june 22/RUN

3.4 miles
47th st loop
64 degrees

Ran the 47th street loop for the first time in a while. 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.

may 13/RUN

3.5 miles
32nd st loop*
52 degrees

*edmund, north/32nd st, east/river road, south/42nd st, east/edmund, north/34th st, west)

Tried a variation on the loop I did yesterday by making it a little longer. My loop yesterday from home to 36th to 42nd to 36th again was about 1.8 miles; the loop today from home to 32nd to 42nd to 34th was about 3 miles. Next time, I should try continuing on until 32nd and see how long a complete loop is. It’s fun to figure out different routes. I’m thinking this might be the summer of loops.

It’s overcast this morning. Rain coming soon. Everything was green and quiet and expectant. Up on edmund early in the run, I saw a roller skier down below. A few minutes later, I passed them on the hill. Can’t remember if I heard them clickity-clacking. Saw a few other runners, walkers, and bikers. Not too crowded except for the spot on the road right before the tunnel of trees. Trucks were blocking half the road, working on high speed internet lines. Couldn’t see the river because I was too far away from the bluff. At some point, when I was closest to the bluff, I heard some rustling in the bushes just beyond the trail. What was down there? A squirrel? A bird? A coyote?

bird sounds

Didn’t hear any black-capped chickadees this morning but as I was nearing 42nd, I hear a few other birds that sounded like laser beams or guns from 70s science-fiction movies. Pew pew pew. Looked it up and I’m pretty sure it was a few northern cardinals. As I was turning onto Edmund, I thought about how much more I’m paying attention to bird sounds this year and how my language/description is getting more specific. In the past, when I talked about birds, I might describe them as singing or chirping or trilling but I wasn’t really thinking about the specific sounds they were making. I was using those verbs generically. I should start making a big list of words for bird sounds that I find.

reciting while running

Recited The Trees again this morning. Over and over. Thought about the meter and how it was easy to lock into a cadence that sounded too rhythmic until I got to the line, “Yet still the unresting castles thresh.” Can’t remember that much else about the poem while I was running but later, while walking Delia the dog, I thought about the first line and the unique, musical and literal way he describes the leaves returning to the trees–“The trees are coming into leaf.” Then I thought about the second line–“Almost like something being said.” Later in the poem, Larkin tells us what they seem to say: “Last year is dead” and “Begin afresh afresh afresh” I wonder, what else might the leaves be saying? What do I hear them saying?

sidewalk poetry

Yesterday, during our evening walk, Scott and I noticed some writing on the sidewalk. If I had stopped and spent a few minutes staring at it, I could have read it, even with my bad vision. Luckily I didn’t have to; Scott could read it instantly. A haiku by the famous Japanese poet Issa about a snail climbing Mt. Fuji slowly. I am familiar with Issa but haven’t really studied them–I’ve read up a little more on one of the other notable Japanese poets, Basho. Very cool. I love how literary my neighborhood is–we live in the Cooper (as in James Fenimore Cooper) part of Longfellow (as in Henry Longfellow) neighborhood. Within a few blocks of me are 2 different poetrees (trees with poem prompts affixed to them). I’d like to chalk some Emily Dickinson on our sidewalk–maybe “In the name of the Bees—And the Butterflies—And the Breeze—Amen!”

Speaking of Issa, when I looked him up on the poetry foundation site, I found this delightful poem:

[the snow is melting]
BY KOBAYASHI ISSA, TRANSLATED BY ROBERT HASS

The snow is melting 
and the village is flooded 
      with children.

may 12/RUN

4 miles
river road, south/42nd street, west/edmund, north x 2 + extra on edmund at end
42 degrees

Decided to try looping today. Starting at the end of my block, turning right at the river, looping back on edmund twice = 3.44 miles. Stayed on edmund after the second loop past 36th and kept running until 34th. Not too bad. Maybe next time I loop, I’ll try turning left on edmund, running north until 33rd, running south on the river road until 42nd. How much more distance will that add?

Wore a new pair of running shoes today: some Saucony grid cohesions that I bought 6 months ago. Slate gray with mint green accents. I had thought, when I ordered them online, that they were black (because the description said they were black) but gray will do. The favorite color I’ve had so far? Electric blue. I wish I could still get those.

