dec 5/RUN

4.5 miles
minnehaha falls and back
27 degrees / feels like 21
75% snow and ice covered

Icier than I expected so I went slower. A gray day. Fuzzy, unformed or unfixed or out of focus. The sky filled with static. I ran south, planning to check out my favorite winter spot — just past the oak savanna where the hills part and open to a view of the river — but I forgot, or I was distracted as I tried to avoid slippery spots and pedestrians.

About a mile in, was passed by another runner. I could hear their soft footsteps approaching. After they passed I watched them fly away. Their gait seemed a little erratic, like they were almost about to slip on the snow with each step. Speaking of slips, running up the hill between Locks and Dam #1 and the double-bridge, I witnessed a biker almost wipe out on some chunks of ice the plow had kicked up from the street. Yikes. I stopped to let me go by safely.

The falls were frozen. The river was too, but not completely.

10 (groups of) People I Encountered

  1. a group of walkers, paused by the sign for the bike surreys at the falls
  2. another group of walkers near locks and dam #1. Heard one of them say, “The farmer had to fish her out of the river.”
  3. a guy and an exuberant dog by the Longfellow poem at the park
  4. the speedy runner I mentioned above
  5. the biker who almost fell
  6. someone on a fat tire
  7. kids at the school playground across the street, more subdued than usual, but still laughing and yelling
  8. a guy blasting his phone or radio as he walked. I think he was listening to music, but I can’t remember what kind
  9. a runner in a bright blue jacket, over on the trail, when I was on edmund. we ran parallel for a few minutes then he inched ahead
  10. a runner carefully crossing over some ice as she talked on a bluetooth phone to someone

Running back from the falls, I crossed over to edmund to avoid the crowd, and the ice on the trail. Stopped at my favorite poetry house that puts a poem on their front window. Was there a new one? Yes! Here it is:

Maybe Alone On My Bike/ William Stafford

I listen, and the mountain lakes
hear snowflakes come on those winter wings
only the owls are awake to see,
their radar gaze and furred ears
alert. In that stillness a meaning shakes;

And I have thought (maybe alone
on my bike, quaintly on a cold
evening pedaling home), Think!–
the splendor of our life, its current unknown
as those mountains, the scene no one sees.

O citizens of our great amnesty:
we might have died. We live. Marvels
coast by, great veers and swoops of air
so bright the lamps waver in tears,
and I hear in the chain a chuckle I like to hear.

I’m glad to have found this poem. Think! and we might have died. We live. Marvels/coast by, great veers and swoops of air I love the title of the poem and where it sits at the start of the second stanza. Weather and light like today — the gray, overcast, wintery light, not dim, but not bright either — is conducive for thinking and reflecting and being grateful to be alive and to notice the veers and swoops of air, the chuckle of a bike chain.

Yes, gray is for thinking and wondering and for opening up to the world.

Inciting Joy: Through My Tears I Saw [Death: the Second Incitement]

Before heading out for a run, I read Gay’s second incitement about the death of his father. I don’t want to summarize it because it’s not meant to be summarized, but experienced, endured, read closely without looking away. Wow — Gay is an amazing writer. His descriptions of his dad’s diagnosis of cancer, his illness and decline, his death, are so powerful and vivid. I could feel the pain of my own grief — over my two moms, one dead for 13 years, the other for 2 months — in my body, especially in my sinuses and throat. My body tightening, tingling, wanting to close up.

At one point, as I read the 17 page chapter, I thought of Marie Howe and her entreaty to not look away, even when it’s painful. To face the sadness and grief, to let it in. In the poem I posted yesterday, Levine writes about how this letting in — dragging our grief out of the river and putting our mouth on it — can lead to a loosening, an opening up, a joy. Gay writes about this too, in the conclusion to the chapter, as he says goodbye to his dying father:

Can you hear me Dad, Can you hear me, and by now I was crying hard, and I was kissing my father’s face again and again, telling him I loved him again and again, it was the softest face in the world, my father’s face, so quiet like that, I never knew it, I had never touched it before, I was crying onto his eyelids and cheeks and kissing him and telling him again and again I loved him, I love you Dad, his brown face was lit with my tears. and with my forehead pressed into his, and my hands on his cheeks, I noticed that my father had freckles sprinkled around the bridge of his nose and his upper cheeks. It was like a gentle broadcast of carrot seeds blending into his skin, flickering visible from this distance. It was through my tears I saw my father was a garden. Or the two of us, or the all-of-us, not here long maybe it is. And from that what might grow.

dec 4/WALKBIKERUN

walk: 20 minutes
neighborhood
32 degrees

note: Reviewing this entry the next morning I’ve found several typos, which I corrected just now. There are probably more that I still can’t see. As my ability to see clearly diminishes, I imagine these typos will increase.

