jan 18/RUN

4.5 miles
minnehaha falls and back
34! degrees
35% snow-covered

Sun! Above freezing temperature! Shadows! A great afternoon for a run, even if there were huge puddles, some soft snow, and a few slick spots. My left knee/hip hurts a little, but I decided to go run anyway because tomorrow it will be very cold. -2 (feels like -22) at 9am. Future Sara would be very upset with present Sara if she had not taken advantage of this weather. No headphones running south, then a playlist on the way back.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. a lot of the path was clear, with big puddles, but a few stretches, like on the double bridge or under the ford bridge, were still covered in grayish-white, gloppy snow
  2. someone was running below me on the Winchell Trail. We were parallel for a minute, but I was slightly faster, so we got out of sync
  3. someone else was running, with a dog, on the walking side of the pedestrian bridge, through the deeper, unplowed snow
  4. the falls were frozen — one tall column of ice with a dark hole in the middle
  5. at least 3 or 4 bikes, some of them were fat tires
  6. the river: all white, covered over with snow, no holes today, no sparkle either
  7. some dogs barking below, in the gorge
  8. they must have plowed the main roads earlier today; all of the entrances to the path/sidewalks were obstructed with short mounds of snow
  9. no geese, no turkeys, no crows, maybe a woodpecker
  10. forgot to take note of the sky while I was running, but earlier on my walk with Delia, I noticed it was bright blue with a few puffy clouds

Before I went out for my run, I thought about continuing my haunts poems, maybe adding some more to the sequence. A line popped in my head that I intended to think about as I ran, but forgot:

Before I
was ghost

I was girl,
fiercely

physical,
solid.

I really like this, but I’m not sure what to do with it yet.

study the masters/ Lucille Clifton

like my aunt timmie.
it was her iron,
or one like hers,
that smoothed the sheets
the master poet slept on.
home or hotel, what matters is
he lay himself down on her handiwork
and dreamed. she dreamed too, words:
some cherokee, some masai and some
huge and particular as hope.
if you had heard her
chanting as she ironed
you would understand form and line
and discipline and order and
america.

jan 17/RUN

5.5 miles
bottom of franklin hill and back
22 degrees / feels like 15
75% snow-covered

Looking forward to the day when the pavement is bare again. It’s supposed to be above freezing tomorrow, so maybe it will melt? Even with the soft, slippery snow, it was a good run. Felt really strong and relaxed all the way through the turn around. Running up the franklin hill was hard, but I forced myself to keep going until I reached the bridge. Then I walked for a few minutes and put in my headphones. Then I ran the rest of the way. Wore the right number of layers for the weather (2 tights, 1 pair of socks, tank top, green long sleeve shirt, pink cotton jacket, black vest, buff, 2 pairs of gloves, black hat), although the hat got a little warm. Taking the hat off, at the end of my run, my ponytail was soaked. Later, when I took the ponytail holder out, I sprayed water all over the floor. Gross, I guess. Scott asked: “Was that sweat?” Yep.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. right before starting my run, looking north on my street, the sidewalk was stretched out in a straight line for blocks, almost completely clear
  2. the tight crunch of salt or ice-melt on the sidewalk in front of the church as I ran over it
  3. the short stretch of sidewalk on the north side of lake street that leads over to trail was in rough shape: soft, sloppy, uneven
  4. chirping birds, sounding like spring
  5. everything looking like static, not quite staying still, except for the tree trunk which looked solid and very brown
  6. everything also looking sepia-toned. Is it because of all the brown trunks?
  7. a single crow cawing nearby
  8. the river, 1: mostly white, with small holes of open water
  9. the river, 2: under the bridge, open with gray water
  10. the river, 3: down in the flats, just past the franklin bridge, I was closer to the water and the many spots where the ice/snow had cracked, everything still, not calm but desolate or abandoned

Hearing the single crow cawing, reminded me of an Arthur Sze poem I read this morning:

Fauve/ Arthur Sze in Dazzled

Caw Caw, Caw Caw Caw.
To comprehend a crow
you must have a crow’s mind.
To be the night rain,
silver, on black leaves,
you must live in the
shine and wet. Some people
drift in their lives:
green-gold plankton,
phosphorescent, in the sea.
Others slash: a knife
at a yellow window shade
tears open the light.
But to live digging deep
is to feel the blood
in your rage as rivers,
is to feel love and hatred
as fibers of a rope,
is to catch the scent
of a wolf, and turn wild.

The word, fauve, sounded familiar, but I had to look it up. It means vivid colors, and refers to the movement of painters, including Matisse, and “their unconventional use of intensely vivid color, and free treatment of form” (Merriam-Webster).

fauves = wild beasts
vivid colors express intense emotions

I’m thinking about Fauvism (the little bit I understand of it), and its intense, vivid, sharp, striking colors. One blog post I read, contrasted Monet’s dreamy, subdued Houses of Parliament with Derain’s Charring Cross Bridge and his “lurid greens” and yellows. It is difficult for me to see intense colors. I was noticing earlier today that sometimes it helps to look off to the side. In general, I see the world, more like Monet’s dream. What does this have to do with Sze’s poem? Not sure. This quite sure, but it connects. I’ll need to think about it some more.

jan 15/RUN

4.4 miles
minnehaha falls and back
10 degrees / feels like 1
100% snow-covered

Cold, but not cold enough to freeze snot, sunny. Lots of birds singing: some chickadees, cardinals (I think?). The shadows were sharp, strong. I noticed them heading south: the shadows of a sign, then a fence post. Heading north, my shadow, beside me. The path was covered in snow, some parts of it tamped down, others loose and soft. Hard work. Happy to be outside, remembering how much I love the snow, how it connects me to my north woods roots.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. at least a dozen people walking around the falls, some of them up above, a few below, 2 walking across the frozen creek
  2. the river, heading south: such a bright white, glowing, shining, blinding
  3. lots of people on the Winchell Trail — the trees were so bare that I could see them clearly: someone with a dog, later someone in a bright orange or red jacket
  4. the Winchell Trail between 42nd and 44th was hidden by snow
  5. a sharp, loud bark from a dog somewhere below me, way down by the river?
  6. 1 or 2 fat tires
  7. a man talking on a bluetooth headset, just exiting the walking part of the double bridge
  8. A guy walking a dog, carrying a kid in a backpack
  9. the sky, bright blue, cloudless
  10. the river, heading north: flat, dull, looking more like a white field

Found these on Couplet Poetry:

Ekphrasis as Eye Test/ Jane Zwart

If you wake to a Rothko where the windows
should be, to the dark wearing an indistinct belt
between uneven sashes of glass, one oxblood
shoe-polish, one midnight blue, the problem
is refraction. The light–what little outruns
the dark–has turned its ankle on the retina,
bouncing false on a trampoline inside your eye.

Of course some afflictions also disappear in the dark,
which swallows the man whole. At night a Reinhardt,
in day the fellow’s fifty-year-old face is a Rembrandt,
an oval of flesh glaucoma vignettes; blindness
likes to lick the outskirts of likeness first.

Other losses begin in the middle of the field:
redacting the kiss at a picture’s center–
wrapping lovers’ heads in pillow slips; hovering doves
at eye level anywhere hatted men stand.
They could be anyone, the strangers Magritte painted
almost as their mothers, maculas wasted, would see them.

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.

Ekphrasis as Eye-Test/ Amit Majmudar

Ecstasy is not to see a stranger’s vision but to say it,
Echolocating, in your own voice’s
Existential mirror,
Ecstasy.

Ecstasy means to stand outside the
Ecstatic moment itself. You have to
Ache toward the vision whose
Ekphrasis

Awakens phrases in you that dead
Reckon the unseen by way of the seen.
Echo-shaped, you take on the vision’s
Edges, take an

Axe to the lake that froze around your legs
Decades ago. The eye that
Examines is your self. The stranger’s vision you
Recreate through

Ekphrasis
Expresses through
Ecstasy
Ecstasy.

jan 14/RUN

3.5 miles
trestle turnaround
16 degrees / feels like 4
snowing
100% snow-covered, at least an inch of loose snow

Snowing all day today. Usually, I wait until it stops and the trails have been plowed before I go out for a run, but not today. Decided to dig out my oldest yak trak and run through the snow. Loved it! A few parts weren’t fun: the wind blowing sharp shards of snow on my face, into my eyes, how slick and soft and difficult it was to run through. The rest of it was great. Quiet, calm, dreamy.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the regular, Santa Claus, bundled up in a bright orange jacket, with black running tights
  2. a fat tire, their light cutting through the grayish white
  3. almost everything looked soft, blanketed in snow; many things felt hard, sharp pellets of icy snow stinging my face
  4. a car disappearing into the falling snow, near the trestle
  5. a runner in glowing yellow
  6. geese overhead, honking
  7. impatient chickadees, their fee bee calls overlapping
  8. the river: a lot of white, with streaks of dark, open water
  9. 4 people emerging from the forest below, crossing the river road
  10. running on the road, at the end, mesmerized by the endless, blank white beneath me, feeling like I was running in place, or running through nothing, or not moving, just suspended in white

Time for another Chang/Merwin combo. I love this chance to reflect on Victoria Chang’s short poems, and be introduced to more of W.S. Merwin’s work. Today’s pairing starts with Chang’s “Daylight.” I couldn’t find a poem by Merwin with that exact title, so I settled for “The Wings of Daylight.” Is it the poem Chang is referencing? Not sure.

