dec 26/RUNSWIM

run: 2.5 miles
ywca track

Went to the Y with Scott and RJP this morning, so I ran there. First time running on the track in 4 or 5 years. Wasn’t too bad — not that crowded. Very quiet. I forgot to count laps so my distance is approximate — my watch never seems to be accurate indoors. Listened to “swim meet motivation” playlist and observed people as I passed them.

10 People I Noticed on the track

  1. a man, sometimes running (slowly), sometimes walking, wearing black gloves — not boxing gloves but also not winter gloves
  2. another guy, pulling a sled at the far corner
  3. a woman running, the key to her locker jangling in her pocket with every step
  4. an older white woman with white hair — was she wearing a pink sweatshirt, or was it blue? I can’t remember now. She walked pretty fast on the track, but was slow on the stairs when I was behind her earlier
  5. RJP, walking — I waved at her every time I passed by. Was it annoying?
  6. someone using rattle ropes, off to the side, furiously lifting them up and down
  7. a woman on an eliptical machine in front of one of the windows
  8. an older white guy with white hair in jeans and a maroon shirt walking around the track
  9. Scott, running
  10. another older white man wearing gray shorts, walking

I don’t remember thinking about much, or noticing anything that interesting, or overhearing some strange conversation.

swim: .25 miles
ywca pool

Only needed a quarter of mile to reach my year goal of 120 miles. Not a very ambitious goal for an entire year of swimming; this goal was mostly for the open swim season. I’m thinking this year, since I’m swimming in the pool, I need to make it a lot bigger. 200 or 300? Not sure. Split a lane with RJP. Crowded today because of the break. All I remember was swimming next to a bunch of swim team kids, feeling sluggish in my first lap underwater, and noticing how the water was clearer than it had been last week.

Found this hybrid journal online. A call for submissions from jan 1-2. I want to submit something — either a mood ring or a colorblind plate, but which? One note: some of the site is almost unreadable for my bad vision. Not nearly enough contrast! Thankfully the journal pdf is easier to read.

I love lists, so I was excited to see this poem in the first issue:

List of Things to Make a List of/ Beth Mulcahy

Make a list of
things that sound like thunder but are not conversations to have
hard conversations to have
what makes conversations hard what makes conversations easy
things to do to get through a hard day
songs that helps with getting through a hard day
people to tell about it what to tell them
people not to tell
ways to prevent it
how to describe it
how to tell people the truth when to tell people the truth things you have said
things you should not have said things you should have said things you should say
to someone specific to anyone
to no one
how to let go of retroactive anxieties
things you used to care about that you don’t anymore things you wish you cared more about
things that used to be different
examples of passive aggressive statements examples of things that are too direct (harsh)
ways of beating around the bush
ways of cutting to the chase
how to calm yourself down
apologies you owe
things you can’t forgive
things you can’t forget
things you should forget
things that are your fault
things that are not your fault
the hardest things you’ve had to do
how to make things easier
for self
for others things you can explain
things that you cannot explain things you can’t describe things to write through
things that are private
people who love you
people who love you and also like you
things you have to offer
things to say to people you love things to say about the weather people you talk to every single day people you don’t know anymore people you loved who are dead ways to let things go
how to keep from having to let go ways to pay attention
things to pay attention to
things to ignore
places to fly away to
ways to be where you are

dec 21/SWIM

2 miles
ywca pool
winter storm warning — snow, wind, cold

Got to the Y with RJP and Scott just as the big winter storm was beginning. Swam for an hour, which is the most I’ve done since open swim ended in August. Mostly, I felt strong. A little tired, a little sore. It was fun to share a lane with RJP. It makes me very happy that she’s swimming again.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. there was a lifeguard today
  2. the leisure pool was open with lots of happy kids, at least one screaming, not in anger but delight
  3. one woman next to me did some side lunges as she walked in her lane
  4. another woman did a strange butterfly stroke — was it butterfly? She was doing the arm motions but not much else, and barely that
  5. as usual, orange everywhere. I looked up and the only color I could see was the orange from the 2 signs on the pool deck
  6. the water seemed a little less cloudy, clearer
  7. some new things (or things I haven’t noticed before) on the pool floor: 2 white somethings — what were they?
  8. after one of the women left, another swimmer came, a man wearing a blue speedo
  9. my nose squeaked as my noseplug shifted, my googles leaked a few times
  10. noticed what a great job RJP does with her streamline off the walls

Before heading over to the y, as I was drinking my coffee, I read some more of Maggie Nelson’s Bluets. Here’s an excerpt that I was thinking about:

40. When I talk about color and hope, or color and despair, I am not taking about the red of a stoplight, a periwinkle line on the white felt oval of a pregnancy test, a black sail strung from a ship’s mast. I am trying to talk about what blue means, or what it means to me, apart from meaning.

Bluets/ Maggie Nelson

I’m interested in how this distinction between meaning and what it means to me works in understandings of color. Also, what meaning means here. Not truth, or what color something actually is, but how it comes to mean something to us. How we’ve collectively decided that a stop sign is red, for example. Not sure if this makes sense, but I’m also thinking about the collective decision we’ve made to understand the line on a pregnancy test as blue and not green or gray or some other color that some of us might be seeing instead. With this last sentence, I’m thinking about more than my vision issues, but the idea that how we see color can be at least partly determined by how we’ve named it. See: Crayola-fication of the world

dec 20/RUN

3.6 miles
trestle turn-around
0 / feels like -16
100% snow-covered

Last year I decided that my limit for cold was a feels like temp of -20. Since it was only -16, I went out for a run by the gorge. It was cold, but not too cold. It felt good to be outside, breathing in fresh air, moving in sunlight, being beside frozen water and snow-covered trees.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. checked out the river at the trestle: all frozen, white and gray, solid, stiff
  2. the steady crunch crunch crunch of my yaktrax on the cold powder
  3. solid chunks of ice littering the path, not boulders, but big enough to hurt my foot or twist my ankle if I ran into or over them
  4. a skein of geese! first I heard their honks, then I stopped to watch them fly across the sky
  5. the roar of a plane
  6. the shadow of a big bird
  7. one other runner, one or two walkers, no dogs, no fat tires, no roller skiers
  8. two walkers below me, walking through the tunnel of trees
  9. a snow blower up above, near longfellow grill
  10. the path was slick and slippery with stripes of ice glowing in the sun

layers

2 pairs of black running tights; 2 pairs of socks –1 gray, 1 white; a green long-sleeved shirt; a pink jacket with hood; a running belt for holding my phone; a gray Hot Dash 10 mile 2017 jacket; a gray buff; a black fleece-lined cap; sunglasses; black gloves; reddish pinkish fleece-lined mittens

Enough layers. The mittens were especially warm. Did it help that I had warmed up on the bike in the basement before heading out for my run? Probably. Neither my fingers or toes were too cold. Hooray?

feels like

It felt cold, but not cold enough to give me a brain freeze. I wore a buff over my mouth to warm my breath. My snot froze a little but not too much. After I took my sunglasses off, because they had fogged up, my eyelashes acquired a few bits of ice. The tops of my thighs felt cold and tingly by the end. No itchy legs or feet that felt like blocks of concrete. Dripping with sweat by the end. My braid, which had wicked all the sweat, froze again into a hard, twisted mass–or mess?

It feels like winter is here for good. Maybe the snow on the trail, too?

Listened to a playlist with only one headphone in, so I could hear the crunching snow and the gorge too. Did I hear any other birds beside the geese? I can’t remember.

