feb 24/RUN

1.25 miles
neighborhood
27 degrees

A short run to see how my calf was doing. I think it’s okay. No pain. My heel felt a little strange by the end, but that could be from the cold — I didn’t run long enough to warm it up. (a cautious) Hooray!

My favorite parts of today’s run: cresting the hill on edmund and seeing the river burning a bright silvery white in the distance; the comforting smell of a fire burning in someone’s fireplace; and the wind chimes echoing through the alley as I walked home.

before the run

While searching for calf stretches I came across this delightful fact: the calf is often referred to as the peripheral heart!

Throughout the calf muscles is a network of veins, arteries and nerves. The calf muscles and the deep veins have a network of valves and pumps. This system is called your “peripheral heart.” This is because, when you’re in an upright position, the calf muscles work against gravity to close the valves – contracting and driving blood from your legs towards your heart.

Sore Calves: A Full Guide

Very helpful. I remember reading about calf heart attacks and I wondered why they were called that. Now it makes sense! Also good to remember: the calf is made up of 2 muscles: gastrocnemius (bulging one) and soleus (flat, underneath).

Before heading out for my run, I tried out these stretches. I liked them:

after the run: fun with medical terms!

I haven’t done one of these for some time. I want to turn gastrocnemius and soleus into something else. Inspired by Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby, I’ve pulled out my scrabble letters and I’m making new words or phrases.

  • gout ocular messiness
  • regulate moss cousins
  • smile across us tongue
  • oust uncola’s regimes! this has an extra s that I couldn’t fit, but it was too good not to mention

That’s all I have right now. I think I’ll keep working on it later today. It’s fun, but the tiles are harder to see than I thought.

feb 22/REST

I tweaked or strained or something my calf muscle when I unwisely ran after experiencing a bad cramp early Sunday morning. So now I’m resting for the rest of the week and trying to get over myself and my fears about pain and injury. I’ve turned to what often helps: writing and wondering and spending some time getting acquainted with my pain.

one

For future Sara who will want to remember these details, and present Sara who doesn’t want to forget them and anyone else who wants to witness a Sara who is trying to be more open (and less) guarded about what she’s thinking/feeling:

Early Sunday morning, while I was sleeping, I got a leg cramp (a charley horse, as we called it when I was kid) in my right leg. A sudden burst of intense pain that woke me up. I stood and shook my leg and thought my shaking had stopped the cramp from even happening. A few hours later, when I woke up, my calf was sore but Scott and I were scheduled to do our weekly run and I wanted to make sure I got in my miles, so I ran anyway, almost 6 miles. No pain! The next day, I ran another 5 miles and felt mostly fine. But then, sitting at my desk, writing my log entry for feb 19, my leg suddenly felt strange — a constricting? contracting? cramping? of the muscle (or tendon?) at the bottom of my calf, near the heel. No sharp pain, just a flare of heat that burned for a few seconds then stopped when I shook out my leg. To me, it felt like a cramp just about to happen — that moment right before it tightens, just before the pain hits — slams into you? takes your breath away? seizes you? For the rest of the day, I was unsettled. The flares kept coming, not all the time, but throughout the day. By the evening, I was very anxious; the flares were coming every few minutes. For a couple of hours I sat on my bed and made note of each instance:

a quick flare of pain — not sharp — above my ankle/lower calf that goes away when I move my leg/shake my foot
6:09
6:22 (after bending my leg, then crossing it over and on top of my other foot
7:09 (only after bending my leg, raising my knee up for a minute
7:12 another slight flare of pain, the need to shake my leg
7:20 another very mild, slight flare – not pain, almost like a contraction or brief tightening
7:33 a brief construction — slight pain — after I walked downstairs and back up and stood for a minute
7:40 another quick flare
7:43 brief flare
7:49 — a very brief flare
7:52 — another slight constriction
7:59 — a little flare

notes from 20 feb 2024

Then I had dinner and a shot of bourbon and watched old episodes of Seinfeld with Scott and (mostly) forgot about it. Since then, I’ve been trying to be careful with my calf — no running for the rest of this week, or at least until Saturday or Sunday. My calf still feels strange sometimes, and sometimes it doesn’t. Also: stiff, tight, unsettled. Went for a short walk with Delia and Scott yesterday and it felt like it wasn’t quite firing. A fear simmering somewhere within: will it happen again? do I have a calf tear? is something even worse about to happen?

two

I am deeply afraid of these calf cramps. I even wrote about that fear way back on February 16, 2017:

At the end of a 2 mile swim, back and forth across Lake Nokomis, I placed my right foot down in the shallow water and experienced a charley horse from hell. My right calf knotted up so painfully that I began to yell out. I dropped down in the water, trying not to panic, and frantically shook my leg, hoping to loosen the knot. It didn’t take that long to loosen it, but long enough to disorient me so much that I dropped (and lost) my favorite goggles, long enough to make my calf ache for weeks and not feel quite right for a year and long enough to make me feel perpetually terrified of my calf and the excruciating pain it could cause.

