feb 7/RUN

4.45 miles
minnehaha falls and back
31 degrees
100% slick, sloppy mess

Yuck! With warmer temperatures comes puddles, slicker ice, and soaked socks. Most of the trail was covered in little brown lakes. Oh well. The sun was warm on my face, and I felt almost too warm in my layers, so I was happy to get out there and run. Because I was trying out my new bluetooth headphones, and because the path was so challenging, I was distracted. Did I notice at least 10 things? I’ll try:

10 Things I Noticed

  1. running south into the sun, the slick path sparkled
  2. kids yellling at the playground. I think I heard one deep voice — was it a teacher?
  3. there was a very big puddle in the street at 42nd, right by the path. As cars drove through it, I could hear all the water splashing up onto the curb — glad I wasn’t running there!
  4. passed the same group of 3 walkers + 2 dogs in both directions on the narrow bridge
  5. the river was mostly open, with streaks of white ice
  6. a few people at the falls, near the bridge
  7. a man and a dog playing in the snow near the longfellow poem at the falls
  8. unable to avoid it, I ran straight through a deep puddle on my tiptoes
  9. glanced over at the house with the poetry in the window to check if there was a new poem. Too much snow to see the sign with the poem title
  10. the long dark tree branch of the mostly dead tree on the corner stretched across the path and the road. I wondered, as I ran under it, if it would fall on me

As part of my February challenge, I’m reading poems from Linda Pastan. Here’s the one for today:

Practicing/ Linda Pastan

My son is practicing the piano.
He is a man now, not the boy
whose lessons I once sat through,
whose reluctant practicing
I demanded–part of the obligation
I felt to the growth
and composition of a child.

Upstairs my grandchildren are sleeping,
though they complained earlier of the music
which rises like smoke up through the floorboards,
coloring the fabric of their dreams.
On the porch my husband watches the garden fade
into summer twilight, flower by flower;
it must be a little like listening to the fading

diminuendo notes of Mozart.
But here where the dining room table
has been pushed aside to make room
for this second- or third-hand upright,
my son is playing the kind of music
it took him all these years,
and sons of his own, to want to make.

I love the gentle way this poem unfolds, how it reminds me of my son and demanding he practice his clarinet, and its idea that practice accumulates and can take decades to lead to the things we want to do.

The practicing son in this poem reminds me of another poem I posted in the fall, Transubstantiation:

my six-year-old grandson, in the early
August rainy morning, piano-practices
“The Merry Widow Waltz.” Before
I was a widow, that song was
only a practice piece, a funny
opera

feb 6/SWIM

2 miles
ywca pool

Met RJP at the pool again after she was done with her classes. Added in about 1000 yards of swimming with the pull buoy. I tried reciting the poem I memorized yesterday — Linda Pastan’s “Vertical” — while I swam, but it was difficult. I couldn’t sync up the lines with my breathing rhythms. I don’t think I was ever able to recite the whole thing, only the first bit: “Perhaps the purpose of leaves is to conceal the verticality of trees which we notice in December as if for the first time: row after row of dark forms yearning upwards.”

10 Things

  1. cloudy water, at least as much, maybe more?, crud than the last time I swam: floating hairballs, some strange stain on the wall tiles in my lane
  2. when I got in the pool, there was only one other swimmer. More people came, then left. At one point, most of the lanes were filled, but it was never too crowded
  3. I could see that a storm was moving in by how the pool floor kept getting darker then lighter as the thickening clouds moved past the sun
  4. heard a click underwater several times. Decided it was caused by the swimmer next to me — her knee of elbow clicking as she did the breaststroke
  5. watching my daughter swimming freestyle underwater — looking strong and serious. Once as I passed her, I kept my head below looking over at her until she looked back
  6. doing my starting ritual of pushing off and them swimming underwater until I reached the blue line and the end of the shallow water, I held my arms out straight in front of me, almost squeezing my ears. I felt like I could have stayed underwater until I reached the wall
  7. the muscle I felt most while I was swimming today was my calf, and especially as I kicked harder during my first lap. It wasn’t sore, and it didn’t hurt, I just felt it more
  8. following behind my daughter, trying to stay slow and never pass her, I started my flip turn then stayed at the wall, suspended underwater
  9. worked on my flip turn, trying to flip with my core, and not my arms
  10. every so often, when the sun came out from behind the clouds, I saw a circle of light on the pool floor

Yesterday I posted a poem from Linda Pastan that describes a sparrow as “brief as a haiku.” That made me think of the first poem in her final collection, Almost an Elegy:

Memory of a Bird/ Linda Pastan

Paul Klee, watercolor and pencil on paper

What is left is a beak,
a wing,
a sense of feathers,

the rest lost
in a pointillist blur of tiny
rectangles.

