oct 16/RUN

4 miles
marshall loop
41 degrees / feels like 37!

Winter running is coming! Today was great. Cool enough to not get (too) overheated, sunny, not much wind. More yellow leaves. Right after I reached the river road, I heard 2 runners behind me. One of them had a booming voice that carried. I couldn’t tell how far behind me they were or if they were slowly approaching me. Instead of getting irritated or changing my pace, going faster or slower, I kept it steady and heard a few fragments of the conversation, mostly the loud guy’s part: they haven’t seen each other since the pandemic hit, so they were catching up, talking about their running and injuries and aging. I recall the quiet guy saying something like, Man, it’s tough getting old. Not too far from lake street, the quiet guy left. The last thing I heard before I turned up to the lake street bridge was the loud guy blowing a snot rocket (so glad he was far behind me!).

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The river, part 1: crossing the lake street bridge. Out of the corner of my right eye, barely below the railing, I kept thinking I was seeing a rower. Not the shell, but the wake or trail of the boat gliding through the water
  2. The river, part 2: crossing back later, I realized it had not been a rower or the trail from a boat but something else — the current, ripples from a something just below the water, scum on the surface?
  3. The floor below the Welcoming Oaks was covered in a dead leaf carpet. No visible grass or dirt, just crunching leaves
  4. Still no stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  5. Near the bottom of the marshall hill looking up at the red stop light at the top, seeming far and close at the same time
  6. Hearing voices as I ran above Shadow Falls on the St. Paul side — were they coming from the falls or The Monument?
  7. The women runners I encountered wearing pants or tights; the male runners shorts
  8. The huge empty lot near Summit on the St. Paul side that I’ve seen on zillow. Asking price: 2.75 million just for the land
  9. Right before greeting Dave, the Daily Walker, I heard a bike that had just passed brake loudly — not a squeal but a loud compression of air, or sneakers rubbing on a gym floor– then turning around and passing me again
  10. The river, part 3: Running south on the west river road, nearing the old stone steps, I glimpsed the river, on fire from the sun, burning bright white through a break in the trees

Something about seeing the river burning white made me think more about ghosts and traces and why I am interested in trails and flashes. Right after I finished my run, I recorded my thoughts. In this recording, I can’t remember what prompted these thoughts and I say lake when I mean river. Also, I keep intending to use notes on my phone when dictating my ideas because it can transcribe them. One day, I’ll remember.

after run / 16 october

Speaking of traces, here’s something I encountered on twitter this morning:

“I am slow and need to think about things a long time, need to hold onto the trace on paper. Thinking is adventure. Does adventure need to be speedy? Perhaps revising is a way of refusing closure?…”

Rosemarie Waldrop

Just got Rita Dove’s latest collection, Playlist for the Apocalypse, from the library. I love Rita Dove! Here’s one that doesn’t necessarily fit with this month’s theme, but I want to post it anyway:

Island/ Rita Dove

A room in one’s head
is for thinking
outside of the box,
though the box is still
there—cosmic cage,
Barnum’s biggest, proudest Ring.
My land: a chair, four sticks
with a board laid across:
This is the raft
I pile my dreams on,
set out to sea.
Look for me, shore.

oct 14/RUN

3.5 miles
trestle turn around + extra
49 degrees
19 mph gusts

Brrrr. Colder and windier today. Wore tights and 2 shirts. The leaves continue to change. Today: bright brassy yellow with hints of green and brown. Not mustard or gold — at least to me. So intense and delightful that I exclaimed “wow!” as I reached the edge of the welcoming oaks. Down in the tunnel of trees more oranges and yellows. Still more leaves in the trees than on the ground, but if the wind keeps blowing like it did yesterday and it is today, that will change. By next week, will all the leaves have fallen? I felt strong and relaxed, running at an easy pace. Then a runner slowly approached from behind, not passing me fast enough, running alongside of me. I sped up to avoid them and knew it was a mistake almost immediately. I was running too fast. Ran for a few more minutes at that pace and then stopped to let the other runner pass. The lesson to learn: always slow down or stop to let another runner go by. Do not speed up to avoid them. This is a reminder of a lesson I should have learned several months ago with the group of kids on bikes under the lake street bridge (see may 28, 2021).

10 Things I Noticed

  1. A bright orange tree on the grass between edmund and the river road. Difficult to quite remember, but I think it wasn’t completely orange, maybe giving the idea of orange or orange-tinted leaves on an otherwise green leafed tree
  2. The man in black who was not in black at all but still has the very long legs. I think I might rename him “daddy long legs” — is that bad?
  3. The trees above the ravine and the slick slats and sewer pipe and concrete ledge were bright yellow and red
  4. The wind was blowing in many different directions, never at my back
  5. The jingling of my house key in the small zippered pocket in the front of my orange running shirt
  6. A roller skier without his poles — no clicking or clacking, lots of awkward arm movements
  7. No stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  8. Hardly any leaves left on the welcoming oaks
  9. An approaching runner avoiding me by running on the other side of a tree and through the grass
  10. 3 sets of steps (all inviting me to take them): the old, uneven stone steps after the tunnel of trees; the big stone slabbed steps before the trestle; the recently replaced wooden steps after the trestle. All leading to the Winchell Trail

Ran north listening to the wind, south listening to a playlist with Miley Cyrus and 2 songs by Silk Sonic — nice! At the end, above the ravine, I thought about how I rely less on a watch, and much more on the weather and the trees to keep track of time. Much more enjoyable to think in seasons or the progress of the leaves than minutes, hours, days.

