oct 2/RUN

3.5 miles
2 trails and a hill
69 degrees / dew point: 60

Another hot, sticky morning. Yesterday it was so warm that they cancelled the Twin Cities Marathon. Wow. It wasn’t just the temp — it got up to 91 — but the dew point and the humidity.

I’m calling this route, “2 trails and a hill,” because I did my 2 trails route (running above heading south, running below on the Winchell Trail heading north), but also kept running south to the locks and dam no. 1, then down the hill and back up it before heading north and entering the Winchell Trail.

I’m on day 10 of being sick. I’m almost over it, but still have congestion — stuffy nose, crud on my chest. Our (me, Scott, RJP who is sick now) latest theory is that this sickness is the flu. Scott’s not getting it because he got his flu shot. Makes sense to me. This sickness shares some similarities with my usual cold, but is also different. It has knocked me out more, making it harder to run. My heart rate was unusually elevated for a day. I have a swollen lymph node in my armpit. I’m ready for it to be over.

bird tryptych

one: Sitting on the deck early this morning with my coffee, I heard one goose honking, then the sound of something sharply cutting through the air. Almost like scissors — swish swish swish swish. I looked up and saw a vee of geese! Maybe a dozen, speeding by in formation, not a single honk, only the swish of their wings.

two: Running south, just past the double bridge near the 44th st parking lot, I saw movement in the trees. 2 birds — were they geese or turkeys? I couldn’t tell — they were hiding in the bushes and I was moving too fast — but I decided they must be turkeys.

three: Running back north, close to the double bridge again, I saw the birds again. Definitely turkeys. They flapped their wings a little as they moved to the side for me. Thanks friends! A few seconds later, a bike passed me. I heard the biker ringing his bell over and over to alert the turkeys. ding ding ding ding ding ding

added the next morning, a bonus bird!: Last night Scott and I walked over to Sea Salt. On our way home, on the winchell trail, we saw a turkey on the fence — or, Scott saw a turkey and kept pointing it out to me until I finally saw it too. As we neared it, it flew away and into a tree. Crash! That might be the first time I’ve ever seen a turkey fly!

10 Things

  1. nearing the entrance to the Winchell trail: the water was almost white and very bright from the sun
  2. at the bottom of the hill, looking ahead at the ford bridge: the curve of the bridge was reflected in the water, almost, but not quite, looking like a smile
  3. more glimpses of the river, white and glittery, through the trees
  4. a biker on the hill, climbing it, then looping around to descend and climb again
  5. the sound of water steadily dropping from the sewer pipe at 42nd
  6. the buzz of crickets
  7. the croak of a few frogs
  8. car after car after car heading north on the river road — difficult to cross
  9. all around, rustling sounds — dry, brittle leaves being disturbed by critters moving through the brush
  10. beep beep beep beep beep — a truck backing up on edmund, trying not to hit the dumpster parked on the street

When I approached the “edge of the world,” I decided to stop and take a picture of it:

At the bottom of a paved section of the Winchell Trail, covered in red and yellow and brown leaves. On the edge of the path, an old chain link fence attempts to hold back leaves, the trunks of a few trees, and the open air of the gorge.
at the edge of the world / 2 oct 2023

When I finished my run, a mile and half later, I stopped at the 35th overlook to admire the view. When I saw my shadow, I decided to take her picture:

The shadow of a runner and the railing from an overlook above the Mississippi River. One hand of the shadow is holding a phone to her face, the other is perched on her hip.
Sara and her shadow / 2 oct 2023

july 16/SWIM

4 loops
lake nokomis open swim
68 degrees
foggy and drizzly

Hooray for 4 loops! A few sprinkles before I started, then some rain while I swam. Difficult to tell that it was raining; I couldn’t see it dropping through the opaque water, but I did hear hit the surface. Felt strong and happy, not too sore. Every so often my knees would lock up, but my new trick of doing 2 or 3 frog kicks was all I needed to unlock them. The water was full of swells and rocked me back and forth. The last lap was the worst. With the small waves coming from behind, it was hard to get power with my stroke. I knew I was moving, but I felt like Shaggy running in place.

