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 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.”