march 29/RUN

5.3 miles
bottom of franklin hill and back
18 degrees

Yes, 18 degrees. Brr. Yesterday the weather app predicted 20 inches of snow for next week. Thankfully today it’s predicting 2 inches of rain instead. Who knows what will actually fall (please, please, no snow!).

A nice run. Mostly relaxed, although my left hip/knee was a little tight. No headphones for the first 3 miles, then a playlist for the last 2.

Noticed the river — open and brown just off to the side as I ran down Franklin hill, a bright blue far off in front of me. Also noticed an orange sign announcing a road closure for a race this weekend at the bottom of the hill and to the left. I kept moving my eyes — straight ahead, then off to the right, off to the left — to see how that would change what I saw. Not much, although the orange did seem to disappear in my peripheral a few times. Strange.

Heard the knocking of a woodpecker on some dead wood in the gorge. Ran on more of the walking path. Shuffled on some grit. Felt a cold wind on my face.

Look!

Just restarting my run near the top of the hill, a woman stopped me and asked if I wanted to see a baby screech owl. It was 10 or 12 feet up in a small hollow in a tree. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to see it, but I did! It looked like a little bat to me. I thanked the woman for stopping to show it to me, wished her a great morning, then began running again with a big smile on my face. I have wanted to stop and answer someone’s kind look! for some time now, but I’ve never managed to do it; I’ve just kept running, too intent on keeping moving. Today I stopped and it felt good.

Happy Birthday to my 2 wonderful kids, FWA (20) and RJP (17), born on the same day 3 years apart. I rarely mention their birthdays on my blogs — I just spent the last 5 minutes looking through Trouble, Story, and RUN! and found only 2 instances of it. It’s hard to believe that I started this log, and found poetry again, when FWA was 14 and RJP 11.

before the run

I’m still trying to work on a series of color poems. Right now: orange, later in May: green. It’s a lot of showing up, sitting in front of the page, trying to find a way into ideas about orange as the color that takes up the most space in my practical life. Orange, everywhere. Rarely bright orange — no pops of vermillion or citrus — but orange as usually (not always) the only color that registers as color, something other than gray or dark. In the midst of trying to figure this out, I returned to an essay I remembered reading last year (see: april 16, 2022) about poetry and the void. I thought of it because so much of seeing orange, especially when swimming across the lake in the summer, is about feeling its absence.

sometimes when I’m swimming across the lake I feel a presence that I can’t see — the idea of orange, a hulking shape…I look but nothing is there…yet, I feel its absence…something is there — the trees don’t look quite right

june 26, 2022: hardly ever saw the orange of the orange buoy, mostly just a hulking shape or a void surrounded by a “normal” view — there was no buoy, just an empty space that disrupted the expanse of sky and trees. 

from my notes for Orange

Elisa Gabbert offers this interesting line about poetry:

I think poetry leaves something out. All texts leave something out, of course — otherwise they’d be infinite — but most of the time, more is left out of a poem.

The Shape of the Void: Toward a Definition of Poetry/Elisa Gabbert

At this point, I was planning to write more, but it was already 10:45 and I wanted to go out for a run before it got much later, so I stopped. If I had kept writing, I would have included more from Gabbert, like this:

Verse, by forcing more white space on the page, is constantly reminding you of what’s not there. This absence of something, this hyper-present absence, is why prose poems take up less space than other prose forms; the longer they get, the less they feel like poems. It’s why fragments are automatically poetic: Erasure turns prose into poems. It’s why any text that’s alluringly cryptic or elusive — a road sign, assembly instructions — is described as poetic. The poetic is not merely beauty in language, but beauty in incoherence, in resistance to common sense. The missingness of poetry slows readers down, making them search for what can’t be found. 

The hyper-present absence of something (orange orange everywhere) as poetry. Its inability to reveal itself in “normal” and straightforward ways to me (as in: look with my eyes and see orange). Its missingness makes me notice/attend to it even more.