A good run. Still cold outside but not for long. Maybe the 80s next week. I wore my winter vest + long sleeve green shirt + winter tights. I’m ready to put away all these layers!

Sounds

  • a black-capped chickadee singing the “feebee” song
  • a woodpecker drumming on a tree
  • a few crows
  • the clickity-clack of a roller skier
  • some part of my vest banging against my shoulder, sounding like another runner approaching from behind
  • a tin whistle chirp from some bird I couldn’t identify (I think it’s a Robin)
  • car wheels slowly approaching from behind
  • a group of three walkers talking

Made sure to look down at the river for the short time that I was able to run right above the gorge. Blue framed in green. Don’t remember noticing it sparkling or shimmering or undulating or doing anything but being below me. After I crossed over to the road, I noticed the soft green glow of the new leaves lining the bluff. I think this spring and summer are going to much more about green than blue.

reciting while running

On my second day of reciting The Trees by Phillip Larkin, I did a much better job of remembering all the lines. I don’t think I stumbled over any this time. Thought a lot about the line, “Last year is dead, they seem to say/Begin afresh, afresh, afresh” For me, when does a new year begin–the fall or the spring? And where does winter fit into all of it? Also thought about the line “Their greenness is a kind of grief” and the contrast between Larkin’s grief as the greening of the trees and Gerard Manley Hopkins’s golden unleaving grief. How do these griefs differ for me? Which one is more difficult? At the end of my run, I recorded myself reciting the poem. Not perfect, but okay. The only glaring mistake is the last line. Instead of saying “Begin afresh” I say “Be afresh.” Begin sounds so much better, makes much more sense, than be.

The Trees, may 12

Since I mentioned Hopkins, I thought I’d put in Spring and Fall again (which is one of the first poems I remember memorizing and loving back in high school):

Spring and Fall 
BY GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS

to a young child

Márgarét, áre you gríeving 
Over Goldengrove unleaving? 
Leáves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you? 
Ah! ás the heart grows older 
It will come to such sights colder 
By and by, nor spare a sigh 
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie; 
And yet you wíll weep and know why. 
Now no matter, child, the name: 
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same. 
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed 
What heart heard of, ghost guessed: 
It ís the blight man was born for, 
It is Margaret you mourn for.

may 11/RUN

3.7 miles
47th ave loop, short
43 degrees

A little too cold but beautiful and sunny and not too crowded. I don’t remember getting close enough to look down at the river but I do remember noticing the trees glowing in a soft green light. Ran on the trail, the grass, the road, the dirt, and the sidewalk. Felt relaxed and strong and not consumed with worry.

reciting while running

I began reciting my new poem today, the first in my “green” series: The Trees by Phillip Larkin. Before heading out for my run, I memorized it while sitting at the dining room table. Then I repeated it over and over again in my head as I ran. 3 quatrains, abba rhyme. The more I recited it, the more I locked in the iambic tetrameter. Except for the first line of the third stanza: “Yet still the unresting castles thresh.” This line seems strange to me. It doesn’t quite fit the meter; there’s an extra beat with the word “the.” Would it work better without that word–“Yet still unresting castles thresh”? Why does he add “the”? Today my favorite lines were: “Is it that they are born again,/ And we grow old? No, they die too./ Their yearly trick of looking new/ Is written down in rings of grain.” I especially enjoyed discovering the rhythm in the first 2 lines as I ran.

birds! birds! birds!

I saw 6 wild turkeys grazing in the tree graveyard. I slowed down to count them. Almost stopped to take a picture or a video, but decided against it. Heard the low drumming of a woodpecker–was it our Pileated friend? About 3 miles in, I heard a male black capped chickadee singing the 3 syllable “hey sweetie” song. Until now, I’ve only heard the 2 syllable “feebee” song. So cool! I tried looking for a recording of the 3 syllable sound but I couldn’t find it. I wish I would have stopped to record it! I thought about doing it but I didn’t. Why don’t I ever stop? Just to be sure, I checked the site and re-read the song description: “In most of North America, the song is a simple, pure 2 or 3-note whistled fee-bee or hey, sweetie.”

may 6/RUN

3.5 miles
47th ave loop, short
52 degrees

Beautiful sunny breezy morning. A little more crowded than usual, but still got over 6 feet of distance from everyone. Heard a black capped chickadee calling out and waiting for an answer 3 times as I started my run:

Hello?
Hello?
Hello?
Listen.