Daylight/ Victoria Chang

One by one, days died,
even they weren’t protected.
They have no symptoms
but keep dying. They want to
fix melancholy,
to keep coming back to no
answers, to take the
depositions of orchards.

The Wings of Daylight/ W. S. Merwin

Brightness appears showing us everything
it reveals the splendors it calls everything
but shows it to each of us alone
and only once and only to look at
not to touch or hold in our shadows
what we see is never what we touch
what we take turns out to be something else
what we see that one time departs untouched
while other shadows gather around us
the world’s shadows mingle with our own
we had forgotten them but they know us
they remember us as we always were
they were at home here before the first came
everything will leave us except the shadows
but the shadows carry the whole story
at first daybreak they open their long wings

jan 12/RUN

4.45 miles
minneahaha falls and back
34 degrees
35% snow-covered

Even warmer today! Less layers, sun. Ran to the falls and back. Running south, no headphones; running, north, a playlist. My left hip/knee/back (the usual suspect) felt sore, but not too bad.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The clicking and clacking of ski poles, the scratching and scuffing of skis on bare pavement: a cross-country skier crossing the road! I think this is the first one I’ve seen this season
  2. Kids laughing and yelling and having fun at the playground across the road
  3. A walker and an unleashed dog on the Winchell Trail below me. For a moment, I thought the dog might be trying to keep up with me
  4. The falls is fully frozen, at least it looks and sounds like it to me. All I saw was a hulking column of ice; all I heard was silence, no gushing or trickling water
  5. Heard the call (not the peck) of a pileated woodpecker, the fee bee of a black-capped chickadee
  6. The path had less snow on it. Some stretches were completely bare, others had wide strips that were clear. Under the ford bridge it was a soft, slushy mess
  7. As I entered the river road trail, I passed someone who had been running, but just stopped. At first I thought she was muttering something under her breath, but then I realized she was breathing heavily, then I heard a voice coming out of her phone, giving her instructions that I couldn’t quite hear. Was she doing a couch to 5k program?
  8. Noticed my shadow ahead of me as I ran south — clear and sharp in the bright sun
  9. Heard the raucous laugh of a walker on the other side of edmund, her voice echoing
  10. one thing I didn’t notice: the river. Again, I forgot to look at it

I think I’ll post more Chang/Merwin poems this month. Here’s another one from Chang that resonated for me:

Separation/ Victoria Chang

Each day, landscape splits
from the beauty it emits.
When nature is free
from sight, it is most
like itself. I erase each
word right after I write it.

Separation/ W. S. Merwin

Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

jan 11/RUN

5.6 miles
franklin loop
17 degrees / feels like 0
50% snow-covered

Warm air, warm sun. Another good run. Headed north and decided, at the last minute, to do the Franklin loop. Heard some geese, their honks congregating under the lake street bridge. Maybe some crows too? I know I heard another bird, but I can’t remember now. A black-capped chickadee? Definitely no woodpeckers. Running over the franklin bridge, I studied the river: all white, mostly flat, the edges a silvery shimmer. Later, nearing the trestle, I saw a few bits of black: open water. Encountered some other runners, walkers, at least one fat tire. As I reached the lake street bridge, I came up with a line for a swimming poem that I’m revisiting. I stopped on the bridge to record it into my phone.

Anything else? Most of what happened, what I thought about, got left somewhere out on the trail.

This morning, just as I was leaving for my run, the mail came, bringing the chapbook by Victoria Chang I ordered last week. I think they only made 200+ of them. It’s a small square book, bound with thin red twine. Very cool. I’d like to try making something like this. Titled, Another Lost Year, it is made up of short poems, all with W.S. Merwin titles. So many great ones. Here’s one I especially like. It happens to fall in the very middle of the book, where the red twine is exposed and tied in a knot.

Left Open / Victoria Chang

We can’t see beyond
the crest of the wooden gate.
We are carriers
of grass yet to be grown. We
aren’t made of cells, but of fields.

I like this idea of being a carrier of grass yet to be grown. My first thought was of grass on graves — Whitman’s “uncut hair of graves” or Dickinson’s “The color of the grave is green”. Then I thought of Gwendolyn Brooks’ “To the Young Who Want to Die”:

Graves grow no green that you can use.
Remember, green’s your color. You are Spring.

I like the idea of being made of fields, not cells. Here’s the original Merwin poem:

Left Open / W.S. Merwin

The shutters are rusted open on the north
kitchen window ivy has grown over
the fastenings the casements are hooked open
in the stone frame high above the river
looking out across the tops of plum trees
tangled on their steep slope branches furred
with green moss gray lichens the plums falling
through them and beyond them the ancient
walnut trees standing each alone on its
own shadow in the plowed red field full
of amber September light after so
long unattended dead boughs still hold
places of old seasons high out of the leaves
under which in the still day the first walnuts
from this last summer are starting to fall
beyond the bare limbs the river looks
motionless like the far clouds that were not
there before and will not be there again

jan 9/BIKERUN

bike: 15 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 2.4 miles
treadmill
2 degrees / feels like -11

For most of the day, the feels like temp was hovering around -20. I have decided that that is too cold for me. So, I stayed inside. Watched a race while I biked, listened to a playlist and part of the Aack Cast by Jamie Loftus. It’s about the comic strip Cathy and it’s really good.

Some Things I Noticed*

  1. my shadow, flashing, off to my left side, as I ran
  2. in addition to my shadow, some sort of silvery something flashing or streaking or appearing in my left peripheral
  3. the loud whir of the treadmill when I stepped off it to change my playlist (maybe it’s because of my vision, but I cannot pick new music on spotify when I’m in motion). The whirr almost sounded like a plane revving its engine before take off
  4. my fine hair, falling out of my ponytail, felt like a spider web
  5. before I warmed up, it was very cold in the basement
  6. the soft space between beats felt continuous
  7. sometimes my foot strikes were quiet, sometimes they were loud

*It’s difficult to notice things in a boring, dark, unfinished basement, especially when I’m listening to music. Maybe I should try to use my treadmill time for remembering thoughts or ideas?

Found this poem yesterday. Paige Lewis is wonderful, especially how they find delight in small things, and do such strange things with words!

THE MOMENT I SAW A PELICAN DEVOUR/ PAIGE LEWIS

a seagull—wings swallowing wings—I learned
that a miracle is anything that God forgot
to forbid. So when you tell me that saints

are splintered into bone bits smaller than
the freckles on your wrist and that each speck
is sold to the rich, I know to marvel at this

and not the fact that these same saints are still
wholly intact and fresh-faced in their Plexiglas
tomb displays. We holy our own fragments

when we can—trepanation patients wear their
skull spirals as amulets, mothers frame the dried
foreskin of their firstborn, and I’ve seen you

swirl my name on your tongue like a thirst pebble.
Still, I try to hold on to nothing for fear of being
crushed by what can be taken because sometimes

not even our mouths belong to us. Listen, in
the early 1920s, women were paid to paint radium
onto watch dials so that men wouldn’t have to ask

the time in dark alleys. They were told it was safe,
told to lick their brushes into sharp points. These
women painted their nails, their faces, and judged

whose skin shined brightest. They coated their
teeth so their boyfriends could see their bites
with the lights turned down. The miracle here

is not that these women swallowed light. It’s that,
when their skin dissolved and their jaws fell off,
the Radium Corporation claimed they all died

from syphilis. It’s that you’re telling me about
the dull slivers of dead saints, while these
women are glowing beneath our feet.

jan 8/RUN

4.25 miles
minnehaha falls and back
19 degrees / feels like 6
50% snow-covered

Finally, a warmer day. Well, warmer compared to the past 2 days when it was -15, feels like -25! Ran south, into the wind, to the falls. Encountered walkers, fat tires, at least one group of runners taking over the entire path. Felt strong and relaxed and happy to be outside, enjoying the fresh, cold air. At the start of my run, I greeted every runner I encountered by raising my left hand.

