april 15/RUN

5k
trestle turn around
67 degrees

Ran in the afternoon with Scott. Wore my warm summer attire: black shorts and tank top. Wow. Feels like summer. Tried my new bright yellow running shoes — Saucony Rides. Love the color, but not the fit. My feet and right calf hurt now. Guess these shoes will just be for walking. Oh well.

There was some wind, but mostly it felt refreshing. There was only one stretch where it made running more difficult.

We talked about how the first mile is the hardest, how my shoes weren’t working (poor Scott had to listen to that a lot), and what a badass Helen Obiri is — moderate pace for most of the marathon then unleashing a 4:40 mile near the end.. Then I mentioned an edited version of my birding poem that I’m planning to submit to some journals.

Right before descending below lake street, we encountered another, older runner. I said that I liked his orange shirt and then asked Scott if the shirt was actually orange. It was a gradient, Scott replied. It started orange then magenta then red — at least I think that was the order of colors. Well, I just heard ORANGE in my head, I said. Then: orange shirt
old guy
struggling

Scott pointed out that it was in my running rhythm — 3/2, with an extra 3. Nice.

Random Thoughts Recorded Earlier Today on a version of the wind: air

from Living Here/ Cleopatra Mathis

In the world of appearances, teach me
to believe in the unseen.

from long entry dated 16 august 2022

Of course, appearances refers to more than vision or looking; it’s about “the world of sensible phenomena” (Merriam-Webster). And, to be seen or unseen, can mean much more than what we perceive with our eyes. But how often is appearance/seen reduced to vision and sight? (rhetorical question — my answer: too often or all the time or most of the time).

To appear can mean to be present, to attend, to show up for something.

To believe in the unseen — believing in that which we can’t prove? Believing in something that I know is there but that I cannot see? An orange buoy?
What does it mean to be unseen? To not be seen with our eyes? To not be consciously aware of what some part of us might be seeing or sensing?

belief trust faith confidence acceptance conviction

Mostly, we can sense the wind, or at least see the evidence of it all around us — swaying trees, swirling leaves, flapping flags. But what about air? Air, which we often mis-identify as emptiness?

april 5/RUN

3.1 miles
trestle turn around
54 degrees
wind: 5 mph

What a day! Took Delia out for a walk this morning. An hour later, sat on the deck and was inspired by the birds to write a beautiful little poem conjuring my mom. Then, around 12:30, went for a run by the gorge. Okay spring! The run wasn’t easy, but wasn’t hard either. My legs are sore from running every day since Tuesday. Tomorrow I’ll take a break.

Listened to birds running north, my “It’s Windy” playlist on the way back south. Wind songs heard today: “Ride Like the Wind” — fast? frantic? under pressure? and “You’re Only Human (Second Wind); — forgiving and resilient and a reprieve

I’m sure I looked at the river, but I don’t remember doing it, or what it looked like. I do remember that the floodplain forest looked open and brown and full of trees that had been through a flood or two. No roller skiers or rowers. No radios or impatient cars. Did hear a few unpleasant goose honks near the lake street bridge.

Beaufort Scale

The History of the Beaufort Scale

Before the run I reviewed the Beaufort Scale and rediscovered a Beaufort Scale poem by Alice Oswald. Gave myself the task of trying to describe the wind today:

running north: make your own wind — or breeze?
south: hair raising . . . leg hair raising . . . calf hair raising
east: no need to shield the microphone; a welcomed air-conditioning after a hard effort; still leaves still; the branches moving so slightly my cone-dead eyes cannot detect their movement — no trees waving to me today . . . rude; flag flapping but no wind chiming

Alice Oswald on wind:

Everything you write about the wind really has to be about something else, because the wind itself is so non-existent. I like the way the Beaufort Scale [a system used to estimate wind speed based on observation of its effects] categorizes something so abstract and undefinable. That is partly what drew me to the project. I regard the words as secondary to the silences in my poetry, so I’m drawn to write about things that will exist without the words. The poems are full of gaps and silences through which something that isn’t linguistic can be heard.

A Poem A Day

wind will exist without the words

Beaufort Poem Scale – Alice Oswald

As I speak (force 1) smoke rises vertically,
Plumed seeds fall in less than ten seconds
And gossamer, perhaps shaken from the soul’s hairbrush
Is seen in the air.

Oh yes (force 2) it’s lovely here,
One or two spiders take off
And there are willow seeds in clouds

But I keep feeling (force 3) a scintillation,
As if a southerly light breeze
Was blowing the tips of my thoughts
(force 4) and making my tongue taste strongly of italics

And when I pause it feels different
As if something had entered (force 5) whose hand is lifting my page

(force 6) So I want to tell you how a whole tree sways to the left
But even as I say so (force 7) a persistent howl is blowing my hair horizontal
And even as I speak (force 8) this speaking becomes difficult

And now my voice (force 9) like an umbrella shaken inside out
No longer shelters me from the fact (force 10)
There is suddenly a winged thing in the house,
Is it the wind?

march 10/RUN

5 miles
marshall loop (prior)
47 degrees

An afternoon run with Scott. We talked about a cool rpf (request for proposal) that Scott just completed and whether or not the wires sticking out of the street lamps on the bridge were live and how the clocktower at Disney Land was telling the wrong time for years without them realizing. For most of it, I felt fine. My calf was a little sore after we picked up the pace so we wouldn’t miss the light at Cleveland. A few minutes later, it felt okay again.

10+ Things

  1. the clear, straight, sturdy shadow of the bridge railing
  2. from the top of the summit hill near shadow falls: the river burning white through the trees — I got distracted looking at it and almost fell of the edge of the sidewalk
  3. from the lake street bridge heading west: a bright path of light on the surface of the river, spanning from the bridge to the west bank
  4. the pale brown of a sandbar just below the surface of the river
  5. the underside of the steps leading up to the lake street bridge: peeling paint
  6. a “Tacos” sign where the BBQ sign used to be at Marshall and Cretin
  7. a big, beautiful wrap around porch with white spindles near Summit
  8. overheard: Katie didn’t know
  9. wind chimes!
  10. a tabby cat running across the street, headed straight for us — it seemed to be saying, Keep moving! This is my block!
  11. added 11 march 2024: overheard — one woman to another: After the costume change, I’ll shine and fly

haunted by haunts

In the fall of 2021 I worked on a long poem based on my 3/2 breathing rhythms and centered on the gorge and my repeated runs around it. I revisited the poem this past fall in 2023 and wrote around it, leaving only a few traces of the original — a palimpsest? I stopped at the beginning of 2024 with a message to future Sara: good luck. Well, here I am and I can’t remember what prompted me to open my haunts documents again, but I did and I’m back. Reading through an older version titled, “Haunts late fall 2023.” It’s a mixture of the old poem and my new additions, and I’m wondering why I got rid of so many of the old lines. It might be because I submitted parts of the poem to about a dozen journals with no luck. All rejections. It made me doubt what I was writing. But maybe I should try to keep submitting it instead of losing all of it? Maybe submit different versions, too?

Reading through the poem, I wrote a list of themes in my Plague Notebook, Vol 19!:

  • girl
  • ghost
  • gorge
  • trails
  • loops
  • echoes
  • bells
  • traces
  • remains
  • stories
  • bodies
  • habits repetitions

Bells. In the newer version of my poem, from late 2023, I got rid of almost all of the mentions of bells. But, I keep coming back to them, like in ED’s “I felt a Funeral in my Brain”: As all the Heavens were a Bell, / And being, but an Ear

bells

  1. starting a ritual
  2. the keeping of time — YES! bells as time/clock*
  3. tolling = death, the dead
  4. signalling the final lap in a race
  5. “fake” simulated recorded bells
  6. light rail bells elementary and middle school bells college bells
  7. the gorge world echoing of past bells
  8. echo = repeating, but not exactly the same, reverberation, ripple, eroding of the original sound from the strike
  9. Annie Dillard and each of us walking around as as bells not yet struck
  10. vibrations movement sound

A curious, “fun” fact that I’d learn in my research about the St. Thomas bells and that supported in my own observations: the St. Thomas bells are not always accurate in their time-keeping; they can be off by a few seconds. Someone has to re-sync them periodically.

A bell poem in the latest issue of Poetry (March 2024):

A Bell Is a Bearer of Time/ ALISON C. ROLLINS

*To be performed with bells on. All “writing” is performance, some performance is “writing.”

I am
a product
of my time.
Time is a body
that resembles
a sound without a scale.
Forever foreclosed fortitude.
In heaven, the dinner bell rings
as elegy. The porch-light stars turn
on their mothering moths. Betrayal
takes at least two, and wherever two
or more are gathered, I am there in
their pulsating timbre. To hear is to hunger
for the gendered race of sound. In my midst,
loneliness listens. In confidence, I am secreted
away. I was today years old when I learned the truth,
a browbeat bell is an idiophone. The strike made
by an internal clapper or an external hammer, a uvula—
that small flesh, conical body projecting downward from
the soft palate’s middle. Vocal, vibrating vulva. I am less a writer
who reads than a reader who writes. Therein lies the trouble, the treble clef of
conviction. Come now to the feast of hearing, where Hortense J. Spillers
gives a sermon: We address here the requirements of  literacy as the ear takes
on the functions of “reading.” Call me bad news bear. Bestial. Becoming.
In “Venus in Two Acts,” Saidiya Hartman asks, Must the future of abolition be
first performed on the page? Must I write a run-on of runaways?
Must you make out my handwriting? Evidence that loss has limbs.
The clawed syntax. The muzzled grammar. Don’t be afraid.
Kill me with your language. Learn how to mark my
words.*

During today’s run, the only bells we heard were not bells but chimes, wind chimes. Strange how close we were to St. Thomas without hearing the bells.

march 3/RUN

5 miles
lake nokomis, then falls coffee
60 degrees

Ran through the neighborhood, past the falls, over the mustache bridge, on the creek path, up the hill from lake hiawatha to lake nokomis, then turned around and took the sidewalk on the parkway until we reached Falls Coffee. A good run — warm and very windy. Lots of shadows on the path — people too. Crowded. Tried to stay loose and relaxed as I ran; I called it being “Shaggy loose.” It worked and my right calf didn’t hurt when I was running. It felt strange again when I stopped — a few flashes of discomfort, then anxiousness. But we ran 5 miles and walked 2 and I was fine.

We talked about Scott’s music project: an arrangement of “Helter Skelter” without using any past versions for reference. I asked about the difference between parallel and series circuits. Mostly, we were quiet today, partly because we were enjoying just running outside in the warmth, and partly because Scott was arranging music in his head and I was monitoring my calf mid-run.

My calf occasionally reminded me it was there during the run, but it was fine and I was loose. When we stopped, my ankle was a little tender, but nothing hurt. Still, I was anxious and concerned about what might happen. Spent the walk home talking through it with Scott. I felt a little sore and stiff during the walk home, but no shooting pain or pops or anything too alarming. I said to Scott that I feel like my body was trying to tell me something with all this anxiety and he answered, Maybe it’s not. And I thought, yes, maybe it’s not. Maybe I’m just dealing with the random aches, the occasional nighttime muscle cramp, that older runners get? Why does the story have to be any more complicated than that?

