april 26/YOGACORE

yoga: 20 minutes
core: 10 minutes

Downward facing dogs and crescent moons and cat backs and cow mountain rag doll child poses. Dead bugs and side planks and bird dogs and push-ups and reverse crunches. And other things I can’t remember the names of right now.

some things I heard watched read today

HEARD most of an amazing Tinhouse podcast interview with the poet and multi-media artist, Diana Khoi Nguyen. After I finish, I’d like to read the transcript and pick out some passages that were particularly moving.

WATCHED some advice from Billy Collins on how to write poetry: Read poetry, lots of it, thousands of hours of it. Read Wordsworth.

read poetry

READ parts of Mary Oliver’s Long Life:

And that is just the point: how the world, moist and bountiful, calls to each of us to make a new and serious response. That’s the big question, of us to make a new and serious response. That’s the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning. “Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?” This book is my comment.

Long Life/ Mary Oliver

and a review of collection that I want to check out, Wonder About The that references a useful essay by Forrest Gander, What is Eco-Poetry?:

Aside from issues of theme and reference, how might syntax, line break, or the shape of the poem on the page express an ecological ethics? If our perceptual experience is mostly palimpsestic or endlessly juxtaposed and fragmented; if events rarely have discreet beginnings or endings but only layers, duration, and transitions; if natural processes are already altered by and responsive to human observation, how does poetry register the complex interdependency that draws us into a dialogue with the world?

What is Eco-Poetry? / Forrest Gander

and also references Angus Fletcher:

In his magisterial 2004 study A New Theory for American Poetry, Angus Fletcher posited that “environmental sensitivity demands its own new genre of poetry” and argued that environment poems “are not about the environment, whether natural or social, they are environments.” 

and discusses how Wonder About The mentions eyes frequently:

The peculiar art of perceiving the environment is often a subject of Wonder About The, whether it’s acknowledging that a farmer’s “bright Deere” is “a part of / the field’s design” or the urgent command, presented in progressively larger type, to “look up / look up / look up.” Eyes, in fact, are mentioned often, from “the sense record” being visited “upon our eyes / our ears” to a hard-earned vision of a waterfowl:

my winter eye
unlayers all frost
anneals what distance

rank glorious muck
rot palimpsesting rye
the duck
the living eye

april 18/CORERUN

core: 10 minutes
walk: 45 minutes
wind: 15 mph / gusts: 28 mph

Did 10 minutes of core, which I’ve been doing almost every day for the last week, or longer, I can’t remember. Later, took Delia on a walk to the winchell trail, then over the grate, up the gravel, down through the floodplain forest, across the road, up to edmund, around the rim of 7 oaks, then home. Breezy enough that I needed to hold onto my hat several times.

beaufort scale: another 5, I think. Today’s 5 was storm window rattling, hat raising, branch dropping*, door howling.

*climbing the gravel out of the ravine, I stopped for Delia to sniff. Heard some loud not-quite-cracking noises then a crash behind me: I didn’t see them, but I think it was a few smaller branches. Glad they didn’t hit me on the head!

So much green in the floodplain forest, but not enough to hide my view of the floor. Caught a glimpse of a black biggish dog on the trail, their owner a few steps behind.

the Pain Scale / Eula Biss, 0 and 1

Since I’m diving deeper into the Beaufort Scale for the rest of the month, I thought I’d look at another scale, the pain scale, and the essay about it that introduced me to the Beaufort Scale a decade ago: Eula Biss’ “The Pain Scale.”

The essay is organized around the 12 levels of pain, starting with 0 and ending at 12. Within each level she offers stories about her own pain, the history of pain management in the West, and various reflections that wander and wonder about pain and whether or not it is scaleable. That’s the most summary I’ll give, I think. Summarizing takes too long and uses up energy that I’d like to devote to engaging with Biss’ ideas. Instead of a summary, here are my notes about the essay, starting with 0 and 1 on the scale:


0 as something we must believe in without proof. It requires faith. A good place to see how religion and science have points of connection.

