feb 26/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.5 miles
treadmill, basement

Decided to bike and run in the basement today even though it wasn’t too cold (20 degrees) and the path was clear. Always trying to make sure I’m not running too much. Watched The Ring while I was biking. I think this movie, which is about 17 years old, holds up. Creepy. Extra creepy when you watch it on an iPad with headphones in a dark unfinished basement. Listened to my new (Sara 2020) playlist while I ran: Nur-d, Beck, Prince. Nice combination! At one point, felt like I was in a trance, my feet barely touching the moving floor.

Right now I’m reading Georgina Kleege’s Sight Unseen about macular degeneration and being blind and the over privileging of vision. She has 3 chapters on the phenomenology of blindness, which she describes as “attempts to capture in words the visual experience of someone with severely impaired sight.” So helpful! I don’t have the exact same thing that she does (and not as severe…yet), but it is very similar: damaged macula, loss of central vision, still intact peripheral vision. In the chapter, “the mind’s eye,” she writes about the blind spot her damaged macula creates in the center of her visual field. She describes how she can, with effort, see it when she stares at a blank wall.

I decided to try finding my blind spot. I stood about a foot away from a bare white door and stared into the center of it. After a few minutes, a darkish (dark gray?) circle–or was it an oval?–appeared in front of me. In its center was another circle which was white. This inner circle was a little less than a quarter the size of the darker circle. This darker circle is my blind spot; the much smaller inner circle is what is left of my combined (left and right eyes) central vision. Pretty wild.

Found this great PBS video with Kleege.

feb 18/BIKE

bike: 35 minutes
bike stand, basement

Snowed 2 super slippery inches last night. That, combined with my slightly sore ankle, meant I needed to bike in the basement today. No sun. No gorge. No birds chirping, although I can hear them outside of my window. Also, no wind. No frozen fingers. No falling on slick ice. Finished the last 20 minutes of the final episode of Cheer. Time to find another show.

Notes on Un-Apology/ Erin Slaughter

once I owned a wooden door
& a field of ice & I was big-hearted, gentle, prefaced
my friends’ names with sweet & kissed them
on the cheeks. once a man called me brilliant & all I wanted
was to be his little wife. for him to trap me
in a wooden home, to zip me up pretty, kiss
me in the kitchen while mushrooms screamed & withered
on the stove. I am beginning to think of the color green
as a last chance that has already passed & I’m sorry
to be so full of raining. but if I could carve a notch
into the lampposts of this city for every person who said home
like it was a promise. we are fools & monsters, all of us, cobweb-headed
& waiting for rupture. once I met a man & his words
unearthed a softness that only comes from loam, from tilling
gently at a gravesite. sometimes we talk about weather
& sometimes we talk about feelings. sometimes
I worry I’m not looking for love, that I’m looking
for a religion to have sex with. in my mouth lives a bitterness
that could draw blood, & I’m sorry but two years I searched
for the river & when I finally found it, it was dead with its palms up.
I dipped my hands in its broken jaw & called it sister. I haven’t spoken
to my sister in two years, a nurse in Texas
with a daughter & a cruelty that jingles
like silver on a charm bracelet. I want to tell you starfish, I want
to tell you dark orchids climbing the windowpane.
the moon would drown trying to drink up
all the things I want. I’m sorry you never learned
the recipe to my mornings. I still think of you when the sky shudders
& floorboards hush themselves to listen.

Wow. I remember reading this poem a year ago and really liking the last line: “& floorboards hush themselves to listen.” Why didn’t I post it? Reading it again a year later, I love it even more. “sometimes we talk about weather & sometimes we talk about feelings.” I think I want to make that a title for a poem. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about inner and outer weather and the dis/connections between the weather I’m running in and my mood.

feb 14/BIKERUN

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

Slightly warmer. Only felt like -26, not -29. But the wind was blowing. So blustery! Tomorrow it should be much warmer. In the 20s, I think. Decided to workout in the basement again. Watched almost all of the final episode of Cheer. I can’t believe I made it to the end without the ending being spoiled. I can’t imagine competing under such pressure. I have never enjoyed the intensity of performing when it counts or the high you might get from putting yourself under such pressure and then achieving greatness. Is this a bad thing? Do I fail to push myself enough? Are there other ways to understand how we might push and stretch and challenge ourselves outside of this model of performed greatness? Do these questions make any sense?