The bird has flown,
leaving behind
an absence.

This is the very
essence
of flight—a bird

so swift
that only memory
can capture it.

All of this quick movement and the brevity of the bird in flight, also made me think of another poem by Pastan I discovered today:

The Birds/ Linda Pastan

are heading south, pulled
by a compass in the genes.
They are not fooled
by this odd November summer,
though we stand in our doorways
wearing cotton dresses.
We are watching them

as they swoop and gather—
the shadow of wings
falls over the heart.
When they rustle among
the empty branches, the trees
must think their lost leaves
have come back.

The birds are heading south,
instinct is the oldest story.
They fly over their doubles,
the mute weathervanes,
teaching all of us
with their tailfeathers
the true north.

Because of my interest in peripheral vision and what it means to see movement (as opposed to sharp, fixed details), I’m always trying to find poems that offer details and descriptions of movement. I love how much Pastan focuses on how the birds move — they swoop and gather, cast wing shadows, rustle like leaves. She doesn’t offer any descriptions of their color, size, or sound. She doesn’t even name them. I don’t miss those details. The description of their movement is enough.

I love all of this poem, but today, especially this:

They fly over their doubles,
the mute weathervanes,
teaching all of us
with their tailfeathers
the true north.

Their doubles, the mute weathervanes? Tailfeathers as teachers? So good!

feb 5/RUN

3.9 miles
river road, north/south
22 degrees / feels like 12
75% snow and ice-covered

Another good run. Not too cold, sunny. Near the beginning, I ran with my shadow. The road was slick in spots — that invisible ice that you can’t see, only feel. Greeted Mr. Morning! and a few runners. Noticed the river at the trestle. It was open in a few places just below. The open water wasn’t dark, but gray. Heard the drumming of a woodpecker, the screech of a blue jay, 2 quick caws on repeat from a crow, and countless chirp chirp chirps from some other birds. The path was slightly better, but still mostly uneven ice and snow. Maybe this week, as it climbs to the 30s, the rest of it will melt?

After I finished running, when I was walking home, I remembered that I had memorized the first sentence of Linda Pastan’s “Vertical.” I had intended to recite it in my head as I ran. I was too distracted by the path and forgot. Walking home, I whispered it into the cold air:

Perhaps the purpose
of leaves is to conceal
the verticality of trees
which we notice
in December
as if for the first time:
row after row
of dark forms
yearning upwards.

Last night I went to Moon Palace books and bought Linda Pastan’s last collection, Almost an Elegy. The rest of February will be dedicated to her and her words — reading them, memorizing them, being with them.

After the Snow/ Linda Pastan (from Insomnia)

I’m inside
a Japanese woodcut,

snow defining
every surface:

shadows
of tree limbs

like pages
of inked calligraphy,

one sparrow,
high on a branch,

brief as
a haiku.

Here
in the Maryland woods, far

from Kyoto
I enter Kyoto.

feb 4/RUN

4.3 miles
lake nokomis — one way
19 degrees / feels like 10
50% snow and ice-covered

Hooray for moving outside! Hooray for warmer air! Hooray for getting to run to Lake Nokomis! It felt good to be outside breathing in fresh air. My legs and lungs felt strong. At one point, I remember breathing in deeply through my nose, then out through my mouth and watching the frozen breath as it hovered in front of me.

layers:

  • 2 pairs black running tights
  • 1 bright yellow TC 10 mile racing shirt (2018)
  • 1 pink jacket with hood
  • 1 black winter vest
  • 1 pair of black gloves, 1 pair of pink and white striped gloves
  • 1 fleece lined cap with brim
  • a gray buff
  • 1 pair of socks

