sept 24/RUN

5.5 miles
marshall loop to Fry
62 degrees
humidity: 90% / dew point: 61

Cool, sticky, thick air. Lots of sweating. For our weekly Marshall loop. Scott and I ran several more blocks (past Cretin, Cleveland, Prior, and Fairview) to Fry, then over to Summit and back down to the river. We heard the bells at St. Thomas chiming 2 or 3 different times — or more? Scott talked about the Peter Gabriel tour video he watched last night. What did I talk about? I can’t remember. Oh — at one point, I pointed out the light passing through a tree above Shadow Falls, making it glow. The beauty of September light! I also talked about Glück’s line about the light being over-rehearsed and how the bushes and flowers and trees looked worn, past their prime, over-rehearsed.

10 Things

  1. a line of dead leaves floating on the surface of the river, almost under the lake street bridge
  2. slippery, squeaky leaves covering the sidewalks
  3. between fairview and fry the sidewalk narrowed — Scott guessed that it might be as narrow as 4 ft (it’s supposed to be 6, but is often 5)
  4. drops of water falling off some leaves, illuminated by the sun
  5. ORANGE! several bright orange and burnt orange trees
  6. lions, pineapples, bare-chested women with wings — lawn ornament on Summit
  7. waffles, falafel, “mixed” popcorn, Thai, ice cream — restaurants/stores passed on the run
  8. overheard: it’s hard to tell how well the Vikings will do — a biker to 2 other bikers
  9. looking across from the east side to the west bank of the river, thinking I was seeing some sort of color — not BRIGHT color, but the idea of it: red instead of RED! Asked Scott and he said, Wow, that’s some RED! [how color works for me]
  10. 3 roller skiers on the bridge — no clicking and clacking because there wasn’t room for them to swing their poles

One of my favorite local poetry people (and one of my former teachers) posted this mushroom poem by Emily Dickinson. A nice contrast to another one of my favorite mushroom poems by Sylvia Plath:

The Mushroom is the Elf of Plants — (1350)/ Emily Dickinson

The Mushroom is the Elf of Plants –
At Evening, it is not
At Morning, in a Truffled Hut
It stop opon a Spot

As if it tarried always
And yet it’s whole Career
Is shorter than a Snake’s Delay –
And fleeter than a Tare –

’Tis Vegetation’s Juggler –
The Germ of Alibi –
Doth like a Bubble antedate
And like a Bubble, hie –

I feel as if the Grass was pleased
To have it intermit –
This surreptitious Scion
Of Summer’s circumspect.

Had Nature any supple Face
Or could she one contemn –
Had Nature an Apostate –
That Mushroom – it is Him!

Tarry is to delay or be tardy.
The tare is the weight of a container when it’s empty.
A scion is a young shoot or twig of a plant, especially one cut for grafting or rooting OR a descendent of a notable family.

Favorite lines today:

The Mushroom is the Elf of Plants –
At Evening, it is not
At Morning, in a Truffled Hut
It stop opon a Spot

As if it tarried always
And yet it’s whole Career
Is shorter than a Snake’s Delay –
And fleeter than a Tare –

So good!


bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis and back
degrees: 71/75

Gloomy this morning, not gray but white. White skies are the worst. Gray, blue, even green skies are interesting, but white skies are flat and empty and no fun. They’re strange, but in a way that feels oppressive instead of mysterious. One good thing about this overly white light: unlike gray skies, the white doesn’t make it a lot harder to see and make sense of things.

A good bike ride. Didn’t need to pass anyone. No asshole bikers yelled at me. I’ve memorized all the cracks and curves on the path, so I knew where I was going.

The bike ride to Nokomis is only 20 minutes, but it feels longer because you bike through so many different areas — the tight, winding river road, the edge of the crowded and hectic minnehaha park, beside minnehaha parkway then near minnehaha creek, past lake hiawatha and up a big hill, over minnehaha parkway, around a stretch of lake nokomis. As I biked, I tried to remember how grateful I am to still be able to bike — to have this independence — and tried to forget all the places I had to bike through before I reached the beach.

swim: 2 loops (9 little loops)
lake nokomis main beach
71 degrees

Because it’s the last week of open swim and because of sore IT bands, I’m doing more swimming and less running this week. Today’s swim was wonderful. Even though it was windy, the water wasn’t too choppy. No other swimmers or ducks or geese, one seagull, 2 or 3 kids, a boat. Every so often the arm that was that pulling through the water would touch a vine reaching up from the bottom of the lake. I had a brief flash of imagining the vine was evil and wanted to wrap itself around my wrist to drag me under. I didn’t feel freaked out by this thought, just curious.