As we approached the playground at Hiawatha School — the one our kids played on for almost a decade — I said, I think my calf pain is minor, like the sinus pain I used to get in my face. Once I started using breathe-right strips, it stopped happening — no more pressure or sinus head-aches. Scott replied: You need to find the breath right strip for your calf. Now, hours later, it suddenly came to me: compression socks. Could that be the magic antidote to my calf pain (and my fears about calf pain)? Have I cracked the code? I’ll try it and see.

note for past Sara (or future RJP/FWA) and for anyone else interested: Writing some of this stuff about my anxieties over calf pain feels a little ridiculous, but it seems important to document the in-the-midst-of-it process of figuring out how to navigate the uncertainty of new (albeit minor) pain. There are lots of reason why, here’s one that I return to again and again: remembering how you felt and handled moments of vulnerability and uncertainty, when you’re overwhelmed and anxious, can give you more empathy for others in their own, often different, experiences of uncertainty.

notes from a pages document titled: “To Do: 2022/2023/2024”

brain mind self soul spirit Sara body
I You us we
pain fear uncertainty loss death grief
breath muscle machine
break rupture relent embrace reject reframe resist rewire

Back to the magic of the body and our efforts to understand and describe what’s happening / the power of language, of stories, to affect how and if we survive and endure — what stories do we tell?

Where does my body end, yours begin?

What if the soul was populated by selves? what if Sara was a city, not one Self? or a lake — Lake Sara? or a gorge? or a river — the river Sara?

What is the relationship between anxiety, the body, and the mind? Is anxiety the body asserting itself?

Running as a new relationship with my body, poetry as a rewiring of my brain/mind — not as rational scientist (even though I still do this), but as poet. Not fully rejecting the rational/scientific approach, but de-centering it.

wiring circuits: series and parallel
body circuits: pulmonary and systemic
ED: success in circuits lie

Yesterday I mentioned Natasha Badmann and her experiences running through the Energy Lab during the Kona Ironman. I found the spot in the race commentary, where she is interviewed:

The Energy Lab wasn’t taking energy, but giving energy. . . . I left my soul out there on part of the course . . . Exchange yourself with the island, see the beauty. . . . Running into the Energy Lab, I saw the strength of the ocean, the waves splashing up, and I said, This ocean, it’s endless. My energy is endless.

start at 8 hours and 52 minutes in / Women’s Ironman 2023

added this in a few minutes later: After the run, I got a pistachio scone at Falls Coffee. When I told RJP about it, she said, Feed 2 birds with one scone, which is PETA’s non-violent version of the classic expression. I like it! How else can I play with it?

Text 2 teens on one phone.
Diss 2 jerks with one own.
Scare 2 kids with one crone.
Film 2 scenes with one drone.
Seat 2 kings on one throne.
Put 2 scoops in one cone.
Whet 2 blades with one hone.
Buy 2 cars with one loan.
Seduce 2 Ferris’ with one Sloane. (too many syllables, but I couldn’t resist)

one more note, the next day: When I mentioned the scones/birds phrase to FWA on our weekly Facetime, he mentioned another one: Feed a fed horse. Oh, that’s good.



feb 25/RUN

5 miles
franklin loop
45 degrees

A regular run! It felt mostly fine, a few times strange. I told Scott that often when something is sore or stiff or hurts, it just feels strange to me. I need better words.

A few time my calf felt strange…but what does that mean? It felt like it was trying to talk to me, like it wasn’t used to moving, like it was complaining. During the run, once or twice, the smallest flare of something that wasn’t quite pain yet. After the run, tight, a little sore along the outside of my calf starting near the knee and moving down. Here’s some information that I might want to look at: Calf Muscle Tightness

While we ran, we talked about Scott’s latest work project involving wrangling a lot of data about water quality and temperature and more and turning it into a user-friendly widget. I talked about Courtney Dauwalter and listening to your body and pushing your limits and the memory palace. Near the end of the run, we encountered people protesting Israel’s invasion/war against Palestine on the bridge. I almost called out from the river to the sea! but didn’t — do I wish I had? yes, I think so. Saw some Palestinian flags and people with signs. A few minutes later, we heard a bullhorn from up on the bridge — were they marching to the capital?

earlier today

While reviewing the feb 25 entry from 2022, I came across a reference to the memory palace. I’d like to do something with this idea — an experiment, a poem, something else? Found a helpful discussion of it in a Paris Review article about Wordsworth:

The idea of the mind as a palace or church, whose individual rooms can be explored with training, is familiar from the memory treatises of antiquity and the Middle Ages. The “memory palace” as a mnemonic device was widely used before the advent of printing to organize and remember vast amounts of information. By memorizing the spatial layout of a building and assigning images or ideas to its various rooms, one could “walk” through the imaginary building and retrieve the ideas relegated to the separate parts.

The Celestial Memory Palace/ Aysegul Savas

I mentioned the memory palace in a feb 25, 2022 entry. In a feb 25, 2020 entry, I also wrote about place, the house:

I’d like to put this poem (A Skull) and the idea of the skull as a house beside the two other poems with houses that I posted on feb 22.

Two different, yet connected, versions of imagined place. Can I do something with these?

Here’s a delightful poem from a chapbook, Cheap Motels of my Youth, that I just got in the mail:

I Heard a Fly Buzz/ George Bilgere

I stumbled out in to the kitchen,
got the coffee maker started,
did the dishes from last night,
and then you came out in your robe,
wondering why I was up so early,
and I realized I’d misread the clock,
I’d actually gotten up at 7, not 8,
and suddenly I had a whole hour
bestowed upon me by the gods
who dole out our span to time.

And this was long ago, years ago, but
I still have that hour, I’ve guarded it
zealously, and when the time comes
and the darkness is closing in, and perhaps
I even hear a fly buzz—I’ll take out
that hour from the secret place
where I keep it, I’ll show it to all of you
gathered around my bedside
and I’ll cry out, Look! Another hour!

And that fly will pause in its
goddam buzzing, and all of you—
and that means you, Michael and Alex—
all of you will be forced to smile
and say, Really? That’s just awesome!

And I shall continue with my reminiscences.

I love this poem — the way it gently references Emily Dickinson, the delightful story it tells, his use of goddam in the second to last stanza, the calling out of his kids in the poem, how the first stanza is all one sentence, and that last bit about reminiscing as what he’d want to do with his bonus hour.

I like his use of goddam, and I wonder: how often do women poets use goddam? It seems like a swear word male poets would use. What are some good examples of women poets using goddam in their poems? I looked up “women poets goddam” and came across Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam.” Listened to it — wow — and found this article for later: The long story behind Nina Simone’s protest song, “Mississippi Goddam” Kept scrolling in my search and found a link to a Book Notes series in which authors create a playlist for their books. Cool! What does this have to do with goddam? Nothing, but I love that I found this site, especially after creating a playlist for my windows month.

Okay, time to stop wandering. I think I’ll go study and memorize Emily Dickinson’s “I heard a Fly buzz — when I died”

Almost forgot: still playing around with the tiles for the two main muscles in the calf: gastrocnemius and soleus

Glass moon curse suite

feb 5/RUN

3.2 miles
locks and dam no. 1 and back
45 degrees

Ran in the afternoon. 45 degrees and no snow. Spotted one lone chunk of ice floating in the river. Very mild. I was overheated in my layers: black tights, black shorts, long-sleeved green shirt, orange sweatshirt. For a few minutes of the run I felt good, but for most of it I felt off. Some gastro thing, I think.

In my state of discomfort and distraction, did I happen to notice 10 things?

10 Things

  1. overheard, one woman walker to another: It’s been five years and a lot has changed
  2. kids yelling on the playground
  3. a flash of white car up ahead — were they driving the wrong way in the parking lot? No, the car I was seeing was on the road, on the other side of the ravine
  4. someone roller blading — not roller skiing
  5. the short dirt trail where folwell climbs up to the top of the bluff then back down again was all mud
  6. lots of bikers on the bike path
  7. lots of walkers down below on winchell
  8. (as mentioned above) the river was open except for one big chunk of ice
  9. playing chicken with a walker who was walking on my side until the last minute — were they playing chicken too or just oblivious?
  10. no grit on the path or shadows or honking geese or regulars

today’s peripheral: just a distraction

daydreams reveries distractions

When ideas float in our mind, without any reflection or regard of the understanding, it is that which the French call reverie; our langauge has scarce a name for it.

John Locke, cited in The Plentitude of Distraction

To make a prairie/ Emily Dickinson

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee.
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.

This short book takes a second look at distraction, extracting untold pleasures and insights from its alleged dangers, defending and celebrating the unfocused life for the small and great miracles it can deliver.

The Plentitude of Distraction/ Marina can Zuylen

Reverie in Open Air/ Rita Dove

I acknowledge my status as a stranger:
Inappropriate clothes, odd habits
Out of sync with wasp and wren.
I admit I don’t know how
To sit still or move without purpose.
I prefer books to moonlight, statuary to trees.

But this lawn has been leveled for looking,
So I kick off my sandals and walk its cool green.
Who claims we’re mere muscle and fluids?
My feet are the primitives here.
As for the rest—ah, the air now
Is a tonic of absence, bearing nothing
But news of a breeze.

feb 3/RUN

5 miles
ford loop
38 degrees

Ran with Scott on the ford loop. Today I talked about the US Olympic Marathon Trials, which I watched this morning. A runner from Minnesota, Dakotah Lindwurm, got third. Scott talked about the music project he worked on before the run — a little jam with his new keyboard and bass. We also mentioned slippery mud, tight shins (Scott), cramped toes (me), running up the Summit hill during the marathon, and mistaking a fire hydrant (Scott) and a black fence (me) for people. I was surprised that there weren’t more people out running — it’s not that cold and the paths are clear. Maybe it was the time of day — 12:30?

10 Things

  1. an empty bench on the bluff
  2. a wide (r than I remembered) expanse of grass between the path and the edge
  3. the crack trail
  4. some strange decorations on the fence in front of the church — yarn? paper chains?
  5. a car blasting music at an overlook parking lot — the only lyric I remember was senorita
  6. a wide open view of the river and the other side
  7. a double lamp post on the ford bridge — one light was on, the other was not
  8. the dead-leafed branch that’s been pushed up agains the other side of the double bridge for months — still there with all of its dead leaves
  9. no poem on the poetry window — have they stopped doing it? was it just for the pandemic?
  10. ice on river, near the east shore, one chunk almost the shape of a right triangle

Searching “peripheral” on the Poetry Foundation site, I found this interesting blurb:

Poet Tan Lin edited issue 6 of EOAGH, for which he invited contributors to submit a piece of “peripheral” writing – that is, a text that doesn’t directly supply the material or inspiration for the authors’ work, but is in some tangential, peripheral, or ambient way, related.

blurb

I would like to play around with this idea of the peripheral text in my own writing. What are the peripheral texts, ideas, practices that contribute to my poems, especially my Haunts poems?

jan 27/RUN

4.15 miles
franklin loop
34 degrees / humidity: 82%

Another run with Scott. As we ran north we talked about jazz band and soloing and COVID and how some people are still isolating and how it’s never going away but we’re learning to be out in the world again. Then I talked about muddy trails and no snow and Scott imagined possibilities for his new projects, including an arrangement of Porkpie Hat.