In the next line, Gabbert suggests that the frustration of incoherence, mystery, not being able to make sense of something is alluring, erotic. It’s why many of us are drawn to poetry — to slow down, notice, get the chance to dwell in the unknown. Before I left for my run, I was thinking about how my perspective is slightly different. I don’t need to be encouraged to slow down or given the chance to embrace incoherence, resist common sense. Because of failing vision and my overworked brain, I am already slow. Much of what I see is incoherent — or never quite coherent. Common sense ideas of how we see or how to be in the world have already been upended for me. I see poetry, and its way of navigating or negotiating or communicating/finding meaning not as desirable, but as necessary, practical, useful, a way to be that speaks to where I already am.

during the run

I started out thinking about the hyper-presence of an absence as I ran in terms of the open space of the gorge, but these thoughts didn’t last long. I became distracted by my effort. Did I ever return to them? If I did, I can’t remember.

after the run

After highlighting two delightful letters by poets Emily Dickinson and Rainer Marie Rilke, Gabbert writes:

In these letter-poems, poetry reveals itself as more a mode of writing, a mode of thinking, even a mode of being, than a genre. The poem is not the only unit of poetry; poetic lines in isolation are still poetry. The poem is a vessel; poetry is liquid.

Poetry as a mode of writing, thinking, being. Made of more than just poems. Yes! I do feel that often my way of navigating losing my vision, finding a way to be when I cannot see, is through the approach of poetry and embracing uncertainty and the unknown.

The architect Christopher Alexander thought big plate glass windows were a mistake, because “they alienate us from the view”: “The smaller the windows are, and the smaller the panes are, the more intensely windows help connect us with what is on the other side. This is an important paradox.” To state the Forsterian obvious again, adding breaks to a paragraph is not always going to make an interesting poem — but most poets don’t write that way. They write in the line, in the company of the void. That changes how you write — and more profoundly, how you think, and even how you are, your mode of being. When you write in the line, there is always an awareness of the mystery, of what is left out. This is why, I suppose, poems can be so confounding. Empty space on the page, that absence of language, provides no clues. But it doesn’t communicate nothing — rather, it communicates nothing. It speaks void, it telegraphs mystery.

To write, to think, to be in the company of the void — the absence that leaves a residue or that can’t be seen but is always felt.

This idea of communicating nothing (with nothing not as no thing but as something in and of itself) reminds me of something else I read earlier this year about “making nothing happen” but couldn’t remember where I had read it. It took me almost an hour to track it down yesterday. The “make nothing happen” is in W. H. Auden poem for Yeats:

from In Memory of W. B. Yeats/ W. H. Auden

II

You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:
The parish of rich women, physical decay,
Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.

And the reading about it comes from Ross Gay and one of his incitements in Inciting Joy, which I first read as an essay for the October 2022 issue of Poetry:

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard conversations about W. H. Auden’s famous line from his poem “In Memory of W.B. Yeats”: “poetry makes nothing happen.”…At some point, probably I heard someone else say it,7 it occurred to me that all these poets, and all these conversations, were misreading Auden’s line, and that he was really talking about (inasmuch as a poem is him talking about something) what poetry makes, the sometimes product or effect or wake or artifact of poetry, of a poem. Granted the line feels emphatic, grand, provocative even—seriously, I can’t tell you how many tweed-jacketed refutations to Auden’s line I have endured; no one has ever explained to me the elbow patch—but what the line makes made is not nothing, but nothing happening. Or rather, nothing happening. The happening it makes is nothing. In other words, a poem, or poetry, can stop time, or so-called time at least. First of all, what a good reminder it is that a poem is an action, and as Auden has it, a powerful one, too. Secondly, and not for nothing, this is one of the suite of poems Auden wrote in the late thirties and early forties, a period when one might have wanted so-called time—the clock, the airplanes, the trains, the perfectly diabolical synchronous goosestep rhythm of time itself—to stop.

