may 27/RUN

4.5 miles
marshall loop (cleveland)
69 degrees

Another wonderful morning! Maybe a little too warm and sunny for me. I started my run late — almost 10:00 am. Ran through the neighborhood to the lake street bridge. Rowers! 2 or 3 shells with 8 rowers each. I don’t remember what color the water was — probably blue? — but I noticed a few little waves. I hit the lights right and ran all the way up the Marshall hill to Cleveland without stopping. Didn’t stop until I reached the river road a mile later. Walked for a minute and recorded some thoughts about black and darkness into my phone.

Mostly felt strong, but my legs were sore and tired for the last mile. I think I should get my iron levels checked again. Anything else? Didn’t hear the bells at St. Thomas, but heard the roar of a bunch of motorcycles. Encountered 2 kids in a little motorized car on the sidewalk; they were good drivers, giving me lots of space to pass them. I don’t remember hearing birds — I must have? — or seeing roller skiers. Noticed my shadow, sharp and strong next to me at one point.

For the first 3 miles I listened to my breathing or my feet hitting the asphalt or motorcycles. For the last mile and a half, a playlist: “Back in Black,” “Upside Down,” and “I’ll Be There.”

Mary Ruefle and Black Sadness

from My Private Property/ Mary Ruefle

Black sadness is the ashling, its remains are scattered over
several provinces, it is the sadness of takes and hypen-
ated names, of clouds who think they are grapes, it is the
sadness of brooches, which may be worn on the breast or
at the neck but how sad none see the sadness of detail
there, the woman playing a guitar without strings, the
hare leaping from the fox in vain, it is sadness torn and
sadness rent, it is the hold in sadness from which no words
escape and no soul can spring, it is the calorific sadness
of bombs. Many of us used to own a black velvet skirt. It
is like Angie Moss on her way to the fair, it is there she
will have first adventure.

before the run

Today I will do the Marshall loop which goes by Black, the coffee and waffle place, and I will think about black and the dark and things that don’t echo but absorb, swallow, consume. I’d like to think about the comfort of black/the dark — the shade — in face of too much white/light.

during the run

I did it! I ran past Black and thought about black and darkness a lot. Some of the thoughts are gone, but some managed to stay.

10 Black/Dark Thoughts or Ideas or Images

  1. no Black smells — that is, I don’t recall smelling coffee or the wonderful smells-better-than-it-tastes waffle smell from the coffee and waffle bar
  2. today, with the bright, warm sun, I wanted the cooling darkness of shadows. My run was always felt better out of the bright light. Half the run was in shadows, half in bright light
  3. so many pleasing shadows! Mine, sprawling trees, lamp posts, buildings
  4. I didn’t hear the St. Thomas bells and, as I was nearing campus, I wondered if it was because something — the wind? — was absorbing their sound. Black bells ringing with a black, echo-less sound?
  5. the dark/black mystery of deep trails down into the gorge
  6. I saw a few waves on the river, but no sparkles. Thought about Homer’s wine dark and the idea of water as deep and dark and endless
  7. my running shorts are at least 10 years old and were, at one time, black. Now, faded by the sun, they’re still black but barely, almost a very dark gray
  8. running down the summit hill to the river road trail, thought about light as knowledge, liberated from Plato’s dark cave of shadows, then the dark womb and women’s ways of knowing and how light (and scrutiny and classifying — dissecting) are masculine, patriarchal and privileged over other ways of knowing, which are often read as feminine and less than, or to be overcome
  9. if light = certainty (but does it?) and knowing for sure, what happens when we are finally certain? What ends when the darkness is over?
  10. thought about the idea of black hearts and then what a literal black heart might look like or why someone might have it and then wondered if a literal white heart might not be just as disturbing*

*looking up black heart, I found this interesting discussion of its recent usage:

In the late 20th century, many black scholars, writers, artists, activists, and everyday people began variously using black heart to express pride in and love of their black identity and experience, reclaiming the long, historical racism against blackness. On social media, they may use the black heart emoji, released in 2016, for emphasis.

black heart Meaning & Origin

Much of my thinking about black and darkness during the run was from the perspective of understanding black and dark as good, or not the bad/evil to white’s/light’s good. When I stopped to walk 2.5 miles in, I recorded some of my thoughts:

Thinking about black and dark and how important that (dark) is to poets and to mystery. There’s a difference between pure black that absorbs everything and a dark gray so I’m kind of conflating those, but it’s the idea of dark as essential and how light can be too bright. The idea of certainty, where you can see everything in its sharp lines and finally know it, is a conclusion, an ending to the mystery. To life. So, that’s not to say that light and certainty aren’t important but they are not the good to dark’s bad.

I think these ideas made more sense in my head. I should say that much of my thinking about black and dark was particularly inspired by a quote I encountered yesterday about hope being a language that dark voices cannot understand — it was the title of a student’s musical composition at FWA’s concert. When I first heard the quote, I was bothered by the idea of dark voices, which could (and has — I’ve taken entire grad classes on it) be connected to actual dark voices, that is, the voices of Black people, so it literally means we don’t need the dark voices of Black people. I also thought about how light gets connected with seeing, which then becomes the dominant way to access truth. So, if you can’t see well — you’re blind, or going blind like me — it’s understood that there’s something wrong with you.

note: I feel like I have too much to say about all of this, which is causing me to struggle to say anything coherent. Maybe I’m not ready to express it yet?

