oct 29/RUN

3.2 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, south/river road trail, south/edmund, north
33 degrees

A nice run on a windy, gray morning. Still a few patches of snow on the grass. Most of the leaves off the trees. Everything brown and golden and rusty red and burnt orange. I love this time of year. Late fall. Everything almost bare but not yet covered in snow. Clear views of the river. Noticed my favorite late fall view, just past the oak savanna. Beautiful. I don’t remember seeing any bikers, just walkers and runners and one roller skier getting ready to start skiing up the hill on Edmund. No dogs or squirrels or coyotes.

Running past a modern house on Edmund–the house that was built last year on the extra lot next to a huge traditional 1980s-style house that was on the market for over a year but didn’t sell because it was too big and outdated and expensive (asking over a million)–I noticed some loud noises and white powder or smoke or something coming from the garage. Then I ran by a truck with the words “concrete specialists” on it and I guessed they were doing something with concrete. Maybe a poured concrete countertop? I hope so. I’d like one of those.

Listened to an audio book–The Alchemist’s Daughter–so I didn’t think about much or hear hardly anything except the narrator. Briefly I thought about how dreamy everything looks, all fuzzy and out of focus as I run. Partly because of the light, partly the motion, but mostly my vision. I want to write about this as a mood–dreamy? fuzzy? blurry? I was thinking I’d like to incorporate the line from a Diane Seuss poem, “the world italicized.”

Only a few days until Halloween and then election. Can it please be over? Can we please start trusting science and doctors and thinking again? f

oct 27/RUN

3.2 miles
turkey hollow
17 degrees/ feels like 10

Coldest day of the season. Double tights + green shirt + orange sweatshirt + vest + buff + stocking cap. Sunny. I must have glanced at the river but I don’t remember what it looked like. Too busy trying to avoid other runners and walkers. A wonderful morning. I like (love?) this cold. Clears out the sinuses and keeps me from getting overheated. Running on Edmund, heading back home, I saw my shadow. It was nice to run with her. Thought about another mood ring poem: doubt. Had some ideas as I moved–something about how the doubt is related to the awe and the brain’s remarkable ability to enable me to keep seeing. It’s a relief but when I can still see I question whether my vision is really that bad. I doubt myself. I want to think more about doubt and what it means today. Here’s a poem to get me started.

My Doubt/ Jane Hirshfield – 1953-

I wake, doubt, beside you,
like a curtain half-open.

I dress doubting,
like a cup
undecided if it has been dropped.

I eat doubting,
work doubting,
go out to a dubious cafe with skeptical friends.

I go to sleep doubting myself,
as a herd of goats
sleep in a suddenly gone-quiet truck.

I dream you, doubt,
nightly—
for what is the meaning of dreaming
if not that all we are while inside it
is transient, amorphous, in question?

Left hand and right hand,
doubt, you are in me,
throwing a basketball, guiding my knife and my fork.
Left knee and right knee,
we run for a bus,
for a meeting that surely will end before we arrive.

I would like
to grow content in you, doubt,
as a double-hung window
settles obedient into its hidden pulleys and ropes.

I doubt I can do so:
your own counterweight governs my nights and my days.

As the knob of hung lead holds steady
the open mouth of a window,
you hold me,
my kneeling before you resistant, stubborn,
offering these furious praises
I can’t help but doubt you will ever be able to hear.

oct 26/BIKERUN

bike: 15 minutes
bike stand, basement

The first time biking since last April. Left my bike on the stand all summer, didn’t bike outside at all, partly because of the pandemic, partly because of my vision. My tires were totally flat. Started watching Enola Holmes. Not sure yet if I like it.

run: 1.75 miles
treadmill, basement

It wasn’t too cold or icy or windy outside but I felt like staying inside so I ran downstairs. Listened to a time capsule playlist on Spotify: She Don’t Use Jelly; Sabotage; Kiss; Freedom. If I would have kept going I could have also heard Cake’s I will Survive and Deee-Lite’s Groove is in the Heart. Oh well. Next time. I don’t remember thinking about much as I ran. My mind was shut off. I enjoyed the repetition and the movement and the absence of everything else.

For some reason, I’m feeling tired and unmotivated today. Maybe it’s because I’ve finished five mood ring poems and I’m not sure if I want to write anymore. I’m very happy with them. Sometime soon I’d like to write about the process of creating them.

oct 25/RUN

3.15 miles
turkey hollow
28 degrees
snow flurries

Another colder day with some snow flurries. Ran by turkey hollow. Forgot to check for turkeys. Distracted by a dog with its owner on the far sidewalk. I do remember wondering (again) where the turkeys go in the snow. Are they up in the trees? Listened to a playlist as I ran. Started on the trail right above the river but when I encountered some people, crossed over to the grass between the river road and edmund. Cold, hard, packed dirt with some snow in the ruts. Not too difficult to run on. Yesterday’s snow was wet and steady, today’s was intermittent flurries swirling in the wind and in my face as I ran north. Noticed at least one bike but no fat tires or roller skiers. No groups of runners. No peloton on the road. Anything else? Noticed that I had a clearer view of the Oak Savanna. I wonder if one of my favorite winter views is clear? It’s the spot where the hill in the Savanna slopes down and suddenly the river appears.

Surfaces I Ran On

  • clear sidewalk
  • cold, hard road–I could hear my feet loudly striking the pavement
  • yellow leaves slightly slick with snow
  • green leaves, thick and soft
  • rutted, hard dirt
  • brittle grass

Watching the Vuelta a España with Scott. Today Primož Roglič crapped out on the final climb and lost the red jersey. Bummer. So strange to be watching a bike race while it’s snowing. It looked very wet and cold for the cyclists as they climbed the mountains.

Here’s a poem I discovered this morning. So lovely with such quiet grace.

Beginning/ JAMES WRIGHT

The moon drops one or two feathers into the field.   
The dark wheat listens.
Be still.
Now.
There they are, the moon’s young, trying
Their wings.
Between trees, a slender woman lifts up the lovely shadow
Of her face, and now she steps into the air, now she is gone
Wholly, into the air.
I stand alone by an elder tree, I do not dare breathe
Or move.
I listen.
The wheat leans back toward its own darkness,
And I lean toward mine.

oct 24/RUN

3.15 miles
river road trail, south/edmund, north/32nd st, west/43rd ave, south
28 degrees/ feels like 24

This weather! My favorite. Not much wind. Clear sky, clear path. Just below freezing. So much easier to breathe. I felt tired this morning and wasn’t sure if I should run or not. So glad I did. Noticed the river today; clear but no sheets of ice yet. Smelled smoke from a fireplace and some hot chocolate. Saw a fat tire heading down to the Winchell Trail, a roller skier who didn’t move over far enough (or at all) on the upper trail. Most of the leaves are off of the trees in the boulevard. Heard some kids playing at the playground by Cooper School. Admired some bright yellow leaves as I ran over them in the street. Anything else? Didn’t hear any geese or crows. No near collisions with spazzy squirrels. No dogs or large groups of runners or loud talkers.

