I need to start getting up earlier for these runs. It’s too hot by 9:30. Sunny and windy. Lots of shade, which is one reason to love the green, even if it does block my view of the river. Did one of my most regular routes: the trestle turn around. Saw and greeted Mr. Morning!, then later, on my walk with Delia the dog, Dave the Daily Walker. I remember thinking about something, and wanting to remember it — 2 things actually — but now I can’t remember them. I almost stopped to record them into my phone, but I didn’t. Maybe if I keep typing, I’ll remember them?
10 Things I Noticed
above the tunnel of trees: light green, dark green, green air. Felt like I was flying above the trees
before the tunnel: 3 stones stacked on the ancient boulder. I wonder, are they same stones every time — they fall off and someone picks them up and stacks them again?
2 runners with a running stroller, a kid in it crying, one of the adults saying, “we’ll be home soon”
voices drifting up from the Winchell Trail right by the railroad trestle
the smell of pot by the ravine
a few others bits of conversation — I think I was able to hear a word or two, but I can’t remember the words now
starting out my run in the neighborhood, hearing some talking, not able to identify any words. I knew they were words, but no idea what the words were. I was reminded of these lines from a Jane Hirshfield poem I encountered a few weeks ago: “An almost readable language./ Like the radio heard while traveling in a foreign country—/You know that something important has happened, but not what.”
the whooshing of car wheels mixing with the wind
yes! I just remembered one thing I’d forgotten! a car blasting “Renegade” by Styx as I neared the double bridge just north of the old stone steps and longfellow flats
surfaces: west dirt, dry dusty dirt, concrete, asphalt, grass
Back to “Renegade.” I started singing along in my head after the car passed:
The jig is up the news is out they finally found me
A renegade who had it made in ???? county
I couldn’t remember the last line, no matter how hard I tried, I decided I would look it up when I got back from my run. Here’s what I found:
The jig is up, the news is out They’ve finally found me The renegade who had it made Retrieved for a bounty Nevermore to go astray This will be the end today of the wanted man
Wow, not sure I ever knew exactly what Dennis DeYoung sang there. Retrieved for a bounty? Nice.
Found these little poems from Charles Simic in a recent New Yorker:
A Tree of Dignified Appearance/ Charles Simic
Fed up with its noisy leaves And its chirping little birds, Plus that young woodpecker Drilling himself a new home.
For Rent/ Charles Simic
A large clean room With plenty of sunlight And one cockroach To tell your troubles to.
What a wonderful morning for a swim! Sunny and not too windy. The orange buoys were backlit so it was almost impossible to see them. Disorienting. I had to stop a few times to make sure I was headed in the right direction. I didn’t panic.
My thoughts wandered from a few complaints from my body, my left hip hurts, my hands are turning numb, my back is sore, to lyrics from Soundheim’s “Here’s to the Ladies Who Lunch” — Here’s to the ladies who lunch and the dinosaurs surviving the crunch and I’ll drink to that — to there’s a dragonly!, to blue empty sky with only one cloud, to is that a buoy or a boat?, to I’m all alone out here (and it’s wonderful), to it’s so much less windy today! I was tired when I was finished. I only did 2 loops (about 1.5 miles), but this is only my third swim since last September, so I’m okay with that.
Getting out of the water and drying off in the sun, I felt the slight breeze and the warm sun and thought: What a life! or This is the life!, I can’t quite remember. The point: I love swimming at lake nokomis and being by the water and feeling the warmth of worked muscles.
A few other things I just remembered: minnows near thes shore, parting for my feet; opaque water — could I even see my hand in front of me? not sure…it was brownish green down below, blue above
run: 2.9 miles 2 trails 82! degrees 3:40 pm
Hot, so hot! Bright sun with a little shade. Listened to a playlist on the upper trail, the gorge below. Difficult to relax and notice anything but heat and the sweat dripping down my back. I’m going to try:
10 Things I Noticed
in the parking lot above the oak savanna: 2 adults standing on the edge of the walking path doing some weird dance — it almost looked like tai chi — were they doing some tiktok dance?
