dec 31/RUN

4.5 miles
minnehaha falls and back
26 degrees / feels like 20
90% snow-covered

The last run of the year. A beautiful winter morning. Not much wind, not too cold, not too crowded. In the beginning, the sun was behind some clouds. The light was eerie and subdued. Everything soft gray. Almost reverent. I felt relaxed and happy and open to the world, moving with it and through it instead of against it. I tried to keep my back strong and straight, feeling the pressure release from my hips. Deep breath in through my nose, out through my mouth.

Lots of thinking about being open that I don’t quite remember now. Something about George Sheehan and a mixture of these quotes from his essay, “Running”:

…each day I take to the roads as a beginner, a child, a poet. Seeking the innocence of the beginner, the wonder of the child and the vision of the poet. Hoping for a new appreciation of the landscape, a new perspective of my inner world, some new insights on life, a new response to existence and myself.

I must listen and discover forgotten knowledge. Must respond to everything around me and inside me as well. 

Poets do this naturally. A really good poet, wrote James Dickey, is like an engine with the governor off….

The best most of us can do is to be a poet an hour a day. Take the hour when we run 0r tennis or golf or garden; take that hour away from being a serious adult and become serious beginners.

Running / George Sheehan, 1978

I like the idea of combining the wonder of the child with the vision of a poet, but not really the innocence of a beginner. Instead of innocence, I’d say the openness of a beginner, or maybe even the ignorance? — unknowingness might be better — the enthusiasm, lack of judgment or preconceived notions? Innocence seems too connected to purity and whiteness for me, in terms of how it gets imagined. Yes, I like openness.

I wasn’t thinking about innocence as I ran, just openness and being open to everything around me and inside of me. When I lifted from my hips, my shoulders relaxed and dropped, my chest opened. I smiled a lot, greeted almost all the other runners with a morning or a wave, didn’t worry about my upcoming colonoscopy. I didn’t try to hold onto everything I was seeing or hearing or smelling or feeling, but let it move through me.

Returning to Sheehan’s quotes, his emphasis on new — new appreciations, new perspectives, new insights, new response — made me think of an essay I read just before my run:

As we enter this December, we can hunker down to endure a dark winter, or we can head out and see familiar paths with new eyes. As we taste the crisp, fresh air and float through the white quiet we may feel a spark of long-forgotten magic, and maybe even hope; hope for a different spring, one we’ll be ready to embrace with the youthful strength of a winter well lived.

The Magic of Winter Running/ Jonathan Beverly

I ran without headphones or yaktrax and in lots of layers: 2 pairs of black running tights, a green shirt, a pink jacket with a hood, a black vest, 1 pair of black gloves, a black fleece-lined cap, a gray buff.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. a male runner in shorts with bare legs
  2. the sun came out by the time I reached the falls
  3. minnehaha creek just before the falls was completely covered in white
  4. a dry leaf skittering across the snow-covered path. no sound, only movement — sharp, brittle, frantic
  5. the smell of smoke in the usual spot
  6. kids’ voices, laughing and yelling as they sled down the hill between wabun and the falls
  7. my shadow running next to me
  8. a fat tire approaching the river road trail, then carefully crossing over the hard chunks of snow and ice as it entered the trail
  9. a black capped chickadee with a strange call — not the fee bee call and not chickadeedeedee. Do they have a different winter call?
  10. a pileated woodpecker calling out in response, and another bird that I can’t identify

Forgot to look at the river. Didn’t hear any geese. Decided not to stop at my favorite spot at the falls and put in a playlist.

Back to the black capped chickadee. I was running on edmund, thinking about something else, when suddenly I heard the chickadee. A welcomed interruption! I started thinking about a fun experiment to try with my students that’s about being more open to hearing sounds, like this call. It involves going outside and recording a moment of sound. Then later, listening back and giving attention to the sounds in the recording that you didn’t notice, or that you ignored (maybe always ignore). What sounds are around us that we tune out? Rumbling planes, crunching footsteps.

Speaking of sounds around us, I almost forgot to mention the constant presence of the hum of the city. Starting my run, I noticed how loud it was — not noisy traffic right around me, but buzzing off in the distance. So loud! But not unpleasant.

Tried out the minson form (14 letter sonnet). So fun! Not sure if I’m quite capturing the spirit of a sonnet — what is that exactly? does it require a volta? how do you do that in 14 letters? The following are based on my log entry above:

another gray day

more muted magic

bare leg bravery

nervous fat tire

all of it strange

emptied of geese

quiet leaf waltz

forgotten river

remembered bird

opened the doors

a kid a sled a hill

a being shadowed

the frozen falls

I like the double meaning of this last one, frozen falls. I didn’t slip on any ice, or see anyone else stumble as they moved over the occasional ice patch, but the frozen sidewalk probably did cause somebody to fall.