june 2/RUN

2.25 miles
2 trails
75 degrees

A quick run in the warm, sunny, windy afternoon to celebrate 11 years of running. 11 years ago today, sometime in the morning, when I went out to Minnehaha Creek and did my first session of couch to 5k, the first of many doors opened to a new way to be. I don’t remember much about how I felt or what I saw or heard; I didn’t begin keeping a log about my runs until the beginning of 2017. I remember it being hard, and that I was excited to go out again 2 days later and that some of the earliest songs on my running playlist were: “She’s a Bad Mama Jama” and “Firework” — or is it Fireworks?

What do I remember about today’s run? Hot and windy. I listened to a playlist as I ran south, then the gorge when I reached the Winchell Trail. The river was very blue and I was running with the wind at my back (that’s a tailwind, right?) when I started. There were bikers and walkers and runners out on the trail. No roller skiers.

Sound of the day: This sound is not from my run, but an hour or two earlier, when Scott, RJP, and I were driving over the lake street bridge. A bike bell distorted by the doppler effect as we passed it. Such a long bell sound! The ones I usually hear are much shorter and shriller. This bell was stretched and sounded so strange — long and bent.

Here’s some fun with five letter words. I love five letter words and five syllable lines and experimenting with the number five! (and Questlove.)

And here’s a poem that Aimee Nezhukumatathil read in a keynote she gave last year:

First Grade/ RON KOERTGE

Until then, every forest
had wolves in it, we thought
it would be fun to wear snowshoes
all the time, and we could talk to water.

So who is this woman with the gray
breath calling out names and pointing
to the little desks we will occupy
for the rest of our lives?

I’m thinking about wonder for my class and the idea of “childlike” wonder keeps coming up, especially how we lose it and then try to find it again. I just asked this question in a log entry from April 10 of this year.

may 27/RUN

2.5 miles
2 trails
68! degrees

Hooray for warmer weather! I’m tired of feeling cold and wearing long-sleeved shirts. Today it was sunny and warm and wonderful. I did a short run, partly because I got a late start. On the paved, upper trail, I listened to Harry Styles’ new album, Harry’s House. Very nice. When I reached the Winchell, I took out my headphones and listened to:

  1. the trickling water of the sewer
  2. a dog’s collar jangling
  3. someone’s footsteps behind me
  4. my breath
  5. the steady beeping of some sort of emergency siren from the other side
  6. birds
  7. someone apologizing — “Oh, sorry” — for not noticing I was there and taking up the entire path

That’s all I can think of. I’m sure I heard bikers above me, or fragments of conversations, or rustling leaves, or cars rushing by, or lawn mowers, but I don’t remember hearing them.

I love today’s poem for the Slowdown Show:

I Would Do Anything For Love, But I Won’t/ Traci Brimhall

cook lobster. They’re loyal sea rubies and deserve
better than a pinch of lemon and herbed butter.

But I’ll shower hot enough to brighten you, make
zinnias of your shoulders and steal the towels when

it’s over, your water-tattooed back a garden before it
fades. I won’t shave anything unless I feel like it, but

I’ll wax whatever part of your body you request.
I’m not an empath, so I won’t cry when I do it. I’ll let

your pain be yours. I won’t give up coffee or pistachios
or my dog. I know you wouldn’t ask, but I like to be

up front about my boundaries. I bark mine like a seagull,
touching my books, my mother’s china, my chest,

but you’re fine with kindness. You wait for me to feel
safe. I will always let you tease me about talking

to my plants when I water them if you let me tease
the way your hips go stiff when we salsa, but even then

I won’t plan another trip to Rome with you. Not this
year anyway. Not after we’ve given back the tickets

and calendars, dinners and sunburns we thought were
waiting. Instead let’s accept the mail order lemon trees.

Let’s accept repeating puzzles we’ve already finished,
try the paloma recipe again. Let’s accept it’s not what

we would do for each other, but what we can do,
and I can feed the sourdough starter we named Gizmo.

You can return my bowl when you’ve washed it. But
I won’t let you say Pluto is not a planet—I miss the solar

system’s symmetry. I won’t agree that ghosts aren’t real,
even if you’re right. I like a dose of fear. I like whispering

back to the knocks on the wall. I won’t release balloons
when you die because I love sea turtles almost as much

as you. Maybe it’s a tie. I won’t kiss anyone after you die
for at least 60 days, and probably longer, but if I meet

someone who smells like you, I might invite them into
the rain and keep my eyes closed. We can disagree about

the shower curtain, can have days without texts. I can
chide you about the state of your tomatoes, and you can

correct the way I say trilobite, and the only time I’ll run
is across the gymnasium in a pink dress, and the only time

I will give up is in hearts, when I count the cards and know
your hand, and yes, I want to help you shoot the moon.

The title, and so many great details, and the appearance of a lone seagull — so great! If I teach the fall class I’m hoping to, I might add this poem in as one we read.

may 4/RUN

3.25 miles
trestle turn around
58 degrees

Ran in the early afternoon today. Warm enough for shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. Spring! Already feeling too warm. I remember where I was when I stopped to look at the river — just past the railroad trestle, down the recently replaced steps — but I don’t remember what it looked like, other than blue and calm. Heard lots of birds, my feet striking the ground in a dull thud, a funky baseline spilling out of a car window, a few fragments of conversation — one of them had something to do with the weather? — and a dog collar clanging.