That calf pain still haunts me. I’m not really sure how much pain I can take; I did give birth to both of my kids without any drugs so I must be able to tolerate a reasonable amount. But I’m scared of that pain. The threat of it often hovers there, subtly shaping my workouts. Whenever my calf feels strange, during a swim across the lake or while doing a hard run, I wonder, is it coming for me again?

Why am I so afraid of these cramps? With this first one, in 2017, I became afraid (still am, a little) that I would cramp up in the middle of lake and not be able to shake it off; I’d have to endure terrible pain as I swam across, or I wouldn’t be able to swim, and would struggle to stay afloat. I think it’s about the loss of control — being possessed by something that I can’t do anything about — and it’s about that particular type of pain — so sharp and blunt and arresting. Give me the dull ache and tightness of hip pain over calf pain every time! Give me the uncertainty and confusion and unreadable books of gradual vision loss — isn’t that strange?

three

When I was a kid — probably 5th grade — we lived in a DC suburb. I remember going to the Smithsonian and seeing an exhibit on pain. I have an image of one of my older sisters leaning over a glass display case reading something about the history of pain. I also remember being struck by her interest in this topic, wondering why. Looked it up: 1983 / Pain and Its Relief / National Museum of American History – oh, how I loved visiting that museum almost every weekend!

four

The only excruciating pain I recall experiencing as a kid were the terrible stomach cramps I would get when I was 11 or 12 — I hadn’t started my period yet. Such agonizing knots of pain, crashing into me, wave after wave. I would lie on my top bunk bed, staring at the ceiling, and just try to endure them for however long they lasted — hours? How often did they happen, and for how many years? When I told my mom about them, she said something about how these “twists in the intestines” run in our family. Am I remembering that right?

Oh — and the ear infections from swimming. In the middle of the night, I’d leave my bedroom and pace the house, wanting nothing but this horrible ache in the side of my head to stop. Or how my teeth would ache after a teeth cleaning at a rare visit to the dentist. I would wish I could record that pain, be able to feel it anytime I wanted to skip brushing my teeth.

five

Dance with the pain 

That last one is something I describe a lot. What does that even mean?
It means to greet the pain or discomfort like an old friend. Know that it’s always there waiting for you. If you accept it, and envision yourself enjoying its company, it’s much more manageable.

from a race recap at the Chicago Marathon — @emmajanelbates

from a log entry 27 oct 2023: Being content with the doubt and greeting pain as an old friend. Accepting doubt and being content with it I think I can do, but befriending pain? I’ve been trying to work on that as part of this larger writing/living/moving project. The pain I’m thinking of is the pain in my knees or my back or my hips, but it’s also other, deeper pains: the pain of aging, loved ones dying, living within a body that doesn’t work as well. Not sure if I’d call it a friend yet, more like an acquaintance, a familiar. I think it’s possible, but what does enjoying the company of pain look like, outside of the model of sadomasochism?

six

I’ve read/heard it enough times that I can’t remember where or when: the difference between a great runner and a good runner is the ability to endure pain. I don’t want to be a great runner, but I’d like to develop a better relationship to pain. I’d like to find more ways to endure it, to live with it. In middle school and high school, I read several memoirs from people enduring extreme conditions and surviving, mostly political prisoners in China and Russia, who were locked up in small cells alone for years. Almost 40 years later, I can’t remember the specifics of what they suffered or how they survived, I only remember my fascination with these accounts. Now I like following the races and stories of ultra marathoners and long course triathletes. Athletes who spend more time than many deep in the pain cave. One of my favorites is Courtney Dauwalter. She frequently talks about embracing the pain cave:

Is that what it means to dance with/befriend your pain?

