feb 6/RUN/WALK

6.2 miles
dog park and back
44 degrees

Another warm, spring-like day. More mud, no snow. Overcast. The wonderful sounds of birds. For 2/3 of the run, I listened to cars and my feet striking and voices and water gushing. For the last 1/3, I put in a playlist — Winter 2024.

I felt good — so much better than yesterday. Most of the time, I was zoned out, listening but not looking more than I needed to. I know that I glanced down at the river, but all I remember is that it was open. Somewhere near the shore little strips of snow still remained.

I felt strong and sore and not amazing, but certain that I’d be able to keep running.

A few hours later, RJP and I took Delia on a walk. I often ask and RJP rarely says yes, so today was a nice surprise. We ended up taking the old stone steps down to the river at Longfellow flats — a fitting destination because I just found out today that my poem about these steps and the spot by the river will be published in Scrawl Place. Wonderful news! The poem is titled `112 steps — the number of steps you take to get to the bottom. I counted 111 today, but I think I forgot to count the top step.

added the next morning: I almost forgot about the turkeys! Running south, somewhere near locks and dam no. 1, I saw them: 6 or 7 turkeys crossing the path. One of them sped up to pass before I got to them — a half walk half run that was more efficient than the human version but just as awkward. Hooray for wild turkeys!


some notes from The Plentitude of Distraction

William James: (in his Laws of Habit lecture) the ability to experience subtle degrees of emotion depends on practice, on a regular encounter with non-teleological ways of apprehending the world. Once the brain stops cultivating gratuitous pursuits–music, poetry, painting–and limits its range to the recording of facts, to the single-minded quest for information, then its emotional and aesthetic elasticity deteriorates.

Work, unlike leisure, usually follows one direction and points toward a clear goal. This endows it with a reassuring automaticity. Art and play, on the other hand, tap into untried areas of the brain, calling for greater effort and elasticity not readily available to the untrained mind.

He believes in mental, not just physical aerobics, pushing for a veritable gymnastics of the spirit.

what might a poetics and spiritual gymnastics — that involves the body too — look like?

a problem: when attention is more about busyness than wonder

disengaged engagement

a heightened yet singularly unfocused relationship to phenomena

slow, not fast-paced result-oriented engagement, requires a particular sort of endurance — boredom as a necessary step to lasting absorption

endurance exercises to practice — I love this idea of thinking about disengaged engagement as an exercise, one to be added to my exercise plan: runs, core, stretching, building up ways to be distracted

being human means to inhabit a presence-absence mood — detached attentiveness, letting the minor and major coexist, active and passive

listening to furniture music from Erik Satie

Montaigne: no linear thinking, float along with the light, winged flights of fancy…nothing worthwhile can be harvested immediately — important: this type of wandering/distraction is not the same as our current culture of distraction (finger swipes and taps on screens)

Walter Benjamin: delicious idleness

Focus is useless without distraction, and distraction, without motivation and a pinch of single-mindedness, rapidly dwindles into listless lethargy.

Virginia Woolf, from A Room of One’s Own: “It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.”

If you set your goals of efficiency and productivity aside, if you stop measuring your days by what you can report to your boss or to your conscience, you might be ready to call your symptoms of distraction by another name—reverie, daydreaming, ruminating.

Now listening to the score for Better Call Saul.

Roland Barthes and emptiness training — stepping away, slowing down, slowly gaining access to a world that will eventually demand focus

inventiveness can only be culled from the outer margins of consumerism

All this talk of slowness and gradual focus and learning how to not understand the plot right away or to make sense of everything instantly is a key part of my seeing through peripheral vision. Or, is it? Could it be more about not seeing, as opposed to seeing differently? I’ll think about that.

key themes for distraction: slow, gradual, idle, non-linear, reverie/daydreaming, a practice/skill

Aerial View/ Jericho Brown

People who romanticize an Africa
They’ve never seen
Like to identify themselves
With lions. It’s all roar and hunt,
Quick fucks and blond manes.
People love the word pride.
Haven’t you seen the parades?
Everybody adores a lion
But me. I want to be a giraffe.
I’m already tall and long-necked.
In the real Sahara, a giraffe beats
A lion’s ass every day
On Instagram. I’ve seen
A giraffe shake the leaping cat
Off its back and toss it like litter.
I’ve seen a giraffe stomp hooves
Down hard on the lion’s face
Before it got the chance
To meow. I want to be a giraffe
And eat greens of every variety
Straight out the tree. I already
Like to get high. Lions need
Animals like us. We need no prey.
I already won’t chase anybody
For my food. But maybe
I can still be romantic. Maybe
I can still be romantic in spite
Of my pride. Someone will notice.
Up the sky, not down the street.
You can watch me while I watch you
And the rest of the savanna
From my aerial view. Lord,
Let me get higher. Just one of me
Is a parade.

What a beautiful poem! I love Jericho Brown’s work and his interviews and the brief podcast he did about Dickinson. I wish I would have been at Emory when he was there — would I have been brave enough to take one of his classes?