After looking at the river, I kept walking on the dirt path below the paved one. I felt almost, but not quite, removed from everything, but still part of it too. Beside it. I thought again about how stepping only a few feet off of the main trail enables you to have some space, to feel left alone. This space beside below next to everything else is not outside, or even on the threshold. Is it on the front stoop, or the front yard? Not sure what it is exactly or even that it needs a fixed name. An image: a dirt trail beneath my feet, mostly dry with a few muddy spots, perched on a steep edge. To the right: a few tree branches, open air, the river down below. To my left: a small hill with wood railing at the top. An occasional voice traveling down, evidence of the paved path above.

This morning, I read a wonderful interview with Jorie Graham on Lithub. It’s from 2018 and about her book, Fast. This title made me think of its opposite. In her interview with David Naimon for Tinhouse, Graham said a few times, “Pay attention! Slow down!” I kept thinking about what slow might mean for me. Not just moving slower, but moving less efficiently or productively. Moving without purpose or a fixed goal. Moving with ease (and without haste) through open space, not crammed with appointments or tasks or destinations.

It is exciting to find great poets with amazing poems and wonderful advice and reflections on how to be. I really like Jorie Graham. Looking through another one of her collections, Erosion, I found this great poem:

Still Life with Window and Fish / Jorie Graham (recording)

Down here this morning in my white kitchen
along the slim body
of the light,
the narrow body that would otherwise
say forever the same thing,
the beautiful interruptions, the things of this world, twigs
and power lines, eaves and ranking
branches burn
all over my walls.
Even the windowpanes are rich.
The whole world outside
wants to come into here,
to angle into
the simpler shapes of rooms, to be broken and rebroken
against the sure co-ordinates
of walls.
The whole world outside….
I know it’s better, whole, outside, the world—whole
trees, whole groves–but I
love it in here where it blurs, and nothing starts or
ends, but all is
waving, and colorless,
and voiceless….
Here is a fish-spine on the sea of my bone china
plate. Here is a a fish-spine on the sea of my hand,
flickering, all its freight
fallen away,
here is the reason for motion washed
in kitchen light, fanning, gliding
upstream in the smoke of twigs, the rake
against the shed outside, the swaying birdcage
and its missing
tenant. If I should die
before you do,
you can find me anywhere
in this floral, featureless,
surf. We are too restless
to inherit
this earth.

I want to do something with that last line, I think. Something about my own restlessness.

may 3/RUN

2.85 miles
2 trails
56! degrees

In honor of an entry I posted a few years ago on this day in which I gathered triple phrases, I’m giving a summary in triples today:

Sunny day
crowded trail
noisy kids
singing birds
got my shoes
stuck in mud
almost fell
dripping sweat
apple watch
stopped again
my legs hurt
not much green
lots of brown
and some blue
sewer pipe
drip drip drip
muddy path
slip slip slip

This morning, I began listening to David Naimon’s interview with Jorie Graham for Tinhouse. Wow! So many amazing ideas. In it, she’s talking about her latest collection, Runaway. I checked it out of the library and look forward to reading it. Here’s the first poem in it read by Graham. I love how she reads and how much her reading helps me to slow down and sit with the words.

All/ Jorie Graham

After the rain stops you can hear the rained-on.
You hear oscillation, outflowing, slips.
The tipping-down of the branches, the down, the
exact weight of those drops that fell 

over the days and nights, their strength, accumulation,
shafting down through the resistant skins,
nothing perfect but then also the exact remain
of sun, the sum 

of the last not-yet-absorbed, not-yet-evaporated
days. After the rain stops you hear the
washed world, the as-if inquisitive garden, the as-if-perfect beginning again
of the buds forced open, forced open – you 

cannot not unfurl
endlessly, entirely, till it is the yes of blossom, that end
not end – what does that sound sound like
deep in its own time where it roots us out 

completed, till it is done. But it is not done.
Here is still strengthening. Even if only where light
shifts to accord the strange complexity which is beauty.
Each tip in the light end-outreaching as if anxious 

but not. The rain stopped. The perfect is not beauty.
Is not a finished thing. Is a making
of itself into more of itself, oozing and pressed
full force out of the not-having-been 

into this momentary being – cold, more
sharp, till the beam passes as the rain passed,
tipping into the sound of ending which does not end,
and giving us that sound. We hear it. 

We hear it, hands
useless, eyes heavy with knowing we do not
understand it, we hear it, deep in its own
consuming, compelling, a dry delight, a just-going-on sound not 

desire, neither lifeless nor deathless, the elixir of
change, without form, we hear you in our world, you not of
our world, though we can peer at (though not into)
flies, gnats, robin, twitter of what dark consolation – 

though it could be light, this insistence this morning
unmonitored by praise, amazement, nothing to touch
where the blinding white thins as the flash moves off
what had been just the wide-flung yellow poppy, 

the fine day-opened eye of hair at its core,
complex, wrinkling and just, as then the blazing ends, sloughed off as if a
god-garment the head and body
of the ancient flower had put on for a while – 

we have to consider the while it seems
to say or I seem to say or
something else seems to we are not

Graham’s poem inspired me to create a writing/noticing experiment for my list:

Follow along as Jorie Graham reads her poem, All. Then one day after it has rained, go to the gorge with her lines: “After the rain stops you can hear the rained-on” and “After the rain stops you hear the washed world”. Listen. Can you hear the rained-on? What does the washed world sound like? Make a list of your answers.

april 23/RUN

3 miles
marshall loop in reverse
66! degrees
wind: 20 mph

Ran with Scott after the rain stopped on a (finally) warm spring morning. It was so windy I had to hold my hat then take it off while running on the lake street bridge. It was warm and sunny and wonderful. We talked about Debussy (Scott) and mycelium (me) and tried to avoid loud-talking-only-slighter-faster-than-us runners. Didn’t hear any rowers or roller skiers or radios blasting from bikes. Did hear some geese honking and some crows cawing and wind howling.

