marshall loop (cleveland)
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
- 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
- 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
- so many pleasing shadows! Mine, sprawling trees, lamp posts, buildings
- 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?
- the dark/black mystery of deep trails down into the gorge
- 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
- 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
- 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
- if light = certainty (but does it?) and knowing for sure, what happens when we are finally certain? What ends when the darkness is over?
- 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: