A very spring day today. Tomorrow, colder again. Rain and 40s. I overdressed — I didn’t need to the running tights. It was mostly overcast, but every so often I saw my shadow. Faint, but leading me. Ran the Franklin loop. My watch crashed less than 3 miles in. Either I get a new watch soon, or stop wearing a watch. I’m leaning towards not wearing a watch.
I got a “morning!” from Mr. Morning! and Dave the Daily Walker. An excellent start to my run. Encountered a few other runners, some walkers. Any bikes? I can’t remember. No roller skiers yet. The birds were LOUD! Heard some honking geese, then saw them flying low in a line. Heard at least one woodpecker, drumming.
note: re-reading the entry and the part about the LOUD birds, I’m struck by how quiet everything is now, at 1 pm. Where is all the birdsong that was here just minutes ago? Strange.
workers of the day
Nearing the marshall/lake street bridge from the northeast, I started to smell tar. Then I heard some deep voices on the hill at St. Thomas: “Go go go go!” then “woah” or “wow” or “alright” but not “stop” or “that’s enough.” I imagined someone was pouring the tar and someone else was telling them when to stop. Was that what was happening? It was too far away and hidden behind trees for me to see. What was the tar for? What exactly were they doing? Tarring a roof? Repaving a road? Were the workers wearing masks to protect them from the fumes?
Right before I started my run, I typed this here: A few lines from the poem to remember as I run:
have you forgotten the force that orders the world’s
and sets all cities in their sites, this nomad
pulling the sun and moon, placeless in all places,
born with her stones, with her circular bird-voice,
carrying everywhere her quarters?
I decided to try and keep remembering (and noticing and studying) the river as I ran. Often, even as I know it’s there, I forget to notice it. Today, it was pale blue and mostly calm. I saw a reflection of the lake street bridge as I ran on the east side, but it wasn’t completely smooth — not the perfect, inverted bridge from another world I sometimes see. The banks were mostly brown, although there were a few white spots. Just past Meeker Island Dam, I heard a small waterfall. No boats or rowers. No ducks. Running above the river, I never got close enough to hear it. All I could hear were the cars driving by — on the river road, a bridge, the distant freeway. To me, it seemed as if they were trying to sound like a rushing river. I thought about how important the river is to Minneapolis and St. Paul, how roads, buildings, neighborhoods, industry are arranged around it and because of it (ordering the world, setting cities in its sites). I love how Oswald offered this wonderful description of the organizing/ordering force of the river, wedged between these two passages from the dairy worker.
I’m in a rationalised set-up, a Superplant. Everything’s stainless
and risk can be spun off by centrifugal motion: blood, excre-
ment, faecal matter from the farms
I’m in milk, 600,000,000 gallons a week.
On March 17th, I wrote a little about Oswald and work/working. I posted two passages by her that discuss the value of labor as a way to know the land: raking and gardening. She writes: “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.”
This idea of not looking at the landscape in a baffled, longing way fits with some more of her words, in an interview: Landscape and Literature Podcast: Alice Oswald on the Dart River. In this podcast she discusses her resistance to the romanticizing of landscapes:
I’m just continually smashing down the nostalgia in my head. And trying to inquire of the landscape itself what it feels about itself. Rather than bringing my advertising skills — getting rid of words like picturesque…there’s a whole range of words that people like to use about landscape, like pastoral, idyll. I quite like taking the names away from things and seeing what they are behind their names. I exert incredible amounts of energy trying to see things from their own points of view rather than the human point of view.
…more interested in the democratic stories…the hardship of laboring, looking for food…the struggle of a tree trying to grow out of stone…always looking for that struggle. I’m allergic to peace. I like this restless landscape. I like that it won’t let you sit back and say, “what a beautiful place I’ve arrived to.” You’ve never arrived. It’s moving past you all the time.
It’s a day long effort to get your mind into the right position to live and speak well.Landscape and Literature Podcast: Alice Oswald on the Dart River
I’m thinking about this effort as a form of labor, done in tandem with other forms of labor, like using the land, walking through the land, working on the land. Oswald doesn’t foreground this type of work — the smashing of nostalgia and trying to find better, less romantic, words — in Dart. Is that because that’s her work, as a poet, and she’s trying to keep herself out of the poem? In contrast to Oswald, Mary Oliver frequently discusses her labor of noticing and telling about it. I appreciate Oliver’s emphasis on that difficult labor, but as I read Oswald, I also like the idea of trying to move outside of, or beside, ourselves to imagine things from the point of view of the flower and its struggles, instead of from our point of view as we admire/praise that flower. She gives the example of the flower in this interview, ending with, “It’s a fascinating, hard world for a weed.”
I wonder, is there room in Oswald’s democratic stories for her own efforts at smashing nostalgia and noticing from different perspectives? How would that alter the poem to include the voice of the observer-participant or participant-observer? How might it look if the author’s voice wasn’t absent, but made only one among many, all having value?
my whole style’s a stone wall
In a section on the stonewaller, Oswald offers this great line:
…which is how everything goespage 33
with me, because you see I’m a gatherer, an amateur, a
scavenger, a comber, my whole style’s a stone wall, just
wedging together what happens to be lying about at the time.
There are so many great lines in this poem!