june 29/RUN

2.5 miles
river road, south/north
69 degrees
humidity: 90%/ dew point: 70

Happy Birthday to me. Found out yesterday that I am one day younger than Derek Jeter; he turned 46 yesterday, I turned 46 today. Glad to be done with the number 45. Rained all morning so I had to wait to run until after noon–12:36 to be exact. Hot and humid and wet. I didn’t mind. Managed to catch a few glimpses of the river–at least, the blue of the river through the green leaves. It was very windy, which helped make the heat less oppressive. Do I remember anything else? Not sure if it was still raining a little or if I was just feeling drops from the trees.

Recited the latest poem I memorized: Turkey Vultures/ Ted Kooser:

Circling above us, their wingtips fanned
like fingers, it is as if they were smoothing

one of those tissue paper sewing patterns
over the pale blue fabric of the air,

touching the heavens with leisurely pleasure,
just a word or two called back and forth,

taking all the time n the world, even though
the sun was low and red in the west, and they

had fallen behind with their making of shrouds.

I love the line, “smoothing one of those tissue paper sewing patterns over the pale blue fabric of the air.” It reminds me of going with my mom to the fabric store, sitting in the chair at the slanted table, looking through pattern books–Vogue, Simplicity, Butterick–finding something I wanted her to sew for me, making note of the number and then finding the corresponding pattern in a big filing cabinet. I have never learned to sew but I will always remember how exciting it was to pick out patterns and then the fabric, and have my mom sew for me. In my early 20s I wanted to learn to sew. For my birthday that year, my mom gave me an elaborate sewing kit, with a how to sew book and several very nice scissors, needles, pins, a pin cushion, measuring tape, thread. I still have the kit and sometimes I use it, like earlier in the quarantine when I comically attempted to patch my son’s favorite pajama pants. I was amazed that I could thread the needle. How did I do that with my central vision almost gone?

In reciting this poem, I also thought about the word leisurely and how to pronounce it–with a short e or a long one? I prefer the long e–leeesurely.

june 27/RUN

2 miles
river road, south/north
76 degrees

Ran with Scott on the rive road. Warm in the sun. Crowded. Saw a peloton turn onto the road and whizz by. Heard the crack of ski pole as a roller skier prepared to roll down the hill just past the welcoming oaks. While Scott was talking about XTC and their strange side projects, I though I heard the cackle of either Emily or Agatha (the pileated woodpeckers I named the other day).

When we returned home, I sat on the deck and recited Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” into my phone. For some reason I keep thinking it’s “you only have to let the SMALL animal of your body” instead of “you only have to let the SOFT animal of your body.” Not sure why because soft makes much more sense.

Wild Geese, June 27

june 26/RUN

2.2 miles
river road, south/river road, north
73 degrees
humidity: 75%/ dew point: 65

Hot and muggy this morning. No sun, just clouds and a few rain drops. Decided to do a shorter run. Listened to a playlist with lots of Lizzo songs. Felt strong and fast and happy to be outside. At the end of the run, I passed through the welcoming oaks, turning around at the old oak tree that stands at the top of the hill, above the tunnel of trees. Stopped at the overlook and was able to almost see a few slashes of river. The green was thick and opaque and unrelenting.

Today I was planning to memorize the next bird poem on my list, Mockingbird by Randall Jarrell. But I realized that we don’t have any mocking birds near the gorge so I’m switching it out for a poem about a bird that is common, and one of my favorites: the goose. And I’m picking one of my favorite poems about the goose–another one by Mary Oliver that I memorized a few years ago but can’t quite remember: Wild Geese. Love this poem!

Wild Geese/mary oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

june 25/RUN

3.1 miles
47th ave to 32nd st to river road, south to edmund to river road, south to 42nd st to river road, north
64 degrees
humidity: 82%

Ran at 8 and it’s already feeling warm. Sunny. I think I saw my shadow a few times off to the side. Ran by the aspen eyes on 32nd. Encountered runners, bikers, walkers, a few roller skiers. Always at a safe distance. Heard some birds–the cackling of a pileated woodpeckers, perhaps. On our walk last night, Scott and I (well, mostly him) saw 2 pileated woodpeckers sitting on a branch. Even though they were probably male, I named them Agatha and Emily, after one of the best Bugs Bunny cartoons ever–the one where Bugs Bunny takes a wrong turn and ends up at a castle with a vampire. I didn’t see the river or hear the river or even smell the river today. Too far away–two paths, a lot of grass, and a thick line of trees between me and my view.