0 as no pain? Is it even possible to not have pain? Is that desirable? I’m thinking about how dangerous it is to not be able to feel pain. It makes us reckless, unable to prevent us from hurting ourselves. I’m reminded of the book, The Covenant of Water and the leper colony — the key problem for the lepers was their inability to feel pain when they cut themselves or broke something. This led to infections and loss of limbs and worse.

0 is not a real measure, but fulfills the need for a fixed point on the scale.

The concept of 0, as a fixed point on temperature scales, differs according to the scale — Fahrenheit, Celsius, Kelvin — and who’s using it. 0 can indicate the point of freezing, but it used to indicate the boiling point. 0 is a construct — human-made, fallible, sometimes arbitrary.

0 on the Beaufort Scale is calm, still, no (evidence) of wind. At 0 is it just air? atmosphere?


This pain scale was introduced by the hospice movement in the 70s; it’s designed to quantify pain. To make what’s inner — our feelings, which are subjective — visible to the outer world and to make them more objective.

Minor pain, pain that doesn’t matter, that’s no big deal.

Where does pain worth measuring begin?

Hospice nurses are trained to identify five types of pain: physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and financial. The pain of feeling, the pain of caring, the pain of doubting, the pain of parting, the pain of paying.

1 in the Beaufort Scale is light, barely ripples, hardly any disruption.

feb 17/CORE

Too cold for Scott (and me, too — the lack of cold this winter has un-conditioned me to the cold) today. Or maybe it’s more the wind? We will do our weekly run tomorrow. Today, more core. I did the Madfit 30 minute all body workout again. Tried the reverse lunges, and they weren’t as bad for my knees as I thought…until they were, at the end. Now, having finished, my lower back hurts a bit on the left side. Should I be worried?

something future Sara might like to know: Today for the first time in decades a world cup cross-country ski race is happening at Theodore Wirth Park. Until we got about 1/2 foot of snow last week, I wondered how it could happen. But it did snow, and today it happened. Very cool.

How I See

Yesterday in my description of my image I wrote the following:

one sentence about the most important thing in image: This cluttered view of bare trunks and thin branches creates a screen between runner (me) and river and resembles what I sometimes see even when there aren’t thin, bare branches everywhere — my view obscured by something in the way, that I can’t move, that keeps the real (focused, clear, open) view just out of reach.

a second sentence about the second most important thing: The image is only of swirling forms — tree, leaf, river — as my eye struggles (and fails) to land on solid lines, instead bouncing from branch to trunk to leafy floor to river to sky to branch again. (This cramped, thickly tangled space overwhelms my eyes and my brain.)

Rereading these sentences, I’m realizing that the first one is a bit misleading. My view is not obscured by a fog or haze, like some veil is covering/concealing the river. My view is obscured because of what I write in sentence 2: images don’t have solid shape, clear and defined lines. They’re constantly moving, buzzing, vibrating.

The idea of cloudy, foggy vision is more associated with cataracts:

from Cataracts/ Linda Pastan

Like frosted glass, 
you blur the hard edges
of the cruel world. 

Like summer fog, you obscure
the worse even an ocean can do.

Frosted glass, a blur, summer fog.

from Ekphrasis as Eye Test/Jane Zwart

But usually the picture dims proportionally, cataracts
stirring gray into haystacks and ground and dust-ruffle
sky. Maybe you will finally understand Monet, his play
in thirty acts, his slow lowering of the lights in Giverny.
At last there is nothing left to squint against.

Wow, the more I return to this poem, the more I love it, and relate to it.

After realizing that fog or smoke or haze or gray mist isn’t what happens to me and my vision, I wrote a few notes:

The something that is in the way is not some cloud or obstruction — no fog or haze — but something that refuses to come into focus — bouncing around from object to object, television static — not fuzz but fizz — everything shaking wobbling lines wavering such small movements it’s difficult to detect, shimmering simmering — what is that effect when you see the heat on the road? look that up* — like most things with my vision, it’s not obvious or direct. I don’t look and see wavy lines, I feel wavy lines, a restless unsettling not fixed an unhinging coming undone vibrations pulsing throbbing crowded cramped moving always, slightly shaken, a constant stirring

*best answers: heat haze or heat shimmer

I like a lot of these lines. Right now, I especially like: not fuzz but fizz. Constant movement is key to my dying vision — I think it’s exhausting me and making me even more restless. Is my brain constantly trying to make sense of these images? or are the moving images just making me feel unsettled most of the time? How does my sense of moving images feel different than people with nystagmus (“An involuntary eye movement which may cause the eye to rapidly move from side to side, up and down, or in a circle, and may slightly blur vision.” — wikipedia). One of my favorite poets, Lorine Niedecker suffered from nystagmus. Interesting — if I’m reading my source correctly, nystagmus is not a vision problem, but a balance one.

