5 miles john stevens house and back 36 degrees humidity: 87%
We are at peak, or just past peak, color here at the gorge. Wow! So beautiful that it’s hard to take it all in. How wonderful it is to live here and experience this every day! Running to the river, I heard a loud noise. A bell? No, the horn from a train. Was a train rumbling over the trestle? Ran south on the river road and received at least 2, maybe 3, “good mornings” or “morning” from other runners. Very nice. The sky is gray, but in one small corner of the sky, I could see the sun almost peeking through. Heard and saw some geese flying high in the sky. The falls were gushing a bit more than the last time I ran to the falls. Ran up the steps, over the creek, along the bluff, and around the John Stevens House. Encountered a woman running with 2 dogs. One of the dogs lunged at me, which didn’t bother me, and I could hear her yelling, “No! We don’t do that!” at it after I passed. Anything else? No turkeys. A roller skier. Oh–an older woman who stopped at the edge of the paved path to call out to someone from the city working on the sewer across the road, “thank you!” The worker was confused and called back, “Sorry?” “Thank you!” Don’t think I’ve ever seen (or heard) that before.
As I was running through minnehaha regional park, I thought about the things that have stayed the same, the things that have changed, and what seems to still be present as living and vital, and what only remains in decay, or in the faintest traces of what it had been. I was thinking about this as I ran by the playground, which was redone five or so years ago, but still has some old equipment, like the creaky, rusty swings. Something about that reminded me of a few lines from Poe’s “The Bells,” especially the bit about the rust.
Hear the tolling of the bells— Iron bells! What a world of solemn thought their monody compels! In the silence of the night, How we shiver with affright At the melancholy menace of their tone! For every sound that floats From the rust within their throats Is a groan.
monody: an ode in a greek tragedy; a poem lamenting a person’s death
“the rust within their throats” — love that line and how it speaks to decay and sorrow and, almost, the living dead
Decided to run the ford loop this morning and stop at some of the overlooks. Is today one of the last beautiful fall days? Possibly. So much yellow and red everywhere. Leaves drifting down like fat, fluffy flakes. Sun lighting up the surface of the river. Amazing. Writing this, an hour later, the sky is dark. Rain coming. I’m glad I got outside this morning.
10 Things I Noticed
Running above the river, over the lake street bridge: the water looks a deep, dark blue
From the edge of the bluff, on the east side at one of my favorite spots, the river looks lighter, richer, still blue
Heading north, a strong-ish wind in my face
Running beside Shadow Falls, wondering if what I was hearing was water from the falls or the wind in the trees or both
Passing a group of pedestrians, walking 2 by 2 on the edge of the trail
A barking, lunging dog, barely held back by a human also pushing a stroller
The view, 1: from just below an overlook on the St. Paul side, standing on a rock, close to the edge. The bank on the west side of the river is mostly yellow and red, with a few bits of green still holding on. Looking left or right, all I could see were water, shore, trees, rock
The view, 2: from the ford bridge. Mostly brown tree trunks and green/red/yellow leaves. Then, a break. A gleaming white — is this the limestone cave where the trail ends? The spot where STA and I watched the rowers a few weeks ago?
The view, 3: from the overlook at the southern start of the Winchell Trail. The glittering, white heat of water lit by the sun. One way, the ford bridge. The other, trees
Running on the Winchell Trail, right before 42nd, the trails curves close to the edge. As you climb, it looks like you might just keep going, out into the sky, above the river
Before I ran, I studied a passage from U A Fanthorpe’s “Seven Types of Shadow,” especially the lines:
Ghosts of past, present, future. But the ones the living would like to meet are the echoes Of moments of small dead joys still quick in the streets
In particular, I was thinking a lot about echoes and reverberations. Halfway up the Summit Hill, I started thinking about bells and the reverberations of sound they emit after being struck. These thoughts were partly inspired by a passage I read from Annie Dillard in “Seeing” from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek:
Then one day I was walking along Tinker Creek thinking of nothing at all and I saw the tree with the lights in it. I saw the backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame. I stood on the grass with the lights in it, grass that was wholly fire, utterly focused and utterly dreamed. It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance. The flood of fire abated, but I’m still spending the power. Gradually the lights went out in the cedar, the colors died, the cells unflamed and disappeared. I was still ringing. I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck.
Seeing/ Annie Dillard
I didn’t want to forget my thoughts, so I pulled out my phone, mid-run, and recorded myself. It was challenge, speaking while running and trying not to feel self-conscious as I passed other people:
Here’s a transcript of what I said. I turned it into a poem, using my breaths to break the lines. I’d like to try doing this some more — experiment with recording my thoughts mid-run, then using my breaths to shape the poem.
I’m thinking about how I’m a bell and how we’re all bells and when we are struck — is it at birth or is it like Annie Dillard: there’s a moment of awareness and clarity that makes our bell ring reverberate continue to echo?
added a few hours later: I forgot about how, just before I started recording my thoughts, I heard the bells of St. Thomas. Was it 10 am? or 9:45? Not sure, but it seemed fitting to hear these bells, which I often hear at my house too, as I was thinking about bells.
I thought about a lot of things on today’s wonderful run. Decided I’d like to make a list of the traces, trails, reverberations I encounter on my runs. Also decided to look up and listen to the Radiolab episode about echolocation. And I decided to think/research more about the presence of the WPA at the gorge. As I thought about this I wondered about my grandfather who lived in St. Paul and worked for the WPA. Was he a part of the gorge work — making benches, walls, steps? Shoring up ravines, minnehaha and hidden falls? He’s been dead for about 20 years now, so I can’t ask him. A further set of questions I pondered as I ran past the steps leading down from the 44th street parking lot: Do I need to know the exact truth about his involvement with the WPA? Or, is it enough to know he was a part of it, and okay to imagine he might have helped build the old stone walls I run by, the benches I want to stop at but never do?
In between admiring the view and thinking about echoes, I recited the first part of the 7th section of May Swenson’s “October” in my head. Such a great part of a poem! I’m a big fan of May Swenson’s work.
Looked it up and found the echolocation episode. It’s from Invisibilia and not Radiolab: How to Become Batman
Hear the sledges with the bells— Silver bells! What a world of merriment their melody foretells! How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle, In the icy air of night! While the stars that oversprinkle All the heavens, seem to twinkle With a crystalline delight; Keeping time, time, time, In a sort of Runic rhyme, To the tintinabulation that so musically wells From the bells, bells, bells, bells, Bells, bells, bells— From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.
Hear the mellow wedding bells, Golden bells! What a world of happiness their harmony foretells! Through the balmy air of night How they ring out their delight! From the molten-golden notes, And all in tune, What a liquid ditty floats To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats On the moon! Oh, from out the sounding cells, What a gush of euphony voluminously wells! How it swells! How it dwells On the Future! how it tells Of the rapture that impels To the swinging and the ringing Of the bells, bells, bells, Of the bells, bells, bells, bells, Bells, bells, bells— To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!
Hear the loud alarum bells— Brazen bells! What tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells! In the startled ear of night How they scream out their affright! Too much horrified to speak, They can only shriek, shriek, Out of tune, In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire, In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire, Leaping higher, higher, higher, With a desperate desire, And a resolute endeavor Now—now to sit or never, By the side of the pale-faced moon. Oh, the bells, bells, bells! What a tale their terror tells Of Despair! How they clang, and clash, and roar! What a horror they outpour On the bosom of the palpitating air! Yet the ear it fully knows, By the twanging, And the clanging, How the danger ebbs and flows; Yet the ear distinctly tells, In the jangling, And the wrangling. How the danger sinks and swells, By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells— Of the bells— Of the bells, bells, bells, bells, Bells, bells, bells— In the clamor and the clangor of the bells!
Hear the tolling of the bells— Iron bells! What a world of solemn thought their monody compels! In the silence of the night, How we shiver with affright At the melancholy menace of their tone! For every sound that floats From the rust within their throats Is a groan. And the people—ah, the people— They that dwell up in the steeple, All alone, And who tolling, tolling, tolling, In that muffled monotone, Feel a glory in so rolling On the human heart a stone— They are neither man nor woman— They are neither brute nor human— They are Ghouls: And their king it is who tolls; And he rolls, rolls, rolls, Rolls A pæan from the bells! And his merry bosom swells With the pæan of the bells! And he dances, and he yells; Keeping time, time, time, In a sort of Runic rhyme, To the pæan of the bells— Of the bells: Keeping time, time, time, In a sort of Runic rhyme, To the throbbing of the bells— Of the bells, bells, bells— To the sobbing of the bells; Keeping time, time, time, As he knells, knells, knells, In a happy Runic rhyme, To the rolling of the bells— Of the bells, bells, bells— To the tolling of the bells, Of the bells, bells, bells, bells— Bells, bells, bells— To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.