I’m not sure how I feel about embracing the pain cave or pushing yourself to the limits in order to enter it. I admire it, and her, and I’m also disturbed by the accounts of pushing yourself so much — regularly hallucinating, temporarily losing all vision, falling on a rock and gushing blood but not stopping (read this, Inside the Pain Cave, for more). Is it too much for a body? Even as I wonder this, I know that I tend toward the opposite end: too cautious, too guarded, unwilling to push myself to the limit if the limit is uncomfortable.

seven

Discussing Dauwalter with Scott, he mentioned that there are different types of pain — some of it we just need to get over and endure, and some a warning to be careful! or stop! before we do real damage. My problem: I’m often thinking that the pain is always a warning of something bad about to happen.

eight

I am uncomfortable writing about pain because my pain seems so insignificant compared to other people living with chronic pain.

nine

Growing up, my family didn’t discuss pain: you were supposed to suffer in silence. I feel compelled (called? driven?) to make visible my pain, to recognize how it is part of me, to share it with others, to normalize vulnerability.

ten

It is difficult to witness other people’s pain. Last night, someone delivering food fell off a step on our block and twisted? sprained? her ankle. She lay on the ground, wailing in pain, her sobs echoing down the street for several minutes as we waited for an ambulance to arrive.

Will this thoughts about pain turn into something bigger? Who know, but I’d like to spend some more time with them. I just discovered a book by one of my favorite poets, Lisa Olstein: Pain Studies. Checked it out of the library! Also, I should reread Eula Biss’ “The Pain Scale.” And, I want to put these 2024 thoughts in conversation with what I wrote about pain in 2017: 18 august 2017

may 24/RUN!

3 miles
river road trail, south/winchell trail, north/river road trail, north
71 degrees/ 90% humidity
dew point: 69

For the past few weeks, my left knee + left quad has been sore. After my run on the 17th, when my knee hurt enough to make it difficult to walk, I decided to take more of a break. Today is my first day back since then. Sunny, still (at least it seemed still), humid. Wow–90% humidity. Summer running. Ran at 8:30, which is not my favorite time to run. Too warm already + too many cars on the road, making crosswalks difficult and drowning out bird sounds with their whooshing wheels.

I felt a little stiff and over-heated, but it was a good run. Very happy to be back out by the gorge, admiring the river and assessing the progress of the leaves and the wildflowers. No mosquitos…yet…or sex-crazed gnats. I remember hearing a loud cardinal in some tree on the edge of trail, rapidly trilling and calling out, “what cheer what cheer.”

Things I Remember

  • almost slipping on the muddy, wet leaves at the edge of the concrete steps leading down to the Winchell Trail
  • not hearing the sewer pipe near 44th and my favorite retaining wall curve, but hearing it gushing at 42nd
  • feeling the glow of the water below out of the corner of eye as I ran on the part of the winchell trail without railing that seems too close to the edge of the steep bluff–I turned briefly to glance down at the bright water
  • noticing more bikers than runners and walkers on the trail
  • wondering when the bugs and the cottonwood fuzz will be arriving
  • breathing in through my nose for 3 beats, out through my mouth for 2
  • feeling a little anxious about my knee and my left IT band, hoping that I took enough time off

Here’s my bird poem for the day:

Of Being is a Bird/ Emily Dickinson

Of Being is a Bird
The likest to the Down
An Easy Breeze do put afloat
The General Heavens — upon —

It soars — and shifts — and whirls —
And measures with the Clouds
In easy — even — dazzling pace —
No different the Birds —

Except a Wake of Music
Accompany their feet —
As did the Down emit a Tune —
For Ecstasy — of it

It’s helpful for me to read through The Prowling Bees’s analysis of this poem (linked in poem title), although I still don’t totally understand ED’s words. I’m struck by her use of easy twice. Ever since I encountered Mary Oliver’s use of easy in her poems (first mentioned on April 14, 2021), I’ve been thinking about the differences between easy and difficult and about how easy is dismissed as immoral or not noble and not nearly as good as difficult. If it’s too easy, you’re not working hard enough, or you’re taking the easy way out, or you’re lazy. I’ve been thinking about it even more after reading Richard Siken’s “The Language of Birds”–see below–and his line about it being easy to ask how, much harder to ask why:

Why paint a bird? Why do anything at all? Not how, because hows are easy—series or sequence, one foot after the other—but existentially why bother, what does it solve?

Why does everything have to hard to be good? Can easy ever be better? Can we fetishize the difficult–making things more difficult for ourselves than we should?

may 18/STIFF RIGHT KNEE, HARD TO WALK

Yesterday, after taking 2 days off from running, I ran again. Not too long after I finished, my left knee felt stiff and sore. Not a good sign, but, surprisingly, I’m chill about it. Just need to take more of a break I guess. Maybe the whole week? If my knee feels a little better tomorrow, and I can walk without limping or tensing up, I’ll try out my bike. After 2 years in the basement, it’s time bring it outside to test it out. Will I be able to see? Eventually, I’m sure, my brain will adjust enough.