someone on an old school skateboard
lots of bikes, zooming past me, too close
a niceride or some other rental bike parked in the middle of the part of the Winchell Trail right before some old stone steps up to the 44th st parking lot
the sewer pipe at 42nd was flowing
voices above me on the paved trail
some cool, shaded spots on the winchell trail
hardly any bugs, except for the one that flew in my mouth that I had to spit out. Yuck!
climbing the small hill near winchell, I noticed a runner on the paved path. I wonder if she was hot as I was?
the sewer pipe at the ravine between 36t st parking lot and the overlook was trickling steadily, making it sound cooler
4 miles marshall loop 74 degrees wind: 20 mph / gusts: 26 mph 9:30 am
Sunny, warm, windy! Very windy. Luckily, I never seemed to be running straight into it. My visor stayed on, even when I crossed the bridge! I used to really dislike the wind, now it doesn’t bother me that much when I’m running. I like the sounds it makes. Today it russshhhed through the gorge, shaking the trees. I was going to write that it roared, but it had more of a shshshsh sound than an oar sound. No rowers on the river (I don’t blame them in this wind). No roller skiers or geese or blue jays.
10 Things I Noticed
river, 1: white sparkles on the surface
river, 2: more brown than blue
river, 3: empty
the crane on the east side is still there. I wondered where they were working. Later, as I reached the turnoff from cretin to the east river road I saw a “road work ahead” sign and thought that the crane might be near summit avenue
the wind was at my back as I crossed over the bridge to the east side of the river
smell: bacon, or pork of some kind, coming from the BBQ place next to Blacks
was able to run mostly in the shade, some full, some dappled
everything is green
a man sitting in the back of a truck, waiting to begin work on the road or the sidewalk or something that they have blocked off at this intersection
people over at the St. Thomas track, running laps
2.5 miles in, I stopped to walk up the steps to the lake street bridge and record a few thoughts I was having about my class and this running/writing project. The recording is not very good, too much wind and traffic, so I’ll only include the transcript of part of it:
In the middle of a windy run, and I was thinking that this project is so many things at once. It’s a compex mess of layers of things I’m trying to achieve, things I’m experimenting with, and the fundamental thing that keeps it all together is to have this little structure, this little bit of discipline: I go out and move for roughly the same amount of time and then I write about it. And in the log I have just a little bit of structure so that it gives, maybe not an anchor but, a tether to the world and to some purpose and intent.
I had a few more thoughts but I’m not including them here. When I spoke them into my phone, they sounded great, but listening back, they don’t quite make sense.
swim: 2 loops / 1.5 miles lake nokomis wind: 20 mph 5:30 pm
Windy again. Swimming from the big beach to the little beach wasn’t too bad, although a few of the swells behind me made it difficult to get in a stroke, or to breathe. From the little beach back to the big beach was harder. But, it didn’t bother me, in fact I loved it. The main thing I remember about the swim was how amazed I am in my ability to trust the flash that I see, maybe only once or twice, and that doesn’t look like anything but a smudge — to trust my belief that that flash is the buoy and that that is the right way to swim to stay on course. Even when I didn’t think I could see where the buoys were, I swam straight towards them and stayed on course. Wow. I love open swimming, and I’m so grateful that I can continue to do it. In other good news, my other nose plug stayed on while I swam, and I am not stuffed up at all. Hooray!
Ran with Scott. North on the river road to the trestle, then left and up to the greenwood trail, through Brackett Park, and over to Dogwood Coffee on lake street for an iced latte. Overcast. It was supposed to rain all day, but something shifted and it’s missing Minneapolis. Nice. Without the sun, everything was a deep, dark green. I remember noticing how green and mysterious and calm it was in the tunnel of trees. I think I heard some rowers down below, or maybe it was a few hikers? I don’t recall ever seeing the river, or much of what Scott and I talked about, other than complaining about some changes to apple pay that make it impossible to transfer money to our 16 year old. Heard some blue jays and thought, again, about how I used to think “crow” everytime I heard their screeching.
Sitting here, trying to remember things that happened, or that I thought about, on the run, I’m…not amazed or suprised…struck by how much I don’t remember, how lost I was for those minutes. I don’t mind getting lost. Sometimes I wish it would happen more.
