jan 30/BIKERUN

bike: 15 min warm-up
run: 3.2 miles
outside temp: 2 degrees / feels like -15

Because of the cold air, the icy paths, and the 10 mph wind, I decided to move in the basement today. Finished the episode of Dickinson I had started a few days ago while I biked, listened to the latest episode of If Books Could Kill (Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus) while I ran. Running on the treadmill in the basement is very different from running outside. A dark, unfinished basement with windows mostly blocked by a shelf with old lamps on it. Staring straight ahead, I can see a blank tv screen and then behind that, a dark window and the old coal chute. To the side, shelves with old paint cans (left) and a long work bench (right). Not much to notice, except spiders and dust. Difficult to run for that long and to remember any of my thoughts. I don’t mind running down here on occasion, but I couldn’t do it all the time. I’m so glad that I have the gorge.

a moment of sound

On days when it’s too cold for me to move outside, I record a moment of sound. Today’s moment was on my short walk back from the alley, where I had brought out some trash. It features my favorite, crunching snow, and another irritating delight: the cold, shrill creak of our iron gate. I walked through the snow in my small backyard and stopped briefly by the crab apple tree:

jan 30 / 3:00 pm

Here’s a poem I found on twitter today by Dana Levin about walking and thinking and wandering/wondering and being in and out of a body:

A Walk in the Park/ Dana Levin

To be born again, you need
an incarnation specialist—a team
from the Bureau of Needles
to thread you through—
Your next life
turns
on an axle of light—which Plato likens
to a turning
spindle—what was that?
I mean I knew

what a spindle was
from fairytales—how it could
draw blood
from a testing finger, put a kingdom
to sleep—
but what
did it actually do, how
did a spindle look
in real life?
I didn’t know. As with
so many things:
there was fact and there was

a believed-in dream . . .  

Everyone had one back
in the ancient day,
spindles.
When we had to weave
our living-shrouds
by hand.
“A slender rounded rod
with tapered ends,” Google said. Plato’s,
so heavy with thread,
when viewed from the side,
looked like a top—
though most diagrams assumed

the hawk-lord view . . . 

Moon thread, threads of the planets, earth thread.
Your thread.
Everyone else’s.
Nested one
inside the other, a roulette
machine—
If a thread could be spun from liquid light was what
I kept thinking—
imagining a sluice
of electric souls
between the earth wheel’s rims—
there “I”

was a piece of water, Necessity
wheeled it around―Necessity,
who was married to Time,
according to the Greeks—
Mother of the Fates.
Who would measure and cut your

paradise/shithole extra life . . . 

Well we all have ways of thinking about
why,
metaphysically-speaking,
anyone’s born—
though the answer’s always Life’s
I AM THAT I AM
—how it hurls and breaks!
on Death’s No there
there . . .

—which sounded kind of Buddhist. 

According to the teachings we were all
each other’s dream . . .

And soon able to vanish—

out of the real
without having to die, whoever’s
got the cash—to pay
the brainier ones
to perfect
a Heaven upload—to cut
the flesh-tether
and merge

with the Cloud . . . 

Well we all have ways of constructing
Paradise.
To walk alone deep in thought
in a city park
was mine
for several minutes,
thinking about spindles.
Before the vigilance
of my genderdoom

kicked in—

And there it was, the fact
of my body—
all the nerves in my scalp
and the back of my neck,
alive—
How it moved through space, how close
it had strayed
toward concealing trees, my
female body—
Jewish body—inside my
White body—dreaming
it was bodiless

and free . . . 

to decide:

how and when and if to fill the body’s hungers—
how and when and if to walk in thought
through the wilderness . . .

before Death comes with its Fascist hat.

Its Park Murder Misogyny hat.

Its Year Ten in a Nursing Home stink
    hat—    

However spun
    my thread . . . 

