nov 15/RUN

4.5 miles
minnehaha falls and back
30 degrees / steady light snow
walking path: 60% snow-covered / bike path: 10% snow-covered

The first winter run in the snow of the season! Wonderful. Slushy, a few slick spots, little snow flakes occasionally pelting my face. Loved it! Not too many people on the trails. Exchanged greetings with Mr. Morning! Morning! Good morning!

I forgot to look at the river or, if I looked, I don’t remember what I saw. It was probably blue gray. There’s no way it was white yet.

We already have a few inches on the ground, so it looks like a winter wonderland. Some of the snow has painted the trees white.

The falls were falling, but not gushing.

The sky is a very light gray. Almost everything some shade of gray. Somewhere on the trail — maybe near the falls — I saw some light green leaves decorating a tree. How is that possible?

Thought about Emily Dickinson and the idea I had earlier this morning, based on my current reflections on gray and my devotion to her poem, “We grow accustomed to the Dark –“: I grow accustomed to the Gray. For me, not everything is dark, really. It’s gray. Literally — as colors drain away in light that isn’t just right, many things often look gray. I don’t usually notice it until I think about how that dark car over there isn’t dark blue or dark red, it’s just dark gray. Or that fir tree outside of my writing studio window isn’t dark green but a very dark gray. It’s also metaphorical — I’m in this in-between state, where I can sometimes see, sometimes can’t. Or I can see well enough to get by, but not very well. I’m in transition, in the process of losing, not in the state of having lost.

today’s gray: gray area

definition from google: an ill-defined situation or field not readily conforming to a category or to an existing set of rules.

Not sure if this really fits, but the in-betweeness and ambiguity of a gray area, makes me think of optical illusions like the duck and the rabbit, or the old lady and the young woman, or the white and gold or blue and black dress, which makes me think of this passage from Georgina Kleege:

I surmise that my general visual experience is something like your experience of optical illusions. Open any college psychology textbook to the chapter on perception and look at the optical illusions there. You stare at the image and see it change before your eyes. In one image, you many see first a vase and then two faces in profile. In another, you see first a rabbit then a duck. These images deceive you because they give your brain inadequate or contradictory information. In the first case, your brain tries to determine which part of the image represents the background. In the second case, your brain tries to to group the lines of hte sketch together into a meaningful picture. In both cases there are two equally possible solutions to the visual riddle, so your brain switches from one to the other, and you have the uncanny sensation of “seeing” the image change. When there’s not much to go — no design on the vase, no features on the faces, no feathers, no fur — the brain makes an educated guess.

When I stare at an object I can almost feel my brain making such guesses.

Sight Unseen / Georgina Kleege

Sometimes, but not always, I can feel my brain making guesses. I usually notice this when it guesses wrong and then I realize what the thing I’m looking at actually is. Or, maybe it is more like this: I see something that seems strange to me, like a dead or sleeping squirrel on a big rock. That’s what it looks like, what the visual data is telling me (Sara’s brain) it is, but I can’t quite believe it. It seems off. I look closer. Finally, after staring for too long, I realize it is a stocking cap with a furry brim.

Ambiguous. It could mean this or that or this and that.

nov 11/BIKERUN

bike: 22 minutes
bike stand, basement
run: 2 miles
river road, north/32nd, west/edmund, south
28 degrees

Didn’t want to run as much today, just to be careful with my knees, so I tried something new: bike in the basement, then do a shorter run outside. I liked it. The bike was a nice warm up for going outsider in the cold, or colder than it has been. I don’t remember much from the run. There were several stones stacked on the ancient boulder, the sky was gray, no roller skiers or bikers, a few walkers, the roots on the dirt trails seemed extra treacherous and ready to trip me. I don’t remember if there were any runners out there or what color the river was. No smoke or sewer smells. No sweet scent from decomposing leaves.

Today’s gray theme: silver (yes, I know silver is not the same as gray, but in my close enough/approximate world, it works).

I haven’t worn jewelry for years, but when I did, I always preferred silver to gold.

