jan 18/RUN

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

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

10 Things I Noticed

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

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

Before I
was ghost

I was girl,
fiercely

physical,
solid.

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

study the masters/ Lucille Clifton

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

jan 9/BIKERUN

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

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

Some Things I Noticed*

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

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

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

THE MOMENT I SAW A PELICAN DEVOUR/ PAIGE LEWIS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

jan 1/RUN

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

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

Surprisingly, I wasn’t alone out there.

10 Groups of People I Noticed

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

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

Alone in My Home/ Jack White

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

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

dec 26/RUN

4.25 miles
minnehaha falls and back
27 degrees
0% snow-covered

All of the snow — well, all of the snow on the road + trail + sidewalk — melted while I was gone for Christmas. Even though we got back in the afternoon, and I was hungry, I decided I couldn’t not got out and take advantage of bare trails, something that happens so infrequently in the winter. I ran to the falls and tried to notice them as I ran by. I can’t remember hearing them, but I saw the water flowing freely.

Running above, I studied the Winchell Trail below. Between 28th and 42nd, it was covered in ice and empty of walkers. From 42nd to the southern start, there were several groups of people on it. I couldn’t see if it was clear or covered. Near the double-bridge, I heard a kid laughing somewhere nearby.

For Christmas, I got several books: Lydia Davis’ ESSAYS One; Alice Oswald’s Dart; Maggie Smith’s Goldenrod; and Arthur Sze’s The Glass Constellation. I’m trying to not get as many physical books these days because of my declining vision, unless I know I’ll read and refer back to them a lot. I’m very excited about all of these! Here’s a poem from Arthur Sze:

Eye Exam/ Arthur Sze

  E D F C Z P
his eyesight is tethered to shore —

  no sign of zebras
but spotted towhees repair their nest;

  before the ditch is cleared,
plum trees are blossoming along a riparian bank —

  he pauses at the gaps between letters,
notices how his mind has an urge to wander,

how it resists being tethered to question and quick reply —  
yellow daffodils are rising in the yard;

    behind his eyelids,
a surge of aquamarine water is breaking to shore:

  they are stretching,
they are contorting into bliss —

  and as the opthamologist
rotates lenses, “Is it clearer with 1 or 2?”

he sees how this moment is lens, mirror, spring,    
and how, “1,”

D E F P O T E C
sharpens his vision to this O, the earth

I have thought of writing a poem about this “better with 1 or 2” exam. So many questions, so hard to determine which is better, which is worse. For now, glasses still help a little with my non-cone dystrophy problem: near-sightedness. But standard eye exams seem almost pointless for me. I can read small things when I’m given as much time as I need. If I have to read it quickly, I can’t. Which lens, 1 or 2, makes my ability to focus fast better?

I want to spend some more time with this poem to reflect on its meaning. Are the zebras and towhees referencing letters in a way that I’m missing? This idea of sharpened vision tethering one to earth makes me think of how untethered I often feel out in the world, with everything unfocused, fuzzy, soft. Are there other ways to be tethered that don’t require clear vision? Yes, but they aren’t often recognized, represented. Are they in this poem?


nov 29/RUN

4 miles
river road, north/south
50! degrees

Wow! Warm this afternoon. Ran at 3, about an hour and a half before sunset. The light was very cool. I might want to run again at this time. The best part: running above the gorge, over the river and the Winchell Trail, I was positioned just right so that I cast a shadow onto the water far below. Today my shadow got to swim. At least one of us could. Encountered some high schoolers running with sticks or ski poles or something. I couldn’t tell what they were. After I was done, I took off my visor, forgetting that I also had my bright pink headband on. A few minutes later I remembered and noticed it was gone. I retraced my steps and amazingly, was able to find it in the grass. I can’t believe I realized I had lost it, and I can’t believe I could see it in the grass.

Here’s something I read earlier today, which I love:

from Among the Trees/ Carl Phillips

SOME TREES ARE compasses, and some are flags. If a flag tells you where you are, a compass can potentially tell you how to get there or how to find someplace else. A flag, in marking a spot, seems more definitive, a form of punctuation; a compass implies movement, navigation. I know a man who, whenever he needs to write, or cry, or think—really think—goes to a willow in his local park and hides beneath its draped branches. He goes there so often, you could almost say he’s become part of the willow; he seems a willow himself; he marks a place in my life where I stopped to rest, once, but I couldn’t stay. Then there’s another man, long ago now. His body a forest when seen from the air in a small plane, so that it’s possible to get close enough to see where the oaks give way to poplar trees, or where, if you follow the pines far enough, they’ll open out to a field across which you can see the ocean. I couldn’t have found my way here without him.

I love the idea of trees as flags and compasses, and I love his description of the man who retreats to the willow. One of my favorite poems by Phillips features a willow, “And Swept All Visible Signs Away.” In it, could Phillips be referencing the willow man?

Here’s something else I read yesterday on twitter. I want to think some more about the differences between an eruption and a scattering:

when most people say their mind has been blown I think they mean like a volcano erupting but when I say it I mean my brain is a plucked dandelion someone’s scattered with their breath

@toddedilliard

oct 30/RUNHIKE

run: 3 miles
hike: 2 miles
franklin loop + extra trails
56 degrees

Scott and I decided to run part of the franklin loop, and hike the rest of it on a few of the extra trails near it. We started by running north on the river road trail, crossing the lake street bridge, then continuing north on the st. paul side. We stopped to walk when we reached the steep road that descends to the paved trail that winds through the flats right beside the east shore of the river. When we reached franklin, we climbed the steps — so many steps! — and crossed the bridge. We stopped to read the plaque for the Winchell Trail then searched for the northern start of the Winchell Trail. We hiked the trail, even the part that extends below the railroad trestle — a first for me — all the way to lake street and the Minneapolis Rowing Club. Very cool!

We talked about all of the vision stuff I’ve been skimming for the past 2 days and the differences between peripheral and central vision. There Plant Eyes (Godin) + Brainscapes (Schwarzlose) + Downcast Eyes (Jay Martin) + The Mind’s Eye (Sacks). And we talked about what Scott has been reading on extroverts and introverts (Quiet, Cain). We talked about the relationship between the senses (like touch and sight), how we navigate using senses other than sight, and “Batman” and echolocation.

10+ Things I Noticed

  1. A downy woodpecker. Heard it’s tap tap tapping first. I wondered if it was a squirrel pounding on a nut, then I saw it at the top of a dead tree. The tapping was rhythmic and persistent, reminding me of morse code or an old-fashioned typewriter
  2. Loud thumping and knocking and slapping — steady and rhythmic — oars from a 8 person rowing shell*
  3. Paths, dirt and asphalt, covered in yellow leaves
  4. Cheering coming from a football game at St. Thomas
  5. The coxswain instructing the rowers
  6. A man and a woman walking in the east river flats. Overhead the man say, “We are experiencing a drought” or something like that
  7. Scooters passing us on the trail, calling out, “on your left”
  8. Dead leaves floating on the surface of the river. From high above on the Franklin bridge, they made a strange mottling pattern on the water
  9. Smell: strong sewer gas coming out of a cluster of vents near the rowing club
  10. Many limestone ledges, exposed. At one of these ledges, the drip drip dripping of water, slowly seeping down
  11. Countless trails leading down to the river, created by seeping/draining water
  12. The white sands beach, just off the winchell trail and far below the paved trail above, is steep and broad and has trash and recycling cans
  13. From the shore at white sands beach: seeing the remains of the long-defunct meeker dam, which you can only see when the water is low

*Although I have written many times over the years about hearing the rowers below on the river, I have NEVER heard the sound of their oars slapping the water or the boat until today. What I was hearing before were their voices. It is very cool to hear the loud, awkward, unromantic, almost clumsy sound they make.

one more thing, added on 31 oct: I just remembered a moment during the hike/run that I don’t want to forget. Walking through the part of Winchell Trail that is wider, between the white sands beach and the minneapolis rowing club, I mentioned to Scott how, when I was a kid growing up in north carolina and virginia, I loved exploring the woods and semi-wilderness that existed at the edges of the many sub-divisions I lived in. I liked walking on trails that had already been made, not wandering through the thick woods, making my own path. I think I said something like, “I wanted to go where someone had already been.” Not sure if that quite captures the appeal of the already traveled path? Whenever I see a break in the trees, and a dirt trail winding somewhere, I long to take it. Or, if I don’t want to take it, I at least enjoy thinking about where it might lead. The path, created by countless feet tamping down the earth, or water descending to the river, is an invitation to imagine other worlds. Maybe also, I like it because it’s evidence that I am not alone, that others have been where I am, wanting to go deeper. To follow the trail they’ve made through their haunting (frequenting), is to connect and contribute to the reinforcing of that invitation. Will this make sense to future Sara? Does it make sense to present Sara? Almost.

sept 27/RUN

2 miles
river road, north/south
74 degrees

A quick run in the afternoon after dropping my wonderful sister off at the airport. Felt like summer — too hot! I struggled in the heat. Ran the first mile without headphones, then turned on a playlist for the second mile. I don’t remember much from the run. Lots of people on the trail.

august 29/RUN

1.65 miles
neighborhood
80 degrees

Back from Austin. Even though it was warm and mid-afternoon, I decided to do a quick run through the neighborhood. Listened to a playlist and ran to and around cooper school, then by Minneahaha Academy, up Edmund and back home. I can’t remember if I say any other runners. Saw lots of cars on the river road and some walkers and bikers.