10 Things I Noticed: People

  1. A runner in a bright orange jacket and black running tights, running fast. I think I saw him twice, or I saw 2 people at different times wearing bright orange jackets, running fast
  2. 3 people at the falls, near the stairs that descend to the bottom. Person 1: “Are you from around here?” Persons 2 and 3: “St. Paul. You?” Person 1: I couldn’t hear his reply. Persons 2 and 3: “Wow! Welcome!” I’m guessing he was from somewhere far away or interesting or both — maybe a different country?
  3. A fat tire approaching me, then following behind as I turned to enter the park, then passing when I slowed down, and stopping by the stone wall above the falls next to a group of fat tires
  4. A person standing at the far overlook, the one near the short stone wall with Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha” carved on its top, studying the falls
  5. 2 runners approaching me, then turning to run in the parking lot while I ran on the path. We ran in parallel to each other until they turned somewhere
  6. A group of 6 runners, one of them with a dog, running north, spread across the width of the path. After I passed them, I could hear them behind me for a few minutes, chatting away, sounding closer even though they were slowly getting farther away
  7. 2 women walking below me on the snow-covered Winchell Trail
  8. A woman running much slower than me, her jacket open and flapping as she moved
  9. The blur of a runner, moving fast on Edmund
  10. 2 or 3 people stopped near the sidewalk, talking, with 2 dogs, one of them small and yippy. (I crossed to the other side to avoid them)

Omicron update: RJP went to get tested on Tuesday and didn’t get her results until Friday night: negative. Scott and I got alerts on our phones from the COVIDAware app that we had been exposed to someone with COVID on Jan 3-5 and should quarantine for 15! days. RJP didn’t get the alert. A problem: neither of us went anywhere and weren’t around anyone (other than RJP) on those days. Our best guess: someone in our neighbor’s house has it and our bluetooths picked up their phone’s signal while we were in our house. Strange.

jan 6/BIKERUN

bike: 16 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.6 miles
-5 degrees / feels like -20

Brr. Earlier in the week, I ran when it felt like 20 below, but today that felt too cold, and I’ve run everyday this week, so I decided to run less, and downstairs in the basement. Watched a replay of some Olympic track races while I biked, listened to Taylor Swift’s Reputation while I ran. I wore my new running shoes, the ones that have been redesigned with a much tighter toe box and that made my toe sore earlier this fall. I’m trying to break them in/stretch them out slowly this winter.

In this first week of January, I’m rereading all of my entries from 2021 and putting together a summary. It’s fun (mostly, but a little tedious too) to review them and remember the year. Today I did August and read about swimming and swells and droughts and wildfires and sweating and running on the Winchell Trail.

Hardly any mention of COVID — there was definitely a lull with the pandemic this summer and fall. But…that’s not quite true in Minnesota. Delta hit hard, and even before Omicron hospitals were almost at capacity. In November or early December, the hospitals out out an ad pleading with people to be careful, and that hospitals/ staff were reaching the breaking point. Now, Omicron has hit. I don’t think our numbers are as bad as other places, but here are some thing I’d like future Sara to know about this time:

  • It looks like Omicron is less severe, which is great, but hospitals are still filling up and mild cases range from almost nothing to being knocked out and miserable for a week.
  • the mild designation has to do with your oxygen levels. As long as you can breathe and your oxygen rating is in in the upper 90s, and you don’t have to be admitted to the hospital, it’s a mild case. From what I’ve read anecdotally, mild cases can be awful: headaches, fatigue, chills. And then, there’s long covid
  • full hospitals mean there are no beds/care for people with other emergencies. Just skimmed an article that mentioned wait times at metro area emergency rooms are anywhere from 8 to 24 hours
  • schools are in-person and one of the main ways they’re trying to manage keeping kids safe is for them to get tested regularly. The problems: rapid at-home test are all sold out everywhere — stores and online; testing sites are booked up for weeks; even if you are able to get tested, results can take more than 72 hours. It is impossible to contain the spread of omicron this way (note: just found out you can pick rapid tests up at school so RJP will get some for us)
  • schools are running out of staff + substitutes because teachers are getting infected and have to quarantine whether they experience symptoms or not
  • I am not nearly as stressed out about this wave as I have been for the last (almost) 2 years. My jaw is not tightening, and neither is my chest. Still, this is a drag and I worry about RJP, who wants to go to school and see her friends

reciting while running

After running for about 10 minutes, I decided to record myself reciting my haunt poem again.

I go to the gorge / 6 jan 2022

jan 5/BIKERUN

bike: 15 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.35 miles
treadmill, basement
10 degrees outside / feels like -6

Biked and ran inside, partly because it felt like 6 below, partly because it’s snowing and there was already a few inches of loosely packed snow on the road, but mostly because I ran outside yesterday and Sunday. Watched a year wrap-up video for the awesome triathlete, Lucy Charles-Barclay while I biked. My left knee did the weird thing it sometimes did this summer after a few minutes of biking: it hurt–a somewhat sharp, hot pain, making it harder to do a fully rotation of the pedal. Stiff, out of place, not displaced, but feeling like it was rubbing or doing something not quite right. I stopped, and when I started again, it was better. Strange. I thought biking was supposed to help, not hurt.

Listened to the first three songs on Taylor Swift’s Reputation. The third song, “I Did Something Bad,” had a good beat for my cadence. After running a little more than a mile and getting my heart rate up to 160, I took out my phone and recorded myself reciting a poem I just wrote for my haunts sequence. I was curious how the 3/2 syllable count would sound.

I go to the gorge / 160 bpm

Yesterday, I recorded myself reciting my haunts poems. Scott’s going to use my recording to make a video of the poems. In discussing how this might look, I mentioned the trails by the gorge, and the trails I’m making with my words, somewhat resemble a palimpsest. I wondered if there was any way to visually represent that in the video. We’re still trying to figure it out. Inspired by this, I decided to make palimpsests the theme for this month. Here’s a poem that fits with this theme:

Palimpsest/ Jared Carter – 1939-

The walk that led out through the apple trees –
the narrow, crumbling path of brick embossed
among the clumps of grass, the scattered leaves –

has vanished now. Each spring the peonies
come back, to drape their heavy bolls across
the walk that led out through the apple trees,

as if to show the way – until the breeze
dismantles them, and petals drift and toss
among the clumps of grass. The scattered leaves

half fill a plaited basket left to freeze
and thaw, and gradually darken into moss.
The walk that led out through the apple trees

has disappeared – unless, down on your knees,
searching beneath the vines that twist and cross
among the clumps of grass, the scattered leaves,

you scrape, and find – simplest of mysteries,
forgotten all this time, but not quite lost –
the walk that led out through the apple trees
among the clumps of grass, the scattered leaves.

Here’s a definition of a palimpsest:

A palimpsest is “a parchment or other writing surface on which the original text has been effaced or partially erased, and then overwritten by another; a manuscript in which later writing has been superimposed on earlier (effaced) writing.” In other words, a palimpsest is a “multi-layered record.”

Palimpsest

I first encountered the word, palimpsest, back in October, when I read an essay by Wendell Berry:

gs and goings of people, the erasure of time already in process even as the marks of passage are put down. There are the ritual marks of neighborhood — roads, paths between houses. There are the domestic paths from house to barns and outbuildings and gardens, farm roads threading the pasture gates. There are the wanderings of hunters and searchers after lost stock, and the speculative or meditative or inquisitive ‘walking around’ of farmers on wet days and Sundays. There is the sprawling geometry of the rounds of implements in fields, and the passing and returning scratches of plows across croplands. Often these have filled an interval, an opening, between the retreat of the forest from the virgin ground and the forest’s return to ground that has been worn out and give up. In the woods here one often finds cairns of stones picked up out of furrows, gullies left by bad framing, forgotten roads, stone chimneys of houses long rotted away or burned.

A Native Hill / Wendell Berry

jan 4/RUN

4.5 miles
minhehaha falls and back
28 degrees
75% snow-covered

Even warmer today (than yesterday or Sunday). Everything gray and white, even the sky. Almost forgot to look at the river, but then I remembered. It would have been nice to have my Yak trax with the slushy, soft, sluggish snow. Listened to the gorge on the way to the falls, a playlist on the way back. Felt good and strong. Only occasionally thought about my daughter and how she’s home sick with a headache and runny nose. COVID? Doubtful, but possible. Getting tested is very hard these days: no rapid tests, long lines at testing sites. Hopefully this will be over soon.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the river: almost all white with a few off-white (gray? light brown?) spots
  2. the path: a slightly wider strip of almost bare pavement than yesterday
  3. 2 walkers ahead of me on the path, waiting to cross at a spot just 15 feet from the crosswalk, then crossing over to Becketwood
  4. kids playing at the minnehaha academy playground
  5. graffiti on the biking part of the double bridge, the empty outline of orange and purple and blue letters
  6. the falls: almost, but not quite, fully frozen. I could hear the softest rushing of water from behind the ice
  7. about a dozen people at the falls
  8. 2 people walking up the hill in the park, one of them in a bright orange jacket
  9. the view down to the spot where the creek collects and kids like to wade in the summer was grand and beautiful and white
  10. running in the road on the spots between sidewalks, about half of the surface was bare, the rest was light brown snowy slush, looking like coffee ice cream

To fit in with my continued thinking about ghosts, and haunting, and remembering, and naming and the things it can signify other than power or claiming or owning, and yellow:

Forsythia/ Ada Limón

At the cabin in Snug Hollow near McSwain Branch creek, just spring, all the animals are out, and my beloved and I are lying in bed in a soft silence. We are talking about how we carry so many people with us wherever we go, how even simple living, these unearned moments, are a tribute to the dead. We are both expecting to hear an owl as the night deepens. All afternoon, from the porch, we watched an eastern towhee furiously build her nest in the wild forsythia with its yellow spilling out into the horizon. I told him that the way I remember the name forsythia is that when my stepmother, Cynthia, was dying, that last week, she said lucidly but mysteriously, More yellow. And I thought yes, more yellow, and nodded because I agreed. Of course, more yellow. And so now in my head, when I see that yellow tangle, I say, For Cynthia, for Cynthia, forsythia, forsythia, more yellow. It is night now. And the owl never comes, only more of night and what repeats in the night.

jan 3/RUN

5 miles
franklin bridge turn around
16 degrees / feels like 9
100% snow-covered

Cold, but much warmer than the last time I ran. 21 degrees warmer. Was planning to wear my Yak trax, which make the soft, slippery snow much easier to run on, but one of them was broken — some of the rubber had ripped. Bummer. Technically, my Yak trax are only for walking, so maybe running is too much for them. Should I find some intended for running? Is it worth the investment? Probably.