Did I notice the river? I don’t remember.

The run was peaceful and relaxing but at moments, difficult and labored. I recited my poem–Ode to My Right Knee–a few times. Noticed how the alliteration for n was only 2 words: No noise. In some lines I found yesterday in my notes, I had 2 ns too: noisy nothingness

Anything else? Runners, bikers, and several pairs of walkers taking over the road. No turkeys. No way of seeing the river from high up on Edmund–too much green. Glanced at a few benches.

Thinking about green, here are a few lines about green in the spring, inspired by Rita Dove’s alliteration:

Ode to Green

Greedy green gluts gobbling gorges, grifting
vistas. Vast views vanished
or overrun. Orchestrated
take-overs: trees trimmed, tressed, twined,
voluminously vined.
Air altered. Advancing
leaves lining limbs
their thick thatches
blue-blocking blinding breathtaking.
Oh overcrowding obstruction! Oh
consuming, constricting color!

That’s all I have right now. I’ll keep working on it. I love the color green and seeing it in the spring, yet I dislike how excessive it is, how it overruns everything.

Started reading Marie Howe’s Magdalene last night. Wow! Love this poem:

Magdalene—The Seven Devils/ Marie Howe

“Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven devils had been cast out”

Luke 8:2.

The first was that I was very busy.

The second—I was different from you: whatever happened to you could
not happen to me, not like that.

The third—I worried.

The fourth—envy, disguised as compassion.

The fifth was that I refused to consider the quality of life of the aphid,
The aphid disgusted me.  But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
The mosquito too—its face.    And the ant—its bifurcated body.

Ok   the first was that I was so busy. 

The second that I might make the wrong choice,
because I had decided to take that plane that day,
that flight, before noon, so as to arrive early
and, I shouldn’t have wanted that.
The third was that if I walked past the certain place on the street
the house would blow up.   

The fourth was that I was made of guts and blood with a thin layer
of skin lightly thrown over the whole thing.

The fifth was that the dead seemed more alive to me than the living

The sixth—if I touched my right arm I had to touch my left arm, and if I
touched  the left arm a little harder than I’d first touched the right then I had
to retouch the left and then touch the right again so it would be even.  

The seventh—I knew I was breathing the expelled breath of everything that
was alive, and I couldn’t stand it.
I wanted a sieve, a mask, a, I hate this word—cheesecloth—
to breath through that would trap it—whatever was inside everyone else that
entered me when I breathed in.

No.  That was the first one.

The second was that I was so busy.  I had no time.   How had this happened?
How had our lives gotten like this?

The third was that I couldn’t eat food if I really saw it—distinct, separate
from me in a bowl or on a plate. 

Ok. The first was that. I could never get to the end of the list.
The second was that the laundry was never finally done.

The third was that no one knew me, although they thought they did.
And that if people thought of me as little as I thought of them then what was
love?  

The fourth was I didn’t belong to anyone. I wouldn’t allow myself to belong
to anyone.

The fifth was that I knew none of us could ever know what we didn’t know.

The sixth was that I projected onto others what I myself was feeling.

The seventh was the way my mother looked   when she was dying, 
the sound she made—her mouth wrenched to the right and cupped open
so as to take in as much air… the gurgling sound, so loud
we had to speak louder to hear each other over it.

And that I couldn’t stop hearing it—years later—grocery shopping, crossing the street—

No, not the sound—it was   her body’s hunger
finally evident—what our mother had hidden all her life.

For months I dreamt of knucklebones and roots,   
the slabs of sidewalk pushed up like crooked teeth by what grew underneath.

The underneath.  That was the first devil.   It was always with me
And that I didn’t think you—if I told you—would understand any of this—

april 29/RUN

2.3 miles
river road path, south/edmund, north
44 degrees/ 17 mph wind
Deaths from COVID-19: 319 (MN)/ 58,529 (US)

A difficult run this morning. Straight into the wind on the way back. About 5 minutes in, my knee hurt. Stopped for a few seconds, then started again. Mostly fine while I was running, but decided to not run too much. Not crowded on the path. It’s getting greener. Looked over at the Oak Savanna and the Winchell Trail. I don’t remember much from this run except for worrying about my knee or feeling the wind. The stretch of grass between Becketwood and 42nd was muddy and wet.