Encountered this excerpt from Natalie Diaz’s Postcolonial Love Story. I had no idea the collection was about water-as-river/river-as-water. Wow! Very cool. I must read the entire collection now.

The First Water Is the Body/ Natalie Diaz

The Colorado River is the most endangered river in the United States— also, it is a part of my body.

I carry a river. It is who I am: ‘Aha Makav. This is not metaphor.

When a Mojave says, Inyech ‘Aha Makavch ithuum, we are saying our name. We are telling a story of our existence. The river runs through the middle of my body.

So far, I have said the word river in every stanza. I don’t want to waste water. I must preserve the river in my body.

In future stanzas, I will try to be more conservative.

august 1/RUN

2.25 miles
neighborhood
77 degrees

No open swim again today due to the smoke from Canadian forest fires. No swim tomorrow either. What a bummer. Took a long walk down by the river with STA and Delia this morning, and then a run this afternoon. The air quality is already much better. Hopefully the smoke will stay gone. Could there be any chance that they reconsider open swim tomorrow? Maybe but probably not.

Running on the dirt between Edmund and the river road, I twisted my foot/ankle on a root. I’m pretty sure it’s fine. I hope it’s fine. Yes, it will be fine. Writing this a few hours later: it seems fine. Whew.

Today is the first day of August and have I decided that this month’s theme is love. Not so much romantic love, but a wide range of definitions of what it could mean to love in this time of seemingly intractable divisions and impending, ever nearing collapse. I have decided that this topic is much needed. I am tired of letting hate or fear or dismissal or disgust at how terrible some people seem to be dictate how I see and experience the world. I want to give as little energy to those negative, draining feelings as possible. I want to let love win and I’m interested in exploring the wide range of ways poets express it. This topic is partly inspired by Ed Bok Lee’s poem “Water in Love” and a possible title I have for a poem or a collection: How to Love Like the Lake Loves

the lesson of the falling leaves/ lucille clifton

the leaves believe
such letting go is love
such love is faith
such faith is grace
such grace is god
i agree with the leaves

july 12/RUN

5k
downtown loop
82 degrees

Ran downtown with STA during FWA’s clarinet lesson. Only 3 more and he’s done. He’s been taking them since 5th grade. 8 years. Wow.

Hot and bright sun, but we ran slow and steady so it was fine. Running over the Plymouth Ave bridge, saw a boat below. 1/2 mile later, saw the same boat just ahead. Anything else? Running on Nicollet Island, right in front of The Nicollet Island Inn, smelled something foul, like horse poop. Do they have carriage rides again at the Inn? Encountered lots of lyft scooters, some bikers, runners, walkers. A nice, easy, sweaty run.

may 9/RUN

2.1 miles
river road trail, south/42nd st, west/44th ave, north
63 degrees

A short run in the afternoon with STA. Lots of bikes, not too many runners or walkers. Talked about being useless and doing useless things as forms of resistance to capitalism (me) and as clever instagram descriptions (STA). Also, I complained about Mother’s Day and how much I dislike “special days” like it or birthdays–partly because my mom is dead, partly because they create unrealistic expectations about what it means to celebrate and be celebrated.

Here’s one of the first poems I read from J. Drew Lanham’s Sparrow Envy last week:

Octoroon Warbler/ J. Drew Lanham

As a taxonomic committee of one,
I alone have decided
that the past transgressions of long ago dead and rotted
bird watchers must be amended.
That it is my sole responsibility—and pleasure—
to right the wrongs
of racist slave-holding artist ornithologists.
of genocidal complicit naturalists.
of grave-robbing skull-fondling phrenologists.
of the lot of white-supremacist men with the
self-serving penchant
for naming things after themselves.
I hereby declare my solo vote singularly unanimous.
Everything I decide here and now—
passes.
So shall it be written. Let it be done.
Word is bond.
My opinions good as any other treaty
signed in the shifting sand of time.
I do hereby exchange, alter or replace
the names of the birds that follow.
Their former identities by patriarchal rule to be expunged.
That they should have new identities
by my demand.
Bachman’s sparrow, denizen of long-leaf pine savannah;
of wiregrass, of fire-kissed sandy ground
shall be once again be
“pine woods.”
A true great again recovery worthy of celebration!
And whilst I’m releasing species from bondage,
consider the likely forever gone warbler
of the same Charleston preacher’s
human-chattel-possessing label,
can we not do better?
Yes.
“Swamp Cane warbler,”
appropriately by design of damp dank place
it so chose when still in existence, escaping notice.
I would have suggested “Tubman’s warbler,”
but then why make it any easier to erase blackness
when extinction has already done the job?
LeConte’s Sparrow will hence forward be
“orange-faced.”
The brown-backed secretive skulker
of wet weedy rank with tangled overgrown fields,
hider in thickety traces, deserves better fate than linkage
to a Confederate armorer working
to put in place a permanent apartheid nation.
Townsend’s Solitaire,
thrush-esque thing of western slope migration
is now “Up-and-Down Solitaire.”
Mobile altitudinal propensity
taken into full account.
The lemon yellow-headed black and white
western jewel of a warbler
tagged by that same Indian grave-robbing man,
shall now be a “Doug Fir” specifically,
knowing for its tied to evergreen boughs.
No disarticulated Native heads required.
To correct an oversight
of Manifest Destiny,
(and opening the western door to indigenous genocide
not accepted),
behold Clarke’s Nutcracker,
the capacious resourceful intelligent corvid,
given title by the fire-haired Captain of the Corps!
Henceforth shall be York’s Crow.
Designated the first bird so named for a man of color
About damn time the brother got credit
for saving the Corps of Discovery’s always imperiled bacon.
Even as property his contributions went largely
without merit.
To even the score a bit more
redact the other leader Lewis
from the northern Rockies woodpecker.
He of Trail of Tears Cherokee removal infamy.
Christen the gorgeous picid Sacagawea’s Woodpeecker
instead.
As for John James Audobon,
“JJ,” if I might?
He of the posed painted birds,
of ego larger than life to go along
with his Baby Elephant folio.

What does a slave-owning,
man-passing for white might deserve?
What might the demigod of birdome merit
after all these years?
Let his name now be struck.
For malfeasance to humanity.
For being prickish and a generally abhorrent man,
Audubon’s orioles shall be Rio Grande.
The sea-going petrel with the artist’s moniker shall now be
“Warm-Sea Wanderer.”
An identity worthy of its tropic-trotting status.
And last but not least, for review
the yellow-rumped warbler of occidental “race,”
occurring beyond the Mississippi to points beyond that.
Since Johnny couldn’t bear the very thought
of interracial miscegenation,
let’s call the butter-butted bird what it is
in hindsight of his own mixed-raced denial.
The Octoroon Warbler.
Thus, I proclaim on this very day,
whenever this ruling shall be read on whatever future date,
that we remember the identity of the birds for what they are,
and never forget the signs of past imperfections too,
to not repeat the hubris of taking good for granted.
But letting creatures have their own names.
No interference from haters required.

An important history of naming that I didn’t know. I looked up Townsend and his warbler and found an article about his grave-robbing: Stealing from the Dead: Scientists, Settlers, and Indian Burial Sites in 19th Century Oregon Also found this: Townsend, John Kirk | Bird Names for Birds. And, found this more general article: A Bird Named for a Confederate General Sparks Calls for Change

april 21/RUN

2.5 miles
neighborhood
41 degrees

Guilty! Guilty! Guilty. All 3 counts. Thank god. I cried when I heard the judge, from both grief and relief.

Ran through the neighborhood with STA in the afternoon. Cold and windy. I don’t remember much, except for STA’s description of the video project he’s working on. Anything else? A for sale sign at the house on the next block, a cracked sidewalk, a few dogs, a kid outside the daycare at the church on 43rd and 32nd, the warm sun, the brisk wind, a fat tire hauling ass on Edmund, a truck stopped at the stop sign unwilling to move until we passed even though we were still far from the intersection.

Reading an article about Mary Oliver last week, I was struck by this passage:

…it’s tempting to be blinded by the more immediately visible parts of speech: the monolithic nouns, the dynamic verbs, the charismatic adjectives. Mousier ones—pronouns, prepositions, particles—go ignored. In “Cold Poem,” for instance, from her 1983 collection American Primitive, overlooking the “we”s and the “our”s, of which there are many, is almost irresistible. One is tempted instead to luxuriate in the broader strokes and be seduced by the wholesome imagery: “I think of summer with its luminous fruit, / blossoms rounding to berries, leaves, / handfuls of grain.” There’s a mental manipulation to Oliver’s rhapsody, a mesmeric quality, as though by conjuring these organic elements, she leaves her readers vulnerable to hypnotic suggestion. Do you feel relaxed? Are you ready for nature? But you miss a lot by allowing the large language to overshadow the more muted connective tissue.

Mary Oliver and the Nature-esque/Alice Gregory

Mary’s Mousier Words: A Few Favorites

Meanwhile (adverb): at the same time

from “Wild Geese”

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain…
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air…

Meanwhile is a cousin to my favorite word, besides. Maybe more so than besides, it suggests that there are other lives/worlds/events happening too, that it is not just about you.