Anyway,
it’s peaceful here
in the park, at midday,
if a little deserted. I’ve moved to the path that winds
closer to the street.
Thinking again, as I always do,
about body and soul. How they
infuse each other. How they
hate each other.
How most people pledge allegiance
to one or the other.
How painful it was! To be
such a split

creature—

jan 28/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
run: 1.8 miles
basement
outside: 5 degrees / feels like -10

Needed to move a little, but too cold for Delia to take a walk. Started watching the first episode of Dickinson while I biked, listened to a podcast (episode 2 of “Nobody Asked Us”) while I ran. In the short bit of the podcast I listened to, Des and Kara talked about resolutions, which neither of them do, and goals. Des mentioned that goals should be big but not so big that they’re paralyzing and that the the timeline for accomplishing them might be different than we expect. I started thinking about goals for my running and writing. Some of my goals are specific, like a mileage total. Last year, it was 1000 miles. But most of them are broad or vague or more of a guide than one concrete goal, like these:

  • to keep running into my 70s (I’m 47)
  • to slow down
  • to be satisfied with the small moments
  • to find better words for connecting me to others and to a specific place
  • to be open, not closed
  • to learn to listen (and to see differently) as I lose my central vision

I decided to go back through my archives to find other posts were I’ve discussed goals (search word: goal). Here are a few:

nov 7, 2022 — on living to an old age and still running
oct 31, 2022 — on running 1000 miles in one year
sept 20, 2022 — on being open (and keeping the door open to possibility)
may 4, 2022 — on slowing down

Ok, I’ll stop there. I have 5 pages / 90 entries with the word goal. Wow. I’d like to spend more time skimming them and finding bits to add to my Undisciplined page on purpose/goals. So much to think and write about with goals.

jan 22/WALKBIKE

walk: 25 minutes
winchell trail between 44th and 42nd
17 degrees / snow flurries

I needed some pictures for my class, so Scott, Delia, and I took a walk by the gorge. Because of the slippery conditions we drove to the parking lot, then slowly walked around. Scott took some great pictures, Delia had fun romping around in the snow, and I loved breathing in all the cold, crisp air!

Here’s one of my favorite shots:

bare trees, snow, a person in a green jacket with a small white dog in a cute sweater
Sara and Delia, the Winchell Trail

A beautiful walk. Near the end of it, we noticed it was snowing. Saw lots of walkers and runners out there this morning.

bike: 25 minutes
basement

Felt like I wanted to work my legs a little more this afternoon — thanks, restlessness — so I decided to do a short bike ride in the basement. Watched new videos from the 2 running YouTubers I follow. Didn’t bike that fast, but it felt good to move some more after sitting and reading most of the afternoon. Current book: Mornings with Rosemary, which is the American title for the British book, The Lido. I prefer the British title, especially since the book is all about the lido. American audiences can figure out what a lido is, I think. If they grew up in the late 70s and 80s like me, they should know what a lido is from The Love Boat and its lido deck!

jan 13/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
run: 2.4 miles
basement
outside: an ice rink

Ugh. Hopefully it will warm up enough in the next few days so that the ice on the sidewalks will finally melt. I can run in snow and in the cold, but when the sidewalks and most of the road are one sheet of bumpy, uneven, super slick ice, I have to stay inside. Before I went down to the basement, I took Delia the dog for a walk for some recon. Almost fell at least twice on the short 2 block walk. Something interesting: even though it was very slippery and I almost fell, I never had that anxious, I’m-going-to-fall-feeling. No tensing up of my legs or shoulders.

Watched a comedian my sister told me about, Rhys Niccholson, on Netflix while I biked. I laughed a lot. Listened to the book, An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed, while I ran. I loved An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good, so I was excited for another book, more time to spend with Maud. Thought I might run a 5k, but I felt ready to stop a bit sooner. All I remember from my run, other than listening to Maud pretend to be senile and feeble in order to not be found out as a murderer, was thinking that treadmill runs feel longer and are much less fun than outdoor runs. Oh — I also remember noticing my stride and trying to focus on the rise and fall of my feet and relaxing my shoulders as I swung my arms.