Earlier today I was thinking about pace — and only slightly in relation to running pace, more about pacing and restlessness and ghosts that haunt the path. Pace and pacing, like watches or clocks, impose limits and boundaries: a running pace uses seconds and minutes per mile (or km) and pacing involves walking back and forth in a small or confined space, retracing your steps again and again until you rub the grass away and reach dirt, or wear the carpet bare. What to do with that information? I’m not quite sure…yet.

I found this poem on twitter yesterday. Even though it doesn’t deal with my theme (ghosts, haunting, haunts), I wanted to post it and tag it with water so I would have it for letter. Such a wonderful poem and poet!

Portrait of a Figure Near Water/ Jane Kenyon

Rebuked, she turned and ran
uphill to the barn. Anger, the inner
arsonist, held a match to her brain.
She observed her life: against her will
it survived the unwavering flame.

The barn was empty of animals.
Only a swallow tilted
near the beams, and bats
hung from the rafters
the roof sagged between.

Her breath became steady
where, years past, the farmer cooled
the big tin amphoræ of milk.
The stone trough was still
filled with water: she watched it
and received its calm.

So it is when we retreat in anger:
we think we burn alone
and there is no balm.
Then water enters, though it makes
no sound.

favorite bits: anger, the inner arsonist; the bats and the rafters the roof sagged between; the line break for “the stone trough was still/filled with water”; and water as the soundless balm for our burning alone.

random sighting/thought: Saw a sign in front of a house that read:

We love our rocks!
Please do not
take our rocks.

I thought about the importance of line breaks here. Maybe it’s just my faulty vision, but when I read this sign I am just as (or maybe more) likely to read the line “take our rocks” on its own and think they want me to take their rocks. How does the meaning of the sign change with different breaks:

Please do
not take
our rocks.

Please do not take
our rocks.

Please
do not take
our rocks.

What if you mix up the order?

Our rocks
do not take
please

Our rocks do
please take not

rocks? please.
ours do not take

do ours not please? (rock’s take)

take rocks — ours
please — (do not)

Too much useless fun!

oct 12/RUN

4 miles
minnehaha falls and back
59 degrees
humidity: 78%

Overcast today. No sun. I like how this makes the colors — the reds, golds, greens — glow more. Almost peak color in the trees. When I started my run, I felt awkward, almost like my limbs were working against instead of with each other. By the time I reached the river it was fine. Ran south to the falls on the trail, which I’ve been trying to avoid, and it was crowded. 4 roller skiers, skiing 2 x 2 were causing all sorts of problems for bikers and me as I encountered the bikers. Made it to the falls, stopped to check out the statue of Minnehaha and Hiawatha. Hardly any water in the creek. Ran north, heading home. Took the Winchell Trail and admired the leaves — their intense colors and the fact that many of them had already fallen. My view is coming back!

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The slow approaching clicking and clacking of ski poles. Click clack click clack
  2. A squirrel emerging from the trees then darting back in as I neared
  3. The lights from a bike coming closer, a sharp contrast with the gray gloom
  4. The trickle of the sewer pipe near 42nd. Drip drip drip
  5. Many leaves on the ground. In some spots erasing the trail
  6. 2 spindly, bare branches poking out from behind a golden tree, reaching up to the sky
  7. A clicking or rattling noise coming from some animal, probably a squirrel. Sounding a little like the rattle of a rattlesnake
  8. The falls barely falling. Hardly any water
  9. Kids laughing, yelling, talking at playgrounds — Minnehaha Academy and Minnehaha Falls. More kids playing tag around the fountain and the benches with parts of “Song of Hiawatha” etched on them
  10. Winchell Trail in full color — a perfect fall scene (can this perfection last for more than a day?)

As I ran, I was thinking more about the act of haunting (frequenting) a place, returning to it and then about trails and how I might want to write more route/trail/loop poems that play with ideas of haunting. At the end of my run, I recorded some of my thoughts. Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about trails and frequenting and haunting. And then I was thinking as I was running over the leaves, how the trails are hidden, can’t see the cracks or the trail at all. But then, when the leaves are gone and the snow starts to fall, when it’s just barely flurrying and there’s just a dusting on the ground, it illuminates the trails. You can only see that when the leaves are off and it’s just a dusting of snow. Thinking about how I want to play with that as part of this tracing. And also thinking about the different ways I can see — the visible and not visible. When is it a matter of seeing and when is it a matter of feeling? And thinking about the type of seeing I can do with the peripheral, which detects movement and gives you a larger sense of the terrain. What does that mean for these well-worn trails and how I experience them?

Voice Memo Notes / 12 Oct 2021
after run notes / 12 oct 2021

Here’s my ghost/haunt poem for today:

Seven Types of Shadow – an extract / U A Fanthorpe 

Part iii

This is a country of ghosts. Down the eastern shore
Lie the drowned villages, drowned luggers, drowned sailors.

After a hot summer, fields grow talkative.
Wheat speaks in crop marks, grasses in parch marks.

Wheat or grass, what they tell is the truth
Of things that lay underneath five thousand years ago,

The forts, the barrows, the barns, the shrines, the walls.
These are the native ghosts. After a hot summer.

No haunting. No rattle of chains. They just lie there
In their rigid truthfulness, the ghosts of things.

Part iv

We carry our human ghosts around with us.
As we grow we face the mirrors, and see

The spectre 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.

Part vi

Ghosts of past, present, future.
But the ones the living would like to meet are the echoes
Of moments of small dead joys still quick in the streets,

Voices calling I’ve passed / We won / QED /
It didn’t hurt much, Mum / They’ve given me the job /
I have decided to name this apple Bramley;

And the women convicts singing their Holloway march,
While Ethel Smyth conducts from her cell with a toothbrush.

Part vii

These are the ghosts the living would prefer,
Ghosts who’d improve our ratings. Ghosts
Of the great innocent songs of freedom
That shoulder their way round the world like humpback whales,

Ghosts of the singers, the dancers, the liberated,
Holding hands and cheering in parks, while the tanks
Squat immobilized. Ghosts of the women on the fish quay
Hugging each other when at last the boats come in.

