may 31/RUN

4 miles
minnehaha falls and back
68 degrees
wind: 16 mph / gusts: 25 mph

Windy today. Ran south to the falls without headphones, stopped in the park and put in headphones, then took them back out when I reached the Winchell Trail.

10 Things I Noticed: Sounds

  1. my breathing — often jagged
  2. the wind howling past my ears
  3. a few kids at the playground — not too loud or too exuberant. Were they subdued by the wind? — either their spirits or voices?
  4. a faint bagpipe from somewhere over on the other side, in St. Paul — a Monday after Memorial Day ceremony?
  5. the falls rushing and gushing
  6. the sewer pipe trickling
  7. my left foot striking the ground a littler harder than my right
  8. “Eye of the Tiger” (when I briefly put my headphones in)
  9. “I Knew You Were Trouble”
  10. cars whizzing by

I thought it would, but the wind didn’t bother me that much. Everything was green and fuzzy in the grayish light. Lots of squishy mud on the Winchell Trail and leaning trees. Evidence from last night’s thunderstorm. The river was such a pale blue that it almost looked white. No rowers. No roller skiers. No groups of runners. Lots of people at the falls. As I passed by a woman with a young kid, I wondered how they were enjoying the falls, with all of the big wind gusts. No turkeys or black-capped chickadees. I do remember (now that I wrote that last sentence about birds) encountering a bird on the Winchell Trail. They were on the path just in front of me, not wanting to have to move. Half-heartedly they hopped from the sidewalk to the fence and back. Finally, they decided I was too close and flew on the other side of the fence and down the bluff a bit. I remember seeing the blur of their body as it flashed across my peripheral. I’m not sure what kind of bird it was, but I think it was a robin. I always think it’s a robin or a cardinal.

The other day, I discovered that Harryette Mullen wrote a collection of tanka poems as part of her daily practice of walking and writing poetry. Very cool! It’s called Urban Tumbleweed, and I’m planning to use it in the class I’m teaching at the end of this month.

Here’s some of her introduction:

Merging my wish to write poetry every day with a willingess to step outdoors, my hope was that each exercise would support the other.

She wrote a tanka a day, inspired by a walk, for roughly a year.

This is a record of meditatios and migrations across the diverse terrain of southern California’s urban, suburban, and rural communities, its mountains, deserts, ocean, and beaches.

I just began reading through them. So wonderful!

The morning news landed in the driveway, folded,
rolled, and rubber-banded, wrapped in plastic
for protection from the morning dews.

When I first read this tanka, I thought the last bit was “for protection from the morning news” — meaning the walker was protected from the harm of the morning news. This misreading seems to fit with another of her tankas:

Instead of scanning newspaper headlines,
I spend the morning reading names
of flowers and trees in the botanical garden.

Here are 2 others that struck me:

Chain-link fence, locked gate protect this urban
garden. Fugitive fragrance of honeysuckle
escapes to tempt the passing stranger.

Why should I care about my neighbor’s
riotous dandelions? Does he concern himself
with my slovenly jacaranda?

may 29/RUN

2.5 miles
river road trail, south/north
68 degrees
drizzle

Got up at 6 am again. Why won’t my body ever let me sleep in? Did my morning ritual of coffee, poems-of-the-day, and slowly waking up. Decided to head out for a run before the thunderstorms arrived at 7:30. It was dark-ish — dark enough for the street lamps to be on — and thick and heavy with humidity, green, and birdsong. I liked it. I encountered a few people on the trail, including a runner who “mornied” me. Heard some trickling from the sewer pipe, wind moving through the trees. It wasn’t drizzling all the time, although it was difficult to tell what was rain and what was sweat.

Running back north on the dirt trail between edmund and the river road I heard some more screeching blue jays. I thought about how I’ve been identifying them as crows for years. Why? I guess when I hear an annoying bird cry I think, crow. Sorry crows. The cry of a blue jay is way more annoying.

No river, but I managed to look down at the oak savanna: dark and mysterious. No roller skiers, a few bikers, no laughing kids or chattering walkers. Not too many cars this early on a Sunday morning. No rowers on the river.

Here’s some wisdom from @chenchenwrites that I found on twitter the other day:

as i’m always telling my students—why start from scratch? look at some paintings. look at photography. take a long walk. smell some basil. flip through an old notebook. tweak a favorite song lyric. follow what you already love into its forest. deepen that love. step into it more

and @hechizante777’s reply:

I worry that so many of my students (potentially pressured into nursing or other healthcare majors) simply haven’t had opportunities to figure out what they love… how to make space for that in an era of violence and scarcity?

