dec 23/BIKERUN

bike: 10 minute warm-up
run: 3.35 miles
basement
outside temp: -7 / feels like -25

Scott, RJP, and I braved the cold and drove over to the Y. Empty parking lot. Closed early for the holidays because of the extreme cold and wind. Oh well. Drove back home and did another treadmill workout. Covered the display panel, turned on a running podcast, and ran with hardly any idea of how long I was moving. I wanted to check my watch a few times, but I decided to wait until there was a pause in the podcast for the sponsor. Almost 33 minutes. Wow, I had no idea I had been running for that long. Mostly listened to the Olympic 1500 runner Heather MacLean discuss being an introvert, talking to the trees in a Flagstaff forest, and struggling with the pressure of running at the Olympics. I tried to think about color and the idea of orange and buoys.

This morning I had thought about orange in relation to navigation and reorienting myself in terms of open water swimming and life and wanting to become a bird (using quantum mechanics and blue light for navigation) or one of the monarch butterflies that fly across lake superior on a route designed to avoid a mountain that hasn’t existed for centuries. Orange, literally and figuratively, is about navigation and orientation for me. It’s the first color I couldn’t see that started my awareness that something was wrong with my vision. It’s the color of the buoys that I’ve used every summer since I was diagnosed for practicing “how to be when I cannot see” — learning how to negotiate/navigate without the certainty of sight. It’s the color that I’ve noticed the most when I tracking how my peripheral vision works and is helping me use the remaining bits of central vision.

2 past entries to review:

On bird navigation and quantum mechanics
On monarch butterflies and missing mountains

Found this poem the other day on Poets.org:

Owl/ Anne Haven McDonnell

In winter, we find her invisible 
against the furrows 
of cottonwood bark. Her swivel 
and lean follow us until 
we sit on the old polished log 
we call creature. She blinks, 
swells her feathers out, shakes and settles. 

It’s a good day when I see an owl. 
We watch until she drops—a fall 
opening to swoop and glide. What is it 
with lesbians and owls? Someone 
asked. I’ll leave the question 
there. There’s a world 

the old trees make of water 
and air. I like to feel the day 
undress its cool oblivion, currents 
moving the one mind of leaves, 
shadows deeper with the breath 
of owls. Just the chance she might 
be there watching makes me 
love—no—makes me loved.

So much I love about this poem: the short lines, economy of words, how the narrator has named the log creature, that it’s a good day when she sees an owl (not because it’s an owl, although that’s cool, but because she thinks that if she sees a certain something, she’ll have a good day. Mine is roller skiers or turkeys), the cool oblivion, the breath of owls, shadows as both (?) a noun and a verb, the ending line.

dec 22/BIKERUN

bike: 12 minute warm-up
run: 3.25 miles
basement
outside temp: -6 / feels like -25

Dangerously cold today, or as the winter storm warning described it, life-threatening. Yikes. In order to chip away at those last miles I need to reach my goal of 1000 miles, I ran on the treadmill.

current total (after this run): 991.95

Warmed up (because it was cold in the basement!) on the bike first, while watching Erin Azar (Mrs. Space Cadet) and her latest “uncomfy” challenge. A self-proclaimed struggle runner and content creator, Azar is completing (and filming) a bunch of things that make her feel uncomfortable. This one was working out with a college lacrosse team. I like her and I enjoyed this video, partly for her perspective, partly for the positive energy of the college athletes, and partly for the speed drills. Some useful stuff in there, I think.

After the bike warm-up, I ran for 31 minutes. Decided to try listening to my latest audiobook, a story collection about an elderly woman in Sweden who likes to solve her problems with murder: An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good. I really like stories with smart, capable, thriving (not always physically, but in terms of their perspective that when you get old you’re not just waiting for death to come) older women. I also like that it’s a story collection — as opposed to a ridiculously long novel — and that it’s translated from Swedish. I covered the display panel on the treadmill with a towel, didn’t look at my watch, and ran while listening to Maud (the old lady) murder a terrible gold digger and a selfish, needy sister. Wow. I lost track of time and was surprised when I gave in and looked at my watch and saw that 26 minutes had gone by. I struggle to run for a long time on a too steady treadmill in a boring basement. Listening to this book helped.