Spent the morning reviewing my notes and re-reading descriptions of fungi and mushrooms and mycelium. Here are a few notes I took:

  • a different sort of We, not a me or an I, but a we, an us
  • a different way of looking/sensing/becoming aware: not seeing straight on, but feeling, looking across and to the side, down, beneath and below
  • stop looking up to the heavens, start feeling/sensing what’s below
  • a hope that is not predicated on evidence, when evidence = seeing and Knowing and fully understanding (seeing things as parts or discrete categories or individual things)
  • entangled is not separate or pure but messy and enmeshed

this is why we are all here — from my haibun and what I heard coming out of the little old lady’s phone


why = curiosity, wonder

The why is not an explanation — this is why/this is THE reason — but an invitation to imagine differently, expansively, wildly.

we all = ecosystems, organisms, networks, asemblages

Organisms are ecosystems.
I find myself surrounded by patchiness, that is, a mosaic of open-ended assemblages of entangled ways of life, with each further opening into a mosaic of temporal rhythms and spatial arcs (Tsing, 4) .

here = a place, located in history, a specific place, not transferable or easily translatable, can’t be scaled up or turned into assets

april 18/RUN

4 miles
marshall loop
35 degrees / feels like 25
wind: 16 mph / snow flurries

Before heading out for a run, watched the Boston Marathon. The thing I remember most about it was during the men’s push-rim race, when the announcer (who I think was a push-rim racer himself) talking about the racer’s gloves: they’re plastic and 3D-printed for precision, and when they bang on the metal wheel rim, they create a steady rhythm that the racer’s use for pacing themselves. Very cool. Later, I remembered this fact as I neared the end of my run.

Today, it is cold and windy and snowing again, but the birds are singing and calling — lots of fee bees — so I know spring will be here soon. Maybe by next weekend? I picked the right route for the direction of the wind. It was at my back as I ran over the lake street bridge and up the Marshall Hill. The only part where I was running directly into it was on the way back over the bridge.

Heard: the bells chiming near Shadow Falls; a dog barking and kid yelling below in the gorge; and the branches creaking from the wind again. This time the branches creaking sounded almost like a rusty hinge, with a door slowly creaking open. I like that image and the idea that some sort of door to somewhere was opening for me at that moment — and that there was something mysterious and scary about this door leading down into the woods or the earth. I like mysterious and scary.

Near the end of my run, I think after I remembered the rhythm of the gloves hitting the push-rim, I started chanting some of an ED poem:

Life is but life/And death but death/Bliss is but bliss/And breath but breath
Life is but life/And death but death/Bliss is but bliss/And breath but breath
Life is but life/And death but death/Bliss is but bliss/And breath but breath

Stopped to study the river for a minute — and to get a break from the wind — on the lake street bridge: it was a steely gray with ripples and a few eddies.

One more thing: Running above the floodplain forest and the Hiawatha Sand Flats, I heard a ferocious dog bark, then a whimper, almost but not quite, like a squeaky toy. Was the dog chasing or killing a bunny down there? Possibly. A minute later, I heard the deep voice of a human calling out repeatedly, then a steady rhythm of dog barks and sharp commands of some sort.

before the run

Scrolling through poems I’ve archived on my Safari Reading List, I found one that builds off of being dug up and excavated, but is also about returning, caring for, and re-planting:

Pear Snow/ Todd Dillard

A flood unzips a graveyard.
Cadavers sluice down Main St.
It’s my job to find the dead,
chauffeur them back to their plots.
The problem being the dead speak.
They want to swing by their old places,
check on spouses, kids grandkids
glimpsed in sepia windows
beneath the blue of evening news.
They whisper: “That tree was a sapling when I planted it,”
or: “I forgot what her laugh was like,”
or they call a dog that refuses to come.
Then, embarrassed by their weeping,
by how dry it is,
the dead ask me to take them home,
and on the drive I recite this line I’m working on
about the graininess of two-day-old snow.
“Pear snow,” I call it.
The dead say nothing
in response. The air velvets
as if it’s going to rain,
though the sky is clear,
the moon wet as the light in a child’s pupil.
Gentle, I lower the dead
back into their cradles. The earth,
for all its stripped rancor,
heavy in my shovel.
The work hard, but familiar.
The pay, at least, good.

What do we do with the ghosts that resurface, whether we want them to or not? How do we care for the stories of those who came before us?

Here’s another poem I posted last year about what the earth can yield and how we might notice it:

After the Rain/ jared Carter

After the rain, it’s time to walk the field
again, near where the river bends. Each year
I come to look for what this place will yield –
lost things still rising here.

The farmer’s plow turns over, without fail,
a crop of arrowheads, but where or why
they fall is hard to say. They seem, like hail,
dropped from an empty sky,

Yet for an hour or two, after the rain
has washed away the dusty afterbirth
of their return, a few will show up plain
on the reopened earth.

Still, even these are hard to see –
at first they look like any other stone.
The trick to finding them is not to be
too sure about what’s known;

Conviction’s liable to say straight off
this one’s a leaf, or that one’s merely clay,
and miss the point: after the rain, soft
furrows show one way

Across the field, but what is hidden here
requires a different view – the glance of one
not looking straight ahead, who in the clear
light of the morning sun

Simply keeps wandering across the rows,
letting his own perspective change.
After the rain, perhaps, something will show,
glittering and strange.

during the run

I tried to think about these two poems and excavating truths and caring for ghosts and noticing the things that are buried in the ground, but I couldn’t hang onto my thoughts. It could have been wind or the effort I was making to run in it that distracted me. Near the end of my run I thought about this before/during/after the run experiment and how it works sometimes and not others. I think I need to fine-tune it — maybe narrow my focus, or be more deliberate with what I want to think about before I head out on my run?