Another nice run. Another beautiful fall morning. Glowing yellow. Sunny, not too much wind, not too warm. Greeted Dave, the Daily Walker twice. Ran past Daddy long legs. Noticed a roller skier. Encountered a clueless human and a small yippy dog, both taking up the very wide path on the franklin bridge, forcing an impatient biker to ring their bell and swerve around them. Some stones were stacked on the ancient boulder, the river was blue then, later, brown. No rowers (although STA and I saw them last night, rowing fast). The trees below the tunnel of trees were almost all gold. Soon: a view!
(The other day, I found a brochure online for the Winchell Trail. Reading through it again, I thought it was where I read about the plaque on a boulder about Newton Horace Winchell that was near the Franklin Bridge, but it’s not.) Having read about a plaque for Winchell somewhere near Franklin, I decided to look for it. When I couldn’t find it above the gorge, I turned and ran up the hill to the Franklin Bridge. There it was, the plaque! I’d never noticed it before.
Running on the east side of the river, between Franklin and the trestle, I thought I heard footsteps behind me, but when I looked back no one was there. I thought again about how ghosts and haunting involves more than visions and apparitions; it can come in the form of strange sounds, echoes, disembodied voices. Footsteps behind you or the rushing of wind past your ears or rustling leaves, amplified in the dry, deadness of fall. These sounds are both strange — hard to place, easy to confuse with other sounds, like beeping trucks that could be chirping birds, crying kids that sound like shrieking bluejays — and familiar. They conjure up memories, invoke the past.
A few days ago, I discovered Annie Dillard’s chapter in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek: Seeing. I have read some (all?) of this book years ago, but I didn’t remember there was a chapter titled “Seeing”! Excellent. I read it online, from a pdf. Yesterday, I found my copy, which isn’t really my copy but my dead mom’s copy that I inherited or, more likely, borrowed years before she died in 2009, on the bookshelf next to my desk. I opened it up and discovered a wonderful surprise: a sticker in the front that reads, “This book is the treasured possession of Judy Puotinen.” My mom has signed her name so neatly and clearly. I could stare for a long time at the pretty loops of her J and y; the confident backward slant of her P, almost looking like a person puffing out their chest; the t that looms larger than the other letters and stands like a cross (she was not very religious, or as she might have put it, “I’m spiritual, not religious”); and the errant dot of an i, charging ahead to dot the n instead. This signature, too, is a trace, a haunting, more than a memory. It is her, still speaking 12 years after she died. Such a powerful voice in that signature! For a few years after her death, I would encounter her signature on a box in the basement of my first house in Minneapolis. I had a lot of these boxes; they were care packages she sent almost once a month: a new tablecloth, a candle, a cookbook, baby clothes for my kids. It was difficult to see that signature then. It reminded me of how much I had lost: not just her but the care and love she constantly gave me and would have given to my kids. But now, to stumble across her in this way is wonderful. To spend time with her, delighting in remembering how much she loved books and how carefully and beautifully she wrote her name.
3.6 miles minnehaha falls and back 41 degrees humidity: 87%
Another cooler, wonderful morning. Wore running tights + running shorts + bright yellow long-sleeved shirt + bright orange sweatshirt + buff. It was humid, so even with the cool air, I was sweating. Starting my run, heading into the sun, I could see the moisture in the air. Hovering. Ran south on the path and noticed the river burning through the trees. Such a cool sight. The falls were falling, not quite a gush, but more water than the last time I was here. Encountered a roller skier, a few bikes, lots of walkers, a runner or two, dogs. Watched the back end of a squirrel darting back into the bushes as I approached.
As I ran back north, after the falls, I tried looking up higher so that more of peripheral vision was seeing the path. Last night, watching the 4th Harry Potter movie, I started looking at it through my periphery and was amazed at how much more I could see. I aimed my eyes off the side of the television and the images weren’t sharp and clear, but I could see more of them. Colors were more intense too. Strange–and a strange way to watch a movie, looking off at the wall.
Ending my run, crossing over to the grass between the river road and edmund, I watched my shadow ahead of me and thought about shadows and ghosts and how my shadow sometimes leads me, sometimes follows. Then I thought about the dirt trail I was walking on and wondered how long it had been there. And I thought about how it was formed where it was and not somewhere else on the wide expanse of grass. How many feet (or wheels) were needed to establish this trail as the unofficial path to take when walking or running on this grass? I also briefly thought about the Oregon Trail and how, when we were visiting Scott’s Bluff in Nebraska, you could still see and walk that trail, over 150 years later. Earlier this morning, I had also thought about trails, imagining them as a collaborative poem that walkers/runners offer to the gorge with their feet.
At some point on the path, I also thought about Robert Frost’s classic path poem—maybe it was right after I recited his, “Nothing Gold Can Stay”?
Winter running is coming! Today was great. Cool enough to not get (too) overheated, sunny, not much wind. More yellow leaves. Right after I reached the river road, I heard 2 runners behind me. One of them had a booming voice that carried. I couldn’t tell how far behind me they were or if they were slowly approaching me. Instead of getting irritated or changing my pace, going faster or slower, I kept it steady and heard a few fragments of the conversation, mostly the loud guy’s part: they haven’t seen each other since the pandemic hit, so they were catching up, talking about their running and injuries and aging. I recall the quiet guy saying something like, Man, it’s tough getting old. Not too far from lake street, the quiet guy left. The last thing I heard before I turned up to the lake street bridge was the loud guy blowing a snot rocket (so glad he was far behind me!).
10 Things I Noticed
The river, part 1: crossing the lake street bridge. Out of the corner of my right eye, barely below the railing, I kept thinking I was seeing a rower. Not the shell, but the wake or trail of the boat gliding through the water
The river, part 2: crossing back later, I realized it had not been a rower or the trail from a boat but something else — the current, ripples from a something just below the water, scum on the surface?
The floor below the Welcoming Oaks was covered in a dead leaf carpet. No visible grass or dirt, just crunching leaves
Still no stones stacked on the ancient boulder
Near the bottom of the marshall hill looking up at the red stop light at the top, seeming far and close at the same time
Hearing voices as I ran above Shadow Falls on the St. Paul side — were they coming from the falls or The Monument?
The women runners I encountered wearing pants or tights; the male runners shorts
The huge empty lot near Summit on the St. Paul side that I’ve seen on zillow. Asking price: 2.75 million just for the land
Right before greeting Dave, the Daily Walker, I heard a bike that had just passed brake loudly — not a squeal but a loud compression of air, or sneakers rubbing on a gym floor– then turning around and passing me again
The river, part 3: Running south on the west river road, nearing the old stone steps, I glimpsed the river, on fire from the sun, burning bright white through a break in the trees
Something about seeing the river burning white made me think more about ghosts and traces and why I am interested in trails and flashes. Right after I finished my run, I recorded my thoughts. In this recording, I can’t remember what prompted these thoughts and I say lake when I mean river.Also, I keep intending to use notes on my phone when dictating my ideas because it can transcribe them. One day, I’ll remember.
Speaking of traces, here’s something I encountered on twitter this morning:
“I am slow and need to think about things a long time, need to hold onto the trace on paper. Thinking is adventure. Does adventure need to be speedy? Perhaps revising is a way of refusing closure?…”
Just got Rita Dove’s latest collection, Playlist for the Apocalypse, from the library. I love Rita Dove! Here’s one that doesn’t necessarily fit with this month’s theme, but I want to post it anyway:
Island/ Rita Dove
A room in one’s head is for thinking outside of the box, though the box is still there—cosmic cage, Barnum’s biggest, proudest Ring. My land: a chair, four sticks with a board laid across: This is the raft I pile my dreams on, set out to sea. Look for me, shore.
3.5 miles trestle turn around + extra 49 degrees 19 mph gusts
Brrrr. Colder and windier today. Wore tights and 2 shirts. The leaves continue to change. Today: bright brassy yellow with hints of green and brown. Not mustard or gold — at least to me. So intense and delightful that I exclaimed “wow!” as I reached the edge of the welcoming oaks. Down in the tunnel of trees more oranges and yellows. Still more leaves in the trees than on the ground, but if the wind keeps blowing like it did yesterday and it is today, that will change. By next week, will all the leaves have fallen? I felt strong and relaxed, running at an easy pace. Then a runner slowly approached from behind, not passing me fast enough, running alongside of me. I sped up to avoid them and knew it was a mistake almost immediately. I was running too fast. Ran for a few more minutes at that pace and then stopped to let the other runner pass. The lesson to learn: always slow down or stop to let another runner go by. Do not speed up to avoid them. This is a reminder of a lesson I should have learned several months ago with the group of kids on bikes under the lake street bridge (see may 28, 2021).