Anyway (adverb): as an additional consideration or thought

from “Flare”

Anyway,
there was no barn.
No child in the barn.

from “Don’t Hesitate” in Swan

It could be anything, 
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the 
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

Anyway leaves room for other ideas, maybe even encourages you to get over whatever idea you’re fixated on.

Everyday (adjective): ordinary
note: not the same as every day, which means each day and evokes routine, repeated practice

from “Work”

Everyday—a little conversation with God, or his envoy
Everyday—I study the difference between water and stone.
Everyday—I stare at the world

Everyday—I have work to do:

It took me some time to realize that MO meant everyday, as in ordinary time (which she discusses in Upstream), and not every day as in habit, repeated practice. The distinction seems subtle, but rhetorically more powerful to start each line with Everyday instead of Every day. And, everyday suggests a more distant connection with specific time. It isn’t that you do these things each day on repeat, but that you do them when in the realm of the ordinary–does that make sense?

But, actually, I like to read her use of everyday/every day as both at the same time, or as both being possible meanings: the ordinary world (which is inside the clock, is ordered time, and is disciplined and useful), and the creative work she does every day that is both ordinary and extraordinary–the work of paying attention, being astonished, and telling others about it.

As I’ve been reading MO’s poems, I’ve been sensing this tension over what “work” means and the relationship between her work (poems), the world, and Eternity. I feel like the double-meaning/ambiguity of everyday/every day might be speaking to this tension—maybe it’s not intended to be resolved but to puzzled over and that’s part of the work? Or, maybe the ambiguity of it is about our circling around it, always looping through everyday and every day?

Here’s an example of MO expressing the tension between her work, the poem, and the world:

From The Book of TIme

1.
I rose this morning early as usual, and went to my desk.
But it’s spring,

and the thrush is in the woods,
somewhere in the twirled branches, and he is singing.

And so, now, I am standing by the open door.
And now I am stepping down onto the grass.

I am touching a few leaves.
I am noticing the way the yellow butterflies
move together, in a twinkling cloud, over the field.

And I am thinking: maybe just looking and listening
is the real work.

Maybe the world, without us,
is the real poem.

april 16/RUN

2.8 miles
river road trail, south/turkey hollow/Winchell Trail, north
58 degrees

Ran with STA in the afternoon. Sunny and warm! We were able to run on both the upper and lower trails. Not too crowded. I remember the river looking pale blue–such a pretty complement to the light green limbs below us. Encountered a few annoying bikers and a roller skier who refused to move over. Boo–normally, I love roller skiers. I can tell that it is going to take some time for me to love the world again–especially the people in it who don’t seem to care about the amount of space they take up or about the effects of their actions on others. But, I believe I can get there. Maybe Mary Oliver can help?

Speaking of MO, here are some useful words for enabling me to think and reflect on what work is for her:

Everything/ Mary Oliver from New and Selected Poems, Vol 2

I want to make poems that say right out, plainly,
what I mean, that don’t go looking for the
laces of elaboration, puffed sleeves. I want to
keep close and use often words like
heavy, heart, joy, soon, and to cherish
the question mark and her bold sister
the dash. I want to write with quiet hands. I
want to write while crossing the fields that are
fresh with daisies and everlasting and the
ordinary grass. I want to make poems while thinking of
the bread of heaven and the
cup of astonishment; let them be
songs in which nothing is neglected,
not a hope, not a promise. I want to make poems
that look into the earth and the heavens
and see the unseeable. I want to honor
both the heart of faith, and the light of the world;
the gladness that says, without any words, everything

from Mysteries, Four of the Simple Ones

And what else can we do when the mysteries peresent themselves
but hope to pluck from the basket the brisk words
that will applaud them

What I Have Learned So Far

Meditation is old and honorable, so why sould I not sit, every
morning of my life, on the hillside, looking into the shining
world? Because, properly attended to, delight, as well as havoc, is
suggestion. Can one be passionate about the just, the ideal, the
sublime, and the holy and yet commit to no labor in its cause? I
don’t think so.
All summations have a beginning, all effect has a story, all kind-
ness begins with the sown seed. Thought buds toward radiance.
The gospel of light is the crossroads of–indolence, or action.
Be ignited, or be gone.

from Sometimes/ Red Bird

Instructions for living a life:
Pay Attention.
Be Astonished.
Tell About It.

from “Work” in The Leaf and the Cloud

3.

Would it be better to sit in silence?
To think everything, to feel everything, to say nothing?
This is the way of the orange gourd.
This is the habit of the rock in the river, over which
the water pours all night and all day.
But the nature of man is not the nature of silence.
Words are the thunders of the mind.
Words are the refinement of the flesh.
Words are the responses to the thousand curvaceous moments—
we just manage it—
sweet and electric, words flow from the brain
and out the gate of the mouth.

We make books of them, out of hesitations and grammar.
We are slow, and choosy.
This is the world.

7.

So I will write my poem, but I will leave room for the world.
I will write my poem tenderly and simply, but
I will leave room for the wind combing the grass,
for the feather falling out of the grouse’s fan-tail,
and fluttering down, like a song.

april 14/RUN

3.5 miles
trestle turn-around!
43 degrees

Woke up this morning to a dusting of snow on the deck. It melted in a few hours. Worked on Mary Oliver in the morning, then ran in the early afternoon. Started in the neighborhood then decided to keep going north on the trail all the way to the trestle. Hooray! Ran right above the river and the rowing club. What a view! No snow, hardly any other people, only a little wind. Lots of drumming woodpeckers and cardinals and a few black-capped chickadees. This spring, I need to add another bird sound to my collection. Felt relaxed and strong until the last mile when I still felt strong but also sore in my back and heavy in my legs. Can’t remember what I was thinking about. All thoughts gone, soundless words scattered over the tops of the trees. Scheduled second pfizer shot for April 30th. Almost there! Later today, I’ll sign up for open swim. This year, you can swim at Nokomis and Cedar. Awesome.

My Morning’s Work

Started by reading Dreamwork which is one of MO’s more painful (and personal?) books in which she addresses her childhood with an abusive father. The first poem is “Dogfish.” Intense. When I looked for it online, one of the first results that came up was Mary Oliver reading for a celebration of Emily Dickinson posted on the Dickinson Electronic Archive. Here’s the description of the event:

A marvelous centennial tribute in South Orange, New Jersey thate featured contemporary women poets reading hour after hour, from morning until night “to commemorate the centenary of the death of Emily Dickinson,” which occurred on May 15, 1886. Adrienne RichRuth Stone, Amy Clampitt, Katha Pollitt, Sharon Olds, Marilyn Hacker, Carolyn Kizer, Toi Derricotte, Maxine Kumin, Mary Oliver, Joyce Carol OatesSandra GilbertAlicia OstrikerGwendolyn Brooks, Denise Levertov were all there– “Poetry-in-the-Round” it was called, an apt descriptor not only because of the shape of the theater in which the readings took place, but because of the taking turns, the offerings making their way around a range of our contemporary poets who have at least two things in common with Emily Dickinson–they are each and all women, and poets. 

Dickinson Electronic Archives

For her part, MO read several of ED’s poems, then several of her own. The site has a transcript and a recording, with music strangely playing in the background?

ED poems read by MO:

  • What is Paradise
  • There came a mind like a Bugle
  • Under the light, yet under
  • Because I could not stop for Death

MO poems read by MO:

  • Morning Poem
  • Blossom
  • Dogfish
  • Acid
  • Stanley Kunitz
  • Blackwater Words
  • Humpbacks

Very cool to have found this, partly for the MO and ED connection, but also for the other poets. I might want to read Maxine Kumin in May or June–I love her swimming poems. Anyway, back to Dogfish. I’ve never heard of dogfish, so I looked them up. They’re little sharks that don’t eat humans but travel in big packs and are aggressive and relentless in hunting their prey–squid, herring, sea cucumber, shrimp, jellyfish. They are also known as spiny dogfish because they have a sharp spine: “Using sharp, venomous spines in the front of each dorsal fin, the spiny dogfish is a small but mighty predator that isn’t afraid to take a jab at passing fish.”

Dogfish/ Mary Oliver (from Dreams)

Some kind of relaxed and beautiful thing
kept flickering in with the tide
and looking around.
Black as a fisherman’s boot,
with a white belly.

If you asked for a picture I would have to draw a smile
under the perfectly round eyes and above the chin,
which was rough
as a thousand sharpened nails.

And you know
what a smile means,
don’t you?

*

I wanted
the past to go away, I wanted
to leave it, like another country; I wanted
my life to close and open
like a hinge, like a wing, like the part of a song where it falls
down over the rocks: an explosion, a discovery; I wanted
to hurry into the work of my life; I wanted to know,
whoever I was, I was

alive
for a little while.

*

It was evening, and no longer summer.
Three small fish, I don’t know what they were
huddled in the highest ripples
as it came swimming in again, effortless, the whole body
one gesture, one black sleeve
that could fit easily around
the bodies of three small fish.

*

Also I wanted
to be able to love. And we all know
how that one goes,
don’t we?

Slowly

*

the dogfish tore open the soft basins of water.

*

You don’t want to hear the story
of my life, and anyway
I don’t want to tell it, I want to listen

to the enormous waterfalls of the sun.
And anyway it’s the same old story-
a few people just trying,
one way or another,
to survive.

Mostly, I want to be kind.
And nobody, of course, is kind,
or mean,
for a simple reason.