Earlier today, I continued reading Maggie Nelson’s Bluets. Here’s #51:

51. You might as weel act as if objects had the colors, the Encyclopedia says.—Welo, it is as you please. But what would it look like to act otherwise?

Bluets/ Maggie Nelson

I wrote this in reaction (as opposed to a thought out response) to the idea of acting otherwise: What would this look like for me? I am not acting as if they had no colors, nor did I need to. I can still see colors. My world is not black and white or even gray. The colors just work differently, unreliably. Colors speak in a language that is sometimes silent for me. Color-coded, color as signal, sign. Color to get your attention to communicate something more quickly than a word could do. Color as a practical language. I’ve lost, am losing the ability to USE color as an efficient/effective/persuasive form of communication. Or — to be used by it. Some of this is good, but some of it prevents me from receiving important messages: mold on food, danger in the road, stay away, stop.

Back to Nelson and Bluets. I’m struck by how she cites and uses other writers/thinkers/poets in this book. The first book I read by Nelson was a more recent one, The Argonauts, way back in 2015. The citation is different in this book, but it’s worth mentioning:

Perhaps the biggest thing that has struck me so far is Nelson’s way of citing her sources. When she’s using someone else’s theory or idea, she puts that theorist’s name in the margin, beside her own text. Sometimes she directly quotes the theorist, sometimes she merely invokes them.

story log entry / 6 dec 2015

Here are 2 examples from Bluets:

12. And please don’t talk to me about “things as they are” being changed upon any “blue guitar.” What can be changed upon a blue guitar is not of interest here. 

I wasn’t what she meant here, but when I googled “blue guitar things as they are” I easily found the reference: Wallace Stevens, “The Man with the Blue Guitar”

107. Many people do not think the writing of Gertrude Stein “means” anything. Perhaps it does not. But when my students complain that they want to throw Tender Buttons across the room, I try to explain to them that in it Stein is dealing with a matter of pressing concern. Stein is worried about hurt colors, I tell them. “A spectacle and nothing strange a single hurt color and an arrangement in a system to pointing,” I read aloud, scanning the room for a face that also shows signs of being worried about hurt colors.

This reference, which involves the invoking of a line, a direct quotation, and a story about her students. It led me to Stein’s poem: A Carafe, that is a Blind Glass and a helpful explanation: The Difference is Spreading: On Gertrude Stein

What to make of this, or why am I mentioning it? I’d like to play more with how I cite my references in my color poems. I also like the idea of the various bits of information/passages/lines of poetry I’ve acquired being much of the substance of my poem.

dec 21/SWIM

2 miles
ywca pool
winter storm warning — snow, wind, cold

Got to the Y with RJP and Scott just as the big winter storm was beginning. Swam for an hour, which is the most I’ve done since open swim ended in August. Mostly, I felt strong. A little tired, a little sore. It was fun to share a lane with RJP. It makes me very happy that she’s swimming again.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. there was a lifeguard today
  2. the leisure pool was open with lots of happy kids, at least one screaming, not in anger but delight
  3. one woman next to me did some side lunges as she walked in her lane
  4. another woman did a strange butterfly stroke — was it butterfly? She was doing the arm motions but not much else, and barely that
  5. as usual, orange everywhere. I looked up and the only color I could see was the orange from the 2 signs on the pool deck
  6. the water seemed a little less cloudy, clearer
  7. some new things (or things I haven’t noticed before) on the pool floor: 2 white somethings — what were they?
  8. after one of the women left, another swimmer came, a man wearing a blue speedo
  9. my nose squeaked as my noseplug shifted, my googles leaked a few times
  10. noticed what a great job RJP does with her streamline off the walls

Before heading over to the y, as I was drinking my coffee, I read some more of Maggie Nelson’s Bluets. Here’s an excerpt that I was thinking about:

40. When I talk about color and hope, or color and despair, I am not taking about the red of a stoplight, a periwinkle line on the white felt oval of a pregnancy test, a black sail strung from a ship’s mast. I am trying to talk about what blue means, or what it means to me, apart from meaning.

