dec 5/RUN

4.5 miles
minnehaha falls and back
32 degrees
10% snow-covered

It snowed last night. Less than an inch? Enough to cover everything, making it look like winter, but not enough to cause any problems running on the path. Wonderful! I love winter running. I started out a little cold, with my hood up against the wind, but ended over-heated: lots of sweat and a flushed face. My right IT band hurt a little, but not enough to end the run. I did stop at the halfway point — my favorite spot near “The Song of Hiatwatha,” admiring the falls from a distance. I took some video:

minnehaha falls / 5 dec 2023

video: Minnehaha Creek rushing over the limestone ledge, frozen water on either side of the rushing water, a bridge above, a bridge below.

10 Things

  1. the river: brownish-gray, flat, empty
  2. caw caw caw
  3. the snow is soft and not slick or clumpy, easy to run over
  4. a path winding through the savanna revealed by settled snow
  5. a leaning tree branch, dusted with snow. The snow making visible the trunks texture
  6. rustling in the brush — a squirrel
  7. the voices of kids laughing on the playground
  8. running near the overlook of the falls, not stopping to see the water, just hearing it rushing over the limestone
  9. beep beep beep beep beep beep then a few beats of silence on repeat — a service truck near the roundabout
  10. rabbit footprints all over my driveway — such big footprints!

before the run

This morning, while doing the dishes, I began listening to Chris Dombrowski’s The River You Touch. Here are a few passages I’d like to remember:

What does a mindful, sustainable inhabitance on this small planet look like in the Anthropocene? is no longer an academic question but rather a necessary qualifier to each step we take. For answers, we who have proven ourselves such untrustworthy stewards of our home might look to what Barry Lope called “myriad enduring relationships of the landscape,” to our predecessors, in other words, whose voices are the bells that must sound before any gritty ceremony of community can truly being.

The River We Touch/ Chris Dombrowski

bells — I like this idea of bells as signaling the start of a ceremony. Each loop around the gorge, or run beside the gorge is the start of a ritual, a ceremony, both sacred and mundane. What else do bells signal? I want to review my notes and weave other meanings into my poem.

“listening,” refers to direct contact, engagement, what the forager Jenna Rozelle calls the “primacy of immediate experience.” Callouses on palms formed by friction between human skin and oar handle. Shoulder muscles straining to pull oar blade through current, the oar stroke negotiating with the wave train’s brute liquid force.

The River We Touch/ Chris Dombrowski

The mention of callouses reminds me of Thoreau and his essay on walking:

Living much out of doors, in the sun and wind, will no doubt produce a certain roughness of character—will cause a thicker cuticle to grow over some of the finer qualities of our nature, as on the face and hands, or as severe manual labor robs the hands of some of their delicacy of touch. So staying in the house, on the other hand, may produce a softness and smoothness, not to say thinness of skin, accompanied by an increased sensibility to certain impressions. Perhaps we should be more susceptible to some influences important to our intellectual and moral growth, if the sun had shone and the wind blown on us a little less; and no doubt it is a nice matter to proportion rightly the thick and thin skin. But methinks that is a scurf that will fall off fast enough—that the natural remedy is to be found in the proportion which the night bears to the day, the winter to the summer, thought to experience. There will be so much the more air and sunshine in our thoughts. The callous palms of the laborer are conversant with finer tissues of self-respect and heroism, whose touch thrills the heart, than the languid fingers of idleness. That is mere sentimentality that lies abed by day and thinks itself white, far from the tan and callus of experience.

physical dialogue (contact…encounter between feet and land)…sensorial empathy

The faculty of wonder—which, in this context, is simply the unsentimental ability to identify with astonishment the earth and its inhabitants as relational—is diminishing as quickly as any endangered species. If it vanishes as an inevitable byproduct of decreased direct encounters with the physical world, so, too, may go the instinct to protect the very places that sustain us.

Concluding a story about kayaking with his son, encountering a sea otter, attempting to capture the moment with his phone and then dropping the phone in the ocean, Dombrowski writes:

I scanned our ambit for further sign of the otter, weighing the value of what I’d beamed in on 4G versus the salt drying on the hand Luca had dragged through the water. I sensed the latter would form a more lasting kind of knowing.

The River We Touch/ Chris Dombrowski

Before heading out for my run, I wanted to think about some of these ideas, especially: touch, physical dialogue, and sensorial empathy.

during the run

I recall thinking about my feet and rough ground and how much I enjoy feeling the ground as I move. The snow today was fun to run over/through. It wasn’t hard or crusty or sharp or too soft or thick or soggy or slick. It felt almost like running over a carpet of grass. A nice break from the hard asphalt. I also thought about breath and air and how much they are a part of touching/experiencing the gorge.

Near the end of my run, a song came up on my playlist: Breathe (2 AM)/ Anna Nalick. I’ve had it on a running playlist for over a decade now. As she sang, breathe, just breathe, I breathed. Maybe more than feet, lungs and breathing and breath have been central to my writing on this log.

I also thought about the gorge as an emptiness, a void, mystery, the ineffable/inaccessible, that I return to when I run because I want to encounter this void. I want to face the mystery.

after the run

Sitting at my desk now, I’m hungry. After I eat, I’d like to think more about the Thoreau quote and feet and callouses and the physical impact of running around the gorge as part of this haunting experience.