And nobody gets out of it, having to
swim through the fires to stay in
this world.

*

And look! look! look! I think those little fish
better wake up and dash themselves away
from the hopeless future that is bulging toward them

*

And probably,
if they don’t waste time
looking for an easier world,

they can do it.

Wow. Favorite bit of this poem for today:

I wanted
my life to close, and open
like a hinge, like a wing, like the part of the song
where it falls
down over the rocks: an explosion, a discovery

I’m thinking of door hinges and poems as opening a thousand doors and the wings of the seven white butterflies and “how they bang the pages/or their wings as they fly/to the fields of mustard and yellow/and orange and plain/gold all eternity” (Seven White Butterflies/ from West Wind). And I’m thinking of the explosion, the discovery, as a flare, a burst of light, of intense emotion, which is the name of the first section of MO’s book-length poem, The Leaf and the Cloud. Last week, I decided that doing a close, sustained reading of this book would be part of my April with Mary (Oliver) exercise. But, before getting to that, here’s how my thoughts about Mary progressed as I read through “Dogfish” and then some of the other poems in Dreamwork:

A few poems later is Trilliums. I think it’s interesting to put these together, connecting them through the idea of an easy life, which is referenced and rejected in both poems–actually in Dogfish, Trilliums, and the one I just mentioned, Seven White Butterflies, which ends with the question: “who/would have thought it could be so easy?”

Trilliums

Every spring
among
the ambiguities
of childhood
the hillsides grew white
with the wild trilliums.
I believed in the world,
Oh, I wanted
to be easy
in the peopled kingdoms,
to take my place there,
but there was none
that I could find
shaped like me.
So I entered
through the tender buds,
I crossed the cold creek,
my backbone
and my thin white shoulders
unfolding and stretching.
From the time of snow-melt,
when the creek roared
and the mud slid
and the seeds cracked,
I listened to the earth-talk,
the root-wrangle,
the arguments of energy,
the dreams lying
just under the surface,
then rising,
becoming
at the last moment
flaring and luminous —
the patient parable
of every spring and hillside
year after difficult year.

Trilliums, along with Dogfish, really got me thinking about “Flare” in The Leaf and the Cloud, which I had already read through at least twice, and then I felt a bit overwhelmed, then stuck, about what to post (or what not to post because I wanted to add more and more of MO’s lines) for this entry. Having listened to an On Being Podcast with Mary Oliver and read Upstream, I knew about MO’s hard childhood. I wondered how much of this dogfish was her dad, and did she imagine herself as one of the three unnamed fish? So I read through “Flare” again and was blown away, both by how she writes about her parents, and by how it connects so much with “Dogfish” and “Trilliums.” So I decided to stop trying to add it all into this entry and to make notes in the margins of the book and to not worry about saying smart, complete things in this post. So, I did. And, I enjoyed writing in the margins of my book, something I did a lot of in grad school. And, I had lots of thoughts about lightness and darkness and flares and fathers and the color green and hinges as not just connected to doors but to edges and seams. And, I could keep writing about this for a long time, but I’ll conclude this post with 2 thoughts.

thought one: the real work is saving ourselves

Mary Oliver writes a lot, in her essays and poems, about the work she is meant to do, or that she wants to do. She often describes this work as the work of noticing. Could this work also be the work of saving the I in the poem–which she often identifies as herself but also suggests that it could be any readers who recognizes themselves in the poem? In her interview with Krista Tippet, MO says:

Many of the poems are “I did this. I did this. I saw this.” I wanted the “I” to be the possible reader, rather than about myself. It was about an experience that happened to be mine but could well have been anybody else’s. That was my feeling about the “I.”

And in one of her poems that I posted a few days ago, I Want to Write Something So Simple, she writes:

that it was all the while
yourself arranging the words, 
that it was all the time
words that you yourself,
out of your own heart
had been saying.

In discussing her own work as a poet, Ada Limón says that she writes her poems to save herself.

I believe that poetry can heal us and help us. But, I mean, if I’m very honest, I think they can only do that for the poet. (LAUGHS) And then they may, if we’re lucky, help someone else or move someone else or inspire someone else or get them out of a rut. But I think it begins with like, I write my own poems to save myself. You know, then if, in, you know, some series, lucky series of events, a poem becomes larger than me and reaches someone else, that’s, that’s beautiful. But I don’t always know that that’s gonna happen, right? I have to start by how is this poem recommitting me to the world?

Ada Limón VS. Epiphany

In the Krista Tippet interview, Mary Oliver says about leaving her childhood home, “I saved my own life by finding a place that was not in that house.” So, could the work of writing, of creating worlds through words, be how she does it? What if that, and not the act of noticing for noticing’s sake, is the primary work? Or, maybe the work is both.

thought two: the nourishing dark

The final 2 lines of “Flare” are:

This is the dark bread of the poem.
This is the dark and nourishing bread of the poem.

Thinking about the dark as nourishing, I’m reminded of ED and the value of the Dark in, “We grow accustomed to the Dark”:

 That unknown mental and spiritual domain is a “larger – Darkness.” That is where our great poets and philosophical explorers venture while the rest of us pursue our hobbies or just relax. Dickinson spends time in this darkness and most of her most evocative, ambiguous, and challenging poetry comes from there.

the Prowling Bee

And then, MO’s discussion of the edge in Upstream:

No one yet has made a list of places where the extraordinary may happen and where it may not. Still, there are indications. Among crowds, in drawing rooms, among easements and comforts and pleasures, it is seldom seen. It likes the out-of-doors. It likes the concentrating mind, It likes solitude. It is more likely to stick to the risk-taker than the ticket-taker. It isn’t that it would disparage comforts. or the set routines of the world, but that its concern is directed to another place. Its concern is the edge, and the making of a form out of the formlessness that is beyond the edge.

Upstream/ Mary Oliver

Whew! That was a lot of thinking today. Time to stop.

april 10/RUN

2.65 miles
2 schools loop (cooper and howe)
46 degrees

Windy this afternoon! Everything green, budding. Spring-like. Ran around Cooper School then down to Edmund. Up to 47th and over to Howe. A soccer team was practicing on the field. Didn’t stare to see if they were wearing masks. I wonder how youth sports is doing these days in Minnesota; the uptick in cases with the UK variant started in some suburban youth sports games. Anything else I remember from the run? Encountered some walkers. Did I see any other runners? I can’t remember. Ran by a neighbor’s fruit trees or vines on 32nd–I can’t remember what they are, I just remember that last year they had a sign encouraging you to take all the fruit you’d like. Apples? Anyway, the trees/vines right by their fence were blooming pale pink flowers. Beautiful.

I didn’t run yesterday because we drove up to Duluth and got our first doses of the Pfizer vaccine–well, me, FWA, and STA got our first doses, RJP is a year too young. Such a bummer for her. Anyway, I still haven’t processed it all, how remarkable and amazing and relieving it is to be getting this vaccine and to be fully vaccinated before Mother’s Day! Wow.

Even though I didn’t run, I still read some Mary Oliver. I’m finding it difficult to stick with just one poem. I like reading several and letting the repetition of her words about attention wash over me and soak in slowly. Yesterday and today, I read through her collection, Swan, and noticed, among other things, that she did a lot of: 1. inviting the reader (you) to be curious, to enter the field, to notice things, 2. admonishing the reader for not noticing and calling it a life, and 3. commanding the reader to notice things, to leave the desk and enter the world. I have started making a list and adding lines from her poems to each of these categories. So far, my list includes the poems in Swan and a few others that I found in her compilation, Devotions.

Invitation

  • Inside the river there is an unfinishable story/and you are somewhere in it/and it will never end until all ends (What Can I Say/Swan)
  • How many kinds of love/might there be in the world,/and how many formations might they make/and who am I ever/to imagine I could know/such a marvelous business? (On the Beaach/Swan)
  • Did you see it, drifting, all night in the black river?/Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air?/And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?/And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?/And have you changed your life? (Swan/Swan)
  • With what words can I convince you of the/casualness with which the white swans fly? Do you give a thought now and again to the/essential sparrow, the necessary toad? Have you ever seen a squirrel swim? Is it not incredible, than in the acorn something/has hidden an entire tree? (More Evidence/Swan)
  • Have you ever tried to enter the long black branches/of other lives? (Have you ever tried to enter/ West Wind)

Admonishment

  • It is a negligence of the mind/not to notice how at dusk/heron comes to the pond (How Heron Comes/Swan)
  • We are all good people/except for when we are not (Four Sonnets/Swan)
  • Who can open the door who does not reach for the latch?
  • Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?
  • For how long will you continue to listen to those dark shouters,/caution and prudence?/Fall in! Fall in! (Have you ever tried to enter the long black branches/West Wind)

Command

  • If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,/don’t hesitate. Give in to it. (Don’t Hesitate/Swan)
  • Sing, if you can sing, and if not still be/musical inside yourself (More Evidence/Swan)
  • Said the river: imagine everything you can imagine, then/keep going (At the River Clarion/Evidence)
  • Quickly, then, get up, put on your coat, leave your desk! (Have you ever tried to enter the long black branches/ West Wind)

In addition to categorizing her lines, here are a few other things I noticed/liked/want to remember:

1

She likes the word “meanwhile,” which I first encountered and enjoyed in her wonderful poem, “Wild Geese”: “Meanwhile, the world goes on./ Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain…/Meanwhile, the wild geese…” I like this idea of meanwhile as another word for beside/s, and to mean: there are other things beside you happening in the world AND you are not alone in your suffering/sorrow/joy AND life/the world contains more than we can imagine or reconcile, all happening at the same time. I like thinking about meanwhile as a way to connect different stories/lives/creatures without collapsing them into each other as one story or way of living/being–if that makes sense?