Thinking more about my latest mood ring poem and what name to give it. Initially it was acceptance, then persistence. I mentioned resilience to Scott and he liked it. I’m thinking about the last line of the inner poem: ” Hear the water slowly seep through the limestone down to the river.” I see myself as the water, not the limestone. Not slowly being worn away until I no longer exist but continuing to find a way to the river, no matter what obstacle is in my way. This seems more like persistence than resilience but I’m not sure. I looked it up in the online OED and found this helpful definition:

5. The quality or fact of being able to recover quickly or easily from, or resist being affected by, a misfortune, shock, illness, etc.; robustness; adaptability.

The image of the water eroding the limestone doesn’t seem to fit here. I think it would be better if I used another gorge image: the vegetation that perpetually finds a way to poke through fence slats or bust through asphalt. Yes, I like this better.

Returning to my discussion of limestone, I claimed that I see myself more like water than the limestone. Not always, and that’s not a bad thing. Sometimes I’d like to be the limestone. The eroding of limestone could be like the losing of the self (hubris, worries, being overly attached to status and material things, fear of death, false beliefs in control and invincibility). Not sure if that makes sense, but I think it’s the start for a different poem.

oct 23/RUN

3.2 miles
turkey hollow
33 degrees
wet snow

It was snowing, I think. Or was it raining? So wet it was hard to tell. Just on the edge. I didn’t mind. Another day with hardly anyone out on the trail. Wore a baseball cap today to shield my eyes. No sharp shards only soft, wet drops. I remember hearing at least one crow cawing but forgot to look down at the river. I wonder if there were any chunks of ice on it?

Ran past turkey hollow and searched for turkeys. Where do they go when it snows? Do they live under the branches of an evergreen tree? Under the bridge? I just looked it up and discovered that wild turkeys roost in trees at night. Which trees? Where? Now I’m imagining taking a walk at night and passing under a tree loaded with turkeys. What a strange sight that would be!

The sidewalk was wet but not slick or snow-covered. I thought about the inner part of a mood ring poem I’m doing about acceptance. Trying to build on my line: Sink deep into sensations other than sight. I though about feeling the river or smelling it? Tasting the air seasoned with mulching leaves? Striking the soft ground?

(a few hours later) Here’s a completed draft of my acceptance mood ring. I can’t decide if acceptance is the right word for describing this mood.

oct 22/RUN

2.15 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, south
33 degrees
tiny and sharp snow

Rain and snow coming later this morning so I tried to get out early before it started. Ended up running most of it in the snow–small, sharp pellets that felt like little knives on my face. I wish I would have worn my visor or glasses. I was concerned that the snow might cut my eyes–although it doesn’t really matter for me because my retina is already pretty thin and damaged. (Writing this in my front office, I suddenly saw a flash. Was that lightening? Then thunder. Holy shit. Snow then thunder and lightening. What’s next?)

I was the only fool out there and I loved it. I didn’t mind the weather, except for the sharp shards on my face. The rest of me was completely covered and warm. I didn’t have to worry about avoiding people. It wasn’t slippery. If all winter running could be like this–the uncrowded, not slippery paths–I would be happy.

It was dark and out of focus and other-worldly outside. And loud! The falling snow or freezing rain or sleet or whatever it was was so loud. When I got home, I did a recording.

falling snow, 22 october

I ran past the aspen eyes and by the house that finally sold and several trees still covered in orange leaves. I recited the excerpt from October by May Swenson that I memorized a few days ago. Favorite lines:

See, along the scarcely gliding stream
the blanched, diminished, ragged
swamp and woods the sun still spills into

and

Reversing his perch, he says one
“Chuck.”

It’s fun to say the word, “chuck.”

oct 21/RUN

2.1 miles
river road trail, south/42nd st/edmund, north
35 degrees

7.9 inches of heavy wet snow yesterday. I wasn’t excited about it but I also wasn’t upset. This morning, after shoveling the front sidewalk and the deck, I took Delia for a walk. Wonderful. No wind. Above freezing. Quiet, beautiful snow. Fresh cold air. We walked 2 slow blocks and I breathed deeply and realized that I love winter and being outside in this air, able to breathe without worry or panic. I felt calm, relaxed. Winter will help me get through all of this.

A few hours later, I went out for a short run. Running this winter will be more difficult. Narrower paths with no where to go when others are coming. I will have to start wearing a mask or my yak trax all the time and run in the snow. Or maybe I’ll just run earlier? The path was clear; they must have plowed it this morning. I don’t remember looking at the river or the snow. Did I? I had planned to recite the poem I memorized yesterday but I forgot. On my walk, I noticed a huge limb (or limbs?) of a tree bent down, leaning onto the street, barely hanging on. I forgot to check if it had fallen or been moved as I headed back from my run.

Today’s October Surprise

Yesterday’s snow decorated our backyard trees, leaving thick slabs of white on the limbs. It was especially pretty on the crabapple tree which is loaded to its very tips with tiny red apples that up until a few years ago, when RJP figured out what they actually are, we thought were cherries. The red, covered in white snow, made the entire tree glow pink. And not just to me with my limited color vision. I asked my son and he saw the pink too. Very cool.

oct 20/RUN

3.15 miles
2 trails!
31 degrees

One last run before the snow comes. We’re supposed to get 4-7 inches of snow today. Snow can come early here, but never this much this early. In fact, if we get 4 inches, it will be a new record. What will the trails/roads be like this winter? In the winter I always run on the trails because Minneapolis Parks does a great job of clearing them right away, usually much faster than the road or sidewalks. How crowded will the trails be this winter? I might have to start running with my mask.

Hardly anyone out on the trail this morning. I decided to go for it and head down to the Winchell Trail after turning around and heading north. I only encountered one other runner and no walkers. It was gorgeous, especially the stretch between the 44th street parking lot and 42nd street. Wow! There the leaf-covered trail hugs the side of the bluff. I had to focus on the uneven trail most of the time, but once or twice I quickly glanced down the steep, high bank to the river. Nearing 42nd, the trail curves up and out and at one point you feel like you could run straight off the edge. Amazing! I love this trail. I wish it were wider and longer.

I recited the first half of the October poem by May Swenson I posted yesterday as I ran. I struggled to remember the last line about the roots. I never could so, when I stopped running, I looked it up on my phone and then repeated it several times: “sprawled roots exposed. sprawled roots exposed. sprawled roots exposed.” I’m a little rusty with the memorizing since I haven’t done it in a few months.

Update on the ultra marathon I wrote about yesterday. It is a World Championship and the US runners were competing against other countries virtually. The 2 US runners made it to loop 67 (283 miles). Heading out for loop 68, Harvey Lewis was hallucinating so much that he turned around and came back. Courtney Dauwalter completed the loop and won. Sabbe Karel, a runner for Belgium, eventually won the race completing 75! loops, which is 312 miles or almost an entire marathon more that either US runner. Holy shit. How can a body run that much almost continuously?