I’m very glad I made it outside. I love these winter runs!

ongoing projects, dec 2022

Thought it might be interesting and helpful (for present and future Sara) to make a list of what I’m working on right now:

  • Reading through my entries from 2022 and adding to summaries of my runs, ideas and quotes, and a huge list of things I noticed. Right now I’m halfway through April.
  • Thinking about, reading up on color, especially orange. Trying to write a colorblind plate about orange, particularly how shifty and unreliable it is, and my obsession with seeing/not seeing orange buoys at open swim. Checked out Maggie Nelson’s Bluets for inspiration on how to write about color.
  • Planning my winter writing/creative process class for The Loft. Right now, I’m gathering poems and essays and thinking about my weekly lectures. As part of this, I’m reading/listening to Adam Gopnik’s Winter: 5 Windows on the Season.

dec 17/RUN

4.5 miles
minnehaha falls and back
18 degrees / feels like 8
100% slick snow

Another dusting of snow last night. Just a slow, steady accumulation. Everything a bright, blinding white — the sky, the path, the trees, even the river, at least in one spot where the sun hit it just right and made it burn or glare or whatever word you might use to describe a blinding white light. Wow.

Layers: 2 pairs of black running tights, green shirt, pink jacket, gray jacket, buff, black fleece-lined cap with brim, 2 pairs of glovers (black, pink and white striped)

No headphones on the way to the falls; an old playlist titled “swim meet motivation” on the way back — David Bowie, Beck, Todd Rundgren, Ozzy Osbourne, Pat Benetar

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the creek was flowing and the falls were falling, making a delightful rushing sound
  2. when I stopped just before my favorite spot (because a couple and a kid were already at my spot), I could hear the falls as they fell. When I looked, all I could see was one white tree after the next
  3. the trail was not too slippery, but slippery enough to make my legs work harder
  4. I think it was between locks and dam #1 and the double bridge — as a car passed me , I smelled hot chocolate. did it come from the car, or was that just a coincidence?
  5. on the way back, stopped to walk on side of the double bridge that doesn’t get plowed in the winter. I looked down into the white ravine as I trudged through the snow
  6. glancing at the river through the trees, something about all the white in the trees, the light, and my vision made the river look like it was sepia-toned
  7. nearing the ford bridge, looking ahead, I noticed something that looked like an animal. I couldn’t see an owner and wondered if it was a coyote and not a dog. As I got a little closer I realized it was a person wearing a shirt so light — pale blue? gray? white? — that it blended into the sky. The dark I had seen was their pants. This is not the first time this has happened to me
  8. running by some steps saw the briefest flash of orange — must be a sign warning people not to enter, I guessed
  9. one car crawling along the river road, the line of cars growing behind it
  10. a runner in a bright orange stocking cap and bright yellow jacket

Discovered Wendell Berry’s window poems. I like collecting window poems. This morning, I was thinking about them in relation to winter and windows as frame for the world, and layer between you and the world, and a place to be delighted when it’s too cold to be outside. I think I want to add something about windows to the section in my winter wonder class about layers.

As I was writing this last sentence, I started thinking about Emily Dickinson and how she wrote so many of her poems sitting in front of her windows, so I googled, “Emily Dickinson window” and this post was one of the top results: Emily Dickinson and the Poetics of Glass. Very cool!

Aside from working in the garden and walking the grounds of the property, looking through windows was her primary mode of relating to the landscape around her.  Fortunately for Dickinson, she lived in a house abundantly punctuated by windows.

There were approximately seventy-five windows at the Dickinson Homestead.

Emily Dickinson and the Poetics of Glass/ Xiao Situ

Thinking about the literal windows in ED’s house, made me think of Berry’s Window Poem 3#:

from Windows/ Wendell Berry

The window has forty
panes, forty clarities
variously wrinkled, streaked
with dried rain, smudged,
dusted. The fram
is a black grid
beyond which the world
flings up the wild
graph of its growth,
tree branches, river,
slope of land,
the river passing
downward, the clouds blowing,
usually, form teh west,
the opposite way.
The window is a form
of consciousness, pattern
of formed sense
through which to look
into the wild
that is a pattern too,
but dark and flowing,
bearing along the little
shapes of the mind
as the river bears
a sash of some blinded house.
This windy day
on one of the panes
a blown seed, caught
in cobweb, beats and beats.

