dec 5/RUN

4.5 miles
minnehaha falls and back
27 degrees / feels like 21
75% snow and ice covered

Icier than I expected so I went slower. A gray day. Fuzzy, unformed or unfixed or out of focus. The sky filled with static. I ran south, planning to check out my favorite winter spot — just past the oak savanna where the hills part and open to a view of the river — but I forgot, or I was distracted as I tried to avoid slippery spots and pedestrians.

About a mile in, was passed by another runner. I could hear their soft footsteps approaching. After they passed I watched them fly away. Their gait seemed a little erratic, like they were almost about to slip on the snow with each step. Speaking of slips, running up the hill between Locks and Dam #1 and the double-bridge, I witnessed a biker almost wipe out on some chunks of ice the plow had kicked up from the street. Yikes. I stopped to let me go by safely.

The falls were frozen. The river was too, but not completely.

10 (groups of) People I Encountered

  1. a group of walkers, paused by the sign for the bike surreys at the falls
  2. another group of walkers near locks and dam #1. Heard one of them say, “The farmer had to fish her out of the river.”
  3. a guy and an exuberant dog by the Longfellow poem at the park
  4. the speedy runner I mentioned above
  5. the biker who almost fell
  6. someone on a fat tire
  7. kids at the school playground across the street, more subdued than usual, but still laughing and yelling
  8. a guy blasting his phone or radio as he walked. I think he was listening to music, but I can’t remember what kind
  9. a runner in a bright blue jacket, over on the trail, when I was on edmund. we ran parallel for a few minutes then he inched ahead
  10. a runner carefully crossing over some ice as she talked on a bluetooth phone to someone

Running back from the falls, I crossed over to edmund to avoid the crowd, and the ice on the trail. Stopped at my favorite poetry house that puts a poem on their front window. Was there a new one? Yes! Here it is:

Maybe Alone On My Bike/ William Stafford

I listen, and the mountain lakes
hear snowflakes come on those winter wings
only the owls are awake to see,
their radar gaze and furred ears
alert. In that stillness a meaning shakes;

And I have thought (maybe alone
on my bike, quaintly on a cold
evening pedaling home), Think!–
the splendor of our life, its current unknown
as those mountains, the scene no one sees.

O citizens of our great amnesty:
we might have died. We live. Marvels
coast by, great veers and swoops of air
so bright the lamps waver in tears,
and I hear in the chain a chuckle I like to hear.

I’m glad to have found this poem. Think! and we might have died. We live. Marvels/coast by, great veers and swoops of air I love the title of the poem and where it sits at the start of the second stanza. Weather and light like today — the gray, overcast, wintery light, not dim, but not bright either — is conducive for thinking and reflecting and being grateful to be alive and to notice the veers and swoops of air, the chuckle of a bike chain.

Yes, gray is for thinking and wondering and for opening up to the world.

Inciting Joy: Through My Tears I Saw [Death: the Second Incitement]

Before heading out for a run, I read Gay’s second incitement about the death of his father. I don’t want to summarize it because it’s not meant to be summarized, but experienced, endured, read closely without looking away. Wow — Gay is an amazing writer. His descriptions of his dad’s diagnosis of cancer, his illness and decline, his death, are so powerful and vivid. I could feel the pain of my own grief — over my two moms, one dead for 13 years, the other for 2 months — in my body, especially in my sinuses and throat. My body tightening, tingling, wanting to close up.

At one point, as I read the 17 page chapter, I thought of Marie Howe and her entreaty to not look away, even when it’s painful. To face the sadness and grief, to let it in. In the poem I posted yesterday, Levine writes about how this letting in — dragging our grief out of the river and putting our mouth on it — can lead to a loosening, an opening up, a joy. Gay writes about this too, in the conclusion to the chapter, as he says goodbye to his dying father:

Can you hear me Dad, Can you hear me, and by now I was crying hard, and I was kissing my father’s face again and again, telling him I loved him again and again, it was the softest face in the world, my father’s face, so quiet like that, I never knew it, I had never touched it before, I was crying onto his eyelids and cheeks and kissing him and telling him again and again I loved him, I love you Dad, his brown face was lit with my tears. and with my forehead pressed into his, and my hands on his cheeks, I noticed that my father had freckles sprinkled around the bridge of his nose and his upper cheeks. It was like a gentle broadcast of carrot seeds blending into his skin, flickering visible from this distance. It was through my tears I saw my father was a garden. Or the two of us, or the all-of-us, not here long maybe it is. And from that what might grow.

dec 2/RUN

5.75 miles
bottom of franklin hill and back
34 degrees
50% snow-covered

Found out last night that RJP has COVID. She’s had a cold all week. So far, I feel okay, so does Scott. Will we get it? I’m a little worried, but only a little. A few years ago, I would have been freaking out. Thank you vaccines and better treatments and less severe variants! Unless I feel like total crap, I’m going out for a run when I can. Today I don’t feel like total crap, so I went out for a run. It felt good. Breathing in fresh air! Moving my legs! Admiring the half frozen river!