COVID update: RJP’s doing fine, felt like her usual cold. She’s been in her room since Wednesday night, only leaving to go to the bathroom or eat. So far, Scott and I are okay. He tested today: negative. Neither of us are too anxious.

update from the next morning: Even though she feels fine, RJP is still testing positive. It was the same for FWA when he had it in September. He thought he had a cold. Finally tested near the end of it. Felt fine, tested positive for 10 days.

Scott and I took Delia the dog for a quick walk around the neighborhood. Warmer, sunny, slushy sidewalks. Fresh air! He talked about video games, I talked about this log and the latest episode of ‘You’re Wrong About.” The only memorable thing about the walk: the field at Howe School was covered in snow — not smooth or flat but filled with mini mounds from hundreds of boots kicking and stomping, and hundreds of bodies rolling around in it during recess last week.

bike: 14 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 2.2 miles
treadmill

Too dark to run outside in the later afternoon, so I went to the basement. Watched Miss Space Cadet on YouTube while biking, listened to Apple’s 80s “Fitness” playlist on the treadmill — “Holding Out for a Hero,” “Material Girl,” “Super Freak,” and “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go.” I need to put together a running playlist again. Didn’t think about much while I ran. As always, it felt good to move.

Inciting Joy: Day One, The First Incitement

This afternoon I started Ross Gay’s wonderful book, Inciting Joy. I’m going to try and read an incitement (there are nine) this month. Here are some notes and thoughts for the first incitement:

To define joy, he begins by saying what it’s not: it’s not sparking joy or capitalist-joy-as-acquiring-better-stuff-or-doing-big-things. It’s not the happy place where you go to be safe or comfortable — a sanctuary protected with a heavy lock, keeping out all the bad stuff: heartbreak, sadness, worry. It’s not unserious or frivolous to talk about (or experience), even as we are made to think it is, and it’s not separate from pain and suffering:

But what happens if joy is not separate from pain? What if joy and pain are fundamentally tangled up with one another? Or even more to the point, what if joy is not only entangled with pain, or suffering, or sorrow, but is also what emerges from how we care for each other through those things? What if joy, instead of refuge or relief from heartbreak, is what effloresces from us as we help each other carry our heartbreaks?

effloresces = blossoms

He suggests that instead of avoiding/ignoring/quarantining sorrow that we invite it in, and invite others in too so they can meet our sorrow, and we can meet theirs. Then he offers a vivid description of what that party might look like, all of us bringing a dish for a potluck, along with our sorrow, breaking bread together (and some furniture, I guess):

…and the thud skips the record back to the beginning of Sly Stone’s “Family Affair” and the dancing, which has been intermittent, just blasts off, all of us and our sorrows, sweaty, stomping and shaking, tearing it up, the pictures falling off the walls, the books from the shelves, some logs ablaze even spilling from the stove, riotous this care, this carrying, this incitement, this joy.

At the end of the chapter, he describes the goal of his book: to investigate what stuff we think/do/believe that incites joy and to wonder what joy might incite. He has a hunch — it might incite solidarity, which incites more joy, and then more solidarity — not over the same sorrows but over the shared experience of sorrow. This sharing of sorrow might lead us to discover what we do or might love together, which might help us survive.

I deeply appreciate this idea of joy as connected to suffering and that, when shared and cared for, might lead to love. Did that last sentence make sense? I’m excited to read the rest of these incitements. I think I might add my own incitement: gray days. Or, I might develop my own idea of gray joy?

Gay’s vision of a raucous party, overflowing with people meeting each others’ sorrows, seems a bit overwhelming to me. I’m not sure I would find joy in caring and developing solidarity in such a big, messy crowd. But, there are others ways, I think, in which we can invite sorrow in too. Gay’s discussion reminded me of another psalm poem I read by Julia B. Levine, especially her last lines:

Psalm with Wren in Daylight Saving Time/ Julia B. Levin

Late afternoon, I chop onions by feel,
listening to crows cry to each other across the ridge.

Gone now, white recipe card on the white floor,
green sea glass found on a Humboldt beach.

But this hour I have been given back, carried out
of gorse, red flash of maples, finches in our cedar.

Meaning, today I returned for the first time
to the moment I understood I was going blind.