2

Okay, I confess to wanting to make a literature of praise.

4 Sonnets/ Swan

I like this idea of a literature of praise. In Long Life she talks about her words as little alleluias on the page. Can we think of this as spiritual, as about admiring and finding joy in things, without linking it to God or organized religion? Yes, I think.

3

I want to step out into some/fresh morning and look around and hear myself/crying out: “The house of money is falling! The house of money is falling! The weeds are rising! The weeds are rising!”

Evidence/ Evidence

That sounds like fun and something I can’t imagine myself ever having the nerve to do. But I think it quite a lot when I’m out near the gorge and witness the sumac vines wrapping themselves around the fenceposts.

One more thing: Here’s a Mary Oliver poem that I’ve been rereading a lot over the past few days:

HAVE YOU EVER TRIED TO ENTER THE LONG BLACK BRANCHES/ Mary Oliver

Have you ever tried to enter the long black branches of other lives —
tried to imagine what the crisp fringes, full of honey, hanging
from the branches of the young locust trees, in early morning, feel like?

Do you think this world was only an entertainment for you?

Never to enter the sea and notice how the water divides
with perfect courtesy, to let you in!
Never to lie down on the grass, as though you were the grass!
Never to leap to the air as you open your wings over the dark acorn of your heart!

No wonder we hear, in your mournful voice, the complaint
that something is missing from your life!

Who can open the door who does not reach for the latch?
Who can travel the miles who does not put one foot
in front of the other, all attentive to what presents itself
continually?
Who will behold the inner chamber who has not observed
with admiration, even with rapture, the outer stone?

Well, there is time left —
fields everywhere invite you into them.

And who will care, who will chide you if you wander away
from wherever you are, to look for your soul?

Quickly, then, get up, put on your coat, leave your desk!

To put one’s foot into the door of the grass, which is
the mystery, which is death as well as life, and
not be afraid!

To set one’s foot in the door of death, and be overcome
with amazement!

To sit down in front of the weeds, and imagine
god the ten-fingered, sailing out of his house of straw,
nodding this way and that way, to the flowers of the
present hour,

to the song falling out of the mockingbird’s pink mouth,

to the tippets of the honeysuckle, that have opened

in the night

To sit down, like a weed among weeds, and rustle in the wind!

Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?

While the soul, after all, is only a window,
and the opening of the window no more difficult
than the wakening from a little sleep.

Only last week I went out among the thorns and said
to the wild roses:
deny me not,
but suffer my devotion.
Then, all afternoon, I sat among them. Maybe

I even heard a curl or two of music, damp and rouge red,
hurrying from their stubby buds, from their delicate watery bodies.

For how long will you continue to listen to those dark shouters,
caution and prudence?

Fall in! Fall in!

A woman standing in the weeds.
A small boat flounders in the deep waves, and what’s coming next
is coming with its own heave and grace.

Meanwhile, once in a while, I have chanced, among the quick things,
upon the immutable.
What more could one ask?

And I would touch the faces of the daisies,
and I would bow down
to think about it.

That was then, which hasn’t ended yet.

Now the sun begins to swing down. Under the peach-light,
I cross the fields and the dunes, I follow the ocean’s edge.

I climb, I backtrack.
I float.
I ramble my way home.

april 8/RUN

3.25 miles
43rd ave, north/seabury, north/seabury, south/41st ave, south
63 degrees

Rained in the morning, so STA and I ran in the afternoon. We thought the rain was done, but 2 or 3 times during the run it started up again. A soft, steady, colder than expected rain. A good distraction from the effort of our striking feet and swinging arms. Heard lots of black capped chickadees and cardinals. Avoided many sidewalk puddles. I don’t like how the puddles soak my socks but I do like how they reveal the dips and cracks and holes in the sidewalk that I normally can’t see.

As I dig deeper into the work of Mary Oliver, I’m conflicted. I find myself saying, “Yes!” then “yes?” then “Yes. But…” Her words are seductive and entrancing. Easy to read and understand and share–so many pleasing lines. And easy to consume quickly–to skim once and imagine you fully understand them. But, is that all they are? In reference to a tweet I posted about yesterday, are they candy instead of kale? (And, is that a bad thing?) Well, even as I find myself skimming through her poems quickly, or as quickly as I can with my bad vision, they are still making me think, suggesting associations, raising interesting open-ended questions, inviting me into deeper understandings of my own project and the idea of attention as an ethical/moral/political practice. This last bit is key to me: through her words, Mary Oliver is offering a “door–a thousand opening doors!” (Upstream) into new worlds.

Here are 2 poems from Swan that get me thinking more about the limits and possibilities of naming and language and knowing.

Wind in the Pines

It is true that the wind
streaming especially in fall
through the pines is saying nothing, nothing at all,
or is it just that I don’t know the language?

Bird in the Pepper Tree

Don’t mind my inexplicable delight
in knowing your name,
little Wilson’s Warbler
yellow as a lemon, with a smooth, black cap.

Just do what you do and don’t worry, dipping
branch by branch down to the fountain
to sip neatly, then flutter away.

A name
is not a leash.

I’d like to put these poems beside:

Sometimes, what I try to get people to do is to disconnect for a moment from that absolute need to list and name, and just see the bird. Just see that bird. And you begin to absorb it, in a way, in a part of your brain that I don’t know the name of, but I think it’s a part of your brain that’s also got some heart in it. And then, guess what? The name, when you do learn it, it sticks in a different way.

On Being episode with Drew Lanham

and

Goldenrod/ Maggie Smith

I’m no botanist. If you’re the color of sulfur
and growing at the roadside, you’re goldenrod. 

You don’t care what I call you, whatever
you were born as. You don’t know your own name. 

But driving near Peoria, the sky pink-orange,
the sun bobbing at the horizon, I see everything

is what it is, exactly, in spite of the words I use:
black cows, barns falling in on themselves, you.

Dear flowers born with a highway view, 
forgive me if I’ve mistaken you. Goldenrod, 

whatever your name is, you are with your own kind. 
Look–the meadow is a mirror, full of you,

your reflection repeating. Whatever you are,
I see you, wild yellow, and I would let you name me.

april 7/RUN

2.3 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/river road trail, south/edmund, north
67 degrees

Managed to make it out for a run right before the steady rain started. Was able to run through the tunnel of trees, above the river. Noticed the beginning of green on the brown branches. It’s coming—the leaves, the veil, the obscured view, the warmer mornings, the deck, falling asleep in the red chair in the backyard, spring, summer, vaccines. Saw a stack of stones on the taller boulder at the edge of the trail, near the oak with the long reach. Turned around at 38th and headed north on Edmund. There, it was sunny; where I had just been, near 34th, it was gloomy and darkish blue, ominous. Such a strange, cool sight.

Did a lot of thinking and reading this morning. Here’s a sampling of what I encountered this morning:

And, I’m thinking about words like: inefficient, clockwork, pace (as in, “keep up the” or running pace or the hectic pace of modern life), mechanization, industrialization, useless, instrumental, accessible, smooth, easy, fast, relevant, order, discipline, attention economy, rest, restlessness, sleep, internal clocks, spending time vs. passing it, paying or giving attention, eyeballs on the page, obscure, unnoticed, unnoticing.

Lots of words and thoughts swirling in my head about work, labor, productivity. And about why Mary Oliver’s poems are so popular–how/why does she speak to so many, especially those who don’t normally “like” poetry? As I skimmed through her collection, Devotions, I started thinking about how so many of the poems talk directly to the reader, inviting them to attend to the beauty of the world, to notice the long black branches, or to chastise them, nudging them to do and be better:

Have you ever tried to enter the long black branches/of other lives?
Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?

Can you Imagine? Oh, do you have time? Come with me into the fields of sunflowers. What if a hundred rose-breasted grosbeaks flew in circles around your head? Surely you can’t imagine they just stand there looking the way they look when we’re looking?

Mary Oliver’s invitations, and even her admonishments, are seductive. Yes, I will notice! Yes, I will look and imagine and take the time! Her words inspire, making it seem attainable to be better, to change your life, to do more than merely breathe. Even as I have loved and admired her work since the first poem I read–was it “Invitation”?–I have also been wary of it. She makes it sound so simple–just change your life! Stop, take a break, notice those goldfinches!

I was bothered enough by this idea to write a poem about her poem “Invitation”, and then a chapbook about the phrase, “change your life” that features my poem which I titled, “You Must Change Your Life.” In my only workshop experience, for a great Advanced Poetry class at the Loft, the rest of my class didn’t seem to like “You Must Change Your Life”. Too wordy, too full of explanation, too much Oliver, not enough Rilke. So I put it away. But, reading it again now, I like it. It needs some cleaning up, but I’m proud of it and the questions I’m posing about will and attention, how we hear the call to notice things and change our lives, how we sustain that call.