A great run. Just above freezing, not too slippery. Some wind, but mostly at my back. Ran north with no headphones, south with a playlist.

12 Things I Noticed

  1. a honking goose, its mournful cry amplified by the bridge
  2. a big bird flying above. I think it was a crane
  3. a runner in an orange shirt, running with a dog
  4. another runner — tall, wearing a white sweatshirt and shorts, moving fast, with long, bouncing strides
  5. passing Dave, the Daily Walker: Good Morning, Dave!
  6. a group of young people, high school or college students?, hanging out by the franklin bridge, blocking the path
  7. no sun, but not gloomy, a grayish-white sky. everything bright but with very little color
  8. the river! down at the start of the flats, the river was gray and half-frozen. Not flat or dull but interesting. Not gloomy either, but vast and quiet. Not desolate, but detached, otherworldly
  9. a car, I think it was a Prius, whooshing through a stretch of the road that was part snow, part bare pavement, then suddenly turning silent as it reached a part of the road that was all soft snow. So strange to watch it move without sound
  10. Climbing the franklin hill, encountering a line of cars with their headlights on, crawling down the hill
  11. the faint trace, in light gray, of my shadow ahead of me
  12. the knock knock knock of a woodpecker

Still figuring out my theme for December as I continue working on some color poems — currently, a gray one. Today, I’m posting something from Ross Gay about joy. Wow!

Yes, that’s how it seems to me, that we need practices, or we need to notice the practices we have, that help us be present with our sorrow. I’m not saying that help us drown in our sorrow—I’m saying be present with it, acknowledge it, befriend it even, lest we do some wretched or devastating shit trying to pretend it’s not there, or trying to hide it. And to do it in a mutual way—which, again, might be in some of our practices: dancing, gardening, mourning—but it might also be how we live, how we attend to one another, with the awareness that, yup, like me, your heart is broken. Probably not in exactly the same way, but probably, no, definitely, it’s broken. And it will go on being broken in various ways. It does not make us special, it seems to me. It makes us like each other. It un-others us from each other in fact. What happens if we live like that? My sense is that we’re more inclined to care for one another, we’re more inclined to love one another, which, yes, might be a kind of resistance to institutions who have little care for us, but it might also end up being a kind of offense to them. When we care for each other, and consequently are less reliant on the institutions or systems that, a lot of them anyway, do not care for us, we make those systems less necessary. We might be replacing those systems with something like love.

Cultivating Delight and Meaning with Ross Gay

Be present with our sorrow. Befriend it. It seems difficult sometimes to express sorrow, a brokenness, vulnerability, without it seeming weak or eliciting pity or the frustrating, You’re so brave! Or in ways that put it beside, in conversation with, delight or happiness. To me, gray holds both delight and grief, often in equal measures.

I like this idea that sorrow and broken hearts are something that connects all of us. I was thinking about that as I reread this poem by Didi Jackson, especially the last lines. The first song that is in all songs is that of sorrow/grief/mutual suffering.

Listen/ Didi Jackson

Like a hundred gray ears
the river stones are layered

in a pile near the shed where mourning
doves slow their peck and bobble to listen

to a chorus of listening.
Small buds on the lilac perk up.

A cardinal’s torpedoed call comes
in slow waves of four,

round after round. It’s a love call;
a call to make him known to himself.

The stones listen harder,
decipher the song; attempt

to offer back its echo.
But fail.

This is not a poem of coming Spring.
This is a poem well aware

that gray flesh is dead flesh.
All of the ripe listening

comes at a cost. The first
sky is in all skies.

The first song
is in all songs.

And just now, thinking even more about Jackson’s poem, I realized that the delightful gray ears that the stones become has another meaning. Gray = neutral. The gray ears listen without judgment, are open to witnessing, beholding, hearing what is said without rebuke. Another meaning of gray! Love it. Those gray ears are going in one of my gray poems, for sure!

nov 30/RUN

3.5 miles
trestle turn around
17 degrees / feels like 4
99% snow-covered

Is this the coldest day of the season? Just checked, and the next coldest was on November 20th when it was 19, feels like 9. I was worried it might be too cold, but it felt great! What a winter wonderland. White ground, pale blue sky, dark gray river. The trails were plowed — thanks Minneapolis Parks! — with only a few rough spots. I didn’t notice the ice because I was wearing yak trax. Just past the railroad trestle, I stopped to put in my headphones and a Taylor Swift playlist.

layers

  • 2 pairs of black running tights
  • green base layer shirt
  • pink jacket with hood
  • black vest
  • 2 pairs of gloves — 1 black, 1 pink and white striped
  • 1 pair of white socks with stripes, mismatched — 1 with green stripes, the other teal
  • fleece lined cap with ear flaps
  • buff
  • sunglasses
  • yak trax, a new pair

