jan 18/RUN

4.5 miles
minnehaha falls and back
34! degrees
35% snow-covered

Sun! Above freezing temperature! Shadows! A great afternoon for a run, even if there were huge puddles, some soft snow, and a few slick spots. My left knee/hip hurts a little, but I decided to go run anyway because tomorrow it will be very cold. -2 (feels like -22) at 9am. Future Sara would be very upset with present Sara if she had not taken advantage of this weather. No headphones running south, then a playlist on the way back.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. a lot of the path was clear, with big puddles, but a few stretches, like on the double bridge or under the ford bridge, were still covered in grayish-white, gloppy snow
  2. someone was running below me on the Winchell Trail. We were parallel for a minute, but I was slightly faster, so we got out of sync
  3. someone else was running, with a dog, on the walking side of the pedestrian bridge, through the deeper, unplowed snow
  4. the falls were frozen — one tall column of ice with a dark hole in the middle
  5. at least 3 or 4 bikes, some of them were fat tires
  6. the river: all white, covered over with snow, no holes today, no sparkle either
  7. some dogs barking below, in the gorge
  8. they must have plowed the main roads earlier today; all of the entrances to the path/sidewalks were obstructed with short mounds of snow
  9. no geese, no turkeys, no crows, maybe a woodpecker
  10. forgot to take note of the sky while I was running, but earlier on my walk with Delia, I noticed it was bright blue with a few puffy clouds

Before I went out for my run, I thought about continuing my haunts poems, maybe adding some more to the sequence. A line popped in my head that I intended to think about as I ran, but forgot:

Before I
was ghost

I was girl,
fiercely

physical,
solid.

I really like this, but I’m not sure what to do with it yet.

study the masters/ Lucille Clifton

like my aunt timmie.
it was her iron,
or one like hers,
that smoothed the sheets
the master poet slept on.
home or hotel, what matters is
he lay himself down on her handiwork
and dreamed. she dreamed too, words:
some cherokee, some masai and some
huge and particular as hope.
if you had heard her
chanting as she ironed
you would understand form and line
and discipline and order and
america.

jan 17/RUN

5.5 miles
bottom of franklin hill and back
22 degrees / feels like 15
75% snow-covered

Looking forward to the day when the pavement is bare again. It’s supposed to be above freezing tomorrow, so maybe it will melt? Even with the soft, slippery snow, it was a good run. Felt really strong and relaxed all the way through the turn around. Running up the franklin hill was hard, but I forced myself to keep going until I reached the bridge. Then I walked for a few minutes and put in my headphones. Then I ran the rest of the way. Wore the right number of layers for the weather (2 tights, 1 pair of socks, tank top, green long sleeve shirt, pink cotton jacket, black vest, buff, 2 pairs of gloves, black hat), although the hat got a little warm. Taking the hat off, at the end of my run, my ponytail was soaked. Later, when I took the ponytail holder out, I sprayed water all over the floor. Gross, I guess. Scott asked: “Was that sweat?” Yep.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. right before starting my run, looking north on my street, the sidewalk was stretched out in a straight line for blocks, almost completely clear
  2. the tight crunch of salt or ice-melt on the sidewalk in front of the church as I ran over it
  3. the short stretch of sidewalk on the north side of lake street that leads over to trail was in rough shape: soft, sloppy, uneven
  4. chirping birds, sounding like spring
  5. everything looking like static, not quite staying still, except for the tree trunk which looked solid and very brown
  6. everything also looking sepia-toned. Is it because of all the brown trunks?
  7. a single crow cawing nearby
  8. the river, 1: mostly white, with small holes of open water
  9. the river, 2: under the bridge, open with gray water
  10. the river, 3: down in the flats, just past the franklin bridge, I was closer to the water and the many spots where the ice/snow had cracked, everything still, not calm but desolate or abandoned

Hearing the single crow cawing, reminded me of an Arthur Sze poem I read this morning:

Fauve/ Arthur Sze in Dazzled

Caw Caw, Caw Caw Caw.
To comprehend a crow
you must have a crow’s mind.
To be the night rain,
silver, on black leaves,
you must live in the
shine and wet. Some people
drift in their lives:
green-gold plankton,
phosphorescent, in the sea.
Others slash: a knife
at a yellow window shade
tears open the light.
But to live digging deep
is to feel the blood
in your rage as rivers,
is to feel love and hatred
as fibers of a rope,
is to catch the scent
of a wolf, and turn wild.

The word, fauve, sounded familiar, but I had to look it up. It means vivid colors, and refers to the movement of painters, including Matisse, and “their unconventional use of intensely vivid color, and free treatment of form” (Merriam-Webster).

fauves = wild beasts
vivid colors express intense emotions

I’m thinking about Fauvism (the little bit I understand of it), and its intense, vivid, sharp, striking colors. One blog post I read, contrasted Monet’s dreamy, subdued Houses of Parliament with Derain’s Charring Cross Bridge and his “lurid greens” and yellows. It is difficult for me to see intense colors. I was noticing earlier today that sometimes it helps to look off to the side. In general, I see the world, more like Monet’s dream. What does this have to do with Sze’s poem? Not sure. This quite sure, but it connects. I’ll need to think about it some more.

jan 15/RUN

4.4 miles
minnehaha falls and back
10 degrees / feels like 1
100% snow-covered

Cold, but not cold enough to freeze snot, sunny. Lots of birds singing: some chickadees, cardinals (I think?). The shadows were sharp, strong. I noticed them heading south: the shadows of a sign, then a fence post. Heading north, my shadow, beside me. The path was covered in snow, some parts of it tamped down, others loose and soft. Hard work. Happy to be outside, remembering how much I love the snow, how it connects me to my north woods roots.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. at least a dozen people walking around the falls, some of them up above, a few below, 2 walking across the frozen creek
  2. the river, heading south: such a bright white, glowing, shining, blinding
  3. lots of people on the Winchell Trail — the trees were so bare that I could see them clearly: someone with a dog, later someone in a bright orange or red jacket
  4. the Winchell Trail between 42nd and 44th was hidden by snow
  5. a sharp, loud bark from a dog somewhere below me, way down by the river?
  6. 1 or 2 fat tires
  7. a man talking on a bluetooth headset, just exiting the walking part of the double bridge
  8. A guy walking a dog, carrying a kid in a backpack
  9. the sky, bright blue, cloudless
  10. the river, heading north: flat, dull, looking more like a white field

Found these on Couplet Poetry:

Ekphrasis as Eye Test/ Jane Zwart

If you wake to a Rothko where the windows
should be, to the dark wearing an indistinct belt
between uneven sashes of glass, one oxblood
shoe-polish, one midnight blue, the problem
is refraction. The light–what little outruns
the dark–has turned its ankle on the retina,
bouncing false on a trampoline inside your eye.

Of course some afflictions also disappear in the dark,
which swallows the man whole. At night a Reinhardt,
in day the fellow’s fifty-year-old face is a Rembrandt,
an oval of flesh glaucoma vignettes; blindness
likes to lick the outskirts of likeness first.

Other losses begin in the middle of the field:
redacting the kiss at a picture’s center–
wrapping lovers’ heads in pillow slips; hovering doves
at eye level anywhere hatted men stand.
They could be anyone, the strangers Magritte painted
almost as their mothers, maculas wasted, would see them.

But usually the picture dims proportionally, cataracts
stirring gray into haystacks and ground and dust-ruffle
sky. Maybe you will finally understand Monet, his play
in thirty acts, his slow lowering of the lights in Giverny.
At last there is nothing left to squint against.

Ekphrasis as Eye-Test/ Amit Majmudar

Ecstasy is not to see a stranger’s vision but to say it,
Echolocating, in your own voice’s
Existential mirror,
Ecstasy.

Ecstasy means to stand outside the
Ecstatic moment itself. You have to
Ache toward the vision whose
Ekphrasis

Awakens phrases in you that dead
Reckon the unseen by way of the seen.
Echo-shaped, you take on the vision’s
Edges, take an

Axe to the lake that froze around your legs
Decades ago. The eye that
Examines is your self. The stranger’s vision you
Recreate through

Ekphrasis
Expresses through
Ecstasy
Ecstasy.

jan 14/RUN

3.5 miles
trestle turnaround
16 degrees / feels like 4
snowing
100% snow-covered, at least an inch of loose snow

Snowing all day today. Usually, I wait until it stops and the trails have been plowed before I go out for a run, but not today. Decided to dig out my oldest yak trak and run through the snow. Loved it! A few parts weren’t fun: the wind blowing sharp shards of snow on my face, into my eyes, how slick and soft and difficult it was to run through. The rest of it was great. Quiet, calm, dreamy.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the regular, Santa Claus, bundled up in a bright orange jacket, with black running tights
  2. a fat tire, their light cutting through the grayish white
  3. almost everything looked soft, blanketed in snow; many things felt hard, sharp pellets of icy snow stinging my face
  4. a car disappearing into the falling snow, near the trestle
  5. a runner in glowing yellow
  6. geese overhead, honking
  7. impatient chickadees, their fee bee calls overlapping
  8. the river: a lot of white, with streaks of dark, open water
  9. 4 people emerging from the forest below, crossing the river road
  10. running on the road, at the end, mesmerized by the endless, blank white beneath me, feeling like I was running in place, or running through nothing, or not moving, just suspended in white

Time for another Chang/Merwin combo. I love this chance to reflect on Victoria Chang’s short poems, and be introduced to more of W.S. Merwin’s work. Today’s pairing starts with Chang’s “Daylight.” I couldn’t find a poem by Merwin with that exact title, so I settled for “The Wings of Daylight.” Is it the poem Chang is referencing? Not sure.

Daylight/ Victoria Chang

One by one, days died,
even they weren’t protected.
They have no symptoms
but keep dying. They want to
fix melancholy,
to keep coming back to no
answers, to take the
depositions of orchards.

The Wings of Daylight/ W. S. Merwin

Brightness appears showing us everything
it reveals the splendors it calls everything
but shows it to each of us alone
and only once and only to look at
not to touch or hold in our shadows
what we see is never what we touch
what we take turns out to be something else
what we see that one time departs untouched
while other shadows gather around us
the world’s shadows mingle with our own
we had forgotten them but they know us
they remember us as we always were
they were at home here before the first came
everything will leave us except the shadows
but the shadows carry the whole story
at first daybreak they open their long wings

jan 12/RUN

4.45 miles
minneahaha falls and back
34 degrees
35% snow-covered

Even warmer today! Less layers, sun. Ran to the falls and back. Running south, no headphones; running, north, a playlist. My left hip/knee/back (the usual suspect) felt sore, but not too bad.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The clicking and clacking of ski poles, the scratching and scuffing of skis on bare pavement: a cross-country skier crossing the road! I think this is the first one I’ve seen this season
  2. Kids laughing and yelling and having fun at the playground across the road
  3. A walker and an unleashed dog on the Winchell Trail below me. For a moment, I thought the dog might be trying to keep up with me
  4. The falls is fully frozen, at least it looks and sounds like it to me. All I saw was a hulking column of ice; all I heard was silence, no gushing or trickling water
  5. Heard the call (not the peck) of a pileated woodpecker, the fee bee of a black-capped chickadee
  6. The path had less snow on it. Some stretches were completely bare, others had wide strips that were clear. Under the ford bridge it was a soft, slushy mess
  7. As I entered the river road trail, I passed someone who had been running, but just stopped. At first I thought she was muttering something under her breath, but then I realized she was breathing heavily, then I heard a voice coming out of her phone, giving her instructions that I couldn’t quite hear. Was she doing a couch to 5k program?
  8. Noticed my shadow ahead of me as I ran south — clear and sharp in the bright sun
  9. Heard the raucous laugh of a walker on the other side of edmund, her voice echoing
  10. one thing I didn’t notice: the river. Again, I forgot to look at it

I think I’ll post more Chang/Merwin poems this month. Here’s another one from Chang that resonated for me:

Separation/ Victoria Chang

Each day, landscape splits
from the beauty it emits.
When nature is free
from sight, it is most
like itself. I erase each
word right after I write it.