10 Things

  1. watching my air bubbles underwater — We calmly trailed over them/and under them, shedding/air bubbles, little white/ balloons
  2. pinkish orangish buoys, faded from years of use, bobbing in the water — lining up my path to swim-while-barely-seeing through the small gap between them
  3. looking at the white buoy under water — its lower end covered in greenish brownish muck, the rope tethering it to the bottom of the lake barely there in the cloudy water
  4. one seagull standing in the sand at the edge of the water
  5. hearing only a steady slosh as I swam, then stopping to hear the almost of the world above the water
  6. that quiet being occasionally disrupted by a kid’s voice
  7. buzzzz — someone’s constructing/reparing? something at painted turtle, I think. Are they building the structure they need to be able to serve beer?!
  8. the water is shallow almost all the way to the edge of the swimming area
  9. my yellow backpack, sitting alone, propped against the lifeguard stand
  10. opaque water out by the white buoys, clear water near the shore

Came across this poem by Robert Frost this morning. I’d like to put it beside May Swenson’s bird deep in the woods in “October” and Emily Dickinson’s purple woods in “A lane of yellow led the eye” and darkness in “A murmur in the trees to note”:

Come In/ Robert Frost

As I came to the edge of the woods, 
Thrush music — hark! 
Now if it was dusk outside, 
Inside it was dark. 

Too dark in the woods for a bird 
By sleight of wing 
To better its perch for the night, 
Though it still could sing. 

The last of the light of the sun 
That had died in the west 
Still lived for one song more 
In a thrush’s breast. 

Far in the pillared dark 
Thrush music went — 
Almost like a call to come in 
To the dark and lament. 

But no, I was out for stars; 
I would not come in. 
I meant not even if asked; 
And I hadn’t been. 

a few more things I forgot (added hours later)

First, I forgot to mention how I recited 2 poems in my head as I swam loops 5-7. During lap 5, I recited “I measure every grief I meet.” It was a little awkward trying to match the rhythms of Dickinson’s words with my breathing every 5 strokes. In loops 6 and 7, I recited, “The Social Life of Water.” I get hung up a little on the line, Thunder throws itself on estuary. At first I forgot it altogether, jumping straight to Waterspout laughs at joke of frog pond. Then I couldn’t remember what thunder did to the estuary. Finally I got it sorted out and made it to the end — not able even to guess what you are excluded — by the end of loop 7.

Second, on Sunday I decided I was too tired and sore to swim. Instead, Scott and I took Delia on a walk. We let her off her leash in the field at Howe School and as she ran I noticed wings all around. Monarchs? No, Scott said, dragonflies. A dozen dragonflies! I’ve never seen so many at once. Whenever I see a dragonfly, I think of my mom, who loved them. What a gift to be reminded of her so much! And how cool to see so many wings zooming about!

july 26/RUNSWIM

3.3 miles
trestle turn around
71 degrees
humidity: 94% / dew point: 67

Hot and steamy today. Went out for my run right after the rain ended. Everything wet, dripping, swampy. Headed north through the tunnel of trees. Noticed a tall, precarious stack of small stones on the ancient boulder. Was passed by a shirtless runner with a bright yellow baseball cap on backwards. For the next five minutes of my run, I watched as his bright yellow head slowly bobbed out of sight. Encountered another biking camp group — 20 or 30 kids in yellow vest on the bike path. Not sure how they were doing it, but they managed to get several cars to honk for them. Turned around at the stairs just past the railroad trestle.

For most of the run it was overcast, but at the very end, as I ran back through the neighborhood, some sun emerged and my shadow joined me. Hello friend!

Listened to 1 biker talking to another — most of it was just out of range, but I heard, I always slow way down there and look carefully, otherwise I keep going, the biking kids, and cars. After turning around, put in headphones. Started with Billie Eilish’s latest song for the Barbie movie, “What Was I Made For,” then was inspired to put on The Wiz and the Tinman’s song, “What Would I Do If I Could Feel?”

I started thinking about my desire to use my runs to help open me up to the world — to feel things deeply and generously. And now, as I write this, I’m thinking about Emily Dickinson’s poem about grief and the formal feeling that comes after it, “After great pain, a formal feeling comes,” which I first posted about on this blog in march of 2021.

10 Wet Things

  1. sidewalk puddles
  2. half my street for a short stretch
  3. the leaves on the sprawling oak tree near the ancient boulder
  4. the edges of the trail
  5. one branch leaning over the trail, brushing my face
  6. my face — from sweaty effort, running through rain-soaked branches, under dripping bridges
  7. the air — hazy, steamy, fog hovering just above the trail
  8. the tip of my pony tail
  9. wheels — bike, car, stroller
  10. mud on the dirt trail, mostly where the ruts are the deepest

This was the daily poem on A great winter poem to revisit in January. I love Major Jackson’s poetry.

lxxxi. / Major Jackson

Pine shadows on snow like a Jasper canvas,
if only my pen equaled the downy’s stabbing beak
this January morning, her frantic
chipping, more resolve than frenzy, to make a feast
of beetle larvae, if only my wood-boring eyes
could interrogate the known like pillars of sunlight
through fast-moving clouds scanning the side
of Corporation Mountain where on a distant ridge
white plumes dissolve like theories. I cannot hear
through winter’s quiet what’s worth saying.
Saplings stand nude as Spartans awaiting orders.
The entire forest is iced-up and glistening.
Sealed in its form, the austere world I’ve come
to love beckons, earth runnels soon resurrected
into a delirium of streams and wild fields. Till then,
branches like black lines crisscrossing the sub-Arctic.

swim: 3 loops (6 cedar loops)
cedar lake open swim
92 degrees

A warm night with very little breeze. Not good for cooling Scott off on the shore, but good for me and swimming in calm water. For the first few loops it felt a little harder to breathe — was it the heat? Felt a little sore during this swim — just under my right shoulder.

The coolest thing about my swim: just heading out from shore, swimming over some vegetation, dozens of small fish (much bigger than minnows) swam right below me, almost as if I was acting out Anne Sexton’s poem, The Nude Swim, real — All of the fish in us had escaped for a minute. Were these all of my fish, escaping into the water? Or, were these Sexton’s real fish that don’t mind my fish having escaped? Either way, a super cool image! As I think about it some more, I like imaging these fish as escaping from me — swim free little Sara fish!

added the next morning: Just remembered something else about the swim. Mostly the water was warm, which felt nice when I first entered the water, but as I rounded the far buoy, the one at Hidden Beach, I swam through a few pockets of very cold water, which felt nice after swimming in such hot air.

june 22/RUNSWIM

3.15 miles
2 trails
77 degrees
dew point: 61

So warm! Still glad I went out for a run, but it was hard. My knees are sore, my legs sluggish. Heard lots of birds, a roller skier’s clicking poles, talk radio blasting from someone’s car, faint voices from below, water trickling out of a sewer pipe. Encountered bugs — mosquitos? gnats? — near the ravine. Passed by a person on the folwell bench, reading. Was greeted by one walker: good morning! As I ran on the Winchell trail I thought about the importance of giving some gesture — a greeting, eye contact, a stepping over to make room — when nearing another person. Without it, you’re saying to them, to me you don’t exist.

When I finished my run, I pulled out my phone and recited Alice Oswald’s “A Short Story of Falling.” Only two mistakes: I gave it the wrong title and I said “in a seed head” instead of “on a seed head.”

“A Short Story of Falling” / 22 june 2023

wordle challenge

Bad luck with the wordle today. I almost had it in 3, but I had too many choices that could be correct. I had 4 tries but at least 5 options.

6 failed tries: slant / dates / waste/ haste / paste / baste

Even though I failed the challenge, I decided to do something with words: find connections to Emily Dickinson!

slant: Tell all the truth but tell it Slant

dates: I do not know the date of mine/ It feels so old a pain

waste: Just Infinites of Nought/As far as it could see/So looked the face I looked upon/ So looked itself on Me (Like Eyes That Looked on Wastes)

haste: We slowly drove—He knew no haste (Because I could not stop for Death)

paste: We play at Paste/ Till qualified, for pearl (We play at paste)

baste and taste:
Now You Too Can Bake Like Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson: A Poet in the Kitchen

swim: 4 loops
lake nokomis open swim
89 degrees

At the end of the swim another swimmer called out, these conditions are the best! (or something like that; I can’t quite remember). I agreed. Calm, pleasingly warm water, well-placed buoys. I could barely see the buoys, but I still swam to them without a problem. Lots of swans in the water, a few menacing sailboat — one with a bright orange and red sail.

I swam for a loop and a half then briefly stopped at the little beach for a quick rest. Swam another loop and a half and stopped at the big beach. Got out to go the bathroom, then one more loop. Taking a 5 or so minute break between loops 3 and 4 really helped. I should remember to do that more often.

I’m writing this swim summary the next morning. Can I remember 10 things?

10 Things

  1. at least one plane
  2. half a dozen swan boats lurking at the edges
  3. one swan stuck in the dead zone between buoys
  4. streaks below me — fish?
  5. irritating swimmers: 2 fast women that kept swimming past me, then stopping to get their bearings, then swimming again. With my slower, steadier stroke, I kept getting passed by them, then passing them when they stopped, then getting passed by them again when they restarted their swim
  6. both the orange and green buoys closest to the beaches (orange to the little beach, green to the big) were not that close to the shore
  7. no waves
  8. no ducks
  9. breathed every 5 strokes, sometimes every three, once or twice every six
  10. hardly ever saw one of my landmarks from the past few years: the overturned boat at the little beach

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.


