feb 25/RUN

5 miles
franklin loop
45 degrees

A regular run! It felt mostly fine, a few times strange. I told Scott that often when something is sore or stiff or hurts, it just feels strange to me. I need better words.

A few time my calf felt strange…but what does that mean? It felt like it was trying to talk to me, like it wasn’t used to moving, like it was complaining. During the run, once or twice, the smallest flare of something that wasn’t quite pain yet. After the run, tight, a little sore along the outside of my calf starting near the knee and moving down. Here’s some information that I might want to look at: Calf Muscle Tightness

While we ran, we talked about Scott’s latest work project involving wrangling a lot of data about water quality and temperature and more and turning it into a user-friendly widget. I talked about Courtney Dauwalter and listening to your body and pushing your limits and the memory palace. Near the end of the run, we encountered people protesting Israel’s invasion/war against Palestine on the bridge. I almost called out from the river to the sea! but didn’t — do I wish I had? yes, I think so. Saw some Palestinian flags and people with signs. A few minutes later, we heard a bullhorn from up on the bridge — were they marching to the capital?

earlier today

While reviewing the feb 25 entry from 2022, I came across a reference to the memory palace. I’d like to do something with this idea — an experiment, a poem, something else? Found a helpful discussion of it in a Paris Review article about Wordsworth:

The idea of the mind as a palace or church, whose individual rooms can be explored with training, is familiar from the memory treatises of antiquity and the Middle Ages. The “memory palace” as a mnemonic device was widely used before the advent of printing to organize and remember vast amounts of information. By memorizing the spatial layout of a building and assigning images or ideas to its various rooms, one could “walk” through the imaginary building and retrieve the ideas relegated to the separate parts.

The Celestial Memory Palace/ Aysegul Savas

I mentioned the memory palace in a feb 25, 2022 entry. In a feb 25, 2020 entry, I also wrote about place, the house:

I’d like to put this poem (A Skull) and the idea of the skull as a house beside the two other poems with houses that I posted on feb 22.

Two different, yet connected, versions of imagined place. Can I do something with these?

Here’s a delightful poem from a chapbook, Cheap Motels of my Youth, that I just got in the mail:

I Heard a Fly Buzz/ George Bilgere

I stumbled out in to the kitchen,
got the coffee maker started,
did the dishes from last night,
and then you came out in your robe,
wondering why I was up so early,
and I realized I’d misread the clock,
I’d actually gotten up at 7, not 8,
and suddenly I had a whole hour
bestowed upon me by the gods
who dole out our span to time.

And this was long ago, years ago, but
I still have that hour, I’ve guarded it
zealously, and when the time comes
and the darkness is closing in, and perhaps
I even hear a fly buzz—I’ll take out
that hour from the secret place
where I keep it, I’ll show it to all of you
gathered around my bedside
and I’ll cry out, Look! Another hour!

And that fly will pause in its
goddam buzzing, and all of you—
and that means you, Michael and Alex—
all of you will be forced to smile
and say, Really? That’s just awesome!

And I shall continue with my reminiscences.

I love this poem — the way it gently references Emily Dickinson, the delightful story it tells, his use of goddam in the second to last stanza, the calling out of his kids in the poem, how the first stanza is all one sentence, and that last bit about reminiscing as what he’d want to do with his bonus hour.

I like his use of goddam, and I wonder: how often do women poets use goddam? It seems like a swear word male poets would use. What are some good examples of women poets using goddam in their poems? I looked up “women poets goddam” and came across Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam.” Listened to it — wow — and found this article for later: The long story behind Nina Simone’s protest song, “Mississippi Goddam” Kept scrolling in my search and found a link to a Book Notes series in which authors create a playlist for their books. Cool! What does this have to do with goddam? Nothing, but I love that I found this site, especially after creating a playlist for my windows month.

Okay, time to stop wandering. I think I’ll go study and memorize Emily Dickinson’s “I heard a Fly buzz — when I died”

Almost forgot: still playing around with the tiles for the two main muscles in the calf: gastrocnemius and soleus

Glass moon curse suite

feb 24/RUN

1.25 miles
neighborhood
27 degrees

A short run to see how my calf was doing. I think it’s okay. No pain. My heel felt a little strange by the end, but that could be from the cold — I didn’t run long enough to warm it up. (a cautious) Hooray!