Anyway, all of that was happening in my head as I ran. None if it stayed too long, only flaring then flying away. One of the last thoughts I remember having was, dark voices absolutely understand the language of hope and they are my primary resources for finding and holding onto it! This thought is true for me literally and figuratively. In both my master’s thesis and dissertation, I studied the deeply rich and messy and complicated tragic hope of critical race theorists (especially Cornell West) and black feminists and womanists (Audre Lorde, Patricia Hill Collins, Alice Walker). And now, ever since 2016, I’ve been looking to poetry and poets, for their safeguarding of bewilderment and mystery and their understandings of hope that come from a sharing of joy that is both grief and delight.

after the run

At the end of the run, and now almost 2 hours after it, I’ve arrived here, thinking that not only is the belief that darkness is bad or that there’s no room for dark voices in the light of hope is problematic, it is ridiculous. How can you have hope without grappling with the dark thoughts of mystery, uncertainty, unknowingness? And how can you have a hope that’s strong enough to help us build better futures for everyone if dark voices aren’t at the center of it?

Wow, this topic really got me going! In the past, I might have taken all of this out, but I’ll keep it for future Sara.

One more random note about black. Ruefle’s idea of black sadness as the hold from which no words can spring, no soul can escape,” reminded me of a favorite line from Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Black Cat“:

A ghost, though invisible, still is like a place
your sight can knock on, echoing; but here
within this thick black pelt, your strongest gaze
will be absorbed and utterly disappear:

may 26/WALK

45 minutes
with Delia the dog
neighborhood + 7 Oaks
78 degrees

Took a walk in the afternoon with Delia the dog through the neighborhood, almost to the river trail, then to 7 Oaks. Felt like summer. RJP told me the other day that the buoys are up at the lake. Next week — maybe on Tuesday? — I’ll test out the water!

10 Things I Noticed

  1. a black capped chickadee
  2. the neighbor on the next block who almost always sits on his front steps smoking was sitting on his front steps smoking
  3. someone at cooper field was dribbling a soccer ball then shooting it into a net set up in the batting area — not sure how old he was, but his bike looked like it was for someone around 12
  4. someone “mocking” in a blue hammock in the grassy area between edmund and the river road. When I walked by, I could hear soft music — not sure what it was
  5. angled solar panels on the roof of a tall and big house — maybe a duplex?
  6. a recently dug up dirt patch in one corner of an otherwise pristine yard — I wondered how upset the woman/gardener who lives there is about this blemish
  7. crossing the street, taking a few steps through someone’s grass to reach the sideway — wow, such thick, soft grass. What did they have to do to have such lush grass?
  8. Delia decided to poop on the edge of another yard in the thickest part of the grass. From a distance, this grass looked like it might be soft too. Nope. Spiky, stiff, sharp
  9. lots of little wrens or sparrows — not sure I can tell the difference
  10. no birdsong coming from the sink hole at 7 Oaks — all the birds were in neighborhood trees

Mary Ruefle and Yellow Sadness

Yellow sadness is the surprise sadness. It is the sadness of
naps and eggs, swan’s down, sachet powder and moist tow-
elettes. It is the citrus of sadness, and all things round and
whole and dying like the sun possess this sadness, which
is the sadness of the first place; it is the sadness of explo-
sion and expansion, a blast furnace in Duluth that rises
over the night skyline to fall reflected in the waters of
Lake Superior, it is a superior joy and a superior sadness,
that of revolving doors and turnstiles, it is the confusing
sadness of the never-ending and the evanescent, it is the
sadness of the jester in every pack of cards, the sadness of
a poet pointing to a flower and saying what is that when
what that it is a violet; yellow sadness is the ceiling fresco
painted by Andrea Mantegna in the Castello di San Gio-
gio in Mantove, Italy, in the fifteenth century, wherein we
look up to see we’re being looked down upon, looked
down upon in laughter and mirth, it is the sadness of that.

The citrus of sadness. I like that. I can also see yellow as the sadness of naps or of expansion and explosion. In “Uses of the Erotic: the Erotic as Power,” Audre Lorde writes about yellow:

During World War II, we bought sealed plastic packets of white, uncolored margarine, with a tiny, intense pellet of yellow coloring perched like a topaz just inside the clear skin of the bag. We would leave the margarine out for a while to soften, and then we would pinch the little pellet to break it inside the bag releasing the rich yellowness into the soft pale mass of margarine. Then taking it carefully between our fingers, we would knead it gently back and forth, over and over, until the color had spread throughout the whole pound bag of margarine, thoroughly coloring it. I find the erotc such a kernel within myself. When released from its intense and constrained pellet, it flows through and colors my life with a kind of energy that heightens and sensitizes and strengthens all my experiences.

“Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power” / Audre Lorde

I remember reading this essay in grad school and liking it this image of the spreading joy that colors everything. Energy, intensity, strength. A warm yellow.

As I walked I looked for yellow — a very bright yellow shirt on a biker, dandelions dotting the grass at 7 oaks. I thought about the sun as leaving smears of yellow and yellow as piercing the eye. I also thought about the strange level at the Guthrie Theater where everything looks yellow. And now, writing this, I’m remembering how I discovered some research about Van Gogh and yellow. He only say yellow, or something like that. An image of mustard came into my head — ballpark mustard, not grainy or spicy mustard. Not sure why not spicy mustard — I like its color and taste much more than “regular” mustard.

may 25/RUN

3.5 miles
2 trails (long)
63 degrees

Breezy and sunny. Felt a little tired during the run; maybe I should have had a snack right before I left? Encountered an adult and a cute little kid on the trail, then another cute kid sitting on the rock that looks like a chair. She called out hello! I waved back. I remember looking at the river but not what it looked like. I remember hearing voices below me, seeing lots of leaning trees, feeling the uneven path below my feet.