Back then in 2018, I focused a lot on how change happens whether we want it or not and I explored different meanings and causes of change. Now, I’m interested in how we might choose to act on her invitation, how it becomes possible for us to “enter the long brown branches of other lives.” First, the easy answer: say yes, take up her invitation, decide to stop and smell the roses, watch those goldfinches and their musical battle, get up, put on your coat, leave your desk! But, don’t do this just once. Do it repeatedly–every month or week or morning. Make it a habit. Of course, making this into a habit isn’t necessarily easy; it requires effort and discipline and commitment, but it’s possible to believe, on any fresh day, that we can make this choice and change ourselves. This Yes! answer is the one that I imagine gets many readers excited about MO’s work and is why she’s so popular and important.

But, there’s another answer to the question of how we take up her invitation that is harder and more hidden, and that involves the difficult, messy work of saying no to many things in order to say Yes! to the goldfinches. And, this saying no is not simply choosing to not do this or that busy, important thing in order to notice the goldfinches. It is to refuse some of the fundamental (and toxic) values that shape who we are and what we should be doing in 21st century, late capitalism: work, always work, that is productive, useful, efficient, busy, fast, that makes lots of money for someone else, that yields status and success, that creates more things, that doesn’t waste time, that generates quantitative (not qualitative) results. Refusing these values is difficult and requires breaking habits we have been disciplined into following and practicing since elementary school. I describe this work of refusal as undisciplining yourself. And I’ve been working very hard at it for the last decade.

As far as I can tell, Mary Oliver rarely mentions this work, but it’s there, haunting every page. Each Yes! is tinged with the effort of the no that made it possible. (is this last sentence too much? maybe I’m getting carried away.) Anyway, I happened to remember one poem in which MO briefly describes her own undisciplining process:

Just as the Calendar Began to Say Summer/ Mary Oliver

I went out of the schoolhouse fast
and through the gardens and to the woods,
and spent all summer forgetting what I’d been taught—

two times two, and diligence, and so forth,
how to be modest and useful, and how to succeed and so forth,
machines and oil and plastic and money and so forth.

By fall I had healed somewhat, but was summoned back
to the chalky rooms and the desks, to sit and remember

the way the river kept rolling its pebbles,
the way the wild wrens sang though they hadn’t a penny in the
bank,
the way the flowers were dressed in nothing but light.

march 31/RUN

2.1 miles
neighborhood
33 degrees
wind: 13 mph with gusts, 21 mph

Quick run in the wind and the cold after returning home. A visit with 2 fully vaccinated grandparents! Hopefully soon, we will be too. First time away from Minneapolis since October. Not too far into my run, I heard a pileated woodpecker. Not drumming, but singing. Also heard a black-capped chickadee and their fee-bee song. Can’t remember any other bird calls. Guess the wind was singing louder. Speaking of the wind, heard lots of wind chimes, especially at the house at the corner of 43rd and 32nd. Such a cacophony! Ran down towards the river but stayed on edmund. When I crested the hill, I glanced down but couldn’t see any sparkling river through the trees.

note for me to remember: On the 29th, I memorized ED’s “I felt a cleaving in my Mind–.” That night, I got a headache that came in waves, not feeling like my brain had split but like I wished it would, so I could take the top of it off to relieve the pain and pressure. Ugh! I am a wimp with headaches because I rarely get them. And because I rarely get them, they make me worry more: I never get headaches? Why now? What’s the cause? Is this the start of something worse? I’ve had a few more since then, not quite as bad. I think (am hoping) that they’re caffeine headaches. The grandparents make much weaker coffee (1 scoop of coffee for 6 cups of water), while I make really strong coffee (I scoop of coffee for 1 cup of water).

Here are the final 2 poems in my March with Emily Dickinson. They’re connected to “I felt a cleaving in my Mind–” with the ball and the seam, which speak to ED’s interest in circumference.

I felt a Cleaving in my Mind–
As if my Brain had split–
I tried to match it–Seam for Seam–
But could not make them fit.

The thought behind I strove to bind
Unto the thought before–
But Sequence ravelled out of Sound–
Like Balls upon a floor.

Emily Dickinson Poems: March 30th and 31st

I saw no Way — The Heavens were stitched — (1863)

I saw no Way — The Heavens were stitched —
I felt the Columns close —
The Earth reversed her Hemispheres —
I touched the Universe —

And back it slid — and I alone —
A Speck upon a Ball —
Went out upon Circumference —
Beyond the Dip of Bell —

As I just discovered, the Balls in “I felt a Cleaving in my Mind–” could be balls of yarn. The ball in this poem is the Earth. Another connection: instead of seams, we have stitches. ED likes the word and idea of Circumference. Lots of entries in the Emily Dickinson lexicon, which is a super handy resource: periphery, circuit, edge, skull, perspective, view, vista.

I might have a lot of fun with this idea of circumference, especially in relation to a new vision project I’d like to start: on peripheral vision. Very cool.

I found another version of this poem on the amazing blog project, White Heat. It’s in their week of posts about Circumference. It follows ED’s original manuscript and its line breaks.

I saw no Way – The
Heavens were stitched – 
I felt the Columns close – 
The Earth reversed her
Hemispheres – 
I touched the Universe – 

And back it slid —
And I alone —
A Speck opon a Ball
Went out opon Cirum —
ference —
Beyond the Dip of Bell.

Without this — there is nought — (1862)

Without this — there is nought —
All other Riches be
As is the Twitter of a Bird —
Heard opposite the Sea —

I could not care — to gain
A lesser than the Whole —
For did not this include themself —
As Seams — include the Ball?

I wished a way might be
My Heart to subdivide —
‘Twould magnify — the Gratitude —
And not reduce — the Gold —

Here’s something interesting PB has to say about this poem and curcumference and seams and balls:

The second stanza advances our understanding a little, for we learn that the poet wants the “Whole” rather than some lesser quantity or quality that would be subsumed by the whole. Dickinson uses a ball as an example. Made by stitching leather or fabric together, the ball might be considered interior to the seams encompassing it. I am reminded of Dickinson’s poetic project of circumference. She announces this project in a letter to her chosen “Preceptor”, T.W.Higginson:

“Perhaps you smile at me. I could not stop for that – My Business is Circumference –…” (L268, July 1862).

In a later poem she calls “Circumference” the “Bride of Awe.” At least part of Dickinson’s poetic quest is to trace the seams, to see the whole.

the Prowling Bee

Here’s a source I’d like to track down and read about ED and circumference in “I Saw no way — The Heavens were Stitched–“:

Gribbin, Laura. “Emily Dickinson’s Circumference: Figuring a Blind Spot in the Romantic Tradition.” The Emily Dickinson Journal 2. 1 (Spring 1993): 1-21; 3-4.

march 4/RUN

1.65 miles
43rd ave, north/32nd st, east/edmund, south/35th st, west
46 degrees

A short run outside in the afternoon sun. Very wet, with a few slick spots still remaining on the sidewalk. Felt like spring again today. I don’t remember much about the run. I didn’t see the river or hear any woodpeckers or smell any smoke. Encountered a few runners and walkers. No kids walking home from school. I did run by a school bus, idling in front of Minneaha Academy. Noticed lots of cars driving on the river road, enjoying the spring-like weather.

a moment of sound

march 4, 2021

Before my run, I took Delia the dog out for a walk. Near 7 oaks, I heard a wonderful bird song that I couldn’t identify. I took out my phone to record it, but it stopped before I could start. In this recording, I mostly hear the rustling of my coat as I walk, which is annoying. I also hear my feet striking the gritty, crunchy sidewalk, which is delightful.

There’s a certain Slant of light (258)/ Emily Dickinson – 1830-1886

There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are –

None may teach it – Any –
‘Tis the Seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –

When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –

Winter’s slanted light is quickly leaving; during today’s run the sun was bright and overhead and warmed my face and back. Listened to 2 versions of this poem on youtube and both of them replaced heft with weight and Any with anything. Heft is much better, I think. My favorite line: the Landscape listens. I love the idea of a landscape listening.

feb 10/BIKERUN

bike: 20 minutes
run: 1.75 miles
basement
outdoor temp: 8 degrees/ feels like -7

Finished the Dickinson episode I had been watching on feb 7. In my log for that day I asked: “I wonder if either Emily’s opinion (about marriage as bad for women) or Thoreau’s douchiness will change in the next 10 minutes, which is what I have left in the episode. And, will she be able to stop the railroad from being built in her backyard woods?” Well, Thoreau becomes even more douchey; Emily ends up calling him a dick and then storms out, leaving her copy of Walden behind. And, distraught, she falls asleep on George’s shoulder as they ride home on the train, which suggests she might be softening on him, if not on marriage. Finally, while sitting under her beloved oak tree her dad joins her and agrees to reroute the train tracks around the tree in order to save it. Emily is happy. My question: if the train is still running near the tree, will she want to visit it for solitude anymore? Will it be the same tree once it’s the tree by some noisy, air-polluting tracks? I guess Emily’s willing to compromise.

During my run, I listened to a Spotify playlist I had quickly made the other day. Excellent. It was fun to run much faster (at least a minute per mile faster) and listen to Britney Spear’s “Toxic”, Demi Lovato’s “Sorry not Sorry,” AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” and Justin Bieber’s “Beauty and the Beat.” While I ran, I don’t remember thinking about anything.