To add to this wandering, I remembered listening to Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine (the album that I had listened to over and over while writing my dissertation back in 2004/5) earlier this week and noticing her song about breaking the window. Had I ever thought about these lyrics in all those dissertation writing listenings?

Window/ Fiona Apple

I was staring out the window
The whole time he was talking to me
It was a filthy pane of glass
I couldn’t get a clear view
And as he went on and on
It wasn’t the outside world I could see
Just the filthy pane that I was looking through

So I had to break the window
It just had to be
Better that I break the window
Than him or her or me

I was never focused on just one thing
My eyes got fixed when my mind got soft
It may look like I’m concentrated on 
A very clear view
But I’m as good as asleep
I bet you didn’t know
It takes a lot of it away
If you do

I had to break the window
It just had to be
Better that I break the window
Than him or her or me

I had to break the window 
It just had to be
It was in my way
Better that I break the window
Than forget what I had to say
Or miss what I should see

Because the fact being that
Whatever’s in front of me
Is covering my view
So I can’t see what I’m seeing in fact
I only see what I’m looking through

So again I done the right thing
I was never worried about that
The answer’s always been in clear view
But even when the window was cleaned
I still can’t see for the fact
That it’s so clear I can’t tell what I’m looking through

So I had to break the window
It just had to be
It was in my way
Better that I break the window
Than him or her or me

I had to break the window
It just had to be
Better that I break the window
Than miss what I should see

I had to break the window
It just had to be
It was in my way
Better that I break the window
Than forget what I had to say
Or miss what I should see
Or break him her or me
Especially me

dec 16/SWIM

1.5 miles
ywca pool

Another swim! Felt good. A little sluggish at the beginning, but strong. Mostly steady splits and only stopped a few times. Didn’t count laps at all and had no idea how long I had been swimming until Scott showed up at the end of my lane. Unintentionally raced the guy swimming on one side of me. Well, more like, he tried to race me. Admired the stroke of the older swimmer on the other side. Could tell he was a good swimmer. After I was done, Scott and I talked with him for a few minutes in the hot tub. He’s in his mid to late 60s and was a distance swimmer 45 years ago. Wow — I bet he was good in college.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. the water was a little cloudy
  2. the guy next to me (the one who raced me) started by walking down his lane to the edge of the deep end
  3. this same guy hardly kicked at all, as far as I could see. Was he using a pull buoy?
  4. during my start ritual — pushing off and swimming underwater until I reach the blue line right before the deep end — I swam just above the bottom. I watched the blue tiles, 6 across, as I kicked my legs and tried to squeeze by outstretched arms to my ears
  5. lifting my head out of the water and seeing orange
  6. the red racing suit of a woman in the hot tub — not lifeguard red, darker and deeper than that
  7. my nose squeaking because my nose plug had shifted
  8. the water being churned up by a woman next to me as she did a fast 50
  9. almost every time I raised my eyes out of the water to see if Scott was there, or someone else who wanted to split a lane, I mistook my blue towel for a woman in a blue bathing suit
  10. the flip turn of the woman next to me, especially the phase of it when she was on er back, before the pushed off and twisted around

Earlier this morning, I shoveled the deck and the sidewalk. Heavy, wet snow that stuck to my bright orange plastic shovel. I could hear the whirr and the buzz of several snow blowers. Felt my forearm and elbow ache after I was done. Mostly, I don’t mind shoveling. It’s satisfying and a chance to be outside, breathing in the air, giving attention to the snow.

Looking for poems about shoveling snow and snowblowers (which is difficult), I came across a mention of “The Snowblower Ballet.” Here’s a description from a funding request for a snowblower ballet in the twin cities from 2016. Wow!