In honor of the impending snow (which I am mostly okay with because I love snow and winter and cold, fresh air and watching fluffy flakes from my window and running through it and listening to it crunch under my feet), here’s an Emily Dickinson poem I found a few days ago:

Snow flakes. (45)/ Emily Dickinson

I counted till they danced so
Their slippers leaped the town –
And then I took a pencil
To note the rebels down –
And then they grew so jolly
I did resign the prig –
And ten of my once stately toes
Are marshalled for a jig!

I had to look it up. Prig is a fussy, self-righteous, stuffy person who is too proper to enjoy snow. Dickinson’s idea of snow as irresistibly delightful reminds me of one of my favorite Robert Frost poems:

Dust of Snow/ Robert Frost

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

oct 19/RUN

4.1 miles
river road path, north/seabury and edmund, south
33 degrees

Saw a few flurries as I ran. More coming tomorrow. Up to 6 inches. What? A nice run above the gorge. I had a clear view of the river, but I don’t remember what it looked like. Too busy admiring the bare trees and thinking about how my chest hurt slightly. Not much, just a small, dull ache. Off and on for the past five days. Smelled the toast, always slightly over-toasted, at Longfellow Grill. Heard one dark barking below me on the Winchell Trail. Imagined it running gleefully through the leaves. Was it barking at a squirrel? A tree? A swirling leaf?

Right now I’m tracking this hardcore ultra marathon taking place in Bell Buckle, Tennessee called Big’s Backyard Ultra. The runners–they started with 14–run a loop of 4. 16 miles every hour for as long as they can. Once they can’t finish the loop in an hour, they’re out. Right now, there are 2 runners left and they have just completed 216.66 miles and 52 laps. I don’t usually pay attention to ultra marathons but last year I discovered Courtney Dauwalter and I started following her on Instagram. It’s fascinating to check every hour and see how she’s doing. I can’t imagine running for that long, but I can appreciate the strange other-worldly space it would put you in for the 48+ hours you’re moving or eating or trying to quickly rest before starting again. At what point do you start hallucinating? I think she’s talked about having strange visions before. I wonder how long they will be able to go? And when the second to last person drops out, will the last person standing stop or try to make it to 300 miles? Very hard core. At some point in the past, I might have judged something like this, but now I’m just fascinated–but not nearly enough to try something like this.

Just now I was scrolling through my various feeds, trying to find a poem to post. But then I remembered I already have so many poems posted on here that I love and haven’t spent enough time with. Here’s an excerpt from one of my favorite October poems:

October/ May Swenson

7

Now and then, a red leaf riding
the slow flow of gray water.
From the bridge, see far into
the woods, now that limbs are bare,
ground thick-littered. See,
along the scarcely gliding stream,
the blanched, diminished, ragged
swamp and woods the sun still
spills into. Stand still, stare
hard into bramble and tangle,
past leaning broken trunks,
sprawled roots exposed. Will
something move?—some vision
come to outline? Yes, there—
deep in—a dark bird hangs
in the thicket, stretches a wing.
Reversing his perch, he says one
“Chuck.” His shoulder-patch
that should be red looks gray.
This old redwing has decided to
stay, this year, not join the
strenuous migration. Better here,
in the familiar, to fade.

I want to memorize this excerpt today. Is there any way that I could use this bit as inspiration for my mood poem about acceptance, accommodation? I will try!

oct 18/RUN

3 miles
river road trail, south/42nd st/edmund, north/33rd st, west/43rd ave, south
31 degrees

Below freezing this morning. Sunny. Clear, uncrowded paths. A delightful view of the gorge. The wind has done a wonderful job of taking down most of the leaves so I could see the sparkling river and the bluff on the other side. I don’t think I will ever tire of that view, especially when the sun is shining through the few remaining leaves, making everything glow yellowish-orange. Running on Edmund, I admired an amazing, almost fully leaved tree. At first glance, it looked light orange to me, but gradually it looked more yellow. What color was it actually? Since I don’t have many cone cells left–the photoreceptor cells in the macula that enable us to see color–my colors are sometimes strange. Duller, off. You might see yellow when I see pink, gold when I see green. Recited a few Emily Dickinson poems as I moved. I need to start reciting poems again. How many of the poems I memorized this summer do I still remember?

The Precision of Pain and the Blurriness of Joy/ Yehuda Amichai

16
The precision of pain and the blurriness of joy. I’m thinking
how precise people are when they describe their pain in a doctor’s office.
Even those who haven’t learned to read and write are precise:
“This one’s a throbbing pain, that one’s a wrenching pain,
this one gnaws, that one burns, this is a sharp pain
and that––a dull one. Right here. Precisely here,
yes, yes.” Joy blurs everything, I’ve heard people say
after night of love and feasting, “It was great,
I was in seventh heaven.” Even the spaceman who floated
in outer space, tethered to a spaceship, could say only, “Great,
wonderful, I have no words.”
The blurriness of joy and the precision of pain––
I want to describe, with a sharp pain’s precision, happiness
and blurry joy. I learned to speak among the pains.

Oh, I love this poem and the idea of finding more precise ways to describe/catalog joy. Makes me think of how I want to describe, in more specific words, the joy I feel when looking out at the gorge (and why). It also makes me think of Ross Gay and his book of delights and Eula Biss and her essay on the pain scale.

Even as I like this poem and the idea of precision, particularly in terms of giving attention to joy in the same way we do pain, I’m also thinking about precision as cutting, sharp, violent. Blurriness as soft, less harsh, spreading wider, gentle.

(a few hours later)

Wow, the poetry people on twitter are really delivering today. Here’s another great poem that I don’t (yet) understand, but I love the topic of the other side of the river:

Wrong Side of the River/ Stanley Plumly

I watched you on the wrong side
of the river, waving. You were trying
to tell me something. You used both hands
and sort of ran back and forth.
as if to say look behind you, look out
behind you
. I wanted to wave back.
But you began shouting and I didn’t
want you to think I understood.
So I did nothing but stand still,
thinking that’s what to do on the wrong side
of the river. After a while you did too.
We stood like that for a long time. Then
I raised a hand, as if to be called on,
and you raised a hand, as if to the same question. 

oct 17/RUN

3 miles
2 school loop
40 degrees

A little warmer. Sunnier. Too bright for me to see much. Had a few close encounters with people and while trying to avoid them ran out in front of a car. I didn’t hear any brakes squealing or drivers yelling so it must not have been too close. Need to be more careful next time. I don’t like running on the weekends as much anymore. Too crowded. Still, had some nice moments being outside, glancing over at the bare trees above the gorge. Running over leaves, feeling (but not hearing because I was listening to a playlist) them crunch.

This past summer I bought Richard Siken’s War of the Foxes which has one of my favorite poems in it, “Lovesong of the Square Root of Negative One.” Here’s another wonderful poem from that collection. Like Lovesong, it has the line about “the hammer as a hammer.” And, like Lovesong, there is much about it I don’t understand.