Ghosts of the last night of the Proms. And ghosts of lovers,
Wandering round London, so happy that they could
Have danced danced danced all night.

Like this bit: “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.” Love this way of messing with linear time. On a smaller scale, I think about this with past, present, and future Saras.

october 11/RUN

5.25 miles
franklin loop
52 degrees

Still a little warm, but fall is here. Another great morning — sunny and cooler than last week. I wore shorts and a long sleeve shirt (my bright yellow 10 mile race shirt from a few years ago). For the first few minutes, I was chilly, but I warmed up quickly. I wouldn’t mind running in this weather every day. Frequently counted to 4. Sometimes felt strong, sometimes tired.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The Welcoming Oaks have lost most of their golden leaves
  2. The tunnel of trees and my favorite spot above the floodplain forest is slowly turning yellow. Still lots of green and no view of the river yet
  3. The new asphalt, put down only last year, near the trestle is cracking already. In addition to the long cracks, people have spray-painted a peace sign, an anarchy sign, and something else that looks like squiggly lines to me
  4. Running over the franklin bridge, thought I saw a rower on the river, but the railing blocked my view. Every time I turned back, I could almost see it, believed it was there, but could never fully see it. Finally, almost across the bridge, I looked back and there it was: a single shell
  5. The river was mostly a pale blue with the dark edges — the result of trees on the shore casting their shadows into the water like fishermen
  6. A dog barking below
  7. No stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  8. Another regular: the guy with big headphones on who I used to see on the track at the Y. Last week I saw him near the east side of the trestle, today it was below the lake st bridge on the marshall side
  9. Running back over the lake st bridge, I admired the rowers on the river. 6 rowers. 2 single shells and 2 doubles
  10. An older man running on the other side of the bridge, shirtless

My shadow was running in front of me for part of the time. I thought about her as a ghost, or me as a ghost, then about all of the running or walking feet that have landed on this path. I thought about other people — the ones still alive who frequent the trail, like me, and the ones who are dead. I wondered about the old woman whose death, caused by a speeding bike in the 70s, resulted in separate biking and running trails on the west side of the river. Where was she struck? I looked it up, and the only thing I had correct: a woman was struck and killed by a bike and the outrage over her death led to the creation of separate bike trails. BUT, it was not on the river road, but at Lake Harriet, and she wasn’t old, but 58. (Source) I thought about all of the past Saras that have run this trail too. How many of us are there?

oct 9/RUN

4 miles
wabun park + turkey hollow
65 degrees
humidity: 86% / dewpoint: 61

A little too sticky, but what a beautiful morning for a run! Sunny, calm, quiet. Before running felt uneasy about something I couldn’t name; running helped. I’m thinking about ghosts and haunting the path (frequenting it, floating above it, flashing through it) and trying to find a way into my next big project — my annual fall project. Something about the periphery and the approximate as not quite (human, able to see or connect, in this world, real). I need a door, or at least a window — anything that might let me enter this project.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The trail, covered in leaves, a lot of them red — not bright red, but faded, almost pink
  2. A processional of walkers, bikers, big groups of runners on the trail between 36th and 42nd
  3. A clanging collar on the other side of the boulevard, following me as I ran south
  4. Someone playing frisbee golf at Wabun, throwing a frisbee from the path. Were they playing or working, picking up frisbees others had left behind? Why were they throwing from the path? Why did it look — in my quick, unreliable, glance — that they had a golf bag?
  5. For over a year and a half, every time I run up 47th, as part of the turkey hollow loop, there is a dumpster parked on the street, in front of a house. It was still there today. Have they been remodeling their house for that long?
  6. The ford bridge, from the top of the hill at wabun, then from below, at the bottom of the path
  7. My shadow in the grass as I walked across turkey hollow
  8. The too white, newly redone road between 42nd and folwell, one side of it covered in leaves
  9. Feeling someone running at my same pace–me on edmund, them on the river road. Not wanting to look over to check too closely, trying not to race them
  10. The dirt trail between Becketwood and Minneahaha Academy Lower Campus, dry, covered with leaves, much more worn and well-traveled (haunted) than the barely there mostly tamped down grass, partly dirt path in front of Minnehaha Academy Upper Campus

Haunt/ Maya Phillips

Because there are so few hobbies left
to the dead, my father gives himself this:
his usual route, the Queens-bound F
to Continental, where he walks with the living
to work. Every day he finds a new occupation—
picks trash off the tracks, changes a dirty lightbulb,
makes rounds on the platforms,
tries to make some small use of his hands,
though no one notices
or acknowledges. Yet still he returns
every day, in his tan shirt and brown slacks
ironed with the impatience
of the perpetually late,
his keys jingling carelessly
in his left front pocket.