Spending a lot of time sitting today. Started early-ish (7:30) this morning by sitting cross-legged on a cushion on the deck, trying to not move much. I was inspired by the wonderful essay I read about “just sitting” yesterday: Private Practice: Toward a Philosophy of Just Sitting/ Antonia Pont

Then I sat at a chair and listened to the daycare kids next door playing outside. I’m not sure how long they were outside, but I took notes about their interactions with the unprepared, harried daycare worker. A lot of fun (not for the daycare worker) and a great exercise in paying attention and taking notes about it. At one point, they played “Ring Around the Rosie.” I wrote in my notes: plague rhyme. I wondered, what other cautionary, plague-related rhymes do children still chant? Googled it and became increasingly skeptical about any nursery rhymes that claim to be about plagues. Then I found this very helpful source–Ring Around the Rosie: Metafolklore, Rhyme and Reason from the Library of Congress. Lots of interesting information about why it’s doubtful that the ring around the rosie is about the plague.

Refreshed my memory of a poem I memorized last summer–Love Song of the Square Root of Negative One by Richard Siken. Love this poem and love Siken. Found another great poem in the same collection (War of the Foxes): The Language of the Birds

The Language of the Birds/ Richard Siken

1

A man saw a bird and found him beautiful. The bird had a song inside him, and feathers. Sometimes the man felt like the bird and sometimes the man felt like a stone—solid, inevitable—but mostly he felt like a bird, or that there was a bird inside him, or that something inside him was like a bird fluttering. This went on for a long time.


2

A man saw a bird and wanted to paint it. The problem, if there was one, was simply a problem with the question. Why paint a bird? Why do anything at all? Not how, because hows are easy—series or sequence, one foot after the other—but existentially why bother, what does it solve?

And just because you want to paint a bird, do actually paint a bird, it doesn’t mean you’ve accomplished anything. Who gets to measure the distance between experience and its representation? Who controls the lines of inquiry? We do. Anyone can.

Blackbird, he says. So be it, indexed and normative. But it isn’t a bird, it’s a man in a bird suit, blue shoulders instead of feathers, because he isn’t looking at a bird, real bird, as he paints, he is looking at his heart, which is impossible.

Unless his heart is a metaphor for his heart, as everything is a metaphor for itself, so that looking at the paint is like looking at a bird that isn’t there, with a song in its throat that you don’t want to hear but you paint anyway.

The hand is a voice that can sing what the voice will not, and the hand wants to do something useful. Sometimes, at night, in bed, before I fall asleep, I think about a poem I might write, someday, about my heart, says the heart.


3

They looked at the animals. They looked at the walls of the cave. This is earlier, these are different men. They painted in torchlight: red mostly, sometimes black—mammoth, lion, horse, bear—things on a wall, in profile or superimposed, dynamic and alert.

They weren’t animals but they looked like animals, enough like animals to make it confusing, meant something but the meaning was slippery: it wasn’t there but it remained, looked like the thing but wasn’t the thing—was a second thing, following a second set of rules—and it was too late: their power over it was no longer absolute.

What is alive and what isn’t and what should we do about it? Theories: about the nature of the thing. And of the soul. Because people die. The fear: that nothing survives. The greater fear: that something does.

The night sky is vast and wide.

They huddled closer, shoulder to shoulder, painted themselves in herds, all together and apart from the rest. They looked at the sky, and at the mud, and at their hands in the mud, and their dead friends in the mud. This went on for a long time.


4

To be a bird, or a flock of birds doing something together, one or many, starling or murmuration. To be a man on a hill, or all the men on all the hills, or half a man shivering in the flock of himself. These are some choices.

The night sky is vast and wide.

A man had two birds in his head—not in his throat, not in his chest—and the birds would sing all day never stopping. The man thought to himself, One of these birds is not my bird. The birds agreed.

may 20/ABLE TO WALK, CLICKING KNEECAP

Feeling much better today. I can walk almost normally, even if I have to remind myself how to do it when I start: bend the knee! I was planning to get out my bike and try it on the trail, but it’s raining, so maybe I’ll bike inside and watch another Dickinson? I want to take a break from running until next Monday, I think, just to be safe. Hopefully that is enough time to recover from whatever happened to my knee. Sitting in the front room, with the windows wide open, I’m enjoying listening to the rain hitting the pavement. It’s a soft, steady, gentle rain. I also hear a siren a few streets over.

Returning to this post, a few hours after I wrote the previous paragraph: Took Delia for a walk around the block and did 30 minutes on the bike in the basement while watching the ITU Yokohama Men’s Triathlon. Most memorable moment: It was a tough, hot race–30 degrees celsius (86 F)–and racers were exhausted at the finishing line. As the commentary continued, I could hear several racers puking in the background. No mention of it by the commentators. Gross, yet a good reminder of how ridiculously hard these races are and how much these racers have learned to push their bodies. I’m troubled by and in awe of that ability.