Months I hid from myself that the V of geese
flying over the valley extinguished too soon into fog,

a darkness fine as sugar sifted over the chard, the roses.
Now I hear the soft tick of a bird landing on the counter.

Feel her gaze turn away from mine. When she hops
table to chair to floor, I open all the windows and doors.

Sometimes we must drag our grief out of the river
and put our mouth on it. And then a loosening comes.

One morning I rose and sat outside on my lawn
under budded glory vines. There is no hurry, I say

to the stirrings of one so small it has to be a wren.
Once I let the missing in, there was possibility.

There was a heavy rain in sun—every blade of grass
blurred, and for a moment after, only shine.

Let that missing in! Open those doors and windows! Drag the grief out of the river! I imagine this opening up to grief as more than a solitary practice. It’s an opening up to and connecting with the world.

dec 3/RUN

3.5 miles
trestle turn around
15 degrees / feels like 4
99% snow-covered

Almost the exact same run as on Wednesday, with a few differences: the actual temp was 2 degrees colder, I ran in the afternoon, I wore my regular black running shoes, a gray jacket and mittens instead of yaxtrax, a black vest and an extra pair of gloves, there was less wind and less swirling leaves, and the river is more frozen over.

A good but tiring run. I think it was because I ran in the afternoon, instead of right after breakfast, and I had to work harder on the slippery snow without the yaktrax. Encountered some dogs and their walkers. At least one fat tire. Any other runners? I don’t think so. Hear some kids sledding across the road — wheeeee!

The only part of me that felt cold for most of the run were my feet, like little blocks of concrete. The mittens kept my hands very warm, which is good because my hands tend to stay cold sometimes.

It snowed again last night unexpectedly — to me, at least. I was so surprised that when I opened the door to let Delia out for her final hurrah, I cried out into the dark, What? note: For some reason I started calling Delia’s final time outside for the night the final hurrah, and it stuck, and sometimes is shortened to fh, as in, Dealz, it’s time for your fh! All 4 (RJP, FWA, Scott, me) use this term and Delia understands it. It wasn’t much snow — a dusting, but it feels like the start of a steady accumulation. No grass until March or April.

It’s a little too soon to have to say goodbye to the bare, brown gorge, but I love the snow, especially listening to it crunch underfoot. As I walked home after my run, I marveled at the 2 sounds my feet made — a creaky crunch and a soft shuffle, caused by one foot lifting off and other touching down. The sounds shifted between my feet — was it a constant, steady sound?

To a Wreath of Snow/ Emily Brontë

O transient voyager of heaven! 
   O silent sign of winter skies! 
What adverse wind thy sail has driven 
   To dungeons where a prisoner lies? 

Methinks the hands that shut the sun 
   So sternly from this morning’s brow 
Might still their rebel task have done 
   And checked a thing so frail as thou. 

They would have done it had they known 
   The talisman that dwelt in thee, 
For all the suns that ever shone 
   Have never been so kind to me! 

For many a week, and many a day 
   My heart was weighed with sinking gloom 
When morning rose in mourning grey 
   And faintly lit my prison room 

But angel like, when I awoke, 
   Thy silvery form so soft and fair 
Shining through darkness, sweetly spoke 
   Of cloudy skies and mountains bare; 

The dearest to a mountaineer 
   Who, all life long has loved the snow 
That crowned her native summits drear, 
   Better, than greenest plains below. 

And voiceless, soulless, messenger 
   Thy presence waked a thrilling tone 
That comforts me while thou art here 
   And will sustain when thou art gone 

Emily sure loves winter and snow. I memorized and often recite her poem, Fall, Leaves, Fall and the lines,

I shall smile when wreaths of snow 
Blossom where the rose should grow;

dec 2/RUN

5.75 miles
bottom of franklin hill and back
34 degrees
50% snow-covered

Found out last night that RJP has COVID. She’s had a cold all week. So far, I feel okay, so does Scott. Will we get it? I’m a little worried, but only a little. A few years ago, I would have been freaking out. Thank you vaccines and better treatments and less severe variants! Unless I feel like total crap, I’m going out for a run when I can. Today I don’t feel like total crap, so I went out for a run. It felt good. Breathing in fresh air! Moving my legs! Admiring the half frozen river!

A great run. Just above freezing, not too slippery. Some wind, but mostly at my back. Ran north with no headphones, south with a playlist.

