may 31/RUN

3 miles
2 trails (long)
75 degrees

Warm this morning, but it didn’t feel miserably hot, probably because I was able to be in the shade for most of the run. So much wonderful shade, so many friendly shadows! Ran south above, north below, on the Winchell Trail. Didn’t look at the river much, even when I was closer to it. One glance: between the thickening trees near the southern entrance of the Winchell Trail, I saw a small patch of sparkling water.

today’s color: the blue of the blue jay (I think it was a blue joy) that flashed past me as I rounded the curve at 42nd. Normally I can’t see the color of birds, and I’m not sure if you’d call what I saw seeing, more like the idea of blue or a voice calling out, blue! What kind of blue was it? Not deep or dark but light and intense, almost glowing. But not pale blue — somewhere in-between dark and light.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the shadow of tree sprawled across the path
  2. the steady flow of water coming out of the sewer pipe near 42
  3. the clicking and clacking of roller skier’s poles up above me near folwell
  4. passing 2 walkers and hearing one of them say walk or should be walking or something like that
  5. the steady stream of cars driving by
  6. a few kids’ voices at the playground
  7. the flash of a white t-shirt up ahead on the trail, then disappearing around the bend
  8. leaning trees creating archways to pass through in several spots on the winchell trail
  9. cottonwood fuzz on the edges of the trail
  10. the metal slats in the ravine were slick and slippery

Mary Ruefle on Eavesdropping, You, and Unhitching in “On Sentimentality”

before the run

Today’s the last day of May and my last day with Mary Ruefle. I just finished reading/skimming her lecture, “On Sentimentality.”

Eavesdropping: In response to a poet who criticizes and laments the too frequent use of a generic You in poetry as too passive, turning us into observers, mere eavesdroppers, Ruefle asks: What’s wrong with eavesdropping? I agree. Today during my run, eavesdrop. Listen in on conversations between birds, the river and the sky, walkers.

YOU: What kind of subject are you (or is You)? And, if you are You, then who is the I? The path, a shadow, that tree? Think about this as you run beside the river.

unhitching: to crudely paraphrase Lévi-Strauss, unhitching happens in brief moments when we can step outside of or beside or just beyond — below the threshold of thought, over and above society — to contemplate/experience/behold the this, the what it is, the essence of everything, Mary Oliver’s eternity. In your run above the gorge, near the river, below the trees, can you unhitch?

during the run

In spite of the warm conditions, I managed to wonder about/wander through or with all 3 of these! A little bit of eavesdropping, some unhitching or at least thinking about how/where unhitching is possible, and becoming a You.

All of these ideas were simmering in my mind the entire time I ran, but I had a breakthrough in the second mile as I passed a walker and a dog on the Winchell Trail. They noticed me before I reached them and moved to the side. I said thank you and the woman replied you’re welcome. As I continued running on the steep-ish trail with no railing I thought about how when I said thank you, I was the I, she was the you. But when she answered you’re welcome, I become the you and she the I. Each of us both. Then I started thinking about the space and time between when we each embodied the pronoun, before my I turned into a you or her you into and I. This is the space of possibility where unhitching can happen, when we can be both a you and an I or something else that doesn’t divide and separate or assign us a fixed role — as active I or passive you. A moment when we can experience or behold the is below the threshold of thought, over and above society and its constructs. Not long after thinking these things, I encountered the blue flash of the bird and it felt magical.

I wanted to hold onto these ideas so I eventually stopped in the ravine, just past the oak savanna, to record my thoughts.

we exchanged the You. First they were the you, then I was, but there was some time in-between before we switched from I to you or you to I that was undetermined or both or nothing and that it’s those moments where we have the opportunity to unhitch.

the immeasurable or barely measurable lag between what we do, what we feel, what we hear, what we see, and our brain and as it travels to the brain then travels back out in whatever form. That is where those moments occur. (I’m thinking about a Radiolab episode I listened to last year)

thoughts recording during my run

And, a few minutes later, after my run was done, I recorded a few more thoughts:

Instead of lamenting the loss of what we once were like in Marie Howe’s “Singularity,” what if we gave more attention to the possibilities that exist in those spaces between the You and the I? Those moments of unhitching …And I was thinking about Robin Wall Kimmerer and the moss again and this idea of enough-ness, being satisfied with the small moments. Not trying to get more, to be more, but to just be, or to not be, or to be passive.