Separation/ W. S. Merwin

Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

jan 9/BIKERUN

bike: 15 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 2.4 miles
treadmill
2 degrees / feels like -11

For most of the day, the feels like temp was hovering around -20. I have decided that that is too cold for me. So, I stayed inside. Watched a race while I biked, listened to a playlist and part of the Aack Cast by Jamie Loftus. It’s about the comic strip Cathy and it’s really good.

Some Things I Noticed*

  1. my shadow, flashing, off to my left side, as I ran
  2. in addition to my shadow, some sort of silvery something flashing or streaking or appearing in my left peripheral
  3. the loud whir of the treadmill when I stepped off it to change my playlist (maybe it’s because of my vision, but I cannot pick new music on spotify when I’m in motion). The whirr almost sounded like a plane revving its engine before take off
  4. my fine hair, falling out of my ponytail, felt like a spider web
  5. before I warmed up, it was very cold in the basement
  6. the soft space between beats felt continuous
  7. sometimes my foot strikes were quiet, sometimes they were loud

*It’s difficult to notice things in a boring, dark, unfinished basement, especially when I’m listening to music. Maybe I should try to use my treadmill time for remembering thoughts or ideas?

Found this poem yesterday. Paige Lewis is wonderful, especially how they find delight in small things, and do such strange things with words!

THE MOMENT I SAW A PELICAN DEVOUR/ PAIGE LEWIS

a seagull—wings swallowing wings—I learned
that a miracle is anything that God forgot
to forbid. So when you tell me that saints

are splintered into bone bits smaller than
the freckles on your wrist and that each speck
is sold to the rich, I know to marvel at this

and not the fact that these same saints are still
wholly intact and fresh-faced in their Plexiglas
tomb displays. We holy our own fragments

when we can—trepanation patients wear their
skull spirals as amulets, mothers frame the dried
foreskin of their firstborn, and I’ve seen you

swirl my name on your tongue like a thirst pebble.
Still, I try to hold on to nothing for fear of being
crushed by what can be taken because sometimes

not even our mouths belong to us. Listen, in
the early 1920s, women were paid to paint radium
onto watch dials so that men wouldn’t have to ask

the time in dark alleys. They were told it was safe,
told to lick their brushes into sharp points. These
women painted their nails, their faces, and judged

whose skin shined brightest. They coated their
teeth so their boyfriends could see their bites
with the lights turned down. The miracle here

is not that these women swallowed light. It’s that,
when their skin dissolved and their jaws fell off,
the Radium Corporation claimed they all died

from syphilis. It’s that you’re telling me about
the dull slivers of dead saints, while these
women are glowing beneath our feet.

jan 8/RUN

4.25 miles
minnehaha falls and back
19 degrees / feels like 6
50% snow-covered

Finally, a warmer day. Well, warmer compared to the past 2 days when it was -15, feels like -25! Ran south, into the wind, to the falls. Encountered walkers, fat tires, at least one group of runners taking over the entire path. Felt strong and relaxed and happy to be outside, enjoying the fresh, cold air. At the start of my run, I greeted every runner I encountered by raising my left hand.

10 Things I Noticed: People

  1. A runner in a bright orange jacket and black running tights, running fast. I think I saw him twice, or I saw 2 people at different times wearing bright orange jackets, running fast
  2. 3 people at the falls, near the stairs that descend to the bottom. Person 1: “Are you from around here?” Persons 2 and 3: “St. Paul. You?” Person 1: I couldn’t hear his reply. Persons 2 and 3: “Wow! Welcome!” I’m guessing he was from somewhere far away or interesting or both — maybe a different country?
  3. A fat tire approaching me, then following behind as I turned to enter the park, then passing when I slowed down, and stopping by the stone wall above the falls next to a group of fat tires
  4. A person standing at the far overlook, the one near the short stone wall with Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha” carved on its top, studying the falls
  5. 2 runners approaching me, then turning to run in the parking lot while I ran on the path. We ran in parallel to each other until they turned somewhere
  6. A group of 6 runners, one of them with a dog, running north, spread across the width of the path. After I passed them, I could hear them behind me for a few minutes, chatting away, sounding closer even though they were slowly getting farther away
  7. 2 women walking below me on the snow-covered Winchell Trail
  8. A woman running much slower than me, her jacket open and flapping as she moved
  9. The blur of a runner, moving fast on Edmund
  10. 2 or 3 people stopped near the sidewalk, talking, with 2 dogs, one of them small and yippy. (I crossed to the other side to avoid them)

Omicron update: RJP went to get tested on Tuesday and didn’t get her results until Friday night: negative. Scott and I got alerts on our phones from the COVIDAware app that we had been exposed to someone with COVID on Jan 3-5 and should quarantine for 15! days. RJP didn’t get the alert. A problem: neither of us went anywhere and weren’t around anyone (other than RJP) on those days. Our best guess: someone in our neighbor’s house has it and our bluetooths picked up their phone’s signal while we were in our house. Strange.

jan 4/RUN

4.5 miles
minhehaha falls and back
28 degrees
75% snow-covered

Even warmer today (than yesterday or Sunday). Everything gray and white, even the sky. Almost forgot to look at the river, but then I remembered. It would have been nice to have my Yak trax with the slushy, soft, sluggish snow. Listened to the gorge on the way to the falls, a playlist on the way back. Felt good and strong. Only occasionally thought about my daughter and how she’s home sick with a headache and runny nose. COVID? Doubtful, but possible. Getting tested is very hard these days: no rapid tests, long lines at testing sites. Hopefully this will be over soon.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the river: almost all white with a few off-white (gray? light brown?) spots
  2. the path: a slightly wider strip of almost bare pavement than yesterday
  3. 2 walkers ahead of me on the path, waiting to cross at a spot just 15 feet from the crosswalk, then crossing over to Becketwood
  4. kids playing at the minnehaha academy playground
  5. graffiti on the biking part of the double bridge, the empty outline of orange and purple and blue letters
  6. the falls: almost, but not quite, fully frozen. I could hear the softest rushing of water from behind the ice
  7. about a dozen people at the falls
  8. 2 people walking up the hill in the park, one of them in a bright orange jacket
  9. the view down to the spot where the creek collects and kids like to wade in the summer was grand and beautiful and white
  10. running in the road on the spots between sidewalks, about half of the surface was bare, the rest was light brown snowy slush, looking like coffee ice cream

To fit in with my continued thinking about ghosts, and haunting, and remembering, and naming and the things it can signify other than power or claiming or owning, and yellow:

Forsythia/ Ada Limón

At the cabin in Snug Hollow near McSwain Branch creek, just spring, all the animals are out, and my beloved and I are lying in bed in a soft silence. We are talking about how we carry so many people with us wherever we go, how even simple living, these unearned moments, are a tribute to the dead. We are both expecting to hear an owl as the night deepens. All afternoon, from the porch, we watched an eastern towhee furiously build her nest in the wild forsythia with its yellow spilling out into the horizon. I told him that the way I remember the name forsythia is that when my stepmother, Cynthia, was dying, that last week, she said lucidly but mysteriously, More yellow. And I thought yes, more yellow, and nodded because I agreed. Of course, more yellow. And so now in my head, when I see that yellow tangle, I say, For Cynthia, for Cynthia, forsythia, forsythia, more yellow. It is night now. And the owl never comes, only more of night and what repeats in the night.

jan 3/RUN

5 miles
franklin bridge turn around
16 degrees / feels like 9
100% snow-covered

Cold, but much warmer than the last time I ran. 21 degrees warmer. Was planning to wear my Yak trax, which make the soft, slippery snow much easier to run on, but one of them was broken — some of the rubber had ripped. Bummer. Technically, my Yak trax are only for walking, so maybe running is too much for them. Should I find some intended for running? Is it worth the investment? Probably.

Greeted Dave the Daily Walker. He wished me a happy new year. My dorky, overly formal, response: “happy new year to you too.”

It was a little more difficult than usual, running in soft snow. Less traction, more effort from the leg muscles. I was so focused on watching the path, and making sure I didn’t run over a mound of snow, or on ice, that I forgot to look at the river. Well, maybe I glanced at it, but I have no memory of what it looked like. Was it all covered with snow (probably)? Were there any splits in the ice (probably not)? It always amazes me when I forget to look at the river. It’s so big, it’s so there, just below me, how can I forget to look at it?

10 Things I Noticed

  1. 4 or 5 geese, flying in a loose formation, honking. Just above the lake street bridge
  2. Daddy Long Legs, walking, in a bright orange vest, with black pants
  3. Graffiti on a piling under the franklin bridge — just the outline of letters, no color. I wasn’t able to read the letters or the word they might have been spelling
  4. The closed gate with an orange sign attached to it, blocking off the entrance to the minneapolis rowing club
  5. voices below the lake street bridge
  6. a man standing in the middle of the walking path, talking to someone sitting on a bench overlooking the white sands beach
  7. the trail covered in loosely packed snow, except for a few narrow trails where feet or bike wheels or both had worn it down almost, but not quite, to bare asphalt
  8. passing a runner, both of us raising our hands in greeting
  9. no stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  10. breakfast smells from longfellow grill — no burnt toast this time, just a subtle, gentle, general/generic smell of savory breakfast

Love Letter/ Diane Seuss

But what can it be if love is a past
tense event? And what
was love then
according to my brain
and what
is love now and how do I direct it
like a beam with the power
to excise all that is not love? For a time
I believed getting and keeping
love required lace. Procuring lace
and arranging it
on my body in a certain way.
Isn’t that funny and/or strange?
I modulated my voice to the northern
region of its register. Reddened
my lips. This was love’s drapery
and music and face.
If you’ve read Madame Bovary, if you’ve read
gothic romance, you know
the denouement of that arc.
When I first read the word denouement
out loud my ex-husband laughed
at my mispronunciation.
I include it here as an illustration
of the fact that love does not conquer
all. Now when I think
of love it’s like focusing too hard
on the mechanisms of blinking or breathing.
You can be blinded or suffocated
by that degree of self-consciousness.
Like a love letter, love seems to me to exist
on a thin plane, a disintegrating page
covered in words scratched
onto the surface with purple disappearing ink
cooked up in a chemistry lab.
I’m sure I’ve written a love letter here
and there. Something gauche,
a performance designed toward
the specific outcome of eternity.
I read of a feral dog who could only be captured
by putting the soiled blankets of her puppies
in a live trap. This is my metaphor for a love letter.
I own a letter my father wrote my mother
when they were newly in love.
The stationery is smallish and decorated
with a garish deep red rose in aching
bloom. He spends most
of his language’s currency bemoaning
his bad spelling. No wonder
she found him charming. For my people
it is the flaw that counts, but not for all
people. Our narrative is an object
lesson in the fact that flawed people
deserve to be loved, at least for a while.
That’s the ephemeral part.
I’m much too sturdy now to invest
in the ephemeral. No, I do not own lace
curtains. It’s clear we die a hundred times
before we die. The selves
that were gauzy, soft, sweet, capable
of throwing themselves away
on love, died young. They sacrificed
themselves to the long haul.
Picture girls in white nighties jumping
off a cliff into the sea. I want to say
don’t mistake this for cynicism
but of course, it is cynicism.
Cynicism is a go-to I no longer have
the energy to resist. It’s like living
with a vampire. Finally, just get it
over with, bite me. I find it almost
offensive to use the word love
in relation to people I actually love.
The word has jumped off
so many cliffs into so many seas.
What can it now signify?
Shall I use the word affinity
like J.D. Salinger, not a good
man, put into the mouths
of his child genius characters? I have
an affinity for my parents. An affinity
for you. I will make sure you are fed
and clothed. I will listen to you
endlessly. I will protect your privacy
even if it means removing myself
from the equation. Do those sound
like wedding vows? Are they indiscriminate?
Well then, I am indiscriminate.
I am married to the world.
I have worked it all out in front of you.
Isn’t that a kind of nakedness?
You have called for a love letter.
This is a love letter.