One other thing I remember was thinking about surfaces and depths, and the value of both. And now, writing this entry hours later, I’m thinking about how both of the poems in my “before the run” section involve water (rain) and how it brings the things buried to the surface. This reminds me of writing about water last July and Maxine Kumin’s idea of the thinker as the sinker (july 22, 2021). I’m also thinking about floating and bobbing to the surface and how humus (which I wrote about earlier this month) is the top layer of soil — 12 inches at the surface.

after the run

I want to return to the creaky branches sounding like the rusty hinge of a door. Last April, I read a poem by Mary Oliver with a hinge in it:

from Dogfish/ Mary Oliver

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)

april 15/RUN

3.5 miles
trestle turn around + extra
29 degrees / feels like 20
wind: 15 mph

Cold and windy. Again. Ran north, thinking I would have the wind at my back. Nope, in my face. Difficult. As I got closer (but not too close) to the porta-potty under the lake street bridge, it suddenly opened and a runner ran out. He was ready to go, I guess. Also saw a woman ahead of me walking down the service road to the Minneapolis Rowing Club. Rowers on the river today? If there were, I didn’t see or hear them. Ran past the trestle and stopped at the recently replaced steps. Then took them — about 30 steps, I think — down for a closer look. The river, with the sun reflecting the blue sky, the brown trees, the gray stone, looked almost mauve to me. Mostly brown, with hints of blue and gray and dark pink — where/how was I seeing pink? Saw a few fluttering birds, some ice on the edge of the entrance to the trail.

Almost forgot, but was reminded by hearing a dog bark here at my desk: Running south from the trestle, across the road from the fancy houses on Edmund, I heard a dog barking a deep, low bark in one of the houses. Then another a few doors down dog joined in. The second bark sounded almost like the impersonation of a frantic bark, like an unhinged kid trying to sound like a dog. I wondered which it was — a real bark or the copy of a bark? I never did find out, even as I listened for several minutes.

before the run

Today’s dirt topic: dust. Dust as the great equalizer (we all come from dust and return to it); how we are dust and more than dust; dusting as a sacred chore; dust as a fine powder we inhale/absorb without noticing; toxic dust; environmental racism and who does/doesn’t have access to cleaner air

1 — Dust Poem/ Philip Jenks

The idea was.
At least in theory,
Dust was a bad thing.

There was a bowl
Of it. At another
Point in time
The conclusion
Was reached
That everything
Was of it.

No season, no
Nothing to measure
To measure against
So no love or hate.
Left us without no
Moorings or so my
Father told me

Vanity tables of it?
Isn’t that what a vanity
Table is for?
What happens to
As its failings accrue?

No mission but to be clean.
Of itself.
But existing (time)
And problems there –
The problem of now
We are back here.

See the whole dust problem’s
No measure.
All’s dust, check.
All’s virtuous, check.
So why not live it up then?
And thus, YOLO etc. etc.

{These fok whirr pretty smart.
Thing is, even in
The dust bowl, the
Idea, a very American
One was that something
Wasn’t dust.
I wasn’t.
The Bowl wasn’t.
The dust wasn’t.

Since Ecclesiastes,
Been trying this one on.
(how’s that working out for you?)
One needn’t be geologically
Or for that matter
Psychologically trained to
Begin unpacking the diffident
And sometimes strained
Relation the nation holds with
All that is vanity.

The poet’s explanation of the poem was helpful for me in trying to dig in:

And I don’t say of myself much, or “I” much. I sometimes even just do search replace and take out “I” and put in “it” to try to take myself out as some small measure of humility.

“What happens to
As its failings accrue?

No mission but to be clean.
Of itself.

Dust Poem in PoetryNow

The idea of an “I” — writing as an “I,” being an “I.” How to navigate between a recognition that we are both more than dust and only dust (“All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.”–Eccleasiastes 3:20)? What is the “more” and how do we express/live it in ways that don’t deny the dust and in which our humility doesn’t erase our own existence? Is this too vague sounding? This question of being an “I” — having a unique voice, claiming a space — without doing violence to others (being too arrogant, taking too much) is one of the primary questions I struggle with in my life/writing. I tend to be too humble, too quick to erase or replace my “I”.

2 — Dusting/ Marilyn Nelson

Thank you for these tiny
particles of ocean salt,
pearl-necklace viruses,
winged protozoans:
for the infinite,
intricate shapes
of submicroscopic
living things.

For algae spores
and fungus spores,
bonded by vital
mutual genetic cooperation,
spreading their
inseparable lives
from equator to pole.

My hand, my arm,
make sweeping circles.
Dust climbs the ladder of light.
For this infernal, endless chore,
for these eternal seeds of rain:
Thank you. For dust.

I like how Nelson connects the chore of dusting — an everyday act of labor — with the deeper substance/s of life: tiny particles of ocean salt, algae and fungus spores, winged protozoas. For Nelson (and Jenks mentions it in his poem too), dust is more than dust, it is life, everything — and dusting is more than chore, but our access to that life.

Nelson’s reimagining dusting as sacred, reminds me of a poem I posted earlier this year, or late last year, Drift, which is about, among other things, rethinking the possible joy in shoveling snow.