Greeted Dave the Daily Walker. He wished me a happy new year. My dorky, overly formal, response: “happy new year to you too.”

It was a little more difficult than usual, running in soft snow. Less traction, more effort from the leg muscles. I was so focused on watching the path, and making sure I didn’t run over a mound of snow, or on ice, that I forgot to look at the river. Well, maybe I glanced at it, but I have no memory of what it looked like. Was it all covered with snow (probably)? Were there any splits in the ice (probably not)? It always amazes me when I forget to look at the river. It’s so big, it’s so there, just below me, how can I forget to look at it?

10 Things I Noticed

  1. 4 or 5 geese, flying in a loose formation, honking. Just above the lake street bridge
  2. Daddy Long Legs, walking, in a bright orange vest, with black pants
  3. Graffiti on a piling under the franklin bridge — just the outline of letters, no color. I wasn’t able to read the letters or the word they might have been spelling
  4. The closed gate with an orange sign attached to it, blocking off the entrance to the minneapolis rowing club
  5. voices below the lake street bridge
  6. a man standing in the middle of the walking path, talking to someone sitting on a bench overlooking the white sands beach
  7. the trail covered in loosely packed snow, except for a few narrow trails where feet or bike wheels or both had worn it down almost, but not quite, to bare asphalt
  8. passing a runner, both of us raising our hands in greeting
  9. no stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  10. breakfast smells from longfellow grill — no burnt toast this time, just a subtle, gentle, general/generic smell of savory breakfast

Love Letter/ Diane Seuss

But what can it be if love is a past
tense event? And what
was love then
according to my brain
and what
is love now and how do I direct it
like a beam with the power
to excise all that is not love? For a time
I believed getting and keeping
love required lace. Procuring lace
and arranging it
on my body in a certain way.
Isn’t that funny and/or strange?
I modulated my voice to the northern
region of its register. Reddened
my lips. This was love’s drapery
and music and face.
If you’ve read Madame Bovary, if you’ve read
gothic romance, you know
the denouement of that arc.
When I first read the word denouement
out loud my ex-husband laughed
at my mispronunciation.
I include it here as an illustration
of the fact that love does not conquer
all. Now when I think
of love it’s like focusing too hard
on the mechanisms of blinking or breathing.
You can be blinded or suffocated
by that degree of self-consciousness.
Like a love letter, love seems to me to exist
on a thin plane, a disintegrating page
covered in words scratched
onto the surface with purple disappearing ink
cooked up in a chemistry lab.
I’m sure I’ve written a love letter here
and there. Something gauche,
a performance designed toward
the specific outcome of eternity.
I read of a feral dog who could only be captured
by putting the soiled blankets of her puppies
in a live trap. This is my metaphor for a love letter.
I own a letter my father wrote my mother
when they were newly in love.
The stationery is smallish and decorated
with a garish deep red rose in aching
bloom. He spends most
of his language’s currency bemoaning
his bad spelling. No wonder
she found him charming. For my people
it is the flaw that counts, but not for all
people. Our narrative is an object
lesson in the fact that flawed people
deserve to be loved, at least for a while.
That’s the ephemeral part.
I’m much too sturdy now to invest
in the ephemeral. No, I do not own lace
curtains. It’s clear we die a hundred times
before we die. The selves
that were gauzy, soft, sweet, capable
of throwing themselves away
on love, died young. They sacrificed
themselves to the long haul.
Picture girls in white nighties jumping
off a cliff into the sea. I want to say
don’t mistake this for cynicism
but of course, it is cynicism.
Cynicism is a go-to I no longer have
the energy to resist. It’s like living
with a vampire. Finally, just get it
over with, bite me. I find it almost
offensive to use the word love
in relation to people I actually love.
The word has jumped off
so many cliffs into so many seas.
What can it now signify?
Shall I use the word affinity
like J.D. Salinger, not a good
man, put into the mouths
of his child genius characters? I have
an affinity for my parents. An affinity
for you. I will make sure you are fed
and clothed. I will listen to you
endlessly. I will protect your privacy
even if it means removing myself
from the equation. Do those sound
like wedding vows? Are they indiscriminate?
Well then, I am indiscriminate.
I am married to the world.
I have worked it all out in front of you.
Isn’t that a kind of nakedness?
You have called for a love letter.
This is a love letter.

Wow. Things I love about this: affinity instead of love, sturdy instead of ephemeral, “its like living/with a vampire. Finally, just get it/over with, bite me.”, being married to the world, flawed people as charming, and the final line and how the poem leads you to it.

jan 1/RUN

4.5 miles
minnehaha falls and back
-5 degrees / feels like -20
100% snow-covered

I’m not sure it felt as cold as -20, whatever that feels like, but it felt cold. I thought I had enough layers on, and didn’t notice that my legs were cold, but when I got home and stripped off my two pairs of running tights, my legs were bright red. Guess I should have worn tights and some fleece leggings instead. In addition to 2 shirts, a pink jacket, 2 pairs of tights, 2 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of gloves, a gray jacket, a buff, my new favorite hat, and a hood, I used hand warmers in my gloves and toe warmers in my shoes — the disposable ones that stay warm for several hours. They helped. Not sure if I will run when it’s this cold again, but I’m glad I did it. My status as crazy winter runner is affirmed.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t alone out there.

10 Groups of People I Noticed

  1. someone on a fat tire
  2. a human, bundled up, with a dog, not bundled up
  3. a walker covered from head to toe, only their eyes peeking out from under a furry hood
  4. a male runner in black tights, moving fast
  5. a female runner, in a blue stocking cap, moving less fast
  6. 2 taller humans, one in a BRIGHT orange jacket, the other pulling a much smaller human in a sled
  7. a group of people at the falls contemplating whether or not to jump the chain on the steps leading down to the falls, one of them said something about getting arrested — maybe, “we could get arrested” because they didn’t want to do it, or “we’re not going to get arrested” because they wanted to do it
  8. 2 people, near the locks and dam no 1, standing near the bike path, then crossing the river road to turkey hollow
  9. a woman in a long winter coat with a dog on the bike path, turning up the walking path near the parking lot, entering minnehaha regional park
  10. 2 people, near the falls, turning away from the falls and heading past the summer seafood restaurant (Sea Salt) and heading back to a parking lot or the pavilion or the playground

Listening to The Current before running, I heard this song by Jack White. I wanted to include it with my poems on haunting:

Alone in My Home/ Jack White

This light that shines on me tonight
Turns on when you wander through my door
And your friends won’t see you to the end, I’m sure
But you love them anyhow
Lost feelings of love
Lost feelings of love
That hover above me
Lost feelings of love
Lost feelings of love
That hover above me
The ghost that visit me the most, drop by
Cause they know they can find me here
And they claim to be held from me in chains, but come on
They’re guilty as sin my dear
I’m becoming a ghost
Becoming a ghost
So nobody can know me
I’m becoming a ghost
Becoming a ghost
So nobody can know me
These stones that are thrown against my bones, break through
But they hurt less as times goes on
And though alone, I build my own home, to be sure
That nobody can touch me now
Yeah
All alone in my home
Alone in my home
Nobody can touch me
All alone in my home
Alone in my home
Nobody can touch me

I listened to this song on Spotify and watched lyrics as he sang them. Very cool. I really enjoy hearing a song for the first time, seeing what rhythms the lyrics have. Thinking about this gave me an idea: I want to try some song-writing. I could collaborate with Scott on a song. Yes, this is a goal for 2022. Not sure if I’ll be any good at this or why I want to do it so much, but I do, so I will. So many new, interesting things to learn!