Wow. Things I love about this: affinity instead of love, sturdy instead of ephemeral, “its like living/with a vampire. Finally, just get it/over with, bite me.”, being married to the world, flawed people as charming, and the final line and how the poem leads you to it.

jan 1/RUN

4.5 miles
minnehaha falls and back
-5 degrees / feels like -20
100% snow-covered

I’m not sure it felt as cold as -20, whatever that feels like, but it felt cold. I thought I had enough layers on, and didn’t notice that my legs were cold, but when I got home and stripped off my two pairs of running tights, my legs were bright red. Guess I should have worn tights and some fleece leggings instead. In addition to 2 shirts, a pink jacket, 2 pairs of tights, 2 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of gloves, a gray jacket, a buff, my new favorite hat, and a hood, I used hand warmers in my gloves and toe warmers in my shoes — the disposable ones that stay warm for several hours. They helped. Not sure if I will run when it’s this cold again, but I’m glad I did it. My status as crazy winter runner is affirmed.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t alone out there.

10 Groups of People I Noticed

  1. someone on a fat tire
  2. a human, bundled up, with a dog, not bundled up
  3. a walker covered from head to toe, only their eyes peeking out from under a furry hood
  4. a male runner in black tights, moving fast
  5. a female runner, in a blue stocking cap, moving less fast
  6. 2 taller humans, one in a BRIGHT orange jacket, the other pulling a much smaller human in a sled
  7. a group of people at the falls contemplating whether or not to jump the chain on the steps leading down to the falls, one of them said something about getting arrested — maybe, “we could get arrested” because they didn’t want to do it, or “we’re not going to get arrested” because they wanted to do it
  8. 2 people, near the locks and dam no 1, standing near the bike path, then crossing the river road to turkey hollow
  9. a woman in a long winter coat with a dog on the bike path, turning up the walking path near the parking lot, entering minnehaha regional park
  10. 2 people, near the falls, turning away from the falls and heading past the summer seafood restaurant (Sea Salt) and heading back to a parking lot or the pavilion or the playground

Listening to The Current before running, I heard this song by Jack White. I wanted to include it with my poems on haunting:

Alone in My Home/ Jack White

This light that shines on me tonight
Turns on when you wander through my door
And your friends won’t see you to the end, I’m sure
But you love them anyhow
Lost feelings of love
Lost feelings of love
That hover above me
Lost feelings of love
Lost feelings of love
That hover above me
The ghost that visit me the most, drop by
Cause they know they can find me here
And they claim to be held from me in chains, but come on
They’re guilty as sin my dear
I’m becoming a ghost
Becoming a ghost
So nobody can know me
I’m becoming a ghost
Becoming a ghost
So nobody can know me
These stones that are thrown against my bones, break through
But they hurt less as times goes on
And though alone, I build my own home, to be sure
That nobody can touch me now
Yeah
All alone in my home
Alone in my home
Nobody can touch me
All alone in my home
Alone in my home
Nobody can touch me

I listened to this song on Spotify and watched lyrics as he sang them. Very cool. I really enjoy hearing a song for the first time, seeing what rhythms the lyrics have. Thinking about this gave me an idea: I want to try some song-writing. I could collaborate with Scott on a song. Yes, this is a goal for 2022. Not sure if I’ll be any good at this or why I want to do it so much, but I do, so I will. So many new, interesting things to learn!

dec 30/RUN

4.7 miles*
minnehaha falls and back
16 degrees / feels like 6
100% snow-covered

*2021 running goal accomplished: 850.5

Hooray for wonderful winter runs! I thought I might feel really cold out there this morning, but I didn’t. Was it the humidity (78%) that made me feel warmer? I wasn’t overheated, but I probably could have skipped one of my layers: the black zip-up. For much of the run, I was alone. On the way to the falls, I think I passed one or two walkers, and no bikers or other runners. There were at least a dozen people at the falls and many more walkers and runners on my way back home. It was never crowded, which was nice. I wore my Yak trax, which helped a lot. On the way back, I recited Longfellow’s “Snow-flake” a few times. Some of the lines were difficult to chant as I ran; they never quite matched my feet.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the river: completely covered in white snow
  2. a tree trunk far ahead of me on the river road trail: roughly covered in snow, as if a plow had come through and splattered snow on the tree
  3. the other side: some vague construction sounds driftng over the gorge from the st. paul side
  4. an approaching walker: at first, walking on the far side, then partly crossing over, then back again. As we neared each other, they muttered something and I wondered if it was a greeting, they were talking to themselves, or they were annoyed by me
  5. the falls: huge columns of grayish-white ice descending from the top. I could hear some water rushing, almost sizzling, and I think, when I stared hard enough, I could see some steam coming up from the water at the bottom
  6. minnehaha regional park: a family emerging from a park car, laughing and tromping through the snow, which is only 3 or 4 inches deep
  7. no coyotes or dogs or fat tires or birds
  8. my feet: the crunch of a spiked shoe is sharper and quicker than an unspiked shoe
  9. the walking trail: all of the walking trails were blocked at their entrances and exits by plowed snow
  10. grafitti: big bubble letters in orange (I think?) and some other color on the bike side of the double bridge

I’m thinking of turning my haunts poem into a digital chapbook, or animating it, and/or recording myself reading it. Lots of ideas. Time to figure out what’s actually possible to achieve.

dec 21/RUN

5.75 miles
franklin hill turn around
14 degrees / feels like 3
100% snow-covered

A few hours before I went out, it started snowing, a dusting. Decided to wear my yak trak, which helped a lot. A little harder to breathe this morning with the cold. Everything else about the run was great. All white and quiet and soft. For the first 10 minutes of my run, I was all alone. Gradually, I began to notice others: a walker, a fat tire, a runner wearing a bright yellow shirt.

Today, I devoted a lot of attention to the river. For stretches, it was almost completely covered with snow, then half snow/ice, half open water. Under the bridges, the river opened up — a dark, gaping mouth. The contrast between the open water, which was almost black, and the white, iced-over water was striking.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The smell of toast and eggs, probably coming from Longfellow Grill
  2. The smell of pot, somewhere below me?
  3. There was a steady stream of cars on the river road
  4. Running under the bridges, the trucks and other big vehicles rumbled above
  5. The snow was flying into my face no matter which direction I turned
  6. Someone had stenciled “Can’t Wait! Hugz” in pink 4 or 5 times on the back of a west river parkway sign
  7. All but one of the sets of stairs leading down into the gorge was blocked off with a heavy chain. The only open one was at the final set of stairs before you reach franklin avenue
  8. A car passed, windows shut, blasting music with a booming, driving beat
  9. Cars were moving slowly, cautiously on the slick streets
  10. The fake flowers stuck in the remnant of a railing at the trestle are gone

It’s the solstice today. Here’s a poem posted on twitter:

Holiday Wish/ David Baker

No snow. A little fog. The afternoon
is a few short hours and evening falls.
But look how the sun hangs down
its old rope good for one more pull.

Look at the latticework of leaves
in the stricken ash, golden in the gray,
like coins in a purse or notes from some old hymn.
I hope my friends are warm this day.

I hope the ones I love, will always love—
the one gone far away, the two sweet
souls holding hands near the end,
humming through a feverish night,

the one whose needs I cannot guess
of have no needs this lucky day
on earth—I hope for them, for all of us,
a little peace, a touch of hope, another day

come round with steady light. So quiet now.
So still. A flake of snow, then two.
I hope you hear a bell from far away
begin to peal, a bell I pull for you.

dec 17/RUN

5 miles
minnehaha falls and back
14 degrees / feels like 3
10% ice and snow covered

I loved my run this morning. It didn’t feel too cold, and it wasn’t too windy. There was some ice on the path and I did slip a few times, but I never fell or twisted anything. Because of the warm temperatures on Wednesday, a lot of the snow melted, and the walking path was mostly clear. Nice!

Thought about my haunt poem and had an idea that should help me finish it and start (and maybe finish?) another one. Yes! I’ll take off the beginning and the end and make them into another poem. Then I’ll keep the middle and keep it as my beats poem. Thanks, run, for helping me out! Something I’m learning: sometimes when you think you need to add one more line or image, you might just need to get rid of something you already wrote.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The river was completely open and illuminated by the sun. Sometimes it looked almost bronze or brown. Other times, pewter and then silver in the spots where the sun was shining on it
  2. The ravine just past the double bridge was bare and open and easy to study. As I ran above it, I stared at the slope, trying to judge its steepness and whether or not I could scale it. Assessment: not easily
  3. The sidewalks criss-crossing near the John Stevens House were all clear. I had run this way on Monday, when it was all covered in snow. Looking at the sidewalks now, I’m pretty sure the trail I took on Monday wasn’t following them
  4. Some workers with chainsaws trimming trees near the John Stevens House
  5. Minnehaha Creek, the part the falls drops into, was almost roaring. I briefly stopped to look down at it and listen
  6. The falls were rushing. Some of the ice that had been forming in the cold melted from our almost 60 degree weather on Wednesday
  7. Cawing crows
  8. A greeting from Mr. Morning! and Santa Claus (at least, I think it was Santa Claus!?) Mr. Morning! was dressed for winter — snow pants, a winter park with hood, stocking cap, dark glasses
  9. One bike on the trail — couldn’t tell if it was a fat tire
  10. Someone walking down on the Winchell Trail

The poem of the day on Poetry Foundation was by Lisel Mueller. I always enjoy her poetry. Looked her up, and found 2 more that delight me:

Sometimes, When the Light/ Lisel Mueller

Sometimes, when the light strikes at odd angles
and pulls you back into childhood

and you are passing a crumbling mansion
completely hidden behind old willows

or an empty convent guarded by hemlocks
and giant firs standing hip to hip,

you know again that behind that wall,
under the uncut hair of the willows

something secret is going on,
so marvelous and dangerous

that if you crawled through and saw,
you would die, or be happy forever.