Bluets/ Maggie Nelson

I’m interested in how this distinction between meaning and what it means to me works in understandings of color. Also, what meaning means here. Not truth, or what color something actually is, but how it comes to mean something to us. How we’ve collectively decided that a stop sign is red, for example. Not sure if this makes sense, but I’m also thinking about the collective decision we’ve made to understand the line on a pregnancy test as blue and not green or gray or some other color that some of us might be seeing instead. With this last sentence, I’m thinking about more than my vision issues, but the idea that how we see color can be at least partly determined by how we’ve named it. See: Crayola-fication of the world

dec 13/RUN

5.65 miles
franklin loop
33 degrees
sleet/rain

Just as the sidewalks and path get completely cleared, another storm moves in. This afternoon rain then snow. Oh well. This morning it was great to run on a dry, almost ice-free path.

A gray day. Not dark gray, but heavy. Difficult to see clearly, everything out of focus. Reviewing my entries from the past year for my annual summary, I came across this description of trying to see on a gray day from March 2nd:

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.

log entry from 2 march 2022

I was able to greet Dave, the Daily Walker and notice that the river was open and full of ripples from the wind. I don’t remember hearing any birds, but I did hear something rumbling or buzzing, some sort of equipment for repairing the street.

I ran most of the way with no headphones. For the last mile, I put in Taylor Swift’s 1989.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. on the west side, the river was a dark gray
  2. on the east side, the river looked more grayish-brown
  3. hardly any color, almost everything gray, a few dead leaves in orangish-brownish-gold
  4. one panel of the black steel fence on the east side of the river is slightly bent and bows in the center
  5. several times dark, hulking shapes out of the corner looked like people approaching. They were trees
  6. tried to sync up my steps with a car horn that was honking repeatedly
  7. the wind was swirling, sometimes in my face, sometimes my back, helping me to run faster
  8. heard some dripping under the lake street bridge on the east side
  9. saw a tarp or a blanket on the ground under the lake street bridge on the west side
  10. noticed lots of leaves skittering across the snow, being pushed around by the wind

Completed a draft of another colorblind plate poem. I have 5 now. I’m pleased with all off the longer poems that fill the circle, but a little unsatisfied with the one word versions of the poems that are hidden in the colorblind test. It’s difficult to condense a poem into one 3-5 letter word!

dec 12/SWIM

1.5 miles
ywca pool

After a week and a half off because of COVID quarantining (daughter RJP had it, not me), I was able to go back to the pool. Crowded. Did my usual swim — continuous 200s, breathing every 3/4/5/6 by 50s, not stopping until I saw Scott at the end of the lane. I felt strong and steady and happy to be using my muscles differently. My kneecap (or was it just above my knee?) felt weird once, but otherwise was fine.

10 Things I Noticed

  1. Miss Luna came about 20 minutes into my swim
  2. my nose plug kept shifting and I had to stop a few times to adjust it. I didn’t feel any water coming in my nose, but I could feel my air coming out
  3. after the first few flip turns, my nose burned from the chlorine
  4. looking straight ahead underwater, I watched as my hands made bubbles as they entered the water
  5. the woman one lane over was swimming breaststroke, her frog kick looked extra froggy
  6. a man in black swim trunks was walking the length of the pool by the far wall. Why?
  7. looking up, I noticed someone at the end of my lane. She asked to share a lane. Sure! I think I might have said yep too.
  8. the woman sharing my lane kicked a lot as she swam freestyle. I saw, but didn’t feel, the water churning as I swam past
  9. turning on the wall, pushing off, looking ahead and noticing the bubbles of my lane partner, and thinking about how I was gaining on her*
  10. orange: my orange bag, the orange sign saying No lifeguard on duty, Scott’s orange swimming trunks

*I’m not really that competitive (am I?), but I do get some pleasure in being faster and passing people. I don’t want to race them, just pass them. It makes me feel like I’m going faster.