10 Things I Noticed

  1. a pale blue sky — not an intense BLUE! sky, more like the hint of blue, like if someone had taken a black and white photo of the gorge and painted in a blue sky
  2. lots of dry, brittle leaves swirling in the wind. Running by the double bridge to the north, I watched something dark fly through the fence then back again. A bug? A bird? No, a dead leaf
  3. Later on, I saw a few birds flying very fast across the path in front of me. They added to the chaos of the blustery wind and the swirling leaves
  4. 2 other runners, one near the trestle, the other further south
  5. a few walkers — any dogs? I don’t think so
  6. a group, some kids and adults, spread across the entire path, getting ready to go sledding down by the river
  7. remember to look at the river. A strange illusion. It was a dark, dark gray with a hint of brown and it looked like a wall. Instead of stretching flat on the gorge floor, it looked like it rose out of it, up towards the other bank. I’ve written about this wall of water in past winters
  8. the path was covered in mostly packed snow. The sun illuminated some of the slicker spots
  9. smelled a burnt something — I think I might have seen bits of rubber on the side of the road
  10. a truck with a plow, clearing the parking lot above the tunnel of trees

I don’t remember thinking about gray at all. Did I? Thought more about how I love running in the winter and whether or not my fingers were going numb or if my sunglasses would fog up or my foot would be sore again later today. Oh, and of course, I wondered what the drivers thought when they saw me running on this cold and windy day.

Today on the last day for singing a song of gray, I’m thinking about gravel. Here’s a bit from Mary Oliver’s “Gravel” in The Leaf and the Cloud. I’m struck by how she makes gray here with equal mentions of black and white: the black bog and white-circled eye, the white lilies and the black ant.

from “Gravel” in The Leaf and the Cloud/ Mary Oliver

Even the mosquito’s
 dark dart,
flashing and groaning;
 even the berries, softening back
into the black bog;
 even the wood duck’s
white-circled eye,

and the first white lilies
on the shaggy pond,

and the big owl, shaking herself
out of the pitchpines,

even the turtle scratching in the dust,
even the black ant, climbing the mile-high hill,

even the little chattering swift
diving down into the black chimney.

Everything is participate.
Everything is a part of the world
 we can see, taste, tickle, touch, hold onto,

and then it is dust.
Dust at last.
Dust and gravel.

In the distance, the rabbit-field.
Ben—his face in the grass, his chomping.
His sweet, wild eyes.

Thinking about gray as balanced, as both dark and light, black and white, grief and delight.

nov 26/RUN

5.6 miles
fairview loop
42 degrees

A little warmer today so I wore the late fall, early winter layers: black tights, black sorts, long-sleeved green shirt, orange sweatshirt, black and white polka dot baseball cap. Sunny, quiet. Almost all of the trail and sidewalks were completely clear. Only a few spots of ice on the Marshall hill just before reaching Cretin. Managed to get greens at all of the stoplights climbing the marshall hill– no quick breaks for me. Had to stop at the two on Summit.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. heard the bells at St. Thomas at both 10 and 10:15
  2. was dazzled by the light burning bright off the river
  3. felt the wind pushing me from the side as I crossed the bridge
  4. the strong smell of bacon or ham as I neared longfellow grill
  5. a few stretches of ice on marshall, some patches of wet sidewalk that looked like ice but was only a trick of the light
  6. a bus stopped, a few passengers getting out
  7. statues at the end of the walk of fancy houses on Summit: pineapples, lions
  8. a kid’s voice somewhere below in the ravine leading to shadow falls
  9. a runner stopped on the bridge to take a picture of the river as it shimmered with a wide swath of bright light
  10. a woman and a dog carefully making their way under the chain closing off the old stone steps

Climbing the short hill that starts at the Monument and ends at an entrance to Shadow Falls, I suddenly had a thought about yellow that made me stop and pull out my phone to record it:

Thinking about colors and yellow and then I was thinking about how sometimes it used to be this warning, this shout, like watch out, be careful and now it’s become more of a whisper or a soft cry or more hushed and it’s increasingly getting that way so colors are more muted and muffled… [the other voices in the recording are 2 bikers and 2 then 2 runners].

yellow/ 26 nov 2022

Not sure what happened with the recording here, but I remember saying more about how distant yellow seems now. I never see it as bright, but faded, from the past, or through the gauzy veil of my damaged cones. Sometimes only the association with objects. I might not see that something is yellow but I know that it is because I know safety vests or crosswalk signs or the middle light on a stoplight are yellow. Orange works differently for me. It’s not faded, but it often only appears as a blip or flash or slash or flare in my peripheral vision. Again, yellow offers a soft, constant glow. I was also thinking about Van Gogh and his idea that every color is ultimately a variation of gray.

