
Praise the day, the cloud cup
The mind flat, forget it all—

Praise crazy. Praise sad.
Praise the path on which we’re led.
Praise the roads on earth and water.
Praise the eater and the eaten.
Praise beginnings; praise the end.
Praise the song and praise the singer.

Praise the rain; it brings more rain.
Praise the rain; it brings more rain.

I especially like the repetition and the detail of this poem.

This next one, offers a much pithier approach:

All Praises / Lucille Clifton

Praise impossible things
Praise to hot ice
Praise flying fish
Whole numbers
Praise impossible things. 
Praise all creation
Praise the presence among us
of the unfenced is.

Wow. Talk about effective condensing! I love the repetition in this one as well. And, that unfenced is? the best!

feb 9/BIKERUN

bike: 22 minutes
run: 1.45 miles

32 degrees, feels like 22, with 22 mph wind gusts. Puddled paths that are part slushy water, part ice. With these conditions, and since I ran outside yesterday, I decided to stay inside. Watched another episode of Dickinson. Sue is in labor, Emily’s mom (also named Emily) is her self-appointed midwife. Austin is drunk and hosting a maple sugaring party. And Emily is meeting up with Austin’s college friend who is about to leave for the war and who Emily believe will die (and become the “nobody” ghost that haunted her in season 2). He tells her that she is the only person who is willing to tell the truth about the horrors of the war, to “call it like it is,” to look straight into the darkness. Could this be another definition of “what you see is what you get”? A straight shooter, truth-teller who calls it like it is? While I ran, I listened to a playlist and tried to think some more about out-of-date mannequins and the “as is.” And, maybe I did, but now, about 30 minutes after I finished my run, all I can remember is connecting my love for the unloved, dismissed mannequins with the aging body and a fear of death.


feb 8/RUN

5.75 miles
franklin loop
24! degrees
5% snow-covered

Warmer today. Today’s high is 42. Sunny, not too much wind. Greeted Dave the Daily Walker and he called out, “a great day to be outside!” Yes. Not too crowded on the trail. Not too slushy either. Felt relaxed and motivated to run for a little less than an hour. For most of the run (the first 4.25 miles, until I reached the lake street bridge), I didn’t have headphones in, but for the last mile and a half, I put in my jan/feb playlist.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the floodplain forest was white and open and empty
  2. the river was also white, with a few small cracks beginning to appear
  3. for the first mile, there was a strong smell of gasoline. Was it the quality of the air, moisture holding in the fumes?
  4. no one was sledding down the hill between edmund and the river road
  5. running under the railroad trestle, I heard a chirp or a beep. I wondered if it was some strange bird then realized it was a warning beep. Was there a train coming? I looked and listened but couldn’t sense any sign of one
  6. the huge boulder on the east side of the river was half covered with snow
  7. thought I noticed someone running below, on the walking path, through the tunnel of trees — a flash of a gold shirt — but it was just some dead leaves on a tree
  8. running west on the lake street bridge, the trees were a blur, whizzing past through the slats in the bridge railing
  9. ran above the part of the Winchell Trail that steeply descends to the gorge, noticed how it was buried under snow, and thought about hiking it in the fall, which feels so long ago, and encountering a family as we climbed up and they climbed down: a father, a toddler in pajamas, and a mother with a baby strapped to her front
  10. a few other speedy runners, 1 or 2 bikes, 2 or 3 dozen dogs, lots of walkers

This morning, I’m continuing to think about “as is” as a meaning for “what you see is what you get.” I suddenly remembered the island of misfit toys.