Twenty-plus years with the MTA
but some other guy’s got the job now,
someone younger, maybe someone
my father knows, standing in the operating booth
at the end of the platform, watching
the miniature trains on the board
carry lights through a digital New York.
And maybe the young man knows nothing
of the dead man, has no words
for a ghost who builds a home
of his absence. And if my father says haunt

he doesn’t mean the way rooms forget him
once he’s gone; he’s saying his leather chair
now in his coworker’s office, his locker
in the back room newly purged
of its clutter, or his usual table
in the break room where he sits
at 10:30 each night eating
the same steak club and chips, counting
the 10, 20, 30 more years till retirement,
cuz he’s close, he’s in the final stretch—any day
now and he’ll finally go on that vacation.

oct 7/RUN

5.5 miles
ford loop (with winchell trail)
62 degrees

Getting closer to peak fall color. More reds are creeping in, lots of yellow, a few bits of orange. Ran north to the lake street bridge, then up the hill beside shadow falls, past The Monument, down to the ford bridge, back over to Minneapolis, and ended below on the Winchell Trail.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. My favorite spot above the floodplain forest, near the old stone steps, is beginning to lighten–a few of the trees are turning yellow, not golden yellow, but more the color of a lime or a pear
  2. At least 4 stones were stacked on the ancient boulder
  3. The welcoming oaks are becoming a golden grove unleaving
  4. At one point, I noticed part of the river was a pale blue, almost white, while the other part was a darker blue
  5. Running over the lake street bridge looking down at the river, the water looked smooth, flat, stretched, only a few ripples right in the center
  6. Running over the ford ave bridge, I noticed, for the first time, the faint outlines of 2 squares just in from each of the railing posts. What are these? Was the bridge more narrow, with the railings in closer to the road? Would that even be possible?
  7. The Winchell Trail was covered with leaves
  8. All around the trails, the trees were shedding leaves, the leaves floated down like snow flakes or raindrops or butterflies
  9. Running on the Winchell Trail, almost to the steep rise by Folwell, the trees were bare, revealing another dirt trail that winds even closer to the edge
  10. An older runner in a bright yellow shirt, running on the opposite side of the road near St. Thomas

I remember the feeling of having revelations or insights or just interesting thoughts, but I don’t remember what they were. The feeling? Satisfaction, I think. Or comfort? Reassurance? A calming sense of peace?

I counted to 4 in my head for many stretches of the run. It helped me to focus my breath and my effort. I should try this more often.

oct 5/RUN

5 miles
bottom of franklin and back
58 degrees
humidity: 91%

A good run. I’m looking forward to even cooler temps — I wore my shorts and a tank top, which is the same thing I’d wear on the warmest summer day. I wasn’t cold. When I started out, I felt good. Around 2 miles in, I didn’t feel as great but kept going. I planned to stop at the bottom of the hill and walk all of it, but when I got there I felt good enough to keep going. I made it almost to the very top before I stopped to walk for about a minute. Then I ran the rest of the way back.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The path covered in leaves, making it difficult to see the edge of the asphalt
  2. Chirping birds — not sure what kind, but not geese or crows
  3. Circles–with minneapolis park logo or something else?–stamped into the trail. I saw at least 2
  4. The buzzing, whirring of a speeding back rushing past me at the top of the franklin hill
  5. The branches with red leaves poking out of the big hole at the edge of the trail heading down the hill
  6. Voice below, somewhere on the Winchell Trail
  7. A group of people — in their 60s, maybe — standing at the top of the old stone steps, contemplating whether or not to descend. One person saying, “It’s pretty rough” or “uneven” or “dicey down there” (I can’t remember their exact words)
  8. Someone on a fat tire, talking on a phone, powering up the steep franklin hill, not even out of breath — maybe they were on an ebike?
  9. A walker either talking to herself or through a (invisible, at least to me) bluetooth headset
  10. At least 2 different people walking with 2 dogs each, letting their dogs stretch out over the entire path

Chanted some berry triples: “strawberry, blueberry, raspberry” and recited Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” in my head. Didn’t get very far because I kept getting stuck on the second and third lines: “You do not have to walk on your knees/ for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.” I couldn’t remember the order of the clauses: was it walk for a hundred miles, or walk through the desert, or walk on your knees. Not sure why I struggle with this bit.

a theme for october?

I was just starting to write that I’d decided to devote the rest of October to the peripheral, but then, as I typed those words I suddenly thought about ghosts and monsters and october as a scary month. So now I’m not sure. Because I love Halloween and scary movies — at least ones from the 70s and 80s — I think I will spend some time with ghosts, and then maybe monsters, like Medusa. I could also try to find a poem or two about creepy dolls/mannequins. Maybe think about the uncanny valley some more? All of these things are fascinating to me, and have started appearing in my writing (and my thoughts about my writing). Haunting and haunted places; feeling not quite there, floating; dead people, things, ideas suddenly being remembered or forgotten.

I’ll start with a poem that I found in a special feature on ghosts in poems at poets.org:

Unbidden/ Rae Armantrout

The ghosts swarm.
They speak as one
person. Each
loves you. Each
has left something
undone.

Did the palo verde
blush yellow
all at once?

Today’s edges
are so sharp

they might cut
anything that moved.

The way a lost
word

will come back
unbidden.

You’re not interested
in it now,

only
in knowing
where it’s been.

oct 1/RUN

4 miles
most of the franklin loop
68 degrees
humidity: 81%

I love October. Today it looked like October but didn’t quite feel like it — almost, with crunchy, earthy-smelling leaves, but too warm. Scott and I walked to the river together then split up — I went north for the franklin loop, he went south for the ford loop. We met in St. Paul at the Marshall bridge and walked the rest of the way.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The leaves are thinning and more of the river is visible everywhere including the spot above the floodplain forest
  2. 2 rowers on the river
  3. A class of kids and their teachers, biking on the trail, all wearing bright yellow vests
  4. The guy that Scott and I used to see at the Y, walking around the track in the winter–this time he was walking near the trestle on the east side of the river
  5. A guy pushing a stroller, walking a dog, taking up most of the path. When he noticed me approaching he moved over and muttered to himself, or to his kid, “I’m taking over the whole path”
  6. Walking over the marshall ave/lake st bridge, looking down at the water: blue with a faint texture of ripples from the wind
  7. The east side of the river has more color than the west side
  8. The steps just past the trestle glowing with orange, red, and yellow leaves
  9. The trail down to the Meeker Dam Dog Park glowing too, looking like THE fall scene, what I might describe to RJP as “so fall” in the same way I say certain trees are “so tree”
  10. The trees at my favorite spot just up from the marshall bridge giving off an intense golden light