Making space for figuring out what we love and then loving it in an era of violence and scarcity. So difficult. This discussion reminds me of Teju Cole and his interview with David Naimon for Between the Covers, especially this part:

This frenzied capitalism that we live in—what I’ve been calling market totalitarianism—produces loneliness, existential isolation that deprives people of the tools with which to navigate their place in the universe. This might be genuinely new in the history of the world, cultures have always provided people with those tools, and now we’re all just screaming into the void. Because we’ve been robbed of many, many of the tools that help anchor human experience in the world. I remember what Sun Ra said, he said “Everything comes from outer space.” Everything, it’s all meteors, it’s all from the sun. “The only thing Earth produces is the dead bodies of humans,” he said. I feel in a very vital way that the only thing market totalitarianism really produces is human alienation, depriving us of the tools with which enfold ourselves in the fabric of time. So when I encounter a quintet by Brahms, or traditional Papuan flute music, these are things that give me a chance to re-enfold myself in those sustaining human networks; to the mystery of being alive.

Teju Cole interview

And I’m also thinking of Haniq Abdurraqib’s “On Joy” (which I found very early this morning via twitter):

I don’t know what to do with all of the world’s burning anymore. Sometimes we start the fire directly, other times we’re unwitting accomplices to it, and then there are times when the smoke rises and dances above our own doorsteps, and we’re just too tired to keep the flames under control. I turn on the TV and people of color are still dying. I read the news and people in Trans communities remain dismissed, remain punchlines until they are dead, and people are still laughing at the bad joke. I talk to the women in my life and hear how they’re treated as a different class of person entirely. I don’t have the luxury to not dismantle the systems that allow for those things, and more. I am impacted by it, in some ways, I’m complicit in it, and it’s hard to sit idle while knowing those things. While being afforded a platform, artistic and otherwise.

When we talk about “the work”, as writers, so many of us mean the actual work of writing. The work on the page, of course. After a year of wrestling with the fragility of my own life, and the life of my closest human love, I realized that “the work” is also the work of living. It is the work of loving others when we can, taking care of ourselves when we can, and knowing not to let the former overwhelm us into forgetting the latter. Those two different types of work are two rivers flowing into the same body of water, for me. I don’t know how to write healthy and productive poems if I’m only doing one side of the work.

The only promise here is that I will wake up tomorrow and be as exhausted by the world as I was today. Sure, I may find a brief reprieve in a panda video (or, in the case of the particular tomorrow at the time of this writing, the new Terrance Hayes book!), but I will still find myself going outside to throw water on whatever flames I can, my arms weakening. I know that they will be there, every day. But even through all of it, something happened at around the end of last year. I started writing poems about being married. About my father, still healthy and living. About the friends I love and miss dearly. About my dog. I realized this urgency to archive the things that are not promised. I need the joy in my life to live outside of my body. I need to see it, to touch it. I need that outside of my body even more than I need the rage, confusion, and sadness on the outside. I know the sadness will always replenish itself. There is no certainty in almost anything else. I don’t know how long I’ll get to hear my wife sing along to pop songs in the car during road trips. I don’t know how much longer I’ll get to talk to my father with him remembering who I am. I don’t know when my dog will be too old to rush towards me with a wagging tail whenever I come back from an especially long trip. I need those things to live in other places. I need to have them outside of me so that I can run into them on the days where I will need to. Surely, each small joy has an expiration date. I have touched the edges of them. I don’t know how to fight against this reality except for to write into these moments with urgency. With fearlessness and hunger.