Things/ LISEL MUELLER

What happened is, we grew lonely
living among the things,
so we gave the clock a face,
the chair a back,
the table four stout legs
which will never suffer fatigue.

We fitted our shoes with tongues
as smooth as our own
and hung tongues inside bells
so we could listen
to their emotional language,

and because we loved graceful profiles
the pitcher received a lip,
the bottle a long, slender neck.

Even what was beyond us
was recast in our image;
we gave the country a heart,
the storm an eye,
the cave a mouth
so we could pass into safety.

dec 13/RUN

5.1 miles
minnehaha falls and back
29 degrees
65% snow-covered

Ran to the falls and discovered that they were still plowing the trails around the park this morning. Had to stop and walk a few times in the deepest, most uneven parts. Sunny, barely any wind. Soon into the run, I was warm, then hot.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. From a distance and through the tree trunks, the river was burning white
  2. Off to the side and just below, the river was flat and off-white with splotches of light brownish-green or greenish-brown
  3. I could hear the sound of rushing water at the falls, but all I could see was several big ice columns
  4. Near the longfellow fountain (which never has water, not even in the summer, but does have parts of “The Song of Hiawatha” etched on the low wall curving around it), at the edge of the bluff, the view to the falls was as clear as I’ve ever seen it. No leaves or stray branches getting in the way
  5. Childhood having fun at their school playground, yelling and laughing
  6. Several different wedges of geese honking
  7. Packed down snow from feet, skis, sleds criss-crossing the big open part of the park above the fall, near John Stevens House
  8. The elegant, pleased (it looked like it was smiling) curve of the retaining wall on the Winchell Trail near 42nd street
  9. Mr. Morning! and Santa Claus
  10. 2 older walkers on the trail, one of them pushing their walker through the snow

I’m still working on my haunting poems. I’m hoping to do one specifically about bells and clocks. As I ran I thought about rhythms and beats: the steady beat of my feet on the trail, the triple counts I was chanting (strawberry/blueberry/raspberry/river road/trestle bridge), and the lone geese honking repeatedly. I tried to match my feet to its honks, which didn’t work. Then I tried to count the beats between each honk. It was not steady. I wondered, why do geese honk when they’re flying? I looked it up: to keep the flock together and coordinated in the V. Visibility is low so the honks let them know where each other are. Are all the honks the same, or does each goose have a slightly different one? Why aren’t they in a steady rhythm — or, are they, and I just don’t hear it?

Here’s some more information about the Canadian Geese and their 13 different vocalizations: Canada Goose Vocalizations

Almost every time I hear a geese honk, I think of Mary Oliver’s geese and their harsh and exciting cries, but there are other wild geese poems. Here’s one I don’t think I’ve encountered before:

Something Told the Wild Geese / Rachel Field

Something told the wild geese
It was time to go.
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered,—‘Snow.’
Leaves were green and stirring,
Berries, luster-glossed,
But beneath warm feathers
Something cautioned,—‘Frost.’
All the sagging orchards
Steamed with amber spice,
But each wild breast stiffened
At remembered ice.
Something told the wild geese
It was time to fly,—
Summer sun was on their wings,
Winter in their cry.

My understanding is that geese fly south before it gets too cold and before the snow flies, just like the poem states. So why were there so many geese up in the sky today? Is it a result of the climate crisis, or something else? I found a National Geographic article but it’s behind a paywall. The little bit of it I could read was about how geese migration is complicated; geese are finding suburbs a pleasing place to stay year round. Another article I found mentioned that in the 1950s, fearing their extinction, wildlife agencies in some states introduced new flocks that were raised in captivity and never learned to migrate. They are still flocks of wild migrating geese, but also lots of “not wild” geese. Looks like this question has many different answers.

dec 3/RUN

6 miles
franklin loop
37 degrees

Writing this entry almost an hour after my run, it’s sunny, but when I was out by the gorge it was overcast, with some mist or fog or some kind of moisture hanging in the air. Barely any wind. Calm, quiet, peaceful. I thought about the haunting poems I’m working on, and tried to forget Omicron. Just a few days ago, I wasn’t too concerned about this new variant. Without enough data, it’s too early for that. But, even though intellectually and emotionally (at least, I thought) I wasn’t stressed about it, my body has decided to have a mild sinus flair-up. Some pressure in my face/cheeks, a ticklish, scratchy throat. It’s not debilitating, just uncomfortable and distracting. Is this caused by anxiety over this new variant? Possibly. I’m trying to avoid twitter, facebook, and any online news in the hopes that it will calm me down.

Back to the poems I’m working on. Before heading out the door, I gave myself 2 questions to ponder: Who are the ghosts, the dead or the living? Does it depend on how you see (understand, think about, imagine) it? These questions were partly inspired by some lines from Ed Bok Lee in “Halos” that I’m using as an epigraph:

How else, when blinded by life,
would I remember:

to the dead, we’re the ghosts.

When I first read these lines, I was confused by them. I still am, but they seem to fit with how my sequence of poems on haunts/haunting/haunted play around with who is being haunted and who is doing the haunting. I like the idea of not resolving this question and letting both answers be possible at any given time, or at specific times. Sometimes the living are the ghosts, sometimes it’s the dead. I also like the idea of not spelling out what that means, but presenting images that complicate it. Running on the east side of the river, with a gray, mostly sunless sky, I encountered such an image: a pale, still river reflecting a fully formed, clear inverted trestle bridge in the water. Marveling at it, I wondered, which bridge is real, the one that’s right side up or the one upside down? As I continued to look at the water, I noticed fully formed trees, the lake street bridge, and clouds also reflected in the water. Very cool.

This images reminds me of May Swenson’s wonderful poem, Water Picture. Here’s an excerpt:

In the pond in the park
all things are doubled:
Long buildings hang and
wriggle gently. Chimneys
are bent legs bouncing
on clouds below. A flag
wags like a fishhook
down there in the sky.

The arched stone bridge
is an eye, with underlid
in the water. In its lens
dip crinkled heads with hats
that don’t fall off. Dogs go by,
barking on their backs.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. 4 stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  2. the clicking and clacking of ski poles as a roller skier approached from somewhere I couldn’t see
  3. running past the old stone steps: a clear, beautiful view of the forest floor and the trail that winds through bare tree trunks to reach the river
  4. the dark brown dirt of the Winchell Trail below me as I neared Franklin
  5. the folding table set up at the White Sands Beach far below me
  6. puddles on the franklin bridge — no ice, only standing water
  7. the ancient boulder on the east side of the river never has any stones stacked on it. Is that because its top isn’t flat enough?
  8. the fence panel that was removed a month or so ago, has been replaced and now, it’s hard to remember (or easy to forget) that it was ever missing
  9. looking down at the the part of the winchell trail that goes under the lake street bridge: the dirt is not a dark brown, but lighter, more yellow, almost like spicy brown mustard
  10. running north on the west side of the river road: car headlights approaching me through the trees

One more thing: I was able to greet both Dave, the Daily Walker and Mr. Morning! — that’s the name I came up with right now for the walker I’ve been seeing lately who likes to greet me with an enthusiastic, “morning!” I think he wears a darker blue coat, a stocking cap, and sunglasses. Mr. Morning! I love it.

I love how poets.org has an “about this poem” for each poem of the day. The one for today’s poem (from “The Book of Absence”) is very fitting for what I’m working on with my haunting poems:

About this Poem:

This is not poetry. This is a reading of the moment. Read it in the moment and pass on. Do not linger. Go. We don’t go to places. We go from places. We are dedicated to going, not staying. In going, we fade away. Consider my poetry as if you are walking down a road. Someone calls your name. You turn your head. There is nobody around. The road is deserted. Empty. You tell yourself somebody must have been there. But there is no one. Consider my poetry like that moment.”
—Alireza Roshan, translated by Erfan Mojib and Gary Gach

source

dec 1/RUN

6 miles
ford loop
38 degrees
humidity: 91%

It might reach the mid 50s today, but I couldn’t wait for that warmer weather to run. 38 is fine with me. I’d prefer less humidity, but I didn’t mind the gray sky and the cool mist on the river that it created. Not too many people out there. I did wave to Santa Claus — the tall, lean, older white male runner with a long-ish white beard — and “good mornied” the exuberant walker who always greets me with great enthusiasm.

Working on another of my haunt poems and started the run looking for a better word for the ending of it. Yes! Within 10 minutes, it came to me: lodged. What a wonderful thing moving and being outside is for my writing!

10 Things I Noticed

  1. Clear views of forest floors, the gorge, the other side
  2. Running up above on the lake street bridge: 2 people walking on the part of the winchell trail that winds under the bridge. Up here they looked like tiny black specks
  3. Below the lake st bridge on the st paul side: a crew in bright yellow jackets in a boat or some sort of floating dock — were they repairing something or looking for someone who fell in the river? Both are possible
  4. The stairs descending to the trail from the bridge: closed
  5. Empty bench after bench, each with a wide and clear view of the river and the west bank of the river
  6. A white dog pooping in the grass. It’s human bending over to pick up the poop
  7. People working on the 3.25 million dollar house being built by the east river road
  8. A leaf blower, the sound of its buzzing undulating as the person holding it squeezed and then released the grip
  9. Sirens and flashing cuts lights: an ambulance turning into Becketwood
  10. Shadow Falls: water trickling + patches of ice everywhere

I’m not sure what December’s theme will be yet. Maybe snow? Or the fragile, fleeting nature of everything? (This would be a contrast to October and November, in which I focused more on ghosts, as that which endure, remains, never fully leaves).

First Snow/ Arthur Sze

A rabbit has stopped on the gravel driveway:

           imbibing the silence,
           you stare at spruce needles:

                                 there’s no sound of a leaf blower,
                                 no sign of a black bear;

a few weeks ago, a buck scraped his rack
           against an aspen trunk;
           a carpenter scribed a plank along a curved stone wall.    

                      You only spot the rabbit’s ears and tail:

when it moves, you locate it against speckled gravel,
but when it stops, it blends in again;

           the world of being is like this gravel:

                      you think you own a car, a house,
                      this blue-zigzagged shirt, but you just borrow these things.    

Yesterday, you constructed an aqueduct of dreams
                      and stood at Gibraltar,
                                            but you possess nothing.