1 Thing I Didn’t Notice

Right after I met up with Scott, he called out “bald eagle!” I couldn’t see it before it flew away

I’m not sure what my theme will be for October — or, if I’ll have one. For now, here’s an October poem I want to memorize:

October/ Robert Frost

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

sept 29/RUN

4 miles
wabun park and back
64 degrees

Warm again this morning. More fall colors — mostly golds with a few hints of red. Recited “Spring and Fall” a few times, but didn’t think about it much. I might memorize a few fall poems for October.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The river glowing through the trees
  2. A kid’s cry coming from somewhere
  3. Several loud rustling sounds in the dry underbrush
  4. Two or three wild turkeys near the start of the Winchell Trail, on the other side of the chain link fence. I’ve never encountered them here before!
  5. The curve of a log, serving as a bench at the frisbee golf course in Wabun Park
  6. A loud chirping sound that might have been a bird or a squirrel
  7. The flailing arms of an approaching runner
  8. High in the sky, the moon, faintly glowing
  9. The new (is it new?) fence surrounding one side of the bottom of the ford bridge near Locks and Dam #1
  10. A few regulars: the older man (mid 60s, white hair) runner whose fast and friendly and the walker with shoulder length blonde hair

A solid run that improved my mood.

Here’s my approximate/almost/not quite poem of the day:

When Night is almost done – / Emily Dickinson

When Night is almost done –
And Sunrise grows so near
That We can touch the Spaces –
It’s time to smooth the Hair –

And get the Dimples ready –
And wonder We could care
For that Old – faded Midnight –
That frightened – but an Hour –

sept 28/RUN

5.5 miles
franklin loop
58 degrees
humidity: 84%

Nice morning for a run, although I wish it had been less humid and a few degrees cooler. Sunny, not too windy, a clear path. Was initially planning to run 8 miles and the double loop route, but felt too tired. Still pleased with 5.5 miles. Recited Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “Spring and Fall.”

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The wind blowing the leaves off of the trees, sometimes looking like snow, sometimes a bird flying through the air
  2. (started at 8:45) Too crowded near my street — 3 runners, 2 different groups of walkers with dogs
  3. The welcoming oaks turning golden
  4. Multiple towers of stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  5. From the spot above the floodplain forest, the trees are not turning yet. Still green and airy and blocking a view of the river
  6. The all-white bike hanging from the trestle, memorializing the death of a biker a decade or so ago, decorated — flowers or something else?
  7. Nearing the franklin bridge, thinking I saw a rower on the river, then not finding it again as I ran across the bridge
  8. Trying to see the paved path down below on the east river side but not being able to — too much green
  9. Hearing big trucks beeping and bull-dozing down in the gorge
  10. The dark shadows of trees on the water

Short Story/ Ellen Bryant Voigt

My grandfather killed a mule with a hammer,
or maybe with a plank, or a stick, maybe
it was a horse—the story varied
in the telling. If he was planting corn
when it happened, it was a mule, and he was plowing
the upper slope, west of the house, his overalls
stiff to the knees with red dirt, the lines
draped behind his neck.
He must have been glad to rest
when the mule first stopped mid-furrow;
looked back at where he’d come, then down
to the brush along the creek he meant to clear.
No doubt he noticed the hawk’s great leisure
over the field, the crows lumped
in the biggest elm on the opposite hill.
After he’d wiped his hatbrim with his sleeve,
he called to the mule as he slapped the line
along its rump, clicked and whistled.
My grandfather was a slight, quiet man,
smaller than most women, smaller
than his wife. Had she been in the yard,
seen him heading toward the pump now,
she’d pump for him a dipper of cold water.
Walking back to the field, past the corncrib,
he took an ear of corn to start the mule,
but the mule was planted. He never cursed
or shouted, only whipped it, the mule
rippling its backside each time
the switch fell, and when that didn’t work
whipped it low on its side, where it’s tender,
then cross-hatched the welts he’d made already.
The mule went down on one knee,
and that was when he reached for the blown limb,
or walked to the pile of seasoning lumber; or else,
unhooked the plow and took his own time to the shed
to get the hammer.
By the time I was born,
he couldn’t even lift a stick. He lived
another fifteen years in a chair,
but now he’s dead, and so is his son,
who never meant to speak a word against him,
and whom I never asked what his father
was planting and in which field,
and whether it happened before he married,
before his children came in quick succession,
before his wife died of the last one.
And only a few of us are left
who ever heard that story.

I found this poem today and picked it for my theme of approximate for a few reasons: 1. The “short story” is never quite “true” with details changing slightly, 2. it’s never quite a story with nothing really happening, 3. it’s not really (not exactly) about killing the animal but something else — what? the grandfather, family, the narrator’s father’s relationship with his dad, memory, passing on/remembering stories? I like this poem. At first, it’s strange and unsatisfying and confusing, but slowly it gives me images and makes me think about farming and my grandparents and illness and aging and how we remember and tell stories (and why). I think the vagueness/fuzziness of this poem makes it more powerful to me than another poem would that was sharper, more exact, more direct with details and with conjuring a scene of the grandfather.

Listening to my Daily Mix 4 on Spotify as I write this, and Jackson Browne’s “Doctor, my eyes” just came on. Because of the title I was curious, so I looked up the lyrics and read them as I listened. I liked his rhythms and slant rhymes (would they be called slant?). Thinking more about how vision works here…

Doctor, my eyes/ Jackson Browne

Doctor, my eyes have seen the years
And the slow parade of fears without crying
Now I want to understand

I have done all that I could
To see the evil and the good without hiding
You must help me if you can

Doctor, my eyes
Tell me what is wrong
Was I unwise to leave them open for so long?