One of my favorite video memories from my kids when they were young is a digital story I created called, “Silver and Gold…and Poop.” Every so often I still sing, Yeah, let’s doooo it.

Years ago, RJP sang this beautiful, sweet version of “Land of the Silver Birch” for her grandmother, who cherished it:

Land of the silver birch home of the beaver
Where the mighty moose, wanders at will
Blue lake and rocky shore, I will return once more
Boom de de boom boom, boom de de boom boom
Boom de de boom boom, boom.

Reading up about one of my favorite poets, Rita Dove, I found this quote from her:

Poetry became my passion after I fell in love with Walter de la Mare’s “Silver” in Mrs. Edna Pickett’s sophomore English class circa 1962.

Silver/ Walter de la Mare

Slowly, silently, now the moon
Walks the night in her silver shoon;
This way, and that, she peers, and sees
Silver fruit upon silver trees;
One by one the casements catch
Her beams beneath the silvery thatch;
Couched in his kennel, like a log,
With paws of silver sleeps the dog;
From their shadowy cote the white breasts peep
Of doves in a silver-feathered sleep;
A harvest mouse goes scampering by,
With silver claws and a silver eye;
And moveless fish in the water gleam,
By silver reeds in a silver stream.

And, one more favorite mention of silver in a poem by a favorite poet:

A Bird, came down the Walk (359)/ Emily Dickinson

A Bird, came down the Walk –
He did not know I saw –
He bit an Angle Worm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw,

And then, he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass –
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass –

He glanced with rapid eyes,
That hurried all abroad –
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought,
He stirred his Velvet Head. – 

Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb,
And he unrolled his feathers, 
And rowed him softer Home –

Than Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam,
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon, 
Leap, plashless as they swim. 

Emily Dickinson’s Lexicon: silver

silver, n. [OE, obscure origin.]

  1. Eloquence; beautiful words; elegant language; [fig.] poetry; literary verse; creative writing.
  2. Argent color.
  3. Melody; musical transcription; [fig.] scripture; sacred written text; [metaphor] lyric poetry; metrical verse.
  4. Seawater; shining expanse of ocean; [fig.] sky; heaven; [metaphor] eternity; infinity.

oct 25/RUN

4.4 miles
minnehaha falls and back
43 degrees

Gray sky, golden trees. Past peak, I think. A clear view to the other side. Damp. It rained yesterday, just enough to get the falls dripping again. The creek was dry, but as I neared the bridge above the ledge, I heard some water falling. At first I thought it was wind in the trees, but then I heard a slow drip drip drip. As I ran above it, I glanced down. Yuck! An unnaturally green pool of stagnant water at the base of the falls.

I had planned to do one of my regular routines: run south to the falls, stop at the overlook near the “song of hiawatha” poem, put in a playlist, run back north with music. Halfway there, I remember that I had misplaced my headphones somewhere. I had found another pair, but not one with the dongle for plugging into my iPhone. I hate how Apple keeps changing their phones so you need new accessories. I don’t want airpods. I want my cheap lime green headphones with a long cord.

Had the memorial service for Scott’s mom yesterday. It definitely has not hit yet that she’s gone. Still in shock, I guess. Last month I felt tender, now just numb. A strange fall.

10 Things I Remember

  1. the very loud vehicle I mentioned a few entries ago is still on edmund. I have decided it is a cement mixture. Today I was over on the river road trail; it was still so loud!
  2. the pavement is wet with a few streaks of mud and lots of yellow leaves
  3. kids yelling joyfully on the playground at dowling elementary
  4. a runner coming fast down the hill from the ford bridge ran past me, quickly gaining ground, eventually disappearing around the bend
  5. the whiny whirr of the park vehicle’s wheels. I can’t remember now what I first thought the sound was — someone/something crying?
  6. a man in yellow jacket, exiting his car, waiting for me to pass before crossing the sidewalk
  7. Mr Morning! mornied me. For the first time, I said hello instead of good morning. Not sure why
  8. some bikers crossing in front of me near the minnehaha park playground
  9. a bright orange sign warning that the road would be closed this saturday for an event: it’s the 1/2 marathon for the halloween race. Scott and I are running the 10k
  10. no turkeys or geese or woodpeckers