My favorite parts of today’s run: cresting the hill on edmund and seeing the river burning a bright silvery white in the distance; the comforting smell of a fire burning in someone’s fireplace; and the wind chimes echoing through the alley as I walked home.

before the run

While searching for calf stretches I came across this delightful fact: the calf is often referred to as the peripheral heart!

Throughout the calf muscles is a network of veins, arteries and nerves. The calf muscles and the deep veins have a network of valves and pumps. This system is called your “peripheral heart.” This is because, when you’re in an upright position, the calf muscles work against gravity to close the valves – contracting and driving blood from your legs towards your heart.

Sore Calves: A Full Guide

Very helpful. I remember reading about calf heart attacks and I wondered why they were called that. Now it makes sense! Also good to remember: the calf is made up of 2 muscles: gastrocnemius (bulging one) and soleus (flat, underneath).

Before heading out for my run, I tried out these stretches. I liked them:

after the run: fun with medical terms!

I haven’t done one of these for some time. I want to turn gastrocnemius and soleus into something else. Inspired by Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby, I’ve pulled out my scrabble letters and I’m making new words or phrases.

  • gout ocular messiness
  • regulate moss cousins
  • smile across us tongue
  • oust uncola’s regimes! this has an extra s that I couldn’t fit, but it was too good not to mention

That’s all I have right now. I think I’ll keep working on it later today. It’s fun, but the tiles are harder to see than I thought.

feb 23/WALK

20 minute walk with Delia
neighborhood
33 degrees

A short walk through the neighborhood with Delia the dog. My calf is feeling better. I think I’ll try running 1 or 2 miles tomorrow morning. Today, just a walk. Brrr. The thing I’d like to remember from the walk — other than the happy feeling of walking without fear of cramping — was the exclamation point on the sold sign in front of house 1 block south. Sold! Maybe I’ve missed it, but I don’t think sold signs usually have exclamation points. I love exclamation points! So did Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman!

Searched through my archives and found a reference to exclamation points in a Diane Seuss sonnet:

how many exclamation points can I 
get away with in this life, who was it who said only two
or maybe seven, Bishop? Marianne Moore?

In that 27 march 2023 entry, I tried finding the reference — Bishop or Moore — but couldn’t. Still can’t.

Returning to Emily Dickinson, I think my favorite exclamation point poem by her is ‘Tis so much joy! ‘Tis so much joy! — especially these lines, which I like to chant on some runs:

Life is but Life! And Death, but Death!
Bliss is, but Bliss, and Breath but Breath!

While rereading the entry for feb 23, 2022, I re-discovered these poems by Rebecca Hazelton — 2 examples of ekphrastic poetry: The Husband’s Answers

feb 22/REST

I tweaked or strained or something my calf muscle when I unwisely ran after experiencing a bad cramp early Sunday morning. So now I’m resting for the rest of the week and trying to get over myself and my fears about pain and injury. I’ve turned to what often helps: writing and wondering and spending some time getting acquainted with my pain.

one

For future Sara who will want to remember these details, and present Sara who doesn’t want to forget them and anyone else who wants to witness a Sara who is trying to be more open (and less) guarded about what she’s thinking/feeling:

Early Sunday morning, while I was sleeping, I got a leg cramp (a charley horse, as we called it when I was kid) in my right leg. A sudden burst of intense pain that woke me up. I stood and shook my leg and thought my shaking had stopped the cramp from even happening. A few hours later, when I woke up, my calf was sore but Scott and I were scheduled to do our weekly run and I wanted to make sure I got in my miles, so I ran anyway, almost 6 miles. No pain! The next day, I ran another 5 miles and felt mostly fine. But then, sitting at my desk, writing my log entry for feb 19, my leg suddenly felt strange — a constricting? contracting? cramping? of the muscle (or tendon?) at the bottom of my calf, near the heel. No sharp pain, just a flare of heat that burned for a few seconds then stopped when I shook out my leg. To me, it felt like a cramp just about to happen — that moment right before it tightens, just before the pain hits — slams into you? takes your breath away? seizes you? For the rest of the day, I was unsettled. The flares kept coming, not all the time, but throughout the day. By the evening, I was very anxious; the flares were coming every few minutes. For a couple of hours I sat on my bed and made note of each instance:

a quick flare of pain — not sharp — above my ankle/lower calf that goes away when I move my leg/shake my foot
6:09
6:22 (after bending my leg, then crossing it over and on top of my other foot
7:09 (only after bending my leg, raising my knee up for a minute
7:12 another slight flare of pain, the need to shake my leg
7:20 another very mild, slight flare – not pain, almost like a contraction or brief tightening
7:33 a brief construction — slight pain — after I walked downstairs and back up and stood for a minute
7:40 another quick flare
7:43 brief flare
7:49 — a very brief flare
7:52 — another slight constriction
7:59 — a little flare

notes from 20 feb 2024

Then I had dinner and a shot of bourbon and watched old episodes of Seinfeld with Scott and (mostly) forgot about it. Since then, I’ve been trying to be careful with my calf — no running for the rest of this week, or at least until Saturday or Sunday. My calf still feels strange sometimes, and sometimes it doesn’t. Also: stiff, tight, unsettled. Went for a short walk with Delia and Scott yesterday and it felt like it wasn’t quite firing. A fear simmering somewhere within: will it happen again? do I have a calf tear? is something even worse about to happen?

two

I am deeply afraid of these calf cramps. I even wrote about that fear way back on February 16, 2017:

At the end of a 2 mile swim, back and forth across Lake Nokomis, I placed my right foot down in the shallow water and experienced a charley horse from hell. My right calf knotted up so painfully that I began to yell out. I dropped down in the water, trying not to panic, and frantically shook my leg, hoping to loosen the knot. It didn’t take that long to loosen it, but long enough to disorient me so much that I dropped (and lost) my favorite goggles, long enough to make my calf ache for weeks and not feel quite right for a year and long enough to make me feel perpetually terrified of my calf and the excruciating pain it could cause.

That calf pain still haunts me. I’m not really sure how much pain I can take; I did give birth to both of my kids without any drugs so I must be able to tolerate a reasonable amount. But I’m scared of that pain. The threat of it often hovers there, subtly shaping my workouts. Whenever my calf feels strange, during a swim across the lake or while doing a hard run, I wonder, is it coming for me again?

Why am I so afraid of these cramps? With this first one, in 2017, I became afraid (still am, a little) that I would cramp up in the middle of lake and not be able to shake it off; I’d have to endure terrible pain as I swam across, or I wouldn’t be able to swim, and would struggle to stay afloat. I think it’s about the loss of control — being possessed by something that I can’t do anything about — and it’s about that particular type of pain — so sharp and blunt and arresting. Give me the dull ache and tightness of hip pain over calf pain every time! Give me the uncertainty and confusion and unreadable books of gradual vision loss — isn’t that strange?

three

When I was a kid — probably 5th grade — we lived in a DC suburb. I remember going to the Smithsonian and seeing an exhibit on pain. I have an image of one of my older sisters leaning over a glass display case reading something about the history of pain. I also remember being struck by her interest in this topic, wondering why. Looked it up: 1983 / Pain and Its Relief / National Museum of American History – oh, how I loved visiting that museum almost every weekend!

four

The only excruciating pain I recall experiencing as a kid were the terrible stomach cramps I would get when I was 11 or 12 — I hadn’t started my period yet. Such agonizing knots of pain, crashing into me, wave after wave. I would lie on my top bunk bed, staring at the ceiling, and just try to endure them for however long they lasted — hours? How often did they happen, and for how many years? When I told my mom about them, she said something about how these “twists in the intestines” run in our family. Am I remembering that right?

Oh — and the ear infections from swimming. In the middle of the night, I’d leave my bedroom and pace the house, wanting nothing but this horrible ache in the side of my head to stop. Or how my teeth would ache after a teeth cleaning at a rare visit to the dentist. I would wish I could record that pain, be able to feel it anytime I wanted to skip brushing my teeth.

five

Dance with the pain 

That last one is something I describe a lot. What does that even mean?
It means to greet the pain or discomfort like an old friend. Know that it’s always there waiting for you. If you accept it, and envision yourself enjoying its company, it’s much more manageable.

