april 29/RUN

3.5 miles
2 trails + extra
53 degrees
wind: 13 mph with 23 mph gusts

Windy. Sometimes sunny, sometimes not. Ran south up above, north below. Just after turning down onto the Winchell Trail, spotted a runner heading even deeper into the gorge. Wow, I’ve hiked that bit, right down by the water, with Scott. There’s not much of a trail and it’s steep and rocky. As I ran above, I looked for them again. Nothing. Had I imagined it? I don’t think so.

Ran over some mud; it rained last night. Past the 38th street steps, nearing the oak savanna, I noticed even more mud and spots where it looked like the trail was eroding. I wondered, how soon before this bit of the trail is impassable?

Almost finished, running on Edmund above the trail, I heard a man on a bike call out, “good job guys!” At first I thought he was a coach, calling out to his athletes, but then I realized he was talking to some young kids (his kids?) biking with him. I also heard him say something like, “you need to push down harder on the pedals to go fast!”

As I passed by the short hill near 42nd, I heard some black capped chickadees singing to each other. Usually it’s a fee bee song, with the first bird singing 2 ascending notes of equal length, and the second bird singing 2 descending notes back. Today I heard one bird follow the formula of “fee bee.” The other responded with one flat note. Was this second bird a different type of bird? Do they ever respond with one note? Was it a juvenile just learning how to sing? Not sure, but it was strange and delightful to hear this new song.

before the run

One final before/during/after for the month. Yesterday I took a break from running, but not from thinking about entanglement and mycelium and hyphae and dirt. Here are some of the things I thought about:

1 — fungi at the mississippi gorge

Earlier in the month I wrote about the mushroom caves in St. Paul, but I was curious what other fungi is around here so I googled it and found an amazing picture of “Dead Man’s Fingers,” or Xylaria polymorpha (“Xylaria” means it grows on wood, “poly-” means “many,” and “morpha” means “shapes”).

a fungus coming out of the ground that looks like human fingers

Dead man’s fingers is found in deciduous forests throughout North America and Europe where it grows at the base of rotting tree stumps. The FMR conservation team found this spooky looking fungus deep in the oak forest ravines at Pine Bend Bluffs Scientific and Natural Area in Inver Grove Heights. Maple trees seem to be their preferred host in our area, but they also favor oak, locust, elm and apple.

While most fungi either consume the cellulose of wood or the lignins, dead man’s fingers is somewhat unusual in that it digests the glucans or “glues” that bind the cells together. As they feed, they literally help break down dead or dying trees in the forest. 

Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR)

Very cool. This was found at Pine Bend Bluffs Scientific and Natural Area, which is farther north on the Mississippi. This summer, I’d like to check it out.

Then I found this:

9/13/2012: Harriet Island/Lilydale Regional Park Hike (St. Paul)

Join the hiking group for a hike along the south bank of the Mississippi River west from St. Paul’s historic Harriet Island through the former Lilydale town site. The hike passes a three-kilometer reach of the Mississippi River gorge that is known locally as “Mushroom Valley” because of the abundance of man-made mushroom caves carved into the sandstone bluffs. Mushroom growing lasted a century, from its introduction by Parisian immigrants in the 1880’s until the last cave ceased production in the 1980’s, during the creation of the Lilydale Regional Park. Some of the approximately 50 caves originated as sand mines, but other common uses were the aging of cheese (Land O’ Lakes,) the lagering of beer (Yoerg’s Brewery,) and storage (Villaume Box & Lumber.) The Lilydale Regional Park area was settled early in Minnesota’s history, but because of repeated flooding, the original town was moved up on top of the bluff. In the Lilydale Regional Park, a mesic prairie has been recreated along the Mississippi River floodplain. Shale beds in the Lilydale Regional Park also are a good place to find fossils.

Directions: From I-94 on the east side of downtown St. Paul, take the Highway 52/Lafayette freeway exit south and cross the Mississippi River on the Lafayette bridge to the Plato Boulevard exit. Go west on Plato Boulevard about 2/3rds mile to Wabasha Street and turn north (right). Proceed a short distance to Water Street and turn east (right) and then turn left onto Levee Road. Proceed on Levee Road under the Wabasha Street bridge. The parking lot is on the left.

source

This is another place I need to hike around this summer! Here’s one more link from Greg Brick, the Subterranean Twin Cities guy, with information: Lilydale Caves / Mushroom Valley

2 — mushrooms are strong!

They can burst through asphalt!

The rapid growth of mushrooms is well known, how they can come up overnight, but how they exert such force is not so obvious. The hollow stalk of the mushroom is made up of vertically arranged hyphae that grow at their tips, much like those balloon used to make balloon animals. The wall of a hypha is composed of fibres of chitin that are arranged helically and limits the ability of the hypha to expand in width. All the pressure of growth is through elongation and growth at the tip (Isaac 1999). It is this concerted pressure applied by each expanding hypha that can create the pressure to lift the pavement.

source

3 — polyphony

In Entangled Life, Merlin Sheldrake discusses polyphony (Anna Tsing does too). He mention this recording:

and discusses how each woman sings a different melody, each voice tells a different musical story. Many melodies intertwine without ceasing to be many. Voices flow around other voices, twisting into and beside one another. There is no central planning, nevertheless a form emerges….attention becomes less focused, more distributed — mycelium is polyphony in bodily form, when streams of embodiment come together and commingle.

I wrote this in my notes:

I’m thinking about this in relation to peripheral vision and movement and distribution, less focused and singular, involving a bigger picture, encompassing many voices, images, organisms, happenings (?) — the idea of learning how to hold these different voices together into a form — what would it look like to try and grasp/notice/attend to a world this way? How does that change what we notice, and how we notice it? How we experience delight? wonder? awe? how we understand the relationships between a self and other selves/communities? Less interested in the details, the focus on one person, more interested in the form we create together — the bigger picture…

I imagine this as part of my larger project on shifting away from central vision (which barely works for me anymore) and toward peripheral vision. How does peripheral vision enable me to see things in a new, potentially highly beneficial, way?