Mary Ruefle and Orange Sadness

Orange sadness is the sadness of anxiety and worry, it is
the sadness of an orange balloon drifting over snow-
capped mountains, the sadness of wild goats, the sadness
of counting, as when one worries that another shipment
of thoughts is about to enter the house, that a soufflé or
Cessna will fall on the one day set aside to be unsad, it
is the orange haze of a fox in the distance, it speaks the
strange antlered language of phantoms and dead batter-
ies, it is the sadness of all things left overnight in the oven
and forgotten in the morning, and as such orange sadness
becomes lost among us altogether, like its motive.

before the run

Today I’d like to think (even) more about orange. What is orange to me? What sounds orange? Tastes orange? Feels orange? Smells orange?

during the run

I tried to think about orange, testing out whether I thought something I encountered felt orange or not. Would I call those loud voices below me orange voices? No. Ran down the hill to the south entrance of the winchell trail and smelled the vaguest whiff of the past — the sweet, fresh smell at my family’s farm in the UP. Is that an orange smell? Nope. I’d call it a red smell because when I think of the farm, I think of the bright red of the farmhouse. I noticed lots of little orange things on the ground — orange leaves, a piece of orange string, an orange flash. As I neared the gravel hill at the ravine, I started thinking about orange theory and its main principle of working out in the orange heart rate/effort zone for at least 12 minutes of a 60 minute workout. Running up the gravel on my toes, I thought about orange breaths and orange effort and decided that when I got home, I looked up the orange theory and think more about it.

after the run

Here’s how Orange Theory defines the different zones:

Gray Zone (50-60% Maximum Heart Rate) – This is the least strenuous, most comfortable zone, consisting of very light activity.

Blue Zone (61-70% Maximum Heart Rate) – This zone is specifically geared for warm-up and cool-down exercises. You are preparing your body and mind for high-intensity interval training, but you haven’t unleashed the burn just yet.

Green Zone (71-83% Maximum Heart Rate) – In this zone, you have reached a challenging but doable pace. This is what Orangetheory categorizes as “Base Pace,” a pace you can maintain for 20-30 total minutes. Your body starts to burn fat and carbohydrates evenly.

Orange Zone (84-91% Maximum Heart Rate) – This is where the magic happens and where you achieve “EPOC” (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption) – what we call the “Orange Effect / Afterburn.” The goal is to accumulate 12 minutes or more in this zone within a 60-minute period to achieve the maximum caloric burn for up to 36 hours AFTER your workout is completed.

Red Zone (92-100% Maximum Heart Rate) – This zone happens organically and may be achieved during ‘All Out’ efforts when you’re emptying the tank and using every ounce of energy left in your body. You don’t need to set an All Out pace for more than 1 minute at a time to experience maximum results.

I haven’t really worked with heart rate zones when I run, partly because I can’t seem to not stay in the upper range on all of my runs no matter how slow I go, but it seems fun to me to think about orange in terms of effort and heart rate and how that could apply to things outside of (or alongside?) fitness. The orange zone involves a hard effort, where you are doing things that elevate your heart rate a lot, but it’s not all out, not something that makes your heart almost jump out of your chest or pound uncontrollably. That’s red, and a red (all out effort) breath might involve being shocked, experiencing such intense awe or surprise that you lose your breath for a minute. Orange breaths involve intense feeling that can be sustained longer, but are still uncomfortable. Orange breaths are anxious breaths. This morning, as I waited to leave for a doctor appointment, I was breathing with orange breaths and orange lungs — wound up, nervous, not totally sure why. Every time, before an open swim, I breathe orange breaths — nervous about whether or not I will be able to see how to swim across, excited about getting to swim in the lake.

may 24/RUN

4.5 miles
longfellow gardens and back
67 degrees

For today’s run, I decided to go past the falls to Longfellow Gardens. Since I was reading Mary Ruefle’s prose poem about purple sadness, my plan was to visit my favorite purple flowers. When I reached the gardens I discovered that they haven’t been planted yet. Thanks strange spring with your late snow storms and unending cold weather in April!

Another one of those wonderful spring days with sunshine and birdsong. A week ago I would have added “no bugs,” but they’ve arrived. All this week, mosquitoes have been feasting on my elbows, under my knees, my wrist. Today a gnat died on the side of my nose. I could see it through my peripheral vision. Another flew into my eye. Yuck!

My right big toe hurt again for a few minutes, then it was fine.

Heard the wind, water gushing out of the sewer pipes, the falls roaring, kids laughing at the playground, one little kid in a stroller that was over everything, a giant mower or weed whacker or some other noisy machine near the Longfellow House.