3 — Dust/ Dorianne Laux

Someone spoke to me last night,
told me the truth. Just a few words,
but I recognized it.
I knew I should make myself get up,
write it down, but it was late,
and I was exhausted from working
all day in the garden, moving rocks.
Now, I remember only the flavor —
not like food, sweet or sharp.
More like a fine powder, like dust.
And I wasn’t elated or frightened,
but simply rapt, aware.
That’s how it is sometimes —
God comes to your window,
all bright light and black wings,
and you’re just too tired to open it.

Dust = fine powder we inhale, surrounding us but often unnoticed. For Laux, truth as dust

dust: fine, dry powder consisting of tiny particles of earth or waste matter lying on the ground or on surfaces or carried in the air.

4 — Household Dust and Our Health

My 100+ year old house in the middle of the city gathers a lot of dust. I don’t often think about what all that means, and what all I’m inhaling/absorbing inside. Yikes.

As sure as the sun rises, houses collect dust. It gathers on our knickknacks and dirties the carpets. More than just dirt, house dust is a mix of sloughed-off skin cells, hair, clothing fibers, bacteria, dust mites, bits of dead bugs, soil particles, pollen, and microscopic specks of plastic. It’s our detritus and, it turns out, has a lot to reveal about our lifestyle.

For one thing, dust is far from inert. Those shed hairs and old skin cells can soak up a constellation of contaminants originating from consumer products that we bring into our homes. Other environmental contaminants can be tracked indoors on the soles of our shoes. So in addition to fluffy hair and garden dirt, dust can hold a witch’s brew of persistent organic pollutants, metals, endocrine disruptors, and more.

Not only does dust hold a long memory of the contaminants introduced to a house, but it’s also a continual source of exposure for the residents. Dust gets resuspended when it’s disturbed and will recirculate throughout the house, picking up substances before returning once more to the floor. “Year over year, dust accumulates in the home,” says Miriam L. Diamond, an environmental chemist at the University of Toronto. Even after regular cleaning, it still accretes because homes are tightly sealed environments, and the dust gets entrenched in carpets and crevices. Dust from an old house may retain legacy pollutants such as DDT that were banned almost half a century ago, she says.

Tracing the chemistry of household dust

5 — Dust, Toxins and Environmental Racism

So, we’re breathing in a lot of bad shit inside our individual houses — toxic chemicals that may not have even be used for decades. What about in our neighborhoods? And which neighborhoods are subject to more toxic and why?

At MCEA we believe in seeking justice for communities that have been harmed by historic and ongoing toxic pollution and contamination. By design and neglect, this harm has affected Black, Indigenous and other communities of color to a much greater extent than white neighborhoods.  Whenever municipal development is proposed in these communities, a necessary first step is to make sure the voices of neighboring community members are engaged and respected. Key decisionmakers must invite community members to the table to work towards a goal of eliminating new, harmful sources of pollution in neighborhoods experiencing systemic pollution and poor air quality.

The East Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis is one of these communities. This neighborhood continuously ranks as having some of the worst air quality in Minneapolis, and it is still being harmed by one of the most brazen and widespread urban polluters in Minnesota history.  An insecticide manufacturer at East 28th St. and Hiawatha Ave. polluted the neighborhood with arsenic from the 1930’s to the 1960’s, resulting in a massive cleanup of contaminated residential yards. 

The area surrounding this Superfund site is recognized in state law as being overburdened by pollution. State law requires that no permit shall be issued by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in the area “without analyzing and considering the cumulative levels and effects of past and current environmental pollution from all sources on the environment.” 

The City of Minneapolis has proposed building a new “Hiawatha Campus” adjacent to the former manufacturing site to house city offices and vehicles. 

Ensuring community voices are heard in East Phillips

Environmental racism: Although the proposed project is expected to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions in city operations, this would come at the direct expense of local environmental quality by increasing pollutants from traffic near this site. As a neighborhood that is 83% Black, Indigenous, and people of color, the East Phillips community would be expected to bear the brunt of the impact for the “greater good,” which is an unacceptable trade-off. Racism has recently been declared a public health emergency in Minneapolis. Knowingly increasing the amount of pollution in a neighborhood primarily populated by Native American, Latinx, East African and Black communities will only exacerbate this problem and demonstrate the hypocrisy of the city’s words.

Poor governance to bring new toxicity to the ‘Arsenic Triangle’

during the run

Did I think about dust while I was running? I tried. At one point, I remember thinking about the invisibility of dust and how it’s in the air, as opposed to dirt on the ground or sandy muck in the water. I also thought about breathing and breath and how dust travels between lungs.

after the run

Here’s something to add to the list of invisible things around us all the time, and another possible reason why I have “sinus episodes” so often: dust mites

Dust mites are microscopic, insect-like pests that feed on dead human skin cells and thrive in warm, humid environments. They are not parasites that bite, sting or burrow into our bodies. Instead, people who are allergic to dust or dust mites are reacting to inhaling proteins in dust that comes from dust mite feces, urine or decaying bodies. Any inflammation of the nasal passages caused by dust mites is considered a dust allergy.

Dust and Dust Mites

april 9/RUN

4.5 miles
ford loop
49 degrees

Ran/walked the ford loop with Scott. Sunny and warm with a bright blue sky. Wonderful. Stopped at the 2 overlooks on the St. Paul side. Heard and saw rowers on the river! The first time this spring, I think. Also heard someone playing guitar on a rock below the Monument that juts out over the river. Heard lots of birds, encountered lots of walkers, some runners, a biker or two.