12 Things I Noticed

  1. a honking goose, its mournful cry amplified by the bridge
  2. a big bird flying above. I think it was a crane
  3. a runner in an orange shirt, running with a dog
  4. another runner — tall, wearing a white sweatshirt and shorts, moving fast, with long, bouncing strides
  5. passing Dave, the Daily Walker: Good Morning, Dave!
  6. a group of young people, high school or college students?, hanging out by the franklin bridge, blocking the path
  7. no sun, but not gloomy, a grayish-white sky. everything bright but with very little color
  8. the river! down at the start of the flats, the river was gray and half-frozen. Not flat or dull but interesting. Not gloomy either, but vast and quiet. Not desolate, but detached, otherworldly
  9. a car, I think it was a Prius, whooshing through a stretch of the road that was part snow, part bare pavement, then suddenly turning silent as it reached a part of the road that was all soft snow. So strange to watch it move without sound
  10. Climbing the franklin hill, encountering a line of cars with their headlights on, crawling down the hill
  11. the faint trace, in light gray, of my shadow ahead of me
  12. the knock knock knock of a woodpecker

Still figuring out my theme for December as I continue working on some color poems — currently, a gray one. Today, I’m posting something from Ross Gay about joy. Wow!

Yes, that’s how it seems to me, that we need practices, or we need to notice the practices we have, that help us be present with our sorrow. I’m not saying that help us drown in our sorrow—I’m saying be present with it, acknowledge it, befriend it even, lest we do some wretched or devastating shit trying to pretend it’s not there, or trying to hide it. And to do it in a mutual way—which, again, might be in some of our practices: dancing, gardening, mourning—but it might also be how we live, how we attend to one another, with the awareness that, yup, like me, your heart is broken. Probably not in exactly the same way, but probably, no, definitely, it’s broken. And it will go on being broken in various ways. It does not make us special, it seems to me. It makes us like each other. It un-others us from each other in fact. What happens if we live like that? My sense is that we’re more inclined to care for one another, we’re more inclined to love one another, which, yes, might be a kind of resistance to institutions who have little care for us, but it might also end up being a kind of offense to them. When we care for each other, and consequently are less reliant on the institutions or systems that, a lot of them anyway, do not care for us, we make those systems less necessary. We might be replacing those systems with something like love.

Cultivating Delight and Meaning with Ross Gay

Be present with our sorrow. Befriend it. It seems difficult sometimes to express sorrow, a brokenness, vulnerability, without it seeming weak or eliciting pity or the frustrating, You’re so brave! Or in ways that put it beside, in conversation with, delight or happiness. To me, gray holds both delight and grief, often in equal measures.

I like this idea that sorrow and broken hearts are something that connects all of us. I was thinking about that as I reread this poem by Didi Jackson, especially the last lines. The first song that is in all songs is that of sorrow/grief/mutual suffering.

Listen/ Didi Jackson

Like a hundred gray ears
the river stones are layered

in a pile near the shed where mourning
doves slow their peck and bobble to listen

to a chorus of listening.
Small buds on the lilac perk up.

A cardinal’s torpedoed call comes
in slow waves of four,

round after round. It’s a love call;
a call to make him known to himself.

The stones listen harder,
decipher the song; attempt

to offer back its echo.
But fail.

This is not a poem of coming Spring.
This is a poem well aware

that gray flesh is dead flesh.
All of the ripe listening

comes at a cost. The first
sky is in all skies.

The first song
is in all songs.

And just now, thinking even more about Jackson’s poem, I realized that the delightful gray ears that the stones become has another meaning. Gray = neutral. The gray ears listen without judgment, are open to witnessing, beholding, hearing what is said without rebuke. Another meaning of gray! Love it. Those gray ears are going in one of my gray poems, for sure!

dec 1/SWIM

1.5 miles
ywca pool

Back to the pool. Hooray! Swam a lot of loops — 99 laps — while breathing every 3, then 4, 5, then 6. Worked on breathing on my weaker side (left) when breathing every 4. Decided not to count, just swam until Scott entered the pool area and stood at the top of my lane. Not very crowded today. A guy in swim trunks to my right, swimming a lot of side stroke. It was fun to watch the wide sweep of his hands as he moved through the water on his side. Empty to my left, then Miss Luna arrived. Almost positive it was Miss Luna — the regular swimmer who swims with fins and paddles and does butterfly, and wears a pale green suit, with pale blue too, that makes me think vaguely of a luna moth. She wasn’t in pale green with blue today, but a similar suit. Same strong stroke, same fins.