Logic/Richard Siken

A clock is a machine. A gear is a tool. There is rarely
any joy in a frictionless place, so find your inner viscosity.
The mind says viscosity is resistance to flow. The body
puts glue on a twig and catches a bird. Glue is a tool,
unless you are a bird. If you are a bird, then glue is
an inconvenience. A tool does work. A bird flies away
from danger and lands where it can. All thinking is
comparison. A bear is a weapon, a bear claw is a pastry.
A bear trap, if you are a bear, is an inconvenience.
Logic is boring because it works. Being unreasonable is
exciting. Machines have knobs you can turn if you
want to. A hammer is a hammer when it hits the nail.
A hammer is not a hammer when it is sleeping. I woke
up tired of being the hammer. There’s a dream in the
space between the hammer and the nail: the dream of
about-to-be-hit, which is a bad dream, but the nail will
take the hit if it gets to sleep inside the wood forever.
I taped a sword to my hand when I was younger. This
is an argument about goals.

Started work on a new mood ring poem. This one is about the mood of acceptance. Here’s what I have so far:

Instead of getting angry or searching for experimental cures or finding second opinions I’m listening harder. Memorizing the path. Mentally mapping the potholes the dips the cracks where it twists to the right too close to the road where it narrows on the left. I’m searching for better words to describe what is happening. I’m switching to the pithiness of poetry with sparser pages. More room to ruminate. Less effort on the eyes. Slowing down.  Breathing and accepting not knowing instantly. Letting go of what I won’t ever see on my favorite tv show. Avoiding commericals and memes. I’m finding more light brighter lightbulbs. Asking for help. Not pretending to see things that I don’t. Relying on imagination. Learning to love softer, fuzzier forms. Learning to accept constant uncertanty. Learning how to be when I cannot see. 

I’m thinking that the seemingly positive aspects of acceptance will be in the main poem and then in the scotoma/blind spot part of the poem, I’ll focus on my doubts about accepting as giving up or giving in.

oct 16/RUN

3 miles
turkey hollow
36 degrees

Sitting in my office in the front room this morning, working on my mood ring poems, I looked out the window and thought I saw a flurry. Not possible. Must have been a small leaf. About 10 minutes later I looked out the window again. Snowing. Big fluffy flurried flakes. I don’t mind. Went out for a run about 20 minutes later. Wonderfully uncrowded. If it clears the paths and keeps more people inside, bring on the bad weather! I can handle the wind and snow and ice and cold much better than having to constantly weave around to avoid people. And I want to run above the river, to admire the gorge and the other side–the St. Paul side.

Today the gorge was beautiful. I need a better word than beautiful. Too generic and frequently used. What do I mean by beautiful? Alluring? Calming? Handsome, dazzling, delightful, fine, resplendent? The word beautiful is not the problem. The problem is my lack of specificity. Why was it beautiful? I think it was beautiful today because there was a clear, open view with pleasing, recognizable, calming forms: tall, almost leafless brown trunks with a few slashes of red or yellow; blue-gray water winding like a serpent towards the falls; a mass of fuzzy treetops, greenish-orangish-reddish-yellow, across the way on the other bank. Looking up definitions of beautiful in the online OED, there was frequent mentioning of perfection. I didn’t find the gorge or the forms I saw to be perfect. Maybe they were splendid or gorgeous instead?

While looking up synonyms for beautiful I found pulchritudinous (beautiful, attractive) which seems to me to be a rather ugly word for describing something beautiful. Is there a term for a word that sounds the opposite of what it’s intending to convey? The opposite of onomatopoeia? Somebody asked this exact question on reddit 3 years ago and received one somewhat helpful, somewhat overly jargon-y response which you can read for yourself if you’d like.

I want to continue to push myself to express why the open view of the gorge moves (pleases, satisfies, amazes, delights) me so much. Maybe this expression won’t come in specific words but in images and feelings? A project for late fall and early winter?

Speaking of words, I’ve been meaning to post this from the New Yorker’s Shouts and Murmurs’ “Lexicon for a Pandemic”:

Someday, Noneday, Whoseday?, Whensday?, Blursday, Whyday?, Doesn’tmatterday: Days of the week

Today’s October Surprise

Like most of the October Surprise’s, this one happened yesterday afternoon. Scott, RJP and I took Delia the dog to Lake Minnewashta Regional Park. Wow! So much open space and views of waving water and wide wooded trails and grassy knolls with picnic shelters and steep wooden stairs winding down to leaf-covered trails closer to the water. What a delightful surprise to find this space perfect for solitude and breathing and being! There’s one image that I will try to return to when I need to calm down and feel more hopeful: Walking down the steep wooden stairs, each step offering a leafless view of the blue lake stretching wide. Behind: a hidden field with only a few trees and benches and a small picnic shelter and some still green grass for company. Above: blue sky. Below: a leaf-covered trail, lined with trees, some still bearing yellowing leaves.

Scott took many pictures, but not any of my favorite spot.

But RJP did! This is the view from halfway down the stairs.

oct 15/RUN

3 miles
1.5 loops on closed river road + neighborhood
38 degrees

Brrr. Colder today. I overdressed in (almost) full winter gear: tights under shorts + long sleeved shirt + orange sweat shirt + vest + bright pink headband + black gloves + orange and pink buff. Ran the closed section of the river road while I still can. Was planning to do another loop, but some trucks were parked at the bottom of the hill–they must be doing more work. I wonder when they will be done and when the road will open again? Sunny, bright, difficult to see. A few trees remain with colorful leaves. My favorites are the orange ones. There are 2 of them on the grass between Edmund and the river road. The river was sparkling. Lots of ripples for sunlight to dance on in this wind. Listened to a playlist and tried to ignore my runny nose. I can’t wait for this round of sinus troubles to be over. I’m tired of feeling stuffed up and having a slight tightness? soreness? in my chest. I’m grateful that when I’m running I don’t feel any congestion or tightness. O, if only it were possible to run non-stop until this pandemic was over! Of course I could never do this. 30-40 minutes a day is all I can manage.

Today’s October Surprise

There was so much wind yesterday and last night (almost 30 mph), that I was convinced that every leaf would be off of every tree by the gorge today, but when Scott and I took Delia on a walk there this morning, we saw a few trees that managed to stay dressed. Orange leaves are my favorite.

oct 15/RUN

5 miles
franklin loop
50 degrees

Felt colder than 50 degrees with the wind and the occasional brief downpour. A beautiful fall morning. Because of the wind and rain, there weren’t too many people out on the trail. Running above the river was wonderful–so much more of a view as the leaves leave. I love late fall. More of a view, winter and winter running are coming, less people will be on the trail which means less fear and distraction over keeping a safe distance.

Things I Remember

  • The sun just barely glowing through the clouds behind me, enough to enable my shadow to make a faint appearance in front of me. Hello friend!
  • So much wind on the Lake Street bridge that I was blown across the sidewalk and had to hold onto my hat for several minutes
  • The river! Every year I forgot how wonderful the view is, having not seen it since May. Open, airy, a chance to breathe, to stare at the water as it winds down the gorge!
  • Glancing down at the floodplain forest from the tunnel of trees and admiring the soft glow of yellow leaves
  • Noticing the dog park at Meeker Island is open
  • The curve of the black wrought iron fence at an overlook on the Winchell Trail not too far from Franklin
  • Being able to see the entire trestle, stretching to the other side, wondering when/if a train would cross it
  • Running at least 10-12 feet from some walkers and smelling the perfume of one of them, being reminded of how far someone’s presence/scent/air can travel, wondering if I should be wearing a mask when I run

Today’s October Surprise

Last night, walking through the neighborhood, Scott and I heard a dog barking–I think it was a french bulldog or a boxer?–whose bark sounded like they were yelling out the word bark. “Bark! Bark! Bark!” It made me giggle. Some day I would like to have a dog that I named Bob Barker.