4 — more whimsy, please!

I found this poem that other day that delighted me, and reminded me that I’d like to write more stuff that taps into my strange and wonderful whimsy. Often, the things I write are too serious (I think). I’d like to write something about fungi and mushrooms that tapped into my delight of how strange and alien and gross they are.)

I’d Rather Be / Mitchell Nobis

The small blue Nissan ahead of
Me at the stoplight has a plastic
License plate holder that says I’D
RATHER BE AT A RICK SPRINGFIELD
CONCERT, and buddy, wouldn’t we
All rather be catching a tan
In the summertime lawn seats at
Some amphitheater off the

Highway, wearing sunglasses to
Protect our eyes form teh sun and
The gleam of Rick’s professional
Teeth, watching his wavy dyed brown

Septuagenarian goatee
Frame his mouth as it sings “Jessie’s
Girl” with his mind on autopilot,
Wondering what he’ll have for dinner

Later as he croons Where can I
Find a woman like that?
for the
100,000th time as we
Dream of this life we’re in for the

100,000th time instead
Of cubicles and gray, teh beige
Hallways we walk for decades before
Demise? We dream, relaxed in the

Warm air we ignore for another
Decade as some gulls try to steal
Fries from a couple who are busy
Groping their fifty something bodies,

Their bodies here still, soft & alive,
Sagging in the lawn but fifteen
Again and lost in their friend’s basement
Again making out on the bean bag

In the corner, frantic in hazy
Afterschool limbo before
The friend’s parents get home from work.
They know over what’s left of a

Margarita in a can. It
Trickles green through the grass as Rick’s
Band cuts straight to the opening
Riff for “Love Somebody.” The drummer

Pounds the toms, the thuds summoning
1984 as the guitar
Chimes and harmonies swoop in and
Swallow the heating air. You better

Love somebody / it’s late, the frogs
Evaporating in the wetlands
By the offramp.

during the run

I thought about melodies and voices and sounds I was hearing simultaneously, sometimes difficult to distinguish, blending into each other. At the beginning of the run: birds, a car, my breathing, my feet striking the ground, the wind through the trees. I’m not sure if that was all of the sounds. Now I wish I had stopped and recorded some of my thoughts.

I also thought about dirt and what, under my feet and deeper in the ground, I might be disturbing/disrupting/destroying as I ran.

I probably thought about more, but I’ve forgotten it now. It scattered in the wind, I guess.

after the run

Now, after the run and after writing this log up to this point, I’m thinking about lichen and Forrest Gander and telling everyone in the house about how lichen can be killed, but if it has what it needs, it might never die (which I heard him say on a podcast I listened to this morning while doing the dishes). I wouldn’t want to live forever, but I like imagining a world in which inevitable death didn’t overshadow almost everything else. I’m not consumed by it, but it’s in all of our stories, our understandings, our philosophies, how we frame and experience joy and delight. How would we orient ourselves without that endpoint, without that guaranteed conclusion?

I’m also thinking about something I read about the biggest fungi in the world — at least the biggest that has been found and documented by scientists, the “Oregon Humongous Fungus.” Everything else I’ve heard about this fungus, and the one in Crystal Falls, MI, involves awe and fascination and wonder. In contrast, this report describes the fungus “as the baddest fungus on the block.” It’s killing tons of trees in the forest and, even after diligently trying for 40 years, they can’t get rid of it. The perspective here seems to be from timber companies who are losing all their trees/assets/profit. Interesting…

Oregon Humongous Fungus Sets Record As Largest Single Living Organism On Earth (click on link to see video of the news report + a transcript)

april 27/RUN

3.85 miles
marshall loop
38 degrees

Still wearing running tights and winter vest, but it’s getting warmer and sunnier and spring feels almost here. I warmed up quickly and had a good run.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. a new neighbor has repositioned a drain pipe so that water from their basement dumps out on the sidewalk I take for almost every run, soaking it. A few weeks ago, when it was colder, this water quickly turned to ice, now it’s only an irritating puddle
  2. running west over the lake street bridge, the river was broad and blue and rippling
  3. running east, the river was brown and flat
  4. no smells from Black Coffee, at the top of the marshall hill
  5. the branches of the trees reaching up from below the trail on the east side looked silver and dead or dormant or nowhere close to sprouting leaves
  6. wind rustling through some dead leaves, but no sound of water above shadow falls
  7. don’t remember hearing any birds or seeing any squirrels
  8. they are doing some sewer work near 7 oaks — I heard the beep beep beep of a truck backing up, then saw a huge concrete cylinder waiting to be buried below the street — how long will all of this take?
  9. encountered at least 3 pairs of walkers — I think I heard some of their conversations, but I can’t remember any words now
  10. my zipper pull was banging against my shirt at the beginning of my run, making a dull thud that I couldn’t not hear. Did it stop, or was I able to tune it out?

Things I Didn’t Notice, either because I forgot or they weren’t there: geese, black-capped chickadees, crows, dogs, anything green, other runners, purple flowers, roller skiers, sewer smells, planes, the sky, clouds, my own breathing

Writing this list of things I didn’t notice, I suddenly remember something I almost forgot: bird shadows! At least twice, I noticed the shadows of incredibly fast moving birds, passing below me. Very cool and very fast! I wondered, were these birds being helped by the wind, or were they just that fast?

Yesterday I checked out Merlin Sheldrake’s Entangled Life from the library. I’ve read the introduction so far and I’m really enjoying it. A few things to remember:

Our bodies (we) are ecosystems, composed of — and decomposed by — an ecology of microbes.

Biology — the study of living organisms — has been transformed into ecology — the study of relationships between living organisms.

I came across many complicated relationships between field biologists and the organisms they studied. I joked with the bat scientists that in staying up all night and sleeping all day they were learning bat habits. They asked how the fungi were imprinting themselves on me. I’m still not sure. But I continue to wonder how, in our total dependence on fungi — as regenerators, recyclers, and networkers that stitch worlds together — we might dance to their tune more often than we realize. 

