april 3/RUN

4.05* miles
minnehaha creek path, between lake nokomis and lake harriet
40 degrees

*Scott’s watch said 4 miles, mine 4.1, so I’m splitting the difference here. Also did the .05 because my total miles was at a .45 and needed the .05 to round it out.

Ran with Scott along the Minnehaha Creek trail between lake nokomis and lake harriet. Nice. Not too cold or windy, relaxed. An easy pace with several walk breaks. I haven’t run this route in many years. Crossed over the creek several times, noticing the water: blueish gray, gently flowing, almost whispering its splashes.

before the run

At the end of my post from 2 days ago I decided on my project and, of course, I am already abandoning it, or maybe just wandering with it a little? This wandering is one joy of my undisciplined approach to writing/engaging/being in the world. The project/challenge: do a different B Mayer “Please Add to this List” experiment each day. Yesterday, I picked my first one: “Compose a list of familiar phrases, or phrases that have stayed in your mind for a long time–from songs, from poems, from conversation.”

I began a list:

  • You’ll get no commercials
  • There’s a new girl in town
  • As long as it’s gum and that’s for me
  • Life is life, and death but death, Bliss but bliss, and breath but breath
  • I am the wind and the wind is invisible
  • Think of a sheep knitting a sweater, think of your life getting better and better
  • Like sands through the hourglass, these are the days of our lives
  • Wake up in the morning, feeling sad and lonely. Gee, I got to go to school
  • What a world, what a world!
  • Heaven, I’m in heaven, and my heart beats so that I can hardly speak
  • Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
  • What do you do when your kid is a brat?
  • Pious glory
  • The buzz saw snarled and rattled in the yard
  • I’m a wheel watcher
  • Remember I love you, I won’t be far away. I’ll just close my eyes and think of yesterday
  • I’ll be yours in springtime when the flowers are in bloom. We’ll wander through the meadows in all their sweet perfume
  • Of course you do
  • Eastbound and down, loaded up and trucking’
  • Hey y’all
  • trouble is inevitable, and the task, how best to make it, what best way to be in it
  • You were not there
  • All will be revealed
  • And you never will be
  • Tell all the truth but tell it slant
  • Try to remember the days of september
  • the boobie hatch
  • the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out, the worms play pinnacle on your snout
  • Miss Suzy had a steamboat, the steamboat had a bell. Miss Suzy went to heaven, the steamboat went to…

Then I stopped. I started thinking about “the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out” and remembered my sister Marji singing that to me when we were kids, then us gleefully singing it together. Something clicked. I thought about worms and dirt and death and graves and really gross things about bodies and being delighted in singing about those gross things and Diane Seuss’s commencement address and her invoking of these lines by Walt Whitman:

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

I decided what I really want to do this month is study dirt. It’s fitting for April as I begin to notice dirt again as it emerges from under the snow. It also follows nicely from Oswald and her emphasis on physical labor — working in the dirt and gardening, getting your hands dirty — and minerals all the way down. And, it returns me to my extended exploration of both ghosts and haunting and earth/rock/stone/erosion. So many different ways to wander and wonder with this word!

I’ll start today with a little more on “the worms crawl in” song. Here’s how I remember singing it when I was a kid:

Did you ever think when the hearse went by
that you would be the next to die?
They wrap you up in thick white sheets
bury you down 6 feet deep.

All goes well for about a week
then your coffin begins to leak.
The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out
the worms play pinnacle on your snout.

Your stomach turns a slimy green.
Pus runs out like thick whipped cream.

It starts getting fuzzy at this point in the song. It would end with something like, “And that’s where you go when you die.” I can’t quite remember. I decided to look it up. Found some interesting things about it. Here’s a brief summary from Wikipedia:

The Hearse Song” is a song about burial and human decomposition, of unknown origin. It was popular as a World War I song, and was popular in the 20th century as an American and British children’s song, continuing to the present. It has many variant titles, lyrics, and melodies, but generally features the line “the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out”, and thus is also known as “The Worms Crawl In“.

And here’s a cover that adds many more lyrics than I remember and sounds like the Violent Femmes:

There are LOTS of variations of this song. Check out the comments on this post for some of them. I’m fascinated by this song as part of an oral tradition of poetry — the poem/words aren’t owned by any one poet, they travel and transform. The best (most compelling, memorable) are kept as people recite/sing it, the others discarded. What holds it all together is: “the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out.” If I’m getting it right, those lines are iambic dimeter — 2 feet of unstressed/unstressed.

This focus on the worms reminds me of Cornel West and how, in lectures and the film, The Examined Life, he liked to say:

For me, philosophy is fundamentally about our finite situation. You can define that in terms of being towards death, featherless two legged linguistically conscious creatures born between urine and faeces whose body will one day be the culinary delight of terrestrial worms. That’s us. Beings towards death. At the same time we have desire, why we are organisms in space and time, and so desire in the face of death. 

When I was a kid, I loved singing this song, took delight in the grossness. It didn’t scare or haunt me with it’s reminder that I would die one day. Now, as a middle-aged adult, it doesn’t either, even as I encounter more death and reminders of death. I actually find it comforting (is that the right word?) or helpful to think about the relationship between bodies and dirt and worm food.

during the run

Because Scott and I were talking about many different things (most of which I can remember now), we didn’t talk about “the worms crawl in…”. Possibly we didn’t talk about it because he never sang the song as a kid and doesn’t find it fun now. Boo. I do remember remarking on all the brown and noticing the mulched leaves on the ground. Thinking about things that decompose or have decomposed.

after the run

Not much to add here, except this poem I found when searching, “worms and poetry”:

Feeding the Worms/ Danish Lameris

Ever since I found out that earth worms have taste buds
all over the delicate pink strings of their bodies,
I pause dropping apple peels into the compost bin, imagine
the dark, writhing ecstasy, the sweetness of apples
permeating their pores. I offer beets and parsley,
avocado, and melon, the feathery tops of carrots.

I’d always thought theirs a menial life, eyeless and hidden,
almost vulgar—though now, it seems, they bear a pleasure
so sublime, so decadent, I want to contribute however I can,
forgetting, a moment, my place on the menu.