10 Things

  1. slippery mud — almost fell!
  2. crossing the franklin bridge, the water looked like dark glass
  3. the shore was glowing white
  4. the edges of the water were gray and icy and looked cold
  5. crossing the lake street bridge, the water was dark gray with small waves
  6. also on the lake street bridge: a sandbar that stretched out from the bridge footing
  7. most of the lamps on the bridge were lit, only a few had been stripped of their wires
  8. no eagle on the dead tree limb near the bridge
  9. the sky was gray and gloomy, the tree line was a soft, pleasing brown
  10. spotted: a small white strip of something on the trail. Was it a ruler? I couldn’t quite tell

dec 20/RUN

5.25 miles
ford loop
34 degrees

Yes! Loved my run today — the light! the shadows! It started when I saw some strange patches of white on the sidewalk — what were they? Suddenly I realized: light, coming through the cracks in a fence and landing on the dark, shadowed sidewalk. Very cool.

10 Things: 4 Lights and 6 Shadows

  1. the light coming through the fence
  2. the shadowed sidewalk it landed on
  3. my shadow down in the ravine, running beside the water leading to shadow falls
  4. on the lake street bridge: the sun on the river — sparkling, stretching down river towards the ford bridge
  5. on the ford bridge: the sun illuminating a buoy below me
  6. the shadows of trees on the river
  7. the pointed shadows of the lamps — fuzzy
  8. my shadow running in front of me –sharp
  9. standing on the grass between edmund and the river road, looking across to the east bank, noticing a very white house shining in the sun
  10. the pattern of the railing shadows on the lake street bridge — criss-crossed, sprawled

I felt strong and happy and steady. For the first few miles, I chanted strawberry/raspberry/blueberry over and over. Occasionally I mixed in mystery or history or intellect. At one point, I chanted: a question/is asked and mystery/is solved

I noticed the empty benches, the darting squirrels. Smelled some burnt toast and weed (wow! must have been from a passing car). Heard some voices in the ravine. Didn’t see any Regulars or hear the bells at St. Thomas. Don’t remember birds or bikes. No roller skiers. No overheard conversations.

added over a day later: I forgot that I took some pictures when I stopped briefly on the ford bridge to put in my headphones:

My view from the ford bridge, looking north and down at the Mississippi river. On the right (almost) half of the image is the brownish-greenish shore. On the left, the blue river with dark shadows from the bridge covering it's surface. The shadows are of the columns and are both thick and thin. If I squint hard I can almost see my shadow at the top taking the picture. Is it there, is it just in my imagination?
ford bridge shadows / 20 dec 2023

For the first four miles I listened to kids playing at the church playground, cars driving by, my feet striking the ground. Then I put in Merrily We Roll Along for the last mile.

Letter to Walt Whitman,
Who Painted Butterflies/ Kelli Agodon Russell

In 1942, Whitman’s handmade cardboard butterfly disappeared from the Library of Congress.
It was found in a New York attic in 1995.

Perhaps, you made them as a child—
cardboard butterflies lining your shelves,
hiding in the pockets of the wool pants
you wore only to church.
Maybe you would wake early
to cut cardboard into small waves
forming wings, and antennae appearing
like exclamation points.
Words fluttered from your pen,
cardboard wings dipped in red paint,
holding patterns of words,
the quiet swirl of wind.
Maybe there are thousands
of your butterflies still lingering in attics,
your secret world of paper insects
still hanging by threads.

I wanted to post this poem because I like how it’s set up, with the brief description, then the wondering/imagining about it. A fun exercise to try: when I find an interesting fact (here I’m thinking about the monarch butterflies that avoid a mountain in lake superior that’s been gone for more than a century), write a poem that speculates/imagines/creates a story around it.

dec 13/RUN

4.5 miles
john stevens house and back
38 degrees

Sunny and warmer! Shadows! Clear, dry paths! A great afternoon run, even if my left IT band started hurting…again. I was able to run on all of the walking paths, even when they split off from the bike path.

Listened to kids, cars, chainsaws, and some guy with a DEEP voice as I ran to the Steven’s house and The Wiz on the way back.

10 Things

  1. the light was lower — it felt later than 2:30*
  2. a walker with a big white dog
  3. the falls seemed to be rushing more than on Monday
  4. a sour sewer smell near the John Steven’s house
  5. kids yelling and laughing on the playground
  6. a bird flying low in the sky, off to my side, almost looking like a fluttering leaf
  7. the soft whoosh of the light rail nearing the station
  8. the bells ringing as it left the station
  9. my feet feeling strange, awkward until I warmed up
  10. the buzz of a chainsaw echoing across the gorge

*the light reminded me of the line from ED:

There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons – 

But this light wasn’t oppressive. It was warm and welcoming.

I’m continuing to plug away at my haunts poem, even though I was feeling burned out yesterday. I decided to read Lorine Niedecker’s “Lake Superior” and the translator’s afterword for Perec’s How to Exhaust a Place. It helped and I think I had a break through this morning. Now I’m looking to Sarah Manguso’s Ongoingness and 300 Arguments for inspiration. My focus: restlessness and stone and water. And, 2 mantras: 1. let it go and 2. condense! condense! condense!

dec 4/RUN

2 miles
ywca track

Back at the end of October, we rejoined the y so that I could swim in the winter and Scott could run and hot tub. With Scott’s busy schedule and my desire to run outside, today was the first day we finally went. The hot tub is closed indefinitely. We decided to cancel our membership and run outside — fine by me. I’ll miss swimming a little, but I’m feeling like 2024 is a serious running year.

I didn’t mind the track, it was fine — not crowded, warm — but it’s not the same as being outside above the gorge. I forgot my headphones so I listened to the sounds around me as I looped the elevated track: a guy lifting weights and muttering to himself, high schoolers playing basketball and dropping a few f-bombs, my own breathing. The people I passed: an older man walking with a cane, a young-ish woman walking then briefly running, an older woman walking, a guy in a red shirt reading a book on his phone as he walked.

added a few minutes later: I just remembered that I was running on the track, feeling my feet bounce on the springy track, I thought about how my feet connect to the ground. Then I thought about how I connect/am connected to a place also through breath — lungs inhaling, moving through air. Wind/air/breath are unseen and less noticed than feet striking the ground, but air is there and we possess/are possessed by it through our breaths.

This morning I woke to the wonderful news that 2 of my mood ring poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. This is a big deal and makes me very proud and pleased that my strange poems are meaningful to others. I’ve worked hard for 7 years, writing almost daily, trying to develop ways to express what it feels like to be losing my vision.

Today A.R. Ammon’s Tape for the Turn of the Year came and I’m excited to read it and be inspired by it. In anticipation, I checked out Ammons’ collected works. Here’s a poem I ‘d like to remember and put beside Mary Oliver’s ideas about writing and language in The Leaf and the Cloud:

Motion/ A. R. Ammons:

The word is
not the thing:
is
a construction of,
a tag for,
the thing: the
word in
no way
resembles
the thing, except
as sound
resembles,
as in whirr,
sound:
the relation
between what this
as words
is and what is
is tenuous: we
agree upon
this as the net to
cast on what
is: the finger
to
point with: the
method of
distinguishing,
defining, limiting:
poems
are fingers, methods,
nets,
not what is or was:
but the music
in poems
is different,
points to nothing,
traps no
realities, takes
no game, but
by the motion of
its motion
resembles
what, moving, is—-
the wind
underleaf white against
the tree.

nov 26/RUN

4.1 miles
minnehaha falls and back
30 degrees
50% snow-covered

It snowed last night and left less than an inch on the ground. The trail was half clear, half snow-covered. A bit slick. I think my feet might have slipped some, but never enough to be a problem. Ran south to the falls. Beautiful! Gushing.

Ran without headphones and listened to my collar rubbing against my cap, a few voices rising up from the gorge, falling water.

Running just past the double bridge I smiled when I saw 2 turkeys up ahead on the path. I was wrong — no turkeys, only trees with plastic rings around their trunks, standing next to the path.

I’ve been working on my haunts poems and as I ran I thought about the plaques/ghosts bikes/flowers I just wrote about this morning. 3 instances of people dying in very unlikely circumstances: a boy picked at random and then shot in the back while biking; a runner hit by a driver who lost control when he had a seizure (or some sort of incident) because of 4 huge tumors in his brain he didn’t know were there; and a woman pulled over, fixing her bike, hit in a parking lot. Unsettling. The last one didn’t happen by the river, but in Germany; the woman was from this neighborhood and is remembered her by friends and family. The other two did, and at spots I regularly run by.

Today’s poem-of-the-day on poets.org, The Mountain, begins with these fitting lines:

There is snow, now— 
A thing of silent creeping—

There is snow, now— 
A silent creeping . . .

Snow, snow, snow—
A thing of silent creeping 

from The Mountain/ D’Arcy McNickle

I don’t mind the snow — in fact, I like it! — but it does silently creep. From now until March of April, adding inches, covering everything.

oct 11/RUN

3 miles
2 trails
58 degrees

Ran in the afternoon. Much warmer. Too warm. Overdressed in my long-sleeved bright yellowish green 10 mile racing shirt. Listened to Olivia Rodrigo for the first mile, then took out my headphones for the rest. I heard trickling water, laughing and screaming kids making the kind of noise that’s on the edge between angry and joyful, wind rustling the leaves.

After I finished, walking on the grassy boulevard, dotted with dry leaves, I pulled out my phone and recording the sound:

crunching leaves / 11 oct

I started by walking through the leaves, kicking into them with my feet. Then I stepped on them. To my ears, the sound went from a crash to a crunch.

I ran the version of 2 trails in which I don’t take the 38th street steps but stay on the dirt trail through the oak savana then around the ravine. I thought about stopping to take a picture here — and many other places too, including the overlook near the southern entrance of the winchell trail — but I wanted to keep running. So I took a picture of the ravine from above and across the river road:

A road with tree shadows on it. Behind it, a split rail fence and some golden trees. Beyond it, but not pictured, is a ravine with a black wrought-iron fence and a metal slat walkway that I carefully ran over a few minutes before taking the picture. In the upper right corner, there is a yellow sign indicating a sharp curve. There are also 2 cars in the distance. When I was taking this picture, I only saw general forms: shadows trunks leaves road sky.
The split rail fence above the ravine from across the river road

sept 18/RUN

2.5 miles
2 trails
75 degrees

Recorded the lecture for my class this morning, so I had to run in the afternoon, when it’s warmer. Hot! Sunny! Everything dry and dusty, thirsty — the dirt trail, the dead leaves, me.

Listened to a playlist until I reached the south entrance to the Winchell Trail, then to the gorge. Dripping pipes, striking feet, my breathing, falling acorns.