Only a few layers short of my most layered look. Maybe someday I’ll invest in an expensive running jacket and be able to wear less layers, but maybe not.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the call, but not the drumming, of a pileated woodpecker
  2. the path on the biking side of the pedestrian bridge had packed down snow that was uneven, but not too slick. It had little flecks of light brown — sand? grit? dirt that Minneapolis Parks put down to make it less slippery?
  3. a fat tire! I could hear the crunching of their wheels as they approached from behind. After they slowly passed me, they stopped just past the locks and dam #1. Why? To rest? To figure out where they were? To take a picture?
  4. a few days ago I mentioned hearing construction noises near the falls. Heard them again today. Pounding hammers at another new apartment building going up on the other side of Dairy Queen
  5. heard a high-pitched whine near all of the apartments; it was coming from a gas vent by the roundabout
  6. minnehaha creek was mostly frozen, with a few stretches of open water
  7. heard, but didn’t see, kids’ voices — yelling, laughing — somewhere on the creek
  8. more voices down by the dock, near the shore, at lake hiawatha
  9. noticed the creek water leading into the lake was not completely iced over
  10. there were stretches where the path was an inch of solid brown ice, but most of it was a combination of bare pavement, stained with salt, patches of packed snow and smooth ice

I don’t remember noticing anything particular delightful. I devoted a lot of attention to my effort, staying relaxed, and avoiding slippery spots.

I follow the Mary Oliver Bot on twitter and they posted a line from this beautiful poem:

The Moths/ Mary Oliver

There’s a kind of white moth, I don’t know
what kind, that glimmers
by mid-May 
in the forest, just 
as the pink mocassin flowers
are rising.

If you notice anything, 
it leads you to notice
more
and more.

And anyway
I was so full of energy.
I was always running around, looking
at this and that.

If I stopped 
the pain
was unbearable.

If I stopped and thought, maybe
the world
can’t be saved, 
the pain 
was unbearable.

Finally, I noticed enough.
All around me in the forest
the white moths floated.

How long do they live, fluttering
in and out of the shadows? 

You aren’t much, I said
one day to my reflection
in a green pond, 
and grinned.

The wings of the moths catch the sunlight
and burn
so brightly.

At night, sometimes, 
they slip between the pink lobes
of the moccasin flowers and lie there until dawn, 
motionless
in those dark halls of honey.

feb 3/BIKERUN

bike: 20 minutes
run: 3.1 miles
basement
outdoor temp: 0 degrees / feels like -13

Inside today. Some Dickinson while I biked, a podcast (You are Good) while I ran — well, for most of my run. The last few minutes I listened to a playlist. Audio books and playlists make the time pass much faster when I’m on the treadmill.

I’m ready for the bitter cold to be done. Much less inspiration inside. Did I notice anything other than the single lightbulb reflecting in the dark window?

A poet that I like, Linda Pastan, died a few days ago. The first poem of hers that I read was “Vertical.” I found it just as I was starting to fall in love with poetry and the way it helped me to notice and be in wonder of a place. I spent a lot of time with that poem, even writing a response in which I used its first sentence to wander and wonder about trees. Since 2017, I’ve gathered and posted several of her poems, including:

And here’s one more I just found:

At My Desk/ Linda Pastan

To William Stafford

How many times
I have sat this way
with the poem’s intractable silence
between me and the world,
with the tree outside the window
refusing translation:
my leaves are more than syllables
it seems to say.

I think of you
miles west
floating on the tide of language
so easily, giving only
a scissor kick now and then,
coming to shore
some unexpected
but hospitable place.

Still we share between us
a certain stubbornness,
rising each morning
to the blank page,
climbing the ladder of light
at the window all day,
listening, both of us,
as hard as we can.

feb 2/SWIM

1.2 miles
ywca pool

Met my almost 17 year-old daughter at the pool and then we swam together. She’s swimming for online gym. I love swimming with my kids. This summer I swam at the lake with my 19 year-old son, now I get to swim at the pool with my daughter. I try to stay chill and not scare them with my enthusiasm, but it’s difficult.

Tried using a pull buoy for the first time in a few years. So much easier to breath when my body is higher up on the water. I should probably find some more drills to help with keeping me higher.

A few laps in I noticed an oval of bright light on the pool floor, not near the windowed wall, but the windowless one. A strange, beautiful thing to see.