dec 30/RUN

4.7 miles*
minnehaha falls and back
16 degrees / feels like 6
100% snow-covered

*2021 running goal accomplished: 850.5

Hooray for wonderful winter runs! I thought I might feel really cold out there this morning, but I didn’t. Was it the humidity (78%) that made me feel warmer? I wasn’t overheated, but I probably could have skipped one of my layers: the black zip-up. For much of the run, I was alone. On the way to the falls, I think I passed one or two walkers, and no bikers or other runners. There were at least a dozen people at the falls and many more walkers and runners on my way back home. It was never crowded, which was nice. I wore my Yak trax, which helped a lot. On the way back, I recited Longfellow’s “Snow-flake” a few times. Some of the lines were difficult to chant as I ran; they never quite matched my feet.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the river: completely covered in white snow
  2. a tree trunk far ahead of me on the river road trail: roughly covered in snow, as if a plow had come through and splattered snow on the tree
  3. the other side: some vague construction sounds driftng over the gorge from the st. paul side
  4. an approaching walker: at first, walking on the far side, then partly crossing over, then back again. As we neared each other, they muttered something and I wondered if it was a greeting, they were talking to themselves, or they were annoyed by me
  5. the falls: huge columns of grayish-white ice descending from the top. I could hear some water rushing, almost sizzling, and I think, when I stared hard enough, I could see some steam coming up from the water at the bottom
  6. minnehaha regional park: a family emerging from a park car, laughing and tromping through the snow, which is only 3 or 4 inches deep
  7. no coyotes or dogs or fat tires or birds
  8. my feet: the crunch of a spiked shoe is sharper and quicker than an unspiked shoe
  9. the walking trail: all of the walking trails were blocked at their entrances and exits by plowed snow
  10. grafitti: big bubble letters in orange (I think?) and some other color on the bike side of the double bridge

I’m thinking of turning my haunts poem into a digital chapbook, or animating it, and/or recording myself reading it. Lots of ideas. Time to figure out what’s actually possible to achieve.

dec 29/BIKERUN

bike: 15 minutes
bike stand, basement

3, feels like -10? No thanks. Before I could bike, I had to pump up my tire. Spent at least 5 minutes, which felt like an hour, trying to remember how to attach the pump to my annoying tires. I appreciate how people love bikes and maintaining them, but I don’t. Could I learn? More importantly, should I try?

run: 2.75 miles
treadmill

Listened to an old (2015?) “January” playlist while I ran. I don’t remember thinking about much, or noticing much in my dark, unfinished basement. Still, I enjoyed having the chance to move without having to go outside to run on the ice, in the cold wind, with the too bright sun. If I hadn’t run 5 miles outside yesterday, I might have liked being out there today. I bet it’s snot-freezing weather.

Last year I ran 1000 miles. This year I decided to take it easier, and focus more on swimming. My less ambitious running goal for the next few days is to reach 850 miles. With today’s run, I’m at 845.8. 2 more days, 4.2 miles. I should be able to do it.

Yesterday, I listened to an On Being episode with Jane Hirshfield. Excellent. Then I found this brief interview with her in which she answers a question about poets and civic responsibility. Here’s her answer:

I love in this question the word responsibility for its fundamental meaning of, “to respond”. When you’re asking what the role of a poet is in a society, in a culture, in a country, in a community, it is to respond in the way that only poetry can….
Poetry summoning is to transcend easy language, platitudinous language, slogans that make people stupid and that separate them from one another. And so part of the role of poetry and poets is, I think, to force ourselves past the common ways of looking at things by being more responsive and finding the uncommon, original, sidelong, nuanced, subtle, and not strive for the certainty which seems such a bane of our current discourse.

Jane Hirshfield Interview

Slogans that make us stupid and separate us. Yes. I think many people focus more on the stupid part of the problem, often feeling superior for believing they are smart, critical thinkers who don’t fall for the slogans. Thinking (and not being stupid) matters, but it needs to be considered alongside the questions: what can connect us, bring us together, open up space for seeing and being with each other in meaningful ways that relieve suffering, offer more resources, make the world less violent? Poetry can do things with words that enable us to think deeply and connect with each other (and recognize the ways in which we are always already connected/entangled).

I also love this idea of linking uncommon with sidelong and uncertainty (or not certainty), and looking for subtle, nuanced words/meanings.

dec 28/RUN

5 miles
franklin bridge turn around
14 degrees / feels like 3
85% snow-covered / snowing

Even though a lot of the sidewalks were bare on our block, I decided to wear my yak trax. Very good call. The trail was almost completely covered with snow from yesterday, and the quickly accumulating snow that was falling now. Having spikes helped a lot.

Lots of layers. I felt like a stuffed sausage: gray tank top for extra coverage on my stomach which is often red at the end of a cold run; green shirt, black 3/4 zip-up; pink jacket; black vest; 2 pairs of tights; 2 pairs of socks; 2 pairs of gloves; buff; hood; black cap. Once I got moving the layers didn’t bother me — not too cumbersome, not too hot.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The river was mostly white, with a few black streaks
  2. At least 2 tall people were sledding down the steep slope between edmund and the river road
  3. The walking path was mostly okay but had a few slick spots, hidden under the snow
  4. At least one fat tire
  5. Greeted Dave the Daily Walker, saw Daddy Long Legs
  6. Heard some hammering or nail-gunning or some sort of scraping at a fancy house on the other side of the river road
  7. Below the Franklin Bridge, the flats had disappeared in the falling snow
  8. After stopping to put in my headphones for the second half of the run, I felt like I was floating or flying, barely touching ground, finding that soft space between foot strikes
  9. Lots of walkers with dogs
  10. Snow flakes were flying into my eyes, some of them freezing on my eyelashes. At one point in the run, looking off to my left side, I saw something that looked almost like my faint shadow. Was it, or was I seeing some of my crusty eyelash, or my nose? I couldn’t decide.

Omicron update: read some twitter feeds this morning about it, which was probably a mistake? — not sure. Also following a facebook friend who is fully vaxed (2 doses + booster) but got it anyway. It’s a “mild” case, but sounds completely miserable — exhausting, painful. I don’t feel nearly as anxious about this as a did in 2020, but I’m still ready for this to be over (like everyone else). I wonder what will happen next week when RJP is back in high school.

Here’s a wonderful poem from Maggie Smith’s Goldenrod. I love her writing.

In the Grand Scheme of Things/ Maggie Smith

It sounds like someone wound up the wrens
and let them go, let them chatter across your lawn

like cheap toys, and from here an airplane
seems to fly only from one tree to another, barely

chalking a line between then. We say the naked eye
as if the eye could be clothed, as if it isn’t the world

that refuses to undress unless we turn our backs.
It shows us what it chooses, nothing more,

and it’s not waxing pastoral. There is too much
now at stake. The skeletal rattle you hear

at the window could be only the hellion roses
in the wind, their thorns etching the glass,

but it could be bones. The country we call ours
isn’t, and it’s full of them. Every year you dig

that goddamn rose bush from the bed, spoon it
from soil like a tumor, and every year it grows back

thick and wild. We say in the grand scheme of things
as if there were one. We say that’s not how

the world works as if the world works.

I had a rose bush at my old house that I tried to dig out every year. Like in this poem, it never worked. It always came back. It’s easy to read its reoccurrence as an annoying problem, but it could also be read as resilience, persistence, refusal to give into a world that doesn’t (seem to?) work. It feels like Smith allows for both of these readings.

dec 26/RUN

4.25 miles
minnehaha falls and back
27 degrees
0% snow-covered

All of the snow — well, all of the snow on the road + trail + sidewalk — melted while I was gone for Christmas. Even though we got back in the afternoon, and I was hungry, I decided I couldn’t not got out and take advantage of bare trails, something that happens so infrequently in the winter. I ran to the falls and tried to notice them as I ran by. I can’t remember hearing them, but I saw the water flowing freely.

Running above, I studied the Winchell Trail below. Between 28th and 42nd, it was covered in ice and empty of walkers. From 42nd to the southern start, there were several groups of people on it. I couldn’t see if it was clear or covered. Near the double-bridge, I heard a kid laughing somewhere nearby.

For Christmas, I got several books: Lydia Davis’ ESSAYS One; Alice Oswald’s Dart; Maggie Smith’s Goldenrod; and Arthur Sze’s The Glass Constellation. I’m trying to not get as many physical books these days because of my declining vision, unless I know I’ll read and refer back to them a lot. I’m very excited about all of these! Here’s a poem from Arthur Sze:

Eye Exam/ Arthur Sze

  E D F C Z P
his eyesight is tethered to shore —

  no sign of zebras
but spotted towhees repair their nest;

  before the ditch is cleared,
plum trees are blossoming along a riparian bank —

  he pauses at the gaps between letters,
notices how his mind has an urge to wander,

how it resists being tethered to question and quick reply —  
yellow daffodils are rising in the yard;

    behind his eyelids,
a surge of aquamarine water is breaking to shore:

  they are stretching,
they are contorting into bliss —

  and as the opthamologist
rotates lenses, “Is it clearer with 1 or 2?”

he sees how this moment is lens, mirror, spring,    
and how, “1,”

D E F P O T E C
sharpens his vision to this O, the earth

I have thought of writing a poem about this “better with 1 or 2” exam. So many questions, so hard to determine which is better, which is worse. For now, glasses still help a little with my non-cone dystrophy problem: near-sightedness. But standard eye exams seem almost pointless for me. I can read small things when I’m given as much time as I need. If I have to read it quickly, I can’t. Which lens, 1 or 2, makes my ability to focus fast better?