Working on my fourth mood ring poem today. As I ran, I reflected on a line about what, in a face, indicates life–a glimmer in the eye? the raising of an eyebrow? a slight head nod? the curve of a mouth?

Speaking of head nods, I have been intending to post this poem for several months. It seems fitting today as I think about how people connect through gestures:

Ode to the Head Nod/ Elizabeth Acevedo

the slight angling up of the forehead
neck extension quick jut of chin

meeting the strangers’ eyes
a gilded curtsy to the sunfill in another

in yourself tithe of respect
in an early version the copy editor deleted

the word “head” from the title
the copy editor says it’s implied

the copy editor means well
the copy editor means

she is only fluent in one language of gestures
i do not explain i feel sad for her

limited understanding of greetings & maybe
this is why my acknowledgements are so long;

didn’t we learn this early?
to look at white spaces

thank god o thank god for

you

are here

oct 14/RUN

3.45 miles
extended hill, 3 times
54 degrees

Yesterday while walking Delia up above on Edmund, I noticed that all of the trucks at the construction site just above the tunnel of trees were gone. Oh no! They’re going to open up this stretch of the river road again–the last stretch still closed, the stretch where I had just started doing hill workouts. Bummer. Oh well, I’ll find somewhere else to run. As of this morning, it’s still closed but now, because the trucks are gone, I can run the entire stretch of it, from the top of the hill at 36th to another (slight) rise at 32nd. Nice. I almost had the road to myself; only a runner or two and the street sweeping truck. Very windy this morning. 28 mph gusts. Lots of leaves on the ground and in the air. The dominant leaf color: yellow. Such a gorgeous fall color season. I noticed the river glowing below me. As I ran on the river road–and when I walked on it yesterday afternoon–I couldn’t see the river or into the gorge because I was too far away from it, but I could tell it was there. I could feel the openness, the gap, the abundance of air.

Today’s October Surprise

Wild grass of some sort, with a dark purple stalk and cream colored feathers–maybe Purple Fountain Grass?–in a neighbor’s yard. I love ornamental grasses, especially the ones with fluffy tops. Whenever I walk by them, I always want to run my fingers through the top. When is the best time to plant these grasses? I would love some for next year. I will try to remember to get a picture of this grass on our walk this afternoon.

Here’s the picture:

Still working on my mood ring poems. I have the first two done and I’m pleased with the results. Yesterday’s mood was curiosity. I started with a table in a pages document and laboriously filled in the letters for the main poem, making many mistakes and having to delete a lot of letters in individual boxes.

Main Poem

Then, I inserted the shorter, ring poem into the empty spaces. Lots of counting boxes and characters and rethinking words.

Inner, ring poem

And here’s the completed poem, in 2 parts. The left highlights the main poem, the right the secondary, ring poem.

oct 11/RUN

2.5 miles
river road trail, south/edmund, north
49 degrees

Ran south on the river road trail to the 44th st parking lot, then down to the grassy overlook. Such a wonderful view of the river, shining in the morning sun! Windy today. How many leaves will be off of the trees by tomorrow? Tried to pay attention to my breath, to be grateful to be out on the trail this morning, and to think in triples (mostly dactyls):

  • full of grief
  • filled with joy
  • suffering
  • bountiful
  • troublesome
  • lacking life
  • falling leaves
  • swirling wind
  • river view
  • running path
  • moving feet
  • dripping nose
  • breathe in deep

Still working on my mood ring poems. I think I’ve finally figured out the form–so tedious! I had to create a table with separate boxes for each letter. I think it was worth the extra time and I’m pleased that I could do the entire thing on my own, without any help from Scott.

oct 10/RUN

3 miles
2 schools loop
50 degrees

Another beautiful fall morning. I thought about doing a longer run, crossing the ford bridge, running up the east side of the river, but I knew it would be annoyingly crowded on a Saturday morning. So I did what I often do on the weekends, ran around the kids old elementary schools: Hiawatha (K-2) and Howe (3-5). Started on the river road trail but soon crossed over to edmund. I don’t remember the view, only the multiple times I had to stutter step to avoid streaking squirrels. Inspired by a podcast I listened to yesterday, I tried to focus on my breathing and striking feet. I chanted triples. At first, it was difficult. I kept repeating “strawberry/blueberry/raspberry” but eventually I expanded my list:

  • delightful
  • bemusement
  • mystery
  • logical
  • circular
  • wonderful
  • difficult
  • diffident
  • caterwaul
  • symphony
  • musical
  • deduction
  • induction

I am a little out of practice with these. I haven’t spent much time chanting; I’m too busy trying keep my distance.

Today’s October Surprise

First: Watching the original 101 Dalmatians with Scott last night. I love the jazzy, be-spotted opening credits. I couldn’t read all the text (not even close) but I still enjoyed it. Interesting fact from Scott and Mental Floss: 30% of all Dalmatians are deaf:

Around 30 percent of all Dalmatians are inflicted with deafness as a result of their spotted markings. Breeding dogs with this coat can lead to a lack of mature melanocytes (melanin producing cells) in the inner ear. Without these, dogs can become hard of hearing. Dogs with larger patches of black are less likely to be deaf. 

Second: Running around Howe School, I noticed a quick white flash up in the clear blue sky. Was it the moon or a plane? Even though the upper regions of my central vision are all dark, I was able to tilt my head and see that it was a plane. Such a small thing, but the more I learn about my vision, the more I’m astonished I am when I see anything that small in such a broad field of blue!

oct 9/RUN

2 miles
45th ave, north/32nd st, east/tunnel of trees, south/edmund, south/37th st, west
69 degrees

Warm this morning! We might hit 83 today. No thanks. Still, it was beautiful running through the neighborhood and by the river. Glanced at the water a few times and it was glowing in the sun. The tunnel of trees was glowing too: marigold. I love that color. I didn’t encounter a single runner on the narrow trail winding up to the ancient boulder. No stones stacked on top of it. I forgot to greet the welcoming oaks or check if they were a goldengrove unleaving.

Today’s October Surprise

This surprise comes from our long walk last night, all the way to turkey hollow and back. Walking round the neighborhood, Scott and I encountered bright, beautiful wildflowers still blooming. Light purples, dark purples, oranges, yellows, hot pinks. And halfway up a cedar fence, a trail of flaming red leaves. I noticed them first in my peripheral, the feeling of a bright color. Then, looking at them straight, I could see the red. Scott took a picture, after I asked him to, of some funky purple flowers:

oct 8/RUN

2.15 miles
a few loops by the river
46 degrees

A shorter run this morning. I took Edmund to the river road and then did a few loops. I listened to an audiobook, Circe by Madeline Miller. Encountered at least one roller skier, several strollers, some dogs and their owners. A nice morning but so bright that I couldn’t see much–not because the sun was in my eyes but because of my failing vision. Felt like I was in a daze. I don’t remember noticing the river or any squirrels. No brightly shirted runners or speeding bikes blasting music. No yellow-vested workers digging holes for high-speed internet. No energetic, bare-footed boys racing me as I run up the hill.