Thinking about Richard Siken’s “The Language of the Birds”:

1.
A man saw a bird and found him beautiful. The bird had a song inside him, and feathers. Sometimes the man felt like the bird and sometimes the man felt like a stone—solid, inevitable—but mostly he felt like a bird, or that there was a bird inside him, or that something inside him was like a bird fluttering. This went on for a long time.

I love this first stanza. Thinking about ED and “Hope” is thing with feathers. Also thinking about MO and some great lines from The Leaf and the Cloud, which, when I found them again, I realized were even more fitting with this poem or at least my reading of it right now:

from “Gravel” in The Leaf and the Cloud/ Mary Oliver

6.
It is the nature of stone
to be satisfied.
It is the nature of water
to want to be somewhere else.

Everywhere we look: the sweet guttural swill of the water
tumbling.
Everywhere we look:
the stone, basking in the sun,

or offering itself
to the golden lichen.

It is our nature not only to see
that the world is beautiful

but to stand in the dark, under the stars,
or at noon, in the rainfall of light,

frenzied,
writing our hands,

half-mad, saying over and over:

what does it mean, that the world is beautiful–
what does it mean?

What is alive and what isn’t and what should we do about it? Theories: about the nature of the thing. And of the soul. Because people die. The fear: that nothing survives. The greater fear: that something does.

Siken’s poem isn’t really about a bird; it’s about metaphor and representation and the work of doing something useful (meaningful?) with the noticing of a beautiful bird. And it’s about the doubt an artist/writer feels when they try to create something in response to that bird, and about what language does to the artist’s connection to the bird, the distance it creates between “experience and representation.” And, it’s about asking the question: why do anything at all? “existentially why bother, what does it solve?”

And maybe it’s also about not answering this question, not trying to find ultimate meaning, not trying to solve “it”–where it = the problem of death/that everyone dies, or it = the overwhelming “vast and wide” night sky,” or it = our inability to capture/own a bird in our representation (painting, poem) of them.

Yesterday, when I looked up “The Language of the Birds” I discovered this: The Mantiq al-tair(Language of the Birds) of 1487. I had discovered this Sufi poem earlier in the month when I looked up conference of birds, which is it’s more known title. Very cool. Here’s some more information:

Attar (ca. 1142–1220), the author of the Mantiq al-tair, is one of the most celebrated poets of Sufi literature and inspired the work of many later mystical poets. The story is as follows: The birds assemble to select a king so that they can live more harmoniously. Among them, the hoopoe, who was the ambassador sent by Sulaiman to the Queen of Sheba, considers the Simurgh, or a Persian mythical bird, which lives behind Mount Qaf, to be the most worthy of this title. When the other birds make excuses to avoid making a decision, the hoopoe answers each bird satisfactorily by telling anecdotes, and when they complain about the severity and harshness of the journey to Mount Qaf, the hoopoe tries to persuade them. Finally, the hoopoe succeeds in convincing the birds to undertake the journey to meet the Simurgh. The birds strive to traverse seven valleys: quest, love, gnosis, contentment, unity, wonder, and poverty. Finally, only thirty birds reach the abode of the Simurgh, and there each one sees his/her reflection in the celestial bird. Thus, thirty birds see the Simurgh as none other than themselves. In this way, they finally achieve self-annihilation. This story is an allegorical work illustrating the quest of Sufism; the birds are a metaphor for men who pursue the Sufi path of God, the hoopoe for the pir (Sufi master), the Simurgh for the Divine, and the birds’ journey the Sufi path.

One of the valleys the birds have to travel through is the valley of wonder/astonishment/bewilderment. This makes me think of the Sufi poet Rumi and their focus on bewilderment, which I discovered through Fanny Howe. Here’s “Bewilderment” by Rumi:

Bewilderment/ Rumi

There are many guises for intelligence.
One part of you is gliding in a high windstream,
while your more ordinary notionstake little steps and peck at the ground.

Conventional knowledge is death to our souls,
and it is not really ours. It is laid on.
Yet we keep saying we find “rest” in these “beliefs.”

We must become ignorant of what we have been taught
and be instead bewildered.

Run from what is profitable and comfortable.
Distrust anyone who praises you.
Give your investment money, and the interest
on the capital, to those who are actually destitute.

Forget safety. Live where you fear to live.
Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.
I have tried prudent planning long enough.
From now on, I’ll be mad.