Right after we finished our run, as we walked by Becketwood, I saw something flash in the trees. At first I thought it was a squirrel jumping, but Scott said it was an owl! Excellent. It took me about a minute to see it, but when it flapped its wing, I did. My favorite part: the owl was facing the other way, but they turned their head to check if we were still there. What an awesome head swivel!

before the run

Although Entangled Life never lapses into polemics or preaching, the book has an evangelical message all the same: humanity is neither innately special nor truly dominant; rather, we emerge and are sustained by a web of interspecies interdependence and diverse kinship; and our human notion of individuality is chimeric. The book is a call to engage with fungi on their level. “Is it possible for humans, with our animal brains and bodies and language, to learn to understand such different organisms? How might we find ourselves changed in the process?” Like fungi, “‘[w]e are ecosystems that span boundaries and transgress categories. Our selves emerge from a complex tangle of relationships.”

The Mycophile’s Plea: On Merlin Sheldrake’s “Entangled Life”


The underlying questions of Entangled Life, and other mycophilic media today, are: How can we be more like fungi? How are we already like fungi? How can we, as Paul Stamets puts it, ally ourselves with the fungal kingdom? How can we mycologize ourselves and our world? How can we break down our waste for fuel and sustenance, rather than let it accumulate in garbage dumps, oceans, and bloodstreams? How can we organize ourselves flexibly and responsibly so each part of the social web gets what it needs? If we fail and our own species does not survive the next few centuries, we can at least trust that a resilient species of fungi will evolve to consume the copious remains of our civilization and renew the planet again.

The Mycophile’s Plea: On Merlin S

Written in my Plague Notebook, Volume 11:

The need for new understanding, metaphors for working together (and living together) — and NOT as individuals. Beyond Darwinism and survival of the fittest and competition. Survival of the fittest/dog-eat-dog world are dead metaphors.

Plague Notebook, Vol 11/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

Found this video from the BBC about the “wood wide web”:

Near the end, the voice-over says: “scientists are still debating why plants seem to behave in such an altruistic way.” Why are these collaborations and symbiotic relationships and networks understood as altruism? Looking up altruism, I found these definitions:

1unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of otherscharitable acts motivated purely by altruism
2: behavior by an animal that is not beneficial to or may be harmful to itself but that benefits others of its species

definition from Merriam-Webster

Plants and fungi are not being selfless, if selfless means doing things for others that don’t benefit, or maybe even harm, you. I dislike the term altruism, btw. This is not sacrifice of individuals, or individual groups, for the good of the whole. The idea of altruism is tied up with the old, outdated understanding of us as individuals who either act selfishly or purely selflessly.

during the run

Tried to explain some of this stuff about mycelium to Scott. Also ranted about altruism. Mentioned how the discussion about the wood wide web focuses more on marveling at trees and how they communicate, and much less on the amazing fungi network and the cool stuff fungi do. Trees are the actors, with fungi only the medium. But, fungi are actors too, just in a way that we don’t see or understand as easily. Also ranted against TED talks and how formulaic and forced they seemed. Scott got distracted when I asked him what scientists who study trees are called. He couldn’t think of it. The particular type I was trying to remember was: forest ecologist.

after the run

Mushroom Hunting in the Jemez Mountains/ Arthur Sze

from The Glass Constellation

Walking in a mountain meadow toward the north slope,
I see red-cap amanitas with white warts and know
they signal cèpes. I see a few colonies of puffballs,
red russulas with chalk-white stipes, brown-gilled
Poison Pie. In the shade under the spruce are two
red-pored boletes: slice them in half and the flesh
turns blue in seconds. Under fir is a single amanita
with basal cup, flarinannulus, white cap: is it
the Rocky Mountain form of Amanita pantherina?
I am aware of danger in naming, in misidentification,
in imposing the distinctions of a taxonomic language
onto the things themselves. I know I have only
a few hours to hunt mushrooms before early afternoon rain.
I know it is a mistake to think I am moving and
that argarics are still: they are more transient
than we acknowledge, more susceptible to full moon,
to a single rain, to night air, to a moment of sunshine.
I know in this meadow my passions are mycorrhizal
with nature. I may shout our ecstasies, aches, griefs,
and hear them vanish in the white-pored silence.

mycorrhizal = entangled

april 7/RUN

4.25 miles
top of franklin bridge and back
37 degrees
wind / rain / snow

Ran in the afternoon, after returning from Austin. A huge wind gust almost blew me off the trail as I ran through the Welcoming Oaks. Later, the tornado siren went off. Because of the wind, I was concerned. Called Scott to check. It’s severe weather week and today they’re testing the sirens. Whew. With all the wind and snow and sirens, I don’t remember looking at the river. Did I? Yes! I just remembered. I admired the snow flurries looking like mist hovering right above the river. Very cool.

I chanted, mostly in my head but a few times out loud, the Christina Rossetti poem, “Who Has Seen the Wind?”:

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The Wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the leaves bow down their heads
The wind is passing by.

Anything else? Lots of black-capped chickadees. A Minneapolis parks vehicle approaching with a double set of headlights — 2 at the normal spot on the bumper, and 2 up above on the roof.

before the run

Today dirt = mud and sinking down into the earth. Found this poem by a Minnesota poet, Joyce Sidman (search term: mud):


slant low,
chill seeps into black
water. No more days of bugs
and basking. Last breath, last sight
of light and down I go, into the mud. Every
year, here, I sink and settle, shuttered like a
shed. Inside, my eyes close, my heart slows
to its winter rhythm. Goodbye, good-
bye! Remember the warmth.
Remember the quickness.
Remember me.


hashtłʼish = mud

About This Poem

“‘Muddy’ is inspired by the motion and cadence of Diné words. Looking at it on the page, one sees kinetic text and hears onomatopoeia, so the repetition of ‘tł’ish’ reenacts the sound of someone stepping in mud, and then the word itself turns into a poem.”
Orlando White 