10 Peripheral Things — above, below, and beside

  1. dirt flying up on my ankles as I ran on the dusty trail
  2. brittle red leaves, crunching underfoot
  3. the shadow of a bird flying overhead
  4. frantic rustling in the bushes — I flinched in anticipation of a darting squirrel that never arrived
  5. a walker moving over to the edge of the path for me to pass — thank you! / you’re welcome
  6. a slash of red just below — a changing leaf
  7. flashes of orange all around — construction signs
  8. to my right and below: dribble dribble dribble — water falling down a limestone ledge in the ravine
  9. shrill squeaking under the metal grate in the ravine as I crossed over it — a chipmunk?
  10. is this peripheral? breaking through several spider webs on the winchell trail, about chest height

For the second week of my class, which starts this Wednesday!, I’m offering alliteration as one way into the words for describing/conjuring/communicating wonder (along with abecedarians and triple berry chants). This poem-of-the-day on poems.com (Poetry Daily), is a great example of what’s possible when you write only words starting with one letter — in this case, a:

Autobiography/ Michael Dumanis

Attempted avoiding abysses, assorted
abrasions and apertures, abscesses.

At adolescence, acted absurd: acid,
amphetamines. Amorously aching

after an arguably arbitrary Abigail,
authored an awful aubade.

Am always arabesquing after Abigails.
Am always afraid: an affliction?

Animals augur an avalanche. Animals
apprehend abattoirs. Am, as an animal,

anxious. Appendages always aflutter,
am an amazing accident: alive.

Attired as an apprentice aerialist,
addressed acrophobic audiences.

Aspiring, as an adult, after applause,
attracted an angelic acolyte.

After an affirming affair, an abortion.
After an asinine affair, Avowed Agnostic
approached, alone, an abbey’s altarpiece,

asking Alleged Almighty about afterlife.
Ambled, adagio, around an arena.
Admired an ancient aqueduct. Ate aspic.
Adored and ate assorted animals.
Ascended an alp. Affected an accent.
Acquired an accountant, an abacus, assets.
Attempted atonal arpeggios

There’s also an essay about how Dumanis wrote this poem, which I haven’t had time to read yet. Very excited to check it out! Okay, I just skimmed it. Here are some resources from the end that I might want to explore:

A few terrific examples of letter-constraint-based contemporary poems include Phillip B. Williams’s tour de force “Mush-mouf’s Maybe Crown,” where all the words begin with M (or, occasionally, “em” or “im”); Izzy Casey’s univocalic “I’m Piss Witch”; several terrific single-vowel lyrics in Cathy Park Hong’s collection Engine Empire including “Ballad in A”; Harryette Mullen’s linguistic experiments, such as “Any Lit,” in her collection Sleeping with the Dictionary, and, of course, Christian Bök’s virtuosic book-length project Eunoia, in which, among other idiosyncratic constraints, every chapter can only use a single vowel. All such projects derive at least some of their inspiration from the mid-20th century French avant-garde collective Oulipo, or Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, a “workshop of potential literature,” which encouraged systematic, sometimes arbitrary, language-based constraint in the composition of texts. For my Oulipian autobiography, it was especially important to me that every individual narrative moment made clear semantic sense despite the constraint, that the alliteration did not overly affect the speaker’s syntax or natural cadence, that taken together they told the story of a life.

sept 8/RUN

1.75 miles
neighborhood
68 degrees

A quick run just after noon. Warmer than I realized, harder to move my legs too. Ran past 7 Oaks to the dirt path next to Edmund, past Minnehaha Academy, around Cooper school then back home. Construction trucks everywhere. They’re still working on the sewers, busting up the pavement, digging deep hole. Started in late May. Can’t wait until they’re done!

Today, instead of listening to the gorge or the neighborhood birds, I put in Olivia Rodrigo’s new album, GUTS. I like it. At the end of the run, “Making the Bed” came on. I liked how the whole song was about her regrets and taking responsibility for them and that she referenced the idiom you made your bed, now you must lie in it without ever explicitly singing those words, instead only singing, Me whose been making the bed. I’d like to play around with some idioms in a poem, experimenting with how to point to them without ever using them. I’d also love to find some examples from other poets.

Even as I listened to GUTS, I couldn’t block out all of the construction noise. So many construction things forcing me to notice them!

10 Construction Things

  1. the flash of bright yellow vests and hard hats
  2. a low constant rumble a few blocks away
  3. the loud roar of the big wheels of a dump truck rushing by
  4. the only slightly quieter roar of the smaller wheels of a bobcat following behind
  5. beep beep beep a truck backing up
  6. loose gravel and sand piled up to cover the pipes spread across the street, crunching under car wheels
  7. orange construction cones
  8. temporary stop signs
  9. big, city buses taking alternative routes on too narrow streets
  10. dusty, smoky clouds low in the air, breathed in through lungs

Yesterday I mentioned my discovery of some wonderful poems by Luisa A. Igloria. Here’s another. Wow!

Hog Island/ Luisa A. Igloria

The sun dips beneath a horizon of barrier
islands, marshes filled with traces
of the winged and wild-footed.

Skimmers in spring, migrants
wheeling toward the salt of other seasons.

On one side, the water; on the other,
the land—acres that yielded corn, tobacco,
barley, cotton. And where

are the quail that loved
fields of castor bean, that thrashed

in the wake of rifle fire? This
time of year, everything in the landscape tints
to the color of bronze and rust, registry pages

inked in sepia with names and weights;
the worth of indentured bodies. Palimpsest

means the canvas we see
floats on a geology of other layers—
sedimenting until the sea works loose

what it petrifies in salts and lye, what it
preserves for an afterhistory with no guarantee.

added a few hours later: Catching up on old New Yorker issues, I read this delightfully gross and somewhat horrifying opening paragraph from a section in talk of the town titled, “In the Water A Staten Island Lap”:

A swimmer freestyling through a shipping lane is a bit like a snail crossing the freeway. The situation is just as glamorous, and there tend to be few spectators. But when Leslie Hamilton, a thirty-one-year-old accountant swam a record-breaking clockwise lap around Staten Island last month, the biggest challenge wasn’t dodging garbage barges or intractable tankers with staunch, Soviet names like Salacgriva and Yasa Madur. It was lice. And she was saved by her bikini.

Sea lice. And her skin was crawling with them the entire time. The lice, which come from thimble jellyfish, lay tiny stinging cells on swimming suits. So Hamilton switched out her one piece for a bikini bottom and swam topless through the night. Wow.

Why did she do this? Here’s one reason she gave, as paraphrased by Daniel Shailer: Being uncomfortable makes everyday comforts exceptional.

march 30/WALKRUN

walk: 45 minues
neighborhood, with Delia the dog
30 degrees

Took Delia out for a walk around the neighborhood. North, then east past Cooper School and the giant mounds of snow plowed somewhere else then deposited on this field. Past the house that had been half-finished then abandoned a few years ago and is now finished and on the market for almost $900,000. Past the new Minnehaha Academy, which replaced the old one that blew up a few summers ago because of a gas leak — I heard it happen when I was out in my backyard mowing the lawn. Such a strange, loud BOOM!

Then south near the spot where some of the best fall color trees used to reside until they were marked for death with orange spray paint then chopped down — the brightest, most wonderful yellow every year. Under the huge, towering trio of cottonwood trees — the Cottonwood 3. Past the house with the oddly terraced lawn and the big windows, rarely covered with curtains or blinds in the evening so we were able to see, when returning by car in the evening from a baseball game or a clarinet recital, all the way to the back wall where letters hung on a shelf spelling out a word that none of us — not me or Scott, RJP or FWA — could ever decipher.

West, past the house with the wonderful butterfly garden on the boulevard, and the house that used to string bright lights around their giant — higher than the house — fir tree every winter. Was 2022/23 the first year they didn’t? Past the house with the bushes that, the first Christmas we lived in this neighborhood suddenly stopped their exuberant chatter when we walked by and Scott started talking. I noticed that those same bushes, birdless today, were a strange orangey, yellowy green. My guess is that they are dying, but maybe it’s just new growth that is confused by the return of the cold winter weather. Past the house that has one of the best gardens in the neighborhood and where I saw/heard someone giving a backyard cello lesson during the first year of the pandemic.

When we started the walk, the sky was blue and it was bright enough for sunglasses. Within a few blocks the sky was a grayish white. Still, quiet, no one around. Thought some more about color and how I still (mostly) see it, but that it doesn’t mean much anymore. It doesn’t mean nothing, just not much (this line is inspired by a line from the Bishop poem below that I read before my walk and run). Color doesn’t brighten or enhance what I see. Everything is soft and subdued. About halfway through the walk, I stopped to record some of my thoughts, including:

  • orange, which has been the most important color for me practically, doesn’t matter as much anymore
  • orange sounds (inspired by hearing some dead orange leaves rustling in the wind): sizzle, crackle
  • The only color that matters to me now is the silver flash of the bottom of the lifeguard’s boat on the other side of the lake; I use the silver flash for navigating during open swim

run: 3.1 miles
turkey hollow
33 degrees

While walking, I noticed at least 3 people running, which inspired me to go out there myself after I dropped Delia off at home. I felt a little stiff as I ran. My hip again? Otherwise, the run was fine. Ran turkey hollow but didn’t see any turkeys. Ran most of it without headphones. Put in a Taylor Swift playlist for the last mile. Was able to run on the walking path a lot of the time. Noticed more people heading below to the Winchell Trail. Sped up to pass a walker and a dog moving fast. Heard some sharp dog barks, saw some car headlights, their reflections flashing on a window.

(before the run)

This poem popped up on my twitter feed this morning. I was drawn to it because of its description of a walk — it’s a walk poem! Also: her use of color and of the phrase, “nothing much,” and how marvelously sets up the scene in the first stanza.

The End Of March/ Elizabeth Bishop (June 1974)

For John Malcolm Brinnin and Bill Read: Duxbury

It was cold and windy, scarcely the day
to take a walk on that long beach
Everything was withdrawn as far as possible,
indrawn: the tide far out, the ocean shrunken,
seabirds in ones or twos.
The rackety, icy, offshore wind
numbed our faces on one side;
disrupted the formation
of a lone flight of Canada geese;
and blew back the low, inaudible rollers
in upright, steely mist.

The sky was darker than the water
–it was the color of mutton-fat jade.
Along the wet sand, in rubber boots, we followed
a track of big dog-prints (so big
they were more like lion-prints). Then we came on
lengths and lengths, endless, of wet white string,
looping up to the tide-line, down to the water,
over and over. Finally, they did end:
a thick white snarl, man-size, awash,
rising on every wave, a sodden ghost,
falling back, sodden, giving up the ghost…
A kite string?–But no kite.

I wanted to get as far as my proto-dream-house,
my crypto-dream-house, that crooked box
set up on pilings, shingled green,
a sort of artichoke of a house, but greener
(boiled with bicarbonate of soda?),
protected from spring tides by a palisade
of–are they railroad ties?
(Many things about this place are dubious.)
I’d like to retire there and do nothing,
or nothing much, forever, in two bare rooms:
look through binoculars, read boring books,
old, long, long books, and write down useless notes,
talk to myself, and, foggy days,
watch the droplets slipping, heavy with light.
At night, a grog a l’américaine.
I’d blaze it with a kitchen match
and lovely diaphanous blue flame
would waver, doubled in the window.
There must be a stove; there is a chimney,
askew, but braced with wires,
and electricity, possibly
–at least, at the back another wire
limply leashes the whole affair
to something off behind the dunes.
A light to read by–perfect! But–impossible.
And that day the wind was much too cold
even to get that far,
and of course the house was boarded up.