Things I Don’t Remember
if there were any stones stacked on the ancient boulder
the welcoming oaks
above the rowing club
if anyone was sitting on a bench
Writing the list above, I suddenly remembered something, which might explain why I don’t remember noticing the welcoming oaks because I think it was near them that this happened: a chipmunk darted in front of both of us and we had to jump to avoid stepping on it. Dumb chipmunk! I’m glad that neither of us injured our feet or ankles or knees trying to avoid it. Of course, the chipmunk was fine. I recounted the story to Scott of when RJP and I had been biking to Fort Snelling and a chipmunk darted across the trail and ran right into my wheel. It was stunned or dead, I’m not sure which one.
Thinking about Simone Weil for my class this morning. I like this paraphrasing of her in a lithub article:
To attend means not to seek, but to wait; not to concentrate, but instead to dilate our minds. We do not gain insights, Weil claims, by going in search of them, but instead by waiting for them.
Thinking about being open, patient, willing to wait, letting go, trying to relax.
Open swim! Open swim! Hooray for the first open swim! It was hot and crowded and very windy. And wonderful, even though my nose plug fell off during my swim across to the little beach. I developed an allergy 6 or 7 years ago and have been wearing a nose plug ever since. I’ve often wondered if I still really needed it. Yep. Stuffed up nose last night. Oh well, I survived and now I know: always wear a nose plug.
10 Things I Noticed
the water was mostly smooth swimming from the big beach to the little beach
lots of silver streaks or flashes below me: big fish, I think
breathed every 5, except for in the choppiest parts
only got quick flashes of orange and green buoys
from the little beach back to the big beach the water was very choppy, lots of waves
when I stopped to get my bearing, or to adjust my goggles, I could hear the loud din from the big beach — so many people!
I hardly ever encountered any other swimmers out in the lake, although I know there were many more people swimming with me
glimpse 1: a swimmer, not too far from me, between the first and second buoys. All I could see was the bright yellow swim buoy tethered to their waist
glimpse 2: 2 women treading water near the 3rd orange buoy/little beach — at least, I think there were 2 of them. I couldn’t see them, just heard their voices. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, just that they were talking. I think it might have been about how difficult the swimming was today
I passed by several lifeguards on kayaks — a few of them moved back to give me space, one of them seemed to paddle alongside me for a few strokes
A great first swim. I couldn’t sight the buoys very well, and couldn’t really see that I was going the right way. I just knew I was. Maybe because my eyes were giving my brain visual data that I wasn’t consciously aware of. Maybe because I use other modes than seeing to navigate. And maybe because my body has memorized this route, having done so many loops, every summer since 2013.
*variation = south on paved river road trail/turn around under ford bridge/north on paved trail until I reached the parking lot at 44th and the entrance to the Winchell Trail/up the 38th st steps/north on the river road paved trail/back into the neighborhood at 36th
A run between raindrops. Rain, earlier this morning. Rain expected this afternoon. Everything was green and wet and sticky. By the end of the run, my skin felt like one of those damp pads you use for moistening stamps. Yuck! The dew point didn’t bother too much while I was running because I stopped a few times to speak my thoughts into my phone. Not too many people out on the trails. Quiet, except for the birds, a few kids, an occasional jackhammer.
a noise as a clue
I’ve been thinking a lot about my senses and my brain and how they alert me to what’s around me in the world. Today’s small example: walking up the 38th steps, unable to see what was above me because of all the vegetation. I heard the flash of a distinctive sound: the jingling of a dog collar. The jingling sound was quick, quiet, easy to ignore, but somehow I noticed, and it prepared me for not being surprised when I encountered the dog and their human at the top of the steps.
a new experiment
Still working on my class. Today is about attention, especially passive attention. Before I headed out I listened to a recording of a draft of my lecture so far, then I ran. About 10 minutes in, I started having interesting thoughts about attention and my class and noticing in unexpected and/or passive ways. I decided to stop and record my thoughts. About 4 or 5 minutes later, I stopped again to record more thoughts. Here’s the recording and a transcript:
Wow, I had no idea I said this much!
June 13th, a little over a mile and a half into a run in humid, muggy weather. Between raindrops, I’ve stopped to walk and record this. I’m working this morning on how to describe passive attention or soft attention or being available to seeing or attending to. I was thinking about how moving helps that and that it’s really hard to hold onto a thought. Concentration and will are a difficult thing to do, so it can help train you to do better, to be more effective, in that passive absorption. Because you don’t have a choice, you can’t really pay attention to things.