Out of Time (Time: The Fourth Incitement)/ Ross Gay

He adds:

you, too, might’ve been praying for a way to stop the march of so-called time, and poems, sometimes, might do that. Poems are made of lines, which are actually breaths, and so the poem’s rhythms, its time, is at the scale and pace and tempo of the body, the tempo of our bodies lit with our dying. And poems are communicated, ultimately, body to body, voice to ear, heart to heart.9 Even if those hearts are not next to one another, in space or time. It makes them so. All of which is to say a poem might bring time back to its bodily, its earthly proportions. Poetry might make nothing happen. Inside of which anything can happen, maybe most dangerously, our actual fealties, our actual devotions and obligations, which is to the most rambunctious, mongrel, inconceivable assemblage of each other we could imagine.

Perhaps I’m wandering too far away from the orange void here? Poetry as speaking the void, making Nothing happen, existing outside of the normal/rational/obvious/taken-for-granted. Gay’s explicit connection to time and against capitalism resonates deeply for me. Stop those clocks, those planes, that machinery we’re using to destroy the planet, the future.

The poem’s lines as breaths, as bodily rhythms. In a poem about the color gray I mentioned gray breaths. What are orange breaths? Orange time, orange rhythm?Orange devotions and obligations?

One last thing, and a return to Gabbert’s essay. Gabbert claims that the mystery of poetry is not simply metaphor or making things strange, but how we use or don’t use language to shape our relationship to the Void. And, she suggests it is the missing mountain in Shane McCrae’s “The Butterflies the Mountain and the Lake”:

the / Butterflies monarch butterflies huge swarms they
Migrate and as they migrate south as they
Cross Lake Superior instead of flying

South straight across they fly
South over the water then fly east
still over the water then fly south again / And now
biologists believe they turn to avoid a mountain
That disappeared millennia ago.

The missing mountain is still there. The no longer visible orange buoy is still there too.

added a few hours later: Trying to find a source for this cool butterfly fact, I discovered that it was written about in Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek:

Monarchs are “tough and powerful, as butterflies go.” They fly over Lake Superior without resting; in fact, observers there have discovered a curious thing. Instead of flying directly south, the monarchs crossing high over the water take an inexplicable turn towards the east. Then when they reach an invisible point, they all veer south again. Each successive swarm repeats this mysterious dogleg movement, year after year. Entomologists actually think that the butterflies might be “remembering” the position of a long-gone, looming glacier. In another book I read that geologists think that Lake Superior marks the site of the highest mountain that ever existed on this continent. I don’t know. I’d like to see it. Or I’d like to be it, to feel when to turn.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, page 253-254 in the 1988 edition

Even as I’m disappointed that Dillard didn’t offer any sources for her facts here, I LOVE her last lines: I don’t know. I’d like to see it. Or I’d like to be it to feel when to turn. Not to see, but to be it, to feel it. Wow — this idea is going in my orange poem, for sure. Not to see orange, but to be it, or to feel when to turn around it. I do feel that, but can I ever put it into words?

march 22/WALK

30 minutes, with Delia
neighborhood, near the river
29 degrees

It rained last night, which helped melt some more snow. Everything wet and dripping today. Mud and muck on the edges, puddles in the middle. Walking by a neighbor’s house I heard a rhythmic drip drip drip. Also heard a pair of woodpeckers pecking, then laughing. Whispered Brooks’ “The Crazy Woman” and Oliver’s “Wild Geese” to myself as I walked.

James Schuyler, Hymn to Life, Page 10

Begin with As windows are set, end with What are the questions you ask?

As windows are set in walls in whited Washington. City, begone
From my thoughts: childhood was not all that gay. Nor all that gray,
For the matter of that.

Yesterday I looked it up and discovered that Schuyler grew up in Washington, which I would have figured out anyway after reading this line.

Gay and gray. My favorite use of this pair is in Gwendolyn Brooks’ wonderful poem:

The Crazy Woman by Gwendolyn Brooks

I shall not sing a May song.
A May song should be gay.
I’ll wait until November
And sing a song of gray.