A few days ago, I bookmarked a wonderful essay by the Diné poet Jake Skeets: My Name is Beauty. I just started reading it and found so many wonderful passages, including this one:

Viola Cordova defines the concept of cultural relativity in her essay “Language as Window” as the way Western constructs constrict worldview to one single thing and dismiss differing worldviews. However, Cordova, through an analysis of the work of linguist Benjamin Whorf, states that language is the key to interpreting the world in different ways. Using an egg paradigm, Cordova asks us to imagine the Earth not as a physical rock in space but as the yolk of an egg. She asks us to imagine ourselves swimming through air rather than walking, and to consider ourselves within something, not on something.6 Seen this way, the Earth becomes a womb, a nest, an embrace.

The swimming through air reminded me of studying fungi this past April. Here’s something I wrote on April 21, 2022:

Thought about nets and this passage from The Mushroom at the End of the World:

Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungi. Fungi are diverse and often flexible, and they live in many places, ranging from ocean currents to toenails. But many fungi live in the soil, where their thread-like filaments, called hyphae, spread into fans and tangle into cords through the dirt. If you could make the soil liquid and transparent and walk into the ground, you would find yourself surrounded by nets of fungal hyphae (137).

Thought about imagining the soil was liquid and transparent and then entering it, surrounded by nets of fungal hyphae. What if I could swim in the soil? Swim through these nets of fungal hyphae?

I must return to this essay later and work through it slowly. So many amazing ideas! In the meantime, here is one of Skeets’ poems:

Soft Thunder/ Jake Skeets

narrowmouth toads dapple pink sandstone
knee-deep in a brown bowl of brown water

before the croon of limb and wind on weeds
puddles from the pour gather for a morning song

the sun rises from a flatbed load of open palms
                : each crease a ripple a leg a half smile

the sun knows best when it rises
                : each tide and oak and uplift sung the same

each killdeer and mare and desert bighorn
each I I gorge each I I ravine each I I—

and each part of me is hung out to dry marooned

and wrung of rain, wrung of every I until no I is left
                        :      soft thunder
                                        ponds in a clearing

jan 11/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
run: 1.4 miles
basement
outside: 33 degrees / an ice rink

Outside it’s an ice rink and the air quality is bad. So, even though it’s warm, I biked and ran in the basement today. I took Delia out for a walk earlier to check on the conditions: solid ice everywhere. It’s so icy that the city suspended metro transit buses for a few hours. Yikes.

Watched an old triathlon race (2012, London Olympics, Men’s) while I biked, listened to the Apple Music’s “80s fitness” playlist while I ran. Not sure why, but “It’s Raining Man” had voiceover from Arnold Schwarsenegger talking about lifting weights. Huh? I skipped to the next song before I had a chance to find out why.

I don’t remember thinking about much as I moved. Basement workouts are usually only about moving and burning energy. I should try memorizing and reciting poems again.

Found this poem a few days ago. What a beautiful description. I love the bats and the black lake, and the swan and the moon.

I Went Out to Hear/ Leila Chatti

The sound of quiet. The sky 
indigo, steeping 
deeper from the top, like tea.
In the absence
of anything else, my own
breathing became obscene.
I heard the beating
of bats’ wings before 
the air troubled above 
my head, turned to look
and saw them gone.
On the surface of the black
lake, a swan and the moon
stayed perfectly 
still. I knew this was
a perfect moment.
Which would only hurt me
to remember and never
live again. My God. How lucky to have lived
a life I would die for.

dec 23/BIKERUN

bike: 10 minute warm-up
run: 3.35 miles
basement
outside temp: -7 / feels like -25

Scott, RJP, and I braved the cold and drove over to the Y. Empty parking lot. Closed early for the holidays because of the extreme cold and wind. Oh well. Drove back home and did another treadmill workout. Covered the display panel, turned on a running podcast, and ran with hardly any idea of how long I was moving. I wanted to check my watch a few times, but I decided to wait until there was a pause in the podcast for the sponsor. Almost 33 minutes. Wow, I had no idea I had been running for that long. Mostly listened to the Olympic 1500 runner Heather MacLean discuss being an introvert, talking to the trees in a Flagstaff forest, and struggling with the pressure of running at the Olympics. I tried to think about color and the idea of orange and buoys.