excerpt from Yellow Lullaby/ Leontia Flynn

A spill of sunlight and a yellow dress.
A yolk.
A yellow flower.                                                
A candle flame.
A moth-light, moon-like,
in the nursery’s darkness . . .

nov 23/RUN

4.4 miles
minnehaha falls and back
30 degrees

Another sunny, warmer (than last week) day. The paths were clear, the sky was blue, the sun was out. Earlier today, driving over to my annual mammogram, there was a haze in the gorge, but by a few hours later, during my run, it was gone. No headphones on the way to the falls, Lizzo’s Special on the way back. The falls was half frozen, half dripping. All the steps down below are blocked off now for the winter. The steps down to Winchell are too. Heard the general chatter of birds, sounding like spring. Greeted Mr. Walker (I named him in an entry on sept 12 of this year) — Hello not Good morning.

11 Things I Noticed

  1. the strong smell of pot as I passed a car in the 36th st parking lot
  2. a guy walking, listening to music without headphones — can’t remember what kind of music it was. Passed him twice
  3. a woman and a kid walking above the falls, admiring it at my favorite spot
  4. bright orange below the double bridge — somebody must have spray painted it
  5. a lone walker below me on the Winchell Trail
  6. Later, 2 laughing women on the Winchell Trail
  7. the river was burning white again — shimmering in the sun through the trees
  8. running past the southern entrance to the Winchell Trail, I could see through the bare trees all the way to the stone wall that wrapped around the grassy overlook
  9. also had a clear view of the oak savanna and the mesa through the leafless trees
  10. a loud scraping noise from some part of a car, dragging on the road
  11. my shadow, running beside me — strong in form and definition, a very dark gray in color

Today’s gray: fog and mist

Fog/Giovanni Pascoli

Translated from the Italian by Geoffrey Brock

Hide what is far from my eyes,
pale fog, impalpable gray
vapor climbing the light
of the coming day,
after the storm-streaked night,
the rockfall skies…
Hide what has gone, and what goes,
hide what lies beyond me…
Let me see only that hedge
at my boundary,
and this wall, by whose crumbling edge
valerian grows.
Hide from my eyes what is dead:
the world is drunk on tears…
Show my two peach trees in bloom,
my two pears,
that spread their sugared balm
on my black bread.
Hide from my eyes lost things
whose need for my love is a goad…
Let me see only the white
of the stone road –
I too will ride it some night
as a tired bell rings.
Hide the far things – hide
them beyond the sweep of my heart…
Show only that cypress tree,
standing apart,
and here, lying sleepily,
this dog at my side.

In the Fog/ Giovanni Pascoli

TRANSLATED BY GEOFFREY BROCK

I stared into the valley: it was gone—
wholly submerged! A vast flat sea remained,
gray, with no waves, no beaches; all was one.

And here and there I noticed, when I strained,
the alien clamoring of small, wild voices:
birds that had lost their way in that vain land.

And high above, the skeletons of beeches,
as if suspended, and the reveries
of ruins and of the hermit’s hidden reaches.

And a dog yelped and yelped, as if in fear,
I knew not where nor why. Perhaps he heard
strange footsteps, neither far away nor near—

echoing footsteps, neither slow nor quick,
alternating, eternal. Down I stared,
but I saw nothing, no one, looking back.

The reveries of ruins asked: “Will no
one come?” The skeletons of trees inquired:
“And who are you, forever on the go?”

I may have seen a shadow then, an errant
shadow, bearing a bundle on its head.
I saw—and no more saw, in the same instant.

All I could hear were the uneasy screeches
of the lost birds, the yelping of the stray,
and, on that sea that lacked both waves and beaches,

the footsteps, neither near nor far away.

Mist/ Alice Oswald

It amazes me when mist
chloroforms the fields
and wipes out whatever world exists

and walkers wade through coma
shouting
and close to but curtained from each other

sometimes there’s a second river
lying asleep along the river
where the sun rises
sunk in thought

and my soul gets caught in it
hung by the heels
in water

it amazes me when mist
weeps as it lifts

             and a crow 

calls down to me in its treetop voice
that there are webs and drips
and actualities up there

and in my fog-self shocked and grey
it startles me to see the sky

nov 22/RUN

5.5 miles
franklin loop
27 degrees

Warmer this morning. Hardly any ice or snow on the path. My foot is only slightly sore at the end, but otherwise okay. Sunny and bright. A blue sky. As I reached the river at the beginning of my run I heard then saw a lone goose. Thought about color, especially yellow and gray. Listened to my breathing. Focused on taking deep breaths in through my nose, out through my mouth. Was good morninged by Mr. Morning! He called out from across the trail, Good morning! and I called back.