10 Things I Noticed
A bright orange tree on the grass between edmund and the river road. Difficult to quite remember, but I think it wasn’t completely orange, maybe giving the idea of orange or orange-tinted leaves on an otherwise green leafed tree
The man in black who was not in black at all but still has the very long legs. I think I might rename him “daddy long legs” — is that bad?
The trees above the ravine and the slick slats and sewer pipe and concrete ledge were bright yellow and red
The wind was blowing in many different directions, never at my back
The jingling of my house key in the small zippered pocket in the front of my orange running shirt
A roller skier without his poles — no clicking or clacking, lots of awkward arm movements
No stones stacked on the ancient boulder
Hardly any leaves left on the welcoming oaks
An approaching runner avoiding me by running on the other side of a tree and through the grass
3 sets of steps (all inviting me to take them): the old, uneven stone steps after the tunnel of trees; the big stone slabbed steps before the trestle; the recently replaced wooden steps after the trestle. All leading to the Winchell Trail
Ran north listening to the wind, south listening to a playlist with Miley Cyrus and 2 songs by Silk Sonic — nice! At the end, above the ravine, I thought about how I rely less on a watch, and much more on the weather and the trees to keep track of time. Much more enjoyable to think in seasons or the progress of the leaves than minutes, hours, days.
Earlier today I was thinking about pace — and only slightly in relation to running pace, more about pacing and restlessness and ghosts that haunt the path. Pace and pacing, like watches or clocks, impose limits and boundaries: a running pace uses seconds and minutes per mile (or km) and pacing involves walking back and forth in a small or confined space, retracing your steps again and again until you rub the grass away and reach dirt, or wear the carpet bare. What to do with that information? I’m not quite sure…yet.
I found this poem on twitter yesterday. Even though it doesn’t deal with my theme (ghosts, haunting, haunts), I wanted to post it and tag it with water so I would have it for letter. Such a wonderful poem and poet!
Rebuked, she turned and ran uphill to the barn. Anger, the inner arsonist, held a match to her brain. She observed her life: against her will it survived the unwavering flame.
The barn was empty of animals. Only a swallow tilted near the beams, and bats hung from the rafters the roof sagged between.
Her breath became steady where, years past, the farmer cooled the big tin amphoræ of milk. The stone trough was still filled with water: she watched it and received its calm.
So it is when we retreat in anger: we think we burn alone and there is no balm. Then water enters, though it makes no sound.
favorite bits: anger, the inner arsonist; the bats and the rafters the roof sagged between; the line break for “the stone trough was still/filled with water”; and water as the soundless balm for our burning alone.
random sighting/thought: Saw a sign in front of a house that read:
We love our rocks! Please do not take our rocks.
I thought about the importance of line breaks here. Maybe it’s just my faulty vision, but when I read this sign I am just as (or maybe more) likely to read the line “take our rocks” on its own and think they want me to take their rocks. How does the meaning of the sign change with different breaks:
Please do not take our rocks.
Please do not take our rocks.
Please do not take our rocks.
What if you mix up the order?
Our rocks do not take please
Our rocks do please take not
rocks? please. ours do not take
do ours not please? (rock’s take)
take rocks — ours please — (do not)
Too much useless fun!
addendum: I told STA about my fun wordplay, and he offered this one:
4 miles minnehaha falls and back 59 degrees humidity: 78%
Overcast today. No sun. I like how this makes the colors — the reds, golds, greens — glow more. Almost peak color in the trees. When I started my run, I felt awkward, almost like my limbs were working against instead of with each other. By the time I reached the river it was fine. Ran south to the falls on the trail, which I’ve been trying to avoid, and it was crowded. 4 roller skiers, skiing 2 x 2 were causing all sorts of problems for bikers and me as I encountered the bikers. Made it to the falls, stopped to check out the statue of Minnehaha and Hiawatha. Hardly any water in the creek. Ran north, heading home. Took the Winchell Trail and admired the leaves — their intense colors and the fact that many of them had already fallen. My view is coming back!
10 Things I Noticed
The slow approaching clicking and clacking of ski poles. Click clack click clack
A squirrel emerging from the trees then darting back in as I neared
The lights from a bike coming closer, a sharp contrast with the gray gloom
The trickle of the sewer pipe near 42nd. Drip drip drip
Many leaves on the ground. In some spots erasing the trail
2 spindly, bare branches poking out from behind a golden tree, reaching up to the sky
A clicking or rattling noise coming from some animal, probably a squirrel. Sounding a little like the rattle of a rattlesnake
The falls barely falling. Hardly any water
Kids laughing, yelling, talking at playgrounds — Minnehaha Academy and Minnehaha Falls. More kids playing tag around the fountain and the benches with parts of “Song of Hiawatha” etched on them
Winchell Trail in full color — a perfect fall scene (can this perfection last for more than a day?)
As I ran, I was thinking more about the act of haunting (frequenting) a place, returning to it and then about trails and how I might want to write more route/trail/loop poems that play with ideas of haunting. At the end of my run, I recorded some of my thoughts. Here’s a transcript:
I’m thinking about trails and frequenting and haunting. And then I was thinking as I was running over the leaves, how the trails are hidden, can’t see the cracks or the trail at all. But then, when the leaves are gone and the snow starts to fall, when it’s just barely flurrying and there’s just a dusting on the ground, it illuminates the trails. You can only see that when the leaves are off and it’s just a dusting of snow. Thinking about how I want to play with that as part of this tracing. And also thinking about the different ways I can see — the visible and not visible. When is it a matter of seeing and when is it a matter of feeling? And thinking about the type of seeing I can do with the peripheral, which detects movement and gives you a larger sense of the terrain. What does that mean for these well-worn trails and how I experience them?
This is a country of ghosts. Down the eastern shore Lie the drowned villages, drowned luggers, drowned sailors.
After a hot summer, fields grow talkative. Wheat speaks in crop marks, grasses in parch marks.
Wheat or grass, what they tell is the truth Of things that lay underneath five thousand years ago,
The forts, the barrows, the barns, the shrines, the walls. These are the native ghosts. After a hot summer.
No haunting. No rattle of chains. They just lie there In their rigid truthfulness, the ghosts of things.
We carry our human ghosts around with us. As we grow we face the mirrors, and see
The spectre of a great-aunt, a vague look Known only from sepia snapshots. The hands we’re used to –
Yes, these – their contours came by way of a long retinue Of dust. We are photofits of the past,
And the future eyes us sideways as we eye ourselves. We are the ghosts of great-aunts and grand-nephews.
We are ghosts of what is dead and not yet born.
Ghosts of past, present, future. But the ones the living would like to meet are the echoes Of moments of small dead joys still quick in the streets,
Voices calling I’ve passed / We won / QED / It didn’t hurt much, Mum / They’ve given me the job / I have decided to name this apple Bramley;
And the women convicts singing their Holloway march, While Ethel Smyth conducts from her cell with a toothbrush.
These are the ghosts the living would prefer, Ghosts who’d improve our ratings. Ghosts Of the great innocent songs of freedom That shoulder their way round the world like humpback whales,
Ghosts of the singers, the dancers, the liberated, Holding hands and cheering in parks, while the tanks Squat immobilized. Ghosts of the women on the fish quay Hugging each other when at last the boats come in.
Ghosts of the last night of the Proms. And ghosts of lovers, Wandering round London, so happy that they could Have danced danced danced all night.
Like this bit: “And the future eyes us sideways as we eye ourselves. We are the ghosts of great-aunts and grand-nephews./ We are ghosts of what is dead and not yet born.” Love this way of messing with linear time. On a smaller scale, I think about this with past, present, and future Saras.
Still a little warm, but fall is here. Another great morning — sunny and cooler than last week. I wore shorts and a long sleeve shirt (my bright yellow 10 mile race shirt from a few years ago). For the first few minutes, I was chilly, but I warmed up quickly. I wouldn’t mind running in this weather every day. Frequently counted to 4. Sometimes felt strong, sometimes tired.