I’ll wait until November
That is the time for me.
I’ll go out in the frosty dark
And sing most terribly.

And all the little people
Will stare at me and say,
“That is the Crazy Woman
Who would not sing in May.”

May leans in my window, offering hornets.

What a line! Speaking of hornets — or wasps? or yellow jackets? or something that stings like that? — we have a few nests in our eaves. Every winter I talk about removing them before it gets too late in the spring, and every year we forget. Will we remember this year?

The fresh mown lawn is a rug underneath
Which is swept the dirt, the living dirt out of which our nurture
Comes, to which we go, not knowing if we hasten or we tarry.

The daily tasks, like mowing the lawn, a way for us to try to keep the inevitable at bay, or to think we have some control over death, or to avoid confronting it.

May
Opens wide her bluest eyes and speaks in bird tongues and a
Chain saw.

I love this line and how he brings together these two sounds! I’m always thinking about, and writing about, hearing the birds mixed in with the buzz of chainsaws or leaf blowers or lawn mowers. I like imagining that all of these sounds are May speaking.

The blighted elms come down. Already maple saplings,
Where other elms once grew and whelmed, count as young trees.

whelmed = archaic; engulfed, buried, submerged.

Was wondering if there are elms in the Mississippi River Gorge. Found some info about the invasive species, Siberian Elm.

Also, just remembered a poem I posted back in 2019:

Elms/ LOUISE GLÜCK

All day I tried to distinguish
need from desire. Now, in the dark,
I feel only bitter sadness for us,
the builders, the planers of wood,
because I have been looking
steadily at these elms
and seen the process that creates
the writhing, stationary tree
is torment, and have understood
it will make no forms but twisted forms.

In
A dishpan the soap powder dissolves under a turned on faucet and
Makes foam, just like the waves that crash ashore at the foot
Of the street. A restless surface. Chewing, and spitting sand and
Small white pebbles, clam shells with a sheen or chalky white.
A horseshoe crab: primeval. And all this without thought, this
Churning energy. Energy!

Sometimes I can be dense, so here’s a potentially dumb question: is he talking literally about waves — I know the narrator of this poem lives near the ocean — or is this a metaphor for the waves of debris on post-winter streets, reemerging in spring? I imagine it could be both. I’ll take it as a metaphor and wonder about what crushed up crustaceans might be unearthed in asphalt eroded by winter salts. Here in Minneapolis, near the Mississippi River Gorge, we were once part of the Ordovician Sea, so I can imagine some of that might still be present in the crushed up rock used to pave our paths and roads.

The sun sucks up the dew; the day is
Clear; a bird shits on my window ledge. Rain will wash it off
Or a storm will chip it loose.

Ha ha. I love the word shit and what it does to this image — it doesn’t cheapen or tarnish it, but makes it more real, mundane, less precious. Oh — and it makes it a little gross, which I like.

Life, I do not understand. The
Days tick by, each so unique, each so alike: what is that chatter
In the grass?

Sometimes I’d like to understand, to have my questions answered, but more often I like not knowing, or not yet knowing what that chatter in the grass is. I like having the space to imagine all the different things it could be. Perhaps what it is is more magical than I could have imagined. Understanding is necessary, and so is imagination and possibility.

May is not a flowering month so much as shades
Of green, yellow-green, blue-green, or emerald or dusted like
The lilac leaves.

A few days ago, while doing some research on colorblindness for the series of color poems I’m currently writing I came across a video about “what it’s like to be colorblind.” In the video they included some side-by-side images of “normal” and “colorblind.” Both images looked almost the same to me, especially what was green. I could tell it was green, but it also could have been gray or brown (and maybe it was in the image that someone who is colorblind would see). The variations of green, the subtle differences between yellow-green or blue-green or emerald green are mostly lost on me. Instead, I see green or light green or dark green or gray green or brown. This May, I’ll have to pay close attention to green and what I see, then write about it.