may 28/RUN

3.25 miles
turkey hollow loop
72 degrees

A later start on a Saturday. Decided to avoid the crowds by running on edmund to turkey hollow instead. Everything is drying out from the morning rain. Nothing is that wet, but there’s mud and moisture. The run felt hard when I started — hot — but it got easier the longer I went. It felt good to push through when I wanted to stop and walk about 20 minutes in.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. a turkey! — not in turkey hollow, but near beckettwood, not too far from the spot where Scott and I saw the eagle a few weeks ago
  2. running parallel to another runner — I was on the dirt trail in the grassy boulevard, they were across the river road on the trail. Not totally consciously, I sped up to distance myself from the distraction of their constant presence in my peripheral vision
  3. wore my older running shoes because of the mud. When I started, it felt like my feel were striking the pavement directly: no cushion
  4. screeching blue jays, whirring (?) cardinals
  5. rushing wind through the trees
  6. my jagged breathing and flushed face
  7. squishy mud near minnehaha academy
  8. some kids playing in a front yard, screaming (in delight?) as I ran by
  9. a motorized scooter passing me, then turning around in the Dowling Elementary parking lot — did they go the wrong way? were they confused by the construction on 38th?
  10. almost forgot the honking geese, but remembered when I added “Above, the Geese” to this entry. Not sure how many there were or how high in the sky, but their honking made me curious: are they heading north now?

I never got close enough to see the river or hear if there were any rowers. No bikes or roller skiers or overheard conversations. I prefer to run earlier, when it’s cooler and less crowded, but it was okay today.

Above, the Geese/ Gillian Sze

Watch as winter’s footman scurries off,

the winged spring melt rushing beneath long plates of ice.

Look at the water

pregnant with twigs and lost coins.

Where the trunk meets the ground—this snow is the first to go.

A tree carries its warmth through the winter,each one a point de capiton

around which footprints stitch themselves.For an instant—all is convinced

before moonlight kneels, as it does,to cast each day away.

may 27/RUN

2.5 miles
2 trails
68! degrees

Hooray for warmer weather! I’m tired of feeling cold and wearing long-sleeved shirts. Today it was sunny and warm and wonderful. I did a short run, partly because I got a late start. On the paved, upper trail, I listened to Harry Styles’ new album, Harry’s House. Very nice. When I reached the Winchell, I took out my headphones and listened to:

  1. the trickling water of the sewer
  2. a dog’s collar jangling
  3. someone’s footsteps behind me
  4. my breath
  5. the steady beeping of some sort of emergency siren from the other side
  6. birds
  7. someone apologizing — “Oh, sorry” — for not noticing I was there and taking up the entire path

That’s all I can think of. I’m sure I heard bikers above me, or fragments of conversations, or rustling leaves, or cars rushing by, or lawn mowers, but I don’t remember hearing them.

I love today’s poem for the Slowdown Show:

I Would Do Anything For Love, But I Won’t/ Traci Brimhall

cook lobster. They’re loyal sea rubies and deserve
better than a pinch of lemon and herbed butter.

But I’ll shower hot enough to brighten you, make
zinnias of your shoulders and steal the towels when

it’s over, your water-tattooed back a garden before it
fades. I won’t shave anything unless I feel like it, but

I’ll wax whatever part of your body you request.
I’m not an empath, so I won’t cry when I do it. I’ll let

your pain be yours. I won’t give up coffee or pistachios
or my dog. I know you wouldn’t ask, but I like to be

up front about my boundaries. I bark mine like a seagull,
touching my books, my mother’s china, my chest,

but you’re fine with kindness. You wait for me to feel
safe. I will always let you tease me about talking

to my plants when I water them if you let me tease
the way your hips go stiff when we salsa, but even then

I won’t plan another trip to Rome with you. Not this
year anyway. Not after we’ve given back the tickets

and calendars, dinners and sunburns we thought were
waiting. Instead let’s accept the mail order lemon trees.

Let’s accept repeating puzzles we’ve already finished,
try the paloma recipe again. Let’s accept it’s not what

we would do for each other, but what we can do,
and I can feed the sourdough starter we named Gizmo.

You can return my bowl when you’ve washed it. But
I won’t let you say Pluto is not a planet—I miss the solar

system’s symmetry. I won’t agree that ghosts aren’t real,
even if you’re right. I like a dose of fear. I like whispering

back to the knocks on the wall. I won’t release balloons
when you die because I love sea turtles almost as much

as you. Maybe it’s a tie. I won’t kiss anyone after you die
for at least 60 days, and probably longer, but if I meet

someone who smells like you, I might invite them into
the rain and keep my eyes closed. We can disagree about

the shower curtain, can have days without texts. I can
chide you about the state of your tomatoes, and you can

correct the way I say trilobite, and the only time I’ll run
is across the gymnasium in a pink dress, and the only time

I will give up is in hearts, when I count the cards and know
your hand, and yes, I want to help you shoot the moon.