10 Colors I Noticed

  1. the yellow dotted lines on the bike trail
  2. the orange spray paint around the cracks that need to be replaced
  3. a pale blue sky
  4. a dark blue trash can
  5. the dark gray pavement that seemed to have a hint of blue
  6. the silver river — or was it white gold? through the trees, the river burned a bright white
  7. beige or sepia-toned ice on the river
  8. the grayish-dark brown of the bare trees
  9. the slab of white snow decorating one side of the ancient boulder
  10. the dark greenish-gray of a fir tree

In other color news: an essay I wrote 5 years ago popped into my head while I was running — “My Purple Toe” — and I thought about how the toe in it is not purple but lavender gray

Update on my foot: Scott and I had to go pick FWA up from Gustavus, so I’m writing the rest of this later in the day. A few hours in the car, not moving much, my foot felt stiff and sore again. I walked around a bit and it felt okay. I asked Scott if that’s what happens with his foot and he said yes. Does this mean I have plantar fasciitis? I hope not!

Today’s gray theme: more on the color gray

[Here on this edge I have had many diminutive visions.]/ Diane Seuss

Here on this edge I have had many diminutive visions. That all at its essence is dove-gray.
Wipe the lipstick off the mouth of anything and there you will find dove-gray. With my
thumb I have smudged away the sky’s blue and the water’s blue and found, when I kicked it
with my shoe, even the sand at its essence is pelican-gray. I am remembering Eden.
How everything swaggered with color. How the hollyhocks finished each other’s sentences.
How I missed predatory animals and worrying about being eaten. How I missed being eaten.
How the ocean and the continent are essentially love on a terrible mission to meet up with itself.
How even with the surface roiling, the depths are calmly nursing away at love. That look the late
nurser gets in its eyes as it sucks: a habitual, complacent peace. How to mother that peace, to wean
it, is a terrible career. And to smudge beauty is to discover ugliness. And to smudge ugliness is to be
knocked back by splendor. How every apple is the poison apple. How rosy the skin. How sweet
the flesh. How to suck the apple’s poison is the one true meal, the invocation and the Last
Supper. How stillness nests at the base of wind’s spine. How even gravestones buckle and swell
with the tides. And coffins are little wayward ships making their way toward love’s other shore.

nov 21/SWIM

1.5 miles (2700 yards / 108 laps)
ywca pool

Very glad to be able to swim this morning. My foot, which has been sore the past few days, feels much better today. Swimming instead of running will help even more. I swam my usual continuous 200s. Decided not to count the laps and just keep swimming until Scott came to the pool and stopped at the end of my lane. A few workouts ago, I asked him to stop at the end of my lane instead of going straight over to the hot tub to wait for me to be finished. I explained that it’s hard for me to recognize him — I might not be able to do it. Now I don’t have to worry. It’s not hard for me to see a person with bright orange shorts at the end of my lane. Just another strategy for dealing with not being able to see that well.

10 Things I Noticed While Swimming

  1. a few more things on the ground, at least one stringy thing floating in the matter — I was in a different lane, so that might it explain why there were more things. It could also be that it’s time for them to clean the pool again
  2. no chlorine stings
  3. crowded — most lanes had 2 people
  4. the woman sharing the lane with me was a great swimmer. I liked watching her freestyle as I approached her, and the way she shot off the wall
  5. 2 Regulars — Mr. Speedo, the older white man who is lanky and probably has been swimming for 1/2 a century, and who wears a dark speedo and the oldish white woman in the pale blue and green suit who sometimes wears fins or booties on her feet, mitts on her hands. Today, after about 30 minutes in the water, she started swimming butterfly. It might be a stretch, but I think I’ll call her Miss Luna after the luna moth which is pale green — this luna moth is not a butterfly, but people often mistake it for one
  6. predominant color I noticed again: orange. I think a lot of the orange I see are the small sandwich board signs that are orange and read, caution wet floor, or someting like that
  7. looking straight ahead through the cloudy water, I could just barely see my lane partner approaching. She was in a solid dark suit and was streamlined, making me think of a small shark — surprisingly, this didn’t make me nervous
  8. at one point, Miss Luna and the shark were swimming at the same speed, on either side of me. It was fun speeding through the two of them — like what, a rocket?
  9. one distinctive noise — the squeak of my nose because my nose plug was not on properly
  10. 2 older women in the locker room discussing the big snow storm in upstate New York. 2 things in particular I remember: first, that the football had to be moved somewhere else and two, about how after a big storm there are always tons of pictures on social media of people who are stuck and can’t open their front doors

Today’s gray theme: gray variations

The Nomenclature of Color/ Richard Jones

Absinthe green: Laura’s eyes.
Bishop’s purple: Evening skies.
Cornflower blue: Dreams of the wise.
Dragon’s-blood red: My mother’s dark sighs.
Elephant’s breath: Imagination.
Forget-me-not blue: The dust of cremation.
Guinea green: Ruination.
Hessian brown: The dust of creation.
Iron gray: The paradox of clouds.
Jade green: The bride’s necklace.
Kingfisher blue: Justice and grace.
Lavender gray: A widow’s shroud.
Medici blue: The heart that is jealous.
Nile blue: The color of water.
Onionskin pink: A poem for my daughter.
Pearl gray: The wedding gift.
Quaker drab: The virtue of thrift.
Raw sienna: Dirt we sift.
Seafoam green: The rowboat adrift.
Tyrian rose: Love’s ardor.
Ultramarine blue: Heaven’s color.
Venetian pink: Hell below.
Wedgewood blue: The little we know.
Xanthine orange: The taste of life.
Yvette violet: The lips of my wife.
Zinc orange, zinc blue, zinc white: The colors of houses in paradise.