The misfit, mistake toys — a pistol that shoots jelly instead of water, a bird that swims instead of flies, a cowboy that rides an ostrich instead of a horse — all want to be accepted and loved by some “girl or a boy.” They lament their banishment to the island. At the end, they are “saved” by Rudolph and Santa and become presents. I didn’t watch the entire show; are they “fixed” or delivered “as is” to the kids? Will the kids (or their parents) be happy with broken/misfit/flawed toys? I mentioned this to Scott and he said, “I would LOVE a cowboy riding on an ostrich!” Much of my love for the State Fair Mannequins is because they continue to exist outside of the acceptable in an old, out-dated creative arts building. I don’t want them to fit in, or to have what “fits” be expanded to include them. I like that there is a space that seems to exist outside of progress and the newest, slickest model. But, there’s a tension for me, too: I appreciate (and identify with) these mannequins as strange, queer misfit resistors, but I also feel haunted by the pressure (and sometimes the desire) to fit in, where fit in = connect, be recognized as acceptable and human, not have to always work against the “normal.” I want to think about how I can express that unresolved/unresolvable tension.

Before I went out running, I watched the misfit toys clip and wrote some of the previous paragraph. As I ran, I thought about them and the mannequins and some words came to me. I held onto them until I could record them into a voice memo while I walked up the lake street bridge steps: “not improved, accommodated, fixed, cured. Just left alone.” I’d add now: left alone to be, away from the new, the novel, the latest model.

I found this poem when I searched, “mannequin” in the poetryfoundation.org database:

To the Mannequins/ HOWARD NEMEROV

Adorable images, 
Plaster of Paris 
Lilies of the field, 
You are not alive, therefore 
Pathos will be out of place. 

But I have learned 
A strange fact about your fate, 
And it is this: 

After you go out of fashion 
Beneath your many fashions, 
Or when your elbows and knees 
Have been bruised powdery white, 
So that you are no good to anybody— 

They will take away your gowns, 
Your sables and bathing suits, 
Leaving exposed before all men 
Your inaccessible bellies 
And pointless nubilities. 

Movers will come by night 
And load you all into trucks
And take you away to the Camps, 
Where soldiers, or the State Police, 
Will use you as targets 
For small-arms practice, 

Leading me to inquire, 
Since pathos is out of place, 
What it is that they are practicing.

feb 7/BIKERUN

bike: 20 minutes
run: 2.6 miles
7 degrees / feels like 0

Thought about running outside, but decided that it would be warmer tomorrow, and that I wanted to watch some more of Dickinson. Finished the first episode of season 3, which was all about death — Aunt Lavinia’s death, too many young men in the community dying due to the Civil War, Edward (Dad) having chest pains and then almost dying from a heart attack, the barely alive relationship of Austin and Sue. Some of the parallels between the never-ending, nation dividing war and the pandemic seemed a bit heavy-handed, but it was funny to hear Lavinia (sister) lamenting her lost 20s because of the war: “It’s soooo boring and taking sooo long. This is our 20s, we’re supposed to be having fun!”

Started my run by listening to Erik Larson’s No One Goes Alone, but then decided I wanted to listen to music and think more about my latest version of “what you see is what you get”: as is…In praise of the “as is,” the outdated, bargain basement dwelling forgotten ones. I’m thinking about the State Fair mannequins and how I’ve wanted to write about them for years now. Maybe I finally will? I hope so.

A few minutes into the run, I had some ideas, so I stopped my music, pulled out my phone, and recorded them while running. A bit awkward, but I didn’t drop the phone or fall off the treadmill. Listening back to the recording, it’s hard to hear my voice over my striking feet, so I won’t post the recording. I talked about the “as is” as the old, out-dated, bargain basement, and progressive lenses versus bifocals and how the type of cone dystrophy I have is progressive cone dystrophy because my vision has not stabilized and is continuing to grow worse — it’s progressively deteriorating, as opposed to stationary cone dystrophy where your vision stays at the same level; it’s already lost what it’s going to lose. The progress I’m experiencing is progress as getting worse not better, which is a type of progress that rarely gets mentioned in all the appeals to it. This reminds me of Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing and a line she has about capitalism wanting uncontrolled/unlimited growth and how that’s what cancer is. I found it on goodreads:

But beyond self-care and the ability to (really) listen, the practice of doing nothing has something broader to offer us: an antidote to the rhetoric of growth. In the context of health and ecology, things that grow unchecked are often considered parasitic or cancerous. Yet we inhabit a culture that privileges novelty and growth over the cyclical and the regenerative. Our very idea of productivity is premised on the idea of producing something new, whereas we do not tend to see maintenance and are as productive in the same way.