Scientists are — and have always been — emotional, creative, intuitive, whole human beings, asking questions about a world that was never made to be catalogued and systematized. 

april 26/RUN

4.25 miles
top of franklin hill and back
32 degrees

Full winter running clothes: black running tights, green base layer shirt, pink hooded jacket, black running vest, “black” baseball cap (well, it was black, but now has faded to a brown-ish gray. I imagine, although can’t really see with my vision, that it looks gross and I should be embarrassed to wear it — mostly, I don’t care, but I am looking for a new hat), pink headband, black gloves, dark gray buff. Brr. I am over winter-in-April. Normally, I’m not too bothered by the weather, but this never-ending cold is wearing me out. I want to sit on the deck in my new chair without a coat on! I want to run in shorts!

I was cold for the first 15 minutes, but once I warmed up, it was fine. I felt strong and relaxed and grateful to be outside breathing in fresh air, being with the birds. They don’t seem to be bothered by the cold. Thought about rot and noticed all the trees down just below me. How long does it take fungi to move in and begin breaking down the wood to digest the needed nutrients? Looked it up and found an article, How Fungi Make Nutrients Available to the World, which is helpful for understanding how fungi break down trees, but not how long it takes.

Running under the lake street bridge, I saw a few Minneapolis Parks vehicles, heard chainsaws down by the river, then noticed one of the trucks was filled with twigs and branches. I thought about the fungi and all the food they weren’t getting with the removal of the dead/dying limbs. I also thought about important it is to remove those branches so they don’t fall on my head while I’m running under them.

On the stretch between the trestle and Franklin, I thought about what it might mean to shift my values away from progress and toward the fungi, including thinking about motion/moving as not always producing something “useful” for capitalism, or aimed at progress (like running to be faster or better). How do we understand and value movement — making, doing, moving — outside of the goal of improving or mastery or being used by others?

I also thought about an article someone posted on twitter this morning about tapping into spinach’s ability to sense a compound that is often found in landmines by attaching censors to them that, when triggered, send an email back to a lab. The article was terribly titled, Scientists have taught spinach to send emails, and as I read it I thought about how often these pop science articles view plants (or fungi or “nature”) only as resources/assets for maintaining or improving the lives of humans. Fungi is only valuable because of what it does for us, how it might save us from the terrible mess we’ve made of the planet, not because it’s just amazing. How dreary to think of spinach having to send emails! And, this is not teaching spinach to send emails but hacking into their communication networks to receive the data they’re sending elsewhere.

I’ve written a lot about mushrooms and fungi, here’s a poem about lichen. Lichen is another big deal for poets.

For the Lobar, Usnea, Witches Hair, Map Lichen, Beard Lichen, Ground Lichen, Shield Lichen/ Jane Hirshfield

Back then, what did I know?
The names of subway lines, busses.
How long it took to walk 20 blocks.

Uptown and downtown.
Not north, not south, not you.

When I saw you, later, seaweed reefed in the air,
you were grey-green, incomprehensible, old.
What you clung to, hung from: old.
Trees looking half-dead, stones.

Marriage of fungi and algae,
chemists of air,
changers of nitrogen-unusable into nitrogen-usable.

Like those nameless ones
who kept painting, shaping, engraving,
unseen, unread, unremembered.
Not caring if they were no good, if they were past it.

Rock wools, water fans, earth scale, mouse ears, dust,
ash-of-the-woods.
Transformers unvalued, uncounted.
Cell by cell, word by word, making a world they could live in.

—2010

april 25/RUN

6.1 miles
hidden falls scenic overlook loop*
32 degrees / feels like 25 degrees
wind: 12 mph

*a new route! river road, south/up to wabun/over ford bridge (south side)/mississippi boulevard, north/hidden falls scenic overlook/mississippi boulevard, south/ford bridge (north side)/river road, north

Ran a new route today. It’s nice to check out a different part of the mississippi river. I’ve walked on this trail at least once, and biked it several times, but never done this exact loop. Up above, it’s steep and without many fences or railings. Very cool. Noticed a few squirrels, a darting chipmunk. Heard: a robin, crows, some cardinals, the teacher’s whistle at the Minnehaha Academy playground, trickling water. Ran straight into the wind crossing back over the ford bridge.

Before my run, I began gathering notes and quotes and poems about entanglement to put under the glass on my desk. Hopefully it will help me write this poem by the end of the week. While I ran, I wanted to try and think about fungi as hidden, always in motion/doing (a verb, not a noun), and below. Had flashes of thought about what’s beneath us, and how I’m often looking down through my peripheral, even as I look ahead with my central vision. At some point, I decided I didn’t want to try and think about entanglement, but to stop thinking and see what happened. No brilliant thoughts, but now that I’m done, I feel more relaxed and happy and motivated to keep working.

I almost forgot, but then remembered when I was reviewing my notes: several times, I heard the creaking, squeaking branches and thought about old, rusty, long hidden/forgotten doors being opening — a trap door in the forest floor. I didn’t imagine past the open door or the idea that it led to the river basement (using basement here like ED in “I started Early — Took my Dog”). Still, I enjoyed thinking that I could access this door and something in my moving outside was opening a long shut door.

The idea I have right now for a poem involves playing off of these lines from Mary Oliver:

Listen, I don’t think we’re going to rise
in gauze and halos. 
Maybe as grass, and slowly. 
Maybe as the long leaved, beautiful grass

And this bit from Arthur Sze in an interview with David Naiman:

I began to think I love this idea that the mycelium is below the surface. It’s like the subconscious, then when the mushroom fruits pops up above ground, maybe that’s like this spontaneous outpouring of a poem or whatever.

Something like this?

Maybe like mushrooms, we rise
or not rise, flare
brief burst from below
then a return 
to swim in the dirt…

I want to think more about what fungi do and how mushrooms grow, and how to think about that in relation to human subjectivity/agency and a self that is connected/joined but not subsumed by this connection.

The other thing I’d like to think about more is this line from Tsing:

In this time of diminished expectations, I look for disturbance-based ecologies in which many species live together without either harmony or conquest (5).

