November 2019

An Epiphany

As I looked over at the other side of the gorge–the east side and sometimes St. Paul, sometimes Minneapolis side–I suddenly understood something about why I like to see beyond the thickly thatched trees lining the bluff. The view is not just about seeing the forest floor and the river, it’s about seeing the other side. And seeing the other side is about possibilities, other perspectives, other/new ways of being, hope beyond this rutted reality, more than only this/here/now, the future, not really death but maybe a little about death, that which is not-me/not-I, outside of my self, beyond, beside, to where my mom was born and lived until she left for college [West St. Paul].

click clack

Heard a roller skier slowly approaching me for a few minutes. Click clack click clack.

a way in is also a way out

Earlier this morning, while reading a review on LitHub, I encountered this phrase: 

…whose apertures present as door and window offering a way ‘in’ to language.

This got me thinking more about ways in and aperture as opening, hole, gap. What are some ways in? Doors, windows, fissures, gaps, cracks, seeps, leaks, holes, openings, breaches, chasms, chinks, gashes, gaps, vents, slots, slits, passages, crevices, mouths, orifices, ruptures, rifts, gates, gateways, portals, entryways. These things offer entry but they also offer escape, ways out. Reviewing one of older notebooks, I found these lines from a Jenny Xie poem:

My father taught me wherever you are,
always be looking for way out: this opening
or that one, or a question sharp enough 
to slice a hole for you to slip through.

“Zuihitsu” from Eye Level, jenny xie

A way in is also a way out, an entrance is an escape, a window a portal. A few more random bits about ways in, ways out:

I learned from Whitman that the poem is a temple–or a green field–a place to enter, and in which to feel.

Upstream/mary oliver

Sometimes the way to milk and honey is through the body.
Sometimes the way in is a song.
But there are three ways in the world: dangerous, wounding,
and beauty.
To enter stone, be water.
To rise through hard earth, be plant
desiring sunlight, believing in water.
To enter fire, be dry.
To enter life, be food.

Rounding the Human Corners/linda hogan

unexpected snow (nov 4)

Before leaving, I checked the temperature. I checked the wind speed. But I didn’t check the chance of precipitation. Felt a few drops of liquid as I started my run but wasn’t worried. Then around mile 2 1/2 or 3, it started to snow/sleet/rain. I couldn’t really feel it on my face, so I didn’t care. It was pretty and wild looking, running under the bridge at the bottom of the hill and seeing the white suddenly stop, then start again after the bridge.

Alison Price, artist

Found this great segment about a visual artist who visits the gorge at least twice a week and paints the beautiful trees. Love it! A Heritage of Trees Alison Price is an amazing artist. Here’s one from her Witnessing Waves series:

Getting colder. A few more layers: an extra pair of tights, a winter hat/feels like 16 degrees (nov 7)

a single spot

Running back over the lake street bridge to the west river road, was dazzled by a single spot near the shore shining too bright in the sunlight.

maintaining the gorge

hear chainsaws below in the oak savanna. Must be clearing out dead limbs

About Elms/Louise Glück

Found this poem through a podcast about Louise Glück: No Forms but Twisted Forms. I love twisted forms–on trees and in poetry. I’d like to think some more about this poem. In the podcast, one of the speakers mentions the idea of looking and not looking away, of being still and staring at twisting and writhing. I like these ideas of staying, staring, being still, not turning away from that which is painful, uncomfortable.

frozen over ice seeps

Noticed a seep frozen over in the flats, below the west bank of the U. I have been reading about springs and seeps and how they are much easier to spot in the winter because the water freezes, sometimes creating icy ledges/boulders and ice pillars. Never knew it before but people like to climb this ice. Not me, but I’d love to see other people doing it. 

too many ideas (as usual!)

Currently I have too many ideas to write about. Thinking about the wild, being bewildered, ways in and ways out, layers, inside/outside/periphery. All of this related to the river gorge and park management and running on the west river parkway.

Some Advice

On Friday, went to the South High Choir concert to hear my daughter’s middle-school choir sing with the high school choirs. Wonderful. I love the choir director at South. She gave the students 4 goals: 1. Breathe, 2. Listen, 3. Move somebody and 4. Have fun. These goals are great. I’d like to mash them up with Mary Oliver’s: 1. Pay Attention, 2. Be Astonished, 3. Tell About it. 