Not an observer or eavesdropper as someone who is spying on, staring at, invading the space of others. Not a lurker, as in lurking troll. Is there another way to understand how to notice the world passively? An absorber? Not a lurker, but a dweller?

thoughts recorded after my run

After my run, I also recorded myself reciting a poem that memorized a few years ago and was trying to keep fresh as one of my 100 poems memorized: Natural Forces/Vincente Huidobro. I almost got every word correct.

after the run

Such a great run, with so many interesting ideas! Arriving home and then trying to put the feeling of the run and the feeling of my thoughts into words, dulled some of the shine. It’s hard to find the right best proper most profound complete words to translate the experience. I didn’t want to lose so many great ideas and the moments of clarity. Then, another thought: what if the goal was not to accurately or exhaustively remember and then record my thoughts and feelings, but to hold onto those feelings and allow them to shift my perspective. I’m not sure that makes sense, but it did to me when I first thought it.

I have enjoyed reading Ruefle all this month. I’ve gotten to know her a little bit better and been able to wander in many different directions. I’ve also experimented with a new way of engaging with ideas/authors/writings. As an academic, I used to spend hours trying to effectively (and comprehensively) summarize the argument of a piece of writing. This summary, what one of my profs called appreciation, was always the first step. With Ruefle, attempting to lay out her entire argument in a neat and logical way doesn’t work. Why try to pin down her wild and wandering thoughts in such a way? Why waste all of my energy trying to summarize something that shouldn’t be summarized? So instead, I’ve been trying to engage with the little bits and bobs (thanks British TV for reminding me of this wonderful phrase!) that resonate for me. For me the point is not to KNOW these poems and lectures and essays by Ruefle but to FEEL them in small and big ways.

Some other ideas in “On Sentimentality” that I want to store away for future Sara:

I You They are invented devices

The words I, and you, and they, are grammatical devices invented simply for arrangement and totally devoid of the intense and exclusive sense usually attributed to them.

“On Life”/ Percy Shelley, quoted in Ruefle’s MRH, page 32

on vague Yous and John Keats’ “This Living Hand”

The poem is nothing but a gigantic, disembodied hand pointing a finger at someone. That finger is a magnet and a conductor: it reaches out to the vague, ill-defined you like God reaching within an inch of Adam, and it charges the reader with all the responsibility in the world: go figure these things out for yourself, while you still have blood in your veins.

page 35

another definition of poetry

a good poem is seldom comfortable; either it vanquishes us with anguish or electrifies us with ecstasy or makes us pause and consider a new sense of the world or unravels us altogether, but never does it make us feel comfortable in the fashing of these ads [part of a discussion about an ad that used the phrase, the poetry of knits].

pages 46-47


The possibility, vital for life, of unhitching, which consists … in grasping, during the brief intervals in which our species can bring itself to interrupt its hive-like activity, the essence of what it was and continues to be, below the threshold of thought and over and above society; in the conntemplating of a mineral more beautiful than all oru creations; in the scent that can be smelt at the heart of a lily and is more imbued with learning than all our books; or in the brief glance, heavy with patience, serenity and mutual forgiveness, that, through some involuntary understanding, one can sometimes exchange with a cat.

Lévi-Strauss quoted MRH page 52

Returning again to the ideas of You and I and We and Us, I wonder if some of my thoughts were influenced by a poem I read while drinking my coffee:


I remember the beginning
a dream ancient as dawn
a dream of destiny drumming up the blood
the flesh
this earth
a dream we were once one