The title, and so many great details, and the appearance of a lone seagull — so great! If I teach the fall class I’m hoping to, I might add this poem in as one we read.

may 26/RUN

4 miles
marshall loop
50 degrees

The heat is on in the house again this morning. Tomorrow it warms up, then next Monday, 90. I wonder how cold the lake water is right now? I might try to swim in it next week. Today’s run was good. With yesterday’s rain and today’s gloom everything was a rich, dark green. Very cool.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the stones stacked on the ancient boulder were small and leaning
  2. workers #1: the walking part of the double bridge near 33rd seemed clearer today — did they come through and trim some bushes and trees?
  3. the steady click click click clack of ski poles hitting the ground as a roller skier powered up the small hill just south of lake street
  4. workers #2: the dirt trails leading down into the gorge between 33rd and lake street were a dark, deep brown. I wondered if workers had brought in some mulch, but then decided the trails were just wet
  5. the dirt trail right next to the paved one near a park sign, was mushy and soft and difficult to run over
  6. heading east on the lake street bridge, the water was blue and empty — no logs or rowers
  7. peering the windows at Blacks coffee at the top of the Marshall hill, I noticed several tables were empty (also: no smells of delicious waffles today)
  8. workers #3: the distinctive smell of fresh tar, then bright orange cones, a few trucks, and some workers filling in potholes and cracks in the road
  9. the water from shadow falls, which only comes after it rains, sounded like it was spraying out of a shower on a soft setting
  10. nearing the lake street bridge, I thought I heard leaves rustling in the wind, but I think it was another hidden waterfall — is it possible to hike hear this one, or see it from the other side?

I had never listened to Japanese Breakfast until Scott and I heard them?her? perform on SNL this past Saturday. I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not, but since then I’ve listened to the album Jubilee a few times and earlier today I looked up the lyrics to the first song — and the one I saw them perform on SNL: Paprika. Wow, some deep, interesting lyrics!

Paprika/ Michelle Zauner

Lucidity came slowly
I awoke from dreams of untying a great knot
It unraveled like a braid 
Into what seemed were 
Thousands of separate strands of fishing line
Attached to coarse behavior it flowed
A calm it urged, what else is here?

How’s it feel to be at the center of magic
To linger in tones and words?
I opened the floodgates 
And found no water, no current, no river, no rush
How’s it feel to stand at the height of your powers
To captivate every heart?
Projecting your visions to strangers who feel it
Who listen, who linger on every word
Oh, it’s a rush
Oh, it’s a rush

But alone it feels like dying
All alone I feel so much

I want my offering to woo, to calm, to clear, to solve
But the only offering that comes
It calls, it screams, there’s nothing here

How’s it feel to be at the center of magic
To linger in tones and words?
I opened the floodgates 
And found no water, no current, no river, no rush
How’s it feel to stand at the height of your powers
To captivate every heart?
Projecting your visions to strangers who feel it
Who listen, who linger on every word
Oh, it’s a rush
Oh, it’s a rush

may 24/RUN

5.45 miles
franklin loop
60 degrees

Another beautiful morning by the gorge! Sunny, calm, not too warm, clear, low humidity. I felt mostly good, although my IT band — the left one — was sore off and on.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. a cardinal on the path, near the edge. The light and my bad color vision made the red glow in strange ways. It almost looked purple. I wondered if it might be a scarlet tanager, which is found in the gorge, but they have deep black wings, and the one I saw did not
  2. an off, so sweet it was sour smell near the ravine — the sewer
  3. a blue river with some white foam
  4. black capped chickadees singing their fee bee song
  5. no tarp under the lake street bridge on the minneapolis side, but some sort of tarp hanging off a piling on the st. paul side
  6. a empty bench on the east side, its back to the river, facing the road
  7. another empty bench on the east side facing the river with a clear view to the other side
  8. shshshshsh of my feet stepping down on the winter grit that’s settled at the edges of the path on the franklin bridge
  9. closed: Meeker Island Dam dog park (flooding); the road down to the east river flats (flooding); the walking path under the lake street bridge on the east side (erosion — the asphalt has caved in or fallen off into the river)
  10. a runner in shorts and a tank top who I first noticed as walker, walking up the lake street hill. She was talking with someone on the phone — speaker phone? or bluetooth headset? — and running slowly on the dirt trail next to the paved path

more fun with the IT band

Every so often, when my IT band starts to hurt, I like to play with the acronym IT, which stands for Iliotibial, by re-imagining what it/IT stands for. In November of 2018, I re-imagined IT Band, as a rock band, then composed a list of free band names. I’m pretty sure I played with IT again in this log, but I can’t seem to find it. Found it! In addition to re-imagining illiotibial, I also have turned it, as it is used in the common= phrase, “Let it Be,” into an acronym. I made a list of things IT stands for, then turned that into a poem.

