march 2/3 MILES

31 degrees
15% ice-covered
mississippi river road path, north/south

I ran today!
I ran outside today!
I ran outside today without my knee hurting!
I ran outside today without my right knee or my left thigh hurting!
I ran outside today without my right knee or my left thigh hurting in the sun!
I ran outside today without my right knee or my left thigh hurting in the sun and it felt good!

Well, mostly good. Not fantastic. But not like I was doing anything bad to my knee. Listened to my headphones, so I didn’t hear much on the run. Near the Lake Street bridge, I was wishing I didn’t have my headphones on. I thought I heard some birds–maybe some geese–making a lot of noise. The river was open. I wonder when the rowers will be out there?

I recorded myself walking home at the end of the run. A very different crunching of my feet, coming from the grit–the salt or sand or whatever they use to treat the road and the path to make them less slippery–was rubbing on the bare, slightly wet ground. Occasionally I walked over some crusty snow. Not sure the recording picks it all up but there were lots of sounds today: a wind chime, wind, a car driving by, birds, water dripping off the roof, a car starting.

feb 24/5.5 MILES

22 degrees
20% snow-covered
mississippi river road, north/stone arch bridge

Thursday night we got 5 inches of snow. By Friday the path was already plowed. Minneapolis Parks are awesome! It’s supposed to snow another 5-8 inches this afternoon so I ran this morning while the path was still clear. Another great run. Steady and not too fast. I managed to run the entire steep hill near downtown without stopping to walk! In about a month, I’ll be running it again in a race.

The river was flowing–no ice or snow left. Will it freeze again or will I be seeing rowers on it soon?

Yesterday I finished a draft of a poem I’ve been working on for a few weeks. It’s an homage poem based on Alice Oswald’s beautiful “A Short Story of Falling Water.” Mine is about snow and my current fascination with the crunching noises it makes as I walk and run by the river.

A Short Story of Fallen Snow, audio

A Short Story of Fallen Snow
after Alice Oswald

It is the story of the fallen snow
to turn sharp and slick and force us to slow

it is the wonder of a winter storm
to start out as snowflakes but soon change form

from tiny puffed up pillows that cover the path
to crystals compressed, their size reduced by half

or to a smooth shining surface polished like glass
hidden in plain sight near the edge by the grass

if only you while heading to the river could make
the moment go numb and freeze like a snowflake

to absorb every sound in a blanket of air
releasing when pressed a kind of noisy prayer

then you might learn like snow how to balance
the light of attention against the weight of silence

snow which when cold is so brittle so strong
cracking and crunching a sharp steady song

compacted by cold, yielding to moving feet
compelling you to pause and listen to it creak

which is the story of the fallen snow
whose changing forms makes us slow.

feb 21/4.25 MILES

8 degrees/feels like -3
99% snow-covered
mississippi river road path, north/south

Bright blue sky. Blinding sun. Cold air. Slippery path. Fogged-up glasses. Crunchy path. I was struck by how the 2 crunching sounds of my feet highlighted the differences between walking and running. When I was walking, the slower, steadier crunch lasted longer, as my foot went from the initial heel strike to the final toe-off. How many bones came into contact with the crunchy snow? When I was running, that second crunch was quicker, with less grinding. I’d like to capture some sound of me running on crunching snow, but that seems hard.

Reading The Snow Poems by AR Amons which is, disappointingly, not all about snow. But, there are some snow poems, like this one:

here a month of snow,
mere January than
February, intervenes
during which
I wrote
nothing. it is
the winter-deep, the
annual sink:
leave it unwritten,
as snow unwrites
the landscape

feb 20/4.05 MILES

20 degrees
100% snow-covered
mississippi river road path, north/south

We got about an inch of wet snow yesterday/last night so the path was covered…and crunchy. Mostly fine to run on, although a few spots were softer, causing my foot to sink down. A beautiful morning. Grayish-white. Calm. Quiet. Not much wind, not much noise. Tried to catch up to the runner ahead of me after I turned around but couldn’t. Was she going fast, or was I going slow–or were we going the same pace so I couldn’t gain any distance on her? Saw the Daily Walker twice! Both times, from behind, so I didn’t get to say “good morning” to him.