I pushed off the wall underwater for my first lap ritual and swam just above the pool bottom. Noticed a black thread or hair floating right below my nose. A strange, ugly thing to see. Lots of crud in the water this afternoon. Nothing big or too gross, but small bits of something that made the water cloudy.

Later in the swim, I noticed lines of light on the bottom close to the window. Remembered to look up above the water as I flipped at the wall. Today above the surface looked pink to me. Forgot to notice the moving shadows on the pool floor.

At the beginning of the swim, when there was only one other person in the water, I heard some splashing or sloshing underwater. Was it from me? I don’t think so.

Later, after the swim, in the hot tub with Scott, I noticed another woman sitting in the corner, miming freestyle strokes in the hot water.

Also in the hot tub: crouching down, my chin just above the surface, I watched the light catch the spray of water made by one of the jets, making the spray look like fizz from my favorite grapefruit seltzer. Below, the jet made the water look like swirling smoke.

not a cabinet of curiosities

Talked to Scott about my class and my week on wonder as curiosity, which is coming up in a few weeks. There’s a quote by Thoreau that I’m interested in challenging. Well, maybe not challenging, but imagining curiosity against?

[24] In winter, nature is a cabinet of curiosities, full of dried specimens, in their natural order and position.

A Winter Walk/ Thoreau

Thoreau is describing a particular type of western scientific attention: study the natural world as individual things (specimens) to be isolated, classified, and categorized. To learn about, not from. To see non-human beings only as objects, never subjects.

I want to contrast this cabinet of curiosities with Robin Wall Kimmerer and her expanded understanding of knowing:

I would describe my journey as a circle, moving out into academia but coming back to the way that I knew plants as a child. I grew up in a rural area much like where we’re sitting today, and I was interacting every day with plants in the garden, the woods, or the wetlands. I couldn’t go outside without being surprised and amazed by some small green life. I suppose it was their great diversity of form that first drew my interest: that on a small patch of ground there could be so many different ways to exist. Each plant seemed to have its own sense of self, yet they fit together as a community. And each had a home, a place where I knew I could find it. This inspired my curiosity.

From as far back as I can remember, I had this notion of plants as companions and teachers, neighbors and friends. Then, when I went to college, a shift occurred for me. As an aspiring botany major, I was pressured to adopt the scientific worldview; to conceive of these living beings as mere objects; to ask not, “Who are you?” but, “How does it work?” This was a real challenge for me. But I was madly in love with plants, so I worked hard to accommodate myself to this new approach.

Later in my career, after I’d gotten my PhD and started teaching, I was invited to sit among indigenous knowledge holders who understood plants as beings with their own songs and sensibilities. In their presence, and in the presence of the plants themselves, I woke from the sleep I’d fallen into. I was reminded of what I’d always known in my core: that my primary relationship with plants was one of apprenticeship. I’m learning from plants, as opposed to only learning about them.

I was especially moved by an elderly Diné woman who told the biographies of each plant in her valley: its gifts, its responsibilities, its history, and its relationships — both friendships and animosities. As a scientist I had learned only about plants’ physical attributes. Her stories reminded me of how I had encountered plants as a young person. That’s why I say I’m coming full circle after all these years — because I’m able to stop speaking of plants as objects.

2 Ways of Knowing/ Robin Wall Kimmerer

I’m struggling to turn all of my thoughts about curiosity and wonder into a pithy, coherent statement for a lecture. So much time spent circling around these ideas. Frustrating.

feb 1/RUN

4.5 miles
minnehaha falls and back
13 degrees / feels like 6
75% snow and ice-covered

Warmer this morning. Even the feels like temperature was above 0. Sunny, not too much wind. Only slipped a few times, even though the path was an ice rink. Heard lots of birds — a few I could name, pileated woodpecker, black capped chickadee, a lot I couldn’t.

I ran south again today. A few winters ago, I ran north all the time. I wanted to avoid the double bridge near the 44th street parking lot because they never cleared it. Now I mostly run south, trying to avoid the uneven stretch between lake street and the trestle. Encountered a fat tire, some runners, and a few walkers, including a guy near the falls, blasting some loud, dissonant music that I couldn’t quite place.

Devoted a lot of time to staying aware of the icy path, looking out for hard chunks of snow or smooth, slick patches of ice. Forgot to look at the river, or forgot to remember I was looking at the river.