The lilac trusses stand in bud. A cardinal
Passes like a flying tulip, alights and nails the green day
Down. One flame in a fire of sea-soaked, copper-fed wood:
A red that leaps from green and holds it there.

I have lost the ability to be shocked or startled by red, especially from a cardinal. There is a cardinal that summers in our yard — my daughter has named him Chauncy — but I never see his red coat. I only know him by the shape of his head, looking like an angry bird, and his birdsong. This month he has decided to help usher in spring by perching himself on the tree outside my kitchen window.

A lot is lost and missed when you can’t see the red flash — the flying cardinal, a small blinking light, a flare somewhere — that everyone else sees and instantly understands and assumes that you see too.

Reluctantly
The plane tree, always late, as though from age, opens up and
Hangs its seed balls out.

It’s not just me, right? You are picturing an old guy with his balls hanging out too?

Winter is suddenly so far away, behind, ahead.

Yes, like it never happened, or it happened to someone else. I call her Winter Sara.

From the train
A stand of coarse grass in fuzzy flower.

I love tall, ornamental grasses with fuzzy ends that look like feathers or flowers! Someday I will plant some in my yard.

I like it when the morning sun lights up my room
Like a yellow jelly bean, an inner glow.

I’m not a huge fan of jelly beans, but I appreciate that Schuyler’s line gave me the chance to think about them and to imagine that intense yellow in the center of a jelly bean, one that has a translucent shell, not an opaque one. As an adult, I’ve grown to love the color yellow. I wonder, would a yellow marble work for this too?

May mutters, “Why
Ask questions?” or, “What are the questions you wish to ask?”

I love this as the last line of the poem!

march 14/RUN

5.35 miles
bottom of franklin hill and back
22 degrees
95% clear path

Sun! Blue skies! Clear path! Birds — chirps and trills and pecks and caws! Both of my knees are sore, and my hamstrings too, but it was a good run. Was able to greet Dave, the Daily Walker at the beginning, in-between dodging patches of rough ice on the one stretch that wasn’t dry. Thought about why the sky, then later the river, looked blue. The sky, always blue. The river, blue then brown then gray, depending on how much sun it was getting. Also thought about something I just on some ways ancient Greeks classified color:

Glitter effect and material — scattering and textural effects resulting from the type of surface being observed — things like the shimmering of pigeon neck-feathers. 

How to make sense of ancient Greek colors

Studied the snow and thought about texture and what impact it makes on what color it is to us. Then later, when I was running back up the Franklin hill, I thought about texture and a line from Schuyler (below): Gray depression. A depression = a hollow. I noticed how most of the snow, in the bright sun, was white, or maybe a blueish white, but certain bits, where there was a depression in the snow that caused a shadow to be cast, were gray. Gray depression!

Listened to the birds, my feet on the gritting ground, and random voices as I ran north. After turning around and running more than halfway up, I stopped and put in a playlist.

Schuyler, Hymn to Life, page 5

Begins with It behind its ears, and ends with Not to quarrel? note: There’s a thread throughout this section between the cat, Schuyler’s lover, and the Sun that I’ve left out because it didn’t quite fit with what I’m currently moved by in this poem.

Meantime, those branches go
Ungathered up. I hate fussing with nature and would like the world to be
All weeds. I see it from the train, citybound, how the yuccas and chicory
Thrive.

I like weeds, mostly pulling them, so I’m not sure if I’d like to leave them alone. These lines make me think of my reading/research on the management of the gorge — so much regular effort needed to maintain these spaces: pulling up invasive species such as garlic mustard, trimming away dead branches, removing trees that have fallen over the path, mowing the patches of lawn. Often in the summer, in-between the Minneapolis Parks’ scheduled mows, I witness how quickly the land can revert to uncontrolled green. What is a weed, what a wildflower? Here’s some information about native and invasive species at the Mississippi River Gorge.