Recorded the sound of my crunching feet on the sidewalk, after I finished my run:

2 distinct sounds. One, a steady grinding, like gears with small teeth turning rhythmically, constantly, The Other, one quick thrust, like a small shovel being thrust into sand or small pebbles. I think that the sounds trade off between my moving feet. But how? I need to go out and walk in the snow some more to figure it out!

Discovered a few great lines in Snow in America:

‘In prose,’ the Mexican poet Octavio Paz writes, ‘the word tends to be identified with one of its possible meanings at the expense of others…the poet, on the other hand, never assaults the ambiguity of the word.’ Poetry is to snow what prose is to rain, says Howard Nemerov, because ‘it flew instead of fell.’

feb 14/2.2 MILES

25 degrees
5% snow-covered
mississippi river road path, south/north

After biking in the front room on the stand for 25 minutes, I decided to go out an do a quick run. What a beautiful morning! It’s amazing how 25 degrees can feel warm and spring-like. Ran south, towards the falls and looked across the gorge to St. Paul. Because they don’t plow the walking path in the winter, I usually only run on the biking path, but I noticed that the walking path had a few bare patches so on my way back, I took the snow-covered trail. A few treacherous ice patches, but not too bad. What’s happening to me? I’m choosing to run on snow instead of bare pavement?!

Walking back home, after finishing my run, I stopped to record the noisy birds. I had noticed them earlier, when I was running, chirping and cooing and trilling. Spring won’t be here for another month or two (hopefully not three!), but it’s coming. As much as I love winter running, I’m fine with that.

Sounds Like Spring

In addition to the bird sounds, this audio clip features some delightful (or irritating, depending on your perspective) crunching noises. As I was walking and listening to the sounds, I started thinking about the many different ways a path can crunch: shattering snow crystals, friction from dry snow grains rubbing against each other and/or my foot, salt or sand scratching on the pavement, the treads of my shoes loaded with little pebbles scuffing against the ground.

A few other things to note from this recording:

  • For most of the audio, I’m walking on a sidewalk that has a lot of bare pavement, mixed with crusty snow and ice. Occasionally, I’m walking on just snow. I can tell that it’s warmer and that the snow will be melting soon because the sound is heavier and more muffled.
  • There are lots of birds, but underneath them is a constant hum of the city–I think it’s the freeway or a highway a few miles away.
  • As I continued to walk home, still recording this audio, I noticed my shadow in the snow, joining me. I almost stopped to take a picture.

Sure snow crunches but
it also sizzles and
cracks and
scratches and
scuffs and
squeaks on the sidewalk.
It amplifies and muffles
absorbs and reflects
slumbers in silence and
remains awake alert active.

Wrote a pantoum about the path for my poetry class (ah! so many pleasing p’s!)

The Soundtrack for my Run (first draft)

In the winter, above the Mississippi River Gorge
I take up an ongoing conversation
I’m having with the running path.
Mostly I listen.

I absorb with ears and feet
its voices and textures
hearing crystals cracking or feeling soft snow
settling unevenly around my ankles.

These sounds and surfaces
energize and exhaust
speaking steadily into my ear
becoming a soundtrack for my run.

The cracking crystals make me buzz, the soft snow saps my strength.
Cracking, crunching, snapping, sinking, slipping
are the soundtrack for my run
in the winter, above the Mississippi River Gorge.

feb 12/5.3 MILES

3 degrees/feels like -10
5% snow-covered
franklin loop

Cold. Calm. Hardly any wind. The path was mostly clear. My fingers were cold for the first mile, but then felt warm. Heard lots of birds and imagined spring coming soon. Saw only 1 or 2 runners the entire time. In the last mile, saw the daily walker. The gorge was beautiful. The river, which a few days earlier had been open, was now frozen. I wonder how thick the ice is? Not thick enough! Speaking of thin ice, randomly encountered a National Geographic article about Nordic skating–also known as wild ice or Black ice skating. Scary.