This morning I had thought about orange in relation to navigation and reorienting myself in terms of open water swimming and life and wanting to become a bird (using quantum mechanics and blue light for navigation) or one of the monarch butterflies that fly across lake superior on a route designed to avoid a mountain that hasn’t existed for centuries. Orange, literally and figuratively, is about navigation and orientation for me. It’s the first color I couldn’t see that started my awareness that something was wrong with my vision. It’s the color of the buoys that I’ve used every summer since I was diagnosed for practicing “how to be when I cannot see” — learning how to negotiate/navigate without the certainty of sight. It’s the color that I’ve noticed the most when I tracking how my peripheral vision works and is helping me use the remaining bits of central vision.

2 past entries to review:

On bird navigation and quantum mechanics
On monarch butterflies and missing mountains

Found this poem the other day on Poets.org:

Owl/ Anne Haven McDonnell

In winter, we find her invisible 
against the furrows 
of cottonwood bark. Her swivel 
and lean follow us until 
we sit on the old polished log 
we call creature. She blinks, 
swells her feathers out, shakes and settles. 

It’s a good day when I see an owl. 
We watch until she drops—a fall 
opening to swoop and glide. What is it 
with lesbians and owls? Someone 
asked. I’ll leave the question 
there. There’s a world 

the old trees make of water 
and air. I like to feel the day 
undress its cool oblivion, currents 
moving the one mind of leaves, 
shadows deeper with the breath 
of owls. Just the chance she might 
be there watching makes me 
love—no—makes me loved.

So much I love about this poem: the short lines, economy of words, how the narrator has named the log creature, that it’s a good day when she sees an owl (not because it’s an owl, although that’s cool, but because she thinks that if she sees a certain something, she’ll have a good day. Mine is roller skiers or turkeys), the cool oblivion, the breath of owls, shadows as both (?) a noun and a verb, the ending line.

dec 22/BIKERUN

bike: 12 minute warm-up
run: 3.25 miles
basement
outside temp: -6 / feels like -25

Dangerously cold today, or as the winter storm warning described it, life-threatening. Yikes. In order to chip away at those last miles I need to reach my goal of 1000 miles, I ran on the treadmill.

current total (after this run): 991.95

Warmed up (because it was cold in the basement!) on the bike first, while watching Erin Azar (Mrs. Space Cadet) and her latest “uncomfy” challenge. A self-proclaimed struggle runner and content creator, Azar is completing (and filming) a bunch of things that make her feel uncomfortable. This one was working out with a college lacrosse team. I like her and I enjoyed this video, partly for her perspective, partly for the positive energy of the college athletes, and partly for the speed drills. Some useful stuff in there, I think.

After the bike warm-up, I ran for 31 minutes. Decided to try listening to my latest audiobook, a story collection about an elderly woman in Sweden who likes to solve her problems with murder: An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good. I really like stories with smart, capable, thriving (not always physically, but in terms of their perspective that when you get old you’re not just waiting for death to come) older women. I also like that it’s a story collection — as opposed to a ridiculously long novel — and that it’s translated from Swedish. I covered the display panel on the treadmill with a towel, didn’t look at my watch, and ran while listening to Maud (the old lady) murder a terrible gold digger and a selfish, needy sister. Wow. I lost track of time and was surprised when I gave in and looked at my watch and saw that 26 minutes had gone by. I struggle to run for a long time on a too steady treadmill in a boring basement. Listening to this book helped.

Earlier today, I continued reading Maggie Nelson’s Bluets. Here’s #51:

51. You might as weel act as if objects had the colors, the Encyclopedia says.—Welo, it is as you please. But what would it look like to act otherwise?

Bluets/ Maggie Nelson

I wrote this in reaction (as opposed to a thought out response) to the idea of acting otherwise: What would this look like for me? I am not acting as if they had no colors, nor did I need to. I can still see colors. My world is not black and white or even gray. The colors just work differently, unreliably. Colors speak in a language that is sometimes silent for me. Color-coded, color as signal, sign. Color to get your attention to communicate something more quickly than a word could do. Color as a practical language. I’ve lost, am losing the ability to USE color as an efficient/effective/persuasive form of communication. Or — to be used by it. Some of this is good, but some of it prevents me from receiving important messages: mold on food, danger in the road, stay away, stop.