Today, I’d like to play with another “it” that I’m encountering a lot as I think about my fall course proposal. It’s from Mary Oliver’s poem, “Invitation”:

It could mean something.
It would mean everything.
It could be what Rilke mean, when he wrote:
You must change your life.

In a poem I wrote in 2018, I speculated on what Mary Oliver might be referring to with her use of it. Today I’d like to expand that speculation beyond her poem.

I.T. could mean something.

  • iced trees
  • important turns
  • invisible tethers
  • irksome temptations
  • indigo territory
  • invalid treaties
  • inevitable treachery
  • imploding tasks
  • injured teeth
  • italic tymphanies
  • iridescent trestles
  • impending trash
  • invalid tramping
  • ignorant tests
  • immediately trampled
  • itchy traps

Not sure if anything will come out of that, but I love playing with words, and it made me forget about my IT band. I do think there’s something interesting about the invalid treaties.

Here’s a poem that I discovered today via twitter. Paul Tran’s poems are wonderful, especially when they read them (click on the pome link to check out their recording of it)!

Hypothesis / Paul Tran

Whether it’s true 
that the moth mistakes the candle’s flame  
for the moon or the bioluminescent  
pheromones of another moth, 

I can’t say. 
I was the candle.  
I was the flame 

conceived in and by reason of  
darkness, nibbling on a darkening wick.  
When moth after moth after moth  
swarmed me with their powdery wings, 

I asked why.  
I asked how.  
I asked if 

I could survive knowing 
that not everything has a reason,  
that not everything is capable 
of or interested in reason. 

Nothing answered.  
Nothing spoke 
my language of smoke.

may 23/RUN

4.5 miles
veterans’ home loop
58 degrees

Sunny and calm. A beautiful spring day that feels like early April not late May. Tried to look at the river, but had trouble through so much green. Heard some cardinals the call of the pileated woodpecker, a crow. I think I looked at my shadow off the side at least once. Did I? Noticed the bench next to the big boulder: empty. Lots of people visiting the falls. Lots of “right behind yous” followed by “that’s okays.” I wasn’t bothered by the crowds. Ran up the short set of steps right before and after the falls.

The run felt good, but I was ready to be done. The last mile was difficult.

Someone posted an excerpt from Adrienne Rich’s essay Someone is Writing a Poem. Wow! Here are a few bits I’d like to remember:

The reading of a poem, a poetry reading, is not a spectacle, nor can it be passively received. It’s an exchange of electrical currents through language—that daily, mundane, abused, and ill-prized medium, that instrument of deception and revelation, that material thing, that knife, rag, boat, spoon/reed become pipe/tree trunk become drum/mud become clay flute/conch shell become summons to freedom/old trousers and petticoats become iconography in appliqué/rubber bands stretched around a box become lyre. 

Take that old, material utensil, language, found all about you, blank with familiarity, smeared with daily use, and make it into something that means more than it says. What poetry is made of is so old, so familiar, that it’s easy to forget that it’s not just the words, but polyrhythmic sounds, speech in its first endeavors (every poem breaks a silence that had to be overcome), prismatic meanings lit by each others’ light, stained by each others’ shadows. In the wash of poetry the old, beaten, worn stones of language take on colors that disappear when you sieve them up out of the streambed and try to sort them out.

And all this has to travel from the nervous system of the poet, preverbal, to the nervous system of the one who listens, who reads, the active participant without whom the poem is never finished.

We go to poetry because we believe it has something to do with us. We also go to poetry to receive the experience of the not me, enter a field of vision we could not otherwise apprehend.

But most often someone writing a poem believes in, depends on, a delicate, vibrating range of difference, that an “I” can become a “we” without extinguishing others, that a partly common language exists to which strangers can bring their own heartbeat, memories, images. A language that itself has learned from the heartbeat, memories, images of strangers.