A few days ago, I recorded my walk. If you listen closely and can tune out my crunching footsteps,\ there are some birds singing. I heard these birds today during my run.

feb 8/4 MILES

6 degrees/feels like -6
50% snow-covered
mississippi river road path, south/minneahaha falls/river road path, north

Another good run. I didn’t mind the cold. Didn’t overdress. Listened for the birds and heard a few. Also heard a lot of snow crunching under my feet. For several stretches I could hear the dull thwack of my feet striking bare pavement. Ran to the right today to see if Minnehaha Falls is frozen over. It is. The trail along the gorge going south is beautiful. You can really see to St. Paul on the other side. It was mostly still and calm outside. Peaceful. Didn’t see any walkers or bikers and only one other runner. I was the only one at the falls. It was quiet, with no water rushing down or even trickling.

Speaking of the Falls, I’m studying a lovely poem about falling water from Alice Oswald: A Short Story of Falling. I’d like to write an homage poem about crunching snow or frozen water.

feb 7/4.2 MILES

6 degrees/feels like -3
100% snow-covered
mississippi river road path, north/south

What a run! It hardly felt cold, except for my hands which took about a mile to warm up. Sunny. Bright blue sky. Clear air. The snow on the path packed tight.

I was the only runner out there. Did I see any walkers? I can’t remember. Glad I didn’t wear any headphones because I got to hear the snow crunching. Two sounds. One that was steady, almost like grinding or styrofoam being crushed. The other that was softer and shorter. I like these sounds, maybe partly because they are a little annoying.

My shadow ran with me today. She was my friend, leading me along. About a mile into the run one of the tassels on my hat, which had been my mom’s cross country skiing hat before she died, hit my shoulder like it was tapping me, trying to get my attention. My mom saying hello? I imagined her there with me.

I don’t remember hearing any birds. I did glance down at the gorge a few times and saw the river. Was it flowing? I can’t remember. Noticed the silhouette of an oak’s gnarled branches against the deep blue sky. There wasn’t a lot of wind, only occasional gusts that picked up the fresh snow that fell sometime last night and swirled it around.

By the end of the run I was very warm. With a mile left, I was dripping sweat. After the run was over my face burned from the sweat that had frozen on my face.

Yesterday, when it felt too bright and too cold and I was stuck in a car, trying to drive, I wondered, like most everyone else I talk to, why winter is so long and when it will leave. But today, outside on the path, breathing in the cold, absorbing the blue sky, feeling the crunching snow, I remembered that I love winter and am fine if it stays for a few more months.

feb 3/5.25 MILES

18 degrees/feels like 5
100% snow-covered
mississippi river road north/hennepin avenue bridge

Ran on the river road to downtown in the snow. My first time this winter running while it was snowing. Beautiful. It wasn’t too cold. The snow wasn’t too deep or annoying–except for when it felt like little knives hitting my face. There weren’t too many other people out on the path. I think I saw 3 or 4 runners. I was alone in the flats below the U. The steep hill almost to downtown was a bit tough so I walked it for a few minutes. Right at the base of the Hennepin Avenue bridge there was a zipline set up so people in town for the Super Bowl could zip across the river.

I loved this run today.

Heard the snow crunching again and noticed how the steady crunch sound traded off between my feet. The path today was a little more slippery and not packed down because it was steadily snowing. A few days ago I wrote a haiku about how the wet snow felt like running in the sand but I think that this dry, powdery, freshly-fallen snow felt more like running in the sand–especially the soft sand by the river.

Birds

Almost forgot to mention the birds. Running in the quiet snow, I kept hearing birds. Not geese or crows but something cooing or chirping. So odd to hear these calls which make me think of spring while running in the pure white solitude.

Here’s a poem about birds that I recently found and really like:

Bird Song —Rebecca Taksel

After all these years
I still don’t know the name
of the bird who has followed me
with his early-morning song
to all the places I’ve lived.

I’ve never asked
“Which bird is that, singing now?”
I remember hearing him first
on a spring morning in childhood
somewhere in the woods
behind our little house, his song clear
above the thousand little sounds
of grass and water and trees around us.