The other thing I was thinking about, just ’cause this is all jumbled, associated thoughts — I was thinking about how one of the problems with attention is the idea that we have a limited amount, and that we need to use it wisely. It’s a commodity that we spend and that we pay and therefore it’s a limited resource. But, if you think about attention differently, as not paying but giving, and you think about not holding onto or hoarding attention, but growing it or having it epand or letting go or letting it pass through you, it is no longer a commodity or limited resource. It’s something that we can expand and give in more ways than we are.
So, another thing I was thinking about was the connection between passive attention and peripheral sight and how you’re looking to the edges of what you can see. If you’re looking straight ahead, you’re thinking or noticing more what’s happening below you or above you or off to the side, even while you’re looking forward. And I was thinking about how one of the first things the opthalmologist said to me was I’d need to learn to see people by looking at their shoulders [note: to see them through my peripheral vision]. So how does that change what we see and what we can do with that sight?
I stopped recording and started running again.
Okay, I’m about 1/2 a mile, 3/4 of a mile further. I’m by the ravine where the water gushes, or does more than trickle. And that’s because..I think it’s by more houses, and also because it has rained an hour ago. Anyway, I wanted to stop so I wouldn’t forget this. So I was thinking, as I started the Winchell Trail, about how I’m talking a lot about moving and how it can help us tap into that passive attention or these different forms of giving attention, but I’m not talking about being outside, what outside does. I was thinking, if nothing else — and there’s much more — if offers more interruptions, potentially more interesting interruptions, to any focused concentration we might be having. There’s more to be distracted by, or be interrupted by, to listen to….Then I was thinking about how these interruptions and these different modes of paying attention and having all of them, also how it can be beneficial to our work to be outside moving. But it’s also good for our health, and it helps us with our lives, being able to pay attention in different ways. This is not multi-tasking in the way that it’s understood, where we’re expected to do more and more things all at once and be responsible. It’s not multi-tasking, it’s some other way, because we’re not holding onto this attention. I had a word for it when I was running and I’ve forgotten it already.
Okay, I just thought of one more thing: It’s the idea of what I’m doing right now where I’ve kind of in some ways spontaneously deciding I will run and walk then stop and talk and record these thoughts. In some ways, that’s experimenting and spontaneous, but it’s built off of all this training and showing up and building up that endurance and the ability to do that. It makes me think of how in running if you’re wanting to run longer distances, you need to have a base layer. You need to do slow, long, steady miles and build up your body so that it’s able to handle that. But that’s an important part of the process, is building up that base layer, and we can try to translate that into what’s happening with attention and these experiments.
It’s funny how some of what I was saying made much more sense when I was saying it then it does now that I’m listening and transcribing it. Regardless, recording these thoughts was helpful — and thinking about passive attention was too!
Spending time reviewing my thoughts, I’m remembering more. I remember running in a bit of a fog, partly because of the thick air, the gray sky, the deep green, and feeling present on the path, then being interrupted by a kid’s cry, or a bird’s chirp, or the rumble of a jackhammer. I’m also thinking about part of the long poem I wrote this past fall (Haunts) and my description of this space of passive attention:
5k trestle turn around 71 degrees humidity: 73% / dew point: 62 11 am
A wonderful run! Another day where it isn’t really cloudy, but CLOUD. The sky, almost white. The air, thick (or thicker than yesterday). Ran north on the river road trail past the welcoming oaks — good morning! And past the big boulder with no stones stacked. Through the tunnel of trees, above the old stone steps, under the lake street bridge, all the way to the trestle. I stopped to walk for a few seconds, turned around, and ran back. Worked on increasing my cadence while trying not to run faster and use more effort. That’s hard. I felt tired by the time I reached the trestle — and warm. The dew point is in the uncomfortable range.