Smelled cigarette smoke as I passed a guy on the trail. Was he smoking or was it just his clothes?

surfaces: tightly packed dirt, half buried tree roots, grass, hay, asphalt, concrete, road, street, sidewalk, brick, dead leaves, crumbling asphalt — some mostly asphalt, some with big chunks of asphalt mixed with leaves and dirt, some rubble, limestone steps

Mary Ruefle, Immortal Cupboards, Windows, Offerings, and a Purple Wood

Today I’m reading Ruefle’s lecture, “My Emily Dickinson” and her purple sadness poem.

immortal cupboards

J. D. Salinger once remarked, “A writer, when he’s asked to discuss his craft, ought to get up and call out in a loud voice just the names of the writers he loves…”

My Emily Dickinson” / Mary Ruefle, page 150

That lovely little book. I’ve had nothing affect me quite so much since I discovered haiku. But then you come from Japan! You now inhabit a corner of my immortal cupboard with LZ (especially the short poems), Emily Dickinson, Thoreau, Lucretius, Marcus Aurelius, John Muir, bits from Santayana, D.H. Lawrence, Dahlberg, William Carlos Williams, and haiku. These knew “when / to listen / what falls / glistens now / in the ear.”

Lorine Niedecker in a letter to Cid Corman

Emily Dickinson is also in my immortal cupboard, along with Mary Oliver, Lorine Niedecker, Marie Howe, possibly Alice Oswald, definitely Rita Dove.

windows

Emily Dickinson often looked out of her bedroom window, and many of her poems, if not her worldview, seem framed by this fact; so much has been made of this there is little I can add; to argue whether a window is the emblem of complete objectivity (removal and distance) or complete subjectivity (framing and viewpoint) is an argument without end, for every window has two sides, and they are subsumed in the window, the way yearning, a subsidiary of the window, is subsumed in both the object yearned for, and the subject of its own activity.

“My Emily Dickinson”/ Mary Ruefle, page 151

offerings

But she has a common grave, and I like to go there and leave things, and when I did, I see that many other people have done the same.

“My Emily Dickinson” / Mary Ruefle, page 182

list of offerings left (real or imagined) throughout Ruefle’s lecture:

  • a stone, a penny, a small bronze alien
  • two plastic champagne glasses, pink and purple larkspur, an ear
  • a lemon, a dime, a diamond ring, a parachute
  • a white rose, a fortune-telling passionate fish, ice cream for astronauts
  • a sheaf of flowers from the florist with a thank-you note attached, a plastic fly, a nickel, an egg
  • A stick of gum wrapped in foil. A shard of glass.
  • a plastic watch, a feather, some Kleenex
  • Nothing.
  • lilacs, a spool of thread, a book of matches, a mood ring
  • an envelope, addressed but otherwise empty, a piece of gum in silver paper, a packet of nasturtium seeds, and a button
  • a thimble, an acorn, a quarter, and many, many daffodils
  • yellow snapdragons. A robin made of tin. A child’s block with the letter E. A pen. A pinecone. A tiny hat. An Austrailian coin.
  • a paratrooper, a cork
  • s piece of coal, a candle stub, a chrysanthemum
  • a small gargoyle, a rubber heart, an old key, a guitar pick a sequin, a sprig of heather, and a piece of hair
  • A doorknob.

a purple wood

A lane of yellow led the eye
Unto a Purple Wood
Whose soft inhabitants to be
Surpasses solitude
(Emily Dickinson)

from My Private Property/ Mary Ruefle

Purple sadness is the sadness of classical music and eggplant, the stroke
of midnight, human organs, ports cut off for a part of every year, words
with too many meanings, incense, insomnia, and the crescent moon. It is
the sadness of play money, and icebergs seen from a canoe. It is possible
to dance to purple sadness, though slowly, as slowly as it takes to dig a pit
to hold a sleeping giant. Purple sadness is pervasive, and goes deeper into
the interior than the world’s greatest nickel deposits, or any other sadness
on earth. It is the sadness of depositories, and heels echoing down a long
corridor, it it the sound of your mother closing the door at night, leaving
you alone.

Just discovered how the ends of her lines create another poem:

Stroke
words
it is possible
to dig a pit
deeper into
sadness
a long
leaving

The last words, leaving you alone, reminds me of Ruefle’s discussion of Emily Bronté, and Emily Dickinson in My Emily Dickinson:

Emily Dickinson never lived alone for a single day in her life.
Emily Bronté never lived alone for a single day in her life.

before the run

Today on my run, I want to think about purple, and I plan to run the 2+ miles it takes to get to longfellow gardens where some of my favorite purple flowers dwell (or have dwelled in past springs). What are these flowers called? I have no idea.

other purples to think about: heels echoing, doors creaking closed, deep pits.

during the run

No flowers. well, I did find some flowers that were white, but looked like they could be or would be or should be turning purple. Also, a reddish-purple plant. I took some pictures:

2 trees in the background, a flowering bush with faint purple flowers in the foreground
tiny purple flowers (if you really believe)
a reddish purplish plant
a reddish, purplish plant

I can’t really see any purple in these, or much of anything, but maybe you can?

Other purple things I remember encountering: the gentle, queer curve of a branch towering over the trail — as I ran under it I thought, that’s very purple. Then the face of a child in the midst of bellowing frustration — I didn’t see their face, but I imagined it could be a deep purple. Purple whispers in the trees.