  1. Breathe
  2. Listen
  3. Pay Attention
  4. Be Astonished
  5. Tell About it
  6. Move Somebody

14 degrees/feels like -3/18 mph wind (nov 11)

First cold run of the season. It didn’t feel like -3 to me, but it still felt cold and difficult. Ran straight into the wind heading north. Wore too many layers–two pairs of running tights, two pairs of socks, gloves, mittens, two shirts, vest, jacket, buff, hat. Was sweating a lot by the end.

&

Walking before I started I took a deep breath–such wonderfully cold & fresh air! Read a twitter thread about using and or & in poetry. I like using & when I imagine that the two items being joined are partners or friends or a pair of co-conspirators or two halves of one particular whole or a comedy team/musical duo.

Jane Alison’s book, Meander, Spiral, Explore: Design Pattern in Narrative in The Paris Review

She writes about using forms found in nature (rivers, spirals, twisted branches) to structure stories/narrative. I started thinking about seeps and springs and eroding limestone, twisted and gnarled branches, water slowly dripping out of the sewer drain, weathered tree trunks, mulching asphalt. What sorts of poems could I make from these forms?

“Matter has potential that is made actual by form” (jane alison).

12 degrees/feels like 0 (nov 12)

Day two of the early cold snap. Brr. Liked the fresh & cold air but not how it made my feet feel, like heavy inert blocks of concrete

misheard

Thought I heard the clickity-clack of a roller skier but it was just a nail gun across the boulevard–a house getting a new roof.

5 minutes lost

couldn’t remember running over parts of the path that I had just crossed a few minutes before–at least 5 minutes where I was able to leave my Self. Cool.

on form

hinking about form a lot again. Found a YouTube video made in 2014 by a woman with cone dystrophy. She mentioned how her cones are almost all destroyed (just like me) and she relies on her rods. Cones enable us to see fine details, rods outlines of shapes and forms. Yes! I love the forms and shapes at the gorge–I don’t need to see them sharply to appreciate their beauty or to recognize what they are. Had an idea: what if I try to represent those forms/shapes in a poem? It could be concrete poetry or something similar. I really like the book cover for Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk (I also loved reading the book). 

Thinking about simple forms combined with strong, compact language–possibly verbs? Ways in or Finding a Way In or The Way In

And there is the thing that one does, the needle one plies, the work, and within that work a chance to take thoughts that are hot and formless and place them in some shapely, heat-retaining form… (Mary Oliver, Upstream).

The importance, comfort, necessity of forms. Not elaborate or overly precise/fussy but clear, known, identifiable, recognizable within reason. When walking in the woods in gray, un-helpful light, I know them, they are familiar friends, orienting me. They give meaning effortlessly, efficiently.

Its (creative work) concern is the edge, and the making of a form out of the formlessness that is beyond the edge.

How much do we need to recognize a form?

O, what beautiful snow!

Falling from the sky, the snow shimmered–or did it sizzle? scratch? lightly tap? Whatever it did, it generated a lovely sound. The snow illuminated the paths in the woods. The mystery of where and when the Winchell trail begins or ends near the Franklin bridge is solved! Finally, I can see how the trail enters the wood below the bluff and hugs the rim. Also saw the path that winds through the forest beneath the tree tunnel. Noticed snow on the tall, slender boulder, partly covering the cairn on top. Felt the snow pelting my eyelashes. Stopped at the overlook and admired how wintery and cold and desolate the river looked today. 

spotted: an albino squirrel on the creek path between the duck bridge and the echo bridge

hardly ever in the middle

Thought about how my recent poems about this route almost all take place at the beginning or the end of the run–is it because I am not thinking about anything during the middle of it? 

finally, we meet!

Talked to the Daily Walker and finally, after 4 or 5 years, we introduced ourselves! His name is Dave. Dave is one of my favorite people. We agreed that being outside in the winter is the best.

breathing in

After finishing, stood still and stared hard at the forest below, breathing in the colors and the space and the soft fuzzy shapes

the girl who mistook a dead squirrel for a hat

The tall rock didn’t have rocks on it, but a dead squirrel?–not sure, I didn’t want to stare too hard and my vision is not great these days.

Ended near the tall boulder. Whatever was on top of it was still there–I think it’s a hat, not a dead animal. It’s always interesting what I see through my cone dystrophy eyes.

Stopped to stare at the thing on top of the tall boulder: a mitten with fur lining. Realized it was placed on top of the stack stones to keep them from falling off. Can’t decide if I appreciate this or not.