How to Do Nothing/ Jenny Odell

I also found a similar, and much earlier quotation by the park ranger/ troublemaker/ writer/ environmental activist Edward Abbey:

growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.

Edward Abbey

About a mile later, my thoughts went in a different direction with the as is. Here is some of the notes I recorded into my phone mid-run:

  • “as is” in terms of metaphor — I think I was thinking about the “as” or “as in this or that…” — and how what you see is what you get is the opposite of metaphor, the what that you see is what it is and nothing else, not almost or approximate.
  • what you see = your perspective, how you perceive/interpret/understand the world is how it is (or, more precisely how it seems/appears) to you. I was thinking particularly about my struggles to see/recognize other people’s faces and how I imagine others see me as rude or distant or unfriendly because of it. But, do they, or is that how I see myself? I feel like I’m not quite explaining this as I’d like to, but I’ll leave it for now

Of course, when I think about “as is,” I also think about IKEA and their as-is department:

The As-Is section is where you can view the selection of floor samples, discontinued pieces, and customer returns at a reduced price. IKEA has a certain amount of merchandise throughout the year that we retire, which ensures that we keep our selection of products up-to-date. That merchandise can end up in As-Is along with seasonal products that are left over after summer or after the winter holidays.

source

priced to sell, reduced, retired, discontinued, out-of-date, used, floor sample, damaged, banged up, unwanted or not wanted enough, last chance, remainders, hidden in plain sight (you know it’s there, but you ignore it), minor flaws (descriptions from the IKEA interview).

As Is/ Nicholas Friedman

Just north of town, a quaint Sargasso Sea*
for bric-a-brac: the barn, itself antique,
spills over with a grab-bag panoply
of outworn stock revalued as “unique.”
Typewriters tall as headstones fill the loft
where they’ve been ricked away like sacks of grain;
a coffer yawns the must of oak—gone soft—
when one man, squinting, lifts the lid to feign
intrigue. Nearby, his wife surveys the smalls:
art deco bangles bright as harpsichords,
a glut of iron trivets, Christmas balls,
Depression glass and warping Ouija boards.
One man’s junk is another’s all the same.
They don’t buy much, but that’s not why they came.

*I am familiar with Jean Rhys’s book, but wasn’t sure how Sargasso Sea worked here. Looked it up: “a vast area of the northern Atlantic Ocean which is home to sargassum, a kind of seaweed. The Sargasso Sea is legendary for being an oceanic black hole, where ships get ensnared by huge forests of floating seaweed, or drift helplessly when the wind ceases to blow.” Also found out: It’s the only sea not bounded by land.

feb 6/RUN

3.45 miles
river road, south/north
21 degrees / feels like 13
100% snow-covered

White and gray and a little gloomy this morning. Warmer. Not too cold. I was able to wear less layers: 1 pair of gloves instead of 2, one less shirt, no hood only my winter cap. Sometime last night, it snowed — a dusting. Enough to cover the trail, but not enough to make it more difficult to run. Looked down at the river: all white. Looked up at the sky: all white, too. It might have been snowing a little, but it was hard to tell. Mr. Morning! greeted me with an extra enthusiastic “morning!” and a wave. Like I often do, I imagined stopping to say hi and telling him that I call him Mr. Morning! because he always greets me with such delightful enthusiasm. I didn’t. The color of the day: bright, glowing orange. I was wearing it, and several other runners I encountered were too. Saw at least 2 fat tires, one with their bike light on. Overheard 2 walkers talking. One said: “Oh no, I don’t walk to Franklin. I used to run it, but it’s too far to walk. It’s 8 miles.” I wondered why she stopped running, and if she misses it. For 3/4 of the run, I listened to the gorge and my own breathing. For the very last bit, I put in a playlist — “Love is a Battlefield” and “Pressure” — and powered up the hill.