In the middle of my swim I started thinking about the Ishihara plate I’m working on, the one about the test and why it, and the Ishihara plate as form, is important to me. I thought about how the draft I worked on this morning seems to offer a redemptive conclusion — I will choose to see my changing vision not as losing it, but it being made strange. Then I thought about how I don’t want to do that, to resolve it, to make it a moment of redemption. As I circled around the pool, I wondered how to make this Ishihara poem more messy and uncertain. Even as I do prefer to understand my vision as strange and not lost, I don’t want to conclude the poem with this idea. As I was thinking this — and in far less words than I’m writing now! — I thought of something else, how I find the Ishihara plate pleasing with its many circles and dots — I love polka dots! — and colors, but I also find it a little gross and upsetting. It looks like disease or cancer cells under a microscope. I’m thinking about cancer a lot right now. Scott’s mom just died of lung cancer, and we’re watching Walter White deal with lung cancer on Breaking Bad — FWA finally convinced us to watch it and wow, what a show! What to do with this idea in the poem? Not sure, but I’m also thinking about cancer cells as uncontrolled growth and the uncontrolled growth of the market as progress in capitalism, and then how the version of cone dystrophy I have is progressive — it gradually worsens, so here progress is not about getting better, but getting worse. Whew — that’s a lot! Not sure how, if it all, I’ll use this in the poem, but it was helpful to think about it in flashes as I moved through the water.

dec 11/RUN

3.4 miles
trestle turn around
31 degrees
10% snow-covered

Getting closer to my running goal for the year: 1000 miles. With today’s run, I have just over 34 miles left! Sloppy today — not so much on the bike trail, which was mostly dry, but the sidewalks and the roads. Everything slushy, almost melting. My socks splattered with mud.

Another good run. Started slow, stuck behind a runner who was going about my speed. I kept my distance (40 or 50 feet?) but I wondered if they were irritated by my constant presence. Or is that just me? A mile in, as we climbed the hill out from under the lake street bridge, I sped up and passed her.

I listened to an old playlist titled, bday2018. Lizzo, Justin Bieber, Little River Band, Lorde.

Greeted Mr. Morning! and waved at a bunch of runners. Slipped on a few stray bits of ice. Noticed the river — white, covered in snow. Didn’t look at the sky. (Checking now, it’s gray). Saw walkers, dogs, fat tires. No birds or squirrels or coyotes.

I’m working on my fifth colorblind/Ishihara plate poem. This one is about the Ishihara plate and why it’s a significant test for me. I want to do something with the circles and loops and the idea of taking this test and not seeing the number as the first big moment of recognition that there was something wrong with me. I dismissed it, thinking only that it meant I was one of those rare, quirky people who saw color strangely. But it was the first moment of acknowledgement that whatever strange things I had been experiencing for years weren’t just in my head. Others — my husband and kids — could see that I saw differently too. I feel like I keep writing this in different ways on this log, over and over, trying to find the right way to express it. Maybe that’s part of the circles/circling too? There’s something about the idea of inside and outside here too — this test made what had only been inner (my unexpressed/not-yet-understood thoughts about seeing strangle) outer (visible to the word, acknowledgement as a problem, or as a real thing that I was experiencing).

dec 9/BIKERUN

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

Not too cold outside, but a bit icy, uneven. Today’s workout was all about adding another mile to my year total and getting a chance to move after sitting at my desk all morning while working on a poem. Watched a race while I biked, listened to Lizzo while I ran.

Worked all morning on a colorblind plate poem. This one is a cento and includes lines with colors from some of the almost 800 poems I’ve gathered on this RUN! log. Yesterday afternoon, I gathered them and discovered something: many — most? — of the poems I’ve gathered don’t mention color. Colors popped into my head as I pictured the images in the poems, but because of association and the colors I connect with certain things, not because color words were used. This was surprising to me.