Playing around with forms for a new set of vision poems about adjusting, becoming accustomed to my new vision. Today I thought about taking my favorite lines from a few poems — mostly E Dickinson’s vision poems — and embedding them in my own poems, or using the lines as the title for my poem? Still thinking about it. Right now, I’m thinking of a poem about my daughter’s hands as she tells me a story that I’m tentatively titling, The Motion of the Dipping Birds (from ED’s “Before I Got my Eye put out”).

oct 19/RUN

3.75 miles
trestle turn around + extra
35 degrees

Hooray! I ran again today. I think my kneecap is doing better. It didn’t slide around, and my knee isn’t swollen after my run. It felt strange a few times, and I was apprehensive walking back, but I think it’s okay. I need to remember to take it easy for the next week, and not run too much.

It was a beautiful day for a run. Brisk, sunny, not too much wind. A clear trail, a clear view to the other side. Less leaves, more river. I ran north until I reached 2 miles, then I briefly stopped to put in my headphones and listen to Lizzo’s latest album, Special.

I didn’t notice that much; I was too busy thinking about my knee and wondering if it would start sliding again.

image of the day

A tall bike! Running near the trestle, I noticed that the bike approaching me from the north was extra tall. Because of my vision and because I was looking into the sun, I couldn’t see much detail. All I remember is: an extra tall bike, a male biker. Cool. I looked it up and wikipedia says that these bikes used to be called lamplighters because workers would ride them to reach the gas lamps on city streets. It also says that some people still refer to them as lamplighters. Is that true? I hope so.

I did a little more research — I googled “tall bikes Minneapolis” — and found this cool book (and cool writer/artist): Butterflies and Tall Bikes by Jamie Schumacher:

oin artist and author Jamie Schumacher on a tour of one of Minneapolis’s most unique neighborhoods: The West Bank.

In her second book, Butterflies and Tall Bikes, Schumacher combines personal narrative, compelling interviews, and neighborhood history in vignette-style chapters that paint a picture of the West Bank Business Association and West Bank/Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. Detailed, mandala-like illustrations by artist Corina Sagun are interwoven throughout the text, and the book features a cover and map by Minneapolis artist Kevin Cannon. Interviews highlight the stories of West Bank characters and Cedar-Riverside residents, past and present, as they reflect on the community’s changing landscape. 

Lamplighter makes me think of Emily Dickinson’s poem, “We Grow Accustomed to the Dark,” which I decided earlier today would be the focus of new series of vision poems. Lamplighter reminded me of this poem because of the 3rd and 4th lines: As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp/ to witness her Good Bye –. My poems will orbit around the idea of a moment after we enter a new phase/location/situation, and before we adjust to it.

ED’s moment:

We grow accustomed to the Dark —
When Light is put away —
As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp
To witness her Good bye —

A Moment — We Uncertain step
For newness of the night —
Then — fit our Vision to the Dark —
And meet the Road — erect —

My moment focuses on the uncertainty caused by my vision — how that uncertainty lasts much longer because of my lack of cone cells, how my brain compensates and adjusts to a lack of visual data, how it feels to (unlike full-sighted people) not have everything immediately make sense or be clear, various tips and tricks I used to grow accustomed, etc. There’s a lot I could do with this: visual illusions, accounts of my mishaps and failures, descriptions of what I see/don’t see, and more.

The last stanza of the poem serves as a big inspiration too:

Either the Darkness alters —
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight —
And Life steps almost straight.

Last year, I spent time thinking about the almost, the approximate. I want to return to that and push more at what it means to dwell longer than I’d like in that almost, not quite, nearly there, only just, space. I’d also like to think more about how vision works, or doesn’t work, or works strangely, for everyone to different degrees. How what we see is not purely objective or accurate, where our eye is a camera faithfully rendering the real. Here’s an article I found yesterday that might help with that: The painter who revealed how our eyes really see the world

Oh, this is exciting! I hope this idea sticks and leads somewhere. I hope I find a form that fits and can hold all of these ideas!

oct 7/RUN

3.1 miles
trestle turn around
43 degrees / mist

Even though I had been sitting at my desk in front of 2 big windows this morning, I hadn’t noticed that it was raining. Oh well, by the time I was ready to run the rain was mostly done. Just a fine mist and dripping trees. I guess I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t realized it was raining/had rained: my neighbor had their sprinkler on and was watering their lawn!