At the very beginning of my run, I heard the bird call that Scott and I have been curious about lately. I’d like to figure out which bird makes this sound and why. Found it!

Male Black-capped Chickadee

The song Scott and I have been hearing comes from the male black-capped chickadee. It’s also called the “fee bee” call or, when it has three notes, the “hey, sweetie” call. The song is used to attract mates or defend territory.

Some facts I’d like to remember from this brief video: 1. This song signals spring is coming and 2. Males use it in singing battles.

Of course, this mention of singing battles reminds me of one of my favorite poems by Mary Oliver:

Invitation/ Mary Oliver

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

and important day
   for the goldfinches
      who 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 the 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 must change your life.

My effort to notice and then figure out the bird song, reminds me of another poem that I encountered (and posted here a few years ago):

Bird Song/Rebecca Taksel

After all these years
I still don’t know the name
of the bird who has followed me
with his early-morning song
to all the places I’ve lived.

I’ve never asked
“Which bird is that, singing now?”
I remember hearing him first
on a spring morning in childhood
somewhere in the woods
behind our little house, his song clear
above the thousand little sounds
of grass and water and trees around us.

I’ve thought about the deaths I fear,
but only now do I know the death I want:
to let that song be the last thing I hear,
and not to mind at all that I never learned
the singer’s name.

I wonder, was she writing about the male black-capped chickadee?

Thinking about the purpose of the black capped chickadee’s call, I’m imagining more of the conversation:

I’m right/you’re wrong
Welcome/spring’s here
hello/goodbye
get lost/no way
Beatles/Elvis
gray duck/no, goose

april 28/BIKERUN

bike/bike stand: 30 minutes
run/treadmill: 1.5 miles
rain
Deaths from COVID-19: 301 (MN)/ 57,533 (US)

Rain all day. In a few days, everything green. Green green green. I like the green but it always comes too much too soon. Biked in the basement while watching more of the Agatha Christie movie. Enjoying it. Then, ran on the treadmill. Listened to a playlist, fell into a trance.

I didn’t recite my memorized poem today, but decided to recite and record it during my cool down, walking on the treadmill. Realized, before my workout, that I had not memorized the first stanza. Somehow I had left it off my log post. Oops. I’ll have to practice it a lot: “It has been so wet stones glaze in moss;/everything blooms coldly” “It has been so wet stones glaze in moss;/everything blooms coldly”

Dear One Absent This Long While, recorded 4/28

I stumbled over a few words, and it sounds like I said “pawny” instead of “pony” but I recited the whole thing. Nice. I don’t quite own these words yet, but I will soon.

use better words || use words better

Yesterday, while trying to figure out some succinct ways to describe the creative experiments I’m doing in my run project, I came up with this concept. I want to find and use better words–words that allow for new understandings, that more effectively communicate my experiences, that make me/others feel things, that foster curiosity. And, I want to use words better–to be more deliberate and precise and thoughtful in my choices so that my words generate movement and encourage others to think and be curious.

the Subway/Eat Fresh birds

A few days ago, inspired by 2 birds chatting, I imagined what they might be saying–including: bird 1: Subway/ bird 2: Eat Fresh. Scott was inspired by another similar bird conversation this morning. He recorded them, figured out what notes they were singing and then played around on his keyboard with them. Very cool.

birds singing in the rain, april 28
Birdsong in the rain, Room 34

I’m hoping we can collaborate on a sound/poetry project about these birds–probably one that doesn’t involve referring to the birds as Subway and Eat Fresh, but who knows? Anyway, as a starting point, I wrote down a list of 2 syllable calls and responses:

Be here
Not here
Beside
Be Safe
Deep Down
Lost Ones
Release
Slow down
Rethink
Listen
Sink in
Undo
Nothing
Delight
Been there
Terror
Old ways
New ways
Broke down
How to

Not there
Not there
Beyond
Steer clear
We knew
Stay gone
Forget
Down size
Reprise
Loosen
Retreat
Rebuild
To do
Sorrow
Done that
Wonder
Destroyed
Unfurl
Remade
Be now?