65 degrees / humidity: 85%
A good run. I stopped after 3.5 miles. Partly to check out the view at the overlook, and partly because I sped up too much between miles 2 and 3 (I went a minute faster than mile 2 on mile 3) and needed a break. A beautiful morning. No rowers or roller skiers or radios blasting. A few big packs of runners. Mostly cloudless sky, bright, blue river.
Take the steps down from the lake st/marshall ave bridge and head up the hill on the east river road trail. Near the top, enjoy the view on your right side of the wide open river, stretching out below you. The best part of this view: the openness! nothing between you and the river, except for air.
overheard conversation fragment
Two women walkers. One said this to the other: “It’s time for them to go back to school!” Agreed. But, who is them? Their kids? Somebody else’s kids? Their grandkids? And, why do they need to be back in school? Are they bored? Annoying? Causing problems? Wanting to learn?
an interview I’m reading
Writing a Grove: A Conversation with Poet Laureate Ada Limón
Ada: Absolutely. I worked on it over several months while meeting with this wonderful writing group. We have to bring in something each time we meet, and I just kept writing about trees. Week after week, it kept happening and happening. I couldn’t stop. But they were so supportive and wonderful. They became a sort of an anchor for the project. And it just kept growing. I didn’t expect it to be so long, but I also felt like it could go on forever.
Camille: Some of the obsessions are never going to leave you, and to me, that was part of what I loved. With each page I thought, Oh, I’ve seen this before, but how is she going to manage it differently? It reminded me of the Miles Davis quote about John Coltrane that was a guiding force for me as I was writing my first book, when I was really worried that I was doing the same thing over and over and over again. And I read the liner notes where Davis wrote about Coltrane’s first solo album. He said, “I don’t understand why people don’t get John Coltrane’s music. All he is trying to do is play the same note as many ways as he possibly can.”
I love this quote from Miles Davis and this idea of doing something over and over again but in different ways and the idea of obsessions. Some of my obsessions: open views (running) and staying on course (open swimming). It’s interesting to notice how I return again and again to these two things in this online log. I’d like to play around with variations on this theme: Even though I can barely or hardly ever see the buoys, I manage to stay on course. This never stops astonishing me.
Scrolling through my reading list, I found another interview with Ada Limón (she’s very busy these days!) over at The Rumpus: Resurrection On A Daily Basis: Exploring The Hurting Kind with Ada Limón. Here’s a bit about deep looking:
The Rumpus: You write, “I am getting so good at watching.” What is the role of close observation in poetry, and how as poets can we better cultivate the skill?
Ada Limón: I think that’s a great place to start. Really watching, noticing, and deep looking—not the distracted looking, but really curious looking—that’s a way of loving and a way of valuing, and I don’t think I knew that before. I think that I thought watching was part of life, and I thought it was part of the creative work of being a poet. And I always thought observation was important, but I didn’t know it was also the thing that connected you to the world on a larger scale, not just in the way of making poems and making art, but in the way of making your life feel connected and whole and complete.
When I’m feeling blue, which I often do, just watching even for five minutes, the birds, or even just looking at my plant in the window, just the smallest thing, or looking at my dog, I’m reminded of what it is to be a living thing amidst this living world. In some ways it takes me out of myself. If I were to offer that to other people, what it is to look without the foregone conclusion, without the narrative, without the—What am I going to turn this into?—but instead to look with a real curiosity and to de-center themselves a little bit in that looking.Resurrection On A Daily Basis: Exploring The Hurting Kind with Ada Limón.
Deep looking is without judgment or expectation or a pre-formed narrative. It involves de-centering ourselves. She describes it as watching or looking or staring? Does this looking always mean close scrutiny? Limón suggests that this watching connects us to the world.
Now I’m thinking about another passage on looking/observing/noticing that I recently encountered (via BrainPickings/the Marginalia) from the writer Nathaniel Hawthorne:
The best way to get a vivid impression and feeling of a landscape, is to sit down before it and read, or become otherwise absorbed in thought; for then, when your eyes happen to be attracted to the landscape, you seem to catch Nature unawares, and see her before she has time to change her aspect. The effect lasts but for a single instant, and passes away almost as soon as you are conscious of it; but it is real, for that moment. It is as if you could overhear and understand what the trees are whispering to one another; as if you caught a glimpse of a face unveiled, which veils itself from every willful glance. The mystery is revealed, and after a breath or two, becomes just as great a mystery as before.Nathaniel Hawthorne
I like the idea of not focusing on (or closely watching) something, but letting it find you. As I read this again though, I don’t like the language he uses — “overhear, catch Nature unawares, catching a glimpse of a face unveiled.” I don’t like the idea of spying on nature (or being a peeping Tom!).
One more thing I found in my Safari Reading List that fits (loosely) with my discussion so far. In the first interview with Limón mentioned in this entry, Camille Dunghy names Ada Limón’s collection of small essays a grove. Here’s a wonderful poem I found on twitter a few days ago, with the same name:
The Grove/ Jay Hopler
Like unborn suns in bunches hung from branches bent by
years spent holding up such pulp-plump fruit,
Gorgeous and corpulent, their green rinds tight
And shining, sheened with rain, the season’s first blood
Oranges are on the trees.
How beautiful they would look against a blue
Sky! How weary they look against this black
To be born tired and to live tired and to die tired.
To die of tiredness. Not as hard to imagine as it used to be.
Was ever there a sky this low?
No, and still there’s not.
It’s just a flock of black-
Birds shrouding out above the trees. The moon
Is up there…somewhere.
And the stars.