Snow melts into a pool of clear water;
           and, in this stillness,

                      starlight behind daylight wherever you gaze.

nov 28/RUN

5.6 miles
minnehaha regional park and back*
27 degrees / feels like 20

*south on river road trail to the falls/ up the steps and over the bridge past John Stevens House/ turn around at 3 miles and the entrance to the trail that leads to a steep set of many steps down to the mississippi / back by the falls/ north on the river road trail

A cold wind this morning making it harder to breathe. Sunny, uncrowded, clear trails. Another nice run. Still thinking about ghosts. Thought about possessing, dispossessing, repossessing and then this reminder popped into my head: you can’t ever truly own (or possess, as in own, control, take over) something. The river gorge, for example, can be maintained, managed, exploited but it always exceeds that control. It spills over, invades, resists, refuses to be tamed.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. At the start of my run, before the sky had fully cleared, heading south, the sun was illuminating the river. The water was all silvery white with a few dark spots, caused by the reflection of a tree or a building
  2. All the trees are bare, nothing blocking the view to the Winchell Trail and the river below
  3. My shadow was clearly visible in front of me, not the faint hint of a shadow, but a full, almost solid form
  4. The falls: water still rushing over the rocks, but also big columns of ice falling down too
  5. After running under the ford bridge, I noticed — not for the first time — a dirt trail that winds through the small woods between ford parkway above and west river parkway below. For much of the year, this trail is hidden behind leaves
  6. The dinging of the train bells at the 50th street station on the other side of Hiawatha — not real bells, but a recording. A hollow, fake sound
  7. Voices from runners approaching. It took a long time for me to tell if they were coming from in front of or behind me
  8. The sidewalk/walking path that winds above the gorge between the Veteran’s Home and the dog park often undulates — up up doooowwwwnnn
  9. Running parallel to someone below on the Winchell trail, hearing the leaves rustle as they ran through them
  10. At the end of my run: the clicking and clacking of a roller skier’s poles

Finally, after getting this book in July of 2020, I’m reading Victoria Chang’s amazing Obit. Here’s one that mentions a shadow:

Victoria Chang–died unknowingly on
June 24, 2009 on the I-405 freeway.
Born in the Motor City, it is fitting
she died on a freeway. When her
mother called about her father’s heart
attack, she was living an indented
life, a swallow that didn’t dip. This
was not her first death. All her deaths
had creases except this one. It didn’t
matter that her mother was wrong (it
was a stroke) but that Victoria Chang
had to ask whether she should drive to
see the frontal lobe. When her mother
said yes, Victoria Chang had the
feeling of not wanting to. Someone
heard that feeling. Because he did
not die but all of his words did. At the
hospital, Victoria Change cried when
her father no longer made sense. This
was before she understood the cruelty
of his disease. It would be the last time
she cried in front of it. She switched
places with her shadow because
suffering changes shape and happens
secretly.

nov 19/RUN

6 miles
ford loop
29 degrees / feels like 25
wind: 18 mph

No snow yet. Bare pavement. Still time to enjoy running the ford loop before the snow accumulates. Many of the trails on the east side aren’t cleared that well, and neither is the bridge. Usually, I don’t run the ford or franklin loops in the winter. I wasn’t too cold, but the wind was tough. Pushing me around.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. A single black glove on the branch of a bare tree near the side of the trail between the lake street and ford bridges
  2. A plaque on the ground near a bench. I didn’t stop to read it. The plaque looked older than the one I stopped to read last week — that one was from 2008
  3. The wind on the lake street bridge was strong, coming from the side
  4. Far below the lake street bridge: one person, dressed in black, walking the winchell trail right next to the water, another person, not dressed in black, running the trail
  5. My shadow, very faint in front of me, overcast today
  6. The ravine between shadow falls and the monument was completely visible. It looked much wider than it was deep
  7. A city truck hugging the side of the road blowing leaves on the trail. They stopped to let me pass
  8. Another runner ahead of me in black running tights and a bright yellow shirt (or was it a jacket?) with a fanny pack or runner’s belt poking out of the back
  9. Reaching the ford bridge: the huge amount of land that was the ford plant and had been fenced off, was now wide open with trucks everywhere. They’re building houses, condos, businesses, new streets, a new park
  10. The big slab of white in the middle of the river that Scott and I have been wondering about for the last week or so is still there. We determined that it might be a sandbar. Looks like it to me

One of my favorite poetry people, Ilya Kaminsky, posted a great question the other day on twitter. What’s the difference between wonder and astonishment? Here’s the thread. And here are a few of my favorite explanations:

I don’t think anyone is ever filled with astonishment, nor does astonishment invite you in. It’s a presence that leaves you reeling. A prolonged buffet that can make you laugh, or gasp, or scrabble to have thoughts again. Perhaps it’s the assertive version of wonder.

While wonder invites, in a way hard to resist. Can you breathe enough breath? Can you travel enough to glimpse a further side? Can you ever be outside of wonder? Or do you just close your eyes?

@MathJonesPoet

I associate wonder with quiet–when an interior reality mingles with exterior reality (whatever reality means) and for me wonder is often a perhaps, a what if… astonishment is a shock, a jolting awake — it can be delightful or violent or terrifying or a mixture of all three

@motleybookshop

“Wonder” feels closer to something constructed for me, like someone looking back at memories and applying emotion through the passing of time, which can result in something disingenuous or forced. “Astonishment” feels closer to something that happens in the moment—present tense.

@jdsctt

in wonder is a mystery unknown that cannot be known is tenderness,a lingering,a touch of an aetherial wing

state of being&a verb veiled&filled with how,a why a when, a could it be .. astonishment is awe&hit by coup de foudre open mouth&open eye

@purpezwaan

wonder is a continuous state, astonishment strikes then disappears

@nataliejedson

Wonder is a slow freight train going slow over a bridge, & between the cars you see peeks of snowy mountains. (Peeks of peaks?) Astonishment is when you’re on the train, & you round the corner & see the ruins of an old old building, & all the ghosts are visible, present.

@AlyssandraTobin

Wonder puts you in the thing and you become a part of it, maybe reciprocal in a way, astonishment is always outside of you.

@vickymharris

For me, I feel wonder in my gut, it has a shock quality. I process astonishment with my eyes, my eyebrows raise, my mouth opens, akin to awe.

@yoursbc

Some general ideas: wonder is a slow glow, astonishment is a quick flash. Wonder is a way of being, an approach that opens us up. Astonishment temporarily shuts us down, stops us; it is unsustainable as a state. We wonder, astonishment happens to us through shock, surprise. Wonder = curiosity, astonishment = surprise, shock, bewilderment. Wonder deepens time, astonishment freezes it. Wonder is warm, astonishment is burning hot. Wonder starts everything, astonishment ends everything.

nov 17/RUN

5.35 miles
franklin loop
39 degrees / feels like 32
wind: 15 mph / 28 mph gusts

Blustery but bright with a warming sun. My left knee has been stiff at the end of my runs for the past few weeks (months?) and my left foot hurt at the beginning — the result of my new shoes and the strange redesign that is too tight on my toe. Who cares?! It was a great run. Mid to late November when all the leaves are gone and the sun can reach every corner of the forest is my favorite time to run. My love for it is heightened by the knowledge that soon snow will come and these lower trails will be un-runnable until March or April.

Starting sometime last week, I began a series of poems on haunting and haunted. I’ve been using my runs to help me figure out some of the lines. Today, again, it worked. I went out for my run wanting to work on this unfinished line: what is a ghost but… About a mile and a half in, I came up with some ideas: a part of the past we carry with us visible to anyone who notices. I also came up with an ending, connected to these lines: I am both haunting and haunted. I’m very pleased with how helpful my runs have been for my writing lately.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. Running on the east side, near the U, the knocking of a woodpecker somewhere on a wooden kiosk. Was it on the top of the roof? Inside or outside? I stopped to look, but couldn’t tell
  2. Shadows, 1: running above the floodplain forest, the sun was shining down casting shadows everywhere
  3. Shadows, 2: Following my sharp, defined shadow right in front of me
  4. Crossing the franklin bridge: the river was blue and slightly rough from the wind
  5. A city/park/state truck repainting the white line for the bike lane
  6. A city worker halfway up the bridge steps, painting the railing
  7. 2 orange cones and some tape blocking the entrance to the steps
  8. A pile of dead leaves pushed by wind up against the bridge railing
  9. Someone stopped at the overlook on the bridge
  10. Looking down from the lake street bridge at the rowing club: a little cove, dark blue water, a white dock, a line of stone slabs in the river

Here’s a pome that feels very right for today and my thoughts about knees and carrying history with us:

In Passing/ MATTHEW SHENODA

There is something inside
each of us
that scurries toward the past
in our bodies a rooted history
perhaps in the balls of our feet
a microscopic yearning
that floats inside that sphere
yearning in a language we’ve forgotten.

History is too in our knees
in the ball that pops
& twists as we journey.

And for those of us blessed to be old
& for those of us blessed to be young
it lives inside the tiny ball of skin
deep inside the belly button
tickles recollections from our tongues
stories of stories from then—

history lives in circles & spheres

floating

always suspended

waiting for release.

nov 15/RUN

4.75 miles
Veteran’s Home Loop
32 degrees / feels like 26

Colder today. Traces of snow on the ground. Most of the trees bare. Alone on the trail for much of it. Wonderful. Working on a poem about feeling like a ghost, mostly because of my vision — fuzzy, out of focus, disconnected. Thought about that every so often during the run. Stopped on the grounds of the Veteran’s home to record an idea about not feeling fizzy but flat, or a flat fizz? Not so much light but weighted/heavy with distance and separation and invisible layers. Almost protected, wrapped. But…do I feel heavy or something else? Weightless but not light or heavy because in my untethered state, lightness or heaviness aren’t felt so they can’t be used for reference. I am a hovering ghost who is not heavy or light but hidden, unnoticed, lacking substance, insubstantial. Thinking about this more, it might seem like being unnoticed or disconnected is bad/unfortunate/a bummer. Occasionally it is, but mostly I like the freedom it gives me, the chance to observe without being bothered or judged or distracted. Plus, this feeling of being on but not on the path, insulated, is trippy and cool, strange, surreal.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. Entering Minnehaha Regional Park, nearing the falls: the grass was white with snow, the trail was dry and dark gray, the trees light green. A jarring contrast. Spearmint or peppermint popped into my head
  2. Rushing gushing falls churning white foam
  3. Above the falls on the other side of the creek: Big Feet — what FWA, RJP, and I call the tall statue of  Gunner Wennenberg, a Swedish composer, poet, and politician (I looked up on june 27, 2021)
  4. A crow aggressively cawing on someone’s lawn
  5. The oak savanna exposed, no more leaves, the winchell trail below the mesa clearly visible outlined by the light dusting of snow
  6. The river: brown, flat, not looking cold but not warm either
  7. The sidewalk on the high bridge that leads to the Veteran’s Home was snow-covered and slick, icy
  8. Running on the double bridge, around a ravine, the light dusting of white on the deep brown, mulch-covered hill looked like powder sugar
  9. Reaching the 44th street parking lot: yelling laughing kids at the minnehaha academy playground across the road
  10. After my run, walking Delia the dog around the neighborhood, one block over: a huge tree still fully dressed in light green (with a hint of yellow) leaves. Will they turn and fall, or stay all winter?

Still reading Maggie Smith’s Goldenrod. Here’s another poem from it that I really like:

How Dark the Beginning/ Maggie Smith

All we ever talk of is light—
let there be light, there was light then,
good light—but what I consider
dawn is darker than all that.
So many hours between the day
receding and what we recognize
as morning, the sun cresting
like a wave that won’t break
over us—as if light were protective,
as if no hearts were flayed,
no bodies broken on a day
like today. In any film,
the sunrise tells us everything
will be all right. Danger wouldn’t
dare show up now, dragging
its shadow across the screen.
We talk so much of light, please
let me speak on behalf
of the good dark. Let us
talk more of how dark
the beginning of a day is.