Recited “Invitation” and “Crows” while I ran. Got stuck on one line from Invitation–I couldn’t remember what came right before, “it is a serious thing/just to be alive.” I finally remembered it when I got home–“believe us, they say.” Didn’t have any problems remembering the lines from “Crows.” Last night I recited it for Scott and we talked about the structure of the poem, the first part as philosophical reflection, and the second part as details from specific memory of the is.

the IS

to stack each is up against emptiness–
images collected in consciousness

the images collected

the food’s here of the first crow to arrive
numbers 2 and 3 at a safe distance, then approaching the hand-created taste of leftover coconut macaroons

I’d like to try writing a poem using this structure. Not sure how I feel about the phrase, “hand-created.” I like it better than hand-crafted but it sounds awkward, which is probably intentional?

I’ve decided to add two more poems to my bird list, and remove one. Here’s the new list:

june 24/RUN

3 miles
36th to 42nd to 34th to 38th to 36th
63 degrees
humidity: 83%

Another beautiful morning. Didn’t notice the wind or any bugs. No large groups of runners or roller skiers or bikers, although there were a lot of walkers and runners. My route was all on the road, so no views of the river. I did notice the open air above the river and imagined it below. Before heading out, I heard at least one black-capped chickadee but I don’t remember hearing any birds while I was running. What else do I remember? A squirrel crossed the road in front of me–not too close. Saw 2 runners heading down to the Winchell Trail. Stepped on a few clumps of grass and the end of a twig. Didn’t see any ridiculous performances–no exuberant bikers or strangely gaited runners or spazzy dogs and their owners.

loops

Today I ran some strange loops–from 36th to 42nd and back past 36th, down the hill until the road is closed for construction near 34th, then back again past 36th to 38th and finishing at 36th. This wasn’t too bad. Originally I was planning to do a lot of the loops this summer, but I realized I struggle to do repeat loops. Maybe I’ll try one more time? I’ve been thinking of doing shorter loops around 38th (about .1/2 mile)–maybe 6th of them, some fast, some slow?

reciting while running

Yesterday I memorized Marilyn Nelson’s “Crows,” the second poem I’m memorizing for my birds series.

Crows/ Marilyn Nelson

What if to taste and see, to notice things,
to stand each is up against emptiness
for a moment or an eternity–
images collected in consciousness
like a tree alone on the horizon–
is the main reason we’re on this planet?
The food’s here of the first crow to arrive.
Numbers two and three at a safe distance,
then approaching the hand-created taste
of leftover coconut macaroons.
The insight sparks in the earth’s awareness.

It is helpful to spend time with this one–partly because I love the first sentence, but mostly because, on my first several readings, I couldn’t understand the lines about the crows. The food’s here of the first crow? hand-created taste? Having recited it dozens of times, I’m starting to understand these lines a little better. Still not sure I like them, or crows for that matter, but they are making more sense.

When I stopped running, I recorded myself reciting the poem as I walked home:

Crows, June 24

There are 2 books (or at least 2 that I can recall right now) I have read and adored in the last 10 years that feature crows: 1. Wildwood/ Colin Meloy. A murder of crows serve as henchmen for an evil baby-stealing queen who lives in a wood in Portland, OR. When a “murder of crows” appeared for the first time in the book, I remember imagining that Colin Meloy, who loves to sing dark, Victorian lyrics in The Decemberists, wrote the entire story around this phrase because he loves it so much. 2. Bellman & Black/ Diane Stterfield. On a bet, a boy kills a crow with a stone from his slingshot. The other crows don’t forget and haunt him when he grows up. (Looking it up, I realized that the bird is not a crow but a rook. Oops.)

Now that I realized it was a rook and not a crow, I want to know the difference between them. According to Woodland Trust, crows, ravens, and rooks are all part of the crow family/corvids (the family also includes jackdaws and magpies). Crows are all black and are often alone; ravens are less common, much bigger, and gather in flocks; and rooks are social and have a gray bill and gray feathers on their face, near the bill.

june 23/RUN

3.5 miles
trestle turn around
64 degrees

Cloudy this morning. Felt cool when I started, warm when I stopped. Ran north on edmund until I crossed over to the river road at 32nd. Saw the river for about a minute, peeking through the green. I miss being able to pay attention to the gorge, listening for rowers, admiring the river’s shine. Before crossing back over to the road, I glanced at one of the dirt trails leading into the gorge–so dark green and thick! You could get lost in there…and bit–lots of bugs near the gorge right now. They didn’t bother me while I was running, but they did last night during my evening walk with Scott and Delia.