Today’s October Surprises

Today’s first surprise is from last night’s walk with Scott. We saw an albino squirrel running across the road, looking like a rat or a mouse instead of a squirrel. Part of the surprise was that it was an albino squirrel, such a bright white!, and part of it was that I could see it at all, moving so fast, not giving me much time to focus my remaining cones. I’m always in awe of my ability to still see things.

The second surprise was also from yesterday: a northern cardinal drinking from Delia’s water dish on the deck while RJP and I sat in the yard, enjoying the sun. For at least a minute it drank and chirped, as we tried not to move or breathe too loudly so we could watch it.

excerpts from Corsons Inlet/ A. R. Ammons

the walk liberating, I was released from forms,   
from the perpendiculars,
      straight lines, blocks, boxes, binds
of thought
into the hues, shadings, rises, flowing bends and blends   
               of sight:

There’s a lot I love about this poem but it was too long to post the whole thing. I picked this bit because I love how he describes his walk as a release from rigid forms. As the poem continues, he suggests that there are forms (formless forms) but that they are not closed or fixed:

I have reached no conclusions, have erected no boundaries,   
shutting out and shutting in, separating inside
          from outside: I have
          drawn no lines:

But the lack of conclusion and clear boundaries doesn’t mean there is no order:

in nature there are few sharp lines: there are areas of   
primrose
       more or less dispersed;
disorderly orders of bayberry; between the rows
of dunes,

The order that you encounter during a walk near the sea (or by the gorge) takes a different form that can’t be fully grasped by our logic:

by transitions the land falls from grassy dunes to creek   
to undercreek: but there are no lines, though
       change in that transition is clear
       as any sharpness: but “sharpness” spread out,   
allowed to occur over a wider range
than mental lines can keep:

oct 7/RUN

3 miles
over and back, lake street bridge
57 degrees

Another beautiful morning. The whole gorge glowed orange and red and yellow. I don’t remembering noticing the river when I was on the trail, but I stared at it as I ran over the lake street bridge and then at the overlook on the St. Paul side. I love that view. Clear, calm, blue. No rowers on the river today. No eagle in the dead tree near the stairs leading down to the river road trail on the east side. No Daily Walker. I did hear a roller skier behind me on the river road–the constant click of a pole striking the ground. Ran over some more pine needles. This time they made a delightful crunching sound. Heard a rushing noise and thought it was the wind; it was a sprinkler on someone’s lawn. I don’t remember thinking about anything–no lines from poems or deep questions.

Today’s October Surprise

Not the house next to mine but the house next to that, has a beautiful flaming red tree in the front yard. It was been burning red for a few weeks now. This morning, as I walked by it before starting my run, I noticed many of the leaves had fallen and were covering the ground, making the entire lawn look pinkish-red in the sun. O, such color! If there had only been one flame leaf on an otherwise green tree, or only a few leaves on the ground, I probably would not have been able to see it, but because the entire tree was red, I could stop and marvel at it.

I did a quick search of “red leaves poem” and found this great poem which I’m fairly certain I posted on this log a few years ago.

from Leaves/ Lloyd Schwartz

3

You’ll be driving along depressed when suddenly
a cloud will move and the sun will muscle through
and ignite the hills. It may not last. Probably
won’t last. But for a moment the whole world
comes to. Wakes up. Proves it lives. It lives—
red, yellow, orange, brown, russet, ocher, vermilion,
gold. Flame and rust. Flame and rust, the permutations
of burning. You’re on fire. Your eyes are on fire.
It won’t last, you don’t want it to last. You
can’t stand any more. But you don’t want it to stop.
It’s what you’ve come for. It’s what you’ll
come back for. It won’t stay with you, but you’ll
remember that it felt like nothing else you’ve felt
or something you’ve felt that also didn’t last.

I want to memorize this part. What a wonderful poem.

oct 6/RUN

3.75 miles
the hill, 5 times
52 degrees

After a warm-up mile, I ran the hill 5 times. While warming up, I didn’t listen to anything, when I started the hill, I listened to my Sara2020 playlist with an additional song I added this morning: Maniac. Another beautiful morning. Windy and sunny. Running by Cooper School, I noticed a yoga class on the field. A great morning for outdoor yoga. Heading down 32nd, I didn’t see, but thought about, the aspen eyes as I ran near them. Each time I ran up the hill, the river sparkled through the trees.

Today’s October Surprise

Ran over some soft pine needles on the side of the road–what would it feel like to run on a trail completely covered in pine needles? Wonderful, I bet. My stretch of pine needles lasted only about 5 seconds, but I like imagining it as longer and deeper in the gorge or on a mountain trail. Thinking about that, I found this wonderful brief story on NPR: An Audio Postcard from New York’s Adirondack Mountains

oct 5/RUN

1.4 miles
walk/run with FWA
3 miles
river road, south/42nd, west/edmund, north/32nd, west/47th ave, south
51 degrees

Warmer today. Windy. Went out with FWA for another walk/run. I like getting to spend time with him in my favorite place. Also, it’s a nice warm-up before my run.

Starting out after walking back home with FWA, I ran into the wind and chanted to myself, “I am the wind and the wind is invisible, all the leaves tremble but I am invisible” (Richard Siken). I ran on the trail right above the river for a mile. Much more of a view these days! I can see the river through the trees. The surface of the water was glowing silvery-white in many spots. The only bird I heard was a black capped chickadee doing the feebee song. Looking over at the gorge from the river road, it was glowing gold. We must almost be at peak color. Anything else? Yes! I remember, about a mile into my solo run, feeling happy and relaxed. Such a nice feeling, rarely felt these days, especially now during “October Surprise” season, when I have been sucked into the endless cycle of asking, does 45 have the virus or not, is he barely sick or about to die, is this all an attempt to distract/confuse/frighten/enrage/weaken us?

Speaking of October surprise, I’d like to reclaim that phrase–or maybe REFRAME–and make it about something other than orchestrating (or appearing to orchestrate) an event that could influence the outcome of next month’s election. I like October–it’s a great month with all the Halloween decorations and scary horror movies from the 70s and crisp air and falling leaves. And, I like surprises and the unknowing bewilderment and excitement they can cause. Looking up surprise in the dictionary, one definition is astonishment. I also read in Merriam-Webster, “to strike with wonder or amazement, especially because unexpected.” In that spirit, I’d like to offer some of my own October Surprises for the rest of the month. Some of them might be moments of pure astonishment and wonder (I hope), others might be milder. All will be genuine instances of delight and joy.

Today’s October Surprise

I was pleasantly surprised when I heard the black-capped chickadee out by the gorge this morning. I thought that they only did their “feebee” song in the spring and summer. I looked it up and discovered that they continue to sing these two notes throughout the winter. I’ll have to listen in January and February. Will I hear them as I run through the snow? I hope so!