Yesterday I mentioned that I should try doing a warm-up inside before going out for my run. I did, and it worked! I could feel my muscles activating and no kneecap slips. Excellent!

A beautiful, muted morning. Quiet, cooler, soft. Even the glowing oranges and reds seemed softer, more subtle in their show. I felt really good — strong, relaxed, making an effort but not working too hard. Flying or floating or bouncing off the trail in a steady rhythm.

To test how hard I was working, I tried (and mostly succeeded in) reciting Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay” and Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “Spring and Fall” out loud. In an easy run, you should be able to carry on a conversation without any problems, or in this case, be able to recite a poem without needing to take a breath every word. I stumbled over a few words, but that was my memory’s fault not my lungs’.

I think I saw Santa Claus at the beginning of my run. Good mornied! Mr. Morning! Heard the rowers down below and the geese up above. Glimpsed the river though the thinning leaves. Dodged some walkers. Squeaked on the wet leaves.

Thought about stopping at the halfway point and putting in my music; decided to keep listening to the gorge or my breathing or my thoughts.

Started reading Louise Glück’s Averno before my run. “October” is the second poem in the collection. I’m thinking about reading the entire collection. Should I?

Averno = a small crater lake in Italy, regarded by the ancient Romans as the entrance to the underworld.

Here’s the first poem of the collection:

The Night Migrations/ Louise Glück

This is the moment when you see again
the red berries of the mountain ash
and in the dark sky
the birds’ night migrations.

It grieves me to think
the dead won’t see them—
these things we depend on,
they disappear.

What will the soul do for solace then?
I tell myself maybe it won’t need
these pleasures anymore;
maybe just not being is simply enough,
hard as that is to imagine.

This poem makes me think of one of my favorite Emily Dickinson poems, “We Grow Accustomed to the Dark”:

We grow accustomed to the Dark –/ Emily Dickinson

We grow accustomed to the Dark –
When light is put away –
As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp
To witness her Goodbye –

A Moment – We uncertain step
For newness of the night –
Then – fit our Vision to the Dark –
And meet the Road – erect –

And so of larger – Darkness –
Those Evenings of the Brain –
When not a Moon disclose a sign –
Or Star – come out – within –

The Bravest – grope a little –
And sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the Forehead –
But as they learn to see –

Either the Darkness alters –
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight –
And Life steps almost straight.

There are many different ways I think of these poems together, but right now, I’m thinking about Glück’s first line, This the moment when you see again, as the moment in ED’s poem when we fit our vision to the Dark and Life steps almost straight. This moment, for Glück, is the moment after a great loss and after you have been changed by it. This idea of being changed/altered comes up several times in “October,” especially in 4:

The light has changed.

The songs have changed.

So much has changed.

And yet the notes recur. They hover oddly
in anticipation of silence.
The ear gets used to them.
The eye gets used to disappearances.

You will not be spared, nor will what you love be spared.

sept 18/RUN

4.6 miles
franklin bridge and back
64 degrees / humidity: 87%

note: as I write this entry, at my desk in the front, a fly keeps dive-bombing me. I think it might be the same fly that harassed me early this morning while I was drinking my coffee. Argh!

Dark this morning. Looked like it might rain; it didn’t. This sort of light makes everything look even darker and dreamier to me. Ran north on the river road trail to just under the Franklin Bridge. Stopped to walk back up the half of franklin hill that was left. Put in Renaissance and ran south. The trail was crowded, but not too irritating. Saw evidence of rowers — walking up from the rowing club — but no voices down below or shells in the water. Encountered a few roller skiers. I don’t think I heard their poles clacking at all. Heard some shrieking blue jays. No geese. No big running groups. No Dave, the Daily Walker or Mr. Morning. I did cross paths with Daddy Long Legs,

leaf watch, fall 2022

Some golden trees between franklin and seabury — I think Scott’s favorite tree might have turned yellow. More slashes of red and orange. Things are speeding up now. Full color by the beginning of October?

image of the day

I think I’ve mentioned this image sometime in the past — heading up the second half of the franklin hill, the stretch after the bridge but before the top, the trees on either side frame the sky in such a way that it looks like the shape of the Mississippi River. Very cool to see and to imagine everything upside down, with the sky as river, the ground as sky.