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


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:

it is possible
to dig a pit
deeper into
a long

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 15/RUN

3.45 miles
locks and dam #1 hill
57 degrees

Wow! A beautiful spring morning. Sunny, low wind, birds. Favorite part of the run was hearing, then seeing, the geese under the ford bridge. Honking as they flew low then landing in their river, their feet skimming the water — what a beautiful sound that is — not sure how to describe the sound of a bird coming in for a landing.

Listened to the birds, no specific bird, just BIRDS!, as I ran south, then put in “Dear Evan Hansen” at the top of the hill and listened to that as I ran north.

Mostly my body felt strong and sore, especially the big toe on my right foot.

Mary Ruefle, “On Fear”

before the run

The second form of dread is the anticipatory dread of pain, either physical, emotional, spiritual, or psychological, and that, folks, covers nine-tenths of the world’s surface.

Ruefle lists Julian of Norwich’s 4 forms of dread:
dread form 1 = emotion fear — your very first response to smell of smoke
dread form 3 = doubt or despair
dread form 4 = hold dread with which we face that we which we love the most

Dread. I like it better than the word fear because fear, like the unconscious emotion which is one of its forms, has only the word ear inside of it, telling an animal to listen, while dread has the word read inside of it, telling us to read carefully and find the dead, who are are also there.

For some reason, this word play reminded me of a delightful poem I read by Kelli Agodon Russell a few months ago:

Believing Anagrams/ Kelli Agodon Russell

—after being asked why I write so many poems about death and poetry

there’s real fun in funeral,
and in the pearly gates—the pages relate.

You know, i fall prey to poetry,

have hated death.

all my life,
literature has been my ritual tree—

Shakespeare with his hearse speak, Pablo Neruda, my adorable pun.

So when i write about death and poetry, it’s donated therapy

where i converse with
Emily Dickinson, my inky, misled icon.

and when my dream songs are demon’s rags,
i dust my manuscript in a manic spurt

hoping the reader will reread because i want the world

to pray for poets as we are only a story of paper. 

This poem is from her collection, Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room. It seems fitting to read and post this poem on Emily Dickinsons death date — May 15, 1886. I love her anagram for Emily Dickinson: inky, misled icon

during the run

I thought about reciting Dickinson poems as I started running, but forgot about it before I even reached the river. Near the end of the run, while I listened to “Dear Evan Hansen,” I thought about fear and dread and wondered where worry fit in.

after the run

I’m slowly reading more of Ruefle’s “On Fear”:

She talks about the difference between emotions (instinct) and feelings (cognitive), and emergencies of feeling. She lists what other poets have said about fear, then lists her fears. And she returns to Julian of Norwich:

“Fear and dread are brothers,” says Julian of Norwich. As desire is wanting and fear is not-wanting.

After this mention of Norwich, Ruefle devotes several pages to Keats and his idea of negative capabilities. I’ll leave a discussion of that for another day, when I have time.

She ends with a reference to Emily Dickinson, which, like Russell’s poem seems fitting to include:

What has life taught me? I am much less afraid than I ever was in my youth–of everything. That is a fact. At the same time, I feel more afraid than ever. And the two, I can assure you, are not opposed but inextricably linked. I am more or less the same age Emily Dickinson was when she died. Here is what she thought: “Had we the first intimation of the Definition of Life, the calmest of us would be Lunatics!” The calm lunatic–now that is something to aspire to.

The passage from ED comes from a letter and also includes these wonderful lines:

There is a Dove in the Street and I own beautiful Mud – so I know Summer is coming. I was always attached to Mud, because of what it typifies – also, perhaps, a Child’s tie to primeval Pies.

Letter from Emily Dickinson to Mrs. JG Holland (about March 1877)

Two more things I found from an early (1862) letter from Dickinson to Higginson. The first fits with Ruefle’s discussion of fear and poets:

I had a terror-since September-I could tell to none-and so I sing, as the Boy does by the Burying Ground-because I am afraid-

The second I’m including because I find it delightful:

You ask of my Companions Hills- Sir-and the Sundown-and a Dog-large as myself, that my Father bought me-They are better than Beings-because they know-but do not tell-and the noise in the Pool, at Noon – excels my Piano. 

may 6/RUN

3.75 miles
marshall loop
58 degrees
humidity: 86%

It rained yesterday and early this morning but by the time I headed out the door it had stopped. Everything wet, even the air. So humid! With summer coming, it’s time to stop tracking the feels like temperature and start tracking the humidity. Ugh. Maybe humidity and I can be friends this year?