The Snowblower Ballet is a project that would involve dancers, wielding snowblowers and shovels, clearing a snow-covered surface in a dance set to music. In addition to performing a dance, they’ll create a pattern, an image in the snow, captured by a drone flying above, transforming the familiar but dreary toil of snow removal into unexpected joyful art. We want to stage a large scale Busby Berkeley version of the project on Harriet Island in St. Paul in January 2018, as well as a smaller scale pas de deux between two snowblowers on White Bear Lake in February 2017 as part of the Art Shanty Project. The Harriet Island version will be funded with a Knight Foundation grant, but only if we get matching funds. Art Shanty will pay us $200 for the White Bear Lake performance, but that’s not enough to hire dancers and a choreographer. That’s where we hope an Awesome grant will come in. We hope that a grant from Awesome will make the Art Shanty dance possible, which we can then turn into a video to generate excitement to raise money to make the expanded Harriet Island version a reality. Won’t you help us turn snow shoveling into art and bring joy to Minnesotans in the depth of winter.

The Snowblower Ballet

It doesn’t look like they ever got the funding they needed for it. Or did they?

dec 13/RUN

5.65 miles
franklin loop
33 degrees
sleet/rain

Just as the sidewalks and path get completely cleared, another storm moves in. This afternoon rain then snow. Oh well. This morning it was great to run on a dry, almost ice-free path.

A gray day. Not dark gray, but heavy. Difficult to see clearly, everything out of focus. Reviewing my entries from the past year for my annual summary, I came across this description of trying to see on a gray day from March 2nd:

This light/color really messes with my vision and lack of cone cells. Looking up, the sky was almost pixelated, or maybe it was more like static? Not total static, like when tv stations would end programming for the night, but static sprinkled into the image, making everything dance or bounce or just barely move.

log entry from 2 march 2022

I was able to greet Dave, the Daily Walker and notice that the river was open and full of ripples from the wind. I don’t remember hearing any birds, but I did hear something rumbling or buzzing, some sort of equipment for repairing the street.

I ran most of the way with no headphones. For the last mile, I put in Taylor Swift’s 1989.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. on the west side, the river was a dark gray
  2. on the east side, the river looked more grayish-brown
  3. hardly any color, almost everything gray, a few dead leaves in orangish-brownish-gold
  4. one panel of the black steel fence on the east side of the river is slightly bent and bows in the center
  5. several times dark, hulking shapes out of the corner looked like people approaching. They were trees
  6. tried to sync up my steps with a car horn that was honking repeatedly
  7. the wind was swirling, sometimes in my face, sometimes my back, helping me to run faster
  8. heard some dripping under the lake street bridge on the east side
  9. saw a tarp or a blanket on the ground under the lake street bridge on the west side
  10. noticed lots of leaves skittering across the snow, being pushed around by the wind

Completed a draft of another colorblind plate poem. I have 5 now. I’m pleased with all off the longer poems that fill the circle, but a little unsatisfied with the one word versions of the poems that are hidden in the colorblind test. It’s difficult to condense a poem into one 3-5 letter word!

dec 12/SWIM

1.5 miles
ywca pool

After a week and a half off because of COVID quarantining (daughter RJP had it, not me), I was able to go back to the pool. Crowded. Did my usual swim — continuous 200s, breathing every 3/4/5/6 by 50s, not stopping until I saw Scott at the end of the lane. I felt strong and steady and happy to be using my muscles differently. My kneecap (or was it just above my knee?) felt weird once, but otherwise was fine.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. Miss Luna came about 20 minutes into my swim
  2. my nose plug kept shifting and I had to stop a few times to adjust it. I didn’t feel any water coming in my nose, but I could feel my air coming out
  3. after the first few flip turns, my nose burned from the chlorine
  4. looking straight ahead underwater, I watched as my hands made bubbles as they entered the water
  5. the woman one lane over was swimming breaststroke, her frog kick looked extra froggy
  6. a man in black swim trunks was walking the length of the pool by the far wall. Why?
  7. looking up, I noticed someone at the end of my lane. She asked to share a lane. Sure! I think I might have said yep too.
  8. the woman sharing my lane kicked a lot as she swam freestyle. I saw, but didn’t feel, the water churning as I swam past
  9. turning on the wall, pushing off, looking ahead and noticing the bubbles of my lane partner, and thinking about how I was gaining on her*
  10. orange: my orange bag, the orange sign saying No lifeguard on duty, Scott’s orange swimming trunks

*I’m not really that competitive (am I?), but I do get some pleasure in being faster and passing people. I don’t want to race them, just pass them. It makes me feel like I’m going faster.