These disturbance-based ecologies involves ecosystems that develop in the wake of a disturbance, like matsutake mushrooms that grow on pine in forests that have been clearcut. They aren’t part of what Tsing calls the cycle of promise and ruin, or deplete then move on, but something else, the something that comes in after a place has been abandoned by Progress.

Mushrooms/ Sylvia Plath

Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot’s in the door.

april 23/RUN

3 miles
marshall loop in reverse
66! degrees
wind: 20 mph

Ran with Scott after the rain stopped on a (finally) warm spring morning. It was so windy I had to hold my hat then take it off while running on the lake street bridge. It was warm and sunny and wonderful. We talked about Debussy (Scott) and mycelium (me) and tried to avoid loud-talking-only-slighter-faster-than-us runners. Didn’t hear any rowers or roller skiers or radios blasting from bikes. Did hear some geese honking and some crows cawing and wind howling.

Spent the morning reviewing my notes and re-reading descriptions of fungi and mushrooms and mycelium. Here are a few notes I took:

  • a different sort of We, not a me or an I, but a we, an us
  • a different way of looking/sensing/becoming aware: not seeing straight on, but feeling, looking across and to the side, down, beneath and below
  • stop looking up to the heavens, start feeling/sensing what’s below
  • a hope that is not predicated on evidence, when evidence = seeing and Knowing and fully understanding (seeing things as parts or discrete categories or individual things)
  • entangled is not separate or pure but messy and enmeshed

this is why we are all here — from my haibun and what I heard coming out of the little old lady’s phone

this 
why 
we 
all
here

why = curiosity, wonder

The why is not an explanation — this is why/this is THE reason — but an invitation to imagine differently, expansively, wildly.

we all = ecosystems, organisms, networks, asemblages

Organisms are ecosystems.
I find myself surrounded by patchiness, that is, a mosaic of open-ended assemblages of entangled ways of life, with each further opening into a mosaic of temporal rhythms and spatial arcs (Tsing, 4) .

here = a place, located in history, a specific place, not transferable or easily translatable, can’t be scaled up or turned into assets

april 22/RUN

3.5 miles
2 trails + tunnel of trees
43 degrees
light rain / wind: 15 mph

Raining today. When it stopped, I headed out to the gorge. Within a few minutes: more rain. I could barely feel it. I was more bothered by the wind. Even that didn’t bother me that much. Everything was wet and dripping. I looked at the river, but I can’t remember what color it was or how the surface looked as the rain fell. I probably couldn’t have seen that anyway because I was too far away.

Heard lots of water rushing through the sewers in the street, then water falling from the sewer pipes in the ravines at 36th, 44th, and 42nd. Just after I turned around at the 44th street parking lot, I stopped at a bench overlooking the river. It was at a slight angle above the Winchell Trail and faced St. Paul, on the other side. Next month the view from this bench will only be green leaves, but today I could see the river (even if I don’t remember what it looked like), and the trail below, and the other side.

Didn’t see Dave the Daily Walker this morning, but I did say “good morning” to one walker, and then laughed in recognition when another walker said, “What is it? Hot or cold?”

Thinking about revising a haibun I wrote a few years ago and submitting it. Could I shape it into something that speaks to ideas of entanglement and nets and mutuality?

On the Dirt Path Near Folwell Avenue

Even if you try to time it just right, when you climb the steep, short hill up to the dirt packed path you cannot avoid the swarming swath of sex-crazed gnats or the little old lady slowly shuffling by, swinging her hiking poles, a voice TED-talking out of her phone’s speaker reminding you that this is why we are all here. Do not bother the bench resting on the rim of the gorge to ask what this is. If looking through the thickly thatched oak leaves to gather glimpses of the silvery river sparkling in the morning sun doesn’t already answer everything, the bench certainly won’t be able to help.

Bugs and old ladies
wake early in July but 
so does the river.

I think I especially need to rework the last sentence and the idea of what this is. Maybe also the haiku at the end? Looking through my pages documents, I found some notes I took while trying to figure out how to write about this encounter with the little old lady. The second paragraph reminds me of a great sentence are read in an article describing entanglement. Every organism is an ecosystem.

which reminds us why we are all here…

We are here. Me and joints and muscles and bones and ligaments and lungs. Us. me
and blood and cells and electrolytes and sweat and saliva. we. me
and hands and feet, a heart, two diseased eyes, a knee that displaces. we. me
worn out running shoes, threadbare worries. we. me
and those oak trees, that wrought iron fence, this rutted, dirt path, that short, steep hill. we. me river. that we are here with the old woman who slowly shuffles in her straw hat with her hiking poles and a voice that calls out from her radio speakers, “which reminds us why we are all here.”
here. above the river and the gorge and the floodplain forest, below the bike path and the road, the cars and the boulevard.
here. in this heat and humidity and haze. here. on a monday morning. here.

We are all here.

Me
bones
joints
muscles
ligaments
blood, sweat, saliva
inhaling exhaling lungs
lungs and heart and hands
diseased eyes, easily displaced kneecaps
feet, worn out running shoes, threadbare worries
Us. All. Here.
oak trees
wrought iron fence
rutted, rooted, packed dirt path
short, steep hill
an old woman slowly shuffling in a straw hat with hiking poles
Us. All. Here.
The river
gorge

I also found a few log entries mentioning her: july 23, 2019, august 5, 2019, and august 15, 2019