They must have added chlorine since my last swim. Much clearer, sharper too. The blue of the tiles on the bottom that make the lines dividing the sides of the lane were a vivid blue instead of almost looking navy or black. Speaking of color, kept seeing yellow and orange when I lifted my head.

Felt strong and happy and buoyant, riding the surface, smoothly powering through the water. At some point, I started thinking about my color poems. I’ve written one about yellow, another about color in general. Before swimming, I started one about gray. Almost everything is gray or seems gray or leads to gray. Other colors are only pops, flashes, suggestions. I thought about making the poem mostly variations on the phrase, a gray day, or singing a song of gray, or gray area, or grayed out. Then I thought about having the poem visually mimic how I often see color. It’s frequently a flat or hazy gray until suddenly, to the side, a slash or pop of color appears, like orange or red. So, most of the words are gray, gray day, gray dreams, sing a song of gray, then off to the side, “orange” appears. Could this work? I’ll give it a try!

december challenge

I’m not sure what my challenge for this month will be. I’m in the thick of working on these color poems and prepping for my finding wonder in the winter writing class in late January (so excited to teach this one!). Should it be about orange? Or the poet that just wrote a collection partly about her degenerative eye disease — Julia B. Levine — titled, Ordinary Psalms? Or joy, inspired by recently purchasing Ross Gay’s Inciting Joy and my desire to explore what gray joy could be? I’ll give it another day, but I’m leaning towards Gay and joy. In the meantime, here’s one of Levine’s psalms from Ordinary Psalms:

Psalm with Near Blindness/ Julia B. Levine

i. 
The world mostly gone, I make it what I want: 
from the balcony, the morning a silver robe of mist.

I make a reckless blessing of it—the flaming, 
flowering spurge of the world, the wind 

the birds stir up as they flock and sing. 
Edges yes, the green lift and fall of live oaks,

something metal wheeling past, 
and yet for every detail alive and embodied— 

the horses with their tails switching back and forth, 
daylilies parting their lobes to heat— 

I cannot stop asking, Sparrow or wren? Oak
or elm? Because it matters 

if the gray fox curled in sleep 
is a patch of dark along the fence line,

or if the bush hung with fish kites 
is actually a wisteria in flower. Though 

even before my retinas bled and scarred 
and bled again, I wanted everything 

different, better. And then this afternoon, 
out walking the meadow together,

my husband bent to pick a bleeding heart.
Held it close as I needed 

to see its delicate lanterns, 
the shaken light. 

ii. 
Deer, he says, our car stopped in traffic. 
And since I can’t see them, I ask, Where?

Between the oaks, he answers,
and since I can’t see the between,
                                                                I ask, In the dappling?                        
He takes my hand and points 
to the darkest stutter in the branches 
                                                                and I see a shadow 

in the sight line of his hand, his arm, 
his blue shirt with its clean scent of laundry, 

my hand shading my eyes from glare. 
There! he says, and I can see 
                                                              the dark flash of them 
                                                              leaping over a fence (or is it reeds?), 

                                                              one a buck with his bony crown, 
                                                         and one a doe, and one smaller, a fawn,

but by then it seems they’ve disappeared 
and so I ask, Gone?
and he nods. 

We’re moving again,

                                                               and so I let the inner become outer 

                                                               become pasture and Douglas firs 
                                                               with large herds of deer, elk, even bison, 

                                                               and just beyond view, a mountain lion 

auburn red, like the one we saw years before, 
hidden behind a grove of live oaks, 

                                                                                        listening.

Oh, I am so excited to find this poem and the brilliant work of this poet! I can relate to so many of her words! The silver mist of the morning, the edges mostly gone, the emphasis on movement, her husband helping her to see, the inner becoming outer. Some differences too (probably partly because I imagine my vision isn’t quite as bad as hers): I don’t think the world is gone, more shifted, italicized, transformed. And I don’t need to know exactly what type of tree I’m seeing. I’d like to be able to tell the difference between a deer or a bush — sometimes I can’t — but the fine details matter less.

My thoughts on this last bit, about seeing exactly what’s there, are partly inspired by Levine’s response in an interview about the psalm. She says:

As I worked on it, this poem felt to me like a meditation on one particular dilemma of near blindness: that is, in the absence of a clear visual image, how the mind fills in, and what relationship this kind of seeing” has to spiritual notions of “vision” as opposed to a medical/anatomical definition of “sight.”

To explain further, there are some absences of visual perception that I actually like: I don’t see how dirty my house is, or whether or not my clothes are covered in blonde dog hair, and my friends and family all look very beautiful to me since I cannot see their wrinkles or whatever else might be considered “flaws.”