10 Things I Noticed
one of the welcoming oaks is very close to the paved trail, just a few inches away
right before reaching the oaks, above the ravine, a tree that fell last week — or the week before? — is still there, leaning over the edge, split in a few places
a honk or two
2 bikers and a roller blader, moving and chatting together on the bike path
comiing up behind me, I heard a voice saying to someone else, “there’s 5 of us coming up behind you,” then one biker with a trailer passing me, then moving over to the side while 5 bikers in bright yellow shirts biked past
another, fast biker, approaching a few seconds later. I tried to listen to hear if they said, “on your left,” I don’t think so
rowers on the river! the evidence: the coxswain’s voice gently offering guidance through a bullhorn
a walker, listening to some funk music through their phone in the tunnel of trees
all (almost all?) of the benches were empty
Nearing the end of my run, when I heard the rowers, I had a moment of clarity. I decided to cross over to the grass betwen the river road and edmund and record my thoughts. Here’s a recording of it, and a transcript, with a few additional remarks:
june 12th, 2.5 miles run (note: I ran another 1/2 mile after I recorded this, also: I had only finished my run 20-30 seconds prior to recording this so my heartrate was still high and my breathing was more labored). Try to be open to being interrupted. Take notice of the sounds that interrupt you, that call out to you, almost insisting, “listen!,” as opposed to just trying as hard as you can to notice everything and to constantly be vigilant about the listening, trying to return to it again and again. While this can be useful sometimes, we also need the interruptions, the time to just be, to slow down and let the world speak to us.
Here, I try to remember the name of a poem that I think fits. I decided it was titled “Lost.” It is!
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here, And you must treat it as a powerful stranger, Must ask permission to know it and be known. The forest breathes. Listen. It answers, I have made this place around you. If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here. No two trees are the same to Raven. No two branches are the same to Wren. If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you, You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows Where you are. You must let it find you.
Also, another example of this is the time I was really focused on running, not paying attention, to the point that I didn’t even notice the geese that were on the other side of the road, congregating in someone’s front yard. All of a sudden, one of them gobbled, not ferociously but loudly, almost yelling at me to listen and to notice.
Three things to note here: First, I wrote about this moment in my running log, under the heading “delight of the day” on march 2, 2022.
Secone, it was not geese who interrupted me, but turkeys (hence, the gobble reference). I think I mis-said geese because I was thinking about Mary Oliver’s poem, Wild Geese and the lines:
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting – over and over announcing your place in the family of things.
Third, this recording was inspired by a moment on today’s run when I was interrupted by something. I forgot to say what that something was in the recording and I’m already struggling to remember it. I think it was the voice of the rower?
And, that’s…to get to that point..ooo! And then I think about how Mary Oliver has that poem where she talks about how some people can just get there right away. They just open up and stuff pours in. Others of us need a lot more practice. It’s a constant struggle…This would be..the exercise is kind of passive insofar as you’re not doing anything to make it happen, you’re just letting it happen and be around and aware when it does.
Mary Oliver doesn’t exactly write, “stuff pours in,”she writes:
from “The Book of Time” in The Leaf and the Cloud/ Mary Oliver
For some souls it’s easy; they lie down on the sand and are soon asleep. For others, the mind shivers in its glacial palace, and won’t come. Yes, the mind takes a long time, is otherwise occupied than by hapiness, and deep breathing. Now, in the distance, some bird is singing. And now I have gathered six or seven deep red, half-opened cups of petals betwen my hands, and now I have put my face against them and now I am moving my face back and forth, slowly, against them. The body is not much more than two feet and a tongue. Come to me, says the blue sky, and say the word. And finally even the mind comes running, like a wild thing, and lies down on the sand. Eternity is not later, or in any unfindable place. Roses, roses, roses.
Having this moment of clarity was so great. Before heading out for my run, I was struggling to describe the different forms of attention that we’ll be working on in my class. I have too many ideas, too many sources, too many things that I want to share. I was feeling overwhelmed. On the run, I wasn’t thinking about how to work through this problem, but this idea of interruptions and being open to them found me. This “finding” is an excellent example of what I’m trying to teach about the value of moving outside! It’s not all that we can do while moving, and it doesn’t always happen, but it’s part of why I show up almost every day beside the gorge, moving and breathing and trying to be present.
As I thought about attention before I went out for a run, and the types of attention I want to describe in my lecture recording (I’m doing it like a podcast), I thought about Mary Oliver’s poem “Luke” as a good example of being open to attention. After typing up those bits from MO’s The Leaf and the Cloud above, I see some strong connections between it and “Luke.”