For the past few days, I’ve been thinking about creating a syllabus, or a few syllabi, out of the experiments on my running log. Right now, I’m thinking about 3 syllabi: 1 intro course, 1 intermediate course, and 1 advanced course all about movement and creativity and exploring how moving bodies influence creative expression in language (written and spoken). Mainly, I want to focus on moving = running and creative expression = poetry, but I’m also interested in walking/hiking, swimming, biking, and lyric essays. These 3 classes all fit within an interdisciplinary study of ethics/moral selfhood and the exploration of how to be an ethical, political, poetical, embodied self. What do I want to do with these syllabi? Not sure, yet. Maybe teach them. But maybe I see them more as imaginary/fictional syllabi that tell my story of running while writing/writing while running for the past 4 years.

Speaking of imaginary classes, I found this poem via twitter this morning. I love it.

What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade/ Brad Aaron Modlin

Mrs. Nelson explained how to stand still and listen
to the wind, how to find meaning in pumping gas,

how peeling potatoes can be a form of prayer. She took
questions on how not to feel lost in the dark

After lunch she distributed worksheets
that covered ways to remember your grandfather’s

voice. Then the class discussed falling asleep
without feeling you had forgotten to do something else—

something important—and how to believe
the house you wake in is your home. This prompted

Mrs. Nelson to draw a chalkboard diagram detailing
how to chant the Psalms during cigarette breaks,

and how not to squirm for sound when your own thoughts
are all you hear; also, that you have enough.

The English lesson was that I am
is a complete sentence.

And just before the afternoon bell, she made the math equation
look easy. The one that proves that hundreds of questions,

and feeling cold, and all those nights spent looking
for whatever it was you lost, and one person

add up to something.

What a class! The things listed here are impossible to teach, I suppose, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if our education gave more space for them to be considered? What if we took seriously the idea that the goal/purpose of education is to flourish and to learn how to be caring, responsible people in community with others instead of about individual success and competition and being better than anyone else?

a moment of sound

feb 10, 2021/ 3 degrees, feels like -9

I started this recording at the far end of my backyard. As I made my way to the back door up on the deck, I walked through 3 different versions of crusty snow: 1. about 3 inches of deeper, crusty snow, 2. 1 inch of partly shoveled, tamped down crusty snow, and 3. a thin layer of powdery, crusty snow on the surface of the deck. Each version makes a slightly different sound.

feb 8/BIKERUN

bike: 20 minutes
run: 2.3 miles
basement
outside temp: -2 degrees/ feels like -14

Took Delia the dog for her first walk in a few days. It’s cold, but there’s no wind. Briefly thought about running outside, then decided it was still cold and slippery. Another day in the basement. No Dickinson today; the episode wouldn’t load. Watched a few races instead. Listened to my audio book again while I ran. Running while listening to a book and at a slower pace really helps.

Forgot to mention yesterday: I ran with my shadow. I could see her dark shape on the towel I put on the treadmill to cover the display. We waved to each other. Saw her again today. There’s a lightbulb on the ceiling just above and behind me as I run which casts a shadow, sometimes on the towel, other times on a far wall. I like watching the shadow flicker n front of me, slightly off to my left side.

Found a useful quotation about paying attention and the attention economy via twitter this morning:

Attention is a limited resource, so pay attention to where you pay attention.

Howard Rheingold, read in Attention Shoppers

a moment of sound

When I took Delia out for a walk around noon, there were lots of birds chirping and calling:

Feb 8, 2021

feb 4/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
run: 1.5 miles
basement

2 or 3 inches of snow + wind + 3 5k runs in a row + wanting to watch more of Dickinson while I biked = basement workout. Finished the first episode of Dickinson then started the second one while I biked. It’s growing on me, but I am still not sold on it. I don’t really like this version of Dickinson as quirky, eccentrically cool, selfish, and bratty. I keep intending to write more about what I don’t like, but get stuck. Maybe I can figure it out by the end of the 3rd episode? Or maybe by then I’ll be fine with not having to figure it out. Then I ran while listening to a spotify playlist: Justin Bieber’s “Beauty and the Beat”, Harry Style’s “Canyon Moon”, and Justin Timberlake’s “What Goes Around.” Nice.

After I was done, I took my shoes off and when I stood up I could feel my right kneecap slip out of the groove. No big deal; I pushed it back in place. It’s fine and I am used to it (mostly), but it is still unsettling and almost always unexpected. No warning. No particular movement that causes it. To be safe, I iced my knee for 15 minutes after I was done. Oh, the body. I have put in a lot of physical and mental work these last five years learning to adjust to a body very slowly falling apart. Some of this adjustment involves resignation, but more of it involves admiration as my body continues to work, despite its limits. After writing this last paragraph, I paused to recite (still from memory) Rita Dove’s wonderful poem, Ode to My Right Knee: O, obstreperous one!

Earlier today as I did the dishes, I listened to the latest On Being: an interview with ornithologist Drew Lanham. So wonderful! I was particularly struck by this part of the conversation:

The birds know who they are. They don’t need you to tell them…“ Yes!

[Orinthologist Drew Lanham responding to Krista Tippet’s confession that she doesn’t know the names of birds and is ashamed of not knowing] 

Well, it’s not a problem. There’s no shame in not knowing the name of a bird. If it’s a redbird to you, it’s a redbird to you. At some point, as a scientist, it’s important for me to be able to identify birds by accepted common names and Latin names and those things. But then I revert frequently to what my grandmother taught me, because, I say, the birds know who they are. They don’t need you to tell them that.

But over time, when we relax into a thing and maybe just being with a bird, then your brain kind of relaxes, it loosens, and things soak in. And I think that’s the key with a lot of learning. But not getting the name right immediately does not in any way diminish their ability to appreciate “the pretty,” as Aldo Leopold talks about. And so seeing that bird and saying, “Oh my God, what is that? Look at it,” and you’re looking at it, and you can see all of these hues, and you can watch its behavior, and you may hear it sing — well, in that moment, it’s a beautiful thing, no matter what its name is.

Sometimes, what I try to get people to do is to disconnect for a moment from that absolute need to list and name, and just see the bird. Just see that bird. And you begin to absorb it, in a way, in a part of your brain that I don’t know the name of, but I think it’s a part of your brain that’s also got some heart in it. And then, guess what? The name, when you do learn it, it sticks in a different way.

take a moment to not know and just see the bird, be with the bird. I love this idea and I think I’d like to turn it into an assignment. I agree with Lanham about a lot here. Right now, I’m thinking about the idea of relaxing and not trying to immediately know the bird but slowly let it sink in through a new form of knowing that involves a “a part of your brain that’s also got some heart in it.” To me, this shifts away from the drive to know (to conquer, to possess) and towards a desire to feel and connect. Knowing is not about mastering, but becoming acquainted with, getting to know.

Continuing this discussion, Lanham discusses the power and violence of naming and classifying:

…thinking about who gets to tell the story and the names — and so I’m intensely interested in language and what different people call things, and these names and what names mean. So that Indigenous and First Nations people, who have all of these languages, and who a raven is to one nation versus who the raven is to another nation or people within that nation. So all of that is important, I think, for us to pay attention to, and all of those are different ornithologies.

In Western science, we boil down to Latin binomial and to genotype and phenotype; and all of that is critical, and it’s important in what we do as scientists. But I think, again, broadening the scope of vision so that we see the big picture — we need to understand who birds are to others, what land is to others; that if my ancestors were forced into nature and hung from trees, I might not have the same interest in going out into the forest and naming the trees.

Wow. Such an important discussion and reminder when thinking about what harm knowing and naming can do. Speaking of naming, here is a map of Minneapolis-St. Paul in Dakota and Ojibwe

a moment of sound

On the back deck, as the wind picks up and the cold moves in. Some people talking in the alley, the scare rods spinning, a few cars rushing by.

feb 4, 2021

jan 31/BIKERUN

bike: 22 minutes
run: 1.8 miles
basement

Scott and I took Delia for a longer walk this morning, which was wonderful. Not too cold, hardly any wind, a few fluffy flakes falling from the sky. Lots of other people out too. So I decided to head to the basement again for my workout. While I biked, I continued watching Margaret Livingstone’s fascinating lecture about  vision and art. Then, after I finished biking, I listened to a playlist and tried to run faster, which I did but not necessarily because of the playlist. It’s time to make a new one, I think.

I’m enjoying Livingstone’s lecture. I’m not necessarily learning anything new, but it’s reinforcing thoughts I already had or ideas that I had encountered elsewhere. Maybe it’s the academic in me, but I like to have my ideas confirmed by others, especially by those who have devoted themselves to studying vision and the brain. After discussing how “your visual system has higher acuity in the center of gaze” (acuity = sharper, finer detail), she says:

But your peripheral vision isn’t bad, it’s just different. Your peripheral vision is designed to see big blurry things; your central vision is designed to see small detailed things and actually cannot see big blurry things as well as your peripheral vision. So there’s a trade-off.

It’s the forest from the trees again!

a moment of sound

jan 31, 2021

I stuck with it and recorded a moment of sound every day this month–31 moments. Nice. This final one is short and is from my walk with Scott and Delia. I can hear the chapel bells chiming from across the river at St. Thomas University in St. Paul; at least two birds–including a coo or trill or something at 15 seconds in; Delia huffing (at 22 seconds); traffic on the road; Scott and I discussing, mostly in whispers, what kind of bird we heard; snow crunching underfoot; Delia’s collar jangling; and the wind.