Someone is writing a poem. Words are being set down in a force field. It’s as if the words themselves have magnetic charges; they veer together or in polarity, they swerve against each other. Part of the force field, the charge, is the working history of the words themselves, how someone has known them, used them, doubted and relied on them in a life. Part of the movement among the words belongs to sound—the guttural, the liquid, the choppy, the drawn-out, the breathy, the visceral, the downlight. The theater of any poem is a collection of decisions about space and time—how are these words to lie on the page, with what pauses, what headlong motion, what phrasing, how can they meet the breath of the someone who comes along to read them? And in part the field is charged by the way images swim into the brain through written language: swan, kettle, icicle, ashes, scab, tamarack, tractor, veil, slime, teeth, freckle.

may 22/RUN

4.25 miles
river road trail, north/south
50 degrees

In the 40s this morning. I had to turn the heat on. Boo. Still, it was nice weather for a run. Not too much wind, not too warm, sunny. I tried to remember to look at the river, and did at least once. I could barely see it through all of the green. Saw Mr. Morning! Today he waved at me. I think he could tell I was too busy navigating through all of the people to speak. Listend to the world running north, a playlist running south.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. No rowers
  2. a big group (10+) of roller skiers, with a coach on a bike in the back
  3. a biker calling out to his friend: “I love that show!” what show?
  4. a sliver of blue river through the leaves
  5. no stacked stones on the ancient rock
  6. the path felt like it was floating in the trees at the spot where it’s so thick with green above and below that you can tell where the ground or sky are
  7. passed Mr. Holiday and he said, “well, at least there’s sun”
  8. clouds in the sky, sometimes covering the sun
  9. a blue plastic tarp folded up on the ground under the lake street bridge, near the porta potty
  10. no squirrels or chipmunks or black-capped chickadees or woodpeckers or sewer smells or burnt toast smells or purple flowers but one irritating mosquito bite on the back of my leg

Naming the Heartbeats/ Aimee Nezhukumatathil

I’ve become the person who says Darling, who says Sugarpie,
Honeybunch, Snugglebear—and that’s just for my children.
What I call my husband is unprintable. You’re welcome. I am
his sweetheart, and finally, finally—I answer to his call and his
alone. Animals are named for people, places, or perhaps a little
Latin. Plants invite names for colors or plant-parts. When you
get a group of heartbeats together you get names that call out
into the evening’s first radiance of planets: a quiver of cobras,
a maelstrom of salamanders, an audience of squid, or an ostentation
of peacocks. But what is it called when creatures on this earth curl
and sleep, when shadows of moons we don’t yet know brush across
our faces? And what is the name for the movement we make when
we wake, swiping hand or claw or wing across our face, like trying
to remember a path or a river we’ve only visited in our dreams.

may 20/RUN

4.25 miles
minnehaha falls and back
56 degrees

Hailed this morning for a few minutes. Small pellets today. Yesterday afternoon, golf ball sized ones flinging themselves against the windows. A thunderous noise. Strange weather.

Ran to the falls. Didn’t realize it until much later, but my watch died 30 seconds in. I need to get a new watch, or stop wearing a watch. I’m thinking about the latter. Earlier on, wearing a watch and tracking my miles, pace, minutes exercised, calories burned seemed important as motivation. Now I don’t really need it…or want it. Maybe I’ll try not having it this summer and see how that works (or doesn’t work).

Ran to the falls without headphones, listening to the kids playing at the Dowling Elementary School playground. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the kids at the Minnehaha Academy playground and how their yells seemed menancing and mean. Today’s kids were not mean but out of control with exuberance. Not completely joyful, but not unjoyful either. As I listened to the “woo woo woos” and the “aaaaaaaahhhhhhs” I thought about being unhinged or out of control and how it can be connected to a sense of freedom or letting go.

I also thought about soft attention and noticing through the peripheral, not focusing on the edges, but making note of what’s happening there — what’s off to the side or below you. Looking ahead at the trail, I noticed a walker across the road and off to the side of me. I think they were waving their arms. Was it at me as a greeting. Not sure.

There was lots of debris on the sidewalks and the trail from the violent rain/hail last night. Not any big branches, just lots of leaves and twigs and muck. Yuck! Did I see any worms? I don’t think so. Did I look at the river? I think so, but I can’t remember what color it was or if it had any foam on it.

I ran by Minnehaha Creek right before it spilled over the falls. It was high and rushing. I didn’t look at the falls, but I could hear them gushing — or, I felt they were gushing? A school group was there somewhere, but I didn’t run into any of the kids. 2 long rows of porta potties lined the path, ready for the “Women Run the Cities” race tomorrow. I ran it a few pre-pandemic years ago.