Luke/ Mary Oliver
I had a dog who loved flowers. Briskly she went through the fields,
yet paused for the honeysuckle or the rose, her dark head
and her wet nose touching the face of every one
with its petals of silk, with its fragrance rising
into the air where the bees, their bodies heavy with pollen,
hovered— and easily she adored every blossom,
not in the serious, careful way that we choose this blossom or that blossom—
the way we praise or don’t praise— the way we love or don’t love— but the way
we long to be— that happy in the heaven of earth— that wild, that loving.
Thank you running and the gorge and my feet for making it possible for me to move so that I could untangle this knot in my thinking and be with the birds and the rowers and the river!
bike: about 12 miles* around lake nokomis and back
*my very outdated, over-the-hill apple watch crashed again while we were biking, so I don’t know the exact distance. Somewhere between 11.5 and 12 miles. I finally decided that I need a new watch. It’s coming on Tuesday: an early birthday present!
Biked with FWA over to the lake to pick up our swim caps! Tuesday is the first open swim! Hooray!! Several memorable things happened, which I want to remember for me and for FWA:
At Sandcastle, they had entertainment: a singer with a guitar. He sang John Denver’s “Country Roads,” but changed some of the words to fit Minneapolis. Instead of Almost heaven, West Virginia he sang, Almost heaven, South Minneapolis, which was awkward. He kept in Shenandoah River in Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River when, as FWA suggested, he could have sang, Mississippi River
Picking up our caps, a lifeguard asked FWA if he goes to Gustavus (he was wearing a Gustavus t-shirt). When he said yes, she added: “My friend and I just transferred from there to St. Olaf.” Anyone who goes/went to either Gustavus or St. Olaf and knows about their rivalry and might find this remark funny
Biking to lake nokomis on the minnehaha creek path, rounding a hidden corner, we heard a bell ringing repeatedly. It came from a double-recumbant bike, just letting us know they were there. Tne franctic ringing and the sight of a recumbant bike with 2 people on it seemed surreal and strange and funny
9:45 am* 2 miles river road trail, south/42nd st/edmund, north 66 degrees / humidity: 85%
*I’m trying out adding the time to my basic details for these entries. I always tag them with “morning” or “afternoon” or “evening,” but I thought it would be interesting to see if it helps to get more specific. The tag is great for getting a general sense of when I run, but is that enough?
That’s a lot of mornings! I’m actually surprised that I’ve run as many as 16 times in the evening. I don’t like running in the evening. Should I try to change that?
A quick run on a humid Saturday morning, after some light rain that fell just before I woke up. Decided at the last minute to listen to some faster songs so I could work on increasing the speed of my cadence. Not because I want to go faster, but because I’m wondering if it might help my runs feel easier and improve my form. My go-to song for this: Misery Business/ Parmore. Elton John’s I’m Still Standing came on next, and that was a good speed too. It felt easy for the first mile, harder for the second. I think I should try doing this once a week. Maybe run with a quicker cadence (175) for a song, then a little more relaxed for a song, then repeat?
I’m sitting on my deck as I write this and the chickadees are going crazy: “chick-a-dee dee dee dee” — or, is it a chickadee? Now, I’m not sure. All I know is that it’s loud and steady and a bit frantic.
Encountered a running group. Not rightly packed, but strung out on the trail, a pair of runners here, a pair of runners there, for 1/4 of a mile. What are the training for? I didn’t look at the river or the oak savanna. Didn’t smell anything strange or hear any alarming sounds. No deep thoughts that I can remember. No felled trees to wonder about, or roller skiers to delight in (seeing a roller skier on the trail, is a good omen for me).
an image I remember: On my block, just before starting my run, I heard a woman softly speaking a few words (I couldn’t tell what the words were), then a collar jangling. I looked across the street and saw a woman running with a dog. The dog was medium-sized and on a leash, tethered to the runner’s waist. They looked like a puppy that might soon become a much bigger dog. They were running ahead of the runner. Something about their (the runner and the dog) movements seemed awkward, or not-quite-right. Was it that they were going too fast? Was it just not what I expected? I don’t know. I also don’t know why this image seems more vivid to me than anything else that happened on my run.