from a race recap at the Chicago Marathon — @emmajanelbates

from a log entry 27 oct 2023: Being content with the doubt and greeting pain as an old friend. Accepting doubt and being content with it I think I can do, but befriending pain? I’ve been trying to work on that as part of this larger writing/living/moving project. The pain I’m thinking of is the pain in my knees or my back or my hips, but it’s also other, deeper pains: the pain of aging, loved ones dying, living within a body that doesn’t work as well. Not sure if I’d call it a friend yet, more like an acquaintance, a familiar. I think it’s possible, but what does enjoying the company of pain look like, outside of the model of sadomasochism?

six

I’ve read/heard it enough times that I can’t remember where or when: the difference between a great runner and a good runner is the ability to endure pain. I don’t want to be a great runner, but I’d like to develop a better relationship to pain. I’d like to find more ways to endure it, to live with it. In middle school and high school, I read several memoirs from people enduring extreme conditions and surviving, mostly political prisoners in China and Russia, who were locked up in small cells alone for years. Almost 40 years later, I can’t remember the specifics of what they suffered or how they survived, I only remember my fascination with these accounts. Now I like following the races and stories of ultra marathoners and long course triathletes. Athletes who spend more time than many deep in the pain cave. One of my favorites is Courtney Dauwalter. She frequently talks about embracing the pain cave:

Is that what it means to dance with/befriend your pain?

I’m not sure how I feel about embracing the pain cave or pushing yourself to the limits in order to enter it. I admire it, and her, and I’m also disturbed by the accounts of pushing yourself so much — regularly hallucinating, temporarily losing all vision, falling on a rock and gushing blood but not stopping (read this, Inside the Pain Cave, for more). Is it too much for a body? Even as I wonder this, I know that I tend toward the opposite end: too cautious, too guarded, unwilling to push myself to the limit if the limit is uncomfortable.

seven

Discussing Dauwalter with Scott, he mentioned that there are different types of pain — some of it we just need to get over and endure, and some a warning to be careful! or stop! before we do real damage. My problem: I’m often thinking that the pain is always a warning of something bad about to happen.

eight

I am uncomfortable writing about pain because my pain seems so insignificant compared to other people living with chronic pain.

nine

Growing up, my family didn’t discuss pain: you were supposed to suffer in silence. I feel compelled (called? driven?) to make visible my pain, to recognize how it is part of me, to share it with others, to normalize vulnerability.

ten

It is difficult to witness other people’s pain. Last night, someone delivering food fell off a step on our block and twisted? sprained? her ankle. She lay on the ground, wailing in pain, her sobs echoing down the street for several minutes as we waited for an ambulance to arrive.

Will this thoughts about pain turn into something bigger? Who know, but I’d like to spend some more time with them. I just discovered a book by one of my favorite poets, Lisa Olstein: Pain Studies. Checked it out of the library! Also, I should reread Eula Biss’ “The Pain Scale.” And, I want to put these 2024 thoughts in conversation with what I wrote about pain in 2017: 18 august 2017

feb 19/RUN

5 miles
john stevens’ house
34 degrees

So bright out by the gorge today. Sharp shadows. Clear path. Black-capped chickadees, downy woodpeckers, construction workers, little kids all chattering. Before I saw the creek, I heard it gushing below me near the falls. Oh — and wild turkeys! A dozen of them pecking the snow just north of locks and dam no. 1.

My favorite part of the run was in minnehaha park near John Stevens’ house, where the serpentine sidewalk — completely cleared and dry — snaked through the grass covered in several inches of untouched snow. O, the sun and the shadows and the curves and the warmer air and the dry paths and the open lungs and humming legs!

an illusion

Glance one: running south on the stretch near 38th street, I noticed something dark and solid up ahead on the trail. A loose dog or wild animal? No.
Glance two: Still staring, the black thing turned into a dark, deep puddle on the road.
Glance three: How could I have mistook this puddle for an animal?
Glance four: Wait — it’s not a puddle, it’s someone’s disembodied legs in dark pants walking on the edge of the path.
Glance five: And their legs are attached to a torso in a light colored (gray? tan? pale blue?) jacket which blended into the sky.
Glance six: Getting closer, I can see a head, some shoes

This illusion is not unusual for me. Mostly, it doesn’t bother me because I am used to it and I have time to figure out what it is I’m seeing. Sometimes, when I don’t have time to look and think and guess, it’s scary and unsettling and dangerous.