When I entered Minnehaha Regional Park, I looped around the falls, then stopped to take off my sweatshirt and put in my headphones. The first song I listened to was Paramore’s “Misery Business.” It’s 173 bpm and helps me lock into a quick, steady rhythm. After that, Foo Fighter’s “The Pretender” helped me keep that rhythm. No more thinking about anything, just steadily moving.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. a spazzy squirrel almost jumped out in front of me, but quickly turned and ran up the tree next to me
  2. I just remembered that the school group I mentioned above was below me, at the spot where the creek collects and kids wade in the summer
  3. a few big puddles on the path — I avoided all of them
  4. the sewer pipes were all dripping or gushing
  5. I waved to at least 2 other runners
  6. a biker whizzed by me from behind — it felt close!
  7. I encountered a tall runner in shorts and a t-shirt — I think they were both gray — twice, once heading south and once heading north
  8. no kids at the Minnehaha Falls playground
  9. someone was stopped at the water fountain in the 36th street parking lot, filling up a water bottle
  10. At the start and end of my run, as I neared the river, a street crew was blowing smoke through the manhole, checking for sewer cracks and leaks. Smoke billowed up and spreading out across the street

That list of 10 things was hard to create, probably because I had already described so many things I noticed. I can’t believe I almost forgot about the sewer smoke. It was a very memorable sight.

In the Clearing/ Patricia Hopper

After last night’s rain the woods
smell sensual—a mixture of leaves and musk.
The morels have disappeared, and soon I’ll come across
those yellow chanterelles, the kind they sell
in town at the farmers’ market. Once I saw
the Swedish woman who raises her own food
foraging for them, two blond boys
quarreling near the pickup, and the next morning
they were selling them from their stand beside the road.

Out here, among last year’s dead
leaves with the new shoots of spruces
poking through them, I’ve come to the place where light
brightens a glade of ferns and the log someone else
placed here—carved “B.W.”—where I sometimes sit
to listen to the birds. Today the sun is breaking through
the wet branches, revealing a clean sky,
brilliant, cerulean. Then, suddenly, a raft of scudding clouds

promising more rain. If it comes, I’ll read all afternoon—
Henry James, or maybe Eudora Welty’s
Delta Wedding, where so many characters
vie for attention I can never keep them straight.
Here, there’s no one else, no one to worry over
or argue with or love. Maybe the earth was meant
only for this: small comings and goings
on the forest floor, the understory astir
with its own secret life. If I sit still enough
among the damp trees, sometimes I see the world
without myself in it, and—it always surprises me—
nothing at all is lost.

I love how this poem describes the clearing so clearly, and the last few lines about seeing the world without myself in it.

may 19/RUN

5.5. miles
ford loop*
66 degrees

*slight variation: began by running north through the neighborhood instead of on the river road trail

Sun! Low humidity! Birds! Clear paths! What a wonderful morning for a run! Even the struggle of getting a girl to go to school (which I’ve been steadily doing for 6 years now…almost every weekday morning) couldn’t dull the shine of this day.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. someone revving up an old lawnmower — a rattle then roar, a hot, smoky smell
  2. voices on the other side of lake street, sitting outside at Dunn Bros or Longfellow Grill
  3. looking downstream at the river, the water was almost foamy in spots and looked cold — an ice cold blue
  4. a biker biking up the hill alongside me — me on the trail, them in the bike lane — wearing a bright yellow shirt and moving so slowly that I almost caught up to them
  5. Shadow Falls sputtering, the creek feeding it flowing fast
  6. the dirt trail next to the paved on the east river trail was sometimes packed and hard, sometimes sandy and soft
  7. a plaque on a random rock I didn’t stop to read — what does it say? who is it honoring?
  8. a lone goose flying very low, just above my head, as I ran over the ford bridge, uttering random low, slow honks
  9. looking upstream at the river, it was a deeper shade of blue and was clear and calm and foamless
  10. the 44th street sewer pipe on the Winchell Trail had water that gurgled, the 42nd street, water that gushed

where I ran, what I ran on: gritty, graveling dirt; soft sand; packed dirt; asphalt; tree roots; concrete; a paved trail; a dirt trail next to the paved one; a dirt trail that used to be paved; the street; a big bridge; a bigger bridge; the ruts in the road; between orange cones and the curb at a spot where they were working on the road or the sewer or something that rerouted the trail; 2 sets of steps going down; a shaded trail; a sunny trail; grass; mud; flower petals