So much messing about, why not leave the world alone? Then
There would be no books, which is not to be borne. Willa Cather alone is worth
The price of admission to the horrors of civilization. Let’s make a list.
The greatest paintings. Preferred orchestral conductors. Nostalgia singers.
The best, the very best, roses.

These remind me of my love or delight lists, except for Schuyler’s seem to be judging and assessing which things are best, the greatest. Mine are meant to be without judgment.

After learning all their names—Rose
de Rescht, Cornelia, Pax—it is important to forget them. All these
Lists are so much dirty laundry. Sort it out fast and send to laundry
Or hurl into washing machine, add soap and let’er spin.

Make a list, then forget it. Does this mean the act of making the list is more important than the list itself?

I wish I could take an engine apart and reassemble it.
I also wish I sincerely wanted to. I don’t.

I feel these lines.

There’s a song for you. Another is in the silence
Of a windless day. Hear it? Motors, yes, and the scrabbling of the surf
But, too, the silence in which out of the muck arise violet leaves
(Leaves of violets, that is).

The silence as a song. Silence not as absence, but as something too.

The days slide by and we feel we must
Stamp an impression on them. It is quite other. They stamp us, both
Time and season so that looking back there are wide unpeopled avenues
Blue-gray with cars on them, parked either side, and a small bridge that
Crosses Rock Creek has four bison at its corners, out of scale
Yet so mysterious to childhood, friendly, ominous, pattable because
Of bronze.

These bronze bison monuments make me think of some interesting things I learned about color and the ancient Greeks: the sky was not blue, but bronze, because the ancient Greeks classified it in terms of brightness, not color. It might be even more complicated than that — need to read more before I can write about it.

Gray depression and purple shadows, the daffodils feigning sunlight
That came yesterday.

Gray depression — a lowering of physical or mental vitality; a hollow or a place than the surrounding area. Purple shadows — at twilight, ED’s purple woods. Yellow as daffodils with yesterday’s sun.

One day rain, one day sun, the weather is stuck
Like a record.

I don’t have time to write about this, but I’d like to remember it for later.

march 11/RUN

4.75 miles
river road, north/south
30 degrees / snow
100% snow-covered

Even though I saw that snow showers were predicted for this morning, I wasn’t expecting it to be snowing today, or if it was, to only be the big flakes that fall but never land. Wrong. The snow started around 8 and hasn’t let up yet (at noon). The most irritating thing about the snow was that it was blowing in my face, even with the brim of my cap pulled way down. The most delightful? Maybe the sharp, quick snap of the crunching snow, or the way the not slippery but also not solid surface made me feel faster or more like I was flying then plodding, or how the rare pops of color — the yellowish-green crosswalk sign, the blue bike path sign, a runner’s pink hat, the hot pink and lime green stripe on another runner’s pants, the orange water jug on the side of the path set up by some running group — stood out against the relentless backdrop of white, or the cross-country skier! skiing on the path. A great run!

At the end of my run, right in front of my house, I heard the snow crunching and the birds chirping and I had to pull out my phone to record them. I made the mistake of holding the phone down at my side — is it a mistake? — and so the crunching sound is so loud that it’s distorted. It was loud, though. I remember passing another running and hearing her feet CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCHing!

LOUD! / 11 march 2023

Before I went out for a run, I read through the third page of Schuyler’s poem. So much of it is about color. I wanted to spend my run looking for color, and I did, at least some of the time, but I became focused on avoiding rough snow and making sure I noticed the river — open, wide, the snow looking like a white mist hovering above the water.

Colors I Remember Noticing

  1. a pale yellow flag in the snow
  2. a yellowish-green crosswalk sign
  3. blue biking and walking path signs
  4. a bright pink hat on a runner
  5. chartreuse running tights on a runner
  6. my purple jacket
  7. almost everything, white
  8. a dark gray strip of bare pavement
  9. running tights with a stripe of lime green and hot pink
  10. an orange water jug

Schuyler, Hymn of Life, page 3

Begins with Below Lee, ends with Or simply lying down to read. A lot of color. Decided to pick out only the color lines, except for one delightful one about birds that I couldn’t resist:

Created no illusion of lived-in-ness. But the periwinkles do, in beds
That flatten and are starred blue-violet, a retiring flower loved,
It would seem, of the dead, so often found where they congregate.