10 Things I Heard

  1. the loon-ish (at least to me) song of a pileated woodpecker
  2. the feebee song of a black-capped chickadee
  3. some strange high-pitched whine coming from the new apartment building across from the falls — the one they’ve been working on for way too long and that blocked the bike path in the summer so that FWA and I had to bike through the grass
  4. construction noise coming from that same apartment building — was it a nail gun? a truck backing up? loud pounding? I can’t remember anything about it but that it made me think, construction noise
  5. the loud, not quite heavy metal or hard rock but something like that, music coming from a walker near the falls
  6. the hard crunch of my feet on the month-old snow
  7. kids yelling and laughing and playing during recess at Minnehaha Academy
  8. a runner calling out some greeting after I waved at him
  9. the creaking and crunching of car wheels behind me from a truck driving over the lingering snow
  10. the faintest jingle of my house key in the pocket of my orange running shirt

Anything else about the path? The worst stretch, as in most uneven and icy, was right after 38th heading south. All slick ice. I wondered (and worried) about what will happen when it gets warmer and this ice melts. Noticing the shin-high wall of tightly packed snow lining the side of the path closest to the road, I imagined the water having nowhere to go and turning into a little lake.

Found this great passage by Roland Barthes from a poetry person on twitter. I want to collect it now, return to it later. It makes me think of passive attention, telling the truth slant, my peripheral vision, and distraction:

To be with the one I love and to think of something else: this is how I have my best ideas, how I best invent what is necessary to my work. Likewise for the test: it produces, in me, the best pleasure if it manages to make itself heard indirectly; if, reading it, I am led to look up often, to listen to something else. I am not necessarily captivated by the text of pleasure; it can be an act that is slight, complex, tenuous, almost scatterbrained: a sudden movement of the head like a bird who understands nothing of what we hear, who hears what we do not understand.

The Pleasure of the Text/ Roland Barthes

When I mentioned distraction above, I was partly thinking of an article about poetry and distraction that I posted here a few years ago. I found it again and discovered that this article begins with the quote from Barthes. Nice!

In Search of Distraction

jan 31/RUN

3.5 miles
under the ford bridge and back
0 degrees / feels like -9
75% ice and snow-covered

Brrr. This isn’t the coldest run I’ve done this year, but it felt like it! Well, most of me was fine, just not my feet or my forehead. Running into the frigid wind, I got a brain freeze. A mile in, I had mostly warmed up. The path was in terrible shape. All uneven with long sheets of slick ice. I never worried about falling, but I got tired of moving all around the path trying to find bare patches.

I thought about Bernadette Mayer and her list of experiments, especially this one: “attempt writing in a state of mind that seems less congenial” (Please Add to This List, 12). Extreme cold + uneven, icy paths + lots of layers = less congenial. I wondered how these conditions affected what and how I noticed the gorge.

10+ Things I Noticed

  1. crunching snow, loud and brittle
  2. the smell of smoke from the usual chimney (the one on edmund that I always smell every winter)
  3. the river, half frozen, half open, all cold-looking
  4. the path, 1: almost completely covered in snow and ice
  5. the path, 2: the ice is flat and smooth and light brown
  6. the path, 3: an occasional bare strip, sometimes what I thought was bare was actually brownish grayish ice
  7. at least 2 other runners — we held up our hands in greeting
  8. 2 or 3 walkers — all bundled up, faces covered up to the eyes
  9. the buzzing of a chainsaw, laboring in the cold — workers trimming dead branches at Minnehaha Academy
  10. looking across the ravine from the double bridge, noticing someone dressed in dark colors walking along the retaining wall at the top of the overlook
  11. haunting wind chimes
  12. the sizzling of dead leaves on a neighbor’s tree
  13. the sharp scratch of another dead leaf as the wind blew it across the sidewalk

At the end of my run, walking back home, I marveled at the chattering birds, sounding like spring. I saw them, not their details, just their movements, fluttering, swooping, soaring, flashing. Then I heard the distinctive knocking of a woodpecker on some dead wood. Before I had a chance to enjoy the sound, the beep beep beep of truck backing up silenced the bird.

layers:

  • 2 pairs of black running tights
  • 2 pairs of socks
  • a green long-sleeved shirt
  • a pink jacket with hood
  • a thicker gray jacket
  • a gray buff
  • 1 pair of black gloves
  • 1 pair of pink/red/orange mittens, wool and fleece combo
  • a fleece-lined cap with brim
  • sunglasses

Lots of layers!