Mud as where you sink and settle during winter, and the sound of squishing through mud.

during the run

Tried to notice the mud. Mostly, it was on the edge of the trail. I ran over it to avoid 2 walkers. Biggest (and yuckiest) bit of mud was right by the big boulder near the sprawling oak just above the tunnel of trees at the grassy spot between the walking and biking trails. A vehicle had driven through it, leaving deep, muddy tire ruts.

after the run

One more poem:


This is what happened
the dead were settling in under their mud roof
and something was shuffling overhead

it was a badger treading on the thin partition

bewildered were the dead
going about their days and nights in the dark
putting their feet down carefully and finding themselves floating
but that badger

still with the simple heavy box of his body needing to be lifted
was shuffling away alive

hard at work
with the living shovel of himself
into the lane he dropped
         not once looking up

and missed the sight of his own corpse falling like a suitcase towards him
with the grin like an opened zip
         (as I found it this morning)

and went on running with that bindweed will of his
went on running along the hedge and into the earth again
as if in a broken jug for one backwards moment
               water might keep its shape

bindweed: invasive species that can clog harvesting equipment

april 4

4.3 miles
minnehaha falls and back
39 degrees

Ran in the early afternoon. This morning it snowed. By the time I went out to the gorge, it had all melted. Ran south to the falls, listening to the birds. When I got there, I ran by the creek and the statue of Minnehaha and Hiawatha. The creek was high. Not rumbling over rocks, making its way to the falls, but flowing and oozing and spreading across the grass. Noticed an adult taking video of some kid near a bench. A thought flashed: watch out (the kid was fine). Then I heard the falls, roaring. Wow. I glanced at them but I don’t remember how they looked, just how they sounded. Too small of a falls to be deafening, but much more than rushing or gushing.

before the run

Day 2 on dirt. Uh oh. I can feel myself becoming overwhelmed with ideas and directions. This morning I learned about humus (and remembered reading about it in a poem recently that I can’t seem to find right now…where was it? something about a few feet or 2 feet of humus?). Thought about soil and gardening and things decomposing and recycling. Started with a re-reading of a poem I found the other day:

Ode to Dirt/ Sharon Olds

Dear dirt, I am sorry I slighted you,
I thought that you were only the background
for the leading characters—the plants
and animals and human animals.
It’s as if I had loved only the stars
and not the sky which gave them space
in which to shine. Subtle, various,
sensitive, you are the skin of our terrain,
you’re our democracy. When I understood
I had never honored you as a living
equal, I was ashamed of myself,
as if I had not recognized
a character who looked so different from me,
but now I can see us all, made of the
same basic materials—
cousins of that first exploding from nothing—
in our intricate equation together. O dirt,
help us find ways to serve your life,
you who have brought us forth, and fed us,
and who at the end will take us in
and rotate with us, and wobble, and orbit.

Love this line:

It’s as if I had loved only the stars
and not the sky which gave them space
in which to shine.

And the idea of dirt as the skin of our terrain, made of the same basic materials — our democracy, taking us in at the end and rotating wobbling orbiting with us.

After reading this poem, I decided to look up “dirt” in the Emily Dickinson lexicon.

dirt, n. [ME.]

Earth; mud; soil; humus; ground; [fig.] grave.

Emily Dickinson lexicon

Remembered reading humus in some poem (will I ever remember where) and decided to dig (ugh) into it some more:

geology a brown or black complex variable material resulting from partial decomposition of plant or animal matter and forming the organic (see ORGANICentry 1 sense 1a(2)) portion of soil

Merriam-Webster dictionary

Then I found an article by Lulu Miller for Guernica:

Traditionally, humus was believed to be the dark matter left behind in soil after all organic material — leaf litter, dead bugs, acorns, etc. — had finished decomposing. It was thought of as a shadow of life. A liminal layer, whose betweenness gave it great power. Its molecules were of no interest to microbes or rock eaters, and thus could remain stable for centuries. Gardeners spoke of humus with reverence. Soil rich in humus was healthy soil; it held water and air and prevented the leaching of nutrients. It was a site of transfiguration, where inhabitant became architecture, where the ground beneath your feet remained, in some defiance of Chaos, the ground beneath your feet.

How exactly does humus evade the unforgiving forces of decay? That’s when jargon tends to roll in. Scientists speak of “humification,” “humic acid,” “humin.” They reference the pH levels of humus, its negative electrical charge. Hold tight, though, through the glazing of your eyes, and you might hear a tremble in an expert’s breath. Play the jargon backward, at double speed, and you might hear the word “ALCHEMY.”The catch, as scientists Johannes Lehmann and Markus Kleber argued in a study published in Nature, is that humus doesn’t exist. The molecules that comprise it are more like, as Lehmann puts it, “a smoothie.” A blend of various microorganisms, their bodies and residues becoming so small — so like molecular dust — that even hungry microbes can’t easily find them. There is nothing so numinous about humus. Its strength comes from the diminutive, in molecules that go unnoticed.

Humus / Lulu Miller

…which led me to a podcast I’m hoping to listen to soon with one of the scientists Miller mentions in this essay: Dr. Johannes Lehman – Soil Humus | In Search of Soil #12

Another search yielded this great essay on The Fat of the Land blog about humus. When I read this passage, I instantly thought of an interview I had just read with Alice Oswald.