The fly continues to bother me. Bzzzzzz….bzz..bzz..bzzzzzzzzzz

Speaking of a fly, it’s hard to believe that I haven’t posted this ED poem before:

I heard a Fly buzz — when I died / Emily Dickinson

I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air –
Between the Heaves of Storm –

The Eyes around – had wrung them dry –
And Breaths were gathering firm
For that last Onset – when the King
Be witnessed – in the Room –

I willed my Keepsakes – Signed away
What portion of me be
Assignable – and then it was
There interposed a Fly –

With Blue – uncertain – stumbling Buzz –
Between the light – and me –
And then the Windows failed – and then
I could not see to see –

With a loved one nearing death and the 13th anniversary of my beloved mom’s death at the end of the month and falling leaves and winter coming, I’m thinking about transformation and decay and things passing away. Speaking of decay, I saw a tweet a few days ago about IDK and how it both stands for I Don’t Know and I Decay.

august 26/RUN

5.15 miles
franklin loop
64 degrees / humidity: 85%
8:40 am

Wow, what a wonderful late summer morning! Sunny, but cool. Noisy (with cicadas), but calm. I was hoping to run nice and slow, and I did, until I started creeping up on a runner ahead of me. I was running just faster than them and slowly gaining. As I neared, I noticed the runner slowed their pace to let me pass (I do that too — unlike some other runners who speed up as you near — very annoying). So, I picked up the pace to pass and never slowed down again. Oops. So much for a slow run!

In the first miles of the run, lots of people seemed to be getting in my way. Running too close, or walking on the wrong side. When I noticed it was almost everyone, I realized it probably wasn’t them, but me. I must be in a bad mood. So I let go, stopped feeling hostility towards everyone else, and within a few minutes no one was getting in my way. Funny how that works.

10 Things I Heard

  1. the electric buzz of cicadas*
  2. a few fragments of conversation that I can’t remember
  3. an old van, bouncing around on the road, sounding like broken springs on an old mattress
  4. the radio in that same van, playing some music I couldn’t recognize
  5. a chipmunk** chucking or clucking (I like chuck better than cluck)
  6. water sprinkling out of the seeps in the limestone on the eastern side of the gorge, sounding almost like wind through the trees
  7. the rumble of a garbage truck in the alley at the beginning of my run as I made my way to the river
  8. the rowers down below
  9. the quick foot strikes of a runner behind, then beside, then way in front of me
  10. walking back, nearing my block, a mailman speaking to someone in his mail truck: Open the door and then look out to check for cars. Was he training another mailman? That’s my guess

*Speaking of cicadas, I recorded their loud buzz right after I finished my run:

august cicadas / 9:30 am on 26 august 2022

**Found this Ogden Nash poem about the chipmunk:

The Chipmunk/ Ogden Nash

My friends all know that I am shy,
But the chipmunk is twice and shy and I.
He moves with flickering indecision
Like stripes across the television.
He’s like the shadow of a cloud,
Or Emily Dickinson read aloud.

Emily Dickinson read aloud? Reactions to this line: Huh? No. Maybe. The maybe came when I remembered Susan Howe’s description of ED’s poetics of humility and hesitation in her book, My Emily Dickinson (I bought this book earlier this summer. Is this a sign that I should read it now?).