Back to Nelson and Bluets. I’m struck by how she cites and uses other writers/thinkers/poets in this book. The first book I read by Nelson was a more recent one, The Argonauts, way back in 2015. The citation is different in this book, but it’s worth mentioning:

Perhaps the biggest thing that has struck me so far is Nelson’s way of citing her sources. When she’s using someone else’s theory or idea, she puts that theorist’s name in the margin, beside her own text. Sometimes she directly quotes the theorist, sometimes she merely invokes them.

story log entry / 6 dec 2015

Here are 2 examples from Bluets:

12. And please don’t talk to me about “things as they are” being changed upon any “blue guitar.” What can be changed upon a blue guitar is not of interest here. 

I wasn’t what she meant here, but when I googled “blue guitar things as they are” I easily found the reference: Wallace Stevens, “The Man with the Blue Guitar”

107. Many people do not think the writing of Gertrude Stein “means” anything. Perhaps it does not. But when my students complain that they want to throw Tender Buttons across the room, I try to explain to them that in it Stein is dealing with a matter of pressing concern. Stein is worried about hurt colors, I tell them. “A spectacle and nothing strange a single hurt color and an arrangement in a system to pointing,” I read aloud, scanning the room for a face that also shows signs of being worried about hurt colors.

This reference, which involves the invoking of a line, a direct quotation, and a story about her students. It led me to Stein’s poem: A Carafe, that is a Blind Glass and a helpful explanation: The Difference is Spreading: On Gertrude Stein

What to make of this, or why am I mentioning it? I’d like to play more with how I cite my references in my color poems. I also like the idea of the various bits of information/passages/lines of poetry I’ve acquired being much of the substance of my poem.

dec 18/BIKERUN

bike: 15 minutes
stand, basement
run: 1.2 miles
treadmill
outside: 5 / feels like -3

Stayed inside all day because of the cold and feeling sore from my outdoor run yesterday. Didn’t decide to run until the late afternoon. Watched some world championships swimming while I biked, listened to the “swim meet motivation” playlist while I ran. I’m getting closer to my 1000 miles — about 15 miles left!

This morning I read chapter one of Adam Gopnik’s Winter: Five Windows on the Season: Romantic Winter. It was good, but I was thinking it would help if I was listening to it instead of straining my eyes by looking at it. Just now, I found this: The CBC Massy Lectures: Winter, Five Windows on the Season, all 5 parts! Excellent.

Speaking of winter, I’m thinking about a poem I might use parts of it for my class:

Winter Journal: Disseminate Birds Over Water/ Emily Wilson

The reservoir churned and cloud-deformed
The far line of hills, fused, bunched color
bitter wind against this hunch
my folded bones
I can see the rust earth beneath trees, the rough mats
gathering weight in semi-darkness, dim
nesting bases of trees
Graft of dark cloud upon lighter one behind, building up
of something, a thickening, deposit of cold air, dark web
of insistence, built up in me
How long can it be here?
A simmering of trees, a dark moiling
a winter weight
a mid-shimmering of heat-distorted things
The positioning of bolts of deep orange, gold-green and amber
molded, wicked in together
Drops in pressure, now, a field of cold, a shift
between rain and snow
The movement into this remembering
of separate things, train sounding its horn, removing
itself from the scene
Snow thickening the far bars of trees, graying them in
Blotting, dulling, gauzing over this dream
It is snowfalling, it is beauty-filling and cleansing
this burn of words
it is delivering something seeming to uplift and to begin
pressing downward, this ink into frozen droplet
this thing