Iron gray
Lavender gray
Pearl gray

Doing a google search about gray, I found this article with 6 Popular Gray Paint Colors: Agreeable Gray, West Coast Ghost, Seize the Gray, Balboa Mist, Comfort White, and White Metal.

from “ode to gray”

Gray in the wild opens and spills. Put two grays together and you’ll see the color each one hides within, the “endless variations” noted by Van Gogh. I think of the handful of river pebbles I once snuck into my pockets on a day trip to a waterfall: they were dusty gray when I got home, but underwater, each concealed a secret separate life as green or red or blue. So many things that seem gray on the surface have a treasure to unlock—myself, I hope, included.

from To Theo van Gogh (a letter from Vincent Van Gogh to his son)

As regards black in nature, we are of course in complete agreement, as I understand it. Absolute black doesn’t in fact occur.2 Like white, however, it’s present in almost every colour and forms the endless variety of greys — distinct in tone and strength.3 So that in nature one in fact sees nothing but these tones or strengths. 

The 3 fundamental colours are red, yellow, blue. Composite: orange, green, purple.

From these are obtained the endless variations of grey by adding black and some white — red-grey, yellow-grey, blue-grey, green-grey, orange-grey, violet-grey. 

It’s impossible to say how many different green-greys there are for example — the variation is infinite.

But the whole chemistry of colours is no more complicated than those simple few fundamentals. And a good understanding of them is worth more than 70 different shades of paint — given that more than 70 tones and strengths can be made with the 3 primary colours and white and black.4 The colourist is he who on seeing a colour in nature is able to analyze it coolly and say, for example, that green-grey is yellow with black and almost no blue, &c. In short, knowing how to make up the greys of nature on the palette.  

nov 20/RUN

5.6 miles
franklin loop
19 degrees / feels like 9
5% ice and snow covered

Because it was sunny and because there wasn’t much wind and because I had the right number of layers on, today’s run was great. Not too cold. Maybe it helped that I did a 5 minute warm up on the bike in the basement? Very happy to be out there, beside the gorge, breathing in the cold air, and greeting Mr. Morning! and Dave, the Daily Walker.

The arch of left foot hurts a bit. I think I overdid it with the old shoes, the yak trax and the ice clumps on Thursday. I should not run tomorrow. Bummer.

Layers: 2 pairs of black running tights; pale green long sleeved shirt; pink jacket with hood; gray buff; black fleece lined baseball cap; 2 pairs of gloves — pink with white stripes on top, black underneath

Took the pink and white gloves off about 1 1/2 miles in. Pulled down the buff 5 minutes in, pulled off the pink hood at 1 mile. Unzipped and re-zipped my jackets throughout. At the end of the run I wasn’t cold, just soaked with sweat, my pony-tail dripping.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the river, 1: running on franklin bridge the river was a clear blueish gray, no ice yet
  2. snow was covering the north face of an ancient boulder on the east side of the river
  3. random goose honks throughout the run, usually a lone goose flying low
  4. the sky was a pale blue, the gorge was giving off a blue-gray hue
  5. the only other colors: brown, white, a runner’s orange jacket, another runner’s pink one
  6. the river, 2: standing above the lake street bridge at my favorite spot on the east side I admired the open river, stretching wide, looking calm
  7. the river, 3: off in the distance the water glowed, burning a silver fire — not white, or any color, just shimmering light
  8. the river, 4: from the lake street bridge the river was studded with ice
  9. a voice on a hill on Edmund: a kid going sledding
  10. ending the run and crossing over to the boulevard the snow crunched in an unusual way. It sounded almost like the crinkle in a dog toy, or like I had some brittle paper stuck on my shoe

I made a recording of the crinkling snow:

crinkling snow / 20 november 2022

Scrolling through twitter, this piece — a prose poem? an essay fragment? — by Mary Ruefle from My Private Property. I might have to buy this book; I’ve posted at least one other essay/poem from it on here already:

from My Private Property/ Mary Ruefle

Gray sadness is the sadness of paper clips and rubber bands, of rain and squirrels and chewing gum, ointments and unguents and movie theaters. Gray sadness is the most common of all sadnesses, it is the sadness of sand in the desert and sand on the beach, the sadness of keys in a pocket, cans on a shelf, hair in a comb, dry-cleaning, and raisins. Gray sadness is beautiful, but not to be confused with the beauty of blue sadness, which is irreplaceable. Sad to say, gray sadness is replaceable, it can be replaced daily, it is the sadness of a melting snowman in a snowstorm.