No purple cars or shirts or shoes or bikes or signs or birds or left behind objects in the grass. Mostly just green and blue.

after the run

Apparently the leaving of strange offerings at Emily Dickinson’s grave is a thing. In her play on Susan Howe’s My Emily Dickinson and Ruefle’s My Emily Dickinson, Meg Shevenock writes, in My My Emily Dickinson:

Then, there’s this: after visiting Emily’s house, my friends and I made a small parade to visit her grave, and the objects I knew would be there, were there. Best of all, a white plastic pen with white cap from a hotel. Or best of all, a blue pencil cracked and dried, that had weathered so much snow. We all want her to say more, write more, about who she was; or, we want to say, I get it, I’m a writer too, and we also know it’s impossible, so we leave an object from the world, from a day long beyond her breathing, to get as close to touching as stone.

My My Emily Dickinson/ Meg Shevenock

may 23/RUN

6 miles
annie young meadows
66 degrees

Another beautiful morning. Sun, birds, clear paths. The big toe on my right foot hurt for the first 5 minutes. Not sure what’s wrong with it, but it started hurting a few weeks ago. A similar thing happened when I was breaking in a new pair of running shoes 2 years ago. Is it because of the new running shoes I started wearing last month? The pain went away by the time I reached lake street and didn’t return.

Ran to franklin then down the hill to annie young meadows. Turned around and took the steps down to the path right next to the retaining wall and the river. The path was covered in soft sand because of the recent flood. Ran to the bottom of the franklin hill, then walked about 1/2 of it. Put in Taylor Swift’s Midnights for the rest of the run.

I encountered 2 roller skiers and one rollerblader! Don’t think I heard any clicking or clacking of ski poles. No rowers. A few bikers, at least one fat tire.

Mary Ruefle and Blue Sadness

before the run

from My Private Property/ Mary Ruefle

Blue sadness is sweetness cut into strips with scissors and then into little pieces by a knife, it is the sadness of reverie and nostalgia: it may be, for example, the memory of a happiness that is now only a memory, it has receded into a niche that cannot be dusted for it is beyond your reach; distinct and dusty, blue sadness lies in your inability to dust it, it is as unreachable as the sky, it is a fact reflecting the sadness of all facts. Blue sadness is that which you wish to forget, but cannot, as when on a bus one suddenly pictures with absolute clarity a ball of dust in a closet, such an odd, unshareable thought that one blushes, a deep rose spreading over the blue fact of sadness, creating a situation that can only be compared to a temple, which exists, but to visit in one would have to travel two thousand miles on snowshoes and by dogsled, five hundred by horseback and another five hundred by boat, with a thousand by rail.

during the run

I wanted to think about blue as I ran. At first flash, lots of things looked blue — cars, t-shirts, the trail. Most of them turned gray or black or anything but blue when I looked at them for longer. It’s funny how when I’m thinking about a color, that’s what my brain sees everywhere. I did see a few blue t-shirts, a bright blue bike parked by the trestle, blue signs, blue sky.

The sky was a pale blue, which made me think of the Ted Kooser line from his poem, “Turkey Vultures” — it is as if they were smoothing one of those tissue paper sewing patterns over the pale blue fabric of the air. I wondered why the sky was a pale blue and not a bright blue and whether it was my vision or something about how the light was (or wasn’t?) scattering.

At one point, I heard a creak somewhere and thought: a blue creak. I think that was the only blue sound I recall hearing.

after the run

Re-reading Ruefle’s blue sadness, I’m thinking about how blue light comes in short, choppy waves that scatter more than red or green waves and how Ruefle’s understanding of blue seems to invoke that: strips and pieces of sweetness, memory — nostalgia, reverie, dust, a temple, scattered and out of reach on a shelf, in a far off land.

I don’t think about blue that often and it doesn’t conjure up powerful images for me. My eyes rarely see blue lights on signs. I suppose I think of water, but the water I see/swim in is rarely blue. Perhaps my favorite blues are: the blue hour early on a winter morning, snow looking blue, cerulean, frozen blueberries (not fresh)

may 11/RUN

5.85 miles
ford loop
62 degrees
humidity: 77%

Too hot, too humid, tired. I tried running earlier today (9 am instead of 10:30), but it was still too late. Even so it was a good run that I’m glad I did. Ran the ford loop and spent the first 3.5 miles convincing myself to keep going, to not stop until I reached the overlook near the ford bridge. (I did it!) Then I put in “Dear Evan Hansen” and started running again, or should I say struggle running. Stopped a few times to walk, feeling wiped out, but kept running again. Whew.

At the start of my run, I heard the robin’s cheer up! cheer up! and a woodpecker’s knock. Later, I heard a pileated woodpecker’s laugh, not sounding exactly like Woody the woodpecker, but close enough.

Smelled wet cinnamon — dripping blossoms? — and thought about chewed-up Big Red.

Felt too hot, my face burning, probably bright red. The drip drip drip of sweat from my ponytail on my neck.

Greeted the Welcoming Oaks, noticed the floodplain forest was hidden in green.

Mary Ruefle, White, Brown

before the run

I’d like to do one color at a time, but I couldn’t decide between her white or brown color poems so I’m including both of them. I think I’ll let running Sara decide. Will she choose to focus on white things or brown things, both or neither?

from My Private Property/ Mary Ruefle

White sadness is the sadness of teeth, bones, fingernails,
and stars, yes, but it is also the sadness of cereal, shower
caps, and literary foam, it is the sadness of Aunt Jenny’s
white hair covering her body like a sheet, down to her toes,
as she lay on the sickbed, terrifying the children who were
brought in one by one to say goodbye. It is the sadness of
radio waves traveling through space forever, it is the voice
of John Lennon being interviewed, his voice growing
weaker and weaker as the waves pass eternally through a
succession of galaxies, not quite there, but still . . .