This morning, checking one of my poetry sites, I found another green poem. Such a great description of greedy, gluttonous green and what happens after it leaves (or un-leaves?).

First Leaf/Lia Purpura

That yellow
was a falling off,
a fall
for once I saw
coming —
it could
in its stillness
still be turned from,
it was not
yet ferocious,
its hold drew me,
was a shiny switchplate
in the otherwise dark,
rash, ongoing green,
a green so hungry
for light and air that
part gave up,
went alone,
chose to leave,
and by choosing
embellishment
got seen.

oct 4/RUN

5.25 miles
franklin hill
35 degrees

What a wonderful morning for a run! Sunny, no wind, cool. Saw my shadow a few times. Admired the river, the glowing thinning trees. Felt nice and strong and happy to be breathing deeply outside, especially since I am having another sinus/allergy thing–I haven’t had one since June. Such a drag being stuffed up and tired–and devoting considerable energy to convincing myself I’m fine and it’s not the virus and it will only last a few days or a week. So glad running (and the nasal washes I’ve started doing) help. Ran down the franklin hill and then by some geese, taking over the path closest to the water. The water was still and thick–that wasn’t little bits of ice I was seeing? Not cold enough yet, right? Ran up the hill until I reached the Franklin bridge. Walked for a minute or 2, then ran back on seabury.

some random things to remember from this weekend

This morning I watched the London Marathon and saw Sara (without an h!) Hall run an amazing race, sprinting the last 400, after running for 2 hours and 21 minutes, to catch the person ahead of her and take second place. So exciting and inspiring to watch someone run so well and try as hard as she absolutely could.

Yesterday we drove to Duluth to see Lake Superior. On the way up, we stopped at a rest area. This was my first time inside a building with other people since March 8. Wow. Everyone was wearing a mask. It wasn’t too bad. I was reminded of my bad vision as I struggled to figure out which bathroom was which and whether or not there was someone in a stall when I tried checking for feet. It takes a much longer time for my eyes to focus and see, so I can’t just quickly walk into a bathroom and know I’m in the right one. I hate being slow or having to slow down to figure something out.

On the ride home in the evening, we heard “Maniac” on the radio from Flashdance. Those lyrics! (mostly cheesy, but I liked a few lines.) Scott and I both struggled to understand the line, “on the wire between will and what will be.” We wondered, was he actually saying “will and what won’t be”? but then Scott realized the first will meant your own agency while the second one referred to fate–on the wire between what you can control and what has already been decided. Wow, deep.

Speaking of lyrics, the other day, during online school, FWA asked me to suggest two songs with similar themes that he could use for analyzing lyrics in his AP Comp and Lit class. After struggling for a minute, I suggested, Beck’s “Loser” and Courtney Barnett’s “Avant Gardner.” How did I come up with those? Not sure, but they worked well for him. Nice.

What a beautiful October poem:

October/ ROBERT FROST

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.

oct 2/RUN

3.35 miles
turkey hollow
41 degrees

41 degrees?! I wore by winter running vest this morning and a hood. No gloves, yet. I love this cooler weather, although it made my lungs burn a little. Ran south on the river road trail. Not too crowded. Was able to see the river through the unleaving trees. Hooray! My view is coming back. Admired the glowing orange trees near the gauntlet and the lower campus of Minnehaha Academy. Heard a bunch of kids (collective noun? a playground of kids? a yell of kids? an exuberance of children?) on the playground at the academy, having fun, swinging on some swings that I couldn’t see because they were behind a stand of trees. Briefly I wondered if they were wearing masks on the playground? I hope so, but doubt it. Can you yell that loudly with a mask on? Forgot to check if there were any turkeys down by turkey hollow. Heard a few people shuffling through the dead leaves on the ground. I don’t remember hearing any birds or dropping acorns, but I did hear a leaf blower starting up. No roller skiers or spazzy squirrels or crows or Daily Walker or Man in Black or rowers on the river.

Woke up around 1 am to stretch my restless legs and checked my instagram (I know, always a bad idea) and discovered that the Trumps tested positive for COVID-19. It crossed my mind, but I never seriously considered waking up Scott to tell him. Thought about how bad this was from a variety of angles but still managed to get back to sleep without any bad dreams.

Here’s a beautiful opening about fall from the amazing Maggie Smith:

from Home-Free/ Maggie Smith

There’s no rhyme for how high the corn should be
in September, but I can see it, and I’m telling you

it’s up to my chest, maybe even my neck–
it’s hard to tell from the road–and it’s brown,

and judging by the sibilance when the wind
rubs the husks together, it must feel like paper.

I love this description of corn and what a great opening line–with “knee high by the fourth of july” echoing in my head.

And, because I used “unleaving” in my run description, I feel compelled to post again one of the first poems I remember loving:

Spring and Fall / GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS

to a young child

Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

oct 1/RUN

3.35 miles
the hill, 4 times
48 degrees

Getting colder. Woke up this morning and turned on the heat, wore running tights under my shorts when I left the house. Did a slower first mile as a warm-up then decided to do the hill, the one where the road is closed and that is above the tunnel of trees, beside the Welcoming Oaks, four times. When I tried this last week, I attempted to sprint up the hill. This time, I just ran continuously, hoping to go a little faster with each hill. I didn’t closely check my watch, so I’m not sure if I did, but I enjoyed the run a lot more, and I didn’t have to stop. I think I’ll try this again next week, but do 5 loops instead of 4. During my warm-up mile, I listened to traffic rushing by a few blocks farther north on Lake Street. As I ran the hills, I listened to a playlist titled, “Sara 2020.” I saw the river, shining blueish-white, through the trees a few times. Beautiful. The second time I ran down the hill, I noticed a runner on the sidewalk over on Edmund. We seemed to be going the same pace. I tried to avoid looking at them instead of speeding up or slowing down. It worked. Saw a women ahead of me walking 2 dogs, talking on her phone or talking to her dogs? Not sure. A few people were wearing bright yellow shirts which glowed in the not quite overcast, not quite sunny light. Did I think about anything? I can’t remember.

MOOD: MISANTHROPIC

Continuing to work on my mood rings. Today I’m thinking about how irritating/frustrating some walkers or bikers or runners are on the trail–refusing to move over, getting in the way, speeding by too quickly. While this has always upset me, it is more dangerous now with my deteriorating vision. People’s carelessness can make it much scarier for me to run or bike. This behavior saddens me, then pisses me off, then causes me to see others as the enemy. I think I’m justified in my frustration, but I’m also bothered by own reactions. For this poem, I want to start by finding as many accounts of my irritation as I can in my running log entries. I’ll either use those as starting off point, to edit and shape, or I’ll combine them somehow into a poem–a cento? an erasure?

Here’s an account (from April 20, 2020) that doesn’t quite fit, because it’s not about me and my encounter with annoying bikers, but that I’d like to work in somehow:

read the FUCKING signs!