Emily Dickinson took the scraps from the separate “higher” female education many bright women of her time were increasingly resenting, combined them with voracious and “unladylike” outside reading, and used the combination. She built a new poetic form from her fractured sense of being eternally on inteIlectual borders, where confident masculine voices buzzed an alluring and inaccessible discourse, backward through history into aboriginal anagogy. Pulling pieces of geometry, geology, alchemy, philosophy, politics, biography, biology, mythology, and philology from alien territory, a “sheltered” woman audaciously invented a new grammar grounded in humility and hesitation. HESITATE from the Latin, meaning to stick. Stammer. To hold back in doubt, have difficulty speaking. “He may pause but he must not hesitate”-Ruskin. Hesitation circled back and surrounded everyone in that confident age of aggressive industrial expansion and brutal Empire building. Hesitation and Separation. The Civil War had split American in two. He might pause, She hesitated. Sexual, racial, and geographical separation are at the heart of Definition.

My Emily Dickinson/ Susan Howe

One more thing about the chipmunk. I find them irritating and loud and their hesitations (when crossing my path) or frantic scurrying after confounding my dog by hiding in the gutter, are annoying. Scott and I refer to them as chippies, like when we yell in exasperation at their incessant chucking or scurrying or darting, Chippies!

may 9/RUN

3.3 miles
trestle turn around +
65 degrees / humidity: 70%
wind: 18 mph / gusts: 30 mph

So much wind! As I neared the river, a surprise gust swept through and ripped my visor off my head. Luckily, that was the worst thing the wind did. No knocking down thick branches onto my shoulders. No pushing me off the edge of the gorge. Just a few big gusts, and a wall to run into after I turned around at the trestle.

The wind and the humidity distracted me from noticing much else. Did I even look at the river? One thing I do remember noticing: the green in the floodplain forest is thickening. Already the view through to the river is gone in that spot. I also noticed the welcoming oaks. They’re still bare and gnarled.

Near the end of my run, when I had one hill left and wanted to be done, I chanted some of my favorite lines from Emily Dickinson again: “Life is but life/Death but death/Bliss is but bliss/Breath but breath.” It helped!

10 Things I Noticed While Running*

*4 thoughts that distracted me from noticing + 6 things I still noticed despite the distractions

  1. my left hip is a little tight
  2. it is very humid
  3. I hate my sinuses and allergies; I wish I could breathe fully through my nose
  4. I wish I had worn a tank top. I’m so glad I didn’t wear that sweatshirt I almost put on because I was cold in the house!
  5. an intense floral scent — lilac, maybe?
  6. only a few big branches down near the trail
  7. a woman walking and pushing a stroller, a dog leash in one hand, a dog stretched across the trail
  8. several walkers dressed for winter in coats and caps
  9. an inviting bench perched at the edge of the gorge, taking in the last of the clear view before the green veil conceals it
  10. the creak of some branches in the wind: another rusty door opening!

This final thing I mentioned noticing, the door, made me want to find another door poem, so I did:

Doors opening, closing on us/ Marge Piercy

Maybe there is more of the magical
in the idea of a door than in the door
itself. It’s always a matter of going
through into something else. But

while some doors lead to cathedrals
arching up overhead like stormy skies
and some to sumptuous auditoriums
and some to caves of nuclear monsters

most just yield a bathroom or a closet.
Still, the image of a door is liminal,
passing from one place into another
one state to the other, boundaries

and promises and threats. Inside
to outside, light into dark, dark into
light, cold into warm, known into
strange, safe into terror, wind

into stillness, silence into noise
or music. We slice our life into
segments by rituals, each a door
to a presumed new phase. We see

ourselves progressing from room
to room perhaps dragging our toys
along until the last door opens
and we pass at last into was.

april 1/RUN

5.7 miles
franklin loop
36 degrees

With the sun and hardly any wind, 36 degrees felt warm and like spring. Ran north on the river road trail, noticing how the floor of the floodplain forest was covered with snow. The river was calm, brown in the middle, pale then darker blue as it reached the shore.

Tracked a plane in the sky in my peripheral vision. When I tried to spot in my central vision it disappeared. Visible from my peripheral, then hidden in my central. It took 3 times of switching between the two before it showed up in my central. Was that because my brain adjusted, or because it had reached a part of my central vision that still has cones cells?