On the way back our faces froze on the other side.
The sun came out for just a minute.
For just a minute, set in their bezels of sand,
the drab, damp, scattered stones
were multi-colored,
and all those high enough threw out long shadows,
individual shadows, then pulled them in again.
They could have been teasing the lion sun,
except that now he was behind them
–a sun who’d walked the beach the last low tide,
making those big, majestic paw-prints,
who perhaps had batted a kite out of the sky to play with.

colors

  • The sky was darker than the water
    –it was the color of mutton-fat jade.
    Mutton-fat jade = white to pale yellow, so it must refer to the color of the water, not the sky.
  • wet, white string
  • my crypto-dream-house, that crooked box
    set up on pilings, shingled green,
    a sort of artichoke of a house, but greener
    (boiled with bicarbonate of soda?)
  • diaphanous blue flame
    would waver, doubled in the window
  • the drab, damp, scattered stones
    were multi-colored

a line I like

I’d like to retire there and do nothing,
or nothing much,

Thinking about the difference between nothing and nothing much. Nothing seems bigger and grander, more dramatic — too dramatic. Is it even possible to do nothing and still be alive? I like nothing much. There’s nothing grand or dramatic about it, yet it still undercuts the idea that we should be Doing Something! all the time. Nothing much is mundane, routine. You’ve done some things but nothing special or worth making a big deal out of.

I like this poem. Even so, the more I read it the darker and heavier it seems. The gross colors (mutton fat jade? boiled artichoke?), the icy wind, everything gone or almost beyond repair. And here’s something else I just realized: according to an essay I read about this poem, it was written after a visit in June. June! (And no random June, but June of 1974, the month and year I was born.)

In June of 1974 Elizabeth Bishop and her partner Alice Methfessel stayed at the Duxbury, Massachusetts beach house belonging to Bishop’s friends John Malcolm  Brinnin and Bill Read. Bishop reported that she initially wrote “The End of March” as a kind of thank-you note to her friends (Biele 55).

“The End of March”: Bishop and Stevens on the Sublime—Union or Relation?

If Duxbury, Massachusetts is anything like the UP (where I was born and visited a lot in the summer until the early 2000s), Bishop could be describing a summer’s day. Icy wind, too cold to walk for long, sunless? Yuck.

In the article I read skimmed, the author puts Bishops’ poem into conversation with Wallace Stevens, specifically his poem, “The Sun this March” but also other poems of his. I kept thinking about it in relation to A. R. Ammons’ “Corsons Inlet”, another walk poem by the sea. It’s long, so here’s just the opening:

I went for a walk over the dunes again this morning
to the sea,
then turned right along
the surf
rounded a naked headland
and returned

along the inlet shore:

it was muggy sunny, the wind from the sea steady and high,
crisp in the running sand,
some breakthroughs of sun
but after a bit

continuous overcast:

the walk liberating, I was released from forms,
from the perpendiculars,
straight lines, blocks, boxes, binds
of thought
into the hues, shadings, rises, flowing bends and blends
of sight:

Both poems have wind and only a little bit of sun. Ammons seems warmer, at least at the beginning with its muggy sun and crisp wind. And both involve not doing much. Here’s how Ammons concludes the poem:

I see narrow orders, limited tightness, but will
not run to that easy victory:
still around the looser, wider forces work:
I will try
to fasten into order enlarging grasps of disorder, widening
scope, but enjoying the freedom that
Scope eludes my grasp, that there is no finality of vision,
that I have perceived nothing completely,
that tomorrow a new walk is a new walk.

Their different perspectives on how a walk, and the world by the sea that they move through, inspire them and their writing is fascinating to me. Bishops is narrow and restraining and finished?, while Ammons is all over the place and almost too free, too formless. And, it’s alive, new, continuously renewed day after day.

I’ve wanted to study A.R. Ammons poetry for a few years now. I think finding the Bishop poem, then being reminded of Ammons, is the nudge I need to make this a mini-project! I’ll end March/begin April with Ammons!

march 24/RUN

3.85 miles
river road, north/south
38 degrees

Ran just after noon today. Sunny and warm. My legs felt a little sore, but the rest of me was loving this spring weather. Right before I went out, I read this poem and gave myself an assignment:

Thaw/ Edward Thomas

Over the land freckled with snow half-thawed
The speculating rooks at their nests cawed
And saw from elm-tops, delicate as flowers of grass,
What we below could not see, Winter pass.

Thaw as the theme for my running today. How many instances of it can I encounter?

10+ Thawed Things

  1. water dripping down the sewer, a fast flurry of drips, sounding like glitter looks
  2. sandy grit on the edge of trail, left behind by the melted snow
  3. also remaining after the snow melted: mulched-up leaves, small, brittle twigs
  4. mud!, part 1: thick and wet and milk chocolate brown, ruts from a vehicle’s tires running through it
  5. mud!, part 2: sloppy, mixed with decomposing leaves, covering the walking path
  6. bare, dark brown dirt at the edge of someone’s yard
  7. water gushing down the ravine
  8. less layers = 1 pair of running tights, 1 running shirt, 1 running vest, no gloves, no buff, no winter cap
  9. a quick flash of an earthy smell
  10. puddles — none of them too deep or covering the entire path
  11. a class — elementary school kids? — near the trestle. It’s warm enough for spring field trips!
  12. the walking path — was able to run on more of it, and less of the bike path, today
  13. a runner in shorts

march 13/SWIMRUN

swim: 1.25 miles
ywca pool

I love to swim. Today felt really good, relaxed. I didn’t even care that my latest vision problem happened again. Walking on the pool deck, staring intently at the lanes, trying to see if the lane I’m looking at is as empty as I think it is. I checked at least 3 times, staring at the water. It seemed empty. Then I put my stuff down and was about to get in when I noticed someone in the lane. Very frustrating and unsettling to look closely, for a long time, and still not see what is right there. But really, it’s not that big of a deal. I didn’t jump in on top of anyone or cause a swimmer to mess up their rhythm. I just need to get used to it and accept that it will continue to happen.

Lots of friends in the water with me today: weird white, almost translucent, bits near the bottom, a balled up bandaid in one lane over, and perhaps the most disturbing, a fuzzy brown ball floating halfway up to the surface, slowly making it’s way to below me. Would I accidentally suck it up? Yuck! Must have gotten distracted because I lost track of it.

Noticed the sloshing sound of water as my hands broke the surface.

Everything was blue underwater. Blue tiles, a blue lower-cased t on the wall, blue-tinted water. Dark blue shadows below, cast by the trees outside the window, making the pool floor look alive.

Lots of breaststroke around me, some backstroke, an occasional freestyle. One woman was using a kick board. I used a pull buoy for a set.

run: 3.1 miles
under ford bridge and back
29 degrees
95% clear path

Ran in the afternoon, which is always harder than running in the morning for me. I feel more tired, heavier. My legs don’t want to move as much. No headphones on the way south, Beyoncé’s Renaissance on the way back north. The sky was mostly blue, with a few clusters of clouds. I felt a shadow cross over me as I started my run. Hello bird! I think I looked at the river, and I think it was open. Heard the drumming of a woodpecker. Admired the wide open view near Folwell and the Rachel Dow memorial bench. Now I remember seeing the river! Right there by that bench — brownish-gray and open. Encountered walkers, dogs, a runner with a stroller.

Down below, in a discussion of a gray line in Schuyler’s poem, I wonder if I could write about silver. I noticed it today, out on the trail. The blazing bright reflection off a car’s hood, the sun shining on wet pavement.

Schuyler, Hymn to Life, Page 4

Begins with Bring no pleasure and ends with As one strokes a cat.

And if you thought March was bad
Consider April, early April, wet snow falling into blue squills
That underneath a beech make an illusory lake, a haze of blue
With depth to it.

I love his illusory lake and the haze of blue with depth to it. Squills = a sea onion, a plant in the lily family with slender, strap-like leaves and blue flowers. Until I looked up squills, I didn’t get that the illusory lake was really a cluster of spring flowers. Maybe that’s because April in Minneapolis creates a different kind of fake lake: the giant puddle!

That is like pain, ordinary household pain,
Like piles, or bumping against a hernia.

First reaction: recognition. I am struggling through an extended bout of unexplained constipation that has resulted in piles. Nothing big or overly painful, ordinary, a part of the daily routine. Unsettling. Annoying. A low-lying worry that the ordinary could become something more.

Second reaction: In his episode for VS, Jericho Brown says this:

in any poem, anytime you write something down, one of the things that I’m always doing is I’m trying to make sure it’s opposite soon gets there. Soon as I write something down, I’m like, well, the opposite needs to be there too. The sound opposite, the sense opposite, the image opposite. How do you get the opposites in the poem? Because you want the poem to be like your life.

Jericho Brown VS The Process of Elimination

I’m thinking about how just as the ordinary includes the comfort of the mundane and routine, it includes the discomfort — the steady aches and pains that are nothing special, just always present, a part of the day.

And in the sitting room people sit
And rest their feet and talk of where they’ve been, motels and Monticello,
Dinner in the Fiji Room.

I love this plain, ordinary image of people in a sitting room doing what you do in a sitting room: sitting. There’s something magical about the sitting and talking and not doing anything grander, resting.

Someone forgets a camera. Each day forgetting:
What is there so striking to remember?

Each day forgetting.

The rain stops. April shines,
A Little

Gray descends.
An illuminous penetration of unbright light that seeps and coats
The ragged lawn and spells out bare spots and winter fallen branches.

Yardwork.

What a wonderful description of gray light! It shines a little, an unbright light that seeps and coats and exposes (spells out) the worn spots and the ordinary work needed to be done every spring. Lately, when I think of gray, I think of the opposite — not how it makes everything look shabby, worn, tired, but that it softens everything, making it mysterious and more gentle, relaxed.

It seems like Schuyler could be writing against one classic image of luminous gray light or, it made me think of this at least: the silver lining. Wondering about the origins of the phrase, I looked it up. John Milton’s poem, Comus:

That he, the Supreme good t’ whom all all things ill
are but as slavish officers of vengeance,
Would send a glistring Guardian if need were
To keep my life and homour unassail’d.
Was I deceiv’d, or did a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night?
I did not err, there does a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night,
And casts a gleam over this tufted Grove.

Thinking about my color poems, and my interest in gray, I wonder how I could write about silver? For me, silver is the color that burns and shines when concentrated on the iced-over river, too bright for my eyes. Silver is also the color of the path when ice is present — it’s a warning sign, a whisper, Watch Out! Slippery.


And now the yardwork is over (it is never over), today’s
Stint anyway. Odd jobs, that stretch ahead, wide and mindless as
Pennsylvania Avenue or the bridge to Arlington, crossed and recrossed

I like wide and mindless, mundane tasks. Well, mostly I do. Tasks that can help me to shift into a different mental space where I wander and day dream. Mowing the lawn, pulling the weeds, doing the dishes.

And there the Lincoln Memorial crumbles. It looks so solid: it won’t
Last. The impermanence of permanence, is that all there is?

I’m reminded of an ED poem with Schuyler’s use of crumbling:

Crumbling is not an instant’s Act (1010)/ EMILY DICKINSON

Crumbling is not an instant’s Act
A fundamental pause
Dilapidation’s processes
Are organized Decays —

‘Tis first a Cobweb on the Soul
A Cuticle of Dust
A Borer in the Axis
An Elemental Rust —

Ruin is formal — Devil’s work
Consecutive and slow —
Fail in an instant, no man did
Slipping — is Crashe’s law —

Crumbling is routine, everyday life. Slow and steady, nothing special, ordinary. Not Ruin.

is that all there is? To look
And see the plane tree.