The name of this poem is In (or inner if Scott can fit it in the colorblind plate), which refers to my inner color world, how I imagine color now that I can’t see it as well. Here it is:

draft of IN

Lines from the following poems:

Separation / W.S. Merwin
Ars Poetic / Aracelis Girmay
Cold Morning / Eamon Grennan
Becoming Moss / Ella Frears
Wild Geese / Mary Oliver
With A Song / Christina Pugh
Paean to Place / Lorine Niedecker
Trilliums / Mary Oliver
The Road Not Taken / Robert Frost
Forsythia / Ada Limón
Autumn / Linda Paston
Colors passing through us / Marge Piercy
A Rhyme for Halloween / Maurice Kilwein Guevara
Orange / Wendy Cope

Here’s one of the poems that I hadn’t posted yet. It’s a great one for winter; I might use it for my class!

With A Song/ Christina Pugh

There’s something about music: the wish to
be in the dark. Like I don’t know what person
this voice must belong to. At times I love
a secret, what sheers away from intellect.
Intrepid horn of birdsong when you won’t
see or know the bird. Or sometimes
I’m riding in the car on I-80, dipping
my eyes into the glamour of Ohio, its red
barns or white barns severally unpainted
by tactile fingers of winter weather.
White barns with green roofs. Sky-blue
with white roofs. Wait, isn’t sky-blue brighter
than any sky you really see? Canned sky,
you might reply, hyperbole of color. Platonist
Crayola blue. Would anyone trade a teal
feather for a trill? The highway will line
with mud and snow stripes along a fence,
then apple orchards spider in the ice.
A long stand of pines before the strip mall.
And still from the radio, an alto atremble:
I love not knowing who it belongs to.


dec 6/RUN

5.6 miles
franklin loop
20 degrees / felt like 12
25% snow-covered

A wonderful run on a wonderful, wintery morning! Sunny, calm, cold but not too cold. I know I noticed many different things, had lots of interesting thoughts, but I’m distracted now, having read a beautiful, caring, generous post from a friend from grad school about sickness and death and recently being diagnosed with cancer. Ugh. I wanted to write a comment, to do more than “like” her Facebook post, but…too many thoughts. I’m thinking about Ross Gay and inciting joy and grief and how joy can show up when we’re willing to let others meet our sorrow and willing to take the time to meet theirs. About how much I appreciate my friend’s words and her story, how awful it is that she’s living in limbo for weeks, waiting to hear how bad her cancer is, how I felt every word and didn’t look away. About how cancer and death and grief are everywhere — Scott lost 2 aunts, a mother, and a beloved godmother in the second half of 2022, one after the other: August, September, October, November. And about the beautiful words I heard from the poet Kemi Alabi on the VS. podcast when she was asked what was moving her:

Grief is moving me. Like it’s literally running me, I feel so governed by grief. And not just personally or with my community, but collectively just seems like you can’t walk down the street without encountering, stumbling on this grief. So I’m thinking about Rebellious Mourning. That’s actually the name of an anthology, where a lot of poets thinkers and movement builders are considering what it means to mobilize around our grief, understanding that so many social movements are catalyzed by collective grief at the injustices that we’re experiencing. Grief can be a really powerful force to harness for transformation, if we’re allowed the space to be together with it, to honor it, and to actually move through it together, to let it move us, and to not run from it. 

Kemi Alabi vs. Divinity

Typing all of this out reminds me of one feeling I had throughout the run. I felt tender — not quite raw, but vulnerable, open to others, having experienced great loss recently. Apparently Scott hates the word tender; it ranks up there as one of the worst words with moist. I love it, devoted September to it. I don’t think I’d say I enjoy being tender, but I deeply appreciate the space it allows me to inhabit, the openness it offers.

10+ Things I Noticed

  1. the river: mostly frozen over with a thin skin of ice. Where the ice was thinner, it looked gray, thicker white
  2. a strange back-up on the franklin bridge. not sure what was happening. Cars were stopped, one was diagonal. No evidence of a collision. Heard some honking after I passed it
  3. a man walking 3, or was it 4?, dogs
  4. at least one bike
  5. saw my shadow off to the side, dark-ish gray
  6. colors: a lot of gray, pale blue sky, an orange cone, my pink jacket and gloves, red stop sign, sepia-toned ice, yellow dividing line on the bike path, yellow truck
  7. the air was cold as I breathed it in
  8. the biking path on the east side of the river, mostly clear
  9. some loud thuds — from the construction being done on a house across from the river?
  10. the sharp, whining whirr of a drill, or some other tool, being used by a road worker in a yellow vest in a hole in the street
  11. lifting my knees as I powered up the last hill