Found an interview with Andrew Leland from Joeita Gupta and The Pulse this morning and wanted to remember this helpful definition of blindness:

The Pulse

What is blindness? Blindness isn’t merely an absence of sight. Blindness is a central identity for some, a neutral or marginal characteristic for others. Not all blind people are the same. There are blind vegetarians, athletes, academics, you name it. Some people have been blind from birth, others lose their vision as adults. Blindness can come on suddenly or gradually. Blindness is then more than a physical experience. It has its own culture, language, and politics. Blindness is not the same for any two blind people anymore than sight is experienced the same way by two sighted individuals.

note: This podcast has some other great episodes, including one about birding while blind, which I added to my May is for the Birds page.

How I See

I’m continuing to work on my alt-text/ekphrastic image project. Still trying to figure out the best way into the actual poems. Not quite writer’s block, but a grasping, grappling with, wrangling ideas. Anyway, maybe detouring will help a little. I’d like to gather lines from vision poems that describe how I see. I’ll begin with one of the most well-known blind poets, Jorge Luis Borges:

 In Praise of Darkness / Jorge Luis Borges

Old age (the name that others give it)
can be the time of our greatest bliss.
The animal has died or almost died.
The man and his spirit remain.
I live among vague, luminous shapes
that are not darkness yet.
Buenos Aires,
whose edges disintegrated
into the endless plain, has gone back to being the Recoleta, the Retiro,
the nondescript streets of the Once,
and the rickety old houses
we still call the South.
In my life there were always too many things.
Democritus of Abdera plucked out his eyes in order to think:
Time has been my Democritus.
This penumbra is slow and does not pain me;
it flows down a gentle slope,
resembling eternity.
My friends have no faces,
women are what they were so many years ago,
these corners could be other corners,
there are no letters on the pages of books.
All this should frighten me,
but it is a sweetness, a return.
Of the generations of texts on earth
I will have read only a few–
the ones that I keep reading in my memory,
reading and transforming.
From South, East, West, and North
the paths converge that have led me
to my secret center.
Those paths were echoes and footsteps,
women, men, death-throes, resurrections,
days and nights,
dreams and half-wakeful dreams,
every inmost moment of yesterday
and all the yesterdays of the world,
the Dane’s staunch sword and the Persian’s moon,
the acts of the dead,
shared love, and words,
Emerson and snow, so many things.
Now I can forget them. I reach my center,
my algebra and my key,
my mirror.
Soon I will know who I am.

penumbra: shroud, fringe, a shaded region surrounding the dark portion of a sunspot, in an eclipse the partially illuminated space between full shadow and light

Here are a few lines that I think describe how I see:

This penumbra is slow and does not pain me;
it flows down a gentle slope,
resembling eternity.
My friends have no faces,
women are what they were so many years ago,
these corners could be other corners

A slow, gentle deterioration. No dramatic or sudden shifts. / When I look at people directly, I usually can’t see their faces. / I either see a smudge or darkness or the face I remember from before, when I could see. / sharp edges or corners are difficult to see and streets once familiar are strange. Traveling to a new street corner, I struggle to read signs, to recognize where I am, everything there but not, everything the same forms: Building, Sign, Door

feb 18/RUN

5.8 miles
down the franklin and back
31 degrees

A little icy, a little windy, a little crowded. Difficult to run together in these conditions, so Scott and I split up. The sun was bright and I saw some wonderful shadows of trees — gnarled and sprawling across the sky. Heard some geese, smelled some bacon.

When we ran together, Scott and I talked about the half frozen river and how it looked like a gray slushy. What flavor is gray slushy, I wondered. Scott suggested, all the flavors then added, I bet that would taste good. I wondered if this “everything” slushy would include blueberry. No, Scott said, blue raspberry. I mentioned how there is no consensus on the origins of the rasp in raspberry, which I had come across while reading a past entry a few days ago.

How I See

As I continue to work on this project, I want to return to ekphrastic poems. In an article for Lithub — Back to School for Everyone: Ekphrastic Poetry with Victoria Chang — Chang offers some helpful thoughts about the form:

how poets engage with visual art:

  • write about the scene or subject being depicted in the artwork
  • write in the voice of the person or object represented
  • write about their personal experiences
  • fictionalizing a scene within the art
  • write about the work in the context of its socio-political history

In essence, ekphrastic poems are a way to interact with the world and a way to respond to the world. The process of writing ekphrastic poetry also brings into question aspects of viewing, the culture of viewing, and the gaze, always asking the questions of who is looking at what, when, and why?