Swam 3 loops then got out of the water to make the long trek to the bathroom. Annoying, but even if I wanted to (which I don’t) I can’t get myself to pee in the lake. Nothing comes out. Got back in the water and felt strange — warmed up, floating through emptiness, hardly feeling anything

10 Things

  1. before starting: cold air and cold water
  2. a woman in a pink suit, bracing herself before running in the water, first yelling, I can’t do this! then letting out a battlecry as she dove in
  3. hazy, foggy, fuzzy view — I thought my goggles were fogged up, but it was just the moisture in the air
  4. the sound of someone letting the air out of their buoy after they finished
  5. feeling buoyant, on top of the water, fast
  6. a bright light off in the distance — a car’s headlights in the parking lot
  7. bright green arms — does someone have a green wetsuit?
  8. the first orange buoy at the other end of the lake far from me as I rounded the second green buoy
  9. an empty lake in front of me then suddenly a yellow buoy appeared (with plenty of time for me to avoid the buoy and the swimmer dragging it)
  10. waves rushing over me, into my side, from behind — sometimes I could see a light spray out of the corner of my eyes caused by my body crashing into the wave

An important thing to remember

This summer some bird that I don’t ever remember hearing before has been screeching regularly. A very irritating sound that cuts through everything else, especially when it happens over and over. Scott figured out what it is: a kestrel! Beautiful, graceful birds when they’re flying, but not when they’re calling out their warnings!

dec 10/RUM

5 miles
minnehaha falls and back
32 degrees / sleet
20% snow-covered

A wonderful morning run. I was worried that it would be icy, but it was fine. Only a few slick patches. A gray day. The sky, mostly white with some gray. The ground, white and gray and almost brown. Didn’t really see the river; I was too focused on avoiding slick spots and approaching runners. Not too crowded, but more runners and walkers, 2 fat tires that I first encountered at the falls. Greeted lots of walkers with a good morning! and runners with a smile or a wave of my hand. I felt relaxed and strong as I ran above the gorge. On the way back, when I reached 42nd I crossed over to edmund to avoid the growing number of people on the path.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. smoke from a chimney as I ran by a house on edmund– in the same spot, all winter, every winter
  2. a strange whirring or dripping or buzzing sound coming from “Carly’s house” (or, as RJP pronounces it, Kerler’s house) — named after RJP’s classmate, Carly, who lives there
  3. a frozen falls
  4. 2 women hardly moving over at all on the path. I almost brushed elbows with one of the women, even as I tried to go as close to the edge I could, which prompted me to mutter, fuck, under my breath after I passed her
  5. the tinny recording of the bells of the light rail car leaving the 50th street station
  6. near the end I felt wetness on my face — sleet? rain? snow?
  7. 2 runners approaching from behind, one of them talking about planting seeds, I think?
  8. someone walking through turkey hollow, everything white and covered with snow
  9. heading back, running on edmund, I noticed a runner over on the river road running slightly faster than me. Suddenly I heard someone yell out to them — another runner who knew them was greeting them enthusiastically (I think?)
  10. finishing up my run, crossing 46th avenue, I heard some people greeting each other at the mailbox — Merry Christmas!

Found this poem the other day. How? I think I might have been searching for green? Anyway, a great poem to add to my bird poems and poems about naming and knowing:

Praise/ Michelle Poirier Brown

It is not yet time for singing.
Although I could allow this lake stroking the shore as song.

I feel a tenderness towards the small stones under my feet.
That’s a good sign.

And gratitude for the sun warming my neck.

I am learning the names of birds.
At the pond last week,
a soft-colored green bird with a white stripe down its head.
A widgeon.

And just now, a small shore bird, black with hints of red at the back of its neck,
hops across the wave foam, pert and legged like a gymnast.
It has a name.