Snow plinking in the leaves, the left hands of trees
the neat levers and pulls
the odd weeds
The rich fringe of emptying trees
the shifted pins
the breaks into dense pines into period reeds into gutterings
What happens to the opposite shore
is untenable
is unmanageable to me
That stratagem of damage, that unmattering
Believe me it is some abomination of things being killed and
that mattering to me
That exquisite built thing that is obliterated
its tiny white amplitude, its singing crushed into
particles, its must on the undersides of leaves
Now I am sure
the world has not unfolded before me
anymore but has closed into rows
of its foldings
Something in the collections of those trees
bare branches upthrust, the brush of them
bare branches up-brushed
their lip along mesh of shore weeds, the flanged grasses
the scrim of their midst
I am in them again
meddling in darks that are in them
and the white gold that is their outermost
screen that is their leafleting their grief that is in me
thin dredge of pebbles and
strange glandular patternings of trees
against trees against cut-bank against breath

The rubied lung of sumac
tragedian


dec 9/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.25 miles
treadmill

Not too cold outside, but a bit icy, uneven. Today’s workout was all about adding another mile to my year total and getting a chance to move after sitting at my desk all morning while working on a poem. Watched a race while I biked, listened to Lizzo while I ran.

Worked all morning on a colorblind plate poem. This one is a cento and includes lines with colors from some of the almost 800 poems I’ve gathered on this RUN! log. Yesterday afternoon, I gathered them and discovered something: many — most? — of the poems I’ve gathered don’t mention color. Colors popped into my head as I pictured the images in the poems, but because of association and the colors I connect with certain things, not because color words were used. This was surprising to me.

The name of this poem is In (or inner if Scott can fit it in the colorblind plate), which refers to my inner color world, how I imagine color now that I can’t see it as well. Here it is:

draft of IN

Lines from the following poems:

Separation / W.S. Merwin
Ars Poetic / Aracelis Girmay
Cold Morning / Eamon Grennan
Becoming Moss / Ella Frears
Wild Geese / Mary Oliver
With A Song / Christina Pugh
Paean to Place / Lorine Niedecker
Trilliums / Mary Oliver
The Road Not Taken / Robert Frost
Forsythia / Ada Limón
Autumn / Linda Paston
Colors passing through us / Marge Piercy
A Rhyme for Halloween / Maurice Kilwein Guevara
Orange / Wendy Cope

Here’s one of the poems that I hadn’t posted yet. It’s a great one for winter; I might use it for my class!

With A Song/ Christina Pugh

There’s something about music: the wish to
be in the dark. Like I don’t know what person
this voice must belong to. At times I love
a secret, what sheers away from intellect.
Intrepid horn of birdsong when you won’t
see or know the bird. Or sometimes
I’m riding in the car on I-80, dipping
my eyes into the glamour of Ohio, its red
barns or white barns severally unpainted
by tactile fingers of winter weather.
White barns with green roofs. Sky-blue
with white roofs. Wait, isn’t sky-blue brighter
than any sky you really see? Canned sky,
you might reply, hyperbole of color. Platonist
Crayola blue. Would anyone trade a teal
feather for a trill? The highway will line
with mud and snow stripes along a fence,
then apple orchards spider in the ice.
A long stand of pines before the strip mall.
And still from the radio, an alto atremble:
I love not knowing who it belongs to.


dec 4/WALKBIKERUN

walk: 20 minutes
neighborhood
32 degrees

note: Reviewing this entry the next morning I’ve found several typos, which I corrected just now. There are probably more that I still can’t see. As my ability to see clearly diminishes, I imagine these typos will increase.

COVID update: RJP’s doing fine, felt like her usual cold. She’s been in her room since Wednesday night, only leaving to go to the bathroom or eat. So far, Scott and I are okay. He tested today: negative. Neither of us are too anxious.

update from the next morning: Even though she feels fine, RJP is still testing positive. It was the same for FWA when he had it in September. He thought he had a cold. Finally tested near the end of it. Felt fine, tested positive for 10 days.

Scott and I took Delia the dog for a quick walk around the neighborhood. Warmer, sunny, slushy sidewalks. Fresh air! He talked about video games, I talked about this log and the latest episode of ‘You’re Wrong About.” The only memorable thing about the walk: the field at Howe School was covered in snow — not smooth or flat but filled with mini mounds from hundreds of boots kicking and stomping, and hundreds of bodies rolling around in it during recess last week.

bike: 14 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 2.2 miles
treadmill

Too dark to run outside in the later afternoon, so I went to the basement. Watched Miss Space Cadet on YouTube while biking, listened to Apple’s 80s “Fitness” playlist on the treadmill — “Holding Out for a Hero,” “Material Girl,” “Super Freak,” and “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go.” I need to put together a running playlist again. Didn’t think about much while I ran. As always, it felt good to move.