I listened to my playlist again as I ran. At one point, I stared at the reflection of a big round lightbulb in a dark window. Last month I mentioned that it looked like the moon on lake superior. Today I noticed something at the top of the reflected globe of light that looked like clouds. Then I thought about how I usually imagine or see clouds at the bottom of the moon, not the top. Is that accurate? Suddenly, I imagined that the moon was upside down, or the world in the window was right side up and the world in the basement, on the treadmill, was upside down. Strange. Even stranger while running in place on a treadmill matching my foot strikes to the beat of the music.

What Kindergarten and Partial Hospitalization Have in Common/ IZZY CASEY

Assigned: seats, affirmations, adults with anorexia nervosa.

Breakfast, supervised.

Crying all day long because small things feel like big things.

Drumming drums in a circle, droning, “don’t be so hard on yourself,” disappearing the ability to desire.

Every body’s invited, every “cloud” has a silver “lining.”

Flushing a chocolate chip cookie down the toilet and taking a huge dump on it, fear of growing.

Growing

Hairs in weird places.

“I’m telling on you.”

“Just let someone know if you go to the bathroom. Don’t go alone.”

Knowing there’s a chance you’ll need to come back and do it all over.

Lunch, supervised.

Mental math, milk monitors, mindfulness of breath.

Nurse Eye Patch haunts your wake.

Ordering onion rings at the Olive Garden Field Trip, since the overseers claim opera cake isn’t in budget.

Perishing into fits over whether you get your second cookie, third, or fourth.

“Quit running, quit shouting ‘where are the fucking cups,’ question your definition of ‘friend.’”

Refusing to get up off the floor and participate in Dance Circle with the other girls and boy.

Singing “Let It Be” with the boy during music hour, then all together.

Taking turns: with the triangle, talking with your mouth full.

Unaccompanied dinner.

Validation that you are one of the biggest losers.

Withholding from weeping in public on the long walk home.

Xeroxed handouts of Dr. Phil’s “On Choosing Forgiveness” equals confetti.

“You’re the child not the parent.”

Zookeeper’s Nightmare.

I love Abecedarians and this is a great one. Powerful in this form. Abecedarians are fun to write. My only problem: the dreaded x. There are only so many x words to use. Maybe I should make a list or find a list. Just searched, “good x words for abecedarian poems” and this was the first entry: What About X? Writing the Abecedarian. Yes!

feb 13/BIKERUN

bike: 30 min
bike stand, basement
run: 1.5 miles
treadmill, basement

Hello Arctic Hellscape! This morning it is 12 below, feels like 29 below. Not quite as cold as the end of January last year (-49), but still cold enough to stay inside. I was tempted momentarily to go to the gorge, just to see if I could tough it out or so I could say that I ran when it was almost 30 below, but I didn’t. Instead I worked out in the basement, watching Cheer while I biked, listening to Nur-D and others on my running playlist while I ran. I have one episode of Cheer left to watch. What am I going to watch while I bike when it is over? Back to race replays?

I did take a brief (15 or 20 minutes) walk at 11 this morning. It didn’t feel that cold. Sunny. Bright. Not too much wind. Then I turned a corner and felt the full force of the arctic chill on my face and got a brain freeze. The kind you get when you eat ice cream too fast. In college in Southern Minnesota in the 90s, out on the tundra, I would usually get one of these cold weather induced brain freezes every winter. Fun. It’s strange to have a familiar sensation (the brain freeze) but out of context (not from eating ice cream). Is there a name for that phenomenon? The other example that I often think about is the few times I’ve been in earthquakes, when it feels like turbulence but you’re not on a plane. It feels familiar even when it isn’t. I tried searching for this. No luck. I tried “a familiar sensation felt strangely” and got a lot of hits for deja vu. For the first time ever, I tweeted at Merriam Webster and asked them: “Is there a word for feeling familiar sensation but out of normal context, like feeling brain freeze but from cold wind, not eating ice cream too fast? You know the feeling but experience it strangely.”

What a nice surprise to randomly find this little poem:

Five Flights Up/ Elizabeth Bishop

Still dark.
The unknown bird sits on his usual branch.
The little dog next door barks in his sleep
inquiringly, just once.
Perhaps in his sleep, too, the bird inquires
once or twice, quavering.
Questions—if that is what they are—
answered directly, simply,
by day itself.

Enormous morning, ponderous, meticulous;
gray light streaking each bare branch,
each single twig, along one side,
making another tree, of glassy veins . . .
The bird still sits there. Now he seems to yawn.

The little black dog runs in his yard.
His owner’s voice arises, stern,
“You ought to be ashamed!”
What has he done?
He bounces cheerfully up and down;
he rushes in circles in the fallen leaves.