Words by Winter: Conversations, reflections, and poems about the passages of life. Because it’s rough out there, and we have to help each other through. Each brief episode includes a story or conversation, along with a poem.
The creator/author of this podcast is based in Minneapolis, which is pretty cool.
In this class, we’ll explore how cultivating the habit of being outside and moving regularly can make us more attentive and open to finding wonder in the world. And we’ll experiment with different methods for transforming that wonder into words, including creating and maintaining a movement log. We’ll read how writers use moving outdoors to help their creative process; investigate different forms of attention and how being in motion influences them; practice wonder, both as delight and curiosity, on our walks or runs; spend time with poems while moving to see what happens to them and to us; study how moving through land transforms how we know and describe it; notice our breathing as we move at different speeds, then compose poems that match its rhythms; and develop ways to remember ideas that occur as we move outdoors.
Each week will consist of discussion, writing prompts, sharing strategies for your own outdoor-in-motion habits, and a few experiments to try during the week. Optional meet-ups by the Mississippi River Gorge are possible for those interested. Readings will be from Ross Gay, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, J. Drew Lanham, Aracelis Girmay, Mary Oliver, Georgina Kleege, Ada Limón, Emily Dickinson, Thomas Gardner, and others.
The class starts in 11 days and it’s all online, so I’m working on creating the content for it right now. It’s about the value of developing the habit of being outside and in motion for your writing/creative process/life. I’m especially interested in experimenting with how paying attention while moving (instead of while stopped, standing still) might open us up, and open up certain forms of attention that many of us don’t often use: soft attention or passive attention or attention that’s not about focusing closely on one thing, but on getting a bigger picture (the forest, no the trees). Not staring at or scrutinizing something in order to KNOW it, but becoming aware of something, feeling it, beholding it. How does that type of attention work, and how can we translate it into words? That’s what we’ll be playing around with in the class.
I mentioned chickadees earlier in this entry — the ones chattering noisily near my backyard — so I looked up “chickadee” on the poetry foundation site. Here’s the last section of a poem by Juan Delgado:
Outside my window, the sky is suddenly draped by a hum, a hummingbird’s hunger. Her wings wrinkle the sky. Unlike a chickadee too busy and full of seed chatter, the hummingbird puffs up the air, feeding like a storm, a redness, a sideway rocket past the world’s ear.
That spark reminds me of you.
Thin-rooted, lingering too long, absorbed in window reveries, I’ll be released. Here, the soil is moist, sponge-like, storing. Worms surface, digesting their way up. I, too, am ready for the driving winds of another season.
71 degrees at 9:30 in the morning. I need to start my runs earlier. Today is my daughter’s last day of school so I can. Hooray for not having to wake her up, help her find something to eat, get stressed out when school has already started and she hasn’t even come downstairs! Another good run. Hardly any wind, not too much sun. Dry. Too dry. I could feel it in my tight skin and the inside lining of my nose.
10 Things I Noticed
the river, nearing the lake street bridge on the west side: such a pale blue it was almost white, a nice contrast with the vibrant green
the river, heading east over the lake street bridge: still, quiet, no waves, no sparkling. Something about its flatness, combined with the unruly green made it look hot — not like the water was hot, but that being near it was
the river, heading west back over the lake street bridge: the water was split with one half blue, the other half brownish-green — a reflection of the trees along the shore
the river, standing at the overlook at the middle of the bridge: more cloudy currents below. What causes this? Is it sand bars, or something else?
on the bridge, I noticed a big crane over on the St. Paul side. I wondered if I encounter it while running through the neighborhood (I didn’t).
below the bridge, I noticed the walking trail was open again — they must have fixed the bit that caved in
a runner ahead of me on the bridge and then running up the marshall hill. They kept going on marshall; I turned on cretin
at the top of the hill, Blacks coffee looked mostly empty, at least the low of empty stools I saw in the front window
today, I remembered running through the tunnel of trees. This time I was heading south instead of north. What I remembered: a blur of green off to the side, a paved path stretching far in front of me, no one else around
no stones stacked on the boulder
Did I hear any birds out by the gorge? I can’t remember.