In the middle of my swim I started thinking about the Ishihara plate I’m working on, the one about the test and why it, and the Ishihara plate as form, is important to me. I thought about how the draft I worked on this morning seems to offer a redemptive conclusion — I will choose to see my changing vision not as losing it, but it being made strange. Then I thought about how I don’t want to do that, to resolve it, to make it a moment of redemption. As I circled around the pool, I wondered how to make this Ishihara poem more messy and uncertain. Even as I do prefer to understand my vision as strange and not lost, I don’t want to conclude the poem with this idea. As I was thinking this — and in far less words than I’m writing now! — I thought of something else, how I find the Ishihara plate pleasing with its many circles and dots — I love polka dots! — and colors, but I also find it a little gross and upsetting. It looks like disease or cancer cells under a microscope. I’m thinking about cancer a lot right now. Scott’s mom just died of lung cancer, and we’re watching Walter White deal with lung cancer on Breaking Bad — FWA finally convinced us to watch it and wow, what a show! What to do with this idea in the poem? Not sure, but I’m also thinking about cancer cells as uncontrolled growth and the uncontrolled growth of the market as progress in capitalism, and then how the version of cone dystrophy I have is progressive — it gradually worsens, so here progress is not about getting better, but getting worse. Whew — that’s a lot! Not sure how, if it all, I’ll use this in the poem, but it was helpful to think about it in flashes as I moved through the water.

dec 10/RUM

5 miles
minnehaha falls and back
32 degrees / sleet
20% snow-covered

A wonderful morning run. I was worried that it would be icy, but it was fine. Only a few slick patches. A gray day. The sky, mostly white with some gray. The ground, white and gray and almost brown. Didn’t really see the river; I was too focused on avoiding slick spots and approaching runners. Not too crowded, but more runners and walkers, 2 fat tires that I first encountered at the falls. Greeted lots of walkers with a good morning! and runners with a smile or a wave of my hand. I felt relaxed and strong as I ran above the gorge. On the way back, when I reached 42nd I crossed over to edmund to avoid the growing number of people on the path.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. smoke from a chimney as I ran by a house on edmund– in the same spot, all winter, every winter
  2. a strange whirring or dripping or buzzing sound coming from “Carly’s house” (or, as RJP pronounces it, Kerler’s house) — named after RJP’s classmate, Carly, who lives there
  3. a frozen falls
  4. 2 women hardly moving over at all on the path. I almost brushed elbows with one of the women, even as I tried to go as close to the edge I could, which prompted me to mutter, fuck, under my breath after I passed her
  5. the tinny recording of the bells of the light rail car leaving the 50th street station
  6. near the end I felt wetness on my face — sleet? rain? snow?
  7. 2 runners approaching from behind, one of them talking about planting seeds, I think?
  8. someone walking through turkey hollow, everything white and covered with snow
  9. heading back, running on edmund, I noticed a runner over on the river road running slightly faster than me. Suddenly I heard someone yell out to them — another runner who knew them was greeting them enthusiastically (I think?)
  10. finishing up my run, crossing 46th avenue, I heard some people greeting each other at the mailbox — Merry Christmas!

Found this poem the other day. How? I think I might have been searching for green? Anyway, a great poem to add to my bird poems and poems about naming and knowing:

Praise/ Michelle Poirier Brown

It is not yet time for singing.
Although I could allow this lake stroking the shore as song.