10 Things I Noticed
The Welcoming Oaks have lost most of their golden leaves
The tunnel of trees and my favorite spot above the floodplain forest is slowly turning yellow. Still lots of green and no view of the river yet
The new asphalt, put down only last year, near the trestle is cracking already. In addition to the long cracks, people have spray-painted a peace sign, an anarchy sign, and something else that looks like squiggly lines to me
Running over the franklin bridge, thought I saw a rower on the river, but the railing blocked my view. Every time I turned back, I could almost see it, believed it was there, but could never fully see it. Finally, almost across the bridge, I looked back and there it was: a single shell
The river was mostly a pale blue with the dark edges — the result of trees on the shore casting their shadows into the water like fishermen
A dog barking below
No stones stacked on the ancient boulder
Another regular: the guy with big headphones on who I used to see on the track at the Y. Last week I saw him near the east side of the trestle, today it was below the lake st bridge on the marshall side
Running back over the lake st bridge, I admired the rowers on the river. 6 rowers. 2 single shells and 2 doubles
An older man running on the other side of the bridge, shirtless
My shadow was running in front of me for part of the time. I thought about her as a ghost, or me as a ghost, then about all of the running or walking feet that have landed on this path. I thought about other people — the ones still alive who frequent the trail, like me, and the ones who are dead. I wondered about the old woman whose death, caused by a speeding bike in the 70s, resulted in separate biking and running trails on the west side of the river. Where was she struck? I looked it up, and the only thing I had correct: a woman was struck and killed by a bike and the outrage over her death led to the creation of separate bike trails. BUT, it was not on the river road, but at Lake Harriet, and she wasn’t old, but 58. (Source) I thought about all of the past Saras that have run this trail too. How many of us are there?
4 miles wabun park + turkey hollow 65 degrees humidity: 86% / dewpoint: 61
A little too sticky, but what a beautiful morning for a run! Sunny, calm, quiet. Before running felt uneasy about something I couldn’t name; running helped. I’m thinking about ghosts and haunting the path (frequenting it, floating above it, flashing through it) and trying to find a way into my next big project — my annual fall project. Something about the periphery and the approximate as not quite (human, able to see or connect, in this world, real). I need a door, or at least a window — anything that might let me enter this project.
10 Things I Noticed
The trail, covered in leaves, a lot of them red — not bright red, but faded, almost pink
A processional of walkers, bikers, big groups of runners on the trail between 36th and 42nd
A clanging collar on the other side of the boulevard, following me as I ran south
Someone playing frisbee golf at Wabun, throwing a frisbee from the path. Were they playing or working, picking up frisbees others had left behind? Why were they throwing from the path? Why did it look — in my quick, unreliable, glance — that they had a golf bag?
For over a year and a half, every time I run up 47th, as part of the turkey hollow loop, there is a dumpster parked on the street, in front of a house. It was still there today. Have they been remodeling their house for that long?
The ford bridge, from the top of the hill at wabun, then from below, at the bottom of the path
My shadow in the grass as I walked across turkey hollow
The too white, newly redone road between 42nd and folwell, one side of it covered in leaves
Feeling someone running at my same pace–me on edmund, them on the river road. Not wanting to look over to check too closely, trying not to race them
The dirt trail between Becketwood and Minneahaha Academy Lower Campus, dry, covered with leaves, much more worn and well-traveled (haunted) than the barely there mostly tamped down grass, partly dirt path in front of Minnehaha Academy Upper Campus
Because there are so few hobbies left to the dead, my father gives himself this: his usual route, the Queens-bound F to Continental, where he walks with the living to work. Every day he finds a new occupation— picks trash off the tracks, changes a dirty lightbulb, makes rounds on the platforms, tries to make some small use of his hands, though no one notices or acknowledges. Yet still he returns every day, in his tan shirt and brown slacks ironed with the impatience of the perpetually late, his keys jingling carelessly in his left front pocket.
Twenty-plus years with the MTA but some other guy’s got the job now, someone younger, maybe someone my father knows, standing in the operating booth at the end of the platform, watching the miniature trains on the board carry lights through a digital New York. And maybe the young man knows nothing of the dead man, has no words for a ghost who builds a home of his absence. And if my father says haunt
he doesn’t mean the way rooms forget him once he’s gone; he’s saying his leather chair now in his coworker’s office, his locker in the back room newly purged of its clutter, or his usual table in the break room where he sits at 10:30 each night eating the same steak club and chips, counting the 10, 20, 30 more years till retirement, cuz he’s close, he’s in the final stretch—any day now and he’ll finally go on that vacation.
5.5 miles ford loop (with winchell trail) 62 degrees
Getting closer to peak fall color. More reds are creeping in, lots of yellow, a few bits of orange. Ran north to the lake street bridge, then up the hill beside shadow falls, past The Monument, down to the ford bridge, back over to Minneapolis, and ended below on the Winchell Trail.
10 Things I Noticed
My favorite spot above the floodplain forest, near the old stone steps, is beginning to lighten–a few of the trees are turning yellow, not golden yellow, but more the color of a lime or a pear
At least 4 stones were stacked on the ancient boulder
The welcoming oaks are becoming a golden grove unleaving
At one point, I noticed part of the river was a pale blue, almost white, while the other part was a darker blue
Running over the lake street bridge looking down at the river, the water looked smooth, flat, stretched, only a few ripples right in the center
Running over the ford ave bridge, I noticed, for the first time, the faint outlines of 2 squares just in from each of the railing posts. What are these? Was the bridge more narrow, with the railings in closer to the road? Would that even be possible?
The Winchell Trail was covered with leaves
All around the trails, the trees were shedding leaves, the leaves floated down like snow flakes or raindrops or butterflies
Running on the Winchell Trail, almost to the steep rise by Folwell, the trees were bare, revealing another dirt trail that winds even closer to the edge
An older runner in a bright yellow shirt, running on the opposite side of the road near St. Thomas
I remember the feeling of having revelations or insights or just interesting thoughts, but I don’t remember what they were. The feeling? Satisfaction, I think. Or comfort? Reassurance? A calming sense of peace?
I counted to 4 in my head for many stretches of the run. It helped me to focus my breath and my effort. I should try this more often.
5 miles bottom of franklin and back 58 degrees humidity: 91%
A good run. I’m looking forward to even cooler temps — I wore my shorts and a tank top, which is the same thing I’d wear on the warmest summer day. I wasn’t cold. When I started out, I felt good. Around 2 miles in, I didn’t feel as great but kept going. I planned to stop at the bottom of the hill and walk all of it, but when I got there I felt good enough to keep going. I made it almost to the very top before I stopped to walk for about a minute. Then I ran the rest of the way back.
10 Things I Noticed
The path covered in leaves, making it difficult to see the edge of the asphalt
Chirping birds — not sure what kind, but not geese or crows
Circles–with minneapolis park logo or something else?–stamped into the trail. I saw at least 2
The buzzing, whirring of a speeding back rushing past me at the top of the franklin hill
The branches with red leaves poking out of the big hole at the edge of the trail heading down the hill
Voice below, somewhere on the Winchell Trail
A group of people — in their 60s, maybe — standing at the top of the old stone steps, contemplating whether or not to descend. One person saying, “It’s pretty rough” or “uneven” or “dicey down there” (I can’t remember their exact words)
Someone on a fat tire, talking on a phone, powering up the steep franklin hill, not even out of breath — maybe they were on an ebike?
A walker either talking to herself or through a (invisible, at least to me) bluetooth headset
At least 2 different people walking with 2 dogs each, letting their dogs stretch out over the entire path
Chanted some berry triples: “strawberry, blueberry, raspberry” and recited Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” in my head. Didn’t get very far because I kept getting stuck on the second and third lines: “You do not have to walk on your knees/ for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.” I couldn’t remember the order of the clauses: was it walk for a hundred miles, or walk through the desert, or walk on your knees. Not sure why I struggle with this bit.
a theme for october?
I was just starting to write that I’d decided to devote the rest of October to the peripheral, but then, as I typed those words I suddenly thought about ghosts and monsters and october as a scary month. So now I’m not sure. Because I love Halloween and scary movies — at least ones from the 70s and 80s — I think I will spend some time with ghosts, and then maybe monsters, like Medusa. I could also try to find a poem or two about creepy dolls/mannequins. Maybe think about the uncanny valley some more? All of these things are fascinating to me, and have started appearing in my writing (and my thoughts about my writing). Haunting and haunted places; feeling not quite there, floating; dead people, things, ideas suddenly being remembered or forgotten.