Since I keep wanting to put these bird poems in conversation with Mary Oliver and Emily Dickinson, I’ll add that Mary Oliver loved the poetry of Rumi. In her interview with Krista Tippett, she describes how she reads a different Rumi poem each day. And, the last line of “Bewildernment” reminds me of this ED poem:

Much Madness is divinest Sense – (620)/ EMILY DICKINSON

Much Madness is divinest Sense –
To a discerning Eye –
Much Sense – the starkest Madness –
’Tis the Majority
In this, as all, prevail –
Assent – and you are sane –
Demur – you’re straightway dangerous –
And handled with a Chain –

may 21/WALKED 2 BLOCK ON A SLIGHTLY STIFF KNEE

My left knee continues to improve. The kneecap still shifts and clicks, but I can bend and move my knee without pain. I continue to remind my knee how to walk. Rain on and off all day. Showers then sun then showers with sun. Will it ever end? Pumped up the tires in my bike. It’s still in the basement, but soon I’ll bring it upstairs. Heard so many birds this morning: cardinals and woodpeckers and black-capped chickadees and robins. Heard a metallic 2 note song in a neighbor’s tree as I walked around the block with Delia the dog. Was that robin too? Also heard a rapid trilling that sounded like a car alarm. I’m pretty sure it’s a cardinal.

Finishing up a great book, Late Migrations by Margaret Renkl. Here’s one of her essays? prose poems? that uses one of my favorite words: still, which can be used as an adjective (not moving, calm), a verb (to calm down, to quiet), a noun (a period of calm or silence), and an adverb (up to a time, to an even greater degree, nevertheless).

Still/ Margaret Renkl

I pause to check the milkweed, and a caterpillar halts midbite, its face still lowered to the leaf.

I walk down my driveway at dusk, and the cottontail under the pine tree freezes, not a single twitch of ear or nose.

On the roadside, the doe stands immobile, as still as the trees that rise above her. My car passes; her soft nose doesn’t quiver. Her soft flanks don’t rise or fall. A current of air stirs only the hairs at the very tip of her tail.

I peek between the branches of the holly bush, and the redbird nestling looks straight at me, motionless, unblinking.

Every day the world is teaching me what I need to know to be in the world.

In the stir of too much motion:
Hold still.
Be quiet.
Listen.

sept 29/HIKING

Took a great hike with Delia the dog this morning on the Winchell trail. Walking on the river road path between the 36th and 35th street parking lots, we walked under several trees lining the path. They seemed to be greeting us or maybe heralding the beginning of our walk, the opening to a ceremony or sacred ritual. I need to write more about this stretch of the path.

The marathon is on Sunday. Mostly, I’ve accepted the fact that I can’t run it, but I still can’t wait until it’s over so I can move on. Thinking about it, I composed to quick poems:

Consolation Prize

Maybe the best consolation
I can take from getting injured
and missing the marathon
is that right now,
sitting at my dining table,
a little over 24 hours before the race,
I’m not undone with anxiety,
overwhelmed with the what ifs,
unable to imagine how a human body
can run for more than 4 hours.
It’s a very small consolation
but I’ll take it.

Missing

almost 2 months ago
I misplaced my kneecap
only for a few minutes
it was gone
it came back
but not before
misplacing my marathon
I found the kneecap,
but not the marathon.

sept 28/HIKING

I can’t wait until I can run again–next week, I think. Until then I’m walking a lot more and biking occasionally. Today, I did both. Biked 4.75 miles to Minnehaha Falls and then hiked to the river. What a beautiful fall day. Walking on the dirt trail, through a grove of trees just starting to turn yellow, I briefly wondered if I should take a picture. But I didn’t. I’d like to spend some time, sitting on a bench, and find words to describe it. But what words? I need better ones, better than “beautiful.”

Here’s a poem I discovered the other day.

O Autumn! Autumn!/Effie Lee Newsome

O Autumn! Autumn! O pensive light
and beautiful sound!
Gold-haunted sky, green-haunted ground!

When, wan, the dead leaves flutter by
deserted realms of butterfly!
When robins band themselves together

To seek the sound of sun-soaked weather!
And all of summer’s largesse goes
For lands of olive and the rose!

I like Newsome’s trick twisting flutter by into butterfly. And the phrase “to seek the sound.” And I like her enthusiasm. I’m usually too restrained, so I appreciate someone willing to gush and overuse exclamation points.