Briefly mistook a trash can for a person.

on The Crazy Woman by G. Brooks

I love this little poem and the idea of wanting to sing in November instead of May. Not sure what a song of gray would sound like, but maybe I’ll go out and sing one tomorrow? Why wouldn’t I? Perhaps one of the reasons I like November is that it is unloved by so many–not so much because I want to give it love (even though I do) but because it’s less crowded out here–just us crazy people.

Mysteries (mostly) Solved

As I ran through the tunnel of trees and looked down at the forest, I noticed (not for the first time) the black sewer pipe with the white plastic cap sticking out of the slope. A few minutes later I looked up and saw a squirrel’s nest, normally hidden from view by a thick veil of green leaves. And I thought about how many mysteries are solved in November: How does the water from the neighborhood make its way to the river? Sewer pipes in the slope. How high up are we and where is the bottom? There’s the forest floor, not too far down. Where does the trail that winds through the trees begin, end? At a bench near the franklin bridge. Where do the squirrels go when they’re not annoying me? A big nest up at the top of that one tree. Where does the water weep and seep through the limestone cliff? The seeping water freezes in the cold, creating white patches easy to spot. One mystery not yet solved: Down on the sand flats, just before the beach ends and the trail travels back into the forest, is that two people fishing or two trees standing? Running high on the gorge, I’ve stared intently at the mystery forms twice as I ran by and I still can’t decide.

Let IT Be, revisited

Let ink trails be a way in
to a world of intelligent trees 
who incubate theories 
in their subterranean information thoroughfare.

Let indifferent trapezoids be
a model for how to live–
never interested in even, parallel lines
never caring to reach infinitely towards the sky?

Let indian takeout be
what saves us from eating
icky tacos again.

Let incanting toads be what finally
sings us to sleep
so we can dream better dreams
imagining terrains that believe in us.

Let invisible threads be revealed
so we may see how we belong
connected, tethered to each other–
vulnerable to violence yet
also to the inviting touch of another.

Let indefatigable toddlers be 
given inside time to quell their irritating tantrums.

Let indigo tunics be required attire
for ill-tempered teetotalers

Let insufferable Todd be
forced to drink iced tea 
while we imbibe tequila

when it feels like 14, why not wear shorts?!

Noticed someone ahead of me turning down to the Winchell Trail at 42nd. They were wearing a heavy coat and shorts. Shorts when it feels like 14 degrees doesn’t surprise anymore, having lived here in Minnesota for the last 16 years. 

forgetting worries

A pretty good run, even with the wind. Allowed me to forget about kids playing video games too much, refrigerators needing to be defrosted but hopefully not replaced, snow storms messing up Thanksgiving plans, a wonderful dog demanding too much attention.

Yes! Lucy gets how wonderful November is.

More welcome than voluptous gales 
This keen, crisp air, as conscience clear: 
November breathes no flattering tales;— 
The plain truth-teller of the year, 
Who wins her heart, and he alone, 
Knows she has sweetness all her own.

November/Lucy Larcom

the last bare day

this was probably the last bare day of the year. I will miss the way the blueish gray water complements the rich brown forest and the sweet smell of mulching leaves and the view above the rim of the gorge on the path that winds through the tunnel of trees 

conspire

to breathe together

sinkholes, sinking in

descend, drop, settle, be absorbed, dip, drip submerged, engulfed, flow at a lower depth, disappear, immerse, penetrate, bore, get to the bottom, plunge, beneath surface level,

write a companion poem to how to float: how to sink

no thinking = sinking
don’t think sink
stare hard relax
go deep seep
stand still
let go
loosen

pool at the bottom, seep, thicken, harden, saturate, slowly, heavily, chocolate syrup oozing down, slide, surrender, comply, be pliant, shift shapes, break through, trickle, erode

sinkhole: providing a route for surface water to disappear underground

STOP.
you do not have to stand still
you only have to settle down
into the ground
plant your toes in the dirt

bewilder or be wilder?

the wilderness within us is the space/place/opportunity for joy, mystery, astonishment, wonder, delight

wilderness defined by McKay, Vis a Vis:

capacity of all things to elude the mind’s appropriations

not lost but unlocatable

mystery, not hidden just unseen. Revealed in November.

periphery

surface, boundary, beyond, edge, off to the side, outer limits

VERBS!

submit, carve out, burrow, sink, seep, grow, lose, absorb, dissolve, erode

trees don’t ever care if I stare for a long time deep into their bark, at their limbs

alternatives for OK Boomer

10-4 Dinosaur
Oky-Doky “bout to Croaky

Attempts at Exhausting a Place in Paris, Georges Perec

the Flaneur (inside), the Voyeur (outside)
psychogeography