The mention of the phone TED-talking is a central aspect of my poem and its critique (of what? something about sound bites and the monstrous mixing of self-help and spirituality and capitalism and the idea of blasting these words on an early morning walk outside by the gorge) seems central to what I’m trying to say in this poem and how it fits with entanglement, especially as Anna Tsing describes it. Decided to do a search on the Poetry Foundation site for “ted talk.” Found this excellent poem:

ted talk/ JENNY ZHANG

money will build anywhere
there’s a view or a coastline
all those tangled shrubs and thorny bushes
your ancestors cut through centuries ago
to claim in the name of a queen
and a king with foul smelling hair
these days even the ecotone
between the living and the dying
has to be privatized & sold at auction
all the steps between next year
and the first human year ever recorded
melted so flagrantly it became stylish to be poetic
for the end of the world
everyone’s collecting coins on every interface
a thousand identical posts about 2019
being the year of paper straws
and reusable cups
indigo dyeing from Kyoto
is the new 36 hours in Tbilisi
all the people with phones
don’t think twice about buying onboard wifi
on their way to the latest Caribbean island
still recovering from last year’s hurricanes
would it be so wrong to wish
everyone with global entry be grounded
until extinction is off the table
I don’t think I can date another
digital nomad or a normie with a dog
who doesn’t know what it’s like
to be too poor to buy their way
out of disaster
why do the rich treat blame
like it’s obscenity
or a fossil
is it because they hate seeing blood
think they are noble for taking
quick little showers
and using silicone at the farmer’s market
I have never seen someone forgive themselves
as elaborately as the wealthy
everyone who paid for their wellness
is infecting the rest of us
yes I am sick sick sick
and want to sterilize all the ruinous overseers
though it is not like me to dream so much
I have managed to hoard something
that cannot be replicated
it will die when I die
let no one say we didn’t try
to let a different kind of  life bloom
and let no one say we didn’t touch
what was there from the beginning

Okay, I can’t resist. Searching through other results for TED talk, I found this excellent poem by the wonderful Ted Kooser. Most of the search results where poems by poets named Ted; I guess there aren’t a lot of poems about TED talks, or at least ones that made it into Poetry magazine. That’s a Ted talk I’d attend!

In the Basement of the Goodwill Store/ Ted Kooser

In musty light, in the thin brown air
of damp carpet, doll heads and rust,
beneath long rows of sharp footfalls
like nails in a lid, an old man stands
trying on glasses, lifting each pair
from the box like a glittering fish
and holding it up to the light
of a dirty bulb. Near him, a heap
of enameled pans as white as skulls
looms in the catacomb shadows,
and old toilets with dry red throats
cough up bouquets of curtain rods.

You’ve seen him somewhere before.
He’s wearing the green leisure suit
you threw out with the garbage,
and the Christmas tie you hated,
and the ventilated wingtip shoes
you found in your father’s closet
and wore as a joke. And the glasses
which finally fit him, through which
he looks to see you looking back—
two mirrors which flash and glance—
are those through which one day
you too will look down over the years,
when you have grown old and thin
and no longer particular,
and the things you once thought
you were rid of forever
have taken you back in their arms.

Oh, I love this poem. I’ve posted several others poems by Kooser. I think he recently died, which is a great loss. I read a thread on twitter last year — or the year before? — discussing what a generous mentor and person he was to so many.

april 21/RUN

5.5 miles
franklin loop
45 degrees

Sun! Warmth! Spring! Felt much warmer than 45 degrees, at least once I warmed up. I remembering now, as I write this, that I was chilly for the first 10 minutes.

15 Things I Noticed:

  1. there were 3 stones stacked on top of each other on the big boulder heading down into the tunnel of trees
  2. water was dripping or streaming out of the limestone on the st. paul side — I didn’t see it, but heard it
  3. my feet were shshshshshshing as I ran over grit on the edge of the path on the franklin bridge
  4. one laminated notecard was still attached to the railing on the lake street bridge. It was the one I stopped to read last week: “your story doesn’t have to end.” What happened to the others? Why was this the only kept?
  5. at least one runner was wearing shorts
  6. the wind was in my face as I headed north on the west side, at my back heading south on the east side
  7. there were no rowers on the river and no roller skiers on the path
  8. the edge of the paved path was white. I decided it was stained from salt, not covered in lingering ice or snow — too warm
  9. the walking path under the lake street bridge on the east side is still closed off — I think Scott said the path had crumbled there. Can they (will they) fix it?
  10. there was a tree trunk down on the winchell trail that looked like a sitting person, at least to me
  11. the shadow of a bird crossed over me. I looked up but couldn’t see it in the sky
  12. lots of honking geese, sometimes the sound of their honks became indistinguishable from a yelling kid or a moving car
  13. a peloton of 6 or 7 bikes passed me. Their spinning wheels were so loud! Spinning, whirring, rumbling. My sudden thought: how loud the 200+ bikes I see at the bike races I watch must be!
  14. a deep voice off the side, carrying clearly across the road, cutting through everything, almost rattling my skull
  15. the top of a split rail fence at a steep part of the path is missing — how did that happen?

I was planning to do a list of 10, but I kept remembering more things that I noticed. I like this exercise as a way to remember things from my run.

before the run

For every other “before the run” I’ve done, I write it in a saved post before I go out for my run. Today, I was busy reading Anna Tsing’s The Mushroom at the End of the World, and didn’t have time. It takes some time to read and post all of the stuff I’m thinking about before the run. Maybe too much time? Now, after the run, I don’t have much time either, so I’ll keep this brief. Just listing a few things that I read/did before the run:

Finished re-memorizing Katie Farris’s “What Would Root”

Re-visited Farris’s beautiful poem:

In the Event of My Death/ Katie Farris

What used to be
a rope descending
my vertebrae to the basement
of my spine
grows thin.

In solidarity with my chemotherapy,
our cat leaves her whiskers on
the hardwood floor,
and I gather them, each pure white parenthesis
and plant them
in the throat of the earth.

In quarantine,
I learned to trim your barbarian
hair. Now it stands always on end:
a salute to my superior barbary skills. In the event
of my death, promise you will find my heavy braid
and bury it–

I will need a rope
to let me down into the earth.
I’ve hidden others
strategically around the globe, a net
to catch my body
in the wearing.

Thought about nets and this passage from The Mushroom at the End of the World:

Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungi. Fungi are diverse and often flexible, and they live in many places, ranging from ocean currents to toenails. But many fungi live in the soil, where their thread-like filaments, called hyphae, spread into fans and tangle into cords through the dirt. If you could make the soil liquid and transparent and walk into the ground, you would find yourself surrounded by nets of fungal hyphae (137).