But I have loved the natural world since I was a small child and it is my inability to see it accurately that pains me. So, in the poem, I am interested in both how tounderstand what I do “see” as a amalgam of my own mind and memory, plus the relational construction that primarily my husband lends to me, and finally, what I can actually perceive. The result of this perceptual construction can sometimes feel like an important “truth” as opposed to visual fact.

I have loved the natural world since I was a small child and it is my inability to see it accurately that pains me.

Interview with Julia B. Levine

I love the natural world, but I’ve never needed to see it accurately in the ways that Levine seems to be invoking. I’m not interested in critiquing her perspective, but in positioning mine in relation to it. Also, I’d like to understand more of what she means by accurate. The more I (attempt to) study how vision and sight work, the more I’m fascinated by how much guesswork it involves for everyone, even “normally” sighted people. The brain filters, guesses, fills in. What does it mean to see nature accurately? Also, what about other senses? Can they enable us to access parts of nature that our limited/biased vision can’t? Losing some sight and the ability to easily, and more quickly, with much more detail, sucks, and I struggle with it. But I’m also interested in ways of knowing/understanding/recognizing/becoming familiar with beyond central vision and fine detail. I ave a different project than Levine, but I deeply appreciate her words.

nov 30/RUN

3.5 miles
trestle turn around
17 degrees / feels like 4
99% snow-covered

Is this the coldest day of the season? Just checked, and the next coldest was on November 20th when it was 19, feels like 9. I was worried it might be too cold, but it felt great! What a winter wonderland. White ground, pale blue sky, dark gray river. The trails were plowed — thanks Minneapolis Parks! — with only a few rough spots. I didn’t notice the ice because I was wearing yak trax. Just past the railroad trestle, I stopped to put in my headphones and a Taylor Swift playlist.

layers

  • 2 pairs of black running tights
  • green base layer shirt
  • pink jacket with hood
  • black vest
  • 2 pairs of gloves — 1 black, 1 pink and white striped
  • 1 pair of white socks with stripes, mismatched — 1 with green stripes, the other teal
  • fleece lined cap with ear flaps
  • buff
  • sunglasses
  • yak trax, a new pair

10 Things I Noticed

  1. a pale blue sky — not an intense BLUE! sky, more like the hint of blue, like if someone had taken a black and white photo of the gorge and painted in a blue sky
  2. lots of dry, brittle leaves swirling in the wind. Running by the double bridge to the north, I watched something dark fly through the fence then back again. A bug? A bird? No, a dead leaf
  3. Later on, I saw a few birds flying very fast across the path in front of me. They added to the chaos of the blustery wind and the swirling leaves
  4. 2 other runners, one near the trestle, the other further south
  5. a few walkers — any dogs? I don’t think so
  6. a group, some kids and adults, spread across the entire path, getting ready to go sledding down by the river
  7. remember to look at the river. A strange illusion. It was a dark, dark gray with a hint of brown and it looked like a wall. Instead of stretching flat on the gorge floor, it looked like it rose out of it, up towards the other bank. I’ve written about this wall of water in past winters
  8. the path was covered in mostly packed snow. The sun illuminated some of the slicker spots
  9. smelled a burnt something — I think I might have seen bits of rubber on the side of the road
  10. a truck with a plow, clearing the parking lot above the tunnel of trees

I don’t remember thinking about gray at all. Did I? Thought more about how I love running in the winter and whether or not my fingers were going numb or if my sunglasses would fog up or my foot would be sore again later today. Oh, and of course, I wondered what the drivers thought when they saw me running on this cold and windy day.

Today on the last day for singing a song of gray, I’m thinking about gravel. Here’s a bit from Mary Oliver’s “Gravel” in The Leaf and the Cloud. I’m struck by how she makes gray here with equal mentions of black and white: the black bog and white-circled eye, the white lilies and the black ant.

from “Gravel” in The Leaf and the Cloud/ Mary Oliver

Even the mosquito’s
 dark dart,
flashing and groaning;
 even the berries, softening back
into the black bog;
 even the wood duck’s
white-circled eye,

and the first white lilies
on the shaggy pond,

and the big owl, shaking herself
out of the pitchpines,

even the turtle scratching in the dust,
even the black ant, climbing the mile-high hill,

even the little chattering swift
diving down into the black chimney.

Everything is participate.
Everything is a part of the world
 we can see, taste, tickle, touch, hold onto,

and then it is dust.
Dust at last.
Dust and gravel.