Speaking of nystagmus and Niedecker, here’s a source: Nystagmatic Poetics in Lorine Niedecker

feb 13/CORE

30 minute video
squats, planks, push-ups
outside: 34 degrees

A fine day for running, but I’m taking a break to work on my core/hips. Tomorrow I’ll do a longer run before we get a dusting of snow. I’m continuing to do the 30 minute total body workout I discovered a few weeks ago. I’m a little less sore after all the exercises, but the 2 minute plank blast at the end and the 45 seconds x 2 of continuous push-ups are a challenge. Currently I’m doing knee push-ups. Next step: to do those for 45 seconds without struggling. The the step after that: 45 seconds of toe push-ups. How long will it take me to get to that step?

for future Sara: feeling tired after a few days of bad sleep — restless legs, or sore left hip, or both waking me up a several times in the night. I should really start making note of any night where I sleep straight through. Does that ever happen? It must, some time. Cumulatively, I get enough sleep, it’s just never without interruptions and moments trying to relax my leg.

another note for future Sara: currently watching White Lotus, Death and Other Details, and Seinfeld. Enjoying all three. Loving the complicated characters in White Lotus. Finding Seinfeld hold up better than I thought; also finding moments of it to be shocking in their insensitivity. Death and Other Details also has complicated characters that you can’t totally dismiss. I don’t think I’d be able to watch it without Scott describing some things I’ve missed with my bad eyes.

Back to my Ekphrasis / alt-text project:

features of poetry that help with alt-text

  • attention to language: word choice — meaning, intent, tone, perspective — and how it contrasts with image
  • word economy: brevity!
  • experimental spirit: experimenting with new ways to make it accessible, to translate image into words

key feature of alt-text to remember: alt-text is about making images/the web/communication more accessible. Accessibility must be one of the primary goals/factors of the descriptive writing.

And, centering accessibility does not mean it’s only for people who need access. In their article about audio descriptions as pedagogical tools. Georgina Kleege and Scott Wallin, argue that the careful, slow attention that audio descriptions requires provide great learning opportunities for all students:

Once we reject audio description’s traditional role as a detached, neutral act of translation that functions only as an enabling accommodation, we may regard its multiple functions and contingencies as fertile ground to be explored and utilized. For example, because audio description is inextricably part of whatever discursive practice it seeks to relate, we can explore the aesthetic, ideological, political and ethical underpinnings of this work of representation and its described object or event. In terms of pedagogy, audio description can be a dynamic tool for facilitating student engagement and analysis. 

Audio Description as a Pedagogical Tool

side note here: I’d like to watch a few shows/movies with audio description on. My hunch is that these descriptions are great AND they will require some practice getting used to. I might begin with some episodes of Dickinson to get me started.

How I See — more experimenting

My view facing south from the overlook on the lake street. The Mississippi River with trees in the background and an apartment building in the upper right corner. This photo is in color -- with blue water, green trees with hints of yellow and orange, but to me it looks black and white, or gray and brown.
October 10, 2023

my initial description of the image from 10 oct: My view facing south from the overlook on the Lake Street bridge. The Mississippi River with trees in the background and an apartment building in the upper right corner. This photo is in color — blue water, green trees with hints of yellow and orange –but to me it looks black and white, or gray and brown.

5+ nouns / 5 adjectives / verbs:

nouns: river, waves, trees, cloud, sky, building, road
adjectives: gray, shiny, glittery, small, wide, pewter, west
verbs: stretching, sparkling, sparking, waving, hovering, standing, holding up, cutting through, leading

one sentence about the most important thing in image: The only colors I can see in this image are gray and glitter.

a second sentence about the second most important thing: I stand on a bridge facing southeast and watch light reflecting off of the waves to create a pewter path on the otherwise dull water.

a third sentence about the third most important thing: The dark trees stand at the edge, holding back the water, holding up a road, and leading to a dark rectangular shape that I know is an apartment building.