Oh, I needed this run! What a difference it makes for my mental health to get outside and move.

This morning, I happened upon this beautiful prose poem:

The Year We Fell in Love with Moss/ Sally Baker

We made our bed in its mounds and all our furniture was covered in mossy baize. We swam through velvet-lined tunnels, swagged ourselves in greenness all winter. It was the green of pond algae, the painted shed at the bottom of the old garden, kale, tourmaline, the needlecord skater’s dress I wore in 1979. It was the emerald brilliance of moray eels, of tree snails; pea soup green. We were moss creatures, felted deep in woods. It was the first plant on earth, at least four hundred and fifty million years old, its rhizoids like a forest of stars, rootless, absorbing moisture and minerals from rain, surviving in the harshest of climates. We became bryophyliacs, singing hymns in the sunken moss cathedrals, while light through the leaves flickered over us in waves, like signals, as if we’d been blessed. I believed moss could live forever. You told me about the Barghest who haunted the valley, could turn you to stone with a look.

I need to add this to my growing list of green poems!

jan 30/BIKERUN

bike: 15 min warm-up
run: 3.2 miles
outside temp: 2 degrees / feels like -15

Because of the cold air, the icy paths, and the 10 mph wind, I decided to move in the basement today. Finished the episode of Dickinson I had started a few days ago while I biked, listened to the latest episode of If Books Could Kill (Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus) while I ran. Running on the treadmill in the basement is very different from running outside. A dark, unfinished basement with windows mostly blocked by a shelf with old lamps on it. Staring straight ahead, I can see a blank tv screen and then behind that, a dark window and the old coal chute. To the side, shelves with old paint cans (left) and a long work bench (right). Not much to notice, except spiders and dust. Difficult to run for that long and to remember any of my thoughts. I don’t mind running down here on occasion, but I couldn’t do it all the time. I’m so glad that I have the gorge.

a moment of sound

On days when it’s too cold for me to move outside, I record a moment of sound. Today’s moment was on my short walk back from the alley, where I had brought out some trash. It features my favorite, crunching snow, and another irritating delight: the cold, shrill creak of our iron gate. I walked through the snow in my small backyard and stopped briefly by the crab apple tree:

jan 30 / 3:00 pm

Here’s a poem I found on twitter today by Dana Levin about walking and thinking and wandering/wondering and being in and out of a body:

A Walk in the Park/ Dana Levin

To be born again, you need
an incarnation specialist—a team
from the Bureau of Needles
to thread you through—
Your next life
turns
on an axle of light—which Plato likens
to a turning
spindle—what was that?
I mean I knew

what a spindle was
from fairytales—how it could
draw blood
from a testing finger, put a kingdom
to sleep—
but what
did it actually do, how
did a spindle look
in real life?
I didn’t know. As with
so many things:
there was fact and there was

a believed-in dream . . .  

Everyone had one back
in the ancient day,
spindles.
When we had to weave
our living-shrouds
by hand.
“A slender rounded rod
with tapered ends,” Google said. Plato’s,
so heavy with thread,
when viewed from the side,
looked like a top—
though most diagrams assumed

the hawk-lord view . . . 

Moon thread, threads of the planets, earth thread.
Your thread.
Everyone else’s.
Nested one
inside the other, a roulette
machine—
If a thread could be spun from liquid light was what
I kept thinking—
imagining a sluice
of electric souls
between the earth wheel’s rims—
there “I”

was a piece of water, Necessity
wheeled it around―Necessity,
who was married to Time,
according to the Greeks—
Mother of the Fates.
Who would measure and cut your

paradise/shithole extra life . . . 

Well we all have ways of thinking about
why,
metaphysically-speaking,
anyone’s born—
though the answer’s always Life’s
I AM THAT I AM
—how it hurls and breaks!
on Death’s No there
there . . .

—which sounded kind of Buddhist. 

According to the teachings we were all
each other’s dream . . .

And soon able to vanish—

out of the real
without having to die, whoever’s
got the cash—to pay
the brainier ones
to perfect
a Heaven upload—to cut
the flesh-tether
and merge

with the Cloud . . . 