Near the end of my run, walking up the steps to the lake street bridge, I stopped and recorded the following thoughts. Then I put in a Taylor Swift playlist.

notes / dec 6

nov 17/RUN

5.5 miles
franklin hill turn around
26 degrees / feels like 20
light snow / wind: 15 mph gusts
100% snow-covered

Winter! Woke up to another dusting — maybe an inch? — on the ground. Wore my old yak trax, the ones I got 3 or 4 years ago that are worn down, but still work. Mostly I’m glad I did, but several times snow clumped up in the grooves. Was it because of the yak trax, the high water content of the snow, or something else?

My Favorite Things

  1. the feel of snow under my feet — more interesting than boring asphalt
  2. the creaks and crunches of that snow
  3. greeting Mr. Morning! and Dave, the Daily Walker
  4. 3 geese flying west — I heard their harsh honks first, echoing across the gorge, then they appeared, flying low near the trestle
  5. open water, brownish-gray
  6. in the second half of the run, the snow stopped and the sun was trying to pierce through the thick clouds. Everything looked slightly blue — the snow, the sky, the trees
  7. the graceful runner who passed me, their feet bouncing up and down, up and down
  8. in the first half, when it was much darker, the headlights cutting through the dim
  9. running up the Franklin hill — I felt strong and free, untethered
  10. ending at the ancient boulderS after (almost) sprinting up the hill — my winter running tradition

Ishihara colorblind plates as form

Still thinking about my next series of vision poems. A plan seems to be forming. Here’s what I wrote:

A series of colorblind (Ishihara) plates describing how I see and don’t see color and what that means for how I move through the world. 

The actual series of plates for the test are 38. I think that might be too many. Each poem will consist of 2 plates: the “actual” plate (designed by Scott) with the circles and the hidden message. In the original, it’s numbers. In mine, it’s a word that can stand alone as a poem, but also (might) connect with the other plate words and is the unifying theme for a prose poem that is on the second plate. This second-plate poem will (most likely, but maybe not?) take the form of the circle of the plate. Tentatively, I’m imagining it as a prose poem, but it might be its own thing, a series of words, descriptions related to seeing and not seeing color. 

The plates will be divided into different topics related to color: 

a story about why this test matters to me
what everything looks like, how it feels
struggles/quirks/strange
a focus on gray — contrast — light and dark, not in color

Scott found something on github that enables you to easily (or easily for Scott) design your own plates. Here’s a sample of what he did. He put the word red in it. I’ll take his word for it because I can’t see the letters at all.

Scott’s Ishihara plate, “Red”

today’s gray theme: duck duck gray duck

Still thinking about gray this month. Today, inspired by the wonderful geese I heard while running, I’m thinking of the passionate way Minnesotans defend their name for the childhood game, Duck Duck Gray Duck over what the rest of the country calls it, Duck Duck Goose. I am not one of those passionate Minnesotans because I grew up on the east coast in North Carolina and Virginia. We played Duck Duck Goose. I’m fine with calling it Duck Duck Gray Duck, but I don’t really care. Scott does. No matter how often we’ve discussed it, he gets fired up every time the topic is mentioned. It is fascinating to me that Minnesota is the only state that uses gray duck and not goose, especially thinking about how many kids who grew up in Minnesota probably have a moment when they realize that not everyone else calls it that.

Because I’m that person, I had to wonder, are gray ducks rare? Yes, especially in Sweden. According to my quick googling, the most common color for ducks in Sweden is blue.

I already have 2 wonderful poems about wild geese — Wild Geese/Mary Oliver and Something Told the Wild Geese/Rachel Field — but I can always use another!

The Geese/ Jane Mead

slicing this frozen sky know
where they are going—
and want to get there.

Their call, both strange
and familiar, calls
to the strange and familiar

heart, and the landscape
becomes the landscape
of being, which becomes

the bright silos and snowy
fields over which the nuanced
and muscular geese

are calling—while time
and the heart take measure.