Thought about imagining the soil was liquid and transparent and then entering it, surrounded by nets of fungal hyphae. What if I could swim in the soil? Swim through these nets of fungal hyphae?

Wondered about networks and the comparisons Tsing describes between fungi networks and the internet (the wood wide web) and the infrastructure of highway systems. What are some key differences between how the internet and highways work?

during the run

Thought about nets and what they do, what they’re for, as I ran. Nets can trap and confine things, like fish, but they can also hold things — carry, hold together, be a container for, not sealed or airtight but open with many holes, ways to breathe. I thought about these nets as loosely holding organisms/selves together without sealing them into a self-contained, separate Subject.

after the run

There’s a lot to ruminate over with entanglement and fungi and mutuality as a starting point instead of competition. I need to sit with all some more, and maybe do some writing around/with a few lines from the book. I’m hoping to turn my thoughts into a poem for an call for work on entanglement.

In my notes in Plague Notebook, Vol 11 I made a list of words related to nets:

  • weave
  • cover
  • crossing, cross over
  • holds things, gathers things
  • tangled
  • knotted
  • a web, a weaving
  • safety net

april 19/RUN

4.75 miles
veterans’ home loop
33 degrees

Sun. Slightly warmer. Less wind. Hooray! Still wore my running tights, winter vest, and gloves, but felt like spring is almost here. Ran around the falls. They were gushing, but the creek was barely moving. Ran past the “big feet” statue. I can’t remember his name — Gunther something, I think — but I do remember that he was a poet, a hymn writer, and a politician from Sweden. Ran the Winchell Trail too. At the start of it, I slipped, but didn’t fall, in the mud. Said a lot of “excuse mes” as I encountered people from behind. Not irritated at all. A good run on a beautiful morning.

before the run

Thinking about roots and how things become rooted in the ground today. This topic is inspired by a favorite poem that I memorized in May of 2020: What Would Root/ Katie Farris. Here’s what I wrote in an entry from may 20, 2020:

I like the idea of this long, wild story, being rooted at the rock from the beginning of the poem. And I love this idea of rooting, being rooted and how the story unfolds around it. I want to spend some more time thinking about what it means to root, be rooted, take root. I’d also like to write a poem like this–with a story at the gorge–about sinking.

I used to have this poem memorized, and I think I can again, with a little practice. For now, I’m going to record myself reading it, then listen to that recording a few times while I run today.

during the run

Started by listening to the recording of myself reading the poem. It was very cool — dreamy, almost disembodied — to listen the words as I ran through the neighborhood and toward the river. Then, when the recording was done, I put my headphones away and thought about roots as I ran south above the gorge. I remember imagining my skin as more porous and open to the world and grass growing through my pores (instead of Farris’ roots).

Halfway through the run, in Wabun park, I stopped to record my thoughts. Here’s a summary:

  1. Thought about being rooted in a place, then being on the inside or the outside and how being rooted means being both in and out, or neither, at the same time. Just there, part of what’s happening.
  2. Then, I wondered, Does rooted always mean we’re tethered or stuck in one place, immobile? What would it mean to be rooted in a place while you were moving?
  3. Then: how are the roots formed? Instead of one solid, thick, sturdy root that’s difficult to cut down, what if we were a network of roots spread throughout the ground, connected and tangled with other? Roots can be networks — shallow and easy to pull out, like weeds, but multiplying and growing when you do that (rhizomes and nodes).
  4. Getting at the root, radical feminism and the root of oppression, the origin/cause of the problem I often think about the origins of my running story — there is no one root or cause or start, but a series (a network) of reasons.
  5. Chanted: root root root root/root root root root/ roo ting roo ting/root root root root/root root root root/roo ted root less I like these simple repetitions. I’d like to try chanting these for several minutes, then seeing what other words/ideas/chants might appear.

after the run

Here’s a sad, scary headline: Report lists Mississippi as one of ‘most endangered’ U.S. rivers

And here’s a hopeful story about activists making a difference and changing the future of the river: The untold story of our national park’s founding

Thinking about being inside or outside of yourself and being rooted and what of self/Self that suggests, I’m reminded of a poem I put on my reading list the other day:

Full of yourself/ Rumi

Translated from the Farsi by Haleh Liza Gafori

Full of yourself—
a friend’s touch is sharp as a thorn.
A buzzing fly drives you mad.

Forget yourself
and what friend can hurt you?
You mingle with wild elephants
and enjoy the ride.

Caged in self,
you drown in anguish.
Storm clouds swallow the sun.
Your lover flees the scene.

Outside yourself,
the night is moonlit.
Lovers drink Love’s wine.
It flows through you.

Self-conscious,
you’re dry as autumn leaves.
You bite like frost.

Melt yourself,
and winter’s frozen meadows
will become spring’s fragrant fields.

(How) can we travel outside of ourselves? What does this untether/uproot us from? I posted this quotation from Jamie Quatro in a log entry from April 19, 2018 about running as prayer:

a state of prayerlike consciousness. Past the feel-good vibes, past the delusions, my attention moves outward: I’m intensely aware of the cadence of a bird’s song, cherry blossoms weighted-down after a rain. Things light up and I experience an interior stillness that somehow syncs me more profoundly with the exterior world. It’s a paradox: only when I’m fully present in my body do I begin to experience the absence of myself.

 Running as prayer

Does fully present in a body = rooted? I’m also thinking about entanglement and Ross Gay’s critique of buoyancy and floating free (see april 12, 2022). Can we be a self, rooted in a body and a place, and still be other than ourSelf? How do I fit Rumi’s idea of forgetting the self with entanglement?

april 18/RUN

4 miles
marshall loop
35 degrees / feels like 25
wind: 16 mph / snow flurries

Before heading out for a run, watched the Boston Marathon. The thing I remember most about it was during the men’s push-rim race, when the announcer (who I think was a push-rim racer himself) talking about the racer’s gloves: they’re plastic and 3D-printed for precision, and when they bang on the metal wheel rim, they create a steady rhythm that the racer’s use for pacing themselves. Very cool. Later, I remembered this fact as I neared the end of my run.