Words other than Beautiful to describe my view:

  • aesthetically pleasing
  • alluring
  • appealing
  • attractive
  • dazzling
  • gorgeous
  • grand
  • handsome
  • lovely
  • magnificant
  • wonderful
  • splendid
  • resplendent
  • radiant
  • awe-inspiring
  • transcendent
  • sublime
  • poetic
  • vibrant
  • vivid
  • intense
  • aetheral

sept 26/WALKING

Walked with Delia the dog and decided to record my observations. Here’s a transcript of what I spoke into my iPhone memo app for our almost 20 minute walk (update: I turned it into a poem):

Sounds and Things I Pay Attention to on my Walk

The squeaking of the garage door
The glistening reflections on the wet pavement
The trickling water from the fountain in somebody’s backyard
The low, electric hum of the cicadas
An occasional chirping bird
My footfalls on the wet pavement
The trickling of the water in the sewer after the rain
The wheels of the stroller approaching me, almost feeling hostile and threatening
The whoosh of the water under the wheels
The clanging of Delia the dog’s tags on her leash
The big orange construction cone on the driveway, amidst the grayish brown wood and cement blocks
An occasional drip of water, sometimes a plop, sometimes just a drip
The traffic way in the distance
Some unspecified hums
A single yellow leaf falling off a tree already having lost most of its leaves
Burgundy and yellow flowers next to pink and light purple ones
Small puddles on the sidewalk
Darker black asphalt patches where the sidewalk has been repaired
Drips from the trees on my hat
A squirrel running quickly across the street even though there’s no danger of a car
Water rushing in the sewer
The not bright blue, not powder blue, maybe cornflower blue, Adirondack chairs
A runner running by, out in the street; fun to watch their stride—so graceful
and relaxed
The ugly purple leaves on the ground
A car just in the middle of the road for some unknown reason
Some cars approaching me with their lights on, some without
the Furry fuzz
Clanging from a truck, unloading scaffolding perhaps,
unloading some sort of equipment that I’m not turning around to see
It echoes in the otherwise calm, peaceful morning
Talk radio birthdays: T.S. Eliot, Ira Gershwin
I keep listening to hear what kind of talk radio it is
An interesting bark from a dog, deep and low and then high pitched and whiny
A gray car that’s been in an accident
Milkweed pods, some black and dead, others still green and ready to burst
A bright yellow school crossing sign
A slightly paler yellow seat, rope swing on a big tree with gnarled branches
A plane overhead
Walking through clumps of wet, dead leaves on the sidewalk
A bright red chair in front of a green house
The crunch of a walnut shell or a stick under my shoe
A squirrel running ahead of us on the path
Another bright red chair
and two red cars
A truck backing up
somewhere nearby
but not that close.
More drips.
Beautiful mums in pots on the front steps
The light from a front door still on. Was it left on by accident overnight, or is it on because it’s darker this morning?
A squirrel overhead, rustling in a tree branch
More planes and crows

Devoting my time to looking and listening to my surroundings and then describing them into my phone meant that I had no time for any broader ruminations. What would a walk where I randomly spoke what I was thinking into the phone be like?

sept 25/XT

bike: 25 minutes
bike stand, front room

In addition to biking for almost half an hour, I took my dog on 3(!) walks without my knee brace. No knee brace! Very exciting. I still can’t run for another two weeks, but it’s exciting to feel confident enough to walk without the brace. My knee and leg are getting stronger.

I have 2 weeks left before I can start running. I’d like to take that time to revisit some of my thinking about walking. Although I was very happy to be walking so much today, none of my walks were particularly transcendent.  Most of my time was divided between making sure my knee felt okay and making sure that Delia the dog kept moving. No brilliant thoughts. No poetic lines. No problems solved.

What did I notice?

  1. The gigantic cottonwood trees that made my neck ache and my head dizzy as I tried to look up at them.
  2. The huge hostas that encircled another cottonwood tree, a little further up the street.
  3. The burnt gold of the leaves of another tree. A maple, maybe or an oak? For the past few years, I’ve mostly seen glowing yellow leaves; these were golden.
  4. The bright pinks and yellows of the zinnias.
  5. The crows cawing as we walked through the Dowling community garden.
  6. The wooden camel lawn ornament in the yard of a house right next to the garden.
  7. The buzzing of the cicadas–more intensely electric in the morning, a slower hum in the afternoon
  8. A police siren.
  9. The walnut shells, broken up and discarded, that looked almost like mounds of poop, at least to me.
  10. The stillness of the air and the Mississippi river. No rowers on the river.
  11. The bright blue lights that framed the inside of the front window of a house.

That’s all I remember. How different would this list be if I had composed it right after getting back from my walk, or while I was on the walk?

sept 22/FINAL PT?

This afternoon, I have another physical therapy appointment. I’m hoping that this will be the last one and that I can start running again. Mostly, I feel optimistic because my knee doesn’t hurt and I seem to be able to walk normally, but I’m still nervous. My knee clicks a little and sometimes aches a little. What will my physical therapist tell me?