I want to spend some more time with this poem to reflect on its meaning. Are the zebras and towhees referencing letters in a way that I’m missing? This idea of sharpened vision tethering one to earth makes me think of how untethered I often feel out in the world, with everything unfocused, fuzzy, soft. Are there other ways to be tethered that don’t require clear vision? Yes, but they aren’t often recognized, represented. Are they in this poem?


dec 25/RUN

3.5 miles
around austin, mn
28 degrees
0% snow-covered

The return of a Christmas tradition: running with Scott around Austin on Christmas day. In past years, there has been snow on the ground, but not this year. Bare, brown, beautiful, at least to me. We ran alongside the cedar river, which was partly frozen in pale blue, and littered with geese or ducks or both. We also walked out on the dock by the old mill pond, which winds behind the library, the new fitness center, and the pool. The ice looked thin and barely frozen, but one person was walking across it, fishing. They didn’t fall in, at least while we were there. In Minneaplis, these docks are unmoored and left to float out into the middle of the lake. Here in Austin, they stay linked to land and accessible. It was very strange walking on the dock, over unmoving ice instead of water.

We started and ended the run at the parking lot by “skinner’s hill” and Scott told me, not for the first time, about sledding there in the winter. Scott: “This hill always seemed steeper when I was kid.” Me: “I bet it was a struggle walking back up that hill to the top!”

It was a nice Christmas. I wasn’t planning to, but I read a few of my poems from my new collection on ghosts to Scott’s parents. They really liked them. While some of their enthusiasm was just because they love me, I think some of it was also out of a genuine appreciation and connection with the words. Very cool.

dec 23/RUN

5.1 miles
minnehaha falls and back
29 degrees
paths: 80% snow-covered
roads: 10% snow-covered

Much warmer today. Sunny with lots of shadows. Ran south around, but not by, the falls. Stayed on the perimeter, took the bridge over to the VA home, then ran north on the lower trail until I reached Lock and Dam No. 1. Crossed over turkey hollow and ran the back half of the turkey hollow loop. Ran through puddles, over ice, slush, soft snow, on road, sidewalk, grass, dirt trails, cobblestone. Heard crows, geese, and a bird with tin-whistle chirp. Also heard some kids sledding down the big hill near the falls, yelling with delight. The river looked very textured today: mostly white with rough craters of black water. The path was difficult to run on–soft, slushy snow. I didn’t see any fat tires or skiers. No Santa Claus. I might have passed Mr. Morning! from behind, but because he didn’t see me, he didn’t greet me.

Woke up feeling the fatigue of a never-ending pandemic. The run helped me to forget it for awhile.

Ran by the house that always posts poems on their window. Stopped to check out the sign they post in their yard with the title: Obligations 2/ Layli Long Solider.

dec 21/RUN

5.75 miles
franklin hill turn around
14 degrees / feels like 3
100% snow-covered

A few hours before I went out, it started snowing, a dusting. Decided to wear my yak trak, which helped a lot. A little harder to breathe this morning with the cold. Everything else about the run was great. All white and quiet and soft. For the first 10 minutes of my run, I was all alone. Gradually, I began to notice others: a walker, a fat tire, a runner wearing a bright yellow shirt.

Today, I devoted a lot of attention to the river. For stretches, it was almost completely covered with snow, then half snow/ice, half open water. Under the bridges, the river opened up — a dark, gaping mouth. The contrast between the open water, which was almost black, and the white, iced-over water was striking.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The smell of toast and eggs, probably coming from Longfellow Grill
  2. The smell of pot, somewhere below me?
  3. There was a steady stream of cars on the river road
  4. Running under the bridges, the trucks and other big vehicles rumbled above
  5. The snow was flying into my face no matter which direction I turned
  6. Someone had stenciled “Can’t Wait! Hugz” in pink 4 or 5 times on the back of a west river parkway sign
  7. All but one of the sets of stairs leading down into the gorge was blocked off with a heavy chain. The only open one was at the final set of stairs before you reach franklin avenue
  8. A car passed, windows shut, blasting music with a booming, driving beat
  9. Cars were moving slowly, cautiously on the slick streets
  10. The fake flowers stuck in the remnant of a railing at the trestle are gone

It’s the solstice today. Here’s a poem posted on twitter:

Holiday Wish/ David Baker

No snow. A little fog. The afternoon
is a few short hours and evening falls.
But look how the sun hangs down
its old rope good for one more pull.

Look at the latticework of leaves
in the stricken ash, golden in the gray,
like coins in a purse or notes from some old hymn.
I hope my friends are warm this day.

I hope the ones I love, will always love—
the one gone far away, the two sweet
souls holding hands near the end,
humming through a feverish night,

the one whose needs I cannot guess
of have no needs this lucky day
on earth—I hope for them, for all of us,
a little peace, a touch of hope, another day

come round with steady light. So quiet now.
So still. A flake of snow, then two.
I hope you hear a bell from far away
begin to peal, a bell I pull for you.

dec 19/RUN

4.25 miles
river road trail, north/south
17 degrees / feels like 0
100% snow-covered

I think this is my coldest run so far this season. Running north, it was much warmer. Turning around, heading south, the wind whipped straight through me. Brr. Last night, I bought a new winter running hat at REI. It’s a black ball cap, with a visor and ear flaps and it’s lined with fleece. Excellent. So far this year, I’ve been using a free twins cap I got at a game when it was DQ day. At one time, it was black. It’s still black on the inside, but the outside is a brownish gray, bleached by the sun, stained by my salty sweat. Gross, I suppose, although it doesn’t bother me that much. Because I can’t see things that well, faded hats don’t bother me. I still care a little about how I look, but barely. Luckily, I mostly look fine, so who cares?

I had thought about wearing my yak trax, but because the neighborhood sidewalks were mostly bare, I decided not to. My run was fine, but I should have worn the yak trax. The trail was completely covered with about an inch of soft, uneven snow. I ran on the walking path most of the time because the snow plow had come through and pushed all the street snow up onto the biking path. Fun (not fun). I slipped a few times, but no danger of falling. I listened to my feet strike the snow and the crush crush rhythm of both feet. Thought about how the sound is much different when I’m moving slower and walking. Then, the sound of the snow still has the crush but it also has a slow grinding noise — the sound of one foot slowly lifting off the ground. So 2 sounds at once: crush creak crush creak. I wondered if I could fit this idea into one of my two beat poems? Maybe.

Speaking of my beat poems, I was looking for a different word for describing the beat as a discrete unit of time. I had written time’s sharp shutters but I wasn’t quite happy with it. While I was running, I thought of slicing. Then, after I was done: time’s sharp cuts. Now I need to figure out how to describe the space/time between beats. For now, I have a stutter, but I’m not sure if I like that.

There were lots of people out by the gorge. Runners and walkers. No bikers or skiers. One person pulling an empty sled. No Daily Walker, no Santa Clause, no Mr. Morning!. The river was open, with a few ice floes. It was a dark blue, not quite black. The sky was white.

dec 17/RUN

5 miles
minnehaha falls and back
14 degrees / feels like 3
10% ice and snow covered

I loved my run this morning. It didn’t feel too cold, and it wasn’t too windy. There was some ice on the path and I did slip a few times, but I never fell or twisted anything. Because of the warm temperatures on Wednesday, a lot of the snow melted, and the walking path was mostly clear. Nice!

Thought about my haunt poem and had an idea that should help me finish it and start (and maybe finish?) another one. Yes! I’ll take off the beginning and the end and make them into another poem. Then I’ll keep the middle and keep it as my beats poem. Thanks, run, for helping me out! Something I’m learning: sometimes when you think you need to add one more line or image, you might just need to get rid of something you already wrote.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The river was completely open and illuminated by the sun. Sometimes it looked almost bronze or brown. Other times, pewter and then silver in the spots where the sun was shining on it
  2. The ravine just past the double bridge was bare and open and easy to study. As I ran above it, I stared at the slope, trying to judge its steepness and whether or not I could scale it. Assessment: not easily
  3. The sidewalks criss-crossing near the John Stevens House were all clear. I had run this way on Monday, when it was all covered in snow. Looking at the sidewalks now, I’m pretty sure the trail I took on Monday wasn’t following them
  4. Some workers with chainsaws trimming trees near the John Stevens House
  5. Minnehaha Creek, the part the falls drops into, was almost roaring. I briefly stopped to look down at it and listen
  6. The falls were rushing. Some of the ice that had been forming in the cold melted from our almost 60 degree weather on Wednesday
  7. Cawing crows
  8. A greeting from Mr. Morning! and Santa Claus (at least, I think it was Santa Claus!?) Mr. Morning! was dressed for winter — snow pants, a winter park with hood, stocking cap, dark glasses
  9. One bike on the trail — couldn’t tell if it was a fat tire
  10. Someone walking down on the Winchell Trail

The poem of the day on Poetry Foundation was by Lisel Mueller. I always enjoy her poetry. Looked her up, and found 2 more that delight me:

Sometimes, When the Light/ Lisel Mueller

Sometimes, when the light strikes at odd angles
and pulls you back into childhood

and you are passing a crumbling mansion
completely hidden behind old willows

or an empty convent guarded by hemlocks
and giant firs standing hip to hip,

you know again that behind that wall,
under the uncut hair of the willows

something secret is going on,
so marvelous and dangerous

that if you crawled through and saw,
you would die, or be happy forever.