What an awesome enjambment! Sometimes all we need (or all we have) is that tree outside the window.

For this is spring, this mud and swelling fruit tree buds, furred
On the apple trees. And yet it still might snow: it’s been known

This poem is about D.C.. Here in Minneapolis, it almost always snows — a big storm — in April.

feb 28/RUN

3.2 miles
edmund, south/ edmund, north
36 degrees
75% sloppy puddles

Was planning to run on the trail, but it was a slushy, icy nightmare. Instead I ran on Edmund, which was filled with little lakes. Now my socks are soaked, but that’s okay because it felt like spring out there with the warm sun.

I don’t think I heard any birds. I did hear a guy do a snot rocket (yuck!). And — maybe it was the same guy — someone shuffling and scuffing their feet on the road. Lots of whooshing wheels. Some scraping somewhere. The gush of water rushing down the sewers.

Noticed all the snow piled up at Cooper School. Had to stop there and take a picture of the strange tree that has a utility pole/power line running through the middle of it. Not sure if its strangeness is captured in this photo.

city street with a tree on the left side with a pole growing through it
a strange tree near Cooper School

A good run. My IT band hurts a bit today. Is it time for a few more IT acronyms?

I.T. could mean something/I.T. could mean everything/I.T. could be what Rilke meant when we wrote…

  • I tried
  • Icarus triumphed
  • Isabel theorized
  • implausible trampolines
  • island trombones
  • idiotic television
  • ill-willed tarantulas
  • inflatable tractors
  • ibex traffic
  • icy trails

feb 13/RUN

5.8 miles
franklin loop
39 degrees
25% puddles

More spring-like weather. Above freezing. Sun. The sound of snow melting everywhere, especially under the lake street bridge. I checked and the last time I ran the franklin loop was on December 13th. It’s nice to get this view of the river again.

Felt relaxed. My knees ached a little — not an injury, just grumbling over the month of uneven, icy paths. Speaking of paths, the trail on the east side of the river was rough — ice, deep puddles — between Franklin and the trestle. I had to stop and walk a few times.

10+ Things I Noticed

  1. a V of geese above me. When I first noticed them through my peripheral vision, I thought they were a plane
  2. a white form up in the air. A cloud? No, a plane. It took me a minute to finally see it in my central vision
  3. crossing the Franklin bridge, the river was covered in a steel blue ice
  4. the bridge trail was mostly clear. The part shaded by the railing was not
  5. everywhere the moisture on the path shone so bright that I couldn’t tell if it was only water or slippery ice. (it was mostly water)
  6. crossing under the railroad trestle on the west side, I heard the beep beep beep of the alarm. I wondered if a train was coming. (I never saw or heard one)
  7. heard some bike wheels behind me, then voices calling out Ice! I moved over and stopped to let them pass, then watched as they slowly navigated the ice on their thin wheels
  8. lots of whooshing wheels and noises that sounded like sploosh! as cars drove through the puddles collecting on the edge of the road
  9. a favorite late fall spot: right before the meeker dam, there’s an opening in the trees and a clear, broad view of the river and the other side
  10. the river down below the trestle on the east side looked like an otherwordly wasteland. Brown, riddled with broken up ice
  11. crossing back over the lake street bridge from east to west, the river looked like an ice rink that had been skated on for too long and needed a Zamboni
  12. running down the hill from the bridge to the path, a woman crossing the river road called out, Oh! As I neared her, I stopped and she said, It’s slippery!

When I stopped running to walk up the lake street bridge steps, I could hear and see the water gushing down through the pipe under the bridge. I had to stop and record it.

feb 13, 2023 / gushing water

Here’s my Pastan poem for the day. I found it before I went out for my run. My goal was to try and listen for voices out there by the gorge, and I did, somewhat. The woman who cried out when she almost slipped. 2 women walking on the bridge above, when I was below. The biker calling out Ice! A tree, its dead leaves rustling in the breeze. The soft not quite gushing of the limestone seeping melting snow. The drip drip drip of water off the bridge.

For Miriam, Who Hears Voices/ Linda Pastan

If the voices are there
you can’t ignore them,
whether they come up through the floorboard
on a conduit of music
or in a rattle of words that make sounds
but no sense.

They can be messages from the sky
in the form of rain at the window, or in the cold
silent statements of snow.
Sometimes it’s the dead talking,
and there is comfort in that

like listening to your parents in the next room,
and perhaps it’s the same parents still talking
years after they’ve gone.

If you’re lucky, the vowels
you hear are shaped like sleep–
simple cries from the thicket
of your dreams. You lie in bed.
If the voices are there, you listen.

I am always looking for poems about love (not necessarily “love” poems). This one popped up on my twitter feed this morning. As a bonus, it’s about winter and fits with my theme of layers for next week AND it has wild turkeys in it!

How to Love/ January Gil O’Neil

After stepping into the world again,
there is that question of how to love, 
how to bundle yourself against the frosted morning—
the crunch of icy grass underfoot, the scrape 
of cold wipers along the windshield—
and convert time into distance. 

What song to sing down an empty road
as you begin your morning commute?
And is there enough in you to see, really see, 
the three wild turkeys crossing the street 
with their featherless heads and stilt-like legs
in search of a morning meal? Nothing to do 
but hunker down, wait for them to safely cross. 

As they amble away, you wonder if they want 
to be startled back into this world. Maybe you do, too, 
waiting for all this to give way to love itself, 
to look into the eyes of another and feel something— 
the pleasure of a new lover in the unbroken night, 
your wings folded around him, on the other side 
of this ragged January, as if a long sleep has ended.

As a bonus, this poem also has another thing I’m always trying to find: a reference to the idea of looking into someone’s eyes and really seeing them as (one of) the key metaphors for being fully human. I’m collecting these examples because they bother me. With my failing central vision, I can’t really look into a person’s eyes and see them. Does this mean I can’t be fully human?

feb 11/RUN

5 miles
bottom of franklin hill turn around
35 degrees
5% snow-covered / 40% puddles

Above freezing with a mostly clear path. Lots of puddles. Lots of sun. Several shadows. Right before I started my run the shadow of a big bird passed over me. Later, running on the trail, I saw my shadow running in front of me. The view of the river and the gorge was bright and open and brown. Smelled breakfast at the Longfellow Grill, some pot from one passing car, cigar smoke from another. Felt the grit under my feet. Noticed the curve of a pine tree, with branches only on one side. I thought: a curved spine, the branches vertebrae.

Here’s my Pastan poem for today:

Squint/ Linda Pastan

and that low line
of blue cloud
hovering
over the treetops

could be an ocean–the roar
of the highway
the clamorous waves
breaking.

And that dark shape menacing
your every footstep
could be no more
than your own obedient shadow.

See whatever you want
to see. Even
at the moment of death
forget the door

opening on darkness.
See instead the familiar faces
you thought were lost.

See whatever you want/to see. This makes me think of the video interview I watched with Kelli Russell Agodon yesterday, when she discusses being oriented towards beauty, only seeing the beauty, ignoring the ugliness. The title Squint makes me think of a lecture I saw online about how painters often squint to see how to paint the depth and texture of objects.

It’s interesting to juxtapose this poem and its turn away from the darkness of death with some of the passages below from Pastan’s interviews in which she talks about how she’s always looking for the danger beneath the surface.

some words from Linda Pastan

You open “The Poets” with the line “They are farmers, really.”

That was partly tongue in cheek, partly serious. For me, there are two distinct phases in the writing of a poem—first the inspiration phase, when language and metaphor come mysteriously into my head, then the planting, sowing, farming phase, otherwise known as revision. The first is a kind of gift, as in “gifted”—it can’t be taught. The second is a matter of learning and practicing one’s craft. But it’s also true that I couldn’t resist having poems planted in manure-filled rows and having poets eyeing each other over bushel baskets in the marketplace.

The last two lines of my poem “Vermilion” are “As if revision were / the purest form of love.” And I believe that for a poet it is. Many of my poems go through at least a hundred revisions—I can spend a whole morning putting in a comma and then taking it out and putting it back in. And I think that perhaps I am at my happiest sitting at my desk polishing a poem, trying to make every word the perfect word.

I am indeed interested, you might say obsessed, not with ordinary life per se but with the dangers lurking just beneath its seemingly placid surface, one of those dangers being loss itself. Death, of course, is the ultimate danger, the ultimate loss, and as I move closer to it, I write about it more frequently and perhaps more feelingly. Though I recently came upon some poems I wrote when I was twelve, and they, too, are about death.

The Looming Dark: An Interview with Linda Pastan

a popular story about her:

There’s a popular story about Linda Pastan: she won her first poetry prize as a senior at Radcliffe in the fifties, and the runner-up was one Sylvia Plath. It was an auspicious start for Pastan, even if she had never heard of Plath at the time

a blogger’s explanation of why she likes Pastan:

What do I like about Pastan’s work? Her clarity in brevity, the conciseness of her description that makes each word she uses necessary, her way of writing about what surrounds her with the understanding that surfaces mask tensions and the darker things below; her down-to-earth voice that makes her writing so accessible; the images that stick with you; the intimacy she has with her subjects: relationships, domestic tableau, aging, dying—the things we all struggle with, for, and against.

Poet: Linda Pastan

and Pastan’s description of the dangers always lurking below the surface:

JEFFREY BROWN:We’re sitting here on a beautiful day in a beautiful place, but you feel dangers lurking?

LINDA PASTAN:Always, yes, yes. I feel the cells starting to multiply someplace inside me. I feel when the phone rings, is somebody calling to say something terrible has happened. I’ve just always been very conscious of the fragility of life and relationships.

Linda Pastan: PBS Newshour

feb 8/RUN

3.25 miles
trestle turn around
40 degrees
75% bare, wet, puddled pavement

A late afternoon run on a sunny, warm (warm for February in Minnesota) day! The path was wet, with lots of puddles, some slick spots, and lots of sloppy snow. Twice I had big slips. My one leg flew off to the side and I waved my arms involuntarily, but I didn’t seem to lose momentum and my body never felt the fear of falling — that fear deep in the pit of my stomach that quickly spreads to the top of my head and makes my whole body tense up.

10 Things

  1. the warm sun on my face — it felt like spring
  2. the late afternoon shadows — I can’t remember a specific shadow, maybe shadows of trees over the gorge?
  3. a siren behind me as I ran up from under the lake street bridge. It sounded close and like it was stopping. I think I heard the siren double beep and then stop
  4. some little yippy dogs freaking out down below at the minneapolis rowing club. So frantic! What’s going on down there? I worried for a minute, wondering if I was actually hearing someone screaming, but decided it was definitely some exuberant dogs
  5. Also heard a strange moan or whine coming from the rowing club — not a human moan, but one coming from a machine
  6. so much whooshing of car wheels through deep puddles on the edges of the road
  7. lots of bikes deciding to bike on the mostly dry road instead of the be-puddled path
  8. my shoes and socks were soaked before I reached the first mile. After the run, the white socks were now speckled in brown grit
  9. smelled pot as I ran past a parking lot
  10. heard a few random geese honks closer to the river

I didn’t look at the river or notice the ancient boulders or greet the welcoming oaks. Didn’t hear any birds — wait, I think I heard a crow at the beginning —or music coming from a car radio or a bike or someone’s phone.