‘Cause I have wandered through this world
And as each moment has unfurled
I’ve been waiting to awaken from these dreams

People go just where they will
I never noticed them until I got this feeling
That it’s later than it seems

Doctor, my eyes
Tell me what you see
I hear their cries
Just say if it’s too late for me

Doctor, my eyes
They cannot see the sky
Is this the prize
For having learned how not to cry?

sept 23/RUN

5.8 miles
ford loop
54 degrees

Fall! Ran the ford loop (north to lake street bridge and across, south to ford ave bridge back across, north on west river road). Sunny, hardly any wind. Calm. Thought about stopping at the overlook on the st. paul side but didn’t. Next time, I hope. It’s hard for me to stop.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. Running down through the short steep hill just before reaching the double bridge, a glowing orange tree
  2. Some more slashes of red on the low-lying leaves–what are these trees? Basswood? Buckthorn? Looked it up and I think these leaves come from an ash tree
  3. No leaves changing in the floodplain forest yet. All green
  4. The river was calm and blue and empty
  5. Water at Shadow Falls gushing
  6. Mostly empty benches, often facing a wall of green — no view yet
  7. The small, wooded path down from the Ford Bridge was thick with leaves, dark with only a small circle of sunshine at the bottom
  8. Most of the shoreline was still green too
  9. My feet, shshshushing on the sand on the side of the path
  10. Two women walking, talking, one of them say sarcastically something like, “it’s just money”

Before I went out for my run, I memorized Robert Frost’s short poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay. Recited it in my head for much of the run. Tried to recite it into my phone at the end of my run and blanked on the fifth line — the word subsides — and gave up. More practice needed.

Nothing Gold Can Stay/ Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to gold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief.
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing Gold can stay.

At first I didn’t like the ABABABAB rhyme scheme, but it grew on me. It helped to listen to a recording of Frost reciting it and to repeat to myself over and over again.

sept 21/RUN

7.2 miles
bohemian flats and back
56 degrees
humidity: 82%

Cooler this morning. Hooray! Sunny, fall-like. Had been planning to run 8 or 9 miles today, almost all the way to downtown, but the road was closed, and the turn around point was less than 4 miles, so 7+ miles was all I did. I still feel good about it. I’m building up distance. My goal is to be able to do about 20-25 miles a week, with one long (about 10 mile) run.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The leaves are turning, mostly yellow, a few slashes of red, one all-orange tree
  2. Under the Franklin Bridge I started smelling smoke–I think the walker up ahead of me had a cigarette in their hand
  3. Lots of acorns littering the trail
  4. Honking geese. I couldn’t see them, but I heard them, high in the sky as I ran near the turn off for the West Bank of the U
  5. More geese taking over the walking part of the path beside the flats parking lot. A dozen or so. No honking or hissing, thankfully
  6. The river sparkling in the sun and the silhouette of a person fishing below the bridge
  7. A truck rumbling over the Washington Ave bridge as I crossed under it
  8. The newly repaired steps, near the railroad trestle, inviting me to take the lower trail — too many bugs!
  9. A walker listening to the news on the radio, a reporter mentioning Germany and riots or protests or something like that
  10. The solid white line that separates the biking and walking path in the flats is wearing off in one stretch — will they repaint it this fall?

After finishing my run, I listened to a recording of me reciting the latest poem I am writing/revising. I listened to it about 5 times, and did a voice memo with my revisions: 1. make the rhyme of land stand sand be less obvious, 2. which flows more slowly, slowly spreads or spreads slowly?, and 3. change the word “land” at the end to rock. Here’s my updated version:

AFTERGLOW/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

Reaching the big beach
for a final time
land’s logic returns
too soon. Unsteady
I stand then drop down
kneeling in wet sand
waiting for tired legs
to remember how
to be vertical.

Muscles are grateful
happy to be used.
A delicious ache
slowly spreads not pain
or heat but glowing
satisfaction. Me
& Shoulders. We are
pleased with our effort.
We feel confident
strong. Enough. More than
enough. Enormous.
Too big to fit in
this lake. No longer
wanting to be water
formless fluid but
the rock that contains
it. Solid defined
giving shape to the (its?) flow.

I’m also not sure of the punctuation or if I should change the line breaks. So far, I’ve been using 5 beats per line. How would it work if I changed where each link broke?

sept 20/RUN

2 miles
2 trails
73 degrees
humidity: 74%

Fall weather please come back. I want my crisp, cool air. The run wasn’t too bad, but now that I’ve finished, I’m sweating a lot. Rain is coming in a few hours and everything will cool down. It’s already dark, ominous. Running above the river on the dirt trail just past the 38th street steps, everything was a slight blur. Dreamy. Unreal. The lack of light makes my already diminished central vision even more dim. Thought about how I couldn’t really see the path but didn’t worry about tripping because I know most of the dips and holes and rocks on this stretch and because even when my eyes don’t see the trail, my feet seem to. I glanced at the river but I don’t remember anything about it.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. A walker with a white (or was it yellow?) sweatshirt wrapped around her waist pushing a stroller moving fast. It took me a few minutes to reach and then pass her. As I approached, I stared at her sweatshirt, one of the only bright things on this dark day
  2. Another bright thing: a runner in a bright yellow shirt
  3. Someone paused on the path, getting ready to start walking or running on the Winchell Trail?
  4. The small section of the river trail at 42nd that was blocked off for sewer work last week is open again and so is the road
  5. A tree leaning over the trail, not yet fallen, but looking like it might soon
  6. Flashing lights from a construction/city truck and a man in a yellow vest standing next to it near the sidewalk
  7. The damp dirt down in the oak savanna, not quite mucky or muddy yet
  8. 2 steep spots on the Winchell Trail: running down from the upper trail, right by 42nd street and a giant boulder and running up the short stretch near Folwell
  9. An approaching walker who turned down on an even lower dirt trail before I reached them
  10. The voice of a kid up above me as I ran down towards the mesa

Thinking about my growing number of swimming poems, some re-edited version of old poems, some new. My tentative title for the collection: Every Five (as in breathing every five strokes). All poems will play around with 5 as part of the structure — 5 beats or 5 lines or ?. Scott suggested I do something with iambic pentameter (5 feet of one short one long beat). A sonnet? Maybe a love poem to my swimming body/muscles/shoulders? Hmm…not sure if I’m feeling that.