I’m unfamiliar with periwinkles, so I looked them up:

Tough, low-maintenance, and pest-free, Vinca minor (commonly known as periwinkle) has pretty broadleaf foliage and flowers that thrive in the sun or shade. It is also useful for providing ground cover and is known for its creeping habit. Periwinkle can come back every year as a perennial when planted in warmer climates but is an annual in cooler regions. Vinca minor vines most commonly put out a blue flower in spring, but the color can also be lavender, purple, or white. 

How to Grow and Care for Vinca Minor

Oh wow, I think I have these in my back yard! I love the little purple pops of color, breaking up the monotony of green. Usually I’m able to see them. And, are these flowers that I write about in an entry dated july 29, 2019 periwinkles?

Forgot to look for the river again today. Instead saw lots of green. A few slashes of light purple. What are those wildflowers? Green with purple all over the edge of the path.

Doubtful. I searched periwinkles and Mississippi River Gorge and vinca minor and Mississippi River Gorge and nothing came up.

The sky
Colors itself rosily behind gray-black and the rain falls through
The basketball hoop on a garage, streaking its backboard with further
Trails of rust, a lovely color to set with periwinkle violet-blue.

A rosy sky behind gray-black clouds? Not pure reddish-pink or pinkish-red but the hint of it behind something darker. The rust — did I see rust anywhere on my run? I don’t think so.

in the west appear streaks of different green

So under lilacs unleaved/ Lie a clump of snowdrops

What are snowdrops, and can I find them here in Minneapolis? Yes! But not today.

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum gardeners and I are on the lookout each March for the first snowdrop flowers, the first perennial garden plant to bloom and a marker of the beginning of the growing season.

A few of the white, bell-like flowers opened March 16 last year, announcing the end of winter.

In botanical and gardening books, snowdrops are described as hardy bulbs with nodding flowers that bloom, while lingering patches of snow are still seen.

Nature Notes: Snowdrops (from 2016)

I think I’ve seen them in my backyard in very early spring. I’ll have to look out for them at the end of this month or in April.

and one purple crocus. Purple. A polka-dotted
Color little girls are fond of: “See my new dress!” and she twirls
On one foot. Then, crossed, bursts into tears.

Purple. A polka-dotted Color? Is there a crocus that is purple with polka dots, or is he suggesting that like polka-dots, purple is a color that delights little girls? I don’t like his emotionally erratic little girl image.

Smiles and rain, like
These passing days in which buds swell, unseen as yet, waiting
For the elms to color their further out most twigs,

The early buds on the tips of tree twigs! I notice these all winter, waiting for them to turn green.

only the willow
Gleams yellow.

When I lived much closer to Minnehaha Creek, I would often walk by a beautiful willow tree. Several years ago, it was cut down. It has appeared in a few of my early poem fragments. I remember how it looked yellow in the spring. What a beautiful tree! Now, when I think of willow trees, I mostly think of Carl Phillips (see the end of this log entry).

These
Days need birds and so they come, a flock of ducks, and a bunch of
Small fluffy unnamed balls that hide in hedges and make a racket.

These days need birds. Yes! I love that line, and the sentiment. Also, the small, fluffy unnamed balls that hide in hedges. No color mentioned; I just wanted to make note of this great bit. I can see a soft, intense, egg yellow of fluff.

It is more
Mysterious than that, pierced by blue

I think the pierced by blue is a reference to the color that cuts through the gloom of a rainy, cloudy day.

I read somewhere that in addition to writing poetry, James Schuyler was an art critic. I would imagine that all the time he spent studying various paintings has influenced how he sees, understands, is able to describe color. He’s a great color poet.

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 well act as if objects had the colors, the Encyclopedia says.—Well, 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 do 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!