I’ll start with a poem that I found in a special feature on ghosts in poems at poets.org:
Feeling a little cooler and a lot brighter out by the gorge this late morning. Yellows, reds, and oranges. Heard some kids at the school playground, some women talking. Earlier, when I was walking Delia, I heard a white-haired man on a bike loudly tell his friend, “At the end of next summer, I’m going to Maine, and I’m staying until the leaves have finished falling.” Am I remembering that right? Not totally sure. Saw and heard some people from the parks department chain-sawing some trees in the grassy boulevard. Encountered a few squirrels, heard a honk from a goose. Counted to 4, chanted in triples (strawberry blueberry raspberry). Ended my run at the bottom of the 38th st steps and walked on the Winchell Trail to the Oak Savanna. So many crickets and crunching leaves. One other walker who dramatically moved off to the side to give me room to pass.
Found this poem just now. It doesn’t fit with October or any theme I might have for this month, but it’s a wonderful love poem, to add to my month of love poems from August:
The Patience of Ordinary Things/ Pat Schneider
It is a kind of love, is it not? How the cup holds the tea, How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare, How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes Or toes. How soles of feet know Where they’re supposed to be. I’ve been thinking about the patience Of ordinary things, how clothes And soap dries quietly in the dish, And towels drink the wet From the skin of the back. And the lovely repetition of stairs. And what is more generous than a window?
The lovely repetition of stairs! The generosity of a window! I love it.
4 miles minnehaha falls and back 58 degrees dew point: 55
Ran with Scott to the falls before the marathoners raced on the river road. Not too warm, but humid. A mile in, I already felt like a damp sponge. A nice run with lots of fall color. Saw at least 2 turkeys chilling in the parking lot, the same spot they were at last week. Heard a bird calling out as we entered minnehaha park. Might have been a red-breasted nuthatch. The falls were rushing but not quite roaring, the creek was higher but not high. Listened to the leaves crunch as I ran over them. Saw at least one roller skier and lots of volunteers getting ready for the race — the twin cities marathon. Anything else? I’m sure I heard at least one goose, avoided more than one squirrel. I recall looking down at the river through the thinning leaves and hearing some rowers.
random thing for future Sara to remember: “Out of an abundance of caution” (as they like to say at RJP’s high school), we got covid tests last week. The spit test. I have a lot of trouble spitting and filling up the cup. That, combined with my inability to see signs or anything else well at the testing site, makes getting these tests incredibly difficult for me. Spitting into a cup seems like a basic thing that everyone can do without thinking. Not me. I’m actually going to have to practice before we take another test — whenever that will be. I’m trying to see this as funny, because it is, but it’s hard to laugh when it’s so upsetting. Not just because I can’t spit, but because I can’t see — it’s a reminder of how bad my vision is getting.
All afternoon his tractor pulls a flat wagon with bales to the barn, then back to the waiting chopped field. It trails a feather of smoke. Down the block we bend with the season: shoes to polish for a big game, storm windows to batten or patch. And how like a field is the whole sky now that the maples have shed their leaves, too. It makes us believers—stationed in groups, leaning on rakes, looking into space. We rub blisters over billows of leaf smoke. Or stand alone, bagging gold for the cold days to come.
4 miles most of the franklin loop 68 degrees humidity: 81%
I love October. Today it looked like October but didn’t quite feel like it — almost, with crunchy, earthy-smelling leaves, but too warm. Scott and I walked to the river together then split up — I went north for the franklin loop, he went south for the ford loop. We met in St. Paul at the Marshall bridge and walked the rest of the way.
10 Things I Noticed
The leaves are thinning and more of the river is visible everywhere including the spot above the floodplain forest
2 rowers on the river
A class of kids and their teachers, biking on the trail, all wearing bright yellow vests
The guy that Scott and I used to see at the Y, walking around the track in the winter–this time he was walking near the trestle on the east side of the river
A guy pushing a stroller, walking a dog, taking up most of the path. When he noticed me approaching he moved over and muttered to himself, or to his kid, “I’m taking over the whole path”
Walking over the marshall ave/lake st bridge, looking down at the water: blue with a faint texture of ripples from the wind
The east side of the river has more color than the west side
The steps just past the trestle glowing with orange, red, and yellow leaves
The trail down to the Meeker Dam Dog Park glowing too, looking like THE fall scene, what I might describe to RJP as “so fall” in the same way I say certain trees are “so tree”
The trees at my favorite spot just up from the marshall bridge giving off an intense golden light
1 Thing I Didn’t Notice
Right after I met up with Scott, he called out “bald eagle!” I couldn’t see it before it flew away
I’m not sure what my theme will be for October — or, if I’ll have one. For now, here’s an October poem I want to memorize:
O hushed October morning mild, Thy leaves have ripened to the fall; Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild, Should waste them all. The crows above the forest call; Tomorrow they may form and go. O hushed October morning mild, Begin the hours of this day slow. Make the day seem to us less brief. Hearts not averse to being beguiled, Beguile us in the way you know. Release one leaf at break of day; At noon release another leaf; One from our trees, one far away. Retard the sun with gentle mist; Enchant the land with amethyst. Slow, slow! For the grapes’ sake, if they were all, Whose leaves already are burnt with frost, Whose clustered fruit must else be lost— For the grapes’ sake along the wall.
12 years ago today, my mom died. My memory of how terribly difficulty it was to lose her over 4 years from diagnosis to death has faded some. Or maybe it has just become such a part of me that I hardly notice it –a thickening of my skin, a callus? But even as I’m (too) used to the loss, the grief is there. It shows up in my poems, and in many of the poems I choose to spend time with. On the anniversary of her death, I’m using this space to archive a few of those poems as a way to remember her.
WAVES/ Sara Lynne Puotinen (a draft)
The waves will come my daughter’s therapist tells us. Let them come let them wash over you let them recede return know they’ll leave don’t care they’ll be back. Impossible to avoid unwise to fight learn to accept find ways to endure their intensity. When
my mom died it came up a lot from those already on the other side. They warned about the sudden rush being over- taken swept under consumed. Not always unwanted sometimes desired better than the alternative — nothing stretched far flat. At
my first open swim waves scare me choppywater whitecaps swells hard to breathe a loss of control but soon I become used to them and one summer I decide I like the way water rocks me rushes over and into me. Rough as a spin cycle gentle as a cradle a chance to fight back or surrender be scrubbed clean jolted to life able to hit a wall and not fall apart gain strength lose weight — bearings burdens — as I swim from one side to the other.
I wrote this poem this September as part of a series inspired by open swimming. The series is tentatively titled, Every Five, and is made up of five syllable lines which mimic my swim stroke rhythms (every five strokes, I take a breath).
The idea of grief being a different shore, on the other side of the water — either lake nokomis or the misssissippi river — comes up in my writing a lot. This morning (I’m writing this on Oct 1), I encountered a W.S. Merwin poem that invokes sides too. Having only read it a few times, I’m not sure I fully understand what his words mean, but I want to remember his poem and place it next to my words linking death and other sides/shores.
Travelling Together/ W.S. Merwin
If we are separated I will try to wait for you on your side of things
your side of the wall and the water and of the light moving at its own speed even on leaves that we have seen I will wait on one side
while a side is there
And here is one of my earlier poems, written 4 years ago, for a class on poetic forms. This one was for the week on elegies.
On the occasion of my mom’s 75th birthday/ Sara Lynne Puotinen
I wanted to take her on my run. I wanted her beside me as I traveled on the bluff above the Mississippi.
To talk about the trees or the poetry class I was taking or what she was weaving on her loom or where to plant zinnias in my backyard or the latest book about history she was reading or the wildflowers she knew the names of but I didn’t or when the Real Housewives would stop being a thing or why you can’t find a decent pair of jeans that aren’t skinny or how it was to be seventy-five when you always feel 17. But
I couldn’t. She’s dead. 8 years now. And when I’m running I can’t spare the energy needed to imagine her beside me. The most I can do is imagine she’s the shadow leading me or the runner I encounter on the path.
A few months ago running south on the river road I thought I saw her coming towards me—at least the her I like to remember—mid 50s short reddish hair (before she started dyeing it blonde to hide the gray) teal shorts muscular legs jogging so slow she is almost walking. I know it isn’t her but for less than a minute I allow myself to believe my mom is still alive never diagnosed with a death sentence never not running or walking or breathing. Then I remember
if those things hadn’t ended— mainly the breathing— I might not have started running or writing to reshape my grief.
Who would I be without my grief? Someone else. Someone whose Mom is still alive but maybe not someone who loves to run or someone who is writing a poem for their dead mom on the occasion of her 75th birthday.