Well we all have ways of constructing
Paradise.
To walk alone deep in thought
in a city park
was mine
for several minutes,
thinking about spindles.
Before the vigilance
of my genderdoom

kicked in—

And there it was, the fact
of my body—
all the nerves in my scalp
and the back of my neck,
alive—
How it moved through space, how close
it had strayed
toward concealing trees, my
female body—
Jewish body—inside my
White body—dreaming
it was bodiless

and free . . . 

to decide:

how and when and if to fill the body’s hungers—
how and when and if to walk in thought
through the wilderness . . .

before Death comes with its Fascist hat.

Its Park Murder Misogyny hat.

Its Year Ten in a Nursing Home stink
    hat—    

However spun
    my thread . . . 

Anyway,
it’s peaceful here
in the park, at midday,
if a little deserted. I’ve moved to the path that winds
closer to the street.
Thinking again, as I always do,
about body and soul. How they
infuse each other. How they
hate each other.
How most people pledge allegiance
to one or the other.
How painful it was! To be
such a split

creature—

jan 29/SWIM

2 miles
ywca pool

Was planning to run on the track, but when we got to the y I realized I had forgotten my shoes and a running shirt. Oops. Luckily I remembered my swimming stuff and that the pool wasn’t too crowded. I’m fine sharing a lane with someone, but it’s difficult for me to circle swim. Sometimes, it’s hard to see other people when I have to pass them because of my vision.

Because I like making note of my vision challenges, both to share them with others and to document them for myself, I’ll offer three from today at the Y:

one: checking for an open lane. I looked as carefully as I could to see if there was an empty lane. When I saw what I thought was one, I checked it twice more to be sure. It looked empty to me. I got in, was adjusting my goggles, and suddenly a swimmer came from behind in my lane and pushed off the wall. This lane was not empty. It was no big deal, and the swimmer was happy to share a lane, but it’s frustrating to try carefully to see something and not be able to. Of course, this could happen to anyone when you’re not paying attention, but I was paying attention and this isn’t the first time this has happened. I’m getting better at not letting it bother me too much or remind me of what I’m losing.

two: finding my locker. I don’t always use the same locker in the locker room, and sometimes I don’t stop to memorize where it is. Luckily the Y switched from locks, where you bring your own combination lock, to keys with a shiny safety pin and the number of the locker attached. When I’m done swimming and I head to my locker, I stop for a minute to stand still and study the key, slowly making out the number on it. Then I carefully scan the lockers until I find mine. Like the empty lane that wasn’t, my need to study my locker key isn’t that big of a deal. But, it has been an adjustment, to slow down this much, and to look to others like I don’t know what I’m doing or that I need help. I don’t mind asking for help when I need it, but I find it stressful to be offered help when I don’t.

three: feeling older than I am. At the sink before swimming, I heard a grandmother talking with a young kid (her granddaughter, I assume): can you be my eyes for me and get that? My eyes aren’t working well today. I say these words to my daughter at least several times a week, which doesn’t bother me. I’m glad to have the help, but I’m 48, which is really young to have the eyes of someone in their late 70s or 80s.

All three of these challenges aren’t big, but they’ve required lots of adjustments and accommodations and extra effort. I don’t mind doing them as long as I can swim. And what a great swim it was! I felt strong and relaxed and almost in a dream floating above the pool floor shimmering with shadows. The mysterious white thing that I’d wondered about a few days ago was gone. Now, in another lane, something else — a string? strands of hair? — were hovering a foot above the bottom. The woman I was sharing a lane with alternated between freestyle, backstroke, and an extra froggy breaststroke. Near the end of the swim, a very fast swimmer arrived in the lane next to me. So much fun to watch him fly by and shoot like a rocket off the wall after a flip turn! Once as he approached, after lapping me at least twice, I kept my head underwater longer so I could watch his fast flip turn.

a moment of sound

Sometimes when it’s this cold outside (feels like -8), it’s harder to get outside for a walk. So instead, I go outside for a minute or two — a moment — and record a moment of sound. Today’s moment was at 1:30 pm in my sunny backyard. My favorite part: the wind chimes, the chirping bird, and that crunchy snow!

jan 29, 2023 / 1 pm / backyard