Yesterday, Scott, Delia the dog, our daughter, and I took a 4 mile walk around the neighborhood. Walking in the grass between the boulevard and the parkway, we witnessed a runner running in the road (on the part designated for pedestrians), getting increasingly upset as bikers (who are not supposed to bike on this part of the road) whizzed by her. When the first one passed her, she yelled “this is not the bike lane!” and then muttered to herself in anger. When the next one passed, she shrieked frantically “read the FUCKING signs!” (the city has signs posted all over the road/path identifying who should be in what lane). I could understand her anger–in other situations, I’ve been her, maybe not screaming “fuck!” but feeling that upset–but I could also see how difficult it was for the bikers, trying to find room to move when it was so crowded and when walkers were also ignoring the signs and taking over the bike paths. I’m not sure how to make this situation with crowded paths any easier, so I try to avoid it by running early, before it gets crowded.

In honor of the first day of October, I want to post part of one of my favorite October poems by May Swenson:

from October/ May Swenson

Now and then, a red leaf riding
the slow flow of gray water.
From the bridge, see far into
the woods, now that limbs are bare,
ground thick-littered. See,
along the scarcely gliding stream,
the blanched, diminished, ragged
swamp and woods the sun still
spills into. Stand still, stare
hard into bramble and tangle,
past leaning broken trunks,
sprawled roots exposed. Will
something move?—some vision
come to outline? Yes, there—
deep in—a dark bird hangs
in the thicket, stretches a wing.
Reversing his perch, he says one
“Chuck.” His shoulder-patch
that should be red looks gray.
This old redwing has decided to
stay, this year, not join the
strenuous migration. Better here,
in the familiar, to fade.

sept 30/RUN

2.5 miles
two trails
59 degrees

For some dumb reason, I thought that running a bit later (almost noon) when it was very windy (20+ mph) would result in less crowded paths. I even thought the lower trail would be empty. I was very wrong. I probably encountered the most people I ever have today. I got much closer than 6 feet several times and had to call out “excuse me.” Oh well. If I ever consider running on the Winchell trail again, I will have to make sure and wear a mask the entire time. The river road trail was crowded too. I did a lot of weaving. I’m pretty sure I had a few ridiculous performances, weaving out into the road to avoid people, then quickly stopping to tie my shoe, then starting up again, trying to avoid having to pass the walker I had just passed again.

It was beautiful down there on the Winchell Trail, below the road, with so many leaves swirling around and glowing and painting the trees in reds, yellows, oranges. And, o the river! Such a bright blue in the sun. And no thick leaves to block my view!

a moment to remember

Turning down at the 44th street parking lot to run on the Winchell Trail, two bikers were walking their bikes up the hill, framed by a few bright yellow trees and the wide, blue river. Suddenly a gust of wind caught them by surprise and one of the women yelled out, “Whoop!” –or “whoa” or something like that. I think I like “whoop” the best. One day, maybe I’ll manage to fit this moment into a poem.

Speaking of poems, I finished my fourth mood ring poem: Loneliness. It’s the first of my poems about my darker moods. These are harder for me to write because my inclination is not to dwell in the bad feelings. I am wondering if it is too dramatic in its darkness? The poem is inspired by Ada Limón’s “Instructions on Not Giving Up” and uses her first two sentences as a guide. (“More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s almost obscene display of cherry blossoms shoving their cotton-candy colored limbs to the slate sky of Spring rains, it is the greening of the trees that really gets to me. When the shock of white and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leaves the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath, the leaves come.”

MOOD: LONELINESS

More than the distorted letters that shift on the page, more than the bikes that appear without warning, it is the faded faces that really get to me. When the light is too bright, or not quite the right kind of light, or not bright enough, the features leave. Sometimes the outline of a nose, a mouth, ears, freckles remain, but the eyes, almost always, are dead. Lifeless. Lacking a spark. The pupils looking like black ballbearings. Othertimes, all that’s there is a dark blob, perched on the shoulders of my son, my daughter, my husband, a friend I have known for years. Aiming my eyes at a shoulder, I might catch a quick flash of an iris through my periphery. Mostly I rely on memory and recall the face I used to see. Imagine the flare of a nostril, the raising of an eyebrow. Wish for the reassurance that I am not alone, that someone else is here. Alien and alienating, an uncanny valley begins to form between me and and the rest of the world.

I’m still trying to figure out how to incorporate the rings–my ring scotoma–into or onto the poem. In theory, I’d love to do some poems within poems, but I’m not sure if it works. I’ll keep playing around with it. Now it’s time to work on some other dark moods: frustration, fatigue, feeling useless and old. I can’t remember if I wrote about this the other day, but I am struck by a mood I don’t have: anger (or rage). I am not angry about my failing vision. Is this because I had been living with it for so long, not knowing what it was, or even that anything was actually wrong with me–I blamed a weak will for any problems I seemed to have–and I was overwhelmingly relieved to finally know what it was?

Almost forgot to mention, but how could I?

Judith C. Puotinen: March 5th, 1942- September 30th, 2009

11 years ago today my mom died.

sept 29/RUN

3 miles
trestle turn around
50 degrees

What wonderful fall weather! Cooler, partly cloudy. I ran north on the river road trail and didn’t encounter too many people. Heard the rowers on the river, with the coxswain calling out instructions through their bullhorn. Saw the river, I think. Did I? I don’t remember noticing many brightly colored leaves.

Things I Remember

  • one roller skier skiing on the bike path, their poles clickity-clacking
  • a sudden shower of acorns–a whoosh then thump thump thump
  • a stroller right off the edge of the path, an adult and young kid under the lake street bridge, looking down at the river right by the edge of a chain link fence
  • running through the tunnel of trees, barely looking down, but noticing a few yellow trees

A good run, an opportunity to get lost and lose track of time.

And here’s the wonderful opening from Yi Lei’s Nature Aria. Very fitting for this windy, autumn day, when leaves are swirling and scattering:

Autumn wind chases in
From all directions
And a thousand chaste leaves
Give way.

sept 28/RUN

4.25 miles
river road trail, south/both sides of ford bridge/wabun park/turkey hollow/47th st/edund
51 degrees

Good-bye summer and hot, humid weather! Hello fall and winter and wonderful runs along the river! A good morning for a run, even if the wind was gusting and in my face for much of the second half. Heard geese honking in the sky and my shoes squeaking on the wet leaves. Dodged dropping acorns and swirling leaves. Every so often the sun came out–glorious. I think I remember the river occasionally glowing. Not too many people out on the trail. Running up the hill to the ford bridge, I saw a big turkey hanging out by a bench. I looked a couple of times to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing–was I? Who knows for sure. Ran over the ford bridge for the first time since February. Then ran under it and over it again on the other side, looking out at Locks and Dam #1. Took a walk break through turkey hollow (no turkeys there today). Almost forgot: heard some kids playing on the playing ground at Minnehaha Academy’s lower campus.

Here’s a beautiful opening to a poem by Carl Phillips, Wake Up:

The road down from everything even you had hardly dared
to hope for has its lonely stretches, yes, but it’s hard to feel alone
entirely: there’s a river that runs beside it the whole way down,
and there’s an over-song that keeps the river company: I’m leaves,
you’re the wind…