Today, it is cold and windy and snowing again, but the birds are singing and calling — lots of fee bees — so I know spring will be here soon. Maybe by next weekend? I picked the right route for the direction of the wind. It was at my back as I ran over the lake street bridge and up the Marshall Hill. The only part where I was running directly into it was on the way back over the bridge.

Heard: the bells chiming near Shadow Falls; a dog barking and kid yelling below in the gorge; and the branches creaking from the wind again. This time the branches creaking sounded almost like a rusty hinge, with a door slowly creaking open. I like that image and the idea that some sort of door to somewhere was opening for me at that moment — and that there was something mysterious and scary about this door leading down into the woods or the earth. I like mysterious and scary.

Near the end of my run, I think after I remembered the rhythm of the gloves hitting the push-rim, I started chanting some of an ED poem:

Life is but life/And death but death/Bliss is but bliss/And breath but breath
Life is but life/And death but death/Bliss is but bliss/And breath but breath
Life is but life/And death but death/Bliss is but bliss/And breath but breath

Stopped to study the river for a minute — and to get a break from the wind — on the lake street bridge: it was a steely gray with ripples and a few eddies.

One more thing: Running above the floodplain forest and the Hiawatha Sand Flats, I heard a ferocious dog bark, then a whimper, almost but not quite, like a squeaky toy. Was the dog chasing or killing a bunny down there? Possibly. A minute later, I heard the deep voice of a human calling out repeatedly, then a steady rhythm of dog barks and sharp commands of some sort.

before the run

Scrolling through poems I’ve archived on my Safari Reading List, I found one that builds off of being dug up and excavated, but is also about returning, caring for, and re-planting:

Pear Snow/ Todd Dillard

A flood unzips a graveyard.
Cadavers sluice down Main St.
It’s my job to find the dead,
chauffeur them back to their plots.
The problem being the dead speak.
They want to swing by their old places,
check on spouses, kids grandkids
glimpsed in sepia windows
beneath the blue of evening news.
They whisper: “That tree was a sapling when I planted it,”
or: “I forgot what her laugh was like,”
or they call a dog that refuses to come.
Then, embarrassed by their weeping,
by how dry it is,
the dead ask me to take them home,
and on the drive I recite this line I’m working on
about the graininess of two-day-old snow.
“Pear snow,” I call it.
The dead say nothing
in response. The air velvets
as if it’s going to rain,
though the sky is clear,
the moon wet as the light in a child’s pupil.
Gentle, I lower the dead
back into their cradles. The earth,
for all its stripped rancor,
heavy in my shovel.
The work hard, but familiar.
The pay, at least, good.

What do we do with the ghosts that resurface, whether we want them to or not? How do we care for the stories of those who came before us?

Here’s another poem I posted last year about what the earth can yield and how we might notice it:

After the Rain/ jared Carter

After the rain, it’s time to walk the field
again, near where the river bends. Each year
I come to look for what this place will yield –
lost things still rising here.

The farmer’s plow turns over, without fail,
a crop of arrowheads, but where or why
they fall is hard to say. They seem, like hail,
dropped from an empty sky,

Yet for an hour or two, after the rain
has washed away the dusty afterbirth
of their return, a few will show up plain
on the reopened earth.

Still, even these are hard to see –
at first they look like any other stone.
The trick to finding them is not to be
too sure about what’s known;

Conviction’s liable to say straight off
this one’s a leaf, or that one’s merely clay,
and miss the point: after the rain, soft
furrows show one way

Across the field, but what is hidden here
requires a different view – the glance of one
not looking straight ahead, who in the clear
light of the morning sun

Simply keeps wandering across the rows,
letting his own perspective change.
After the rain, perhaps, something will show,
glittering and strange.

during the run

I tried to think about these two poems and excavating truths and caring for ghosts and noticing the things that are buried in the ground, but I couldn’t hang onto my thoughts. It could have been wind or the effort I was making to run in it that distracted me. Near the end of my run I thought about this before/during/after the run experiment and how it works sometimes and not others. I think I need to fine-tune it — maybe narrow my focus, or be more deliberate with what I want to think about before I head out on my run?

One other thing I remember was thinking about surfaces and depths, and the value of both. And now, writing this entry hours later, I’m thinking about how both of the poems in my “before the run” section involve water (rain) and how it brings the things buried to the surface. This reminds me of writing about water last July and Maxine Kumin’s idea of the thinker as the sinker (july 22, 2021). I’m also thinking about floating and bobbing to the surface and how humus (which I wrote about earlier this month) is the top layer of soil — 12 inches at the surface.

after the run

I want to return to the creaky branches sounding like the rusty hinge of a door. Last April, I read a poem by Mary Oliver with a hinge in it:

from Dogfish/ Mary Oliver

I wanted
my life to close, and open
like a hinge, like a wing, like the part of the song
where it falls
down over the rocks: an explosion, a discovery

I’m thinking of door hinges and poems as opening a thousand doors and the wings of the seven white butterflies and “how they bang the pages/or their wings as they fly/to the fields of mustard and yellow/and orange and plain/gold all eternity” (Seven White Butterflies/ from West Wind)

april 17/RUN

1.5 miles
winchell trail, south/42nd st east/edmund, north
41 degrees

Headed to the gorge with Scott this morning — a quick run above the river. I know I looked at the river, but I can’t remember much about it. Most likely, with this gloomy sky, it was a brownish-gray or grayish-brown with no sparkle. We talked a lot about Lizzo and what a great job she did on SNL last night, both as the host and the musical guest. The only other thing I remember right now is running the opposite way on the Winchell Trail (usually I run north on it) and noticing how much longer the Folwell hill was this way. The other way it’s steep but short, this way it’s slightly less steep, but winding (or wind-y?) and long.

before the run

Yesterday I suggested that my next dirt topic should be gardens/gardening. Here are a few ideas:

1 — tune my body and my brain

My exploration of dirt began when I started thinking about the phrase from a kids’ song, or a song often sung to or by kids: “the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out.” Here’s another kids’ song that doesn’t have the word dirt in it, but is about dirt and death and life and gardens. Both my kids sang it in elementary school concerts:

Here are a few verses:

Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe
And a piece of fertile ground

Inch by inch, row by row
Someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below
Till the rain comes tumblin’ down

Pullin’ weeds and pickin’ stones
Man is made of dreams and bones
Feel the need to grow my own
‘Cause the time is close at hand

Rainful rain, sun and rain
Find my way in nature’s chain
Tune my body and my brain
To the music from the land

2 — Alice Oswald and “echo-poetics”

It is perhaps this blending of the ecological sensibilities learned through gardening with those of the poet that makes reading Oswald’s editorial and poetic work so compelling, and not only for the many pleasures it brings. It also offers an acoustically informed aesthetic, a way of re-tuning how we think about and make beauty and meaning in verbal forms, especially those inspired by the earth’s processes, things, places. Principled with the desire to bring living things unmediated into text, Oswald’s writings illustrate a heightened and recursive sensitivity to the acoustics of environment, with the ear, of course, in its critical role as converter of signals. They recognize sound as summons, access, and mode. They value gardening (and other physical work) for the ways it creates possibilities for encounter by situating the body in motion and out-of-doors. They invite and invent expressive forms that are organic to these encounters, or that modify existing forms so they are apt and up to the task. They reveal a rootedness in rhythm, syncopation, harmony, or some other musicality within the external world. They practice acute hearing and engage in humble, patient, and empathie listening. They gesture toward the sonic rounding out of envi-ronments and their many natural, social and cultural complexities. And they practice accretion as a writer’s technique inspired by a natural process. Thus Oswald begins to define what I might term an “echo-poetics.”

Voice(s) of the Poet-Gardener: Alice Oswald and the Poetry of Acoustic Encounter/ Mary Pinard

3 — digging work

It’s certainly true that when you’re digging you become bodily implicated in the ground’s world, thought and earth continually passing through each other. You smell it, you feel its strength under your boot, you move alongside it for maybe eight hours and your spade’s language (it speaks in short lines of trochees and dactyls: sscrunch turn slot slot, sscrunch turn slot slot) creeps and changes at the same pace as the soil. You can’t help being critical of any account of mud that is based on mere glimpsing.

“The Universe in time of rain makes the world alive with noise” / Alice Oswald

Digging/ Seamus Heaney

Between my finger and my thumb   
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound   
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:   
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds   
Bends low, comes up twenty years away   
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills   
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft   
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.   
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

4 — listening work

People often ask me what I like best about gardening. . . . The truth is it’s the sound. I don’t know anything lovelier than those free shocks of sound happening against the backsound of your heartbeat. Machinery, spade-scrapes, birdsong, gravel, rain on polythene, macks moving, aeroplanes, seeds kept in paper, potatoes coming out of boxes, high small leaves or large head-height leaves being shaken, frost on grass, strimmers, hoses . . .

“The Universe in time of rain makes the world alive with noise”/ Alice Oswald

Poems are written in the sound house of a whole body, not just with the hands. So before writing, I always spend a certain amount of time pre- paring my listening. I might take a day or sometimes as much as a month picking up the rhythms I find, either in other poems or in the world around me. I map them into myself by tapping my feet or punch- ing the air and when my whole being feels like a musical score, I see what glimpses, noises, smells, I see if any creature or feeling comes to live there. Then, before putting pen to paper, I ask myself, “Am I lis- tening? Am I listening with a soft, slow listening that will not obliter- ate the speaker?” And if, for example, I want to write a poem about water, I try to listen so hard that my voice disappears and I speak water.

“Poetry for Beginners” for the BBC’s Get Writing/ Alice Oswald

5 — In Search of our Mother’s Gardens*

*a reference to the powerful essay by Alice Walker, “In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens,” that I often taught in my Fem Theory classes.

things to think about while running:

  • How can I “tune my body and brain to the music of the land”?
  • What is digging work? Where can/do we do digging work?
  • What are the sounds of my backyard garden?
  • What can I plant in my garden this year?
  • Why do I love doing physical, outdoor work? How is digging/gardening/weeding work different from listening/noticing/caring/writing work? How is it similar?

during the run

Ran with Scott, and we didn’t talk about gardens or digging until the end, when I mentioned gardening, digging, and the digital story about my mom. He suggested that I look up the lyrics for Peter Gabriel’s “Digging in the Dirt.”

after the run

Here are a few lyrics from Gabriel’s “Digging in the Dirt”:

Digging in the dirt
Stay with me, I need support
I’m digging in the dirt
To find the places I got hurt
Open up the places I got hurt

The more I look, the more I find
As I close on in, I get so blind
I feel it in my head, I feel it in my toes
I feel it in my sex, that’s the place it goes

This time you’ve gone too far
This time you’ve gone too far
This time you’ve gone too far
I told you, I told you, I told you, I told you
This time you’ve gone too far
This time you’ve gone too far
This time you’ve gone too far
I told you, I told you, I told you, I told you

And the refrain at the end, repeated several times:

Digging in the dirt
To find the places we got hurt

And here’s the video, which I can’t embed). Wow, the imagery in this fits with so many things I’ve been discussing! Worms, digging as excavating deeper truths (I think I’ve mentioned this before), death, dust, grass, pebbles, sand, rocks, mushrooms speaking! (in the video they spell out “help”).

video: Digging in the Dirt/ Peter Gabriel

addendum, 18 april 2022: almost forgot to add this image from my notes for my memoir (still in progress) about my student and teaching life”

planting a seed, lower right

Instead of cropping out the key part — the picture of a plant growing inside a head in the lower right with the text, “planting a seed” — I decided to post the entire image. When I taught feminist and queer classes a decade ago, my aim was to plant seeds. Not to force ideas on students or to expect instant results — where they could immediately “get” something or be transformed, but to introduce ideas and offer up invitations that might, in the future, lead to transformation and deeper understandings.