*

Brown sadness is the simple sadness. It is the sadness of
huge, upright stones. That is all. It is simple. Huge, up-
right stones surround the other sadness, and protect
them. A circle of huge, upright stones–who would have
thought it?

Ruefle’s line about the stars and galaxies in her white sadness poem, makes me think of the new word I learned this morning from the title of a poem: sidereal

sidereal: (adj) of or with respect to the distant stars (i.e. the constellations or fixed stars, not the sun or planets).

pronounced: cy deer e ul

during the run

Running Sara tried to think about both white and brown and it worked, mostly, but green kept declaring, I’m here! Notice me! Green Green Green! So much green everywhere and all of a sudden. There I was, on the trail, running and noticing white sweatshirts tied around waists or brown leaves littering the ground, when green would hijack my thoughts. brown trunk GREEN leaves pale white sky GREEN air

5 Brown Moments and 5 White Ones

  1. river: brown with light brown foam
  2. same river from the other side: deep blue with white foam
  3. brown tree trunks
  4. a brown sound: the knocking of a woodpecker on a dead tree
  5. a flash of the white, almost silver, river through the trees
  6. a limestone wall, the part of it illuminated by sunlight was white
  7. white sands beach, viewed from the other side of the river
  8. the brown trail leading down to Shadow Falls
  9. a white sound: the vigorous tinkling of the falls falling
  10. the brown boulder with 4 small stones stacked on its top

I like listening to “Dear Evan Hansen” while I run. Together they — the emotional lyrics/music combined with how I soften as I exert myself — make me feel things: sad, tender, hopeful, a deep aching joy. I thought of how Ruefle’s color poems can be read as sadness or happiness, which then made me think of Ross Gay’s understanding of joy as both grief and delight.

Another thought I had about brown while running: Thinking about the brown sadness of Ruefle’s huge upright stones, I suddenly thought: the gorge. The gorge, with its huge limestone, sandstone walls is both brown sadness and brown happiness.

after the run

White happiness is the happiness of crisp sheets hang-
ing on the line just to the side of the farmhouse, of soft
shimmering salt pouring out of a cheap salt shaker, of a
button-down oxford reluctantly worn.

Here’s the poem about the white stars that I mentioned earlier in the post:

Sidereal/ Debra Albery

Consider this an elegy with silo and fever.
Call it barn and gravel and gone. Grasses’ obeisance

in the wake of a pick-up, sun searing the leaves
green to gold in the season’s time-elapse.

Where does it go, the Sunday angle of sunlight
once only yours, wide and open as a window?

Here’s what I remember: the flaking mural
on the brick wall of neighborhood grocery, saying

Food for the Revolution for twenty-five years.
Stacked landscapes in my rearview, blank as a calendar

until a bend in the road brought the Blue Ridge;
the pocked metronome of tennis balls outside

while I harnessed what I had lost and missed
in minor-key pentameter. So what, my mentor

talked back to his tercets in draft after draft:
so what so what so what. “This essay is accurate

but never ignited,” the Derridean scrawled
in red ink when I was writing about Bishop writing,

I can scarcely wait for the day of my imprisonment.
Her keen eye ever cast on the homely unheimlich.

Call this a road story about the slow burn of foliage,
about containment, what conspires against arrival.

Astonish us, Diaghilev said to Cocteau,
but all I ever wanted was to consider

its roots in the auguries of our shifting stars.

About This Poem

“‘Sidereal’ is, as the poem declares itself, a road story, a cross-country retrospective traversing decades. It is, as it also states, an elegy—in part honoring a past teacher, Larry Levis. The ‘so-what-so-what’ refrain is his, handwritten above a line on an early draft of his poem ‘Caravaggio: Swirl & Vortex.’ That self-interrogation set in motion a poem of motion that longs for dwelling—as did the swirl and vortex of etymology, sidereal and consider both deriving from sidereus, meaning ‘star,’ itself of uncertain origin.”
Debra Allbery

words I looked up, which I mostly knew, but wanted to be precise:

obeisance: deference
auguries: omens
unheimlich: uncanny

I like the line, barn and gravel and gone. Reading it again, and thinking about this poem about restlessness and belonging, I’m reminded of a time in my life when I tried to (still) belong to a farm that was barn and gravel and gone — a family home place, sold.

may 4/RUN

3.5
locks and dam #1 hill loopmiles
60 degrees

Another warm day. Hooray! Another chance to run in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. Saw Mr. Morning! Heard some voices down below in the gorge. Ran down the hill then back up it at locks and dam #1. Noticed a big pile of something on the path — clumps of dirt, rock, is that a furry tail? Probably not, but I can’t tell. Often, I see dead squirrels that aren’t there. The river was blue and not quite as high as it was last week.

Mary Ruefle and pink

before the run

from My Private Property/ Mary Ruefle

Pink sadness is the sadness of white anchovies. It is the sad-
ness of deprivation, of going without, of having to swallow
when your throat is no bigger than an acupuncture pin;
it’s the sadness of mushrooms born with heads too big for
their bodies, the sadness of having the soles come off your
only pair of soes, or your favorite pair, it makes no differ-
ence, pink sadness cannot be measured by a gameshow
host, it is the sadness of shame when you have done noth-
ing wrong, pink sadness is not your fault, and though even
the littlest twinge may cause it, it is the vast bushy top on
the family tree of sadness, whose faraway roots resemble a
colossal squid with eyes the size of soccer balls.