Things/ LISEL MUELLER

What happened is, we grew lonely
living among the things,
so we gave the clock a face,
the chair a back,
the table four stout legs
which will never suffer fatigue.

We fitted our shoes with tongues
as smooth as our own
and hung tongues inside bells
so we could listen
to their emotional language,

and because we loved graceful profiles
the pitcher received a lip,
the bottle a long, slender neck.

Even what was beyond us
was recast in our image;
we gave the country a heart,
the storm an eye,
the cave a mouth
so we could pass into safety.

dec 16/BIKERUN

bike: 24 minutes
bike stand
run: 1.25 miles
treadmill

Yesterday, the threat of a big storm — tornadoes, dangerously high wind, thunderstorms — never happened. At least not in Minneapolis. Today, it’s back to winter and more snow and cold air. I decided to stay inside and do a quick bike + run. Watched a video about some deeper meanings in Saturday Night Fever while I biked, listened to a playlist while I ran. Today exercise offered a good break from my work on my beats poem. It’s getting closer, but I’m not quite there with this one. Hopefully I’ll figure it out tomorrow. I’m trying to remember to not become to invested in any of my words or phrases.

dec 15/RUN

5.8 miles
franklin hill turn around
44 degrees / humidity: 99%
0% snow-covered

Strange outside this morning. Warm, humid, gray. White snow on the grass, white fog in the air. Everything wet, dripping. Too warm for ice or snow on the trail, just puddles. I overdressed and became overheated by the end of the first mile. I was distracted by a runner creeping up behind, (too) slowly passing me then, once she was ahead, going even slower. At least it seemed that way. I decided that whichever way she went when she reached the Franklin bridge, I’d go the other way. She turned to head up and over the bridge, so I went under it and down the hill straight into thick fog. Hard to see anything down in the flats but headlights. Very cool. The river was completely open and waving at me in the slight wind. Heading back up the hill, I ran 3/4 of it, only stopping to walk for the very last part. A warm, humid wind was hitting me in the face, tiring me out. Near the end of the run, I saw Dave the Daily Walker. He called out, “This fog is kind of cool” and I agreed.

Before I left the house, I was reviewing my notes and thinking about my latest haunts poem. This one focuses on rhythm, repetition, and beats (heart, striking feet, chiming clocks, dripping pipes/limestone). Last night, I came up with a few line to fit my 3/2 form:

I come to
the gorge
to find that
soft space
between beats
before
one foot strikes
after
the other
lifts off
when I float
through time’s
crisp borders
in a
moment so
brief it
registers
only
as shimmer.

Not sure I’m satisfied with the ending of this — shimmer? shiver? something else? Anyway, I was thinking about that moment, the soft space between beats, as I ran. There’s a point in the biomechanics of running when both feet are off of the ground. It’s often referred to as the float phase. It happens so quickly that it’s very easy to ignore it. Sometimes I do, but sometimes I try to focus on it. Today, I imagined my run as happening in that space as I tuned out the beat/foot strikes, and focused on the freeing feeling of moving through the air, hovering above the trail. I thought about how this space, while brief, can be big, expansive, opening you up, allowing for possibility and other ways to relate to space and time. One trick: stop noticing the beats — get a steady rhythm going so that you can ignore them. The beats are still there, in fact they’re necessary for making the float happen, but they’re not centered as the most important (or only) thing about running/moving. Another thing I thought about: taken in isolation, each moment is small/brief, but what if you imagined that the moment was continuous, only quickly interrupted by the beat? How might that transform our understanding of time and how it moves/works? I thought about all of this, and will work to condense it into a line or two for this poem.

I’m imagining this poem about repetition, rhythm, chanting as a prayer (or at least including a prayer). For inspiration, I looked up “prayer” on the poetry foundation site. This one came up. I’d like to study these words and how the poet uses the metaphor of making/baking a cake:

Prayer 48/ EVA SAULITIS

for Asja

In predawn dark, a rat falling from a rafter is a dollop,
wind a whir, and suddenly I’m remembering my mother 
teaching me to bake her hot water sponge cake.

How we whipped the egg whites with the electric mixer
until stiff peaks formed. How she warned me not to allow
a single thread of yolk to taint the white, or the cake

would fail. To fold white into yolk-sugar-flour was slow, 
patient. She let me carve a wedge with the rubber spatula,
drop it to the batter’s surface, then lift from the bowl’s bottom

up and over the dollop, turning it in. Warned me
never to beat or mix or even stir—the cake would fall. 
Once, dinking around, I stuck a wooden spoon into

the still-whirring beaters, bent the metal, splintered
the spoon into the batter. Once I cut her grandmother’s precious
lace for a doll’s clothes, and she cried, the savaged pieces

draped across her wrists. So many times I tried to shove
my peasant feet into her dainty pumps, hand into her evening
gloves. One spoon at a time, that first thin layer drawn across

the airy white forming a little hill. Folding only
just enough. The batter growing lighter by increments.
It was mostly space we folded in, taming down

the cloy. It was never so good as then, licked off
the finer, the cake itself, to me, disappointing, layers
smeared with homemade jam, topped with a stiff merengue.

Never so good as then, her instructing, trying to domesticate
my impertinence, teach me a little grace, me resisting,
the sweet on my tongue dissolving so easily

in that state of matter. Never so good as straight from 
the Pyrex bowl. Never so gentle as the slide of batter
into an angel food pan. The rest up to her, what she

created from the baked version, brown on top and bottom. 
Here I am, decades later sitting under the halogen
of a full moon, and that moment, which was many

folded into one, is so pure and specific, the sugar sharp
on my tongue, the spatula pushing as if through 
an undertow. My mother taught me to fold. Never so

sweet as now. We were incorporating lightness
into a deep bowl. As some bird—probably an owl
out hunting—chacks its was across the lawn,

sounding like a key chain, and now the garden sprinkler
comes on, so I know it’s 6:00 a.m. There’s the first hint
of dawn slow-dissolving one more night. This is a fifty-

year-old love. It’s heavy, so I fold in moonlight, the sound
of water spattered on leaves. Dim stars, bright moon—
our lives. The cake imperfect, but finished. 

dec 13/RUN

5.1 miles
minnehaha falls and back
29 degrees
65% snow-covered

Ran to the falls and discovered that they were still plowing the trails around the park this morning. Had to stop and walk a few times in the deepest, most uneven parts. Sunny, barely any wind. Soon into the run, I was warm, then hot.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. From a distance and through the tree trunks, the river was burning white
  2. Off to the side and just below, the river was flat and off-white with splotches of light brownish-green or greenish-brown
  3. I could hear the sound of rushing water at the falls, but all I could see was several big ice columns
  4. Near the longfellow fountain (which never has water, not even in the summer, but does have parts of “The Song of Hiawatha” etched on the low wall curving around it), at the edge of the bluff, the view to the falls was as clear as I’ve ever seen it. No leaves or stray branches getting in the way
  5. Childhood having fun at their school playground, yelling and laughing
  6. Several different wedges of geese honking
  7. Packed down snow from feet, skis, sleds criss-crossing the big open part of the park above the fall, near John Stevens House
  8. The elegant, pleased (it looked like it was smiling) curve of the retaining wall on the Winchell Trail near 42nd street
  9. Mr. Morning! and Santa Claus
  10. 2 older walkers on the trail, one of them pushing their walker through the snow

I’m still working on my haunting poems. I’m hoping to do one specifically about bells and clocks. As I ran I thought about rhythms and beats: the steady beat of my feet on the trail, the triple counts I was chanting (strawberry/blueberry/raspberry/river road/trestle bridge), and the lone geese honking repeatedly. I tried to match my feet to its honks, which didn’t work. Then I tried to count the beats between each honk. It was not steady. I wondered, why do geese honk when they’re flying? I looked it up: to keep the flock together and coordinated in the V. Visibility is low so the honks let them know where each other are. Are all the honks the same, or does each goose have a slightly different one? Why aren’t they in a steady rhythm — or, are they, and I just don’t hear it?