Here’s a poem for the month’s theme of the approximate. This one is taking up the idea of almost, not quite or not exactly. It’s a poem that features an object — a cucumber — but it is not about the cucumber, but something else.

The Cucumber/ Nazim Hikmet

The snow is knee-deep in the courtyard
and still coming down hard:
it hasn’t let up all morning.
We’re in the kitchen. On the table, on
the oilcloth, spring —
on the table there’s a very tender youn
cucumber,
pebbly and fresh as a daisy.
We’re sitting around the table staring at it.
It softly lights up our faces,
and the very air smells fresh.
We’re sitting around the table staring at it,
amazed
thoughtful
optimistic.
We’re as if in a dream.
On the table, on the oilcloth, hope —
on the table, beautiful days,
a cloud seeded with a green sun,
an emerald crowd impaties and on its way,
loves blooming openly —
on the the table, there on the oilcloth, a very tender
young

cucumber,
pebbly and fresh as a
daisy.
The snow is knee-deep in the courtyard
and coming down hard.
It hasn’t let up all morning.

This poem and the idea of not exactly, reminds me of listening to the radio in the car yesterday with Scott and RJP. First, the sappy song, “Make it with You” by BREAD came on, then “Hot-blooded” by Foreigner. Both of them sung by someone who is trying to seduce the listener. Scott pointed out how the first song is much more indirect/oblique in its suggestions, while the second is very blunt. I started thinking about how the indirect song is a form of the approximate, the almost, or Emily Dickinson’s idea of the slant. It implies and circles (or what the poet Kaveh Akbar might call orbits and I might say in thinking about my swimming this summer, loops) around the actual meaning, never quite saying it. For Akbar, I think, orbiting is often because we can’t ever fully get at the meaning, while for BREAD it’s an unwillingness to reveal exactly what they mean in order to get what they want. One of the swimming poems I want to revise is about loops and looping around the lake. Maybe I can play around with loop as orbiting or circling, never quite getting there, always near but not quite.

This reminded me of another approximate phrase: close but no cigar. Looked up the origins and several sources gave this explanation:

It comes from traveling fairs and carnivals from the 1800s. The prizes back then were not giant-sized stuffed teddy bears, they were usually cigars or bottles of whiskey. If you missed the prize at a carnival game, the carnie folk would shout, “Close! But no cigar!”

source

sept 17/RUN

4 miles
marshall loop
61 degrees
humidity: 83%

What a storm early this morning! So much wind and flashes of light around 2:30 am. Running this morning, I expected to see big branches down everywhere. Not too many (any?) on the minneapolis side, but on the st. paul side they had to shut down the right lane and the sidewalk so a crew could clear all the debris. I saw that the road was closed right at the spot where I turn, so I assumed I would be able to get through. Nope. Had to turn around and run past a long line of cars that had probably watched me running towards the closed sidewalk and wondered why I kept going. Oh well. Turning around added a small bit of distance to my run, which was a bonus.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The squeak of my shoes running over wet leaves and pulverized acorns
  2. Little branches, some still covered in green leaves, some bare, littered all over the trail
  3. From my view above on the bridge: a streak of muck/silt? in the river near the st. paul shore
  4. No rowers or roller skiers
  5. A radio playing near the ravine by Shadow Falls. I wondered if the song was coming from down in the ravine or on a bike across the ravine
  6. The more than trickling, not quite gushing, of falls at shadow falls
  7. some fall color: a few yellow trees, a slash of red
  8. someone stopping at the memorial just above the lake street bridge, reading the signs or taking pictures or both
  9. a backpacked kid biking with his dad, heading to school
  10. A shirtless runner speeding past me, almost wheezing

word of the day: majusculation

The act or practice of beginning a word with a capital letter when it is not the beginning of a sentence.

Here’s a poem for the theme of approximate:

[I remember partially]/ Jane Huffman

I remember partially

My searching
Party going out in search

Of my own
Life my lantern light

Like water sloshing
Down the front

Of me and calling
My own name

Into the forest dusk
A partial sound

A painful braying
Syllable

That grounded
Like a current

In the dirt a yard
In front of me

But I resorted to it
Like a witness does

To memory

I was planning to swim this afternoon, but the buoys are gone. Lake swimming is officially over. Sad, but it’s time to focus on fall and winter running!

sept 11/SWIM

1 mile
lake nokomis main beach
70 degrees

Another chance to swim in the lake this morning! Every swim now is a bonus. Much less choppy today but still not smooth. Overcast. I kept seeing silver streaks below me, most likely fish. I’ve been writing/revising some poetry lately about being in and one with the lake and the fish, but it takes me a few minutes to get over my fear of fish below. Most of them are small, probably all of them are harmless, but there are a few bigger fish that could bump into me. It’s a bit ridiculous, I suppose. It didn’t stop me from swimming, although it might have been the reason I only swam 1 mile and not 2. As I felt a little panic in the first loop I thought, how could I ever swim in the ocean or across a bigger lake, if these silver streaks are freaking me out? Then I remember an essay I read by Lauren Groff about swimming in the ocean and how the fear of the unknown below you and learning how to manage it or embrace it is part of the point. I was unsettled, but I still swam, so maybe I could swim in the ocean…