In the distance, the rabbit-field.
Ben—his face in the grass, his chomping.
His sweet, wild eyes.

Thinking about gray as balanced, as both dark and light, black and white, grief and delight.

nov 29/WALKBIKERUNSHOVEL

a walk with Delia
longfellow neighborhood
27 degrees / snow
100% snow-covered

Took Delia the dog for a walk around 2 blocks. She needed the exercise, I wanted the fresh air and to see the conditions of the sidewalk. Too much snow. If I hadn’t tweaked by foot on uneven snow a few weeks ago, I’d be more willing to risk it and go for a run by the gorge, but not today. Everything white and gray. Walking north the snow felt like sharp shards. I breathed deeply. Oh, that cold air! Brittle, abrasive, cleaning me out. Taking these breaths in the cold air, walking in the soft silence, or almost silence, are some of my favorite things to do.

…a few hours and 6+ inches of snow later

bike: 20 minutes
bike stand basement
run: 2.2 miles
treadmill, basement

Lots of unshoveled/unplowed snow and uneven ground outside. Watched a running race while I biked, listened to a “Taylor Swift fitness” playlist while I ran. In between, I listened to 2 versions of another colorblind plate poem. This one is about the various strange ways I see color and how those shift depending on some things I can predict, some I can’t. I’m calling it, “Shifty.”

shovel: 32 minutes
deck, front sidewalk

The snow has stopped. I’m not the greatest at guessing, but I’d say there’s at least 6 inches. Okay, I had to do some digging (excuse the pun), but I found a snow total for St. Thomas, which is about a mile from my house. 7.5 inches. Yikes. That snow was no joke to shovel. Almost too much. Listened to Mexican Gothic and got to the part, almost 8 hours in, where the big secret of the evil house is revealed. Surprising and interesting and gross too — I won’t spoil it for anyone who might be reading this and hasn’t read the book.

Today’s song of gray

I can’t quite remember what it was now, but something made me think of gray air and breath. Searched for “gray breath” on Poetry Foundation and found this poem. This past summer, I watched a lecture from Aimee Nezhukumatathil in which she began with this poem:

First Grade/ Ron Koertge

Until then, every forest
had wolves in it, we thought
it would be fun to wear snowshoes
all the time, and we could talk to water.

So who is this woman with the gray
breath calling out names and pointing
to the little desks we will occupy
for the rest of our lives?

Earlier today, I had another poem I was thinking of posting as today’s song of gray — granite. I’ve decided to post it too because of the wolf and snow connection:

nunatak/ Jane Lovell

a stone ridge exposed by wind,
a lip of stone curled at the glaucous wind,
its harrying across blown snow;
a skyline ridge, blade-and-socket spine
of something fossilised, claws sunk
in the hidden world below;
a ridge of stone, a pebbled egg
abandoned in its cleft, the embryo
a shock of livid skin in frozen oils;
a granite ridge, its icebound edge
orbited by tracks of lupine shadow
swerving out across the void.

nov 28/RUN

4.4 miles
minnehaha falls and back
33 degrees

Overcast, a bit blustery. Everything muted: burnt orange, not yellow but yellowed, brown, gray. A few clumps of snow scattered on the grass. Kids laughing and yelling on the school playground. Water trickling at the falls. I remember looking down at the river, but I don’t remember what I saw. I know it was clear and probably steel blue. Did I see any ripples from the wind?

At the start of my run, the sky glowed a pale yellow — the sun trying to break through the clouds. A strange light, reminding more of a sunrise or sunset than late morning.

Noticed the faintest trace of my shadow running ahead of me. Because the sun was still behind the clouds, it was dim, almost more the idea of my shadow than an actual one.

Listened to the gorge running south, Beyoncé running north.

My kneecap shifted a little, but I didn’t panic or feel any pain during, or swelling afterwards.

No fat tires or roller skiers or Mr. Walker or Mr. Morning! or Dave, the Daily Walker. I did pass a very tall runner in a red jacket near the end of my run.

Anything else? The creek was mostly frozen, but I could hear some drips and dribbles dropping down from the limestone ledge.

Today for my gray, I’m thinking about gray or grey dreams:

Little Grey Dreams/ Angelina Weld Grimké – 1880-1958

Little grey dreams,
I sit at the ocean’s edge,
At the grey ocean’s edge,
With you in my lap.

I launch you, one by one,
And one by one,
Little grey dreams,
Under the grey, grey, clouds,
Out on the grey, grey, sea,
You go sailing away,
From my empty lap,
Little grey dreams.