I’ve thought about the deaths I fear,
but only now do I know the death I want:
to let that song be the last thing I hear,
and not to mind at all that I never learned
the singer’s name.

Oh—and another thing about birds: After my run, and after meeting Scott at the coffee place, we walked by a tree, right in front of a spa/salon where they had thoughtfully placed half a dozen bird feeders. Little birds like to gather here. I know because I’ve walked by this tree before. As you approach the birds they flutter and fly, only briefly, away from the tree. It’s a beautiful thing to see.

And a few more lines about birds from a poem:

Snow melts into the earth and a gentle breeze
Loosens the damp gum wrappers, the stale leaves
Left over from autumn, and the dead brown grass.
The sky shakes itself out. And the invisible birds
Winter put away somewhere return…
(from The Late Wisconsin Spring/ John Koethe)

feb 2/4.05 MILES

-1 degree/feels like -10
15% snow-covered
mississippi river road path, north/south

Cold. Sub-zero. Arctic. Freezing. Frigorific. Brisk. Polar. Frozen. Chilly. I didn’t care. Had a great run outside. Almost too warm in my layers: a buff covering my head, ears, neck, mouth; a hood; a hat with ear flaps; a green running shirt; a black running pull-over; a pink jacket; a gray jacket; fleece running tights; fleece sweatpants; two pairs of socks and two pairs of gloves + sunglasses. Just a little too much. It’s hard to gauge because I start out so cold. Saw a few fat tires, one person walking their dog, a handful of other walkers and the Daily Walker. My favorite person to see. Don’t think I saw anyone else running. Heard some loud geese honking somewhere under the Lake Street Bridge. What are they still doing here? Heard some mysterious clanging or buzzing coming from the railroad bridge as I ran under it. Heard a helicopter hovering–was it related to pre Super Bowl stuff happening downtown?

I ended my run at 4 miles, right by the welcoming oaks. Walking, I began to notice how my left and right foot each provided a slightly different crunching sound. I liked it so much, I had to record the sound:

Then I created an acrostic poem describing the sound and my experience of hearing it this morning:

Crunching Snow

A constant crunch
Underfoot
Two versions—one fast
One slow, one
Never stopping, steadily crushing ice crystals
One
Making quick forceful snaps
One soft, one loud both
Unrelenting in their
Soundtrack,
Sinking deep into my
Ears these
Noises do
Something that
Opens me up makes my brain
Rattle vibrate buzz makes me
Yield to the sensation
Makes me
Earnest with my attention trying to conjure up the
Right words to capture the
Is of this musical moment cars
Drive by as
I
Attempt to classify the
Noise—somewhat like static but not white noise—is it
yellow noise? a happy yellow buzz
Radiating a constant crackling
Energy that
Sizzles on the
Path?
Outside this moment, it might be just
Noise, but right now the
Sound of crunching snow is
Everything.

jan 13/4.1 MILES

0 degrees
99% snow-covered
mississippi river road north/south

Cold but bright and barely any wind. Felt warmer than 0 degrees. As usual, I wore too many layers and was too warm. We got around 2 inches of powdery snow a few days ago so the path was covered with delightfully crunchy snow. Love that sound! And not too hard to run on–except for when I hit a slick spot. How to describe that sound?

Running on snow
I hear a crack–
not sharp and singular
like a wooden bat
on a hot summer’s day
but a constant crunch
creaking and brittle
dry crystals shattering
crying out
with every step

 

dec 13/4 MILES

26 degrees
100% snow covered
mississippi river road path, north/south

It snowed again this morning right before my run. A dusting. Will this be the theme for all of winter or just December? Will Minneapolis Parks ever come out and clear the path? It wasn’t too slippery, just uneven on the path. Made for slower running. Probably a better workout for my leg muscles?

On my walk home, after my run, heard the snow lightly crunching under my feet. Love that sound. I want to figure out how to describe it and how to track the different versions of the snow–wet snow, soft powder, under the wheels of cars, mid-run, while walking…