3 thoughts about Ekphrasis

1: I’m as interested in how someone is looking as who, what, when, or why they are looking.

2: Maybe part of the ekphrasis angle is the idea that sometimes the world looks like a painting to me — pointillism or abstract expressionism or?

3: the contrast between how a photo captures/stills the image in a way that my eyes never can

A view from the ford bridge, poorly framed. Not sure what color other people might see here, but to me it's all gray: light gray sky and river, broken up by chunks of dark gray trees. I like how the sky and the river look almost the same color to me.
8 nov 2023

original description: A view from the ford bridge, poorly framed. Not sure what color other people might see here, but to me it’s all gray: light gray sky and river, broken up by chunks of dark gray trees. I like how the sky and the river look almost the same color to me.

5 nouns/ 5 adjectives/ 5 verbs

nouns: river, water, shore, trees, sky, branches, a bend, surface
adjectives: winding, scraggly, soft, fuzzy, drab, dark, light, gray, wide, flat, contrast, wide
verb: stretching, reaching, standing, stilled, separated, cutting through,\

one sentence about the most important thing in image: The sky and the river are the same color; only the disruption of trees enables me to distinguish between them.

a second sentence about the second most important thing: Everything gray: light gray sky and river, broken up by chunks of dark gray trees.

a third sentence about the third most important thing: In this soft, wide open view, when everything is stilled, silent, nothing is happening.

The nothing that’s happening in this image is full of meaning. Here nothing = no things are doing anything/ nothing to see; nothing = a void, absence, unknowingness; nothing = a rest for my eyes, no movement, everything still, satisfied, stable.

The idea of no separation, no edges or divisions between forms, reminds me of a wonderful poem that I thought I’d posted already, but hadn’t. I think when I first encountered it a few years ago, it didn’t resonate for me. Now, I want to call out, yes!, with almost every line.

Monet Refuses the Operation/ Lisel Muller

Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don’t see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolve
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don’t know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

feb 17/CORE

Too cold for Scott (and me, too — the lack of cold this winter has un-conditioned me to the cold) today. Or maybe it’s more the wind? We will do our weekly run tomorrow. Today, more core. I did the Madfit 30 minute all body workout again. Tried the reverse lunges, and they weren’t as bad for my knees as I thought…until they were, at the end. Now, having finished, my lower back hurts a bit on the left side. Should I be worried?

something future Sara might like to know: Today for the first time in decades a world cup cross-country ski race is happening at Theodore Wirth Park. Until we got about 1/2 foot of snow last week, I wondered how it could happen. But it did snow, and today it happened. Very cool.

How I See

Yesterday in my description of my image I wrote the following:

one sentence about the most important thing in image: This cluttered view of bare trunks and thin branches creates a screen between runner (me) and river and resembles what I sometimes see even when there aren’t thin, bare branches everywhere — my view obscured by something in the way, that I can’t move, that keeps the real (focused, clear, open) view just out of reach.

a second sentence about the second most important thing: The image is only of swirling forms — tree, leaf, river — as my eye struggles (and fails) to land on solid lines, instead bouncing from branch to trunk to leafy floor to river to sky to branch again. (This cramped, thickly tangled space overwhelms my eyes and my brain.)

Rereading these sentences, I’m realizing that the first one is a bit misleading. My view is not obscured by a fog or haze, like some veil is covering/concealing the river. My view is obscured because of what I write in sentence 2: images don’t have solid shape, clear and defined lines. They’re constantly moving, buzzing, vibrating.

The idea of cloudy, foggy vision is more associated with cataracts:

from Cataracts/ Linda Pastan

Like frosted glass, 
you blur the hard edges
of the cruel world. 

Like summer fog, you obscure
the worse even an ocean can do.

Frosted glass, a blur, summer fog.

from Ekphrasis as Eye Test/Jane Zwart

But usually the picture dims proportionally, cataracts
stirring gray into haystacks and ground and dust-ruffle
sky. Maybe you will finally understand Monet, his play
in thirty acts, his slow lowering of the lights in Giverny.
At last there is nothing left to squint against.

Wow, the more I return to this poem, the more I love it, and relate to it.