Started a new poetry class this week. So exciting! I’m really enjoying taking writing classes. For the assignment this week, I had to write an homage poem. I chose, “13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” partly because I discovered this poem last spring and had created a writing assignment for myself using it as a model. Here’s what I posted:

13 Ways of Looking at a Tree While Running

1.
Among the veil of green
The only noticeable thing
Was the red leaf on the tree.

2.
Through the effort of running,
I was of no mind,
Absent, like the leaves on a tree
In midwinter.

3.
The tree sizzled in the hot breeze.
Mocking the already overheated runner.

4.
A runner and a path
Are one.
A runner and a path and the trees
Are one.

5.
I do not know which to prefer,
A mystery concealed
Or a mystery revealed,
The tree leaved in summer
Or bare in winter?

6.
The humidity hovered above me
With thick persistence.
The canopy of the tree
Trapped it on the running path.
The visibility
Lost in a fog
Of hazy air.

7.
O fit runners of Minneapolis,
Why do you seek inspiration from shiny PRs?
Do you not see how the tree
Releases oxygen
Making inspiration possible?

8.
I breathe out in jagged fits
And in steady, even rhythms.
I breathe, also,
Because the tree
s
Need me to.

9.
When the tree was no longer in view
The runner imagined
What it would do,
Now that she was not looking.

10.
At the sight of a towering tree
Swaying violently in the storm,
Even the most ardent nature-lover
Would reconsider hugging it.

11.
She ran below the tree
Grit crunching under her shoe.
Once, she freaked out
When she thought a falling walnut
Was a branch.

12.
The river is moving.
The trees are not.

13.
It was humid all morning.
It was hot.
And it was going to be hot.
The tree stood
Offering no shade.

Here are a few other versions that don’t quite fit Stevens’ structure:

1.
In the summer
the floodplain forest
at the bottom of the gorge
is covered with leaves—
a veil of green
almost, but not quite,
concealing my view of
the blue river as I run above it.

2.
When it rains
that same floodplain forest
glows in soft greens
and rich browns
dripping
thick
wet
mystery.

3.
Running by,
I never stop to study the trees.
If I did,
could I see them breathing,
their leaves acting as lungs
inhaling carbon dioxide
and exhaling oxygen?

4.
At a certain point
during my run,
I’m in a daze,
not seeing the trees
so much as feeling
how the shade of their leaves
cools the air.

5.
After a violent storm,
I cautiously ran under
the fallen limb
precariously propped
against another tree.

6.
Red or gold or orange leaves
are pretty on a tree
but not on the path
where they conceal
debris that lies in wait
ready to twist my ankle.

7.
Never trust
a path
without trees.

sept 19/OPEN SWIM!

open swim: 350 yards
bike: 8.5 miles
air temp: 75 degrees
water temp: 68 degrees

I didn’t swim much, because the water was pretty cold and it was very windy, but I swam in the lake again today! And I might try again tomorrow.

Listened to an on being episode with Maira Kalman and they talked about how wonderful trees are. I like the line: “We see trees. What more do we need?” I think I’d like to use that as the title of an essay about trees or as a line in a poem. I can’t wait until I can run by my favorite trees again.

sept 15/OPEN SWIM!

open swim: 1/2 mile

Overcast. Calmer waters. Probably the last swim in the lake until next June. When I was done, I stood in the water, absorbing the view. First, staring at my open swim path across the blue-gray water to the little beach. And then, the tops of the trees, lining the shore all the way around. Some of the trees have already started to change color.

The only other people in the water when I was swimming were a couple of children, their caregiver and two guys in waders with metal detectors. It’s cool to hear the sound of the metal detector clicking (or would I call it scratching?) on the bottom of the lake as I swim by. I’m not sure that I would ever want to use a metal detector, but I can see the appeal. What an intimate knowledge of the lake floor they must have, it’s terrain—the dips and divots, the drop-offs—and the treasures it contains—coins, goggles, bobby pins and the two nose plugs that I lost this summer.

After swimming, I met up with Scott and we sat on the bench for a few minutes, barely talking, mostly looking out at the lake. We left when we smelled cigarette smoke. Later in the parking lot, Scott mentioned that the smoke came from the cigarette of an old guy in a wheelchair being pushed around by a nurse, probably a hospice nurse.

Overheard on the beach, just after exiting the water: “and that’s one thing you never do wen you go to an all-girls college!” What was the beginning of the story? What is the one thing?

Also overheard, from the metal detectors dudes, just before entering the water: “wow! that’s a big one! maybe one and half feet tall!” At first, I thought they were talking about a fish, which made me nervous about swimming, but later I decided it was something else. But what?