This was a great afternoon run. I like running at this time, when the sun is slowly sinking. My only problem: the paths are usually much more crowded. Still, I’d like to try and add in some more of these runs so I can study the sun and the shadows.

Here’s my Linda Pastan poem for today. I don’t think there were any clouds to admire, but I’m posting it anyway!

The Clouds/ Linda Pastan

From a high window
I watch the clouds—

armada
of white sails

blown by the wind
from west to east, as if

auditioning for me,
as if they needed

nothing more
than to be in a poem.

What a delightful little poem! I think this counts as one of Mary Oliver’s little alleluias on the page.

feb 7/RUN

4.45 miles
minnehaha falls and back
31 degrees
100% slick, sloppy mess

Yuck! With warmer temperatures comes puddles, slicker ice, and soaked socks. Most of the trail was covered in little brown lakes. Oh well. The sun was warm on my face, and I felt almost too warm in my layers, so I was happy to get out there and run. Because I was trying out my new bluetooth headphones, and because the path was so challenging, I was distracted. Did I notice at least 10 things? I’ll try:

10 Things I Noticed

  1. running south into the sun, the slick path sparkled
  2. kids yellling at the playground. I think I heard one deep voice — was it a teacher?
  3. there was a very big puddle in the street at 42nd, right by the path. As cars drove through it, I could hear all the water splashing up onto the curb — glad I wasn’t running there!
  4. passed the same group of 3 walkers + 2 dogs in both directions on the narrow bridge
  5. the river was mostly open, with streaks of white ice
  6. a few people at the falls, near the bridge
  7. a man and a dog playing in the snow near the longfellow poem at the falls
  8. unable to avoid it, I ran straight through a deep puddle on my tiptoes
  9. glanced over at the house with the poetry in the window to check if there was a new poem. Too much snow to see the sign with the poem title
  10. the long dark tree branch of the mostly dead tree on the corner stretched across the path and the road. I wondered, as I ran under it, if it would fall on me

As part of my February challenge, I’m reading poems from Linda Pastan. Here’s the one for today:

Practicing/ Linda Pastan

My son is practicing the piano.
He is a man now, not the boy
whose lessons I once sat through,
whose reluctant practicing
I demanded–part of the obligation
I felt to the growth
and composition of a child.

Upstairs my grandchildren are sleeping,
though they complained earlier of the music
which rises like smoke up through the floorboards,
coloring the fabric of their dreams.
On the porch my husband watches the garden fade
into summer twilight, flower by flower;
it must be a little like listening to the fading

diminuendo notes of Mozart.
But here where the dining room table
has been pushed aside to make room
for this second- or third-hand upright,
my son is playing the kind of music
it took him all these years,
and sons of his own, to want to make.

I love the gentle way this poem unfolds, how it reminds me of my son and demanding he practice his clarinet, and its idea that practice accumulates and can take decades to lead to the things we want to do.

The practicing son in this poem reminds me of another poem I posted in the fall, Transubstantiation:

my six-year-old grandson, in the early
August rainy morning, piano-practices
“The Merry Widow Waltz.” Before
I was a widow, that song was
only a practice piece, a funny
opera

jan 25/RUN

5.4 miles
bottom of the franklin hill and back
30 degrees / snowing
100% soft snow-covered

What a wonderful run! Even the soft, slippery snow couldn’t bother me. So difficult to move through, nothing solid or stable. Who cares? I got to run outside by the gorge when it was snowing! A soft, steady snow. A winter wonderland. The sky was a light gray, almost white. The river was a grayish brownish blue. I liked watching the headlights from the cars as they approached. The bright lights cutting through the gray — not gloomy, but monotonous.

At the start of my run, I smelled smoke from someone’s chimney.
I heard the birds chattering.
I felt my feet slipping on the soft, uneven ground.
I saw a walker up ahead on the road, waving their arms in an awkward rhythm.
Did I taste anything — a snowflake, maybe?

No fat tires or cross country skiers. A few sets of runners — or was it the same set seen twice? No honking horns from cars. Although I did hear some geese honking under the trestle. And I also heard the steady rush of cars moving across the 1-94 bridge.

At the end of my run, I heard the irritating screech of a blue jay. I wondered (and hope) that once I passed and the danger was over, I might hear the sharp, tin-whistle sound of a blue jay’s song. Nope.

In the middle of my run, after turning around at the bottom of the franklin hill and then running until I reached the bridge, I stopped to pull out my phone and record some thoughts and sounds:

jan 25 / halfway point

It’s difficult to pick up, but in the middle, when I stop talking and stop walking, you can hear the soft tinkle-tinkle of the snow hitting my jacket. In the moment, standing there, the sound was much louder and so delightful! Hearing it, then looking down at the still river and up at quiet gray sky and the bare branches, was magical.

I found this poem on twitter this morning. I decided to add it to my collection of dirt/dust/earth poems that I started during my monthly challenge last April. I also decided to add it here:

Return to Sender/ Matthew Olzman

To the topsoil and subsoil: returned.
To hums and blistered rock: returned.

To the kingdom of the masked chafer beetle,
the nematode and the root maggot: returned.

To the darkness were a solitary star-nosed mole
arranger her possessions and pulses

through a slow hallway, and to the vastness
where twenty-thousand garden ants compose

a tangled metropolis: returned.
it was summer, and they lowered

a body into the ground. I did not say
they lowered you into the ground.

It seemed like you were elsewhere, but the preacher
insisted: And now, he returns to the One who made him.

Most likely, he meant: God. But I thought
he meant the Earth, that immensity

where everything changes, buzzes, is alive again and —
Amen.

The poetry person who tweeted about this poem especially liked the twenty-thousand garden ants and the italics from the preacher. I like the possessions and pulses, the tangled metropolis, the separation between body and You, and the idea that the maker we return to (and are reborn in) is the Earth.

jan 16/RUN

4.5 miles
river road trail and edmund, north/seabury and river road path, south
35 degrees / steady rain
path conditions: a cold lake

Decided that I would go out for a run even though it was raining. It didn’t seem too slippery, so why not? I don’t regret the run, it was mostly fun and felt good, but the trail was almost completely lake, with a side strip of sheer ice. My shoes and socks were soaked after a mile. At first I didn’t care, but I started worrying (because as I get older, I do that more — sigh) that my toes/feet might go numb or worse. Nothing to do but just keep sludging through it. After I was done, my left ring toe seemed a little numb, but otherwise I was okay.

What a mess out there! The build-up of snow means there’s nowhere for the water to go. Lots of flooding in the streets and on the trail. Will this freeze overnight? I hope not.

In addition to soaking my socks and shoes, the water splashed up on my running tights. A gross grit. Because it was raining, my jacket was wet too.

It might sound like I didn’t like this run. Mostly, I did. My legs felt strong, so did my back. My arm swing was even and synced up with my feet. The rain helped me to not overheat. There was hardly anyone else out there. One other runner, 2 bikes — I noticed that at least one of them was a fat tire. Were there any walkers? I can’t remember.

I noticed the river! Almost completely open. Black, with one or two ice floes.

Anything else? Lots of cars. It was gloomy enough that most of them had their headlights on. Heard some splashing as they drove by, but never felt it.

I don’t remember hearing any birds or seeing any dogs. No skiers or sirens. No big groups of people.

As I’m writing this, I suddenly remembered that as I ran north on Edmund, down a hill, I could tell where the cracks and uneven parts of the pavement were by where the puddles were. Looking at this same road when it’s dry, I don’t think I would have been able to see. The puddles were very good pointer-outers. Look! Watch out! Here’s a bump, there’s a crack!

Wanted to find a puddle poem to add here. It took a while but I found “The Puddle” by Wisława Szymborska. As a kid, I never feared being swallowed up by a puddle. I imagine if I had any fears about puddles, it would have been that Jaws or a pirhana would have leaped out of the puddle to eat me. Okay, I don’t think I was actually afraid of that, but I could have been. Having watched Jaws and Piranha too much as a kid they were always appearing in my anxieties in the strangest ways.

The Puddle/ Wisława Szymborska 

Translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak

I remember well this childhood fear of mine. 
I’d step around puddles,
especially the fresh ones, just after it rained. 
For one of them might be bottomless,
even if it looked like all the rest.

One step and it would swallow me whole,
I would start ascending downward 
and even deeper down,
toward the reflected clouds 
and maybe even farther.

Then the puddle would dry, 
closing over me,
trapping me forever—but where—
and with a scream that cannot reach the surface.

Only later did I come to understand: 
not all misadventures
fit within the rules of nature 
and even if they wanted to, 
they could not happen.



dec 3/RUN

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

Almost the exact same run as on Wednesday, with a few differences: the actual temp was 2 degrees colder, I ran in the afternoon, I wore my regular black running shoes, a gray jacket and mittens instead of yaxtrax, a black vest and an extra pair of gloves, there was less wind and less swirling leaves, and the river is more frozen over.

A good but tiring run. I think it was because I ran in the afternoon, instead of right after breakfast, and I had to work harder on the slippery snow without the yaktrax. Encountered some dogs and their walkers. At least one fat tire. Any other runners? I don’t think so. Hear some kids sledding across the road — wheeeee!

The only part of me that felt cold for most of the run were my feet, like little blocks of concrete. The mittens kept my hands very warm, which is good because my hands tend to stay cold sometimes.

It snowed again last night unexpectedly — to me, at least. I was so surprised that when I opened the door to let Delia out for her final hurrah, I cried out into the dark, What? note: For some reason I started calling Delia’s final time outside for the night the final hurrah, and it stuck, and sometimes is shortened to fh, as in, Dealz, it’s time for your fh! All 4 (RJP, FWA, Scott, me) use this term and Delia understands it. It wasn’t much snow — a dusting, but it feels like the start of a steady accumulation. No grass until March or April.

It’s a little too soon to have to say goodbye to the bare, brown gorge, but I love the snow, especially listening to it crunch underfoot. As I walked home after my run, I marveled at the 2 sounds my feet made — a creaky crunch and a soft shuffle, caused by one foot lifting off and other touching down. The sounds shifted between my feet — was it a constant, steady sound?

To a Wreath of Snow/ Emily Brontë

O transient voyager of heaven! 
   O silent sign of winter skies! 
What adverse wind thy sail has driven 
   To dungeons where a prisoner lies? 

Methinks the hands that shut the sun 
   So sternly from this morning’s brow 
Might still their rebel task have done 
   And checked a thing so frail as thou. 

They would have done it had they known 
   The talisman that dwelt in thee, 
For all the suns that ever shone 
   Have never been so kind to me! 

For many a week, and many a day 
   My heart was weighed with sinking gloom 
When morning rose in mourning grey 
   And faintly lit my prison room 

But angel like, when I awoke, 
   Thy silvery form so soft and fair 
Shining through darkness, sweetly spoke 
   Of cloudy skies and mountains bare; 

The dearest to a mountaineer 
   Who, all life long has loved the snow 
That crowned her native summits drear, 
   Better, than greenest plains below. 