For praise, one needs vocabulary,
to know the difference between a call and a song,
and that birds that sing are among the passerines.

passerine: A passerine is a perching bird in the formal scientific order Passeriformes. These are the most familiar, typical birds and the term can be applied to more than half the world’s unique bird species, including all the classic songbirds, sparrows, and finches (Guide to Passerine Birds).

august 10/RUN

3.4 miles
river road path, north/south
73 degrees / dew point: 66
10:10 am

A later start. A warmer day. Still a great run. Relaxed. Thought about thoughts and trying to let them pass through me like the wind. Decided it’s easier to think about something else than trying to stop thinking about something. Recited Emily Dickinson’s “Before I got my eye put out –” Favorite lines today: “The motion of the dipping birds/the morning’s amber road” Greeted Mr. Morning! and overhead a conversation that I can’t remember now. Thought I heard the rowers below, but I’m not sure.

Walking through the alley after my run finished, I heard a blue jay. First, the tin whistle sound, then the screech. I’ve decided that, whether I like it or not, the blue jay is my new bird for this year. With that in mind, here’s an ee cummings poem I found. It’s making me appreciate the blue jay just a little bit more.

crazy jay blue/ ee cummings

crazy jay blue)
demon laughshriek
ing at me
your scorn of easily

hatred of timid
& loathing for(dull all
regular righteous

thief crook cynic
fragment of heaven)

raucous rogue &
vivid voltaire
you beautiful anarchist
(i salute thee

I haven’t read much ee cummings, so I had to look up how to read/make sense of his parenthesis. Here’s something helpful I found in What is the key to reading E.E. Cummings poetry?:

“Cummings often arranges the lines of his poems in seemingly strange ways:




(Cumming Complete Poems 691)

The key is to read everything within the parentheses first, then to begin again at the top with the remaining words: Bee in the only rose, unmoving. Are you asleep? If that is all he meant to say, why didn’t he write it that way? He wants us to discover the bee for ourselves as perhaps a bee surprised him when he peered into the heart of a rose. Why the “only” rose? Because our attention is completely focused at the moment on one particular blossom, it is as though no other rose exists. Why isn’t the bee moving? Is he dead? Is  he sleeping the sleep of the sated?”

august 5/SWIM

3 loops
lake nokomis open swim
80 degrees
9:40 am

Standing at the picnic table where Scott was sitting after open swim, looking out at the sparkling water, feeling the breeze, I said, “Ah, this is the life!” That about sums it up for me. Open water swimming at this lake is one of my most favorite things to do. It doesn’t matter if it’s choppy, which it was, or hard to sight, that too. I love it. I feel calm and strong and satisfied.

images of the day

A vee of geese flying fairly low over the lake, maybe a dozen? I couldn’t hear them, but I’m pretty sure that’s what I was seeing. It’s not unusual to see geese already starting to fly south in august. I’m pretty sure I’ve written about them in past august entries.

Another swimmer, only appearing as dancing light on the surface of the water.

Anything else? Waves, swells, making it hard sometimes to do a full stroke. A few planes flying above me, and seagulls. Some dude doing tai-chi at the edge of the beach. One white sailboat — this one wasn’t menancing.

a line I should recite before entering the water:

It is time now, I said,
for the deepening and quieting of the spirit
among the flux of happenings.

from “Swimming, one day in August”/ Mary Oliver

Another bird call identified! At least since last year, I’ve been hearing this metallic, kind of like a tin whistle, call from a bird, but I couldn’t figure out what kind of bird was making it. This morning, while finishing up my oatmeal, I heard it again. This time right out in our big service berry bush, which has become more like tree than bush. I couldn’t see it, but I heard it make this call a few times, then right before it flew away, it did another call. This call I knew — the irritating shriek of the blue jay. A blue jay? Looked it up and found the call on allaboutbirds.org! Well, not exactly but almost. It’s the sixth call down, the one from Florida, 1962. Excellent!