Yes. The dark is not always bad. And, while we’re at it, let’s talk some about the “bad” light: too bright, dazzling, disorienting, burning too hot, deceiving, overwhelming/overstimulating. Can I make this poem fit with the November theme of lifting the veil? Maybe lifting the veil, coming out from the dark and into the light, isn’t always good? Or, maybe a veil can be lifted when we stay in the dark?

nov 12/RUN

5 miles
bottom of franklin hill and back
35 degrees
wet snow flurries!

It begins! Cold air, layers, snow. Winter is almost here. Everything was already wet when I started, then, at some point, it started sleeting or snowing or something in-between. I didn’t care; I had a hood and a water resistant vest. Greeted Dave the Daily Walker and a new regular who I don’t have a name for yet. No distinguishing features that my fuzzy eyes can see–an older man, not too tall or short, not too big or small, white. All I remember is his enthusiasm and the joyful ways he waves or greets me with a “morning.” Am I even sure it’s the same person every time?

When I got to the bottom of the franklin hill I stopped to dictate a line for the poem I’m working on. Yesterday I struggled to get through a section on bells and ghosts. Early this morning, I had a breakthrough but still needed to work on the last line. I figured a run would help, and it did. Hooray for running and its ability to get me unstuck!

After that, I put in a playlist and listened to music for the rest of my run, which made me run about 1 minute per mile faster. I felt like I was flying. Free and fast and untethered.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The color palatte of the day: light gray, dark brown, spicy mustard yellow, slate blue, light green
  2. Running down the franklin hill noticed that half of the tree line was bare, half was a light green
  3. Running through the tunnel of trees, looking down on the floodplain forest: here you can’t see the river, only an endless stretch of forest floor and bare trees
  4. Almost to the the bottom of the hill, a snow/rain drop fell straight into my eye — ouch
  5. Some geese honking, sounding agitated
  6. A chirping whistling bird, sounding like spring, a woman stopped on the path, craning her neck, looking for the source of these sounds (at least, that’s what I imagine she was doing)
  7. Flashing lights from a parks or city vehicle, glowing brighter in the gloom
  8. The vase of flowers still perched on the ledge below the railroad trestle
  9. A bright white paper towel or plastic bag laying on the path, just past the franklin bridge
  10. A very fast runner that I saw twice in shorts and a bright orange long-sleeved shirt

This poem! So many lines that I love:

In the Meantime/ Max Garland

The river rose wildly every seventh spring
or so, and down the hatch went the town,
just a floating hat box or two, a cradle,
a cellar door like an ark to float us back
into the story of how we drown but never
for good, or long. How the ornate numbers
of the bank clock filled with flood, how
we scraped minute by minute the mud
from the hours and days until the gears
of time started to catch and count again.
Calamity is how the story goes, how
we built the books of the Bible. Not
the one for church, but the one the gods
of weather inscribed into our shoulder
blades and jawbones to grant them grit
enough to work the dumb flour of day
into bread and breath again. The world
has a habit of ending, every grandmother
and father knew well enough never to say,
so deeply was it stained into the brick
and mind. We live in the meantime
is how I remember the length of twilight
and late summer cicadas grinding the air
into what seemed like unholy racket to us,
but for them was the world’s only music.

nov 10/RUN

5.25 miles
franklin loop
44 degrees

Still lots of yellow in the gorge, but leaves are falling fast. Wind, rain, and the possibility of snow flurries this weekend. Overcast, windy, less humid. I ran north to franklin, over the bridge, south on the east side of the river until reaching another bridge, back over to the west side, then home.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The view down to the floodplain forest was clear; I could see the forest floor, or at least all the yellow leaves on the floor
  2. The view up to the road from the tunnel of trees was clear too; no hiding below the road until spring
  3. The river from the franklin bridge: cold, dark blue, the railroad trestle in the distance
  4. Running under the railroad trestle, I heard some voices, laughing. Looked down: at least 2 people walking up the limestone slab steps on the Winchell Trail
  5. Running under the railroad trestle, 2: a memorial for someone who died–a biker hit by a car? In addition to the hanging white bike, which is always there, a vase of flowers placed on the ledge
  6. Nearing the old stone steps, hearing the yippy bark of a dog slightly below, the sound moving up slowly — was the dog climbing the steps? Yes. When I reached them, there they were: black, tiny, skittering around
  7. The spray of water that hit me as I started my run–not sure what it was from. It happened as I ran by a neighbor’s house, where a loud machine that looked like a pump, attached to a hose, was set up. Was it an exploding sprinkler? Would I have been able to avoid this if I could see better?
  8. A shorter, older woman with white hair, slightly hunched, walking fast
  9. A taller, younger woman with a pony tail and jutting elbows, also walking fast
  10. After my run was finished, walking the last few blocks: wind chimes!

A great run. I’m working on a long, sequence poem about haunts, haunting, and haunted, and I had a few good thoughts, like the idea of haunting (frequenting, traveling on, slightly floating above) the path/trail as being (happily) out of touch. Disconnected. I thought about the image of a phone being off the hook and eavesdropping, to listen in, overhear, catch bits of someone else’s conversation. Everything an opportunity to be curious and imagine/guess what’s being said without needing to connect that imagination to reality. To fly, float, have freedom, be freed from concerns, worries, the need to be productive.

Yesterday, working on this poem, which is in the form of 3 syllable/2 syllable lines, I thought about Lorine Niedecker and the short, stubby form of her poems. I think she’s an inspiration. Here’s a bit from one of her longer poems, Wintergreen Ridge. (note: in addition to having short lines, this poem travels across the page, broken up into 3 lines, the first with no indentation, the second with one indent, the third with two, on repeat throughout the poem. Mary Oliver does something like this too. Did she take inspiration from Niedecker? Anyway, I’m being lazy or rushed, so I’m not doing the fiddly, extra formatting required (lots of  s) for spacing it.

Wintergreen Ridge/Lorine Niedecker

Life is natural
in the evolution
of matter

Nothing supra-rock
about it
simply

butterflies

***

(autumn?)

Sometimes it’s a pleasure
to grieve
or dump

the leaves most brilliant
as do trees
when they’ve no need

of an overload
of cellulose
for a cool while

Nobody, nothing
ever gave me
greater thing

than time
unless light
and silence

which if intense
makes sound
Unaffected

by man

I love Niedecker and her condensing ways!

nov 8/RUN

6 miles
ford loop
50 degrees

Another nice, late fall run. My cold is almost gone. Sun, not too much wind, lower humidity. I have decided that the ford loop is my favorite fall loop for 2021.

10+ Things I Noticed

  1. Sibilant sounds coming up from the ravine where Shadow Falls is located — possibly wind, but most likely falling water
  2. On the lake street bridge: a trail and some sort of disruption of the water. In my periphery, it always looked like something was there, but when I turned to use my central vision, nothing. Dead cones or faulty peripheral vision?
  3. The memorial plastic flowers leaning on the railing on the st. paul side are slowly falling apart
  4. The view down into the ravine by shadow falls is much clearer than before: a veil lifted. Looking down from the trail above, the gorge isn’t deep but wide and strangely shaped
  5. Also from the view above the ravine: the direction of the sun cast my shadow down in the ravine. As I ran above, she ran below next to the trickling water
  6. A small plaque on a random rock that I didn’t stop to read
  7. The tangy smell of decomposing leaves. Sometimes this smell is sweet, or almost too sweet, but today it was sharp and not quite salty — sour?
  8. At the last parking lot before reaching the ford bridge: an information sign with the history of the forming of the gorge. Some accounts claim the river warren arrived to carve the gorge starting 10,000 years, some 12,000 years, this sign: 13,000 years
  9. My aching toe! The toe box of my new shoe is rubbing against my big toe. It hurt whenever I ran downhill
  10. Crossing the ford bridge: small ripples on the very dark blue water caused by the wind, making a pattern I could see, a texture I could almost feel
  11. The stretch of the sky covered with a ripped veil of clouds

Thinking more about #5, my shadow down in the ravine. As I watched it below me, I thought about ghosts and shadows and faint traces of things not quite here. I imagined the shadow as a different version of me, having the chance to run below in the ravine. And I thought (again, because I’m sure I’ve thought this before) about these quick moments or flashes of something else — shadows, faint trails, breaks in the trees, a disembodied sound coming from somewhere un-locatable — as opportunities, possibilities, evidence of other ways of being or doing. Are these things real? That’s not the point. They’re suggestions or indications, other options.

Before I went out for my run, I skimmed through Mary Oliver’s The Leaf and the Cloud. I was trying to get myself primed for thinking about veils and lifting them. I settled on this bit at the end of a section titled, “Work”:

I will sing for the veil that never lifts.
I will sing for the veil that begins, once in a lifetime,
maybe, to lift.
I will sing for the rent in the veil.
I will sing for what is in front of the veil, the
floating light.
I will sing for what is behind the veil—
light, light, and more light.

This is the world, and this is the work of the world.

These are the lines that I read on the window of neighbor’s house that inspired to find this book and to devote a month to Mary Oliver.

Rent: to rend, or tear, split violently, break apart, wrest, pierce

One of the reasons I love late fall, after the leaves have fallen and before the snow comes, is because it is when I have the best view of the river, the gorge, the other side. The veil of leaves and excessive greenery has temporarily lifted. For a few years, I’ve been trying to understand why I like it so much, especially when it seems to be a time of sadness and loss and dread for so many other people. I think this lifting of the veil is a useful way for me to think about it: a better view, more space, a chance to breathe and stretch and connect with things usually hidden, covered, concealed. I like the idea of lifting much better than renting/rending. This lifting is not violent or destructive.

One (boring?) thing I’ve been noticing that I never see when the trees are choked with leaves: cars parked at parking lots on the other side of the river. Today I noticed a white car, glimmering in the sunlight, positioned amongst a line of bare tree trunks. Why do I find this interesting? Maybe because it helps to orient me in relation to the other side or because it’s evidence that more than trees are over there (usually a view of the other side seems the same: tree after tree after tree, and nothing else).

nov 6/RUN

3.1 miles
marshall loop
46 degrees

Ran with Scott up the Marshall hill and around Shadow Falls on the east side of the river. Stopped a little short. Warmer this morning. Still humid. We both greeted Dave the Daily Walker. I felt over-dressed a few minutes in. Tried out my new Saucony’s: black with light pink soles. Very nice. I’ve wanted black shoes for a couple of years now.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. River, 1: Running over the lake street bridge, the water was a few different shades of blue: dark blue near the bridge, then gradually lightening as it moved downstream
  2. River, 2: The white heat of water through a break in the trees. Mostly woods, with one sliver of the river
  3. River, 3: Sparkly, shiny, a cylinder of light traveling from one shore to the other
  4. Passing by a full black garbage bag on the bridge
  5. The clicking and clacking of roller skier approaching from behind
  6. At least 3 different small packs of runners on the east side of the river
  7. No rowers, no geese, no crows
  8. My shadow, off the side, her pony-tail swishing
  9. Passing lots of walkers on the bridge without worrying about covid
  10. Leaving the house, about the start the run, admiring our front tree on full display: brighter than gold

Yesterday, I started working on a poem (or a series of poems?) based on my October focus on ghosts and haunting. I’ve decided to use my rhythmic breathing pattern as the form: couplets with 1 three syllable line and 1 two syllable line (3/2). Here’s a bit that I like about going over the same trail, again and again that doesn’t fit in my current poem (and maybe doesn’t quite work?):

retread. Thread
needle

after need-
le stitch

stitch after
stitch use

the pattern
follow

directions
stay straight

but not quite
keeping

track losing
your place

untethered
let loose

nov 4/RUN

4.75 miles
Veteran’s Home Loop*
35 degrees
humidity: 84%

*a new loop: south on the river road trail to Minnehaha Regional Park, up the steps and over the falls. Follow the trail along the fence, past the John Stevens House. Take the bridge to the grounds of the Veteran’s Home. Go through a parking lot, up some steps, to the trail near the edge that leads down to Locks and Dam Number One. Rejoin the river road trail heading north until you reach the parking lot with the entrance to the Winchell Trail. Take the Winchell trail north to the Oak Savanna.