And voiceless, soulless, messenger 
   Thy presence waked a thrilling tone 
That comforts me while thou art here 
   And will sustain when thou art gone 

Emily sure loves winter and snow. I memorized and often recite her poem, Fall, Leaves, Fall and the lines,

I shall smile when wreaths of snow 
Blossom where the rose should grow;

oct 20/RUN

3.1 miles
marshall loop
61 degrees!

Ran with Scott in the late afternoon. Wore shorts and my bright yellow 10 mile race shirt that I’ve been looking for this whole month. Finally found it. Excellent. A nice, relaxed run. Well, mostly relaxed. I was worried about my knees throughout the run because they were complaining a little, but they weren’t sliding so no worries. The thing I remember most about the run is the river. Running across the lake street bridge, heading east, the water was blue and dark and calm, with only very small ripples. Running back, heading west, it looked much rougher, brighter, and the sun was spread across half of it. What a contrast! Same river, different angle, much different view.

Threshold Gods/ Jenny George

I saw a bat in a dream and then later that week
I saw a real bat, crawling on its elbows
across the porch like a goblin.
It was early evening. I want to ask about death.
But first I want to ask about flying.

The swimmers talk quietly, standing waist-deep in the dark lake.
It’s time to come in but they keep talking quietly.
Above them, early bats driving low over the water.
From here the voices are undifferentiated.
The dark is full of purring moths,

Think of it—to navigate by adjustment, by the beauty
of adjustment. All those shifts and echoes.
The bats veer and dive. Their eyes are tiny golden fruits.
They capture the moths in their teeth.

Summer is ending. The orchard is carved with the names of girls.
Wind fingers the leaves softly, like torn clothes.
Remember, desire was the first creature
that flew from the crevice
back when the earth and the sky were pinned together
like two rocks.

Now, I open the screen door and there it is-
a leather change purse
moving across the floorboards.

But in the dream you were large and you opened
the translucent hide of your body
and you folded me
in your long arms. And held me for a while.
As a bat might hold a small, dying bat. As
the lake
holds the night upside down in its mouth.

Found this poem on twitter the other day. I don’t totally understand it, but that’s okay. I might get there after a few more readings of it. I picked it for the threshold, the bats, the swimmers in the lake, and these lines, which fit with my current vision project on adjusting and growing accustomed to new ways of seeing/not seeing:

Think of it—to navigate by adjustment, by the beauty
of adjustment. All those shifts and echoes.
The bats veer and dive. Their eyes are tiny golden fruits.
They capture the moths in their teeth.

Adjustments. Shifts and echoes. Always moving — veering and diving. All of this fits so well with my thoughts on seeing and peripheral vision right now!

oct 10/RUN

6.05 miles
bottom of franklin hill and back
51 degrees

A beautiful morning, a good run. Now, minutes after it, I’m wiped out. Ran down the franklin hill, past annie young meadows, to the top of the south fourth st overlook. Stopped to admire the river: blue, with 2 rowers, one in a bright orange top (shirt? vest? jacket?). Started running again, walked up the franklin hill, then ran again, this time with a Taylor Swift playlist.

For the first few miles, I recited lines from May Swenson’s “October”:

Now and then, a red leaf riding
the slow flow of gray water.
From the bridge, see far into
the woods, now that limbs are bare,
ground thick-littered. See,
along the scarcely gliding stream,
the blanched, diminished, ragged
swamp and woods the sun still
spills into. Stand still, stare
hard into bramble and tangle,
past leaning, broken trunks,
sprawled roots exposed.

As I recited it, I wondered about the repetition of now (now and then; now that limbs are bare) and into (see far into; the sun still spills into). Why does she repeat these words?

10 People I Encountered

  1. Was mornied! by Mr. Morning! I had run past him — only seeing him from behind and not noticing it was him — and he called out. I turned back and called out good morning!
  2. Greeted Dave, the Daily Walker.
  3. Ran past Daddy Long Legs.
  4. a woman walking briskly, wearing a turquoise fleece, talking with
  5. another woman, together they approached me from behind as I walked up the franklin hill. Their voices hovered, growing louder as they neared
  6. a runner dressed in black — first far behind me, then closer, then past me, then far ahead
  7. a person sitting on a bench perched on the rim of the bluff
  8. an older man and woman walking — I think I regularly encounter them? Can’t remember what the woman looks like, but the man is tall, thin, and white with white hair
  9. a roller skier, roller skiing in the flats
  10. a biker blasting music — I couldn’t hear it because I had my headphones in

word of the day: bombinate

I follow Merriam-Webster on twitter. Had to make note of today’s word of the day. “To bombinate is to make a sustained, murmuring sound similar to a buzz or drone.” I strongly dislike anything that bombinates. That low-lying, ever-present rumble that unsettles. I do like saying the word, though.

Taylor Swift’s “Red” came on near the end of my fifth mile. As I listened to the lyrics, I was struck by the chorus:

Losing him was blue, like I’d never known
Missing him was dark gray, all alone
Forgetting him was like trying to know
Somebody you never met
But loving him was red
Oh, red
Burning red

Perhaps this isn’t fair, but I kept thinking about how predictable and unimaginative her color descriptions are. And then I started thinking about synesthesia, which I don’t have, and wondering if people with it see emotions as colors, and what colors they might see. And now, after quickly researching the link between blue and gray and depression, I’m thinking about color psychology and feeling skeptical.

august 7/BIKESWIMBIKERUN

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis and back
68 degrees / steady drizzle
9:10 am / 11:00 am

Cloudy. Then a few minutes into the bike ride, a steady, soft drizzle. Anything memorable on the ride? Not really.

One thing I’m wondering about: often on Sundays — is it just Sundays? — I notice a clapboard sign on the edge of the small stretch of bike path after you cross the road at Dairy Queen and before you cross the road to the falls parking lot. Usually at least one person is standing beside it. What is it? Is it for a church service at the falls? Some other religious thing? Something else? I’ve never stopped to ask or look at it closely. Will I ever? Probably not.

swim: 4 loops
lake nokomis open swim
68 degrees / cloudy, then drizzle
9:45 am

These 4 loops took me about 60 minutes to swim, no stopping. A loop this year is less than it has been in the past. Partly because I’m looping around the far buoys instead of swimming almost to shore. Maybe I should start trying to swim to shore again, to make these loops longer? I’ll try it on Tuesday. I started out breathing every 3, then as I warmed up, every 5. I spent a lot of the first loops trying to not worry too much about an ailing parent. The other thing I had trouble getting out of my head: the line from a Mary Poppins’ song: Anything can happen if you let it. What kind of bad magic is in that line that makes me unable to get it out of my head?

10 Things I Remember

  1. a few planes flying above me
  2. the opaque water below me — looking down at the nothingness between breaths
  3. thinking about the other world being underwater and holding my breath creates
  4. having some difficulty breathing to my left — I might be breathing too soon, tried working on waiting a little longer in my stroke to breathe
  5. the lifeguard kayaks were closer into the buoys, the buoys were farther from my favorite landmark: the silver bottom of an overturned rowboat
  6. the green buoy getting lost (at least for me) amongst the while sailboats
  7. one annoying swimmer who was swimming faster than me but managed to time it so they ended up at the buoys at the same time as me and would route me again and again and again (at least 3 times)
  8. feeling warmed up and on auto-pilot by the end of the 3rd loop
  9. thinking my goggles had fogged up for the 4th lap, then realizing when I stopped that it was raining. I hadn’t felt the rain at all in the water
  10. barely underwater, trying to see the raindrops as they broke through the surface. I couldn’t; the water was too cloudy

Speaking of rain, found this wonderful poem yesterday:

The Rain Stick/ Seamus Heaney

Up-end the stick and what happens next
is a music that you never would have known
to listen for. In a cactus stalk

Downpour, sluice-rush, spillage and backwash
come flowing through. You stand there like a pipe
being played by water, you shake it again lightly

and diminuendo runs through all its scales
like a gutter stopping trickling. And now here comes
a sprinkle of drops out of the freshened leaves,

Then subtle little wets off grass and daisies;
the glitter-drizzle, almost-breaths of air.
up-end the stick again. What happens next

is undiminished for having happened once,
twice, ten, and thousand times before.
who cares if all the music that transpires

is the fall of grit or dry seeds through a cactus?
You are like a rich man entering heaven
through the ear of a raindrop. Listen now again.

I’m sure I’ve heard a rain stick before, but it’s been a long time. These descriptions of the sound of water helped me to remember something from the end of the swim: after exiting the water, walking through the soft drizzle (was it a glitter drizzle?), I heard the rain falling off of the roof of the building. At the edges of the building, just past the overhang the water would collect momentarily then fall louder and harder and bigger than when it came straight from the sky. Out in the open the water was silent, gentle. Near the building, it was hard and loud.

run: 3.1 miles
trestle turn around
75 degrees / dew point: 65
4:30 pm

Decided to run so I could reach my weekly goal of 20 miles. It’s been harder to reach it in the summer, with all the swimming. The first mile was fine. After that, I felt warm. Listened to a playlist because I’m still trying to get Mary Poppins out of my head. Ended with Beyoncé. I don’t remember looking at the river even once while I ran. The sky was a white-ish gray. Rain’s coming back in a few hours.

an image: near the trestle, a black bike hoisted up off the ground, kept in a place by a bike lock attached to the railing. A strange way to lock up a bike! Joined by a bunch of other bikes all along the fence, near the stone steps that lead down to the Winchell Trail. What’s going on down there?

august 6/RUN

4.6 miles
veterans’ home loop
73 degrees
humidity: 91% / dew point: 70
noon

Slept in until 9 this morning! That’s the latest I’ve been asleep in years. Nice. It’s probably because it was dark and rainy this morning. A few thunderstorms too. Finally able to make it outside at noon. A nice, relaxed run.

Evidence of Rain

  1. puddled path
  2. squeaky shoes
  3. gushing ravine
  4. a big green mass of leaves at the edge of the trail, drooping so much I almost had to duck as I ran under it
  5. dripping trees
  6. slick car wheels
  7. mud on the sidewalk — I almost slipped!
  8. wet asphalt
  9. a roaring falls
  10. everything a little greener, richer, fuller

A few other things:

  1. the metallic whistle of a robin (I think?)
  2. a wedding party at the falls
  3. music playing out of a car stereo
  4. a young kid biking next to a running, shirtless adult
  5. running up the stairs two at a time
  6. loud birds below me near the creek as I ran over the bridge to the veterans’ home
  7. a woman on the path, kindly moving over for me as I ran by
  8. wildflowers growing through the slats of a bench near the locks and dam no. 1
  9. a group of bikers meeting up at the falls
  10. kids at the wabun playground, constantly ringing a bell — a ring and a pause then a ring again…ring….ring….ring

Found a wonderful essay on craft via twitter from a local teacher/poet. Here’s a passage about the last 3 lines, then the poem it refers to:

It’s an ecstatic moment. We break horses; we break into song; daffodils break into blossom; the line broke on break; and the whole damn thing just broke me wide open. I read the poem again and again, always focusing on that lovely turn. It seemed the enjambment to end all enjambments, 

Crafty Craftiness of Uncraft/ Michael Bazzett

A Blessing/ James Wright

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.