I was thinking about my poem and my desire to walk or run by the gorge with my mom as I read this poem:
Do not care if you just arrive in your skeleton. Would love to take a walk with you. Miss you. Would love to make you shrimp saganaki. Like you used to make me when you were alive. Love to feed you. Sit over steaming bowls of pilaf. Little roasted tomatoes covered in pepper and nutmeg. Miss you. Would love to walk to the post office with you. Bring the ghost dog. We’ll walk past the waterfall and you can tell me about the after. Wish you. Wish you would come back for a while. Don’t even need to bring your skin sack. I’ll know you. I know you will know me even though. I’m bigger now. Grayer. I’ll show you my garden. I’d like to hop in the leaf pile you raked but if you want to jump in? I’ll rake it for you. Miss you standing looking out at the river with your rake in your hand. Miss you in your puffy blue jacket. They’re hip now. I can bring you a new one if you’ll only come by. Know I told you it was okay to go. Know I told you it was okay to leave me. Why’d you believe me? You always believed me. Wish you would come back so we could talk about truth. Miss you. Wish you would walk through my door. Stare out from the mirror. Come through the pipes.
Wow, what a poem? “Stare out from the mirror. Come through/the pipes.”
And here’s one more:
Profit/Loss Statement/ Harlan Bjornstad
In beautiful, spacious September, When pears in their boxes were golden and full, We laid her ashes in the Minnesota earth.
Two years on, September still tastes a little like ashes.
Though pears, I have noticed, have decidedly sweetened, And a number of trademark routines in this ambivalent month— Say, walking the woods shifting to the red end of the spectrum Or hearing the home crowd cheer at the homecoming game— Have flared into a new expository grace.
Despite, or because of, her death? It seems too cruel to say.
Nice morning for a run, although I wish it had been less humid and a few degrees cooler. Sunny, not too windy, a clear path. Was initially planning to run 8 miles and the double loop route, but felt too tired. Still pleased with 5.5 miles. Recited Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “Spring and Fall.”
10 Things I Noticed
The wind blowing the leaves off of the trees, sometimes looking like snow, sometimes a bird flying through the air
(started at 8:45) Too crowded near my street — 3 runners, 2 different groups of walkers with dogs
The welcoming oaks turning golden
Multiple towers of stones stacked on the ancient boulder
From the spot above the floodplain forest, the trees are not turning yet. Still green and airy and blocking a view of the river
The all-white bike hanging from the trestle, memorializing the death of a biker a decade or so ago, decorated — flowers or something else?
Nearing the franklin bridge, thinking I saw a rower on the river, then not finding it again as I ran across the bridge
Trying to see the paved path down below on the east river side but not being able to — too much green
Hearing big trucks beeping and bull-dozing down in the gorge
My grandfather killed a mule with a hammer, or maybe with a plank, or a stick, maybe it was a horse—the story varied in the telling. If he was planting corn when it happened, it was a mule, and he was plowing the upper slope, west of the house, his overalls stiff to the knees with red dirt, the lines draped behind his neck. He must have been glad to rest when the mule first stopped mid-furrow; looked back at where he’d come, then down to the brush along the creek he meant to clear. No doubt he noticed the hawk’s great leisure over the field, the crows lumped in the biggest elm on the opposite hill. After he’d wiped his hatbrim with his sleeve, he called to the mule as he slapped the line along its rump, clicked and whistled. My grandfather was a slight, quiet man, smaller than most women, smaller than his wife. Had she been in the yard, seen him heading toward the pump now, she’d pump for him a dipper of cold water. Walking back to the field, past the corncrib, he took an ear of corn to start the mule, but the mule was planted. He never cursed or shouted, only whipped it, the mule rippling its backside each time the switch fell, and when that didn’t work whipped it low on its side, where it’s tender, then cross-hatched the welts he’d made already. The mule went down on one knee, and that was when he reached for the blown limb, or walked to the pile of seasoning lumber; or else, unhooked the plow and took his own time to the shed to get the hammer. By the time I was born, he couldn’t even lift a stick. He lived another fifteen years in a chair, but now he’s dead, and so is his son, who never meant to speak a word against him, and whom I never asked what his father was planting and in which field, and whether it happened before he married, before his children came in quick succession, before his wife died of the last one. And only a few of us are left who ever heard that story.
I found this poem today and picked it for my theme of approximate for a few reasons: 1. The “short story” is never quite “true” with details changing slightly, 2. it’s never quite a story with nothing really happening, 3. it’s not really (not exactly) about killing the animal but something else — what? the grandfather, family, the narrator’s father’s relationship with his dad, memory, passing on/remembering stories? I like this poem. At first, it’s strange and unsatisfying and confusing, but slowly it gives me images and makes me think about farming and my grandparents and illness and aging and how we remember and tell stories (and why). I think the vagueness/fuzziness of this poem makes it more powerful to me than another poem would that was sharper, more exact, more direct with details and with conjuring a scene of the grandfather.
Listening to my Daily Mix 4 on Spotify as I write this, and Jackson Browne’s “Doctor, my eyes” just came on. Because of the title I was curious, so I looked up the lyrics and read them as I listened. I liked his rhythms and slant rhymes (would they be called slant?). Thinking more about how vision works here…
Doctor, my eyes/ Jackson Browne
Doctor, my eyes have seen the years And the slow parade of fears without crying Now I want to understand
I have done all that I could To see the evil and the good without hiding You must help me if you can
Doctor, my eyes Tell me what is wrong Was I unwise to leave them open for so long?
‘Cause I have wandered through this world And as each moment has unfurled I’ve been waiting to awaken from these dreams
People go just where they will I never noticed them until I got this feeling That it’s later than it seems
Doctor, my eyes Tell me what you see I hear their cries Just say if it’s too late for me
Doctor, my eyes They cannot see the sky Is this the prize For having learned how not to cry?
A quick run in the afternoon after dropping my wonderful sister off at the airport. Felt like summer — too hot! I struggled in the heat. Ran the first mile without headphones, then turned on a playlist for the second mile. I don’t remember much from the run. Lots of people on the trail.
Yes, a cool morning! Ran to the falls and back. Early enough that it wasn’t too crowded. It feels like fall. Lots of yellow, a little orange, some red. Felt strong. I’m writing this a day later, so I don’t remember much. Heard at least one woodpecker. The falls were falling — not rushing or gushing, but falling. Lots of people in the parking lot already, early on a Saturday morning. Saw 2 turkeys chilling by the side of the bike trail near the double bridge. Anything else? I don’t remember any deep thoughts or ideas for a poem.
I recited Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay” in my head as I ran, then recited it right after stopping. Here’s the recording, with my heavy breathing. I imagine my heart rate was still around 140 or 150.
Fall! Ran the ford loop (north to lake street bridge and across, south to ford ave bridge back across, north on west river road). Sunny, hardly any wind. Calm. Thought about stopping at the overlook on the st. paul side but didn’t. Next time, I hope. It’s hard for me to stop.
10 Things I Noticed
Running down through the short steep hill just before reaching the double bridge, a glowing orange tree
Some more slashes of red on the low-lying leaves–what are these trees? Basswood? Buckthorn? Looked it up and I think these leaves come from an ash tree
No leaves changing in the floodplain forest yet. All green
The river was calm and blue and empty
Water at Shadow Falls gushing
Mostly empty benches, often facing a wall of green — no view yet
The small, wooded path down from the Ford Bridge was thick with leaves, dark with only a small circle of sunshine at the bottom
Most of the shoreline was still green too
My feet, shshshushing on the sand on the side of the path
Two women walking, talking, one of them say sarcastically something like, “it’s just money”
Before I went out for my run, I memorized Robert Frost’s short poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay. Recited it in my head for much of the run. Tried to recite it into my phone at the end of my run and blanked on the fifth line — the word subsides — and gave up. More practice needed.
Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to gold. Her early leaf’s a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf, So Eden sank to grief. So dawn goes down to day. Nothing Gold can stay.
At first I didn’t like the ABABABAB rhyme scheme, but it grew on me. It helped to listen to a recording of Frost reciting it and to repeat to myself over and over again.
7.2 miles bohemian flats and back 56 degrees humidity: 82%
Cooler this morning. Hooray! Sunny, fall-like. Had been planning to run 8 or 9 miles today, almost all the way to downtown, but the road was closed, and the turn around point was less than 4 miles, so 7+ miles was all I did. I still feel good about it. I’m building up distance. My goal is to be able to do about 20-25 miles a week, with one long (about 10 mile) run.