For days now a red-breasted bird has been trying to break in. She tests a low branch, violet blossoms swaying beside her, leaps into the air and flies straight at my window, beak and breast held back, claws raking the pane. Maybe she longs for the tree she sees reflected in the glass, but I’m only guessing. I watch until she gives up and swoops off. I wait for her return, the familiar click, swoosh, thump of her. I sip cold coffee and scan the room, trying to see it new, through the eyes of a bird. Nothing has changed. Books piled in a corner, coats hooked over chair backs, paper plates, a cup half-filled with sour milk. The children are in school. The man is at work. I’m alone with dead roses in a jam jar. What do I have that she could want enough to risk such failure, again and again?
*the longer version = paved river road trail, south/take the paved trail down to the overlook in the 44th street parking lot/Winchell Trail, north — past the 38th street steps, through the oak savanna, down the dirt hill studded with rocks in the ravine, up the gravel/ return to the paved river road trail, north, through the tunnel of trees, past the old stone steps/cross the river road to edmund at 33rd, go south on edmund
Is summer finally here? Warm and sunny this morning. Most of the time, I ran in the shade. I may not like how the leaves conceal my view of the other side of the gorge, but I appreciate how they make it cooler and shield me from the sun. A good run, no big revelations or moments of delight. Thought about the class I’m prepping and how grateful I am for the practice I developed of getting outside, moving, then writing about it. I started it partly as a way to survive the new administration in 2016, then relied on it a lot during the early years of the pandemic. Now, it’s central to my work on care and wonder. These thoughts, while I ran, came in flashes or bursts or flares — which word do I like best?
10 Things I Noticed
the river! It was a beautiful blue. I didn’t stare straight at it, but noticed it off to the side, looking extra blue because of the sun and the green that framed it. No details to add, like sparkling waves or fast moving currents or big branches floating downstream. Just blue. As I ran, I felt the constant, pleasant presence of blue.
running in the 36th street parking lot, past the entrance to the Winchell Trail, I heard a strange horn-like sound. It was LOUD — what was it? Then I saw a very little kid on a bike, no adult that I could see (which doesn’t mean they weren’t there; I often don’t see people who are there). They called out, “daddy?” a few times. I wondered if I should stop to see if they were okay, but their “daddy” didn’t sound urgen or scared so I kept going
4 people gathered on the walking trail, sort of, but not quite, off to the side
a few kids crossing the river road just past the gathered group
encountering several bikes, staying in their same, still seeming too close
a squirrel standing still, which I initially mistook for a cardinal (because, yes, my vision is that bad)
a person, or 2 people?, stretched out on one of the many benches resting right above the river — not the bench by the big old rock or near folwell, but near the old stone steps
water trickling out of the sewer pipes
update on #1: passing through the oak savanna at the end of my run, I encountered “daddy,” the kid, and the source of the loud horn: an extra loud bike horn. The dad blasted it for his kid’s amusement right before I reached them. He was on a fat tire, the kid on one of those training bikes without pedals — what are those called?
the smell of chemicals for a lawn, or water from a hose
No clicks or clacks from a roller skier’s poles, no doppler effect from a radio, no chirping robins or screeching blue jays, no rowers, and, again, no memory of what happened while I ran through the tunnel of trees. Forgetting this stretch of 3 or 4 minutes has happened twice now. Interesting….
Green moves through the tops of trees and grows lighter greens as it recedes, each of which includes a grey, and among the greys, or beyond them, waning finely into white, there is one white spot, absolute; it could be an egret or perhaps a crane at the edge of the water where it meets a strip of sand.
There is a single, almost dazzling white spot of a white house out loud against the fields, and the forest in lines receding, rises, and then planes. Color,
in pieces or entire; its presence veneers over want; in all its moving parts, it could be something else
half-hidden by trees. Conservatory, gloriette, gazebo, or bandshell, a door ajar on the top floor.
Three The trees are half air. They fissure the sky; you could count the leaves, pare time defined as that which, no matter how barely, exceeds what the eye could grasp in a glance; intricate woods opening out before a body of water edged with a swatch of meadow where someone has hung a bright white sheet out in the sun to dry.
A white bird in a green forest is a danger to itself. Stands out. Shines. Builds up inside. Like it’s dangerous to cry while driving or to talk to strangers or to stare at the sun and a thousand other things we’ve always heard people who wear white see better at night, though they gradually lose this trait as they age.