First, from The Fat of the Land:

Soil is slow but never still. Its myriad processes never start or finish, they renew. Like the ocean, its movement is fluid. Indeed, the same forces that influence the ocean’s tides pull at the water table, mimicking that briny ebb and flow the way a sloth mimics a monkey.

humus / The Fat of the Land

Then what Oswald says:

What is the I of a landscape? It’s always water. Everything being tidal — fields and woods. Ebb and flow/ up and down. Everything as a tide, even the seasons, watching the leaves coming onto the trees, day by day, like a tide.
The thinking part of a landscape is the way the water levels are changing

Also in The Fat of the Land post, she describes the differences between dirt and soil:

Dirt is what gets on your hands in the garden, what splashes onto the sides of the car or tracks into the house on your shoes. Soil is a dance: lifeless minerals animated by electrostatic reactions, architectural aggregates constructed by chemical and biological bonds, microorganisms and invertebrates endlessly consuming and converting plant residue into nutrient-rich organic matter, a million miles of tiny root hairs tunneling and conversing by exchange with the forum of particles that surrounds them. One fingernail-full of soil is more complex than Shakespeare’s entire canon, and its poetry is just as striking.

This distinction between dirt and soil made here reminds me of something else I stumbled across as I tunneled through rabbit hole after rabbit hole: dirty nature writing:

a genre of fiction called “dirty nature writing,” a term coined by Huebert and fellow writer Tom Cull in the New Quartely, a Canadian literary journal. Nature writing, popularized by authors such as David Thoreau, refers to works that focus on the natural environment. This genre includes essays of solitude, natural history essays and travel/adventure writing. 

“Nature writing traditionally imagines nature as this pristine thing … that exists outside of us and outside of human impact,” says Huebert. 

Alternatively, dirty nature writing acknowledges the messiness of nature today, explains Huebert. “To think of nature as something separate from human nature isactually problematic in a lot of ways”, he says. “I try to confront nature in its contaminated state honestly and openly, [and] not believe in a false binary between nature and human existence.” 

‘Dirty Nature Writing’: Your New Favorite Genre?

Often (as much as possible) present in my thinking and writing about dirt or soil or the gorge or water or “nature,” is the awareness of the messy, complicated, entangled relationships that exist between the natural world and humans.

At some point during a search, I found a link describing the difference between compost and humus:

Humus is the end result of the decompositions process, whereas compost is a word that identifies a phase of the decomposition process where decomposing plant material provides the most benefit to the soil. 

Humus vs. Compost: What’s the difference?

The article continues by describing the differences between organic material (dead animal/plant materials that are in an active stage of decomposition) and organic matter (final, fibrous, stable material left after organic material has completely decomposed — humus). Then it offers this image of bones/skeleton:

Organic matter has been broken down so completely that it cannot release any more nutrients into the soil, so its only function is to help maintain a spongey, porous soil structure.

Organic matter is essentially the bones of organic material. Once the meat has been completely broken down and absorbed into the soil, all that remains is a skeleton.

Humus vs. Compost: What’s the difference?

And suddenly, I remembered a poem that I posted a few years ago that I’d like put beside these discussions of decomposition as organic material breaking down. This poem fits with my discussion yesterday, adding flies and maggots to the list of beautiful creatures:

Life is Beautiful/DORIANNE LAUX                           

and remote, and useful,
if only to itself. Take the fly, angel
of the ordinary house, laying its bright
eggs on the trash, pressing each jewel out
delicately along a crust of buttered toast.
Bagged, the whole mess travels to the nearest
dump where other flies have gathered, singing
over stained newsprint and reeking
fruit. Rapt on air they execute an intricate
ballet above the clashing pirouettes
of heavy machinery. They hum with life.
While inside rumpled sacks pure white
maggots writhe and spiral from a rip,
a tear-shaped hole that drools and drips
a living froth onto the buried earth.
The warm days pass, gulls scree and pitch,
rats manage the crevices, feral cats abandon
their litters for a morsel of torn fur, stranded
dogs roam open fields, sniff the fragrant edges,
a tossed lacework of bones and shredded flesh.
And the maggots tumble at the center, ripening,
husks membrane-thin, embryos darkening
and shifting within, wings curled and wet,
the open air pungent and ready to receive them
in their fecund iridescence. And so, of our homely hosts,
a bag of jewels is born again into the world. Come, lost
children of the sun-drenched kitchen, your parents
soundly sleep along the windowsill, content,
wings at rest, nestled in against the warm glass.
Everywhere the good life oozes from the useless
waste we make when we create—our streets teem
with human young, rafts of pigeons streaming
over the squirrel-burdened trees. If there is
a purpose, maybe there are too many of us
to see it, though we can, from a distance,
hear the dull thrum of generation’s industry,
feel its fleshly wheel churn the fire inside us, pushing
the world forward toward its ragged edge, rushing
like a swollen river into multitude and rank disorder.
Such abundance. We are gorged, engorging, and gorgeous.

during the run

I have a vague feeling that I thought about soil and humus and decomposing leaves the trail, but I don’t remember any specific thoughts. When I reached the falls, I put in my headphones and listened to the podcast about humus that I mentioned earlier. I enjoyed listening to it as I ran, but I kept getting distracted, which is not unusual for me with science stuff. I’ll have to try listening to it again.

after the run

Finishing up this entry, about 6 hours after my run, I’m returning to the worms and the maggots and the flies and wanting to understood more about the “dance” (that The Fat of the Land blog mentions, cited above) and how it happens.

“Soil is a dance”:

  • lifeless minerals animated by electrostatic reactions
  • architectural aggregates constructed by chemical and biological bonds
  • microorganisms and invertebrates endlessly consuming and converting plant residue into nutrient-rich organic matter
  • a million miles of tiny root hairs tunneling and conversing by exchange with the forum of particles that surrounds them

I’m finding poetry about the invertebrates. Can I find some about the other parts?