Today, or this morning at least, I shall think of pink. Here’s another pink poem I bookmarked a few months ago:

Against Pink / DARA YEN ELERATH

Pink is an unhappy hue, not soothing like cerulean, nor calming like lavender or gray. It is the color of fingernails shorn away, blood dripping from the waxen quick. It is the color of a sunburned arm. The color of harm that lingers on cut shins for days. Pink is not the shade of buttercups or daisies. It is the color of poisonous brugmansia blooms, of poppies that bring on sleep. Pink saturates the face in anger. It is the cast left on a cutting board by a hunk of uncooked meat. Pink, too, is the bittersweet shade of passion subdued, passion that has slipped from burgundy to rose. It is only a tincture of desire and so carries the least conviction. It is the tint that drifts away unnoticed in the night. Be frightened of pink. Do not think it the innocent color of dresses or barrettes, the blush of areolas, strawberry snow cones, or grenadine martinis. Try, for once, to see it rightly. It is frightening. It is the hue of a person’s insides, the color of a womb. That room where life arises. That room where babies are made. Where arms, legs, and heads are created. Eyes, blood, and tiny teeth.

And some of my thoughts about pink:

Pink Thing. The pink of gray matter. Pink Think. Pinkaliscious. Preppy Pink and Green. Is it pink or yellow? P!nk. Undercooked meat. Pepto Bismol always pronounced Pepto Bismo. The worst milkshake flavor: strawberry. Pink washing. Peonies in the backyard, drooping dropping petals too soon. The only choice when buying cheap running shorts. My favorite running jacket. Raw. Fleshy. Swim caps.

during the run

Some of my pink thoughts as I ran:

Fuschia funnels. Almost invisible, usually seen as white or yellow or orange. A walker in a pink jacket — the color of salmon flesh.

Pink as tender and vulnerable. Split open, flesh exposed. That vulnerability is both a weakness or a threat but also an opportunity to transform. Open yourself up. Turn yourself inside out. What was out becomes in, and what was in becomes out.

Running, as I listened to a P!nk song — What About Us, I lifted out of my hips, opened my shoulders, and led with my chest. Open.

If all gray flesh is dead flesh (from Listen/ Didi Jackson), then is all pink flesh living flesh?

Gray matter (brain) looks pinkish because of the blood circulating through it.

Both of these facts are true: We live. We die. We are pink. We are gray.

after the run

Reading Facebook earlier today, a post from Henri Mancini popped up — why? James Galway is in New York with Lizzo to record a new version of the Pink Panther theme song. Excellent. Found an article about it with video here.

Came across this poem too — I encountered this poem a few weeks ago, but can’t remember where.

Gift/ Hilda Conkling

This is mint and here are three pinks 
I have brought you, Mother.  
They are wet with rain  
And shining with it.  
The pinks smell like more of them  
In a blue vase:  
The mint smells like summer  
In many gardens.

And one more thing, before I forget. Yesterday I happened upon this delightful line from a Ross Gay poem I gathered a few years ago for this blog: Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude/ Ross Gay

the tiny bee’s shadow
perusing these words as I write them.

Later, sitting on the deck on a warm, sunny day — finally! — and under the service berry bush that’s big enough to be called a tree, I saw a shadow on my notebook as I jotted down a note: a bee! Then another shadow, crossing the page, over my words. Were they perusing them? Love it.

may 3/RUN

5.4 miles
bottom of franklin hill and back
55 degrees

What a beautiful morning for a run! Back to shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. Could it finally be spring? The floodplain forest seems to think so, green everywhere. Saw Dave the Daily Walker, lots of runners, walkers, bikers. Heard some black-capped chickadees and woodpeckers. Smelled some cigarette smoke. The trail is open again in the flats. The river is still high and moving fast but it’s not passing over the railing and onto the road. Ran to the bottom of the hill, stopped to check out the water, put in the soundtrack to “Dear Evan Hansen” (we’re playing it in the community band I’m in), ran up the hill, then, on the way back, ran down on the Winchell Trail. I had to step carefully because the path was slanted with a steep drop off.

During the run, I had several feel good/runner’s high moments. So nice!

Running north, somewhere above the white sands beach, I started thinking about something I was working on earlier today about how my changing vision is closing some doors, opening others. I’m particularly interested in thinking about how it opens doors without ignoring/denying the shut ones too. Anyway, I suddenly had a thought: it’s not just that it opens doors, but it makes it so those doors can’t shut. I waited until I reached the bottom of the hill and then spoke my idea into my phone. Here’s a transcript:

It’s not just that doors open, they won’t shut. I can’t close them to the understandings that I’m both forced to confront but also have the opportunity to explore. But the key thing is that the doors can’t be shut.

my notes recorded during a run on 3 may 2023

I came to this idea after thinking about how vision is strange and tenuous and a lot of guesswork for everyone. A big difference between me and a lot of other people is that I can’t ignore or deny that fact. It’s much easier for people with “normal” vision to imagine, with their sharp vision and their ability to focus fast, that they are seeing exactly what is there. They’re not. Even if I wanted to, I can’t pretend that that is true. I’m reminded all of the time of how tenuous converting electrical impulses into images is and what the brain does for us to make those images intelligible.