10 Things I Noticed

  1. from the lake street bridge, the river was a brownish gray and full of foam — and empty of rowers
  2. heard a runner coming up from behind me on the marshall hill. As they passed, they called out great job! this hill is a killer! I think I grunted, yeah!
  3. heard the bells at St. Thomas twice — at 9:15 and 9:30 (I think?)
  4. a block ahead I saw something orange which I thought was a person but was a constuction sign
  5. shadow falls was falling today, a soft gushing
  6. encountered a woman in yellow running shoes — or were they lime green? I can’t remember now
  7. running on cretin I noticed a fast runner on the other side, sprinting past St. Thomas — was it the runner that passed me on the marshall hill? maybe
  8. lots of mud, wet dirt, puddles everywhere
  9. the floodplain forest is all light green now, my view to the forest floor gone
  10. running over the lake street bridge, I heard something rattling — was it wind, or the cars driving over the bridge?

Mary Ruefle, “On Beginnings”

I’m working on a course proposal for a 4 week fall version of my finding wonder in the world and the words and I’m thinking of making one of the weeks about fall as time/space for beginnings and endings. So when I saw Ruefle’s lecture, “On Beginnings,” I decided that should be the next Ruefle thing to read.

before the run

I read through the lecture — more quickly than closely — knowing that I would read it again after the run. It’s about beginnings and how there are more beginnings in poetry than endings. The first note I jotted down in my Plague Notebook, Vol 16 was about the semicolon, which is a punctuation mark that I particularly like. Ruefle has just introduced an idea from Ezra Pound that each of us speaks only one sentence that begins wen we’re born and ends when we die. When Ruefle tells this idea to another poet he responds, “That’s a lot of semicolons!” Ruefle agrees and then writes this:

the next time you use a semicolon (which, by the way, is the least-used mark of punctuation in all of poetry) you should stop and be thankful that there exists this little thing, invented by a human being–an Italian as a matter of fact–that allows us to go on and keep on connecting speech that for all apparent purposes unrelated.

then adds: a poem is a semicolon, a living semicolon, and this:

Between the first and last lines there exists–a poem–and if it were not for the poem that intervenes, the first and last lines of a poem would not speak to each other.

This line reminded me of a gameshow I was watching — well, listening to because I was sitting under the tv so I couldn’t see it — in the waiting room of a clinic last week. It’s called “Chain Reaction” and contestants have to link two seemingly disconnected words by creating of 3 other words between them. An example: Private and Tension. The chain of words connecting them: Private eye level surface Tension

At some point as I read, I suddenly thought of middles. The in-betweens, after the beginning, before the end. How much attention do these get, especially if we jump right in and start with them. It reminds me of a writing prompt/experiment I came up with for my running log: Write a poem about something that happened during the middle of your run–not at the beginning or the end, but the middle (see nov 27, 019).

As I headed out for my run, I hoped to think about middles.

during the run

Did I think about middles at all during the run? I recall thinking about beginnings, particularly the idea that the beginning of something can feel overwhelming — like a long run: How am I going to be able to run for an entire hour? I have learned to remember that you just have to start and usually something will happen that makes it easier. Did I think about endings? Not that I can remember.

after the run

Here are some bits from the lecture I’d like to remember:

(from Paul Valéry) the opening line of a poem, he said, is like finding a fruit in the ground, a piece of fallen fruit you have never seen before, and the poet’s task is to create the tree from which such a fruit would fall.

Roland Barthes suggests there are three ways to finish any piece of writing: the ending will have the last word or the ending will be silent or the ending will execute a pirouette, so something unexpectedly incongruent.

“But it is growing damp and I must go in. Memory’s fog is rising.” Among Emily Dickinson’s last words (in a letter). A woman whom everyone thought of as shut-in, homebound, cloistered, spoke as if she had been out, exploring the earth, er whole life, and it was finally time to go in. And it was.

Here are more things I wrote in my Plague notebook inspired by this lecture:


mid-walk, mid-run
Activity: notice and record what you notice in the midst of motion. Pull out your smart phone and speak your thoughts into it.

Not how you got there or were you’re headed, but here now in-between

Threshold Doors Ways in or out
Inner becomes Outer
Turn inside out

And now, even more about beginnings and endings:

Thinking about poems titled, “Poem Beginning with a Line from [insert poet]” or M Smith’s “Poem Beginning with a Retweet”

Or golden shovel poems that make the last word in each line spell out someone else’s poem — it began with Gwendolyn Brooks and “We Cool.”

Where does a poem begin? When does a project, a plan start? How do you write an origin story? What gets left out/lost/forgotten when we draw the arbitrary lines of begin here and end here?

Ruefle mentions crossing a finish line and also old movies that used to conclude with THE END in big letters across the screen. The satisfaction of a clean, clear ending. How often does that happen?

Is death the end? And of what? Is birth the beginning?

Are beginnings and endings only a product of linear time? Or is it that they take on certain meanings, support certain values (like progress) within a linear model?

a few minutes after posting this entry: Found this on twitter:

from Note 167: “Breathing is the beginning. It is, for us, a first and final movement. In it, we find the prototype of all method, without which: nothing. Breathing, thus, is the foregrounding of all concept—its precursor and first condition, its resolution.”

Between the Covers interview with Christina Sharpe

I haven’t listened to the interview yet, but I would imagine that the breathing here is speaking to and about a lot of things, not the least of which is how black bodies are not allowed to breathe or are forced to stop breathing in ways that white bodies are not.

march 25/RUN

3.4 miles
river road, south/north
33 degrees
100% clear path

Felt good this morning. Maybe, a week since my 24 hour bug, I’m feeling mostly normal? Today it was colder. No thaw, everything frozen, or not quite frozen. Puddles with a thin sheet of ice on top. Mud hardened. Another layer — gloves, a buff. Ran south and recited the poem I memorized this morning to myself: A Murmur in the Trees — to note. Heard the loud knock of woodpecker nearby — was it in that tree, right there? Also heard a strange version of chickadee’s feebee call and the rhythmic swish of my coat as I moved.

Ran to the locks and dam #1 and decided to head down the hill and back up it instead of running under the ford bridge (I imagined it would be icy and uneven under the bridge). Halfway down, when I encountered a solid sheet of ice, I turned around and ran back up. Nice — I’ll have to add this hill into my routes for the spring and summer. The trails were crowded, some bikers, some walkers with dogs, some runners. Ran most of the route with no headphones; put in a playlist for the last mile.

A Murmur in the Trees – to note – / Emily Dickinson (F433 — 1862)

A Murmur in the Trees – to note –
Not loud enough – for Wind –
A Star – not far enough to seek –
Nor near enough – to find –

A long – long Yellow – on the Lawn –
A Hubbub – as of feet –
Not audible – as Ours – to Us –
But dapperer – More Sweet –

A Hurrying Home of little Men
To Houses unperceived –
All this – and more – if I should tell –
Would never be believed –

Of Robins in the Trundle bed
How many I espy
Whose Nightgowns could not hide the Wings –
Although I heard them try –

But then I promised ne’er to tell –
How could I break My Word?
So go your Way – and I’ll go Mine –
No fear you’ll miss the Road.

I can’t remember if I’ve written about this poem on this log before. When I first read it, I was immediately struck by its connection to “We grow accustomed to the Dark –“. The neighbor’s lamp in that poem, with the long — long Yellow — on the lawn in this one. To meet the Road erect, with no fear you’ll miss the Road. In one poem, ED wants to adjust, for Life to step almost Straight. In the other, she wants to hang out with the little men and the robins in the trundle bed in the Dark. I want to do both of these things too. To find new ways to see so that life steps almost straight. To explore the different ways I see, or the ways I can be without light/sight, to find new, more magical, worlds.

march 13/SWIMRUN

swim: 1.25 miles
ywca pool

I love to swim. Today felt really good, relaxed. I didn’t even care that my latest vision problem happened again. Walking on the pool deck, staring intently at the lanes, trying to see if the lane I’m looking at is as empty as I think it is. I checked at least 3 times, staring at the water. It seemed empty. Then I put my stuff down and was about to get in when I noticed someone in the lane. Very frustrating and unsettling to look closely, for a long time, and still not see what is right there. But really, it’s not that big of a deal. I didn’t jump in on top of anyone or cause a swimmer to mess up their rhythm. I just need to get used to it and accept that it will continue to happen.

Lots of friends in the water with me today: weird white, almost translucent, bits near the bottom, a balled up bandaid in one lane over, and perhaps the most disturbing, a fuzzy brown ball floating halfway up to the surface, slowly making it’s way to below me. Would I accidentally suck it up? Yuck! Must have gotten distracted because I lost track of it.

Noticed the sloshing sound of water as my hands broke the surface.

Everything was blue underwater. Blue tiles, a blue lower-cased t on the wall, blue-tinted water. Dark blue shadows below, cast by the trees outside the window, making the pool floor look alive.

Lots of breaststroke around me, some backstroke, an occasional freestyle. One woman was using a kick board. I used a pull buoy for a set.

run: 3.1 miles
under ford bridge and back
29 degrees
95% clear path

Ran in the afternoon, which is always harder than running in the morning for me. I feel more tired, heavier. My legs don’t want to move as much. No headphones on the way south, Beyoncé’s Renaissance on the way back north. The sky was mostly blue, with a few clusters of clouds. I felt a shadow cross over me as I started my run. Hello bird! I think I looked at the river, and I think it was open. Heard the drumming of a woodpecker. Admired the wide open view near Folwell and the Rachel Dow memorial bench. Now I remember seeing the river! Right there by that bench — brownish-gray and open. Encountered walkers, dogs, a runner with a stroller.

Down below, in a discussion of a gray line in Schuyler’s poem, I wonder if I could write about silver. I noticed it today, out on the trail. The blazing bright reflection off a car’s hood, the sun shining on wet pavement.