A great run. Always happy and grateful to spend time outside, moving my body by the river.

I’m thinking a lot about “what you see is what you get” and I’m starting to have too many ideas. Getting overwhelmed by possibilities. Maybe I should just watch the Olympics today? Yes, but before that, here are some meanings for whizz from the online OED (for the whizzy in whizzywig/WYSIWYG):

  1. An act, or the action, of whizzing; a sibilant sound somewhat less shrill than a hiss, and having a trace of musical tone like a buzz; a swift movement producing such a sound.
  2. The practice of picking pockets (chiefly in  on the whizz); a pickpocket. slang
  3. intransitive. To make a sound as of a body rushing through the air (see whizz n.1); (of trees) to rustle; (of a burning or hot object) to hiss, sizzle.
  4. To move swiftly with or as with such a sound.
  5.   intransitive. To urinate. slang. (as in, the whizz palace)

Looked up “whizz” in poets.org and found this poem with whizzing hummingbirds:

A Nearly Perfect Morning/ Jessica Greenbaum

It was a nearly perfect morning—bucolic, pastoral—
so I found myself cataloguing my past humiliations.
Really, there was no reason for it! I might as well have
looked for an ant hill to lie down on in a meadow
of goldenrod. I can’t explain it but perhaps I thought
that with the rising sun as my witness, with the catbirds
crows, and whizzing hummingbirds my soundtrack
that I could ameliorate them, neutralize their charges
against me by holding them up to the woods now in wait
for the light to balance on their individual leaves, on
the absorbing vastness of my fortune. The concentric rings
of the spider web have the wiry shine of guitar strings
there’s been so little wind it seems the trees have not
yet shook themselves awake, but we are moving around
this light at such a pace that by now the sun is nested
in the crook of two thin branches that could not hold
anything else. I was barely up to the third count
against my integrity when the whole lake turned white
but I decided it was not aghast, just trying to erase.

Looked up “whizz” on poetryfoundation.org and found this delightfully excessive poem about how water falls at Lodore. To save some space, I’m only including an excerpt:

from The Cataract of Lodore/ Robert Southey

Collecting, projecting,
 Receding and speeding,
 And shocking and rocking,
 And darting and parting,
 And threading and spreading,
 And whizzing and hissing,
 And dripping and skipping,
 And hitting and splitting,
 And shining and twining,
 And rattling and battling,
 And shaking and quaking,
 And pouring and roaring,
 And waving and raving,
 And tossing and crossing,
 And flowing and going,
 And running and stunning,
 And foaming and roaming,
 And dinning and spinning,
 And dropping and hopping,
 And working and jerking,
 And guggling and struggling,
 And heaving and cleaving,
 And moaning and groaning;

And so never ending, but always descending,
 Sounds and motions for ever and ever are blending
 All at once and all o’er, with a mighty uproar, –
 And this way the water comes down at Lodore.

I really like that cataract is another word for waterfall. So many poetic possibilities! Okay, I’m stopping now. Really.

feb 5/BIKERUN

bike: 10 minutes
bike stand
run: 3.25 miles
treadmill
10 degrees / feels like -6

Watched a few more minutes of Dickinson. Austin is drunk all the time, Sue is expecting his baby, Sue and Emily have declared their love for each other, Edward (Emily’s Dad) is having chest pains, and the mean girls are back. Oh, and the Civil War is raging and all the men in the town are dying. Should be an interesting season. Began listening to Erik Larson’s new book about William James and his expedition to a haunted house while I ran. Excellent! It’s called, No One Goes Alone. Listening to a book on the treadmill might help me to run longer. 30 minutes went by pretty quickly.

While I ran, I had some ideas of what and how to write about what you see is what you get: a lyric essay that juxtaposes many different ideas about it. I pulled out my phone and recording myself as I ran:

notes while running

Later, after I finished my run, while I was doing a cool down walk on the treadmill, I thought of another idea about what you see is what you get and Medusa and spoke it into my phone:

notes while walking

And, thinking about WYSIWYG as whizzywig, here’s a delightful poem I discovered about wigs:

Wigs Everywhere/ Justin Jannise

The brown squirrel, coiled & clinging
to the guardrail of my balcony,
is a wig.