Mary Ruefle

Before the Run

I’m trying something different, or maybe it’s not different, just something I often do without recognizing it as an approach: I’m following a wandering path through Ruefle’s work that is not systematic, but seems to suddenly appear as I encounter ideas, words, lines from other poems. This morning, during my daily routine of reading the poem of the day on poets.org, then poetryfoundation.org, then poems.com, I found a wonderful poem that features the color red. Red I said, then thought, why not read Ruefle’s sadness poem about red for today? So I will. First, the poem that set my course:

A Tiny Little Equation/ Shuri Kido

Translated from the Japanese by Tomoyuki Endo & Forrest Gander

For whom is (the evening glow)
“red”?
To human eyes,
the red wavelength shimmering in the air
is reflected,
but to the eyes of birds
which recognize even ultraviolet rays,
the evening glow looks much paler.
And when all the lives on Earth are finally snuffed out,
and the human solstice has passed,
every color will cease to “exist.”
As clouds pile up densely above the sea,
kids get restless
feeling some sort of invitation.
On such occasions, when you’re unable to read a “book”
while splashing around in the sea or river
as though dancing with water gods,
you’ll notice beads of water on your skin
reflecting the world.
In such an optical play,
the summer vanishes;
some people have gone off
with the water gods
and have never come back.
Textbooks, left on a desk unopened,
hold on to their tiny equations.
When each and every living thing has lost its life
and there remains not a single being,
for whom is (the evening glow)
“red”?

This poem! For whom (is the evening glow) “red”? Okay, this will be the next poem I memorize. I want to own every word of it. Should I try to fit one of its lines in my colorblind plate cento? I’ll think about it.

Now, Ruefle’s red sadness:

from My Private Property/ Mary Ruefle

Red sadness is the secret one. Red sadness never appears
sad, it appears as Nijinsky bolting across the stage in mid-
air, it appears in flashes of passion, anger, fear, inspiration,
and courage, in dark unsellable visions; it is an upside-
down penny concealed beneath a tea cozy, the even-tem-
pered and steady-minded are not exempt from it, and a
curator once attached this tag to it: Because of the fragile
nature of the pouch no attempt has been made to extract
the note.

as an aside: In my initial typing up of this poem, I left out the is in the first sentence: Red sadness the secret one. I do that a lot, leave out words. I think it’s partly that my failing vision makes me sloppier, but I wonder if it’s not also because my way of reading/thinking has changed, become more abbreviated. I cut out the unnecessary words, worry less about full sentences, want more condensed, compact ideas. I’m tired of extra words — literally, it hurts my brain when I have to read so many words, but also figuratively, having spent so many years wasting all of my energy on finding the right words (right = smart enough, fancy enough, researched enough) to make an argument that finally maybe almost gets to the point. I also like using less words like a fun experiment — how many words do we actually need in order to understand something or to communicate an idea?

I need to think more about this poem and what it means or does. In the meantime, while searching for an online version of this poem (so I wouldn’t have to type it up myself), I found another red poem by Ruefle. I’ve read it before.

Red/ Mary Ruefle

I fucking depended on you and
you left the fucking wheelbarrow
out and it’s fucking raining
and now the white chickens
are fucking filthy

note: Future Sara, and anyone else reading this, I recommend listening to Ruefle read this poem on the poetry foundation site (link in title). The way she spits out fucking is the best.

another note, 9 oct 2023, from future (but now present) Sara: thanks past Sara! Reviewing this post for a class I’m teaching, I came across the note and listened to Ruefle read “Red.” So fucking great!

Ruefle’s poem is a response to William Carlos Williams iconic red wheel barrow poem. I know that tons of poetry people have studied/obsessed over this poem and have tons of great (and not so great) ideas about what it means. I have not, and am not entirely sure what Ruefle intends/means with her poem. I like it anyway. Maybe she’s sick of all of the attention it’s received?

Read WCW’s poem and Ruefle’s side by side on this twitter thread.

On that same thread, I also found these lines from Fiona Apple and her song, “Red Red Red”:

I don’t understand about complementary colors
And what they say
Side by side they both get bright
Together they both get gray

But he’s been pretty much yellow
And I’ve been kinda blue
But all I can see is
Red, red, red, red, red now
What am I to do

Now it’s time to go out for a run. I’ll try to find red.

During the Run

10 Red Thoughts, Ideas, Things Noticed

  1. the deep and sharp bark of a neighbor’s dog — a red bark, I thought
  2. a red stop sign
  3. a walker up ahead of me, rounding a corner and heading out of sight, a red sweatshirt around their waist
  4. a roller skier in bright red shorts — tomato red
  5. my raspberry red shoes striking the ground
  6. graffiti on a sewer pipe drip drip dripping water, letters in rusted red
  7. a biker in a red shirt zooming by
  8. my face under the bright shadeless sun, a ruddy red
  9. a moment of tenderness inspired by swelling music, a runner’s high, and last night’s haunting and strange dream about cradling my mom’s head not too long before she died: the soft glow of a warm red heart
  10. car, car, car, truck — all red (at least in my head)

A funny thing about looking for red: I found it everywhere. Today anything that registered as a color other than blue, green, brown, or gray was red. Red cars, red shirts, red leaves on the trees from last fall. No orange, hardly any yellow, all red. Red red red.