Scott and FWA are both playing in the pit for Mary Poppins this week in Austin. We went to the show last night; it was great. Kept thinking about the last song, “Anything Can Happen”:

Anything can happen if you let it

Stretch your mind beyond fantastic
Dreams are made of strong elastic

Turn it on it’s head then pirouette it
Anything can happen if you let it.

If you reach for the stars
All you get are the stars

But we’ve found a whole new spin
If you reach for the heavens
You get the stars thrown in.

There are different ways to intepret this song; I like the idea of it being about letting go, not getting in your own way, not trying too hard to do one thing but doing something else and seeing what happens. You could read these lyrics as making your dreams bigger, more expansive. I like that, but I also like thinking about them as advice for approaching your goals from the side instead of head on.

The idea of not getting in your own way, reminds me of Ron Padgett’s great poem, How to Be Perfect:

Imagine what you would like to see happen, and then don’t do
anything to make it impossible.

march 2/RUN

5.5 miles
franklin loop
29 degrees
puddles + a few icy spots

Early this morning, or late last night, it snowed/sleeted. Only a little, but enough to make me wonder if I should run in the basement instead of outside by the gorge. Decided it would be fine, and went outside. Excellent decision. It was wet, occasionally slick, and great conditions for a run — at least for my run. Overcast, not too cold, uncrowded.

The river is no longer white but a few different shades of gray. I thought it was completely open/iced out, but running across the franklin bridge, I noticed a thin skin of gray ice. In a few spots, where the skin had split, it was dark. Later, as I approached the lake street bridge from the east side, the water opened up. As I ran across the lake street bridge, I noticed little ripples in the water from the wind.

The sky was mostly white-ish gray with a hint of blue. This light/color really messes with my vision and lack of cone cells. Looking up, the sky was almost pixelated, or maybe it was more like static? Not total static, like when tv stations would end programming for the night, but static sprinkled into the image, making everything dance or bounce or just barely move. All of this movement is so slight that I wonder if I’m imagining it, or making too big of a deal out of it, or if this isn’t just the “normal” way that most people see.

the delight of the day

Running on the east side of the river, lost in thought, or the absence of thought, I suddenly heard a loud noise. It sounded like a turkey gobble. I stopped and looked behind me. On the other side of the road, maybe 25 yards back, there was a small group of very big turkeys chilling out on someone’s lawn. I stood still and watched them for a minute, delighted and grateful that the turkeys reminded me to notice them. I imagined what the gobbling turkey had been thinking as I passed by, oblivious to its awesomeness: “Oh hell no, girl! Notice me now!” And I did, and now my day has been made. So often, it’s the wild turkeys that get me through the tough times.

Wild turkeys are probably my favorite. I also like woodpeckers, black-capped chickadees, and geese. Crows are okay, so are cardinals. Today I heard all of these birds by the gorge — and more that I couldn’t identify. Because of my vision, and the fact that I’m in motion, I rarely see these birds. Instead, I hear them.

Some poetry people posted about a new tool that removes everything but the questions from a text. Here’s an article by the creator of the tool. Very cool. Hooray for questions!

Randomly opened up Arthur Sze’s collection, The Glass Constellation, to this beautiful, bewildering poem:

Unfolding Center/ Arthur Sze


Tea leaves in a black bowl:
green snail spring waiting to unfurl.
Nostrils flared, I inhale:

expectancy’s a seed—
we planted two rows
of sunflowers then drove to Colorado—

no one could alter the arrival
of the ambulance,
the bulged artery; I had never

seen one hundred crows
gathered at the river,
vultures circling overhead;

I saw no carcass, smelled no rot;
the angers radiating from him
like knives in sunlight; I sit

at a river branching off a river:
three vultures on cottonwood branches
track my movement;

surrounded by weeds, I cut
two large large sunflower heads off
six-footed stalks, Apache plume

blossoms near the gate; we wake
and embrace, embace and wake,
my fingers meshed

with your fingers. Nostrils flared,
I inhale: time, time
courses through the bowl of my hands.