Here’s some more information about the Canadian Geese and their 13 different vocalizations: Canada Goose Vocalizations

Almost every time I hear a geese honk, I think of Mary Oliver’s geese and their harsh and exciting cries, but there are other wild geese poems. Here’s one I don’t think I’ve encountered before:

Something Told the Wild Geese / Rachel Field

Something told the wild geese
It was time to go.
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered,—‘Snow.’
Leaves were green and stirring,
Berries, luster-glossed,
But beneath warm feathers
Something cautioned,—‘Frost.’
All the sagging orchards
Steamed with amber spice,
But each wild breast stiffened
At remembered ice.
Something told the wild geese
It was time to fly,—
Summer sun was on their wings,
Winter in their cry.

My understanding is that geese fly south before it gets too cold and before the snow flies, just like the poem states. So why were there so many geese up in the sky today? Is it a result of the climate crisis, or something else? I found a National Geographic article but it’s behind a paywall. The little bit of it I could read was about how geese migration is complicated; geese are finding suburbs a pleasing place to stay year round. Another article I found mentioned that in the 1950s, fearing their extinction, wildlife agencies in some states introduced new flocks that were raised in captivity and never learned to migrate. They are still flocks of wild migrating geese, but also lots of “not wild” geese. Looks like this question has many different answers.

dec 12/RUN

3.4 miles
river road trail, north/south
28 degrees
100% snow-covered*

*At least half of the biking trail was a smooth, thin layer of packed snow. The other half was several inches of loose, uneven snow. In some of the packed down spots it was slick. Occasionally, there was a tall mound of snow where the plow had left the excess from its clearing of the road. The hardest part: running on the sidewalks on the way to the river, especially the ends of blocks when I had to navigate the unplowed parts of the road

On Friday afternoon into Saturday morning, it snowed. Here in southeast Minneapolis, we got about 10 inches of powdery, beautiful snow. Not too hard to shovel, fun to admire. There were more people on the trails than I would have thought. At least 2 groups of runners + lots of walkers. No fat tires or cross-country skiers. Across the way, on the hill from Edmund, a family was sledding. The parents were positioned at the bottom to block their kids from careening into the parkway.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The loud, resonant knocking of a woodpecker near the old stone steps. Its knock echoed through the gorge
  2. A wedge of honking geese up in the sky. I couldn’t see them because I was too busy looking down at the trail, trying to avoid and/or prepare for slick spots
  3. The river burning white through the trees
  4. In many spots, a short, mid-calf wall of snow separating me from the road
  5. The unpleasantly loud scraping noise of a plow on bare pavement
  6. The smell of the sewer
  7. A kid laughing and calling out, “uh oh”
  8. The uneven arm swing of a runner ahead of me. One arm was high and tight, the other low and loose
  9. 3 runners passing me. I heard one of them say “professor” — maybe they said “class” too?
  10. The floodplain forest all white and brown. Some of the tree trunks were painted white on one side

When I got back from my run, Scott asked, “How was it?” I said, “You wouldn’t have liked it. It was slick and snow-covered and crowded, but I loved it!”

dec 10/RUN

6 miles
franklin hill and back
29 degrees

A big snowstorm is coming later today. Not sure how much — 7 inches? A foot? Saw Dave the Daily Walker and he called out, “Trying to beat the snow?” I called back, “Yes!” because I was. The snow is supposed to start this afternoon. Also saw Mr. Morning! and Santa Claus. Santa was in a bright yellow jacket, Mr. Morning! in dark sunglasses and a stocking cap. The walking path was almost completely covered with snow and ice, the bike path was clear. The river had a layer of gray ice. All of the “official” entrances to the Winchell Trail are now blocked off with a thick orange chain. Noticed a blanket which may or may not have contained a sleeping person, up against the most sheltered side of the port-a-potty under the lake street bridge. Because I was in motion and my vision is bad, all I could see was the form of a dark blanket. The noise I remember hearing most was traffic: lots of trucks and cars crossing the bridges. Also heard some construction near the Franklin Bridge on the east side of the river.

I ran down Franklin hill and kept going until I reached 3 miles. Then I turned around and ran back up the hill. Ran the entire thing without stopping this morning. Tried to block out my thoughts by chanting triple berries, mostly: “strawberry, blueberry, raspberry.” I was hoping some other triple words would pop into my head, but they didn’t and I didn’t try to force it.

dec 8/RUN

4.1 miles
river road, north/south
14 degrees
99% snow-covered

Fully boosted! Scott, FWA, and I got our booster shots 2 weeks ago today. Very relieved. I wish RJP could get hers too.

A little warmer today with lots of sun and hardly any wind. The only part of me that was cold this morning were my fingers and only for the first mile. The path was covered mostly in smooth packed snow. Not slippery but still requiring more effort than on dry pavement to lift my feet off the ground. Was able to greet Dave the Daily Walker and a few other walkers that I might have seen before but I can’t remember. The floodplain forest below the tunnel of trees was quiet and wintery and beautiful. Running north, I was distracted by a runner ahead of me, traveling at my same pace. He was far enough ahead that he probably didn’t notice I was there. He was wearing black running tights, black shorts, and a bright blue jacket with some writing or images on the back that I couldn’t identify. The only time I remember noticing the river was when I was high up on edmund at my favorite viewing spot where the sun, when it’s out, makes the small sliver of river peeking through the trees glow white hot. Today, the river was covered with snow and looked flat and dull. No sparkle or glow.

A few words related to my restless poem popped into my head: unsatisfied/not or never satisfied, unsettled, collecting, gathering, assembling

Ilya Kaminsky is in charge of the poem-a-day at poets.org this month and he’s doing a great job. Here’s the one for today from another poet I admire:

Big Clock/ Li-Young Lee – 1957-

When the big clock at the train station stopped,
the leaves kept falling,
the trains kept running,
my mother’s hair kept growing longer and blacker,
and my father’s body kept filling up with time.

I can’t see the year on the station’s calendar.
We slept under the stopped hands of the clock
until morning, when a man entered carrying a ladder.
He climbed up to the clock’s face and opened it with a key.
No one but he knew what he saw.

Below him, the mortal faces went on passing
toward all compass points.
People went on crossing borders,
buying tickets in one time zone and setting foot in another.
Crossing thresholds: sleep to waking and back,
waiting room to moving train and back,
war zone to safe zone and back.

Crossing between gain and loss:
learning new words for the world and the things in it.
Forgetting old words for the heart and the things in it.
And collecting words in a different language
for those three primary colors:
staying, leaving, and returning.

And only the man at the top of the ladder
understood what he saw behind the face
which was neither smiling nor frowning.

And my father’s body went on filling up with death
until it reached the highest etched mark
of his eyes and spilled into mine.
And my mother’s hair goes on
never reaching the earth.

There is so much I love about this poem, for right now I’ll pick: “And collecting words in a different language/for those three primary colors:/staying, leaving, and returning.”

dec 7/RUN

5.1 miles
minnehaha falls and back
10 degrees / feels like 1
light snow / 100% snow-covered

Winter! Snow, (almost) empty trails, fresh cold air, not too much wind. What a wonderful run. I ran slow and steady. The trails were completely covered and, if I didn’t know the paths so well, I might have had trouble seeing where to go but, I’ve run here so many times, I was fine. Everything was white, even the river.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. 2 types of crunching as my foot touched the ground, then lifted up: a slow creeaakk then a quick snap. Longer when walking, shorter as I ran. Both happening at same time, with the touching foot creaking and the lifting off foot snapping
  2. Snow brushed on one side of the tree trunk, looking like confectioners sugar
  3. the curved retaining wall, above the ravine, was easy to see, no longer hidden behind leaves
  4. Graffitti all over the wall of the biking half of the double bridge
  5. the falls were gushing at the bottom, iced at the top
  6. most of the trail was not slippery, but a few spots of ice or crusty snow hidden under fresh snow, were slick
  7. a few trucks and some workers parked near the John Stevens House, calling out to each other in loud voices
  8. the fake/recorded bell from the light rail train dinging for at least 10 seconds
  9. someone running much faster than me wearing a bright yellow vest
  10. lots of cars on the river road, most had their full lights on, at least one only had their parking lights on, a few had no lights on

Found this series of poems by Victoria Chang this morning, from her upcoming collection, The Trees Witness Everything:

The Wild Geese/ Victoria Chang

They are not wisdom
or freedom or history.
They are not what’s lost.
They are nothing but wild geese.
I can hear them everywhere,
wings pushing down metaphor.

Here’s what she writes in her “about the poem” section:

“These are a group of small poems that are a part of my forthcoming book, The Trees Witness Everything (Copper Canyon Press, 2022). They are all written in various syllabic forms and the titles are all W.S. Merwin poem titles.”

This one is almost a tanka (5/7/5/7/7), with one extra 7 syllable line at the end. In Obit Chang wrote a tanka that I really like:

My children, children,
there’s applesauce everywhere
but it’s not for you.
It is strange to help someone
grow while helping someone die.

I love how effectively and efficiently she captures the difficulty of being a parent while your parent is dying. The applesauce does so much here, conjuring up little kids and their snacks, and old people at retirement homes eating softer foods. It makes me reflect on the similarities and differences between the very young and the very old, both needing help, but having different futures.