Sailing! Sailing!
Into the black,
At the horizon’s edge.

nov 27/RUN

3.4 miles
trestle turn around
32 degrees

Another beautiful morning. Sunny and calm and not too cold. Clear trails, no big groups of runners. No fat tires or roller skiers either. Exchanged greetings with Mr. Morning! Remembered to look at the river. It was open and blue. At one spot, it shimmered. I listened to Taylor Swift’s 1989, then Reputation instead of the gorge.

Before my run, I fit the draft I did of my yellow poem into the colorblind plate form. I think it works pretty well.

yellow, plate 2

I haven’t come up with the single word hidden in the colorblind plate yet.

I’m nearing the end of my month of singing a song of gray. Here’s a gray poem about tombstones and spirits by Edgar Allen Poe:

Spirits of the Dead/ Edgar Allen Poe

I

Thy soul shall find itself alone
’Mid dark thoughts of the gray tombstone—
Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
Into thine hour of secrecy.

   II 

Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness—for then
The spirits of the dead who stood
In life before thee are again
In death around thee—and their will
Shall overshadow thee: be still.

   III 

The night, tho’ clear, shall frown—
And the stars shall look not down
From their high thrones in the heaven,
With light like Hope to mortals given—
But their red orbs, without beam,
To thy weariness shall seem
As a burning and a fever
Which would cling to thee for ever.

   IV 

Now are thoughts thou shalt not banish,
Now are visions ne’er to vanish;
From thy spirit shall they pass
No more—like dew-drop from the grass.

   V 

The breeze—the breath of God—is still—
And the mist upon the hill,
Shadowy—shadowy—yet unbroken,
Is a symbol and a token—
How it hangs upon the trees,
A mystery of mysteries!

Speaking of gray and Poe, I encountered this line from his short story Eleonora:

They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night. In their gray visions they obtain glimpses of eternity, and thrill, in awakening, to find that they have been upon the verge of the great secret. 

Eleonora/ Edgar Allen Poe

nov 26/RUN

5.6 miles
fairview loop
42 degrees

A little warmer today so I wore the late fall, early winter layers: black tights, black sorts, long-sleeved green shirt, orange sweatshirt, black and white polka dot baseball cap. Sunny, quiet. Almost all of the trail and sidewalks were completely clear. Only a few spots of ice on the Marshall hill just before reaching Cretin. Managed to get greens at all of the stoplights climbing the marshall hill– no quick breaks for me. Had to stop at the two on Summit.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. heard the bells at St. Thomas at both 10 and 10:15
  2. was dazzled by the light burning bright off the river
  3. felt the wind pushing me from the side as I crossed the bridge
  4. the strong smell of bacon or ham as I neared longfellow grill
  5. a few stretches of ice on marshall, some patches of wet sidewalk that looked like ice but was only a trick of the light
  6. a bus stopped, a few passengers getting out
  7. statues at the end of the walk of fancy houses on Summit: pineapples, lions
  8. a kid’s voice somewhere below in the ravine leading to shadow falls
  9. a runner stopped on the bridge to take a picture of the river as it shimmered with a wide swath of bright light
  10. a woman and a dog carefully making their way under the chain closing off the old stone steps

Climbing the short hill that starts at the Monument and ends at an entrance to Shadow Falls, I suddenly had a thought about yellow that made me stop and pull out my phone to record it:

Thinking about colors and yellow and then I was thinking about how sometimes it used to be this warning, this shout, like watch out, be careful and now it’s become more of a whisper or a soft cry or more hushed and it’s increasingly getting that way so colors are more muted and muffled… [the other voices in the recording are 2 bikers and 2 then 2 runners].

yellow/ 26 nov 2022

Not sure what happened with the recording here, but I remember saying more about how distant yellow seems now. I never see it as bright, but faded, from the past, or through the gauzy veil of my damaged cones. Sometimes only the association with objects. I might not see that something is yellow but I know that it is because I know safety vests or crosswalk signs or the middle light on a stoplight are yellow. Orange works differently for me. It’s not faded, but it often only appears as a blip or flash or slash or flare in my peripheral vision. Again, yellow offers a soft, constant glow. I was also thinking about Van Gogh and his idea that every color is ultimately a variation of gray.

excerpt from Yellow Lullaby/ Leontia Flynn

A spill of sunlight and a yellow dress.
A yolk.
A yellow flower.                                                
A candle flame.
A moth-light, moon-like,
in the nursery’s darkness . . .