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 descending 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.

*sometime in April of 2024, I finally realized that the first set of fee bees were not ascending but descending from a higher note than the second set. Now, whenever I’m reading through an old entry that describes them incorrectly, I’m fixing it.

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.


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.


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
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 the 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)