After realizing that fog or smoke or haze or gray mist isn’t what happens to me and my vision, I wrote a few notes:

The something that is in the way is not some cloud or obstruction — no fog or haze — but something that refuses to come into focus — bouncing around from object to object, television static — not fuzz but fizz — everything shaking wobbling lines wavering such small movements it’s difficult to detect, shimmering simmering — what is that effect when you see the heat on the road? look that up* — like most things with my vision, it’s not obvious or direct. I don’t look and see wavy lines, I feel wavy lines, a restless unsettling not fixed an unhinging coming undone vibrations pulsing throbbing crowded cramped moving always, slightly shaken, a constant stirring

*best answers: heat haze or heat shimmer

I like a lot of these lines. Right now, I especially like: not fuzz but fizz. Constant movement is key to my dying vision — I think it’s exhausting me and making me even more restless. Is my brain constantly trying to make sense of these images? or are the moving images just making me feel unsettled most of the time? How does my sense of moving images feel different than people with nystagmus (“An involuntary eye movement which may cause the eye to rapidly move from side to side, up and down, or in a circle, and may slightly blur vision.” — wikipedia). One of my favorite poets, Lorine Niedecker suffered from nystagmus. Interesting — if I’m reading my source correctly, nystagmus is not a vision problem, but a balance one.

Speaking of nystagmus and Niedecker, here’s a source: Nystagmatic Poetics in Lorine Niedecker

feb 16/BIKERUN

bike: 15 min warm-up
run: 1.5 miles
basement

Finished the 2nd episode of season 1 of Dickinson, started the 3rd while biking. I’m really appreciating the audio descriptions. So much easier to watch shows! I’m also surprised at how normal/natural/not disruptive the audio descriptions are. Is it that way for people with good vision? I’ll have to ask Scott after we watch something with AD turned on.

Listened to a winter playlist while I ran. Just a short run to burn off some restlessness, to rest my eyes from reading/writing, and to add to my weekly total of miles.

Before the run, I worked on another image for my “how I see”project. Maybe I should take the 3 I’ve already done and do more with them?

 My view from above the gorge: bare limbed trees, all trunk and thin branches. A few trunks are thick — like the one near the center of the image or the one leaning on the left side — but most are thin, creating a transparent screen between runner (me) and river.
8 feb 2024

original description: My view from above the gorge: bare limbed trees, all trunk and thin branches. A few trunks are thick — like the one near the center of the image or the one leaning on the left side — but most are thin, creating a transparent screen between runner (me) and river. The ground, in the bottom third of the picture, is mostly dead, curled-up brown leaves. Sometimes, this is what I see even when there aren’t thin, bare branches everywhere — my view slightly obscured by something in the way — dead cone cells, I think — creating fuzz or static or a slight pulsing or wavering of lines. Also, if this picture were in black and white I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Often I have to ask Scott: is this in color or black and white?

5 nouns/ 5 adjectives / 5 verbs

nouns: tree, trunks, leaves, river, twigs, bank, bramble, sky, veil, net, screen
adjectives: brown, thin, thick, pale, blue, gray, soft. cluttered, tangled, obscured, disoriented
verbs: blocking, concealing, decaying, settled, crowding (out), decomposing, swirling

one sentence about the most important thing in image: This cluttered view of bare trunks and thin branches creates a screen between runner (me) and river and resembles what I sometimes see even when there aren’t thin, bare branches everywhere — my view obscured by something in the way, that I can’t move, that keeps the real (focused, clear, open) view just out of reach.

a second sentence about the second most important thing: The image is only of swirling forms — tree, leaf, river — as my eye struggles (and fails) to land on solid lines, instead bouncing from branch to trunk to leafy floor to river to sky to branch again. (This cramped, thickly tangled space overwhelms my eyes and my brain.)

a third sentence about the third most important thing: With its bare ground and dead leaves, it looks like this picture should be of the gorge in November or April, but it was taken in one of the first Februarys without at least 1/2 foot of snow on the ground. 

The most important thing about this image is how the branches create a net which mimics how my vision often works — I can almost see what’s there, but not quite. Secondary, but connected, is the feeling of being disoriented, off, almost but not quite, untethered, which comes from swirling forms and the climate crisis — there’s almost always snow on the ground here in February. Where are my Minnesota winters?