The everydayness of gray sadness, its mundane, real, nothing special-ness, reminds me of a bit from the lyric essay I posted last week, Ode to Gray. Especially this bit:

Look at enough black-and-white photography and color comes to feel like an intrusion. Eggleston’s photos seem too vital to be real, as though depicting an alternate reality. Each image is delirious with hue, spectacular, delicious, but a little bit too much. The eye craves rest—and mystery, the kind of truth that can be searched only in subtlety. Dorothy may tumble, tornadic, into Technicolor, but still she always wishes to go home.

In addition to exploring gray this month, I’m also thinking about color in general, and colors that have been significant for me in this running log, like green. Here is a great green poem I found a few days ago. I haven’t thought of the coming of green as fire and flame before, but it works.

The Enkindled Spring/ D.H. Lawrence

This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes,
Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between
Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes.

I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze
Of growing, and sparks that puff in wild gyration,
Faces of people streaming across my gaze.

And I, what fountain of fire am I among
This leaping combustion of spring? My spirit is tossed
About like a shadow buffeted in the throng
Of flames, a shadow that’s gone astray, and is lost.

nov 16/SWIM

1.5 miles
ywca pool

Another swim this week! Hooray for strong, sore shoulders and buoyancy. Googles and nose plugs and flip flops with a cartoon image of bloody, frankenstein-y toes (an awesome gift from my sister Marji from a few years ago). I’m not sure how far I swam. I stopped counting laps at a mile, wanting to be surprised by my watch when Scott would appear at the end of my lane and I’d end my workout. Looked at my watch. Oops. No workout on. I forgot to push the extra green button for lap distance. Oh well. Judging by my calories and time, I must have swum a little farther than Monday, but I’ll keep it at 1.5 miles.

10 Things I Noticed While Swimming in the Pool

  1. the slight burn of chlorine in my nose
  2. a few more bits of something on the bottom of the pool — was it more, or was it just because I was swimming in a different lane? were these bits moving, or was that a trick of the light or my eyes?
  3. the older woman to my right, swimming breaststroke — slow, steady, graceful frog kicks
  4. the older woman to my left, swimming sidestroke — more grace and the calm, slow sweep of arms through the water
  5. this sidestroking woman was wearing a wonderful bathing suit — all black in the back, in the front: black at the bottom with red or pink or orange horizontal panels up above
  6. “racing” a guy 2 lanes over, swimming freestyle at about the same speed as me, until he stopped and I kept going
  7. a regular — the older, trim woman in the pale blue and green suit whose stroke is strong and fast, and who sometimes wears fins or booties
  8. the feeling of orange everywhere up above, blue below
  9. my foot (the right one?) feeling a little strange near the end, not quite numb but like it might cramp up (it didn’t)
  10. arriving, a crowded pool, everyone sharing lanes. A few minutes later, it began to empty. By the time I was done, only 2 people left

Thought about Ishihara’s colorblind plates as form. I feel drawn to this form because taking this test, and failing it, was my first evidence that something was wrong with my vision. But, this form is difficult to recreate or embody. I decided, as I looped, that I should do a little more research on how the form was created and how it works. Maybe that will help me to figure out what I want to do with it, or whether I want to use it all.

Here’s a place to start: Eye Magazine / Feature / Ishihara

And this video: The Science Behind the Ishihara Test

I can’t remember which poetry craft book I read this poem in, but I like how Soto uses color here — as flashes, sparks, flares against the “gray of December”:

Oranges/ Gary Soto

The first time I walked
With a girl, I was twelve,
Cold, and weighted down
With two oranges in my jacket.
December. Frost cracking
Beneath my steps, my breath
Before me, then gone,
As I walked toward
Her house, the one whose
Porch light burned yellow
Night and day, in any weather.
A dog barked at me, until
She came out pulling
At her gloves, face bright
With rouge. I smiled,
Touched her shoulder, and led
Her down the street, across
A used car lot and a line
Of newly planted trees,
Until we were breathing
Before a drugstore. We
Entered, the tiny bell
Bringing a saleslady
Down a narrow aisle of goods.
I turned to the candies
Tiered like bleachers,
And asked what she wanted –
Light in her eyes, a smile
Starting at the corners
Of her mouth. I fingered
A nickel in my pocket,
And when she lifted a chocolate
That cost a dime,
I didn’t say anything.
I took the nickel from
My pocket, then an orange,
And set them quietly on
The counter. When I looked up,
The lady’s eyes met mine,
And held them, knowing
Very well what it was all
About.
Outside,
A few cars hissing past,
Fog hanging like old
Coats between the trees.
I took my girl’s hand
In mine for two blocks,
Then released it to let
Her unwrap the chocolate.
I peeled my orange
That was so bright against
The gray of December
That, from some distance,
Someone might have thought
I was making a fire in my hands.

nov 13/RUN

5.6 miles
fairview loop
26 degrees

Yes! Love this weather: cold, but not too cold, hardly any wind, no snow or ice on the paths yet. Cold enough to keep the crowds away and for me to keep my gloves on for the whole run. Calm enough for the river to be a mirror reflecting an upside world — the arches of lake st bridge smiling instead of frowning.