A good run. Cold update: It lingers. Still stuffed up, but continuing to feel better. A little harder to run because of the crud in my throat + a few raggedy coughs. Another sunny day with not much wind. So humid. I want my cold, crisp air!

10 Things I Noticed

  1. A haze in the air from the sun illuminating the humidity. Running above the oak savanna, everything was even softer, out of focus than (my) usual, filtered through the damp air
  2. Still above the Oak Savanna: I can see more of the mesa now that more leaves have left
  3. The river was glowing white with sunlight
  4. Not too many people on the trails — hardly any walkers or runner or bikers. Just 2 roller skiers
  5. Stopped at the spot on the Winchell Trail where the man had been using a hacksaw last week to check what he had done. Nothing, as far as I could tell
  6. At its start, just after the slabbed steps, the Winchell Trail, which had been covered in leaves last week, was clear. Minneapolis Parks must have cleared out the leaves sometime this week
  7. The bridge over to the Veteran’s Home, high above the trail below — the trail that follows the creek after it has fallen all the way to the Mississippi River — has a chainlink fence that makes it difficult to see below, especially when the sun is shining directly on it
  8. Running on the edge of the bluff, I heard the roaring of the water as it rushed over the dam at Locks and Dam Number One, then I saw it: a wall of white water
  9. A turkey crossing! Near turkey hollow, I encountered at least 5 turkeys, almost all the way across the road
  10. At the end of my run in the Oak Savanna, I heard a bird crying out. I stopped to locate it: a white-ish bird in a small nest in a nearby tree. I can’t remember the sound it made and have no idea what kind of bird it is — was it the mother, protecting her young? Do any birds nest in the fall?

Just looked it up and yes, some birds do nest in the fall. I didn’t know that. I’m thinking it might have been a mourning dove. They nest in the spring, but can lay eggs as late as October. Wow.

Prints/Tracks/Traces

The poem of the day on poetry foundation reminded me of part of a poem I read last month and then wrote about in a document titled, “October’s Apparitions.” I like the multiple meanings of the title. Prints, as in photographs, but also fingerprints. I thought about prints as tracks too — not yet a trail, but evidence of someone or something else there before you.

Prints/ Joseph Bruchac

Seeing photos
of ancestors
a century past

is like looking
at your own
fingerprints—

circles 
and lines
you can’t 
recognize

until someone else
with a stranger’s eye
looks close and says
that’s you.

Here’s the part of the poem that I posted/wrote about in October:

from Seven Types of Shadow / U A Fanthorpe

We carry our human ghosts around with us.
As we grow we face the mirrors, and see
The specter of a great-aunt, a vague look
Known only from sepia snapshots. The hands we’re used to —
Yes, these — their contours came by way of a long retinue
Of dust. We are photofits of the past,
And the future eyes us sideways as we eye ourselves.
We are the ghosts of great-aunts and grand-nephews.
We are ghosts of what is dead and not yet born. 

And here is what I wrote on oct 15th:

Who, from my family, do I look like? What characteristics of others do I have? Whose nose? I don’t know/remember too many of my relatives, so it’s difficult to imagine who I might look like…[pause to look at pictures of relatives] I couldn’t find much resemblance. I’m not sure who from the past is like me, but my daughter is like me in her posture — she swims like me, she walks like me, she has my shoulders and non-existent eyebrows. I like the idea of the traces of others within us — what we pass on, the gestures and the expressions — there is love in the passing on, even if or when there’s not much connection or love in the relationships. We are ghosts of what is dead and not yet born. I like this idea of all these different times mingling together.

Interesting…reduced to body parts — ghosts as that which we inherited…makes me think of the cone dystrophy — whose bad vision did I inherit? How many others have had it? And which side of the family? My sister has mentioned a grandmother who was blind—did she have cone dystrophy, or was it something else? Thinking about first talking with the doctor and the idea of how it skips generations, jumping around in families so you don’t know where it came from — a ghost not attached to anyone, unknown. So much unknown…

The comfort of a known ghost. To look at someone and see yourself in them or them in you. To know they are the ghost you are passing on. What do you do with not knowing? Is it necessary to know? Do you want to find out? What do you do about you kids? 

pages document/ oct 15, 2021

Re-reading this, I’m thinking more about how invisible, or at least very difficult to see, cone dystrophy is. It’s rare and has such a wide range of symptoms, presenting differently even in the same families. And, it skips generations and moves around families: a great-aunt might have it, but not a grandparent or parent. I’m not sure when it was first discovered — even now in 2021, so much is not known about it and the diagnosis of it falls under the vague, blanket term, “cone dystrophy,” which stands in for all sorts of cone-related vision problems. If it existed in families a generation or two ago, it was very likely it was not discovered. No understanding or diagnosis. No treatment. No prints (no evidence revealed in photos or through a doctor’s diagnosis). Instead, only faint tracks or trails: a story about someone having bad vision when they got older, knitting even though they couldn’t see what they were doing. My dad’s family, poor and living in rural upper peninsula Michigan, and before that, rural Finland, most likely had very little or no access to an ophthalmologist that would look for or understand cone dystrophy.

Cone dystrophy is inherited, most likely an autosomal recessive inheritance (AR). If I understand it correctly, I have a 50% chance of passing it on to my kids, but they only carry it if both Scott and I have it, and they only have a 25% chance of being affected by it (and, even if they are affected by it, their symptoms might be very mild or hard to detect). [source: Cone/Cone-rod dystrophy for patients] My experience of it, with most of my cones in my central vision gone and a good chance of becoming legally blind, is rare. So, I’m not too worried about my kids. Instead, I am fascinated by where it came from and the strange, unlikely path it has taken to get to me. What ghosts have passed it on unknowingly? To this I’ll add: I’m not sure if I need to know who it is from, or get an accurate map of how it’s traveled; I am more interested in the idea that it’s hard to track and what it means to live with unknown/unnamed ghosts.

Taking this idea of what our ghosts pass on to us in a different direction, I’m reminded of something I read in Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth a few years ago about the diseases we carry in us unknowingly, maybe from birth, maybe not:

Franny’s father, Fix, says, “People are scared of the wrong things… We go around thinking that what’s going to get us is waiting on the other side of the door: it’s outside, it’s in the closet, but it isn’t like that. . . For the vast majority of the people on this planet, the thing that’s going to kill them is already on the inside.” 

Ann Patchett/ Commonwealth

Does this make sense? Will it be useful to future Sara?

I began working on the tracks/prints part of this entry before my run. The last thing I thought about before I left flowed from it: What are the connections between my vision loss and running by the gorge? Some of it is directly related; I’m gathering words, images, metaphors about my vision while I run. Some of it is more a matter of them happening at the same time.

nov 3/RUN

5.25 miles
franklin loop
34 degrees
humidity: 70%

A bright, sunny late fall day. Not gray but golden. I over-dressed; tricked by a feels like temperature that was below freezing. One shirt too many. Ran north on the west river road, over the franklin bridge, south on the east river road, then over the lake street bridge. Breathing was more difficult today, mainly because I have entered a new phase of my cold: the stuffed-up, crudded-up phase. It bothers me, but not too much. I’m happy to be past the last phase, which made me anxious: the feeling of something sitting in my throat, always almost about to turn into cement in my chest. It never did, but throughout the day I imagined a future of not breathing, ventilators, the ICU. Ridiculous, of course. The fear of covid has really messed me up. I used to be an “easy” sick person — at least, I think I was? — but now, I’m a bit of a wimp about it all. Always looking to the future, worrying what my sickness could become.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. 4 stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  2. A view of the glowing white river through the bare trees near the floodplain forest
  3. Near Meeker Dam, on the St. Paul side: a mix of bare limbs, with yellow and green leaves
  4. So many views through the trees lining the bluffs: a smear of yellow or red, then open space with trails winding down to the river
  5. A little kid near the trail with an adult. The adult saying something about having a good run. The kid calling out at least 3 times, “Bye” “Bye” “Bye”
  6. An enthusiastic and friendly walker: “Good morning!” or was it just “Morning”? I’ve noticed that usually others say “morning” to me. I always respond, “Good morning.” Is it a regional difference? A east coast or southern thing to say both words, or is it just me?
  7. On the St. Paul side, somewhere up the hill just past Meeker Dam, someone has removed one of the black iron fence panels. The spot where it’s missing doesn’t lead anywhere. It’s been this way for a few weeks. Who did it and why? Will it be replaced sometime soon?
  8. Starting my run, heading north, the air was calm, everything quiet, until a car came by blasting music quickly distorted by the doppler effect. Instead of bothering me, this disruption enabled me to notice and appreciate how quiet it was when the car was no longer there
  9. The faintest trace of my shadow in front of me as I ran north at the beginning of my run
  10. Honking geese — only 2 or 3 honks + 1 chickadee calling out, “chick-a-dee-dee-dee”

Here’s the last bit of a poem that I posted on this log in November of 2019:

from November/ Lucy Larcom

This is the month of sunrise skies  
      Intense with molten mist and flame;  
Out of the purple deeps arrive  
      Colors no painter yet could name: 
Gold-lilies and the cardinal-flower  
Were pale against this gorgeous hour.  

Still lovelier when athwart the east 
      The level beam of sunset falls:
The tints of wild-flowers long deceased  
       Glow then upon the horizon walls;  
Shades of the rose and violet
Close to their dear world lingering yet.  

What idleness, to moan and fret  
       For any season fair, gone by!  
Life’s secret is not guessed at yet; 
       Veil under veil its wonders lie.  
Through grief and loss made glorious  
The soul of past joy lives in us.  

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.