I feel a tenderness towards the small stones under my feet.
That’s a good sign.

And gratitude for the sun warming my neck.

I am learning the names of birds.
At the pond last week,
a soft-colored green bird with a white stripe down its head.
A widgeon.

And just now, a small shore bird, black with hints of red at the back of its neck,
hops across the wave foam, pert and legged like a gymnast.
It has a name.

For praise, one needs vocabulary,
to know the difference between a call and a song,
and that birds that sing are among the passerines.

passerine: A passerine is a perching bird in the formal scientific order Passeriformes. These are the most familiar, typical birds and the term can be applied to more than half the world’s unique bird species, including all the classic songbirds, sparrows, and finches (Guide to Passerine Birds).

dec 6/RUN

5.6 miles
franklin loop
20 degrees / felt like 12
25% snow-covered

A wonderful run on a wonderful, wintery morning! Sunny, calm, cold but not too cold. I know I noticed many different things, had lots of interesting thoughts, but I’m distracted now, having read a beautiful, caring, generous post from a friend from grad school about sickness and death and recently being diagnosed with cancer. Ugh. I wanted to write a comment, to do more than “like” her Facebook post, but…too many thoughts. I’m thinking about Ross Gay and inciting joy and grief and how joy can show up when we’re willing to let others meet our sorrow and willing to take the time to meet theirs. About how much I appreciate my friend’s words and her story, how awful it is that she’s living in limbo for weeks, waiting to hear how bad her cancer is, how I felt every word and didn’t look away. About how cancer and death and grief are everywhere — Scott lost 2 aunts, a mother, and a beloved godmother in the second half of 2022, one after the other: August, September, October, November. And about the beautiful words I heard from the poet Kemi Alabi on the VS. podcast when she was asked what was moving her:

Grief is moving me. Like it’s literally running me, I feel so governed by grief. And not just personally or with my community, but collectively just seems like you can’t walk down the street without encountering, stumbling on this grief. So I’m thinking about Rebellious Mourning. That’s actually the name of an anthology, where a lot of poets thinkers and movement builders are considering what it means to mobilize around our grief, understanding that so many social movements are catalyzed by collective grief at the injustices that we’re experiencing. Grief can be a really powerful force to harness for transformation, if we’re allowed the space to be together with it, to honor it, and to actually move through it together, to let it move us, and to not run from it. 

Kemi Alabi vs. Divinity

Typing all of this out reminds me of one feeling I had throughout the run. I felt tender — not quite raw, but vulnerable, open to others, having experienced great loss recently. Apparently Scott hates the word tender; it ranks up there as one of the worst words with moist. I love it, devoted September to it. I don’t think I’d say I enjoy being tender, but I deeply appreciate the space it allows me to inhabit, the openness it offers.

10+ Things I Noticed

  1. the river: mostly frozen over with a thin skin of ice. Where the ice was thinner, it looked gray, thicker white
  2. a strange back-up on the franklin bridge. not sure what was happening. Cars were stopped, one was diagonal. No evidence of a collision. Heard some honking after I passed it
  3. a man walking 3, or was it 4?, dogs
  4. at least one bike
  5. saw my shadow off to the side, dark-ish gray
  6. colors: a lot of gray, pale blue sky, an orange cone, my pink jacket and gloves, red stop sign, sepia-toned ice, yellow dividing line on the bike path, yellow truck
  7. the air was cold as I breathed it in
  8. the biking path on the east side of the river, mostly clear
  9. some loud thuds — from the construction being done on a house across from the river?
  10. the sharp, whining whirr of a drill, or some other tool, being used by a road worker in a yellow vest in a hole in the street
  11. lifting my knees as I powered up the last hill

Near the end of my run, walking up the steps to the lake street bridge, I stopped and recorded the following thoughts. Then I put in a Taylor Swift playlist.

notes / dec 6

dec 5/RUN

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

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

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

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

10 (groups of) People I Encountered

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

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

Maybe Alone On My Bike/ William Stafford

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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