10 Things I Noticed
The leaves are turning, mostly yellow, a few slashes of red, one all-orange tree
Under the Franklin Bridge I started smelling smoke–I think the walker up ahead of me had a cigarette in their hand
Lots of acorns littering the trail
Honking geese. I couldn’t see them, but I heard them, high in the sky as I ran near the turn off for the West Bank of the U
More geese taking over the walking part of the path beside the flats parking lot. A dozen or so. No honking or hissing, thankfully
The river sparkling in the sun and the silhouette of a person fishing below the bridge
A truck rumbling over the Washington Ave bridge as I crossed under it
The newly repaired steps, near the railroad trestle, inviting me to take the lower trail — too many bugs!
A walker listening to the news on the radio, a reporter mentioning Germany and riots or protests or something like that
The solid white line that separates the biking and walking path in the flats is wearing off in one stretch — will they repaint it this fall?
After finishing my run, I listened to a recording of me reciting the latest poem I am writing/revising. I listened to it about 5 times, and did a voice memo with my revisions: 1. make the rhyme of land stand sand be less obvious, 2. which flows more slowly, slowly spreads or spreads slowly?, and 3. change the word “land” at the end to rock. Here’s my updated version:
AFTERGLOW/ Sara Lynne Puotinen
Reaching the big beach for a final time land’s logic returns too soon. Unsteady I stand then drop down kneeling in wet sand waiting for tired legs to remember how to be vertical.
Muscles are grateful happy to be used. A delicious ache slowly spreads not pain or heat but glowing satisfaction. Me & Shoulders. We are pleased with our effort. We feel confident strong. Enough. More than enough. Enormous. Too big to fit in this lake. No longer wanting to be water formless fluid but the rock that contains it. Solid defined giving shape to the (its?) flow.
I’m also not sure of the punctuation or if I should change the line breaks. So far, I’ve been using 5 beats per line. How would it work if I changed where each link broke?
Fall weather please come back. I want my crisp, cool air. The run wasn’t too bad, but now that I’ve finished, I’m sweating a lot. Rain is coming in a few hours and everything will cool down. It’s already dark, ominous. Running above the river on the dirt trail just past the 38th street steps, everything was a slight blur. Dreamy. Unreal. The lack of light makes my already diminished central vision even more dim. Thought about how I couldn’t really see the path but didn’t worry about tripping because I know most of the dips and holes and rocks on this stretch and because even when my eyes don’t see the trail, my feet seem to. I glanced at the river but I don’t remember anything about it.
10 Things I Noticed
A walker with a white (or was it yellow?) sweatshirt wrapped around her waist pushing a stroller moving fast. It took me a few minutes to reach and then pass her. As I approached, I stared at her sweatshirt, one of the only bright things on this dark day
Another bright thing: a runner in a bright yellow shirt
Someone paused on the path, getting ready to start walking or running on the Winchell Trail?
The small section of the river trail at 42nd that was blocked off for sewer work last week is open again and so is the road
A tree leaning over the trail, not yet fallen, but looking like it might soon
Flashing lights from a construction/city truck and a man in a yellow vest standing next to it near the sidewalk
The damp dirt down in the oak savanna, not quite mucky or muddy yet
2 steep spots on the Winchell Trail: running down from the upper trail, right by 42nd street and a giant boulder and running up the short stretch near Folwell
An approaching walker who turned down on an even lower dirt trail before I reached them
The voice of a kid up above me as I ran down towards the mesa
Thinking about my growing number of swimming poems, some re-edited version of old poems, some new. My tentative title for the collection: Every Five (as in breathing every five strokes). All poems will play around with 5 as part of the structure — 5 beats or 5 lines or ?. Scott suggested I do something with iambic pentameter (5 feet of one short one long beat). A sonnet? Maybe a love poem to my swimming body/muscles/shoulders? Hmm…not sure if I’m feeling that.
Here’s a poem for the month’s theme of the approximate. This one is taking up the idea of almost, not quite or not exactly. It’s a poem that features an object — a cucumber — but it is not about the cucumber, but something else.
The snow is knee-deep in the courtyard and still coming down hard: it hasn’t let up all morning. We’re in the kitchen. On the table, on the oilcloth, spring — on the table there’s a very tender youn cucumber, pebbly and fresh as a daisy. We’re sitting around the table staring at it. It softly lights up our faces, and the very air smells fresh. We’re sitting around the table staring at it, amazed thoughtful optimistic. We’re as if in a dream. On the table, on the oilcloth, hope — on the table, beautiful days, a cloud seeded with a green sun, an emerald crowd impaties and on its way, loves blooming openly — on the the table, there on the oilcloth, a very tender young
cucumber, pebbly and fresh as a daisy. The snow is knee-deep in the courtyard and coming down hard. It hasn’t let up all morning.
This poem and the idea of not exactly, reminds me of listening to the radio in the car yesterday with Scott and RJP. First, the sappy song, “Make it with You” by BREAD came on, then “Hot-blooded” by Foreigner. Both of them sung by someone who is trying to seduce the listener. Scott pointed out how the first song is much more indirect/oblique in its suggestions, while the second is very blunt. I started thinking about how the indirect song is a form of the approximate, the almost, or Emily Dickinson’s idea of the slant. It implies and circles (or what the poet Kaveh Akbar might call orbits and I might say in thinking about my swimming this summer, loops) around the actual meaning, never quite saying it. For Akbar, I think, orbiting is often because we can’t ever fully get at the meaning, while for BREAD it’s an unwillingness to reveal exactly what they mean in order to get what they want. One of the swimming poems I want to revise is about loops and looping around the lake. Maybe I can play around with loop as orbiting or circling, never quite getting there, always near but not quite.
This reminded me of another approximate phrase: close but no cigar. Looked up the origins and several sources gave this explanation:
It comes from traveling fairs and carnivals from the 1800s. The prizes back then were not giant-sized stuffed teddy bears, they were usually cigars or bottles of whiskey. If you missed the prize at a carnival game, the carnie folk would shout, “Close! But no cigar!”
Ran with Scott in Austin. It felt much warmer than 67 degrees. Very humid. The gate was open, so we ran through the county fairgrounds. Scott and the kids made it here, but I was on my trip up north, so I missed it. No cheese curds for me this summer. At the far end of the fairgrounds, dozen of geese had were congregating in a treeless, empty field. Lots of geese in Austin, lots of geese up here in Minneapolis too. Sometimes, the sky is filled with their honking. Love that sound, and love this time of year.
Found this poem by Rumi on twitter the other day. I think this fits with my theme of approximate:
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing is a field. I’ll meet you there.
What a storm early this morning! So much wind and flashes of light around 2:30 am. Running this morning, I expected to see big branches down everywhere. Not too many (any?) on the minneapolis side, but on the st. paul side they had to shut down the right lane and the sidewalk so a crew could clear all the debris. I saw that the road was closed right at the spot where I turn, so I assumed I would be able to get through. Nope. Had to turn around and run past a long line of cars that had probably watched me running towards the closed sidewalk and wondered why I kept going. Oh well. Turning around added a small bit of distance to my run, which was a bonus.
10 Things I Noticed
The squeak of my shoes running over wet leaves and pulverized acorns
Little branches, some still covered in green leaves, some bare, littered all over the trail
From my view above on the bridge: a streak of muck/silt? in the river near the st. paul shore
No rowers or roller skiers
A radio playing near the ravine by Shadow Falls. I wondered if the song was coming from down in the ravine or on a bike across the ravine
The more than trickling, not quite gushing, of falls at shadow falls
some fall color: a few yellow trees, a slash of red
someone stopping at the memorial just above the lake street bridge, reading the signs or taking pictures or both
a backpacked kid biking with his dad, heading to school
A shirtless runner speeding past me, almost wheezing
word of the day: majusculation
The act or practice of beginning a word with a capital letter when it is not the beginning of a sentence.
Here’s a poem for the theme of approximate:
[I remember partially]/ Jane Huffman
I remember partially
My searching Party going out in search
Of my own Life my lantern light
Like water sloshing Down the front
Of me and calling My own name
Into the forest dusk A partial sound
A painful braying Syllable
That grounded Like a current
In the dirt a yard In front of me
But I resorted to it Like a witness does
I was planning to swim this afternoon, but the buoys are gone. Lake swimming is officially over. Sad, but it’s time to focus on fall and winter running!
Fall! It doesn’t quite look like fall yet, but it’s starting to feel like it. A solid, wonderful run around the river.