I stepped out of the shower to dry my feet
on a damp wig.

You can fold a wig in a certain way
that it becomes a cup from which you can swig

water or juice or wigskey,
which is whiskey distilled
from fermented wigs.

I met Dolly Parton & she was all wig.

Kristen Wiig is a wig.
So was Ludwig van Beethoven.

In Britain, there used to be two political parties
—the Whigs & the Wigs.

There are wigs that are mops
& wigs that seduce cops.

In some countries, it is illegal for wigs
to marry other wigs.

Have you ever slept in a wig? It’s itchy.

The best wigs in life are free,
but the second-best cost
extraordinary amounts of money.

Somewhere in Detroit, you can trade
20 small wigs for one giant wig

& the award for Best Wig Ever goes to
Medusa. I love how she’d rather lose her head
than part with it

& how, even without a heart,
the head maintains its awful power.

feb 4/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand
run: 2.2 miles
treadmill
7 degrees / feels like -8

Finished the final episode of season 2 of Dickinson and started the first episode of season 3 while I biked. This first episode of season 3 is titled, “Hope is the thing with feathers.” I memorized that poem last March. Didn’t think about it that much while I was finishing up my bike, but it, particularly the idea of hope, returned to me on my run.

I started my run feeling out of sorts, thinking about the possibility of a job I could apply for that sounds like a good/fun opportunity, but might require more vision than I have. As often is the case, I wondered: am I not pushing myself enough, using my vision loss as an excuse, or is this job just something too far beyond my abilities — too demanding, too much, too impractical for someone who can’t see fast enough? It took listening to several songs before I forgot these worries.

As I ran, I stared ahead at the blank tv screen, noticing how that empty black screen filled most of my central vision, while all around it, on the edge and outside of the frame were images — the light above, the wall to the side, parts of the treadmill and the floor below. All the things I can see in my periphery. Even when my central vision is all gone, if/when that happens, I don’t think I will see the world like this, with a black space surrounded by slightly fuzzy, but identifiable shapes. Everything in the center will be more like a smudge, or a fogged up window.

Thinking about my periphery and what I can see with it, I’m reminded of watching ice skating on the olympics last night. I can tell my vision is worse; it is very difficult to follow, or to see the skater — well, I could see the skater, but mostly just flashes of their movement, not as a whole, complete object. To actually see the skater, I tried looking off to my right so I could see them through my periphery. Much better. Not completely clear, but they became a discrete, stable object on the ice.

So, I was thinking all morning about my theme for the month, what you see is what you get. I discovered that it was the catch phrase of Flip Wilson, used by his character, Geraldine. One source I found suggested it meant: this is me, accept me for who (and what and how) I am. I also was reminded that this phrase turns into a computer acronym: WYSIWIG. I mostly use the WYSIWIG editor on wordpress. I forgot it was called that because now they refer to it as the visual editor (as opposed to the code editor). I kept thinking about how this idea that what you see on the screen is what appears on the printed page is an illusion, concealing all the code that is required to make it appear as you want it. About a decade ago, I started learning some of that code (html, css). I don’t know much, just enough to understand that everything about how words or images look online involves a ton of behind-the-scenes brackets and semi-colons and classes and ids (and more). I find a lot of value in understanding, or at least being familiar with, how this works. And, I find a lot of danger in believing that all of what appears on a screen just is the way it is, almost by magic. I’m not suggesting that everyone should learn to code — wasn’t that a trendy slogan a few years ago? — but that they should be aware of how it works, and that it exists.

This ignoring of the process, and the naive belief that “things just happen,” reminds me of how many (most?) people believe vision works: you see what’s there with your eyes. They don’t think about the complex processes of vision, from cornea to retina to visual cortex, and how the brain, to make things easier and/or efficient, or because it has limited data, distorts or alters or guesses. When we see, we are not seeing the world as it is, but how our brains have figured it out.