feb 28/RUN

4.25 miles
minnehaha falls and back
35 degrees
30% puddle-covered

Another wonderful, spring-like day, if you consider 35 degrees and white ground everywhere spring-like, which I do. When the sun is this warm, the sky this blue, the birds this chatty, how can you not think of spring? Everywhere, wet: drips, drops, wide puddles stretched across the trail soaking my socks.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. that same bird call that I’ve been hearing and wondering about happened again, right before I reached the river. I heard it, then hoped it would be followed by some drumming. It was! I’m calling it; this sound is a pileated woodpecker
  2. a distant goose, or geese?
  3. cawing crows
  4. cardinals, doing at least 3 or 4 of their 16 (is it 16?) songs
  5. black-capped chickadees
  6. my shadow: off to the side, then behind, then finally in front of me
  7. the shadow of the old-fashioned lamp posts on the trail. So big, they almost looked ,\like giant potholes to me
  8. the river slowly opening. Still white, but darkening and thinning
  9. a kid yelling at the playground. At first, I thought they were a siren — so high-pitched and insistent!
  10. a mixing of sounds: an airplane, a bobcat, a crow, a kid, all crying out

As I left for my run, I remembered something I didn’t want to forget. I’m pleased that I still remember what it was after my run. Scott and I watched the first episode of After Party last night. Very good. Anyway, this episode focused on Aniq. For much of the episode he looked ridiculous: someone/s had drawn cat whiskers and ears on his face, along with the word “nerd” in big letters. It’s very obvious and a crucial element in understanding who he is as a character. Because of my vision problems — my lack of cone cells, limited central vision — I did not see any of this on his face until someone, the detective, finally referenced it. Up to that point, about 40 minutes, it was all invisible to me. I could see his face (well, roughly, I guess) and mostly follow what was going on, but I had no idea anyone had drawn on him. He looked “normal” to me. I wanted to remember this as an example of how my vision works, or doesn’t work, how much I miss that I’m not aware of. It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but you miss out on a lot of what’s happening and how it’s being communicated when you can’t see certain things and don’t even realize you’re not seeing them (and no one else realizes you’re not seeing them either; they just think you’re not paying attention or being stupid, or that you don’t care).

Here are two poems featuring birds that I encountered today. Both wonderful, both about much more than birds.

Egrets/ Kevin Young

Some say beauty
may be the egret
in the field

who follows after
the cows
sensing slaughter—

but I believe
the soul is neither
air nor water, not

this winged thing
nor the cattle
who moan

to make themselves
Instead, the horses

standing almost fifteen
hands high—
like regret they come

most the time
when called.
Hungry, the greys eat

from your palm,
their surprising

plum-dark tongues
flashing quick
& rough as a match—

striking your hand,
your arm, startled
into flame.

In her discussion of the poem for The Slowdown Show, Ada Limón discusses the soul:

The Portuguese writer José Saramago wrote: “Inside us there is something that has no name, that something is what we are.” This seems clear enough. The soul is the part of you that you cannot name. One of the reasons I love the obsession that writers have with the soul is that their interest is not confined to what happens to the soul after you die. Rather, writers seem to be interested in what the soul is doing right now. Can the soul have likes or dislikes, coffee or tea, can one soul connect to another in what is called a soul mate? Is our soul only alive in relation to others, in community with nature, with something larger?

And here’s the other poem. It’s about cardinals. I heard, but never saw, many cardinals this morning on my run.