Layers: black running tights (the thicker ones), green base shirt, pink jacket with hood, pink head/ear band, black and white polka dot twins cap (used to my daughter’s because, yes, my head is small enough to fit into a girl’s cap), black gloves

Heard a strange bird call in the gorge, which made me think “whip-poor-will,” but it’s most likely not that bird because they’re nocturnal and they’re listed as rare in my birds of the mississippi river guide.

Just as I neared the river road on the east side I heard a honking goose and the bells of St. Thomas.

Saw a few, and by a few I mean less than 10 total, snow flurries in the air.

This route is only 5.6 miles and takes only a little over 50 minutes, but it felt like I ran through a lot of places: cooper neighborhood, on lake street, over the lake street bridge, up marshall in st. paul, beside St. Thomas, on Summit, above the river on the east and west sides, past grand old houses, big brick apartment buildings, corner stores, salons, ice cream parlors, gas stations, cafes, a university, a WWI monument, falls hidden in ravines.

Today’s gray theme is: gray as (the absence of?) color

Thinking about color: Yesterday afternoon, in the chapel at Gustavus, which was not dim but not bright either, I started to notice that looking one direction, toward the far window on the other side, the only color I could see was an occasional red square embedded in the walls (I double-checked with Scott; there were also a bunch of blue squares too). The hymnals 15-20 feet away, which I know are red, looked dark but colorless. Staring out at the crowd of people, everyone looked like they were dressed in dark or light — not quite black or white, just dark clothes or light clothes. No variation, no purples or blues or oranges or anything but dark and light. It was strange, partly because it didn’t feel strange. It wasn’t like I thought, where is all the color? It felt more like when I wake up in the dark and, after my eyes adjust, I see the room and it looks like the room, but just darker, dimmer and without color. And, usually I don’t think there’s no color — sometimes I might even think I see color because I know my robe is purple or the pillow is yellow, or I don’t see yellow, but I recognize the pillow on the couch as that yellow pillow because I already know it’s yellow. Hope this description makes sense to anyone reading this, including future Sara.

Anyway, because my theme for today is gray as color (or colorless) and because I was still thinking about my experience in the chapel last night, I gave particular attention to noticing colors today. I wondered if I would struggle to see colors because it was a gray, darker day. I don’t think so. Would I be able to tell? Here’s the colors I noticed:

10 Colors I Noticed

  1. green grass, green stoplight
  2. red stop sign, red stop lights
  3. yellow stop light, yellow leaves
  4. rusty brownish red stain on the lake st bridge
  5. blueish water
  6. pinkish, purplish jacket on a walker
  7. orange traffic cone
  8. brown dirt
  9. white patches of snow in the corners of the sidewalk
  10. my black running tights

A few grays that come up a lot in poetry: gun metal gray, pewter

added a few hours later: Thinking about color more and how I see it or don’t see it. This afternoon I was wondering about how others describe their inability to see color in the dark/low light, like when you wake up in the middle of the night, look around, and nothing has color. It’s all dark or light or gray. Using the search, “seeing color in the dark,” I came across this article: Why We See Swirling Color When Our Eyes Are Closed. Among other interesting things, it mentions intrinsic gray or eigengrau:

The color black is often referred to as the absence of light, but when it comes to the human visual system, eigengrau is the color perceived in the absence of light. Eigengrau is a German term that roughly translates to ‘intrinsic gray’ or ‘own gray.’ When deprived of light — as in when our eyes are closed, or when we are in darkness with our eyes open — we are unable to perceive true blackness, and rather, perceive eigengrau. This is because light provides the contrast necessary to perceive darker-ness. For instance, the black ink of text might appear darker than eigengrau because the whiteness of the page provides the contrast the eyes need to understand black.

Here’s a little more info from another article:

Scientists believe that Eigengrau is the dark grey colour that human eyes see in perfect darkness and this is said to be the result of visual signals from optic nerves.

German philosopher and physicist Gustav Theodor Fechner is believed to have investigated and popularized the term Eigengrau. He is also known for his key role in the genesis of the measurement of human perception.

Eigengrau is the Dark Gray Colour That Most People See in the Absence of Light

The term eigengrau is not used that often now. Instead, it’s referred to as visual noise or the static in your retina. In the article, eigengrau was also called “brain gray.”