Human perception is patently imperfect, so even a normal brain must fabricate a fair amount of data to provide a complete sense of our surroundings. We humans are lucky that we have these fancy brains to chew up the fibrous chunks of reality and regurgitate it into a nice, mushy paste which our conscious minds can digest. But whenever one of us notices something that doesn’t exist, or fails to notice something that does exist, our personal version of the world is nudged a little bit further from reality. It makes one wonder how much of reality we all have in common, and how much is all in our minds.

Chuck Bonnet and the Hallucinations/ Alan Bellows

As I was running, I thought again about E Dickinson and her feathered hope, and then the idea of hope and faith, and why we need it, how we envision it. Then, I pulled out my phone and recorded myself, mid-run:

What you see is what you get is an illusion, a type of empty hope, false faith, that some need to survive.

Is this fair? I’m not sure, but it’s something to think about some more, the idea that people invest an uncritical faith (I’m resisting the impulse to write “blind faith” here) and superficial hope in the belief that what we see is what is there, and that what we see is what is real. This belief provides comfort, makes it easier, enables them to not have to question or challenge, just accept.

Also on my run, as I listened to the excellent-for-running song, TNT by AC/DC, I thought about alt-text, and alt-text poetry, and how I might use it for a poem that pushes against the idea that what you see is what you get. Maybe vivid text descriptions of some things I see in my strange, slightly off ways, paired with straight, clear/basic description of those same things? I really like this idea; I’ll keep going with it to see if it could work.

To remember:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers/ Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers —
That perches in the soul —
And sings the tune without the words —
And never stops — at all –

And sweetest — in the gale — is heard —
And sore must be the storm —
That could abash the little Bird —
That kept so many warm —

I’ve heard it in the chillest land —
And on the strangest sea —
Yet, never in Extremity,
It asked a crumb — of Me.

“Faith” is a fine invention / Emily Dickinson

“Faith” is a fine invention
For Gentlemen who see!
But Microscopes are prudent
In an Emergency!

feb 3/RUN

4.6 miles
minnehaha falls and back
0 degrees / feels like 0
0% snow-covered

It was cold today, but there was sun, and no wind, so I decided to run outside above the gorge. It felt colder than 0 to me, especially at the beginning. I started to get a slight headache from the cold air on the bridge of my nose. Once I warmed up, it went away. The other part of me that was cold for a few minutes: my feet.

layers (extra cold version)

  • one pair of socks
  • 2 pairs of gloves, 1 black, 1 hot pink with white stripes + hand warmers
  • 2 pairs black running tights
  • green base layer long-sleeved shirt
  • black 3/4 pull-over
  • pink jacket with hood
  • gray jacket
  • buff
  • black cap
  • sunglasses

Mostly, I was alone on the trail. When I did encounter people, it was almost always walkers alone, or in pairs, often in clusters — one walker, then a few seconds later, another walker, etc. At the falls, there were a few more people. At least 2 of them had big cameras. The falls were totally frozen, so was the creek up above. Almost everywhere, it was quiet and still.

This month, I’ve decided to read and write about a phrase that is also the theme for a call for poems from a journal that I’m submitting to: “what you see is what you get.” I’m hoping to approach this from as many angles as I can think of (and have time for). As I ran, I thought about in two ways:

what you see is what you get = whatever it is you can see (with your cone dystrophy), is all you get to work with for figuring out how to make sense of something. With the limited data I get from cone cells, that will involve some guessing, and relying on other senses + past experiences