Love the idea of “veil under veil its wonders lie” with the description of November as “the plain truth-teller of the year”

oct 28/RUN

4.5 miles
John Stevens House loop
46 degrees
light rain / humidity: 94%

The forecast predicted light rain all day. Decided I wouldn’t mind running in the rain. Wore my vest, which is waterproof or at least water resistant, a baseball cap, bright pink headband, bright yellow shirt, tights, shorts, gloves, and my older running shoes. Ran south to the falls then around the John Stevens House. Ran north until I reached the entrance to the Winchell Trail then took that the rest of the way. Not much wind, not too cold, not too crowded.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. A glowing tree at the falls that, at first, looked all orange, but slowly seemed almost pink: a mix of some red, yellow, green leaves
  2. A rush of noise — leaves blowing in the wind? No. The falls, rushing in the light rain
  3. Water coming out of the sewer at 42nd street — not rushing or gushing or roaring but some other sound that indicates an abundance of flowing water
  4. Running near the river, noticing how the water closer to me was a blue so pale it looked light gray, the water closer to the st. paul shore was deep and dark, reflecting the evergreens
  5. The spot on the Winchell Trail right climbing up to 42nd no longer concealed by leaves, lined with tall, slender tree trunks and a clear view of river gorge st. paul
  6. A few honks, some kids yelling out, a line-up of cars: the beginning of the day at a local elementary school across the grassy boulevard
  7. A very short person walking around Minnehaha Regional Park. Wearing jeans and a dark sweatshirt with the hood up. Walking with a hunched gait
  8. A runner (or walker?) stopped beside the path, taking off a bright pink jacket and tying it around their waist
  9. A strange scraping metallic sound up ahead of me on the Winchell Trail. Then running by a man hunched over a fence post near the curved retaining wall with a hacksaw, sawing. After I passed, he stopped
  10. Squirrel after squirrel darting across the path and into the woods, never circling back to run in front of me

Earlier this morning, right after I woke up and made my coffee, I memorized the second half of one of my favorite Halloween poems: A Rhyme for Halloween. Here’s the bit I memorized:

Our clock is blind, our clock is dumb.
Its hands are broken, its fingers numb.
No time for the martyr of our fair town
Who wasn’t a witch because she could drown.

Now the dogs of the cemetery are starting to bark
At the vision of her bobbing up through the dark.
When she opens her mouth to gasp for air,
A moth flies out and lands in her hair.

The apples are thumping, winter is coming.
The lips of the pumpkin soon will be humming.
By the caw of the crow on the first of the year,
Something will die, something appear.

I recited it in my head throughout my run. I love this poem and its haunting feel (tone? mood?). As I recited the lines, I struggled with the second verse — was it bobbing or bob? gasping or gasp? Why was it difficult for me? I can’t remember now. I like stumbling with the lines; it gives me the chance to reflect on word choice and rhythm. And it helps me to think about what makes some poetry sing, some fall flat.

Favorite lines/images: the blind, dumb dogs; the martyr who wasn’t a witch because she could drown; the vision of her bobbing through the dark and gasping for air; the apples thumping — I imagine them falling on the ground; the lips of the pumpkin humming; something dying and something appearing.

Why is this haunting? One obvious reason: it takes up Halloween (spooky) images. But also: the rhymes. They aren’t sing-song-y. Instead, they echo. The rhyming reminds me of part of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Bells:

monody: a poem lamenting a person’s death
paean: a song of praise or triumph
rune: letters from an alphabet that was used by people in Northern Europe in former times. They were carved on wood or stone and were believed to have magical powers (source).
knell: the sound of a bell, especially when rung solemnly for a death or funeral

IV.

          Hear the tolling of the bells—
                 Iron bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
        In the silence of the night,
        How we shiver with affright
  At the melancholy menace of their tone!
        For every sound that floats
        From the rust within their throats
                 Is a groan.
        And the people—ah, the people—
       They that dwell up in the steeple,
                 All alone,
        And who tolling, tolling, tolling,
          In that muffled monotone,
         Feel a glory in so rolling
          On the human heart a stone—
     They are neither man nor woman—
     They are neither brute nor human—
              They are Ghouls:
        And their king it is who tolls;
        And he rolls, rolls, rolls,
                    Rolls
             A pæan from the bells!
          And his merry bosom swells
             With the pæan of the bells!
          And he dances, and he yells;
          Keeping time, time, time,
          In a sort of Runic rhyme,
             To the pæan of the bells—
               Of the bells:
          Keeping time, time, time,
          In a sort of Runic rhyme,
            To the throbbing of the bells—
          Of the bells, bells, bells—
            To the sobbing of the bells;
          Keeping time, time, time,
            As he knells, knells, knells,
          In a happy Runic rhyme,
            To the rolling of the bells—
          Of the bells, bells, bells—
            To the tolling of the bells,
      Of the bells, bells, bells, bells—
              Bells, bells, bells—
  To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

Reading through this again, I’m thinking about how the bells in this verse are not clock bells, tracking the precise, steady passing of time (which reminds me of the lines about the blind, dumb clocks and no time for the martyr). These bells toll, groan, moan, roll, throb, sob, knell. The sound of the bells floats from rusty throats, is muffled, melancholy. When it is mentioned that they keep time, it is not the time of life, but of death.

oct 26/RUN

6 miles
ford loop
42 degrees
humidity: 72%


Damp. Cool, but not cold. A nice, relaxed run. Overcast, windy. Ran north through the welcoming oaks, the tunnel of trees, past the old stone steps, above the winchell trail that steeply climbs out of the gorge, up to the lake street bridge. Over the bridge, down the steps, up the hill — past one of my favorite, uncluttered views, on the st. paul side; past the bench perched above the river; above shadow falls — to the top. Then down the other side of the deep ravine. Around the World War Monument, beside the river on one side, fancy houses the other. A brief stop at the overview, around another ravine, over to the ford bridge. Through the smaller tunnel of trees above the locks and dam, north on the river road, and then, another brief tunnel of trees just before reaching the double bridge and the start of the Winchell Trail. Through the woods, up and down and up and down the undulating path, then finishing on the upper trail near the 35th st parking lot.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. Almost all of the welcoming oaks are bare limbed, the ground covered in crunchy, crispy leaves
  2. The river a pleasing pale blue, not smooth but slightly rippled, except for at one spot where it’s smooth
  3. The trees along the shore have all changed color
  4. The ravine near Shadow Falls, looking very fall-ish, so many yellow leaves
  5. Running up the long hill, hearing the bell at St. Thomas singing the clock song: ding dong ding dong/ding dong ding dong/ ding dong ding dong — stopping short because it was 9:45, not 10
  6. Running beside the fancy houses on east river parkway, hearing a women’s voice call out to someone else, “what a beautiful day!” Immediate thoughts: It’s windy and cool. Is it a beautiful day? (then thinking: yes, it is. I love this end of fall weather.) Also: actual people who notice and enjoy the weather, really live in this impossibly large and pretentious house?
  7. At the overlook near the entrance to the winchell trail, noticing the river. Farther away, it looked white, almost like snow or ice. Closer, and at a different spot, it sparkled and burned bright and white
  8. 2 squirrels crossing my path, managing to not double back and trip me
  9. So many dirt trails and breaks in the trees leading into the woods on the edge of the bluff on the st. paul side
  10. After ascending the steps of the overlook on the st. paul side, stopping at a bench and seeing a plaque embedded in the sidewalk for Brian Bates, who died in 2008, about a year before my mom did
seen on the St. Paul side of the river, near an overlook

I was curious, so I looked him up:

Age 60 Died June 12th of Cancer Brian was born July 14, 1947 in St. Paul and was a graduate of Notre Dame University. He spent his early business career in San Francisco. After returning to St. Paul in the early 1980’s, Brian received his law degree from Hamline University. He was active on the Mac/Groveland City Council, Scenic Minnesota, Scenic St. Paul, Clean Air MN, the DFL and other political and environmental endeavors. Brian’s work on environmental issues led him to become well-known in the St. Paul area. He was instrumental in the fight against billboards calling them “litter on a stick”.

Obituary (2008)

Not too long after hearing the bells of St. Thomas (as I climbed the Summit Hill), I decided to take out my phone and record myself mid-run. At the point of recording, I was probably running a 9 minute pace, with my heart rate at 170 (which seems to be my standard heart rate for running):

9:45

Running up
summit hill
I heard
bells
at st. thomas chime.
Was it 10 o’clock or
sometime
in 9?
9:45

reciting 9:45

I’ll have to keep working on these. It’s difficult to overcome my self-consciousness over other people see me do this, and my reluctance to slow down enough to get out my phone.

One more thing I almost forgot: Running north on the west river road through the small tunnel of trees before the double bridge, I suddenly noticed the faintest trace of my shadow ahead of me. At first, I wasn’t sure. Had I really seen my shadow or just imagined it? Then, it appeared again, and I noticed the sun had come out. I glimpsed it a few more times, always faint, casting itself on the thick-littered trail. Writing this paragraph, I suddenly wonder about how many times we think we’ve seen something but then discount it with, “it was just my imagination.” More often than not, we are seeing something and it is not being imagined; we just don’t have the right words to describe it, and we don’t trust how our brains see so much more than we realize (or fully process).

Periodically throughout my run, I recited Emily Dickinson’s We grow accustomed to the Dark –, which I re-memorized and then wrote about this morning. At one point, for a few minutes, I stumbled over the 3rd verse. I had no problem with:

And so of larger – Darkness –

But, I couldn’t quite remember the next line: I knew it wasn’t, The Darkness of the Brain or The dimming of the Brain, but the word wasn’t coming to me. Suddenly, it did: evenings:

Those Evenings of the Brain –

Yes. Such a brilliant line, and so helpful and rewarding to spend time thinking about word choice — the right word, so precise and effective, matters.

oct 25/RUN

5.3 miles
franklin loop
37 degrees
humidity: 87%

Breezier and cooler today but humid, so no cold, fresh air. Sunny. Possibly more leaves on the ground than on the trees. Wore my winter running tights, a bright yellow shirt, black vest, black gloves, a baseball cap that used to be black but is now a dingy gray, a bright pink headband, and a not bright orange and pink and cream buff. No stacked stones. No view through the floodplain forest of the water. No geese in the sky.

10 Things I Noticed (about the river)

  1. Shimmering white heat through the small gap in the trees
  2. Running over the Franklin bridge, the light reflecting on the water was hitting my peripheral vision just right, or just wrong — painfully, irritatingly bright
  3. The surface was a smooth, flat, unmoving blue (above on the franklin bridge)
  4. No rowers
  5. Shadows from the trees on the east side darkened the river at its edges
  6. Reflections of the golden trees on the west side brightened the water, coloring it yellow
  7. A circle of light on the water’s surface followed me as I ran south, mostly staying ahead of me, occasionally beside
  8. Most of the trees along the shore have changed colors, many yellows, a few reds, hardly any oranges
  9. Running above the paved trail below on the east side, I couldn’t see it or the water until I reached the trestle
  10. Looking ahead of me at the path, everything looked fuzzy, barely formed. Looking below me on the bridge, the river looked intense, sharp, clear, solid

As I ran, I thought about echoes and rings, circles and cycles, shadows as evidence of something else t/here. I also thought about how the tracing of a paved trail/loop can’t happen on the surface — unless it’s raining or snowing, the hard asphalt leaves no evidence of my footfalls. Instead the evidence is found in my memory, my familiarity with the path in my mind and body:

Familiarity has begun. One has made a relationship with the landscape, and the form and the symbol and the enactment of the relationship is the path. These paths of mind are seldom worn on the ground. They are habits of mind, directions and turns. They are as personal as old shoes. My feet are comfortable in them. 

“A Native Hill”/ Wendell Berry

Returning to the rings:

A Ring/ W.S. Merwin

At this moment and through every moment
this planet which for all we know

is the only one in the vault of darkness
with life on it is wound in a fine veil

of whispered voices groping the frayed waves
of absence they keep flying up like flares

out of hope entwined with its opposite
to wander in ignorance as we do

when we are looking for what we have lost
one moment touching the earth and the next

straying far out past the orbits and webs
and the static of knowledge they go on

without being able to tell whether
they are addressing the past or the future

or where they are ever heard these currents
that are the living talking to the dead