I’m working on a proposal for a fall class at the Loft Literary Center. The process of writing a syllabus is time-consuming and very inefficient. I spend a lot of time circling around ideas until I find just the right way into them. As I continue to struggle, I was hoping Mary Oliver and her poem, “Invitation,” could help. So I recited it in my head as I ran — I memorized it a few years ago. Did it? I think so, but I can’t really remember the thoughts it prompted. I recall thinking about the goldfinches and wondering about how much work they were doing in this poem. The focus of the poem is the musical battle that the goldfinches are engaged in. This battle is “not for your sake/and not for mine/and not for the sake of winning/but for sheer delight and gratitude.” Yet, with it, the birds say “believe us/it is a serious thing/just to be alive/on this fresh morning/in this broken world.” And their “rather ridiculous performance,” if we pause to attend to it, could change our life. This makes me want to return to Ada Limón’s VS. podcast episode (vs. Epiphany). Would the birds really want to talk to me/you/us when they’re having so much in their battle?

This poem is aptly titled; it was one of my early invitations into poetry. Those birds and their ridiculous performance and the call to change my life got me thinking and imagining. It also made me frustrated. What does it mean to change your life? How do we do it? For my class, I’m thinking about an introduction to poetry as a way in, a door, an invitation, the gesture of a stranger saying, “Look!” to you as they point out an eagle in a tree. Mary Oliver’s invitation is one way this could work — maybe we could look at different versions of the invitation, from other writers?

An invitation to what? — here’s another way that Mary Oliver fits in. I’m thinking of the invitation in terms of her instructions for living a life: 1. Pay Attention, 2. Be Astonished, 3. Tell About It. The invitation is to notice, to be in wonderment, to share it with others. I want to tie this together with the idea of giving attention as more than an individual act, but a collective shared one that can lead to caring for and about, to empathy, to repair, and to social transformation. Now I just need to express that in 200 words!

Here is a definition of poetry from Ilya Kaminsky that I discovered this morning that might help:

For me poetry is a moment of awe — that silence that travels from one human body to another by means of words. Gilgamesh was written 4,000 ago and it transforms us still. This is what poetry is: not a kind of public posturing but a private language of music and imagery that is strange and compelling enough that it can speak privately to thousands of people at the same time.

Ilya Kaminsky in the New Statesmen

Oh, I almost forgot that at the end of my run I stopped and recorded some thoughts into my phone. Here is some of what I said:

As part of my course proposal, I need to offer a sample activity. I think I’ll do a variation on my “The Is, the Ought, the Why and Why Not” exercise. In this exercise, students choose a handful of poems (5-10? — more? less?) and read them several times. Then they’ll pick out some of their favorite lines and classify them according to whether the lines are describing the world (the Is), offering advice on how to be in the world or how the world should be (the Ought), being curious/asking questions about the world (the Why), or imagining new ways to be (the Why Not?). As I write this description, I’m realizing I need to fine-tune my distinctions between the categories here.

This class is an introduction to poetry from the perspective of the poem as a door, an invitation, with a specific focus on how that invitation leads to attention and care and repair and connection and transformation. We will look at what attention is; what care is, focusing a lot on how poets write and learning from their words. There will be opportunities to practice with your own poems, but much of it will be about learning about the invitation and how to take it up, as a reader and writer. I want to bring in Alice Oswald’s thoughts from an essay for The Guardian:

Go and leaf through the poetry section of your local library. Take out a book of Border Ballads, look at John Clare’s sonnets, soak yourself in Gerard Manley Hopkins. If you like the ballads, go on reading them until everything you think comes out in four lines with the second and fourth rhyming (but be careful in public places). If you like the sonnets, read them until you start to speak in five-beat lines with alternating soft and loud syllables; and then write a series of poems that all last fourteen lines.

Although it’s fine to imitate a poem, I want to leave you with this one strong claim: that you should never learn to write one, you should never write a poem till you can feel it in your bones. Because poetry is your whole body’s response to the whole world, not just your head’s response to a thought or a glimpse.

Reading through this last bit again, I wonder if I agree. Should you never try to write a poem unless your whole body is in it? Maybe having it be a whole body experience is the goal, the aim, and maybe you can strive for it as you’re attempting to write poems?