Obviously, he has no sense of shame.
He and the bird know everything is answered,
all taken care of,
no need to ask again.
—Yesterday brought to today so lightly!
(A yesterday I find almost impossible to lift.)

The dog barking in its sleep–only once; questions being answered simply by day itself; the enormous, ponderous, meticulous morning; the dog and bird feeling no sense of shame; “yesterday brought to today so lightly!”. Such lovely lines.

feb 8/BIKERUN

bike: 30 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.2 miles
treadmill, basement

Decided to do a workout in the basement today. Partly because of the dusting of snow we got last night, partly because I wanted to watch more Cheer, which I did while I biked. Then, while I ran, I listened to Jad Abumrad’s podcast about Dolly Parton called Dolly Parton’s America. So good. Right now, I’m listening to episode 4–or is it 5? I have loved Dolly Parton ever since she yelled at her boss in 9 to 5, calling him “evil to the core.” I loved that movie when I was kid. I even taught it in the spring of 2007 in my Pop Culture Women course.

A Study in Eventuality/ Cristina Correa

Funny, isn’t it, how hard to describe
a good man? In the shower, I let
the water run hot as my blood filtering
a mirror of loss. The messenger arrived
flustered as feathers falling to the place
where feathers go to find each other. Who
is the man who makes you remark, “I have
been lucky”? How does the faucet instruct
forgiveness? Our voices spiral to meet
with too much space between. My cuticles
shine like chrome under the moment’s remains.
A demand for nakedness pools somewhere
down the drain. For what we’ve been able to
let go, and know it happens to us all.

I was struggling to understand this poem until I read her description, which really helped (find it on the poets.org link). “How does the faucet instruct forgiveness?” What a line!

jan 24/WALKBIKE

walk: 3 miles
Winchell Trail
29 degrees
snow-packed

Walked with my wonderful sister this morning by the gorge. Checked out the Oak Savanna and the mesa at above the river. The water was gray with the feeling of warm blue. It looked still and heavy until you got closer and noticed it was moving fast. Trudging on the trail, we noticed ski tracks and snow shoe tracks. Any animal tracks? I don’t think so. We talked about fences and eroding asphalt and the gorge reclaiming the trails and illness and vision and kids and careers and aging bodies and the cost of college.

bike: 30 minutes
basement, bike stand

Finished another episode of Cheer while I biked. This one was about “making mat” and Jerry (I think that’s his name?) and his loving spirit and how his mom died from lung cancer. A moving story–not sad, just powerful and beautiful. Of course, it made me cry which is an amazing thing to do while you’re working out. So many emotions and endorphins. A great release.

Thinking about blue in winter and why I wrote about it as warm. What is it about blue? The blue hued views in early morning and twilight? Blue snow? The blue gray river? I’ve skimmed Maggie Nelson’s Bluets–maybe I should check it out again? Didn’t Anne Carson write something about blue? I looked it up and found this amazing book: The Blue of Distance.

Blue/ ROBERT L. JONES

I have seen enough blue-green 
for one day. My eyes are tired 
of peering at the busy speckled lines 
the lasered surface throws back. 
Outside, the light falls 
in jagged needles through raveled air. 
The world is gray. 

From up there, it’s blue, 
the tiny water world, where life 
climbed into the air and turned green, 
maybe from envy that it’s not 
somewhere else. It’s not easy, being 
this way. It’s impossible to rest 
with that great light going on 
and off always in the same place, 
knowing that it’s necessary, 
unless you want to turn 
white, in icy quiet, 
against the black still motion 
of the tattered specks of stars. 
It’s enough to send you running 
ragged, back to the sea. 

Down there it’s blue, too, 
the color of deep water 
when at eighty feet there’s no bottom 
and no sides to choose. Suspended, 
up-ended, you have no sense 
of proportion, lose perspective. 
There’s only drifting with the flow, 
until your bubbles rip a seam 
upward showing you where 
you have to go—back to the green, 
and then the yellow and the red, 
measured out in time for you 
to find, until you reach 
white, and you’ve got it all. 

All is too much to see. 
We must have shades. 
The separation of the light 
exists somewhere in particles, 
torn into fragmentary bits to play, 
scattered like the fall leaves, 
but moving in waves—hello, goodbye— 
on a collision course with white, 
and black, and gray. 

The green of life requires blue, 
not too deep or too intense, 
just a line of blue-green held in mind, 
to knit tatters of shrouded days, 
tint the darkness, 
and relieve the time of glare. 