Schuyler, Hymn to Life, Page 4

Begins with Bring no pleasure and ends with As one strokes a cat.

And if you thought March was bad
Consider April, early April, wet snow falling into blue squills
That underneath a beech make an illusory lake, a haze of blue
With depth to it.

I love his illusory lake and the haze of blue with depth to it. Squills = a sea onion, a plant in the lily family with slender, strap-like leaves and blue flowers. Until I looked up squills, I didn’t get that the illusory lake was really a cluster of spring flowers. Maybe that’s because April in Minneapolis creates a different kind of fake lake: the giant puddle!

That is like pain, ordinary household pain,
Like piles, or bumping against a hernia.

First reaction: recognition. I am struggling through an extended bout of unexplained constipation that has resulted in piles. Nothing big or overly painful, ordinary, a part of the daily routine. Unsettling. Annoying. A low-lying worry that the ordinary could become something more.

Second reaction: In his episode for VS, Jericho Brown says this:

in any poem, anytime you write something down, one of the things that I’m always doing is I’m trying to make sure it’s opposite soon gets there. Soon as I write something down, I’m like, well, the opposite needs to be there too. The sound opposite, the sense opposite, the image opposite. How do you get the opposites in the poem? Because you want the poem to be like your life.

Jericho Brown VS The Process of Elimination

I’m thinking about how just as the ordinary includes the comfort of the mundane and routine, it includes the discomfort — the steady aches and pains that are nothing special, just always present, a part of the day.

And in the sitting room people sit
And rest their feet and talk of where they’ve been, motels and Monticello,
Dinner in the Fiji Room.

I love this plain, ordinary image of people in a sitting room doing what you do in a sitting room: sitting. There’s something magical about the sitting and talking and not doing anything grander, resting.

Someone forgets a camera. Each day forgetting:
What is there so striking to remember?

Each day forgetting.

The rain stops. April shines,
A Little

Gray descends.
An illuminous penetration of unbright light that seeps and coats
The ragged lawn and spells out bare spots and winter fallen branches.


What a wonderful description of gray light! It shines a little, an unbright light that seeps and coats and exposes (spells out) the worn spots and the ordinary work needed to be done every spring. Lately, when I think of gray, I think of the opposite — not how it makes everything look shabby, worn, tired, but that it softens everything, making it mysterious and more gentle, relaxed.

It seems like Schuyler could be writing against one classic image of luminous gray light or, it made me think of this at least: the silver lining. Wondering about the origins of the phrase, I looked it up. John Milton’s poem, Comus:

That he, the Supreme good t’ whom all all things ill
are but as slavish officers of vengeance,
Would send a glistring Guardian if need were
To keep my life and homour unassail’d.
Was I deceiv’d, or did a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night?
I did not err, there does a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night,
And casts a gleam over this tufted Grove.

Thinking about my color poems, and my interest in gray, I wonder how I could write about silver? For me, silver is the color that burns and shines when concentrated on the iced-over river, too bright for my eyes. Silver is also the color of the path when ice is present — it’s a warning sign, a whisper, Watch Out! Slippery.

And now the yardwork is over (it is never over), today’s
Stint anyway. Odd jobs, that stretch ahead, wide and mindless as
Pennsylvania Avenue or the bridge to Arlington, crossed and recrossed

I like wide and mindless, mundane tasks. Well, mostly I do. Tasks that can help me to shift into a different mental space where I wander and day dream. Mowing the lawn, pulling the weeds, doing the dishes.

And there the Lincoln Memorial crumbles. It looks so solid: it won’t
Last. The impermanence of permanence, is that all there is?

I’m reminded of an ED poem with Schuyler’s use of crumbling:

Crumbling is not an instant’s Act (1010)/ EMILY DICKINSON

Crumbling is not an instant’s Act
A fundamental pause
Dilapidation’s processes
Are organized Decays —

‘Tis first a Cobweb on the Soul
A Cuticle of Dust
A Borer in the Axis
An Elemental Rust —

Ruin is formal — Devil’s work
Consecutive and slow —
Fail in an instant, no man did
Slipping — is Crashe’s law —

Crumbling is routine, everyday life. Slow and steady, nothing special, ordinary. Not Ruin.

is that all there is? To look
And see the plane tree.

What an awesome enjambment! Sometimes all we need (or all we have) is that tree outside the window.

For this is spring, this mud and swelling fruit tree buds, furred
On the apple trees. And yet it still might snow: it’s been known

This poem is about D.C.. Here in Minneapolis, it almost always snows — a big storm — in April.

march 8/RUN

5.5 miles
franklin loop
35 degrees
snow flurries

Not completely sure if my body — my knees, left hip, lower back — were quite ready to run today, but the rest of me was, and I’m glad I did. The trail was almost completely clear with hardly any ice. And, there was only one short stretch of puddle-y slush so bad that I stopped to walk in the street to avoid it.