4 distinct smells:

  1. cigarette smoke from a passing car
  2. pot down in the gorge
  3. breakfast — sausage, I think, from Longfellow Grill
  4. fresh paint from the railing on the steps leading up to the lake street bridge, being painted as I ran by

Noticed how the snow and ice emerging from cracks and caves in the bluff made them easy to spot from across the river.

Before the Run

I wrote the following shortly before heading outside for my run:

A new month, time for a new challenge. As is often the case, I have too many ideas at the beginning of the month. It takes a few days (at least) to settle into something. I could read The Odyssey, then Oswald’s Nobody, but I think I’d like to wait until it’s warmer and I’m in the water for open swims. I’ve also thought about doing more on walking, starting with Cole Swenson’s chapbook, Walking, or reading the book on green that I bought last month. I’m unsure. Just now, I came up with another idea, after looking up a quotation from Emily Dickinson that I found on twitter the other day: Reading through some of ED’s correspondence with Higginson. Will this stick? Who knows.

Here’s the ED quotation that inspired my search, as it appeared at the end of a twitter thread by the wonderful poet Chen Chen:

To live is so startling, it leaves but little room for other occupations

@chenchenwrites

And here’s the original in ED’s letter to Thomas Wentworth Higginson from late 1872 (14 years before her death in 1886(:

To live is so startling, it leaves but little room for other occupations though Friends are if possible an event more fair.

letter

I’m thinking about what, if any, difference it makes to add that last bit about Friends. My first reactions: adding it depicts ED as a social being, not the recluse she is popularly known as, and it tempers the pursuit of astonishment as the only one we do/should have time for. Second reaction: is it mostly (or simply) a polite (and/or affectionate) acknowledgement of Higginson and his friendship? Third, and related to my first reaction: being startled/astonished/in wonder needs to be tempered. To be in that state all the time is too much, at least for me.

Reading Chen Chen’s thread, I found this great idea: “deep delight as a compass, a map.” I really like this, and I’m thinking about how I might switch out the word delight for wonder. Now I need to revisit the terms “delight,” “wonder,” “astonishment,” “joy,” and “surprise.” That might be a great challenge for the month too: thinking/reading/working through these different terms?

Getting back to ED’s letter, I found a description of the change is season from summer to winter in it that I’d like to remember:

When I saw you last, it was Mighty Summer‹Now the Grass is Glass and the Meadow Stucco, and “Still Waters” in the Pool where the Frog drinks.

letter

Grass is Glass and the Meadow Stucco? Love it!

I just looked up “startle” in Ed’s lexicon. Here are the two definitions offered:

  1. Shake or twitch due to terror or unexpected surprise.
  2. Be filled with fright; become shocked.

It also directed me to see “start.” Here are those definitions:

start (-ed), v. [OE ‘to overthrow, overturn, empty, to pour out, to rush, to gush out’.] (webplay: quick, quickened).

  1. Spring to attention.
  2. Become active; to come into motion.
  3. Begin; to come into being.
  4. Incite; startle; suddenly bother; abruptly rouse with alarm; movement of body involuntarily due to surprise, fright, etc.
  5. Begin a trip or journey to a certain destination.

And, here’s a poem from ED with startled grass:

PRESENTIMENT is that long shadow on the lawn
Indicative that suns go down;
The notice to the startled grass
That darkness is about to pass.

note: presentiment = foreboding

Returning to the letter and connecting to something else I found in an article titled, “The Sound of Startled Grass” about how composers are inspire by ED:

But I think composers are attracted to more than just her [ED] poems’ musicality. She repeatedly presents herself as a music-maker, surrounded by music. Her experience is constantly musical.