what you see is what you get = what you see is not what you get, or what is real is not seen, but sensed in other ways, like air and wind. You can’t see wind or air, but you know it’s there. I think I was thinking about another example — maybe something to do with shadows? — but I’ve forgotten now.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. School kids on the playground — in 0 degrees. Minnesota kids are hearty
  2. The collar of my jacket rubbing against my hood
  3. My breath, labored as I ran up a hill
  4. Some sort of bird chirping, sounding like spring
  5. A car’s wheel whooshing on the river road
  6. A low, almost shrill and sharp, buzz just barely noticeable near the DQ
  7. The soft shuffle of my feet striking the grit on the path
  8. Someone on the walking side of the double-bridge holding a snowboard (I think?), then a thud, then that someone yelling something that sounded slightly distressed, but mostly not. What were they doing?
  9. Returning 20 minutes later to the bridge, hearing some scraping or pounding in the ravine below. I don’t know what the noise was, but I imagined snowboard dude, along with some other snowboard dudes, was chipping ice, or climbing an ice column, or doing something else to ice to make it possible for them to get back up to the bridge. Will I ever know what was going on?
  10. (not related to sound): a walker, or runner, I couldn’t tell, below me on the winchell trail. As I ran I wondered, was there even someone there, or was I imagining it?
  11. one more: my shadow, behind me as I ran south. Sharp, well-defined

Another thing I did in relation to “what you see is what you get” was to do some research on Groundhog Day. I’ll add the notes to my February page; I’ve spent too much time in front of my computer right now. Some interesting stuff. I wanted to think about Groundhog Day because it was yesterday, and also it fits the theme. In the U.S. if it’s sunny and the groundhog sees his shadow on Feb 2, there will be 6 more weeks of winter. If it’s cloudy, and he doesn’t, spring is coming. As Scott pointed out, this tradition is not an instance of, “what you see is what you get,” but the opposite: “what you see, is what you don’t get.” note: If the groundhog sees his shadow, most people across the country are bummed. Ugh, 6 more weeks of winter! But, here in Minnesota, it’s cause for celebration. Only 6 more weeks of winter? Hooray!

feb 2/BIKERUN

bike: 15 minutes
bike stand
run: 2.8 miles
treadmill
2 degrees/ feels like -13

Another short stretch of very cold weather. Started the next episode of Dickinson while I biked, which is continuing the themes of fame, whether or not to be published, and the possible value of being invisible/ a Nobody. Fame is associated with glory and the impending Civil War and is presented almost exclusively as empty and unsatisfying. Invisibility, a quiet power, is better.

While I ran, listened to a playlist. Stared at the blank, black screen of the television. Don’t remember hearing anything, other than my music, or smelling anything. When I ran a few days ago, my daughter was cooking herself some lunch and had left the basement door open; I smelled her Velveeta mac-n-cheese. It was unpleasant. I don’t remember feeling much, other than my feet striking the belt. No wisps of hair falling out of my ponytail, feeling like spider webs. Did I feel any drips of sweat? Probably.

Missed Time/ Ha Jin

My notebook has remained blank for months 
thanks to the light you shower 
around me. I have no use 
for my pen, which lies 
languorously without grief. 

Nothing is better than to live 
a storyless life that needs 
no writing for meaning— 
when I am gone, let others say 
they lost a happy man, 
though no one can tell how happy I was.

I found this poem buried deep in a folder yesterday afternoon. It fits with the conversation I’ve been having with Dickinson as I watch and reflect on fame and being invisible. I didn’t think about many things while I was running, but I do remember thinking about how so much of my writing and documenting my life, on this running log, and my other online spaces (trouble, story, undisciplined, unofficial student transcript), is about recording my life for future others, including future Sara. This impulse (or compulsion) to document is partly the result of my love of storytelling, but it also comes from my desire to give others, especially my kids or their kids, etc., what I desperately wanted from my mom after she died: more words about a life lived — thoughts, experiences, accounts, stories. I missed the epic conversations I used to have with my mom, and I would have loved to continue them with her words. And, I wanted to know more about how she felt, what she thought about. Will my kids want my words? I’m not sure, but if they do, they’ll be there, a lot of them.

I disagree with the idea that nothing is better than to live/a storyless life that needs/no writing for meaning, and I don’t think happy is how I’d like to be remembered. Delighted? Joyful? Patient? Satisfied?