Once in a while 
you know where it belongs, 
in the order of the sharp-edged 
double bow I saw this morning, 
cutting its way into gray memory 
to even up the edges 
of the ragged clouds. 

jan 18/SHOVELBIKE

Shovel: 30 minutes
Bike: 25 minutes

Winter cross training often involves shoveling. No big storm this time. Maybe 5 or 6 inches? Tried to use my legs a lot instead of arms and back. Heavy snow with a icy crust. I’m hoping that they’ve already cleared the path by the river. Usually they do. I’ll see tomorrow morning if it isn’t too cold. Just heard the weather forecast as I was writing this: a high of 5 tomorrow. Watched part of the second episode of Cheer in the basement while I biked. The time went by really fast. Don’t remember much except for how much better I felt after I exercised.

What a poem! I want to spend some time with it to decipher all the uses of pine. So cool. This might be a good form for another running route Unigrid brochure? I’ll have to think about that some more.

Pine
Susan Stewart – 1952-

a homely word:
a plosive, a long cry, a quiet stop, a silent letter
like a storm and the end of a storm,
the kind brewing
at the top of a pine,
(torn hair, bowed spirits, and,
later, straightened shoulders)
who’s who of the stirred and stirred up:
musicians, revolutionaries, pines.

A coniferous tree with needle-shaped leaves.
Suffering or trouble; there’s a pin inside.

The aphoristic seamstress was putting up a hem, a shelf of pins at her
pursed mouth.
“needles and pins / needles and pins / when a man marries / his trouble begins.”
A red pincushion with a twisted string, and a little pinecone tassel, at the
ready.

That particular smell, bracing,
exact as a sharpened point.

The Christmas tree, nude and fragrant,
propped as pure potential in
the corner with no nostalgia for
ornament or angels.

“Pine-Sol,” nauseating, earnest, imitation—
one means of knowing the real thing is the fake you find in school.
Pent up inside on a winter day, the steaming closeness from the radiators.

At the bell, running down the hillside. You wore a pinafore.
The air had a nip: pine
was traveling in the opposite direction.

Sunlight streaming through a stand of pines,
dancing backward through the A’s and T’s.

Is it fern or willow that’s the opposite of pine?

An alphabet made of trees.

In the clearing vanished hunters
left their arrowheads
and deep cuts in the boulder wall:
petroglyphs, repeating triangles.

Grandmothers wearing pinnies trimmed in rickrack.
One family branch lived in a square of oak forest, the other in a circle of
pines;
the oak line: solid, reliable, comic; the piney one capable of pain
and surprise.

W-H-I-T-E: the white pine’s five-frond sets spell its name. (Orthography of
other pines I don’t yet know.)

The weight of snow on boughs, lethargic, then rocked by the thump of a
settling crow.

Pinecones at the Villa Borghese: Fibonacci increments,
heart-shaped veins, shadowing the inner
edges of the petals.
Like variations at the margins of a bird feather.
Graffiti tattooing the broken
water clock, a handful
of pine nuts, pried out, for lunch.

Pining away like Respighi with your pencil.

For a coffin, you’d pick a plain
pine box suspended in a weedy sea.

No undergrowth, though, in a pine forest.

Unlike the noisy wash
of dry deciduous leaves,
the needles blanket the earth

pliant beneath a bare foot,
stealthy,
floating,
a walk through the pines.

Silence in the forest comes from books.

jan 16/RUN

bike: 24 minutes
bike stand, basement

run: 1.25 miles
treadmill, basement

Didn’t want to run too much today, so decided to go down to the basement. Of course, the -10/ feels like -25 also influenced my decision. But if I hadn’t already run twice yesterday, I might have tried going outside because I’m crazy that way. Finished the first episode of Cheer! that I started last week. From the teacher who was very committed to her right to bear arms, “hell yeah! I’m packing right now!”, to the 2 concussions suffered in one pyramid rehearsal–those sounds of loud smacks on the floor as the girls fell!–to the male cheerleader who was kneed in the face and had to put a tampon up his nose to stop the bleeding, this was an intense 20 minutes. Wow.

TEN YEARS LATER MY HUSBAND WALKS OUT OF THE WOODS/ Emily Pérez

after “Hans My Hedgehog”

In one version you remove your coat
of quills at dusk, drape it by the hearthside.

My father’s bravest men then burst
into our room and net the carapace, fling

it in the waiting blaze, burn the thorns
that stippled you. The hollow spires

in the fire sing like copper smelted,
the slag amassing on the flagstones

cooling to a twisted fist of all that had you
hinged. Unmasked at last you stand

before me, born anew: not a monster, not
a man, but a fledgling flayed. Oh husband,

what soulbrave bargain have you made
that leaves you so tender, and how

am I to salvage you?— just wife, not
witch, not doctor.