10 Things I Remember

  1. the Minneapolis park crew had spread some dirt/sand on the trail to help make it less slippery. It was especially helpful under the lake street bridge on the marshall side
  2. heard the drumming of a woodpecker somewhere in the gorge — it cut through the thick air. Also heard at least two geese, flying low and honking
  3. the flurries were at an angle and I pulled the bill of my cap way down, almost covering my eyes, so that the snow wouldn’t fly directly into my eyes
  4. the river, part 1: the river was gray and open as I crossed the franklin bridge
  5. smelled the sewer a few times — a result of the recent (slight) thaw. Yuck!
  6. the river road on the east side south of franklin was in terrible condition. So many potholes — dozens. I couldn’t tell if they were deep, just that there were a lot of them!
  7. river, part 2: crossing back over the lake street bridge, the river was almost completely open, only one small chunk of ice
  8. the river, part 3: near the small chunk of ice, I noticed that the river looked blueish green. A strange, delightful color. But what was causing it?
  9. don’t remember hearing all the grit under my feet, but I remember feeling it. I like sliding on it. Why? Maybe because it’s more interesting than flat, hard pavement?
  10. Favorite spot: near Meeker Island Dam, there’s a spot with an open view of the river and the other side. Only a few slender tree trunks in the way

Before heading out for my run, I had started revising my “How to Sink” poem. Thought I might get some inspiration by the gorge. Later, as I ran, I realized that I should wait to finish this poem when it’s spring, or at least warmer, when everything is dripping and oozing and flowing down to the river. I thought of this as the sharp flurried stabbed my face. Was thinking that I should do a “How to” poem related to water through the seasons.

Summer = How to Float

Spring = How to Sink

Winter = How to Settle? — something about snow that’s packed, layer, staying (not melting), compacting — How to be compact? or, How to Shrink?

Fall = I need to think about this one some more. What does water do in the fall? Maybe something related to decomposing — leaves falling, drying up, becoming brittle? water leaving — freezing — frost? fog? or, How to Rust?

Recited from memory my ED poem, “I measure every Grief I meet” before the run, then during it as I walked up the hill between the meeker dam and lake street. Recorded it into my phone. Only missed a few prepositions. Nice! My memorizing and reciting has improved over the years. This skill will come in handy when my ability to read gets worse. I’ll be able to memorize my poems for reciting to others.

I recited some of ED’s poem in my head as I ran. It follows a steady beat, so it’s easy to keep in rhythm, harder to recite without getting sucked into a sing song-y cadence.

This poem popped up on my twitter feed this morning:

Lake of the Isles/ Anni Liu

After my grandfather died 
I waited for him to arrive 
In Minneapolis. Daily 
I walked across the water 
Wearing my black armband 
Sewn from scraps, ears trained for his voice. 
Migration teaches death, deprives us 
Of the language of the body, 
Prepares us for other kinds of crossings, 
The endless innovations of grief. 
Forty-nine days, forty-nine nights— 
I carried his name and a stick 
Of incense to the island in the lake 
And with fellow mourners watched 
As it burned a hole in the ice. 
He did not give a sign, but I imagined him 
Traveling against the grain 
Of the earth, declining time. 
Spirit like wind, roughening 
Whatever of ourselves we leave bare. 
When he was alive, he and I 
Rarely spoke. But his was a great 
And courageous tenderness. 
Now we are beyond the barriers 
Of embodied speech, of nationhood. 
Someday, I will join him there in the country 
Of our collective future, knowing 
That loneliness is just an ongoing 
Relationship with time. 
It is such a strange thing, to be 
Continuous. In the weeks without snow, 
What do the small creatures drink?

About This Poem

My grandfather died during the first winter of the pandemic. His was the first death of someone I loved. That winter, people everywhere experienced the impossibility of being with dying loved ones. No one knew how to mourn in absentia. Having been separated from him and the rest of my family for twenty-two years due to my immigration status, I had had practice. I turned to poetry. Poems can enact impossible journeys. So, even though I wasn’t able to see him or be with my family, I could mourn. Here, in this room I made for us to be together.

A few weeks ago, my daughter walked on the ice at Lake of the Isles with her friend. They didn’t visit the island, but she talked about going back, and she wondered what happened there. I told her about this poem this morning as she made her coffee. Together we wondered if this actually happened, that during the pandemic people visited the island to mourn. Now I wonder, what does it mean to “actually” happen? If it was only conjured for this poem, does that mean it didn’t happen? [No.]

Love these lines:

That loneliness is just an ongoing 
Relationship with time. 

It is such a strange thing, to be 

In the weeks without snow, 
What do the small creatures drink?

Now I’m wondering, how would Emily Dickinson measure Liu’s grief?