march 17/RUN

4.1 miles
minnehaha falls and back
38 degrees

Surprised to see that the temperature was only 38. It seemed warmer than that. Wore less layers: black tights + black shorts + one bright yellow shirt + one bright orange sweatshirt + buff around neck + very faded black baseball cap. No gloves or hood.

Everything dripping or gushing. Heard lots of woodpeckers (not drumming, but calling), black capped chickadees, cardinals. I need to work on recognizing the sounds of other birds. Stopped at the falls after I heard them roaring and saw them spraying a fine mist into the air.

Also heard: water gushing from the 42nd st sewer pipe that I thought was wind rushing through some brittle leaves; kids playing on the playground, one of them — or was it the teacher? — calling out, “Stop! Come back! Don’t go there!” (I think “there” had two syllables).

Tried running on the walking path near the falls, but had to stop and walk: too much snow and ice. Maybe next week it will be all clear?

As I ran, I thought about the Mississippi River and how I’m always running above it, around it, beside it, but never swimming or rowing in it. On my wish list: taking a class at the rowing club and rowing down the river. I also thought about how the river is there, but I hardly ever hear it. And, in the summer, with the thick leaves, I don’t often see it. Yet, I know it’s there. Its absence has a strong presence; I feel it. I wondered as I left Minnehaha Regional Park, am I partly feeling its ghost? The ghost of the roaring, gushing, rushing, powerful river that carved out the gorge, 4 feet a year, before it was temporarily tamed starting in the mid to late 1800s?

Continuing to read Dart and about Dart. Trying to keep a delicate balance: getting some insight and understanding from secondary sources without getting too lost in them or the jargon-filled knots they create. I want some help in understanding Oswald and her methods in Dart, but I don’t want to get stuck there, unable to hold onto how her words feel sound create meaning for me. Difficult.

I love Oswald’s words about the canoeists/rowers/kayakers on page 14:

On Tuesdays we come out of the river at twilight, wet, shouting,
with canoes on our heads.

the river at ease, the river at night.

We can’t hear except the booming of our thinking in the cockpit
hollow and the river’s been so beautiful we can’t concentrate.

they walk strong in wetsuits,
their faces shine,
their well-being wants to burst out

In the water it’s another matter, we’re just shells and arms,
keeping ourselves in a fluid relation with the danger.

pond-skaters, water-beetles,
neoprene spray-decks,
many-colored helmets,

And, all of this discussion of how the river sounds:

will you swim down and attend to this foundry for

this jabber of pidgin-river
drilling these rhythmic cells and trails of scales,
will you translate for me blunt blink glint.

the way I talk in my many-headed turbulence
among these modulations, this nimbus of words kept in
sing-calling something definitely human,

will somebody sing this riffle perfectly as the invisible
sings it

can you hear them at all,
muted and plucked,
muttering something that can only be expressed as
hitting a series of small bells just under the level of your


I found this great quote from Oswald in her introduction to the poetry anthology, The Thunder Mutters: 101 Poems for the Planet:

Raking, like any outdoor work, is a more mobile, more many-sided way of knowing a place than looking. When you rake leaves for a couple of hours, you can hear right into the non-human world, it’s as if you and the trees had found a meeting point in the sound of the rake. (ix)

And this:

I think about those years of gardening every single day. It was the foundation of a different way of perceiving things. Instead of looking at landscape in a baffled, longing way, it was a release when I worked outside to feel that I was using it, part of it. I became critical of any account that was not a working account. 


Last April, when I was reading Mary Oliver, I spent some time thinking about work and labor. I’d like to think about it again, now with Oswald. For Oliver, the desire with work is to be useful to the world. For Oswald, it is to be part of it, in the midst of it, not looking at it, but using it. This work, for Oswald, is labor: gardening, fishing, trimming trees, panning for tin, etc.

Yesterday, I was talking with Scott about reading Oswald and getting inspired for my own project of documenting the Mississippi River Gorge. I said: I’m not sure what this will turn into, but I’m just happy to have become the sort of person who finds delight in Oswald’s words and in reading poetry about the river that combines myth and history and thinking critically and reverently about land and water and how and where humans and industry fit in. How wonderful it is to discover these new forms of care and curiosity!