The Sound of Startled Grass

Connected to this quotation, here’s something ED writes in the letter:

These Behaviors of the Year hurt almost like Music – shifting when it ease us most. Thank you for the “Lesson.”

letter

During the Run

I think I only thought about some of these themes very briefly as I ran. I recall running, listening to birds singing, feeling the sun shining, and then wondering about how it would feel, at this moment, to be startled by a darting squirrel or a lunging dog or a reckless bike. I wasn’t, and I soon forgot about being startled. I also remember thinking about the sound of startled grass — how would that sound? And then I thought about what startled grass might look like, how it might startle us. Then I thought about the grass on graves and Whitman’s uncut hair and ED’s “The Color of the Grave is Green”:

The Color of the Grave is Green –
The Outer Grave –  I mean – 
You would not know it from the Field –
Except it own a Stone –

To help the fond –  to find it – 
Too infinite asleep
To stop and tell them where it is – 
But just a Daisy –  deep – 

After the Run

After bookmarking it at least a week ago, I finally read Diane Seuss’s fabulous Commencement Address to the Bennington Writing Seminars posted on LitHub. I didn’t anticipate how it might fit with my before and during run thoughts, but it does, particularly the bit about grass and graves and the dead speaking to us, and us giving our attention.

A thought: Could we be the startled grass, surprised, shocked, fearful, but astonished, in wonder, alive and willing to reach down to the dead to give attention and life to their stories and to tell our own? For this to make sense, I should probably spend a little more time with Seuss’s speech…

Wow, I’m no closer to figuring out what my theme will be for this month. Here are the possibilities that I discovered in the midst of writing this entry:

  1. Read, explore ED’s correspondence with Higginson
  2. Define delight, wonder, astonishment, joy, surprise. Find poems that offer definitions
  3. Grass (dirt is also mentioned in the speech)

addendum: 5:20 pm

So, I have figured out what I want to do for my challenge this month. In honor of National Poetry month, I’d like to return to where my recent love of poetry began: with Bernadette Mayer’s list of writing prompts that I discovered in an amazing class in the spring of 2017. I’m hoping to try a different experiment every day. I want to do this so I can push myself to be stranger or more whimsical or ridiculous (in the wonderful Mary Oliver way) in my writing. Lately, it seems like I’m too serious. A goal: to craft a poem that I feel is wonderfully strange enough to submit to Okay Donkey.

march 30/BIKE

bike: 30 minutes
basement
outside: rain/snow mix

Decided to skip the run today and only bike while I watched the final episode of Dickinson. Sad to see this series end, so glad I stuck with it after almost stopping watching it after an episode. I liked how the creator, Alena Smith, ended the series with lots of hope, a greater appreciation of Death as necessary part of the cycle of life, and an emphasis on ED’s famous white dress as central to her empowerment. I didn’t agree with all of it, especially the choice to use the song, “Gynmnopédie No. 1,” which I connect with the movie, My Dinner with Andre and the “Community” episode. I like the song, but not for the ending of this series. But, who cares? I decided early on in this show that I didn’t want to be too critical of the show — to judge it by what I might have done, or dismiss it as too modern. Instead, I took it as one possible way in which we could imagine ED’s world. I’m going to miss Emily’s mom. This show made me a big fan of Jane Krakowski. And, I’ll miss Lavinia too. Of course, Emily was great and it was fun to see how her poems were invoked.

I’m pretty sure I watched every episode while biking in the basement. Now I’ll have to find something new to watch.

One of the poems featured in this last episode is “I started Early — Took my Dog.” I thought I had posted it on this log already, but I can’t seem to find it. So, here it is:

I started Early — Took my Dog / Emily Dickinson

I started Early – Took my Dog –
And visited the Sea –
The Mermaids in the Basement
Came out to look at me –

And Frigates – in the Upper Floor
Extended Hempen Hands –
Presuming Me to be a Mouse –
Aground – opon the Sands –

But no Man moved Me – till the Tide
Went past my simple Shoe –
And past my Apron – and my Belt
And past my Boddice – too –

And made as He would eat me up –
As wholly as a Dew
Opon a Dandelion’s Sleeve –
And then – I started – too –

And He – He followed – close behind –
I felt His Silver Heel
Opon my Ancle – Then My Shoes
Would overflow with Pearl –

Until We met the Solid Town –
No One He seemed to know –
And bowing – with a Mighty look –
At me – The Sea withdrew –

Oh, how I would love to start early and take my dog to the sea! All of my reading of Alice Oswald and the sea is making me want to spend some time on a coast.