Inciting Joy: Day One, The First Incitement

This afternoon I started Ross Gay’s wonderful book, Inciting Joy. I’m going to try and read an incitement (there are nine) this month. Here are some notes and thoughts for the first incitement:

To define joy, he begins by saying what it’s not: it’s not sparking joy or capitalist-joy-as-acquiring-better-stuff-or-doing-big-things. It’s not the happy place where you go to be safe or comfortable — a sanctuary protected with a heavy lock, keeping out all the bad stuff: heartbreak, sadness, worry. It’s not unserious or frivolous to talk about (or experience), even as we are made to think it is, and it’s not separate from pain and suffering:

But what happens if joy is not separate from pain? What if joy and pain are fundamentally tangled up with one another? Or even more to the point, what if joy is not only entangled with pain, or suffering, or sorrow, but is also what emerges from how we care for each other through those things? What if joy, instead of refuge or relief from heartbreak, is what effloresces from us as we help each other carry our heartbreaks?

effloresces = blossoms

He suggests that instead of avoiding/ignoring/quarantining sorrow that we invite it in, and invite others in too so they can meet our sorrow, and we can meet theirs. Then he offers a vivid description of what that party might look like, all of us bringing a dish for a potluck, along with our sorrow, breaking bread together (and some furniture, I guess):

…and the thud skips the record back to the beginning of Sly Stone’s “Family Affair” and the dancing, which has been intermittent, just blasts off, all of us and our sorrows, sweaty, stomping and shaking, tearing it up, the pictures falling off the walls, the books from the shelves, some logs ablaze even spilling from the stove, riotous this care, this carrying, this incitement, this joy.

At the end of the chapter, he describes the goal of his book: to investigate what stuff we think/do/believe that incites joy and to wonder what joy might incite. He has a hunch — it might incite solidarity, which incites more joy, and then more solidarity — not over the same sorrows but over the shared experience of sorrow. This sharing of sorrow might lead us to discover what we do or might love together, which might help us survive.

I deeply appreciate this idea of joy as connected to suffering and that, when shared and cared for, might lead to love. Did that last sentence make sense? I’m excited to read the rest of these incitements. I think I might add my own incitement: gray days. Or, I might develop my own idea of gray joy?

Gay’s vision of a raucous party, overflowing with people meeting each others’ sorrows, seems a bit overwhelming to me. I’m not sure I would find joy in caring and developing solidarity in such a big, messy crowd. But, there are others ways, I think, in which we can invite sorrow in too. Gay’s discussion reminded me of another psalm poem I read by Julia B. Levine, especially her last lines:

Psalm with Wren in Daylight Saving Time/ Julia B. Levine

Late afternoon, I chop onions by feel,
listening to crows cry to each other across the ridge.

Gone now, white recipe card on the white floor,
green sea glass found on a Humboldt beach.

But this hour I have been given back, carried out
of gorse, red flash of maples, finches in our cedar.

Meaning, today I returned for the first time
to the moment I understood I was going blind.

Months I hid from myself that the V of geese
flying over the valley extinguished too soon into fog,

a darkness fine as sugar sifted over the chard, the roses.
Now I hear the soft tick of a bird landing on the counter.

Feel her gaze turn away from mine. When she hops
table to chair to floor, I open all the windows and doors.

Sometimes we must drag our grief out of the river
and put our mouth on it. And then a loosening comes.

One morning I rose and sat outside on my lawn
under budded glory vines. There is no hurry, I say

to the stirrings of one so small it has to be a wren.
Once I let the missing in, there was possibility.

There was a heavy rain in sun—every blade of grass
blurred, and for a moment after, only shine.

Let that missing in! Open those doors and windows! Drag the grief out of the river! I imagine this opening up to grief as more than a solitary practice. It’s an opening up to and connecting with the world.