1 Thing I Noticed
Running over the marshall/lake street bridge back to Minneapolis, I looked down at the river. Near the shore, on the St. Paul side, some towering trees were casting a shadow on the root beer colored water. As I left the shore, the water lightened to a brownish green (or greenish brown?). Looking downstream, the river gradually turned blue as it met the sky. A single rower with a bright orange shirt was rowing across from minneapolis to st. paul. Perpendicular to shore instead of parallel. At the last minute, just before leaving the bridge, I remembered to check the trees lining each shore to see if they were changing colors. Not yet, but soon.
Returning to the theme of approximate (sort of). Thinking about the idea of exact or definite as leading to understanding and the goal of making sense of things. The amazing poet Carl Phillips — I’m reading his collection of essays on craft, Daring, right now too — tweeted this poem the other day:
May Day Midnight/ Michael Palmer
In the light of day perhaps all of this will make sense.
But have we come this far, come this close to death, just to make sense?
I love this poem, especially it’s use of just in the last line. Making sense is important/necessary, but it’s not all we can/should do. How does the approximate, almost or not quite, the not exact or fixed or finished, enable us to do more (or less) than make sense?
8 miles lake nokomis and back 58 degrees humidity: 79%
The 8 mile run this week was much harder than last week’s. I am wiped out. Ran 6.5 miles without stopping, then walked for a few minutes before finishing up the run. Running all the way to lake nokomis and back seems farther than looping around the river.
10 Things I Noticed
The buoys are still up at the big beach
There is orange paint outlining the cracks in the path near nokomis avenue
The creek is still very low
Under the duck bridge, on the other side of the creek from the trail, a little kid was singing the melody of a rock song that I can’t quite remember
It was windier at the lake and the water looked choppy
The water was gushing at the 42nd street sewer pipe
A giant monarch butterfly sign was on the fence at the lake nokomis rec center playground–left over from the festival this weekend
The purple and yellow flowers near the parking lot of minnehaha falls are in full bloom
So are the zinnias in the yard with the cat who thinks she’s queen of the block (and is)
4 IKEA kids plastic chairs left in the boulevard — at least 2 were powder blue
This list took me a while. It was hard to remember anything from the run because I’m so tired. Will I be up exhausted all day?
Still thinking about fish and the fish in me and my poem borrowing some lines from Anne Sexton. I started the run intent on these topics and managed to think a bit about Sexton’s line “the real fish did not mind” but soon forgot all about it as the run got harder.
From some tweets I read, I thought today was Mary Oliver’s birthday. Double-checked, it was on the 10th. Still, her recent birthday inspired me to find a fish poem by her to post here:
The first fish I ever caught would not lie down quiet in the pail but flailed and sucked at the burning amazement of the air and died in the slow pouring off of rainbows. Later I opened his body and separated the flesh from the bones and ate him. Now the sea is in me: I am the fish, the fish glitters in me; we are risen, tangled together, certain to fall back to the sea. Out of pain, and pain, and more pain we feed this feverish plot, we are nourished by the mystery.
So many poems about fish are about catching them or eating them. I want more poems that aren’t about fish as food.
I’m interested in contrasting Oliver’s idea about consuming the fish as a way to become one with it and the water with Sexton’s idea about the fish in us escaping. Fish going out instead of in. What does this mean? Not entirely sure yet, but I think it might help me figure out what to do with the next part of the poem and what I might be trying to say about “the fish in me” and its dis/connection from real fish.
Ran with Scott north on the river road trail to the trestle, through Bracket Park, then over to Dogwood Coffee. Great weather for a run. Not too hot or humid, hardly any wind, overcast. Saw Dave, the Daily Walker and after I called out to him, he greeted both us, remembering Scott’s name. Impressive, considering he’s only met Scott once, and it was when I introduced them while running by quickly about 2 years ago! Noticed a few red leaves. Heard the rowers below us. No geese (yet) or wild turkeys or large groups of runners. Some bikers and walkers and signs for an event by the river yesterday: “free rowing” and “free canoe rides.” It would have been fun to try the rowing. Oh well.
Here’s an updated version of the poem I posted yesterday. I’ve fit it into my five beat form. Not sure if it works yet, and I’d like to add more.
At the lake the fish in me escapes
All winter she waits barely alive iced under skin. By june restless. Together we enter the cold water but before the first stroke she’s gone reborn in endless blue remembering fins forgetting lungs legs january.
Another chance to swim in the lake this morning! Every swim now is a bonus. Much less choppy today but still not smooth. Overcast. I kept seeing silver streaks below me, most likely fish. I’ve been writing/revising some poetry lately about being in and one with the lake and the fish, but it takes me a few minutes to get over my fear of fish below. Most of them are small, probably all of them are harmless, but there are a few bigger fish that could bump into me. It’s a bit ridiculous, I suppose. It didn’t stop me from swimming, although it might have been the reason I only swam 1 mile and not 2. As I felt a little panic in the first loop I thought, how could I ever swim in the ocean or across a bigger lake, if these silver streaks are freaking me out? Then I remember an essay I read by Lauren Groff about swimming in the ocean and how the fear of the unknown below you and learning how to manage it or embrace it is part of the point. I was unsettled, but I still swam, so maybe I could swim in the ocean…
10 Things I Noticed
A seagull perched on a white buoy, flying away only seconds before I reached it
Small undulations in the water, sometimes looking like waves, sometimes something else (a fish?a stick? another swimmer?)
A few small vines brushing my shoulder, a leaf touching my finger
A family of 3 on a kayak or a canoe or a paddle board — I couldn’t tell with my eyes half in, half out of the water
Drums beating across the lake from the Monarch Butterfly Festival
A little girl repeatedly singing while in the water, “Swim with me in the sea!” as I waded out from the beach
Fluffy, shredded clouds covering the mostly blue sky
A plane flying fast overhead
The bubbles from my hand as it entered the water and pushed down below my torso
The dude standing on some motorized paddle board/hoverboard, speeding across the lake after my swim — a strange, unreal sight
Getting back to the fish below me, before I went swimming, I was working with one of my favorite lines from Anne Sexton’s wonderful poem, “The Nude Swim:”
All the fish in us had escaped for a minute. The real fish did not mind. We did not disturb their personal life. We calmly trailed over them and under them
As I was swimming, pretending to be a fish for 30 minutes, I wondered what the real fish below me thought. Were there any real fish there? If so, what did I look like to them, up above on the surface? Did my form cast a shadow below? In the turgid water, could they even sense me above?
In a document named “fragmentsforswimminglatefall,” I found the start of a poem based on the first bit from Sexton’s poem: All the fish in us/ had escaped for a minute.”
At the lake I let loose the fish in me all winter she has waited barely alive under the surface of my icy skin now in june she is restless together we enter the cold water before I take my first stroke she is gone reborn in endless blue remembering her fins forgetting january
This poem needs some work, but I like the idea of letting loose the fish in me.
Felt a little warmer today even though it was only 61 degrees. Sunny, quiet. A strange time, not quite fall but not still summer. Running south on the river road trail, I noticed a few slashes of red on the low lying leaves. It’s coming. I love this time of year and the turning of the leaves.
10 Things I Noticed
The sewer at 44th had barely a trickle, the one at 42nd was a steady stream
More uneven, shifting sidewalk on the paved part of the Winchell Trail than I remember. Entire slabs settling and separating
A spazzy squirrel darted but didn’t cross my path. Climbed a tree instead
Kids’ voices drifting down from the upper path
The first part of the Winchell Trail that has rubbling asphalt was littered with leaves–signs of fall!
An unleashed white dog, then an unleashed black dog, then 2 or 3 humans, crowding the narrow, leaning path
Someone walking in the middle of the closed road
Voices, then a woman holding a child at the edge of the gravel path near the ravine
The sign warning of a slight ramp at the end of the path detour near Beckettwood
swim: 1 mile lake nokomis main beach 78 degrees
The buoys are still up! Warm but windy. Swimming into big(gish) waves heading south, riding on big(gish) swells heading back north. Saw lots of flashes below me. Fish or slants of light? Another metal detector dude was out there. He was hard core, in a wetsuit, choppy water up to his shoulders, and had a buoy to anchor him. I wonder what he found? Encountered one other swimmer taking on the waves and talked to someone about to swim at the beach when I was done. A good swim.
Other things I remember: A row of seagulls was at the edge of the water; a few sunbathers were on the beach; lots of kayaks and canoes and paddle boards with people standing and on their knees; the waves too high to see much of the other side or the beach.