Statement of Teaching Philosophy/ Keith Leonard

In February’s stillness, under fresh snow,
two bright red cardinals leaping 
inside a honeysuckle bush.
All day I’ve thought that would make
for a good image in a poem. 
Washing the dishes, I thought of cardinals.
Folding the laundry, cardinals.
Bright red cardinals while I drank hot cocoa.
But the poem would want something else.
Something unfortunate to balance it,
to make it honest. A recognition of death
maybe. Or hunger. Poems are hungry things.
It can’t just be dessert, says the adult in me.
It can’t just be joy. But the schools are closed
and despite the cold, the children are sledding.
The sound of boots tamping snow are the hinges 
of many doors being opened. The small flames 
of cardinals and their good talk in the honeysuckle.

Wow, do I love this line: “The sound of boots tamping snow are the hinges/of many doors being opened.”

One more thing. After my run was done, and I was home, I went outside on my back deck and sat in the sun. Then I recorded this moment of sound. I’m calling it, Spring coming, drip by drip. As I listen back to it, I’m disappointed that trucks are so much louder than the drips.

spring coming, drip by drip / 28 feb 2022

feb 23/BIKERUN

bike: 25 minutes
run: 2.4 miles
3 degrees / feels like -10
about 5 inches of snow

Brr. I thought about running outside (I almost always do), but the feels like temperature is -10 and the paths are covered in snow, which is probably hiding ice, so I went to the basement. Tomorrow it will be as cold as today, but I’ll go anyway.

Finished the rest of the Dickinson episode I was watching where Emily and her family take a “daycation” (Lavinia’s words) to an insane asylum. Emily’s dad does not commit her in order to become a trustee. Emily’s mom wants to stay, but isn’t allowed, so when they return home, she announces that she will be going upstairs to sleep. Confused and concerned, Lavinia asks, “For a short nap?” The elder Emily answers, “No. Wake me up when the war is over.” Meanwhile, Henry (a free Black man who used to work for the Dickinsons, abolitionist, married to Betty, who traveled South to fight for the Union) is teaching a group of free Black soldiers, or almost soldiers if the white men in charge would give them the rank and better uniforms and weapons and the pay they deserve, to read. Emily’s mentor, Higginson, is the main white man in charge and, although his intentions seem good, he patronizes and bullshits them. It’s an interesting juxtaposition: Higginson as both Emily’s mentor and a well-meaning but clueless white savior/liberal.

As the Dickinsons are leaving the asylum, Emily recites this poem (in her usual way on this show: voice-over, with the cursive words scrolling fleetingly across the screen):

A little Madness in the Spring (1356) / Emily Dickinson

A little Madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King,
But God be with the Clown – 
Who ponders this tremendous scene – 
This whole Experiment of Green – 
As if it were his own!

As I ran, I listened to Taylor Swift’s Reputation again. I tried to avoid looking at my watch, so the time would pass faster, or without notice. It mostly worked; it is still much harder to run for more than 20 minutes on the treadmill. Much easier outside. I didn’t think about anything as I ran — did I? I don’t plan to run on the treadmill much beyond February. I should try to experiment with ways to find delight, or be curious, or to track how words move as I do before March happens.

And here’s another poem that isn’t really about anything else I’ve mentioned here yet, but I wanted to remember it, especially the lines about the bird:

The Husband’s Answers/ Rebecca Hazelton

The images don’t explain a story. They are a counterpoint. 

It’s understandable to mistake them for metaphor, but still, a mistake. 

The trouble comes from thinking. I could stop there. The trouble comes from thinking an image is a story. 

This is how painting began. Little glimpses into little worlds. Little glimpses into the faces of the divine. 

But we know that the gods don’t really look like us. 

Yes, all Western art. 

I can’t speak to that. 

Berger says the image, disconnected from a fixed location, proliferates, and changes through new context, strange juxtapositions, reframing. 

What they do to us, yes. The stories they tell us, and how we accept those stories. 

He is less interested in the stories we bring. 

If I show you an image of a bird flying, you might think freedom, or graceful, or wings. You might remember your mother pointing to the sky, naming the bird starlingheroncrow. But all of that is yours. 

The bird is just the bird, flying, following the magnetic fields of the earth home. 

I did not say the trouble was a bad thing. I only said that it was trouble.