Slowly but surely, I am falling in love with birds. A few years ago I wrote a poem in response to Mary Oliver’s goldfinch poem “Invitation, in which I asked, “Anyway, who cares about the birds?” I do, now. I’m hoping to learn more of their calls in the upcoming months.

Speaking of birds, I found this video on Brain Pickings:

jan 30/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
run: 3.25 miles
basement

While I biked in the basement, I watched this great video lecture by a neuroscientist from Harvard, Margaret Livingston about vision and art. Very fascinating–and something I’ll have to watch a few more times before I get it all. Near the beginning she says,

So if you take anything at all away from this talk tonight, please try to remember: Vision is information processing; it is not image transmission. Your visual system does not just transmit an image of the world up to your brain, because there’s nobody up there to look at an image. There’s nothing up there except nerve cells and all they do is either fire or not fire. So seeing is whether some neurons are firing and some neurons are not and what information those cells are extracting by the firing patterns from the pattern of light that lands on your retina.

Yes! Vision is not just using your eyes to see an image that gets transmitted to your brain. Vision is a complex series of processes involving light entering your eye through your cornea then landing on the retina, traveling through the optic nerve to the brain where it is processed not merely reproduced.

During my run I continued listening to the audio book, The Guest List. Wow, the men in this book are terrible; I was actually getting angry and sad about what assholes they are. Despite this, finally, three-quarters of the way through I am invested in listening to the entire thing and finding out how it ends. Whenever I make it to this point in a book where I’m finally hooked even though I had thought about giving up on it several times, I feel a sense of accomplishment.

a moment of sound

On the deck again. Listening to a crow and my neighbors’ scare rods spinning in the wind, sounding like the scratching noise that Voldemort’s soul makes in one of his horacruxes in the last movie. For the first 20 seconds or so, Delia joined me. You can hear her collar clanging, then the door open as she goes back inside. Too cold or boring for her, I guess.

Jan 30, 2021

Note: Working earlier today on some notes about vision, I think I figured out my new project: peripheral vision. So much to think about literally and metaphorically! I was inspired by a line I came up with:

If central vision represents the trees, peripheral vision is the forest. I will never lose the forest, even as the trees fade further away.

jan 20/BIKERUN

bike: 24 minutes
run: 1.3 miles
basement

Finally, it’s over! Already, Biden and Harris are working to undo some of the damage. What an awful, exhausting, traumatic 4 years. Yet, some good too, in spite of it all: a renewed faith in democracy, the chance for an actual reckoning with slavery and racism, and, most personally, a rediscovery of poetry and a new direction for my work on a feminist ethics of care. I started this running log in January of 2017, right as Trump was becoming president. There were many reasons I started writing here, but the urgent need to find a new way to be in the Trump era was surely one of them. In ways that I can’t yet articulate, this blog and my project of paying attention and of finding the small moments of delight–always letting the wonder win, as Aimee Nezhukumatathil says–was a form of resistance, a refusal to lose my faith in the world and my hope for the future. I must admit, it got much harder to resist these last few months, but the habits I built up from my miles and my words (and the beautiful words of many others), have helped me to persist and I know they will help me as I work hard to rid myself of all of the Trump-era toxins I’ve had to absorb. Does this sound too dramatic? Maybe, but today feels like a day for being dramatic!

I didn’t think about any of these things as I biked or ran. I just enjoyed moving and feeling free, even if it was in my dark unfinished basement.

Hooray for new administrations! Hooray for hope and possibility and room to breathe and grieve and imagine better worlds! Hooray for a renewed desire to do the work! And hooray for this beautiful poem by Amanda Gorman:

The Hill We Climb/ Amanda Gorman

When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry. A sea we must wade.
We braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.
And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.
Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.
We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.
And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.
We are striving to forge our union with purpose.
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.
And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.
We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.
We seek harm to none and harmony for all.
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true.
That even as we grieved, we grew.
That even as we hurt, we hoped.
That even as we tired, we tried.
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.
Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.
Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.
If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.
That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.
It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation, rather than share it.
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.
In this truth, in this faith we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.
This is the era of just redemption.
We feared at its inception.
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour.
But within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.
So, while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.
We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation, become the future.
Our blunders become their burdens.
But one thing is certain.
If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.
So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.
We will rise from the golden hills of the West.
We will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution.
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states.
We will rise from the sun-baked South.
We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.
And every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful.
When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid.
The new dawn balloons as we free it.
For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

a moment of sound

After the inauguration, Scott and I took Delia out for a walk. It wasn’t too cold, but it was windy and blustery and slippery–and difficult to get a moment of sound. In this recording, you can hear the wind and Delia’s collar clanging and our feet walking over the crusty ice and snow.

jan 20, 2021

jan 19/BIKERUN

bike: 24 minutes
run: 1.4 miles
basement

A little more snow, a little more cold, even more slick and uneven surfaces. Decided to workout in the basement. Watched some swimming races while I biked, then listened to the latest “Maintenance Phase” podcast while I ran. This one was about “The Biggest Loser” and it was disturbing. What a terrible show. I must admit, that I watched at least one season of it, and while I thought it was very problematic, sadly I still watched and enjoyed it. Such incredibly damaging ideas about bodies and fitness and health and fatness that reinforce dangerous and awful understandings of how we might live in and with our bodies!

After I finished I came upstairs and recorded a moment of sound on the back deck. Nothing too interesting today: it’s cold (15 degrees) and windy and the last 20 seconds were unusable because I was moving in some strange way that generated an irritating scratching noise. If you listen closely, you can hear the crunching, creaking sound of some car wheels. It’s my neighbor driving through the alley, slowly trying to navigate the icy ruts. The whooshing sound you hear is not a plane or traffic, but the wind rushing through the tall trees (pine? spruce?) across the alley. I don’t think I hear any birds or spazzy kids or barking dogs.

jan 19, 2021

jan 17/BIKERUN

bike: 24 minutes
run: 1.3 miles
basement

Another day of icy sidewalks, so more working out in the basement. Will I be able to run outside tomorrow? I think so. If nothing else, I can do loops around Howe Elementary. When Scott and I took Delia the dog out for a walk this morning, I noticed that it was mostly clear there. It’s not as exciting as other routes, but still outside. Didn’t think about much while I was biking or running. Tried out a few spotify playlists, but didn’t really like any of them. Someday, I’ll put together my own playlist. Even though it wasn’t that exciting, it still felt good to move.

After I finished my run, I stood out on the deck and recorded my moment of sound. Very still and gray. The bare tree branches looked delightfully fuzzy and soft, almost like a smudge of gray. There’s at least one dog barking in the distance–one block over. Too bad the trio of spazzy dogs on that same block didn’t join in. What a cacophony of yelps and yips and ruffs they make! Sometimes I like walking Delia right by their house just to get them going.

jan 17, 2021

jan 16/BIKERUN

bike: 22 minutes
run: 1.3 miles
basement

This morning when Scott and I took Delia out for a walk it looked like the paths were clear–at least to me with my too quick glance–when we left the house, but we soon learned the sidewalk and street were ridiculously icy and uneven and dangerous. No falls for either of us, but lots of slips, and one square block took almost 15 minutes to walk. No outdoor running for me today. So, I biked and ran in the basement instead. Watched the first episode of the Netflix Fran Lebowitz documentary, “Pretend it’s a City.” I love her cranking about people’s obliviousness to others in the world, particularly in New York City, and I appreciate this concept of pretending it’s a city so that we train ourselves to be aware and care about how we’re moving in spaces with other people. After that, I listened to a playlist and ran for a little more than a mile on the treadmill. No insights or interesting thoughts today.

a moment of sound

Yes! Today, I captured the sound of the wind chimes across the street (about 35 seconds in). I love the sound of wind chimes. You can also hear a scraping, slamming noise throughtout as a neighbor across the street attempts to break up the thick, craggy sheet of ice on their sidewalk. Yuck, this slightly warmer but not that warm weather creates the worst sidewalk conditions. I would much rather have it be 0 outside (or even colder), but with clear paths. And–warning–the recording starts with the loud, shrill creaking sound of my front door opening and then the slam of the glass/screen door. I thought about editing it out because it’s so loud, but decided I liked it.

jan 16, 2021

Happy to report that, at least so far, no violent insurrections at the State Capitol or in my neighborhood today.

jan 12/BIKERUN

bike: 22 minutes
run: 1.25 miles
basement

In the basement this afternoon. A little sore from my run on the slushy, uneven snow yesterday. Watched some old races on YouTube as I biked, listened to a playlist as I ran. I recited Longfellow’s “Snow-flakes” in my head at least once. I am writing this entry the next morning because I didn’t have time to write it earlier, and I don’t remember much from the bike or the run. No insights or interesting images but, as always, it felt good to move and to sweat and to lose track of time.

Earlier in the day, Scott and I took Delia the dog on a walk. Warmish (34 degrees), with sun on our faces, then on our backs. We heard some black-capped chickadees and almost believed it was spring.

Even earlier than that, I sat on the deck, my eyes closed and the inside of my eyelids red from the warm sun, recording my moment of sound. Quiet, peaceful. I could almost block out the insistent drip…drip…drip of water coming off the gutter. I only worried a few times about whether or not the gutters were clogged. At the end of the moment, I walked over to the other side of the deck to listen to another series of drips–more clogged gutters! Also heard: birds, some very enthusiastic neighbors–maybe playing at the field at the elementary school?

jan 12, 2021