10 Things I Noticed

  1. A seagull perched on a white buoy, flying away only seconds before I reached it
  2. Small undulations in the water, sometimes looking like waves, sometimes something else (a fish?a stick? another swimmer?)
  3. A few small vines brushing my shoulder, a leaf touching my finger
  4. A family of 3 on a kayak or a canoe or a paddle board — I couldn’t tell with my eyes half in, half out of the water
  5. Drums beating across the lake from the Monarch Butterfly Festival
  6. A little girl repeatedly singing while in the water, “Swim with me in the sea!” as I waded out from the beach
  7. Fluffy, shredded clouds covering the mostly blue sky
  8. A plane flying fast overhead
  9. The bubbles from my hand as it entered the water and pushed down below my torso
  10. The dude standing on some motorized paddle board/hoverboard, speeding across the lake after my swim — a strange, unreal sight

Getting back to the fish below me, before I went swimming, I was working with one of my favorite lines from Anne Sexton’s wonderful poem, “The Nude Swim:”

All the fish in us
had escaped for a minute.
The real fish did not mind.
We did not disturb their personal life.
We calmly trailed over them
and under them

As I was swimming, pretending to be a fish for 30 minutes, I wondered what the real fish below me thought. Were there any real fish there? If so, what did I look like to them, up above on the surface? Did my form cast a shadow below? In the turgid water, could they even sense me above?

In a document named “fragmentsforswimminglatefall,” I found the start of a poem based on the first bit from Sexton’s poem: All the fish in us/ had escaped for a minute.”

At the lake
I let loose the fish in me
all winter she has waited
barely alive
under the surface
of my icy skin
now in june
she is restless
together we enter
the cold water
before I take
my first stroke
she is gone
reborn in endless blue
remembering her fins
forgetting january

This poem needs some work, but I like the idea of letting loose the fish in me.

sept 10/RUNSWIM

run: 2.7 miles
2 trails
61 degrees

Felt a little warmer today even though it was only 61 degrees. Sunny, quiet. A strange time, not quite fall but not still summer. Running south on the river road trail, I noticed a few slashes of red on the low lying leaves. It’s coming. I love this time of year and the turning of the leaves.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. The sewer at 44th had barely a trickle, the one at 42nd was a steady stream
  2. More uneven, shifting sidewalk on the paved part of the Winchell Trail than I remember. Entire slabs settling and separating
  3. A spazzy squirrel darted but didn’t cross my path. Climbed a tree instead
  4. Kids’ voices drifting down from the upper path
  5. The first part of the Winchell Trail that has rubbling asphalt was littered with leaves–signs of fall!
  6. An unleashed white dog, then an unleashed black dog, then 2 or 3 humans, crowding the narrow, leaning path
  7. Someone walking in the middle of the closed road
  8. Voices, then a woman holding a child at the edge of the gravel path near the ravine
  9. The river?
  10. The sign warning of a slight ramp at the end of the path detour near Beckettwood

swim: 1 mile
lake nokomis main beach
78 degrees

The buoys are still up! Warm but windy. Swimming into big(gish) waves heading south, riding on big(gish) swells heading back north. Saw lots of flashes below me. Fish or slants of light? Another metal detector dude was out there. He was hard core, in a wetsuit, choppy water up to his shoulders, and had a buoy to anchor him. I wonder what he found? Encountered one other swimmer taking on the waves and talked to someone about to swim at the beach when I was done. A good swim.

Other things I remember: A row of seagulls was at the edge of the water; a few sunbathers were on the beach; lots of kayaks and canoes and paddle boards with people standing and on their knees; the waves too high to see much of the other side or the beach.

sept 7/RUN

8.1 miles
ford loop + franklin loop
67 degrees
humidity: 70%

8 miles! It’s been over 2 years since I ran this far. No stopping to walk. It felt pretty good, the only thing that hurt were my legs and left hip. Just a little sore in the last few miles.

I didn’t look at my watch once during the run. I wasn’t sure when I’d hit 8 miles. I didn’t want to check, find out I still had a mile left, and then lose momentum, so I decided to wait until I got past the lake street bridge to look at my watch. 8.1 miles. Nice. I probably could have run some more, but I decided to stop. To avoid injury, I’m only adding a mile each week.

When I started the run, I wanted to think about a poem I’m revising. I’m having trouble with the ending. It almost works, but not quite. I managed to think about it for a few minutes, before I was distracted by something –maybe the construction near 42nd? One thought, which doesn’t directly help the ending, but my help how I get to it: try making the beats in each line mirror my strokes while I swim. So, mostly 5 syllables for each line, with an occasional 3 or 4 or 6.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. So many beautiful views over on the east/St. Paul side of the river! Breaks in the trees where you can stop and look. Benches with the vines and branches trimmed. A few inviting overlooks
  2. No slashes of yellow or orange or bright red yet
  3. The river, as I crossed the Ford Bridge, was blue and calm, with no kayaks or rowing shells
  4. The shshshshsh of my striking feet on the gritty dirt path between ford and marshall
  5. At least 2 big packs (trots) of runners on the trail — a cross country team for the U or St. Thomas, probably
  6. One roller skier, slowing down to avoid a woman walking on the biking path
  7. A dog bark below, echoing in the mostly quiet
  8. Passing the man in black — a very tall walker, with super long legs, who I used to encounter a few years ago as I ran and who, in the winter, wears all black, and, for the rest of the year, black shorts
  9. The flowers/garden/landscaping at The Monument (just below Summit Avenue) are beautiful. A wide range of bright colors
  10. A huge brick house/estate, perched on a hill on Eustis St