I took these exercises from Alt Text as Poetry Workbook. I can see potential here.

What if I used the poem, Medical History/ Nicole Sealey, as an inspiration — listing mundane details, then ending with a stinger: The only colors I can see in this image are gray and glitter?

feb 4/CORE

30 minutes

30 minutes of squats and planks and leg lifts and clam shells and bridges. This is my second time doing the workout; it felt much easier (but not easy!) than the first time.

Today’s example of peripheral is a journal I discovered a few months ago: Peripheries. Here’s a description from their About page:

Peripheries is a non-profit literary and arts journal established in 2017 that publishes artistic work that is, broadly understood, “peripheral”; work that explores the interstices between discourses, traditions, languages, forms, and genres. In this spirit, along with publishing poetry, visual art, and short stories, our scope is expansive, including translations, interviews, reviews, aphorisms, recipes, instructions, and manifestos; we also enjoy material peripheral to published work, such as storyboards, drafts, sketches, and word lists. We encourage formal experimentation that is in a mutually-informing, organic relation to the artist’s topic or question, which might also explore the peripheral: the marginal, the incidental, the boundary-experience, the tangential, the borderline, and particularly the metaxical spaces (that both attract and repel) between artistry, theological speculation, mystical experience, and religious traditions. We are excited to expand these discussions in whatever way is meaningful to you and bring your myriad interpretations into dialogue on our pages. 

peripheral as interstices — a space that intervenes between things, especially closely spaced things / a gap or break in something generally continuous / a short space of time between events — I really like this idea of interstices … Scott is just informing me that interstitial is commonly used in web development. It’s a page you get sent to when you’re clicking on a link that will take you to another site. It warns you that you’re leaving their site so they’re no longer responsible for what happens to you.

I don’t have any more time to write about this now, but I’d like to return to it — think more about what it means and read at least one of the issues that I already downloaded (3).

jan 30/CORE

30 minute
all body workout
outside: 41 degrees

Inspired by the YouTuber, Erin Azer (Miss Space Cadet), I tried a 30 minute all body workout today. Now I am sore. Already, only 30 minutes later. Was it a mistake? Future Sara will let me know.

jan 14/CORE

15 minutes
yoga mat, bedroom
outside: -2 degrees, feels like -21

I’m trying to incorporate some core exercises into my training. I’m 49 and I know if I want to keep running for several more decades, I need to think about (and do something about) things like my core — what did they call it before core became the trend? Abs?

What types of attention/writing/creating experiments can I do with my core exercises? Maybe something connected to the core as center, sturdy, sound, robust, stable, solid, durable.

Here are the core exercises I tried today, most of which came from this post: 12 great core exercises

  1. bent arm plank — 40 seconds
  2. 10 push-ups
  3. 15 dead bugs (love these)
  4. 15 bird dogs
  5. 12 supermans
  6. 12 Single leg glute bridge
  7. 15 In and Outs
  8. 15 Runner’s crunch
  9. 15 Reverse crunch
  10. Side Planks — 40 seconds on each side
  11. 15 Side leg lifts

Am I doing these right, and are they the right exercises to do? We’ll see. If I had access to a pool, I would just swim laps, but I don’t this year.

Here’s the window poem of the day, which I found while listening to my window playlist:

Windows/Rachel Sherwood

From this height
the sunset spans the whole world
before me: houses and trees are shadows
neon flares between them like sudden fire
the freeways run, always
strangely vacant with riderless cars
empty air

the windows up here
refract the blue slate and rose light
making the hills on the horizon collide
with ideas of Sussex, piedmont
or the cold clear wind of the Abruzzi
but that is never what is out there.

At home, the lamp curls its aurora
into the corners of the room
and out the windows
squares, rectangles of light
stake out a territory on the ragged lawn.

In the center of things
between the pressing of the window and air
— a small space —
there is a meeting that defines
nothing, everything.

Love this idea of the small space as meeting defining nothing and everything.