Author’s Note

I’ve been obsessed with the Grimm’s fairy tale “Hans My Hedgehog” for years. In addition to featuring a hedgehog who plays bagpipes and rides a rooster, it provides some crazy inroads for thinking about parenting and marriage. As in many fairy tales, a father promises his daughter to the hero, who, in this case is a hedgehog. Later, the hedgehog decides to permanently take on human form for his wife’s sake, which involves shedding his coat of quills and having it burned by his wife’s father’s men. The rebirth chars him. In the years that I tinkered with this story as a source for poems, my husband made a major life change that felt both morally brave and (perhaps) personally foolish. As his partner, I felt compelled to be supportive but also inadequate to the task. This poem gets at my ambivalence.

I loved reading the explanation of this poem and then reading the poem again. Powerful. I also like the idea of taking a favorite fairytale and re-imaging it.

jan 10/ BIKERUNBIKE

bike: 30 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 1.25 miles
treadmill, basement

The weather isn’t too cold (at least for me) this morning or too blustery, but I decided to stay inside and do more biking, less running to rest my sore legs. Now as I write this I feel a little regret. Winter runs in the cold are the best. Why didn’t I run outside?

While biking, I watched part of the first episode of the netflix doc series: Cheer. It’s fascinating and freaking me out. They take so many risks with their bodies. I wonder what the long term effects of these risks and the injuries they get are? Will the series address this at some point?

When I was younger, I never thought about my body. But after I had 2 kids, my mom died too young, and I started running and open water swimming, I became more aware of its fragility and developed a need to protect it and be careful with it.

Living in the Body/ Joyce Sutphen

Body is something you need in order to stay
on this planet and you only get one.
And no matter which one you get, it will not
be satisfactory. It will not be beautiful
enough, it will not be fast enough, it will
not keep on for days at a time, but will
pull you down into a sleepy swamp and
demand apples and coffee and chocolate cake.

Body is a thing you have to carry
from one day into the next. Always the
same eyebrows over the same eyes in the same
skin when you look in the mirror, and the
same creaky knee when you get up from the
floor and the same wrist under the watchband.
The changes you can make are small and
costly—better to leave it as it is.

Body is a thing that you have to leave
eventually. You know that because you have
seen others do it, others who were once like you,
living inside their pile of bones and
flesh, smiling at you, loving you,
leaning in the doorway, talking to you
for hours and then one day they
are gone. No forwarding address.

I’m mostly okay with my body. Together we’ve done some great things. I guess sometimes I wish my kneecaps would stay in their grooves and not temporarily displace or my central vision wasn’t almost completely destroyed or my legs didn’t get unbearably restless when I wake up in the middle of the night, which happens a lot. But I think I feel less like Joyce Sutphen and her body as (treasured) burden, and more like Linda Hogan in Rapture: “Oh for the pleasure of living in a body.”

jan 7/BIKE

35 minutes
bike stand, basement

Having run everyday since Dec 12th, I thought I’d better take a break and just bike today. Watched a few races on my iPad and forgot about everything but how hot it was in Tokyo and how Flora Duffy was doing in her comeback race and whether or not Katie Zaferes’s crash was season-ending.

Although I didn’t run, I did take Delia the dog on a walk. We almost made it to the river but stopped a block short and walked along Edmund Boulevard. Colder today with a few icy patches on the sidewalk. Looked over at the gorge–it was gray and inviting. I wanted to run but had to remind myself to take a break.

Passed several houses with memorable dogs:

  • the house with the huge dog who was so excited to see Delia walk by one time that they almost broke through the big picture window in the front room
  • the extremely neat house with the meticulously maintained yard and patio and the big white dog that mimics the movements of his owner who has, over the last few years, slowed down a lot–at first, he only shuffled, now he uses a walker
  • the house with the fenced in backyard and the little dog that spazzes out and tries to chase Delia every time we walk by–she’s not always out but Delia always remembers the yard and anticipates the encounter
  • the big fancy house that almost looks like it’s abandoned because the yard is never raked, the sidewalk never shoveled, but has a big dog that has a 2 part bark–first low then high: ruff ruff arr arr
  • the even bigger and fancier house with the white picket fence and the snobby sign on the boulevard about not peeing in the mulch that has a pack of vicious sounding dogs that we (me and Delia) can’t ever see over the fence but sound like they’re saying–“go away! you’re not fancy enough to be walking on the sidewalk beside our house!”