yesterday’s rather ridiculous performance: super chill man on bike, singing

Speaking of last night, about halfway through our walk, we saw a man biking, nearing the top of a hill, just past the welcoming oaks. He was singing–what was he singing? a show tune or a love song or something like that–and had his hands resting on his knees while he was biking. He looked calm and chill and unworried about the fact that he was about to bike down a hill without having his hands on the handlebars. He looked rather ridiculous but his embracing of this ridiculousness was wonderful and delightful and brought me some joy. Usually I would judge this behavior as reckless, but he was so relaxed and ridiculous that all I could do was marvel at it. I wasn’t the only one. About a minute later, I heard some other people talking excitedly about him too. This idea of a “rather ridiculous performance” is a line from Mary Oliver’s “Invitation”: “I beg of you/do not walk by/without pausing/to attend to/this rather ridiculous performance.” Maybe I’ll try to make a list of the rather ridiculous performances I encounter/witness?

I recited “invitation” a few more times on my run. I did a better job of not getting distracted. I thought about the line, “you must change your life” and about how much (and sometimes how little) COVID-19 has changed my life. And I thought about how many of the changes have been less about will and more about letting go–staying home, doing “nothing,” listening. When I finished my run, I recited the poem into my phone. Listening back to it, I’m struck by my mistakes, especially my saying “competition” instead of winning. Winning sounds so much better rhythmically. Also, my choice to say “this” is a serious thing instead of “it” and “their” ridiculous performance instead of “this”.

Invitation, june 23

I love Ours Poetica and I love this poem about aphids and foolishly telling off the nosy, stern older lady–“the town’s most successful corporate attorney’s mother”:

june 22/RUN

3.4 miles
47th st loop
64 degrees

Ran the 47th street loop for the first time in awhile. At turkey hollow I saw a turkey! Recited Mary Oliver’s “Invitation.” All I remember about it was that I couldn’t recite it straight through. I kept getting distracted by the effort of summer running or of trying to avoid other people. One other thing I remember–I struggled with the line “a field of thistles.” I kept thinking it was a thistle filled field. Also struggled with the line about the strong, blunt beaks. I kept thinking it was sharp, blunt beaks which demonstrates how little I was actually thinking.

Recording myself reciting the poem a minute or two after finishing my run, as I walked home.

Invitation, june 22

I think I’d like to start a new series of memorized poems with this one. I had planned to memorize poems about water but it’s too difficult to think about water right now; it makes me sad about missing open swim this year. I’m not sure what my theme will be yet–probably second person poems, although I’m always thinking about transformation or attention or maybe birds or what about advice/how to? It’s a tough one.


Okay, spent a few minutes thinking about it and I have decided to (at least) start with a series on birds. I might then move onto You poems and How to poems (and, when I do how to poems, it must include Dickinson’s “To Make a Prairie”. Here’s a tentative list (taken from poems I’ve already read and have wanted to memorize):

Birds

june 21/RUN

3.5 miles
47th ave to 32nd st to river road to edmund to river road
66 degrees/ humidity: 83%

A beautiful morning for a run. Calm, sunny, cooler. Lots of birds, a nice breeze. Did some triple berry chants–strawberry, blueberry, raspberry–for a few minutes, then some 3/2–mystery/is solved, running on/the road. For a stretch, I listened to all of the sounds–black capped chickadees, cardinals, crows, a woodpecker. Wind gently shaking the leaves in the trees, a rock song blasting from a bike radio. Saw one stray bit of white fuzz from a cottonwood tree and a few aspen eyes. Didn’t see the river or hear any rowers down below. No roller skiers. Also, no troops of synchronized roller-bladers this year. For the past 2 or 3 summers, I’ve noticed a group of 4 men roller-blading on the bike path, sometimes accompanied by a coach on a bike. So fast and graceful and in sync–swinging their arms in unison. Not this year. Maybe I’m not running early enough this summer?

I’m still thinking about You (second person) in poems. Here’s one of my favorite You poems by Mary Oliver. I love this poem so much, I wrote a poem about it–a poem I’m not quite happy with but might be someday. Anyway, here’s Oliver’s poem:

Invitation/ Mary Oliver

Oh do you have time
to linger
for just a little while
out of your busy

and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles

for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest

or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air

as they strive
melodiously
not for your sake
and not for mine

and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude—
believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing

just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in this broken world.
I beg of you

do not walk by
without pausing
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.

It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant when he wrote,
You much change your life.